The Story of my Mother’s Breast Cancer Battle. And the True Birth of this Blog– Confession Time Starts (Please Read Opening– Important)

Told through a son’s eyes. Please, if you like this, and or think this site has some interesting/quality reads on it, please share. I’m going to just drop this whole professional/portfolio writer-looking-for-work thing soon and begin telling the truth, ugly though it may be. “Soon to be veteran career strategist!” my ass. I doubt I’d make it through certification, so I’ll delete that soon.

One thing is that I may not have long to live, due to a tragic series of events that currently has me stuck in Colombia. I’m not ready to share all of that yet. But here is one thing: my name is Jason Edward Harrington.You can search my Wikipedia page for more back story. I got a beautiful book deal with a major publisher in 2014, and I abandoned it when I realized I couldn’t write an autobiography at that age of 38. It’s a very, very long story, one that is currently put down into a new autobiography that now sits at 280 pages or so– the story of how I failed to write a conctractually obligated story. That’s why my name is HowiAbandoned: the name of my first and likely final book is “How I Abandoned a Book Deal, Ran to South America, Partied Away the Advance. And How You Can Do it Too!”

I’ve essentially been a man on the run for eight years now. I’m not ready to share the full, tragic, downward spiral that has been my life, just yet. But here is a very personal story that similarly reaches down into the depths of sadness and despair that the man behind this blog is truly experiencing every morning, day, and night. I only wanted to be a writer when I grew up, when I was a bright eyed, curly haired little brown boy. I hope you’ll help me reach readers, after all my failures.



October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it had always passed, I must confess, with little awareness on my part. I was aware of an abundance of pink ribbons—taped to front doors, printed on bumper stickers, tied around bike handlebars, pinned to people’s lapels. When, from my back porch, I would notice in the distant Chicago skyline the top of the John Hancock building bathed in pink light, I would think to myself, “It must be Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” with little perspective on the matter; with little sense of cause, or effect: the grass is green, the sky is blue, the top of the John Hancock building is pink. There was very little difference amongst these things for me, until the sky came falling down.

“I have breast cancer.”

My mother’s voice quavers before the end of the sentence, and I’m sure she’s been repeating the words to herself like a mantra for at least one full hour before dialing my number; steeling herself to make that sentence— to do it without betraying any fear in her voice— but she gets to that last word, and her voice goes tremolo. She gets to that last word, and I hold the phone away from me— I don’t drop it, it’s not quite like the movies. I just hold it away from me, and stare at it hard, sitting on the bus, at some stop— maybe mine, maybe not— glaring at the phone and thinking: I am going to destroy this black magical device currently recreating my mother’s distant, frightened voice— “Hello? Hello? Jason?”—I am going to send this harbinger of bad news into oblivion, maybe launch it, launch it into the…I look out the bus window: the grass is green, the top of the John Hancock building is pink, the sky is— I see the sky is blue, has the nerve to be blue, and finally I bring the phone to my ear.

“This is terrible” are the three words that I manage to gather. And I’m dimly aware of one thing, the first in a series: that I’ve just succeeded in stating the painfully obvious. Indeed, in the weeks since my mother’s diagnosis, I’ve become keenly aware of a few things.


I’ve become aware that full grown adults can become reduced to children when finding their loved ones caught in the path of cancer. Right after hanging up with Mom, I called my sister.

“Mom has cancer,” I told her, walking punch-drunk laps around my local liquor store’s aisles.

“Does not,” my 25 year old sister wittily retorts.

“Yes, she does,” I counter.

“No, she doesn’t,” she replies, in a voice at first only vaguely familiar, but then very familiar for a very obvious reason: it’s the voice of my sister, age 8, with that same soft tone of shyness, that same timidity of a little girl refuting, from beneath bed covers, the truth behind a bedtime ghost story.

 “Heather. Bilateral mastectomy in one week. Chemo after that, then radiation. She has cancer, Heather.”

 “Fine,” she surrenders, old enough to rent a car again.

“I’m going to deal with this, and you’re going to deal with this, too. You are not going to tear yourself down. And you are not going to drink your way through this.”

At that moment, somehow, it became real thing, acknowledged and confirmed by a second party, my sister, the person to whom I’d always been the closest. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas was playing over the store’s speakers at the moment when my mother‘s cancer became real, and I thought to myself, “just in time for Christmas.”


I’ve become aware that alcohol is a very unwise crutch to lean upon when dealing with a thing as serious as…well, this. This was a momentous realization to come to for a habitual alcohol and drug user. The first thing I did after winning the third grade debate with my sister was to settle on a cheap bottle of vodka and head for the liquor store’s counter. I had more than a few that night, more than usual, and I had more than a few the next few nights after that. Historically, whenever I’ve come up against something truly daunting in my life, I’ve drowned it in glass and aluminum containers. After the abrupt end of a five year relationship with an ex-girlfriend of mine, I drank no less than a twelve pack of beer a night, every night, for 2 years straight. Rows of beer cans lined up like refrigerated mortar rounds, the only way I’d ever known how to wage war against pain. The night before my mother’s bilateral mastectomy, just one week after the initial diagnosis, I came to the decision that I was going to face my mother’s cancer sober. There was no trip to see the man behind the liquor store counter that night, no anxiety meds, no sleeping pills, none of that: just me, a dreary mid- November day, and the terrifying, inescapable reality of what my mother and I were up against.

I sunk in my bed as soon as the sun went down, still hung over from the night before, feeling that suffocation which comes with problems that reach much deeper than an inconvenience; those problems that cannot be solved with a mere rearrangement of the trivial pieces of one of life’s day-to-day puzzles. Cancer is not a bill that you can pay. It is not a coworker you can ignore. It is not a stain that can be dry cleaned, or a garment that can be discarded. You close your eyes and wish you could free yourself from your Self; escape what it is you’re up against; like a child, squeeze your eyes shut and take the whole world with them— blink reality out, put everything on pause. Like all such things in life, there is often a moment in the morning when you first wake up, and for an instant, are free of some recently-installed black fact of your reality; the rude monster still lodged in the night before—out of sight, out of mind— but then, just as fast, the monster awakens, catches up to you, and you remember, with a sinking stomach, that it’s still there.

Lying there in bed, hung over and pining for a drink, I felt as though my head were being uncorked; as though something inside of me was being unthawed. Not the reality, but the implications of the reality, hit me that night— without alcohol as anesthesia, the pain of the implications was infinitely more profound. I could, sooner than later, find myself without a mother. Lying there in bed, I struggled not to let any of the hundreds of beautiful moments I’d shared with my mother be tainted by slow motion replay and a sappy movie score.

Lying there in bed, for the first time in a long time, I really cried.


I have become aware how painful, on many levels, it is for a woman to lose her breasts. My mother is a sweet woman of 65 years, mother of four, her eyes bad and her knees long ago gone out, even before the operation she was a woman who more than once had become mired in a sofa, or a recliner, and having done so, would ask for a hand only as a last resort.

“I’m getting old. Falling apart,” she would explain, apologetically, a little ashamed.

Walking into her hospital room for the first time, I saw what I knew I would see, what I’d dreaded to see: my mother, no longer just falling apart, but now ripped apart, lying in a bed that, to a son, might as well have been a butcher’s table. She’d been optimistic before the operation, as usual, even if only in appearance: always the doting mother, not wanting to be a bother, or a worry.

“I don’t need these things anymore, anyway,” she’d joked before the operation.

Now she was bleary-eyed, pale, shrouded in bandages. The optimism was gone. Now there was just a placid confusion in her eyes, drug-induced, most of it. Her voice barely there, trying to fight the morphine in order not to fall asleep, she mostly listened while I talked. I talked about going home, about having a drink when this was all over, about how it would be over, soon— we would beat cancer. I didn’t fully believe those words. I couldn’t believe them, seeing her like that. But I said them anyway. And it was only when she noticed my gaze sink furtively down to her chest, to the two bandaged pouches of purple and red flesh, that she seemed to awaken from her stupor.

“They’re gone,” was all she said.

She cupped her hand over her mouth then, and it seemed to me that she was, curiously, trying to stifle the pronouncement already made. But then, for the first time in a long time, it was my mother who was crying, sobbing, behind the cup of her hand.

“They served you well, Mom,” was all I could think to say, idiotically, as though I were a general addressing the mother of two fallen war heroes.

“They fed all four of us,” I continued, desperately scrambling to provide both solace as well as, I suppose, an impassioned case for a Purple Heart.

