Recently I was giving a humor presentation at the Portland Chapter of the Willamette Writers. I gave students a list of information that writers and comedians commonly use to infuse humor into their writing. Then I read from a list of funny quotes—or quotes I thought were funny. These were all excerpts from novels or short stories. We then dissected and figured out what was working in each. I included a few of mine in the list, which was a little scary, since I never have any idea how people will react. The thing about humor is that what works for one audience, doesn’t always work for another. Fortunately it worked out that I picked some gems.
Warning: one of the excerpts has R-rated language.
“Speed Dating Books” from Fairies, Robots and Unicorns—Oh My! (Sarina Dorie)
One of the books bounced up and down, unable to contain itself. “You know you want to take me home and rip off my dust jacket.”
Seven Up (Janet Evanovich)
For the better part of my childhood, my professional aspirations were simple–I wanted to be an intergalactic princess.
The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul (Douglas Adams)
It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.'
Since I am no longer an agented author, I decided I needed to go to the Willamette Writers Conference and find a new agent or an editor to pitch my novels to. My first problem: deciding which novel to pitch since I write and edit several novels in a year and I have two different worlds I am currently working in. My second problem was coming up with a good pitch. (More information on that in my next post.) My third problem, maximizing my time, since I was only going to be at the conference Thursday and Friday.
Here are some things I found valuable about the Willamette Writers Conference:
Thursday Night Pitch for the Prize
I am not just recommending this because I won this year, but it does help.
I have been really into Rachel Bloom lately. I love music, dance and comedy. Her videos combine the best of those worlds. Rachel Bloom has her own television show. I don’t have cable, so I’ve only seen excerpts. Some of these pieces are a little naughtier than the Studio C I’ve posted in the past. But I like how smart and sassy the humor is. I enjoy the feminine take on the humor. I can relate to the things feminine issues or feminine perspective on dating and other topics in some of her videos. The particular ones I selected below I love because of the music and concepts.
Only a teacher can know the exact joys and torments a school environment can hold. I have had some great experiences during the last year at my current school, as well as other schools, but there are a lot of things that go on that make the job overwhelming. There are so many hoops teachers have to jump through to keep our licenses: the standardize testing is not only ridiculous but it is commercialism at it’s worst, run by private companies only there to make money; the budget cuts, the ever increasing class size and the huge lack of respect among students, parents and sometimes administrators.
Sometimes it is nice to just take a break and have a laugh at something cute related to the job. Below are a few of my favorite teacher related videos.
As a writer of semi-historical novels, it is fun to see a period piece. I used to be a Civil War reenactor and seeing the costumes brings back memories. I was able to use my love of costuming and knowledge of Victorian etiquette when writing The Memory Thief series, my steampunk novel. When I am writing neo-Victorian or alternate history, it’s so useful to immerse myself in that world. The problem is, so many pieces that explore the era in film are written with a modern and American lens. We expect people to behave with the social correctness of our era and for women to behave as they would today. This movie blends the social mores of a past era with the true story of an uppity woman who was outspoken in her time and how this isolated her from people around her. It is a realistic portrayal of Emily Dickinson and her world.
A Quiet Passion is a quiet, literary film fictionalizing a biography of Emily Dickinson’s life. People who are drawn to the internal conflict and character development of literary fiction are more likely to enjoy this story. I can see how this would be a must watch for poetry fans and Emily Dickinson’s fans. This movie isn’t for someone wanting to watch a movie with explosions and robots, heroes saving the universe against galactic evil, or happy endings. It doesn’t sensationalize Emily Dickinson’s love affairs or titillate with forbidden romance. It is quiet, subtle and sad like Emily Dickinson’s poetry.
These videos feature a few of my favorite things: Harry Potter, parodies and music. Considering I am a Harry Potter fan AND a belly dancer, it should be no surprise I would dance to this. I have done so twice and I hope to do so again. I’ve saved that special treat for last because if you watch it first, nothing else will compare.
Sometimes people ask me questions about writing query or cover letters. I remember struggling over this myself early on. Through the process of selling over a hundred short stories, I have made quite a few mistakes along the way. I have addressed cover letters to the wrong person, included information an editor specifically asked not to have included, and even submitted a cover letter that didn’t match the name of the story.
Mistakes made from not getting enough sleep aside, I’ve also just learned through the process of submitting and reading guidelines for what to include. There are differences from a cover letter I submit for a novel versus a short story.
Below are some hints to keep in mind when submitting a cover letter and short story to a magazine.
I found out a while ago there’s a fun term for Harry Potter nerds: Potterheads. Not to be confused with a different name more commonly found in Eugene, Oregon. As a fantasy reader and Potterhead, I can’t get enough Harry Potter. Here are a few fun videos I’ve enjoyed and compiled that other fans might get a kick out of too.
A couple months ago I was writing a short story (which turned into a novella) titled, The Viviparous Quadripeds of Aynu-Mosir. This is a story set in The Memory Thief novel series about an Ainu man (aboriginal Japanese) who is raised in an Irish neighborhood on a moon colony. I wanted a lot of old-timey Irish slang. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to use Gaelic, it was more that I wanted regional dialect. There are common English words that I don’t think about having an Irish origin or usage, but I needed reminders for what those were. I ended up stumbling upon a few great websites that I wanted to share in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
Below are some of the useful websites I found.
My favorite words from this site were: arse, arseways, bloody, bogtrotter, bushed (tired), cake-hole (mouth), drawers (underwear), gawk (stare), gobshite (idiot), gowl (idiot), piss up (night of lots of drinking), puss face (foul tempered person), scutters (diarrhea), shenanigans (mischief) and there was so much more.
I loved the Adam’s family when I was a kid as well as the Munsters. This video series parody is a lot of fun because it uses a lot of those old jokes, but twists them and changes them to make them relevant for grown up Wednesday Adams. One of my favorites is Season 2’s first episode as the babysitter. I do think it is better to watch the first season first, though. Her humor if fun, feminist without crossing the line into man-hating and uses the paranormal elements that made the original series so funny. My one complain is that she doesn’t have more. The creator also has another series, Wolfgirl but I like this more.
Below are three of my favorite videos, though I do suggest watching them in order because there is a story arch in the series as well.
There’s nothing like an in-joke that you get because you have the background and insight to get it. That’s how these videos are. Each centers around some aspect of “nerd” culture, whether that’s Star Trek, gaming, Harry Potter or Star Wars. It’s so much more fun to be in on the joke and make fun of ourselves than for an outsider to do so.
I like comedy. It doesn’t matter if it is paranormal or mainstream. I can dissect humor and say the reason something is funny is because it is unexpected. It surprises us in some way. But we all have our individual tastes of what works and how far those boundaries can be pushed. Some of these pieces are a little naughtier than the Studio C I’ve posted in the past. But I like how smart and sassy the humor is. I enjoy the feminine take on the humor. I can relate to the things feminine issues or feminine perspective on some of these topics.
I love humor, so it is no surprise I like to write humor. When I teach humor workshops, I always tell people who want to write humor to watch and read things that make you laugh. Spiritual Life with J.P. definitely made me laugh.
One of the things I enjoy about Spiritual Life is the dry, matter-of-fact presentation of information. I think I also get this humor because I can relate to the topics. I have seen these trends and been part of it myself. Below are J.P.’s seven funniest videos.
How to Become Gluten Intolerant
I am not gluten intolerant, but I am allergic to wheat. My boyfriend was afraid to show me this video because he thought it would offend me. Apparently he thinks i do all these things. I thought it was the funniest video.