Monthly Archives: December 2008

Merry Christmas (2008) and Happy New Year (2009)

Well, with the holidays on us, I haven’t had the time to write as much. I have had the chance to spend some treasured time with family. It always goes by so quickly, though.
Last year we had so much fun making our “Mann Christmas message,” that we decided to do it again.
I present it here now for your…entertainment enjoyment.
It may be entertaining, but the message is sincere! Hope your Christmas was Merry and your New Year is Happy!

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“Normal” people don’t understand writers

One of my favorite Stan Lee quotes is when he talked about answering the question “what do you do” when he attended parties and social gatherings. At the time, some forty years ago, comics were really still on the bottom end of the reading entertainment scale and certainly considered as far away from “literary” as anything in print. Lee said he’d answer by telling them he was a writer. If possible, leave it at that.

Most wanted more information, so he’d tell them he wrote Children’s magazines. That satisfied most and they left it at that. But those who pressed and finally got “comic books,” Lee said, often offered a blank stare and walked away. They just didn’t “get” it.

To a certain extent, I think most writers fall into that category. If you tell someone you’re a writer today, they’ll ask what you do for a real job, as if writing isn’t a “real” job. Course, there’s a lot of truth to THAT one sometimes. There are more writers who work for free or for peanuts than who work for real wages.

Most “normal” people have no real idea what a writer does. Many think a writer only “types.”

Yeah. Right.

I’ve also found that if people ask writers to “do” something during the work day…if the writer declines, the asker will respond with a “why? You’re not doing anything are you?” No, nothing but attempting to meet a deadline…so that I can receive money for the words I’m writing. After all, a freelance writer doesn’t have corporate benefits like insurance and “vacation time.” Time away from the keyboard is time not generating potential money.

I discovered this when I was teaching English Composition at Northwest Shoals: Many people still believe all one must do is sit down at a computer and the typing automatically becomes what it’s supposed to be. Many of the students thought that the first few days of classes. Not only that, it does it in 30 seconds flat!

Yeah. Right.

Another funny way you can tell when people don’t understand writers is that they start telling you their ideas after they’ve learned you write. They either do one of two things: they launch in to this looong story they’ve had cooking up since they were 3, and how it’s a great idea and would be a great movie, too…and how either a)they just have to sit down and type it or b)can you type it for them if they just give you the idea? They stop after a few lines for fear you’ll “steal” their idea.

Yeah. Right.

My experience in hearing these ideas is that I’ve learned ideas are like noses…everyone has one…and most of them are full of boogers.

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It all started…

I knew I first wanted to be a writer when I was a senior in high school. Granted, I’d played around with writing before then, mostly my own comic books I’d created, but it wasn’t until I took a creative writing class in high school from an incredibly encouraging teacher.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of you that she became one of my favorite teachers over time. Jean Manton turned Keeton was her name, and she had a knack for encouraging even the rowdiest of students (me!). I took the class not really knowing what to expect, and afraid it would end up being nothing but a poetry class. I was wrong. In direct opposition from my creative writing instructors in college, she encouraged wild and crazy ideas with any genre.

I remember one particular assignment was on POV (point of view). I got together with about four of my classmate and we came up with a story told from the POV of each of us—the end result being that the “versions” of the story were different based on the perspective of our characters; the one we’d each written featured a different “hero” of the story, of course. It was fun.

Once I entered college, I didn’t really know what could be done with a degree in “creative writing,” so I chose computers as a major. After 2 years of programming—and ever increasing difficulty in math—I changed to Creative Writing. I figured I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer the rest of my life.

Yeah! Joke’s on me. What do I do? Sit in front of a computer and read, write and edit all day.

While I look back on my Creative Writing classes in college now as a big time of learning, then I wasn’t always a happy camper. Seems the professors wanted what I called “boring” stories—slice of life stuff. I didn’t like that stuff, I wanted to tell stories about aliens and superheroes. And I submitted those stories to them.

The legacy I left in the Creative Writing program at USM can still be seen on their website. The Center for Writers has A Primer on Story Writing to aid incoming and would-be writers. If you go to the page, scan down and read item #12. I would suggest that most have no idea what it means…but to the dozen or so students who shared that class with me—they know that story was mine.

Oddly enough, it ended up being a comic book; granted with much revision, but it turned into a five issue series titled Krey.

And yes, it had sand mutants.

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