David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: Huffington Post

Fill the Sky: A Novel by Katherine A. Sherbrooke book cover

Katherine A. Sherbrooke on Diagramming Sentences, GrubStreet, Memoir & Fiction

As book doctors, we have the privilege of traveling all over the country and connecting with organizations that help writers get successfully published. We’ve been hearing about GrubStreet for years, and when we started investigating, we found out what an amazing organization it is. So when we discovered that Katherine A. Sherbrooke, GrubStreet’s board chair, was coming out with a new book, Fill the Sky, we thought we’d pick her brain about writing, writers groups, and the joys and perils of switching from memoir to fiction.

Read the interview on the Huffington Post.

Katherine A. Sherbrooke author

Katherine A. Sherbrooke (Photo: Melissa Forman)

The Book Doctors: We understand you’ve always wanted to be a writer since you were a kid. Why in God’s name would you want to be a writer?

Katherine A. Sherbrooke: I suppose in the same way a kid watching the lunar landing decides they want to be an astronaut, or the way the 1980 Winter Olympics spawned legions of hockey players. Witnessing something extraordinary makes you want to do it. Reading books transported me in that way. Plus, I’m claustrophobic and afraid of heights, so space travel was definitely out.

TBD: What were some of your favorite books as a kid, and why?

KS: I vividly remember being mesmerized by James and the Giant Peach, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I suppose in part because they opened my eyes to the power of imagination combined with ink and paper. One of my all-time favorites had to be The Velveteen Rabbit. Its metaphor of fraying fur and missing buttons as proof of love, of being real, moved me deeply.

TBD: How did you learn the craft of writing?

KS: I was blessed with incredible English teachers in my early days, and built a strong foundation for writing through (don’t laugh) diagramming sentences until I was blue in the face, and later learning the art of a well-written essay and the importance of good structure. While that gave me a certain confidence with the written word, creative writing requires a whole added set of skills. The first teacher was good novels, reading a lot of them. The rest I learned at GrubStreet, mostly getting feedback on my work from other writers so I could hear first hand what techniques were working and which ones weren’t.

TBD: Tell us about GrubStreet and your involvement with it. What have you learned about writing and writers from being involved with this organization?

KS: GrubStreet is one of the largest creative writing organizations in the country, open to writers of all levels. It is an organization that believes deeply in the power of narrative to transform us as humans, and the desperate need for us to hear stories from all walks of life, a mission very close to my heart. So I fell in love with them from the minute I walked in the door and immediately wanted to help. From a writer’s point of view, I describe GrubStreet as the lifeline of my creative pursuits. Many people think of writing as a lonely endeavor, and I suppose the actual act of sitting down and putting thoughts on paper can feel that way, but there is much more to the process than that if you are willing to give and accept help. I have found the most incredible community of writers at GrubStreet. This is a group of amazingly talented and generous people who truly want to help each other succeed. I have learned everything I know about what it takes to actually complete a novel and get it out into the marketplace through classes, conferences and the community at Grub.

TBD: You’re also an entrepreneur. We are too. What did you learn about being a writer by inventing and running a business?

KS: My co-founder of Circles used to say that there is a fine line between entrepreneurs and mad men: they both see things that aren’t there. Writing is the same. You have to believe that what you have to offer has a place out there in the world, even when it’s not finished, even if it doesn’t fly off the shelf at first. Entrepreneurship, in my view, takes a whole lot of really hard work, a good measure of luck, a legion of people keen to help the project succeed, and a willingness to take a deep breath and fling yourself off the cliff. Trying to get a book out into the world isn’t much different. Or maybe I’m still just crazy.

TBD: Your first book was a memoir, and it was about your family. After David’s memoir came out, his family didn’t speak to him for five years. What were some of the dangers and joys of writing and publishing your memoir?

KS: My parents had a classic, tumultuous love story leading up to their marriage that they would occasionally indulge me or my siblings by telling. We had each heard different snippets, but none of us had all the detail, all the various pieces. When my mother was overcome by dementia, I realized that I had to sit down with my father (who thankfully has an iron-clad memory) and get the whole story on paper before it was too late. The best part were the hours of conversation I had with my dad about his younger days, including touring through every corner of Newark, NJ with him to set the scene: where he grew up, his high school, his father’s old tavern, where they went on dates, etc. I walked away with much more material than fit in the book, but they were conversations I might never have had without that impetus. On the flip side, handing my own version of my parent’s love story back to my father to read was terrifying. Thankfully he loved it. He emails me all the time to tell me he stayed up all night to read it again.

TBD: How was it transitioning from writing non-fiction to being able to make stuff up and create a novel?

KS: Really hard! As restrictive as the requirement to stick to the facts felt at times while I was writing the memoir, I was handed a great cast of characters, a fantastic plot, and a setting that I didn’t have to invent. I added a little research to corroborate what my father had told me, and voila, my book was born. When I turned to fiction, having absolutely no boundaries on any of that made the process much harder, and take much longer. That said, it is really satisfying to have a new plot point or a new character pop into my head while I’m out for a walk and suddenly know that my story has taken a turn for the better. And having the license to explore through fiction things that have never actually happened to me is pretty amazing.

Fill the Sky: A Novel by Katherine A. Sherbrooke book cover

SIXONESEVEN BOOKS

TBD: What was your inspiration for your new novel Fill the Sky?

KS: I love reading books that take me to a place or time I have never been to so I can learn through the ease of a great story. I was beginning to hunt around for a book idea when I happened to go on a trip to Ecuador with a group of friends to spend some time with local shamans. The trip was a life-changer for me, and it struck me as an incredible and unique setting for a novel. The premise is fictional (we didn’t travel there for health reasons) but all the rituals in the book save one are things I have actually experienced.

TBD: What is your next project?

KS: I’m at work on another novel. Stay tuned.

TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

KS: Find trusted readers, people who are willing to read your entire manuscript and give you honest and detailed feedback. They do not have to be writers; in fact, some of the best input can come from avid readers. But don’t just do this because you want applause and adoration. It is really important to be open to their feedback. It can be very hard to hear that a scene that had you weeping while you wrote it barely registered with your reader, or that your favorite character leaves them cold (and you may need several days or weeks to process what they have to say), but that is precisely the kind of input you want. I find it very hard to see my work for what it is without the guiding hands of intelligent readers. They are worth their weight in gold.

Katherine A. Sherbrooke received her B.A. from Dartmouth College and M.B.A. from Stanford University. An entrepreneur and writer, she is the author of Finding Home, a family memoir about her parents’ tumultuous and inspiring love affair. This is her first novel. She lives outside Boston with her husband, two sons, and black lab. Visit her online at www.kasherbrooke.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

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New Jersey Alternative Medicine logo

Pain, Weed and Dr. Andrew Medvedovsky

When I was 17, I was viciously assaulted, raped, torn in half. The carefree lad who entered the apartment of that man wearing the shirt that said “sexy” on it was replaced by a PTSD-ravaged man-child with a bomb ticking in his brains, and a mute button on his tongue. When I was finally diagnosed many years later, several therapists wanted to load me up with Zoloft, Xanax, all kinds of heavy drugs that big Pharma, the ultimate pusher, wanted to shove down America’s throat. The only thing I found that really helps more than it harms is nature’s remedy: weed, ganja, skank, Mary Jane, good old-fashioned marijuana. But living in New Jersey, I can’t access the drug I need—the one that grows in the earth, the one that no one has ever died from—without breaking the law. Because it’s illegal. During my search for a remedy to my situation, I came across a fascinating organization, New Jersey Alternative Medicine, and an individual who’s treating chronic pain in revolutionary ways.

Read the interview on the Huffington Post.

Dr. Andrew Medvedovsky

Dr. Andrew Medvedovsky

David Henry Sterry: How did you get started as a professional reliever of pain?

Andrew Medvedovsky: As a medical student I decided to go into neurology with the idea of becoming a headache specialist. During my neurology residency, I encountered many patients suffering with chronic pain who had to be referred to a pain specialist. I felt that my treatment options as a neurologist were limited to a script pad and few basic interventions. I decided to pursue a fellowship in interventional pain management so that I can perform more advanced procedures for patients suffering with spine related conditions. It made perfect sense to me as a neurologist to specialize in pain management and maintain continuity with my patients to provide comprehensive treatment options.

DHS: I suffer from chronic pain, and most people who don’t suffered in this way have trouble understanding the long-term effects this can have on people. What have you observed in your years of treatment about how chronic pain impacts people?

AM: Chronic pain affects every aspect of your life. Pain affects your function, mood, sleep, interpersonal relationships, and overall health. People in pain don’t sleep well, wake up tired and frustrated, irritable, and have no energy or desire to do anything. Chronic pain affects a person’s ability to work and maintain financial stability, leading to increased anxiety, stress and depression. Personal relationships become affected and ultimately lead chronic pain patients to become isolated, depressed, and continue the vicious cycle.

DHS: How did you become involved in using marijuana for medicinal purposes with patients?

AM: After I completed my pain medicine fellowship, I joined a very busy pain management practice (RA PAIN SERVICES). It was funny at first that so many patients asked me about getting medical marijuana prescribed. I didn’t take it seriously at first, but then decided to register with the state as a marijuana doctor and give it a try. Patients I was treating had been through many conventional treatments like therapy, injections, medications and surgery without relief. Many patients admitted to trying cannabis and reported much better pain relief than with medications. I started the program in July 2015 and was amazed at the results. Patients were happier, more functional, taking fewer medications and had much better quality of life.

New Jersey Alternative Medicine logo

DHS: How do you see the opiate crisis in American medicine and American culture?

AM: It’s a serious problem and a major challenge for physicians treating patients with chronic pain and for patients seeking treatment for chronic pain. Older generations of doctors were trained to prescribe massive doses of opioids without the fear of addiction and diversion. There has been a major paradigm shift on opioid safety and prescribing practices for physicians today. There are patients with chronic intractable pain for whom opioid therapy has allowed good level of function and quality of life. With the new CDC guidelines and strict regulations for physicians, many patients are struggling to find physicians to manage their pain and are seeking alternative treatment options. Unfortunately, the opioid crisis is a national epidemic that has impacted communities and families across the US. Opioid addiction often leads to heroine and lethal consequences.

DHS: Why do you think it’s still so hard to get medical marijuana for pain management in many parts of the country (New Jersey, in particular, where we both live)?

AM: I don’t think it’s so hard to get medical marijuana for “Pain Management” as long as the cause of pain is established and supported by diagnostic studies. If someone says I have back pain without any imaging studies or previous treatments than that wouldn’t qualify someone for medical marijuana. If a patient complains of back pain who had back surgery, suffers with chronic intractable pain, spasms, neuropathy, and has tried and failed other treatments, then this is someone who would absolutely qualify. I have many patients in my program for “Pain Management,” but it’s related to a medical marijuana program qualifying condition like Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, cancer, severe spasms, muscular dystrophy, etc.

DHS: What is interventional pain management?

AM: Interventional pain management refers to minimally invasive procedures that target specific pain sources. The most common interventional pain procedures are epidural steroid injections usually performed for sciatica type pain, facet joint blocks, and more advanced interventions like spinal cord stimulators. Physicians who perform these procedures are required to complete advanced fellowship training.

DHS: What are some of the conditions which can be helped by medical marijuana?

AM: In my experience, the following conditions have seen tremendous benefit from medical marijuana:

  • Intractable chronic pain
  • Spasms
  • Neuropathy
  • Migraine headaches
  • Anxiety/PTSD/Insomnia
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Multiple sclerosis associated spasms

DHS: What are some cases where you have seen medical marijuana help patients with their pain?

AM: I honestly think that every patient dealing with chronic pain can get some benefit with medical marijuana. It depends on how motivated the patients are and if they are patient enough to find the right strain to help them. Most patients will have much better sleep, increased energy, improved mood and be able to take less medications. Poor sleep is a major issue with chronic pain patients, which ultimately results in ongoing fatigue and hormonal imbalance.

DHS: What advice do you have for people who are in chronic pain?

AM: Be your own advocate, be open minded and know that there are always options. Medical marijuana is not a miracle cure, but it’s a lot safer than just about any other medication out there. It may be a life-changing decision and the road to health.

Dr. Andrew Medvedovsky is a Board Certified Neurologist and Pain Medicine Specialist. He is a full time physician with RA PAIN Services and the founder of New Jersey Alternative Medicine. He is an advocate for medical marijuana and is passionate about helping patients improve their quality of life, reduce the need for harmful medications, and educate the public about medical benefits and safety of medical cannabis.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. His new book Chicken Self: Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages. He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his wife, and co-founded of The Book Doctors, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping countless writers get published. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp. He can be found at davidhenrysterry.com.

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Olive Interviews David for Huffington Post On Donald Trump, Food, & World Peace #TalkToMe

Olive & David Henry Sterry talk about game shows, Mary Lou Retton, Hillary Clinton, Donald J. Trump, food, & world peace for Huffington Post #TalkToMe

 

Melissa Cistaro on Horses, Mothers, Bookstores and How She Got Her First Book Deal

We first met Melissa Cistaro when she pitched her book to us at a Pitchapalooza we did for Book Passage (one of America’s great bookstores) in Corte Madera, California. We’ve been doing this so long we can usually tell when someone has a book in them and is capable of getting it out successfully. And we knew Melissa had the right stuff as soon as she opened her mouth. Arielle then made a suggestion to Melissa that she calls perhaps her greatest move as a Book Doctor: she told Melissa that she should get a job working at Book Passage. This is what separates the doers from the talkers. Melissa actually did it; she got a job at Book Passage. Eventually she became the person who introduces authors when they do events at Book Passage. Some of the greatest authors in the world come through that bookstore. Now Melissa gets to move from being the person who presents authors to the author being presented. So we thought we would pick her brain to see how she did it.

To read this interview on the Huffington Post, click here.

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The Book Doctors: How did you get started as a writer?

Melissa Cistaro: This may sound odd, but I think that becoming a mother is what turned me into a writer. Even in college, I still considered writing one of my greatest weaknesses. But when I saw my own child for the first time, I knew I had to figure out how to tell the stories that had been hiding inside of me for so long. I started taking classes at UCLA Extension, and it was there that I caught a glimpse of my writing voice–and after that, I couldn’t stop writing. I’ve always believed that motherhood opened a portal inside of me that gave me permission to write. If I hadn’t become a mother, I don’t know that I would have become a writer.

TBD: What are some of your favorite books and why?

MC: In the house I grew up in, we rarely had access to books. I was not a child who discovered books early–they came late for me, and when they did, I had a lot of catching up to do. One of the first books to completely mesmerize me was Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. The language was magical and the story deep, evocative and riveting. I am often pulled into stories through language. Fugitive Pieces is another book that I drew me in with its incredible poetic narrative. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje and a short story collection by John Murray called A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies. Oh this is hard! I could go on and on with favorite books.

