Leighann Lord calls herself the best African-American female humor writer in America. “Well, I wanted to be the best African-Canadian female humor writer in Canada, but they have very strict rules about that sort of thing…some nonsense about me not actually being a Canadian citizen. Blah, blah, blah… whatever. Their loss, right?” She’s a stand-up comedian (Comedy Central, HBO, The View, Si TV), writer (The Huffington Post, Stagetime Magazine) and culture commentator (Fox News, MSNBC, CNN) — and she pens the blog, “The Urban Erma.”
Pat Nelson is one of the editors of Not Your Mother’s Book … On Being a Parent. This humor-packed anthology is filled with 68 true stories about parenting, from conception to parenting your own parents.
RRP International is publishing The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets From Top Op-Ed Columnists, a new book by nationally syndicated columnist Suzette Martinez Standring. The book is a sequel to The Art of Column Writing, which is used in journalism courses nationally.
Patient Name: Harold, but goes by “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”
Session notes: Patient has possible abandonment issues due to lack of parental supervision after birth and has taken to “feeding his feelings” instead of working through them.
Requested he keep a food journal and how he felt at the time: 1 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 4 strawberries, 5 oranges, piece of chocolate cake, ice cream cone, pickle, slice of Swiss cheese, slice of salami, lollipop, piece of cherry pie, 1 sausage, cupcake, slice of watermelon, 1 green leaf. Said, “I felt hungry. I ate food. I felt better.”
Also made mention of wanting to curl up and hide for a couple of weeks, wishing he could emerge and be accepted for who he was — a colorful, sometimes flightly man with a love for Cher and the theater. Kept asking if I had any snacks.
Patient Name: Goldilocks
Session notes: Court-ordered session as part of breaking-and-entering charge. When asked about most recent incident, patient’s only comments were, “Why do they have separate beds if all they really need is a Sleep Number?” and “Who the heck still eats porridge?”
Obvious entitlement and boundary issues laced with a bit of OCD — she tried out three different chairs in my office before settling into one.
Patient Name: Belle
Session notes: Possible delusional tendencies and troubling urges towards bestiality. Describes some of her best friends as household appliances that spend a majority of their time singing and dancing and refers to her boyfriend as a “beast.”
Came to therapy because of said relationship issues. Apparently conflict because money is tight and none of the dishes or household products actually work, as “a talking candlestick and chipped, chatty tea cup don’t do much more than provide an audience for our arguments about his hair in the sink and the fact that my dad won’t move out.”
Patient Name: Waldo
Session notes: Patient suffers from social anxiety disorder. Makes public appearances, but only discreetly surfaces in large crowds of people and insists on wearing the same clothes each day — thick, black-framed glasses, red-and-white striped shirt, red and white cap. Mysterious about his career and personal life and is paranoid that people are constantly looking for him.
Claims he wants to work through his urges to isolate so that he can pursue his dream of being a photographer for the local paper because he “feels more comfortable behind the camera.” Wants to attend Comic Con next year.
Patient Name: Snow White
Session notes: So many things with this one. If I am to believe her, a troubled family situation with an evil stepmom, a “witch” in her words, apparently drove her to break into the house of male midgets where she ate their food and fell asleep before waking up to accept a position as their unpaid friend with benefits. Follow this up with a necrophilia-driven boyfriend during a near-death experience and a shotgun wedding, and no wonder this chick needs some help.
Need to work on her co-dependency issues and need for approval from men. *Note to self: Pitch her storyline for possible reality show. Crime, dwarfs, sex — throw in some cupcakes or a bacon element and it really can’t miss. Maybe “Dwarf Dynasty” or “Bachelorette” meets “Little People” Just working titles, of course. **Another note to self: Reschedule “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” until she can find a babysitter. Remember to discuss contraception. This is getting ridiculous.
— Abby Heugel
Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal.
My fellow American Little League coaches: Across this great land of ours, another glorious season is in full swing. (Check swing? Check your eyes, ump!) During it, we will learn many valuable lessons, such as proper player re-entry protocol, pitch count management, and to always avoid distributing post-game snacks containing peanuts (sorry, Timmy).
The most important of these lessons for you and those malleable young minds under your guidance is this: You are going to lose.
