For readers who must save a tree,
There’s now an e-Book, and it’s free,
It’s a little bit newer,
And the drawings are fewer,
But you’ll find that it still sounds like me.
The Kindle Edition of Strangers Have the Best Candy is now available! The download is free today, June 28. Since I cannot autograph your eBook, I’m offering an autographed Happy Spot to anyone who downloads the eBook before July 10! Put your request in a comment on this post, and I’ll contact you for the mailing address.
Although this edition doesn’t have the full quota of illustrations, the best ones are included. Frank Lloyd Bear and I have also included a teaser for our next book, The Joyful Bear.
I am glad to have worldwide acclaim,
In the self-published, dog-eat-dog game,
It’s my title, thank god,
That is prize-winning odd,
Not my writing, my looks, or my name.
I don’t know whether to be excited or embarrassed.
When The Bookseller announced that Strangers Have the Best Candy has received the Diagram Award for the Oddest Book Title of the Year, they said there was no cash award, just a “passable bottle of claret” awaiting me in London. However, their news release said that agents and publishers “are tipping it to be the ‘hot book’ at the forthcoming London Book Fair.” Is this an example of British humour (sic), or are they serious?
Strangers Have the Best Candy relies
On its title to catch readers’ eyes,
Now the Guardians claim,
That it’s found worldwide fame,
And it might win the Diagram Prize.
I woke up on Saturday to a Google Alert, saying that my name had appeared in The Guardian. “This must be a mistake,” I thought, as I clicked on the link to one of the best-known online news sites in the world. To my surprise, the shortlist had been released for the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of 2015, and Strangers Have the Best Candy was one of the seven books!
According to The Bookseller, “The prize was open to self-published authors for the first time in its 37-year history, and the self-published Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte (Choose Art) completes the shortlist.”
Being on the shortlist hasn’t translated into any sales or calls from publishing houses so far. Actually winning the prize might do the trick, so here’s my shameless request: Would you please go to the voting site and cast a vote for me? It will take less than a minute, if you use this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/diagramprize2014.
After that, please share this and tell your friends you know a Diagram Prize nominee! Anybody who votes for me gets a hug and a piece of candy!
It’s been eleven years since I quit,
And I miss all my friends, I admit,
But when you read my book,
You will see, I forsook
Corporate life for a much better fit.
This is especially for my former coworkers, who have kindly encouraged me to be an author and artist, instead of a business analyst, knowledge manager, or systems integrator. I’m probably ruined for the corporate world now, because I can’t remember how to install (is that the correct verb?) pantyhose. I hope I don’t have to wear pantyhose when I make it to the Today Show.
If you’re a former coworker of Meps’, please say hello in the comments!
I hope to see your smiling faces in Ballard tonight, sometime between 6 and 8 pm. If the rain stops, we can make Happy Spots on the sidewalk in front of the store! If it doesn’t, we can make paper Happy Spots inside!
When I walked in right off of the street,
The two strangers I happened to meet,
In their colorful store,
Full of candy galore,
Booked an author appearance there — Sweet!
If you’re in the Seattle area, come see Meps on Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 6 to 8 pm at Sweet Mickey’s Candy Shoppe in Ballard (next to QFC on 57th). An autographed copy of Strangers Have the Best Candy won’t rot your teeth. And the fabulous candy and fudge Sweet Mickey’s carries is worth a trip to the dentist!
The young blonde girl ahead of me screamed in terror the whole way across. But when I stepped off the wooden platform yesterday, I wasn’t frightened at all. Ziplining is easy if you don’t have acrophobia, or fear of heights.
I was with Barry’s family on Camano Island for my first ziplining adventure. There were eight of us, all shapes and sizes, ranging from 11 to 73 years old.
The scariest part was just reading and signing two pages of liability release forms. Then we were outfitted with harnesses and helmets, and we climbed into an old Army truck to ride up the steep hill. Even though we were less than a mile from Barry’s parents’ Washington home, it felt like a rainforest tour I once took in Brazil.
For two hours, we rode six different ziplines that were up to 60 feet above the forest floor. When we reached the final platform, we were still about 40 feet up in a tree. One by one, we rappelled down to the ground, our descent controlled by two very capable guides.
