• Isaac Asimov died at age 72 on April 6, 1992, after having published 477 books. Actually, since he had completed several books that had not been published at the time of his death, and since some collections of his short stories and essays have been published since he died, the number of books he has written or edited and published is now over 500. How could he write that many books? Well, for one thing, he wrote seven hours a day, seven days a week, not taking time off for holidays or weekends. He once said, “All I do is write. I do practically nothing else, except eat, sleep, and talk to my wife.” Don’t feel bad for him — he was doing what he loved: “I am so ill-rounded that the 10 things I love to do are write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, and write. Oh, I do other things. I even like to do other things. But when asked for the 10 things I love, that’s it.”
• Comedian Phyllis Diller was much influenced by the book The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol. It gave her so much confidence that when she was fired at the San Francisco Purple Onion by Keith Rockwell as a result of some intrigue by other people, she didn’t grow angry at him; instead, she told him, “That’s OK. I don’t really need this job to make my way in the world of comedy. You gave me my start, and that’s enough. Don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine.” Mr. Rockwell was used to being screamed at by the people he fired, and Ms. Diller’s gracious response to being fired impressed him so much that a few days later he re-hired her.
• Eve Arden was married to actor Brooks West, with whom she starred in many theatrical productions. After World War II, Brooks was having a tough time getting his career as an actor established again, so his friend the novelist John Steinbeck came to the rescue. He told Brooks, “I have noticed that when actors sign a contract, they always seem to be offered another job right away. So I have drawn up a contract between us that I want you to sign.” Mr. Steinbeck then had Mr. West sign a joke contract. It worked — soon after, Brooks was offered a real contract.
• Author Jane Yolen started her writing career as a journalist (the play about talking vegetables that she wrote in the first grade doesn’t count), but she quickly discovered that she needed to do creative writing. She admits that she used to cry when she interviewed “poor people in terrible straits,” and she admits that she used to make up facts. This, of course, is something that a journalist (except perhaps for those “journalists” writing in sensationalist supermarket tabloids) cannot do.
• William Peter Blatty used to write comedies such as Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark for Hollywood in the 1960s, but the market for these movies dried up, so he wrote the horror novel The Exorcist, then turned it into a screenplay. Of course, The Exorcist became a great horror movie and made him famous. Later, when Mr. Blatty was mentioned as a possible author for a comedy screenplay, a movie studio head was astounded: “William Peter Blatty! The guy who wrote The Exorcist? You want me to hire him for a comedy?”
• Before becoming a science fiction writer, Anne McCaffrey worked as an advertising copy layout artist for Liberty Music Shops. While in an elevator, she heard a salesperson tell actress Tallulah Bankhead that a new record player could play up to four hours and a half of music. Ms. Bankhead often played romantic music on her record player, so she turned to her boyfriend and asked mischievously, “Dahling, do you think that will be long enough?”
• Before becoming famous as the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling was the worst secretary ever. At meetings, she would sit and take notes — but the notes weren’t about the meeting, they were about plot ideas and characters. Another reason she was frequently fired was that she typed her manuscripts while she was supposed to be working.
• Roald Dahl, the author of the noted children’s book Matilda, had a hut in which he did his writing. The hut was filled with mementos of his life, including a big ball made out of foil that had wrapped the many chocolate bars Mr. Dahl had eaten throughout his adulthood. The hut also included a memento of one of Mr. Dahl’s operations: his hipbone!
• Caryll Householder, author of This War is the Passion, once worked as a cleaning lady, but unfortunately she was afraid of mice. Part of her job was to take dead mice out of traps, but rather than do that herself, she paid the cooks to do it. The bribes took up most of her salary, so she quit her job.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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