Guest blogger. It sounds so friendly, doesn't it? As in "be my guest" or "guest of honor." Actually, it's a polite way of saying "unpaid," but let's not quibble. If mega-successful authors like Susan Orlean and Christopher Moore work for free to publicize their books, desperately ambitious wannabes like myself can, too.
As the guest, I felt it only right that I bring a hostess gift. So I made chocolate chip cookies for the employees of Powells.com, following an old family recipe:
Go to Costco.
Try not to eat them all.
It's the Cindy McCain approach to homemaking. Then I dressed up like the hero of my new novel, Attack of the Theater People, because, well, in terms of career planning, I adhere to the Jacqueline Susann method of flagrant self-promotion. Some people ask, "What would Jesus do?" I ask, "What would Jackie do?" Plus, I'm in the midst of a personal quest to do something new every day for a year, and I've never been to Powells.com wearing a sparkly shirt with tights and a headband.
Not one employee asked me why I was dressed like the secret love child of Siegfried and Roy, though some seemed legitimately frightened to take a cookie.
Here I am in the break room with Jesus himself.
For those of you not familiar with Jacqueline Susann, I suggest you skip her books, which aren't even good trash, and instead read her totally edible biography Lovely Me by Barbara Seaman. Or you could just read the rest of this blog and I'll tell you the most important bits:
A lousy actress with a nothing career, Susann was diagnosed with cancer at the age of forty-five before the publication of her first contribution to literature, an autobiography of her poodle. Figuring that being a late bloomer beat dying on the vine, she made a deal with God that if he gave her ten more years to live, she would become the most successful writer of all time.
On Christmas Day 1962 she wrote in her diary, "I can't die without leaving something. Something big!"
Despite being almost as bad a writer as she was an actress, she and God both kept their promises and her next book, Valley of the Dolls, remained on the New York Times best-seller list for a record-breaking sixty-five weeks (twenty-eight of them at number one), going on to become one of the best-selling books of all-time. With her next two novels, the relentlessly ambitious Susann became the first author ever to occupy the number one slot with three consecutive books.
"No effort was too humiliating, too horrifying, or too tough," said columnist Cyndy Adams, "to make 'Jacqueline Susann' a household name."
So, whenever I'm discouraged, I think about Jackie. I figure if there was hope for an untalented, middle-aged, narcissistic, pill-popping alcoholic who stuck Nembutol suppositories up her bum, there's hope for us all.
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Marc Acito's debut novel, How I Paid for College, won the Ken Kesey Award for the Novel and was also selected as an Editors' Choice by the New York Times. Acito is a popular contributor to the New York Times and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Books mentioned in this post
Marc Acito is the author of Attack of the Theater People