Say it Funny, Sell It By Susan Sundwall

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“Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”

If you guessed the above quote to be from Will Rogers you’d be correct. Our friend Will was extremely popular with the American people back in the 1930’s. And isn’t it uncanny that we can relate to his witty observation today? Good humor is like that – timeless. And it will always sell because people, whatever their circumstance, love to laugh. As writers it’s in our very best interest to be mindful of that, and we should attempt to infuse our material with a tickle or two whenever we can.

SHORT PIECES

The market continues to grow for short humorous pieces or essays. For instance, there’s a constant need for them by publishers of anthologies. I’ve recently sold to two anthologies using a humorous point of view. In one I employed cart loads of humor to describe my disastrous attempt at huckleberry growing; in the other I tell of a Lassie-like episode with our dog, Libby, and my husband who was stuck on the barn roof. I’m pretty sure the comedic element helped sell both stories.

I once saved a half column essay I found in the back of the AARP Bulletin because the writer told of his response to his wife’s request to empty the trash with a unique and funny twist. His topic was death but the way he tangled it up with refusing to take the garbage out was hilarious. I go looking for that back page as soon as the Bulletin hits the mailbox now.

ANECDOTES

Reader’s Digest, Woman’s World, The Lutheran and many others love little bits of humor to fill holes in their pages. You want to bet how many readers head to those pages first? In our hustle and bustle world it may be the only thing that brightens someone’s afternoon. Think of all the funny little things that happen to you every day. I have five grandchildren and that right there is a deep pool I can draw from daily – sometimes hourly. Woman’s World has a back page with a segment titled Was my face red! This is where a grandchild anecdote becomes a perfect fit to the tune of 60 -70 words. Kids Say the Cutest Things is also on this page and every parent who’s cracked up at their kids antics can have a shot here.

COLUMNS

Dave Barry, Art Buchwald and the late Erma Bombeck all had pretty good gigs with their syndicated humor columns. Maybe this is an area where you can shine, too. In the rural area where I live there are two small publications. Each has a columnist who regularly uses their hot glue guns of humor to enliven their columns. Okay, maybe they say it better than that, but you get the idea. Start local. Everyone does. Try approaching your local editor with a funky name for your column. Go in with samples. Also go online and check out Jason Love. Your hankering to have your own column and your wacky sense of humor could be the marriage made in heaven that answers your local editor’s prayers. It could also be the road to national prominence. I mean, the next Dave Barry has to come from somewhere.

If you’re pretty sure you’ve been blessed with the humor gene then for heaven’s sake use it to liven up whatever it is you write. From greeting cards to children’s stories to novels, there’s almost no area of writing where humor can’t be incorporated. Okay, maybe the US Tax Code, but other than that, funny wins. The only words of caution I would offer are the same ones writers get all the time. Know your target publication. You don’t want to write a goofy kids poem and send it to Mad Magazine. You don’t want to send your teenage boy gross-but-funny story to Highlights. Get the picture? Will Rogers would have and so do you, I suspect. The following markets show the diversity of publications that appreciate a humorous touch.

Reader’s Digest – Pays $100 – $300

Funny Times – Pays $25-$40 for cartoons; $60 for stories

Spirit Magazine – Pays $1 per word

New Christian Voices – Payment varies

Sasee – Pays $0.10/word

Senior Wire News Service – Pays $30 – $45

Woman’s World – Pays $50 for Was my face red! and Kids Say the Cutes Things
Send to: Love and Laughter! Woman’s World, 270 Sylvan Ave, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632

Oatmeal Studio – Pays $75 per idea

True Real Estate Stories – Pays $75 per story

Grand Magazine – Payment varies

Susan is a freelance writer and children’s playwright. She is currently looking forward to spring and hopes to finish her second cozy mystery soon!