Welcome to my new series for authors with new books. I’ve chosen to start the series off with a blast and few good laughs as well as great information. I’m thrilled to have Ned Hickson, author, blogger, humor columnist, editor, and volunteer fire-fighter here today to start the series.
On the serious side – Ned does write a humor column for the Siuslaw News, a small Oregon paper, where his motto is: “Your dependable source for local news. Twice weekly. Unless we lose count.”
For those of you who don’t know Ned, you’re in for a treat and lots of laughter. Ned sure does wear a lot of hats, and not to mention he’s a dedicated family man and looks for the funny in every situation. Oh, and I just have to mention, Ned loves bacon. If you want to know how much, just go over to his blog and type in ‘bacon’ in the search bar, grab a coffee, and prepare to be thoroughly entertained. According to Ned, bacon is almost a universal item that could be eaten, worn, or even part of a book cover (which he chose not to use). Please visit Ned’s ABOUT PAGE to get a great idea of what he’s all about.
Ned’s first book –Humor at the Speed of Life is rated 5 Star Hilarious, and today Ned will be introducing his newly published book here today- Pearls of Writing Wisdom and share a bit about the book and himself.
From the dangers of family forays in the kitchen (Flaming Pop Tarts), and the careful maneuvering of male-female relations (Women are From Venus, and Men Won’t Ask for Directions), to the dangers of working as an under-appreciated JURNALIST, Ned takes us through day-to-day misadventures we can all relate to.
Link to Humor at the Speed of Life:
Ned is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist and editor-in-chief at Siuslaw News. He has been awarded “Best Local Column” from both the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and his weekly column appears in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada as a syndicated feature for News Media Corporation.
He was also a corporate chef for 10 years and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2011. Both are topics that have made their way into his columns, along with daily life experiences and important social issues, such as glow-in-the-dark mice and injuries caused by overheated pickles in fast food. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, was published by Port Hole Publishing and is a collection of his most popular columns during his 16 years as a columnist.
His latest book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 Shucking Years as a Columnist (also from Port Hole Publishing), is a writer’s survival guide offering tips, insights and inspiration from his 16 years as a writer and columnist. It was written for writers and anyone pursuing their love of the written word — whether for publication or personal satisfaction.
Ned is a firm believer in the value of humor in daily life, and its role keeping perspective in an increasingly fast-paced and stressful world… especially during seasons of “Dancing With the Stars.”
If you are a writer, or fear you might be one, I wrote this book for you. It contains my pearls of writing wisdom: insights, tips and encouragement shucked from my 16 years as a newspaper columnist and writer. Think of this book as a conversation we’d have about writing if we were sharing a cold beer. We’d talk about technique, style, personal experience and hopes. We’d encourage each other and share a few laughs. We might even get a little rowdy and start using air quotation marks. In the end, we’d feel inspired about our love of writing. So pull up a stool, turn the page and let’s talk about writing… — Ned Hickson
Link to “Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist”
So without any further ado, here’sssssssssssss Ned!
Welcome Ned and congratulations on your newest book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom! Can you tell us a little bit about how this book came to be?
First, thanks for having me as your guest, Debby. And also for the bowl of bacon bits. You’re very thoughtful. And hopefully know how to administer CPR. The idea for “Pearls of Writing Wisdom” really started with a feature called “Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which I had been running each Friday on my blog for almost two years. It was aimed at sharing tips, insights and ways of staying inspired as a writer — things I wish I’d known early on in my career. It was a popular series of posts that got me thinking about expanding into a book that writers could keep as a resource for ideas, perspective and inspiration when they need it, from someone whose been there — and still is. I wrote it as if it were a conversation between two writers while having a beer together. The goal was to make it fun to read while, at the same time, being the kind of book writers will nod their head while reading instead of nodding off.
How do you manage to have the time to write books, blogs, fight fires, be a family man, and be a ‘jurnalist’ full time?