TBD: What made you decide to write a memoir?

MC: I started this story as a work of fiction. It was easier for me to dive into it as someone else’s narrative rather than my own. For years, I wrote calling myself Paisley Chapin in the story, but eventually I realized that I wasn’t very good at drifting away from the truth, as I knew it. Early on, I showed my oldest brother some chapters, and he said to me, “Sorry Sis, but this ain’t fiction you are writing.”

TBD: How has your family reacted to seeing themselves in print?

MC: The book was very difficult to hand to my father. There were many facets of our childhood that he wasn’t aware of–and it was definitely emotional for him to take in our story on paper. He has been exceptionally supportive of the book and, ultimately, a proud father. My brothers also have been generous and supportive. Naturally, there were some details that we recalled in different ways, and we have since had some great conversations about our childhood.

TBD: You attended a number of writing programs, do you recommend this? What are some of the benefits and liabilities?

MC: Classes and workshops were crucial along the way, as was being in a writing group. But I eventually got to a place in the process where outside input began to stifle me as a writer. The feedback was always helpful, but I also had to take responsibility for what I ultimately wanted to write. If there are too many voices and opinions, it can get overwhelming. I’ve become less fond of workshopping and more of a fan of having a few select and trusted readers.

TBD: Which helped you more as a writer, being an equestrian or a mom?

MC: Whoa–this is an interesting question. I don’t know if I’ve ever considered how riding has informed my writing. Communicating with an animal requires a great deal of paying attention and observing, and I think that certainly translates into the writing process. I once had to throw myself off of a horse that was running at full speed back towards the barn. I could see the low awning of the barn ahead, and I knew I had lost control of the horse. I didn’t want to end up trapped under the awning or thrown dangerously sideways–so I made a decision to pull my feet out of the stirrups and make a flying dismount. I skidded and tumbled across the hard summer dirt, landing safely (and sorely) between two spindly birch trees. I think, whether we are parenting or writing or on a runaway horse, we have to make big decisions and sometimes we don’t know precisely what the outcome will be.

TBD: Did working at a bookstore help you as a writer?

MC: Absolutely. If you love books as much as I do and you want to surround yourself with likeminded people, go work in an independent bookstore. Bookstores are magical places. You get to meet authors and discover new books all the time. I also learned how sometimes great books thrive and other equally beautiful books can sometimes wither on the shelf. I quickly gleaned how subjective the world of books can be. This armored me with very humble and realistic expectations as I entered the publishing arena with my own book. I had a completed draft of my memoir when I started working at Book Passage, and I decided to put it in the proverbial drawer for a year so that I could focus on other books and writers. This turned out to be a great plan. Two years later, I met my agent during an event I was hosting.

TBD: You’ve now seen hundreds of authors do events as event coordinator at one of the great bookstores in America, Book Passage. What mistakes do you see writers make? What do you see successful writers do to help themselves?

MC: I have a wonderful job at Book Passage. I introduce authors, host their events and read their books. I find that, for the most part, authors are truly grateful and gracious when they come to Book Passage. I learn something new at every event I host. I take a lot of notes. We always appreciate when an author stands up and thanks independent bookstores for the hard work they do, because we certainly don’t do this work for the money (which is essentially minimum wage). We do this work because we love working in the landscape of books, ideas and creative minds.

TBD: What did you learn about finding an agent and publisher that you think unpublished writers would like to know?

MC: Finding that one agent who falls in love with your work takes a lot of time, patience and perseverance. Expect a lot of rejection. Grow extremely thick skin. And keep writing what you are passionate about. When you find that agent, he or she will help get your manuscript to the right publisher.

TBD: What was the most frustrating part of the publishing process from idea through publication for you?

MC: The publishing process is full of surprises, and I had to carry my publishing “Bible” with me everywhere. (That would be your book!). There are so many things you can learn in advance about how publishing works and all the ins-and-outs of contracts, deals, agents, etc. It was a tremendous and challenging education going through the publishing process. The landscape is changing so fast that it’s important to keep informed.

TBD: How can writers best use their local bookstore to help them in their career?

MC: Support your local bookstore. This means buying books from them. Attend their events. Introduce yourself to the booksellers and tell them you are a writer. Ask them for advice and book recommendations. Let them know you are not going to get a recommendation and then go purchase it for a few dollars less online. Today there are many ways a writer can professionally self-publish their books, and this is a perfectly respectable way to publish. Just make sure that if you self-publish, it’s on a platform that is compatible with independent bookstores. (This is kind of homework that authors need to do when looking into their publishing options!)

I love meeting writers at Book Passage, and I appreciate when they tell me they are a writer because I know how challenging this path is. I also know that one day they may come in and tell me that their book is being published–and guess who is going to make sure that they get a reading at Book Passage?

TBD: What advice do you have for writers?

MC: If there is a story you need to tell, you must do it. You must keep writing and writing until you are both empty and full. No story is too small for this world.

Melissa Cistaro‘s stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including the New Ohio Review, Anderbo.com, and Brevity as well as the anthologies Cherished and Love and Profanity. She works as a bookseller and event coordinator at Book Passage, the esteemed independent bookstore in Northern California. Between the years of raising her children, writing, bookselling, teaching horseback riding, and curating a business in equestrian antiques – Melissa completed her first memoir, Pieces of My Mother.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, June 2015). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Ylonda Gault Caviness

Ylonda Gault Caviness on Being Black, a Mom, a Black Mom and How to Get a Book Deal

The Book Doctors first met Ylonda Gault Caviness when she won our Pitchapalooza at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ. We were immediately struck by her presence, authority, wit, style, and the way she could string words and ideas together in exciting ways. We’re very excited her book Child, Please: How Mama’s Old School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself is out, and we thought we’d pick her brain about the process of getting successfully published. To read on the Huffington Post, click here.

Ylonda Gault Caviness's Child, Please book cover Ylonda Gault Caviness

The Book Doctors: When did you start being a writer and how did it affect the way you see the world?

Ylonda Gault Caviness: I started being a writer at age 8 or so. I was in an all-white school at the time–which wasn’t as traumatic as you might think. I was treated warmly by 98 percent of the kids there. But a not-so-silent minority did call me the N-word occasionally and I could tell that a couple of teachers either felt sorry for me or didn’t quite know what to feel. So I always had this sense of “other-ness.” Writing assignments were my absolute favorite part of the day. In hindsight that’s not saying much because the other parts we were filled with things like either attending mass or reciting the rosary–honorable activities, of course, but at 8 or 9 not so much.

Still, writing made me an observer of life. It’s made me someone who tends to focus on the details and minutia of life. I blame all my most annoying qualities on the fact that I have a writer’s view of the world. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t see myself as a writer. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be. Well, there was a brief period when I endeavored to be Samantha Stephens. I was young and I thoughtBewitched was a career option, like being a nurse or teacher. To my mama’s credit, she never dissuaded my aspirations. Never let on that despite all my nose twitching–practice, in this case, would not make perfect. Nor was there the most remote likelihood that a little black girl would grow up to be a white woman. I guess Mama didn’t want to be a dream killer. Either that, or she was paying me no mind. In hindsight, it was probably the latter.

TBD: When did you start being a mom and how did it affect the way you see the world?

YGC: Although the first of my three kids was born 16 years ago, I don’t think I really started being a mom right away. I was physically caregiving. But I don’t think I became fully present in mom-dom until much later. Until recently, Mother’s Day seemed to me a holiday for veteran moms. Even when my third was born in May 2007–two days before Mother’s Day–I was singularly focused on my mama, who was visiting us at the time. In my head, I hadn’t yet earned bona fide, official motherhood status yet.

As my oldest kids grew into pre-adolescence I think I gained a much deeper understanding of who they were as people. And it became really clear to me that it was my job to let them grow into who they were meant to be–not some pre-determined notion of who they SHOULD be. When I started to take my hand off the wheel is when I started to see that they were already all that–and a bag of chips. For example, it became clear that the eldest one didn’t need expert tips to make her strong. I thought she was a big ole sassy pants, but she actually has all the best qualities of an independent person who can resist peer pressure. My younger daughter didn’t need to learn empathy; she came here with a sensitive heart. Same for my third, who is one of the most kind and generous people I know.

TBD: When did you start being black and how did it affect the way you see the world?

YGC: I’m really fortunate that I’ve been so black for so very long. And I was born during a time when, as far as I could see, anybody who was anybody was also black. In the early 70s, there was the Black Panther Party–badasses, Mavis Staples, Curtis Mayfield and–forget Beyoncé; I don’t care what Jay Z says–the baddest chick in the game was and still is Pam Grier. I mean, to have anything at all in common with Pam Grier clearly made me a bad mamma jamma by association. So I think growing up black gave me confidence and strength and a fighter’s mentality. I recall so clearly James Brown singing on the radio songs like “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and–my fave–“I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothin’. Open up the Door I’ll Get It Myself.”

These days a lot of people, especially famous people, will say “don’t label me as black; I’m a person.” And I get that in a way. But I’m really into being black. I feel like it makes me wise; makes me strong; makes me creative; and makes me cool. Of course, one need not be black to have all these great qualities. But if you really own your blackness, you see it as an attribute not a burden. So I’m very happy to be called black.

TBD: What were some of your mother’s mothering techniques?

YGC: Not sure it was a “technique” so much. But Mama rarely paid us any mind. The beauty of that approach was that we knew our place. We never thought we mattered all that much to the world unless we achieved something. Kids now seem to get major props just by virtue of the fact that they exist. Kids in the playground are surrounded by moms cheering their descent down the slide: “Yay, Sofie. You’ve mastered gravity!” My brother, sister and I knew that we had to earn praise. She was not cheering our descent down the slide. She wasn’t giving us extra cookies for doing well in school. Or worrying over us, which forced us to figure life out. It seems harsh by today’s standards, but it was–from what I gathered–pretty much the same in all of my friends’ homes.

TBD: How did you develop your writing skills?

YGC: If I have a skill at all, I think it’s that I know how to work relentlessly to place truth at the center of anything I write. Pretty prose is great. And I love a good turn of phrase as much as the next person. But in the end, if it’s not really, really real, I know I have to dig deep and maybe even start all over from scratch. My life as a writer is very tortuous because of it. Mama–being the cut and dried person she is–used to say to my siblings and me: “If you’ll lie, you’ll steal.” She always made you feel so worthless and despicable–even if you told a little bitty lie about eating the last fig newton or some such that I guess it stuck with me.

But when you think about it, if you can’t tell the low-down and dirty truth about yourself, at least as much as you know of it, why bother? Who are you helping? I’m not saying I’m some kind of superhero, but I honestly believe my writing is supposed to help people. It’s supposed to touch somebody in a dark corner of their heart and heal a wound. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sort of weird, confused and broken soul. I know I’m charged with sharing that.

TBD: Your book started out as a general parenting book, not necessarily about race. How did it become a memoir that has so much about race in it?

YGC: I didn’t realize when I started writing the book how much of my motherhood was rooted in my blackness. Like anyone, my mother played a huge role in how I mothered and her experiences, growing up in the Jim Crow South and such, clearly shaped her parenting.

What I learned in the writing of my memoir, though, is that one of the things that makes our country great is the mix of cultures. They don’t exactly melt into a pot, though. And that’s not a bad thing. We bring cultural differences to our cooking. We bring cultural differences to celebrations and holidays. And, guess what? Although we don’t talk about it much, we bring cultural differences to child rearing. My hope is that we can lift up those differences and begin a new conversation, instead of pretending the differences don’t exist.

TBD: What was it like writing for The New York Times?

YGC: It was cool, because I didn’t know I was going to be picked up by the New York Times. I wrote my essay with the idea that I would submit it to a bunch of outlets. Had I known I’d be writing for the New York Times going into the whole process, I might have been intimidated. And the end result might not have been so bold.

Ignorance truly can be bliss. Once the Times accepted the piece and I went through the editing process, I am not sure I understood the power of it all. And, it’s funny. At every turn a part of me kept thinking someone high up on the Times masthead was going to come along and say, “We’ve changed our minds. This piece sucks.”

TBD: How did you get your book deal?

YGC: I won a Pitchapalooza event–which is sort of like American Idol for authors, in Ridgewood, NJ. It was crazy: a room filled with, like 200, would-be authors. And each contestant got a number. Then one by one, you get up in front of the crowd and pitch your book idea to a panel of judges made up of publishing pros.

There is no Simon Cowell and none of the panel members call out “Yo, dog!” But you and your wife Arielle Eckstut definitely have a shtick. And I remember being so nervous! I practiced for hours. And I rolled up in there with my writer’s group crew in tow. For me, I’d already won simply because I fought my doubting thoughts and got up to participate. That’s why, at the end, when the winner was announced I sort of looked around–waiting for this Ylonda Gault person to stand up. Then I suddenly realized it was me! I was the Ylonda Gault person–the winner.

From there Arielle worked with me to whip my proposal into shape. And it’s important to note that the book I pitched was not a memoir. I had absolutely no plans to tell my story. I was just going to write a parenting book and include a few personal anecdotes. It was Arielle who insisted that the personal stuff was the actual book. It took me about a year to come up with and write the Child, Please proposal. Then Arielle introduced me to Jim Levine, of Levine Greenberg Rostan–her mentor.

TBD: How did you go about developing your platform?

YGC: Hell if I know! Seriously, each time I took a job or an assignment I thought I was simply going from one job to another–not at all conscious of any sort of platform. I laugh my butt off when people say, “Wow! Your resume is great!” I think to myself: “Where were you in 2009 when I was laid off?”

I think the best thing anyone can do–and this sounds corny, I know–is do the work you believe in. And stick with it.

TBD: What do you do to make a hook that gets your book everywhere from National Public Radio to Essence magazine to The New York Times?

YGC: In no way did I get her alone, first of all. I have no formula. A lot of this stuff is just how the stars align in a certain moment in time. It’s not something you can forecast really. It’s like that Kanye West & Drake collabo, you know? Blessings on blessings on blessings. There are wonderful people all around me. I’m really fortunate that smart people, like Arielle Eckstut, helped me navigate the book proposal process. I have Jim Levine, the agent of agents, who has believed in me from the start. And Tarcher, the Penguin imprint, has the best editor in the game in Sara Carder. She has the support of publisher, Joel Fontinos. And the publicity team, Brianna Yamashita and Keely Platte, “got” Child, Please from the word “go.” Everyone did, really.

TBD: What advice do you have for writers?

YGC: You’ve gotta go for what you know. It’s the only way to be truly authentic. And if people don’t get it, the hell with them. You have to keep on keeping on.

TBD: For mothers?

