Monday, November 26, 2007
Christee Gabour Atwood's Latest Stop on Her Virtual Blog Tour
Christee Gabour Atwood is currently touring with her book, Three Feet Under. It's a celebration of midlife … and elastic waistbands. And on this Monday I thought I'd introduce her to those who could use a laugh. Then pass the smile on to others as you see what this gifted comedic writer has to say in a recent interview.
About Three Feet Under – Journal of a Midlife Crisis:
A Celebration of Midlife … and Elastic Waistbands
Christee Gabour Atwood remembers the exact moment when her “midlife crisis” began. She was visiting the campus where she had attended college when she says, “A handsome young man opened a door for me. And then he called me ‘ma’am’.” With that one word, she knew midlife was upon her.
Many people recognize this scene or have ones similar to it that marked the beginning of their midlife crises. And that is what Atwood is celebrating in both her book, Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis, and in the program she will be offering at (location & date).
“Midlife is not an age. It’s an adventure,” states Atwood. “It’s a time to laugh with others at the things we have in common. Things like the ‘fat end of our closets’, where we hide our big-size clothes. Or things like changing our life goals every day. Or even things like realizing that we chose our car more for the color than for what’s under the hood. And that’s okay.”
These are the episodes that Christee shares with her audiences at readings from her book. And she finds that her audiences have just as many stories to share with her.
“I began to realize after a few of my programs that audience members have hilarious midlife moments to share too. So, instead of spending the entire time reading from the book, I started asking for their best midlife stories. And it has been received so well that now I am working on a sequel to Journal of a Midlife Crisis that will include stories from audience members.”
What are the most important lessons that Atwood says midlife is teaching her? First, she says that midlife is a wonderful time of life when people can begin to appreciate the use of elastic waistbands. She also says that this period of her life has helped her to learn new skills – including how to look “cool” while she tries to remember where she parked her car at the mall. Christee also notes that midlife is a time when people finally start to get comfortable “in their own skin”.
“We spend so much time worrying about our waistline, our hair, or what others think of us. I see midlife as a time to stop worrying about those sorts of things and concentrate on what we think of ourselves. After all, that’s the only opinion that truly matters.”
Christee Gabour Atwood’s background includes a variety of careers, including speaker, corporate trainer, humor columnist, association executive, radio and television personality, and even a period as a stand-up comic. But, she notes, writing has always been her passion. “I’ve always written and wanted to pursue it as my livelihood, but I was so hooked on those silly things like eating and paying rent that I never took the plunge to make it my career.”
So why is she taking that plunge now? She shrugs, “I’ve decided that eating is highly overrated.”
To view excerpts of the book or to order it online, Atwood suggests a visit to the website, www.JournalofaMidlifeCrisis.com.
And now, some interview questions for Christee, and her answers:
1.) -Please tell us about your book.
It’s made of paper and real ink! Yes, trees were harmed in the making of this book, but I didn’t personally run over them with my car…
Oh wait. This went completely in the wrong direction. I’m on cold medicine. That’s my excuse today. The rest of the time… well, I’m just me…
Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis is all about being a member of the midlife club. It’s about those things we have in common but may not realize – like the fact that we give directions like, “It’s down by the old Sears Roebuck building.” Or the fact that we make that “tsk tsk” noise when people in the next car are playing their music so loud it vibrates their trunk … and it’s not a song that we like. Or the fact that we finally accepted that we weren’t going to fit back into the bathing suit from our senior trip, no matter how much weight we lost, lipo-suctioned, or surgically removed… And even if we did fit into it, we still wouldn’t look 18 again. Unless those were 18 very hard years…
This book is just plain good old making fun of ourselves. I think that actually works well for us, no matter what age or which crisis we’re in.
2.) -What can we expect from you in the future?
The sequel. Yes, I know that’s scary … The next book is “In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands”. It is dedicated to Thomas Hancock, the guy who invented elastic. Without him, I would be wearing my real size … and none too happy about it.
I’m also turning all this fun into a one-person stage play. One person – because I can’t remember lines and don’t want anyone else depending on me to give them a cue. And a stage play because comedy clubs are scary. Although I must admit that when those people drank enough, even I seemed funny.
