Today, TV comedy writer Ken Levine blogs about the strangers who pitch sitcom ideas everywhere he goes (it even happened while he was planning his grandmother's funeral). This happens to novelists, too, though the conversation usually goes something like this ...
BUSTER: So you write novels, huh? You should follow me around for a few days. Boy, I've got stories to tell.
ME: I'll bet you do. Now about those insects on the back porch--do you think they could be termites?
BUSTER: You know what you should do?
ME: Insecticide? Terminix?
BUSTER: You should go on Oprah.
The conversation usually goes downhill from there, with Buster pitching an idea that's not really an idea at all. I end the conversation by telling him he could hire someone to write his story, though it's pretty expensive. This is met by stunned silence, as Buster simply can't believe I'm not chomping at the golden opportunity to spend the next two years of my life writing his book and thus sharing in the riches of the magnificent, sure-fire bestseller he's presenting.
I'll admit I'm not terribly bothered by this conversation. Everyone believes they have a book inside them, and if they only had a little more time or a little more skill they'd be sitting on Oprah's couch telling their story to the world.
On the other hand, people who think they can write a book without having any skill at all--or worse, without ever having read one--make me want to reach for the fly swatter.