The night my rump was roasted — a hindsight retrospective

Ellen and her friends Tweeting at my book signing.

Ellen and her friends Tweeting at my book signing.

Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth On Writing, a weekly feature that Publisher’s Weekly has called:

A complete…time.
And
“(Not a)…waste…

Or as The Master of Horror® Stephen King calls it, “My lawyer’s first stop every morning.”

But enough with the accolades! For those who might be visiting for the first time, I’d like to welcome you! I’d also like a note from your mother explaining where you’ve been. Please have it by next Friday. Or like my kids, just wait, knowing I’ll probably have forgotten by then. Although I do eventually remember who they are.

Now that we’ve gotten the particulars out of the way, I should explain that my NWOW is when I share writing tips and insights gained through 15 years as a newspaper columnist. Past subjects have included How to Avoid Yourself (When Writing in the First-person), Get Out of Your Comfort Zone (Try Writing Naked), and Coming Out to the Ones You Love (About Your Alternative Writing Lifestyle)

This week is going to be a little different, however. I thought since most of you were unable to attend my roast/book-signing last Friday because of a variety of sketchy reasons, such as “I live in South Africa,” or “How did you get past my SPAM filter?” I would give you a recap of the evening from an author’s perspective. This is as opposed to my first idea, which was to offer it from the perspective of artichoke dip.

As I mentioned in my NPR interview about the roast, the idea was to avoid a typical book signing, where I’d have to smoke a pipe and wear a tweed jacket with patches on the sleeves. Instead, by holding a roast, the idea was to have fun by letting family, friends, co-workers, readers and people looking for a restroom put me in the hot seat. Word spread quickly thanks to NPR, and the little Florence Playhouse filled up. The bad news was that, once again, Ellen and her friends showed up for a quick selfie while things were being set up…

I don't know about you, I'm getting a little tired of these people.

I don’t know about you, I’m getting a little tired of these people and their Tweets.

Because I was asked not to be involved in any of the preparations (they’ve seen my work), I had no idea what to expect when I got there. My publisher at Port Hole Publications, Ellen Traylor, along with my wife and some friends, put the stage together using items they had sneaked out of the house — things that, as Ellen said, “best describe Ned.” For this reason, I’m glad our toilet is bolted down…

The Iron Man case I made for a midnight premier of IM2, some firefighting gear and my tool belt for when I play... uh... never mind.

The Iron Man case I made for a midnight premier of IM2, some firefighting gear and my tool belt for when I play… uh… never mind.

A "hot seat"  I've never seen before, various books that aren't mine and copies of Siuslaw News.

A “hot seat” I’ve never seen before, various books that aren’t mine and copies of Siuslaw News.

One of the first people to arrive was a reader I met named Bill Olsen. According to Bill, he had been out of town but heard something was happening at the Playhouse about my book. “When I got here and saw all the items on stage, and the pictures from your childhood, I feared the worst,” says Bill. “I thought you were dead.” As I comforted an emotional Bill, he admitted that it was a bitter-sweet relief to see me alive. “On one hand, I’m glad you’re not dead. On the other hand, the copy I have of your book would be worth a lot more.”

Devoted reader Bill Olsen says, overall, he's glad I'm not dead.

Devoted reader Bill Olsen says, overall, he’s glad I’m not dead.

At 7 p.m., the roast was about ready to start. The Playhouse was almost full, except for a few seats, which opened up after Ellen Degeneres and her friends were kicked out for scaring an elderly women during a selfie Tweet…

My editor (second from bottom on right) begins to realize this wasn't actually my memorial service.

My editor (second from bottom on right) begins to realize this wasn’t actually my memorial service.

My book publisher, Ellen (not Degeneres), welcomed everyone to the roast and asked that no selfies be taken during the event. She opened the roast by admitting she had never published a book like this before. “The response has been tremendous, which is a little disconcerting…”

My publisher, while happy with sales, isn't entirely comfortable with what the popularity of the book says about society in general.

