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Dating lessons from a cut-rate flounder


Debbie WeissI overdid the online dating thing and am now in recovery.

I have killed off my avatar of amour, my doppelgänger of dating. I am no longer on any sites, my phone is quiet, and I have stopped overusing the emoji library. Since we are mortal and I hate to think it was all a waste of time, here is what I learned from being Ladywriter99 on Tinder, Plenty of Fish, J-Date and OK Vapid.

1. I’m not a commodity.

Meeting new prospects required serious maintenance. No dirty nails from gardening.  Dieting to remain at my “fighting weight.” No postponing appointments with my (ahem) hair colorist.

One Harley-driving fellow suggested I put up hotter pictures on my dating profile. Perhaps in heels and a tight black dress because I looked too girl-next-door. It’s hard to think of yourself as merchandise.  Although it’s probably realistic.

One of my girlfriends met her soulmate within a few weeks of going online. She gloated, “I don’t stay on the market for long!” I contemplated my far longer time “on the market,” i.e. Plenty of Fish, and felt like a cut-rate flounder. Maybe I should discount myself.

Enough. No more marketing myself to strangers. I groom less. I’ve stopped wearing eye make up. I eat lots of carrot cake. I’m in a happier place.

2. My time is valuable.

Even for an unemployed slacker like me, online dating takes a lot of time. Some guys proposed a first meeting on a day they claimed to have free time, saying they’d text me that day with the meeting time. And that day, I heard….nothing.

After I’d arranged my day so I wouldn’t be covered in gardening dirt or exercise sweat around the meet up. Which never happened. I hadn’t insisted on a set time because I wanted to seem flexible and chill. Actually, I am rigid and high-strung. If you don’t want to meet me, just say so. I’m a writer; I can deal with rejection.

3. Dating and regurgitation do not mix.

After a few first dates with the “not yet emotionally processed” divorced, I started to feel like Miss Lonelyhearts. This is a date. I won’t tell you about my acid stomach problems. Please don’t discuss your money-grubbing ex-wife, who didn’t appreciate you, and/or had an affair with your exterminator. After listening for awhile, I start to question YOUR judgment skills.

One otherwise charming fellow insisted on discussing “The Women who Ruined His Life” in excruciating detail. Like to understand him, I needed a topological map of his past relationships. Um…no.

And yes, I did go on too much about my late husband. I’m working on that.

4. I’m good at meeting strange men for vapid exchanges.

I was with my late husband for 32 years. After he died, I planned to melt into my sofa in a haze of dark chocolate gelato and Nicholas Sparks movies. I’d be the woman in the bourbon-stained bathrobe buying the giant, economy Bombay Sapphire gin and twelve Butterfingers at Bevmo.

But I “got out there.” Too much.

Still, I enjoyed the process. Most of the time. Having two or three meet-ups in one day, my multi-tasking skills improved. I can simultaneously text, e-mail, eat pre-made kale soup (fighting weight) and watch “Californication.”

Maybe this will prepare me for job interviews. Probably not. But I did feel socially adept. And resilient. Which is far better than isolated without options.

Good bye for now, Ladywriter99.

— Debbie Weiss

Debbie Weiss lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she was a practicing attorney for more than 10 years, which gives her writing a nice tone of bitterness. She is writing a memoir and anti-advice manual about widowhood following her husband’s death from cancer in April 2013.  It tackles the question of widow’s entropy: how did the appliances know my husband had died so they could all break down at once? She writes about dating and other misadventures at

We don’t play with a full deck

Judy ClarkeWherever a bevy of women of a certain age gather, there’s sure to be laughter. A group of dames I consort with, 33 if we’re all present, has had some uproarious times over the 14 years we’ve been together.

A splinter group plays canasta one Wednesday a month at O’Charley’s. This card-playing arm of the bunch has been “melding” for eight or 10 years. Naturally, we’ve, um, matured and some, or maybe all, of us have become forgetful or addled or maybe even doolally.

Many can’t shuffle the cards anymore thanks to arthritis and other problems, but we do have several battery-operated card-shufflers amongst us. They make the most annoying sound and seldom work properly. When we use them, people in the adjacent bar look our way.

Everyone in our foursome this past Wednesday — AJ, JoJo, Leanne, me — forgot some rule: deal 13 cards or 11? Is an eight worth five or 10? What’s wrong with two wild cards and two naturals in one meld?