“Just you,” she corrected me, wiping at her eyes. Until then, I’d never known that I was the only one of my three brothers and sisters who had been breastfed. It seemed fitting right then, perhaps on some Freudian level, that I was the kid who seemed to be taking this all the hardest.


I have become aware that hospitals only do so much, and doctors only know so much. When my mother found the nickel-sized lump on her breast, she thought it was nothing; it felt like a marshmallow, soft, not hard like she’d always assumed a tumor would feel. But given the history of cancer in our family, she went to her doctor, who referred her to another doctor, who referred her to a general surgeon, who assured her that there was a 99 percent chance that the lump was just a “step off” from the breast tissue to the chest wall. “Just a ridge,” as the general surgeon called it, “nothing at all.” Looking at my mother lying in her hospital bed, two breasts and 14 lymph nodes gone (lymph nodes to which three the cancer had already spread) it seemed to me that a 1 percent chance had gone a long way. My mother, my sister and I were waiting for the nurse who had promised to bring a wheelchair right away— 45 minutes before. I’ve discovered that there are a lot of waiting and false assurances when it comes to hospitals— or at least the one my mother was in. Being that my mother is of the passive temperament, and I the same, we were lucky to have my sister on our side, all five foot eight fiery inches of her. Not much more than 24 hours after her surgery, the hospital was trying to send my mother home. My mother wasn’t ready to go home; she hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet, and the nurses at the hospital had done little in the way of providing assistance.

“She ain’t going nowhere until you people start doing your jobs,” my sister coolly informed the staff.

After that, they were a little more attentive. Although I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of my sister’s scowl when she finally hunted down that wheelchair herself.


There are the delicate inquiries of my younger nieces, calling to ask how Grandma is doing, and then shyly moving on to The Question- the fear in their voices thinly veiled— asking about the results of the genetic testing. “Are we all fated for cancer?” is the underlying question the family quietly asks, not wanting to appear selfish for asking it, but asking it nonetheless.

There is the reality of the inevitable parent-child role reversal having finally arrived, like a change of drivers in a speeding car. One of the first nights home with my mother, she noted that it was about dinner time. We sat there for a few awkward moments, like two actors in a play who had forgotten their lines. But then, I remembered my new role.

“Hope you don’t mind chicken and macaroni and cheese,” I said, heading bravely for the kitchen, “because it’s about the only thing I know how to cook.” Another night, I realized that she was fighting her much-needed sleep to stay up late to talk to me. “Time to get your butt to bed,” I told her, half in jest, echoing the same call-to-bedtime she had used on me when I was little.

Being that we live 60 miles apart— myself in Chicago, and she in rural Illinois, where cell phone service is spotty— my mother, for the first time, began teaching herself to text message in the days following her delivery of the bad news. She learned fast and adorably. It seemed as though the texts appearing on my cell phone’s screen were coming from a teenage girl, instead of from a 65 year old woman. I began receiving “lol”s and “ttyl”s, “omg”s and “gtg”s. And, though I knew there was likely great pain behind them, there even appeared the occasional:



I’ve become aware that before cancer I had not been as close to my mother as I should have been. Sitting with her while she recovered from surgery, I opened up and talked to my mother— really talked to her—for the first time in a while, not so much like mother and son, but more like two friends. I talked to her about girls, about nights out with the boys, about the things that I feared most. Timidly, I asked her if she was afraid of death, mostly to see where she was, psychologically, but also secretly—and selfishly—to mentally file for myself an example; a point of reference for when the day came that I, too, found myself staring into the swirling inevitability. She’d been through so much up to that point, she told me, that the possibility of her own death stirred within her little fear. She answered so coolly, so matter-of-fact— as though I’d only asked what kind of dressing she preferred on her salad—that I knew she meant it, at least right then. In the face of it all, she stood courageous, and at that moment I was prouder of her than I’d ever been before.


The most miraculous thing I’ve become aware of is this: there is actually some good that can come from cancer. Lying in my bed the night before her surgery, after the tears had dried, a calmness settled over me, and I realized, in one of those beautiful epiphanies, that I didn’t have to be scared. If given the chance, the mind finds ways to cope with misfortune; its ability to find meaning amidst chaos is uncanny. The answer came to me that night, and I immediately texted Mom:

“Guess what I just realized? We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be closer than ever now, as close as we always should have been. We’re okay now, and we’ll always be okay. Nothing can change that, no matter what happens. If anyone is guaranteed to be healthy through this, paradoxically, it’s us. And I’m not scared anymore.”

The first reply came five minutes later:

“You betcha!”

Followed by a second, five minutes later:

“Now get your butt to bed :-)”

Sample: Barbary Lions, as seen in Game of Thrones

Lions appear often in Ancient Greek and Roman art. This may seem strange, as the capitals of these two empires were both located in Europe, with most of their major cities in northern Africa— nowhere near southern Africa, where we now exclusively find free-roaming lions. But did you know that as of very recently, there were free-roaming lions in northern Africa, which are the lions we see in Greek and Roman art? They were called Barbary lions, and they were greatly admired. 

When we think of lions today, we think of flowing, golden manes. But Barbary lions had darker manes, giving them quite a distinct and exotic look from the south African lions. Despite people’s admiration for them (they are found depicted in Greek and Roman murals, were chosen to battle the gladiators at the Roman Colosseum, and once lived at the Tower of London, along with other royal north African families), it was people’s obsession with them that eventually caused their extinction.

It is commonly thought that the last Barbary lion was killed by a French colonial hunter in 1922. However, some people think that small populations of Barbary lions may have survived, hidden from humans in Morocco and Algeria. Two conservationists were able to find reliable accounts of Barbary lion-sightings up to as late as 1956. These conservationists believe that the Barbary lion actually saw its extinction in 1958, during the French-Algerian war, when the forests near this last sighting were destroyed by warfare.

Whatever the date of the last free-roaming Barbary lion’s death, what is for certain is that now, they live only in zoos. So will we ever be able to take a safari in Casablanca, Morocco, and see the old Barbary lions roaming freely? Possibly, although it will take a lot of work. The first problem would be the need to make sure a conservation area was populated with enough prey animals for the Barbary lions to eat, such as gazelles and Barbary sheep, which are already too close to extinction. With enough effort, it could happen. We owe it to them, since it was humans who took them out of the wild.

By the Way: I’m Been Living in Colombia for 6 of the past 8 years

Right now I live in Medellin. the home of Pablo Escobar. Not only do I live in the same city as El Padrino did, I live in the same neighborhood he lived in most of his life: Castilla. I live in the ghetto. Even the majority of people from this city refuse to come to my house, due to the reputation of my neighborhood. But I’m a very friendly guy who loves to make people laugh any way I can, so the people of this hood have taken me in as one of their own. I am the only English speaker within a 20 mile radius, mas o menos.

I haven’t seen much of the legendary violence of this neighborhood, save for one shooting I witnessed literally directly in front of my building in which a young man was hit in the chest five times by a man with a revolver. Drive-by. The victim lay there, blood pooling on his chest, as the police took their sweet time taping off the crime scene. And another time I heard what must have been a shotgun go off just a few blocks away, followed by dozens of cops. I’m not going into many details about the utter insanity that has been the past decade or so of my life: to start, you can read my Wikipedia page to get an idea. The two-part autobiography I’m working on tells the rest. But I figured I should make this clear, because in the future I might make some references– like tomorrow’s post, for instance– that will take place in Colombia, and I wanted to make it clear. Also, there will be some pictures coming of my neighborhood, soon.

Well I found a picture of me holding a stack of big Colombian bills like some kind of playa. I need to get beautiful pics on here

Editing Sample

So with this, we needed to get this short informative article in at a tight 150 words or less. The writer first handed in 500 to give you an idea, and it didn’t feel bloated at all. The client wanted these articles very short. I ended up just cutting this way down and rewriting it to get it to the exact word count.



In Russia, a system called “district heating” is used to heat both the radiators and water in homes. With this system, every neighborhood has its own power plant. A system of underground pipes brings heat to neighborhoods. This system has a couple good things about it. For one, there is no chance people will lose heat in the winter due to reasons such as failing to pay their bills. Second, it is cheap for residents.
     However, there is one big disadvantage. The systems are old, and some have not been updated often. In some plants nearly half of the energy produced is wasted, experts say. Also, a two-week repair job is needed every year. During this period, in summer, no hot water is available in any of the homes being serviced. This means cold showers for all. Now, however, the government is thinking about starting new programs to help reconstruction.

