I Have A Lot To Answer For

If I were to take a whack at describing myself in one sentence, it might sound something like: I have a zest for drama, a hunger for adventure, and a thirst for knowledge.

Perhaps it’s a bit pretentious sounding, but not so much once you discover my zest for drama may be nothing more dramatic than putting four drops of sriracha sauce into my mayonnaise.

And that my hunger for adventure may equate to simply switching to a tooth whitening paste instead of just cavity fighting, and then holding up a series of paint swatches next to my teeth each night to document the exciting voyage from drab to dynamite.

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But my thirst for knowledge is an unquenchable longing. The more I feed that fire, the more outrageous and irrepressible it grows. It’s like my curiosity is a tape worm that feeds on facts and data. And I’ve always been very maternal about that critter, so I nourish its gluttonous appetite to extremes.

210215tapeworm (512x800)

I have a lot of questions. And I’m determined to have them answered.

Using my own inquiring mind as a measuring stick, I’d have to say I’m hugely impressed with the depth and breadth of curiosity my publisher has regarding me and this zesty, hungry, thirsty life of mine. They casually handed me a smattering of queries to answer, and ended the request with the cordial advice not to stress over the questionnaire.

And I wouldn’t as long as I was the type who didn’t equate the measurement of the word smattering to mean BUCKETFULL, and who did not define the term stress to translate into FREAK OUT.

210215stress (800x683)

But I do.

And I have.

So every day I am chipping away like a Lilliputian lumberjack at the plethora of probing pleas for info.

210215lumber (564x800)

There are the easy-peasy questions whose answers roll right off my tongue, like What are you reading right now? And What are your favorite books? Or even What did you have for breakfast?

Okay, that last one was not a bonafide question, but I did let them know the answer regardless, as surely everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, next to lunch and dinner, and that if you’re going to invest massive amounts of capital into the mind-blowingly expensive campaign launch of that fairly unknown person’s book, you’re going to want to know that they’re eating enough fiber and not just surviving on the remnants of whatever is still in the half drunk tumblers scattered about the house from last night’s regular drunken spree and a pack of Marlboros.

See? I care about this job.

Some of the more challenging questions are:

What is your education? Your professional training? Have you earned a degree?

Again, I don’t blame the company for wanting to know these tidbits of historical interest, as they have agreed to publish a book I’ve written for children that has buried subliminal messages within the text. And parents are much less apt to purchase a book for their children if they discover the author took sewing lessons from Cruela de Vil and now sports a coat made from puppies, and who for a short, but unfortunate period of time in her life, shared a cell wall with Hannibal Lecter and is still Facebook friends.

Umm … yeah. It’s best to ask about your employee’s formative past.

They ask a million little detail questions that have me unpacking my brain of the detritus clogging the path to the tiny nooks and crannies that hold the answers. Out go the bits I just learned about new tax laws and regulations. Who needs to hang on to the abominable vaccination statistics I allowed to seep in whilst listening to the news this morning? And let’s shove aside that web site address that announced a sale on rare malt whisky—wait, hold on … yeah, I’m gonna need that one front and center.

I work around it.

Tell us all the places you have lived and when. List every club and organization you’ve ever had membership with. And explain to us why you did so poorly on that book report about Native American hunting traditions and trading practices in the fifth grade?

I thought I had that last one all trussed up and buried, but these guys are good. They are thorough. It’s possible I’m being vetted for a political appointment. I’ve watched House of Cards. I understand ‘talking points.’

It appears there may be a few things I’ll want to steer clear of when doing interviews.

What I have noticed mostly while going through this laborious process, is that putting together a successful marketing campaign for a book launch is a lot more involved than simply hanging a sign out the window that is the equivalent of “Lemonade for sale. 5¢ a glass.” Some of it is far beyond my realm of understanding and I’m relieved someone else is sitting in the captain’s chair for that part.

But still, it all comes down to the hankering for learning. Learning about building this campaign. Learning about breaking down monumental tasks into small bite-sized chunks.

