"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Humor workshop, anyone?

If you've noticed my calendar of events, you'll see that I'm at the Southern California Writer's Conference in September, which is, like, a month away. I've been going to these conferences since 2006, and I've sung their praises lots of times, but this year, I'm actually teaching a workshop.

I'm so stoked!

The workshop is called, "Funny How? How am I Funny? (And How to Write it)" As you can guess, it's about writing humor. The name of the workshop came out of a website called "I Write Like". You plug in a sample of your writing and it tells you what author you write like. I submitted a paragraph from Freezer Burn and was told I write like Mark Twain. Then I submitted a paragraph from my weekly humor column and was told I write like Mario Puzo.


If you don't know, or don't want to bother with the whole click-on-his-name-thingy, Mario Puzo wrote a lot of Mafia-related books, including The Godfather. Hmm... my sense of humor is akin to The Last Don... all I could think of was Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

"... like I amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?"

I think this is just before he shoots someone.

So the goal of my workshop is to spell out some of the pitfalls of writing humor and suggest some solutions for punching up your punchline. Ha ha - get it? I'm in the process of organizing the flow of the workshop and I think I've got the material I want to cover, but I'm wondering:

1. Should I have charts or drawings, like PowerPoint or something? I'd rather not hand out copies of things, since I do believe in Save Paper, Save the World, but I could plug in some e-charts and offer to email them to people, or even post them on my blog or website.

2. The workshop is 90 minutes long, and I'd like to engage the participants in some kind of exercise after I get finished blabbing. My thoughts are to either see if anyone is struggling with a specific piece of their humor writing and have a group session on how to fix what might be wrong, or to have everyone work individually on some of the points I'll be making, or to give them a humorous situation and have them write it up in their own style. Any preferences?

3. Here's the other thing about the workshop: It's on Sunday morning, at 9 a.m. This is after Saturday night's banquet and subsequent late-night sessions. There may be some comatose folks - should I offer coffee and donuts? I mean, there's nothing like bribing your audience, right?

Any thoughts, writers and readers?


Maryannwrites said...

Came over to your blog after reading your comment at the Blood Red Pencil yesterday. You got me with "don't laugh I finished my second book" referring to your mystery series. Had to come over a meet you, and glad I did.

Good luck with the workshop. Wish I was close enough to attend the conference. As a humor writer, I am sure I would find the workshop helpful.

Murr Brewster said...

One of the things you could address is how to say "I am a humor writer" without sounding dull.

Thoughts on exercises: that's not much time, especially if there are donuts. How about asking everyone to write their own obituary? You could pace back and forth with a sickle for inspiration.

Gayle Carline said...

Thanks, Murr, I'll come up with an answer to that. Like, maybe, always wear a clown suit when you introduce yourself. How about, "I'm a humor writer. Seriously."

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