Happy to have syndicated humor columnist Dorothy Rosby on today to answer some fun questions.
I first got to know Dorothy when I lived in South Dakota and we were members of the Black Hills Writers Group. I'm excited to share her new book with you today.
Tell us about your new book!
I call Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About part comical call to arms and part tongue-in cheek tirade. The tirade part is my ranting about all sorts of things that annoy us in our modern world--intrusive technology and noise, spammers and scammers, litter and clutter and so on. No mention of toilet paper shortages, Zoom meeting hackers and some of the other hassles we’re dealing with now because somehow I didn’t see those coming when I wrote the book.
The call to arms part is that, in some cases, I offer my opinion on what I think we should do about these “hassles of our time.”
What inspired you to write this book?
When things strike me a certain way, I always feel compelled to jot down a few notes about them. I think it’s that way with most writers. This book is about all sorts of things I’ve been annoyed by, ranted and raved about, written a lot of notes about and probably given way too much thought to. I’ve written humor columns or done humorous talks about all of them too. And finally about three years ago, I started expanding those into full length essays and putting the book together.
Where do your column/book ideas come from?
Everywhere--every conversation, every experience, bad and good, everything that gets under my skin or makes me smile. Unfortunately, the things that get under my skin make the funniest stories. I’ve written about speeding tickets a few times. They’re not funny at all when I get them. I’ve written about appliances dying, foot surgery and my difficulties with math, and now I’ve written at least three columns or blog posts about COVID-19. Definitely not funny. But in the retelling, those kinds of things can be very funny, in part because as a humor writer, I write about my own foolish or overly dramatic reactions and other people can relate to that—hopefully anyway.
You talk about clutter in your book and on your blog, so I have to ask…did you get any organizing done during this time? Did you tackle those closets? In all fairness I will say I’ve been locked down since March 12th here and if good intentions cleaned closets then I’d have the sparkly-est closets on earth. However, they don’t.
I’ve done a little, but not as much as I’d like. It took a global pandemic to make me realize that it wasn’t my busy social life that was keeping me from cleaning my closets after all.
So what have you been doing during your quarantine time? (Note: hope Dorothy doesn’t ask me the same question because there’s no good way to make watching old Murder She Wrote episodes sound productive.)
Having my book come out in the middle of this mess has provided me with a ton of marketing and business tasks to do—as well as a good excuse for why I haven’t gotten my closets clean. So I’ve used my time pretty well—mostly.
Having said that, I have to admit to watching a few episodes of Murder She Wrote myself. Also Monk, Castle, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Midsomer Murders. I’m not just a mystery fan; I’m a mystery fanatic. If I were stuck in bed recovering from illness, I’d spend my days reading mysteries. And when I got tired of reading, I’d watch the Hallmark mystery channel, and during commercials, I’d mute the TV, stare out my window and imagine suspicious activity in my neighborhood.
We ran into each other at an Erma Bombeck event, so who are some of your favorite humor writers.
So many. I follow the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop Facebook page and I’m a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnist which also has a Facebook page. Both of those are great places to take a “humor” break anytime and read the latest column or blog post from a variety of humor writers from all over the country. It’s my way of avoiding actual work when I’m at my computer.
What other authors do you enjoy?
Naturally, a lot of mystery authors. I’m slowly making my way through Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series and Anne Perry’s William Monk series. I LOVE them both.
I love to write humor and I love to read humor. But my favorite books to read are mysteries (surprise!) and those with a spiritual theme. I just finished reading Thomas Keating’s Open Mind, Open Heart and loved it.
Here’s a question I love asking: what book (that’s already published) do wish you could have written?
Well in keeping with my theme, I wish I’d written not just a book, but a whole series: Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series. I love her main character, private detective, Kinsey Millhone. I want to be like her.
I write a series about a girl getting to date her music crush. Do you have a music crush now or from your teen years?
It’s a toss-up between Justin Hayward, formerly of the Moody Blues and Steve Perry from Journey. I still love their music and I love their voices and I’d be terribly tongue-tied if I ever met them in person.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be?
I’m blessed in that I actually had my other dream job. For 31 years, I did the public relations for a wonderful nonprofit that supports people with disabilities. It’s always been important to me to work for a purpose, to feel like I was using my talents, such as they are, to make the world better in some small way. I worked for a company with a big, beautiful mission—the kind of place that changes you for the better. For 24 of those years, I was also writing my humor column for publications in the West and Midwest. And much of that time, I was raising my son and caring for my mother who was 80 years older than my son. I was busy and tired. And it was my dream to eventually just focus on my humor writing. A little over a year ago, I was finally able to resign from the other job. I’m not sure it’s the best omen that I started my life as a fulltime writer on April Fool’s Day.