3.) -How do we find out more about you and your book, plus any others?
I’ve got a website, Christee.biz, that tells you about the current books, my business and training books, and what areas you should stay away from or you’ll run into me.
I’ve also started a blog and it’s a new experience for me. It’s fun! http://elasticwaistbands.blogspot.com/
It’s got various pics, posts, and a calendar for my blog visits. And that’s a great place to contact me.
4.) -How may readers contact you?
Oops – I got ahead of myself there, didn’t I? The blog, listed above is one place. They can also click Contact Me on Christee.biz. Or they can email me at Christee@Christee.biz.
5.) - What motivated you to start writing this book?
I had a huge stack of humor columns that I had written over the years. It was threatening to take over my house. I looked at that and said, “Good grief. That’s big enough to be a book.” (I talk to myself a lot.) And from that the idea began.
The good thing was that I got spayed (aka hysterectomy) and went crazy having to stay home for weeks, so that was also a good impetus to put these columns into book form. And then I started adding chapters and it just took off as a major project.
As far as being a writer, I was raised in the profession of wordsmithing. My parents owned a weekly newspaper when I was growing up. Dad was the publisher. Mom was the editor. Mom also wrote stories and articles for magazines around the country. And it just seemed natural to become a writer when they gave me one of the leftover Royal typewriters from the newspaper office as a gift when I was six.
6.) -What kind of research do you do?
Research? I’ve heard about that. I’ve done research for some books and stories I’ve written, but having the attention span of a flea with a bad prostate, I get too distracted to come back from research and actually write.
Because of that, most of my research is life experience. Which is pretty easy to pull from when you’ve had more jobs than most people will have pairs of socks in a lifetime. Did I mention my career-A.D.D.?
7.) -Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I really do work best with a set schedule. I get up at 2:30 most mornings, because then I can get work done before my brain wakes up and before the phone starts ringing.
When I’m really in the zone, I like to keep writing through mealtimes and those pesky little things like family gatherings or bathroom breaks. Wish I had a good pair of Depends. I just find that it takes so much time and energy to get back into a story once I’ve stepped away from it, that I would rather stick with it.
Does anyone else out there have that challenge?
It works well for me though. I wrote my first novel that made it past the slush pile in 14 days. It needed work, but I got the whole plot down and then was able to go back and polish it.
That’s why I like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) every November. It allows me to write and turn off that darn internal editor who keeps trying to shove his face in the way and say, “I can’t believe you let that preposition dangle like that!” If I can keep him locked in the dirty clothes bin for a month, I can really get a lot done. Of course, he smells pretty bad when he gets out, but that’s the danger of working with a writer.
8.) -Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. As writers, I think it’s our duty to make fun of the world, so I use the newspaper a lot. I like to use it as therapy, so many ideas come from the workplaces I’m in or have been kicked out of. I like to find ideas in history. That’s a gentle way of saying I ‘recycle’ ideas. I love stories from the past and like to rewrite them to suit my desired ending. That’s just good fun.
And isn’t it fun to dream on those mornings when you’re actually awake but don’t want to get up because you’re waiting for someone else to make the coffee? It’s during that light sleep that I like to create stories where I’m the amazing heroine.
It’s also amazing that so many of those heroines have big noses and wear elastic waistbands and have a problem getting up from kneeling to look at the bottom library shelf.
9.) -Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?
Everyone I’ve ever read or ever known is a part of my writing. I know we write that “these characters are fictional” in the disclaimer, but has anyone ever written a character that didn’t have a slice of someone you know in them? If you did, you probably found it to be a very one dimensional character.
As far as my style of writing – my mother got me started right. She was a stickler for proper grammar and painstaking research. Once I discarded those high ideals, I found that I was also influenced by wonderful writers such as Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, Sam Levenson, and Jerome K. Jerome. That was my humorous side. The dark side came from an early love of Poe. And the satire definitely was influenced by Dorothy Parker. She could give a compliment that could cut you down to size, couldn’t she? When you put all of those together you have a scary satiric writer whose main target is herself. Geez…
10.) -How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?
