Ned Hickson is a terrific writer, and he does it with a sense of humor. On more than one occasion, I’ve done a spit-take while reading one of his blog posts.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce him to you, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so much conducting an author interview. Thanks Ned, I need to clean my computer screen again! That’s the last time I drink expensive scotch while I’m reading your stuff!
Please give a warm welcome to Jurnalist and funny man, Ned Hickson.
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Ned, how would your best friend describe you in 20 words or less?
“He is thoughtful, funny, attentive, romantic and without question the most incredible lover I have ever had.” (Did I mention my wife is my best friend? I probably should have said that first.)
Yes, that might have helped! Are you a full-time writer or do you have a day job?
I have worked full time as a journalist since 1998, when I lucked into the job here at Siuslaw News after a reporter position opened up. It doesn’t matter that I’m the one who ran him over. Three times. What matters is that is was ruled “accidental.” And because it happened in front of the newspaper office, I was the first to apply for the position.
I call that “making your own good luck! ” Is there another profession you would like to try (without running over someone first)?
I was a chef for 10 years, then became a journalist, and I’m also a volunteer firefighter/engineer. I can honestly say I’ve managed to try my hand in all the occupations I’ve ever wanted. Except maybe underwear model. Not that I’ve ruled it out. Although at this stage it will likely be for “Depends” undergarments.
Great Ned, now I can’t get that image of you in Depends out of my head. That’s why I’m including this picture of you as a firefighter. (Ahh … much better). What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The first thing that comes to mind is my children. But they’re not really done yet. So I guess I’d have to say adding a second story to our home. Aside from the framing, I did all the rest myself without any previous experience. I had a great set of Sears “do-it-yourself” books that I literally worked from while running all the electrical, hanging sheetrock, mounting a toilet (in the floor, not… you know), etc. When I got approved by the building inspector it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Still, for the first year after that, every time there was a power failure, I ran to the fuse box to make sure it wasn’t on fire.
I’m impressed, especially about the toilet! As a funny guy, tell us what makes you laugh, and I mean REALLY laugh?
My wife. Hands down one of the funniest and most clever people I know. Aside from that, really great satire. The Blue Oyster Cult bit with Will Ferrell and the cow bell, and any SNL skit with Alec Baldwin still reduces me to tears. And comedian Jim Gaffigan, my favorite of the new standup comedians out there. Oh, and whenever Justin Bieber sings.
Yup, you know I’m Canadian, but you can keep Justin down there. Now let’s learn more about YOU as the writer. From where do you draw your inspiration?
As cheesy as it may sound, I draw most of my inspiration from everyday life. It can be a personal experience, current event or maybe something I’ve witnessed. Oftentimes my columns start out with a “what if?” scenario, such as: “What if Peter Parker had been bitten by a radioactive dung beetle instead of a spider?” Or “What if, thanks to new pre-natal education systems, babies learned to talk even before they were born?” And “What if a baby asked for a lawyer after having its butt slapped?” These are the kinds of questions I ask myself on a regular basis.
Ned, you’re weird! Haha! What motivates you to write?
You mean aside from my editor? I’d have to say my strong belief that now more than ever humor is important in our lives. While there many great things technology and instant communication has brought, it has also made us less and less able to stay “in the moment” in our lives. We are constantly distracted by — and multi-tasking with — our devices, and as a result are becoming a society of people constantly communicating and living in the future tense. Humor is one thing that grounds us in the moment; while we’re laughing we are in the “now.” I like knowing I can help provide that to people. I also think humor is important because it has a way of allowing us to put things into perspective by blowing them out of proportion.
