August 30, 2018

The Legacy of Laughter by Connie Mae Inglis

I don’t write humour. At least, not as a genre. But I could.

I say that because it seems I’ve been surrounded by muses that offer anecdotes to make me, and others, laugh. Allow me to share one of them with you.

If you asked all my siblings who the funniest person in our family is, I’m sure they would all say our dad. He’s funny. Ironically, he’s a quiet, unassuming man who’s usually not trying to be funny. He just says and does things to make us all laugh. There is a joy there that comes out just in who he is.

And not just that, he has always been quick to laugh. When you get him going, he has the best from-the-gut, boisterous laugh. And who’s he laughing at most of the time? Himself. He is comfortable with himself. He doesn’t take himself seriously; it’s a choice he’s made—I see that now. Because of this quality, he’s never been afraid to ask the “dumb” questions—to try new things. Even at 90-years-old, he’s still learning. And still laughing.

Not that long ago, I received an email from dad (again, no embarrassment involved) with a video attachment—a short little unsuspecting clip. When I opened it, I had to laugh. The scene: The center of a mall in Saskatoon, close to Christmas. The opportunity: To allow kids to try out the mechanical riding animals. The video clip: My dad, riding a mechanical panda around the kiosk. The child inside of him just had to do it, I guess. He’s smiling—enjoying himself. I hear my mom laughing, along with her brother and his wife. Just writing this makes me giggle all over again.  Oh Dad—I could write a book on the silly ways you’ve made our family laugh. Thank-you!

When Dad turned 85, we, (as in the six of us kids, husbands, and grandchildren) planned a special event for him—a celebratory “roast” of sorts. It was my chance to bring humour into the celebration—and to hear his laugh once again.

So, I wrote and performed a little skit with my brother. I was Don Cherry and he was, “straight-man” Ron MacLean. I chose these two characters because: 1. My dad loves hockey, and has been a faithful Maple Leafs fan since the league began. 2. We grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night, and my dad has loved “Coach’s Corner” since its debut in 1980.

The opening scene: Ron MacLean (my brother) sits behind a desk, an empty chair beside him. The theme music to “Coach’s Corner” comes on. I walk in from the back, dressed in a flashy suit jacket, carrying my pet dog “Bull” (who is wearing a Maple Leafs jersey) under my arm. I sit down, and place the dog beside the desk on the floor.

And as I acted out my role, I listened. I heard my dad laugh, my siblings laugh, my relatives laugh.

There is something so satisfying in being able to sprinkle a bit of humour into people’s lives; but the ability to do so is also humbling because it is a gift—a gift given by God to remind people that God too loves it when we laugh and enjoy life and each other. And that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously so much of the time.

 I’m thankful for Dad’s legacy of laughter passed down to me. I hope, in some small way, I can live up to that legacy and spread God’s joy to the people around me, whether in the written word or the spoken word.

Connie Inglis currently serves as InScribe's spiritual advisor. 

August 29, 2018

That's Not Funny by Bob Jones

“We offer you one last chance to settle out of court.”

That was the opening threat in an email sent from a lawyer in a European country in reference to an image I used in a blog post. Not a laughing matter. But my reaction was humorous.

After my heart stopped racing I called my lawyer.

That’s when the laughter started.

He reminded me that lawyers don’t use email for legal action. Or at least, legit lawyers don’t inform via email. Or voicemail. Or texting.

That experience happened a while ago. The law hasn’t come to jail me - yet.

The event did give me pause to re-evaluate the sourcing of images in my posts. Did you know that just because a copyright notice does not appear with an image, doesn’t mean the image isn’t copyrighted?

Sara Hawkins, creator of “Blog Law,” gave me some practical insights about image use in her post – “The Best Ways To Be Sure You’re Legally UsingOnline Photos.” 

Have you discovered the Unsplash site yet? You’ll find free, beautiful images, gifted by the world’s most generous photographers. 

Two of the images in this post were found on the Unsplash site.

And that makes me smile confidently as I hit the "Publish" button.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

The last laugh or groan goes to this image that says it all from my musician friend, Emmanuel Fonte.

Bob Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

Follow his writing at Pointes Of View.

August 28, 2018

How I "Bagged" a Squirrel - Bruce Atchison

Since this month's theme is on humor, I'm republishing a blog post I posted a few years ago. I feel confident that we can all chuckle at tricks played on animals, especially if they're inadvertent. In some ways, those are funnier than deliberate pranks.

In the autumn of 1975, I boarded at the head office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto. After the weekday training and mobility course sessions, our instructors allowed us an hour of leisure time before supper. A fellow student casually remarked to me one afternoon that squirrels lived in the park behind the training centre. Having never seen those animals in the flesh, this news gave me an idea. I bought a bag of unsalted peanuts from a local convenience store. Next, I walked to the park before supper and scattered a handful around the bench. Then I sat down and waited.

