A Short History: “The Randy Scuffle Papers”

I have always imagined writers of serious books to be the kind of people who sit down at the computer (or typewriter, back in the day) and just start writing. The book flows out as a nourishing gift to the world, someone does all the hard work of the printing and marketing, and the author starts on the next book. And every time I have ever tried to write anything remotely serious, I get bored with my own ideas long before it becomes anything beyond a quick essay. I have also found that I cannot write anything without being tempted to address the absurdities within the idea, or that come along as my mind wanders about, looking for the next important thing to say. So I end up, almost always, writing from an angle that I find amusing. Hopefully funny.

The Randy Scuffle Papers has, at its root, characters that go back a long way. One thing I used to do to fend off boredom at work was to write letters to my own company, complaining about something I saw in one of their publications. I thought it was hilarious to send a letter to the editor of a sister publication, knowing that the editor, who sat right next to me, would be reading it and wondering how to respond, if at all. Frequently, I’d use the name “Phyllis Scuffle” as the signatory, and it was her voice, sent through letters, that would form the basis of what eventually became The Randy Scuffle Papers. Of course, it evolved into more than that, as the primary character (and her son) Randy, began to communicate using that medium.

Over the years, I started writing these more for myself, and started keeping a collection. I think that the letters used in The Randy Scuffle Papers were written over at least a 10-year period. Actually, probably more like 12 or 13 years. At some point I thought these may be worth putting together as some sort of book, but I never made the time to do it. Then I had an opportunity to participate in open mic readings at The Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series. I thought “what the hell” and started showing up with the letters. While my wife has always encouraged me to do something more serious with the stuff I write, I had always hesitated because, well, quite frankly, there’s a lot of stupid ideas in my writing. It’s just my style! Well, people did seem to enjoy them, and after a few readings, I was asked if I intended to publish any of my work. Here’s the thing: once you say “Yeah, I’ve thought about it…I really should do something…” you’re committed.

That “something” ended up as The Randy Scuffle Papers. I won’t lie to you. It took a couple of years to edit, format and finally publish the thing through CreateSpace, but I did it. More about that another time. – Phil Reebius

 

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