October 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Never… Ever… Never, never, get involved with a writer.

Now, that is not to say that writers are not nice people.  Many of them are perfectly decent sorts, especially when they are sleeping.  It’s in their waking hours that they do most of their damage.

I know, you’re saying to yourself, “Otis, you’re a writer. Are you suggesting that we should avoid all contact with you?” I must reply, “Exactly.”

Now I know some very fine writers. Here in town Timothy Schaffert has kept the Omaha Lit Fest growing and penned some very fine novels including his latest, The Swan Gondola.  He seems okay.  Rebecca Rotert’s latest, Last Night at the Blue Angel is skillfully done and emotionally evocative indeed. She must certainly be safe to be around. Rainbow Rowell, former World Herald columnist, has turned out a few very successful books including Landline that just went into paperback. With a name like “Rainbow” how could she be any sort of a risk?  And Sean Doolittle keeps turning out gems like my favorite, Rain Dogs – all while also pitching for the Oakland Athletics. Go ahead, look it up.

Poets are a sub-set of “writer,” that are especially hazardous to your mental health. Matt Mason, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, and his band of misfits at the Nebraska Writers Collective, including Michele Troxclair, who puts on the most amazing spoken word events around town, are supremely talented and not to be trifled with if you want to lead a settled, comfortable life. Britny Cordera Doane can make myth and madness sing, as she does in her collection, Wingmakers. She also writes poems on demand in the Old Market. Yeah, a busker with a typewriter.

Perfectly nice people, all of them.

Don’t be fooled.

Writers will steal from you. If you say something clever, like squirrels we will stuff it away into our verbal cheeks and use it in a chapter years later. You will not get any credit.

We will tell all of your secrets; family tales left best untold, quirks in your love life, or reveal your most reprehensible personal hygiene secrets by assigning them to a particularly disturbing villain in one of our stories.

We will lie. Remember that time you and Betty took the underage me to the movies and sat in the back row? We will remember it differently. Our graphic details will shock you and destroy your reputation. Our memoirs will completely shake your sense of reality, and perversely, after you read and re-read them, even you will begin to believe our version.

We will drive you crazy. “Do you like my book?”… or…“Do you get what my poem means?”… or…“I’m the greatest talent ever!” … or… “I’m the worst writer ever.” We will be euphoric and then suicidal all within a half-hour. Our insecurities will baffle and exhaust you.

And worst of all, writers are like the Naked Guy in Friends, sometimes you see things about us you can’t un-see.

If you hang around with us, be prepared to stand on the edge. Be ready for us to risk falling. Be careful we don’t take you with us.

I know all of this because I have a novel coming out this month. It’s the best book ever. Or, it’s the worst waste of paper since God invented gerbils. You should read it. You might learn something about yourself. Or, you shouldn’t. We’d both be safer then.

It’s just true.

Never…Ever…Never, never, get involved with a writer.

Otis Headshot