After a minute, I heard rustling noises amid the leaves above me. Two black squirrels climbed timidly down the tree trunks. Then both snatched a peanut and ran back up. Those fluffy-tailed rodents soon learned that I was harmless and that I provided a feast whenever I sat in the park. Before long, they not only stayed on the ground but boldly strolled within a foot of me.

My following of bushy-tailed freeloaders grew until I had half a dozen black squirrels, a few grey ones, and a tiny tawny fellow dining confidently at my feet. Encouraged by their acceptance of my hand-outs, I decided to test the limits of how hard they would work for treats. I placed peanuts on my shoe, on the bench next to me, and tossed them directly behind their tails. Finally, I placed a few peanuts in a paper bag and waited to see what would happen.

One bold, black squirrel sniffed at the opening, then crawled inside to seize a peanut. Feeling the paper enveloping him, he panicked. The other squirrels scattered as a white object with a black behind zoomed across the lawn, spurred on by my raucous laughter. The moist grass weakened the paper so that it tore, freeing the frightened rodent. He raced for the nearest tree with all thoughts of peanuts forgotten. Though I hadn't intended to "bag" a squirrel that day, the trick provided me with a memorable highlight of my stay in Toronto.

Likewise, I treasure the memories of those pranks I played on my house rabbits. Many hilarious vignettes, similar to this post, are included in my When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living With Bunnies memoir.

August 27, 2018

HURRY! So MANY Opportunites & Time is Ticking

Fall conference is fast approaching and there are so many opportunities - but some of them are time sensitive!

- Fall Contest: Last call! Entry deadline is September 1st and there are five categories - nonfiction, poetry, adult fiction, songwriting and devotional. Check the website for specific details.

- Awards and Subsidies: You can still apply for the Barnabas Award, Janette Oke Award, or a conference subsidy. All details on website.

- Blue Pencil: Sign up to get your manuscript critiqued! Don't know what 'blue pencil' means? Check the dropdown on the conference page! 

- Photo Ops: A professional photographer will be on hand at conference and for a $50 fee you can sign up to get professional headshots done!

- Sharing opportunities: Share a short reading from your work at Thursday's 'Author Mixer'. then on Friday, come with a prepared 'elevator pitch' to share after the banquet! (Elevator pitches should be from something published in 2017/2018.)

Finally, if you have an promotional items to give away, something for the silent auction, or you have ideas for next year's conference workshops or even our lineup of WorDshops, bring them along! 

August 26, 2018

Humour In My Life - Marnie Pohlmann

I woke with a start. My eyes roamed the darkness but could see nothing. I sniffed the air. There was no smoke. Yet something had awakened me. I flinched as my mind registered a sound. A steady hum, broken regularly by a loud growl. What was that? It sounded monstrous.

My feet slipped from under the covers onto the cold floor and I felt my way past my bedside table to approach the door from my bedroom to the hallway. A faint glow shone from the nightlight in bathroom lighting my way as I tiptoed down the hall toward Mom’s room.  Almost there.

The growl bellowed again as I stopped at the entry to the living room. It was in the living room! Could I pass by to get to Mom without being seen? I squatted low and peeked around the doorway, ready to make a dash by the opening. But what I saw calmed my thumping heart. I let out a deep breath and stood up. I walked into the room and turned the knob on the television, silencing the “off air” tone. Dad lifted his head from the couch, harrumphing mid-growl as he opened his eyes.

“Hey,” he said, “I was watching that!”

The gist of this story was my first attempt at humour, published in an elementary school anthology.

I am from a very “punny” family. Wordplay has probably helped in my writing, as did being raised on the Reader’s Digest clean stories in “Humour in Uniform” and “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Quick responses, sometimes sarcasm, and building on each other’s silliness came naturally in our home.

I see this quick wit has passed on to my nieces and nephews, and to their children as well. I am grateful for Facebook, where these young parents post stories about the hilarious happenings in their homes. Out of the mouths of babes come both giggles and truth.

I admit, sometimes my humour can be inappropriate. After all, I was influenced by brothers! And at work, we may use black humour to deal with tough moments on the job. I have even laughed at funerals but in my defense, those men sitting at the edge of the room really did look like the old bankers in “Mary Poppins.” (I expected them to get up and dance.)

One of my sisters-in-law specializes in telling anecdotes about her daily life. She has no need to embellish the stories because such unexpected and funny occurrences could only happen to her. (Family, can you guess who I’m referring to?) She shows that it’s alright to laugh at yourself. Read on to hear me laughing at myself.

A few years ago, when we first moved to our present location, I looked to my new coworkers for advice about where to buy my husband a Christmas gift. I thought perhaps a new hunting knife would be good.

