Summertime fun

Judy kayaking_Moutcha Bay #2

Me at Moutcha Bay

I hope you’ve had lots of summertime fun. I have! I’ve done some kayaking in my new (to me) periwinkle kayak.

MYNoWriMo legal padI’ve also been busy performing and writing new pieces. Writing with all summer’s distractions is hard! I had some fun with that topic for the Federation of B.C. Writers. Check out my article “Summertime and the writin’ ain’t easy” on pgs. 27-28 of the Summer 2015 issue of WordWorks magazine. (Writers who struggle to meet a daily word count for NaNoWriMo may be able to relate!)

I also had summertime fun figuring out what Shakespeare, Lady Godiva, Henry the 8th and others might TWEET in their online dating profiles. Courting Celebrities_Shakespeare_ Judy Millar byline(If you missed reading my piece in July 2015 Reader’s Digest Canada, you can catch it online:  (I LOVE the cool Shakespeare that illustrator Luc Melanson came up with, don’t you?)

Catching up on reading some recent Canadian humour was fun too. I particularly enjoyed Who Killed Mom?, a warm and funny memoir by Steve Burgess and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better by Monica Heisey. I also recommend Laughing All The Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz and Curtains for Roy by Aaron Bushkowsky. The latter two were shortlisted for this year’s Leacock Medal for Humour, and you’ll soon see why.

If your goal is to get a flavour of all Canada’s premier humorists, Dick Bourgeois-Doyle has done the legwork for you. What's So Funny book cover_Dick Bourgeois-DoyleIn his quest to live a more humorous life, Dick collected, read and reviewed ALL the books (to his pub. date) that had won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal, in his book: WHAT’S SO FUNNY? Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal of Humour Writing. It’s a “Who’s Who” of who’s [been] funny in Canada. Sampling all these Canadian humorists will take us awhile. That should let us carry the heartwarming, summertime fun well into our cold Canadian winter. Thanks, Dick. Enjoy!

Finding your funny bone

How’s this for a terrific “welcome home” from my three weeks of prowling around Portugal—a note from the Mark Twain House and Museum people about their inaugural Royal Nonesuch Humor Contest! No, it didn’t say I won (darn), but it said I made the top 20. That sure tickled my funny bone!

The note said (in part):  Mark Twain would have been thrilled with the quality and quantity of our results–we received nearly 400 hilarious submissions. […] Choosing the finalists and winners was an agonizing process and […] so competitive that the judges requested we include the entire top 20 in our recognition
…  Dusty Zima, Judy Millar, Nikki Stern, Kara Dawn Goodwin, Wayne Johnson, Jon Ziegler, Alison McGaughey, Leah Prinzivalli, John Kachuba, David Finkle, Katherine Varga, Melanie Vare, Patrice Fitzgerald, and Dinty Moore.

I’m thrilled to be listed with others who’ve found their funny bone and who exercise it regularly (did you notice the name “Dinty Moore” above? If I’m not mistaken, he’s the editor of Brevity magazine and he’s written numerous well-respected books on writing.). My congratulations to the winners (Yaron Kaver, Melissa Fay Greene, Briana Haynie), honorable mentions (Allison Williams, Josh Dobbin, and Alice Nguyen) and finalists. You’re all on my list of humorous writers to search out and read.

The story that earned me my finalist spot is “Ink in a Blink”—an as-yet-unpublished story that’s long been earmarked for inclusion in the sequel to my book Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories. That sequel project was relegated to the back burner as I got busier with live storytelling and speaking opportunities—maybe it’s time to get back at it. Speaking of speaking— this coming Saturday (October 25, 2014), I’ll be presenting “Finding your Funny Bone” at Vancouver Island Regional Library. If you’ll be in the Nanaimo vicinity and you want to find out how to add more zest to the stories you write or tell, you can register by calling 250-933-BOOK, ext. 109. Maybe your story will win next year’s Royal Nonesuch Humor Contest!