I was quieter than usual, because I was enjoying the lush green beauty of the forest. Mistaking my reticence for fear, one of the guides patted me on the back and congratulated me on my courage. “This isn’t scary,” I told him, wryly. “I wish it was the scariest thing I’ll be doing this week.”
This Wednesday evening, July 16, I’ll be giving my first public book presentation at Ravenna Third Place Books, in Seattle. It’s completely open to anyone, it’s free, and I’ve promoted it widely, sending calendar listings and press releases all around Seattle.
I’m not afraid of spiders, snakes, or the dark. I’m a little nervous around alligators, but not much. Last week, I literally gate-crashed a large party, proving that I am not afraid of strangers. However, I suffer from glossophobia: Fear of public speaking.
Why, if it’s so frightening, do I want to do it?
I want to do it, because I believe in the power of my little orange book, Strangers Have the Best Candy. Over and over, people tell me they had a change of heart while reading it, that they go out and smile at strangers now, that they strike up conversations. This is not an entertaining little memoir. This is a book that advocates a new philosophy, a new way of interacting with other humans.
But like the screaming girl on the zipline, I have to remember that talking to strangers may be frightening to my audience. How better to understand their fear, than to suffer my own?
Having no innate fear of spiders, snakes, or strangers, there’s only one sure way. Glossophobia: Simply to be afraid of the power of my own voice.
This piece was originally titled, “Bribing the Fourth Estate.” After I posted it, I discovered, to my distress, that few people know the fourth estate refers to the press.
Here’s a tidbit that most people don’t know: A newspaper’s masthead is not their name on the front page. That’s the nameplate. The masthead is inside, often on page 3, and identifies the publisher, editors, and contact information for a newspaper.
Last week, I carefully tore the address of the Stranger from their masthead. I put it in my book bag and tossed the rest into the recycle bin. My father-in-law doesn’t normally read the recycling, but he needed some newsprint to protect a surface on which he was painting.
He wasn’t completely scandalized. Just curious, and surprised at what I was reading in my husband’s absence.
The advertising in the Stranger is scandalous: Recreational cannabis delivery, escort services, and an underwear ad where the woman’s hands are inside her panties. (She was right above an ad with the heading, “Sex Offender Registration Got You Down?”)
Yet, like Playboy, the Stranger has a reputation for excellent journalism. In addition to winning a Pulitzer, it’s where Dan Savage got his start, as the editor-in-chief and as the writer of a blunt and often-shocking sex advice column, “Savage Love.”
What I love about the Stranger is that they take the news seriously, but they do not take themselves too seriously.
On Friday afternoon, I braved Seattle traffic, and drove to the address on the masthead. If you’re from Seattle, you probably know the block, the one we call the-Value-Village-where-REI-used-to-be (they moved in 1996). It’s super-hip, brick and trendy, around the corner from the Century Ballroom.
There was no sign, only a newspaper box full of Strangers beside a tall, unmarked door. The door was incongruous, a piece of modern metal art on an old brick warehouse. A couple of men occupied the sidewalk, blatantly ignoring the law against sidewalk-sitting that’s intended to keep homelessness at bay. The entryway with the newspaper box reeked of urine. Inside, my spidey-senses were tingling, because there was no one in the foyer, just a dimly-lit dead-end corridor with an elevator.
My heart thumping, I peeked into the elevator and saw a scrap of paper that said “The Stranger” beside the third floor button. At least I was in the right place.
Alone and unmolested, I rode the elevator to the third floor, where I found the receptionist. He was a young man behind a bulletproof glass window, eating what looked like pie. I breathed a tiny sigh of relief. He had a sweet-tooth.
He held his hand over his mouth, embarrassed, and mumbled “Can I help you?” around an extra-large bite. I took a deep breath and remembered what I had rehearsed in my head.
“I’m on a mission,” I said, cozying up to the counter and the little opening in the bulletproof glass. “I need to know which of your staff members is most susceptible to bribery.”
His eyes widened as he swallowed his pie and asked, “What kind?”