I know a lot about losing. I am a Mets fan. My fandom stretches back to the truly dark, miserable days of the franchise’s cellar dwelling in the late 1970s. However, those light-hitting, underwhelming teams I rooted for in vain during childhood taught me many things about how to cope with a life where the majority of us aren’t All Stars or sporting jewel-encrusted World Series rings.
Their example served me well, especially during my second year in the North Stamford Little League. That’s when our team, Yance Air Conditioning of the gaudy green polyester pants and yellow-striped stirrups, compiled a 3-17 record due in no small part to its starting first baseman (ahem) batting an anemic .128.
During the annual league dinner at The Italian Center following that season, my teammates and I watched as the championship team received shiny blue warm-up jackets, each with the player’s name embroidered on the left breast, and trophies topped with golden gods swinging for the fences. The rest of us received little more than lukewarm baked ziti washed down with generic cola and envy.
If that alone wasn’t motivation to make you take some extra batting practice, amid the evening’s ode to excellence and fair play was a guest speaker — an actual major leaguer, an actual Met: Ed Kranepool.
Ed had just finished his 18th — and what would be his final — year in The Show, all with the mostly hapless Mets. He had played on the 1969 World Series-winning “Miracle Mets” but that came well between his start on the club’s comically inept 1962 inaugural version, the modern-era record holders for most losses in a season, and warming the bench with the many hapless teams of late.
He earned the nickname “Steady Eddie” for his success as a pinch hitter, but you could be sure it applied as much to continuing to show up, game after game, despite the regular beatings.
That night, Ed talked mostly about how terrible it was playing the bulk of his career on a consistently bad team. It was a strange speech to give a group of gung-ho, baseball-crazed kids but damned if after that I ever wanted to be Ed Kranepool — miserable and mediocre.
It must have worked because I went on to enjoy several good, even great, seasons of baseball. Then I discovered girls and rock music so my priorities changed and I moved on. Still, I felt I owed Ed Kranepool for his teachings that night.
Some 30 years after that fateful evening, I came face-to-face with Steady Eddie. He was at a restaurant in the Mets’ ballpark before a game, propped up against a railing, pretty much alone while fans clamored around more recent and more talented former Mets in attendance.
I walked up to him and asked for an autograph. As he signed, I told him about that Little League banquet.
“Did I hand you a trophy?” he asked.
“No. But you did make a speech. Mostly about how awful the Mets were.”
“Well,” he said, “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken [manure]. Enjoy the game.”
That, my fellow coaches, is true wisdom. That is worth passing on to every new generation of ball players you lead. Of course, for the kids I’d change a word or two in there. I doubt any of them these days really like chicken salad.
— Kevin McKeever
Kevin McKeever is a freelance writer who can barely support his microbrew habit. His column appears in Stamford (Conn.) Advocate every other Friday, and he blogs at Always Home and Uncool. This piece is part of a package of columns that won first place for general interest writing in the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition (50,000 and under circulation).
The Thurber House is inviting authors to apply for the 2014 Children’s Writer-in-Residence, and the Robert Benchley Society is accepting entries for its annual Humor Award.
The Thurber House Residency in Children’s Literature offers talented writers a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Besides having time to focus on his/her own writing project, each resident spends up to ten hours per week teaching children the joys of writing in both a community-based agency and as part of the Thurber House Summer Writing Camp for children.
Deadline for application is Nov. 1. Click here for more details.
Aug. 30 is the deadline for entering the 2013 competition for the Robert Benchley Society Humor Award. Not more than 500 words, $13 entry fee. For details, click here.
Do you have a piece for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention?
Share your heartwarming, humorous and powerfully moving nonfiction stories and poems by Aug. 15. Pieces should not exceed 1,200 words. Authors selected will receive $200 and 10 free copies of the book. To submit your story, click here.
How do you play the dating game? The editors of a new anthology, Not My Mother’s Book…On Dating, are accepting real-life stories of between 500 and 2,500 words. You will receive one copy of the book a small percent of the royalties. Deadline is Oct. 1. Click here for more details.
The 2013 Halloween Book Festival has issued a call for entries to its annual program honoring the best books of the season. The event is part of the annual Aliens to Zombies Convention.