YGC: Oh my goodness, I just realized, it’s the same drill! Following your instincts in everything. Mothering is a heart experience more than anything. So I follow my heart. I figure, even if I’m wrong (and I am, often) I have peace of mind. And I truly believe if I have honorable intentions that will be rewarded some how. I don’t believe kids know how good you are at this. It’s not like another mom took the stage before you and killed it–left the crowd screaming for more. But they can totally tell if your heart is not in it.

And in the end, I think we want them to see our truth. So they’ll know how to honor their own.

Ylonda Gault (@TheRealYlonda) is an author, veteran journalist and education advocate. Over the course of her 20-year print and digital magazine career, she has been a senior producer at iVillage; lifestyle and parenting editor at Essencemagazine. CHILD, PLEASE: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself is her first book.

Gault’s feature writing and editing has appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times, Redbook, Health and The Huffington Post. Best known for her coverage of family, parenting, women’s and lifestyle topics, she has been a frequent guest on NPR, TODAY, Good Day New York ABC News and other broadcasts. She lives in Northern New Jersey with her three amazing children.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post: iO Tillet Wright’s TED Talk: Equality, & How Gay Are You?

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

To see on Huffington Post click here.

10 years ago I wrote a book called Chicken about when I was a 17-year-old prostitute/rent boy/escort/industrial sex technician.  I was lucky enough to get a big splashy deal with a big splashy publisher who sent me on a big splashy tour.  I was under the mistaken impression that people would ask me about my book, about what it was like sexually servicing middle-aged women for money, about the writing I worked so hard on.  To my surprise, most readers, writers, bloggers and journalists wanted to know if I was gay or straight.  And exactly how gay or how straight. After careful consideration, I concluded I was 10% gay, 20% lesbian, and 70% heterosexual.  But I always emphasize that those numbers are fluid.  When I walk into a throbbing gay bar, I immediately find myself flirting and being flirted, feeling about 70% gay.  When I go to a lesbian activist gathering (my mom was gay for about 2/3 of my life) I find myself listening and sharing and sharing and listening, feeling about 70% lesbian.  When I’m playing with my chock-full of breeders softball team, I feel about 110% heterosexual.

So it was with great fascination that I watched iO Tillet Wright’s  TED talk: 50 Shades of Gay.  Her story about the fluidity of her sexuality spoke to me in a very personal way.  As I said earlier, my mom was gay.  In her late thirties she transformed herself from an immigrant homemaker mother of four into a bra-burning consciousness-raising sandal-wearing Gertrude-Stein-haired lesbian.  People are always asking me how my mother “turned” gay.  Like she’d taken a pill, or eaten too many tofu, or read too many Simone de Beauvoir books.  I can’t seem to get people to understand that she fell in love with a woman.  That’s all it took to “turn” her gay.  The woman she fell in love with was a much better listener, communicator, friend, partner, and lover than my father ever was.  I was 16 at the time my mother came out, and she seemed so much happier than when she was married to my cold, withholding, unfaithful father.  So I was happy for her.  She raised me to have an open mind about these things, and not judge people by the color of their skin, or who they loved, or what they worshiped.  She raised me to judge them by their words and their actions.  And her new partner was kind and smart and wise and compassionate in her words and actions.

As I listened to iO Tillet Wright’s talk, and watched all those beautiful pictures of Americans on the LGTB spectrum: black, white, brown, tall, short, stout, skinny, shy and wild, I thought about my mom.  She and her partner moved to a small rural town in Oregon, where she had a neighbor who absolutely hated them.  Not because they were too loud, too messy, too nosy, or in any way bad neighbors.  He loathed them with biblical fury because they loved each other.  And they were women.  He threatened, taunted, intimidated, bullied and made their life a living hell.  My mom tried to give this bigot love, tried to reason with him, tried to show him what a great neighbor she was.  All to no avail.  He just kept hating and hating and hating.  I was ready to go over with a baseball bat and beat the hate out of this ugly pustule.  My mom, the lesbian, talked me out of it.  Eventually my mom and her partner had to leave their bucolic paradise and move to lesbian-friendly Portland.

Watching iO Tillet Wright’s TED talk I was struck by the statistic that a citizen of the United States can be legally discriminated against because of who they love in 29 states.  That’s downright un-American.

I am a man of action.  So that made me start thinking about what is to be done.  And made me admire how iO Tillet Wright is a tomboy of action.  I just love how she took this idea of egregious gender inequality and did something about it.  Just a small local action.  With a camera.  And I love how it spread into a grassroots movement.  It gives me faith in human beings.  Faith in America.

So, as a 10% gay, 20% lesbian, 70% heterosexual man, I rejoiced in seeing all the beautifully diverse LGBTish Americans, and hearing iO Tillet Wright’s message about making this country a place where equality reigns everywhere for everyone.  It made me think about why America was formed in the first place.  Wasn’t it so everybody could worship their own God?  Pursue life, liberty and happiness to their heart’s content, so long as they didn’t hurt anybody?  So why can’t we make America a place where citizens are allowed to love who they want to love?  Isn’t that beautiful idea of what America can be?

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His first memoir Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  His book Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Michael Caine, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

Antonia Crane Talks About Sex Work, Slut-Shaming, Biting Matthew McConaughey and Her New Book: Spent

To read on Huffington Post click here.

I met Antonia Crane when I was putting together an anthology I did about sex work & sex workers. From our first correspondence it was clear she was smart, articulate, funny, talented, ballsy and didn’t take herself too seriously. I knew she had a book in her. Now the book is out of her and into the world. It’s called Spent, and I’m happy to say it’s smart, articulate, funny, talented, ballsy and didn’t take itself too seriously. So I thought I’d pick her brain about sex, money, work, stripping and moms.

David Henry Sterry: I noticed that a lot of pieces in your new memoir Spent were published in other places first. How did that happen? Did it help you become a better writer? Did it help you get your book published?
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Antonia Crane: I started writing nonfiction in grad school about being a sex worker and raging about my mother’s death. I was grieving. I was doing sex work. I have been braiding those two narratives for a while and that texture/tone became the basis for my book. The first great thing that happened was I pitched a column to Stephen Elliott for The Rumpus and he said Yes. Stephen is a Yes man. He seems like he wouldn’t be — but he is such an energy source: an innovator and loves fresh ideas and voices. I sent out essays to a gazillion places, hungry for more yesses. What I got were hundreds of no’s but I kept trying. I kept pushing. I kept writing and I got better. That’s what happens when you work hard.

DHS: How did you learn to become a writer?

AC: By becoming a voracious reader. I have always been in love with books and in love with stories. As a youth, it probably began with Dr. Suess and then Lewis Caroll’s “Alice and Wonderland.” Then I went crazy for Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” and fell in love with J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey.” To become a writer, I simply had to write badly until it gradually got better.

DHS: You reveal such intimate personal things about yourself, stuff that is forbidden in our culture, things that make people uncomfortable. Were you worried about how people would react? Have you gotten any slut-shaming as a result of this book?

AC: The slut-shamers have been disconcertingly quiet. Frankly, the part I was worried about the most was not the sex or sex work at all. I am a grown-ass woman who made her decisions: good or bad. The euthanasia chapter was my biggest concern because there are legal issues and personal issues regarding who was in the building; who was in the room with my mother and I. My step-father was amazing about it. He is a good man who does great things and he and I are on the same page politically. Also, I wondered how my actual Dad would respond but he’s been very supportive. Right after a therapy session recently, I flat-out asked him not to read it.

DHS: There’s long been a raging debate about whether sex work is tantamount to slavery, or on the other end of the bell curve, empowering. Where do you stand on this?

AC: I’m so glad you asked that question. It’s a hard question and one I have been thinking about and writing about for a long time. In fact, this article just came out in <a href=”http://www.thenation.com/article/179147/why-do-so-many-leftists-want-sex-work-be-new-normal#” target=”_hplink”>The Nation</a> that I plan to respond to this week. The article criticizes the “sex work as ‘normal’ work” battle cry of many educated feminists, of which I am one. And I don’t fully buy into that line of thinking either. Some sex work is slavery, for instance, when it is. That line is not confusing to me. Sometimes women are enslaved and this is a horrific tragedy that needs to end. Because, the picture of the woman on a billboard who graduated from Mills College and is a sex worker looks really different from a girl sold by her family into prostitution or a young girl from the tracks here in LA. When it’s a choice, Sex work can be empowering, validating, fun, sad, lonely, humiliating and lucrative. So can waiting tables. But, they are very different jobs because when you throw sex into the mix, all of a sudden people get uncomfortable and threatened. People don’t go get a plate of pasta in a restaurant because they are dying of loneliness. But they will come to women in the sex industry for that reason. It’s a troubling enigma. I stand in the crossroads of this debate and think you should ask a sex worker if she thinks it’s slavery. Then go ask an employee of Walmart and compare answers.

DHS: The stuff in your book about your mom is so vivid and beautiful and sometimes excruciatingly painful. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I was reading parts of it. Was it hard to write? Was it liberating? Painful? Or all of the above?

AC: I love tears. I am glad you cried and am honored my writing had this effect on you. I love reading stories that make me feel strongly. My writing sucks when I am not crying while writing it. Tears are my jam. It makes writing in public places embarrassing for my friends.

DHS: It’s really hard to write a good sex scene, but I really like your sex scenes in the book.  They seem so real and vivid. How do you go about constructing a sex scene?

AC: Thank you. I’m always trolling for good sex scenes. Sex is dirty, messy and awkward. There’s this crazy moment in Miranda July’s story “Roy Spivey” where he asks her to bite him out of the blue and he’s a celebrity, like Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey (who I would totally bite). I love that moment so much because it’s strange. I think about what was awful and what was awkward and then what I felt like in my gut and go from there. Steve Almond writes great sex scenes because he seems most interested in that little box of shame that happens whenever two people get naked together. I try to remember that and make him proud.

DHS: Is it harder to be a sex worker or a writer?

AC: Writing is the hardest thing in the world. I just got 3 big rejections this week that stung. And the writing is not only excruciatingly hard work, it’s impossible to get paid for it and it’s never done. I was just telling my publisher, Tyson Cornell over coffee that I am too good at stripping and it makes it hard to leave. Sex work is a hard job, but I have clocked in my 10,000 hours so I suppose that makes me an expert. Maybe I should write a self-help book for strippers: A Stripper’s Guide to Making a Killing Every Night.

DHS: You say that you became addicted to sex work. What do you mean by that?

AC: Sex work has saved me so many times in my life and this pattern can become addicting. Stripping and sex work has bailed me out, provided me with sexual validation, attention, money, filled me with desire, made me feel confident, smart and pretty. Also, in terms of direct service, this is a service job, when I make others feel desired and good, I feel like I have purpose. It’s a lot of topless 12-stepping lately, meaning, I find myself babysitting a lot of rich drunk men. I call them cabs and they send them away. Offer me their father’s planes or golf trips to Ireland. But sometimes they cry in my arms. Sometimes it gets very very real. Sometimes I kind of fall in love with them for their vulnerability and I take that into my actually pretty great big life and learn from it.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for sex workers?

AC: Do something else. While you are there, save your money and invest in your future. Play the long game. Try to remember to be of love and service.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

AC: The best way to serve your writing is to read. The best way to serve other writers is to actually help them in a solid way. The only way to become a better writer is to write every day like your hands are on fire. Write and dig deep. Deeper. Deeper still.

Antonia Crane is a writer, performer and visiting professor at UCSD. She’s a columnist on The Rumpus and editor at The Weeklings and The Citron Review. Her work can be found in: Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Salon, PANK magazine, DAME, Slake Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Review and several anthologies. Her memoir, Spent is published by Barnacle Books/Rare Bird Lit.
You can Tweet her @antoniacrane and find her book here: Spent.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor.  His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages.  He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded The Book Doctors, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal.  He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.

Amital Etzioni: Why Are You Saying Such Nasty Things About Whores?

hos hookers cover-500 HosHookersShame on you, Amital Etzioni, for the antiquated, insulting and frankly dangerous ideas you trot out like dead horses to flog in your recent essay on the review of the anthology Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. Yes, of course, some people are enslaved in the world of sex-4-$. Just as they are in many industries, such as the garment and diamond businesses. These traffickers of human flesh should be hunted down like the filthy vermin they are, and thrown into a dark hole where the sun never shines. Yes, we all know this. But many prostitutes, or industrial sex technicians as I like to call them, actually choose to enter the sex-4-$ world as adults who carefully consider their economic options, and have decided it makes more sense to earn $250 smoking cigarettes, drinking and getting head (a scenario you reference in his essay), than earning $8 an hour getting their souls sucked out at McDonald’s. Comparing a victim being forced to have sex for money with a high-end industrial sex technician is like saying slaving in a sweatshop is the same as working at Neiman Marcus.

You wrote that HHCG&RB, “has little to say about the role of money in personal, intimate relationships.” Did you actually read this book? Because if you didn’t, then you have no business talking about it. And if you did, you’re intellectually blind not to see that this book is absolutely packed with stories about the role money plays in personal, intimate relationships. Case in point: Juliana Piccolo’s haunting, melancholy piece, “Vice.” It’s about when she was a 17-year-old massage parlor sex technician, and had a relationship with an off-duty cop client. He falls in love with her. She craves his fatherly attention, even as he makes her skin crawl. The last time she sees him he offers her $100 for a kiss. She doesn’t kiss clients. He holds out the money. She kisses him. The moment is devastating. It is a deeply personal, intimate relationship, and it illustrates the subtle, scary and very real way the line between the need for love and the need for money blur.

And in what post-Puritanical, Victorianically-repressed world does an open, honest discussion of sex and money, “embarrass a bunch of frat boys”? I guess it’s been a while since you’ve spent any time with frat boys. It’s very difficult to embarrass them. Given the fact that there’s a good chance they’re doing Jell-O shots out of the stripper’s vagina. In your opening salvo, you call this book “sensationalistic”. If you had taken the time to carefully read HHCG&RB, you would’ve seen that it is in fact a piece of American oral history that gives voice to a population that is woefully underrepresented and misunderstood.

Finally, one of the biggest peeves I keep as a pet is when people who have never turned a trick in their lives, who have no idea what sex-4-$ is like, try to tell us about it. What do you know about the “facts” of the world of sex? When was the last time you sat around chewing the fat with people who actually inhabit that world? I have a news flash for you: people who exchange sex for money are not illiterate, pimped, diseased, drug addicted, career criminals. And it is grotesque, condescending, and ignorant to imply, as you do, that they are. I know because I was one. An industrial sex technician. No one forced me. My employment counselor/pimp did not take most of my money. Of course he got his taste, just like my current literary agent does. I was not on drugs during my time in the Life. In fact, at the high-end agency I worked for, if you were caught taking drugs, you were fired. I have no diseases. The only time I was a criminal was when the Prohibition era laws of America turned me into one while I was making money at the oldest profession in the world. I edited the above mentioned anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys. I put together this book as an attempt to tear down harmful myths about sex work and sex workers — myths which you sir, seek to perpetuate. But just to show you there’s no hard feelings, next time you’re in New York, call me and I’ll hook you up with my friend Naughty Michelle. She’ll open all your eyes. And it’ll only cost you $300.

