Biggest measure of success as a writer? When you can use it to help others

image Welcome to this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the cumulative wisdom gained through 16 years as a columnist and, just like the unexpected arrival of a holiday fruitcake, share it with as many people as possible. Including by force if necessary.

It’s a writing feature the National Society of Fruitcake Lovers has called, “…writing tips that will stick in your teeth…”

And what Publishers’ Digest has heralded as, “…insights from a writer who has been endorsed by fruitcake lovers. We think that says it all…”

But enough accolades!

This week’s NWOW is going to be different than any I’ve done before. That’s because it’s stems from an idea I got from a reader named Sandy Wagoner. For those of you who remember my last big idea, the fact that this one came from someone else is already a step in the right direction.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or simply follow me around on a regulars basis (you know who you are), then you know I’m organizing a book signing to raise funds for Siuslaw Outreach Services (SOS), which assists families in need and offers shelter for abused women and children. As a child who witnessed — and was the victim of — an abusive father, I’d like nothing better than to help every family in-need and victim of abuse.

But I’ve come to accept the fact I’m not Oprah Winfrey (Thanks to years of therapy). So I’m doing what I can to help the people who need it most in my little corner of the world. It’s not much in the big scheme of things; but to these families, getting a little help means everything. After talking with my publisher at Port Hole Publications, they agreed to provide copies at half price, meaning for every book sold during the book signing on Dec. 20, I can donate my portion of $10 to SOS. The folks at my local Fred Meyer have agreed to host the event. They’re even letting me have it across from the book aisle, in the furniture section’s livingroom display so people can hang out and visit. Although I’ve already been told to keep my feet off the couch.

Being a member of the media has its privileges. Oh, and whining works, too...
Being a member of the media has its privileges. Oh, and whining works, too…

Because you are thoughtful people, I know many of you are thinking: What’s the deal with Ned’s hair?

But some of you might be thinking, I wish I could make his book signing! But spending $800 on a plane ticket seems a bit extreme for a $20 book, even if half of it is going to charity. And what’s the deal with his HAIR?

That’s where Sandy’s idea comes in. Like many of you, she can’t make the book signing either because, as she put it, “your hair scares me.” She then asked if she could send a check for $20 in advance of the book signing, allowing her to contribute to the fundraiser and just get her signed copy in the mail.

Which got me thinking… What if I used less hair gel?

It also gave me an idea which, I have to admit, I was a little uncomfortable with at first. And just to clarify, we’re moving on from my hair at this point. Here’s my thought: What if I expanded on Sandy’s idea and invited anyone who wanted to participate in the fundraiser to send a check and their mailing address to me by Dec. 20? I could still donate half of it to SOS, and sign each book before sending it out! It would be just like being here, except without the $800 plane fare!

Here’s the uncomfortable part: Asking people to trust me with their money. In this age of scams and schemes, I completely understand anyone’s hesitation when it comes to sending someone money for something. Believe me, I thought long and hard before sending $500 to an aunt I didn’t even know I had in Zimbabwe who, apparently, is trying to escape the country in order to save the prince.

OK, seriously. I’m funny about my money and you should be, too. Which is why, regardless of the response this idea gets, it won’t be a flop in my mind. The fact that I’m fortunate enough to even have the opportunity to pursue an idea like this is something for which I’m very appreciative.

Being a published author with a readership is a real honor; being able to do something for others because of it is an even bigger one.

Thank you for that.

Ned Hickson
c/o Siuslaw News
148 Maple Street
Florence, Ore 97439


(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, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

38 thoughts on “Biggest measure of success as a writer? When you can use it to help others”

  1. You’re awesome, Ned. I want your book anyway, sir. So if you DO decide to swindle anyone, I really hope it’s me.

    Also, you’ll have my mailing address so then you can send those sweet socks you promised.

    At least I’m pretty sure it was socks, and not Hickson unmentionables…

    Seriously. Thank you for doing good and thank you for letting us be a small part of it.

