A Lighter Slice of the Writing Life

  • Sumo

This was a piece I wrote quite a few years ago. It’s – whew  : – )  – a true story. Oh, I didn’t leave the recorded phone message. I only wanted to. But every other call actually happened. I am wiser now. : – )

In the Yellow Pages, Under “Writers”

By Jesse Mullins

There once was a writer who wanted the work to come to him. One day, in a burst of professional insight, he seized upon the Perfect Answer. He would get a listing in the Yellow Pages of his local phone book. His would be one of only three listings under “Writers.” Everyone in the city would have access to his name and number. Assignments would pour in, invoices would roll out. Filthy lucre would be his.

He made his move. This is his story.

It was in the spring of the year that the new phone book arrived. Though this happened many years ago, for the writer it seems like only yesterday.



“Hello. Is this Jesse Mullins?”

“This is he.”

“Are you the Jesse Mullins that is the writer in the telephone book?”

“The same. I took that listing only recently.”

“Uh, what do you write?”

“Well, let’s see… magazine articles, advertising copy, public relations. Lots of business material and real estate news. Annual reports, newsletter copy, resumes, business proposals, human interest features, marketing reports, you name it.”

“I have a question.”

“Certainly. How can I help you?”

“Uh, I’m gonna write a book and I need to know where to send it to get it printed. I’m gonna move to Indianapolis in, like, about a month. Is there someplace in Indianapolis?”

“Well, I can’t say offhand. I’m not familiar with Indianapolis. Could I… ask what your book is about?”

“Well, uh, it’s just some stuff I thought up. I really can’t say. But do you think I can find a place there, in Indianapolis?”

“I suppose it’s possible. Is the book for or about Indianapolis?”


“I believe most of the book publishers are on the coasts, especially on the East Coast, in New York City. Have you thought about contacting one of them? Or about getting an agent?”

“Uh, no.”

“Have you written a book before?”


“Something else, maybe?”


“You could do some research in the library, I would imagine. They have reference materials there that would tell you of markets—places—where you can send your book to be considered for publication.”

“Uh, you mean the library has stuff about writing?”

“Yes. That they do.”

“And that would tell me about Indianapolis?”

“I’ll bet it would.”

“Uh, thanks.”



“Hello. Is this (etc.)?”

“This is he.”

“Are you the (etc.)?”


“I really don’t want to bother you if you are busy…”

“That’s okay. How may I help you?”

“I have a question. But first, I wanted to ask you why you’re in the Yellow Pages. I mean, do you write for other people, or something?”

“Yes. I have a listing so that people will have a way of finding me and contacting me.”

“And they call you and have you write for them?”

“Well, that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I haven’t gotten any work yet.”

“What do you, uh, write?”

“I write (etc.)”

“Okay, okay, uh, I don’t want to bother you, but I was wondering about where to get my daughter’s writing published.”

“Well, uh, what does she write?”

“I guess, well, she writes creative things. Little stories, and stuff like that. My daughter is fourteen, and she writes things in her English class. Oh, you should hear her English teacher talk about her. Makes straight A’s in English. My daughter would never call anybody and ask them about something like this, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. And I know she could do a story of some kind, you know, like a romantic or fictional story, for a magazine or something. She’s so creative. And she just loves to write. Why, I… (etc.).”

“Well, I guess she could start by researching markets—uh, places to send her stories—in the library.”

“In the library?”


“You mean that… (etc.)?”


“Okay. Thanks.”



“Hello… is this (etc.)?”

“This is he.”

“Are you the…. (etc.)?”

“I am.”

“I really don’t want to bother you, but… (etc.).”



“Etc. … and there’s a reference librarian down there, too, and that person can tell you exactly where to find… (etc.).”



“Hello. I really don’t want to bother… (etc.).”



Library, etc.




“Hello. This is Jesse Mullins. I’m not available to take your call right now, and you’ve reached my telephone recorder. There is a building in town, a place where you’ll find everything you need to… (etc.).”


“Hmmph?  Whazza?”

“Hello, Wrecker Service?”

“Wha-a? Wrepter?”

“Wrecker Service? I need wrecker truck.”

“Huh? It… it’s two-forty-five. In… the morning.”

“Yes. I have car in ditch. Need wrecker truck. You can come right now?”

“Huh? You have a wrong number.”

“This is (phone number)?”

“Yes, but…”

“I need wrecker truck. I call your number in telephone directory. In Yellow Pages. You come now. I give direction.”

“Uh, you’ve looked under the wrong heading. My name is under writers, notwreckers.”

“No, wrecker. I have car in ditch. Cannot drive out.”

“No, but… But you must have looked too far down the page.”

“I will see… Oh, yes, I see there. I sorry.”







Spring of the following year.



“Hello, is this (etc.)?”

“This is he.”

“Are you the one who has the listing in the Yellow Pages, under ‘Writers’?”

“Yes, I… no, wait!  I just had that listing dropped! You must be looking at the old phone book.”

“No, this is the new one.”

“No, I’m sorry. You must be mistaken. I had that listing in last year’s book, but I didn’t get a single business referral out of it all year, and I had it discontinued. If you look at the cover you’ll notice it is last year’s book you have…”

“No, this is this year’s book.”

“Oh… no… I… That must mean that… that the telephone guy never sent the order through. And that can only mean that…”

“Do you write for people, or something?”

“Uh… well, yes, I…”

“Well, I don’t know exactly what you write, but I was wondering, uh, well, you see, I need this sign.”

“Oh! You need someone to write the copy for your outdoor advertising! Why, sure. I write advertising copy, sure. How can I help you?”

“Well, I don’t know, uh, I need this, uh, painting. I need somebody to paint the words on my sign and I saw your, uh, name in the book and I was wondering if, uh… is that what you do? Do you paint words on signs? You know, with a paintbrush?”


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