Wow, time indeed does fly when you are having fun. I have now been writing my humor column for ten years. That's more than 200 columns or some 140,000 words! True, a lot of those words were "er… ahh… um… hmmm… and oops..." but I'm sure there were some more excepshunal, er, xseptional, er, bigger words also.
I got this opportunity when my good friend and fellow Montecito Journal humorist, Jim Alexander, who has been writing his column since the days of the quill pen, introduced me to publisher Jim Buckley one year at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. JB read a few of my pieces, liked them, and when the Journal went from once a month to twice a month, Ernie's World was born.
Now my column is ten years old and becoming a bit harder to handle. I'm not sure what the teen years will bring, but I hope to keep going until both my column and I end up in senior housing. Because column writing is a labor of love.
Speaking of love (note the clever transition there?), next June will be my twentieth anniversary at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, where I first discovered I was a humor writer, which was actually a process of elimination. "But aren't limericks poetry, too? Okay, okay, I'm going."
"But I've always thought of pizza and beer as romantic. Okay, okay, I'm going."
"I'll tell you something I think is mysterious… Okay, okay, I'm going."
That's when I stumbled into the humor workshop:
"Hey, watch it, wllya?" And I discovered the humor workshop was made up of a lot of people just like me:
"I got thrown out of all the other workshops for making jokes."
I am still friends with many of those people I met at that first conference and most of them are still getting thrown out of the serious workshops.
I really missed the conference this year which was put on hiatus because of the economy. I missed seeing all my friends:
"Hey Witham, you got that twenty bucks you owe me from last year's bar tab?"
"Er, no comprende, senior-a."
I missed sharing all the writing progress we've made over the last twelve months.
"You're still working on Chapter One?"
"Yes, but I added a new title."
And I missed going to all those great after-hours parties:
"Oh man, Ernie spilled the dip again."
Fortunately, one of the most important parts of the writer's life has continued despite the lack of a conference. By this I mean, of course, the parties.
See, if there is one thing writers like to do more than write, it's to get together and celebrate the fact that we are writers. We will celebrate anything. In the last few weeks I have attended a writers lunch:
"What's your new column about?"
"Well, ah, hmmm...."
"Great, you gonna eat all those fries?"
I attended a poet's birthday party:
"Happy birthday to you… you belong in a zoo…"
I went to a happy hour named Wet Words (so we can write off the drinks, I think).
"How's the novel coming?"
"Cool, let's drink."
Then there was a beach party/writer scholarship announcement meeting:
"Did I win anything? Anything at all?" "That's funny, Ernie, you should write humor."
And finally, I got to go to the infamous annual after-conference bash (yes we still held it even though there was no conference) at Mr. Carpinteria's house in, well, Carpinteria, California.
"Is that the same desert you brought to last year's potluck?"
"I'm sure it's still good, try a sharper knife."
Though, the conversation was writer-friendly all evening:
"You call that a plot? I've seen better plots at the cemetery."
"Yeah, well, at least my characters are well-drawn."
"Right. If you like stick figures."
Later in the evening, when the embers burned low and you could no longer catch your marshmallow on fire, the conversation got a bit pensive.
"I think it's the end of the party season. There's nothing left to celebrate."
"There's got to be something."
"Well," I said. "I've now been writing my column for ten years."
After a moment of silence someone murmured something about a miracle, then:
"We should have a party!"
Man, I love being a writer.