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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Annandale author Robert Schwaninger finds the humor in everyday life

Longtime Annandale resident Robert Schwaninger, a successful telecommunications attorney and civic leader, can now add one more accomplishment to his resume: published humor writer.

He’s got a children’s book out, Isabel and the Christmas Crow, plus one for adults, The Married Man’s Guide to Christmas, with another expected out next year, Walking Upright and Improving Yourself Without Losing Your Balls.

The public is invited to meet Schwaniger at a book signing at Magill’s Famous Pizza and Buffet, 7201 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, Dec. 17, 9-11:30 a.m., during Magill’s “have breakfast with Santa event.”

Schwaninger is the Mason District representative on the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority Commission, and he is on the Mason District Area Plan Review Task Force and the newly formed Community Revitalization and Reinvestment Advisory Group.

A native of suburban St. Louis and a graduate of the University of Missouri, Schwaninger started his own law firm in Annandale in 1986 after working in a Washington, D.C., firm. He’s also the founder of Flappyduck Publishing and is involved in several side businesses, including radio tower management and real estate.

Isabel and the Christmas Crow, with wonderful illustrations by Annandale artists Bruce MacKechnie and Carolyn Steele, is available from Flappyduck and Amazon.

The idea for the book grew out of a story Schwaninger came up with 20 years ago while on a date with his future wife, Isabel, at Bilbo Baggins restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria. The two met while on a jury together.  Isabel is “very dignified,” he says, and “she’ll never be as outrageous as I am,” but they somehow seem to balance each other out. It’s the second marriage for both of them and neither have children, although Robert’s wit and playful sense of humor makes him well-suited to write a children’s book. 

The Married Man’s Guide to Christmas, was self-published last year under Schwaninger’s pen name Robert Henry and is now being reissued as an e-book by Bell Bridge Books.

It was inspired by the Christmas letters Schwaninger has written every year since 1993. While many people’s letters are all about how successful they and their families have been, the theme of Schwaninger’s letters is “what defeated me last year.” Everything from putting up a tree, to stringing lights, to buying a gift for his wife never seems to go as Robert planned. His message to other men trying to negotiate the holidays, is “I feel your pain, your anxieties, your problems.”

Schwaninger has always been about finding the fun in life and turning his misadventures into amusing anecdotes. He admits to being the class clown in school. “I spent most of sixth grade with my desk in the hall,” he says. “I knew the janitor better than my teacher.”

He’s written about 370 “notes” on his Facebook page in the past year, mostly witty observations about growing up, politics, relationships, and life in general. He recently collected these writings in new blog.

Schwaninger also writes poetry, and somewhere on his hard drive are two unfinished novels and a third of a screenplay. He’s also got about 150 articles for a telecommunications trade magazine under his belt, and even there, it’s been hard to keep his humorous side buttoned up; he’s even written an allegory in response to a Federal Communications Rule.

Noting how difficult it is to write humor, Schwaninger says, “People actually laugh when they read my stuff. It makes me feel really good. I like to make people laugh.” His favorite author is Mark Twain, and among his literary influences are Emma Bombeck Alan King, P.G. Wodehouse, and Woody Allen.

“I’ve always loved a blank page,” he says. Through writing, “you can have an effect on more events and more things than with any other tool.” When Schwaninger is in writing mode,  “it’s almost like a melody running through my head,” he says.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool. I seem him around Annandale all the time. Its nice to know a little about him.