My Voices of Central PA Piece for September

If Arnold Can…The Less-intelligent-than-average-American Guide to Becoming a Best-selling Author.
It was a long shot, but I couldn’t resist going to the Barnes and Noble Store at the Prudential Center in Boston last Wednesday night. Arnold Schlansky was to read from his best-selling memoir, “Growing Up Hard—An Adolescence in Brooklyn.” I had grown up with an Arnold S. in Brooklyn and, although I doubted it could possibly be the same fellow, I had to go and see. As soon as I came through the door, I recognized the tall, lanky, graying man hovering near the podium as the Arnold I once knew. As it turns out, I was wrong and the guy got a little put out when I tried Arnold’s old nickname on him (sorry, I can’t print it). The Arnold I had known was reading all right, but he had somehow turned into a short fat balding guy with a mock Boston accent. I can’t say we spoke, as I stayed in the back of the room, having recalled that I owed him $50 from a poker game in 1966. But I did get enough of his talk to know that his memoir was nothing but lies, lies and more lies. It is simply not true, for example, that we hung Arnold by his heels, from the rim on the basketball court at the local playground on one very cold night in February. Anyone who grew up in Brooklyn would know immediately that you would never do that. The odds of bending the rim were too great and if you did, the odds of it being fixed in your lifetime were very, very slim. For the life of me I can’t remember what we did hang him from.
But the take-home message here is not the memoir. It is the fact that Arnold Schlansky was able to write, publish and market a best-selling book. This is the same Arnold that did four years of remedial English in high school. Take a moment to consider that. Four years of remedial English in a high school in Brooklyn—wow. With that in mind, we at Stevieslaw are pleased to publish: “If Arnold can…The LAGuide to becoming a best-selling author. In the completely interactive LAG, we will:
1. Provide you with a personality and persistence test to determine if you should best-sell as a novelist, poet, essayist, or creative non-fictionist. Perhaps, you were meant to write best-selling copy for Febreze ads on network TV? We will point you in the “write” direction (Get it? Get it?).
2. Convince you that whatever your forte, you will need an agent to help place your work. Here, we introduce you to the important concept of “prefamousing” as a way to find an agent. An ordinary person who has already written 240 pages of the great American Novel might never find an agent. But the infamous, even those without a single thought in their heads, will have agents beating down the doors of the local lock-ups to offer them contracts. With your input, we will help you find the heinous, infamous, or famously stupid thing you should do to become “prefamous.”
3. Teach you how to form a writing group that meets every Wednesday night in the local coffee house. There is no better way to practice the kind of endurance you will need to write your great book then to listen to someone read their 16,000 line sonnet celebrating the influence of Middle German on the language of today. Learn to drink endless amounts of very strong coffee! And, as you are studying to be an author, you might wish to bring an old, beaten up flask full of rotgut to flavor it. In the guide, you will be taught to do this subtly yet flamboyantly.
4. Instruct you in the art of Automatic Writing, so you can practice your best-selling craft without influencing your real life so much as an iota. Write your novel, poem or memoir by choosing from a bag full of words obtained by cutting up the guide, while enjoying those powerful reruns of American Idol and Storage Wars on the tube. Sin, cede, self, boy, girl, donkey, dad and did—they are all there, as are 20,000 more. Did you know that Hemingway, Faulkner and Frost all used automatic writing for their masterpieces? Neither did we.
5. Identify the top magazines, workshops and residencies you must read or attend before you write a single word. Using the interactive feature the guide will help you chose the 2 or 3 hundred most important workshops for you, from the nearly 2.5 million offered each week.
6. Guide you through the brave new world of on-line and self-publishing. It’s not your grandfather’s vanity press anymore. We will show you how to link your website or blog to the hundred most popular sites—including Stevieslaw, good for 10 or 12 hits in its own right. We will also clearly take you through the changing concept of ‘bestselling,’ which is defined by the American Booksellers Organization as the sale of at least 12 self-published print copies, to separate individuals or libraries, not including anyone who has ever changed your diaper.
Help make the LAGuide a best-seller. Buy a few. Cut them up and start writing—you famous author you.

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