Tegan Tigani, Kid’s Book Buyer: How to Successfully Publish Your Children’s Book

2013-06-13-tegan.jpg We first met Tegan Tigani a few years ago while we were on tour in Seattle. She was so excited to give us the grand tour of her kingdom: the Queen Anne Book Company kids section, where she is the book buyer. Her enthusiasm and passion for books was completely contagious, she was exactly the kind of evangelist you want selling your book. We’ve subsequently used her to edit several of our clients’ children’s books, and she is one of the most knowledgeable people we’ve met when it comes to books in general and kids books specifically. So we thought we’d pick her brain to find out some of the secrets to successfully publishing a children’s book.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: So, how did you get started in the ridiculous business of books?

TEGAN TIGANI: Serendipity!!! I’ve always loved reading, bookstores, and libraries; I volunteered and worked in my high school library back in the day. When I moved to Seattle from Rhode Island after college, I thought I was going to work in museums and education. (I studied History of Science in school.) My first day in town, the first place my then-boyfriend-now-husband took me was Queen Anne Books. As we left, new purchases in hand, I commented to him, “I’d love if I could get a little part-time job in a place like that until I find my real job.” The next day, the owners posted a sign that said “Book lover wanted.” I started working there that week. That was over 14 years ago.

TBD: Tell us what you do at Queen Anne Book Company.

TT: I am a bookseller and the Children’s Book Buyer. We all wear many hats, so I help with event coordination, website design, and all sorts of other things, but I spend most of my time recommending books, ringing up purchases, and meeting with publisher reps to decide what great new books we’ll carry in our kids’ and teen sections each season.

TBD: It’s been an incredible saga, what with the closing and re-opening at Queen Anne. What the heck happened?

TT: I wish I really knew! In April of 2012, a new owner bought Queen Anne Books, which had been beloved in the community for over 20 years. By the end of October 2012, she closed the store. After a truly sad holiday season, the community got the great news that a new owner and management team wanted to start a brand new bookstore in the location of the old Queen Anne Books, and Queen Anne Book Company was born. The new owners were able to hire four staff from Queen Anne Books, so we have some continuity even with our fresh, clean start.

TBD: What grabs you in a children’s book?

TT: In picture books, I tend to gravitate toward books that beg to be read aloud but also stand up to hours of flipping pages independently… I want something that uses clever, age-appropriate language and has illustrations that really contribute to the story. I find that good picture books are so crucial to readers’ developing comprehension; I love a book that makes the adult and child look at the picture and text again and really mull things over.
TBD: Why is there a prejudice in the picture book world against rhyming?

TT: Ha– I almost put “great rhymes” in my previous answer! So I don’t think there’s a prejudice against rhyming; I just think it’s very hard to do it right. If it’s not just right, you shouldn’t force it, so it’s better to go with prose. One of the biggest delights during my bookselling career was discovering Skippyjon Jones. I remember when that first came out, the rhymes were so good, we couldn’t stop reading it aloud to each other in the store. If you can get the rhythms of poetry to work in a kids’ book (Dr. Seuss!), it’s magical. If it’s not, even the youngest listeners will cock their heads, know something is off, and choose another book to read next time.

TBD: What mistakes do you see children’s book authors make?

TT: I have a very hard time with children’s books that are too preachy. Some kids and parents enjoy a concrete lesson, but most readers I know like to draw their own conclusions from books. I also wonder if some children’s book authors actually read their books aloud before they submitted them. Pacing and language are tremendously important in picture books, and I think reading aloud is one of the best ways to check if you’ve gotten it right.

TBD: What advice do you have for people who want to write a children’s book?

TT: Think about the audience. Before, during, and after, children’s book authors need to consider who they want to reach with their book. If they keep the audience in mind, voice, vocabulary, pacing, even subject matter will match, and the book will be more successful. My other piece of advice is to let the professional illustrators do the illustrations. I’m delighted by the layers of meaning well-done illustrations can add. The right illustrator can make a good book great.

TBD: Thanks, see you at the bookstore!

TT: Thanks, you too!

Tegan Tigani loves connecting readers and books, whether as bookseller and children’s book buyer at Queen Anne Book Company, tutor, freelance developmental editor, ghostwriter, editor of nwbooklovers.org, vice president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Seattle Book Examiner, blogger at tsquaredblog.blogspot.com, or party guest. When she isn’t reading or talking about books, she enjoys traveling, cooking, eating, and walking (sometimes all at the same time). She lives with her husband in Seattle.

On Huffington Post: Everything You Think You Know About Cambodian Sex Workers Is Wrong

I’m always on the lookout for people who have interesting things to say about the strange things that happen in the exchange of sex for money.  Heidi Hoefinger, author of the new book, Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia: Professional Girlfriends and Transactional Relationships, is one of those people.  Here are some of the fascinating things she has some to say about Cambodian sex workers. Click here to read piece on Huffington Post.

Sex Love and Money FINAL COVER

David Henry Sterry: Why did you want to write a book about Cambodian bar girls?

Heidi Hoefinger: I went to Cambodia 10 years ago as a backpacker and I ended up meeting, and connecting with a few girls really quickly. We identified on lots of levels — particularly around the way we dressed and danced, and the music we liked — so we became ‘fast friends.’ Phnom Penh, the capital city, also had a lawless and edgy magnetism about it and I decided then and there that I wanted to come back to Cambodia and write a book about the women who were at the heart of it all.

DHS: What did you expect, and how are your expectations met or shattered?

HH: I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I first went to Cambodia back in 2003, I was filled with all the naïve assumptions and western biases that many people have when they first get there: all the girls are ‘trapped’ in the bars; they have little decision-making power; they are controlled by bosses and managers; they are all sex workers who are commercially available and negotiable for sex upon any request; and every inter-ethnic couple (Cambodian woman/western man) were commercially-based. Well, I had to confront all those assumptions pretty quickly, because when I got there in 2005 to start formal academic research, I learned right away that something quite different was going on. Most of the girls were working in the bars out of their own free will (to the extent that anyone does in Cambodia or beyond); their sexual decisions weren’t controlled by bosses or managers and the women could decide themselves whether or not they wanted to ‘go with customers’; and the majority did not actually identify as sex workers, or view their quest for foreign boyfriends as ‘work.’ They viewed themselves as ‘bartenders,’ ‘bar girls,’ or ‘bar maids,’ and viewed most of the sexual partners that they meet in the bars as ‘real’ boyfriends.

DHS: Did you spend much time in the bars, and what happens on a typical night?

HH: During several visits over several years, I spent every night out in the bars with the women. But in addition to that, I spent days with them in their homes, helping look after their kids; or we hung out at the markets buying clothes, or at internet cafes translating emails from western boyfriends, or even out in the countryside meeting their families in their villages. But indeed, the majority of our time was spent going out at night. A typical night out usually begins at the salon, where we would get our hair and nails done. The girls who work in the hostess bars that I was researching — these are bars where Cambodian women sit and chat with mainly western customers, but also increasing numbers of East and Southeast Asian men — are able to afford this daily activity due to the increased spending capacity they have which results from the material benefits they gain from foreign boyfriends. After we got dressed, many of them would go to their respective bars and work their shifts from 7pm-2am. After that, we would go to the dance clubs — with or without their male suitors — and when those closed, we would end up at the 24-hour bars to play pool. Finally, we’d end the night by having a bowl of soup on the street to catch up on the night’s gossip before going home to sleep as the sun came up.

DHS: Did you get to know any of these women, and if so, what would she like in terms of background, education, aspirations, dreams, goals?

HH: Over a decade, I got to know many of the women as close friends. And though we came from different ethnic, economic, class and educational backgrounds, we shared similar aspirations: to be happy and live in comfortable environments with our material, physical and emotional needs met. Most of the women were born in the Cambodian countryside, and a combination of familial obligation, financial need, and personal aspirations for adventure, freedom or romance drove them to migrate to the cities. Many but not all have elementary educations — but that’s it, so when they get to the city, their options are limited. They can either do domestic work like cleaning, or street trading of fruits or other goods, or garment factory work, or entertainment or sex work. Many tried their hand at everything and ended up preferring to work in the bars because they were the most lucrative, there was more flexibility of movement, they got to meet people from outside of Cambodia, and learn and improve their English skills, and the bars were just generally more ‘fun’ than the other jobs. Most women are very resourceful and entrepreneurial, and the ultimate goal of many of them was to open their own businesses — like a clothing store, bar, restaurant or salon, so they could support themselves and their families. Of course meeting a nice person along the way, who treats them and their families with love and respect, was also one of the life goals for many.

DHS: Do the bar girls see themselves as sex workers?

HH: Actually, the majority of women I spoke to in the hostess bars over the years do not, in fact, identify as sex workers, or their search for foreign boyfriends as work. Yes, they want and even expect, in some cases, to materially benefit from relationships with foreigners, who by default have more economic power over the women by nature of their western positionality, but the women normally don’t view these things (like clothes, jewelry, phones, tuition, rent or cash) as payment for sexual services from clients, but rather as gifts or support from boyfriends. Within Cambodian culture, there exists a thing called ‘bridewealth’ — which is when the potential groom’s family pays the potential bride’s family back the money they spent on milk while raising their daughter up — known colloquially as paying back the ‘milk money.’ So there is a deeply-rooted cultural expectation of economic benefits attached to marriage. In other words, it’s assumed that a man will financially support his female partner and her family — or at least provide a substantial gift. This is not as rigid as it used to be, and more and more women are equally contributing economically within their relationships, but the point is that just because they get stuff like cash and gifts from their western sexual partners that they meet in the bar does not mean they all identify as sex workers. There are plenty of women, men and transgender people in Cambodia who do identify as sex workers, and there is a growing sex worker rights movement in Cambodia led by a sex worker union consisting of over 6,000 members. But one of the main points of the book is that no matter how someone identifies — as a sex worker, prostitute, girlfriend, whatever — they should be treated with respect for the decisions they make. The book is really trying to destigmatize all the actors involved — the women and their male partners — whether they are involved in commercial relationships or not.

DHS: How are sex workers viewed in Cambodia?

HH: Typically sex workers, or entertainment workers in general — whether they identify as sex workers or not — are viewed with either contempt by general society, or even as subhuman by others. Otherwise, they are viewed as pitiable victims that need saving (and there are lots of local and international NGOs who make it their business to do so). There are written social and moral codes for women that dictate how they should live (originally known as the Chbap Srei, or Women’s Code): quietly, without drawing attention to themselves; obediently and submissively towards their husbands, while not venturing far from home; modestly, in the way they dress, etc. So the women in the bars go against these social codes 100 percent — they are the epitome of ‘bad women’ or ‘broken women’ (srei kouc, in Khmer). But, they can also materially ‘make-up’ for their tarnished images by providing their families with new houses, cars, and tuition for their siblings. So they experience extreme stigma and praise at the same time. It’s a difficult gendered social world for them to negotiate.

DHS: Do these bar girls in Cambodia see themselves as victims? Do they long to be saved?

HH: Most of the women did not view themselves as victims, and expressed a strong desire to instead by respected for the decisions they make under some really tough circumstances. They often referred to themselves in English as ‘strong girls.’ That’s not to say they didn’t know how to capitalize on empathy. That was definitely a strategy that some of the women used to tap into the ‘hero syndrome’ that many western men experience — which I define as an overwhelming desire by the men to use their status, resources, and knowledge to ‘save’ the women and their families from destitution. The problem with ‘hero syndrome’ is that once men offer their ‘help,’ they also expect a certain degree of power in decision-making about how those resources are spent. So really, those with this ‘hero’ mentality to ‘help’ aren’t really helping in the long run if they are just trying to control the families and their finances.

DHS: What is the best way for a well-intentioned white Westerner to help then?

HH: Cambodia has quite a bit of ‘help’ already. The country has been heavily funded by international aid agencies since the 1990s and is still a place where SUVs slapped with NGO logos take up far too much space. It’s also currently flooded with masses of well-intentioned but highly uninformed ‘voluntourists’ who actually pay money to volunteer their time at the plethora of dodgy orphanages or schools that line the cities. The country certainly doesn’t need more ‘help’ of this sort. If Westerners have a burning desire to spend their money philanthropically in Cambodia, I would suggest they donate to projects like the Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), which is the sex worker union I mentioned above, or to other community-run projects that are led by the women or workers themselves, so that the community members actually have a say in what their needs are and where the resources should be spent. I would not suggest throwing money at the hundreds of anti-trafficking groups that have wasted millions (probably billions) of donor dollars in unrealistically trying to ‘abolish slavery’ by forcefully ‘rescuing’ women from the bars, detaining them against their will in ‘shelters,’ and shoving sewing machines in their hands because that is supposedly a more ‘dignified’ form of work. Instead, people should ‘help’ by listening to the women themselves, and to what their needs and desires are, and to respect them for the decisions they make, rather then treating them like infants, victims, or criminals that need rehabilitation or rescue by those who think they know best — who most often have never even met or spoken to a Cambodian bar worker.

DHS: What was your most surprising take away after all was said and done?

HH: I guess the most surprising take away from the research is this controversial idea that not all women who work in bars identify as sex workers; that their relationships aren’t all commercial and often filled with love and emotion; and that the women aren’t all victims who want to be rescued by do-gooder westerners! Instead they are resourceful and using whatever tools are available to them — in this case sex and intimacy — to improve their lives and find happiness amidst tons of stereotypes, sexual violence, corruption, and domestic abuse. I also learned that all relationships around the globe mingle economics, intimacy, emotion and pragmatic materiality on some level, and so the relationships that transpire in Cambodian bars are really not so different from more ‘conventional’ relationships that develop anywhere. Of course there are certain power differentials that are present within these relationships based on economics, nationality and class in many cases, but I guess I’m trying to encourage readers of the book to stop stigmatizing sex and relationships between Cambodian bar workers and western men as something fundamentally different from ‘their’ sex and relationships, and to recognize the transactionality and materiality of their own relationships. And I think the most important thing I learned is that no matter how women identify, and no matter what circumstances they happen to be in, they are capable of — and should be valued for — the decisions they make and that includes their decisions to sell sex, trade sex, and have sex with the people of their choosing. It’s my hope that public understanding of the issues outlined in the book might ultimately help to reduce the stigma that most bar workers experience there, which is really at the root cause of all the discrimination and violence they experience.

