We welcome creative nonfiction writer Susana Romatz to our blog today because she was a runner up in our quarter 3 2020 contest with her essay, "How to Cure Mange." If you haven't read it yet, you can check it out here. If you are a humor writer or want to learn to write humor better than you have been, Susana gives us some great tips and insight below!
Susana is a middle school teacher in Eugene, Oregon. She grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, and graduated from Central Michigan University with a double major in earth science and religion. She went on to earn a certificate from the Eugene Waldorf Teacher Education Program and took a job at a Waldorf inspired charter school. She spends 180 days of the year arguing with twelve-year-olds. She thinks it’s the best. Susana has been writing for most of her life, having won first place in a Ford Motor Company fiction writing contest and published articles at HumaneFacts.org and The Peaceful Dumpling. Her most recent work can be found at www.scrappyhaps.com.
WOW!: Congratulations, Susana, on placing as a runner up in the creative nonfiction essay contest with your essay, "How to Cure Mange." It is hysterical! Let's start at the beginning, though. What led you to write this essay?
Susana: I wrote this essay for two reasons: 1. I felt the heaviness of what was (is) happening in the world (including but not limited to the virus) so strongly, and I wanted to lighten the mood as much as I could, both for myself and for others; and 2. I enjoy normalizing neurotic behavior. I think that everyone has something they are a little overly attentive to, and we can all get a little neurotic from time to time. It feels like we, as a group of human animals, feel like we are alone in our crazy thoughts; when in truth, we are all at least a little bit crazy, even the people we know who seem so put together. The more we can meet each other on common ground, the healthier we, and our planet, will be.
WOW!: Great points. I certainly agree that everyone has "something"! You take three events--waiting at the pharmacy and imagining COVID in the air, and your dog having mange, and worrying about eyelash mites--and weave them together to make this delightful essay. What made you piece all of these together?
Susana: In an interview for writers, David Sedaris said that we should look for times in our lives that feel like a story. I take that to mean times that are so whacky or synchronistic or other-worldly that they seem like somebody made them up. I will have memories of times like these that happened to me in the past, and I write down little notes to myself to write about them later. Often when I’m writing about something that happened recently, one of those little memories will go along with it. I really like putting two stories together into one; I think it gives more room for depth and more opportunities to squeeze in a laugh. That’s how this writing came together.
WOW!: You really can't go wrong with advice from David Sedaris. You are very good at writing humor. Is this something you often do? Any tips?
Susana: I write nearly every day, but not all of what I write is humorous. I do a lot of journaling, writing down the things that happen, so I can look back and pick ideas from it. When I’m writing for my humor blog, I usually try to imagine myself telling a story to my best friend, who is really patient at listening to me tell a million stories, some of which are funnier than others, and I translate that energy into something readable. I add in a lot of metaphor and simile, both of which allow a lot of room for colorful adjectives and funny imagery. Instead of saying, “He walked into the room, looking uncomfortable,” I’ll say, “He walked into the room like he was on the second day of his jock itch treatment.” It’s also important in humor writing to make the story relatable. When I read writing that I think is super funny, I can usually put myself in the shoes of the characters and imagine what they are seeing/doing myself.
WOW!: That's a great example of how you use figurative language to bring humor to your writing. Your bio also mentions that you are a teacher. How do you balance writing and teaching?
Susana: Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on the time of year and how much extra time I’m putting in to my pet projects. I also have a small vegan specialty items business called Avellana, I’m working on developing an invention prototype idea for making nut milks at home, and as well I have a vegan recipe blog. I try to keep busy so I stay out of trouble.
WOW!: That sounds like you have quite a full plate and all very interesting projects! What's next on your writing plate? What are you working on?
Susana: I’m working on a series about campers. I have a 1978 Toyota mini motor home named Campy. We just took her out into the desert of Eastern Oregon for two weeks, and many things went...unexpectedly. I thought a series memorializing all the weird stuff that’s happened to me in my life surrounding camper camping was a rich topic for making people laugh.
WOW!: Sounds delightful and unique! Best of luck with the camper camping stories.