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Meet the Teaching Artist: Funny at 40 (or beyond) with Janine Annett

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: Funny at 40 (or beyond) with Janine Annett

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


Renowned for her distinctive voice as a humorist, Janine Annett seamlessly marries wit with the wisdom that comes with age. With humor contributions to prestigious publications like the New Yorker's Daily Shouts, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, Janine offers readers a lighthearted yet insightful look into the quirks and peculiarities of aging. Janine has taught at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, Gotham Writers, Thurber House, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, and we're thrilled to welcome her to WritingWorkshops.com.

Janine's upcoming seminar is titled Funny at 40 (or beyond). Drawing inspiration from her acclaimed book, I Am "Why Do I Need Venmo?" Years Old: Adventures in Aging, the seminar invites participants to delve deep into the humorous facets of aging. Perfect for writers traversing various genres from memoirs to satire, the seminar promises engaging discussions, practical writing exercises, and an exploration of the works of iconic writers like Nora Ephron and David Sedaris. So, whether you're a young old soul or someone who's well-acquainted with the regular aches and pains of aging, Janine's seminar promises a delightful foray into the world of humor that celebrates every beautiful wrinkle and laugh line of life.

Hi, Janine. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Hi! I'm Janine. I'm the author of the humor book I Am "Why Do I Need Venmo?" Years Old which is full of jokes about things like being in physical therapy and not wanting to use Venmo and wearing Birkenstocks and clothing from LL Bean. I've also written funny things that have been published in places like McSweeney's, the New Yorker's Daily Shouts, the New York Times, Real Simple, and more. I've taught humor writing at places like the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, Gotham Writers, Thurber House, and the Hudson Valley Writers Center. Here is a fun fact about me: I am obsessed with my dog, Murray, a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

I am a self-described "late bloomer" and I feel like aging often isn't seen as being funny, but I think it has great potential for humorous stories. I love analyzing what makes something funny and helping people develop their own humorous writing in a way that is authentic to them! Whether you're in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or beyond (or even if you're in your 20s or 30s but feel like an "old soul"), you can find the funny in your lived experiences. Prerequisite for this class: You must have at least one body part that aches constantly.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

It will be FUN! Somewhere out there, there's a humor writer who is a jerk, but I have yet to meet that person. My favorite part of this class is going to be not just looking at funny texts from older adults, but analyzing what makes them funny, and discussing how people can use those techniques to hone their own humor writing. And because it's on Zoom, maybe Murray will make an appearance (appearance from Murray is not guaranteed).

What was your first literary crush?


Definitely Harriet the Spy.

What are you currently reading?

Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge by Helen Ellis

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

I'm often inspired by events in my own life and looking at them through a humorous lens, even if (especially if?) they might not seem funny at first glance. I'm also a magpie and will glean information and inspiration from other people's lives, conversations I overhear, etc. I know something is the next thing I want to write all the way to the end when I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! I find inspiration in books I read, things that happen in my life, and things going on in the world. Eavesdropping on conversations/starting conversations with random people at the dog park.

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

"Sometimes, you just have to try something both ways and see which one is better." This made me realize that sometimes, there's no shortcut to finding out if something works except to go through the process. It's not wasted time, it's part of what needs to get done. I think this has stuck with me because it's a great corollary to the adage "Writing is re-writing." Sometimes, writing is doing something in two (or more) different ways (pre-writing?!).

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

I think Bird by Bird is a classic that gets recommended a lot - because it's fun and approachable, and memorable, with lots of great writing advice.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

Ms. Frizzle, but for writing instead of science.

Learn More About Working with Janine:

You can learn more about Janine's upcoming class, titled Funny at 40 (or beyond), and sign up now.

Join Janine in this journey to explore new dimensions in writing and enhance your craft!

Instructor Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am "Why Do I Need Venmo?" Years Old: Adventures in Aging and her writing has been published in the New Yorker's Daily Shouts, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Parents, Scary Mommy, and many other places. Janine has taught humor writing for the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, Gotham Writers, Thurber House, and the Hudson Valley Writers Center.

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