BIO: Heidi is a postdoctoral fellow in drug research at the National Development and Research Institutes in New York, and an adjunct lecturer at Berkeley College in NY, and the Institute of South East Asian Affairs, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. She is actively involved in the global sex workers rights movement, and a member of Sex Worker Open University and X:Talk in London, Sex Worker Outreach Project in New York, and on the program advisory committee for the Red Umbrella Fund, which is an international granting body for sex worker projects around the world.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/everything-you-think-you-_b_4086449.html

Khaled Hosseini on Workshops, Editors, and Calling Yourself a Writer, Book Doctors on Huffington Post

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My man Khaled sits for a brain-picking by the Book Doctors on the Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/khaled-hosseini-on-worksh_b_3721494.html

The Book Doctors Interview Agent Extraordinaire Mollie Glick on Trends, Self-Publishing & Truth Versus Fiction

 

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A couple of years ago we did a Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books) in Kansas City. Our winner, Genn Albin, gave an outrageously amazing pitch for her dystopian YA trilogy. This led to an enormous buzz around her book, Crewel. Many agents were interested in her and she asked us for our advice on this most monumental of decisions. We told her, hands down, Mollie Glick was the way to go. Mollie got her a mid-six-figure three book deal with one of the best publishers in America, Farrar Strauss Giroux. Mollie is that rare agent: smart, wise, savvy, and nice. So we thought we’d pick her brain about the state of books.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: First of all what made you get into the ridiculous business of books?

MOLLIE GLICK: I’ve always been a bookworm. In fourth grade my teacher told my mother during their parent/teacher conference that I read too much! So I knew I had to find a job where I’d get paid to read. Plus, I actually get to use my English degree!

TBD: Many writers are under the impression that their manuscript just has to be pretty darn good and then once they get an agent, the agent will help them make it better. Is this is fact the case?

MG: Depends on the agent. Personally, I’m very hands on if I have a clear vision for where a novel needs to go… and that vision resonates with the author. But I actually lose out on a lot of projects to agents who tell writers it’s just perfect as it is, and then get scared off when the first round of rejections come in because they don’t know how to help the author revise.

TBD: Writers often look to what’s already been published to help them decide what kind of book to write. Is it too late to wait until a trend has appeared on bookshelves to hop on the bandwagon? Should a writer even consider trends at all?

MG: Honestly, when I take something trendy on it’s in SPITE of the fact that it’s trendy. For example, Josie Angelini’s STARCROSSED series came to me once paranormal romance had already taken off. At first I questioned whether I should still consider it. But then I started reading and I couldn’t put it down. Ultimately, that’s always my litmus test of whether I’m going to offer representation.

TBD: Do you think it’s easier these days to sell fiction based on a true story than to sell a memoir? If so, are there certain categories of memoirs (like mother/daughter stories, alcoholism stories) that this rule particularly applies to?

MG: Nah– I still love memoir! It just has to be really, really good.

TBD:What is the threshold for sales of a self-published book that make you go, “Wow!”? And in what time frame are you looking for with these numbers?

MG: Good question. I’d like to see someone selling at least 5-10k copies and hopefully more like 20k on their own. And it’s not so much about the time frame as what price they’ve set their novel at. A novel selling hundreds of thousands of copies at a dollar a pop is still intriguing, but you do wonder whether those fans will keep buying once the book costs more like ten dollars.

TBD: Do you respond to all queries, even those that are in categories you don’t represent? If not, why not? How can writers avoid the void?

MG: No– we get hundreds and hundreds of queries a week, and many of these authors are querying dozens of agents at once. I can’t respond to every one and still make a living, But my assistant and I respond to every query that looks right for my list within a week or two of receiving the query– and often much sooner. The best way to avoid the void is to make sure you’re querying a genre the agent represents, that your query letter is intriguing, and that it is grammatically correct!

TBD: What are the most common mistakes you see in queries?

MG: Addressing a query to multiple agents at once. Or sending queries on topics I’ve never expressed interest in.

Mollie Glick is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media, representing literary fiction, young adult fiction, narrative nonfiction and a bit of practical nonfiction. After graduating with honors from Brown University, Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before switching over to “the other side” and becoming an agent in 2003. In addition to her work as a literary agent, Mollie has served on the Contracts Committee of the AAR and teaches classes at Media Bistro and the Grotto. Her instructional articles on nonfiction proposal writing and query letter writing have been featured in Writers Digest. Some of her recent projects include Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving; Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home; Elizabeth Black’s The Drowning House; Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook; Gennifer Albin’s Crewel and Josie Angelini’s Starcrossed.

The Book Doctors with Smashwords Mark Coker on e-Books, Good Writing & Bad Mistakes

 

SW_Horz_Color smallI first met Mark Coker over the Internet. Which seems appropriate, given how he has done such great things for writers in the world of ebooks. I was trying to upload a book onto his company’s website, Smashwords. I have a problem formatting files. I’m very bad at it. It’s a weakness. I’m not proud of it. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

MarkCokerSmashwords-smallThat day, I got very frustrated and sent a flaming email full of vicious vitriol and a few flagrant f-bombs. I expected to get back some generic, useless response, which is what you almost always get back from e-companies. Imagine my surprise when the president of the company himself, Mark Coker, emailed me back. He was so helpful and kind and nice. I was completely embarrassed. It led me to formulate a strategy for what to do when I get flamed — and believe me, I get flamed online every day. Now, before I respond, I think, “What would Mark Coker do?” And I try to give my flamer some love. You’d be shocked by how many times it works wonders.

So, I resolved my formatting issues quite easily in the end, and I put my book up on Smashwords. It was so cool — they put your book up, for free, on all these different platforms: Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple. FOR FREE! Then we were lucky enough to meet him in, of all places, Wichita, Kansas. We were both presenting at an event put on by the Kansas Writers Association. If you ever get the chance to see him live, do yourself a favor and avail yourself of that opportunity. Despite his mild-mannered alter ego, he’s kind of a superhero of electronic books. He knows so much about them, has

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords

such wise advice for readers, and has smart and often counterintuitive things to say about the future of books particularly at this moment in history, when the publishing industry seems a lot like the Wild West. It was a pleasure getting to know him in person, and we are very honored that he agreed to this interview. If you take nothing else from this, just remember, when someone flames you and you feel like lashing out electronically, think: “What would Mark Coker do?”

 

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords
BOOK DOCTORS: What made you start Smashwords?

MARK COKER: Several years ago, my wife and I wrote Boob Tube, a novel that explores the wild and wacky world of daytime television soap operas. My wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. We were repped by one of the top NY literary agencies, but after two years, they were unable to sell it to a publisher. Previous soap opera-themed novels hadn’t performed well in the marketplace, so publishers were reluctant to take a chance on us. Our agent suggested we consider self-publishing in print. The idea sounded reasonable at first, but then I realized that without the backing of a major publisher, it would be impossible to get widespread distribution into brick and mortar bookstores, and without distribution, we wouldn’t reach readers. I pondered our conundrum and realized there was a bigger problem at play: Traditional publishers are unable, unwilling and disinterested in take a risk on every writer. Each year, they reject hundreds of thousands of writers, and many of these writers are writing great books. The more I thought about the problem, the more I realized how broken the publishing industry had become. Publishers owned the printing press and the access to distribution, and they alone wielded the power to decide which writers would graduate to become published authors, and what books readers could read. I started to imagine a solution to the problem, and that’s how I came up with the idea of Smashwords. My idea was to create a free ebook publishing platform that would make it free and easy for any writer, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish an ebook. We launched Smashwords in early 2008. The author controls all the rights, sets the price, earns 85% or more of the net proceeds, and receives distribution to major ebook stores such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. Readers decide what’s worth reading.

Our first year, we published 140 books. Our catalog grew to 6,000 in 2009, 28,000 in 2010, 92,000 in 2011, and now, is about 200,000. Our authors routinely hit the top 10 bestsellers at the major retailers, and in 2012, several Smashwords authors even hit the New York Times bestseller list.

BD: Has working with so many writers changed how you write a new book?

MC: The experience has been humbling. He represent most of the bestselling self-published authors. Some of these authors earn thousands of five-star reviews from readers. They’re outselling some of the biggest names in publishing. They inspire me to become a better writer. Since founding Smashwords, I’ve put my own fiction writing on hold and have instead focused on writing books about e-publishing best practices. The best practices I share come directly from our authors.

BD: As a husband-and-wife team, we’ve written seven books together. What was it like writing a novel with your wife?

MC: It was an incredible experience. The two of us moved to Los Angeles for two months to interview soap industry insiders for their stories and dirt. Would you believe there was a soap actress who ate cotton balls as a diet aid? It’s true. Or a manager who raped his actress client when she refused to show him the boob job he purchased for her? After completing our research, we moved to a cabin in the woods of Vermont for four months to fictionalize these and other stranger-than-life stories.

People are surprised when I say this, but co-authorship was a harmonious experience for us, made all the more enjoyable because we were sharing the journey. I imagine the Sterry/Eckstutt team works with equal harmony, otherwise you wouldn’t have written books six through seven together!

The writing process was fun. We plotted the story on big storyboards, and then broke scenes and situations into chapters, and then assigned each other a new chapter each morning. At the end of the day, we’d swap laptops and edit each other, and then swap again for more edits. Our characters took on lives of their own and by the end of the book, the story was much different than we expected. Our first draft was nearly 1,000 glorious pages, and we thought it was great. I note this embarrassing fact to share how completely clueless we were! Thanks to the guidance of some smart book doctors, editors and beta readers, we completed multiple rewrites and revisions over the next couple years. With each revision, we were surprised how much the book improved. I’m a believer in multiple revisions! Finally, the book was ready to shop to agents. In the end, we had multiple agents offering us representation.

BD: What do you think are some of the most important things an author can do to connect with their tribe of readers?

MC: Write a book that moves the reader. Blow their mind and make them scream, “wow!” If you can elicit mad passion in the hearts of your readers, your readers will connect you with more readers through their rave reviews and word of mouth. If you earn mad passion, your readers won’t just suggest their friends read the book, they’ll command their friends to read it. If your friend tells you, “You NEED to read this book now,” there’s no better endorsement.

If an author does nothing else, write an incredible book. That’s 90% of the battle. The other 10% I’d divide into the following four essential items:

1. Give the book a professional, genre-appropriate cover image. Your cover image should be as good or better than what the large NY publishers are putting out. Last year, we documented an example of a Smashwords author, R.L. Mathewson, who simply updated her cover image and it catapulted her to the NY Times bestseller list. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t already written a super-awesome book. A good cover image makes a promise to the reader. It tells the reader, “This is the book you’re looking for.” A poor or inadequate cover image discourages a prospective reader from clicking further. A poor cover makes your book less accessible, less desirable.

2. Distribute your book to every major ebook retailer. Every retailer wants to carry self-published books. Different books break out at different retailers at different times. When you distribute your book everywhere, you maximize the opportunity for readers to discover your book. Unless you’re already an established author with a large fan base and following, most of your sales will come from serendipitous discovery. Readers will browse their favorite bookstore to look for their next read, or their follow the social media hyperlinks of their friends’ book recommendations.

3. Price low. This is where indie authors have an extreme advantage over traditionally-published authors. Indie authors can price at FREE, $.99, $2.99 or $3.99. It’s difficult for traditional publishers to compete at these price points. Low prices make your book more accessible and more affordable to more readers, and since you’re self-published, you’re earning a royalty of 85-100% net vs the 25% net of traditional publishers. Based on our research, which is also conforms to basic common sense, lower-priced books generally sell more units than higher-priced books. More unit sales means more fans and faster platform-building.

4. Make yourself accessible via social media tools. Provide opportunities for your readers to connect with you. Make yourself accessible on Facebook and Twitter, at a minimum. These tools give you the opportunity to do one-to-many communications, and the opportunity to safely and efficiently communicate with your growing tribe. Provide your social media coordinates at the back of every book you write.

BD: What are some of the biggest obstacles writers have to overcome to successfully selling e-books?

MC: The biggest obstacle is obscurity. Thanks to the rise of ebook self-publishing, there’s a glut of high-quality, low-priced books in the marketplace. This means writers need to raise their game. The best writers will rise above the noise on the wings of reader word-of-mouth. If you’re not averaging four to five star reviews, it means your book isn’t satisfying readers as much as it should.

BD: What are some of the mistakes you see writers make when they publish their ebooks?

MC: Here are the top mistakes I see:

1. Publishing a book before it’s been properly edited and proofed. Readers have little patience for sloppiness. You’d be surprised how often I see books ridden with typos. I’ve seen authors misspell their own names on their cover image, or misspell words in their book description.

2. Poor cover design. Unless you’re a professional graphic designer, don’t try to design your own cover image. Hire a professional. Professional cover design is ridiculously affordable. For between $50 and $300, you can get a cover design that looks like it came from a big New York publisher.

3. Impatience. Impatience is both a virtue and a sin. It’s great that an author feels a sense of urgency to reach readers, but impatience can also lead to discouragement, depression or tempestuous decision-making. I’ve seen authors remove their books from stores weeks after publication simply because they’re not selling well. Sometimes, it can take years for an ebook to reach a critical mass of reviews and readership to start selling well. Back in the old days of print publishing, impatience was warranted. If your book didn’t immediately sell well, retailers would pack up the unsold inventory and return it to the publisher for a full refund. Books were forced out of print before they had a fair chance to reach readers. With ebooks, there’s always tomorrow. Ebooks are immortal. They need never go out of print. Think of your self-published ebook as an annuity. It will earn you and your heirs income for decades to come if you keep it out there. This is especially true for fiction. Great stories are timeless.

4. Paranoia and delusion. Almost every month, I receive an email from an angry author who will say something like, “I know I might not be the world’s best author, but there’s no way my book is selling so poorly at retailer X.” This is dangerous thinking. Back in the old days of print publishing, a publisher would distribute a known quantity of books to retailers. Books would either sell or be returned, so there was never any doubt about how many copies were sold, and how much money was owed to the publisher. In the new world of ebooks, the entire ebook supply chain is built upon trust. Smashwords, as your distributor, will send out a single digital copy to each retailer, and the retailer will duplicate that copy for each book they sell. You must trust the retailer to accurately track and report and pay for units sold, and you must trust your distributor to accurately pay you your share of monies received from retailers. If you still feel bitten by the paranoia bug, be your own secret shopper. Once a quarter, buy your book from a retailer, and then wait for the sales report to flow through. Mistakes do happen, but rarely. I can think of three instances over the last two years when an author’s paranoia actually helped a retailer discover an error in their reporting. Even paranoid people get it right from time to time!

5. Limiting distribution to only one or two retailers. If your book isn’t distributed to every retailer, you’ll probably reach fewer readers. If you distribute to only one retailer, you could make yourself dangerously dependent upon that retailer. If they modify their terms, or change their discovery algorithms, you might go from selling great for months straight to selling nothing. Don’t treat ebook retailers like a horse race. Instead, play the field. Get your book everywhere, and then you don’t need to worry or guess which retailer will become the dominant retailer five years from now. You’ll be there already. Every retailer reaches its own unique audience of readers. Many retailers are now opening international stores. Every retailer’s store in each unique territory represents its own unique micro-market where you have an opportunity to reach readers and build fans. If your book isn’t there, those readers will develop life-long relationships with other authors.