Our silly mistakes kept us laughing, but then we veered to a discussion about memory loss. Because my husband has dementia I’m considered the “expert.” Someone asked how you would know if forgetting was just old age or a sign of dementia?

I told them that counting backwards by sevens was a test Peter’s doctor always does. Several years ago, he could count backwards so quickly that she would stop him when he got to 51 saying “Well done, good enough.”

“Why I could never do that,” AJ huffed. JoJo agreed, and I knew I wouldn’t get below 93 without pencil and paper. Leanne, the best of us at numbers, started counting, and soon we all helped by “air writing” the figures. We laughed hysterically at ourselves, four women on the shady side of 70 who couldn’t do simple subtraction. We managed to count as far as 65. “We did pretty well, didn’t we?” Joanne said.

“Yeah, but it took all four of us to do it,” Leanne said.

I love it when stars align, four-leaf clovers stand taller, and blog post ideas spring from unexpected sources. The bit of trivia below came from the widower of a dear friend who always had a joke and who I long ago dubbed the group’s “Raconteur Royale.”

“Common entertainment [in the good ol’ days] included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards…applicable [only] to the ace of spades. To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t ‘playing with a full deck.’”

— Judy Clarke

Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self).

How to find a winning title

Roz WarrenEvery writer (and every reader) knows how important a good title can be. The right title can make a potential reader eagerly reach for your book, while a bad title acts as a reader repellant.

When I needed a terrific title for my new collection of funny essays about books and library work, I waited with hope for inspiration to strike.

When it didn’t, a friend suggested that I use the title of one of the essays in the collection for the book‘s title. The two best candidates?  “A Nun Walks Into A Library.” And  “The Joys of Library Work.”

In my heart, I knew these weren’t quite good enough, but I ran them by a publicist pal just to be sure.

“You can do better,” she said.

But, alas, I couldn’t.

Titling has never my strong suit. Writing a publishable essay? I can do that! But coming up with an amazing title for that essay? Not so much. Thank God for my editors. For instance? Once when I handed in a humor piece with a humdrum title about a Florida woman who claimed to have undergone surgery to acquire a third breast, editor Deb Harkins quickly renamed it  “A Tale Of Three Titties.” How perfect is that?

This new collection would be my 13th humor book. And while I’d managed to come up with a title for my first book (Women’s Glib: A Collection Of Women’s Humor) myself, when I handed in the manuscript for the book that followed, I still had no idea what to call it. So my publisher held a meeting. “We need a good title for this book. It’s a  collection of cartoons by women about men,” the staff was told.  “Upbeat. Fun. A little snarky, but loving.”

Men Are From Detroit, Women Are From Paris? suggested one of the secretaries.


So it sometimes takes a village to name a new book. Thinking back on this, I decided to try something similar. I have a bunch of clever Facebook friends. Writers. Humorists. Columnists. Librarians. Maybe they could help me out?

I went on Facebook and asked my friends to help name my new book.  Suggestions poured in. Within 24 hours, I had some great titles to choose from:










“That’s more like it,“ enthused my publicist pal when I ran them by her.

Next? I turned it into a contest.  “HumorOutcasts Press is publishing a collection of my funny essays about library work,” I posted. “Which of these proposed titles do you like best?”

I gave them a day to respond. The clear winner?

Our Bodies, Our Shelves suggested by writer Risa Nye.

I knew that Risa’s title was the perfect choice when I revealed it to my writing group — a dozen middle-aged writers around a table — and they burst out laughing.

Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor has been out for three months now and is selling steadily. I‘m sure that its fun, zippy title is part of its success. (Thanks, Risa!) Even the editors of the longstanding women’s health book franchise “Our Bodies, Ourselves”  tweeted that when they first heard the title, they were amused.

I hope to be able to come up with a brilliant title for my next humor book. But if I can’t?  I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.

— Roz Warren

Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor.  This essay first appeared on

Rotisserie chicken devours
rotisserie baseball

Charles HartleyThe other night I came home from a long day being Sammy Sportface. My wife told me she left me for dinner a full-bodied rotisserie chicken.

