When your pen begins scrawling in journalism school (Go U Northwestern!) and winds its way through corporate, commercial and kiddie media, you get an interesting string of sentences, indeed. Here are some highlights from the time capsule:
• Chapter excerpts from the Edgar & Ellen book series! I co-wrote eight books of the E&E series, and had the time of my life. I have many favorite moments; here are just a few from two books that still make me smile. High Wire featured a bizarre traveling circus inspired by Asimov’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, while Nod’s Limbs revolved around a treasure hunt triggered by a dead man’s will, owing more to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Shaping impressionable young minds is so much fun.
• Seussian poetry! In a moment of mad brilliance, Simon & Schuster authorized a rhyming pop-up book for Edgar & Ellen available exclusively through Target. ( Yeah, just like that recent Prince album! The similarities are eerie.) Although the spine of the poem came from my regular Edgar & Ellen co-writer Kathryn Achenbach, I joined in the merry verse-spinning and together we crafted a lilting rhyme that I’m quite proud of.
• Unproduced script: “Heimertz Takes the Field.” This is one of the first things I wrote with Matthew Jent for the Edgar & Ellen animated series, but the script was deemed too complex and expensive for the first season, and was held off. I don’t know why — is it because it called for excessive crowd scenes, repeated montages of football action, and a lasso prank that ties up an entire marching band? In any event, I loved this script, which posits that the giant caretaker Heimertz pines for his days as a high school football star. The twins conspire for him to relive his glory days so he’ll get out of their hair.
• From Mischief Manual. A how-to guide for improbable pranking, written in the voice of the twins. I had several co-writers on this project, including Matthew Jent, Patrick van Slee, and Kat Achenbach. If you can ignore the poor scan, you might get a chuckle, as I still do, at the book’s blustery introduction. (More people should use the interjection “Fie!” says I.)
• From “The Game’s Afootie.” Matthew Jent and I co-wrote this script based on an idea from Will Carton: Edgar & Ellen compete to see how many townies they can capture in an hour. This script was full to the eye sockets with absurd humor, such as this clip, where Edgar bags a deep sea diver to add to his collection, and Ellen finds that doctors still make house calls:
• From “Bob’s Limbs.” The twins’ plan to rig the Mayor for a Day Contest is thwarted when Bob, the mayor’s intern, unwittingly selects himself. Now Edgar & Ellen are in a battle of wits against the most unarmed opponent they’ve ever met.
• From Graphic Novelty. “Glob’s Glums” was an upside-down alternate universe story for Edgar & Ellen, starring their super-sweet doppelgangers, Edmund & Emelia. Look how much fun Dave Crosland is having here!
- “Glob’s Glums” from “Edgar & Ellen: Graphic Novelty”; art by Dave Crosland
• Devious puzzle plotting! While editing children’s newspaper products for Thomson Newspapers, I wrote a lot of stuff. Fiction, non-fiction, but jokes, craft projects … and puzzles! Here are two I like.
• Crack political reporting! While on a college internship with the Huntington Herald-Dispatch (W. Va), I had a front-row seat for “Election ’90”! Actually, it was far more intriguing to have a front row seat to Dee Caperton, a governor’s ex-wife, former Miss West Virginia, and candidate for state treasurer that year. I’d like to think she flirted with me during our interview, but she was probably just being a savvy politician. She lost this race.
• Crack financial reporting! I actually got to do some pretty fun and challenging writing at Bank One, because we were viewed as credible reporters of company and industry news, not just as corporate mouthpieces. While I filed plenty of stories about Doris’s retirement and retail leaders getting hit with pies, I had many chances to use those j-school skills on real stories. Thanks, Medill!
• Insightful book criticism! After I left Bank One, my old employer kept me on as a freelance book reviewer. The Business shelf at Barnes & Noble is crammed with titles; which one should a busy exec choose? Never fear: Savage critic Drew Scott will help you sort it out. I discovered with some amusement that the PDF samples included here feature Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point before it became a runaway sensation.
• Beguiling catalog copywriting! Hammacher Schlemmer’s eclectic product selection means some files are just more fun than others. Here are a few of my favorite copy blocks, written in Hammacher’s inimitable style of braininess and wry humor.