I, for one, am well and truly convinced that any decline in American students’ academic performance stems from the radical use of one thing: a clear, easy to follow, TV schedule.

You don’t have to live abroad for very long to realize that America is a total outlier in this respect. You think it’s normal to watch Survivor every Thursday at 8 o’clock on NBC until the season ends. It’s not. That is a uniquely American experience.

In Holland, your show may be up to fifteen minutes delayed, because they’ve suddenly decided there aren’t enough babies in the Netherlands, and therefore, they must immediately air some soft porn on primetime.

In England, they love to start shows at 9:05, but that’s just an estimate. It may start a bit early or a bit late depending on how many ‘comic shorts’ they’ve decided to pop in to the day’s schedule. It’s like some bureaucrat knows you’re trying to dodge ads by recording a show, and he gets his jollies off of knowing that you’ll miss the last 30 seconds of Big Brother.

Here, in Australia, a prime time show often airs like this: one and half hours a night on three consecutive nights and then anywhere between one and two hours a night for each subsequent episode of the season. Not with me? Here’s the schedule for the Bachelor: 7:30-8:45 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays in August then 8:00-9:15 on Tuesday nights from September 1st. The finale, in October, will surely be on the one night that you haven’t set the hard disk to record anything, say, Monday night at 10pm.

So naturally, I started asking myself “WHY?!” Why on earth would an otherwise fairly advanced civilization make it so difficult to watch the programs they are presumably hoping you will watch?

Here’s my theory: the government doesn’t want you watching Survivor or Breaking Bad or anything even marginally entertaining. They want you to get so fed up and flustered by missing three improbably scheduled episodes that you give up on TV.

Does that sound far-fetched? It might–until you look at the other evidence. Do you know what was on primetime, 8:00 pm on Wednesday night in Sydney? It’s a show called Australia’s Greatest Spelling Bee. It’s a reality show, where you can sit back and watch other people’s children trying to spell words like ‘disappointment’ with no inkling of irony whatsoever.

Out of desperation, the children here obviously turn to homework for some brief exposure to something rational and predictable. You want to fix America? It’s simple: mess up the TV schedule. That’ll learn ’em.


Hey Dad, watcha doin’ here on my blog?

Chris Keelty suggested I “Pimp My Bio”, so here I am.

You’re 83, right?

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. Don’t be a hater–it’s not ladylike.

So what are you qualifications?

I’m a published author of a non-fiction guide to writing memoirs, and I’ve been a writer/editor for over fifty years. (Not many of you young whippersnappers can say that!) Experience matters in writing. Honing the craft takes a lifetime.

A father/daughter #PitchWars battle. That’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

Yeah, well, I had to go easy on you by picking different mentors. Remember how I used to beat you at chess?

How come you never let me win?

Because you learn more from defeat than you do from winning. If you thought you were born a winner, you never would have learned the art of resilience. You learn tenacity by being knocked down and getting back up again. (Besides, I’m a competitive bastard.)

So tell me about your book…

It’s a pirate treasure hunt for the modern age with a plot that features molecular technologies. It’s got a cast that’s ripe with tension: a privileged teen, a drunken captain, and nerdy dad. Everyone wants to find the treasure for one reason or another and betrayal is the name of the game.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yeah, if any of your mentors happen to be reading this, you should pick my daughter–I taught her everything she knows.

*This message has kind of been approved by Bill.

Let’s just be frank here: this blog will leave you asking questions. Like:

What is up with your blog and why was your last blog post five years ago?

Quite simply, life happened. I had two kids, and we moved fourteen times in the last seven years between six different countries, which all adds up to a lot of trips to IKEA. It’s no excuse for not maintaining the blog, but I was kind of busy eating Swedish meatballs.

Besides, someone was paying me actual money to write for Udemy.com’s blog, so, you know, my personal witticisms had to take a backseat.

So, why are you back at the blog after such a long hiatus?

#PitchWars and #PimpMyBio. I am here blowing the dust off the old blog, because one of those highly coveted and elusive mentors might want to see my social media presence. While I can’t do much about the skimpiness of my web presence, at least I can show that I’m willing to put in the effort by creating this awesome blog post.

‘Margonium’? Seriously?

I know. It’s a bit geeky. It was a branding exercise back when I when I was getting my MFA in graphic design ten years ago. However dorky, it landed me a gig at an awesome Seattle ad firm called WongDoody, and it taught me this: it’s better to be risky and remembered than to be safe and forgotten. At WongDoody, they also taught me that I was better at writing than at Art Directing (But hey, I paid off those MFA student loans like last week so you know, no hard feelings.)

What do you writer? (I like that typo, so I’m leaving it there.)

To pay the bills, I’ll write just about anything: ads, websites, letters to my in-laws…

I started writing fiction once I had my kids, because the whole ‘Hot Shot Creative Director’ dream just kind of died. Who wants to be chortling along with the office banter when you could stay at home and change diapers, right? I decided, and my visa status enforced, that I would Lean Out, and I started writing books.

I dabbled in picture books and middle grade, but my opus (albeit a 55,000-word opus) The Vault is based on an idea I couldn’t shake. You know that Illuminati conspiracy theory? Well, what if one family dynasty really has been calling the shots for the last four hundred years? Now what if a poor teenager took over the reigns? And let’s make him a hacker, because it’s not like you’re going to get hacked just because you’re researching a book on hacking. (Oh! Damn it! There goes my hard drive and my social security.)

What now?

Now, I, like pretty much everyone else in Pitch Wars, am looking for someone who can help me get this book on the shelves. Each of the mentors I submitted to has a clearly relevant link to either me or this story. I’m pretty sure this book is in the ballpark of publishability, I just need some keen mentoring to make it a home run. (Oh yeah! A baseball metaphor. Didn’t see that coming, did ya?)

And finally…

I just want to give a shout out to the other mentees, because completing a manuscript is a feat, and y’all seem like nice folks. Good luck! Any Sydneysiders who want a Manhattan on September 2nd, find me on Twitter @vonHofmannstahl.