It’s Taxing ~ Edmond Manning: Outside the Margins

Join us as Edmond Manning goes Outside the Margins.

Edmond Manning OTM

It’s Taxing

Last Saturday—full of trepidation—I carried my W2s and envelopes full of receipts to Tom, my Regular Tax Guy, the one who has greeted me for the past ten (or more) years in his home with the same jolly smile. Every year, he says, “Don’t bother to take off your shoes. Yer fine.”

Not so EZ

I like him.

His cats, however. There’s always three cats sulking around his house like moody teenagers. Visitors are an unwelcome disruption to their bored, angry lives. I swear it’s never the same three cats. They must secretly let in stray cats , taking turns watching game shows on the TV. I wonder if Tom knows.

When I arrived, the cats were watching The Price Is Right.

“C’mon, Nina,” he says as we pass a tabby with matted hair and a sullen expression. She hisses at me from the back of the couch. “Play nice.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that was not Nina.

We entered the hobbit hole that is his office. His office bookshelves are overwhelmed, sagging with books, stacks of books on those books, piles of paper on top of those books and then sprinkled with sports memorabilia, bobble heads and signed baseballs wrapped in plastic bags. When I sit, to my right I spy the same thirteen-volume set on ancient Egyptian life I see every year. It matches nothing else in his reading piles. Why does he have this?

Tom burrows into the space behind his desk, stepping over paperwork and maneuvering around a box of Wheaties with some sports guy on it. He nestles in and says almost greedily, “Let’s see what you got.”

The first three years I saw him, he reassured me over and over that the overwhelming office mess had nothing to do with taxes. He files everything electronically and his hoarder tendencies in no way reflected his responsibility with taxes. He was very serious each time he explained this to me and I believed him.

Again this year, he regaled me with the same tax urban legends he tells every year.

He repeated the story of the newlyweds who didn’t realized their capital gains tax hadn’t been paid. Jobless and pregnant, they received a terrible surprise. (Those two have to be celebrating at least their 15th wedding anniversary by now.) Then there’s the man who thought you could skip income tax if you worked for yourself. Seven years later, he discovered he was wrong. The woman who asked if she could pay her income tax from her HSA account. He tells stories while he searches for the correct, updated forms and enters my numbers.

Finally, he said, “Great news! You’re getting a refund!”

Tom is happy, like, Santa-Clause-happy, when he gets to say that. I have witnessed him be funeral-director-sad other years. One year, he delivered news to me that was (in his words) ‘worse than anything I’ve had to deliver.’ I owed the federal government $23,000. I have no doubt I am an urban legend tale to another of his clients.

While he printed my tax forms and I calculated the lovely things I could now afford to purchase, he said very casually, “Of course, this year you’re very likely going to receive a letter from Uncle.”


Uncle Sam.

Tom was pretty sure I will be audited.

“Your expenses,” he said. “You’re lost a lot of money this year on this writing business. Conferences, hotels, your marketing swag, editors, advertising space…you’ll receive a great refund this year, but it will definitely trigger red flags.”

He saw the crestfallen look on my face.

“Don’t worry,” he said apologetically. “Your expenses are legitimate. You’re fine. It’s just a letter from Uncle. Don’t get upset.”

I was upset.

I just found out I am certain to be audited.

Tom is a jolly fellow and he does not like bad news.

“Think of it this way,” he said, still searching for a way to make this better. “In a few years, if you don’t show a profit as a writer, the IRS won’t recognize you as an author, and they’ll downgrade your writing to ‘hobby.’ You only have five years to write off these expenses, so it’s good you’re taking advantage of it.”

He saw my crestfallen face fall further.

He blanched and said, “I’m sure you’ll be a successful writer by then.”

Uh huh.

It’s taxing, to love writing and yet not be all that successful.

I try.

I write. I market. I try to make myself write faster. I take classes from The Loft to make myself a better writer, a better professional in this field. Well, a professional until I am deemed a hobbyist by the IRS. It’s frustrating being a writer in this free-fall publishing world. Some unknowns do find that million-dollar-golden ticket to uncharted success, but most of us, well, we’re down here. And ‘down here’ is pretty great. But what writer doesn’t want the whole world to think, ‘you’re special.’

When you think about it, we writers have pretty shitty milestones for marking our “success.”

First rejection letter.

First one-star review, few words.

First, one-star, “man-you-suck” review.

After publishing a semi-successful story, there’s bound to be the first flop.

Even more frustrating than the IRS implications and the list of depressing milestones, is that sometimes friends don’t understand I’ve now devoted my life to this. There’s a reason they don’t see me as often as they used to. There’s a reason I’m less social, less willing to make plans. Writing requires time, more time than just sitting and typing. I sometimes keep my whole weekend free so my schedule can accommodate a massive writing jag. I just don’t know when the words will come, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

I don’t intend to be overly complainy.

