Sleepy Readers and Dumpster Libraries The Writing Life

Sleepy Readers and Dumpster Libraries: Laughing and Writing, Writing and Laughing

“If you want to change the world, pick up a pen.” -Martin Luther

One of the joys of writing for the public is making friends and receiving feedback. While this feedback is often extremely rewarding, it can also be humorous—as well as humbling.
Last week, while at a restaurant, an older woman approached my table and loudly exclaimed, “Hello, Curt, I’ve read all of your books.” As others at nearby tables looked up, I felt that surge of pride that writers feel when recognized.
However, this bubble of pride was quickly burst by the woman’s next comment, “Every night I read a chapter, and it puts me right to sleep.”
Everyone within earshot had a good laugh, including me!
Several years ago, a man from another part of our state contacted me. He had read one of my books and wanted to meet me. Once again, I was flattered. Upon arrival, he shared, “Son, I found your book in a strange place: I was at the Grant Parish Dump and saw your book on top of a dumpster …”
As you can imagine, I was astounded. Who would ever throw away one of my books? The idea was preposterous! It was like someone telling you your children are ugly. The man grinned, “Well, at least they put it on top of the dumpster for me to find—and I love it.”
My first four books are short stories with a rural flavor. Due to that, they are popular among a group renowned for not reading: men. I love to hear comments from country men such as, “I haven’t read a book in ten years, but I read yours!”
A male hunter recently told me this (probably exaggerated) story: “I was sitting on my deer stand reading one of your stories. Just as I was at the conclusion, a buck walked out in the opening. I actually thought about finishing the chapter, before I shot. But I didn’t. I got him, but I did finish the story before climbing down.”
Knowing the typical deer hunter, I rather doubt the authenticity of his tale, but I do appreciate it.
Often I am asked why I quit a perfectly good job and went into writing full-time. I simply answer their question with this story: Last summer I received a message on my answering machine. In a hesitant and quiet voice, a man said, “I’ve just gotten out of prison—while there, I got hold of one of your books. It helped and inspired me. I’m out now. I want to get my own copy, signed by you.”
I have no idea how my book found its way into his prison cell. That is what I love about the written word: it can travel to places, and to people, we will never meet. In spite of distance and walls, something we have written can connect with a heart, and through God’s hand, a life can be changed.
That is why I write. In spite of the rejection letters, in spite of the frustrations, in spite of the moments of self-doubt, I write to connect with people’s hearts. To build a bridge that God can then use to walk across into that person’s heart.
So, whatever you write, whether it is published or just enjoyed by family, it has an effect on others. So write. Then, write some more. Keep sharing.

I’d like to hear your favorite humorous story. Send your story by the comments section on this blog.

Curt Iles, the author of six books, writes from his hometown of Dry Creek, Louisiana. His writing ministry, Creekbank Stories exists to “Connect Heart to God Through Stories.” To find out more, visit



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