Thursday, May 13, 2010

Toying with the Idea of Writing a Book By Joanna Campbell Slan

Today I’d like to welcome fellow Midnight Ink author Joanna Campbell Slan to the blog. Joanna is an Agatha Award nominee and her Photo, Snap, Shot, the third book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, was released May 1.


Toying with the Idea of Writing a Book

By Joanna Campbell Slan

This isn’t the post I intended to write for Elizabeth. I’m no dummy. My job here—at least as far as I can tell—is to make you like me so you’ll want to buy my book. Failing that, I need to make you want to read my book, even if you don’t like me.

This might come under the heading: None of the above.

See, I was at a book signing last week with a bunch of other authors, and a man came up, leaned on the table, winked at me, and said, “I’m toying with the idea of writing a book.”

I believe with all my heart that he’s a very nice man. That actually, he’s lovely. That he’s kind and caring and thoughtful and smart. That he only meant to flirt a bit and to ignite a conversation.

Instead, he came very near to getting himself killed.

Okay, maybe I look like a middle-aged housewife who doesn’t get out much. Yes, my covers are bright and cheerful and scream, “Let’s have a good time!” I was sitting there like a dope with (what I hoped was) a perky smile on my face. And I did gussy up for the occasion.

But “toying with the idea of writing a book”?

I had to restrain myself.

So I counted. I counted up into the high numbers, numbers I’m not smart enough to multiply or divide.

And I waited. I hoped he’d say something I could respond to, something that would make me seem like a decent, good human being. A person I long to be.

Toying with the idea of writing a book?

I imagine he was hoping for a bit of encouragement. Perhaps I was supposed to say, “Good for you! I toyed with the idea, too, and now just look at me! Here I am, fifteen books later! Hoping you’ll give my newest book a try! Gosh, if a stupid cow like me can do it, so can you!”

Or maybe, “Oh, piffle, this is easy. I bet a big, strong, handsome fella like you could whip one of these suckers out in no time. Probably be an international bestseller, too.”

Instead I wanted to weep. I wanted to sob and say, “Mister, you have no idea. This is all I ever wanted to do in life. I put myself through four years of college and worked full-time to get a degree in journalism. I worked odd jobs to support myself doing anything in the field, just to get the practice of putting words on paper. I hate every minute that takes me away from the keyboard and my work. I love what I do and I am driven and passionate about it!”

And here’s more of what I should have said:

“I pray, sir, that you keep on toying with the idea of writing a book. I hope that for you, it never becomes anything serious. If you are lucky, you won’t really care one way or another if you get to write each day. If you are fortunate, it won’t matter if your work is good or bad. You won’t wake up each day determined to try harder than you did yesterday. That you won’t read everything you can and study every book you can and go to seminars, classes, and conferences hoping to pick up a crumb more of insight so you can someday be worthy of the printed page and your readers.”

I didn’t say any of that.

But I thought it.


Joanna Campbell Slan is really a very nice person, most of the time. Her most recent book—Photo, Snap, Shot—is the third book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Publisher’s Weekly called Photo, Snap, Shot “a cut above the usual craft-themed cozy.” And Joanna is moderately happy with that. Visit her at or at