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Giving advice is not in my genes

When I check out the freelancing opportunities on the Internet, it seems that 99 percent of what editors want is "how to" pieces.

I'm just not good at - or interested in - writing a serious article telling other people how to live their lives. When I sit down to write, all that comes out is what's known as "fluff."

In fact, Stephen King has a lot to say about what I do. Informal essays, he asserts in his book "On Writing," "are, by and large, silly and unsubstantial things; unless you get a job as a columnist at your local newspaper, writing such fluffery is a skill you'll never use in the actual mall-and-filling-station world."

So, wanting to be taken seriously by literary greats like King, I thought I'd try writing something of substance for a change. It'll help me feel like I'm giving the world what it really wants. And because I'm not good at coming up with my own advice, I'm sharing tips from friends:

•When you're invited to a co-worker's niece's second wedding and you've never met the woman, but feel obligated to give a token gift, Georgia Andrews has the perfect solution. A red tablecloth, which is good for national holidays, Christmas, Valentine's Day or Chinese New Year. It's also a ready-to-go gift for her co-worker's niece's second wedding.

•When I sat with my friend Sue Martinson during one of her chemotherapy treatments at Emory Eastside Medical Center, she asked the doctor what to do about her dry skin. Expecting him to write a prescription, we were both surprised to hear him recommend Curel, an inexpensive, over-the-counter lotion. Worked for Sue. Works for me.

•Honey Greene makes the best vegetable soup in the county. No matter how big a pot she cooks, she never has leftovers. Her secret? A half cup of orange juice to balance the acidity.

•But the best "how-to" comes from my friend Joyce. After the summer, I complained that when I put on my old jeans, they fit perfectly in the thighs and hips but somehow I'd developed a little flab in front that wouldn't let the zipper up.

"No problem!" said Joyce, who's a few years older than I am. "Simply lie down on the bed. The flab will sink down into your abdominal cavity and the zipper will just slide on up."

No way! I thought. But, it works! I couldn't believe how easy it was to get those jeans on. Only trouble is that when I stand up, I have this muffin top that flops down over my waistband.

Now until someone tells me an easy fix for that - diet and exercise are not easy - I think I'll just stick with what I'm being paid to do: writing fluff.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.