Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Interviewing Christee Atwood On Her New Book In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands

Book Blurb:
In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands:
Episodes of ImperfectioN, Insanity, & Occasional Enlightenment

These stories demonstrate valuable lessons such as:
• How to achieve overnight success in only 50 years,
• How to use your exercise bike as a coat rack,
• Why Oreos should be considered as one of the major food groups,
• How to have fun at work, and …
• How to enjoy the job search that follows having fun at work.

Because we’re complex people who have better things to think about than a number on a tape measure.
After all, chubby is temporary, but laughter echoes forever.

1.Please tell us about your latest book.

In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands: Episodes of ImperfectioN, Insanity, & Occasional Enlightenment is along the lines of the writings of Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, and Jerome K. Jerome. Actually, I’ve discovered that Jerome wrote about many of the same topics as I – just 100 years earlier. Can I sue him for reverse plagiarism?

2.Since it is self-published, tell us the process that made you decide to go this way and why?

Glad you asked! My first book was self-published. Then I had six books that were conventionally published. For this one, I wanted to take complete control again with all the lessons I’ve gotten from the past 10 years. It’s more work, but it’s a lot of fun.

In the course of all of this, I’ve discovered that the worst place to sell books is in a bookstore. I don’t want to be on the shelf next to people who have huge promotional budgets. I’d rather see my book on the counter of a gift shop, at the back of the room where I’m speaking, or – where it’s most useful - holding up a short table leg.

3.What can we expect from you in the future?

More Prozac consumption. More columns. More nonfiction. And some fiction too.

And hopefully there’ll be lots more opportunities for me to perform my material on stage. I really enjoy doing my Celebration of Elastic Waistbands stage plays and stand-up comedy. Writing is lonely. I need opportunities to harass people in person too!

4.What else would you like to write about one day?

I love writing humor action novels but haven’t had one published yet. That’s something I’d like to build upon. I have a series about an immortal named Dach who’s a cross between Hercules and Shemp and whose job is saving the world from other immortals who’ve run amok.

5.What motivated you to start writing?
I can’t remember not writing! My parents owned a small weekly newspaper when I was born and my crib was the bottom drawer of Mom’s desk. By the time I was six years old, they had given me my own cast iron Royal typewriter and I was typing terrible stories. My typing has improved. My writing – I’m not so sure. But I keep trying…

The other reason I write is that paper is cheaper than therapy.

6.What kind of research do you do?

I’ve heard of research. What is that? Seriously, I write a lot about my own back yard, so research is easy for those. I’ve also kept journals for the past twenty years and use those to draw upon my experiences.

With my serious nonfiction, I’m a research addict. Sometimes it’s hard to stop researching and start writing. The internet, books, and personal interviews are some of my favorite resources. I also teach lots of seminars, and those experiences give me some of the best insights into human behavior.

7.Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

Writing is my work as well as my passion, so it seems like I’m always writing.

I write my morning pages first thing every day and then just segue into writing for clients or projects. When I get bored with one project, I jump into one of the other ones that I currently have in progress.

I’d estimate that I spend anywhere from 4 to 16 hours each day at the computer. And sometimes I even turn it on.

8.Where do your ideas come from?

Everyday life inspires me. When I see something that makes me angry, I write so that I can laugh at it. When I have a nightmare, I have to rewrite it so it comes out the way I want it to. When I do something stupid, I write so that I can claim it was someone else’s fault.

9.Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?
Lots of people. Erma Bombeck and Sam Levenson helped me find my humor voice. Poe influenced my sense of the dramatic. Dorothy Parker made me realize sarcasm could be a lot of fun. And my cat sleeps on my lap so I can’t get up from the keyboard, so I guess he’s helped my discipline.

10.Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Absolutely. I thought Buddy and Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show had the best job ever. They made jokes and put them on paper for a living. I wanted to do that!

Besides I heard that other people had to learn how to work cash registers and I was scared of those things.

11.What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

You know what I love about being a writer? It’s the realization that even though people pay actors, politicians, and public figures a lot more, all of those people would look pretty dumb without a writer putting words into their mouths.
We quote Bogie, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” But it was really the Epsteins and the rest of the Casablanca writers who said it. We have used catch phrases like “Show me the money”, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”, and “Don’t call me Shirley.” But those actors didn’t come up with those lines either.

Writers have the most powerful profession and it’s the world’s greatest secret.

12.What makes you laugh out loud?

My husband. He’s absolutely scary. Check out his FB page – David Atwood – and you’ll see what has helped develop my humor.