Sample: Academic Conference Parody

Published on McSweeney’s again. I’m sorry, but this time I didn’t spend half an hour hand-deleting all the advertisements. They’re not too invasive. This is the sequel to “Do You Like Me? Click Yes or No,” with Bobby a precocious high school senior now. Just to show I can also take on the button-up academic voice.




Theme: To Pass Her a Note, or to Digitally Approach Her? That is the Question.
Date: Today after school.
Venue: My house.
Keynote speakers: Whoever can give me decent advice.

The life and times of Samantha first became a subject of romantic studies during Ms. Connor’s third period AP English class, when a smile from Samantha caught critical attention. Thus began a search for previously overlooked encouraging signals produced by Samantha, resulting in a corpus of mentally cataloged gestures now considered canonical.Natasha Marin follows-up her acclaimed Black Imagination with a brilliant new collection of sharply-rendered, breathtaking reflections from more than two dozen Black voices.

I cordially invite all friends and experts in the study of romantic letters to join me after school for the first annual ASRL conference. This year’s theme: Should I just tweet at Samantha like all the other guys, hinting that we should chill one day? Should I ask for her cell number and slowly take it from there with old-fashioned texts (à la my fifth grade Alice debacle)? Or should I take the plunge and give Samantha an actual note made of paper to really let her know that I like her like her?

I can’t mess this one up.


ASRL members and other romantic studies professionals are invited to think about persuasive methods by which to make Samantha my girlfriend. This problem has gained prominence since the beginning of the school year, as we are now seniors and will soon be going away to college— Samantha will be lost forever if I don’t make a move.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” Wordsworth once wrote (as Ms. Connor told us this morning). But how should the performative utterance be considered vis-à-vis Samantha? Should I actually fill a real piece of paper with my heart’s breathings, physically pass it to Samantha, and risk looking like a complete weirdo? Dating praxis suggests that sappy-ass gestures should be avoided in the early stages of relationships, but isn’t Samantha the kind of girl who would consider a handwritten note to be sweet? Since we sit next to each other in AP English, wouldn’t a letter be thematically conducive to jocular Ask Out models? Do I dare go so far as to quote Keats in the letter, or maybe even try to write her a poem myself? Do you think my poem would be shitty and fatally lame? Tell me the truth.


“A brilliant and entirely necessary volume, featuring our best writers and thinkers from Tommy Orange to R.O. Kwon. Every bookshelf should have a volume.”
Gary Shteyngart

Will not be available.


Content and Context: Exactly what should I put in the note? Samantha has beautiful eyes, but should I mention that? Would it be better to wait until I’m actually gazing into Samantha’s eyes at some point before I call them beautiful, assuming I ever get to that point?

I’m thinking it would be lame to tell her she has pretty eyes in the note, but fine to do it in-person.

Hesitation in the Samantha Narrative: If the best way to approach the Samantha problem is to allow the narrative to flow conventionally—sans the note—am I then at risk of Dave Pearson moving in and blocking me, since everyone knows he likes her likes her, too?“No one writes like Hopler. And no one ever will.”
Katie Ford

The Role of Women in Samantha Studies: Women are awesome, and Samantha is awesome. Dating theory and Mom suggest that I will meet many other awesome women as I grow older and that I should therefore not stress this Samantha thing too hard, since there are likely “other Samanthas” out there for me. But is the conclusion of this theoretical framework really just a total lie meant to dupe me into a lonely death?


Will not be covered.


Please submit proposals for engaging these questions, as well as for how best to compose the note in the event that I decide to go that route. All proposals should include:

  • A title and an abstract of 450-500 words.
  • Author’s name and contact information.
  • C.V. with relevant girl experience highlighted.
  • A Statement of the Author’s Estimate of how likely it is that Samantha will simply laugh at the note and post a pic of it on Instagram, thereby ruining my entire life.

I look forward to seeing you at today’s conference, and to hearing a wide range of ideas concerning what I should do tomorrow when I see Samantha.“A key barometer of the literary climate.”
The New York Times

— Bobby
President of the ASRL

What Do We Have Posted Here?

Well, before you buy an item, or a service, you prefer to get a sneak peek at what that item/service can really do for you, right? Go around and kick the tires on the car before buying it, as they say. In that spirit, what I’ll be posting is my writing, some unpublished, some already published, to give you an idea of the range of voices and modes I can enter into. I pride myself on being somewhat of a chameleon when it comes to writing: I love taking on different voices and styles as needed, from that of a 19th century adventurer writing in a journal, to a modern day editorial as found in a tech journal, to scientific papers, I’ve taken on just about everything, as you’ll be seeing. Let the fun begin, soon!

Sample: Educational Test Material

For a while I worked for an edutech company. My job was to come up with articles for foreign students to read, and then formulate questions to test their comprehension. Only one answer was correct; circle it! Here is a short sample of a test I wrote:

Shipping Container Living

     As far back as the 1950s, people found ways to use shipping containers— steel boxes used to transport items on ships— as homes. Lately, however, shipping container homes are gaining popularity. This is because movements that promote living with fewer necessities—“minimalist” movements, such as the “tiny home” movement— have risen in popularity. Some people think shipping container living is minimalist housing at its best.
     However, some experts say that container-living is not good minimalist living. There is more steel in a shipping container than necessary for a living structure, because containers are built to survive rough seas on ships. By melting shipping containers to liquid steel, many small houses with wood framing could be built from just a few containers. Also, steel containers need a lot of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) materials for comfortable living. These utilities would leave little overhead space given a container’s low ceiling. (150)

What do “minimalist living movements” aim for?                     

  1. Living in tiny homes like shipping containers.
  2. A more 1950’s-like way of simple life.
  3. Living with resources that are easily transported.
  4. Surviving with less resources wherever possible.*

What challenge does HVAC pose to shipping container life?

  1. A wood frame installation is needed.
  2. Steel interferes with HVAC’s functioning.
  3. It would leave little headroom for people.*
  4. Heating would make the walls too hot.

Sample: Work-Related Autobiographical Humor

So. While working for the U.S. Transportation Security Adninistration I secretly ran a whisteblower blog. It’s a long story. You can read my Wikipedia entry for more. Anyway, this post was re-published in a book along with well known writers, called “Airplane Reading.” So here is the article free– the only place it can still be found for free online.

The Things They Ran Through the X-Ray

Jason Edward Harrington

The Transportation Security Administration often likes to give you a weekly photo-laden rundown of things that passengers have accidentally left in their carry-ons, mostly intended to give the impression that they are successfully combating some sort of existential threat to our way of life, as their 8 billion dollar budget purports to be doing.

Much more interesting, however, are the dirty little day-to-day occurrences that don’t fit into boring, anodyne governmental accounts of life. These are some of the things they ran through the x-ray.

In talking to officers around the country, it became clear to me in my time at TSA that at most large airports there is an inevitable account of a TSA officer who has run him or herself through the x-ray and subsequently been fired for it. It seems this is usually done out of sheer boredom. Some of these stories are substantiated by termination documents (a FOIA request could probably bring them to light for anyone so inclined).

I have been told by several people that a TSA screener looks much like you would expect it to on a TSA x-ray screen: an enormous orange blob with a black blotch where his or her badge is. So always remember that at some point, at least a few of those solemn-faced TSA officers confiscating your peanut butter have appeared as large orange blobs running through the x-ray.

Cats look like orange turkeys on the x-ray screen. How many cats and dogs I’ve seen run through the x-ray I cannot tell you. Cats far outnumber dogs. For some reason people just think it’s alright to run a cat on through the x-ray. Possibly because cats are less vocal about things than dogs.

Babies also occasionally end up on the x-ray belt. I’ve heard occasional rumblings of babies going all the way through the x-ray machine, ending up as a little orange blob on some x-ray operator’s screen, and I’ll tell you, I would not bet against it having happened. But personally, I’ve only seen and heard, first hand, about close calls. These occasional close-call placement of babies on the x-ray belt usually result from highly confused international travelers so thoroughly perplexed and flustered by the neurotic, collectively 9/11-traumatized, pathological nature of American airport security— all the fussing about shoes and commands to get inside full body scanners and esoteric liquid rules that make very little sense throws them off— and so they are understandably unsure of what it is they are supposed to do with their baby. Do they take the baby out of the stroller? Submit it to make sure it’s carrying less than 3.4 ounces of liquids? Submit the baby for a radiation check? Hand the immigration and customs paper work over for the baby? Taste the baby to prove that it’s not poisonous?— American airport security can be pretty baffling for anyone, so imagine what it looks like to someone from rural India. So it’s actually understandable that the occasional baby has been placed on the x-ray belt.