A question hit me: Why do they call it rotisserie chicken? It sounds like chicken for Minor League baseball players, those who aren’t good enough to make it to the pros. The pros eat T-Bone steak and get all the A1 Sauce they want. The Minor Leaguers don’t get A1 sauce for their chicken.

Money devours everyone.

For decades I have been puzzled about the meaning of the word rotisserie. It conjures images of flowers. I thought: A rotisserie chicken sounds like a petunia chicken. This was senseless. Many things don’t make sense. Sammy Sportface is a living example.

Here’s one theory for us to weigh: Maybe petunia seeds spawn both flowers and chickens. Given nature’s history dating back hundreds of millions of years, this is plausible. Surely you know that a caterpillar, unless it gets stepped on while a caterpillar, gets busy with metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly.

Of all of life’s mysteries, there is none greater than how and why a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. It would be reasonable for a caterpillar to transmogrify into a snake because they are both slithery and wet. This would be natural evolution at work. But a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is like a poodle plunging into metamorphosis and becoming a seagull.

A rotisserie chicken looks like any other chicken. Sporting legs and a plump abdomen, it reminds you of Thanksgiving when you stare at the full body of a turkey. But it’s smaller. If there are rotisserie turkeys, Instagram me a color photo. I’ll share it with my family next Thanksgiving.

While eating the flowery chicken, I thought of how confusing life is. This is prime example: Years ago I heard of something called rotisserie baseball. The name turned me off. Baseball is baseball and calling it something else bastardized America’s game.

I have never viewed myself as a pansy. Rather, I fancy myself an All-Pro NFL tight end — picture Rob Gronkowski — who transitions into sports blogging ignominiously. Rotisserie baseball sounds bush league. Even now I don’t know what it is.

My suspicion is it’s a kissing cousin of fantasy football. Both are stale creamed corn laced with fungus.

Sammy Sportface doesn’t live in the world of fantasy. He believes only one thing is true: By running through the streets of Philadelphia at 4 a.m, after drinking a glass of raw eggs, Rocky Balboa became the heavyweight champion of the world.

What’s real is real.

Fantasy is for fatuous flamingoes. Rotisserie baseball is a rotten rhododendron.

We all need to deal with the truth, not wish for what could be. Like Halfway Hilarity, the creation of rotisserie baseball and fantasy football have turned out to be bad ideas that should be heaved onto the scrap heap of American failures.

Everything you do has an opportunity cost. You can learn more about this concept in a college economics class. In that same class you would learn that rotisserie baseball has a flawed business model, which is that it is stupid. Making matters worse, it has a public relations problem: Sammy Sportface perceives it to be a low-rent chicken baseball league. When you confuse the public, especially Sammy, your business is in trouble.

Rotisserie baseball suffers from the same problem.

“The word rotisserie should be struck from the English language,” said Sammy Sportface this morning during his weekly call with his rotisserie league pals. “Just like the name Sammy Sportface, rotisserie doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t resonate. It has to go. Sammy says so.”

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

Not remotely wrong

Steve EskewAfter years of intense self-improvement, I can proudly claim that only about nine major vices dominate my life, one of which is watching too much TV. Using the boob tube as a break from work-related writing and reading, it chiefly functions to distract my naughty but nimble noggin.

The prob? I consider most TV programs to be a dreary bore and my thoughts float away. Thus, my distractor distracts me. And that’s sooo distressing.

I’ve often referred to my mind (affectionately) as The Wayward Wanderer. Thanks to TV and the dullness it induces, I’ve lost my train of thought dozens of times. Even more times than I’ve lost the same 10 pounds. It’s just that most entertainment shows move at a tortoise pace.

As for newscasts, they rate as sacred in our house. Forever obsessed with a need for information about the world around me, I hate missing the slightest informative moments. And, as fate would have it, in recent years, mod tech has blessed me with a new hero: Mr. Anthony Wood, the person who invented the DVR.

Before the advent of the DVR, damn near each individual news item would throw me into deeep thoughts, intense speculations or insane ragings. Consequently, I would miss many of the subsequent news stories of a single newscast. During such rantings, my bristling brain used to speed off on a journey of its own, over-analyzing each item. I’d be grunting, grumbling, sometimes gnashing and grinding my teeth or laughing maniacally at something a politician was quoted as saying. Then, I would be furious with myself for having missed most of the other items of interest.