My publisher, while happy with sales, isn’t entirely comfortable with what the popularity of the book says about society in general.

Right away, audience participation reached a fervor as a woman named Stephanie raised her hand to ask a question that was clearly on the minds of everyone there…

"Did you guys know you're out of artichoke dip?"

“Did you guys know you’re out of artichoke dip?”

Ellen (not Degeneres) then introduced John Bartlett, our newspaper publisher for Siuslaw News, who was the emcee for the evening. “I think of Ned as a son,” he said. “A 47-year-old son who just won’t move out…”

Siuslaw News publisher, John Bartlett, who uses the opportunity as emcee to confront me about my toilet paper consumption.

Siuslaw News publisher, John Bartlett, who uses the opportunity as emcee to confront me about my toilet paper consumption.

Next up was fellow reporter Amy Bartlett, who thanked me for the many pieces of wisdom I have imparted to her over the last few years. “Ned often calls out random insights on deadline day, like ‘Don’t forget the letter ‘L’ when using the word ‘Public…'”

Fellow Siuslaw News reporter Amy Bartlett said the most valuable lesson she has learned from me is "How to write a book on company time."

Fellow Siuslaw News reporter Amy Bartlett said the most valuable lesson she has learned from me is “How to write a book on company time.”

I have to admit having my mother stand up to speak was probably the most nerve-racking moment of the evening for me because her arsenal of my embarrassing moments is vast. She went easy on me, though, explaining how I was once tricked by my stepfather into believing I could make the TV channel change by touching random objects in the living room: door knob, lamp, the dog, etc. Her point? “He was a very sweet, naive child who didn’t understand technological advances like TV remotes…”

Thanks, Mom.

My Mom refrained from some of the more embarrassing stories about me. Because of that, we'll still have coffee together on Thursdays.

My Mom refrained from some of the more embarrassing stories about me. Because of that, we’ll still have coffee together on Thursdays.

They say hair stylists and barbers know the dirt on everyone. Mine is no exception. Wendy Krause explained that her first idea was to show photos of my many different hair styles over the years. “When I Googled him, I didn’t get a lot of hair styles, but I did get things like this…”

My first column photo from 1998. No, that's not John Stossel.

My first column photo from 1998. No, that’s not John Stossel.

Back when I modeled for Harlequin and got to the gym more often.

Back when I modeled for Harlequin and got to the gym more often.

I probably don't need to explain this one. I'm just glad it was flushed.

I probably don’t need to explain this one. I’m just glad it was flushed.

My beautiful wife, Alicia, then stood from the audience and pulled out an enormous binder stuffed full of stories to share. “But after going through it, I realized very little of it was ‘family friendly,'” she explained. “So I’ll have to go with this revised list…”

Stories about me my wife felt comfortable talking about in mixed company. Or at least before a couple of drinks.

Stories about me my wife felt comfortable talking about in mixed company. Or at least before a couple of drinks.

At that point, audience members were invited to come up. The first was a fellow firefighter friend, Sean Connor, who kept his statement short and simple…

"When Ned first walked into the station I said to myself, 'That guy's hair is too good to be a firefighter.'"

“When Ned first walked into the station I said to myself, ‘That guy’s hair is too good to be a firefighter.'”

My station captain, Boa Warren, also had something to say, recalling a time when I first began engineering. “We pulled a line and were ready for water, but my hose was limp. I still blame Ned for that.” I blamed it on performance anxiety…

My fire station captain still can't accept the time his hose went limp when it mattered most.

My fire station captain still can’t accept the time his hose went limp when it mattered most.

These two ladies thought all this talk about firehoses was particularly funny…

So much for family friendly, eh ladies?

So much for family friendly, eh ladies?

Eventually, it was time to read a few selections from my book…

Can you count the number of product placement items in this photo?

Can you count the number of product placement items in this photo?

