Collected Wisps of Thought











{April 14, 2007}   Full House Anthology
Full House Anthology
I just got my advance reader’s copy of Full House, an anthology compiled by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman. There are ten stories about poker included in the anthology, and one of them is mine! The book looks great with an eye catching cover that should appeal to almost anyone — male, female, young, old…

The funny thing is, I don’t really know how to play poker. How does someone who doesn’t play poker manage to get a story included in a poker anthology? Good question.

Research is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. You get to learn new things all the time. I think for many adults, learning can get put on the back burner once you’re out of school, but for me, it’s part of my job so I’m constantly researching every topic under the sun. Sometimes it’s how to play drums. Other times it’s world cultures, or poetry, the effects of methamphetamine, or apple orchards. Once I remember asking someone very obscure questions about talking parrots, but darned if I can remember why.

Poker was a fun thing to research. This is how it happened: you see, Pete Hautman asked if I’d like to be included in his upcoming anthology and I really didn’t want to say no. I mean, it’s Pete Hautman! I love his writing. So I started to think that there must be some way to use my ignorance to my advantage. “What if…” I wondered, “I were to write a story about someone who gets caught in a poker game but doesn’t really know how to play?”

Armed with this one idea, I said yes to writing a story, confident that I could pull off the poker scenes because the character would NEED to mess up. All mistakes would be justified, right? HA. Wrong.

In order to write a convincing poker scene, even if your character is making mistakes, you still need to be able to show what’s happening in the game. In fact, in many ways it was probably more difficult trying to write those scenes because I not only needed to know the RIGHT way of doing things, but I also needed to know how mistakes would be perceived.

Thus, my poker lessons began. They started off at a rest area half way between Maine and New York, then continued through numerous how-to books, endless episodes of the World Series of Poker, and finally through editing where Pete would make gentle suggestions like, “Perhaps there should be a buy-in.” he he.

But you know what? In the end, I’m happy with my story, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be included in the anthology. I learned something new, and even though I still would not call myself a poker player, I could probably hold my own in a round or two.

Guess that means it’s time to research something new. Mud bathing, anyone?

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