It’s true that I’m busy. But I’m busy doing the things I love, which I think is the key to staying motivated and inspired. I also try very hard to make sure most of the things I do work together in my life. Writing books, blogging, being a journalist and a family man all dovetail together. Being a volunteer firefighter? That’s important to me because it’s something I’m passionate about and completely unrelated to everything else. It’s important to have something in your life that forces you out of your normal groove. Being tapped out at 3 a.m. for a house fire or someone lost in the woods reminds you to appreciate the groove you have — and that it can change quickly. Plus, our station has a really great dinner together once a month that almost always involves either beef or pork.
I’ve read some of your hilarious ‘handyman’ posts. Would you like to share one of your misadventures about your mission to repair something?
My stepfather was a terrific man who could build or fix anything and was never afraid to tackle a project. He instilled in me the belief that I could do the same. He was wrong, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. For example, when I decided to increase the space in our bathroom, I discovered there are certain walls in your home that should not be removed because, as it turns out, portions of your home will collapse. In my own defense, these “bearing walls” aren’t marked as such and, as a general rule, look just like other walls in your home. In this instance, I found myself standing in the middle of the downstairs bathroom while surrounded by the upstairs closet. Everything eventually turned out alright, thanks to my family’s show of support by not hiring a professional. Such as a hit man.
Can you tell us about the time you were voted for sexiest number at Public Blogger? What do you think was your winning strategy? Was it bacon?
I have to say there were plenty of other bloggers who were much sexier than me. However, nothing is as sexy as bacon. I knew using bacon in the “Sexy Poem” portion of the competition would overcome things like age and having a stomach that’s closer to a pony keg than a six pack:
An Unhealthy Love
The taste of you
continues to linger
on my tongue
along the tip of every finger
Your pliant curves
against my lips
all at once
yet savoring you in bits
They say this hunger
and constant yearning
will lead to pain
and my heart burning
But I don’t care
if I’m forsaken
I love you
because you’re bacon
How do you handle rejection letters? (Although I find it hard to believe anyone could reject you.)
I have to credit my sixth-grade crush Sarah Getlost with teaching me how to handle rejection. I spent a lot of time trying to be who I thought she wanted — jock, brainiac, musician, future millionaire — until I realized acceptance for who you are is what matters most. It’s the same for being a writer.
Rejection is a necessary part of the process in finding your readership and those who appreciate you for who you are as a writer. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to be something you’re not because, even if you build a readership or get a publishing contract, you will never truly be happy. It took me a while to figure that out as writer. I spent several years early on jumping from genre to genre, changing my writing style, trying to copy the style of other writers… Ultimately, it’s your voice that defines you as a writer. And you can’t do that in a voice that isn’t your own. Once I understood that, I started seeing rejections as something guiding me to a readership as opposed to an obstacle keeping me from finding one. Incidentally, that same belief guided me to the amazing woman I’m lucky enough to call my wife. And she’s way hotter than Sarah Getlost…
When you were asking your readers to help vote for your new book cover, I know you got a lot of votes for you on the sand wearing ‘the red thong’. Do you think you may eventually use that photo for another book?
Hahaha! I’m saving that for the cover of my first horror novel…
Please share some of your ‘writing pearls of wisdom’ about some good tips you have for writers.
Every writer is different, but these three things are what I consider the most important aspect of successful writing:
- A) Find your voice — This is easier said than done, but critical in avoiding getting lost in the “white noise” of the writing world. Despite the fact that all humans essentially possess the same speaking components — vocal cords, nasal passages, etc. — we recognize a voice in the crowd because each of us has something that makes our sound unique. A writer’s voice is the same way. We all use words and ideas, but it’s the way we put them together that defines our voice and makes it recognizable to readers.
- B) Treat your writing as a way of life, not a hobby: If you take your writing seriously so will others. You have to make it a part of everyday life in the same way you do going to work, doing laundry, shopping, etc. Unless you incorporate writing into your routine — whether it be daily, weekly or even monthly — it will always be treated as an extracurricular activity instead of a serious pursuit. Especially if you start wearing a smoking jacket around the house.