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And learning that apparently sending a monthly supply of brownies to my high school’s secretary in exchange for “losing” my academic record might be a plan I’ll need to beef up.

Regardless of how I phrase it—the zest, the hunger, the thirst—it all boils down to nourishing one’s spirit and satisfying one’s soul. When I get the munchies, I shall slake my appetite by feasting on the buffet of life. But apparently I will have to slide over and make room on the bench for my publisher.

Please pass the salt.



Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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82 thoughts on “I Have A Lot To Answer For

  1. I loathe answering form questions! I have always wanted to have a someone who takes care of those things for me and who would preferably invent an interesting and vivacious life style for me so I can just get on with painting. [Of course I a referring to the forms one has to fill in to get into the US, for a visit no matter how brief, and to get travel insurance and so forth and so on – nothing exciting like getting interviewed or even prepped for the many interviews coming your way] 🙂 I love how your mind works and I am absolutely positive your children’s book will be a winner! You will soon be joining Noel with champagne for breakfast!

    • I bet you’re having to sharpen that pencil of yours for the big trip coming up. But all the form filling will be surely worth it, Pauline. Getting the opportunity to meet all those lovely folks you now call friends is worth a biblical tome worth of queries.
      And thank you for your kind and generous words. I’m thinking I should find myself some bubbly right now and toast to your prophesy. Fingers crossed. Cheers!


    (And yes, that deserved all caps.)

    How awesome for you! And those questionnaires sound intense… but I guess they really do want to know it before the press does, haha. Better for them to answer every query than you, when you become a literary superstar (in addition to your blog superstar status). 🙂 I’m no kid, but I’m going to buy that book!

    Pretty much bouncing over here, really. I apologize if I missed your announcement in an earlier post. XD

    • Alex, you really are the greatest. What a daymaker of a comment. This one’s going on the fridge.
      It’s been a long road to the publisher’s door, papered with the typical responses of, “This is truly laughable–but not in a good way,” or “I really, really hope you have a day job,” and “Please, stop killing trees.” All very encouraging and all doubtlessly deserved.
      I think the fact of the matter is, that when you begin any artistic endeavor, you have to expect to go through a great body of volume before you hit something worthy.
      The one thing I’ve also discovered is that there is a boatload of fingerprints on this book. It really becomes something community owned and is no longer ‘yours.’ Occasionally, I’ve shared a tiny bit about it here and there. I figure if there’s something unusual or interesting or that simply strikes my funny bone, I’ll pass it along.
      The story gets published in August. It’s called Dear Opl. Promise to keep you updated. 😀

      • That’s really true, I feel. Working as I have for the writers’ group on Facebook, helping with the anthologies and web stuff and so on, I really understand the sentiment of ‘community-owned’. And now I also understand why acknowledgments in some books are so long! At least when you work on a movie, your name definitely ends up in the credits… the same can’t be said for books, which is sort of unfortunate.

        • And weirdly, I feel indebted to people I’ve never met, nor have I ever heard the sound of their voices. We’ve worked remotely. And I love that, as I’m a total hermit. But now there’s a whole slew of folks I don’t know but adore, and I would happily tattoo their monikers all down my back. I may run out of skin.

    • I feel lucky that I pretty much ignore Facebook now, as I’m nearly all grown up. There’s just waaaay to much oversharing going on. So much that I feel shouldn’t be discovered about folks until after they’ve died and somebody reads their diary. 😛

  3. I just know that any questions you would answer would be worth reading Mrs P. Now I will have to call you Mrs Published which is absolutely brilliant. That is worth opening the bubbly up for. (What did you have for breakfast?)

