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Monday, May 30, 2011

Fred Underwood's Failed English Teaching Career

Have seen initial cover designs and like them all. One has a graphic novel look to it that would probably appeal to a younger demographic (is that under 40 or under 30?) One has an almost Elmore Leonard look to it (older demographic). And the other is cool and simple. All are being tweaked.

I'm close to announcing who the Kansas City designer is, but they have been in a transition and I want to wait until they have populated their new web site.

Big decisions coming up. The biggest is perhaps changing the title. For a writer this is pretty major. You've lived with a title for a long time, perhaps since the inception of the book. But the designer has suggested a one-word title that has really grabbed my attention and that of my agents.

Fred Underwood, our protagonist, got fired from every English teaching job he had.

Here's the account of his first firing:

"Having his master’s meant Fred could teach in a junior college environment, although they eschewed the word “junior” and had replaced it with “community.” Into this community he found he did not fit. Bored housewives, dullards thinking community college would be easier than university, and single mothers trying to better themselves by gaining an associate’s degree. Grammar and composition classes were extraordinarily boring to teach. And reading their essays! Egad, what drivel they could produce. He then made two fatal errors. The first was to volunteer to take over the creative writing class when its teacher was found dead in his apartment, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, no doubt caused by the thousands of rejection slips he had used to wallpaper his room. Fred’s second mistake was thinking the students would at least be interesting. Oh, they were interesting all right. There was the retired fellow who was writing a novel based on his own life of being harassed by the CIA. The assassination of his creative writing teacher, who had been encouraging him in fictionalizing his paranoia, became one more element in the government’s ongoing attempts to silence him. Then there was the mouse-like, neurotic, thin woman who wrote the most lurid form of romance stories. But his downfall was the bored housewife type who thought she could be the next Danielle Steel. Fred suspected the plots and intrigues in her fiction were really true stories from her own life. Sure enough. She asked him to join her for a cup of coffee at the cafeteria where she confided in him that she found him irresistibly attractive and would he have an affair with her?
"Fred explained to her that the community college had strict rules against teachers dating their students, and attractive though she was, he had to follow the rules.
“'We’ll see about that,' she replied, went to the president of the college and complained that Fred had propositioned her. Fred always had been remarkably unlucky at little things. The little thing with this woman was that her husband was none other than Frankie DeLucca, a major donor to the school’s athletic scholarship fund and the owner of the Sharks, the city’s football franchise. Fred was fired without a trial and escorted off school grounds by a campus cop. It would not be the last of such de rigueur exits."

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