Wednesday, November 14, 2007
CHRISTIE ATWOOD'S IN THE HOUSE
GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT!
I'm so happy to have Christie Atwood here. I had the good fortune to meet her through author Nikki Leigh who is putting together some very interesting promotional ideas. I got to preview Christie's amazingly funny book, and I recognized myself in many of her journal posts. Part of the deal for hosting her was that I got to ask her my choice of questions. Below are the ones I selected, along with Christie's responses. She's one funny woman and I'd love to meet her in person one day. Welcome to my blog Christie and thanks for joining me. Maybe I can sneak in an extra question and ask her why she thinks bra manufacturers believe that DD cups sizes can be supported with straps made of dental floss? *smile*
I’m so excited to get to visit with you! Especially since it sounds like we have a style of writing in common. (Although you probably know how to do all that fancy stuff like putting nouns and verbs together correctly…)
Perhaps there’s a collaborative effort in our futures??
Well, let’s get to your questions for me:
1. What was the first thing about your body that made you realize you were getting older?
Let me think … It’s actually been a gradual process so it’s hard to remember what was first. Or maybe that’s just my pre-senility crisis setting in.
When I turned 30, I worked in television for a while and you know what they say about the camera adding ten pounds? It does! And what was worse, the show I hosted used three cameras, so it added 30 pounds to my hips that I’ve never been able to get rid of. That was the first realization.
Then when I turned 40 I made another scary realization. I had all the same equipment I had when I was 20, but now it had all shifted one foot lower.
I also found that, although I could do many of the things I did when I was 30, I tended to make a lot more noise as I did them. Getting up from looking on the bottom library shelf began to sound like someone undergoing torture during the Inquisition…
2. How did you handle it? Do you try to disguise it, make the most of it, or just plain throw up your hands and surrender?
I realized it was going to happen whether I liked it or not, so I might as well celebrate it.
I’ve decided that we need to make Thomas Hancock’s birthday a national holiday. He’s the guy who invented elastic.
I also celebrate by being immature, wearing my chicken suit as often as possible, and refusing to own normal shoes. My latest Converse tennis shoes are cartoon-colored. Before that I wore bowling shoes all the time, but the terrible irony there was that I had to quit bowling. Whenever I went, the employees always thought I was trying to steal shoes.
For Mardi Gras I wanted to make a t-shirt that said, “Look low boys, I’m over 40.” (Okay Ginger, that might be just a little too much information. You can leave that out if you think it will scare your wonderful guests!)
3. What possessed you to write a journal about age?
It started when I realized that, as I wrote my regular humor column, a common theme kept appearing. That theme was my aging process. It sneaked its way into columns with topics such as a sudden appreciation for fiber, the lack of interest in Britney, and the fact that I kept the ER on my speed dial.
I realized that lots of people are experiencing this same theme. And I realized that one person going through the episodes of midlife crisis alone is just depressing. All of us getting together and making fun of these episodes is really funny.
What I really love is when I’m doing appearances and I see people in the audience nodding and giggling. Not only do I appreciate it much more than those who are nodding off and gagging, but it also reminds me that we’re in this club and all we have to pay to get in is some gray hair and a couple of wrinkles. And I don’t think that’s all that bad. Although, I will admit that I’m not thrilled to have wrinkles and zits at the same time. That just doesn’t seem fair.
4. You mention that your mother and father both write. Can you tell us a little about them and how they influenced you?
Mom and Dad owned a weekly newspaper when I was growing up. That meant I spent the first part of my life in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet. That was my bassinet.
They gave me one of the old typewriters, a cast iron Royal, when I was six. I set up an office in the hot water heater at home and wrote almost constantly in there. I still get nostalgic at the smell of gas and the sounds of heating water.
Mom’s a terrific writer. She’s written stories and articles for major magazines like Redbook and Reader’s Digest. She taught me that the written word is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Well, that and a Black & Decker chainsaw – but after the infamous “pine tree incident”, she’s promised not to play with that anymore…
Dad was born in 1913. Nope, that’s not a typo. He’s 94 and hasn’t retired. (He’s scared to go home and be with Mom everyday.) He still works with the written word as the owner and sole employee of Gabour Printing Company. He never takes time off work – except at lunchtime when he goes to the senior citizen center for lunch. He works as a volunteer serving the “old people”. Geez, I hope I’ve got those genes!
Needless to say, those two people continue to be an incredible inspiration to me, not only in my writing, but in my life.
5. If you had to warn one woman about the perils of approaching midlife, what would you tell her is the most devastating thing to expect?
The word ma’am. Especially when you think the young fellow is checking you out.
Or when you walk by a construction site and no one acts crass and disgusting by whistling at you.