    1. That’s really thoughtful of you, Susan — and not entirely unexpected, considering the source. 😉 Thank you!

      I’m actually thinking about having some fun bookmarks made up that I can send to people who just want to contribute something without getting the book. Not that I can blame them… lol!

        1. I remember 😉 I think you were my first official “foreign” shipment of HATSOL. Not counting Texas.

          And behalf of SOS, thank you for your support, Susan 😉

  2. What a fabulous idea! I will hotfoot it to the Post Office on Monday, get a US money order, and send it to you from Australia. (I’ll include some $$ for postage too ‘cos it will probably cost more than the price of the book.) Anyone who posts pictures of himself sporting that hairstyle has to be trustworthy. 🙂

    Congratulations on breaking the cycle of domestic violence. You are a great role model and show that it is possible to rise above familial abuse. I know first hand the bravery needed to overcome any kind of abuse and so I ‘tips me lid’ to you.

    My very best wishes for the venture and hope you get thousands of people rushing to your store-lounge room to buy the book.

    1. Hey, Tez!

      Thanks so much for the kind words, and for your support. It means a lot to me to be able to help others in this situation, and having folks like you be a part of it makes it even more special.

      Thanks for the ‘tip of the lid’ and will be more than happy to get a copy your way 😉

      — Ned

  3. I’m in! As soon as I get home from vacation.
    What a fantastic cause and not surprising that it’s you and your kind soul behind this. AND…I get to use a phrase I have always wanted to use: The check is in the mail!

  4. My reading skills may not be up to snuff (I just returned from the dentist…’nuff said), but by chance do you use paypal? If so, could you post the info? I’m already the proud owner of your book but, having had the incredible good fortune of emerging unscathed from my own brush with abuse, I would very much like to support this cause. And thank you for doing this.

    1. Karen, the closest thing I have to paypal is the guy down the street who delivers my pastrami sandwich on Fridays.

      However, you can order it directly from and write “SOS” in the comment box, it will be flagged for dontation. Also, if you’d like, I can sign it for someone before it goes out.

      Either way, I am so glad to hear you not only emerged “unscathed,” but with your wonderful sense of humor fully intact 😉

      1. Excellent news. An ex-boyfriend has a birthday coming up and this will be just the thing. (I know you’re thinking you’ve just stumbled onto a brilliant marketing campaign–“HATSOL is the perfect gift for someone you liked, until you actually got to know them –ex-boyfriends, congresspeople, in-laws…” –but before you start printing flyers, I should note that I still like this guy, and he has an outstanding sense of humor. He’ll love your book!

  5. I love what you’re doing. Count me in! I’d drive on down, but I just Google Mapped it, and at just over a 6 1/2 hr. drive, I think this time I’ll take advantage of this wonderful thing called US Mail.

    I hope when you buy things on Amazon you go into Amazon Smile and have selected SOS to receive donations from each of your purchases. I have just changed my charity to SOS. So now, when I buy my rice crackers, tea, and music from Amazon Smile, SOS will get a few pennies.

  6. Nice work. Look at you. All helpful and whatnot. It’s enough to restore my faith in mankind.

    Actually, you hair has crossed my mind once or twice.

    True story: I’m a small-time letterpress printer. A couple years ago I did a chapbook for charity. Bruce Springsteen gave me permission to reprint the lyrics to ‘Thunder Road’ and Nick Hornby gave me permission to reprint his essay on that song. I married them together in one book. They both said that all proceeds and production costs had to be donated. In the end, I sat there with $16,000 thinking, “Holy shit. I can’t believe people sent me all this money.” I thought this is where a man’s honesty and intent is tested. No worries. I passed with flying colors. [This time. ;)]

    1. Wow! That sounds like a very cool project — and it doesn’t surprise me your integrity remained intact 😉

      Thanks for giving back like that, and for your kind words.
      Although I’m still not sure where you stand on the subject of my hair…

  7. Ok Mr Ned…. I already bought a book! So did 1/2 of the proceeds from my book go to SOS? I mean it was last week and you did sign it! (Tanks btw) 🙂 If not, can I donate another way?

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