The Halloween Book Festival will consider works in science fiction, horror, general fiction, non-fiction, biography/autobiography, young adult, fantasy, audio/spoken word, photography/art, comics, ‘zines, unconventional romance, wild card (anything goes!), alternative future, time travel and fan fiction. Winners in the competition will be able to sell their books at the A to Z Convention, which focuses on monsters and the post-apocalyptic world in pop culture.
Entry fee is $50. The grand prize is $500 and a flight to the awards ceremony in Hollywood. Deadline is Oct. 1. Click here for an entry form.
(Posted by permission of the Akron Beacon Journal. Bob Dyer won the top humor-writing award in the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition for newspapers over 50,000 circulation. Read more of his columns here.)
Some athletes can play with pain. Others take a powder at the first sign of discomfort.
Now, I’m not saying Beacon Journal food writer Lisa Abraham is a wimp. But she did scratch herself from the starting lineup last week merely because of a sinus infection.
Abraham was scheduled to be a judge at a pickle-tasting competition at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron. That’s where the judging of various foods has been taking place each week during the Downtown Akron Partnership’s farmers market.
In Abraham’s defense, the woman cares more about food than most of us care about our firstborns, and she wasn’t about to skew the contest results by partaking with a diseased palate.
Fortunately, she was not sufficiently impaired to stay home from work, so all she had to do was walk across the newsroom to find a fill-in.
And who is the first person you think of when you’re looking for someone to nibble on your pickles?
As a last-minute replacement – well, she could have done infinitely better. I have been known to intone “hold the pickles” when ordering a burger, and my own food-preparation expertise ranges from PB&Js to boiled hot dogs.
But I am nothing if not a team player. So instead of fabricating an excuse, I decided to focus on pleasant pickle experiences in my past and suit up for battle.
If nothing else, I figured, I would be able to declare at some point that a particular pickle was “to die for” — a phrase that, for reasons that continue to mystify me, can be used only in connection with food. Nobody ever wants to die for a tee shot or a guitar riff or a watercolor.
But we digress. We were talking about my pickles.
With a hoarse voice that surely was channeled from her hooky-playing days back in grade school, Ms. Abraham offered some parting words of wisdom:
“Don’t be too easy. Don’t be afraid to be the East German judge.”
She told me that pickles should be somewhere between hard and “smooshy,” and that sweet pickles should be sweet but not cloyingly so, and that dill pickles should be dill but not puckeringly so.
Or something like that. It all kind of blends together in the aftermath of consuming 18 different pickles, some of them multiple times.
In a couple of cases, I felt like Andy Griffith and Barney Fife being forced to sample Aunt Bee’s “kerosene cucumbers.” But most of the offerings were reasonably tasty.
My fellow judges were Dave Lieberth, Akron’s deputy mayor, and Alan Medvick, a magistrate in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands’ court.
The pickles were presented in four groups: dill, sweet, hot and “other.” Each pickle was to be graded on “visual appeal,” “texture” and “taste.”
“Visual appeal?” I asked. “I guess I never really looked at pickles that way.”
“Wow, that’s a very beautiful pickle!” quipped Medvick.
“Nice seed placement!” chimed in Lieberth.
As for “texture,” the deputy mayor offered this explanation:
“When your pickle is flaccid, you’ve got trouble.”
Wouldn’t know about that. But I’ll take his word for it.
In all four categories, two of the three judges tabbed the same pickle as the best, so those were instantly declared the winners. My vote was part of three of those victories, which means one of two things: I’m a better pickle picker than I thought, or the other judges are equally clueless.
I’m betting on the latter. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you a gigantic gherkin.
They’re to die for.
— Bob Dyer
Since joining the Akron Beacon Journal in 1984, Bob Dyer has earned 51 regional and national writing awards. In 2008, the National Society of Professional Journalists voted him Best Columnist in the Nation. He has been named Best Columnist in Ohio by at least one professional journalism organization for six consecutive years. A native of suburban Cleveland, Dyer was one of the lead writers for A Question of Color, a yearlong examination of racial attitudes in Akron that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. In addition, he has written two books.
A good tiara is hard to find. Not that I haven’t located one, the British armory just refuses to allow me to wear it despite my illustrious credentials.
How Fergie — who sold out to Weight Watchers and an undercover journalist — could be entrusted with the jewels but not me boggles the ol’ noggin.
