Autobiography of an Idiot Girl. . . .

I was born in New York.

We moved to Arizona when I was seven, and by all accounts, I was still pretty normal then, so I blame a lot of my defects and irregularities on the sun. I figure if you can cook a walnut by putting it in the oven for a couple of hours, you sure as shit can cook a little kid's head in one Phoenix summer, no problem.

I met my best friend Jamie when we were in the third grade. It was my first day at a new school and there was a rumor floating around that there was a bomb in the boys' bathroom. She was the only one brave enough to volunteer to check it out; I knew I was going to need a friend, so I followed her. The janitor caught us poking around what we thought were a row of tiny fountains, and I was sent to the principal on my very first day.

I'm almost positive it was then that The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club was born.


The first sign that I should not have entered the field of journalism introduced itself when I was caught with a fifth of rum in my purse the first night of high school journalism camp at the roller skating rink activity. My friend, Doug, whose rum it actually was, got sent home, but I only got probation, a whole day of emergency counseling and a wicked bad rep as the loosest, dirtiest, meanest girl in the whole camp. Within an hour, I was pregnant, a teen runaway and had made a move on the camp director, who was a retirement aged man with a red, flaky skin condition and a possible glass eye. They even wrote a story about the scandalous "Rum in Rink" incident in the camp newspaper. I mean, it was journalism camp, which is barely, barely, BARELY one fraction of a millimeter on the cool scale above flag corp camp. Band kids were cooler than we were. Janitors were cooler than we were. Katie Couric could have easily qualified as camp slut. Journalism camp left a bitter, almost Republican taste in my mouth that scared me.

Nevertheless, I became a journalism major at Arizona State University, got a gig at the school entertainment magazine, wormed my way into a column and grew roots. I wrote a book about having fun in my twenties with my friends. After college, three friends and I started Planet Magazine, a fun, sometimes snotty but poorly funded alternative pub in Tempe, AZ. I loved that thing with all of my heart and I've never had so much fun and misery in my life.

I tried to get my book published. No one would take it.

Planet imploded eighteen months later, and for the next couple of years, I freelanced around, got fired from several jobs, kept trying to get my book published. Still, nobody wanted it.


I began writing a weekly column for the daily newspaper in Phoenix, and then I started writing another book. I tried one last gamble to get the first one published.

I lost. By this time, seventy editors had written me seventy letters telling me "no."

I was hired as a daily columnist for the newspaper's website, still wrote the weekly column in the paper, and I got my own office, mainly as to not contaminate the remaining population of the department.

I decided to publish my first book myself, and I did, full of typos and errors, but looking at it made me happy. I had a book. It was mine.

Months later, a girl named Jenny from New York emailed me and said she liked my book and thought she could sell it to a publisher. I laughed and said that I had been trying to do just that for seven years. She said she wanted to try. I said okay.

Jenny sold both of my books, The Idiot Girls' Action Adventure Club and Autobiography of a Fat Bride, in three days.

I love Jenny.

Then the newspaper canceled my column in the daily paper and two weeks before Idiot Girls came out, the website canceled my daily column and decided to make me an HTML programmer instead.

I quit and went on my book tour.

You won't find any of my stuff on the newspaper site where I used to work; a reader emailed me and told me that she tried to find something, but, as she said, "it was like you were never there."

I laughed pretty hard at that.

So now I write books. I hope I get to do this for a while. It's the best job I've ever had.


I looked a lot like Melissa Gilbert from Little House on the Prairie. No, not the pretty blonde sister who God eventually struck blind, but the buck-toothed gawky sister who was always tending to some farm animal or crop crisis thing. I lied heavily on my head gear chart, my orthodontist knew it, my mother knew it, our neighbors knew it. "How can a girl wear braces for four years and and still have an overbite so big it looks like an awning for her chin?" everyone said.

In high school, only one boy showed me any interest, so I agreed to go on a "date" with him to the river. He knew who Black Flag was, so I thought it would be cool until he ripped off his shirt and I saw that he had the biggest nipples I had seen on any man. Nearly the size of coasters. He was red and freckly to boot, and after he cackled, "I showed you mine, now you show me yours," he got so drunk he actually passed out while he was swimming. You know, I'll be honest here and admit that I said absolutely nothing while I saw his Strawberry Quik body float away from the shore, that's true, I did not say a word, but I could not bear the thought of a drunk boy with english muffin aereolas pawing at me for the hour it took to get home.



Frequently Asked Questions

What advice do you have for new writers?

Grow some thick skin, be prepared for rejection, and if you really believe in what you're doing, don't you dare give up.

How did you get started as a writer?

Majored in journalism, joined the school newspaper/magazine, wrote as much as I could, interned as much as I could, and I was hungry for a very long time.

Will you read my book and give me some pointers on what I'm doing wrong?

Nope. I think that people write for themselves, and it can't be "right" or "wrong." Besides, I've had so many people over the years tell me what I'm "doing wrong" that I swore I'd never do it. After all, it's only an opinion.

How can I get my book published?

Very good question, but if I had the answer, it wouldn't have taken me almost a decade. The Idiot's Guide to Getting Published is a wonderful resource and will tell you everything you need to know to start the process--from writing queries to protocol. It's a great book.






Shelley Spray

I was not lying about the Melissa Gilbert thing. Or the overbite.

In a bar during real-life Idiot Girls (notice empty drink).

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