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Diana Estill | The Story behind Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life

December 23, 2008

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life is my second book of humorous essays. I like to think the book has earned the “Divine” part of its title—as in Divine Intervention—but I’ll share more about that in a minute.

Deedee is the nickname my oldest granddaughter gave me when she was a toddler. I added the “Divine” part. And then the character became my alter ego and sort of took on a life of her own. She made several appearances on Youtube. The next thing I knew, she was hijacking my columns. So I just got out of her way and let her have the book title too.

For several years I wrote a monthly humor newsletter. But thanks to all the new improved spam filters, many subscribers were unable to retrieve their copies. Eventually, I switched from writing the newsletter to maintaining a blog. There I receive many comments each day. Unfortunately, a number of them are from someone named “Cheap Viagra.”

Some suggested that I should wait for a better economic climate before releasing my new book. But after much contemplation, I realized that it’s during difficult times that people most need the healing power of laughter.

Humor helps us deal with uncertainty, frustration and anxiety. This likely explains why my husband is still with me after 18 years of marriage. We laugh a lot at ourselves.

With the publishing world retrenching and book sales slumping, I decided to bring this book to market the fastest way I knew how. I would publish it myself—which is to say that I might should have been paying more attention during my college business classes.

First, I established a micro-press company, Corncob Press. Why “corncob?” Because the URL was available—and because words that begin with “K” or “Q” sounds are typically funnier than those that start with other consonants. If you don’t believe me, just try saying “kumquat” without giggling.

Prior to starting Corncob Press (You snickered, didn’t you?), my publishing efforts had been limited to works that didn’t require typesetting know-how, graphic arts expertise or direct access to The Chicago Manual of Style. I couldn’t tell you what all those numbers on a book’s copyright page meant. And I still can’t without looking this up again. There’s only so much memory space left in my brain. I’m certainly not going to use it up by storing facts like that.

I didn’t fully appreciate how fast I’d have to work if I wanted this title to be available for the holiday season. Two months seemed like plenty of time to produce a book I’d already written.

In short, I’d read a lot of books on self-publishing. But this prepared me to become a publisher about as well as reading an auto repair manual might ready me to build my next car.

That’s where the prayer part came in.

Every time I felt lost, I went outside, sat in my backyard, looked up at the heavens and pleaded for help. And each request was followed by a new referral from someone. Within a couple weeks, I’d lined up a team of freelancers—all of them top notch—to help me.

And then Hurricane Ike tracked a wide path across the easternmost parts of our nation.

My editor’s electrical power was out for more than a week. This set back the production schedule, as he had no easy way to recharge his laptop computer and no light by which to see during the evenings. He worked a full-time day job at the University of Ohio, so evenings were his only time to devote to editing my book.

Fortunately, I’d found someone who could do both the typesetting and book cover design. By contracting the same person to do both tasks, these two production processes could be worked on simultaneously. This put us back on schedule.

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life is dedicated to my grandmother, the strongest and most unconditionally loving woman I’ve ever known. At age 96, Grandma passed away on October 31, 2006. She’d always said she wanted to be remembered as “a friend to all.” Wish granted.

Pushing hard, working at times well into the night and early morning, my team and I managed to have the book content files ready for submission by the last week of October 2008. Through new printing technologies and an efficient cargo carrier, the first proof arrived on my doorstep three days later.

When I held my new book for the first time, I thought how proud my grandmother would have been if she could have shared that moment with me. In fact, it almost felt like she was there. And then I realized the day’s date: Halloween. The book I’d dedicated to Grandma had arrived, through some unforeseen set of events, on the second anniversary of her death.

Regardless of how many future books I may write or publish, to me, this one will always be the most divine.

Diana Estill

Deedee Divine’s Totally Skewed Guide to Life is delightfully wacky and unexpectedly wise. You may not notice how smart she is because you’ll be laughing too hard! Oh, and she’s right: Does anyone really know what a scallop is? —Celia Rivenbark

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