HALLIE EPHRON: A lot of us here at Jungle Red are late blooming writers. I didn't start writing until I was in my 50s. Hank and Roberta and Ro got late starts, too.
Today we welcome Molly D. Campbell, who didn't get started until she was 55. And she's been on overdrive ever since, writing humor and scoring two Erma Bombeck awards (so far). Her blog is Life with the Campbells: View from the Empty Nest.
Molly, How did you get started?
MOLLY D. CAMPBELL: Whenever I get asked this, my mind goes to Grandma Moses. But of course, she was much older and more talented than I, but there is a parallel. I always was pretty good at stringing words together. I got “A’s” on all my term papers, and during the course of my adulthood, I prided myself on writing darn good letters to the editor on occasion.
But I had a “regular” life to lead as a mother, a teacher, then a corporate training entrepreneur. It was during that stint that I learned how to write proposals—and a good proposal is sort of like a good query letter: you have to grab ‘em in the first sentence, and then cut to the chase. (Apparently, using metaphors is not one of my skills.)
I guess all of that was preparation for becoming a writer, although I didn’t know it.
HALLIE: But what was the catalyst for your writing career?
MOLLY: It came about, believe it or not, because of a nasty skin cancer on my nose, which looked innocent for ten years. By the time the dermatologist began to suspect something more sinister going on. I had four surgeries and nasal reconstruction. I looked like Frankenstein, and spent the better part of three months inside, fearing that the sight of my face might cause fainting in the grocery store.
I journaled the whole experience and sent it out on a regular basis to a group of friends: “The Frankenstein Outreach Group.” One of the recipients said I should start a blog. The rest is history.
MOLLY: That came about because I have always loved names. All my life I have been fascinated with funny ones. My husband and I used to spend evenings looking through the phone book for unusual names. Then we would speculate on what that person must be like.
I know. We live life on the edge. But my fascination with names stuck with me, and I started a twitter account to indulge my name fetish. I called it “In Search of a Novel,” and I posted a funny name with a brief description once a day for over a year. Here is one: “Today’s character in search of a novel: He wears his jock strap to the office: Brad Bullfarver."
Most of them I forgot all about. But one day I got a tweet from Robin Black, the wonderful author of “If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This,” who told me to stop throwing these characters away every day. She encouraged me to copyright them, get an illustrator, and write their stories. I take advice from famous people. So I did.
HALLIE: That's such a great story! So just like that, you wrote a book?
MOLLY: It all began as a web site, where I posted two stories a month. This site currently has an infection, so I don’t urge anybody to visit. After I had built a few hundred followers for my stories, I took them off the site and wrote about twenty more stories, finally putting them all in a book.
HALLIE: The book is a hoot! Next steps??
MOLLY: I'm in a quandary: I could easily put out a book of my humor columns. But I am working on a collection of short stories—so I am not sure what to do next. I continue my blog and my humor column for www.momswhoneedwine.com which is a wonderful website for harried mothers.
HALLIE: So what fuels your work?
MOLLY: I get a lot of ammunition from my family life: an accordion playing husband, two daughters who threaten to disown me if I wear “Mom Pants,” and a menagerie of pets.
HALLIE: They say: Leave 'em laughing. So, come on, tell a joke!
MOLLY: So I have one joke. It is the worst joke in the world. A short guy walks into a diner and asks the waiter, “Do you serve shrimp?” The waiter replies, “Sure, sit down.”
I know exactly one joke, too: Where does the king keep his army? Answer: Up his sleevey.
Who can resist the open invitation to our readers to go check out your book, Characters in Search of an Author, and, come on, I dare you all: Share a bad joke.