Pilots and flight attendants are exempt from the liquids rule, and let me tell you, dear passengers: the amount of alcohol that airline crews drink is staggering. Bottle after bottle of hard liquor and wine and champagne is revealed on our x-ray screens when flight crew comes through. Most of us have, at one point or another, asked the flight crew, “having some fun tonight, huh?” laughing nervously, and then adding, with a hopeful tone, “afteryou land the plane and are in the hotel room, right?”

Finally, I was intrigued by the irrepressible sexual hunger that compels the passengers of this great nation to bring vibrators, dildos and other assorted sex toys aboard the plane with their carry-on luggage. I know that the people of this great nation are strong and have within themselves the capacity to overcome irrationality. I know that they are capable of not being menaced by “an endless series of political hobgoblins,” as Mencken once said—the hobgoblins that the TSA assures them are the cause of their peanut butter confiscation and privacy compromises—due to the fortitude displayed in their bravely pressing on; exposing themselves to the risk of having me rummage through their bag and pull out a large sex toy.

I recall one time I did a bag check on a man from Detroit, once the auto-making capital of the world. Having been informed by the x-ray operator that there was a bottle of water in the bag, I pulled it out and quickly sensed that something was slightly off. Then, I realized what it was: there was an enormous dildo rubber-banded to it. I then had an epiphany, spreading over me like a sunrise, beautiful and exhilarating: he wanted me to have to deal with the dildo. He did it on purpose. In rubber-banding that dildo to the water bottle he knew we would target, he seemed to say:

“Yes, I have a dildo, federal officer. Even after the horrors of 9/11, I am still alive; full of vitality, love, sex and, later tonight, that large dildo rubber-banded to the water you are about to confiscate from me. That bottle of water, bought with hard-earned American dollars to relinquish my bodily fluids, so as to make me strong and keep the wheels of commerce of this great nation turning. In taking my water, I want you, federal officer, to know that the terrorists have won, and that you are complicit. I want you to see my dildo. To hold it in your hand; to know that I, as well as my fellow passengers and countrymen, are strong and resilient.

That we, the people of this great nation, can, and will, snap back, like that rubber band.”

Sample: List Form. Fact-based humor.

Remember I say remember because it seems their readership has dropped significantly. I used to write for Cracked. A lot. I also edited a few articles for them. Copy and pasting this from their website was so annoying, with two ads per list entry to avoid, that I will only post one other Cracked article in my sample stack here, since it was a column, and few people ever got to write a first person column for Cracked. It also shows a unique skillset. Well here it is: my most popular Cracked article ever, at about 2 million views, and also the most fun to write: The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All Time.

Chances are you’re doing it right now: Slacking. Procrastinating. Reading this Cracked article with your cursor placed on a work-related tab, prepared to click away should your boss walk by. We’ve all done it at some point — but there are a few people who have taken the time-honored tradition of slacking and raised it to levels of epic proportions.

People like …

7 State Employee Skips Work Every Friday … for Almost 20 Years

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The Job Description

Besides having the honor of sharing a name with a failed presidential candidate, Howard Dean was the food services director at the Department of Correctional Services in New York, running a facility that provided meals to 57,000 inmates. For nearly two decades, Dean put your tax money to good use by tirelessly feeding the hell out of those inmates, day in, day out, eight hours a day, four days a week.

Wait, what?

Four days a week? Oh, that’s right — Howard Dean didn’t do Fridays. Ever.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

Report adContinue Reading BelowPlay Video

And Thursdays were the company “nap days.”

The guy didn’t just skip one work day a week for 17 years without telling anyone: To avoid getting caught, he also charged his employer (you know, the U.S. government) $240,000 in gas money for some nonexistent trips to and from the state’s Food Production Center. And because pretending to travel long hours by car can get pretty exhausting, he also got paid for 75 bullshit hotel-room stays at the Quality Inn. All in all, Howard Dean’s 17-year streak of three-day weekends cost taxpayers half a million dollars.

The most unbelievable part of this story? The fact that nobody noticed.


“That’s Howard — he’s invisible near weekends, due to a gypsy curse.”

In fact, all of this came to light only after Dean’s retirement, when someone in administrative noticed that the $57,381 in state pension money he was drawing may not have been going to the most deserving of candidates. A criminal investigation was launched, and Dean admitted submitting tons of fraudulent time cards. We’re not sure what’s going to happen to him now, but at least he can rest assured that wherever he’s going, he’ll be well-fed.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

6 Bored Secretary Turns Laziness Into an Art Form


The Job Description

As a sales coordinator for Sheraton Hotels in Elkhart, Iowa, 25-year-old Emmalee Bauer was responsible for providing secretarial and administrative support, reporting directly to the director of sales and marketing, and handling all group inquiries either generated by the direct sales associates or by other booking channels — riveting stuff. You could write a 300-page book about how boring this job was. While pretending to do it.

So that’s exactly what Emmalee Bauer did.

Wait, what?

As soon as Bauer realized that her job in sales coordination was not a good career fit for her, she did what most people in her situation would do: She began spending her entire workday writing about the fact that she wasn’t working.

Timeline @Mentions Retweets Searches Lists Jack Spoons1 Jack Spoons Bored. Figured I can injure myself with either the scissors or jamming my head in

This method of procrastination turned out to be extremely effective, since the act of enthusiastically typing on her work PC about how much she hated working totally created the appearance that she was, in fact, working. She was effectively being paid for moving her fingers eight hours a day.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

“Good job on having hands, Emmalee. Keep it up.”

Thus, the 300-page Laziness Journal was born. That’s 300 pages in single-spaced, regular-size font, not in bullshit “biology school paper” format. Day after day, Bauer came into work, sat down at her computer, opened her Laziness Journal file and mused on the subject of being a slacker while appropriately avoiding any of the work she was being paid for. An excerpt from the book:

“This typing thing seems to be doing the trick. It just looks like I am hard at work on something very important. I am going to sit right here and play Elf Bowling or some other nonsense. Once lunch is over, I will come right back to writing to piddle away the rest of the afternoon.”

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

Apparently playing Elf Bowling was not a safe way to goof off at work, because Emmalee Bauer was eventually caught and fired, with her Laziness Journal coming to national attention during her unemployment hearings. Yep, she actually had the nerve to go before a judge and appeal for unemployment benefits after writing 300 pages full of reasons why she didn’t deserve them. On a work computer.

We don’t know if Bauer has published her book yet, or if she ever will. For all we know, entire sections of it could be at the same level as Jack Torrance’s novel in The Shining.

All work and no play makes Jack E dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play mmakes Jack a dull boy V All work and no PL

Except in this case, the “All work” part wouldn’t really be accurate.

Related: 5 People Who Elevated Laziness To An Art Form

5 The Japanese Ministry of Procrastination (and Robots)

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The Job Description

The Japanese agriculture ministry is responsible for overseeing the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries in Japan. We would be indulging in a tired cliche if we told you it is also in charge of giant robots fighting with one another, so we won’t say that … even though, for a while there, it looked like it totally was.

Wait, what?

Between 2003 and 2007, an alarming number of the ministry’s employees spent considerable amounts of work time on something completely unrelated to agriculture, forests or fish: Wikipedia edit wars. Most of them about the popular anime and toy series Gundam.


Giant robots: Way more exciting than trout.

Within that four-year period, one employee alone contributed 260 times to the Japanese-language Wikipedia entry on Gundam. Five other employees were verbally reprimanded for repeated contributions to other Wikipedia articles on subjects such as Japanese movies, local politics or typographical mistakes on billboards. Granted, if there’s one government that should pay more attention to what’s on billboards, it’s probably Japan’s, but this was still pretty ridiculous.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

he Gundam guy was apparently the worst, but he was by no means the only one suffering from a severe case of Wiki-fever: Together, various other employees in the same ministry contributed to a total of 408 Wikipedia entries while at work. That’s more pages than the website of the place they worked in seems to have. It got to the point where the minister of agriculture himself, Tsutomu Shimomura, had to step in and clear up what had apparently become a common misconception, publicly stating: “The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam.


“That would be the transportation ministry. Come on, people.”

Despite the minister’s efforts, however, the Japanese agriculture ministry will forever be linked to Gundam, and vice versa, as demonstrated by the fact that they’re both mentioned in each other’s Wikipedia entries.

