Author Bob Hostetler

April Fool’s Jokes for Writers

It may be too late by the time you read this post, but April Fool’s Day is a good time to mention some ideas for writers who like to prank others.

In my early days of writing full-time, my son knew far more about computers than I did. (That hasn’t changed; he knows more about most things than I do.) So, one day before leaving for sixth grade, he did something. To this day, I don’t know exactly what; but when I turned on my computer at the beginning of a demanding day of writing, it fired up, showed a black screen with the word Deleting at the top, and then listed every file on my computer before shutting down. It was terrifying. I rebooted, with the same results. Despite frantic prayers of imprecation and petition, I couldn’t interrupt the process or get my writing machine to stay on. I feared the worst. Until, of course, I picked up the boy from school and he greeted me impishly: “How was your day, Dad?” He’s thirty-six now, and I only recently started talking to him again.

I wish I could tell you how to perform that unforgivable April Fool’s Day prank, but I can’t. However, I’m sure some of the readers of this blog know how.

One of the easiest pranks for a writer to pull on someone is to tape a photo of a scary literature figure to a loved one’s car mirrors (Gollum, Dracula, Pennywise) and wait nearby to hear the startled yelp when he or she checks the mirror.

Cindy Sproles, author of the novels Mercy’s Rain and Liar’s Winter, once handed a friend a journal with a plain brown cover and blank pages and told her it was a special edition of Mercy’s Rain.

Cindy: “Look at the cover. It’s amazing.”

Friend: “There’s nothing there.”

Cindy: “What? Are you blind? Look at the colors. It’s a beautiful shot of the mountains.”

Friend: Blank expression.

Cindy: “Flip it open. Look at the title page. I’ve never seen this type of aging done on pages. It makes the book look hundreds of years old.”

Her friend shook her head. “Cin, you’re looney. There’s nothin there.”

Cindy took it from her and handed it to another friend, who played along. “Looks just like the Smokies. I bet it’s Cades Cove.”

When the first friend looked about ready to cry, the pranksters ended the act, laughing hysterically.

Jim Watkins, author of The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language, once received an email from his editor, Karen Ball. The email said his new book was off the press but a few signatures were out of order. But she wasn’t that worried, as it probably wasn’t going to sell well. Jim knew she was trying to play him, so he called the switchboard (rather than Karen’s direct number) and told the operator, “This is Sergeant Conrad of the Grant County sheriff’s department needing to talk to a Karen Ball. Mr. Watkins was found dead from apparent suicide with an email from her gripped in his hand.” Well, Karen’s line was busy, so apparently the terrified operator interrupted the call to report that one of her authors was dead and she was being investigated in his death. Jim and Karen both laughed heartily over the gag but vowed never to prank each other again. But that poor operator may still be recovering.

Finally, Nancy Lohr, an editor for Journey Forth Books, says she’s not much of a prankster but “wouldn’t mind trying this. In advance of April 1, I would commandeer a writer friend’s phone and change my contact info to an author my friend would love to meet and talk with (e.g., Nancy Lohr becomes Beverly Cleary). I wouldn’t text or call between this change and April 1 so as not to blow my cover. Then, on April 1 I’d start sending texts to this friend from Beverly telling how she became familiar with that friend’s writing, offering to critique the current WIP. Subsequent texts would suggest general ways to improve the friend’s writing (and probably faulty advice). Finally (as Beverly), I’d make an offer to meet for dinner when traveling through the area, saying I’d call with specific information, and when ‘Beverly’ calls, I’d laugh and say, April Fool’s.’”

How about you? Do you know any April Fool’s pranks that would be appropriate for writers?


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