Tag Archives: writer/humor

10 Funny Things That Happened To Me On Book Tours

if i were the boss


  1. While waiting for my turn to be interviewed on an early morning news segment, I was asked to hold a snow leopard cub in my lap while the zookeeper, also a guest on the show, dashed to the bathroom during a commercial break. This was the only story from my book tour that my young children found interesting.
  2. Green rooms are exciting. And, no, they aren’t all green. All sorts of people are crammed in there together waiting for interview slots on television. I’ve met famous musicians, politicians, and comedians. In a green room in Mississippi years ago, I got into such an animated conversation with a civil rights activist about the importance of neighborhood schools, the producer put us on air together to continue talking—an ordinary suburban mom writer and a civil rights icon. I think we made some good TV!
  3. Once in Charleston, an attractive, young, clearly hungover news reporter turned to me as we were both snaking our mics underneath our clothes and clipping them to our lapels and said: “Look, I didn’t have time to read your book. I’m just going to say your name and the title of your book, and then you can talk for 7-10 minutes. Ok?” “I can do that!” I responded gleefully. I could not have been happier.
  4. I was once introduced as the keynote speaker for a big gala event, made my way to the podium during the applause, opened my black plastic binder, and discovered—not my speech—but Bach. Yep. Bach. I had a binder, sure, but it was my black plastic CHOIR notebook—not my SPEECH notebook. To this day, I have no idea what I talked about for those 45 minutes.
  5. Sound systems are often infested with gremlins. They always check out fine before the event. It’s in the middle of the event when trouble starts. I once made the mistake of stepping out from behind my podium mic and in front of the repeating speakers. You can guess what happened. Horrible reverb. Over and over. I could see steam coming out of the event coordinator’s ears and hotel staff scrambling in the back of the room. I turned off my hand-held mic, moved from table to table to entertain as many folks as possible, and while running my mouth, shaped the long cord holding my mic into a pretend noose . . . sometimes, you have to find the funny.
  6. At a book event in a big city hotel, I was in mid-speech once when a domestic argument broke out in the catering kitchen behind me. It was so loud I had to stop speaking. Naturally, both the audience and I wanted to hear what was going to happen next in the kitchen drama which included accusations of cheating, vows of revenge, and death threats—way more interesting than my prepared remarks.
  7. In a live television interview, my book was introduced to the audience this way: “Melinda Rainey Thompson has written a wonderful new cookbook that I think you will all love!” Never written a cookbook in my life. That was a tough pivot.
  8. At every event, I always leave time for Q&A. It’s my favorite part because I never know what I will be asked. Some questions come up over and over, of course: “How did you get your book published?” “What do you like to read?” “Where do you get your ideas?” I answer those on autopilot. Funniest questions I’ve been asked on the road: “Where did you get your dress?” Answer: “Saks. Clearance rack.” “Can I take you to dinner after?” Answer: “Depends. Do you have any restraining orders against you?”
  9. Every author event has a person in the audience who has written a book he or she wants to pitch to me for publication. The problem is: I’m a WRITER—not a PUBLISHER.
  10. In every signing line at a book event, there is someone who wants to dictate how I will personalize their “Just write ‘to the best mother in the world,’” one reader instructed me. “To the smartest person I have ever met” was another request. My favorite request to date: “To the biggest Southern lady I have ever met.” Talk about a dangerous double entendre! All true. Remember: I write nonfiction. I end up explaining how first person works over and over. “If I write that, “I explain, “it’s me saying it . . . not you!” My favorite signing tag is from author Jill Conner Browne. To EVERY man, she writes, “To the only man I have ever loved.” Still cracks me up.


I can’t wait to share funny moments from the tour of my new book, If I Were The Boss of You. Come see me on the road!   https://www.melindaraineythompson.com/


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The Accidental Writer

      I had no idea I would grow up to be a writer. I certainly never thought I’d write four books—which is what happened or will happen when my newest book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers, comes out this spring. The embarrassing truth is that I wrote my first book accidentally. I’d like to say it was a grand plan because that would make me sound much more professional, but it would be a lie. Before I knew it, a second, third, and recently a fourth book snuck up on me when I wasn’t paying attention.

     These days, it seems like everyone I meet has a book in the wings, but I never thought that was for me. I thought of myself as a reader rather than a writer. I love to read what other people write. It’s my favorite thing to do.  With three children, I couldn’t imagine having time to write a book. Over the years, I learned that chapters leak out of my fingertips in search of a keyboard at the most inconvenient moments—in dark movie theaters and at 3:00 am when I should be asleep, for example. Trust me. There’s nothing you can do when that happens except hop on the writing roller coaster, throw up your hands, and see where the loop-de-loop takes you.

