Friday, January 6, 2012

Broke Twice

In Texas, we have a saying: “You ain’t nobody ‘til you’ve been broke twice.” That’s right. Oh, sure, it takes guts, smarts, and luck to go from poor to rich. But you haven’t really proven anything until you’ve lost it all--and gotten it back again. It’s one thing to try, try again until you’ve succeeded. But succeeding *after* a big, fat failure? That takes character.
One of my first writing assignments was to adapt an illustrated series of books from France. They were supposed to be funny. There was only one problem--when the texts were translated, they didn’t make any sense. That’s the way with humor. It often doesn’t make sense across cultures. For example, in China, stand-up comedians always explain their jokes. They say something like, “In Shanghai, it’s so crowded that you have to dig a hole just to change your underwear.” And then, once people laugh, the comedian adds, “Because there are so many people in Shanghai!” Not exactly how we do it in the U.S.A. 
Anyway, so I re-wrote this French story and made it hilarious. To me. And to my editor. And to the higher-ups at the publishing house. Even the French author thought my version was hilarious, and said that he wished he had written it. (No kidding--he really said that.) Then a television producer called. She was considering getting the rights to the books and wanted to know if I might be interested in writing for the TV series. I was so excited--this was going to be a huge break for me! Then I got THIS review from School Library Journal: “though the colorful cartoon artwork is appealing, the weak writing will discourage repeated readings. Buy extra copies of Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" books or Daniel Pinkwater's "Fat Camp Commandos" adventures (both Scholastic) instead of wasting money on this one.” Thanks, School Library Journal! That was mighty encouraging!
The devil in me *loved* this review and *still loves* this review. That review came out in 2003, and even now, sometimes I still think about it. When I do, my demon gets all gleeful. “You stink!” my demon gloats. “Stop wasting paper and killing trees, you piece of crap! Go get a real job at Starbucks.”
And some days, I think about doing that. I mean, Starbucks has a good healthcare plan. But oh, you’d just love that, wouldn’t you, Devil? You’d just love it if I stopped writing. 
Remember this: Taking away what makes you happy is the Devil’s Agenda. He wants to stop all creative pursuits and leave you with nothing that brings you joy. 
This is how we stick it to the devil: we work. We work consistently. We work fearlessly. We work, and let the quality take care of itself. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the devil wants us to be small. And tossing lattes. I really want to read your English version. Please put a paragraph of it up on your blog!

    And of course, I love love love this last paragraph. This blog rocks.