Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Donna Cavanagh

The Never-ending need for Laughter

The first question people ask me when they find out I write humor is “Why?” I have no real answer to that question because I did not go into writing aspiring to be a humor writer. I was a reporter – a night shift general news reporter who covered the horseshit beat. Sorry, for the language, but that is how my editor described my beat area when he assigned me to it. My beat included farms, more farms, a state penitentiary and a nuclear power plant. Let’s just say, with that lineup, humor was bound to ensue.

In the newsroom, we joked around quite a bit. We wrote fake stories (not for publication) to make the nighttime hours go a little faster. My editor caught wind of one that I wrote for the newsroom Christmas party, and he laughed so hard, he almost choked on a shrimp. Once the oxygen returned to his brain, he demanded I see him in his office the next day. I went home and told my husband that I thought my days of being a reporter were done.

Fortunately, despite his brush with death, my editor wanted more humor to print. These few articles started me off on my journey into humor. I eventually resigned as a reporter for the paper as night time living was killing my family life. I started to send humor columns out to other newspapers, and another daily paper in the area asked me to be a bi-weekly columnist. That gig lasted five years. With a humor portfolio building, I sent new pitches to national magazines and newspapers and ran into other editors who liked humor. These editors were eventually killed off and replaced with editors who liked sad, poignant tales of disease, divorce, abuse, addiction and anything else heart wrenching.

During my reign as Queen of the Humor Writers for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Region (Yes, I made this title up), I realized how important it had become to me to make people laugh or at least smile. Humor writing became the dominant focus of my writing. Yes, I still freelanced for business magazines and newspapers, but it was humor that breathed life into my writing day. Even now, if I have the choice between writing 1,000 words on some daily event in my life that I find funny and 1,000 words on political races or the latest craze in technology or what NFL team is primed to win the Super Bowl (yes, I write on the NFL – I know I am eclectic ), I opt for humor. It is definitely my comfort zone.

Humor writing has its ups and downs. Sometimes magazines and newspapers deem it fashionable to carry humor, and sometimes they reject it as being a silly waste of space. I keep plugging to get better known. I almost got a national syndication service to sign me, but I was rejected at the last minute for a celebrity who felt the need to share her romance advice with others throughout the free world. Was I bitter? No - well, I did get a slight twinge of satisfaction when that celebrity was arrested for some kind of money laundering scheme.

Humor is again a tough market for many reasons. First of all the economy has done a number on print publications, and editors at these publications do not have the space to “waste” on humor. However, they do have the space to explore the life and loves of every reality star that has graced MTV in the last ten years. Okay, I guess I might get a little bitter. Another reason why humor is tough for me personally is that I am still a relative unknown. In today’s world, a recognized name brings in the big bucks, so unless I can get arrested or sent to rehab, I might remain too anonymous for most editors.

Will this stop me? Absolutely not. Humor is in my soul. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is why I write. I love to make people laugh. I love that people send me comments on my essays that appear on various sites or in online women’s magazines. I love that both men and women have enjoyed my humor books and tell me that they giggled out loud reading them. That makes my day. Those comments actually make my week and year!

So, I will keep writing and keep hoping that my writing continues to find a welcoming audience. I am encouraged. This year, more doors then ever have opened up. My book Life on the off Ramp was named as an award-winning finalist in the humor category of the “Best Books 2010” Awards -- sponsored by USA Book News. I also was named as a recurring guest humor writer for, and I am frequently featured on I took a daring plunge this year and started an Internet radio show to introduce people to my humor called Wicked Wednesdays at I read a humor piece at the beginning of the show and have fellow humor writers sit in with me to discuss whatever is on their minds at the time. It is, so far, a great deal of fun.

Well, that is the story of my continuing journey into humor writing. I have learned a lot from living and breathing this genre. Mostly what I have learned is that we need humor to be human, and because of this fact, humor to me is serious business.
More information about Donna Cavanagh and her writing stop by her website, My Very Own Fan.

Thanks Donna for being my Writer Wednesday guest this week and for sharing your writing journey. Laughter is an important part of life so I hope this post inspires more writers to release their inner clown. Thanks to all you readers who stopped by.

Happy Writing and Reading,
Kristin : )


  1. Donna, Thank you for the peek into your world. These days humor is greatly needed, I have much respect for those who do it well.

    Kristin, Thank you for another interesting Writer Wednesday!

  2. Hi Mary. I agree, we need more laughter. Thank you for stopping by :)

  3. I will be heading straight over to your website, Donna. Two of my favorite blogs are by talented humorists. I am in awe of anyone who writes prose, but most especially humor. I wish you much luck and hope you don't have to go to rehab to become better known. Humor is even more valuable now with the world so scary. Thank you for another great Writer Wednesday, Donna and Kristin.