“Is Backwoods expensive?” I asked.

“About the same as any other place like that.”

“I’m not sure what Wally would like. Could I get a gift certificate?”

My co-worker paused her work to look at me. “I suppose so,” she said slowly. “Isn’t your husband a pastor?”

“Yes, but he wasn’t always a pastor.”

“And he likes that kind of stuff?”

“Oh, sure. He’s a bit of a redneck,” I laughed.

“Really?” her eyes grew large and she looked puzzled.

Across the room, another co-worker chuckled and joined our conversation.

“I think you meant Back Country, the sports shop,” she suggested.

“Yes, the sports shop. Back Country? What did I call it?”

Both ladies dissolved in laughter. “Backwoods. That’s the local stripper bar.”

Humour may have helped me start as a writer, and be bred into my genes, and present itself in my ordinary, daily life, but I don’t find writing humour easy at all. In fact, lately, I even seem to have lost my sense of “haha” or maybe it has been drowned with the tears from recent circumstances. Yet God still provides joy for my heart. The laughter of humour is circumstantial, but God’s joy is beyond any situation in which we might find ourselves. Peace amid grief, for example, is true joy, and that’s no laughing matter!

August 24, 2018

Writing for Entertainment: When is it funny? by Michelle M. Brown

Authors often struggle with knowing if they have infused their writing with emotion. Nonfiction writers record the facts about life events and, this genre does not allow the writer to create a story for the sake of entertainment. Recently, as I wrote my memoir, there were times when I had to distance myself emotionally to ensure an accurate account and, in that distance, I questioned if I didn’t lose the most critical part -- the emotional impact.

One powerful emotion that would attach value to any piece is humour, yet it can be the most difficult to add and complicated to define. Humour is influenced by experience and shaped by the natural inclinations and personal beliefs that are held by the reader. It is relative to a situation and how the reader relates to it. When we read a story, it is our ability to connect to it and how we view the peculiarities of life that define the emotional impact. Humour, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

In the book of Luke, Zechariah was struck mute by the angel Gabriel, because he did not believe Gabriel’s words.

“And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."” Luke 1:19-20 ESV

The story continues with Elizabeth giving birth to a son as foretold by Gabriel.

“Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, "No; he shall be called John." And they said to her, "None of your relatives is called by this name." And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.” Luke 1:57-66 ESV

There is humour to be found in this story. Zechariah was mute, not deaf. He may have written the words, “I can hear you, you fools” before he wrote anything else. Humour can be found in the absurdities of the moment, in the details that are not immediately obvious, and in the struggles we all share.

To fully succeed in writing for entertainment, a writer will include humour by telling a story that notes the idiosyncrasy and oddities that come with life. The unexpected in the normal.

Michelle M. Brown was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in Marketing & Design. An avid hiker and adventure junkie she has embarked on a journey to conquer 50 adventurous activities in her 50th year.

August 22, 2018

Humour, Writing and the Beautiful by Alan Anderson

Perhaps because I’m an introvert I have always used humour in my life one way or another. Humour to me, is a shining jewel that reminds me life is a gift. I like to think of funny things to share with people. My intent is to help people see the beautiful part of life even if times are tough. Indeed it is not always easy. Humour, you see, may come with a price.

Years ago I enjoyed the humour of the young comedian Freddie Prinze. I watched him on a TV show when he was teamed with an older comedian. They worked well together. Just when Freddie was becoming one of the funniest comedians on TV he committed suicide at the age of 22. In an interview with someone about Freddie Prinze his bouts with depression and drug addiction were discussed. The interviewee said that Freddie had stated sometime before his death, “I can’t hear the laughter anymore.”

There is often a dark side to humour. I read an article on a comedian talking about his craft. He mentioned that many comedians have experienced depression. Conditions like depression or perhaps difficult times in life can sharpen one’s humour.

I don’t talk often about my personal dark side, my struggles, yet they that have sharpened my humour. I find it easier to write than to talk about myself. Pretty well anything I write involves some example of the dark side of life, of grief, suffering, hardship, etc. I also use humour in my writing when appropriate. My humour never undermines the seriousness of the story.

Humour is beautiful. From a little twitter to a
rip-roaring guffaw I feel and hear joy that God has placed in our hearts. Life, of course, holds all sorts of experiences for us. I can be afraid, I can be depressed, I can weep hot tears of grief.

Humour is all the more sweet because of the dark side. It lightens my journey through life by freeing me to see the bigger picture. Life is a precious gift and because of humour it helps me to live for what I call “the beautiful.”

The beautiful may be seen in the wag of a dog’s tail, the purr of a kitten, the belly laugh of a baby. The beautiful can also be witnessed in the hug from a loved one or a wink from a stranger. When I have read a book that has gripped my attention I sense the beautiful. In my blog posts someone may comment they appreciate how I at times use humour in the message. What the reviewer has read is the presence of the beautiful.