Oh, bother. I didn’t want to announce this in such a way. Trumpets should be blown and proclamations decreed, but alas the official correspondence arranging for both must have been lost in the mail along with my Publishers Clearinghouse winnings and book deals with well-known publishers.
You see, I descend from royalty. Grade A royalty at that, a Scottish King to be precise. No need to curtsy or bow, although if you seek my favor, presenting a gift of Taco Bell before my gilded La-Z-Boy might be advisable. No onions, please.
Knowledge of my noble ancestors only came to light a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching my lineage through a paid Internet service in order to gain membership to the local Piankeshaw Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Starting out as a desire to wear old period costumes, my quest quickly mutated in to a full out olden-days obsession. I can’t get enough. What great grandparents have I not discovered? Do they stir in their graves or look down from heaven when their forgotten names have been spoken after so long a silence?
As the Carl Sagan saying goes, you have to know the past to understand the present. DNA from these forefathers and mothers still replicate in my genes. Understanding their history, struggles and all, should help with the understanding of my own life, right?
So I chipped away at the hardened coat of neglected memories. As I started to delve further down the rabbit hole, I quickly realized that most all my ancestors are Kentuckians, many having arrived 200 years ago when Native Americans still owned the frontier. Being a proud Indiana alum, my stomach churned at the thought.
Hoosiers, especially ones who love IU basketball, feel some conflict when confronted with reality of bluegrass blossoming around the family stump. I reminded myself of that Christian Watford buzzer beater and, with a reassured smile, I moved forward in my search for the past.
And what a past I’ve found. Stories of American Revolutionaries, two of which were German immigrants fighting for independence of a new, unfamiliar nation. Tales about European grandfathers helping to found the New Amsterdam colony. French and Irish and Norwegian settlers traversing the turbulent seas during the 1600s, looking for better opportunities and a freer existence. History reads like a storybook, and even we unknowingly continue to write its pages.
Looking through the centuries, I came upon my gallant lineage quite by accident. Through my paternal grandmother’s line, going back 14 generations, my distant grandfather was King James the IV of Scotland. In fact, two of my direct ancestors were actually cousins, so the branches of my family tree twist and intertwine, bad for genetic variance but a blessing for lazy genealogical researchers.
But here’s the rub. Great-to-the-14th grandma wasn’t married to the king. Isabel was his mistress, one of four. My old Scottish papa liked to spread enough seed to germinate a family forest. His illegitimate daughter and my great-to-the-zillionth grandmother, Lady Jane Stewart, married Lord Malcom Fleming, the line from which I descended. While accompanying her half niece, Mary Queen of Scots, she also sparked a relationship with Henry II of France and bore him an illegitimate son.
That apple obviously didn’t fall far from the sultry tree.
Most Americans who claim royal pedigree actually are predominantly descended from these imperial affairs. Illegitimate children were not of high enough status to marry other princes and princesses, so they wedded lesser nobles instead. Through the years, the line flourished until eventually it produced stellar girls like me who grew up wearing off-brand sneakers and working at fast-food joints.
Tracing back King James IV’s parentage, I also found out that Robert the Bruce of “Braveheart” fame and King Edward III are direct kin. It seems, from a royal genetic standpoint, I’m nothing special. Research indicates millions of Americans are descendants of Eddy, an incredibly fertile and obviously frisky king. Poor Prince Harry is tame in comparison.
At present, my declaration of royalty has done me no favors. My husband refused to acknowledge my aristocratic blood, and my dainty hands that yearn to twitch a haughty wave at her subjects are instead relegated to scrubbing the only thrones in our house, several porcelain ones.
But I now know where I come from. Mechanics and coal miners. Farmers and teachers. Soldiers and peacemakers. And, yes, even nobility. Sloshing the mop around the last dirty spot on the kitchen floor, I wonder if my body will shift under the hardened ground when my future descendants call out this old writer’s forgotten name. As long as the crown stays atop my bony brow, I’ll remain in peace.
— Amanda Beam
Amanda Beam writes slice-of-life columns for the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Ind. She garnered third place in general interest writing in the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition (under 50,000 circulation) and a first-place award for non-metro column writing by the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. An avid basketball fan, the 38-year-old enjoys country living with her husband, three children and 10 animals in Lanesville, Ind.