I can still remember that Sunday morning in 1973 when a Father Farrell visited our Catholic Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. He spoke at all the masses soliciting subscriptions for a monthly magazine called Liguori. Our pastor introduced him as the Editor of Liguori Press. “Cha Ching Ching!” went those little sound effects in my mind. I had been writing short humor articles about raising our four children and some other material on our choir, our ushers and on being a Lector. I’d sold a number of things to various church magazines of different denominations and to parents magazines and even a diaper magazine..([The latter might give you an idea of the quality of my humor.)
I must admit I wasn’t much of a participant that morning. My mind was spinning with a new book idea and when the service was over I was headed to the church sacristy intent on meeting Father Farrell.
I rang the back doorbell and explained my mission and Father Farrell came out and joined us. When I explained my mission he reluctantly sat down with me and I asked “Father, how would Liguori Press like to publish my humor book on a Catholic family raising kids.?” I went on in more detail and after several minutes Father asked “How long would it be until you might be able to send me a completed manuscript?” My mind went into fast forward and I responded, “How long will you be here?”
He said, “Until 3 this afternoon.” And I said, “I will have it ready by three and bring it to you here.”
We shook hands and I raced out the door.
I went straight home to my attic office and dug out the carbon copies of those articles I had sold to magazines. Then I went to the pile of articles which had been rejected and others that had recently been sent to magazines and after about an hour of sorting I had 29 articles in all. None of this was easy because my office was a real mess.
I sat down at my typewriter and typed out a title. “It Only Hurts When I Frown”. Then I typed out a short pitch for the back of the book that said, “It Only Hurts When I Frown. A funny, happy, loving look at life.” By Art Fettig
And then I raced over to my office at the Railroad Station. I took that stack of 29 articles into the Train Dispatcher’s Office where I had the unlimited use of the copy machine and I spent a long time producing two copies of everything. Then I laid the whole thing out on a giant picnic table we had in the lobby and I danced around it moving the different articles around here and there and at a quarter to three I put it all together with a cover letter to Father Ferrell, into a manila folder and I got in my car and raced to the church which was just a few blocks away.
Father Farrell answered the door, smiled and looked at his watch. “You made it! I was just getting ready to leave.” He pulled the manuscript out of the folder, looked through it quickly and all he said was “Hmmmm.Hmmmm”
Just a few weeks later he called me and said they planned to print 3,000 paperbacks.
It was my first book sale. Imagine, a book that didn’t even exist until I got that flash in my mind there at mass that morning. Certainly I had all of the ingredients for the book but I never looked at it that way until that morning.
We sold out the original edition and then republished it in 1986, 1990 and 1993.
It was a good start and I tried to make up with my prayers the following Sunday.