Shoulda, Coulda Written That

Weird Things People SayEvery writer goes through a patch where they stumble upon books they could have written. Said books send them into an I-should-have-written-that, I’m-never-going-to-make-it tailspin (cue diva-like facepalms and internal wailing). Me? I’ve found two books (three if you count the just-released sequel to one).

The first (with its related second) is Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops. You know, the kind of bestselling book that could have been written by any writer who has ever been forced by virtue of the industry’s poor pay to moonlight as a bookseller.

Sure, we related the gems customers spoke to our fellow booksellers as a kind of if-you-don’t-laugh-you-cry group therapy. Sometimes we even pinned quotes of such sayings to our lunchroom walls. But only one of us put penned these crackers to paper.

‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’, ‘Did Charles Dickens ever write anything fun?’, and ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses, can you read me the first chapter?’ are three such entries.

More Weird Things They’ve so transported me back to my bookselling days I have a contained, blank-faced blink going on while reading them. Suffice to say, memories of customers getting cranky at me for not remembering which orange book was merchandised in the window some six months before have come flooding back.

That’s a reasonable grump they had going on. There aren’t exactly many orange books (cough Penguin Modern Classics cough) published, are there?

OCD-inclined (although not strictly diagnosed OCD) Ursus Wehrli tidies up mess and organises that which is disorganised. It sounds pretty much like something many of us do daily. Except he tidies up things we wouldn’t necessarily realise were messy. And he photographs the before and after.

The Art of Clean Up is the third book I’ve recently found. And it almost made me weep with simultaneous joy and envy. Who’d have thought a serving of chips and tomato sauce could—or should—be organised into potato-strip tallies? Who now, having seen the pic of them, could imagine them any other way?

The Art of Clean UpAlphabet soup organising is an oldie but a goodie. Separating the balls in a ball pit is one I’ve longed for but never imagined was possible. That’s because of the labour involved and the kids you’d have to heartlessly eject from the pit, bottom lips aquivering, in order to do so. I’m also not sure I’d want to see what’s on the bottom of a ball pit, which would be an unintended consequence of such an exercise.

The envy-inducing aspects of these books are that they’re good ideas and that they’re so simple they’re under your nose. They’re also, painful as it is for me to admit, harder to come up with than first appears. Which returns us to the idea-brainstorming cycle. What to come up with that will be a bestseller but that’s a simple idea …?

Published by

Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.