~ Judy

George Clooney street cornerP.S. As far as my last blog post about my George Clooney crush is concerned–yes, I am “crushed” to learn that he did indeed get hitched in Italy in September. But we managed a brief rendez-vous on a street corner in Lisbon a week later. Don’t tell Amal. 🙂

I love libraries

VIRL Nanaimo North ExteriorI love libraries any old day—but I especially loved one yesterday! That’s when I took in the official opening of the new Nanaimo North branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL). Colour me impressed! It’s a stunning facility. (My iPhone photos don’t do it justice. If you’re in the vicinity, check it out; if you’re not, you’ll find professional photos in the 2013 annual report posted on VIRL’s site).

VIRL Nanaimo North Interior 1Yes, I love libraries now, but I was a relative latecomer to the love of reading. If you’d told seven-year-old me that I’d grow up to be a writer—much less, someday write a book of librarian stories—my jaw would have dropped. I had difficulty learning to read. I was once called on to read aloud to the class, and seemed to be reading well. I was mortified when my teacher noticed that I hadn’t turned the page at the correct time. She deduced, correctly, that I was reciting from memory of her previous reading of that story to the class (my memory was good back then!). My surprised parents were instructed to get me to a library pronto, and have me read to them every night. What began badly grew into one of the great loves of my life!

Judy Millar, humorist_Naomi Wakan, Nanaimo Poet Laureate

Naomi Wakan and Judy Millar

I love libraries in part because of the great people you meet IN them! Attendees at yesterday’s Nanaimo North grand opening were treated to an original poem written for the occasion by Nanaimo’s own poet laureate, Naomi Beth Wakan. I think Naomi has written more books than you and I have fingers and toes! She is a marvel. She’s been a mentor to me, and to many. Here we are at yesterday’s grand opening.

Naomi has been encouraging area writers to pen poems about Nanaimo. A committee then chooses one each month for publication in the Nanaimo Daily News. I took up her challenge and had some fun targeting Nanaimo’s quirky street names. My Nanaimo poem was chosen and published in May (along with young Jeffery Adam’s haiku—way to go, Jeffery!). I’ll print my poem below. (You’ll find Naomi’s comments about it here—along with the email address which Nanaimo-area folks can use to submit their OWN Nanaimo poems for consideration. Why not give it a go?)

Nanaimo: What’s in a Name?

How to lyricize Nanaimo
when nothing even seems to rhymo?—
a place with streets named Jingle Pot
could render poets quite distraught;
or how ’bout Twiggly Wiggly Road
to make a rhymer’s head explode?
There’s Giggleswick and Dingle Bingle
to wedge into one’s little jingle,
not to mention Buttertubs—
the valiant poet tries, and flubs,
to make the poem sound poetic
when it’s quite lacking that aesthetic.
And yet, she loves Nanaimo’s spirit—
the zany names that quite endear it.
And what about the city’s name?
“Snanaimo*” is from whence it came;
“Great People” is for what that stood.
Nanaimo’s name is apt. And good.
Judy Millar

*The original word for Nanaimo was “Snuneymuxw.”

But back to libraries. I said I love libraries because of the great people you meet there—and at yesterday’s opening, I also bumped into Mary Ann Moore. MaryAnnMooreMary Ann is a friend, and a fine poet. She has a super blog called A Poet’s Nanaimo. Her new book, Fishing for Mermaids, was recently published by Leaf Press and she’s doing launches in and around the Island. Check here to see if she’s coming to a library or venue near you.

I could go on and on about why I love libraries, but I wonder: Why do YOU love libraries? Were you smitten the first time your parent took you into one? When and how did you get bitten by the library bug?

The gift of laughter

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail’Tis the season to be . . . blorft. “Blorft”is an adjective coined by funny lady Tina Fey in her autobiographical comedy book Bossypants to mean “completely overwhelmed but trying to proceed as if everything is fine.” In the mad dash that precedes the holidays, there are a lot of blorft people out there. Mustering seasonal cheer can be especially challenging when you’re coping with stress, illness or loss. Sometimes all you long to receive is a reprieve. That’s where the gift of laughter comes in.