Agree, sometimes all we have is humor to keep us going. What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
I’d have to say it was something scrawled across my first assignment as a high school sophomore. It was a college prep writing class (although I never went to college), and it was the first assignment of the year. I got an “A+/F” as a grade. Under it, Mr. Danielson wrote: “A+” for enthusiasm and content; “F” for organization. What are your trying to SAY?! It was my introduction to essay format (state your point, offer three examples, conclude with your point), which is basically the structure I still follow today with my columns. The year before, my freshman college prep writing teacher, Mrs. Fillers, flunked me my last quarter for not doing the work. That hit me pretty hard. Beginning my next school year with that note from Mr. Danielson was a huge wake-up call for me. I realized I either needed to 1) Buckle down and learn the tools of a good writer or 2) Become an editor (haha just kidding! *cough cough*)
Sounds like Mr. Danielson was a great teacher, and … I really hope your editor is laughing. What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer?
Favorite parts would definitely include all the adoration, chanting, huge sums of money and being in that Twitter picture with Ellen at the Oscars. Least favorite parts? Waking up and realizing none of that actually happened. However, I truly love that feeling of getting into the zone and writing something that catches me off guard and makes me laugh; if it makes me laugh, then I know readers will, too. I love the process of writing: sitting down at the keyboard with my coffee, listening to AC/DC playing over my headphones, and entering that mindset where I get to blow things out of proportion. My least favorite part would have to be when the coffee hits, I head to the employee restroom, then see Joe coming out before I get there.
Are we back to the Depends again? (Hehe) Do you have a schedule for writing?
Even before I was a full-time writer, and was working as a chef, I kept a writing schedule on my days off and days when I didn’t go in until the afternoon. Having that time set aside was important to me because it trained my brain to gear up for the creative process on a regular basis. It was also important because it said to myself and others that my writing was just as important as my full-time job and all the other things I did as a husband and father. If you don’t set aside specific time for writing, it’s too easy to fill that time with other things and never write. I wanted to strike a balance with my job, my family and my writing, and sticking to a schedule allowed me to do that. Even now, though I write full time at a newspaper, after 7 p.m. and on weekends I’m off the grid as much as possible because it’s family time.
I’m sure your family appreciates it. We don’t want you falling asleep on them after (ahem) working so hard at the job. Are you writing another book at the moment?
I actually have two books in the works because, let’s face it, I’m verbose. Actually, one is an extension of my weekly blog post “Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing,” and is a collective of a year’s worth of writing advice that I’ve expanded on. It’s going to be offered exclusively as an eBook because I want to make it easily accessible, and also because I’ve never been through the eBook process and want to try it out. The other book, No Safe Harbor, is a murder mystery set in Seattle with a young boy as the central figure. I actually wrote it 10 years ago when I was still a chef. Maybe I should throw in some recipes? I figure it’s time it saw the light again. We’ll see if a publisher feels the same.
Oooh … a murder mystery, love it! Do you have any advice for new authors?
Take Mr. Danielson’s college prep writing class! If you can’t because being 30 years old in a high school freshman class would feel awkward, then here’s my second piece of advice: If you spend time exploring your thoughts and observations through the written word, you are a writer. It doesn’t take a book contract, publication or ever a readership to be validated as a writer. Ultimately, those things are out of your control. If you tap the keyboard or move a pen across paper to capture an idea or moment? It’s time to confess to yourself and others that you’re a writer.
Excellent, encouraging words, Ned. Let’s find out more about your book, Humor at the Speed of Life. Why should people read it aside from the great cover? That alone makes me laugh.
As I mentioned earlier, I think humor and laughter are really important in our lives right now. The idea behind the book was to offer something people can get a laugh from, whenever they want or need it, at their own pace. Because it’s a collection of columns divided into categories (Parenting is as Easy as One, Two… Scream, or Women Are From Venus and Men Won’t Ask for Directions, etc.) people can choose a particular topic and get a quick laugh in three-minute reading, or keep going as time allows. Personally, I think it should be in every DMV office in America.
How are you marketing your book?
The obvious places, like my blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and scratched into public bathroom stalls along the Oregon coast. Thanks to national syndication through News Media Corporation, I’m lucky to have a built-in marketing system through newspaper readership. I also do a lot of guest speaking at organization meetings (Kiwanis, City Club, Rotary, etc), and I was fortunate enough to be on NPR radio last month. Oh, plus my mom is telling all her friends to buy my book.