    • Firstly, thank you, Cheergerm. I think I could secretly get used to the name ‘Mrs. Published.” (Especially when I have all of my clothing stitched with massive needlepoint lettering that illustrates it.)
      And breakfast today? A few spoonfuls of curried lentils from last night’s dinner and a handful of rosemary, salt-brined almonds (you’d LOVE this recipe). Sundays are a mess. Cold coffee and pantry grazing are the norm. I come to your blog to see real food for real people. And then I cry just a little and get back to work. 😉

    • Thank you, David, and yes, my over-reaching enthusiasm must be noted as not necessarily a good thing. It’s a well-known ailment of many writers. We use ten words where one would suffice. I’m going to guess there will be some literary disease named after us. xxooxx

  4. First of all, I’m doubtful you need to hide your academic record – you’re a smart lady and I’m sure you must have been in the upper ranks of achievement at school. If you weren’t then maybe the school were doing it wrong? In any case, you’ve got that 5th grade book report out there now – it’s old news, no skeletons to expose, move along, nothing to see here. 🙂

    Secondly, how exciting is this? You’re going to have a book published! This is brilliant news and when is the book-signing tour coming to the UK? There must be some bookshops up near the whisky distilleries that would love to have you come and visit, not forgetting the shops down here near the vineyards! There’s a regular book club slot on BBC R2, you could do that too (Simon Mayo, the host, writes the Itch YA books).

    Oh, and Robb, I loved the Monty Python reference. 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the Monty Python reference. I wanted to draw the lumberjack as he is in the song, with “high-heels, suspenders and a bra”, but he’s too little! 🙂

    • It is exciting, Laura. And something that I had to promise to donate several of my internal organs toward in order to make come to fruition. It was worth it, as I feel like that second kidney and my thymus have never really pulled their weight.
      Coming to the UK? Boy, I can only hope. I may have to trade in a few heart valves for that to happen, but I’m really happy to consider anything at this point. 😛

  5. Ha Shelley I totally understand your paranoia with form-filling – thank heavens you don’t live in France – the home of paper mountains. It’s bad enough all the questions you have to answer on the internet these days just to access your own computer, I’m sure your answers will be a hoot and probably worthy of another publishing contract in their own right! We all raise a glass of champers to you and the book! Great Monty Python cartoon by the way! They love them over here but they’re known as ‘Montay Peeton’ 😀

  6. Shelley,

    You sound hungry, I suggest you eat, but avoid that one local middle’a nowhere hole in the hill breakfast joint with the waitress that has the beehive hair-dew and suggests your local saltydog grilled ham with a side of eggs as “that ain’t that salty buddy, but a shot of tequila might help wash’her down…”

    Yet another very entertaining blog, thank you. Love the Gulliver’s Travels referance. Your writing, I love how you tie in so many references. Some of which I have to look up and continually enjoy the education. You are, a great writer and becoming more so everyday. 🙂

    Rob, I too love your sense of humor with the Monty Python reference; brilliant, as are your drawings sir.

    All the best,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • I have the appetite of a Mac truck driver. Not terribly lady-like, for sure. And your breakfast sounds right up my alley. If I could actually get off the mountain, I’d be in search of it. As it is, we are a glazed mound of ice. I think we look a bit like a massive snow cone that’s been dipped in epoxy.
      Hope you’re managing ok. As always, I’m so happy you liked the post.

  7. You are indeed a remarkable lady. You remember salient facts about your past and you answer questionnaires truthfully. I like lists and I like to answer questions. I also like to add a little zest to my answers,so if I embellish a bit, so it goes. As for my memories of things, that is highly dependent on time,weather,etc. Ah life what an amazing little critter.
    I have said it before, but it is worth repeating. You have a knack for creating mental pictures with words. However, the bit about the tapeworm. Eww, Rob’s drawing did take some of the ick out of it. Speaking of which, the little Lumberjack was brilliant.
    So congrats on your book and since I have a plethora of Grand kids, all various ages, from College Freshman to twin infants I am sure it will be suitable for at least one of them. Any time frame on when it should hit the shelves?
    Well as always a great post. Now I can continue with my weekend.

