Sunday, March 29, 2009

What a Yahoo You Are Not (maybe)

I wanted to say a little something about yahoos, while we're on the subject. I know a lot of authors, and I know quite a few of them well enough to have a window into who they are personally, and the quirks of their creative processes.

And in their little ways, they're all yahoos. There's the one who believes her house is haunted by the ghost of a jazz musician, who only shows himself in the occasional scent of cigarettes in one room. There's the one whose writing room walls are covered in plastic insects. There's the one who always wants to argue with me about serial commas.

I recognize and embrace the fact that people are not homogeneous. We all have our oddities and weirdnesses, and creative people generally are more likely to see the value in their own quirks.

So if you've been looking at my injunction to prove "what a yahoo you are not" and thinking, "Crap, I think maybe I am a bit of a yahoo," that's OK.

It's not that I don't expect authors to be weird. Only to be high-functioning enough to recognize gradations of weird (eg that their collection of images of people sticking their tongues out is less "weird" than the collection of pickled roadkill in their basement), and socially-adjusted enough to know at what point in a relationship to reveal each weirdness.

Cover letters are not the place to bring across your oddities, but once I love your writing and have the sense that you wouldn't be a complete embarrassment at a cocktail party, you can start showing me some of the less-for-the-public aspects of your life if you like. Though, since clarity is never a bad thing, I still don't want to see pictures of the way you "dress up" for your husband. Ever.


Anonymous said...

As a point of inquiry, is "I speak Klingon" more or less weird than "I giggle when reading the dictionary," and, while I believe both pastimes are harmless, at what point would you stop being put off by the Klingon thing?
(HIja', tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh.)

Editorial Anonymous said...

"I giggle when reading the dictionary" is adorable. Feel free to share that fact; word lovers of all stripes will relate.

"I speak Klingon" is deep geekdom and makes me wonder about a person's priorities. You should only admit this after you've given me several reasons (see above) to find you adorable. Then "I speak Klingon" will seem like a small quirk rather than a Questionable Lifestyle.

Bob Schechter said...

Well, I don't actually speak Klingon, at least not fluently. I just know enough to be able to ask directions when I visit (and to giggle while reading the Klingon dictionary).

And, of course, I giggle when a jumentous Klingon with tachyphagia gets borborygmous, just as I giggle to see that I will need to type the word "nosedum" in the little box to be able to post this.

Kaz Augustin said...

Shouldn't that be "I speak Klingonii"?? Oh wait, I just looked it up, and there's a move to change it all to "Klingonese". Hmmmm. I prefer "Klingonii" myself. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

If you're actually speaking Klingon (as created by Okrand) then it is tlhIngan Hol, which is anglicized to Klingon. We do not acknowledge Klingonaase, which is something else entirely. I realize that sounds frighteningly geeky, but Klingon is really more of a word nerd thing than a SciFi geek thing. Klingon speakers are generally more likely to speak Esperanto than to watch Star Trek. (I watch Star Trek and do not speak Esperanto.)

P.S. I'm sorry. I'll be geeky somewhere else now.

Deirdre Mundy said...

How about "I got a little teary-eyed when I discovered that Latin had no Aorist tense?"

Editorial Anonymous said...

I don't have any idea what you're talking about.
Also, I categorically deny I was the editor who had a fight with a copyeditor about the vocative "O!"

Michelle said...

How is it that so many people want to lead with the weird? Are they trying to stand out in a crowd? How unfortunate when you could write the weird into your book and create more memorable characters instead.

PurpleClover said...

Sorry I don't speak Klingon but I did see the trailer for the new Star Trek and it looks YUM! (I was watching Monsters vs. Aliens with the kiddos and getting way more out of it than they did!)

I'm not a trekkie (sorry is that a PC term or did I just offend the room?) but I love me some Cap. Kirk. :) Did I just out myself? I swear I don't know *hardly* any other characters or even episodes for that matter. :D

SWILUA said...


Deirdre Mundy said...

Don't tell me-- she wanted to add the H in, didn't she?

O tempora! O mores!


word verify - bithe. "No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't manage 'bonny and blithe.' But she did her best."

Marissa Doyle said...

Didn't beloved illustrator Tasha Tudor keep roadkill in her freezer for life studies? It isn't just authors who've cornered the market on yahooism (yahooistry?) :)

Kimbra Kasch said...

A Yahoo?
That’s something I don’t want to be
Sorry though – I can’t change me

Commas, smoke, bugs and one measly ghost
I’ve got that beat – probably more than most

National Poetry Month begins in a day or two
Here’s one thing everyone can do

Come celebrate and post a rhyme
Hurry though you don’t have much time

”Poetry Contest”

ae said...

What I want to know is what instrument the jazz musician is playing, and is he/she any good?

I could send over a few to join in.

Bob Schechter said...

It's worth remember that the term "yahoo" was invented by Swift in Gulliver's Travels, and that Gulliver eventually concluded that all humans (Houyhnhnms) are yahoos. Let's just be glad that Gulliver isn't an editor! None of us would stand a chance.

Lisa said...

That last paragraph says it all. Funny!

Anonymous said...

I just had a blog post about writer crazy. None of us are sane. The truly crazy ones don't know they are a bit "off". I mean fiction authors write about people who don't exist. These people have lives of their own. They grow, they cry, laugh...That's not normal.

So everything that is added to that is just "quirky". Though I'll never write a children's book, I promise to never show what I wear for my Significant Other. Somethings are TMI without exceptions.

Tara Maya said...

High-functioning yahoo. My new life goal! :P

Kimbra Kasch said...

Rock Band 2 - that's what we do :)

And I guess I'm a Yahoo--
How 'bout you?

Deirdre Mundy said...

OK... Whenever I see the line "How you dress up for your husband," I keep wanting to respond - "A cute dress, jewelry, stockings and heels... and a wool coat if it's chilly oustide!"

Obviously, I am the dullest Yahoo in the world....

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