Our “author conversation” today is with Barbara (Bobbi) Florio Graham, author of Mewsings/Musings, and managing editor of Prose to Go
We’ll start with Mewsings/Musings, a “flip” book containing award-winning humor by Barbara Florio Graham back to back with her celebrity cat, Simon Teakettle (a frequent contributor to CBC radio in Canada as well as CATS Magazine). The book contains 20 pieces on each side, a total of 80 pages with a laminated color cover and a removable poster. Mewsings/Musings won a Certificate of Excellence in the international Cat Writers’ Association contest.
Writers-Editors Network: Bobbi, what inspired you to write this book?
Barbara Florio Graham: My cat had become very famous, was a regular on various CBC radio network programs, wrote a column for our local newspaper and for a children’s magazine, and appeared in a cat calendar. He also contributed several pieces to CATS Magazine, and I felt it was time to combine those pieces and his contributions to the CBC into a book. I felt it was a good opportunity to also collect my award-winning humor as well, to create a back-to-back “flip” book.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you plan on writing more books like this with Terzo?
Barbara Florio Graham: Probably. He has a popular blog, and I continue to write humor, so it would be easy to compile a second volume.
Writers-Editors Network: Did you outline this book first? Or just start writing?
Barbara Florio Graham: I never outline humor. The idea comes to me and the words just flow.
Writers-Editors Network: What was your favorite piece to write and why?
Barbara Florio Graham: My favorite piece in this book is Simon Teakettle’s “Grow Your Own Fur Coat,” where he makes fun of humans and their washing/dressing rituals. It’s a favorite to read aloud, to all ages.
Writers-Editors Network: Was it a challenge to bring this book to publication?
Barbara Florio Graham: I decided to self-publish, and was surprised at how easily the process came together. A friend who handles design and production in her full-time job offered to be my Production Manager, and we went to a local printer we both knew and trusted. It turned out to be a lot of fun, with no major glitches along the way.
Writers-Editors Network: Why is this an ideal gift book?
Barbara Florio Graham: Because it’s fun for all ages, whether or not you’re a cat-lover. Unlike so many humor books, it contains a lot of text, with no large illustrations, only a few small photos. So it’s not a book the recipient will read quickly and never pick up again.
Now on to your other book . . .
Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List edited by Irene Davis, Fred Desjardins and Barbara Florio-Graham. This collection of 34 first-person stories comes from 18 professional writers in 14 locations across Canada, in five sections: Misadventures, Rear-View Mirror, What in the World, Love & Loss, and Exit Laughing. This “private list” is the one Bobbi Graham started four years ago. Prose to Go has received excellent reviews, and two of the stories won humor awards soon after publication. Bridgeross is a mid-size publisher in southern Ontario that has published more than a dozen titles in the mental health field, as well as humor, mysteries, and children’s books.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the inspiration for this book?
Barbara Florio Graham: Members of this list often shared personal experiences, and several suggested that we should collect these into a book. Since the list belongs to me, I recruited two other editors and handled the “nuts and bolts” of finding a publisher and working on the format. I can say that the group is eager to produce a sequel.
Writers-Editors Network: How did this book get put together?
Barbara Florio Graham: The three editors, working entirely via email because we live in different cities, developed the sections early on, as we saw what kind of material was being submitted. Then we rearranged pieces as needed.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Barbara Florio Graham: Actually, the three editors got along so well that things moved really quickly. It helped that all the contributors are professional writers who weren’t upset when a piece was rejected, or if we asked for minor revisions. The hardest part was balancing the five sections, and then ensuring that the book was perfect. There was a lot of back and forth with the publisher as we saw proofs.
Writers-Editors Network: Speaking of the publisher, how did you persuade a publisher to take a chance on this book?
Barbara Florio Graham: We had the advantage of knowing Marvin Ross personally. He had either met or worked with several of us before, and had just published a humor book, My Life and Other Lies, by one of our contributors. We modeled our book after that one.
How she writes …
Writers-Editors Network: Bobbi, where is your favorite place to write books?
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Barbara Florio Graham: Not really. I write all the time, in my head, and keep pens and paper everywhere, so I can capture any random thought as it occurs.
Writers-Editors Network: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Barbara Florio Graham: I was first published at the age of nine, but discovered school notebooks from even earlier that had the beginnings of stories in the back pages. I don’t think I ever considered another occupation.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Barbara Florio Graham: I love to read, to go to the theatre, to listen to music (and attend concerts), and to spend time with friends. I live alone, but belong to two groups who meet for dinner once a month, and several others who meet every couple of months. I also love working on my website (www.SimonTeakettle.com).
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Barbara Florio Graham: Write something every day, and if you encounter a block (whether that’s a bit of missing information or not being able to write the next sentence), put that piece aside and work on something else. Always have several projects on the go at once, so you can work on the one you’re most excited about.