(From Writer’s Guidelines for in-flight magazine.)
‘This is what they we’re looking for: “…a compelling tale with memorable characters. One example of the kind of material we like is the hilarious first-personal piece we had in a few years ago by a writer who helped fix up a junked Toyota and drove it in one of the world’s most bizarre auto races…the storytelling counts at least as much as the subject. Humor always gets a positive response. Email a short précis to executive editor Maxwell Perkins or senior editor Dorothy Parker. And if you think we’re too ignorant to have heard of you, attach a writing clip or two so we get a feel for your ‘voice’.’
“Hello Max and Dotty:
Your Writer’s Guidelines are funny! Love the attitude.
Okay – so because there is no reason in hell either of you would have ever heard of me – read on.
I remember reading that witty story you mentioned, the one about the fellow who modified an old Toyota and drove it to death in a stock car race.
In fact, I was sitting next to an attractive executive type when I read it, obviously above my social class, who was paging through her in-flight copy also. Perfect. I asked if she’d read the stock car piece yet?
“Funny,” I said pointing at the photo of the junky Toyota on my page.
“What’s it about?”
“Stock car racing.”
“Somehow you don’t look like the NASCAR type.”
“Not now so much, but when I was a kid my uncle Speed used to drive dirt track in Davenport. Kinda lost interest after he was killed.”
”Racing accident – fiery crash?”
“Wife shot him…”
”How tragic – in that cultural context of course.”
“A tragic ‘pit-stop Peggy’ context is what. Uncle Speed won a lot of races and he just couldn’t turn down the adoration. Surprised my aunt didn’t shoot her too.”
“Sounds like a violent family.”
“Not really. The rest were preachers. Most made a good living at it too. Except Uncle Loomis.”
“Although I hesitate to ask – what happened to him?”
“Poisoned. Aunt Charity caught him with the organist. Think his name was Twitchell. Why are you making that face?”
“You’re making this up right?”
“Just read the stock car story okay? If you like the way it’s written – ‘in its cultural context’ of course, I want you to have dinner with me when we land.”
“You’re interesting – in a should–be-under-observation way of course. But why about the writing?’
“Because that’s the way I write too.”
“So you’re a divorced writer then?”
“Divorced? What makes you say that?”
“Oh I don’t know – just a wild guess…”
And that’s the story of how Ms. Winifred Bennington, CEO of a gourmet restaurant chain, became Mrs. Delbert Gantry, my lovely fifth wife.
Okay M. and D. – so I made it up. But it is a pretty good example of how I write.
So anyway, after picking up an in-flight en route to Omaha from San Diego yesterday, thought I would send this query to see if you’d be interested in a piece I just finished about the infamous south Texas feminist, and colorful character, Sally Skull.
If they’d ever found her remains, her headstone might read like this:
‘She ‘…cussed like mule skinner, rode like a man, shot like a gunslinger and had five husbands, at two disappearing under highly suspicious circumstances. She loved to dance.’
So I drool M. and D., thinking about your captive readers with little to do at altitude in what’s become Egalitarian Air’s subsonic daycare centers these days.
The babies screaming, the old ladies praying, bouncing into Denver over Front Range turbulence – the Music professor from CU listening earnestly to the bull semen salesman from Casper describe some of his company’s patent-pending collection techniques.
And there they sit, ready to pull your magazine out of a seat-back pocket and read my piece about Sally Skull!
Imagine my impatience to hear your reply!
BTW – do you pay on acceptance or publication? I hope it’s the former as at 70 – and due to declining health from decades of fast living – I would like to be around to spend my well-deserved consideration. I don’t have a will.
So – yours in humor, cheek and expedited remuneration – Dick Cummins aka ‘The Gas Bard of San Diego by the Sea’