I’ve been “Missing in Action” from this blog because we’ve faced more than our share of health challenges in recent months. My mother broke her hip and then my husband (a.k.a. Kayak Guy) required numerous separate cardiac procedures (the last one of which appears—thankfully—to have succeeded!). Simultaneously, a few of our dear friends and relatives were also confronted with serious issues and/or illnesses. While attempting to navigate these personal challenges and support others, I learned over and over again how the gift of laughter can lift the heart and lighten the load.

Christmas giftA good belly laugh is a reprieve—a sort of mini-vacation from our cares and concerns. It’s all about releasing endorphins. As with any exercise, laughter releases endorphins as we convulse our internal organs. Endorphins mask pain. At least temporarily, they help human beings regain their equilibrium. What better gift to give to someone who is struggling than the gift of laughter?

If you need a last-minute gift of “funny” for someone who’s feeling “blorft” (or worse), here are a few of my favourite reads to consider (in addition to Tina Fey’s Bossypants):

Susan Juby’s The Woefield Poultry Collective

Jonathan Goldstein’s I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow

Mark Leiren-Young’s Never Shoot a Stampede Queen

Joseph Kertes’s Winter Tulips

Cassie Stocks’s Dance, Gladys Dance

… and anything by Terry Fallis, Stuart McLean or Will Ferguson. In fact, you can’t go far wrong with any title  from the Leacock Medal for Humour list.

And there’s always my own comical Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories. I donated a copy of Beaver Bluff to Heart House in Victoria, B.C.—our home away from home during one of Kayak Guy’s hospitalizations this past October. I know others are now sitting in that sunny living room, just as I did then, trying to wait out the worrisome hours during a loved one’s surgery. I hope my gift of laughter gives each of those readers a small reprieve and an endorphin boost for the journey ahead.

Laughter is still the best medicine. I hope you’ll share some with those in need of it this Christmas!

P.S. Which book, author, TV show or actor always gets you laughing? Please help me lengthen this “emergency laugh list” for our future reference.

Finding the whimsy

Where are you finding the whimsy in your everyday life? Where are you creating it? That’s what Sprout Online Magazine asked me in an interview they published in this month’s (Aug. 2013) eye-catching issue (#22). It got me thinking.whimsycoversmall

When it comes to finding the whimsy in life, some people don’t look very hard. They reach adulthood and their compass needles get stuck on “S” for serious. Their playful spirits, their childlike joy, their sense of the silly, all seem to evaporate. And yet, a little whimsy and a daily dose of humour can heal much of what ails us. I hope the quirky characters in my book Beaver Bluff deliver a bit of both.

Visit www.Artsyville.com for more of Aimee Dolich’s whimsies.

Julia Fehrenbacher_Just right_donkey_medium

Learn more about Julia Fehrenbacher’s art at www.paintedpath.org

When it comes to finding the whimsy in my own life, because I work with words I often tend to look for whimsy in lighthearted images. Whimsical art delights me, so I thought sharing some might brighten your day too. (If you like the work of these artists, delight THEM by visiting their websites and telling them so).

And if you want more whimsy in your life—60 pages of colour-soaked whimsical images and words—check out this month’s issue of Sprout Online, Whimsy. I’m proud to have a poem included, and to be interviewed in their “Community Garden” section. You’ll find more of Aimee and Julia’s work in this Whimsy issue too, and you can visit their personal sites here (Aimee Dolich; Julia Fehrenbacher).

Patt Scrivener's "Bird in Paradise"

Patt Scrivener’s “Bird in Paradise”

Don’t forget to check out the artists in your own locale too. Here on Vancouver Island, I’m a fan of Patt Scrivener’s art

Patricia Carroll's "Lookin' at you"

Patricia Carroll’s “Lookin’ at you”

… and Patricia Carroll’s artwork

 

 

… and, on nearby Gabriola Island, I adore Tammy Hudgeon’s multi-coloured glass.

Tammy Hudgeon's "Lola"

Tammy Hudgeon’s “Lola”

 

Look around, and you’ll soon be finding the whimsy wherever you are!