Who remembers those “you’re so ugly” jokes you told when you were kids?

You know the jokes I’m talking about:

You’re so ugly; your mom had to tie a ham bone around your neck to get the dog to play with you.

You’re so ugly; your mom fed you with a slingshot.

You’re so ugly that, if I had a dog with a face like yours, I’d shave its butt and teach it to walk backward.

It was the kind of joke you and your best friend would tell each other over and over again. You’d come up with ever more brutal, nasty, gross and disgusting insults until you were laughing too hard to speak.

Those jokes taught us just how silly life could be. Life is too short to walk around feeling insulted. The “you’re so ugly” game helped us learn how to take life in stride. Stuff like that is how I developed the sense of humor that serves me so well today.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning to use a crucial tool for story telling. It’s called defamiliarization.

Unfortunately, we all experience cruelty and meanness. We took those two things and put them into a new context where they were shown to be ridiculous and stupid. We owned that shit. We got laughs. Laughter was our escape. We learned to use words to take shelter in laughter.

OK, PJ, so what’s your damn point?

Well, I recently gave away a free Kindle to get people to sign up for my newsletter.

As I was drawing the winner and looking at all the email addresses I collected, I thought to myself, “Damn,  PJ, you had to tie a Kindle around your neck to get the audience to play with you.”

I was chuckling to myself the whole damn time. Why? Because just like the “you’re so ugly” jokes. Re-framing the giveaway helped me understand better what it was all about.

Look, my writing career is new. I am one individual out of legions of independent authors who publish thousands of books every month. A drive to connect with the audience just isn’t enough. I need to create as many opportunities as I can to connect with the audience.

What better way is there to connect with someone than to give something away?

The Kindle giveaway worked out so much better than I thought. I found hundreds of people to communicate with.

The person who won the Kindle was thrilled. That lead to a sweet email exchange and I learned what they like to read. Now, I can make custom recommendations to them. If I don’t write what you like to read, the chances are good that one of my indie author friends does.

I’m in this for the thrill of telling stories people like to read. Also, I like to eat and keep a roof over my head.

If I can get your attention, I have the opportunity to help you connect with fiction. I can help you escape to new worlds for a little while. I think that’s a major point of fiction.

Reading helps us escape to new worlds for a little while. It’s like taking a relaxing vacation. We come back refreshed and ready to rock in the “real world.”

Only it’s much better than a vacation. When you’re done with a book, you don’t have to unpack your suitcases, then do laundry. You don’t have to open a week’s worth of mail.

When you get to the last chapter of a book, you don’t have to wonder if your upstairs hallway light did trick burglars into thinking someone was home.

Fortunately, my real world is fiction.

That’s my job.

My name is P.J. Cherubino. I write stuff.

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