Your mom! Awww! How did you celebrate when you finished your book?
I’d been keeping a glass bottle of Coke (the soda) in the back of the refrigerator. I popped it open and drank it on the porch. That night, my wife took me out to dinner and drinks. Then… well… Eden, you’re better at that kind of descriptive passage than I am.
Haha, ok, we can use our imaginations, as long as Depends undergarments are not involved. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from writing your book?
How much I don’t know about social media, and how willing people are to help. One of the things I love most about blogging is the instant interaction with people, and the relationships you forge with people all over the world. We’re constantly told about all the Internet predators, but there’s also a lot of kindness going on out there. It’s like the news media in general; all we hear about is the bad stuff unless it has something to do with Dancing With the Stars.
I agree, I’ve met wonderful people across the networks, and I’d like to share the back cover of your book too, along with a blurb and buy links. I’m really enjoying the read so far. I’m thrilled it’s now available in print AND e-book too!
Port Hole Publications ~ Amazon: Print | e-book
Book blurb: Ned Hickson is an award winning, nationally syndicated humor columnist, headquartered at the Siuslaw News in Florence, Ore. This, his first book, shows why his popularity is growing across the country. From the dangers of family forays in the kitchen (Flaming Pop Tarts), and the careful maneuvering of male-female relations (Women are From Venus, and Men Won’t Ask for Directions), to the dangers of working as an under-appreciated “Jurnalist”, Ned takes us through day-to-day misadventures we can all relate to.
Love it Ned, let’s finish with a fun lightning round!
1) Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save from a house fire? My iPad. Sad but true. Man, I really need to learn how to use iCloud…
2) Name a food you could eat every day: Breakfast (That’s one food to me)
3) Salty or sweet? Swalty (Hey, it’s a word. At least if we were playing Scrabble)
4) Cat, dog or other pet? We have two dogs and a cat. I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that whoever I don’t pick will poop in my boots.
5) Favorite style of music? I love all kinds of music, from John Williams movie soundtracks to AC/DC to Brad Paisley. If I had to pick one I could listen to all the time? It would be 80s-90s country music; reminds me of my Dad.
6) Best gift you ever received? Without question my incredible wife, Alicia. She is truly a gift.
7) Your most guilty pleasure? See above… 😉
8) Favorite season? Fall. I love the crispness in the air, the turning of the leaves and knowing the holidays are coming.
9) Name something you cannot go a day without: Do you really need to ask? (See 6 and 7)
I hope your wife is reading. This is going to score you MAJOR points. 😉 Any last words for my readers?
I just want to take a moment to thank you for having me, Eden. When I mention the kindness of people on the Internet, you are at the top of the list. Not only for what you do on your blog but also through your support of important issues in the “real” world.
You’re too kind Ned. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to have you here. I will definitely write a review for Humor at the Speed of Life when I’m finished reading it. Loving it so far!
Readers, please connect to Ned at all his virtual homes and get ready to laugh your ass off. Oh … and he left some information for his bank account too. Feel free to dip into it. 😉
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Connect To Ned
Listen to Ned’s interview on NPR
Checking account routing number: 0123456789 (weird, huh?)
Ned Hickson is an award-winning humor columnist for Siuslaw News, a small Oregon newspaper where the motto is:
Your dependable source for local news. Twice weekly. Unless we lose count.
Ned has been awarded “Best Local Column” from both the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
In 2002, he took his self-syndicated column online to newspapers and, by 2003, received his first measure of national success: A threatening letter from the Velcro© Corporation for not using the “©” symbol when making fun of its product. That same year, he became a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists — mostly for his own protection.
Currently, his weekly column appears in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada as a syndicated columnist for News Media Corporation. He writes about daily life and important social issues, such as glow-in-the-dark mice and injuries caused by overheated pickles. Humor at the Speed of Life is a collection of his most popular columns, as opposed to the kinds he usually writes, during his 15 years as a newspaper columnist.
Ned lives on the Oregon coast with his wife, four children, two dogs, a cat and entirely too many seagulls.
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