At this point, I opened my leather briefcase and took out a baggie of candy. It happened to contain Hershey’s kisses, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and three Strangers Have the Best Candy cards. My hand was trembling with fear as I pushed it through the little slot.
“Candy,” I said, and watched him break into a grin at the cards. I reached into my bag a second time, and pulled out a copy of the book. “You see, I have this…” I pushed it through the little opening.
He looked at the title, made the connection, and started laughing. “I can give it to our book guy,” he said. “He’ll probably want this, too,” I said, pushing a third item through the little slot, a copy of my press release.
He carefully assembled it all into a package, putting the press release inside the pages of the book and the name of the book guy on a post-it note on the outside. I watched as he clipped the candy bag to the cover.
“Do you think it’s enough?” I asked. “Oh, yeah,” he said, patting the parcel. “Are you going to give it all to him?” I continued. He nodded earnestly. “Of course,” he said, as if I’d challenged his integrity.
That’s when I pulled out a second bag of candy, and pushed it through the opening in the glass. “Then this one’s for you!” I said. “Have a great day!”
I was still shaking like a leaf as I got into the elevator and fled back to my car. I’ve never tried bribing the Fourth Estate before. But I had to try. I simply had to give Candy to the Best Stranger.
Update on my bribery attempt, June 16, 2014:
At the Georgetown Carnival this past weekend, I gave a “Strangers Have the Best Candy” card to a young man in the crowd. He laughed so hard, I went on to say, “I even tried to bribe The Stranger with candy!” His eyes grew wide, and he looked at me seriously. “How did you know I worked there?”
“I didn’t,” I responded. Serendipity.
He wasn’t in the newsroom, though. “I don’t have any influence there. I’m in the tech department.” He went on to tell me, “Paul Constant is the book guy. He has stacks and stacks and stacks of books on his desk.” He held his hand at shoulder level to indicate how high the piles were.
My face fell. I was discouraged. Then I thought about what I’d done, and I cheered up. “GREAT! By paper-clipping a lumpy bag of candy to the cover, I have made it impossible for Paul to simply stack another book on it.”
In other words, I’ve bribed my way to the top, where I hope to stay until Paul Constant reviews Strangers Have the Best Candy!
I WROTE A BOOK! I WROTE A BOOK! I WROTE A BOOK!
(and it’s on Amazon!)
OK, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I will try to calm down. This is like having a baby. I’m hyperventilating.
Ever since I started blogging in 2003, my followers have been asking, “When are you going to publish a book?” I stalled, because I didn’t know what the book should be about. I didn’t want to write a travelogue or a navel-gazing memoir.
Finally, I figured it out! Strangers Have the Best Candy, which is available on Amazon today, is about my chance encounters with strangers — all the laughing, crying, topless, boozing, and completely adorable people I have befriended in my travels. It’s their book. I just wrote it.
Since these encounters are completely spontaneous, there aren’t a lot of photographs. I had to sit down and illustrate it myself, with 125 pen-and-ink drawings that I completed in the St. Marys, Georgia public library. I didn’t even know I could do that until I tried.
The stories are amazing and hilarious, and the illustrations will make you grin. But it has its thoughtful moments, and there’s a pretty big message between the covers: Strangers have wonderful gifts for us, if we take the time to talk to them.
Maybe the Strangers Have the Best Candy message will go viral, and then you can say you knew about it and followed the blog before it was famous! Thank you for staying with me for all these years, and for encouraging me to say what’s important to my heart.
I would love it if you would reshare this post with your friends in email and Facebook, and go out to the Amazon page and give me a review. I will reward you with hugs the next time I see you, because I think hugs are the best candy of all.
(you did see the link above, to my Amazon page, right? If not, here it is again!)
At Amazon, some geek must say,
“We’ll publish her book on this day,”
But til then, I wait,
In a trembling state,
To unveil before first of May.
I was ready to publish Strangers Have the Best Candy this morning, so I hit the big, scary “APPROVE” button on CreateSpace. Much to my surprise, the book doesn’t get populated to Amazon’s servers immediately! Argh!
The waiting is agony, but it should only be a couple of days at most.