(As a writer, I am permitted by my 1040A-100AB extension form to invent words like complainy.)

I have been blessed uncountable times with new reader friends, new writer friends, and such heartbreaking reviews of my fiction—imbued with such soul—that I cried aloud. So many people showed up to see me read at GRL,I had a hard time concentrating with that much love in the room.

But some days it’s hard to feel like a professional.

While Tom eagerly explained how “a letter from Uncle” was really not a big deal, one of the cats wandered in and lay on my jacket.

“If that’s Maury 2 don’t pet her,” Tom said. “She’ll take a swipe at you.”

Of course she will.

One of the cosmic banana-peel-jokes about not being considered a ‘real writer,’ is that for many years I searched and searched for my life’s passion, my thing, my gift. Yes, I wrote fiction during the decades I hunted for this mysterious passion but I was confident my gift was not writing because that was just a hobby. It didn’t mean anything. In fact, in my unbiased assessment, my writing was mediocre.

(Some reviewers believe it still is. And that’s okay with me now, a joyful outcome to come from publishing, knowing I can handle being grossly disliked. It’s okay. I am not everyone’s cup of tea. )

When I discovered I actually loved writing, loved it with a passion that kept me awake at night, it was like the romantic comedy when you discover you’re in love with your best friend. Writing had been there all along, waiting for me to wake up.

Years have passed.

I write.

I am a writer.

I choose this.

Not f***** around here, people. I will cut you.

Not for tax write-offs or the million dollar book contract, but because I freakin’ love putting together sentences that make me cry. I love heartbreaking love. I love when good characters find themselves feeling better about their world and themselves. I like trying to change the world—maybe only a ridiculous eighth-of-an-inch—through writing. It’s my passion. I found it.

So I will keep writing, taxes be damned.

At least I had Tom, who keeps me honest while simultaneously finding every legal exemption he can. He devotes September through December preparing for the new tax year, taking classes and studying. He found his passion, too.

Saturday, I thanked him for his work.

He again told me not to worry about Uncle.

I packed up my things, steeling myself for the Room of Sullen Teenage Cats, feeling grateful that Tom was always around to deliver me from tax hell.

“By the way,” he said. “This is the last year I can do your taxes. I’m retiring.”

~ Edmond Manning

About Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry, King Mai, The Butterfly King andFilthy Acquisitions. He spends a great deal of time standing in front of the fridge with the door open, wondering why it’s not stocked with more luncheon meats and cheese.

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19 thoughts on “It’s Taxing ~ Edmond Manning: Outside the Margins

  1. (((Edmond))) You are an amazing writer and deserving of a far wider audience. I hope more and more readers will find you over time. And good luck with Uncle – maybe one of the auditors will turn out to be a fan and secretly move your return to the “no letter” pile 🙂 I would.

  2. Kaje, you are such a lovely person to me. And such a huge supporter of me as a writer. I hope in this blog post I do not come across as ungrateful, because writers like you have taken my writing and made me feel very special. Thanks for the friendship and support. You make me feel like I belong.

  3. I had a similar conversation with my tax person this year, (I did my own the last 2 years and was sure I was doing them wrong). I related to all the things in this post, aside from the evil cats. And I’m sorry you’re losing the person you trusted with your finances. That’s the reason I did my own the last 2 years.

  4. Posy, he did leave me with a recommendation to another tax person, a woman who he swears he trusts absolutely and would have do his own taxes without reservation. So if you need someone, fellow Minnesotan, I have her number.

  5. Hey Edmond, I get what you’re saying. And yeah, we don’t talk about this aspect. Funny thing is, for me at least, I went into it thinking “meh, I’m gonna write and publish regardless of what happens out there. I’m a writer. I write. It is what it is. Everything is icing. Writing is the cake. In that way I’m a baker (wait, that went down the wrong road – but hopefully you get my meaning).” I’d like to think that the work will speak for itself, that it’ll get noticed and be praised. But after years in pro-theatre I also know it is all about the clout you have and the bucks you have to throw at it. Theaters struggle too. Artists struggle. It’s our lot in life. Most of us don’t “make it” in that way. I’ve learned to embrace what I do. I’ve often said I would trade 5 million 5 star ratings if I found one kid who needed a voice that spoke to him that said – “Buck up kid, things are okay. You’ll be okay. You’ll find love. You are loved.” Because that kid was me. Two gay authors literally (with their words) saved my young gay boy life. Their words healed me when the bullying went on and I didn’t know how I would get through the other side. I carried their books in my back pack and would read them for some sliver of solace against the bigotry and hatred flung at gay boys like me. They helped me lick wounds. They kept me sane when I didn’t have any reason to feel so. So I’ve learned to write for them. I have one fan who lives in a very remote part of the country. His whole life was spent doing for others. In some ways he was bitter that most of his life was spent doing things for others and denying his own happiness. He read my book Angels of Mercy and he said it gave him something to believe in again. He said my boys gave him the gift of reading again when he hadn’t for so many years. Now he buys book upon books and revels in reading about these men’s lives. I write for him. I write for all men and boys like him. Because I get that. It’s great if people of all walks read what I write and I am humbled by their praise and I take in and analyze their criticism (where warranted – being in theater I’ve acquired a VERY thick skin where that’s involved). But I write for men like my fan in the wild back country of Michigan. I write for gay boys who just want a voice to stroke their bruised lives and not make them feel quite so alone. If that happens, if I hear about those stories coming back from what I do. Then I consider that to be my biggest success. That’s what I choose to embrace. – SA Collins (

