OHIO SCHOOL OF WRITING
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I wrote several unpublished novels in college. My best was about a married couple with a kid who died from SIDS. I sent the manuscript around. An editor at Doubleday liked it. She wrote, “We need you to change it to a woman narrator.”
My agent — suddenly everybody wanted to be my agent — told me, “If you don’t want to change the narrator’s sex, don’t. I can sell it as is.”
My agent shopped the manuscript around and I got plenty compliments — “evocative” came up often. Two years’ worth of “evocatives.”
In the end, nothing. It was heartbreaking. I should have rewritten the book.
I did. Two year later I sent the revised version to Doubleday. The editor was long gone.
How many novelists came out of Kent State? (I graduated in 1982.) I had no Ivy League friends; I knew absolutely nobody in publishing.
And I kept writing. You may remember my first book, Bodegas and Bagels. It was a trade paperback about the Americanization of the bagel. It came out in 1997.
Lately I’ve been kind of dry. I write the occasional poem and blog post. I have a following among academic Jews — professors who teach Jewish studies. In 2009 I wrote Maimonides, My Main Man. Check it out. It’s self-helpy. I feel certain it would make gratifying entertainment for millions of readers, not just Jewish readers. The Jewish Review of Books gave it five dreidels.
Right now I’m working on a novel, Gads!, set in an era of apocalyptic war and famine. My friends describe it as riveting. New York isn’t so riveted.
I might do an e-book. Maybe a 3-D book.
But first I have to finish Gads! Maybe I should delete the arcane Jewish references. For starters, cut all references to baba ganoush. There’s this character, a Jewish studies prof, who subsists solely on baba during the famine.
I’ll work it out.
I work at an ad agency. I got into that after the University of Akron, where I was an adjunct writing professor, going nowhere. My ad agency is 80 years old and has 124 employees. I’ve never seen Mad Men. Don’t need to.
I worked on the Hot Pockets campaign. I did Snickerdoodles. I did Crown condoms — very big in Japan. Now I’m working on a project for Ovaltine. Moms send in quotes from their kids. The quotes are memes — cute things kid say. Long live Art Linkletter! The 20- and 30-somethings at my agency don’t know from Art.
We have ping pong tables, pool tables, three pinball machines — all the usual stuff — at work. Dogs, yes. About 15 of them. The kids bring their dogs to work.
I’m working on health-indicator jewelry. The jewelry turns colors depending on your blood pressure. Remember mood rings? The kids don’t!
My agency is at I-271 and Emery Road, Cleveland. You don’t have to go to New York or Chicago.
I work the alphabet hard. I work it hard every single day. After work I write my novel. My favorite letters tonight are K and L, like in “Glock.”
I’m the bard. Let’s leave it at that. One problem: everybody thinks they can write, so everybody is quick to judge. The “creatives” – that’s an advertising term for the boys by the ping pong table — aren’t that creative. Neither am I right now. This evening I wrote “I Smoke my Own Lox.” The poem sucks, I know that. I’ll try again.
Tomorrow I’m going to work with Fs and Us. Got any ideas? I’m going to be the commencement speaker at Kent State — and not in 2025!
My op-ed “My Job Isn’t So Bad” was in the New York Times Saturday (8/17/13). The story was about the family biz. I wrote in part about a ratty apartment. Here’s a classic dirty apt. pic:
in memory of Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)
My wife, Alice, and I were in Detroit.
Alice said, “Detroit has very long roads.”
What’s that mean, Alice?
“Woodward, Gratiot and Telegraph.”
Detroit also has the Lodge. Elmore Leonard mentioned the Lodge in his books, like, “The gambling casino, Mutt, you can’t fucking miss it, over by the Lodge freeway.”
A couple Cleveland freeways and bridges have names. The Hope Memorial Bridge, the Willow Freeway. But nobody ever uses the names.
Who was John C. Lodge? Probably a labor leader. [No, the mayor of Detroit in the 1920s.]
Detroit is a lot like Cleveland. Detroit has the Eastern Market; Cleveland has the West Side Market. Detroit has downtown casinos; Cleveland has a downtown casino.
What about suburban Berkley, Michigan? Is that worth a visit?
Elmore Leonard ate at the Beverly Hills Café. I wonder if that’s part of the national Beverly Hills Café chain, or an independent restaurant in Beverly Hills, Michigan.
I wonder if Elmore Leonard spent his winters in Detroit. I bet he didn’t. He wrote a lot about Florida.
I have some Elmore Leonard junk mail. My friend Charlie, a Detroiter, gave it to me.
City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit. That’s worth reading.
Maple is 15 Mile. Big Beaver is 16 Mile.
What about Oakland University? Does the U. have Bobby Seale barbecue sauce in the cafeteria?
Motown, Berkley, Beverly Hills and Oakland. Elmore Leonard’s golden land.
(A version of this post, “The Lodge,” appeared here 9/5/12.)