“There’s nothing to writing, that all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

— Ernest Hemingway

It gives the scribbler added oomph, punch and zest to allow him to write with reckless abandon.

There’s something fun about watching these misery-fueled writers: the Hunter S. Thompsons and the Sylvia Plaths of the world.

But, what nobody likes to talk about is that while these writers, fueled by pain, sadness and untreated mental illness can…

The time a Vietnam Vet told me about slitting a man’s throat at a ten-year-old’s birthday party.

Yesterday, I went to my friend’s daughter’s birthday party –– who was unapologetically using the celebration as an excuse to get hammered on a Pontoon boat with a bunch of her adult friends.

Being that neither myself nor any of the adults in attendance were owners of a lake-faring vessel, we paid a sixty-something-year-old man who called himself Captain Bill a $1,000 to cart us around Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee as we drank, overate, jammed and “celebrated” my friend’s daughter.

The moment I stepped on board, I could tell Captain Bill was over-qualified for what he had been…

Elmore Leonard’s Swag is the literary equivalent to Grand Theft Auto.

It’s a page-turner you can’t help but burn through, fueled by sex, drugs, murder, armed robbery and automobile theft.

Towards the beginning of the novel, Frank Ryan (one of the robbers) reflects on his days as a car salesman.

One day the dealership had a sales guru in to teach Frank and his associates how to move more hoods.

The guru asked Frank, “What’s your name?”

To which Frank responded, “Frank Ryan.”

“No it’s not”, said the sales guru, “Not over the phone. …

In the introduction to Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut tells the story of a mentor he had once upon a time, a copywriter named Pheobe Hurty, who hired him to write advertising for her department store.

I found this to be a fascinating introduction, primarily because the book itself feels like one big beautiful ad (or a parody of an ad) for Wheaties.

Not only does the book cover look strangely similar to the iconic box that houses the cereal, but the title of the book is actually the cereal’s slogan

“Breakfast of Champions.”

Kurt Vonnegut writes a line or two reassuring the…

Wright Thompson, the marvelous sportswriter and author of Pappyland, warns of the dangers of advertising, specifically in the world of whiskey…

*Thompson is typing now*

“More and more today, we don’t want to do the work or take the chances required for greatness, and we try to fix all those shortcuts on the back end with marketing and branding — modern, fancy words that mean lie.”


Thompson’s words hit a tender spot for me.

In part, because I make my living concocting this devilish black magic and, naturally, I’m more apt than others to take this criticism personally.

In part, because I think there…

Bruce Springsteen has secured a longevity in his musical career that the vast majority of creatives never do.

(To date, he’s the only artist to have a Billboard Top 5 Album in six consecutive decades.)

Much like Hemingway’s writing, his songwriting and storytelling are terse in their word usage — a terseness I had never truly realized about Springsteen until Wright Thompson mentioned it in his book, Pappyland.

Take a moment to read and appreciate these four iconic lines in Springsteen’s Hungry Heart

“I met her in a Kingstown bar

we fell in love I knew it had to end

we took what we had and we ripped it apart

now here I am down in Kingstown again.”

There are thirty-five words in those four lines and thirty of them only have a single…

In Nora Ephron’s hilarious yet heart-wrenching autobiographical piece of fiction, she writes of a world-renowned therapist she has frequented throughout much of her adult life.

Like so many of the characters in this novel, the reader is wildly aware of the fact that while Ephron presents her therapist as being “fictional”, she’s anything but — she’s based on a real living, breathing human being whose identity Ephron has kept secret by simply giving her a different name.

Her name is Vera.

And, Vera is fabulous.

Her magic got Ephron through her first divorce and throughout much of the novel, her magic is hard at…

Unless you’ve read the intro to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions”, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in a microwave that you have any idea who Phoebe Hurty is.

Whose Phoebe Hurty?

Hurty wrote copy for the William H. Block Company, a department store headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana that shuttered its doors in 1987.

While I certainly can’t say that Hurty was one of the better copywriters to ever live, I can say that she wrote one of the better ad headlines I’ve ever read.

Once upon a time, she was writing advertising for an end-of-the-summer sale William H. …

I would never recommend anyone read Ernest Hemingway if they’re sad and are looking towards reading as an escape from their sadness.

Both Hemingway’s life and work were one long and beautiful tragedy and while I can’t speak to the former, the tragedy in the latter, the writing, is what made him so wildly believable ( as well as him writing in the first person but that’s a story for another day).

While you walk away from Hemingway with glassy eyes, you never leave not having felt something and you certainly never leave not having believed what he had written.

Nora Ephron’s stunning novel, Heartburn is autobiographical.

But, it’s also fiction, which makes it a bit of a chore to separate what is true from what is not.

What I do know is that it’s loosely based on her tumultuous marriage to Carl Bernstein (the investigative journalist made famous by his reporting on Watergate).

She writes, quite graphically, of the affair he had while she was seven months pregnant with their second child and how she eventually found it within herself to leave.

In her novel, she talks often of her mother, a very complicated woman, who died well before…

Cole Schafer

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things. https://coleschafer.com/subscribe

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