6. Negativity. We writers tend to feel our feelings more deeply than the average person, and we’re adept at wielding the power of the pen. Once we build our social media platforms, we have greater ability to share our feelings with the world. It’s something about human nature that when we feel angry, we’re more expressive than when we feel happy. We feel tempted to lash out and hurt those who have wronged us. When you combine anger with social media, people get hurt. Every day, everywhere on the net, there are angry authors sharing their negativity with their closest 5,000 friends on Twitter or Facebook, lashing out against real or imaginary demons that have somehow harmed them. Don’t succumb to negativity. Your fellow authors may learn to fear you, but they won’t respect you. Your prospective readers will be turned off. Your potential partners and supporters will avoid you. think New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry put it best in an interview at the Smashwords blog last year. We asked him how authors should use social media, and he spoke at length about the power of positivity, and why authors should never succumb to negativity. He said, “Even if you are a naturally cranky, snarky, sour-tempered pain in the ass, for god’s sake, share that with your therapist or priest. When you go online to promote yourself and therefore your products, try not to actually scare people off your lawn.”

BD: How do you deal with cyber flaming?

MC: I start by taking a deep breath. We’re working with 50,000 authors, and we’re selling books to millions of readers. As much as all 19 of us here at Smashwords work tirelessly to serve our community to the best of our ability. We invariably make mistakes, or fall short of someone’s expectations, and this often leads us to be flamed by a disgruntled person. Also, because Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, upstart competitors are attacking us all the time, often spreading fear, innuendo or mistruths to advance their own agendas, or to draw us into a public fight so they can trade off of our brand equity. It’s classic guerrilla marketing. Popular authors face remarkably similar situations, where readers or fellow authors will try to drag them into a public brawl so the attacking party can advance their agenda.

My approach is that I try to listen to everyone. Our critics can make us stronger if we listen, learn and make positive improvement. Even if I don’t agree with you, or I don’t think you should be upset for the reasons you’re upset, I still try to understand the problem, acknowledge that their feelings and experience was real to them, and learn from the criticism. Often, our most vocal critics are simply feeling real issues more strongly than the community at large. I view our critics as our canaries in the coal mine. They’re our early warning system, so we ignore them at our peril. To the extent possible, I try to avoid getting dragged into public brawls. If I see blatant misrepresentations or lies, however, I’ll step in and try to correct the record. I avoid leveling attacks against any individual, because more negativity only escalates the situation. I try to calmly listen, learn and understand, and then state my side of the story. Often, my reply will start by acknowledging the veracity of their claim, if I believe it is in fact a valid criticism. In this age of hyper-transparency, you must always stick to the truth, or be willing to acknowledge mistakes. I have multiple Google alerts set up — and would encourage every author to do the same for their name, book titles and keywords. I think people are often surprised when I join an online conversation, both to refute mistruths or to simply thank someone for their kind words. I’m also very accessible via email. Our authors aren’t afraid to share their opinions about where they think we’re falling short. Long story made short, as much as it’s uncomfortable to hear criticism, I also treasure it.

BD: So, what is the secret to ebook publishing success?

MC: I actually wrote a free ebook on this subject! It’s titled The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, and it identifies the 28 best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors. At the risk of repeating some of what we covered above already, here are the top 12 secrets to success for indie ebook authors:

1. Your best marketing is a great book. So many authors obsess over marketing when they should instead obsess over making their book better. If you’re only averaging three stars out of five, consider a major revision. When I look at our bestselling books, they’re getting four and a half to five stars, on average.

2. Create a great cover image. Next to a great book, a great cover image is the most important marketing tool. It’s the first impression you make on the reader’s path to discovery. It tells the reader if you’re professional, or not. It makes a promise to the reader about the genre and the experience they’ll receive.

3. Publish another great book. The bestselling authors at Smashwords are writing and publishing multiple books. Each new book creates the opportunity for you to reach new readers, and to build greater loyalty among existing fans. A new title will often reinvigorate your entire back catalog. Make sure each book you publish references the other books you’ve written, especially at the end of the book when the reader will be the most hungry to read more of your work.

4. Patience is a virtue. Your ebook is immortal, unless you make the decision to kill it. Never remove a book from distribution, not even for a short time, because you’ll alienate existing fans, and prevent new fans from discovering you.

5. Maximize availability. Every major retailer — from the Apple iBookstore to Amazon to Sony to Barnes & Noble and others — wants to carry self-published ebooks. All these companies are investing millions of dollars to connect new readers to your book. Just as an investment advisor would advise you against investing all your eggs in a single basket, diversify your retailer exposure so you’re not overly dependent on a single retailer.

6. Avoid exclusivity. This is the corollary to secret #5. One retailer — Amazon — is pursuing an aggressive strategy of enticing authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon. When you make your book exclusive to a single retailer, even for a short time, you disappoint readers who prefer shopping at other retailers, you limit the discoverability of your books and you make yourself more dependent upon a single retailer. Exclusivity is risky for the author. For some authors it pays off, and for others it fails. Amazon’s exclusivity strategy has caused much debate and rancor within the indie author community. I wrote a column here at Huffington Post about it last year. I’ve been one of the more outspoken critics of their exclusivity strategy because I think in the long run it will be harmful to authors, retailers and readers.

7. Trust your readers. Don’t worry about piracy. Copy protection schemes are counterproductive, and will only harm your loyal, legal readers. If your reader does share an illegal copy of your book with a friend, consider it the lowest-cost, highest-impact form of fan-building and marketing money can’t buy.

8. Implement Viral Catalysts. I created a term I call Viral Catalyst. A Viral Catalyst is anything that makes your book more available, more discoverable and more enjoyable to readers. Think of your book as an object, and attached to the object are dozens of dials and levers you can twist, turn and tweak to improve the word-of-mouth virality of your book. These dials and levers are Viral Catalysts. Examples of Viral Catalysts include your cover image, story, editing quality, the book title, book description, price, distribution reach and categorization. Consider every one of these elements in isolation. Ask yourself how you can improve each element to make your book more available, discoverable and enjoyable. My point here is that there’s not just one thing you can do to enable successful word-of-mouth. You must do many things just right, while avoiding common mistakes that can sabotage your success.

9. Unit volume is a lever for success. When a book sells, most authors think of the royalty as their reward. There’s actually a second, and possibly more important benefit of the sale, and that’s the reader. A reader is a potential fan, and a true fan will market your book to their friends and wait anxiously to purchase your next book. The secret to maximizing unit sales volume, other than writing a great book worth buying, is to price low. Based on our research, a book priced at $2.99 will earn about the same amount of money for the author as a book priced above $10.00, yet the $2.99 book will get you about six times as many unit sales. Therefore, if the lower price drives more unit sales, price lower to build your fan base faster. This is one of the most important advantages that indie authors have over traditionally published authors. Indie authors can build fans and platform faster because they can price lower. If you write series, consider making the first book in the series permanently FREE.

10. Practice positivity and partnership. I touched on this earlier, but I’ll add additional color here. Publishing has always been a relationship business. Relationships give you an upper hand in the marketplace. Your fellow authors are your partners, not your competitors. Help your fellow authors succeed, and they in turn will open doors for you. When you complain online about your least-favorite retailer, that complaint is permanently available and discoverable for that retailer to see. When it comes time for a retailer to do a special promotion of certain titles, are they going to promote authors who have been trashing them online, or authors that have positively supported them?

11. Think globally. The ebook market in the U.S. has grown exponentially over the last few years. In 2007, ebooks accounted for less than 1% of the U.S. book market. Today, that number is over 30%. The growth in the U.S. market is slowing. However, the markets outside the U.S. for English language titles are entering the same exponential growth curve phases the U.S. market experienced over the last few years. The market for English language ebooks outside the U.S. will be much larger than the US.. market. Every major retailer is expanding internationally. Apple now operates iBookstores in 50 countries. Amazon is in close to ten countries. Kobo has always had an international focus. Barnes & Noble is expanding internationally. 2013 will see more global expansion from all these retailers. Get your books distributed globally now, because each retailer’s country-specific store represents a unique micro-market for you to start building fans and platform.

12. Pinch your pennies. Ebook self-publishing has become something of a gold rush. Everyone is rushing to do it, but the people who stand to make the most money are the ones selling the pots and pans. The cold hard truth is that most ebooks — whether traditionally published or self-published — don’t sell well. You, as the self-published author, are the publisher. You’re running a business. If you run your business profitably, you’ll survive to write another day. If you’re losing money, you’ll eventually be forced out of business unless you’re financially secure through other means. As a small publisher, you can’t easily control your sales, but you can control your expenses. Minimize your expenses. When you’re just getting started, do as much on your own as possible. Never purchase publishing packages from the vanity publishing services who will gladly empty your pocket of thousands of dollars for services of nebulous value. Ebook self-publishing can be fast, free and easy if you do it yourself. Never go into debt to finance your publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to put bread on the table or to pay a mortgage. If you pinch your pennies, profitability will become all that more achievable. Once you hit profitability, then carefully reinvest your dollars into better cover design, better editing and better marketing.
Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, an ebook publishing and distribution platform. He’s also an author, entrepreneur, angel investor and advisor to technology startups.

Mark and his wife Lesleyann co-authored Boob Tube, a satire on daytime television soap operas. Their book was rejected by every major New York publisher of commercial women’s fiction, despite representation by a top NYC literary agency. The experience inspired him to start Smashwords, a free publishing platform that allows authors to instantly publish their work online.

Today, Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks. The company has helped over 50,000 authors around the world publish and distribute over 150,000 ebooks to major retailers such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo.

How I Got My Memoir Published: The Book Doctors with Porn Utopian Sam Benjamin

How I Got My Memoir Published: The Book Doctors interview Sam Benjamin on Huffington Post http://bit.ly/nHbEff

Pelican Bay Inmates Hunger Strike to Protest Inhumane Solitary Confinement

When I first heard about the hunger strike, it was Facebook-ed, tweeted or Google+ed that there was going to be a massive noise-making demonstration in New York City to show the world the sick, twisted inhumane torture that’s going on right here in America. Yes, American citizens are being tortured by the United States government. And it’s all sanctioned by Gov. Jerry Brown, and ultimately by President Barack Obama.

Why, you might wonder, if you haven’t heard about this (and chances are you haven’t, because the powers that be don’t want you to know) would Gov. Jerry Brown, a man who has been a staunch advocate of human rights, and Pres. Barack Obama, who time and again has spoken out against torture, allow this to happen in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Isn’t this what the whole alleged war is supposedly about? So governments don’t torture their citizens? The reason you haven’t heard about this is because our government is torturing Americans from the bottom of the food chain, people without money, education or opportunity (“Justice? Yeah that’s right: Just. Us.” – Richard Pryor). They are prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit. The SHU is a prison inside a prison, built for the “worst of the worst.” There are SHUs in three men’s prisons and in one woman’s prison in California. Prisoners in the SHU are locked in a tiny, windowless cell 22 1/2 hours per day. Their beds are concrete slabs. They are in permanent solitary confinement — and some for decades. No human contact. Food passed through a slot. Stop and think about that for a second. Imagine a day without any human contact. A week. A year. A decade.

This is from a letter postmarked July 8 from the Pelican Bay SHU:

To receive direct sunlight is being requested as currently the dog run yard has a sheet of blurred plastic so the sun is blocked out and the way the yard is designed the sun does not make contact with ones skin. It’s a known fact sunlight is essential to health and even bone density. SHU prisoners are withheld direct sunlight at this time.

The prisoners have decided the better to die than to live like this. Prison authorities who first said there were only a couple dozen strikers have now had to admit that the hunger strike has involved up to 6,600 prisoners at 13 of the 33 California State Prisons. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson, Terry Thornton said that as of July 12 there were 800 prisoners refusing food at 6 different prisons. They are striking for very basic things including an end to group punishment or the right to have one phone call a year, or even some warm clothes. As the massive strike enters its third week, the prisoners are going to start dying. Prisoners at Pelican Bay told lawyers that dozens have fainted and many people are experiencing heart problems and shortness of breath. At Calipatria, where at least 200 men are on strike, the temperature has reached 110 degrees and some prisoners have experienced heat stroke due to severe dehydration. At Corcoran some prisoners have been taken to the infirmary due to diabetic shock. When you feel the summer sun on your face tomorrow, tell everyone you know Gov. Jerry Brown and Pres. Barack Obama are allowing Americans to be tortured in Pelican Bay.
“I support the inmates of Corcoran State prison, pelican bay, and other prisons in their demands to end the inhumane policies of SECURITY HOUSING UNITS. I recognize their humanity and stand with them.” — Susan Sarandon

“I condemn the horrific conditions under which those prisoners live in the USA. We have a common global struggle against all types of class race gender and religious oppressions, including American-European imperialisms and neocolonialisms. We live in one world dominated by the same military police capitalist patriarchal system. We need to fight together. Unity is power globally and locally. Our Egyptian revolution is winning till today because of our unified power of millions (women men and children from all sectors of the society) who are staying in Tahrir Square day and night, and in all streets and squares all over Egypt from Aswan south to Alexandria north, and Suez Canal cities and villages. In solidarity.” – Nawal El Saadawi, Cairo, Egypt, renowned Egyptian novelist, doctor, and activist. She has been involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt.

To get involved go to click here.

Here is a link to contact information of elected officials and the CDCR.

Here are the core demands of the hunger strike (summary of demands from Revolution newspaper):

1. End “group punishment” where an individual prisoner breaks a rule and prison officials punish a whole group of prisoners of the same race.
2. Abolish “debriefing” and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. False and/or highly questionable “evidence” is used to accuse prisoners of being active/inactive members of prison gangs who are then sent to the SHU where they are subjected to long-term isolation and torturous conditions. One of the only ways these prisoners can get out the SHU is if they “debrief”–that is, give prison officials information on gang activity.
3. Comply with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. commission “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.”
4. Provide Adequate Food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food. They want adequate food, wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals and an end to the use of food as a way to punish prisoners in the SHU.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates–including the opportunity to “engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…” which are routinely denied. Demands include one phone call per week, one photo per year, 2 packages a year, more visiting time, permission to have wall calendars, and sweat suits and watch caps (warm clothing is often denied even though cells and the exercise cage can be bitterly cold).

There have been a solidarity protests around the country but this is not enough.
A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Pelican Bay as Colligan Bay.