He named his office plant Terry and they have discussions on FB. He created a video with his sock puppet, Guapo, that has actually gotten a fan club. And he is a voiceover artist, so I never know which character he’ll be each day.

Schizo, but funny, that’s my boy.

13.Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)

I’m the youngest of six children of a Lebanese father and Irish mother. (Yeah, we looked like terrorist leprechauns.)

I attended Louisiana State University for ten years. I know it was only a bachelor’s degree, but I felt the need to support the school with my tuition for long enough to pay for at least one building.

I’m married to David Atwood, live in a wonderful old money pit from the 1930s, and work for two cats named Poe and Maddux after the writer and the pitcher.

And I’m a caregiver for my mother who has Alzheimer’s – so without a sense of humor I’d be pretty miserable right now. Instead, I’m just a person who gets to tell the same joke over and over and Mom likes it every time just as much.

14.Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

Yes. Even though they keep talking about how hard it is to get published these days, it just depends upon your persistence and your willingness to look past the conventional methods of publication. Get published today. Really.

Write a letter to the editor. Create a blog and post regularly. Create your own column or newsletter. Publish an e-book. Create a podcast. Produce a YouTube. The format doesn’t matter. Just get rid of that “unpublished” label by taking control.

Then march on and use your publicity both to promote your creation and to get noticed by traditional publishers, if that’s your goal.

15. Tell us your website, MySpace, Blog, any urls so the readers can find out more about you.

16. Now for something fun:
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate!! Oh my gosh, have you tried the Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard at Dairy Queen? I shouldn’t have said that. Now I’m going to hurry through the rest of these questions so I can head for the drive-thru window.
Wild or tame?

Tame. Which is funny, since most people think I’m a little wild. But I’ve adapted to being an extrovert. I think the real me is actually pretty quiet and not interested in skydiving, bungee jumping, manicures, or other such dangerous pastimes.
Favorite color?

Black. Yeah, that sounds depressing. But black is slimming and I need all the help I can get!!

All time favorite book?
Yikes… Honestly, there are too many to list. From Madeline L’Engle to Dave Barry and J.K. Rowling to Marcus Aurelius… it just depends on my mood and where I am in life.

If you could go anywhere in the universe where would that be?
An empty beach. I especially love Biloxi. I used to go there for my birthday every year and stay at a little hotel directly on the beach … which has relocated to somewhere in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico since Katrina. But I still love that spot on the beach where the hotel used to be. My favorite evening is just to sit on the beach under a full moon and watch the flying fish. Gee, I’m a cheap date, aren’t I?
A secret desire?

I’m doing everything I want to do, so it’s hard to say. I guess I actually do secretly wish for financial success so that I can do all the things I’m doing right now, but do them for free. That would be my idea of perfection.

Thanks for letting me join your readers today. I love the chance to connect with writers and readers!

So now, any questions from our guests?

6 comments: said...

By the way -- I'd love for any of your readers to join me on Facebook and Twitter. I'm posting quotes from my book every day. If you wait long enough, you might get to read the whole book ... it just won't be in order...

Linda Lyons-Bailey said...

Great interview, Pam! Christee, I'm gonna have to look for that book.

(I need a little light reading.)

Christee Gabour Atwood said...

Bless you Linda!! It's definitely light reading. I get distracted too easily to write anything that has actual meaning, deeper thoughts, or importance to society. But the surgeon general has not yet determined that this book causes any disease. And it might actually be discovered to be a cure for insomnia. Either way, it's a win-win!?

Elaine Grant said...

Hey, Christee! Haven't seen you in ages. Maybe because I moved to Virginia last year

The books sounds great and you sound crazy as ever. Does that Prozac stuff work? Cause I might be needing some. Or maybe I can just read your book for therapy, yes?

If you get to Virginia, look me up!

Christee Gabour Atwood said...

Wow Elaine!! Virginia?? I didn't realize that. I'm in Alexandria -- but not the one in Virginia.

Yes, I truly believe this book could be a replacement for Prozac. Just tear it into small pieces and take with water. I'm sure it would do something... maybe it would be good for fiber content...

So, now I really need a couple of tour stops in Virginia. Which reminds me -- anyone reading this interview -- if you know of great places to do booksignings, speaking events, or book club visits, please contact me at Trying to schedule what areas of the country to harass ... I mean visit ... next.

Christee said...

Just wanted to thank everyone who stopped by today and especially the folks who became my new friends on Facebook and Twitter! Hope you enjoyed the visit and I really hope you decide to buy a copy of my book on Amazon. I have a real appreciation for electricity and would like to keep mine on. (Lowered goals -- my key to a happier life...) Thanks!