Tagged: humor writing

New job title: Sports writer (?)

The nice folks at the Los Angeles Review of Books asked me if I could write a little essay about mini golf.  “I can give you twelve,” I said, because I was feeling glib, and also, feeling the effects of a particularly mysterious beverage at the rooftop party in downtown Los Angeles that evening in April.

In any case, it was fun to write about Tom Thumb again.  You can read it here!

Rules of the Mini Game

And I apologize for not blogging during this month, but it’s been strangely busy for a summer month. When we looked at the calendar we realized that there have been only 15 days in the whole month of June when we have been home and not having house-guests.  I mean, it’s been great fun (super fun to have Tim’s daughters here!).  But blogging just, you know, doesn’t compete with sitting outside with loved ones on a warm summer evening, laughing at stories we tell each other, and eating some lovely berry dessert…. 🙂

I also taught a weekend class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival on “Creativity: The Magic and Mystery of it All.”  It was really fun!  And I hope it inspired the students, because to be honest, it inspired me.  I’ve been writing better and more easily since I taught the class.  Huzzah, as they say.






Happy St. Penguin’s Day

Monday was St. Penguin’s Day. It came unexpectedly, as it always does. Two days before we had toasted each other with “Happy First Day of Spring!” When you live in the Midwest, where winter lasts about six months, and you get tired of wearing a scarf around your face, and even more tired of cooking up “frozen mixed vegetables,” a dish which greatly resembles fishfood, spring is perhaps more joyous than Christmas.

But we had forgotten about the penguins. Oh, the penguins.

“We got a foot of snow!” we said, peering out the kitchen window Monday morning.  It started coming down Sunday night, and it didn’t stop until morning. School was cancelled, the construction guys didn’t show up to continue work on our basement. The snow arrived–heavy snow–twelve inches, and it stuck. It hasn’t melted away like it is “supposed to” this time of year.  So now there is more snow on the ground than we have had any other time this winter. And it’s supposed to be spring! Happy St. Penguin’s Day!

(By the way, I just made up St. Penguin’s Day, but I’m going to keep it. Neologism, it’s called, when you invent a new word. And I’m at it again. My first, “melbonic relationship: for the moments when you look across the table at someone who’s talking, perhaps over a cup of coffee, and you are smiling, but you think I am never going to understand this person. It’s going to be a ‘melbonic’ relationship.” And my latest invention: “St. Penguin’s Day: a day in early spring when you get an unexpected dumping of snow.”

(Well, after all, why not blame the penguins? They are cute, so they can absorb a bit of loathing. Also, it’s late March, so Antarctica is approaching winter. They’ve extra snow on the way and they’ve got to put it somewhere.)

By the way, I made a terrible mistake, it seems. I posted that hot dog blog yesterday, not realizing that I had posted it earlier. Actually, one year earlier! The draft of it had been lost on my old laptop, and I started using my new laptop, and then discovered it on the old one in a file for “not posted things” I didn’t realilze I had posted it some time ago. My apology.

(Having a blog is weird. It’s a bit like having a dog as a pet. Fun, sure. But there are times when you look at it and you just feel guilty.)

Move over Plato, this one’s sticky

If you are friends with a man, and just friends, and only friends, we say that it is a platonic relationship. I believe the word comes from Plato, the Greek philosopher. So you can be talking about your college roommate that one summer when you rented an apartment together, believing he had no interest in you in “that way,” because you thought it was platonic, only it turned out he wanted to lose his virginity with you, and told you so in a penclled note he left on the kitchen table… and you are mentioning the problem with Plato when you talk about it.

I would like my own name, Melby, to be attached to some kind of equally sticky situation. I don’t like things to be cut and dry. I would prefer to be attached to some kind of murky situation. Not sexual, that tends to be an area that’s just laden with discarded words and labels on the side of the road. No, I need to come up with some other kind of relationship or situation that really could use a new name…

“It is a ‘melbonic’ relationship,” the young man explained to his grandmother over a cup of tea. She leaned out of her dark green nursing home chair as he explained: “We spend a lot of time together, but mostly we are just confused by each other’s view of the world. We are close friends, kind of, but also we just don’t understand anything at all sometimes. It’s completely melbonic.” Ah, said the grandmother nodding. She understood things like these. She was coming on 92. She had been through troubles of her own….

So, there you go, reader.  Melbonic. Use it.  Because there are times when other people are just confusing.

Nuts! It’s nuts! Seriously, nuts!

The acorns are pummeling the roof of the house and it sounds like we live inside a popcorn popper. We don’t. I mean, I’m pretty sure we don’t. And our roof is not made of tin. At least, I don’t think it is. But once in a while I feel like I should go outside and see if there is popcorn falling out from the eaves.

Nuts, nuts. The squirrels are happy.  I try to stay in the basement, working, ignoring the nuts.  Upstairs it sounds like a houseguest is knocking over their suitcase on the floor.  Then it sounds like the floor above me is getting ripped apart. I run up the stairs. No, the couches still in tact. The bookshelves still holding a semi-neat row of books. I return to work, then hear another BING!. Run upstairs. All is well.  The nuts sometimes bring with them a small branch when they fall to the ground.  They enjoy this, the nuts. Their big disarray, a last hurrah, before finding their place on the ground.

