Inspiring the Next Generation of Writers: A List of My Demands

Posted on February 9, 2012


Last week I received an invitation to speak to a group of local students about writing. Maybe the students were fans of this blog. Or maybe they heard about all the exciting writing projects I have going on. Or maybe my ten-year-old son was in the class and my wife was the school librarian.

Regardless of how they heard about all the important writing work I’m doing, I realized if I want people to appreciate me as a writer, I needed to cultivate the image of the distracted, eccentric artist. This is why the day before my scheduled visit, I sent the teacher the following list of requirements:

Writer Requirement #1: I would strongly prefer the children don’t make eye contact with me. This is for their own protection since many people are unable to break eye contact even after I leave the room, or even the country–their eyes seem to follow my eyes no matter where I am on planet Earth. Doctors are trying to figure this out.

Writer Requirement #2: I promise not to drink any alcohol from my hip flask during the presentation. But if one of the children offers me a hip flask, all bets are off–I don’t want to be a bad guest.

Writer Requirement#3: If I’m not going to be drinking alcohol, I’m going to require one cold Shasta Grapefruit Zazz soda. I know this might be difficult to find since we’re in China and Shasta is a generic, regional soda, and Grapefruit Zazz has been discontinued, so I’ll also accept any flavor of Home Depot brand soda.

Writer Requirement #4: If none of these sodas are available, I’ll limit my liquid consumption to water, although I’ll be drinking the water from a beer can.

Writer Requirement #5: Any questions from the children should be submitted one week in advance, triple-spaced, and notarized. If you don’t have time to have the questions notarized, I can pre-approve the following questions:

  • “Is it true you can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes and in fact solved one while taking a break from writing these questions for us?” I don’t know what that question has to do with being a writer, but yes, yes I did.
  • “Is it true you always wear a smoking jacket while writing?” Yes. I’m unaware of any other uniform for writers.

    Next question! Can I pretend to smoke in here?

  • “Will smoking make me a better writer?” I don’t actually smoke while wearing the smoking jacket, but a lot of very famous writers were smokers. Another interesting point is that scientists are now saying sugar may be worse for you than tobacco, so if you already eat a lot of sugar, it seems you might as well give tobacco a shot.
  • “Is it true you had a friend who once met NBA coach Phil Jackson and accidentally called him Bill Paxton?” Yes. But don’t get me started on all my celebrity connections unless everyone is willing to stay after school, because that’s how long it would take.
  • “Is it true you were on a movie set with Bill Paxton and you promised your friend you would ‘accidentally’ call Bill Paxton, ‘Phil Jackson’ in an effort to complete the circle and make a better story?” Yes, I promised my friend I would do this, but I felt sorry for Bill after he said he was suffering jet lag, sunburn, and food poisoning all at the same time.
  • “Is it true you won the spelling bee three straight years in elementary school and everyone was super jealous of you, even the kids who were good at sports? Yes, I did win three years in a row as evidenced by these medals I’m wearing. But I’d prefer not to talk about all the people who’ve been jealous of me in my life, because I’m here to talk about writing.
  • “If you could meet any celebrity alive or dead, and it couldn’t be you, who would you choose?”

Requirement #6: I want the children to know that writers care passionately about important issues. Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy to keep myself current with any of these issues, so if I start spouting off on Perestroika and its implications for the Soviet Union’s existing power structure, DO NOT CORRECT ME. If you tell me the Soviet Union no longer exists, this interview is over!

Requirement #7: If you want to thank me for my visit, and you decide to send me a thank you note with messages written by the children, the messages will be edited for spelling, grammar, and narrative, before being sent back to the students for another draft.

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