Nowadays, thanks to Mr. Wood and the DVR, I can pause, rant and rewind. In short, I can obsess to my heart’s content. The downside? Listening to a half-hour newscast can take me upwards of an hour and a half. Good thing I’ve got more time than money.

I even find the entertainment fare itself more tolerable with the aid of a DVR. In addition to flashing past the commercials of my recorded programs, I can pause and rewind even live shows and replay them — as many times as it takes for my meandering mind to grasp a particular point.

Here’s my conundrum: I review plays in New York and nowadays, as I sit with pen and pad poised, looking as much the dignified critic as I can muster up, I constantly catch myself idiotically reaching for a nonexistent DVR remote, fruitlessly intending to rewind a live stage performance in order to grasp a playwright’s point or simply rehear what some mush-mouthed actor has stated.

Instantly it sinks into my brainpan that a DVR is useless during a live stage performance. (Ma didn’t raise no dumb kids). However, I sometimes can’t help daydreaming about how sweet of a treat it would be if Anthony Wood could expand his invention of the DVR to include not only live stage shows but everyday activities. I say, if you’re going to invent something, go all the way.

I realize that my idea is far from original. Collective thought (and movies) have surely considered the advantage of a 3-D LIVE DVR remote that would “mute” various people, put others on “pause” or surf “channels” containing subway, bus or airplane passengers until you found just the right crowd to ride with.

Oy! A startling thought just crossed my cranium: have I had my head in my ranting sandbox while such a device has actually come into use? Did I miss that news item? Have I myself unwittingly been paused, rewound, muted? Has someone changed channels on the subway to avoid me?

I should just throw in the tech towel. What with my earlier piece weeks ago on the horrors of closed captioning and now with the DVR issue, I should probably give up on these newfangled TV features altogether and revert back to using the radio.

I wonder if Fibber McGee and Molly is still being broadcast.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website,

Spinal stenosis put the squeeze on me

Sharon L. CookFive years ago I began experiencing lower back pain. It started when I reached into the dishwasher or bent to search the refrigerator. When chopping vegetables, I’d have to sit. My back was obviously sending me a message: Get out of the kitchen.

I agreed to an MRI scan although I was convinced the problem was caused by fallen arches. I’ve had custom arch supports since the eighth grade (though not the same pair). Mornings I slide the 1/2 inch-thick leather inserts into my shoes and immediately feel balanced. Two hours later they feel as thick as catcher’s mitts and I yank them out. My feet are rarely happy although I’ve tried everything including Earth Shoes, which didn’t help. Nor did Birkenstock sandals, Crocs, Dr. Scholl’s or anything with “ortho” in its name.

Meanwhile, I learned the cause of my back pain: degenerative disc disease, commonly known as spinal stenosis.

The following week I had an appointment with Dr. Terence Doorly at his Peabody office. (A fact about neurosurgeons: They must be trained and certified in both surgery and neurology.) Dr. Doorly told me that spinal stenosis is common in 10 percent of baby boomers. Basically the bony supports of the spinal column build up, compressing the spinal canal. The word “stenosis” means narrowing in Greek.

Dr. Doorly displayed my MRI scan on his office monitor. It looked pretty good to me: lots of vibrant color. He concluded by saying he wouldn’t be operating in the near future, yet I’d be back. “Never!” I thought. I would go on a self-improvement regimen. I would exercise and walk more. I would wear arch supports 24-7.

Upon Dr. Doorly’s recommendation, I visited a physical therapist to strengthen my “core.” Cores are something everyone in the fitness business talks about. For the next few weeks I subjected my core to twice-weekly physical therapy appointments. At the conclusion of my visits I can’t say I had washboard abs, but I had a decent core, better than the one I walked in with. The therapist gave me a sheet of exercises to do at home. Alas, the sheet ended up in a desk drawer along with the arch supports.

Five years later I returned to Dr. Doorly’s office. I couldn’t walk to the end of my street without stopping to sit and pretend to tie my shoes. I asked an office nurse what people did in the days before neurosurgery. “They lost control of their lower functions,” she said. Suddenly I felt grateful that I lived in an era of spinal surgery.

That attitude was put to the test in late May as I sat in Salem Hospital’s pre-op area, shivering in a cotton johnny. Patients in plastic shower caps, IVs and breathing tubes were wheeled past. Maybe I’d been too hasty, I thought. Maybe I wasn’t that bad. Minutes later my name was called: Too late to cancel.