I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. So much travelling! It’s all gone well, and I’m so grateful for the chance. I had a lovely week in Los Angeles (a few pictures below), but it surprised me how hectic that life can be. The bustle to drive. The hassle to park. But now, today is like a normal day, really: the air is calm, the leaves take their time turning yellow and drifting downward. But the nuts, you know, are earning their name. They are nuts! Falling onto the roof. Bang. Pong. Prang. Fong!

Some of these acorns will turn into trees. Most of them will turn inside the belly of a squirrel. We have happy squirrels here in these woods, or so I imagine. I haven’t taken a poll, because you know, I have a long list of other things I need to do.

Among them, driving down to Iowa City today.  I get to take part in the Iowa City Book Festival. Hurrah!

On Saturday, 10/4,  I do an event called a “Reading/discussion” at the Java House, 1pm, 211½ E. Washington St. For me, “Reading/discussion” usually means that I read a few things from my book, and then say “Anyone have any questions?” and then I get totally off topic, and then we laugh together, and then I read another excerpt. And then we laugh some more.  All this to say:  it’s fun.

I am also doing a panel discussion with a very serious sounding title: “Loyalty and Betrayal”. 2:30 p.m. at the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St.  I have a secret fear of events that have super-serious names, and so I’m bound and determined to read a super silly section of my book, just to be that person at the party who, you know, does that.

So, time to hit the road again… and I’m running around the house packing for the trip.   Which is to say, I need to get off this computer so that I can run around the house, packing for the trip!

Update: I just added a couple of events in Illinois.  Hurrah!

Nov. 5th,  Barnes and Noble, DeKalb, Illinois
Nov. 6th, Sycamore Public Library, talk on “History of Miniature Golf”
Nov. 19, Barnes and Noble, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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Kind of like this display at the front counter of Book Soup: “This changes everything!”

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A great opportunity to use the word Penultimate!

Good gracious. Sorry I haven’t posted anything here, but the past coupla’ weeks have been a little… hmm… I’m not sure how to put it into one word. Blurry? Busy? But “busy” is such an overused word, and really, some of the time of the last couple of weeks was also spent eating brined goat meat, you know, how you do, when it’s Midsommer and you are invited to a Danish party with a large bonfire next to a cornfield. Like you do… with the option of eating some Sami goat meat “baked 12 hours at an exact temperature of 167 degrees, then spiced with fresh rosemary, sage, basil, lovage, and oregano, then packed in brine,…”  served on bread with horseradish and generous doses of Akvavit…. I have survived the last two weeks, many interviews and radio spots, and also the goat.

But today is the PENULTIMATE day… the book comes out tomorrow, July 8th. Which is weird. It’s a little like giving birth, but mostly it’s not at all like giving birth. Because my tummy is not too big (even if slightly gassy from my oatmeal), also, no one is giving me small dainty items in the Kleenex-box-colors of pink and pale blue.  Which is a relief.  (Those pinks and blues always seem a bit creepy, you know.)   Also, no diapers.

You can hear me do a :10 minute interview on Wisconsin Public Radio tomorrow, Tuesday, July 8th at 4PM central on a show called “Central Time.” With the lovely host, Veronica Rueckert.  (You can stream it at this link too.)

Yesterday there was a review in the Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

But the review that takes the cake came out last week in the Decorah newspaper. You might not expect much from a small newspaper, but the reviewer was so freakin’ well-written. I’m just awestruck. I mean, it’s a small town, you might expect a small-town flattery, but instead, she wrote this thoughtful review. She really understood the ideas I was getting at. So rewarding. I told my husband, “I had completely forgotten that when people read the book they might actually tell me nice things.'”  Wow.  Thank you, Julie, of the Decorah Newspaper.  (And for making me realize this might not be a lot more pleasant than pushing out an actual child. )

In the past week I recorded a spot for “Wisconsin Life” on Wisconsin Public Radio.  (I don’t know if it has aired.)  And some other interviews that have slipped my Monday-dazed mind at the present.  It’s a weird world, to be sure.

“When did the book come out?,”  I was asked in a phone interview just minutes ago.  “In minus 12 hours,” I answered.  Yes, tonight, if you were like some kind of Harry-Potter-crazed fan you could line up outside your bookstore and buy a copy at midnight… although, you know, the likelihood is not that good, and I wouldn’t recommend it anyway, there is a storm in the forecast… but in any case, you can buy your copy tomorrow.  Or you can just read this blog instead, for other crazed rantings of a woman in a-kind-of-labor.

Spring awakening, kind of

When someone sleeps well, you say that they slept like a baby. Because everyone knows that babies look like little dead angels when they are sleeping. Which can be frightening, but generally is considered cute. They are content and curled up and are good at sleeping, I guess that’s the point.

