Columns prove fodder for book taking shape

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Can I just say something?

I've felt so lucky for much of my writing career (the entire 15 years of it) that I've never been driven to write a book.

I have writer friends who are tortured with the need ... a burning drive to produce a book. They eat, sleep and talk "book" with an energy I am just not well-acquainted with.

And, honestly, I've been perfectly happy about that. I've watched people fall out of the orbit of society and into a black hole of desperation and rewrites, emerging only to head into a full-tilt marketing campaign.

Not everyone realizes that how it used to be for authors is no longer. Not unless you're waaaay up on the food chain. Publishing houses today, when they deign to accept a work for publication, put the writer in the driver's seat of selling. "You want to write a book for fame and glory? Great. How many book signings can you line up? You'll travel on your own dime, of course. And pack a lunch."

See what I mean? I can wait, maybe forever.

That said -- insert clearing of throat and shoe shuffling -- it appears there's going to be a book. By me. Not the soul-sucking work of a novel, but a book of my columns.

Not all of them, of course. "You've written enough inches of columns to stretch to the top of the Trump Tower and back down," our presentation editor told me.

Which actually adds up to several hundred columns, written mostly twice a month for nearly 13 years. Which -- and you can breathe a sigh of relief here -- we are not going to try to cram into one book.

The question is, then, which columns?

The editor guy hunted down as many of my columns as he could, although some to have drifted off to deep cyberspace. He stuck them in a couple of files and then the real work began.

How to pick the pieces I want in the first volume? And should I choose wrong, there's not likely to be a second book, so I have to think "market value."

It's like asking a mother to choose one baby over another. I know, not every column is book worthy. Some of the earliest ones weren't even column worthy.

But I do like an awful lot of them. I love the times I wrote about the chaos of a large family, all packed into a huge, purple van and headed for trouble.

Like the time I got pulled over for a speeding ticket and the twins were deciding what to send Mommy in jail before the officer got to my car window. And I still smile over the one about how I decided to go on strike at home for several days. I thought we'd never catch the laundry up. And the times I failed completely, like forgetting to show up at a school award event and had to pay off with a trip to the mall.

I've loved talking to you about our various pets, even the moments I made some folks' blood pressure go up. Remember when we let Annie Mae have kittens? I still try to go incognito to the veterinarian's office over that one. And you all have made being Cap'n Jack's mommy a complete joy, cheering him on as you have.

I've written how my kids make me crazy and the over-reactions they have provoked. Who else duct tapes their twins' shirtsleeves together (while their little twinnie arms were inside them) because they would not stop fighting with each other? And then lets everyone else know?

I've shared my greatest hopes and deepest grief. I lost my brother and then I lost half of my life and I wrote about it ... because you let me. In a big way.

No, I can't choose columns for this book. But you can. Help me out here. If you have a favorite column, or one that made you see red, let me know at sheilahagar@wwub.com. Maybe it's one your mom called and told you to read, or you snipped out and magnetized to the fridge. Or the column that you could keep still about no longer, like when a "fan" called me "Hitler-like," and said he felt sorry for my husband. I once had a guy call up (did I already tell you this?) and tell me he thought everything I wrote was made up. "Sir," I said, "I have six kids. I don't have to make up anything." I guess the caller believed me because he then launched into a story that lasted half an hour.

And that's the way this job goes. I say something in a column, someone says something back, and pretty soon good ideas for more columns are practically begging to be plucked out of the air.

OK, I've blathered on. I'm maybe a little bit excited about this, truth be told. I sort of see myself at book-signings, talking with you and trading stories. On my own dime, naturally.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322.

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