Tag Archives: humor writing

Guest Blog: Jameson Gregg Shares Excerpt from his Comic Novel

LBC_cover_web
In today’s final post focused on the craft of humor writing, The Writing Well is delighted to spotlight the work of Jameson Gregg. His just-released book, Luck Be a Chicken (Deeds Publishing), a comedic novel about south Georgia rednecks scrapin’ by in their wheel-estate, is earning rave reviews.  Cassandra King, New York Times’ bestselling author, writes:  “Anything can happen, and does, in this rollicking farce, set in a sleepy south Georgia town where the Sweat family resides in the Garden of Eden Trailer Park. Jesus returns to earth as a Mexican forklift driver at the Majestic Chicken Plant, a NASCAR-loving redneck named Butterbean takes on corporate corruption, and the scales of justice swing every-which-way. If reading Luck Be A Chicken doesn’t make you laugh out loud at least a dozen times, you owe me an RC Cola and a Moonpie.”

According to Amazon reviewer MaryLou Cheatham,  “Jameson Gregg mixes raw realism and compassion with brazen satire in Luck Be A Chicken. He paints the rough side of life with comic relief. Farce and embellishment live on the top drawer of his humor toolbox.  The sensory impact, the humor when it is least expected, and the nail-biting anxiety propel the rapid turning of pages to the end.”

The excerpt below captures the humor of this talented Southern storyteller.

“I got a man here to drive for you. His name is Hay-Seuss.”

The well-postured man of medium height was light skinned for a Latino. His black hair skimmed his shoulders, and a thick beard hedged his chin. His clothes were threadbare but clean.

The man smiled and nodded as Bean looked him up and down. “How you spell that?”

“’Fraid he don’t speak too much English,” Wilbur said. “He spells it J-e-s-u-s. Like in the Bible.”

“You mean Jesus is coming to work at Majestic Chicken?”

“He ain’t Jesus,” Wilbur said. “He’s Hay-suess. I wish he was Jesus.”

“How you make a ‘Hay’ out a ‘J’?”

“Beats me, Sweat, take it up with Mexico. Job center claims he can drive a lift. All you got to do is show him what to do.”

“Guess I’ll have to show him ’cause I damn sure can’t tell him, now can I? How long has he been drivin’?”

“I don’t know, Bean, ask him. You need to finish cleanin’ cause we’re probably going live after lunch. I got to go.” Wilbur whirled and shuffled away.

Bean sized up Jesús. Clear, intelligent eyes. Sincere and agree¬able attitude. Seemed anxious to work. Bean felt an odd compul¬sion to show this man respect.

“Buenos días. Mi nombre es Butterbean Sweat. Mucho gusto. ¿Es usted de Mèxico?”

“Sí, Señor Sweat. Soy de Veracruz.”

Bean remembered last week’s special at Amigo Gordo with great fondness—Chili Rellenos del Veracruz. This feller cain’t be all bad.

Bean walked him over to the second Nissan forklift and point¬ed. “You know how to drive this?”

Bean pretended to hold his hands on the wheel, turning left and right.

“Sí, Señor Sweat.”

Bean released a key from his belt ring and tossed it to the new man, pointed to an open area,

and twirled his wrist. “Drive around this area and do some stop-and-goes and turn. Compre¬hend-o?”

“Sí.”

In seamless movements, Jesús mounted and cranked her. She beeped when he threw her into reverse then she glided like an ice dancer, cutting flawless geometric, loop-de-loop patterns, backward and forward, curving in perfect concentric circles.

Bean’s jaw dropped. The smoothest thing I ever seen on a forklift. A tear welled up.

Jesús glided the lift beside Bean, stepped down, and nodded.

Bean tried to gather his composure. He started to speak, stopped himself, and stood in awkward silence. Finally he stepped close to Jesús and whispered. “Are you really Jesus? I mean

Christ, like in the Bible, who come back like You said You would?”

Jesús smiled and shrugged. “No comprendo.”

“Come on, you can tell me. I won’t tell nobody. I always knowed You was real. Really, I swear I did. I knowed You’d sneak back when we wasn’t watchin’, but I didn’t think You’d be drivin’ no forklift in a chicken plant.”

Jesús shook his head. “No comprendo, Señor Sweat.”