    • I love reading your comments, Benson. You’re not only always incredibly kind with your praise, but you point out things that leave me chuckling. And I feed on laughter a bit like that parasite feeds on info. I know, without Rob, so much of my posts would leave folks either scratching their heads or with severe intestinal upset. It goes without say; he is wholly necessary to make my posts palatable.
      So glad to hear about the slew of offspring from your offspring. What gatherings you must have!
      And the book (Dear Opl) has a publishing date of August. I think the 1st or 2nd. Promise to keep you updated. Cheers!

  8. The tapeworm. Oh my. The tapeworm. The tapeworm. It will take a while to get over that. Cheers to your book launch. Does the story have a mom with a fondness for single malt?

    • A hearty ‘Well Done, You,’ Annabelle! I know there’s a lot of support for self-published authors nowadays, and I’ve got plenty of friends who have gone that route, and have realized great profit, but the stories are much of the same. It is mind-boggling, back-breaking work. But then again, I think if we truly love what we do, we will all push ourselves to new limits of physical and mental capacity, and surprise ourselves with the depth of desire we have to share our art and messages.
      Again, a massive congrats for your book and I wish it great success!

  9. I too was enchanted by the Lumberjack of Lilliput! And naturally I approve of Champagne for breakfast 🙂
    Shelley, I think you got a contract by mistake with the Central Intelligence Agency! Have you asked in which countries your book tour will take place? Be very afraid!
    And oh, the dreaded “describe yourself in one sentence” query. In the unlikely event that I ever have to embark on such a promotional effort, I will recycle your winning formula. “Linnet has a zest for Beautiful Men, a hunger for Baked Ziti, and a thirst for Sauvignon Blanc.”

    • That’s a brilliant one-liner, Linnet. I think you just described the perfect evening for most women across the globe.
      And good heavens, if you could have seen this questionnaire. It’s called an AIQ–author interview questionnaire. I’m fairly sure it’s bog standard for most publishing houses. But for every question there are subquestions, and subquestions to the subquestions. I thought I’d never finish it. But I really know myself now. And I’ve decided I’m in serious need of therapy.

  10. Uh oh! I am in the process of determining a publisher for my first book, so can I expect those questions? My problem is that I have no secrets, no pride, and a pretty good imagination. The things that I can do to a simple question is astounding (my word ….. others have used different words). I can write a lengthy essay in order to answer one simple question (20 questions = 1 book) after all, isn’t it my obligation to provide all (stress all) the determining factors, the idiosyncrasies, the background of the people who were an influence, together with cultural and social impacts. “The cat sat on the mat” doesn’t really say much, but if I described the cat, its personality, its history, its goals and dreams, the proximity to meal times, and a host of other feline related factors …. the reader would know so much more than where the damn cat sat!

    • John Irving, Dennis Lehan, Tolkein, Heller, Lee, Michener’s Hawaii or Alaska… wow, sounds like you fit into this category. I love details (as this is right up my father’s interest); however with my small brain, I am more at the Dr. Seuss level, (although I do enjoy Lau Tzu and the “Tao Te Ching”). I hope your writings bring you joy.

      Share with us if you wish, please. I’ll make sure I have my google to reference the majority of your writings.

      Best wishes and cheers to your first publishing,

      Stoshu 🙂

    • That’s really funny, Colin, but I think the tricky spot for most writers is discovering how much is enough. Slashing through and eliminating a massive amount of your work (killing your darlings) can be a pretty crucial part of the editing process. Yes, the passages you write about your furry feline friend may be brilliant, but will want to make an editor come after you with a electrical cow prodder if your story is all about inner ear infections.
      Regardless, a hearty congratulations on the monumental accomplishment of finishing a book. Is it “Ray” related?

      • I am currently in the editing stage (and have been since before Chistmas!). I am currently waiting for an ex-work colleague to critique it after which I must let a couple of local organizations review and comment because they are mentioned in detail! The book is called “A Dog’s Life?” (The Story of Me and Him), and is about Ray. The book covers the first 18 months which were quite “challenging” and life changing in so many ways, which is why my Blog focuses on later times with occasional “back” references. It is my intention to have all proceeds directed to our local Humane Society so their input is necessary. Stay tuned!

