Poke the Soufflé examines humour writing 

Workshop with Susan Juby takes place after Whistler Writing Society's AGM on Aug. 21

click to enlarge Author Susan Juby is hosting a humour-writing workshop in Whistler on Wednesday. Photo submitted
  • Author Susan Juby is hosting a humour-writing workshop in Whistler on Wednesday. Photo submitted

For award-winning author Susan Juby, it's harder to make people laugh than it is to bring them to tears.

That challenge is part of what first drew her to humour writing.

"I find really funny writing really rare, so I treasure it for that reason," she says.

Juby is the B.C.-based author behind the young adult (YA) trilogy that includes Alice, I Think, which the Comedy Network adapted into a TV show in 2006. She also won the 2016 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for her book Republic of Dirt: A Return to Woefield Farm—and served as the writer-in-residence as part of the Whistler Writers Festival that year.

She's set to return to the resort on Wednesday, Aug. 21 to host Poke the Soufflé: A humour workshop with Susan Juby at the Whistler Public Library. The workshop's name alludes to how challenging it can be to analyze humour: "one risks the dish collapsing into an unsightly mess under surveillance," with both activities, the description reads.

"We're going to look at examples of humour writing," Juby says about the session. "We're going to talk about things that create humour in writing—satire and absurdity ... Voice is another thing we're going to talk about. Dialogues is also an important piece of humour writing."

But the biggest way to help writers delve into humour is simply by giving them room to try, she adds.

"I think it's important to give people permission to work in this mode. If you want to write a good funny piece, write a good funny piece—not with this weird apologetic thing if it's not serious, it's not worthy. I think people often ... [are] afraid of failing. With humour, not everyone is going to get it," she says.

Since Alice, I Think, her first book, was published in 2000, the perception surrounding humour writing has also changed within the industry.

"Canadians are pretty funny," Juby adds. "Our literary scene, [in the past had] some funny writers, but if you weren't writing about the prairies and wind making snow banks, it was considered not quite as worthy ... It used to be that major literary awards never went to writers who are funny."

Further challenging herself, next up, Juby is set to finish another YA book, as well as an "adult comedic crime novel set on a Gulf Island."

Think humour is hard to write? Try combining it with crime, she says. "Not very many people do it. It takes a little while to figure out the right balance and tone and you have to get the set-up right. But novels that do combine it successfully are wondrous creatures. We'll see if I can do it."

Poke the Soufflé takes place at the Whistler Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. No registration is required and it's free to attend. The Whistler Writing Society will host its annual general meeting before the workshop from 6 to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit whistlerwritersfest.com.

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