Interview With Dorothy Rosby, Author of Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time

Can you offer readers a bit about your journey to becoming a writer? Growing up, were there any writers/books you enjoyed that led you to focus on this genre? 

I grew up reading Erma Bombeck’s columns and I’m sure she was an influence on me. But a bigger one was growing up in a large family. I’m number nine of ten children. I lived with eleven other people in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. Wit was a weapon for my siblings and me. And humor was a survival tool. Plus my father had a great sense of humor, though naturally I didn’t always think so when I was a teenager. But humor was important to him and making him laugh was a way of standing out in the crowd.

How does one open the door to become a paid syndicated columnist? 

It was really my experience as a humorous speaker that started me on that path. For many years, I’ve been a member of Toastmasters, an organization where members practice their public speaking skills. I’ve always loved doing humorous speeches and I’ve won some humorous speaking contests. Eventually I typed up some of my humorous speeches in column format, submitted them to my local newspaper and pitched the idea of a humor column. The editor agreed. After I had a few published columns I started marketing it other newspapers mainly in the West and Midwest. My column is now self-syndicated in publications in ten states.

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What inspired you to make the move from columnist to writing humorous books full of unique takes on life?
I can’t remember what made me think that was a good idea in the first place. I’m still not sure it was a good idea. But somehow I got obsessed with it and published my first book of humorous essays in 2014. It’s called I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. I call it “the book for people who read self-improvement books and never get any better.” 

I followed it two years later with I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch, Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest which is a little book of big parenting blunders. It took me a bit longer to finish my third: Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About. And after years of plugging away at it, it was finally ready to come out—in the middle of a global pandemic. If there were an award for bad timing, I’d nominate me.

Did any of your material from your regular columns make it into your books - either as previously published or inspired by - or did you write all new material for each book. Where do you find inspiration for the topics you write on? 

The essays in all of my books evolved from newspaper columns, magazine pieces or humorous speeches I’ve written over the years. But a column is normally around 600 words. In Alexa’s a Spy I was aiming for longer form essays, some as long as 2500 words. That meant a lot of updating, expanding and marrying together as well as some tossing out and starting over.

I get my ideas everywhere—every conversation, every experience, bad and good, everything that gets under my skin or makes me laugh. Unfortunately, the irritating things make better stories—fails, faux pas and embarrassing moments. Let just say, I’ve written columns about speeding tickets more than once. Those sorts of things make good stories because readers relate.

Other Books by Dorothy Rosby

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

I’m a morning person. So I wake up early—often much earlier than I’d like. I feed my cat and my canary, get some caffeine and go directly to my computer. That routine has kept me in columns for almost 25 years.

I’m also blessed with the occasional bolt of inspiration and I’m a firm believer that no matter when and where that happens, I need to jot it down right then and there. I find if I honor my muse, she comes back more often. So I carry a notebook with me and I also use the notes function on my phone to record ideas.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

There are phases to my writing, some I enjoy and some not so much. First there’s the idea phase. I love that one. I come up with an idea and get excited about it and think it will be my best column or essay yet.

But then comes the work phase: getting it down on paper in some semblance of order. Then I start thinking, “What a dumb idea. This will never work.” If it weren’t for a looming deadline, I’d probably give up right then. It’s the discipline of my morning routine that gets me through the hard work of writing the first few drafts. This phase is a chore and unfortunately, it’s the longest one.

Eventually I get it to the “if I get arrested phase.” It has sentences and paragraphs and some basic structure. It’s not horrible. My husband could send it to my editors if I was hauled off to jail or the emergency room and was unable to send it myself. But I don’t like it yet. Once it get it to that point thought it finally becomes fun again. I get to start polishing, moving words around, jazzing things up. I enjoy that part.

When not writing, what do you do to relax? What type of books do you like to read?

I live in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota and my husband and I love to camp and hike here. We also love to dance. We’ve even taken some lessons, though you can’t tell by watching us dance. I read a variety of books, but my favorite genre is mystery. I LOVE a good mystery.

What's next? Anything exciting on the horizon you'd like to share?

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I have started working on my fourth book. It’s a humorous look at holidays and other special events we get all worked up about. And I don’t just mean Christmas. I’m covering everything from milestone birthdays to Clean out Your Refrigerator Day. Yes there is one.

Connect with the Author: website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ goodreads