Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Humor Writing No Laughing Matter

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Humor Writing No Laughing Matter

Article excerpt

When spring has sprung, it's time for the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop at the University of Dayton, and the humor writer's fancy turns to syndication, book deals and, of course, romance.

Because what we learned at this workshop, and I share this with aspiring writers at no charge, is that achieving success as a humorist is as hard as finding love. As my dad used to say, nobody likes a smart aleck.

There are exceptions, of course. Everybody likes Erma Bombeck. It is only affection and reverence for her memory that could have induced a roomful of writers to join together in singing, before 10 a.m., "Our Love is Here to Stay."

Apparently, that was one of her favorites.

Inspirational seminars such as "Yes, You Can Write -- Funnier!" "How to Find and Work with an Agent" and "How to Get Syndicated ... or Self-Syndicate" promised us that, if we worked and wrote tirelessly and figured out what people want and how to market ourselves, we could make our tax returns much more complicated without quitting our day jobs.

And we were addressed by humor writers who are beloved, financially successful and alive, all half-dozen of them.

For example, Jill Conner Browne, who created the Sweet Potato Queens books, told us how to be successful by having friends in publishing, almost missing deadlines and writing rapidly without going back to rewrite or edit. She got her start riding in a parade in a tiara lobbing sweet potatoes at the crowd and now commands tiara-wearing mobs of middle-aged women in an online Sweet Potato Queens cult.

Bruce Cameron, Mr. "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter," struggled for years to figure out what people wanted to read. Finally, he filled his Web site with strategies to keep boys from his girls. Bingo!

Even the life coach who spoke to us about the value of networking -- chatting people up, handing out business cards, stalking, etc. -- told us she got her novel published because some random guy she met at her college reunion said, after some chitchat, "There's someone I want you to meet. …

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