Guest Post: Five Failed Barbie Concepts

Marc Schuster, a PA Literary writer, will be guesting over at Billtown Blue Lit’s blog on alternating Mondays.  Here’s a delicious and funny post by him that didn’t quite fit in over there.  I’m honored to share it with you here, and hope you’ll go buy Marc’s book.


  • Grindhouse Barbie: Cool concept, but hard to fit into a pantsuit.

    Woodstock Barbie: Proposed in 1994 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, the roll-out for this edition was to include a pink flower-power themed VW microbus. The doll was axed due to alleged licensing issues surrounding the Woodstock trademark, but rumors circulating at the time suggested that authorities had found a “sizable” bag of weed in the VW’s glove compartment.

  • Muscle Madness Barbie: Also known in some circles as ‘Roid Rage Barbie, this Barbie represents the most dramatic departure from the standard skinny waist and buxom chest that most collectors associate with the plastic fashionista. Though seven prototypes were produced by placing Barbie’s head on various Ken bodies, the idea was eventually scrapped when the US Senate escalated its investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
  • Grindhouse Barbie (pictured): With the 2007 release of Grindhouse came plans for a down-and-dirty version of Barbie based on the film’s iconic heroine, Cherry. Oddly, this version of Barbie tested poorly among the target demographic not because she was missing a leg, but because children found it difficult to slip Barbie’s fashions over the machine gun.
  • Lock ‘n’ Load Barbie: When Sarah Palin was tapped to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Mattel jumped right on the bandwagon with this brunette version of Barbie, which came with stylish glasses, a plaid hunting jacket and cap, a rifle, and a fake-fur bear carcass. Plans for the doll were scrapped, however, with the election of Barack Obama.
  • Midlife Crisis Barbie: Although Barbie’s 50th birthday has come and gone, rumors continue to circulate that a Barbie with crow’s feet and a sagging neck is in the works. Though Mattel has not commented on this matter, the National Association of Cosmetic Surgeons is gearing up for a massive boycott. “If it’s okay for Barbie to get older, then what does that say to women throughout the world?” said one surgeon on the condition of anonymity. “That aging is natural? That laugh lines are no big deal? Please!”

Stream of Consciousness, Billtown Blue Lit, Dizzy, Grateful

Thank You

Today, I am grateful.

Here are things I am thinking about:

My other dead grandma.  Not the one I wrote about here.  She used to come into our house in the morning in winter, wearing a too-light coat, and exclaim, “It’s DAMN cold out there!” Yes, caps and italics.  It was the word she said most enthusiastically.  It is a shame that she didn’t live longer and that I didn’t know her better.  I think she is my spirit guide.  WWFD, What would Flo do?

Great friends, supportive family and people, and new adventures.  I launched the Billtown Blue Lit fundraising campaign last night at Start Some Good.  I am so grateful to have $300 of support already.  I feel like a sentimental ninny, and I feel validated.  So often, I shout my ideas into a void, and my throat gets raw and I hop up and down and get red in the face and I say, “somebody help me! I want to do something good/cool!”  I think a couple of things are happening here.  1.  I’m a full-on grownup.  People think I’ve learned something about life b/c I’m now 31.  So that belief/faith/deference that other people show toward me fortifies my inner strong person, and makes her confident and productive.  2. I live in a really Excellent Town.

And here’s how you can help, too: go to Our Campaign.  Donate.

I want to provide shout-out links to these excellent, smart, good-writin’, supportive or prolific humans who have helped with this project directly, or who have helped my brain these past few months by giving me great stuff to read, replying to my increasing stream of solicitious emails, or pledging to the campaign real early, or providing great ideas, or agreeing to be on the board.

Help them by visiting them online, buying their books, their merchandise, or reading their blogs.  You can also just give them a great big virtual smackeroo on the lips, cos they deserve it.

These are in no particular order:

Jamie Clarke Chavez

Carlos Antonio Delgado

Marc Schuster

Julianna Baggott

Penelope Trunk

Tim Parrish

Katney B

Ellen Line

John McNally

Steve Almond

Brock Clarke

Cathy Day

Alex Budak

Ron Currie Jr.

Jo Steadman

Jim O ‘Connell

Billtown Blue Lit, Letter to you

This is my non-professional logo
Dear Friends, Neighbors, Relatives, Mentors, Heroes and People,

I’m starting a nonprofit.

Those of you who know me well are not surprised.  I am happiest when I’m captaining my own ship.

Here’s the elevator pitch:  Billtown Blue Lit will host a free reading series in Williamsport, PA that will benefit local business and writers of literary (not genre) fiction nationwide.

If you don’t know, a reading series is a succession of events in which authors appear to read their work in a public venue, out loud.  These events provide publicity for authors, and an opportunity to sell and sign their books, as well as to meet with fans and generate positive PR.

Here are some details of the project: First of all, the authors will be well compensated: paid for their time, reimbursed for their travel, lodged for free, and given a food stipend.  As much of this as possible will be provided through local businesses.  In the beginning, Billtown Blue Lit will employ myself and two interns.  Within the first few years, I hope to create several full-time positions by starting an online/eBook (and small run print) literary journal, a writers’ retreat, and a book group, hiring a development person, and an administrative person.