Related: The 5 Most Humiliating Things We’re Doing to Robots

4 Mailman Turns Jury Duty Into Paid Vacation(s)

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The Job Description

If we told you Joseph Winstead was the laziest mailman in the world, you’d probably assume he dumped the mail in trash cans instead of delivering it, or maybe took it home and burned it in a fire pit (like this guy used to do). You’d be wrong. Winstead went much further than that. He figured out a way to stay home all day, not even touching the mail he was supposed to deliver: fake jury duty.

Wait, what?

In October 2003, Winstead was chosen for jury duty. He actually served on the jury for a couple of months — getting a paid leave of absence from his job to do so — but quickly found out that there were many days when the jury did not meet. It was on these days that Winstead realized another thing: His bosses didn’t seem to notice the difference between the days when he was actually serving on the jury and the days when he was just sitting at home, getting paid to eat Doritos.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

We, the jury, find this chip delicious!

And so, for the bulk of an entire year — 144 workdays in total — Winstead enjoyed a paid vacation from his job as a mailman, probably keeping his co-workers convinced that he was trapped in a yearlong version of the plot of 12 Angry Men.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

Winstead’s scam went on without a hitch that first year, but then, since he’d done such a bang-up job the first time around, he was called for jury duty again. A huge fan of pushing his luck to unreasonable limits (and not so big on the whole “honest work” thing), Winstead decided to give his scam a second go. But this time, his supervisors realized something funny was going on and launched an investigation that ultimately led to Winstead being sentenced to prison. He was also ordered to pay the Postal Service $38,923.95 in compensation, a fair numerical measurement of how much his story pissed the jury off.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The jury’s suggestion that the defendant should be forced to “eat a bag of dicks” was sadly dismissed.

Related: Obama Showed Up For Jury Duty And Was Dismissed (Duh)

3 Real-Life CSI Couldn’t Give Less of a Fuck


The Job Description

Forensic scientists may not be as sexy or as explosion-surrounded as TV has led us to believe, but their work is still pretty damn crucial to that whole “justice” thing we’ve got going. As a 24-year veteran of an NYPD forensics lab, Mariem Megalla was responsible for conducting the sorts of tests that help police find dangerous criminals and keep innocent men out of jail … as long as those tests didn’t involve walking too much, that is.

Wait, what?

Megalla’s extreme slacking caused an all-out nightmare in New York’s legal system in May 2010, when thousands of court cases were thrown into question after an NYPD internal affairs investigation discovered that Megalla often came into work with a distinct “not in the mood for doing science-y things” attitude. More specifically, she was caught switching the labels of suspected drug samples just to better suit her needs — her needs being “not having to walk all the way over there.”


“Yep he’s dead. Case closed.”

In one case, she was caught labeling as positive a crack pipe that had tested negative for drug residue, “because she allegedly didn’t want to walk to another part of the building and fill out paperwork to have it tested further.”

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

Megalla’s work also involved appearing in court and testifying in front of a judge, a part of the job she reportedly was fine with, since it could be performed while sitting. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne stated that “Right now, it looks a lot like either sloppiness or laziness.” The NYPD is still waiting on the lab results to find out which one it was for sure.

As a result of the ensuing shitstorm, every forensics case that Megalla has ever been involved in has to be reviewed, all the way back to 1986. That’s thousands of ongoing cases and prior convictions that could be overturned, all because of one woman’s laziness.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

“I’m only here to look good and deliver one-liners. Clipboard? No idea.”

Related: 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies)

2 Lazy Cremator Has the Creepiest Backyard Ever

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The Job Description

As operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga., from 1996 to 2001, Ray Brent Marsh was there to honor the wishes of those who wanted to skip that pesky postmortem decomposition process and go straight to the “ashes to ashes” part, reliably carrying out his cremation duties and providing journey vessels for the remains of loved ones passed.

Or not.

Wait, what?

Turns out that, in Marsh’s words, the cremation oven was “broken” — meaning that, for five years, Marsh saw no other viable option besides dumping the bodies he was supposed to be cremating in various locations in the crematory’s backyard. Oh, and what did Marsh put in the urns that went out to the families? Concrete dust.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

When a propane delivery truck driver happened to notice the unusual number of decidedly noncremated bodies lying around the property, he alerted the authorities (with his horrified screams, we’re guessing), and the jig was up. A total of 339 corpses were discovered in the crematory’s backyard, 100 of which were never identified because of their advanced states of decomposition. Hundreds of grieving families lost their loved ones all over again.

During the ensuing trial, Marsh offered no other explanation for his negligence, presumably standing by his original excuse of the cremation oven being “broken.” The only problem? Someone actually tested the oven and found it to be largely in working order. Not to mention that, even if it had been completely broken, he could have just called someone to fix it. You’d think that within those five years of smashing concrete and not cremating people, he would have had a spare moment to sit down and pick up the phone.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

“No … that’s also broken.”

Marsh was charged with a grand total of 787 criminal counts, including theft by deception, burial-service-related fraud, giving false statements and last but not least, abusing a corpse. All charges tallied, Ray Brent Marsh stood before the judge facing a well-deserved 8,000 years in prison, although he got off with a slightly lighter sentence of 12.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

1 The Cave of Sloth

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

The Job Description

As state employees of the Office of General Services, Louis Marciano and Gary Pivoda were supposed to provide on-site maintenance and janitorial services in the Empire State Plaza garage in Albany, New York. The OGS website explains that the agency has “developed expertise in centralizing critical support and service functions leading to more cost-effective government,” which says absolutely nothing to us. Apparently, Marciano and Pivoda themselves weren’t too clear on what the hell it was they were supposed to do, because we’re guessing their official job description didn’t mention drugs, board games or a secret underground lair.

Wait, what?

Every day from 2004 to 2009, Pivoda and Marciano would show up for work and immediately descend into the secret “man cave” they had fashioned for themselves in a tucked-away maintenance room within the garage facility. That was the easy part. The hard part was deciding what to do next: Light up a joint …


. watch Office Space for the umpteenth time or play some Yahtzee. Yep, besides stacking the place with drugs, junk food, a TV and a DVD player, Pivoda and Marciano also made sure to keep plenty of board games — you know, as a way to keep themselves occupied. Needless to say, all this excitement usually left them pretty spent.


Ninety percent of the security tape looks like this.

The closest thing to actual work they ever did was when Pivoda hopped into their state-provided car to deliver drugs to other state employees. Investigators found a scale for weighing marijuana inside their secret room, which authorities dubbed “the man cave” because apparently they have a horrible opinion of the entire gender. Once they were exposed, Pivoda was sentenced to one year in prison and Marciano to five years’ probation plus 250 hours of community service.

The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All-Time

Sample: Speech, Livestreamed to 4000 Parents in China

I decided to just go with our final version here, the one with the Chinese translation underneath every slide paragraph. For Shiliu Education.

Creative Writing: The Key to Unlocking Innovative Thinking.




Jason Edward Harrington


Opening: Ni hao! Wo jiao Jason! That’s the only thing I can say in Chinese, although I want to learn more. Hopefully, one day some of your children will be my Chinese speaking teachers, in return for me being their English writing teacher! Welcome to my lecture! Let’s begin.


Slide 1: Question: What are Americans good at? Besides being a little too fat and eating far too much fast food?


Answer: Innovation— Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook,the Internet itself. Steve Jobs studied calligraphy in college for months. Learning obscure, beautiful handwriting doesn’t sound like an ingredient for a multi-billion-dollar company, does it? However, this creative, unusual decision by Jobs ended up being a huge part of Apple’s success in product design. Learning to think creatively is a key part in learning to thrive in, and compete with, the Western world, as well as with the world in general.


Can you think of another thing thatAmericans are generally the best at?


Slide 2: Making movies! Without doubt, American films are the most popular and influential in the world. And actually, it was movies that started my writing journey. At age 12, I bought a book on “How to Write Screenplays.” I finished my first full screenplay at age 15. It was a comedy. Nobody read it except my mother. She thought it was great, but then again, mothers think everything their children create is beautiful, even if it’s ugly as a deformed pig.


I then began writing screenplays for short movies, and filming them on a cheap video recorder my parents bought for me. After I finished making the movies, which starred such famous actors as my sister, my cousin, and my best friend, I showed them to small groups of schoolmates. I’ll never forget the moment one of my school friends said, “Oh my god, I’m actually scared right now!” when watching a short horror movie I had filmed. My creative work was actually having an effect on people, small as it was.