A Conversation With the Naked Anthropologist About Sex Trafficking

When I first came out as an ex-sex worker, I started getting invited to prostitute and sex worker conferences. There are two distinct groups who inhabit this world: decriminalizationists and abolitionists. Decriminalizationist conferences are populated by academics, policy wonks and activists, plus a few current and former hos, hookers, call girls and rent boys. Abolitionist conferences are populated by much the same, plus politicians and law-enforcement. Both groups are evangelical, rhetorical and theoretical. Statistics are bandied about, dogma is flung and resolutions are passed. The decriminalizationists keep screaming “Decriminalize sex work!” The abolitionists keep screaming “Sex work is slavery!” and want human traffickers to be hunted down like dogs.

I first met Laura Agustín at a conference in Brussels and was immediately struck by how different she was from all the people I met on either side of the decriminalization/abolitionist divide. First of all, she had a sense of humor. This alone was shocking in either world. But she also had a calm reasonableness about her. She wanted to hear what other people have to say, basically unheard of in either camp. On top of that, the things she had to say were so smart and counter-intuitive. And they all made sense. What she had to say explained so much about why so much money is so foolishly wasted when it comes to actually pursuing traffickers. And why human beings with very few resources continuously get the short end of the stick when it comes to choosing where they live and work, and determining their own destiny. At these conferences, there are certain people you connect with in deep meaningful ways. Laura and I made just such a connection, and it has remained fertile. I read her book, Sex at the Margins, which challenged all the conventional ideas continuously trotted out about migration, sex work and trafficking. She’s one of the few people talking about this subject who will acknowledge the mind-boggling complexity of these issues, which everyone else seems to want to simplify to suit their own needs and grind their own axes. This book led to Laura Agustín — now known as The Naked Anthropologist — becoming an international expert in this emotionally charged arena. Her blog is now one of the go-to resources for well-researched, well-reasoned, sane debate about selling sex for money, crossing borders to work and the reality of what is and is not trafficking.

When she told me she had been invited by the BBC to participate in a debate at the EndHumanTrafficking event in Egypt, I just knew that the fur was going to fly. Sure enough, with her patented calm, unflappable, intellectual yet accessible style, she managed to invoke the wrath of many present and become the target of the wrath of an Academy Award winner in high hooker heels.

DHS: So, Laura, how did you come to be invited to this event?

LAURA: BBC Television was holding one of their World Debates there and invited me. The event itself was limited to particular UN agencies, business leaders and guests of the Egyptian president’s wife – plus several movie actors. It was the kind of event to which you only invite those who agree with you. But the BBC wanted to do a debate, which means they had to get in at least one person who would disagree.

DHS: Yes, those British have some crazy ideas about presenting different sides of an issue don’t they? Haven’t they learned anything from Fox News?

LAURA: Apparently not.

DHS: I saw who the other panelists were: the head of Interpol, an ex-victim of trafficking and a guy who personally saves sex slaves. Didn’t they all see trafficking as it’s traditionally and hysterically presented by the media?

LAURA: It was an incredibly stacked deck, four against one, so it was never going to be a real debate. But I went for the chance to reach the television audience. The BBC World Service is a 24-hour international news channel watched all over the planet, so in my head I was reaching people interested in trafficking issues anywhere who might have doubts about the way trafficking is usually talked about.

DHS: Doubts about what? Don’t we know human trafficking is the greatest scourge of the 21st century? Aren’t millions of people being trafficked as we speak?

LAURA: I try to break down these huge generalisations. Some people are working in conditions that look like traditional slavery, but a lot are undocumented migrants with debts to pay, workers under the age of 18 and people who would rather sell sex than do any of the other jobs open to them. People who say there are 30 million slaves in the world are including all those and many more.

DHS: Wait a minute, I thought we were talking about trafficking. Where does slavery come in?

LAURA: Originally the term trafficking referred to certain kinds of illegal moving of people across borders, but that has changed. Anti-prostitutionists have defined prostitution as violence, rape and now trafficking, but the new word is slavery. I realise some think this is a way to raise consciousness about injustice, but it is confusing to call everyone slaves and erases whatever ability to maneuver lots of people have.

DHS: The setting sounds unbelievable — the Temple of Luxor — how did you feel getting up on that stage?

LAURA: It felt surreal. Not long ago I was an NGO worker in Latin America – I didn’t seek out this kind of gig! But something about Sex at the Margins has struck a chord, I have been invited to talk all over the place to different kinds of audiences and I just finished three months as Visiting Professor in Gender and Migration in Switzerland. I had certainly never been in a situation where every single other person in the room was hostile, however. And I have never been attacked by a film actress before.

DHS: Okay, let’s talk about Mira Sorvino, now Goodwill Ambassador for Trafficking for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Was she wearing those hooker heels she loves?

LAURA: She was, but I am not sure she understands that she’s allied with abolitionists. I had only spoken a few times when she began waving her hand to get the moderator’s attention. She demanded to know what I was doing there, why I was being allowed to speak. She seemed to think she could over-ride the BBC. I don’t mind people having different ideas from mine but implying I don’t have the right to speak?

DHS: You mean she tried to stop you from talking? What did the BBC moderator do?

LAURA: She asked me if I wanted to respond, so I said in the British tradition debate means dissent, and the BBC invited me because I have a different point of view. Sorvino came across as wanting to censor me, which is shocking in a ‘goodwill ambassador’, isn’t it? I don’t know quite what they are supposed to do, but acting outraged every time I spoke, keeping up a running commentary to people near her (including Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore), is certainly not ambassadorial.

DHS: Was there any consequence for her breach of etiquette?

LAURA: People applauded, as though attacking me were a heroic act. Someone heard her use the term ‘holocaust denier’, too.

DHS: Wow, comparing trafficking to the holocaust! What do you think was going on?

LAURA: I think the event participants did not understand what the BBC was doing there and thought the panel should be just stating conclusions. Maybe they thought the BBC was there to cover the event! But that would be weird, since such go on all the time — they are hardly newsworthy. Someone had not explained, and they took it out on me just because I questioned some of the statements made.

DHS: What was the take-away for you, from the event?

LAURA: Beware movie stars who see themselves as crusaders.

DHS: I think lots of people misunderstand this whole issue and want to know what they can do to help. Do you agree?

LAURA: Anti-trafficking campaigns are now a popular form of social action, but many don’t know what kinds of abuses take place in the name of saving people. That information doesn’t get discussed at events like the Egyptian one — if it were, maybe things could improve.

DHS: Thanks, Laura, I’m glad you survived your attack from Hollywood.

Visit the Naked Anthropologist at http://www.lauraagustin.com/ to learn more about Laura Agustín’s views on migration, trafficking and commercial sex.

World Cup 2010: What We Learned About Ourselves & Others

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/world-cup-2010-what-we-le_b_642302.html

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World Cup Hotties & Notties: Sterry on Huffington Post

The Glorious World Cup makes the front page of the Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/world-cup-hotties-notties_b_642244.html

diego-forlan5gal-hot-thierry-henry-jpg gal-hot-oguchi-onyewu-jpg gal-hot-samuel-etoo-jpg gal-ronaldo-jpg gal-hot-freddie-ljungberg-jpg

A Simple Guide to Overcoming World Cup Fear and Boredom, and Understanding the Beauty of the Beautiful Game

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/a-simple-guide-to-overcom_b_631513.html

Glorious World Cup on Huffington Post: Can USA Beat Ghana? Yes, We Can! Here’s How…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/can-usa-beat-ghana-yes-we_b_625048.html

Huffington Post: An American in South Africa, Or: Why Soccer Really Matters

I interview Missoula’s own Gary Stein in South Africa.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/an-american-in-south-afri_b_618870.html

David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post: USA Exhausts Fans, Who Call for Referees Head on a Spike after 2-2 Draw

Soccer, World Cup 2010

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/usa-exhausts-fans-who-cry_b_617575.html

Huffington Post: Congress Announces BP Executives to Be Boiled in their Own Oil

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/congress-announces-bp-to_b_616591.html

 

NCAA Exposed for the Greedy Bastards They Are

the NCAA exposes itself as colleges and universities frantically realigned conferences to try to grab a bigger piece of the pie

http://huff.to/bSnoPH

Huffington Post: American Manhood, from Mantle to Manchild Donovan & Why America Can Win World Cup 2010

Thanks once again to the Huffington Post for giving me some love. Nice to see World Cup fever is spreading.

http://huff.to/c4OEri

Bert & Ernie come out in favor of gay marriage

2010-02-22-images-bertandernie.jpg
Bert and Ernie, legendary lovable Sesame Street icons, are in favor of same-sex marriage, sources close to them recently revealed. This hot button topic that has caused raging and flaming controversy all over the United States for years is still dominating headlines. On February 18, 2010, the Archdiocese of Washington announced that they are doing away with their foster care program, because they can’t work with the change in the District of Columbia’s laws that will allow same-sex marriages to be recognized legally. This is just the latest in a long line of decisions which affect millions of people’s lives, legally, socially and morally.

Opponents of same-sex marriage argue it is evidence of the further decay of the moral fiber of America, and that a child cannot learn good role models from homosexuals, who are living lives of perversion in the eyes of God. Proponents of same-sex marriage say that getting married is a basic human right, and trot out scientific research which shows absolutely no correlation between success and happiness in adults who have been raised in same-sex, as opposed to “traditional” households.

Even though there has been an informal “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy on Sesame Street for years, Bert and Ernie have not come out publicly advocating for same-sex marriage because they are afraid of the public backlash. An anonymous source overheard Bert and Ernie lamenting to Cookie Monster, Count von Count and Snuffluffigus that they were afraid if people knew, they might be evicted from Sesame Street, shunned by their monster friends and blackballed by the Muppet’s Union. Bert and Ernie are reported to have said, “It’s ridiculous, why should people pay taxes and not have the same rights as everyone else? It’s not about whether you’re gay or hetero, or whatever the heck else is out there, it’s about whether there’s love in the house. And everyone knows there’s always been a lot of love in the basement of 123 Sesame Street.”

Bert and Ernie have long been rumored to be gay. Many have speculated that Ernie’s international hit, “Rubber Ducky”, was actually a coded love song to Bert. They have, and continue to be, closed mouth about their personal life. An anonymous source had this to say: “Well, Bert and Ernie were carrying on, like they do, and Ernie said, ‘Look, what we do behind closed doors is our business.’ And Bert said, ‘Hey Ernie, is that a banana in your ear?’ And Ernie said, ‘What Bert?’ And Bert said, ‘I said Ernie, is that a banana in your ear?’ And Ernie said, ‘What’s that Bert, I can’t hear you, I’ve got a banana in my ear!’ Everybody just fell out. No matter how many times they do it, it’s always funny.”

Kermit the Frog was the only confidant of Bert and Ernie who would comment about this supercharged situation. And that was only on the condition of being off the record. “Hey, it’s not easy being green. And in this case, when I say green, of course I mean gay. Just to be clear, I’m not saying Bert and Ernie are gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. If two people want to live in the same bedroom together, that’s their business. Whatever gets you through the night, right? I mean come on, how many couples have been together for 40 years? I would take my hat off to them, except I am a frog, and I don’t wear a hat.”

Attempts to contact all Muppets, and their representative, proved fruitless.

Some quotes about same-sex marriage from the National Organization for Marriage, and religioustolerance.org:

“Gays and lesbians have the right to live as they choose. They just don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

“A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?”

“Marriage between one man and one woman is critical to maintaining social stability. Society as a whole pays a high price when marriage is devalued. You see divorce; you see single-parenting; you see a rise in out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” said Shari Rendall, director of legislation and policy for Concerned Women for America.

“An unjust law is (one that a) majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself … “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up there privileges voluntarily,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. in a letter from a Birmingham jail.

Huffington Post: LeBorn Is Le Punk

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/lebron-lepunk-james-gets_b_230321.html

America Doesn’t Suck After All: Confederation Cup 2009, South Africa

Hear that faint distant humming sound, like a billion buzzing bees? That’s the sound of millions of soccer fanatics ratcheting their vuvuzela noisemakers as they gear up for what is predicted to be biggest sporting event on the planet: World Cup 2010 in South Africa. For the uninitiated, it’s like the Stanley Cup, NBA championship, Super Bowl, US Opens (golf and tennis) and the World Series all rolled into one. World Series? What world is that? No, in soccer, World Cup means everyone in the whole wide world has a chance to win. And because it’s the first time the tournament has been held on the African continent, this World Cup promises to be a Nelson Mandela, Euro-samba oriental blowout of global proportion.

Which brings us to South Africa, June, 2009, where poor, pitiful, ragtag Team USA was scheduled to compete in the last major tournament before next summer’s World Cup. Going up against a galaxy of Goliaths: 2006 champions Italy; world numero uno Spain; and mighty mighty Brazil. Armed without even a slingshot, based on their recent mauling at the hands of Costa Rica where they played like a bunch of soccer moms.

It’s been hard to be American lately. When you go into a bar basically anywhere in the world and say you’re American, people often look at you like you just tried to kill their dog. Bombing civilians, raping the landscape, setting up puppet governments and trading blood for oil. These are just some of the answers to the question that I’ve heard so many bewildered, innocent looking Americans ask: Why do they hate us? But if you are a member of the American national soccer team, you have felt hated for decades. You’ve had foreign fans throw coins, batteries, even baggies full of warm urine/hot p*ss at you all over the world. Worse, you’ve been the object of pity. The butt of jokes. Because so often you have just plain sucked. Sure, every once in awhile Team America would make a little splash. And they have come to dominate what is a very weak region of the soccer world. But time and time again, when they come up against the big boys, they have turned from men into mice.

So, as America opened up against Italy, they seemed nervous, shaky, and insecure, like a homeowner six months behind on the mortgage who’s expecting a foreclosure notice any second. For one brief shining moment there was a ray of hope, as the penalty machine himself, former golden boy Landon Donovan, slotted home a penalty kick. Shockingly America had a lead. Before you could say badda bing badda boom, they were drowning in wave after wave of pressure from men with vowels at the ends of their names. Suddenly Italy was up 3-1. But it wasn’t just the fact that Team America was bitch-slapped so badly. It was the fact that they looked like a mediocre college team trying to play against the Yankees. The salt in the wound came courtesy of two brilliantly taken goals scored by a guy from New Jersey. Because his parents happen to be Italian, he got to choose which country to play for. He chose Italy over us. Bastard.

That’s when the nightmare really began. Because next up were the kings of soccer, the team that puts the beautiful in the beautiful game, Brazil. Sure enough, the samba masters toyed with the red white and blue like an alpha cat with three blind mice. The low point was when Brazil scored on an American corner kick. In football terms, that’s like being on your opponent’s goal line, handing them the ball, and watching them run 99 yards for a touchdown. The final score, 3-0, in no way reflected the utter degrading humiliation that Brazil laid on America in this righteous smack down. If not for T-Ho, the indomitable goalkeeper Tim Howard, the score could have been 10-0.