This led to a standing ovation from my editor, Theresa Baer (left), who was now under the impression this event was a send-off party, meaning I would be away on a book tour for as long as a year…

My editor's enthusiasm abruptly ended once 1) she discovered I would be staying in the newsroom and 2) We were out of artichoke dip again.

My editor’s enthusiasm abruptly ended once 1) she discovered I would be staying in the newsroom and 2) We were out of artichoke dip again.

I then had a chance to mingle with everyone who came, beginning with Stephanie, who told me she didn’t want me to sign her book but would appreciate it if I wrote down the artichoke dip recipe instead…

Maybe I'll do a cookbook next time instead.

Maybe I’ll do a cookbook next time instead.

Wendy also got a signed copy and demonstrates why she really should have been in Ellen’s (yes, Degeneres) Tweet..

The only woman besides my wife who messes with my hair.

The only woman besides my wife who I let mess with my hair.

All kidding aside, the evening was great fun — way better than a stuffy book signing. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I hope this will at least give you a sense of how the evening went. I’d like to thank my publisher, Ellen (not Degeneres) for putting it all together, as well as my lovely wife and the friends who helped. It was an evening I’ll never forget. And if you look at my wife in this photo, you’ll have an idea of why the rest of the evening was a little hard to remember…

Yes, my children, I hope you are lucky enough to marry someone who brings you this much crazy joy.

Yes, my children, I hope you are lucky enough to marry someone who brings you this much crazy joy.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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47 thoughts on “The night my rump was roasted — a hindsight retrospective

    • It really was a great time. The “after” party was even better. At least that’s what I heard. I don’t really remember much about it… 😉

      And as for those two ladies, I didn’t turn my back on them for a second!

  1. Sounds wonderful Ned.
    Two interesting side notes:
    1. I used to read a lot of Ellen Gunderson-Traylor’s books. I loved her way of bringing bible characters to life.
    2. We had a newspaper editor here in my town who’s name was John Bartlett.
    There you go – the whole three degrees of separation and all that 😉

  2. Great roast Ned! Thanks for doing this post for those of us who were unable to attend – I know, it’s only 3,000 miles but the weather was bad in between (and there were monsters and gargoyles and all matter of beasts laying in wait in the badlands!). I must say, you truly do have that professorial air that would look good with a pipe and tweed. I think it must be the hair and the manicure. Your Mom looks great – she seems young and has less grey hair than you do. It is wonderful to put faces to all the names you’ve dropped before (we were wondering if maybe they were all invisible “friends” of yours). Kudos to Alicia and all the organizers that made your special evening possible!

    • Thanks, Paul! It really was a fun evening. As I sat there I felt like George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” feeling so lucky to have all those people in my life. My Mom is only 17 years older than me, so we speak the same language when it comes to life, humor and everything in between. Although I am a tad bit resentful that I have more grey than her. Then again, I don’t have to deal with that whole menopause thing. So I guess that makes us even… 😉

  3. What’s with all the beards? Does no one grow a ‘proper’ beard out there? Or are you just all soooo cool that’s the only style to have? (You’d all fit in well in Croatia, every man has ‘that’ beard).

    Sorry, meant to start off saying congrats, looks like it was a fun evening but I got sidetracked by the beards…

    • LOL! It’s funny that you say that about the beards; I’ve actually been thinking about shaving mine off. Before I move to Croatia, just so I can be unique 😉 Seriously, though — I think it’s coming off for a while again.

      And thanks 😉

  4. This was awesome! Shame about the artichoke dip and Ellen Degeneres popping up all the time, but the rest of it was fantastic. I’m sorry I was one of the many people who came up with lame excuses not to be there. Can I ask what it was like to read from your own work in pubic? I imagine I’d be nervous if I ever had to read anything pubicly.

    • Thanks, Beth. It really was a great evening. And thank you so much for ordering the book. The HATSOL surveillance team will be standing by. They may already be in your front yard, actually…

  5. This distracted me from my writing for a bit. I was thinking about getting along better with folks so they could do this for me at my first book signing.

    p.s. your mom is really young

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