I lived in South Dakota for a while and I actually enjoyed snow days inside! What is your favorite snowed in activity?
I love a snow day. If I didn’t get tired of shoveling, I wouldn’t mind a lot more of them. I can do some of my favorite things on snow days: write, read mysteries, watch mysteries, make soup and eat soup.
I write a lot about funny (and cringe worthy) middle school and high school moments. What’s a moment from either middle school or high school that you wish you could go back and do over?
Here’s one that still makes me cringe. I used to do a little sewing when I was in middle and high school. And I once sewed what I thought was a pretty stylish skirt. It was fairly short, but not so much that my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. It was made from a heavy white denim fabric and it flared nicely, like a cheerleader skirt. What can I say? It was cool then. But the fabric was a bit stiff. One day my skirt was apparently folded under me as I sat and when I stood up, it stayed folded. I heard refrains of “I see London; I see France” up and down the hallway for months after that.
Did you always want to be a writer when you were growing up? Was there another career you considered?
I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and I journaled and wrote bad poetry and worse short stories as long as I can remember. But I spent too many years being too practical about my writing. I got a major journalism and minors in communication and English. And I did short stints at a small town newspaper and in radio news. I also did a lot of writing in my public relations career, everything from commercials and video scripts to newsletters and press releases. It was fine and it was good practice, but the kind of writing I do now is the kind I really love—the kind I was meant to do.
Find Dorothy's website here: www.dorothyrosby.com
Buy the book here:
Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About:
Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time
This time we read chapters 28-31 and finished book one in the series! We will start book two in the series, Best Friends…Forever? next.
Landry mentions at the start of chapter 28 that she once shared a short story she was working on with Tori, but Tori’s response stopped her from ever sharing her work again. What did you think of how Tori reacted to reading the story?
This chapter has Landry dealing with up and down emotions with Devon. Once again Landry has a friend who she’s walking on eggshells around and worried she’ll upset her in some way. In the end, Landry winds up apologizing to Devon to calm things down. What do you think about Landry’s apology to Devon? Write about what you think about Ashanti and Peyton’s response to this.
In chapter 29, Landry and Peyton go to the movies and then the mall together. How is this outing with Peyton different from when she hangs out with Tori or Devon and India? Why do you think this is different?
In chapter 30, Landry and some of the girls exchange gifts before school is out for the holidays. At the start of the book, Landry was desperate to find new people to hang out with after her two best friends (Tori and Ericka) freeze her out. How have things changed in this scene with the Christmas cards and Christmas/Hanukah gifts that are exchanged?
In chapter 31 we see a lot of things have changed for Landry. She has different friends, a side career she’s embarking on, some slowly emerging confidence, and she’s beginning to speak up for herself. Think back on what has changed to cause her to do this. How did stepping out of her comfort zone work for her?
Now that we’re at the end of the book we’ve seen a lot of different aspects of friendship and traits in friends. Make a list of the Landry’s friends (or use the one from a previous session if you have it) and write down some of the traits you see in them. Here’s some to think about: loyal, generous, supportive, caring, jealous, sympathetic, helpful, compassionate, understanding, self-centered, greedy, and protective.
Some of the characters have both good and not so good aspects. We all have our moments where we aren’t so proud of how we act, but people can often redeem themselves. Sometimes it’s important to look at why they’re acting the way they do. Why do you think Landry’s friends act the way they do? Why does Devon often change on Landry? Why did Tori turn on Landry? Why does Ericka act the way she does toward Landry? What about how Kyle and some of the others act toward Thalia?
Behind the scenes: I used a lot of situations I either witnessed or lived firsthand to write this series. I’ve learned a lot about both making and being a friend since then. I’ve had a mix of friends like these in my life and used some situations to create what they call, “character composites.” That means the characters are all made up (fictional), but I used experiences and attributes of people and situations I’ve run into before. It’s easier for me to create my own characters than trying to recreate someone I knew years ago into a book!
Even though a lot of time has passed since I went through some similar things as Landry, I admit sometimes rereading these things can still sting! Did you see yourself or any of your friends or people in your classes in these characters? Take some time to write about that. Maybe you saw yourself as getting pushed around or not feeling like you could speak up for yourself. Or maybe you even realized you might be a little bossier than you realized in your friendships.