     For years, I lived a neat, orderly life. That was before I had kids, of course.  I worked as a teacher in a small liberal arts college. It was a good gig. Then I had three children in five years, and I needed a different schedule.  I also needed the occasional grown-up conversation to keep the two hemispheres of my brain functioning.  Nobody told me how much physical labor is involved in child-rearing. I found it shocking—akin to digging in the local rock quarry. Late at night, writing became my thrilling escape from the reality of four-loads-a-day of laundry and scraping cat throw-up off the living room rug. Writing is like therapy, only much, much cheaper. It is the adult version of tattling. That’s why it is so much fun to do.  

     When my kids were really young, I had to write in short time blocks, meager minutes scrounged out of the daily grind of errands, cooking, cleaning, and parenting. I began writing about what I know best, the ups and downs of daily life for a woman in a new millennium. Short, humorous essays came quickly and easily to me, and I began publishing a newsletter for twenty friends. I was curious to see if there were women in other zip codes struggling with the same life questions I wrestled with every day. Guess what?  There were. Are. Over the years, I have become convinced that the only differences in women all over the world are accents and geography. There’s something comforting about that.

     You can guess what happened with the newsletter. Women talk. Word-of-mouth works better than cable television. Newsletters were passed along to friends and friends-of-friends. A subscription list was born, and I found an audience of women and men all over the country who told me the same thing, over and over:

     “I feel like you are writing about my life!”  

     After about five years of publishing the monthly newsletter, I was able to sell a publisher on a book idea, and my first book, SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully, was sold. It was a hit, so I wrote another, The SWAG Life, and then, a third, I Love You—Now Hush (with co-author, Morgan Murphy). This year, my life with three teenagers inspired a new book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. I hope you like it!

     There isn’t anything unusual about me. I know a hundred women who could do the same thing if they had the time and the patience and the courage to tell the truth. I write chapters about ordinary things–grumpy teenagers, aging angst, and standing in line at the grocery store—aspects of life common to us all. My humor is always at my expense, no one else’s. Okay, the humor is a little bit at the expense of my teenagers in the new book, but I offered each of them the opportunity to read it first and remove anything particularly embarrassing. It’s not my fault they couldn’t be bothered, for the most part.

     My life is, apparently, a deep well of humorous inspiration. Friends who appear in my books come out smelling like a rose, but I never know what character-building adventure the Lord has lined up for me next. It is usually something I have just declared, publicly and emphatically, that I will never do. Feel free to yuk it up. I consider it my civic duty to spare my readers any incidents of public humiliation I have already experienced myself.  

     There is nothing in the world more exciting than walking past someone stretched out on a beach towel or crammed in a tiny airplane seat reading one of my books and laughing out loud. On one occasion, I actually tripped over my own feet and landed in an unladylike heap on the floor while relishing one of those moments instead of watching where I was going. It’s a good thing that reader turned out to be a genuine fan because I did some serious damage to her shopping bag trying to break my fall.

     Although it’s true that I’m not curing cancer or fixing the economy or anything noble, I am doing my small part to make the world a better place. I often hear from cancer patients who tell me they were distracted for a few minutes by something I wrote. That’s enough for me right there—even if I never earn another dime. If you add up my change-the-world minutes and yours, something big happens. All those minutes together make a difference. Don’t you agree? That’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings.

     I am a Southern writer. In many ways, my humor is the peculiar product of culture, history, and geography, but it is remarkable to me how similar women’s lives are all over the world. Even if we’ve never met personally, I bet we know some of the same people. In case you don’t know, let me tell you that Southerners are very big on identifying your “people.” If they haven’t heard any gossip about you, they fear you may be a serial killer. The South is connected like that. This can work for you or against you. It depends.

     I have found great joy and humor in the everyday aspects of our lives, things often deemed too boring to merit attention. There is no greater adventure than regular life being lived full-speed-ahead. For me, making people laugh is the equivalent of a two-margarita high. Laughter is one of the few things in life that isn’t dependent on good health, money, or leisure time.

     Real life, I think, is what goes on in between the highlight reels—the birthdays, weddings, and births. Some people are always so busy videotaping an event for posterity that they squeeze out every smidgen of joy from the actual event.  I do not want to be like those people. In my life, the best moments happen when I least expect them–when the beds are unmade, the kitchen is a wreck, I’m sporting last night’s mascara, and I have a fever blister.

     I’d love to say that my career as a writer was the result of a thoroughly mapped-out life plan, but it wasn’t. It was an accident, the best one of my life. 



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Blog #1 Embracing the World of Social Media: Yuk

     It’s almost impossible to make a living as a writer. Do you have any idea how many words you have to write to pay for the removal of four wisdom teeth from a teenager’s mouth?  I do. I figured it out this week. I have three teenagers. They have four wisdom teeth each. That’s 12 teeth that have to go at roughly $1,500 a pop. Each of those teeth is worth about 5,000-10,000 words, as best I can figure it. Teenagers are expensive.