此后,我开始写一些短片的剧本,然后用我父母给我买的廉价录像机拍摄。在我拍完短片后,我会和我的同学们分享。这些短片由我妹妹、我的表妹和我最好的朋友等著名演员主演。我永远不会忘记我的一个同学在看我拍摄的一部短片时说:“哦天呐,我现在真的很害怕!”我的创意作品正在发挥它的价值和影响力, 虽然有时候微不足道。

Slide 3: In high school, we began having creative writing months, where we would spend 2 weeks writing a story, and then, after finishing, go to the front of the class one by one to read our short fiction aloud. My story was sci-fi, influenced by Michael Crichton, the author of “Jurassic Park.” In undergrad, I double majored in creative writing and screenwriting. Both of these subjects were in the creative writing department, because creative writing can be a lot of things.

上高中的时候,我们学校曾举办过创意写作月。那时候我们会花2周时间写一篇小说。在故事完成后,我们会去教室的前面一个一个大声朗读我们的短篇小说。 受《侏罗纪公园》的作者迈克尔·克里希顿的影响,我当时写的是一个科幻小说。在本科阶段,我攻读了创意写作和编剧这两个双学位。这两个学位都属于创意写作系,因为创意写作的涵盖面很广。

At its core, creative writing is original writing that expresses thoughts in an imaginative way. It’s the art of making things up—some authors have joked that they lie for a living!— or putting a creative twist on history (as in creative historical nonfiction). Creative writing goes outside of professional, academic, or technical forms of writing. Magazine stories can be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism. So both fictional and nonfictional works are considered creative writing, including novels, biographies, short stories, and poems.


Creative writing is marked by the use of entertaining literary techniques and style. I first learned about lovely literary style in university, from an old, bald, brilliant Russian man. He was a poet and a mathematician, who was prone to passionate outbursts in which he’d slam thick Russian novels on his desk to get us to pay attention.


Through him I gained a love for the great Russian writers, especially Vladimir Nabokov. And by reading Nabokov I learned that the language and scenes in creative writing can be just as captivating as those in movies, with imagery as rich, flavorful, and spicy as the hotpot in Chengdu. The old Russian also taught me the relationship between reading and writing. Being a mathematician as well as a poet, he taught me the structured and disciplined side of creative writing. “To succeed as a writer, you must have ‘stick-to-it-veness’, he would say. Stick-to-it-veness was a word he had cleverly invented: a combination of words, meaning “the quality of sticking to it.”


In other words, you must persevere, work very hard and never give up to succeed in creative writing. The old Russian taught me that creative writing is not just about running wild with imagination, or splashing emotional opinions on the page. It is also about perseverance, clever thinking, hard work, and a lot of practice.

And in creative writing, a lot of practice comes through reading— a key part of learning how to write well is by absorbing how other accomplished and skillful authors write.


The Russian taught us a good exercise for bringing reading and writing together:  mimicking the writing of great authors, also called “parodying” a writer.  With the help of the Russian’s parody assignments, I ended up publishing several parodies of classic authors. It’s great for students to mimic the style and voice of great authors. Then, they can develop their own style and voice, after having mastered the style of classic writers.  

俄罗斯老师教我们一个很好的结合阅读和写作的练习:模仿伟大作家作品。 在俄罗斯老师的模仿训练的帮助下, 我最终出版了几部经典作品的仿作。对于学生来说,模仿伟大作家的风格和观点是很好的写作训练。在掌握了经典作家的风格后,他们就可以发展自己的风格和观点。

Slide 4: My first publication! You can see my name underlined on this slide. Hair Trigger was Columbia University’s yearly anthology of the best student writing. It meant I was among the best of the best out of thousands of writers at my college.

我的第一本出版物!您可以在这张幻灯片上看到我的名字被下划线标出。Hair Trigger是哥伦比亚大学每年最佳学生作品的精选集。能够入选意味着我属于学校成千上万的写手中最厉害的一批。

I continued to get published in the annual collection of the best writing, because I was one of the students who understood the difference between academic and creative writing. With academic writing, the purpose is purely to inform, it is very structured and strict, and is targeted for a very specific audience: for example, teachers, specific professors around the world, or the people in an industry. It is giving “the facts only,” with minimal, if any, use of imaginative language, and little use of narrative.


The purpose of creative writing, on the other hand, is more to entertain, and sometimes inform. For example, historical novels and movies entertain, but also inform us about history. It is also structured, but to a lesser degree. You are free to use your imagination and be creative!  And it is generally much more fun!

另一方面,创意写作的目的更多的是给人美好的阅读体验,有时也起传递讯息的作用。例如,历史小说和电影都是娱乐性的,但它们也告诉我们历史的讯息。它也是结构化的,但不那么受限制。你可以自由发挥你的想象力和创造力! 它可以很有趣!

And wow! I had fun writing in college! I thought I was an amazing writer, because year after year, I made it into Hair Trigger. Looking back, I realize I was overconfident about my abilities. I was a big fish in a small pond, as the saying goes. But I was about to learn how hard it is to be published in the professional industry, competing against the entire world.

孩子, 我在大学里写作玩得开心吗?我以为我是一个了不起的作家, 因为一年一年, 我进入头发触发器。回首往事,我意识到我对自己的能力过于自信。我是小池塘里的一条大鱼,正如谚语说的。但我正要了解在专业行业出版,与整个世界竞争是多么困难。

Slide 5: After graduating college, I got a job with the U.S. government, in the federal security department. It was a job that did not allow for innovative thinking and so, being a creative person, I had to continue to express this part of me, somehow. So I began trying to succeed in the world of professional, paid writing. I started submitting articles to, a popular, fact-based humor site with an audience of millions. It took me over 25 attempts to get my first article accepted, but that first acceptance was one of the happiest days of my young life.


My favorite and most viewed article, “The 7 Most Impressively Lazy Employees of All Time,” was exactly what the title advertises: a funny article showing 7 of the laziest employees to ever make the national news in America. I noticed that most of them were U.S. government employees. Because I was working for the U.S. government, and saw how incredibly lazy many of my colleagues were, I was not at all surprised.


Another of the proudest moments of my life, up until then, was when one of my co-workers, with whom I had never talked, walked up to me and told me that he had happened to see my article on, as he was a big fan of Cracked. My writing was reaching enough people that strangers were now approaching me to tell me they had read and enjoyed my writing—as you can see, creative writing is also targeted for a MUCH bigger audience than academic writing. That day, I felt just a little famous for the first time in my life.

在此之前,我一生最引以为豪的另一个时刻是,一个我之前从未交谈过的同事走过来告诉我说,他碰巧看到我在Cracked.com上的文章,因为他是该网站的忠实粉丝。 我的写作可以触及更大的读者群体,以至于陌生人会过来告诉我他们读过和喜欢我的文章。正如你所见,创意写作比学术写作面向更多的受众。那天,我人生中第一次觉得自己出名了。

Slide 6: After having found so much success at, I wanted to get a piece into a more prestigious publication. So I chose the most respected online humor publication in the world: McSweeney’s. It seemed impossible to get an article accepted with them. I submitted nearly 50 pieces to them, and suffered nearly 50 rejections, before I finally succeeded.

在Cracked.com网站上获得了巨大成功后,我想把一篇文章发表在一个更负盛名的出版物上。所以我选择了世界上最受尊敬的在线幽默出版物:麦克斯威尼。 他们似乎不可能接受我的文章。我向他们提交了近50次稿件,并遭受了近50次拒绝,直到我终于如愿以偿。

I learned that the key to getting accepted into a highly selective publication is learning their style, what they’re looking for, and then adjusting your writing to meet their preferences. Applying for publication was a lot like applying for jobs! I published nearly 20 articles with McSweeney’s. Two of them were reviewed in The New Yorker Magazine, as recommended reading.  I then moved on to my next project in life: preparing to go to grad school.


我在麦克斯威尼发表了近 20 篇文章。其中两篇在《纽约客》杂志上被评论并作为推荐阅读。 随后,我开始追求人生中的下一个目标:申请读研究生。

Slide 7:  I knew that all the publications I had achieved would look good on my grad school application. One type of publication that impresses almost any type of grad school program is a book review. It shows grad school offices that you are able to analyze texts, identify the structures used in them, and then eloquently express your opinions on them, using supporting details: the exact thing that universities want students to do in academic essays.