  11. Very much enjoyed this post and am quite curious about your answers to these questions…..breakfast question definitely most important I agree! How could they not ask?! Rob has outdone himself with the drawings again. Every post you do is great and so much better because of the gems he adds in his drawings. Did he illustrate your new book? Hang on to your love of acquiring new knowledge…it’s served you well so far and has already taken you places some can only dream of!

    • The answers to many of the questions are probably providing added indigestion to the poor folks in PR/Marketing. I’m going to have to put them on my ‘Send brownies to’ list. Their jobs cannot be easy.
      And no, this story has no illustrations in it, but I’d give my left lung for it to be the case eventually. I seriously believe that most of the planet would sleep a little better at night if given just three or four of Rob’s illustrations a week to absorb. His work should be incorporated somewhere into the food pyramid.

      • Absolutely agree on incorporating Rob’s drawings into the Food Pyramid….will have to write to Michelle O. about that one! 🙂

        I’d love to read your book though…..do hope you’ll be doing a fair bit of promoting!

  12. I’m now thoroughly convinced my skin isn’t thick enough to be a published author. The fact I don’t have a manuscript or talent to create one is irrelevent. The poking and prodding of an editor and publisher would be my undoing 🙂

    Congratulations on your exciting adventure to being published! {sounds from the cheering section!}

    My favourite line … When I get the munchies, I shall slake my appetite by feasting on the buffet of life!! BRILLIANT!
    I shall have to file that one away for a day needing inspiration 🙂

    • The secret, Joanne, is all about layered clothing and hard liquor. With just the right amount of both, most situations are a breeze.
      I may have to come back and delete this response at some point. Again, it’s the whole parent sleuthing business regarding author backgrounds. 🙄
      And I think you sell yourself a little short. There’s that old saying that everyone has a got a book in them somewhere. Yours may just be lurking in a dark and dusty corner, biding its time.

  13. Shelley, I can’t wait for your book to come out. I know you are going to take the world by storm (or maybe by lumberjack…what a brilliant plan, they’ll never see that one coming). This post flowed together so smoothly I couldn’t believe it was over. Bellissima! Now if only it was as easy to talk about ourselves. Those standardized questions are the worst. That’s why I treat interviews on my blog as conversations. We’re all individuals, and we should be seen that way. Then we can talk bucketfulls about what interests us, and avoid all those other questions. 😉

    • Oh, Sue, what heart-warmingly wonderful words you post. Nods of praise from your expert eagle eyes are a true daymaker.
      Now, the art of the interview is a study in and of itself. The interviewer must be well versed in covering up for the inadequacies of the interviewee, and craftily steer that conversation in a direction that will not only make their subject shine, but appease the fastidious appetites of their audience to boot. Not and easy job at all. I don’t envy you, but I certainly applaud you. Reading your interviews is an example in comfort with your craft.

  14. Hurray for publishing progress on Opl!! I can’t wait to see her in print. Even if you do have to answer long lists of specific questions. What does the publisher ultimately do with them?

    Also, now I have the Lumberjack Song stuck in my head. Excellent. Going to march around the house singing it at the top of my lungs.

  15. Oh my goodness. That was…delicious! “Detritus” threw me for a loop (and it’s annoying to have to scroll up 48 comments to see how you spelled it, so I could complain…properly). Now I have to get that darned dictionary out again to look that up. Unlike you knowledge-brained types, abstract floofie-brained types like me don’t gather “facts”…we prefer to “feel our way forward, belly/gut first.”

    You and Robin nailed this bit of confection! Loved every single morsel of it.