But what do you say when someone doesn’t sleep well?

I slept like an orangutan. ?


I slept like a cabbage. ?

I don’t know what you say. I guess we need to figure out what exactly is the opposite of a baby. Not an old person, surely, because everyone who’s visiting a nursing home can tell you how babies and old people have way too much in common (something we have to brace ourselves for once we admit we’re mortal and all that, not that I’m mortal, I’m just saying, it’s true for everyone else, you know, who doesn’t have plans to live forever…) So…. what is the opposite of sleeping like a baby?

“Boy, rough morning. Last night I slept like a crack fiend.”
Perhaps, but I don’t like uttering words “like a crack fiend” before I’ve had my coffee. Those are late night words, after you’ve had a couple drinks in a dive bar somewhere under the bridge span in downtown Los Angeles. Otherwise, I don’t use those words.

Hmm… the opposite of a baby… babies are small and loud, but they are also soft. So, what is tall, quiet, and not so soft….?

An elephant?

“Oh, honey. Last night I slept like an elephant.”


“The Eiffel Tower.” It is tall, quiet, and not so soft.

“Whew, rough morning. I slept like the Statue of Liberty.”
“…The Washington Monument”
“I slept like the San Mateo Bridge at rush hour.”

And all this is true, of me, last night.
But there was one reward for being up all night (and by all night, I don’t mean all night, just that I woke up at 4am and never quite got back to sleep). I had given up and sitting on the couch, paging through a coffee table book at 6am when I heard a strange birdy sound coming from outside.
Wait? That sound reminds me a little of the sound… Is that the …?
I opened the front door and stood in the doorway in my pajamas.

YES!! It was! The wood thrush!! The first wood thrush of the season! This is a date which always gets marked down on the calendar. The wood thrushes disappear in late August to fly down to Central America, and then by some miracle, come back to these woods where they hang out for three months, high up in the trees. We rarely get to see them. But they are my favorite thing of summer, I kid you not. The bird song of the thrushes is….it’s just… well, it’s just that amazing. Really.

So… last night I slept like a monster truck at a tractor pull, but then got to hear the arrival of the woodthrush. Aw… gooshy, gooshy, gooshy….

(I was unable to upload the wma file of my own audio recording… but here is one on youtube from a woods that doesn’t look too different from ours, or how ours will look once we have leaves on the trees again…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3IXZMB9JJM 

p.s.  Some time ago I promised to post an inspiring quote each Friday.  And then I didn’t.  Last Friday I had a number of hits, and there was no post.  Sorry.  Friday wasn’t the best choice for me to pick because I tend to be busy on Fridays.  But I’ll try again this week, and if it remains difficult–and why should it be so difficult, honestly?–I’ll switch to a different predictable day of the week.

Students do good and me happy good

Check this out. Some of my former students seem to actually have ignored enough of my bad advice that they have become good writers. Imagine! I know! Astounding! Perhaps I should write science fiction — it does seem that amazing. Like a space colony on Mars.

One of the first students that I worked with as a private coach has a book that’s just come out! Ghost Belly by Elizabeth Heineman. I mean! Wow. My own book hasn’t even yet come out. (So I’m trying not to hold it against her, doncha know, and just smile and nod like a proud parent.)  If you’d like to see for yourself if I’m lying or not, click here to read a heart-breaking essay from the book that won First Place in the big-ass New Millennium Writings award for nonfiction, or a shorter excerpt that was  published in Salon.com.  (Fancy!)

And here is a link to the book itself,  at Feminist Press.  Buy a copy, why don’t you?  I’m reading my copy right now! (Okay, not right now, because right now I’m typing, but you know what I mean…)
Congratulations Elizabeth! Woohoo!

And then another of my former students emailed me two weeks ago to tell me that she got into the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing mfa Program and to thank me because she is under the mistaken impression that I might even have been a part of it… somehow (again, like breathing fresh air on Mars).  She “claims” I said something during the humor writing class she took from me at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival that she “claims” nudged her to write a kick-ass essay.  And this essay got published in the Cimarron Review, and then attracted the attention of at least one literary agent.  Again, it sounds like a floating space colony… but true or not… Wow. Way to go Magda!
She is also the editor for Iowa Writes!, UIowa’s online  art/literary journal that publishes online each day.  She is looking for short pieces to publish, especially humor for a humor-themed summer. If you are a writer based in Iowa, submit to her! Why don’t ya? (Up to 700 words in length.)  

Finally, and most awesomely:  my friend and former student, Keith Lesmeister, had an essay chosen by Tin House to inaugurate their new online nonfiction series called “Flash Fidelity.”    His short essay “Cuss Words,” which he worked on during my writing class, somehow didn’t get messed up by any advice I may have shared, and was published today 3/19/2014.  And here it is! (super funny, you should read this):  “Cuss Words” at Tin House.  

Well, sure I’ll take credit, just like Putin takes Ukraine.  I mean, it’s not really his country, but you know…   he can BELIEVE otherwise all he wants…..