A great cry was heard on the World Wide Web: Fire Coach Bradley! He is home grown, not a fancy foreign import, but he is untested on the world stage. Plus, his son plays almost every minute of every game. And recently his son had been “skinned” as they say, turned inside out by an attacker, made to look like a rank pansy amateur. The heat was on. America had one game left, against Egypt. Who, miraculously, had beaten Italy. Which made America’s dismal loss to the Italians seem even worse. And Egypt had scored three goals against Brazil. Although they had allowed four. Still, Brazil had whipped America like a dominatrix at a submissiveness convention. So a stake was poised over the heart of Team America. Well, there was a tiny, slim, infinitesimal chance. But judging by how badly they had sucked, the fat lady was warming up to sing. By all accounts the Americans should have just pack their bags, and slunk away in shame, tails between their legs, licking their wounds.

Then something strange happened. America started being, well…America. Whatever America has had success on the world soccer stage, it’s because they worked harder, ran more, through their bodies around with mad abandon, left their hearts, guts, and nuts out on the field. Suddenly, against Egypt, the Americans were playing balls out. Flying around the field like this might be the last game I ever played. Not just in this tournament, but in their whole lives. Lo and behold, they got a lucky break. Funny how that works right? You bust your ass, you play with crazy passion, and all of a sudden you get a lucky break. How lucky? In this case, new boy Ricky Davies actually scored off the Egyptian goalkeepers face. Not how they draw it up on the instructional video. Abut a goal is a goal. The news came in from the Brazil-Italy game. Brazil was running roughshod over the suddenly hapless Italians. If Brazil could get three goals ahead, and America could win by three goals, the miracle would be manifest, and the USA would be through to the next round. Nose to grindstone, pedal to metal, fingers to bone, America scrapped and clawed, and there was Michael Bradley, son of the coach, stroking the ball home like an old pro. Scoring a goal for his old man on Fathers Day. Word came in that Brazil had spanked the haughty Italians sufficiently. America needed one more goal. They needed a hero. That’s when Clint Eastwood Dempsey made America’s day, streaking into the Egyptian goalmouth, muscling a header past the traumatized goalkeeper. Miraculously, America was through to the next round.

Now all they have to do was go up against Spain, the number one soccer team in the world, a bunch of it pretty, pampered, delicate genius multimillionaires who recently won the European Championship. To put it in perspective, the American striker Jozy the Pussycat Altidor can’t even crack the lineup of the second division Spanish team. But the USA came out guns blazing against the Spanish Armada: chins thrust forward, Devil may care glint in the eye, a jaunty red white and blue spring in the step. While the Spaniards looked like they sincerely believed all they have to do was throw their jockstraps out onto the field, and the uncultured, uncouth, uncool Americans would bow down before them. The Spaniards were in for a rude awakening. From the get-go the Spaniards were full of brilliance. And arrogance. While the Americans had a fire in their belly, and threw themselves relentlessly in front of everything the Spanish could muster. They chased and harried like hungry pack animals looking to feed. Their naked aggression seemed to offend delicate geniuses of Spain. Time and again, one day were tackled and stripped nude of the ball, they stood and counted like sulking children.

And then there was Jozy the Pussycat Altidor, being fed the ball at the top of the penalty box. In every contact sport there is that mano y mano moment where it becomes one man’s strength against another. It’s caveman primal. Can I beat you down? Or will you beat me down? Jozy Altidor proved to be the better man, kicking sand in the face of the feeble Spaniard like he was a 98 pound weakling. Having bested his foe, the Pussycat took its sweet time; set his sights, locked and loaded, and pulled the trigger like that’s what he was born to do. 1-0. The world bugged its eyes, palms outstretched as if to say, “OH MY GOD!”

Wave after wave of the Spanish Armada tried to land on American shores. But each time, led by Oguchi Double O Onyewu, they were thwarted by another proud American giving up his body for his country. Once again, T-Ho was a God, repelling attacks with a fierce animal agility combined with a mind of a brilliant tactician.

There’s an old rule of love and war. When you attack him from the front, you leave your back door open. And the increasingly frantic Spaniards did just that, committing forces willy-nilly upfront, while their unprotected ass was sticking right up in the air. And there was Landon Donovan, restoring some of the golden boy luster, driving with the ball at his feet, making things happen, putting in nasty little cross. Still, the Spaniards had the situation well in hand. Except for two things. Their arrogance. And good old American never-say-quit. Clint Eastwood Dempsey, this time like a sneak thief in the night, nipped behind a multimillionaire Spanish defender, who had casually, thinking he had all the time in the world because he was so rich, talented, and dashingly handsome, trapped the ball right in front of his own goal. With some serious foot-is-quicker-than-the-eye action, Clint had the ball in the Spanish net before the Spaniards could say OLE OLE. On the replay there was a fantastic shot of the Spanish defender, beautiful as a supermodel, and just as confused and vacant, with a look on his face that clearly showed his brain trying to understand, “How did that just happened?”

America, that’s how that happened. Say adios, Spain! Team America had, against all odds, and with a horrifying start it seemed to confirm their own patheticality, made it to their first final of any FIFA championship. Now all they have to do was put away mighty mighty Brazil.

But the strut was still in the stride of Team USA. They were bright, confident almost cocky. Stroking the ball around, defending with calm assurance, attacking intelligently and economically. America was playing like, well…Brazil. Even more shockingly, Brazil was playing like America at her worst. Giving the ball away sloppy, passing the ball to no one in particular, crying like little bitches when they get hit. Then in the blink of an eye, very was again, Clint Eastwood Dempsey. With a silky delicate world-class touch, he massaged the ball into the Brazilian net like tantric master. USA 1. Brazil 0. Not by some crazy fluke. This is the real shock. USA deserved to be beating Brazil.

Naturally Brazil brought it hard and heavy. But the USA stood strong. At one point Carlos Bocanegra was riding Brazilian superstar Kaka like a pony. And once again, when you attack from the front, you leave the back door open. From Brazil pressure, America made a defensive stop, in three quick passes later, Landon Donovan evolved from golden boy into golden man. He made a monkey out of the Brazilian defense, and like a lion ripping the jugular of the throat of an antelope he slammed the ball home, triggering a wild red white and blue celebration. If you had offered a betting man $100 that the US would be going into the final of the Confederation Cup leading Brazil 2-0, you would’ve gotten looks suggesting your insanity, and 1000-1 odds.

But as soon as the second half started, Brazil demonstrated why they’re Brazil. Out of nowhere, out of nothing, a quick Brazilian pirouette followed by a slashing shot from Fabiano, and America was digging the ball out of their own net. USA 2. Brazil 1.

This is where USA teams of yore would have folded like a house of crooked cards. But not this team. They didn’t panic. They didn’t freak out. They kept defending. They kept attacking. And all the while, T-Ho the Magnificent was a true tower of power, near post, far post, and everywhere in between. He even showed some excellent acting skills, convincing everyone he had saved a Brazilian header which clearly crossed the goal line. Although he didn’t win an Oscar, he was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

But Brazil is, after all, Brazil. And they kept knock knock knocking on the door. Finally America cracked, just a little. A defender missed a clearance, the ball bounced kindly off a post, and suddenly the score was tied. As an American, with each second that ticked by, you hoped for the best, but you just had a feeling that somehow Brazil was going to find a way. That’s what they do, these world champions. They find a way.

America made it all the way to the 85th minute. 17/18ths of the way through the game. Then it happened. A big booming back post header. Brazil 3. USA 2. Even so, in the 88th minute, the USA had a free header right in front of goal. All they had to do was put away. But they didn’t. Brazil wins the Confederation Cup. Again. Ho-hum.

America didn’t win their first international soccer tournament. But sometimes winning isn’t the only thing. Sometimes getting to the finals is the next step toward winning the finals. We saw it with the Lakers this year. We saw it when Michael Jordan kept getting beaten up by the Detroit Bad Boys before he became the King of the World. Team USA showed that they can play with the big boys. They turned from mice into men right before our eyes. They hope that they can continue to be the Cinderella who ends up with the glass slippers back here in South Africa at World Cup 2010.

And just for today anyway, it really doesn’t suck at all to be an American.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/america-doesnt-suck-after_b_222031.html

 

Mexican Drug Lord Officially Thanks American Lawmakers for Keeping Drugs Illegal

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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera reported head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, ranked 701st on Forbes’ yearly report of the wealthiest men alive, and worth an estimated $1 billion, today officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal. According to one of his closest confidants, he said, “I couldn’t have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.”

According to sources in the Mexican government, President Calderone is begging American officials to, in the words of reggae great Peter Tosh, legalize it. “Oh yeah,” said an official close to the Mexican president, “Felipe is going crazy. He’s screaming at everybody who comes in, ‘Why don’t they make this sh*t legal already! You’re killing me here!’ Look, everyone knows, when you have Prohibition, you create gangsters. And the more you prohibit, the more gangsters you make. El Chapo is hero now to all those slumdogs who want to be millionaires. Kids in the street, when they play games, they all want to be El Chapo, the baddest man in the whole damn town.”

Meanwhile, many speculate that rich and prominent Mexican families are in cahoots with American businessmen in the alcohol industry, wealthy industrialists who launder the unprecedented profits from the drug business with their legitimate enterprises, and lawmakers who get gigantic kickbacks and payoffs to make sure that these drugs remain illegal, so they can remain rich, fat and happy. According to sources on both sides of the border, tens of millions of dollars in payoffs and kickbacks are stashed in Swiss banks every year, blood money from the brutal business made possible by a corrupt system supported by laws that don’t, and have never, worked.

Rather than putting El Chapo and his kind out of business by modernizing outdated laws and in the process making billions of dollars from taxing drugs (as is done with cigarettes and alcohol), United States government has spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars chasing its tail, and offered a $5 million reward for the capture of El Chapo. Many have said that the offer is unofficially: Dead or Alive.

Meanwhile, as an epidemic of murderous violence rages on the Mexican-US border, and the American government wastes boatloads of badly needed money on the illegal drug business which results from the Prohibition laws, El Chapo is laughing all the way to the bank. “Whoever came up with this whole War on Drugs,” one of his lieutenants reports he said, “I would like to kiss him on the lips and shake his hand and buy him dinner with caviar and champagne. The War on Drugs is the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and the day they decide to end that war, will be a sad one for me and all of my closest friends. And if you don’t believe me, ask those guys whose heads showed up in the ice chests.”

To the original Huffington Post article by David Henry Sterry

Poor People Happier Than Rich People for the First Time in History

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One unexpected benefit of the worst economic depression in a century is that for the first time in history, poor people are happier than rich people. Experts claim this is because

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the lifestyle of poor people has barely changed with the economic downturn. They were below the poverty before, and they’re below the poverty level now. But apparently, according to experts, many poor people are taking great comfort and the joy in the misery of the rich. In addition, they feel that President Obama actually wants to help them, a notable change from the last eight years in America.

Many rich people, on the other hand, have lost boats, airplanes, luxury automobiles, jet skis, two or three homes, and large portions of their wealth. Certainly many have been the victim of their own greed, but many have also been swindled, deceived and lied to. Just as poor people have been throughout the ages. And many rich people have never been poor, so they have no idea just how hard it is to be an American without money. Whereas most poor people, having been poor most of their lives, are very used to it.

Gerald (not his real name) is a doctor. He is in his mid-50s. He had a thriving practice. He lived in a beautiful home. He had enough money saved to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Or so he thought. Unfortunately for Gerald, he was friends with a very well thought of financial genius named Bernard Madoff. All his friends also knew Bernard Madoff. And they all trusted him to make them more money. In fact Gerald trusted him so much that he went out and mortgaged his house so he could give Madoff all his money. And now it’s all gone. His house, his retirement, all his money.

“It’s very depressing,” said Gerald, “I worked so hard for so long to build my practice. So I could provide for my family, so I could retire and travel. And now it’s all gone. Decades of hard work flushed down the toilet. I’m tired. I can’t sleep. And I’m angry. Why is this villain, this crook, this Madoff, still living high on the hog, in his palace? He should be in jail. Getting shtupped by big angry criminals. I guess though, I’ve always known, in the end I have no one to blame but myself. And that makes me depressed.”

Carla Crandall (her real name) is homeless. She’s in her early 30s. She is a very talented writer who will be published for the first time this summer. She suffers from mental illness, and she is a recovering drug addict. She lives on a fixed income from Social Security because she is disabled. She’s been depressed for years. Her income hasn’t changed at all. She has no retirement. She has no home. She has no money to invest. She didn’t lose one single penny during this catastrophic crash.

“Actually,” said Carla, “I’m really excited that my work is finally going to be published. It’s always been my dream to be a published author. I’m engaged to be married. But it’s so hard to live in the ghetto, drugs shoved down your throat, screaming lunatics and junkies, you just know at any minute someone can stick a knife right between your ribs. It just wears you down. If Obama would only give me, like, maybe ten grand, I could get out of the ghetto, get a computer, get on the Internet. Doesn’t seem like that much out of $800 billion, does it? But I have noticed you can get pants cheaper on the streets recently, so that’s good.”

Yes, it seems that everyone is suffering. But for once, the poor, the downtrodden, the huddled masses, the Carla Crandalls of the world, are suffering a little less than the rich people.

Link to the original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/poor-people-happier-than_b_164772.html

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Economic Meltdown & Chippendales

1208LD1 Chippendales21500 points the market plummeted last week. This was preceded by months of money drunk Wall Streeters feeding like little piggies at the trough of dirty money. For me it’s déjà vu all over again. Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the market crashed 508 points, while I was the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, the world’s greatest male stripping empire. And just as one-bedroom fixer-uppers were recently being valued at half a million dollars, citizens were taking out loans with balloon payments so full of hot air they exploded, and the new Bush was turning Wall Street into a Vegas casino; so Chippendales, with its steroid-bloated, mountain-peak-pecced excess was business as usual in a culture where the Emperor was a male exotic dancer with no clothes on. In both cases, America was writing checks with its mouth that its ass couldn’t cash and it crashed like an addled addict after a lost weekend.

In fact, that’s what happened to me. Started when the Snowman, a Chippendales studmuffin, began feeding me coke so I’d give him better intros. Soon I was shoving massive amounts of blow up my nose to feed the demon beast inside that could never be satisfied, til one night I did so much coke I died. Luckily, I came back to life. I quit coke that night. Dedicated myself to working hard, finding love, and conquering my demon beasts old-school style, by unraveling my knots slowly and painfully. Took me decades of busting my hump and years of hypnotherapy, but today I’m drug-free, with a job I love, a wife who loves me in all my idiocy, an apple-of-my-eye baby girl, and a
glorious home with a spectacular garden that feeds me every day.

I’m hoping America will have just as happy an ending. Dump the gas-guzzling SUVs, play well with others, stop the billion dollar a day war, and prosper the old-school way: work hard and earn it. Well, that’s my two cents worth, and with inflation I owe you approximately one trillion dollars.

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