我知道我所发表的所有作品会给我的研究生申请加分。一种可以几乎给所有研究生院留下深刻印象的作品就是书评。 它可以展示给研究生院你具备分析文本,识别其中使用的结构,运用证据来支持你对它们的看法,这些都是大学希望学生在学术论文中所能运用的技能。

One of the book reviews I successfully had published was about Vladimir Nabokok. I knew that this, along with all my other publications, would give me an advantage over all the other applicants. And it did: I applied to 8 graduate school programs, and I got accepted into all 8 of them.

我成功出版的一本书评论是关于弗拉基米尔·纳博科克的。我知道,连同我所有其他出版物,将给我一个优势,比所有其他申请人。它做到了: 我申请了 8 个研究生院课程, 我被其中所有 8 个课程录取了

This is why creative writing is helpful for students applying to colleges or jobs, and why they should learn creative writing. College entrance exams, especially in the West, always demand that students show an ability to identify structures in pieces of academic writing samples, as well as creative writing samples, and analyze them creatively.


And both college and job application departments look for applications that really stand out. The absolute best way to make one’s application stand out from all the others is by using creative elements in the application.


Creative thinking is not valued as highly in the East as it is in the West. Helping children learn to think creatively—as I did when I begged my mother to buy that screenwriting book so many years ago— will create a new generation of citizens who are able to think more innovatively, on the same level as the Western world. This will make them much more competitive. 


Slide 8: Now that I was able to quit my government job in order to pursue my grad school studies, and ultimately, my writing dream, I was free to begin expressing my opinions about my former government security job. There was one important thing that the American public needed to know.


The nude x-ray scanners at the airport were ineffective, and many government employees were secretly laughing at the naked images of airline passengers. The men were also being naughty with some of the nude images of female passengers, even taking photos of them with their phones. I decided to start a blog, which I titled “Taking Sense Away,” telling the world about all the details of day-to-day life as a government employee at the airport. Eventually I wrote about the abuse of the x-ray scanners, and overnight, hundreds of thousands of people visited my personal website.


As you can see on this slide, next to the celebration balloons, nearly 1.4 million people have visited my personal website, as of today. My true story of how the American government was misusing the x-ray technology was important enough to appear in several American newspapers. When the public found out that the creator of the website was also a published writer in many other outlets, interest in me grew greatly. An editor from Politico Magazine, one of the most popular political publications in America, contacted me. She wanted to bring my story to the entire world.


Slide 9: I was sitting in a grad school Shakespeare class, when the Politico article went live on their website, as well as in print. The POLITICO Magazine editor kept texting me updates every 20 minutes, telling me how many people had viewed the article: “1 million  people. 2 million people. 3 million people!”

 我坐在研究生院的莎士比亚课上, 当政治文章在他们的网站上和印刷品上直播。《政治》杂志的编辑每20分钟给我一次短信更新,告诉我有多少人看过这篇文章:”100万人。200万人300万人!

Within an hour, 5 million people had seen my article. I was shaking in my seat, trembling with excitement and fear. That evening’s lesson on Romeo and Juliet was going in one ear and out the other. All I could think about was my super-popular article, which was rampaging across the world faster and faster with every tick of the clock on the classroom’s wall.  

在一个小时内,有500万人看了我的文章。我在座位上颤抖着, 兴奋和恐惧地颤抖着。那天晚上关于罗密欧和朱丽叶的课是一只耳朵进,另一只耳朵出。我所想到的只是我那篇超级受欢迎的文章,随着教室墙上时钟的每一滴滴答声,文章越来越快地席卷全球。 

I had to excuse myself from the class. At that moment, my viral report against the corrupt government agency I had worked for just a few months prior was a little more important than Shakespeare. I was ecstatic, and terrified. This fear was irrational, because in the U.S., the Freedom of Speech laws apply strongly to former government employees.  


It took a lot of courage to stand up to the entire U.S. government as I had done. By the time I got home, every single major news TV station from America to Europe was calling my cell phone and emailing me, asking for TV, radio and newspaper interviews. Although intimidated by the worldwide attention, I relaxed when I realized I was being treated like a hero for telling the world the truth, not like a villain. By the end of that night, I felt as though my act of writing had been one of courage— as though I’d acted as brave as a lion, or as fearlessly as the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Jurassic Park movie I had loved so much growing up.

我像我那样,要与整个美国政府站在一起,需要很大的勇气。当我到家时,从美国到欧洲的每家主要新闻电视台都给我打电话和发电子邮件,要求电视、广播和报纸采访。 虽然被全世界的关注吓倒了,但当我意识到自己被当作英雄对待,告诉世界真相,而不是像恶棍一样时,我放松了。到了那晚,我觉得我的写作行为好像是勇气的——好像我像狮子一样勇敢,或者像《侏罗纪公园》电影中的暴龙雷克斯一样无所畏惧。

Slide 10: The Politico piece ended up getting almost 100 million views, forcing the American government to respond to my article, twice. Within 2 months, the government changed the intrusive and low-quality x-ray machines they were using for better ones. They also made new rules for employees that prevented the bad behavior so common amongst my former co-workers. My article had made a real change in the world—forcing the government to improve its policies and upgrade its technology in just a couple of months.

《政治》一文最终获得近一亿次 浏览量,迫使美国政府两次回应我的文章 在两个月内,政府改变了侵入性和低质量的X光机,他们用于更好的。

他们还为员工制定新规则,防止不良行为在以前的同事中如此常见 我的文章使世界真正改变了——迫使政府仅仅在几个月内就改进了政策并升级了技术。

Having a piece of writing become this popular, this fast, quickly creates a lot of opportunities. For one, Hollywood came calling. Every major studio wanted to buy the rights to my story. In the end, I sold the rights to Paramount Pictures, after writing a 100-page screenplay of my full story. Finally, I was talking to and dealing with the world of Hollywood, as had been my boyhood dream!

有一篇文章成为如此流行,这种快速,迅速创造了很多的机会。其一,好莱坞来电话。每个主要的工作室都想购买我故事的权。 最后,我卖掉了派拉蒙电影公司的权利,在写了一个100页的剧本后,我的故事。最后,我和好莱坞的世界交谈和打交道,正如我童年的梦想一样!

Slide 11: This is why students should learn creative writing: it enables people to express themselves eloquently and persuasively, allowing them to make changes for the better in the world, like when I forced the American government to change the old x-ray scanners.

这就是为什么学生应该学习创造性写作: 它使人们能够而有说服力地表达自己,使他们能够改变世界,就像我迫使美国政府改变旧的X光扫描仪。

Also, it is fun, and, at times, can make people’s dreams come true. Even for those who don’t want to specialize in a creative writing-related field, it is therapeutic, by allowing people to release the ideas and thoughts trapped inside of them. Personally, it has given me the edge, many times, in job applications, college application essays, as well on the job, where at times I have been able to present very creative solutions to bosses that other colleagues could not think of.


Slide 12: After the enormous success of the Politico piece, I felt happier than a man on an all-paid, two-week vacation to Hainan Island.One of the other opportunities that came after the POLITICO piece was Time Magazine. They wanted me to tell them more about my experience working for American government security.


My mother and father used to have a yearly subscription to TIME magazine, and I grew up with those magazines spread all over the tables like giant playing cards. I immediately jumped at the chance. I was ecstatic to be able to tell my parents “I have an article in TIME Magazine today.” Their faces lit up with pride, brighter than a pair of Christmas trees.

我父母曾经每年订阅《时代》杂志,我从小就喜欢像玩巨型卡片一样把杂志摆满餐桌桌面。我立刻抓住机会,欣喜若狂地告诉我的父母 “《时代》杂志上有一篇我的文章。他们的脸挂满了骄傲,好像两棵圣诞树一样闪亮动人。

Slide 13: Although the world wanted me to write about my experience with the government, I was determined to prove I could write about much more. I decided to give the New York Times a try.


I was living in Chicago, the most violent city in America, when the famous filmmaker, Spike Lee, decided to make a film about the gang violence there. I took the opportunity to visit the film set, spend time in the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, and interview the residents of the city about the violence. I submitted a proposal to the Times, for a creative nonfiction piece about the upcoming movie, and the epidemic of violence in the city.


Writing for the New York Times was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had a 7-day deadline to complete the piece. After writing one draft of the piece, the New York Times editor told me it wasn’t good enough; I had to start over again.


I wrote a second draft. Again, the Times editor told me it wasn’t good enough. I had to delete half of it and rewrite the other half. It kept going on like this, until finally, my draft was accepted. Then it was run through the rigorous New York Times fact-checking department. They verified and checked up on almost everything in the article.