Bean studied genuine confusion in the man’s face. The real Jesus would know English, I’m purty sure. He walked Jesús through the work routine in Spanglish then heard Wilbur’s voice and turned.

___________________

About Jameson Gregg

Jameson Gregg

Jameson Gregg

Jameson Gregg has worked as a lawyer for two decades, most recently practicing business, corporate, banking and real estate in Georgia’s second-oldest law firm before leaving the legal field to devote himself to writing full time.

His 2014 debut novel, Luck Be a Chicken, won first place in the annual Northeast Georgia Writers’ Club competition.  Jameson is a member of the Atlanta Writers’ Club, the Northeast Georgia Writers’ Club and the Stonepile Writers’ Group.

A native of Mississippi who now resides in the North Georgia Mountains, Jameson has a BBA from the University of Mississippi and a JD from the Mississippi College School of Law.

Check out his recent author interview on Gainesville, Ga., radio.

Humor & Satire Writing Pt. 2: Excerpt from ‘Hillbillies Prefer Blondes’

Marilyn Monroe from the film, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

Marilyn Monroe from the film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Today, The Writing Well is delighted to showcase Roy Richardson’s unique brand of humor writing with an excerpt from his short story collection, “Hillbillies Prefer Blondes.” Last week, Roy was featured on The Writing Well along with author Jameson Gregg on how they create prose that makes people laugh. On Monday, Jameson will share an excerpt from his new comic novel, Luck Be a Chicken.

Hillbillies Prefer Blondes

By Roy Richardson

Roy Richardson

Roy Richardson

First grade was pure hell for me. Because I had not attended kindergarten, I was put in with a bunch that the state of Georgia had deemed “Slow Learners.” A cage packed with Howler monkeys would have been more civilized.

In front of me sat a snub-nosed little girl with white blunt-cut hair and freckles. Her skinny legs showed scabs on both knees, which she picked at as she appraised me through squinted eyes.

“Daaang, little boy, you sure are ugly!’ she decided. “You look like my granny’s billy goat!”

I was taken aback by her white trash candor. True, the Good Lord in his infinite wisdom had graced me with a cleft palate, but the accompanying scar had never been described to me as ugly, and I had certainly never been compared to a farm animal before. I made what I imagined to be a truly ugly face at her, and decided that the best way to cope would be to ignore her. This established my relations with the opposite sex for years to come.

Behind me in this hillbilly version of the Inferno sat Wilber the Stutterer. I quickly concluded that given a choice between stuttering and looking like a billy goat, Pan would win every time. Poor Wilbur was hounded relentlessly by the other little rednecks.
I myself did not tease poor Wilbur. Whether it was out of true compassion or just a Baptist fear of burning in Hell, I cannot say. Poor Wilbur took this simple act of Christian restraint as a sign that we were to be lifelong friends, and proceeded to follow me around like an ADHD puppy dog.

While Wilbur’s vocal handicap did not vex me, he was in fact dumb as a post, and tended more and more to react to the unrelenting taunting of his fellows with violent outbursts. So while I did not torment poor Wilbur, I did decide it would be in my best interest to distance myself from him.

Slow as he was, Wilbur was no fool. He approached me one day with his hands stuck in the pockets of his grubby jeans, a purposeful look on his dull face. He pulled one hand free and extended it to me, saying “I-I-I want to give you this for being my f-friend.” In his sweaty, thick-fingered little paw was a grimy quarter. I was screwed.

Fortunately for me, this moral dilemma soon resolved itself. Based on my grades and the recommendation of my long-suffering “Slow Learners” teacher, one Mrs. Garner, God bless her soul, I was transferred from her torture chamber into an “Advanced Learner” class. While this group had its own entirely different set of problems, at least the smart kids were a little quieter.

Not long after this ascent into the higher echelons of grade school learning, I received a reminder from whence I had come. I was standing in the lunchroom line with the rest of the Shining Elite, when I felt a sharp pain hit my arm. I turned to see the grinning face of the Little White-Haired Girl, who had just pinched the hell out of me.

“Hey, Ugly!” she shouted happily, evidently delighted to be able to insult and injure me in front of a whole new group of my peers.

