Posts Tagged ‘writers’

I keep forgetting Oprah Winfrey’s talk show is going off the air in late May. It’s kind of hard to grasp the fact that this ubiquitous cultural icon will end her twenty-five year reign as talk show queen. But she’s leaving and, as observed in a recent New  York Times article, her departure will crush the dreams of hundreds of writers, entrepreneurs and those with inspirational stories.

Being on Oprah is a game-changer, no doubt about it. Ask any writer what happens when Oprah recommends a book on her show or in her glossy and immensely popular magazine. Sales shoot through the roof, advances materialize, phones ring off the hook…you get the picture. Even being scolded by Oprah doesn’t hurt a career; James Frey rebounded nicely from the dressing down she administered for writing a less than truthful memoir, A Million Little Pieces, in 2006. Of course, she later apologized on her show. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

It’s not just writers who hit the jackpot after Oprah. Cooks, decorators, financial advisors, life coaches, and doctors have all gone onto bigger things. Catch Oprah’s eye and your options multiply like magic.  Life is good when you’re a FOO (Friend of Oprah).

The Times article quoted one cultural observer as noting that Oprah is to writers and entrepreneurial types as Johnny Carson used to be to performers. That’s true. As a kid and well through my mid-thirties, I aspired to and then pursued a career in music. I wanted to be on Carson. I didn’t care much about performing; my goal was to be invited to sit by Johnny’s desk, where I’d trade witty banter with him and with Ed McMahon or whoever was sitting on the couch with me. Hey, we all have our dreams.

Johnny Carson retired, and I got out of music to settle down with more realistic expectations; that is, until my book was published. “Maybe you can get on Oprah,” suggested my cousin. “Boy, a spot on Oprah’s show would be great, ” commented my close pal. “Are you going to approach Oprah’s people?” asked my writing partner. I thought back to my work on the section in my book on moral authority and celebrity; I’d used Oprah as my principal example. Had I been too harsh on her?  Did I present a fair and balanced explanation of her place in popular culture? Had I given offense? Would she forgive me?

I began to imagine her reading my slender book, lingering over the chapter in which she was featured, smiling at the tactful way I finessed our disagreement about the merits of The Secret, nodding when she came to my approving comments about her generosity. I pictured myself sitting back in the comfortable-looking armchair she uses for guests on her show as she leaned forward, engaging me earnestly on some point I made about certainty. I wanted her approval, I wanted her blessing; I wanted to be on Oprah.

I sent a copy of the book, along with a heartfelt letter, to her producer. I haven’t heard anything back yet. But I’ve got six months. Anyway, there’s always “Dancing with the Stars.”

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One of the more interesting articles I ran across in yesterday’s paper concerned blogging(although I’m trying to get my news the new-fashioned way, via the Internet, the better to connect with my young friends and colleagues, I still like to peruse the paper with a cup of coffee in hand; call me old-fashioned). Anyway, the gist of the story was that blogging, which pays little and requires long hours in front of a computer, is so stressful you could die – literally. As was noted, two well-known bloggers, one sixty and the other fifty, had recently dropped dead and another had suffered a massive heart attack. Apparently, even those who manage to make a decent living feel chained to their stations, much like the assembly lines of ancient times.


Clearly there are certain factors at work: too little exercise, too little sleep, and probably a diet of whatever-you-can-grab, which is to say junk food. We all know that sitting or standing in one place for any length of time is bad for you but we all forget when parked in front of our computers to stand up or look up or stretch or even blink. Throw in the pressure of delivering content on a twenty-seven basis and it’s a wonder more people don’t drop on the spot.


I write, sometimes for pay and sometimes not. Like everyone else, I’m confronted with deadlines. But I’m at the point where, no matter how much I enjoy doing what I’m doing, I’m still aware that life is about – well, living. That means friendship and fun and exercise and sun and time with my dog as well as my beloved blog. So if on occasion I miss a few days posting, never fear. I’ve just pried my hands off the keyboard, closed up the basement office and headed upstairs for a cup of coffee and some time with the newspaper.


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