我写了第二稿。《泰晤士报》的编辑再次告诉我这还不够好。我不得不删除一半, 重写另一半。在反复多次之后我的稿件终于通过了,但它还要再经过严格的纽约时报编辑部的文章真实性审核,他们审查了我文章中的几乎所有内容。

I thought I would fail, with the clock ticking, and with the various editors and researchers at the Times being so hard on me. But finally, my piece was cleared for publication. I had done it. Writing for the Times made me realize just how hard creative writing can be, and how much research, hard work, and analytical thinking you have to exert in order to get into the most respected publication in the world. As my Russian teacher had said so many years ago, it required all the “stick-to-it-veness” in the world.


Slide 14:  Here are three book recommendations I can provide, for three different learner levels. First, for beginners, “A Sound of Thunder.” A quick read by the great science fiction author Ray Bradbury—it always stimulates imagination in youths, whilst introducing a simple, yet thought-provoking philosophical concept that will stay with readers for the rest of their lives. And it includes a giant, terrifying dinosaur!

这里有三本书的建议,我可以提供,为三个不同的学习者水平。首先,对于初学者,”雷声”。伟大的科幻小说作家雷·布拉德伯里(Ray Bradbury)的快速阅读——它总是激发年轻人的想象力,同时引入一种简单而发人深省的哲学概念,让读者一起度过余生。它包括一个巨大的,可怕的恐龙!

Second, for intermediate learners, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Harper’s Lee’s classic drama, told through the eyes of a 6-year-old girl, has been a part of middle school children’s lives for over 50 years. Its amazing insights and powerful messages are inspiring and timeless.

第二,对于中级学习者,”杀死一只知更鸟”。哈珀的经典戏剧,通过一个6岁女孩的眼睛告诉,已经成为中学生生活的一部分超过50年。 其惊人的见解和强大的信息是鼓舞人心和永恒的。

And finally, for advanced learners, “Black Boy”: the harrowing and, at times, heart-breaking autobiographical tale of Richard Wright’s escape from the oppressive South in the 1920s, to make his way to the safer, “promised land” of Chicago.


Slide 15: I will wrap up today by telling you why I’m suited to teach your kids creative writing. First, I have a lot of experience in the professional publishing world, as you can see. I have also been taught by some of the greatest living authors today.


Also, I have a lifelong passion for this. It is fun for me. So I am always happy to spend extra tine with students to help them with their writing pieces. I get true joy out of it!


Additionally, I understand the difficulties of speaking and writing in another language. I taught myself Spanish, so I can sympathize with the challenges they face. I have also been teaching online ESL and writing to Asian youths and adults for 5 years.


These experiences have given me a deep understanding of what it is like for your children, as they try to express themselves in another language. And finally, one of my greatest strengths is building genuine relationships with students from other cultures, which promotes enthusiasm in the classroom. I love to make learning fun!


Slide 16: Thank you everybody! Any questions?


1. Some students write very boring essays which read like a routine list of his or her life. How can they write interestingly?


Perhaps the biggest problem for beginning creative writers is that they are so used to writing academic essays that they attempt to use the same formulaic template so common in academic writing (opening paragraph with thesis, three supporting paragraphs, concluding paragraph). One of the first things I teach creative writing students is the creative writing version of the 5-paragraph academic essay structure: the three-act dramatic structure. This has been used in the vast majority of all creative writing since the time of the Ancient Greek drama writers, and for a very good reason: keeping this basic dramatic structure in mind while writing will tend to make for exciting pieces, in which the reader will constantly be asking him or herself, “Oh my god, this is so interesting! I want to know what will happen next!”

也许对于刚开始写作的创意作家来说,最大的问题是他们太习惯于写学术论文了,所以他们会尝试使用学术论文中常见的写作模板 (首段提出论点、三个支撑段落、以及最后的总结段落)。我教创意写作学生的第一件事就是五段式学术论文结构的创意写作版本:三幕式戏剧结构。从古希腊戏剧开始,这种结构就被广泛运用于所有的叙事类写作。记住这基本的戏剧性结构来创作激动人心的作品, 当读者读到时,他们便会不断地告诉自己说,“天呐,这真是太有意思了,我想知道接下来会发生什么!”

In essence, students then begin thinking about how to create and maximize dramatic tension in their stories—constructing compelling plots– instead of thinking about how to deliver boring, “facts only” information in a 5-paragraph format. The three-act structure is very informal, and can be interpreted in many different ways, making it a very flexible “structure” that allows for a LOT of creativity.


Also, most beginners are unfamiliar with the concepts of character and setting development, and with how to use poetic descriptions to bring characters and settings to life on the page. I help students with this by assessing their creative assignments, finding places where there is a lack, or a complete absence, of setting or character description, and then get them thinking of ways to add intriguing and unique descriptions. All of these things quickly make students’ pieces much more interesting.


2. What common problems did you find students have with writing in your teaching? How did you help students overcome them?


In creative writing, we have a very important principle called “The Passover Question.” This means that before you choose to write about any given time in your, or a character’s life, the very first question you should ask yourself is, “How was this day different from all the others in this character’s life?” Many students all over the world fail to ask themselves this question before beginning to write a piece of creative writing. Once students get into the habit of asking themselves this question, they realize they have been choosing boring chunks of time from their (or their characters’) lives— time periods which really weren’t all that different from average days.

在创意写作中,我们有一个非常重要的原则,叫做“Passover Question”。这意味着,在你选择写你自己或你塑造的人物的某个生活片段之前,你应该问自己的第一个问题是,“对于这个人物来说这一天和其他日子有什么不同?” 世界各地的许多学生在开始写文章之前都没有问自己这个问题。一旦学生们养成了问自己这个问题的习惯,他们就会意识到,他们从自己塑造的人物的生活中选择了一段乏味的片段——这些时间和平常的日子并没有什么不同。

Asking themselves the Passover Question before even beginning a piece will help them choose days from their or their characters’ lives in which the most unusual and interesting events occurred. Usually, the pieces will then be centered around the unusual event that happened that day, week, or year, allowing the young writer to begin using techniques of dramatic tension in order to make it even more interesting. For the most part, people want to read about the MOST amazing and unusual thing that has ever happened to a person, not about an uneventful day!

在开始一篇文章之前,先问自己Passover Question,这将帮助他们从自己或角色的生活中选择最不寻常和最有趣的事件。通常来说,接下来作品会围绕发生在那一天、那一周或那一年的不寻常事件展开,这样年轻的作者就可以开始运用戏剧张力的技巧,使故事变得更加有趣。大多数情况下,人们想读到发生在一个人身上的最令人惊奇和不寻常的事情,而不是平淡的一天!

Also, beginning writers tend to be unaccustomed to using metaphors in their writing.

What I do to help students add this crucial tool to their creative writing arsenal is give them metaphor and simile exercises, in which the students will be given homework asking them to think of and list as many metaphors and similes that they can think of for actions or emotions that they have recently experienced. I then assess their responses, choose the best metaphors and similes that they have thought of, and share the best examples from each student with the rest of the class, and explain to everyone why the student’s example was a good one.



Then, in private, I explain to the students why some of the metaphors and similes they thought of were not of good quality, and why. In this way, they get stronger and more accustomed to spicing up their writing with poetic language.


3. What can students get from the study of creative writing?


First, creative writing is usually the student’s first experience with writing that can actually be fun. The experience of having fun while writing will get them to start to enjoy writing a little (and in some cases, get them to love writing a lot), as opposed to hating it, or thinking of it as a tedious chore. This will in turn make them feel less dread (and hopefully make them feel confident) when faced with all types of writing assignments, including academic ones.


Second, creative writing will give them the drive to write more, which means more writing practice. And as we all know, “practice makes perfect.” One thing that both creative and academic writing demand is proper use of grammar, spelling, word usage and vocabulary, so the increased practice will help them improve in all of these categories, an improvement which can be carried over to every category of English writing.


Finally, it will help them on their college applications, as well as in language proficiency exams. For example: I worked as an ESL test grader for years, grading the answers to academic questions on exams. One major thing we looked for was the students’ ability to use complex, beautiful sentences, and to answer questions in creative ways that were different from the other 1,000 essays we saw every day, which almost all contained similar, uncreative answers. To give students the highest grades, they needed to respond to the academic exam questions in imaginative ways— the kind of answers best learned through creative writing.


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