Humour, writing and the beautiful are a great combination. They keep me motivated to allow the words in my head to form stories. In trials and tribulations I may be reminded of the beautiful even in the absence of humour or when it is hidden. Humour, however, may not be hidden for long.

You see, for humour to be hidden or absent or even shunned, life darkens. I have spent countless hours with people in their initial journey into grief. Most times humour is hidden. It is as if their grief has isolated them into a corner. The only sound a grieving person may hear for a while is their own screams, their own cries longing for their loved ones.

Oh, the sweetness of life when humour returns. Oh blessed Lord, you never left me, for I see your smile again on the faces of those who love me. I see the beautiful.


August 21, 2018

IF YOU DON'T LAUGH, YOU'LL CRY! ... by Jocelyn Faire

If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know the man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, or seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you’ll get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man…All I claim to know is that laughter is the most reliable gauge of human nature. — Feodor Dostoyevsky

The month's theme was difficult, and this surprised me, as I think of myself as having a good sense of humour. Earlier in the week I'd had this conversation with God:
Why am I having trouble with the humour topic this month?
Perhaps it is the heaviness you carry.
Yes, that could be. I'm not sure what it is and why I'm carrying it?
Let's figure it out. Perhaps you should let me carry it, I do have big shoulders.
First and foremost, I feel the heaviness because the furlough period of my daughter and her family is near the end and I feel I've not had enough time with them. When is there enough time? (But this truly was all bonus time, as they were on compassionate leave, my son-in-law's mother was dying, the original focus of their summer was to spend time with her.) Things progressed more quickly and they came out earlier in order to be with her on the palliative ward for ten days before her passing. There were many tears ... over the years, she had also become a good friend of mine, and a great prayer warrior for my daughter's family. The heaviness of a passing lingers, and their focus shifted to the dad left. Sadly it's taken until the middle of August to have a genuine connection with my grand daughter.
But be thankful you had that connection.
My husband has also been having a heavy time-August is the anniversary of his first wife's death, and the recall of his summer journey of 4 years ago has permeated our summer space.
But that too has lifted, and you my dear daughter have been a blessing in his life.
Thanks ... So what have I got to smile about? ... ok, that came out accidentally on the paper ... it was a thought that started to form a few times ... and I usually chastised myself before it fully formed. And now, here it makes itself known in print.
I'm gonna let that one pass—I'm fairly certain you don't want to ask that.
You're right God, I do not want to ask that ungrateful sounding question. I do need a bit of a shake of my head. Listen girl, (I say to myself) ... You're always saying that there is much beauty in this world, and think about it, laughter stems from appreciating the beauty of God. He has a great sense of humour.
God is at the centre of a well-sprung laugh, He is at the heart of Merry, the centre of Joy ... the true reason behind a good belly-laugh.
And besides that ... I know that I laugh more deeply with those that I have wept with.
End of conversation ...
And so I put on my rose coloured glasses to take another look back over the summer to recount the many times humour and laughter were infused. This incident came to mind to share here.
                                                                            Maya and myself
The laughter highlight came the August long weekend, when three adults, three children, a dog and cat travelled fourteen hours over three provinces to attend Canmore Folk festival in Alberta ... what were we thinking?? What originated as a three sisters get together expanded to include a niece from the UK and her three children ages 6, 9 and 12. (OK-the dog and cat were not true, that was an embellishment, but the oldest of the children is special needs, and that included a colostomy bag.) The third sister driving from the West coast had the easy drive. Our prairie group was packed like loose sardines in the van with coffee, sandwiches, snack and entertainment fixings ready for our 7am departure. I was the first driver and the plan was to rotate every few hours. My sister kissed her husband goodby (he was picked up by a friend for morning coffee). I looked into the rear view mirror to see smiling faces all around- a big thumbs up to all, and I put the van into reverse. BANG. Stunned, I looked into the rear view mirror again, to see that the pickup truck of the coffee duo was still there. They were not visible before, behind those smiling travellers. For just a moment we sat in silence and then I said “OK, two thingsWe are not going to let this ruin our holiday and Harold does not have to know about this.” We all burst into laughter. I did get out to inspect damages, hoping there would be none. But the truck grill, had a plastic piece that had clearly dislocated. I said to Iron Man, as he is known, Well you know where to find me, we'll just have to sort it out later. They drove off. This time I waited until I could see them driving toward Tim's before hitting reverse. The standing joke became that we truly started the weekend with a Bang. And truly it did get much better from there with much laughter and generational bonding. Sometime, in the future Harold will also hear the story ... maybe! Many things in life are on a need to know basis ... at this time, he does not yet need to know :)

                                                 Canmore Folk Festival Fun