Conjuring up the worst epithet I could imagine, I hissed back: “Hey, Turd!” She looked genuinely hurt, and made no reply, save to scowl and jut out her lower lip.

That was the last time I ever saw her, as her family soon moved off to parts unknown. Many years passed before I had gained enough insight into the female psyche to realize that “Ugly” had been intended by the Little White-Haired Girl as a term of endearment, and that she probably had been genuinely hurt by my retort.

I have occasionally wondered, as the years have gone by, whatever became of that little girl. I like to picture her as a grade school teacher, wrangling year after year with increasingly large classrooms full of loud, ugly little children.
Of course, judging from the examples of other old flames that I have encountered in recent years, it is equally likely that she is either a Dominatrix, or ensconced in an asylum somewhere.

© 2014 Roy Richardson

 

A Look Inside the Craft of Humor and Satire Writing

Laughter

By Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Georgia writers Jameson Gregg and Roy Richardson share three things in common: they love language, they love Mark Twain and they love to make people laugh.

I recently sat down with these two talented wordsmiths over lunch to talk about how they go about the craft of humor writing. And in the next week, I will be featuring excerpts of their writing here on The Writing Well.

Jameson Gregg

Jameson Gregg

Jameson, a North Georgia attorney of twenty years, left the law profession to write full time a few years ago. He recently celebrated the launch of his debut comic novel, Luck Be a Chicken, a tale of a redneck southern family trapped in generational poverty and facing a gut-wrenching crisis of how to raise money for their baby daughter’s operation.

Roy Richardson

Roy Richardson

Roy, a lifelong Georgian, has spent three decades as a writer/artist for Marvel/DC/Darkhorse Comics. He collaborated with his wife, June Brigman, inking, lettering and coloring the Brenda Starr comic strip for 15 years. Roy continues to juggle his freelance art assignments with his writing, a constant challenge.

Currently, he is compiling a series of short stories, titled, Hillbillies Prefer Blondes, which in addition to seeking a publishing home, he intends to record as an audio book. His writing is inspired by his own life —coming-of-age in Georgia in the 70s. I’ve gotten to know Roy through our writers’ group, and I can tell you that his readings are always a comedic highlight of our group’s gathering.

Check out our conversation below:

Q. How would you describe your unique writing voice? What inspired it?

Roy: I read a column by Stephen King recently where he stated his belief that voice is the single most important factor in keeping a reader engaged. I agree, and I always try to use voice in a way that will make the reader feel that I am telling a story just to them. As for describing my voice, it’s more of an instinctual thing rather than an intellectual process. I’m afraid if I analyze it too much, I won’t be able to do it anymore…

Jameson: I would define my voice as the ability to a) recognize the potential for humor in a situation, b) add to, expand, and embellish with imagination, c) write it with clarity. What inspired it? I think the desire to deliver humor, writing or otherwise, is either in one’s DNA or it’s not. Every child I’ve known loves humor. I think as we grow, that interest in humor becomes less important as other serious and complicated issues cloud our lives. Every adult I know also likes humor and likes to laugh, but few have the inclination to pursue it as a living. That’s where the DNA comes in. Personally, my humor DNA comes from my (now deceased) mother and grandmother. They would both go to great lengths for a practical joke.
Q. What things do you draw upon to bring humor to your writing?

Roy: I find that stating the obvious in the most obtuse and pseudointellectual manner possible is usually funny. And if that doesn’t work, then I try the exact opposite approach, presenting the obscure as though it should be completely obvious to all. Also, having my characters stress out and bluntly spill some of the really stupid things most people secretly believe is usually good for a laugh.

Jameson: It’s important to be alert and on the lookout for it because it’s all around us and usually unintentional. Sometimes it’s putting two ideas together. For instance, when Dahlonega was hosting the latest Big Foot Conference, I saw a huge dude in Walmart and it resulted in the attached Sasquatch article. Another time, I was at the local farmers market and noticed a couple of old-timers hanging out in the shade. I wondered what they talk about, so instead of continuing to wonder, I sat down and made up what I thought they may be talking about. It appeared in a column I periodically write for the Dahlonega (Ga) Nugget.