I had a parent tell me that she gave copies of True Colors to her daughter’s group of friends because she and her daughter both thought her friends were treating her like Ericka and Tori treated Landry. The mom told me all the girls read the book together and then sat down to discuss it. She was thinking (and hoping) that the girls would see how they had been acting and change their ways. Here’s the thing—they saw themselves as being more like Landry and shared with how their other friends had been making them feel like they couldn’t speak up and didn’t have control. In the end, it turned out to be a valuable experience because they got some things off their mind that had been bothering them and they wound up being more open to hearing how their actions had hurt their friend. People often don’t see themselves the way we do. And remember what I said about how hurting people hurt people.
I hope these sessions in True Colors have helped you to see your own friendships in a new light and will help you make good choices, strengthen good relationships, rework some not so great ones, and be strong enough to walk away from the ones that might be hurting you.
I can’t wait to start the next book with you! I’ll post session one for Best Friends…Forever? next week. Read chapter 1-4.
The previous sessions can be found here:
In this session we read chapters 24-27. Chapter 24 has Landry feeling left out by Devon and feeling very lost. Write down some of the things Devon does in this chapter that throw Landry off balance. Why do you think this is happening? What’s the motivation behind Devon’s actions?
Landry goes to Ashanti’s house and there is a section talking about their clothes and hair styles. As they talk about these things, Landry thinks to herself about past comments that have left her with insecurities. I mentioned before to pay attention to how color is used in the story. What do you notice here about the way it’s mentioned in sweaters in the story?
In chapter 26 Landry mentions she had to ask the janitor for help when someone stuck gum in her locker. Throughout the book she has had some people intimidating her or being mean to her whether it’s girls talking loudly about her so she can hear the rude things they’re saying or someone trying to trip her. It’s not the outright kind of bullying where someone gets physically hurt, but it’s the beneath the surface bullying that still hurts and that adults often miss because it is more subtle. Sometimes the adults question if something is going on, but often times the person that it’s happening to doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Maybe the person going through it worries it will get even worse if they speak up. Sometimes they might be in denial about it and not wanting to admit that it’s happening by someone they consider a friend. Have you ever been in a situation like this or witnessed something like it? How did it make you feel and what did you do? How would you handle it if you saw it happening to someone else?
Landry is feeling overwhelmed and she’s walking on eggshells trying to keep all her friends happy. She ends up having Ashanti, Devon, and Peyton over, but things don’t go as planned and it gets tense.
Those BFF bracelets Devon and Landry have keep coming up. What started as a symbol of Landry belonging and fitting in somewhere is now creating different feelings. How does Landry describe the bracelet in chapter 27? What do you make of the bracelet situation?
At the end of chapter 27 we see everything overwhelming Landry. Even her lunch and the weather aren’t going her way! In literature classes they call that, “pathetic fallacy.” List some of the ways Landry is being overwhelmed and what you think would help her situation.
Behind the scenes: Even though years have passed since I went through friend drama, reading through these scenes still gets to me! It’s like middle school was yesterday. One of the things I’ve learned since those days is that hurting people hurt people. Read that again. Yup, hard to believe, but the reason people lash out are because they’ve been hurt themselves. If you had told me that back then I wouldn’t have believed it, but now I can see it. It takes some time, but you can actually feel sorry for the very people causing you pain once you realize there’s a reason for the way they act. You’ll see more of that in the next session and in the next book in the series.
I hope as you read these scenes that you’ll pay attention to if things like this are happening to you or a friend. Maybe you might even see yourself doing some of these things without realizing it. The important thing to note is there is a reason behind why people act a certain way, so pay attention to things the girls are dealing with along the way to see if you can tell why they might be acting a certain way.
Read chapters 28-31 as we’re finishing book one up this time! The previous sessions can be found here: www.krystenlindsay.com/teacherparentbook-club-guide.html
This past week we read chapters 21-23.
In Chapter 21, Landry gets to be in a fashion show for a kiddie store called, Wee Fashions, which she thought was a fancy store called, Oui Fashions—whoops! But being in the show has brought out some different behavior in Devon. The next school day, Devon notices Landry not wearing the BFF bracelet and has something to say about it. Write about your reaction to that scene. How do you think Landry should have handled it?
Thalia gets bullied in this chapter, but there’s also the way she’s treated by others that is more subtle, but still hurtful. Write or discuss your feelings on what happens to Thalia in the hallway.
Chapter 22 features Landry’s birthday party and sleepover. There seems to be a clash of the old friends, the new friends, and also between the new friends. What do you notice about the way the girls all act at the party? Write down how you feel each one comes across and who you think is being a true friend in this scene.