That’s getting a bit ahead of myself, though.  For now, I need your help in small ways.
I’m running a StartSomeGood campaign to raise the money to start the project starting late next week.  I’m sending you this message now to let you know how you can help.
As the campaign and project progress, there will be updates and opportunities for you to get involved.

The campaign at StartSomeGood is to fund the first two months, and to buy some time to work on grants and launch another campaign.

You’ll be able to read with more specificity about the goals of the project and about how we’ll use the money we raise once the campaign is live.

There are donation levels starting at $1, and donor rewards ranging from shout outs on Facebook and Twitter to t-shirts, to signed copies of books for the first year the series runs, naming rights, and sole sponsorship credit, exclusive Skype attendance or reserved seating at the first few readings, and Coffee with the Author tickets.

The campaign will run for 50 days (until Late January), but I’m emailing you now because we need to hit the ground running with some donations on the first day.

I hope you’re as excited as I am by this project!  If you have other ideas or questions, please reply to this email!

Here are four ways you can contribute:

1.  After December 7th, Go donate at  I’ll email you a link, or you can search Billtown Blue Lit at  SSG is a crowd funding platform with an all-or-nothing funding model.  The campaign won’t charge you unless we reach our tipping point goal of $15,515.00.  Every dollar is a step toward realizing the project, so even if you can only afford $1, please do.

2.  Forward this message on to everyone in your address book.

3.  Come Like us on Facebook:

4. Become a campaign captain: Send this message to at least 50 of the people in your address book, post on Facebook or Tweet to your followers at least once a week about the project starting now until February 1.  If you want to be a captain, reply to this email, and when the campaign’s over, you can choose from either a Blue Lit t-shirt, an MP3 of the first reading, or reserved seating at the first reading.

Sincere thanks in advance, and warm wishes for you and your people this holiday season.


April Line

Big Announcement: New Venture, Start Some Good, Twelve Good Things

This is my non-professional logo

As I write this, I am working to launch a fundraising project on Start Some Good.  I have a great idea and the expertise to make it go if we can raise the cash.

The Folks over at like the project, and they’ve approved me to utilize their site.

You, good blog readers, get to have a sneak peek of the project, and to follow the progress from day one.

I’ll admit that I’m both insanely excited and scared to death about this thing.  I am excited because I want to serve authors and my community, and I think there are a lot of folks who will be as excited about this project as I am.

I am scared because of the possibility of failure, and because I have a fairly long history of people showing up to tell me how my big ideas are impossible/bad/wrong.  I have learned to sidestep them, but they are sneaky and they affirm my inner editor (who is a massive bitch) who wants me to believe I’m horrible and will always fail.  Of course, that possibility always exists, but you can see here why I think the insecurity it causes should mostly be ignored.

I need your help.  Once my fundraising campaign is live, I’ll tell you about it, and I’ll ask for your support.  But for now, what I need is help with the video, recommendations of  (preferably local to Central PA) attorneys and accountants who work in the nonprofit sector, and good writers of literary fiction. And I need more ideas.  Ideas beget ideas.

I need you to tell your friends about this project.

I’ll be telling all of my friends and posting updates here, at twitter and–once I hit my tipping point–on the Billtown Blue Lit website, which will be designed and hosted by local web professionals.

I’ll need to form an unpaid board of directors within the next several months, so if that’s something you’re interested in, or to help with anything above (or below), email me at or comment here.

Williamsport is a great town, I’m proud to live here. This project is a great match for our already arts-centered community.

Here are the 12 things that are up at the Start Some Good venture as things I’m aiming to accomplish.

1. Bringing the writers to town will provide an opportunity for Blue Lit to contract with local hotels/B&Bs to board the writers.  Blue Lit will ONLY feed the authors at local, independently owned eateries.

2. There will be an opportunity for folks in the community to hear these authors read their work, get exposed to new authors, and to meet them and ask questions at the reception and Q&A that will follow each event.  The events will be free and open to the public.

3. Blue Lit will work with The Pajama Factory (local artists’ haven) to start a writer-in-residence program which will provide an opportunity for a writer to work on her stuff in a place that’s designated to artists.

4. Farther down the line, Blue Lit will host a writer’s workshop (like the one Tin House does, that’s what I’ve linked), and provide more culture and commerce to the independently owned businesses in the town.

5. Blue Lit will consistently fund-raise to provide a scholarship fund for deserving, gifted writers of single mothers.

6. Blue Lit will employ local college students as marketing interns, and eventually as office personnel.

7. Blue Lit will work with Otto (independent book seller) to feature the books by the visiting readers, and with the community library to feature the same books.

8. Advertising is key.  I’ve been in touch with the local radio folks and they said that they’re willing to tout the series throughout their entire listening area which spans a huge portion of central PA. I’ve also done some research about print advertising and will run twitter, facebook, and blogging campaigns.

9. Blue Lit will provide a stipend that’s on the high end for visiting writers ($1,000), and we will encourage the visiting author to sell books at the event.

10. Blue Lit will work to give writers additional venues by launching an online literary journal, and contests that award cash prizes to new writers. (á la Glimmer Train)

11. I will contract with local freelancers with whom I already have a working relationship to put together the marketing materials (brochure, flyers, website, etc). These will be printed at the local print shoppe.

12. Blue Lit will do a book group focusing on the  most recent work of the visitng writer. This will generate hype, and will also raise funds.