the joyful traveller

Now’s the best time to find the humor wherever we can

– Laura Pedersen’s “The Theory of Everything Else,” is a great start

Take her stance on things that can hurt us: Why, she asks, when thousands are perishing as a result of assault weapons, carbon emissions, forest fires, pesticides, and processed foods, lawn darts were banned in the 1980s after two people died.     

Conundrums like these are what the author tries to figure out.

WAT’s MJ Hanley-Goff sat down with Pedersen via email to ask some questions about writing comedy, feeding goats, and questions about cranky people:

What kinds of writing give you the most joy… 

Laura Pedersen: I like a good joke or one-liner, but I love a story that takes us from A to B. It doesn’t need a moral or even a point, but should feel like going on a engaging journey, such as when you sit down to dinner with a friend who had an incredible adventure on the way over and regales everyone with the story. It’s truthful, personal, and one-of-a-kind.  

Columns are the least stressful form of writing because they’re mercifully short and require limited research, but there’s an emptiness after they’re published since it’s like feeding a goat. There’s no sign of what you just wrote, and the goat is hungry again.

Were there any writers that inspired your writing?  

Laura Pedersen: I loved Erma Bombeck. When I was growing up every home in America had Bombeck’s musings about family life taped to the refrigerator door. You want articles “about nothing” — Bombeck chronicled the performance of mundane tasks like shopping, doing laundry, and carpooling kids, and magically made it all sound hilarious and occasionally heartrending. “Never have more children than you have car windows” and “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.” To a writer the message was that anything from the tiniest cookie crumb to the biggest dust ball can become your best source of material so pay attention to ordinary routines and don’t try and get out of cleaning the oven. And then there was the wonderful Nora Ephron who said, “I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are.”

I enjoyed your “what I’ve learned” list, especially “be kind to cranky people.” Have you come across a lot of cranky people?  

Share a bit about why you became an ordained minister, does that mean your sermons are  humorous?

Laura Pedersen: I hope my sermons contain some humor because I think people are more engaged when they do.  I also believe that while we need not agree on how to live or what to believe, humor brings us together, and for those few moments we rise above our differences and are reminded of all that we have in common.

A Theory of Everything Else: Essays (She Writes Press; on-sale September 1, 2020; Paperback ISBN: 9781631527371; $16.95)

For more on Laura Pedersen, visit laurapedersenbooks.com

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