In the hours following surgery, anesthesia played tricks on my mind. When my husband called my room, I couldn’t remember his first name. This didn’t bother me — in fact, I thought it was hilarious. Fortunately, as the anesthesia dissipated, my memory returned.

However, when I discovered I wouldn’t be discharged the second day, I called home in tears. Yet on the fourth day I tried convincing Dr. Doorly to let me stay longer. I’d become comfortable in my private room (a perk for neurosurgery patients). I received flowers, cards and meals. I napped as often as a cat. Occasionally I had to get up and walk for the physical therapists.

There’s an old expression: When the ball is over, it’s time to take off your dancing shoes. Eventually I took off my hospital johnny and returned to daily life. At home I graduated from a walker to a cane. Now one month later, I walk unaided.

Dr. Doorly said recovery isn’t a straight line. Some days will be better than others. In the meantime, I’m starting physical therapy. I don’t mind, but my core won’t like it one bit.

— Sharon L. Cook

Sharon L. Cook is author of A Nose for Hanky Panky and A Deadly Christmas Carol.

The royal treatment

Jerry ZezimaSince the birth of the little princess, people around the world have been abuzz with excitement.

I refer, of course, to my granddaughter, Chloe.

People seem excited about Princess Charlotte, too.

That goes for the royal family, but it also goes for my family because Chloe’s daddy, Guillaume, refers to Charlotte’s big brother, Prince George, as “my future son-in-law.”

And now Chloe and George could get a chance to meet. According to published reports, the royal family is renting a mansion for the summer in the Hamptons, the tony towns on Long Island, N.Y., that are a birthstone’s throw from my family’s home, the Zezimanse.

“I think Chloe and George would be perfect for each other,” said Patrick McLaughlin, a licensed broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate in East Hampton, my second-favorite Hampton after Lionel. “They’re a little young yet,” McLaughlin added, “but I have no doubt that one day it will be a marriage made in heaven.”

I have no doubt, either. As I explained to McLaughlin, Guillaume and my younger daughter, Lauren, were married in the South of France in 2011, one day after George’s parents, William and Kate, were married in England. That made the royal couple the opening act for the real Wedding of the Century.

After I wrote to William and Kate to congratulate them, I got a lovely letter in return, thanking me for my good wishes and wishing Lauren and Guillaume the best.

When George was born in 2013, four months after Chloe, I sent a congratulatory letter to Prince Charles, from one grandfather to another. He must have been all ears, because he sent me a postcard of himself and his lovely wife, Camilla, as a token of his appreciation.

Naturally, the Zezimas were ecstatic when Charlotte was born in May, though we know that Chloe is the true princess.

“That’s safe to say,” McLaughlin noted. “I can see why George would be eager to meet her.”

In addition to selling and renting real estate to the rich and famous, whose identities are his little secret, McLaughlin writes a whimsical blog for Hamptons Chatter, a website that contains chatter about — you guessed it — Grand Forks, N.D.

No, I mean the Hamptons.

“I have fun with it,” said McLaughlin, who recently posted a piece about the rumored royal visit.

It began: “The royal formerly known as Prince William, now known as Kate Middleton’s husband, is apparently planning to bring his Windsor brood to spend their summer in the Hamptons! I know! I know! I’m as excited as the next Anglophile!”

I’m excited, too! And not just because of McLaughlin’s propensity for using exclamation points!

“Hi, William,” he continued. “Hopefully, you didn’t buy that real estate yet and you’ll be calling me as your agent in the near future.”

McLaughlin offered some suggestions about must-see spots in the Hamptons.

“One of them is Cyril’s, a great dive bar,” McLaughlin told me.

“I’ve been known to frequent dive bars,” I said. “Maybe William and I could have a pint of ale.”

“Then,” McLaughlin suggested, “you could take him to Home Goods. That’s another place he absolutely has to see.”

“I’m sure Kate would love to shop there,” I said.

“And she’d get great bargains,” said McLaughlin, adding that the royal family simply has to visit Martha Stewart, who has a home in the Hamptons. “She loves drop-by guests,” he noted.

“Do you think Martha would love it if I dropped by?” I asked.