    • SA Collins, what a great posted reply. Thank you for sharing your story…I love that you found a reader who was so deeply impacted the way you were as a young gay boy! I love it.

  6. Just this. Your writing? It is a gift. The gift that lasts forever. I am one of the many who gleefully accepts this gift and longingly waits for every subsequent installment. Isn’t it such a lovely thing when one can take pieces of their heart and imagination and give them to others? That’s what you do, Edmond, you give the gift of yourself to all of us and it is stunning!

  7. It’s funny… sometimes thinking the worst, then feeling buoyed, only to get a baby-punch in the tax gut as in this case, it helps shake things back into place in a way, realigning our perspective.

    His retirement is change, for both him and you, just like the changes you’ve been making recently, the decisions you’re making.
    Realigning and change are naturally and annoyingly unsettling.
    The cool thing is, once the change has happened, there’s nearly always awesomeness on the other side of that equation. It’s one of the bargains we make with life when we’re striving for the things we feel compelled to, well, strive for LOL.

    You’re writing is like music for me, something I can recall almost instantaneously and it never fails to evoke a reaction. <3 😀

  8. Hi Lirtle, thank you for your insight. I love that…I do think that when you follow your bliss, the expectation is that it’s going to be all puppies and ice cream and then you’re surprised to find out you’ve got to keep striving — STRIVING — and that’s work.I agree. Thanks for bringing that up.

    And I’m absolutely delighted you compared my writing to music. I can’t think of a bigger compliment, really.

  9. Let me start by saying that I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no rhyme nor reason to what books will and will not be a success. Leaving aside the books which are for one reason or another amazing and make it, there’s an endless amount of drivel that sells like hot cakes as well as a long list of amazing books which never seem to achieve the acknowledgement they so richly deserve (in my – for what it’s worth – opinion). Why you’re Lost and Founds books aren’t (inter)national bestsellers I’ll never know. They evoke every single emotion known to man in every single book. They make me feel and think and want to be a better person than I am. I have no doubt that one day the right person will read the books at the right time, say the right things in the right places and those stories will find the audience they deserve and that audience will be kicking themselves, wondering why it took them so long to find those wonders.

    Also, thank you for the tax reminder. I’m in the fortunate position that I live in a country where artist are exempt from paying tax on the income from their art. I will have to apply for this exemption though. So, now that my books are actually for sale I really have to fill in the paperwork and set the machine in motion. That’s my weekend taken care of so.

  10. Hahaha! I had a very similar conversation with my accountant when she asked where my paperwork for Jaycee was. “You got a book deal, right?” << That sounds so important, doesn't it? Little does she know. Well, NOW she knows because I told her what I'd actually be making per book. She looked at me like I was insane and I laughed. Then she gathered herself up and said, "That's okay. Continue to keep track of your expenses. We can claim a loss for three years. After that, though, they no longer consider what you're doing a business – it will be considered a hobby. She then asked how anyone actually makes money writing. "So, you probably have to get a movie deal then, huh?" I shrugged. Hell if I know. Something tells me even that probably isn't all it's cracked up to be. Misery loves company, though and I'm in damn great company with all you guys.

  11. hahaha…Jaycee, it’s always so great in your company as well. You make me so happy I could send you another photo. Of me in the shower.

  12. Edmond, you know how I adore you and your work, and I love this post and all it encompasses–the good, the bad, and the kitty. I am delighted you choose writing, too, as your words are magic to me. Not only that, but they have led me to you as a person, not just as an author I admired. Truly, there is no greater gift than friendship, and I am blessed to have yours. <3

  13. Edmond, I liked your article. I had a similar conversation with my tax preparer a couple years ago. That my “writing” may need to get downgraded to “hobby.” Few words could make me bristle more. It hasn’t happened yet. But I know the feeling. And the passion for one’s calling. What we do is not a “hobby”

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