- C) Don’t write for publication; write for yourself: Chances are you started writing when you were young. You did it because it satisfied a need for self expression. Writers are writers because they can’t NOT be one. It’s important to remember that because it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you are a “legitimate” writer unless you are published or get paid for it. Money doesn’t make you a writer — writing does. Focus on that and the rest will take care of itself. And no matter what happens, the end result will be something fulfilling that you can feel good about — the same reasons we started writing in the first place.
Are you currently working on any newfangled ideas for another book?
I have the final draft of a murder mystery called “No Safe Harbor” that I want to complete by this summer. It’s set in Seattle and I’m calling it a “Why Dunnit” because you know who did it within the first chapter. The question is why? The rest of the book pieces together the “why.” I posted the first chapter on my blog a while back and got some terrific feedback/critique that let me know I was heading in the right direction. I actually have a lousy sense of direction, so this was encouraging. My friend Eric Wilder, who did the cover for Pearls of Writing Wisdom, designed another terrific cover that I posted next to my computer for inspiration. It’s next to my wife’s picture, which is a whole other kind of inspiration…
Can you share a snippet of your new book with us?
I often get asked where I get ideas for my weekly syndicated humor column. Those who don’t ask have probably surmised it has something to do about living in Oregon, where marijuana is legal. Here’s a brief excerpt from my book, which I’d like to point out wasn’t printed on Zig-Zag rolling paper:
“So how do I decide between good ideas and not-so-good ones? Before we get to that, I will explain why I don’t believe there are any “bad” ideas. At least when it comes to writing (Skateboarding down “suicide hill” wearing nothing but swim trunks and flip-flops when I was 10? Bad idea.)
When it comes to cultivating story ideas — good or “bad” — they’re all part of the filtration process. Think of “bad” ideas as corn mash; it isn’t what you’re after when making moonshine, but it’s a by-product of the fermentation process that leads to the end result. The trick is knowing when to dump it even though, like whisky, mash can still get you intoxicated.
On my desk is a folder I have cleverly labeled: Column Ideas.
This folder is my “corn mash.” That’s where everything goes to begin the fermentation process. Like a bootlegger, I sift through it regularly, dumping what is no longer usable (because of timeliness issues or spilled coffee, for example) and adding more in its place. On those occasions where I come into the office without an idea, I turn to this folder to see if anything is ready to begin the distillation process. Sometimes just a key phrase in something I saved will spark an idea. And even though it may not be directly related to the idea in the folder, again, it started with the corn mash. I should point out there are definitely things which, even though they are tucked into the folder, continue to pop into my head. For example, I received an email last week from…
He apparently lives in San Mateo, Calif., and has a P.O. box.
These are the kinds of things you really have no choice but to write about. And not just because I might land the lead in “Ned Almighty.”
So whether you keep a notebook to jot down ideas, search the Internet, notice an interesting exchange in a restaurant while sipping coffee or inadvertently catch site of something suspicious at your neighbors’ house, once the binoculars are put away write it down and let it begin the fermentation process.
As a writer, you are already hardwired for observation. Whether it’s at the coffee shop, helping out at your child’s pre-school, at the local post office or from somewhere completely unexpected, your muse is always waiting.”
Find Ned: http://www.nedhickson.com
Debby, thank you so much for having me as your guest today. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to share some things I hope will help other writers. When I speak at writers conferences there’s always a Q&A afterward. Since we can’t do that here, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. I’ll be happy to answer.
Thanks again Debby, and to everyone for reading.
Oh, by the way — we’re out of bacon bits…
Thanks so much Ned for coming over here and sharing some of yourself with us. You know how much I enjoy reading your blog and I’m sure that there are many here who enjoy your sense of humor and will now leave my blog come to visit your blog for a dose of laughter.
Please feel free to leave comments and questions here for Ned. You can also email him at the address he’s provided.