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!

Dem bones … dey break!

Skeleton_Dem bonesI’ve been M.I.A. online for awhile. Those of you who follow these posts may be wondering why. Blame “dem bones”—the ones in our family that keep breaking. First my mother fell and broke her hip necessitating an extended trip/stay in Ontario for me. I returned to B.C. to break my little toe on a table leg. Oh, that little piggy went wee, wee, wee! Still, it all pales in comparison to my stepson’s motorcycle misery. He landed with a broken hip, femur, kneecap, fibula and tibia!

ToeIt’s almost like dem bones are trying to tell us something. Slow down? Pay attention? Take it easy? Maybe all of the above. Summer seems ideal for that—especially the sunny one we’re enjoying here in B.C.—so I’m propping my pained piggies up on pillows and chilling out. I hope you’re chilling out too (minus the ice pack)!

While I’m resting dem bones, I’m brainstorming stories for another book set in fictional Big Beaver County. I’ve got one about a tattoo artist who can’t spell and I’m working on another about a fly fisherman who’s trying to snag his best catch yet. I’d love to hear YOUR ideas for what you’d like to see happen next in this crazy corner of the Pacific Northwest. Or which comic characters from Beaver Bluff you’d like to see make cameo appearances in new stories (Margery Millhausen, the love-starved  librarian? Garmond Grayley, the flatulent downsizer? Or?).

WordChickz_with logo_Greg's 2013Cindy Shantz and I are also brainstorming new performance material for this Fall. I think I’ll sprinkle a serious story or two into our September 27  WordChickz performance at McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville. It’s all about balance … something dem bones protest I haven’t had enough of lately. So here’s to balance … in your life, and mine!

~ Judy

P.S. I’d love to hear (maybe even develop) your new story ideas or reprise your favourite characters from Beaver Bluff. Let’s chat—in the comments below, or privately (via the contact form).

Bad poetry, good fun—see who won!

On May 14, we launched our first annual “Bad Poetry” contest—just for the fun of it. And fun it has been! But all bad things must come to an end.

Our esteemed judges (one from B.C. and two from Ontario) all maintain they enjoyed combing through the “crappy couplets” submitted in search of truly terrible tripe, horrible haiku and rhymes rotten enough to capture our coveted prize. They also elected to remain anonymous (what’s up with that?) but we thank them, and all who entered. You can read their bad poetry in the Comments to our bad poetry challenge.

Our judges noted that, thematically, most of the entrants gravitated to writing bad poetry about either “life’s ironies” or “failed romances.” A few others apparently enjoyed participating simply for the wordplay fun.

Sardines from MSWordAmong the WORDPLAY WIZARDS (or should we say Wackos?) were Awful Andrew, Just-as-bad John (who entered offline), Shakespearean-sounding Sharron (Thou still unravish’d eyesore on my mantel…) and Cliché Queen, Jazz Smekal (who somehow managed to sardine a couple dozen clichés into one tin can of a poem). Kudos to all, but since clichés are a literary “no no,” any poem that contains 24 of them (!) qualifies as appallingly bad poetry. Accordingly, our judges awarded the Wordplay category to Jazz.

Vying for attention with poems about LIFE’S IRONIES (along with Jazz and Sharron) were Horrible Harvey and Crazy Collie-Boy, who tackled topics ranging from seat belt alerts to dandruff remedies and doggie dung. The latter sounds suspiciously close to doggerel (which is verse of little literary merit). Perhaps that’s why our judges awarded the Life’s Ironies category to Collie Boy.

The largest number of entries tackled the topic of FAILED ROMANCE. Loopy Leanne heated things up in the back seat of a Ford while Madcap Mary Ann’s romance went flat as a pancake in the kitchen. Awful Andrew made a mess that threatened his happy marriage and Just-as-bad John chose to mock my own failed romance with George Clooney (and hence was promptly disqualified 🙂 ). Sorriest of all were the wretched scenarios sketched by Harvey, who was blindsided by love only to have a pigeon poop on his shoulder—and later, was forced to serve as best man to the brother who stole his girl’s heart. Now that really hurts. Our judges felt his pain and awarded the Failed Romance category to Horrible Harvey.

Still, there can only be one OVERALL WINNER—and for that, the judges scored for the poem that made them laugh the loudest. Congratulations go to MADCAP MARY ANN, who may have been knocked down in the “bowling lane of life” but emerged victorious in our Bad Poetry contest (your book prize—Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories—will be on its way to you shortly!). Here’s Mary Ann’s poem. It’s so bad, it’s good!

In this bowling lane called life,
Bowling pins knocked downI felt knocked over, until
you came along offering love
and my heart opened like an accordion,
the two of us singing like tree frogs,
happy at last, until
you spotted another, a younger version
of me and left me flat as a pancake,
no spatula to pick me up.
No butter melting on my crumbled heart.

Woe is you, Mary Ann! Thanks again, everyone. And special thanks to those who supported the fundraising effort for Gordon Kirkland! ~ Judy

Bad Poetry – Good Cause

I’ve been bad. I’ve been goofing off having fun in Santa Fe instead of writing new stories or even writing this blog. The only thing I have been writing has also been BAD—bad poetry, that is. Writing deliberately bad poetry is just SO MUCH FUN.

I’ve already shared some of my intentionally bad poetry in my video rendition of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” But General Store Publishing House got me hooked on writing more with its Spring Bad Poetry contest. Then literary agent Chip MacGregor ran his annual bad poetry contest and I couldn’t stop myself from writing this (sadly unrequited) love poem to George Clooney (more specifically, to the cleft in George Clooney’s chin).

In case you think writing bad poetry is too low-brow, note that even Columbia University’s Philolexian Society has been sponsoring a bad poetry contest since 1986.

Then it hit me: Why should these other websites be having all the fun hosting bad poetry? My readers can write stuff that’s bad too—maybe even “badder”! So the challenge is on.

Can you write some squirmingly sentimental, over-the-top awful, bad poetry? The worst of the worst you send (which of course means the poem that best tickles the funny bones of our three renowned judges—all of whom insist on remaining anonymous) will win a copy of Beaver Bluff: The Librarian Stories to keep the laughs going.

Entry fee is FREE–with a wee request in support of a good cause. I recently learned that Canadian humorist Gordon Kirkland is dying for lack of a liver transplant suited to his rare blood type. I don’t know Gordon Kirkland personally, but I’ve enjoyed his work. As a humorist myself, I know what it takes to make others laugh so I know Gordon has worked hard to brighten our days. If you can find it in your heart or your wallet to support the fundraiser for Gordon, here’s how. If you can’t contribute, maybe you could share that link with someone who can. At minimum, perhaps our bad poetry will make Gordon smile. Laughter is good medicine—even for those waiting on a miracle.

If you need to prime your poetry-writing pump by reading some bad poetry, check out some of the hilarious submissions on Chip MacGregor’s blog. Then give it your best—I mean worst—shot. You can paste your bad poetry into the Comments section below (inappropriate material will be deleted). If you prefer that your effort not be posted unless it wins or you want to submit a video entry, send it along by email.

You have the rest of May to submit your bad poetry. If you’re inspired, send several submissions. I’ll announce a winner June 1st. Have fun! (And if you happen to know George Clooney’s email address, please send him a link to my unrequited love poem. Maybe he’ll be smitten–and REQUITE. 🙂 )