Donna Cavanagh shares a quote in her new book “How to Write and Share Humor” which she credits to Michael Cart: “Humor is the Rodney Dangerfield of literary genres. It gets no respect.”
Mainstream publishing may not consider humorists ‘real’ writers and discounts the genre as effortless but Donna, who has written humor for 30 years, disagrees. And she has packed this book with validation and practical tips for those of us who are driven to write humor.
Donna remembers when magazines and newspapers made room for humor, and she was syndicated for five years before the internet and downsizing shoved her hilarity off the page. She found a few sites that would publish her material, but there was a conservative element that made it difficult to get her adorable round face published in a landscape of square pegs.
She channeled her frustration into action and created a website and publishing house where humorists could find a soft place to fall on the floor laughing, mostly free from censorship. She named it Humor Outcasts and had no idea how far-reaching HO would become, casting an interesting slant on the chosen name.
Donna believes humor is essential to smooth life’s rough edges and shortly after the release of “How to Write and Share Humor,” she announced that all royalties would go to support HO. When she asked fans to buy a book and recommend it to others she didn’t foresee the launching of a world book tour.
Since I love the book, HO and Donna’s mission, I volunteered for the #SummerofHumor tour of Bangor, Maine.
The book arrived via US postal, tired but in good condition after traveling in a cushioned envelope. When she insisted on taking a rest in a pine tree to celebrate her arrival to the Pine Tree State, I exclaimed, “Shirley U. Jest!” She replied, “Please, no formalities. You can call me Shirley.”
Shirley was not enthusiastic about going to the farmer’s market for fresh vegetables but relaxed when she was able to make some wise cracks at Wise Acres farm.
Unable to survive on wise cracks and kale, I bought her a chocolate chip cookie the size of a dinner plate.
I wanted to wait until The Bangor Public Library was open but after eating the giant cookie, Shirley’s ability to delay gratification was at an all time low.
I thought Shirley was shaking with excitement when we visited Stephen King’s house but later when cropping the photo I realized she was indeed terrified.
When we visited the Thomas Hill Standpipe, used historically as a water reservoir and the famous home of Stephen King’s ‘It,’ we met a German reporter who interviewed Shirley for a piece she was doing for Deutschland Radio Kultur (the equivalent of German public radio). She asked Shirley about Bangor landmarks that coincide with Stephen King’s fictional town of Derry. The interview was frightful since Shirley couldn’t find her way out of a cushioned envelope.
Paul Bunyan thought Shirley was hilarious and I don’t think it was because she tickled his foot through his giant boot, but you never know.
We stopped to see the Duck of Justice at the Bangor Police Station and even though Sargent Tim Cotton, a past Erma Bombeck writer of the month wasn’t available, officer Rob Angelo delayed his departure for the gym and posed for a picture. He apologized that he wasn’t in uniform, but Shirley didn’t complain. I’m not making any judgements about her morals, but she kept slipping out of my hands to prompt officer Rob to pick her up.
Our last stop was a stroll along the Penobscot River. Unfortunately, the cookie was long gone and Shirley overlooked the scenery to focus on a lobster dinner at the High Tide Restaurant. I told her lobsters were out of season and she believed me. Shhhh…don’t tell Donna that Shirley is this gullible.
Later while Shirley napped, I took a sneak peek at her passport and discovered that “U” stands for Ultimate. I have to agree, Shirley U. Jest. You are the ultimate book for humor writers.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation and if you buy this book I won’t get any money, but I hope you do because it is terrific.
Photo credits: Shallow Reflections with edits in Picmonkey