News of the Weird: The Ultimate Author

Proving that there is no idea so bizarre or silly that it can’t be conceived of by more than one person…Yet another writing-related reality show appears to be in the offing: The Ultimate Author, which describes itself as “…an awesome television program packed with entertaining, engaging and interesting events” in which “contestants go toe-to-toe in a writing competition that tests their ability to develop attention-grabbing content.”

The show, which has put out a casting call for June 16th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Dania Beach, Florida, will start out with eight contestants. Each week, they’ll have two hours in which to research and write a chapter in a different genre, with the contestant scoring the fewest points being eliminated. Performance will be assessed by a panel of judges made up of “literary magazine publishers, veteran authors, journalists, book store representatives, and creative development managers from publishing houses.” (Who they are is not revealed.) “The show climaxes in the last episode,” says the website, “as the final three contestants battle it out.” (Is it very lowbrow of me to hope that jello is involved?) The lucky winner will receive “a myriad” of prizes, including “the coveted prize of a book deal to write their own paperback.”

What qualities will the folks at the casting call be looking for? According to the website, “Contestants…must be smart enough to spell well, creative enough to coordinate a themed book club gathering, savvy enough to handle an ambush interview, wise enough to develop an effective marketing plan, and talented enough to help design an eye-catching book cover.” (Literate enough to write a coherent book? That’s not mentioned, but the show’s level of expectation may perhaps be gauged by this Writing Challenge.)

Illustrating some of these skills, a video clip on the website’s home page shows a trio of hopeful writers engaging in such vital authorial activities as arranging a dinner table, participating in a spelling bee, and reading short writing samples they’ve composed using genre, characters, and themes provided by the producer. Contestants must also agree to follow a few rules, including signing “a statement of morality” and refraining from profanity (though you’ll be relieved to know that “ass” and “bitch” are fine).

The Ultimate Author is the brainchild of Lauren Spicer, owner of Von Enterprises International. Ms. Spicer is the “celebrated” author of the Spice Rack series of books, published by…Von Enterprises International. Any guesses as to where the “coveted prize of a book deal” will be coming from?

Ms. Spicer claims two Emmy awards and a long career in broadcast journalism and publicity. Will she actually be able to produce and complete the show? Maybe–but remember the not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper fate of Book Millionaire, a similarly-themed reality show that got 50 writers to submit audition videos and then went radio silent.

There’s also the, uh, problematic nature of the concept. Basically, it’s boring. Unless you can follow them on bar crawls or spy on them while they’re shooting up, writers are dull. Watching them pursue their craft is really dull. (Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Run hand through hair. Sigh. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Leave office, pace around, read newspaper. Return to office. Repeat.) You would need pots of money, plus much trimming of celebrity glitz and glamor, to distract the average TV viewer from the sheer ennui of it all. The above-mentioned video clip, which cries public access channel rather than major network, doesn’t bode well for that.

Only Tony Cowell and his author reality show would seem to be in a position to provide the necessary American Idol gloss–though even he may be encountering glitches. There’s word that the show has been pushed back, possibly to 2008.

Writers, you might want to reconsider that ticket to Florida. Unless you want a vacation, of course.


  1. I second the Jell-O! I like Jacqueline’s ideas also; they sound photogenically feasible. (Ha! I heard that phrase about 10 years ago and thought I’d never get a chance to use it.)

    Deb – Sound thinking, but we need to operate whether they have carpal or not. Wait; these are writers – how about a brain transplant?

    The automatic silliness is a good indication of just how dumb this idea is. You’re right; the task of writing is visually boring, except when we’re too engrossed to realize we really, really need to go to the bathroom.

    On the other hand, screaming frustration-born obscenities at a camera instead of a computer screen would be a change of pace…

  2. Susan, you forgot the part where the writer gets carpal tunnel and is operated upon…this oughta get the show HEAPS of ratings.


  3. What would be far more interesting is if they forget about writers and have the typical contestants used now on reality shows — instead of putting through tasks or tests — simply make a speech to a panel of judges about their dreams, feelings, how their day went. For every grammatical error they got hit with water or a cream pie. For everytime they say “you know” or “like” they get whacked with a whiffle bat. For every profanity (all profanities including bitch, please) they get dropped through a trap door into a pit of alligators. I’d like to watch a show like that. Something relaxing at the end of a tough writing day. There’s nothing good on TV (sigh).

  4. The serial comma is more often frowned upon in “marketing” sort of venues. This is because the decision makers in those places are only passing acquainted with the structures of English, and have no idea what puncutation actually does.

    [/gratuitous attack on marketing execs]

  5. I’m so glad Confused couldn’t see the problem with the Marjorie’s mom sentence. I was always taught that the second comma was correct (I’ve recently learned that both ways are acceptable). How funny is that, if the challenge’s quiz is wrong?

    Anyway, I like the blogger reality series, as well – could show people fighting with their computers when blogger hiccups! 🙂

  6. Julie? You forgot the really exciting stuff like when the writer shouts “Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m typing! Oh damn, now I just lost what I was going to say.” Or when the writer bangs her head on the desk because she can’t find the exact word to describe something. Oh, how about the stretches of playing solitaire while she waits for her muse to come back from hiatus. ;o)

  7. Marjorie’s mom is tall, strict, and articulate.

    I assume they’re opposed to the serial comma.

  8. I took that quiz of there’s and this:

    Marjorie’s mom is tall, strict, and articulate.

    came up as having incorrect punctuation. Either I’m way more tired than I thought, or whoever wrote the quioz is an idiot, because I can’t see a damn thing wrong with the punctuation in that sentence.

  9. Who wants to go in with me on creating a new reality show about blogging? We’ll have a myriad of prizes, and the contestants will do many interesting and competitive things. Contestants with the fewest blog readers (as measured by comments) each week will be eliminated. Contestants will be selected from the cattle call based on good looks, ability to type really fast, ability to look really stressed, and cleavage. Ability to spell, write coherent sentences, or think is not required. Ability to babble on about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Antonella Barba will be helpful.

  10. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Run hand through hair. Sigh. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Leave office, pace around, read newspaper. Return to office. Repeat.

    Someone did a video spoof of a writer-centric reality show, but the Youtube of it isn’t working now. 🙁 It included all of that, as well as getting up to get coffee several times and getting distracted by DVDs.

  11. The obvious problem with these ideas is that writing is the least cinematically interesting art form that one can possibly engage in, as far as I can tell.

    Week 1: Contestants sit at computers and type.

    Week 2: Contestants… still typing. One has made the shocking decision to write by hand!

    Week 3: Contestant writing by hand has been eliminated due to bad handwriting. More typing.

    The process is very mentally exciting, but not at all so in a visible way. So there’s nothing to watch there. Then you have the fact that even good writers make very mediocre money, and there’s nothing exciting there. Add into this the fact that the *good* writers are probably at home actually writing and not participating in reality shows…

    It’s just never going to be something that brings in the ratings on network TV. If I want to see someone typing, I’ll sit in the living room and watch my SO on his laptop. None of the rest of this is actually stuff that has anything to do with *writing*.

  12. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Run hand through hair. Sigh. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. Pause. Leave office, pace around, read newspaper. Return to office. Repeat.

    You forgot the runs to the mailbox to look for checks. 😉

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