Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chasing Dave

I'm chasing Dave Barry. You know him, tall dude, shaggy hair, Pulitzer Prize winner. But it's not about what he is that has me chasing him. It's what he isn't.

A member of the Humor Writers of America.


When I decided to create the Humor Writers of America, it's because I realized it was something that had to be. A place where people could Google 'humor' and get this big fatty website stuffed with writers of fun stuff. I was a member of Mystery Writers of America, SCBWI and the Missouri Writers Guild... yet, these weren't my real homes. Sure, I write some YA, but some of my stuff isn't. There might be some mystery in my books (like why the heck did I write them), but I'm not especially into whodunit.  But my books all had humor. Fun stuff. Slapstick. Satire. My tongue has been in my cheek so much it's wearing a groove.

But when I looked for a group that I could join devoted to humor, there was nothing.

My next step was to approach some humor writers and ask them to start one. A bunch of topselling thriller writers got together, basically over drinks, and created the International Thriller Writers (read here for their story). But look at who those writers were, Lee Child, Barry Eisler, David Morrell). And look what it's become. The answers when I asked around varied around the theme, "Great idea, I'll be happy to join if someone starts it."

I'm a realist, I know what I am at this stage in my writing career. I get good reviews, schools love to have me talk to their kids, I'm good at speaking .. but I'm not Lee Child, Barry Eisler or David Morrell. If I build the baseball field, there's no guarantee that anyone other than field mice will show up.  So I didn't want to start a group, because I didn't have the confidence I could attract the names  that would make it a success. But I did know it's a worthy idea, something that should be.

The Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop changed all that. I had started the Humor Writers group a couple years ago, but didn't really solicit members or so much other than keeping the admittedly sketchy site up to date. But when I met with Teri Rizvi, the founder of the workshop and she agreed to a loose affiliation with the group, and better, allowed me to introduce it at breakfast, and even better, is allowing me to use the email list of the attendees.

With this victory in hand I approached a few of the speakers at the conference, and readily signed up best selling authors W Bruce Cameron, Mary Lou Quinlan and David Henry Sterry. When I approached Lisa Scottoline, whom I'd met a few years ago at Love is Murder, she accepted nearly before the words were out of my mouth. It's clear from their reactions that it's an idea that's overdue.

So it's happening now despite my fears and insecurities about it. Best selling author Tim Dorsey accepted just the other day, so we're building momentum. Momentum to what, I'm not sure. But the boat has launched.

Now if I could only get Dave Barry on board.


(Norm Cowie is author of seven humor books and is founder of the Humor Writers of America)

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