July 9, 2012

Made It Moment: Steven Clifford

Filed under: Declaration of Independents,Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:20 am

Fools And Knaves

I promised all of you beloved readers that we’d meet some independent authors during this celebration. Here is one who brings to life the very reasons we needed an e-volution. Steven Clifford’s book is one of those unusual hybrids that doesn’t fall into an established niche, and which traditional publishing traditionally has a hard time with. It’s also…gasp, humorous. I can just see the rejections mounting up, stating that humor is a hard sell.

As indeed it is. But that doesn’t make it any less funny. The thing that many people decrying traditional publishing don’t speak as loudly about is that the people in traditional publishing are some of the most brilliant and talented around. When they say something is hard-to-sell or needs to be turned down for some other reason, they are usually right–by the standards and demands of this model. Traditional publishing has high costs and high volume and it can’t hang around in the so-called long tail.

But that doesn’t mean that books they can’t take on won’t find loyal readers. Or make someone laugh.

There’s another reason I’m showcasing Steven Clifford today (besides the fact that I learned of his work through another very independently-minded writer you may soon be hearing about). Stephen’s definition of ‘making it’ is probably the most independent I’ve read yet.

Writing can be a long, lonely road. We’d better be happy while we’re walking.

Steven Clifford

Until recently I did not consider myself a writer. Business was my career. I was the CEO for two companies in Seattle.

I strove for the CEO positions because I yearned to be a success.  Then I didn’t enjoy being a CEO.  I was subject to random anxiety attacks and fears that some minor error would expose my incompetence.  Nonetheless, I worked as a CEO for fourteen years until I clenched enough money to retire in comfort.

In retirement, I began writing humorous pieces, first short letters to my family and friends. Over a few years, this evolved to a weekly humor blog published successively on SeattlePI.com, crosscut.com, and the Huffington Post.  At this point writing was a hobby, similar to tennis, except easier, safer, and less expensive.  To write I needed neither a partner nor a court reservation; I could write whenever and wherever I wanted.  Writing risked few injuries and, though unpaid, required no expenses beyond replacing ink cartridges.

Two years ago I decided to write a book.  Having done weekly blogs for years, my motive was to try a different, and more challenging, form of writing.

“I can’t lose,” I explained to friends.  “I like to write. If the book never gets published I will still have enjoyed the experience.”

This was when I realized I had “made it” as a writer.  Chasing success in the business world, I had “made it” only to my discomfort.  For me, “making it” as a writer was simply the realization that I liked writing and would continue to pursue it with or without conventional success.

I play golf.  Even though I will never make the PGA tour, I indulge in daydreams of great rounds and continual improvement.  But it is the enjoyment of the sport and not illusory dreams that keep me going.   Similarly, I entertain daydreams of winning the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes for Humor Writing, even though neither exists.  I hope everyone will read my book, FOOLS AND KNAVES: THE TRUE STORY OF MY HISTORIC PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.  But if they don’t, I will keep writing because I have already “made it.”

Steven Clifford writes a humor blog for The Huffington Post, a skill he acquired while serving as CEO of King Broadcasting Company, Deputy Comptroller of New York City during the City’s fiscal crisis, and other misguided adventures. This picture, shot ten years ago, is the last he allowed to be taken.


  1. Sounds excellent! I’m always up for a great, humorous read.

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — July 9, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  2. Well stated! Speaks to the basic motto that we must write for ourselves first. We must give ourselves permission to write – and don’t need anyone else’s. What a wonderful Made it Moment – to realize you’ve made it when you know you’ll keep doing it no matter the outcome as it makes you happy.

    Comment by Donna Galanti — July 9, 2012 @ 9:47 am

  3. Fabulous Steven! Hopefully you’ll keep on going. I love humor books, so I’ve added yours to my TBR list!

    Comment by mountainmama — July 9, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  4. Another excellent interview. steven sums it up, write because you love it. Simplicty at its best. I might need to look into this little ditty.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — July 9, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  5. Sounds like fun.

    Arthur Levine

    Comment by Arthur Levine — July 9, 2012 @ 9:58 am

  6. Excellent Made It Moment, Steven. Good for you, getting out of the business world and into something you love. I’ve always believed that you have to write to please yourself first.

    Comment by Nancy Morse — July 9, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  7. What a cool moment. Thank you!

    Comment by SavvyBlue — July 9, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  8. Great made it moment! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Comment by Kellie — July 9, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

  9. Steve, with the election imminent in a few months, if you marketed this book correctly, I think it could be extremely successful. “Campaign 2012: Mitt, Barack, and a Book.” :)

    All the best…..

    Thanks Jenny!

    Comment by "Doctor Barbara" - Barbara Ebel — July 9, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  10. I so agree with this guy about the definition of success. Success, in my view, is being able to do what you love to do.

    Comment by Sheryl Dunn — July 10, 2012 @ 12:21 am

  11. Aw! I love this for so many reasons! Mainly because I feel the same way!! I feel like I finally found what I want to be when I grow up – a writer – after many years of blindly pursuing a career in technology.

    And for me, right now, like you, Steven, knowing is *more than* half the battle.

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — July 10, 2012 @ 8:02 am

  12. Boy, this guy, Steven, has got it figured out! What a healthy attitude about writing. After 30 years as a writer, I feel like I’m pretty much in the same place, especially as I launch my newest mystery series (THE RABBI’S MOTHER) all by myself. I’m loving the empowerment of being my own publisher.

    Jenny, Any chance I could do a “Made It Moment” around the time THE RABBI’S MOTHER is published (Sept, 2012)?

    (I’m going to Steven’s humor blog right now –)

    Comment by Jody — July 10, 2012 @ 10:50 am

  13. Hi, everyone:
    I’m writing on behalf of Steven Clifford to thank each and every one of you who were affected by his moment, as well as to thank you for your kind words and encouragement!
    As I write this, the book is at #4 on the political humor kindle list. This is amazing, and we owe much of the success to the kind-hearted folks who populate this blog! (And especially you, Jenny!)
    Thank you, and if you were thinking of getting the book but just haven’t yet, now is the time!
    The Fools And Knaves Team

    Comment by Fools And Knaves Team — July 17, 2012 @ 6:30 am

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