Freaky Friday: Your Recap of the Week in Weird Writing-World News

George Washington: every library’s worst nightmare. Being 221 years late on returning two tomes, the president has racked up some $4,577 in fines.

Everyone’s favorite authorial supergroup has a new talent: Jennifer Weiner has joined The Rock Bottom Remainders. The group, “one of the world’s highest ratios of noise to talent,” has featured Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Stephen King, Matt Groening, Amy Tan and others.

Apparently $200,000 for a part-time gig wasn’t enough for Danielle Steel’s former assistant: Kristy Watts, who was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison this week, embezzled nearly $800,000 from the author.

Damn those promiscuous vampires: Stephenie Meyer and others earned a place on an ALA list of “most frequently challenged books” (essentially meaning complaints were filed with libraries to have the books pulled from shelves). The author’s racy company includes the ttyl books by Lauren Myracle and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (Alice Walker—seriously?).

A great, non-absurd list on absurdity: Absurd guru Michael Foley ranks his top 10 absurd classics.

Finally, a random fact pulled from an intriguing story about a New York Public Library Voltaire exhibit: The author originally released his classic Candide—featuring such character names as Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh—using the simple pseudonym “Dr. Ralph.”

Happy weekend!

(Image: Salvatore Vuono)

* * *

  End of the Line

free to take the following prompt home or post your
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

At the funeral, you fidget nervously as you wait in line to pay your respects. When you reach the casket, the face of the woman standing next to it changes.

Also, the new Writer’s Digest University—an excellent hub of writing
courses and workshops—has gone live. Check it out at,
where you can take part in a
free mini course
about how to create a salable nonfiction book

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4 thoughts on “Freaky Friday: Your Recap of the Week in Weird Writing-World News

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  2. Martha W

    Well, thank the robot god. It finally let me in.

    And I’m too stubborn to have emailed it… 🙂


    Great piece, Mark.


    Within the last few hours, despite the protests of the director, the drab little room underwent a transformation.

    In place of shadows, curtains stood wide open, allowing sunlight to poor in on the visitors gathered there. Coffee replaced by mixed drinks. Tearful mourners by laughter and loud jokes about the wicked witch.
    Her relatives had turned out in droves. Most to just verify the old broad was indeed finally dead.

    The whole ordeal made Amber sick to her stomach. She pushed hard on her belly to repress the butterflies desperate to escape by any means necessary.

    Of course, that could have less to do with the celebration over her grandmother’s death and more to do with the woman standing next to the coffin as if she belonged there.

    Amber pulled her gaze away from the pale face of her grandmother – pinched even in death. Frozen that way Amber’s father had said. White hair framed her face, a slight by her daughter who joked she needed to loosen up anyway.

    None of them understood. That’s why Amber had moved away the moment she’d turned eighteen. Grandma Jenny had paid for her apartment at school, her books, her clothes. Anything she needed, all Amber had to do was call.

    Loneliness spiked through her heart. Her bottom lip trembled as she stepped through the door, looking for fresh air. She stayed close to the wall and headed for the open door at the back entrance.

    Every so often an aunt or uncle or friend would reach for her but her bid to be away from them kept her moving. They all thought she was oblivious, thought she didn’t know about the various plots to contest any will that surfaced. But soon they would know the truth – and there would be no more celebrating.

    “Child, why are you out here alone?”

    Amber’s heart leapt, tried to burst from her chest. She sucked in a breath. “So you weren’t a mirage.”

    Her grandmother reached a hand to smooth back Amber’s unruly blonde bangs, stopping just short. “No. But I’m not to stay long.”

    “It’s okay, Grandma.” Amber relaxed against the porch railing. “I’ll handle them.”

    “Oh, I know you will.”

    Amber’s eyes narrowed on another relative entering the funeral home. Vultures, the lot of them. “They won’t get away with what they’ve done.”

    “Even then, before you left, you knew they were embezzling my money.”

    The first genuine smile bloomed on Amber’s mouth. “I knew.”

    “But you’ve sacrificed a great deal for me.”

    Her smile vanished. “I’ll be fine.”

    “Maybe.” The old woman giggled. Actually giggled. “But I had to be sure.”

    Amber looked at her for the first time. “What have you done?”

    “Set things right.” And then she was gone.

    A rustle from the doorway was little warning when faced with such a thing as a meddling grandmother.

    “Amber?” His voice, deep and smooth like good summer wine, reached her heart. He was back.

  3. Zac

    Mark, between you and me, when the city of Cincinnati digitized their entire library system, my sister–no stranger to a cache of spectacularly high library fees of old, the literary skeletons in her closet–was blessed with a clean slate. To this day, especially now that she doesn’t have to borrow my card whenever she wants to take something out, she mumbles thanks to the library gods.

    And about those curls: Love the piece.

  4. Mark James

    Zac, these articles of the weird were great and umm. . . I may possibly owe the library in the neighborhood where I lived as a kid, some funds. Not much. Just about enough to build a new wing.

    The coffin was pink. Not a nice pink either, like what you’d get for your baby girl who passed away. No, this was a neon hot color, the shade you’d see outside one of those rent by the hour motels on a filthy street in a dark city.

    I sat there on the bench they saved special for me, couldn’t take my eyes off the pink box my girl was in, couldn’t get the smell of the city out of my nostrils, or the cold of the place out of my bones. A Funeral Home they called it.

    I didn’t care if it was raining outside, raining so bad, even the curls in a decent woman’s hair would have hung straight. That’s what my girl would have said. She talked about decent women all the time, like she couldn’t be one, like she’d never been one, like it was something she’d heard about one time.

    And there was that nice boy with the black suit who ran this home for funerals, coming down the aisle toward me. He looked like he might be decent if somebody got him out into the country and showed him a tree and fried him up some chicken.

    “Mrs. Stantion,” he said, “if you’d come with me, we’re ready to view the dearly departed.” He was whispering, like death was something private, like going to the outhouse to do your business in the dark.

    “Lucinda ain’t gone nowhere.” I touched my chest, felt how my heart fluttered at the sound of my baby girl’s name on my lips, felt how grief could claw a mother’s soul, same as a plow could turn new earth. “She’s right here.”

    “It’ll just be a moment, Mrs. Stantion, then you can sit down again,” the city boy told me.

    I let him help me up and even at seventy five, I felt like I could have whipped that skinny city boy’s ass if I had to. He was thin and frail, like he only ate hollow things.

    Two men were standing beside Lucinda’s pink coffin. They didn’t look at me when I walked up to them, but I didn’t take my eyes off them. Especially the one on the left.

    I made a study of his face. I watched him turn his head toward me, saw his eyes sweep down to my unsteady feet, saw him look at my arm twined through the city boy’s. Then his dark brown eyes met my faded blue ones, and we laughed. Because there I was, a seventy five year old woman walking down the aisle to see my dead daughter, beside this city boy all dressed up like he would put a ring on my finger when we got to the casket.

    His face went on changing, his mouth getting wider, his eyes crinkling closed and his cheeks rising to let out that laughter. And I laid my hand on my Lucinda’s coffin and I was laughing too, because life was life, and even here in the city, death was death, and I was sorry to see her go, but I was still here, and I could still laugh, and I think my Lucinda, she wouldn’t have wanted no tears to shower down at her burial. After all, a decent woman couldn’t keep her curls right in the rain.