Sunday, October 01, 2006

One Funny Lady—Robin

Today I went to a conference about finding your funny bone and writing humor for children. Our speaker was the amazing Mary Hershey, author of “My Big Sister is So Bossy She Says You Can’t Read This Book” and has a new book coming out in Spring of ’07 called “The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Death and Lands in California” (Razorbill). Just from the titles, you can tell this lady is funny.

And she was. Not only did I giggle (often) but I really learned something today! (Man, I sound like Kyle at the end of every South Park episode. Or is it Stan that always learns something?) Anyways, what I learned was this:
"Normal people have a bad childhood and get therapy. Humorists have a bad childhood, get therapy and write humor to pay the bills."
Wow! I’m NOT normal. I knew it!!!

But that’s not all I learned. Did you know that when you laugh, fifteen facial muscles contract!?
Really!? 15!?
Yep. I could eat donuts all day if I’d just laugh a few million times a day. Brilliant!

But here’s the thing. Mary had us do some writing exercises that totally and completely led me down a path to a story that I knew I wanted to write some day, but had no idea how to go about it. We wrote about our childhood, but not in a specific “tell me about the day your dog died” kind of way. It was very general to explore the overall themes of our own lives.

When we were finished writing, she had us circle the themes we found in our childhood story and then list the top three themes that resonated with us most. “That is your truth,” she said. Then she had us go back to a previous exercise where we wrote about an obsession we have. “Combine your obsession with your truth,” Mary said. “You have just found your funny bone.”

A chill went up my spine. Looking at the words on my page…she was right! I had a truthful storyline with humor…just waiting to be written. What a gift.
Thank you, Mary for a wonderful afternoon. You are one funny lady.

(And you have FABULOUS shoes!) :-)



Kim said...

What a day! I wish I could have heard her. I love "My Big Sister is So Bossy..."

The exercises sound like they were very worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

So, I have to know - what is your truth and what is your obsession. Or am I gonna have to wait for the book? Lamy

Disco Mermaids said...

My "truth" is waiting for the perfect time to be told. But my obsession is hair care products. Particularly for products for curly hair. I always had totally straight hair until a year after my son was born and now, zing! I'm a Curly-Headed American (as we like to refer to ourselves.) Right now I have at least 17 products in my closet, because I can never find the perfect one! I've even gotten on the message boards at to get all the latest updates.
A shout out to all the curly heads out there!

Lisa Yee said...

I just met Mary tonight for the first time. She's wonderful!

Mary Hershey said...

Hi, Robin,

I'm so glad you liked my shoes! I did get a comment on my class eval that "pink" would have been a better selection with my outfit. Love it!
I'm so glad the exercises worked for you. Don't you love it when that happens??
Thanks for the great review of my class and all you help. It was great to meet you, Robin!

(And, Lisa, great to meet you last night!)

By the by, I caught the Disco Mermaids at the Jade Ball at Nationals. Mighty fine dancing! I'm Irish, and as you know, we can only dance with out feet, and I decided to save you all the horror of that!

A fan,
Mary Hershey

Disco Mermaids said...

Hey, Mary. Pink shoes!? No way! You had the classiest feet in there.
Speaking of feet and dancing, you must be referring to Jay's dancing at the National Conference. I was the one in the corner who looked like she was trying to get water out of her ear.
Hope to see you soon!

Anonymous said...


Nice to know about the hair care products. Now I know why you and Eve get along so well (her being "Product Girl" and all - maybe that could be her superhero name). Anyways, wouldn't it be a shame to have lived before the hair-care industry found a zillion ways to make our hair different than or more the same as it already is? Here's a shout-out to all the "can't-make-up-my-mind-whether-my-hair-is-straight-or-curly-or-does-it-just-depend-on-the-weather" people out there. Lamy

MotherReader said...

You know, I could comment on how great it was that you found such inspiration.

Or on how impressed I am that you keep the writing going when it just seems so damn hard.

Or on how cool it is that Mary Hersey commented back.

But what really knocked me out is that your hair was straight until your kid was born, and now its curly. ME TOO! Poker straight thin hair, now with some lovely wave. Two hair types in one lifetime. Now, THAT'S something to be happy about.