David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 3 — Problem-Solving


• Children’s book author Betsy Byars has a trick for making herself write when she doesn’t want to write: She thinks of chores that need to be done. For example, she will think to herself, “All right, today you are either going to have to write two pages or you are going to have to defrost the refrigerator.” Sometimes, she will defrost the refrigerator and then think of another chore to do. Eventually, she hits on a chore that makes writing a better option — and then she writes. She also used her young children as critics. They would read what she wrote and if they felt themselves losing interest, they would draw an arrow pointing in the margin of that passage. Sometimes these downwards-pointing arrows appeared in her nightmares. In a way, her husband also served as a critic. Ms. Byars would try to write a murder mystery, but her husband constantly was able to guess the identity of the murderer after reading only two pages of her manuscript.

• When he was a teenager, and before he became a famous author, Walter Dean Myers got into trouble as a member of a gang in Harlem. One way the gang members made money was to hire themselves out as thugs — if someone wanted a certain person beaten up, he could hire members of the gang to do the beating. Once, Mr. Myers went along as another gang member attempted to carry out a beating, but this time the gang member had been set up. The “victim” was a police officer who ran after them. Both of them got away for the time being, but Mr. Myers realized that the police knew the other gang member’s name and that it would be only a matter of time before they learned that he was involved. Therefore, to avoid trouble with the police, he joined the United States Army. It worked. A couple of days after he had left for boot camp, the police arrived at his home to question him.

• Gay author Michael Thomas Ford once ran into problems with a couple of gay-bashing teenage boys who did such things as steal Mr. Ford’s rainbow flag, smash the windows of cars displaying rainbow stickers, and force a lesbian couple to move from the neighborhood. Mr. Ford responded by buying 10 more rainbow flags, which he and his neighbors displayed. The next time Mr. Ford saw the teenage boys, he told them, “See all these flags. This means there are more of us than there are of you. Don’t you ever forget that.” The harassment stopped.

• Jane Austen wrote such novels as Pride and Prejudice at Chawton Cottage, and she tried to keep her writing secret from people other than family and close friends. Leading to the room where she wrote was a door that creaked. The door was never fixed so that it would not creak — Ms. Austen used the creak as a warning that someone was coming, and she hid her writing before her visitor arrived.

• Lesbian author Gail Sausser used to live with several lesbian housemates, all of whom were creative problem-solvers. For example, whenever the house got too dirty, they would decide to throw a party, which motivated everyone to clean to get the house ready for guests.

• Flowers can be expensive, and so living next door to a cemetery has advantages. Jamie Tevis, wife of novelist Walter Tevis (author of The Hustler, The Color of Money, and The Man Who Fell to Earth) used to get flowers to brighten their table from the wreaths in the cemetery.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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