Tag Archives: writing lessons from the dead

Dead Authors Keep Checking Into My Hotel

So, something strange has been going on lately. As many of you know, I work the graveyard shift at a hotel. I’m a night auditor. A supervisor of adult infants. When everybody is asleep, I am awake, fighting crime and surfing Facebook.

Anyway, like I said, something strange is happening at my hotel. Famous deceased authors keep showing up and wanting rooms. It all started when Charles Bukowski checked into my hotel as I was working the 11 PM – 7 AM shift. I’d been working on some writing when he showed up at the front desk, wanting to be checked in to his room. Then the following night, Kurt Vonnegut showed up. They both offered me writing advice, lessons on how to improve the craft. And yeah, it’s never a good idea to take anybody’s writing advice too seriously. Every writer is different. You pave your own path. But sometimes, someone might have a trick up their sleeve that’ll help you get out of a jam. And who better to help you than the masters? Bukowski, Vonnegut, shit… I had no idea how they had ended up at my hotel. I wasn’t a scientist. I wasn’t anybody. I was an idiot wannabe who’d barely graduated high school. One by one, everyone would eventually realize this.

After Vonnegut checked into my hotel that night, I was left wondering if this madness would continue. Would dead authors continue showing up in the lobby? Would Bukowski and Vonnegut disappear the next day? Every time I thought about asking the next shift their opinion, I reminded myself that nobody in this town besides myself knew how to read, so they wouldn’t really give a shit.

The night after Vonnegut arrived was a Thursday: my last night of the work-week. I walked into the hotel expecting a dozen dead authors hanging out in the lobby, drinking alcohol and smoking cigars. They’d all be waiting to drown me in their own writing advice. But the lobby was empty. Because I was insane, and dead authors were not coming back to life. Of course they weren’t.

I relieved the previous shift and stood behind the front desk, alone. Every time the automatic doors slid open I perked up, anticipating who it could be. It was never anybody exciting, just some sad sappy sucker in a business suit, stressed about tomorrow’s work day. Half the shift passed. I looked up Bukowski and Vonnegut’s guest folios on the hotel computer. They were still checked in. I called their rooms. Nobody answered. I thought about knocking on their doors but I had a feeling they wouldn’t answer. Were they even there? Were they ever there?

I went into the hotel kitchen to refill the coffee pots. There was still a good hour or two before people started waking up and distracting me with their various complaints, but it was good to have the coffee ready ahead of time. I hadn’t written a damn thing all night and I felt miserable about it. I’d have to write like a madman over my next two nights off work to make up for it. What would Bukowski say about this kind of thinking? What would Vonnegut say?

They’d tell me to get to work, to stop pissing about and do some real damage.

Was that their words—or mine?

When I brought a new pot of coffee out of the kitchen, I noticed a man sitting in the dining area, scribbling in a notebook. He was a slender, elderly looking man, and I almost dropped the pot of coffee on my foot when I realized who he was.

“Elmore Leonard.”