where the writers are
SB Writers Further Their Craft
Date of Review: 
Colin Marshall
Santa Barbara Independent

Montecito Journal columnist Ernie Witham writes to achieve what many consider to be the highest of all arts: generating laughs. His new A Year in the Life of a "Working" Writer lets readers live for a year in “Ernie's World,” both the title of his long-running humor column and his own state of mind, where everything is a potential source of jokes. His “location humor” finds laughs in the people, places, and things around us. "There are more than 40 different locations in my book, many that Santa Barbara readers will recognize," he wrote in an email. "The setting does not have to be exotic. I believe there is humor everywhere."

As his fans know, Witham's brand of comedy has a strong experiential bent. "Whether I am foraging for inspiration in the kitchen pantry, having water fights in the pool with the grandkids, or making friends with 'Mr. Avocado' at the Carpinteria Avocado Festival, the key element is visualization.” He wrote. “I want [readers] to feel like it’s happening as they read it. When I go wine tasting, I want them to get a bit tipsy. When I go to Costco, I want them to reach for a shopping cart."

What began as a standard column collection became a book of travel stories which then morphed into a manual on humor writing. As a veteran leader of Santa Barbara Writers Conference humor workshops, Witham is better-placed than most to address the much-argued-about issue of whether and how comedic skills can be taught. “Writing is a craft,” he wrote. “Humor writing is no exception. Most people have great, funny, personal stories they want to tell. I enjoy helping them get those funny stories out of their head and onto the page.”