Or when you write your number on the bathroom wall and all you get is a call trying to sell you life insurance…
Or are those things just me???
I think everyone approaching midlife should be warned that they’ll develop an uncontrollable urge to buy a red car, a desire to wear more elastic waistbands, and an appreciation for the fathers on primetime shows instead of the latest young hunk who plays the son. You’ll also learn how to pretend you know where you’re going when you’ve been trying to find your car for over 20 minutes in the mall parking lot.
6. Are you a stand-up comedienne?
I was. In fact, I was such a good stand-up comedienne that now I’m a writer…
I liked stand-up. The more the audience drank, the funnier I got. Unfortunately no one could physically drink enough to actually make me hilarious, so I thought for the general health of the public I should get out of the field.
Now I teach lots of seminars and workshops and my humor works really well there. Nobody expects an instructor to be funny, so they’ll laugh at anything. Now that’s good for the ego! Also, I get to throw hecklers out if I want. That’s just an added bonus.
7. I researched the publisher of your book, Morris Publishing. As an author who is published by several different e-pubbers, I wondered what influenced you to take the 'self-publishing route'?
I loved the folks at Morris Publishing. They did a great job with the production of my book and they were wonderful to work with.
I tried to go the traditional publishing route at first. I wanted to have an instant best seller and say things like, “J.K. dear, would you pass me the martini pitcher?” or “Mr. Grisham, please stop bragging on my book. You’re embarrassing me.”
A couple of publishers were interested in my book, but each wanted me to do things that I just wasn’t sure about. They wanted things like changing the book from nonfiction to fiction and changing the main character. But it was my life!
I was confused. I just really wanted to give the book one try like it was. Plus I knew that I didn’t have the ability to write this as a novel with a real plot. I haven’t got the attention span. I get distracted just… What was I saying?
Oh yeah … I decided to go ahead and publish the book myself to prove that it was marketable and to show that I could promote it effectively. I did it and sold out of my first printing almost immediately. (Having a big family can come in handy.)
Then I printed again and ran out again. Then I remembered to send it out again to a few publishers with my new self-publication information and sales figures. I sent to three publishers I’d never sent to before and all three responded! It was pretty exciting.
I chose one – Cardoza Publishing – and was thrilled to give up all the details of distribution and stocking and living with boxes of books in my house!
My latest three books are nonfiction business books and I am doing those through a traditional publisher also. They’re Succession Planning Basics, Presentation Skills Training, and Manager Skills Training. This publisher, ASTD Press, is even doing amazing things like buying ads!
8. What have you found to be the benefits of self-publishing? The disadvantages? Would you recommend it?
Self-publishing gave me a wonderful understanding of the business side of writing. It was invaluable experience that helped me learn to work more effectively with my publishers, bookstores, and the media.
I’m so glad I tried it and quite honestly, if I write a book that I think would be best sold as a “back of the room” book at my speaking engagements, I’ll probably do it again. It’s a great way to get a book out there where it’s totally up to you to determine whether it’s a success or not.
The hard part was the distribution method. It’s really expensive to go through distributors! They take about 55% off the top. Then there are postage costs, promotion costs, and the cost of persuading cousin Lester and his three remaining teeth to help you pass out bookmarks. It’s a tough lesson, but it was still fun and I’d recommend it to persons who can stand a little rejection and a lot of sweating.
The one caveat would be – Make sure that the book is a quality product. Get an editor to review it. Get some objective opinions to ensure it will appeal to your target market. Be sure you have it done right – cover design, paper quality, layout and design, ISBN number, bar codes, copyrights, promotions plan, etc. If it’s done less than professionally, you’ll find yourself in the house with boxes of books that you have to use for ottomans.
9. What do you think of Nikki Leigh?
I’m so glad you asked! Don’t you think it’s a little suspect that she is always in such a good mood? I think that some sort of substance abuse might be involved. Probably dark chocolate…
Okay, let me say something here. I’ve never worked with a promotions person before and I really like it! It’s fun having someone to bounce ideas off of. And it’s nice having someone else take the reigns on the publicity and being able to focus on writing and just being myself.
But I still think she’s too happy…
Christie, thanks for letting me ask all these nosy things.
They weren’t nosy! They were pretty darn impressive – especially since you did homework and actually knew stuff about me!
And thanks for listening to my answers. Usually only the psychiatrist does that … and that’s only because I pay her. And fifty minutes into the session she’s always scratching at the door trying to get out.
Thanks Ginger! I really enjoyed the visit. Let’s get together again soon!
Thanks to you to, Christie. I use humor to deal with life and finding out about you and your book was a real pleasure for me. I intend to follow your career and hopefully one day we can meet. I love people who take a humorous approach to life. Come back anytime.