Lulu.com is a pretty amazing website. We get tons of books, photobooks and other awesome content published through the site each day. When the site was smaller, I could pretty much see all of the new books that people had published each day. Now it is much harder to do and I end up missing out on discovering some really cool books.
I am a huge fan of the social networking tool Twitter and have added all of the Lulu authors I can find who use the tool. (Follow me here and Lulu here.) I happened to be following Marty Wombacher who, as it turns out, is kinda semi-famous. He founded the magazine Fishwrap and also has written a number of books.
Marty also wanted to be a firetruck when he grew up, which is way cooler than the baseball that I wanted to be.
Can you give us a bit of background on Fishwrap?
Sure, I moved to New York in the summer of 1993 from my hometown of Peoria, Illinois, hoping to get a job as a staff writer at a magazine. I had a connection with the founding editor of People magazine, Dick Stolley (you can read about that connection in my book, “The Boy Who Would Be A Fire Truck,” yikes, I’m plugging my stuff already!) and he got me interviews at People magazine, Entertainment Weekly and In Style. I was really excited and was certain I would land a job at one of them. Well one by one they turned me down (I later learned they thought I was a talented writer, but thought I might have an attitude problem. Moi?) and while I was doing some freelance writing for newspapers, it was a real disappointment. So I decided to publish a magazine that would ridicule the whole world of mainstream magazines. This became Fishwrap and it became somewhat of a cult hit. It started out as a black and white fanzine (this was the pre-blog era) and later evolved into a 48 page glossy magazine. I had a distribution agent, so it was available across the country. I got some decent press through the years, but could never sell ads for it (I’m a horrible businessman) and it never made any money. By the year of 2000 I felt it had run its course and put it to rest.
How many books have you written and where are they available?
I’ve written two other books. One was written in 1992, when I still lived in Peoria, Illinois and it’s title is: “Elvis Presley is a Wormfeast.” It was a humorous look at how Elvis Presley actually got bigger after he died (although he was pretty big at the time of his death, har har.) That one is long out of print and I’ve only got a couple copies of my own. The other book I’ve written is called “99 Beers Off The Wall,” and it came out in 2002. What this is, is one man’s guide to 99 bars right here in New York. The hook to it is, I had a week’s vacation from my night job, so I went to 99 bars and had 99 beers in seven days. As you can imagine, a lot of adventures ensued and in between the reviews are travelogue type writing of me running around in a drunken stupor in Manhattan. I’ve still got a couple hundred of these in my apartment, and if anyone is interested in buying one they can email me via my Lulu storefront.
You mention that you had a few “small doses of fame.” Can you elaborate on a few of them?
In 1985 I created a satire on Trivial Pursuit which was really hot at the time. My game was called “Trivial Trivia, The Idiot Edition,” and it was designed for people who weren’t smart enough for Trivial Pursuit. Some of the questions were, “What is Burt Reynold’s first name?” “How many members were in the original Jackson Five?” “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” I’m sure you get the drift of the game. I just did it for a goof, got them printed up and went from getting written up in the local paper in Peoria, to being on the local news, then the U.P.I. wire service did a quick story on it and it was put on a national wire and things went nuts. I did hundreds of radio interviews, papers picked it up across the country and ultimately I got flown out to New York and was a guest on the Today Show and interviewed by Jane Pauley. In the end, over 100,000 games were sold, so I had a decent payday out of that. The bad news is that years later I started my own magazine in Peoria (which again was a cult hit, but nobody would advertise in it) and I blew through all the money in three years. However it was through that magazine that I made my connection with Dick Stolley and why I moved to New York, so I have no regrets. Fishwrap also brought me some chunks of notoriety, through the years I got write-ups about myself and Fishwrap in Spin magazine, USA Today, Men’s Journal, The NY Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune and Folio magazine among others. I guess you could say I’m a legend in my own mind.
Do you have plans for another book?
Yes, I have an idea for one I’m hopefully going to have written by the fall. You’ll be the first to know!
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m doing a magazine on Lulu, just kind of for fun, I don’t think there’s much commercial potential for it, but I’m having fun doing it. It’s called Natalie Word and the first issue is available now. You can find a link to it on my Lulu storefront page. I don’t think a lot of people realize you can do a magazine on Lulu, because I don’t see many. All you have to do is lay it out in the paperback book section, make it 8.5 x 11, saddle-stitched and baboom, you’ve got your own magazine.
Who designed your book cover and the page layouts?
A friend of mine designed it. His name is Joe Freedman and he’s an artist, designer and runs a design/production business out of Portland, Oregon. You can check out his website at LeafDisplay. He does original and amazing work. One thing we have in the book are flipbook movies at the bottom of the page, that was all Joe’s idea and it’s a fun and unique aspect of the book.
I connected with you via Twitter. How are you using the service? Personal? Professional?
Right now kind of a mixture of both. I don’t have a lot of followers and I’m not following a lot of people just yet, but I’m adding them slowly and getting used to the world of Twitter. I’m finding it is a good way to connect with like-minded people. Without it we never would’ve met and this interview wouldn’t be happening, so that’s very cool.
How much of your latest book is factual?
I wold say about 98% of it is true. The book is a collection of true-life short stories, so its all remembered stuff and everybody’s memories of events are different, but this is how I remember them. One chapter about when I worked at a printing plant in Peoria is a bit of a mixture of different characters I’ve worked with through the years and there’s just a bit of embellishment in that one, but I admit to it in the introduction. But all in all, they’re true-life stories, from my somewhat unconventional life.
The subtitle of the book is, “The True-Life Tales of a Working-Class Writer.” What does that mean?
That alludes to the fact that through the more than twenty years I’ve been writing, I’ve always worked a night shift job in the printing industry. I’ve done freelance writing for a number of magazines and newspapers including the NY Post, NY Daily News, Nerve magazine, Time Out New York and others, but I’ve never been able to make my living off writing, even though I’ve had some notoriety and people seem to enjoy reading my writing. A guy I work night’s with read my book and said to me, “Why are you still here?” And it’s a question I’ve asked many times through the years. But in the long run, I’ve had tons of fun and experiences and wouldn’t trade it for the world. And who knows, maybe my big break is right around the corner! Mucho thanks for the interview Dan, and long live Lulu!
Thanks again to Marty for taking the time to do this interview.