Maybe I’ll try to write for Playboy after all


The following essay was originally sketched out back in December of 2003. It is being presented here as a From the Backpack special, but…

I haven’t been able to track down any records showing it was posted on the In My Backpack web site, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it was. On a few occasions there have been some changes and updates made around The ‘ville. Some involved computer issues, some general redesigns and overhauls. The end result has been that a few pieces—intentionally and unintentionally—were once posted and are not today.

The last notes I can find for dates list the most recent version before this, effectively the final draft version, as being saved on December 4, 2003.

I have gone over the material from that older draft and re-written a large portion of it for this posting.

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I have a confession to make.

I put the cart before the horse. (Maybe.)

Way, way, way before the horse. (Maybe. This needs a bit of thought.)

If you’re visiting my web site… which to read this particular essay, you would need to have done… then you may know that I have visions of being a writer. Not just a productive writer. But a supporting myself and my family on profits from my writing writer.

But, despite the odds of writing profits supporting a household to begin with, it appears for some unexpected reasons I have evidently been doing it wrong.

See, I limited my markets. Nothing tremendously wrong with that I suppose. Lots of people have been successful with narrowed pathways to the destination. But my rationale has definitely been misguided. (Umm… yeah… maybe.)

About seven years ago I was on a short trip with my family. The older stepson is very talented when it comes to art. His mother had him flip over his placemat and draw a character he had created. I agreed with the thought the drawing was great. So, I developed this huge background story for him. We created three friends, gave them names, and a place to live. Things to do. Other books to follow. Dreams of movie rights, television show, plush toys. All sold for millions, resulting in a trip for me to retirement and an eventual appearance on the People magazine “where are they now” list. The whole smear.

Once we had developed this story though, I immediately adjusted my thinking about some of my other writing. I mean, could I really become the author of a best-selling children’s series if I was producing articles for Playboy? I’m not saying anything about the magazine itself. I’m not saying I’m talented enough to produce material they would consider publishing. Heck, I’m not saying I was even working on any material to send their way. Because I wasn’t. It’s a symbolic stand-in for the essay. In this case, I’m drawing a comparison for producing material for children as opposed to producing material to be viewed after looking at the centerfold. Opposite ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

And yet, it seems entirely likely that society wouldn’t even blink. And that yawn of a connection seems to be getting less difficult to navigate every day.

Madonna released a book about ten years ago called Sex. Typical Madonna mega-frenzy event. Today, she is writing children’s books.

Eddie Murphy was, during the early and mid-eighties, one of the most adult-themed performers working in mainstream entertainment related efforts such as movies or television. To my recollection, his albums of live performance material are the last of the major-selling comedy recordings. Every other word back then for Murphy was four-letters long. Today he is working on Shrek 2, has The Haunted Mansion in theaters, and since 1999 his films have included Mulan, Shrek, Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Doolittle 2, and Daddy Day-Care.

Stories are written, interviews are conducted, and people in general at most crack a wry smile or shake their head at what used to be.

Mind you, I’m not saying anything is wrong with any of this. What I am saying is that it has been a learning experience.

Was I wrong in my initial reaction? No, I don’t think so. Look at Monica Lewinsky. Recently I read an article in which she mentioned how difficult it has been for her to have a regular social life since certain events of her past became front page news. And to that I say, of course it’s difficult. How can you go through the experiences she went through… the media crush, the notoriety, the circumstances involved… and not have your social life forever altered?

So back to the initial question… how can you produce material for a specific publication (such as an adult magazine), and then not have that be a part of how you are viewed as you begin producing material in other areas (such as children’s literature)? And by viewed, we of course mean judged.

And the answer is… you can’t. And you especially can’t if you want to be successful both times. Because you need the association to be a part of it because you need people to be aware of the material you are producing. In short, from your side of the situation you want people to buy both.

I was reading an interview with Penn Jillette a few weeks ago. I don’t recall the exact quote, or even the exact question for that matter. But Penn essentially pointed out that you don’t need to reach that many people to be an overwhelming success. With hundreds of millions of people living in the United States alone, just finding 1% of the people agree with you in some fashion can provide a tremendous following.

And so, it is that perhaps I’ll package up that query letter for Playboy after all. There are some people that occasionally do read the articles. And whether or not they later buy my new novel or a children’s book I work on, perhaps they’ll remember my name.


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