     At some point or another, every famous writer you can name wrote about the struggle to combine the desire to write with the practical demands of regular life—like being able to afford groceries, for example. Most of the writers in the great canon of literature—you know, the mostly dead guys and gals you were required to read in school– nearly starved to death. I’m not exaggerating. When he died, William Faulkner was out of print. Can you believe that? You couldn’t walk in to a book shop and find his books on the shelves. My point is that if Faulkner had trouble paying his bills, and he did, then what in the world is going to happen in my own life?

     I definitely need a high-paying back-up career. Prostitution is out. I’d have to lose twenty pounds, step-up my gym workout, and, well, it is illegal and all. I’m a mother. Also, I’m married to a judge. I can cook, but as the mother of three teens, I already work as a short-order cook every single day. I can teach. I used to love doing that, but nobody really cares where the apostrophe goes anymore. I can also sing but only in a church-choir-garden-variety way. Nobody is going to pay cash to hear me. I can also arrange flowers, but that is not exactly a rainmaker either. There you have it: writing, teaching, cooking, singing, and flower arranging. I would have been a hell of a 19th century woman. Unfortunately, here I am, right smack in the 21st century with the smarty-pants mouth to prove it. It’s a good thing I’m married to someone with good health insurance.

     I write books of humorous essays. No one thinks, “I think I’ll grow up to be an essay writer.” Of course not. It just happens. I had three children in five years. I thought I was losing my mind, so I began writing for twenty people just for fun. Humor comes quickly to me. It’s easy, and back then I needed to write in short blocks of time while my kids were napping. You can guess what happened. Those people had friends, relatives, and roommates, and soon that list grew to 5,000 people in thirty-eight states.  That’s when I wrote my first book, SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully. The success of that book led to the 2nd, The SWAG Life, and the third, I Love You—Now Hush. I have a new book coming out this spring: I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. If you’ve ever lived with a teenager, or you plan to live with a teenager in the future, or you want to laugh about your own teenage years from the safe distance of adulthood, this is the book for you. I promise you will laugh.

    When my publisher suggested rather firmly (as in “let’s put it in the contract from now on”) that I “embrace a significant online presence as an author,” all I could think about was: Not more passwords. Please. No more passwords. I have trouble remembering the ones I have already! Wi-Fi. Bank accounts. Bill-paying. Cable. Cell phones. School accounts for my kids. PayPal. eBay.  I’m not a number person. Numbers are horrid, inflexible things. “You’ll love it!” my editor wrote in her email.

     I doubt it, I thought.

     Now my day goes like this: Check my Facebook fan page. Twitter. Blog. Change the cat litter. Get the kids to school. Revise. Run errands. Edit. Do laundry. Cook. Blog. My life is already busy and complicated. I decided the quickest way to get past the looming social media hurdles was to hire a professional tutor. I found a highly skilled, poor graduate student and offered him cash and baked goods to get me up and going. He accepted. Then I never heard from him again. I worried about him. He seemed like a highly strung individual. His parents are missionaries. He didn’t look at all well-fed to me. Later, I heard he got a real job offer and moved away. Good for him! Bad for me. I found another woman to help me. I like her. Our first session went just fine until we accidently invited everyone in my address book to “friend” my new online accounts. Not good. Not good at all. Awful, in fact, the exact thing I’d hoped to avoid by hiring someone who knows a lot more than I do about social media. Frankly, I could have made that mistake all by myself and saved the hourly fee.

     The result? I inadvertently invited the guy who fixed my refrigerator to be my friend online. I also hit on my sons’ basketball, baseball, and football coaches as well as perfect strangers who have interviewed me or asked me to speak to their groups. The receptionist at my doctor’s office got a friend request. It was very unprofessional, a little creepy, and just plain embarrassing.

     That wasn’t all. The mother of all accidental friend requests went to: The Bishop. The big dog himself. Yep. You read that correctly. I am an Episcopalian. Our Bishop has no sense of direction. I know that because when he read a chapter about my own lack of innate navigational skills (“I Can’t Get There From Here”), he emailed me. I responded. That’s how his address ended up in my address book, and that’s how he got propositioned by me accidently.

     I was mortified, as you can imagine. Luckily, I am quite accustomed to humbling life experiences. They’re my bread and butter, in fact. I get all my material for my books from my real life, and God sends me lots of character-building lessons.

    Pretty soon I got to wondering: Would the Bishop accept my friend request? The way I see it, he has to, doesn’t he? I’m a sheep in his flock and all that. Right? That’s part of the Bishop job description, don’t you think? Tending to lost sheep? I’m not lost in the big picture, of course. I’m not a drug addict or suicidal or thinking about blowing anything up, but still–I’m out here panhandling with words, trying to make a living as a writer in suburbia. I’m expecting a call from my parish priest at any moment. I may be in big, big trouble.

     I’ll keep you posted. Stay tuned.


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