    • Firstly, I love the phrase “floofie-brained,” and I’m determined to find a use for it. And secondly, “Feel our way forward, belly/gut first” is another doozie of a description. Language that is music to my ears.
      Lastly, just to reassure you, although I may gather facts, there’s no guarantee that any of them remain where placed. They are as slippery and intangible as well-oiled eels.
      Thank you for your truly generous compliment. 🙂

  16. Marketing campaigns are definitely way beyond me as well. Course, in my case, they’ve been terribly unsuccessful! Ah well, like you I write to breathe. Enjoyable blog, as usual. You spoil your readers!

    • Marketing a book is so much easier if you’ve committed some atrocity and are finally ready to spill the beans. Although, I’m not suggesting this as a route to consider, Jan. Just sayin’.
      And thank you for the lovely compliment. We aim to keep ’em happy. 😀

  17. looking back is hard. if only we were all owls then it would be a breeze, looking back i mean. remembering things would still be hard, i bet. the book sounds intriguing, will you share more about it at a later time? oh, can we be part of the marketing campaign 😉

    speaking of learning, friday’s post ended with some lessons movies taught me. if we take the time there’s a lot to learn right where we are. and if you have time i’m hoping Step 2 of How Not To Make Croissants will be up in a day or two. hope you stop by and Rob too. – cheers!

  18. Like the rest of your writings it is so easy to read. The words flow, and the only things that slow me down are pauses I require in order to properly revel in the deliciousness of your words, to laugh and to think, and to scratch a persistent itch just above my left ankle – but I can’t blame you for that one. Terrific, again, Shelley.

  19. YOU DON’T REALLY WANT fawning pawning (prawning?) phrases & praises, but it’s diffy/occult knot to do!

    your consistent well-above average (I’d say, em, C ++++++) output of well-considered thoughtful, uh, output

    (at least it SEEMS not only well (which is THREE times “half-baked” M O L) considered but, again, demonstrating the aforefore bantered-about N+ 1 ed ness)

    continues to ensure that your writing stream is very quite distantly far from ever being in danger of drought stage ~

    • Egads–god forbid I hit a dry spell! The reassuring thing is that I have so many successful friends–in myriad fields–who share the same message and that I find incredibly encouraging. “You have to create and create and create before that which you are striving for appears.”
      I get it.
      So I will demand some muse show up for work and refuse to take no for an answer in the creativity department. Even if it ends up not being first rate, it’s the upward trajectory of striving for first rate that will eventually create some top notch stuff.
      Well, this is how I’m told it will happen.
      Time will tell, Jay. In the meantime, it feels great to get and give encouragement.
      A million thanks for all of yours. 🙂

    • Many thanks, Susan. It does not surprise me at all that you’re feeding that strange and wonderful creature. Your writing speaks volumes of your literary efforts.
      And as far as getting a hold of the book–the publishing date is in August. I promise to give folks a little heads up if they’re interested.

  20. A delightful read! You’ve tickled my funny bone and made me smile. To publish at all is really something, to publish a children’s book is extraordinary. Congratulations and so well deserved. I’m happy for your and for your future readers. I too will be purchasing a copy, though it would be more fun to find you at a book-reading and get my copy up close and signed by you.

    Wow. Just WOW!!!

    • Alys, you are a ray of sunshine personified. Thank you for all your incredibly kind and generous words. I will look forward to the day when we can make that happen. In the meantime, I will hold close to my heart that which I deem the most extraordinary of all–finding that people like you really do exist.

      • Shelley, my goodness, what a lovely thing to say. I used to be teased for being “too nice” and often found the word ‘sweet’ attached to my name. It seemed like a curse in my youth. I’m well past that now, and embrace who I am. Imagine my delight to have someone like you that I look up to say such wonderful things. Be still my heart. Thank you!

  21. Many congratulations on your about to be published book 🙂
    And I absolutely loved your line, “Learning about breaking down monumental tasks into small bite-sized chunks” – for that’s what I am trying to do these days 😀

    • And don’t forget create! Your poetry is chalk full of beautifully worded phrases, and gripping images. I’m guessing you’ve spent a long time “learning” just how to use the lovely poetic license you’ve been given.
      Cheers, Christy!

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