How Humor and Essays Became Timeshare Partners in My Brain (reblog of Brevity post)

Nikki Campo on humor

I think writer Nikki Campo is way better at writing humorous essays about serious topics than I am. In this post on the Brevity Blog, she describes well why I knew I had to include some lightness in my new essay collection, Writer in a Life Vest. That’s why I wrote about the Ukulele Jams on the Interisland ferry. And why I used the metaphors of dropped cell phone calls and forgetting to unmute ourselves on Zoom to wrestle with the impact of noise on the threatened Southern Resident killer whale. It was a new approach for me that seemed necessary to help me (and readers) take in the hard news about threats to the Salish Sea.

I even tried to ease the grief and fear of the climate crisis when I wrote about the emergency drills the crew conducts weekly on the ferry. During my stint as Writer-in-Residence on the Interisland, I participated in one of the drills; the title essay for the collection resulted.  You’ll have to let me know if it works.

A writer in a life vest

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Nikki Campo

My first draft of an essay about losing my mom to cancer was a doozy. An overabundance of adverbs wasn’t even my biggest problem. I was going for “personal essay,” but landed squarely on “journal entry.” Complete with tear-stained pages and many corresponding descriptions of past tears, the copy was, by any standard, bad.

As writers, we know when our work sucks, but sometimes we don’t know why. Or, as someone only a couple years into my dedication to the craft, I don’t always know why. I love Ira Glass’s take which I would summarize as: we get into the work of writing because we have good taste, and it’s because of this good taste that our early work often disappoints us.

I probably should have scrapped that essay, or at least relegated it to the corners of my hard drive, but instead, I set it aside…

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