The final scene in chapter 22 between Devon and Landry has a lot of emotions going on in it. What do you think is really going on with Devon and why she is acting the way she is? How do you feel toward her? Does she remind you of any friends you have or had in the past?
In chapter 23, Landry hangs out with Peyton and spends the night at her house. The situation is very different from the sleepover and her time at Tori’s as she’s able to talk to Peyton about her concerns with her parents and other things going on. What do you think of Landry’s friendship with Peyton?
Landry deals with what feels like friendship wars between her new and old friends as well as between the new girls. Landry is changing and her friendships are, too. Based on what you’ve read in the book so far, which of the girls would you want to be friends with and why?
Behind the scenes: I used a lot of my own experiences for these chapters from that fashion show (I was thirteen at the time), to that birthday party (in 6th grade), to many of the other situations. At the time I was confused and worried about stepping on someone's toes and getting them mad at me. I look back at that time as the years I spent walking on eggshells. Yup, I said years. It makes me cringe now to think how I held back because people got mad at me when I did speak out. Have you ever felt that way?
Although I did hold a lot of things inside from that period, it did help me to learn how I did and did not want to be treated and I used those experiences to write this book to help others going through the same (or similar) experiences. Those experiences helped me to recognize how a true friend acts and how to be a better friend myself. If you are going through something like that, please find a trusted adult you can talk to and share your experience. You might want to journal about it and then show them what you wrote if that's easier for you than talking about it.
Read chapters 24-27 for next time! We're getting close to the end of book 1! The previous sessions can be found here:
I'm excited to have author Sarah J. King on today to tell us about her new online literary journal called Finding the Birds.
Tell us about your new online literary journal!
We are an online journal featuring flash fiction, poetry, and fiction up to 8,000 words. We hope to offer our readers quality storytelling in easily digestible sizes. Our hope is to publish six issues yearly, each with a specific theme in mind. This issue, The Gemini Issue, focuses on two-sidedness, duality in nature or character, abrupt personality change, and surprise shifts or twists. The next issue, Vox Tacet, will center around the voices and stories of the otherwise marginalized. We hope to receive fiction and poetry about animal rights, poverty, mental illness, and other forms of oppression.
Additionally, we have added a blog to our site, Writer’s Blo[g]ck. This blog should be a place where writers, and readers alike, can come to find articles and posts that give writing tips, publishing advice, and highlight authors and new books.
What made you want to start a lit journal?
I have been an English Teacher since 2009, and I’ve been a writer and prolific reader my entire life. I truly enjoy reading fiction, and I enjoy giving writing guidance as well. Also, every time I have something published, or I win a writing contest, I am absolutely thrilled. I supposed I started this journal for two reasons: first, to put together a solid collection for readers to enjoy, and second, to help give more authors a place to showcase their work.
What types of submissions are you looking for from writers?
First and foremost, we look for quality writing. We want the fiction and poetry that we select to connect with our readers. We want to provoke thought and elicit strong feelings and emotions. Also, it is very important that the work we publish not promote hate, violence, or discrimination. We want our readers to feel included, and never intimidated.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
As for more contemporary writers, I love Kazuo Ishiguro, Wally Lamb, John Green, & John Krakauer. Of course, and an English teacher, I love classic and contemporary classics as well. Among my favorite authors are J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, and John Steinbeck.
What is your favorite book from childhood?
From early childhood, I was both plagued by and enamored with, The Giving Tree. It made me terribly sad. Even in adulthood, I can’t get all the way through it without crying, and motherhood has only deepened its effect on me. In my middle grades, I loved Tuck Everlasting and Flowers for Algernon. Again, the tears shed while reading those books as a young girl are uncountable.
If you could have coffee with any writer (living or deceased), who would you pick?
Wow, what a nearly unanswerable question. Now if it were a drink, I’s say Hemingway without hesitation. His propensity for excitement and competition at bars among friends would be such an amazing thing to witness. As for a cup of coffee, I would have to say Salinger. He was such an unknowable creature, and Catcher in the Rye has had such a lasting impact on my life. If you and I had coffee, I could tell you a story or two about all the silly things I have done, and that have happened to me due to my intense love for that book.
Some other facts about Sarah:
My novel, The Ways of After, was published by Willowbird Press in 2015. Since then I have been published by a few Literary Journals and Magazines. Most recently, my work was featured in the March Issue of La Piccioletta Barca, and in April I won a fiction writing competition held by Retreat West, and was featured in their magazine.
I also am married with two beautiful daughters (Summer and Keira)
Check out Finding the Birds online here:
Author of funny, charming, and irresistible dramas.