Ask Ceil – Writing, The President and The Kardashians

Dear Ceil,

How do I get to be a writer like you?

Aspiring in Aspen

Dear Aspiring,

What you aspire to is the very height of professional accomplishment. A writer’s day is filled with sex, alcohol, the occasional illicit drug, long leisurely stares out the window at peaceful meadows, and fudgicles. And writing. And when it is not filled with those things, it is usually filled with another job, laundry and dish-washing.

So, here’s what you do. You write. Write and write and write. Don’t stop. Even when you’re going to the bathroom, you ought to be thinking of storylines, or some way to make your character more intriguing, or some angle for your travel story about the historical sights in Boston that hasn’t been thought of by every other person who’s ever jotted down a postcard while visiting Boston. Even when you’re in the shower, you should be thinking of people to interview for your series: Biographies of Men Whose One Leg is Shorter Than the Other.

Send queries to magazines with intriguing points of view. Something like your one-woman expose, “You CAN Live in a Box” for the publishers of Inside Self Storage. Or maybe “I Call My Whip Bossie: Understanding the Feelings and Origins of Your Leather Goods” for Dominatrix Magazine.

Another good way to start is to enter a lot of writing contests. There are always five or ten thousand going on at any given time. And if you win one, besides being a validation of your writing, it will turn you instantly into a professional writer. Just think of the smile you’ll have on your face as you march down to the bank, $5 check in hand from winning Jody C. Schmodie’s (the “C” stands for “Cody”) Awesomest Writing Contest—frankly because you neglected to tell them you were not in sixth grade—and announce to the teller that you are cashing in your first salary check as a real writer.

That’s what I might do.


The following question is in honor of President Obama visiting our fair city of Pittsburgh today:

Dear Ceil,

I understand the President is coming to my home town. Why?

Stumped in Squirrel Hill

Dear Stumped,

Every once in a while, a President will have an urge to get out of Washington DC. Indeed, who can blame him? So he looks around the country for a place that hasn’t been visited in a while, has a bunch of electoral votes, and can be used as an excuse to do something official, like a visit to Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics lab to talk about manufacturing.

But have no fear. No matter the cover story of why Mr. Obama has chosen to visit our humble hamlet, a diligent press will get to the real heart of the story: what he will eat.

When he was here in 2008, for example, whole stories were written about his love of Pamela’s Pancakes. A visit to Philadelphia made much of his eating of a Philly Cheese Steak. (Actually, if you are curious, there is a website devoted to what the president eats and the White House’s Food Initiatives, called Obama Foodorama.)

It makes a president wonder, what do you have to do to focus the media’s attention on actual issues while in Pittsburgh? Wear a Penguins shirt, perhaps? Eat a bowl of pierogies? Ice-skate to Donnie Iris tunes?

There is a small chance that, instead of focusing on what he eats, they’ll turn their attention towards the possibly tens of people who will show up protesting the visit for various reasons. I am hoping they are something like the people who protested at the G20 summit. Reading the signs was so much fun!

So take heart. Even if we can’t figure out exactly why the President is here, we can at least look forward to the genuine comedy it’s likely to create in the press.


Dear Ceil,

What’s with the Kardashians? Maybe if we stop paying attention to them, they’ll go away! Please help me reduce media coverage of the Kardashians.

Pleading in Pontiac

Dear Pleading,

You’re right.

But it doesn’t stop me from using your question to build up my website traffic! I do love me some Kardashians!


In a life marked by crippling indecision, Ceil Kessler has worked too many types of jobs to count, and is finally in her own business, consulting on business intelligence software. Ceil also markets and publishes the magazine “Business Perks”. Like everyone else in the world, she is working on a couple of novels. She also runs the Laurel Highlands Vegetarian Society, plays pool in her increasingly rare free time, and is an appreciator of fine wines and single-malt scotches.

If you have questions for Ceil, please send them along questions@askceil.com, or you can use the Ask Ceil-o-matic form.

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6 thoughts on “Ask Ceil – Writing, The President and The Kardashians

  1. Dear Ceil,

    First of all, let me thank you for reminding me to write. It is currently just after 12.30am in Sydney. Having just got home from catching a movie on a Friday night, I was tossing up between sleeping, blogging and reading. I guess I did a blend of reading and blogging by reading your blog. Does that count? Is there any way I can write while I sleep? Or read while I sleep? Please advise!

    Secondly, if I was to visit CMU, I would do two things:
    1. visit the late Randy Pausch’s virtual reality team to check out his awesome legacy
    2. visit the school of fine arts to find the seat upon which the gorgeous Matt Bomer may have sat his “nice ass” while he was studying there. I know it has been over a decade since he graduated but, ah, to have sat in the seat where he once sat…a girl can dream!

    Last but not least, if I tagged all my posts with “Kardashian” do you think it would drive more traffic to my blog too?

    Thank you,
    Valerie (aka @valshopaholic)

    • Hey there,

      Well, I think there’s actually a way you can listen to audio books while you sleep, but that’s all I have. I’ll look into it! Probably CMU is working on this project right now!

      1. I know nothing of Randy Pausch, but now I have to look him up. You are joining forces with #JeffEastinEducatesAmerica, my new realization that every time I watch his show, I have to look something up. Like Tycho Brahe. Or card game cons.

      2. Abandoning all propriety that should be present in a woman my age, and agreeing with you.

      As far as the Kardashian thing goes, it don’t hurt to try!

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