Q. What writers and works inspire you?

LuckBeaChickenJameson: Picaresque novels. Ever heard the term? I hadn’t until after I wrote one. When fellow Georgia author George Weinstein wrote a blurb for my novel, Luck Be A Chicken, he called it a picaresque novel, the first I ever heard the term or the genre. How about that – write a book in a sub-genre without even realizing the existence of the genre! Examples of this type of writing include Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, who is kind of my hero. Also, anything by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson or Richard Brautigan. As for living authors, I read Tim Dorsey and Bob Morris. Carl Hiaasen is the king now.

I like Mark Twain’s tall tales. His work inspired me to write American History 101, attached, published this year in Stonepile Writers Anthology III, by the University Press of North Georgia.

Roy: Though I’m writing fiction rather than memoir, Mary Karr and Rick Bragg, as great Southern writers, have both informed my stuff. I also think that Michael Chabon writes some beautiful sentences. There’s some Twain, Poe and Harlan Ellison in the mix as well. What I get from Twain is to write about something absurd in an extremely serious and intellectual sort of way – the way he uses language, sentences and phrases like a puffed-up college professor.

Q. What would be your top piece of advice to other writers looking to inject humor into their writing?

Jameson: I think the most effective way is to write situational humor – where you get your characters into a situation that is funny – like we all do sometimes.

Roy: What I do is use language – taking an absurd situation but talking about it in a very serious analytical way, which makes it even more funny. I have a lot of dialogue and try to simulate how people talk – using accents without laying it on too thick – “daaang, little boy.” I’m working with a friend to record some of my stuff. I’m a little bit of a ham with southern accents.

Jameson: I try to capture the vernacular of my southern redneck characters in my novel. But you have to be careful – if you go too far it can make it unreadable. You have to hit a balance. One of my favorite nuances of the southern vernacular is the double negative: “I ain’t done nothing.”

Roy: It’s very hard to interject humor into something – I never liked the concept of comedy relief, which was something that John Ford would do in his films when all of a sudden the characters would stop and decide to have a fun fist fight. Comic relief, unless it’s done really well, takes you out of the story. It has to grow more organically with the characters – you have to set it up.
Q. In closing, can you share some favorite sayings, quotes, or words of wisdom?

MarkTwain“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain

“I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”
– Winston Churchill

“What does it take to be a writer? – An indifference to money and a willingness to take risks.”

“Re: twisted people – it’s the cracked ones that let the light in.”

“Last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot

“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” – Oscar Wilde

Paraphrase from the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild: If I ever get too old to drink beer and catch fish, put me in the boat and set me on fire so they can’t plug me into the wall.

 

 

 

Mother-Writer Extraordinaire: A Salute to Erma Bombeck

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I wanted to give tribute to a fellow writer and Ohio native, who touched millions of people with her unique brand of humor and observations of life as a mom.

Erma Bombeck was born on Feb. 21, 1927 and left us on April 22, 1996 at the age of 69 after undergoing a kidney transplant. In the years between her birth and untimely death, Erma would graduate from the University of Dayton, convert to Catholicism, marry and raise three children. She also devoted herself to the craft of writing – merging her love of words with her observations on life raising her family and being a woman in middle class America.

In 1949, Erma joined the news staff of the Ohio Journal Herald, and married her college sweetheart Bill Bombeck. In 1964, she started her humor column, “At Wit’s End” in the Kettering-Oakwood Times– within a year her column was nationally syndicated, running twice weekly in 500 newspapers.

In addition to her column, Erma wrote for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Redbook and McCall’s. She also published 15 books, most of which became best sellers.

Here are a few of my favorite quips and quotes from the great lady herself – enjoy!

“Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”

“My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.”

“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.”

“I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.”

“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”

“Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.”

And, from her May 12, 1974, Mother’s Day column:

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?

• She has to be completely washable, but not plastic;

• Have 180 movable parts… all replaceable;

• Run on black coffee and leftovers;

• Have a lap that disappears when she stands up;

• A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair;

• And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.”

“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ’What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, ’I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve gently, “Go to bed. Tomorrow…”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick… can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger… and can get a nine-year-old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

“But she’s tough!” said the Lord excitedly. “You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

“Can it think?”

“Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You You were trying to push too much into this model.”

“It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”

“What’s it for?”

“It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

“You are a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.

Read about Erma’s life at http://www.ermamuseum.org/.