America’s Next Top Writer

November 22nd, 2007

Top American prose stylist Donald Trump hosts the reality show where you get to watch people type!!! At stake: publication as a real honest-to-God physical book, with pages and everything, published by Trump Books, and distributed aggressively wherever shelf space is available, plus an extensive national network of garage sales!!!

Why this isn’t already on TV is beyond me. The thrill of inspiration! (Cut to close-up of fingers on keyboard.) The courage of perserverence! (Cut to close-up of fingers on keyboard.) The agony of writer’s block! (Cut to close-up of fingers hovering indecisively over keyboard.) The intricacies of plotting! (Cut to writer looking at wall.) The struggle against inner demons! (Cut to writer sitting motionless in chair.) The sorrow of defeat! (Cut to chair without writer.) The tragedy of abandonment! (Cut to writing room redecorated as nursery.)


“I told you to go easy on those adverbs! Whaddya mean, easily?”

Really, it’s got everything. Donald Trump, who’s hardly been ghostwritten at all, whipping the contestants into a 60-minute frenzy: “Your challenge is to write a conversation among the vegetables of your choice, and it has to include a joke ending with the word rutabaga.” And the contestants: the black-clad poet who’s slumming by appearing on the show; the regular guy who writes with his fists in a plaid shirt at an old typewriter; the woman who wants to write a series of mysteries about a psychic parakeet but is having trouble with the bird’s backstory; the vegan who has named himself Brightleaf and is afraid to write his Novel of the Soul because he believes that the manufacture of paper causes pain to trees; the memoirist who has a universal story of dissipation and redemption but can’t remember any of it; Danny Bonaduce (what would a reality show be without Danny Bonaduce?); and an absolultely paralyzing hottie who’s always wanted to write but hasn’t been able to find the time.

And the panel of judges: Alex Trebek, because who’s smarter than Alex Trebek; Danielle Steel, because who else can claim to be Danielle Steel; and, of course, The Donald, who has hardly been ghostwritten at all. Oh, and Ivanka.

And once in a while, we could stream across the bottom of the screen the actual words our contestants are writing. We can’t overuse it, though. We don’t want the audience to have to read too much. But just imagine the excitement: Our regular guy, for example, plaid shirt provocatively open to mid-chest, fists hammering that keyboard, and across the bottom of the screen we read:

Call . . . me . . . Ishmael.

Cut to commercial. No way anyone will change the channel.

7 Responses to “America’s Next Top Writer”

  1. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    What’s really going to be funny is how many of us recognize shades of ourselves in several of your characters. I’m a vegetarian, but not vegan. Plaid shirt – check. Woman writing a series of mysteries, but not about a parakeet. Hottie? Sure, I am!

    Tim, have you been lurking just outside the window?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Sphinx Ink Says:

    LOL! What a great parody. Very clever, Mr. H.

  3. greg smith Says:

    Very funny stuff! But I have to tell you; that last line threw me for a loop because I always thought it was “Call me, Ishmael.” I wasn’t quite certain who was making the exhortation but I had narrowed it down. It was either Ahab or the whale. I was leaning towards the whale. Probably looking for an intervention to keep from getting a harpoon in his tucus.
    Imagine my consternation when I dug out my copy and found that the coma was actually a bit of debris that had become imbedded in the page. After I had scraped it off with my fingernail, I sat there in a stupor. I suspected the whole story would read differently now- no telling what other punctuation was merely crud from some snack I’d been having at the time.
    Well, I was sitting there dreading the need to reread the bloody thing when something occurred to me.
    I had heard somewhere that many of the old time-honored tomes weren’t all they were cracked up to be and that there were less recognized works that were more deserving of one’s time.
    I did a little research and discovered just such a book which came highly recommended by a reliable source. Today I procured The Recognition from my local library. I can hardly wait to get started on it but I can only hope that the past readers of this copy didnt dribble something on the pages that I will mistake for periods or comas. If it happens again I guess I’ll just have to stick to books on tape.

    P.S. thanks for the tip
    and happy holidays


  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, everyone – I’ve been hammering away at a new book ten hours a day and haven’t been online, so what a nice surprise to see you all show up. Cynthia, I see myself in many of the contestants — not the vegan, but certainly the guy who’s plagiarizing Melville and the woman with the parakeet (imagine the paralyzing irony of that bird, knowing whodunit and how but having such a limited vocabulary. Talk about the human condition. Except in a parakeet, of course.). And thanks, Sphinx for the lol — as always, I wrote it, posted it, and thought, “That’s pretty stupid.” And Greg, thanks for making me spit coffee in my lap with that phantom comma. (By the way, Ishmael was Melville’s agent.) And I hope you like “The Recognitions” — it’s a bear of a book, but a genuine masterpiece. I actually educated myself out of it for about five years, reading whatever I could get my hands on about everything Gaddis mentions. (And I just gave that little bit of history to the central character in my new book.)

    So thanks, all.

  5. Stefan Says:

    Great idea, but I think to really hook the audience, you need some degree of torment for the losers.

    Mr Trump (who I’m assured writes almost all of his material himself, with a quill pen on parchment as he shout orders at minions who fire quivering sub-minions and shovel caviar into the Trump Maw), has to know that when he says “you’re FIRED” there will be consequences.

    Imagine the parakeet-fanatic doing two weeks community service in a pet store. All vegetarian writer-wannabees get two months indentured servitude at Al the Butcher’s. And anyone who confuses “its” and “it’s” or writes “loose” when they mean “lose” gets a year working the AP graveyard shift. You want glory? Write well, ye scum, else ye shall suffer!!

    Ratings are sure to increase.


  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Excallent, Stefan — don’t know how I missed it.

    Other possibilities: The writer each week who depends most excessively on the passive case has to work through the upcoming week on a keyboard where the “e” is stuck. The writer who least artfully avoids the passive case (i.e., “Two cars loitered at the curb.”) has to rewrite the Wikipedia entry on English verbs as a first-person, present-tense thriller.

    The writer who turns in the sloppiest manuscript has to come up with a recipe that includes at least 15 pages of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” and get it critiqued on the Food Channel. (Little crossover promotion there.)

    Other ideas? Let’s get those ratings up!!!!

  7. greg Says:

    Hey Tim and company. I enjoyed the exchanges.

    How about the contestant who dares to over-attribute ala Tom Swift?
    Trump could: flush him down the drain suscinctly
    wipe him out handily
    embarass him readily
    needle the little prick sharply
    fire him pyrotechnically
    What do you think?
    Okay everybody, feel free to groan tiredly


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