“I’m sure she would,” McLaughlin said. “She might even bake you a cake.”

But the real highlight would be a royal visit to my house.

“It’s not technically in the Hamptons,” I said. “But it has a nice backyard with a slide and a kiddie pool.”

“Chloe and George aren’t old enough for cocktails by the pool,” McLaughlin said, “but you could serve them juice in sippy cups.”

“It’s a little too early to start planning a wedding,” I said. “But I know it’ll be love at first sight.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Kill your darlings

Molly CampbellI am a published author, so that makes me an authority on writing things, doesn’t it?

There are rules to follow. I try to follow them. One rule that has me flummoxed is the current ban on adverbs. You read that correctly. Correctly is an adverb. So how should I have said that just then? You read that with accuracy? Bah.

But since I plan to write more than one novel, and I am actually (another adverb) a third of the way through my next one, I thought I would share with you some of the no-nos in the author game. You know, so you will be a better critic in the future. But be kind in those Amazon reviews — some of them have been so harsh as to cause writers to contemplate becoming auto mechanics and cocktail waitresses instead. But I digress. You aren’t supposed to do that as a writer, either.

A cardinal rule of the writing business is “Show, don’t tell.” It took me about three years to understand what this really means. I am terrible at it. But the following are examples:

TELL: Audrey felt just sick about having to inform Robert that she couldn’t possibly marry him. After all, she still got cold shivers when she thought about Pierre. Pierre was the love of her life, and Audrey believed with all of her heart that he would return from that trip down the Amazon River to discover the cure for arthritis.

SHOW: Audrey woke, her pillow damp with her tears. She put her hand on her forehead, which throbbed from the dream that was so vivid. Pierre was rowing towards her, his eyes full of terror. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a giant boa constrictor reared out of the water, slithered onto Pierre’s tiny boat, and enveloped him in a twisting death grip. “Audrey, Audrey!” Pierre managed to cry, as the evil snake crushed the life out of him. Audrey picked up her cell phone and punched the “Robert” icon. “Hi, darling,” she said. “Oh yes, I will marry you!”

See? So much more literary.

Another writers’ tip is to use dialogue, not description. Readers tire of long passages full of poetic language, no matter how many hours the author spent painting the scene for them and being vivid. Nope. We would rather just move along. Let the characters move the plot, and really, we don’t actually care what color the leaves were on the trees that afternoon. For example:

DESCRIPTION: The sky darkened. The parched, mahogany leaves rattled in the sudden breeze. Flora felt the goosebumps rise on her arms, drawing the thin muslin wrap around her. Thunder rent the air with dissonant anger. Grant began to pack the picnic things into the basket, but not before the huge, cold drops began to fall. The sky took on a greenish hue as the lightning pierced the clouds. Grant seized the picnic basket in one hand and extended his other out to the frightened and shivering girl. As they hurtled toward the distant farm cottage, a thunderclap nearly knocked them down.


“Shit, Flora, I think it’s going to rain! Hurry up and finish your sandwich. We need to get out of here!”

“Don’t be silly. It is just heat lightning. It happens all the time around here. Want a pickle?”

“For God’s sake, are you nuts? My cousin got struck by lightning three years ago at the golf course, and he has been a sniveling idiot ever since — you can stay as long as you want, but I am getting out of here.”

“You are overreacting, as usual. Wait! Damn! My Sierra Mist just blew over! You may be right. Look at the sky — it’s puke green…”

Which book would you rather read? I thought so. 

So you see, we authors don’t just jot down whatever comes into our heads. It’s a craft. Nay, an art form! We spend hours just sifting through our heads for the right word. We agonize over those adjectives, and we brutally eliminate those adverbs (oh, right — brutally is an adverb). We struggle with realistic dialogue.

Yup. So right now I have to get back to Flora, Pierre and Robert. Poor Pierre. That anaconda — or was it a boa constrictor — just sealed his fate, and tonight, Robert is going to get lucky…

— Molly D. Campbell

Molly D. Campbell writes a blog from her pantry, often in pajamas. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award winner, winning honorable mentions in both the humor and human interest categories in 2010 and 2012. She self-published her first book,  Characters in search of a novel. Her second book, Keep the Ends Loose, was released by The Story Plant in 2015.

Reflections of Erma