Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools, the Writer’s Way

Many years ago, while I was working at Tyndale House Publishers as their senior editor for books, one of my author’s titles released in late March. A few days later, on April Fool’s Day, inspiration hit. Being the serious-minded, somber person that I am, I sent an email. It was addressed to one Mr. James Watkins, whom many of you know is a humor writer, and who loves to tease others–and who has teased me mercilessly from the day we met. The email said something along these lines (alas, I can’t remember the exact wording):

“Hey Jim, it’s Karen. I’ve just received word about something regarding your wonderful new book for teens. I’m SO sorry to have to tell you that an entire signature was printed upside down. Yes, UPSIDE DOWN. Please don’t worry, though. We’ve contacted all the retailers who’ve received the books and asked them to shred them. And we’ll get new books out as soon as we can, though it may not happen for a few weeks. Or months. It all depends on the printing schedules. But sales and marketing have both said they don’t expect the book to sell many copies, so we don’t think the impact will be too damaging. Again, I’m just so sorry.”

As you can imagine, Jim called me, frantic, sputtering—at both the situation and the opinion from sales and marketing. I listened for a few minutes, then said, “Jim.”

“And furthermore, how can you be so calm—?”

“Jim.”

“I just…I…”

“Jim!”

“What?”

“April Fool’s!”

Stunned silence followed my words…and then uproarious laughter. From Jim. From me. It was–dare I say it?–perfection.

Well, a few days later, I received a call from the Tyndale operator.

Operator: “Karen, I have a call on hold for you.”

Me: “Okay, put it through.”

Operator: “It’s a police detective.”

That stopped me. “A what?”

“A policeman.”

Well, that could be cool. Did he want to write a boo–?

“Karen, he says there’s been a suicide…and you’ve been implicated in it somehow.”

Whaaaat?? I can’t even begin to describe the emotions washing over me. I drew in a deep breath. “I guess you’d better put him through.”

A man’s voice, all official business, barked at me. “Karen Ball?”

“Yes.”

“This is detective Able Wilson from Noble County, Indiana. We have an apparent suicide here.”

My pulse was hitting triple time. I was seeing myself in an orange jumpsuit. Talking to my family from behind a thick plexiglass wall. “Yes?”

“Apparently he’s a writer. He was found early this morning, deceased, and in his hand he was clutching an email from you about a book—”

Sudden understanding—and soul-deep relief—slammed into me. “Jim Watkins! Is this you?”

The deep laughter on the other end told me I had–in Jim’s inimitable “I will never be outdone” style–been had. Royally.

So, in honor of April Fool’s Day, I just want to say to dear ol’ Jim…

I bow to the master. Oh, and one more thing:

Watch your back. Some day, I’m gonna get even.

Now all of you, get out there and have some fun!