I never thought there was anything else to be. I always heard you had to have a day job, but that was just so you could gather material for your writing.
When I was an infant, I lived in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet next to my mom’s desk at the newspaper. The sound of a cast iron Royal typewriter clacking away lulled me to sleep like nothing else.
My first manuscript was The Lion Who Tamed the Man. Incredible book. The reviews (family members, the cat, the lady down the street who talked to her toaster) were overwhelmingly positive. The manuscript was mostly scribbles and chocolate smears due to the fact that I was four, but it was still a milestone for me, nonetheless.
When I was six, my parents gave me that Royal typewriter I mentioned earlier and I set up my office in the hot water heater at my house. I wrote stories, poems, novels, and memos to others to stay out of my office. From then, I was hooked. Writing is my love, my nemesis, and my therapy without the $75 an hour fee.
11.) -What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Well, I can certainly tell you it’s not the checks. Well, maybe once I see a real one it will be different. But no, writing is about getting lost, and then taking the long way home on paper.
I loved the moment I saw my book on a shelf in the library. To actually find where you land in the Dewey Decimal System!! Wow!! And in a bookstore. I just live in fear of the first time I see my book on the bargain table. Ack!! That will be a hard day…
But absolutely the most rewarding thing is when someone finds you to tell you that you have made a difference in his or her life. You made them feel better. You made them nod. You let them know they weren’t alone. You caused them to laugh. Can it get any better than that??? I don’t think so.
I have to say thank you to every person who has tracked me down through my publisher, through the website, at signings, or at events, to say they like my writing. That means more to me than any check I’ll ever get. It means I actually communicated with someone. I reached them. And for me, that’s what this whole silly mess of life is all about.
12.) -Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
I have the world’s largest collection of rejection letters. And I’m published. That’s the thing to keep in mind. It doesn’t matter how many rejections you have. All it takes is one acceptance to get published. What a great profession. Where else is one out of a thousand still a winner?
And then you’ll have a better story to tell when you’re on Letterman because you can talk about all those silly publishers who missed out on you. You can talk about how J.K. certainly did well with her numbers on those little Potter books and you hated to break her record, but…
And write for the most important audience of all. Yourself. That way, if no one else ever reads it, you’ve satisfied one reader. If you never write a word, we’ve all lost something. We want to know that others are thinking thoughts like us. That others enjoy stories like the ones in our dreams. You might be the one who has our perfect story, and if you don’t write it, we’ll never get that experience.
So write for us. It’s your legacy. It’s your passion, you know it. And it’s the one thing that will last long after that Styrofoam plate from the take-out place.
16.) Now for something fun:
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate -- dark, please … oops, am I drooling on my keyboard again??
Black, but I have to admit it’s mainly for the slimming effect. People always say I look like I’m ready for a funeral.
Sorry -- I just can’t narrow it down to one. I read books by Bombeck, Barry, Sam Levenson, and other humorists like bibles. I love Jerome K. Jerome’s Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. I was really impressed by A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle when I read it as a child and I reread it frequently because I always discover something new. I laughed out loud at the dialogue in John Welter’s Night of the Avenging Blowfish. I thrilled to the Harry Potter books and enjoy a lot of kids’ books. I savor John Irving. And the list goes on…
What makes you laugh out loud?
My husband. And yes, that’s fully clothed. He’s the funniest person I know and if he ever writes a book, it will take the world by storm.
To give you an example: One day I was in my office, cursing up a blue – possibly purple --- streak because my computer crashed and I had not saved recently. The cats were scared to come anywhere near. I thought I heard helicopters overhead giving warnings not to approach the house. And I look up to the doorway to see a piece of duct tape hanging down with a Hershey Bar on the end of it. That’s what I live with. How could I not laugh?
If you could go anywhere in the world where would that be? It would be my own back yard. I’d just like time to explore while staying close to my stuff in case I want to play with any of it.
I love amusement parks, beaches, and natural wonders. But there’s nothing like that feeling of being a horse headed for the stable that I have when I’m headed back to my dirty house, persnickety cats, and my best friends … my scary page and my funny husband.
That’s my favorite place to be.