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Birth of a Notion

Author will offer Ventura County Writers Club members and others hints on getting ideas onto paper.


If you are short on ideas, just talk to Joel Saltzman--author, comedian, speaker and former speech writer for Fortune 500 executives.

The Thousand Oaks resident will speak to the Ventura County Writers Club at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Borders in Thousands Oaks on the topic "Shake That Brain."

It's all about taking ordinary problems and finding extraordinary solutions, he said.

Saltzman is known for his 1993 book, "If You Can Talk, You Can Write," but he prefers to talk about "How to Be the Almost Perfect Husband--by Wives Who Know" and "How to Be the Almost Perfect Wife--by Husbands Who Know," compiled under his other persona, J.S. Salt.

He started by asking nearly 1,000 women, "If you could tell someone how to be the almost perfect husband, what would you tell him?"

He used the same approach for the men's version. The answers suggested the theme for both books, he said.


His ideas haven't always met with wild enthusiasm. His first idea for a screenplay wasn't very original or even very good, he said. But because it was the only idea he had at the time, he wrote it anyway. Eight years later, he sold it.

"Ideas bombard us all," he said. "I think the difference is that some people have learned to write down their ideas the moment they get them and create a filing system. Others think they'll write it later, but they never do."

Then there are those who talk their idea away or tell it to someone who shoots it down. Telling your spouse can be the worst, because negative feedback could make you give up, he said.

An example is his book "Always Kiss Me Goodnight. Instructions on Raising Perfect Parents by 147 Kids Who Know" (Three Rivers Press/Random House, 1997; $7).

He asked kids ages 6-12, "If you could tell your parents how to raise you, what would you say?" Both his wife and agent thought it wasn't a good idea--and 14 publishers turned it down before one said yes.


Two years later, 90,000 books have sold. A successful companion volume followed, asking teenagers the same question. about their parents.

Usually undaunted, Saltzman likes to say that the best thing he ever wrote is better than the best thing he never wrote. After he had the title of his first book, "If You Can Talk, You Can Write," a good friend kept calling to ask when he was going to write it. He finally did and went on to teach a program at UCLA, based on the book's principles.

His latest idea came after he complained to his wife that there ought to be a computer book that tells you how to keep the device running.

That book, written by Elliott Stern, will be out in June under the title, "Keep Your Computer Running Right: A Proven Program for Fewer Crashes, Glitches & Annoying Errors," published for $8.99 by Saltzman's new publishing company, Shake It! Original.


* Sunday: 1-4 p.m. Open house at the Dudley House. The gift shop will offer "Summers at the Dudley House," by Wendy "Wimzy" Baily, published by San Buenaventura Heritage Inc., $6. Corner of Ashwood and Loma Vista, Ventura. Call 641-3563 for more information.

* Monday: 10 a.m. Authors Anitra Sheen, Lillian Carson, Cherie Carter-Scott and Robert Crais will appear at an authors luncheon at Los Posas Country Club to benefit the scholarship fund of the 12 O'Clockers Auxiliary of the Assistance League of Ventura County. Call 642-3134 for more information. $35 ($17 tax deductible).

* Monday: 7 p.m. Natalie Newberger will offer readings of "Putois" by Anatole France and "Benefit Performance" by Bernard Malamud, followed by a short discussion in the large meeting room of the Grant Brimhall Library, 1401 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Free and open to the public. For more information, contact Nancy Sevier, 449-2260, Ext. 227.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. Second Tuesday Contemporary Book Group will focus on "Evening" by Susan Minot. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. Joel Saltzman, author and comedian, will speak at the monthly meeting of the Ventura County Writers Club on "Shake That Brain." Free to nonmembers and open to the public. Borders. Contact Joanne Sehnem at 579-9414 for more information.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. A new discussion group will focus on Shakespeare's works. The selection this month is "Twelfth Night." Borders, 497-8159.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Author Natalie Rothstein will discuss and sign "An American Family," an account of a Jewish family and the story of their immigration in America. Calabasas Barnes & Noble, 4735 Commons Way, Calabasas, 818-222-0542.

* Thursday: 4:30 p.m. A new Harry Potter Book Group for children begins. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.

* Thursday: 7 p.m. The American Girls Club Meeting will feature Felicity. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* Friday: 7:30 p.m. Pajamarama with Miss Mona. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* Saturday: noon. Author April Henry will discuss and sign "Square in the Face." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* Saturday: 2 p.m. Story time with an appearance by Sesame Street's Elmo and photo opportunities. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

Information about book signings, writers groups and publishing events an be e-mailed to or faxed to 647-5649.

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