David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books — Work


• Frederick C. Copleston, S.J. wrote a nine-volume history of philosophy, an accomplishment that astonished many people, who suspected that a syndicate of writers was actually behind the books published under the name of Copleston. He once said, “If anyone is curious to know how I managed to write so much, the answer is, I suppose, that I did little else but study, lecture, and write. Being celibate and having for most of my life no administrative post, I was able to devote a large part of each day to literary work. The syndicate idea was a figment of the imagination.”

• Children’s book author/illustrator David McPhail believes in taking advantage of inspiration when it strikes. He was awaiting some friends whom he had invited to his house when he was struck by inspiration and began writing Henry Bear’s Park. In the middle of writing the story, he heard a knock at the door. He threw it open, saw his friends, and told them, “I’m in the middle of writing something. Go to the beach and come back in an hour!” An hour later, when they came back, he had finished the story.

• Robert Benchley frequently found it difficult to work at his apartment in the Algonquin — friends were always dropping in to see him, or he was always leaving his apartment to drop in on some of his friends. Once, he wrote the word “The” on a sheet of paper, figuring that it would make a good beginning for an article, then he went out to see some friends. When he returned, he stared for a while at the “The,” then added “hell with it,” and went out to see some more friends.

• Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes were Watching God, made little money as a writer although she was one of the most celebrated writers of the Harlem Renaissance. At one point, despite being a published writer, she worked as a maid in Florida to make money because she needed money and was accustomed to earn her own way in life. Members of the white family she worked for were greatly surprised one day when they saw a photograph of their maid in a magazine.

• Lois Ehlert did not plan to be a writer/illustrator of children’s books, but after taking a class on making homemade books, she needed something to fill the pages of the book she had created. Because she had a vegetable garden, she wrote and illustrated a story that she titled Growing Vegetable Soup. The book was published, and suddenly Ms. Ehlert was a writer/illustrator of books for children.

• The worst job author Gary Paulsen ever had was replacing septic tanks while working for a septic tank company. Because he was new at the company, he had the worst job — emptying the sewage from the old tanks. Sometimes, Mr. Paulsen would be shoveling when a homeowner flushed the toilet and unintentionally gave him a shower of sewage — Mr. Paulsen’s fellow employees thought this was hilarious.

• As the author of such children’s books as The Two Giants, Eve Bunting finds that she can write anywhere. Because she didn’t have her notebook with her, she once wrote a children’s story on the back of a program in the dark while a play was being performed. On another occasion, she felt inspired while traveling but again didn’t have her notebook with her, so she wrote the story on a “barf” bag.

• As an author of children’s books, Margaret Mahy stays alert in hopes of finding ideas for new books. She once saw this sign in a butcher’s shop in her native New Zealand: “Pot-boiling owls.” Actually, a letter had fallen off the sign — it was supposed to say, “Pot-boiling Fowls.” Someday, she may write a story suggested by this sign.

• As a hard-working professional writer, Isaac Asimov, who wrote or edited over 400 books during his career, began writing at 7:30 a.m. then continued throughout the day, often writing until late at night. He once said, “I must write. I look upon everything but writing as an interruption.”

• Finis Farr worked as a contributing editor at Time, where he was very unhappy. One day, he went to a park after lunch and thought how much he dreaded going back to work. Suddenly, he thought, “I’ve got the answer! Don’t go back.” Mr. Farr didn’t go back.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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