Funny Of The Week/Silly Signs Part Six

My latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed them, here are part one, part two, part three, part four and part five. Here’s part six.


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A Little Piece Of Flash…

One of my short story tips is to take a single word and then to create a story around it. In the book I’ve been reading the word ‘envy’ stood out. It set my mind working on a story…




I look around at my colleagues with envy.

“Are you ok, Jamilla?” Shirley asks, stopping her filing for a moment and looking straight at me.

I nod my head. Blink a tear away. Force a smile. Shirley starts filing again. How can I tell her? How can I find the words to say how I really feel?

“If I was going on a nice long holiday, I’d be dancing round the room, not looking like someone had nicked my wallet,” she says, staring at me again, “Pakistan, eh? I’ve never even been on a day trip to France. Closest I’ve got to Pakistan is Portsmouth.”

How I would love to go to France. To Portsmouth.

“My Trevor had a big bonus this month. I thought he might whisk me away to Rome or Paris. But no, he’s buying a motorbike instead. Another one. I don’t know why I put up with him,” Shirley says, prodding at a speck of chipped nail polish.

I do. I would put up with Trevor. Shirley doesn’t mean her words anyway. I see the way she looks at his photo on her desk, the love lurking beneath her voice when he rings her mobile and the sheer joy in her eyes when he sends flowers to the office.

I look away, see Sam. Tall. Handsome. Kind. My breath catches in my throat.

“I don’t know why you two haven’t got it together yet. Anyone can see you’re mad about each other,” Shirley says.

Another man enters my head. I don’t know if he’s tall, or handsome or kind. All I have of him is a grainy photograph. But I will know him soon enough. If only life could be different.



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Funny Of The Week/Silly Signs Part Five

My latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed them, here are part one, part two, part three and part four. Here’s part five. I’m loving these church signs…



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Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the sixth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening.  I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. This week covers tips on writing humorous pieces:

Writing Humour


In the current economic climate there isn’t much to cheer us, so a humorous article or funny story comes as a welcome break. But writing humour isn’t as easy as you might think. Here are ten tips to make sure you leave your readers smiling:

  • Ideas for humorous letters, fillers, articles and stories are everywhere. Something your granddaughter said which left you in stitches can make an ideal anecdote for a reader’s letter. Likewise, an experience abroad, be it braving the kamikaze streets of Rome or trying to make friends with a camel in Egypt, can be turned into an amusing travel article which will stand out.


  • If you see or hear anything funny, write it down in a notebook. Cut out anything that amuses you in the paper or in a magazine, from typos to comical ads to funny stories. These can make great fillers or letters. They can also spark off amusing ideas or lead to a full article.


  • Nowadays it’s so easy to capture anything and everything on camera. So if you see a sign that makes you laugh or a strange custom whilst on holiday, snap away. Humorous photos, together with a short caption can sell well on their own or be used to accompany an article.


  • Do your market research thoroughly. There are publications which specialise in humour, while some have specific slots for amusing incidents and others use humorous articles and stories. Make sure you analyse the style, length, vocabulary etc that the publication uses. It’s no good sending off an 1000 word article for a slot which asks for 300 word fillers. Similarly, you may think a magazine could benefit from a satirical piece but if the publication doesn’t like and use that type of humour, you will find your work turned down straight away.


  • Just because something is funny to you, doesn’t mean it will be funny for everyone else e.g. grandmother having too much sherry to drink at Christmas and singing ‘Lady Ga-Ga’ songs at the top of her voice. At the time, this was no doubt hilarious for everyone witnessing it, but it won’t be to anyone who doesn’t know her (unless you video recorded it and then it’s ideal to send into ‘You’ve Been Framed!’). Sometimes, it really is a case of ‘you had to be there’.


  • Don’t over-explain the humour. It’s very easy to feel as if you have to explain exactly why something is funny. You don’t. Keeping it brief and to the point will ensure the humour comes through. Too long and windy and the humour is lost.


  • Exclamation marks are often used as a tool to draw readers’ eyes to a funny or unbelievable point. Don’t overdo them. A couple is fine but if a script is peppered with them they cease to have the desired effect and detract from the writing itself and hence, the humour.


  • Don’t try to be too clever and show off your wonderful and witty sense of humour. This will put an editor off and your piece is likely to come across as contrived.


  • There is never an excuse to offend. Even though times have changed and the boundaries are being pushed ever further, there are still boundaries that mustn’t be crossed. There’s no place for tasteless and sick humour.


  • Writing humour isn’t about making your readers laugh out loud after every sentence. If you try to achieve this, you’re forcing the humour and it won’t work. Often the most effective humour simply makes readers smile and feel better. If you succeed in doing that, you’ve done your job well.    



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A Trip Down Memory Lane…More Music Memories

It’s been a while since I took a trip down memory lane so I thought it was time I shared some more music memories. I’m sure this one will feature a song you know…

Girls Just Want To have Fun: Cyndi Lauper

What teenager who grew up in the 1980s doesn’t remember this iconic song? As an eleven-year-old, I thought Cyndi was amazing. After all, she had pink and orange hair! As a child, I had always been taught to be respectful, to have manners and to toe the line. And here was this strong, independent woman who didn’t seem to have a care as to what others thought of her. My mother wasn’t very impressed – with her – or with the song.

“Sounds like a cat being strangled,” was her take on it.

I thought otherwise – and chose to have it blasting out on my record player at every opportunity. I seem to remember it causing the odd row, with Mum often shouting up the stairs, “Will you turn that racket off!”

Over the years, as I grew up and then went on to start a family of my own, I didn’t think about Cyndi too much even though I heard ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ on the radio now and then.

Though, it was a song I was to share with my teenage daughter – whether she liked it or not – when we went to Florida recently.

International Drive, which is also known as I-Drive, a major 11.1-mile thoroughfare and the city’s main tourist strip, is a part of Florida we got to know very well. We would often catch the I-Ride Trolley (a bus which travels up and down I-Drive all day stopping at various points along the way). What has the I-Ride Trolley got to do with ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’? Well, it seems they like to play the song on the Trolley – over and over and over again. It appeared to be on a loop and that loop wasn’t stopping anytime soon.

My daughter coped well at first. Then, after hearing the song a few times, her face took on a sort of grimace. “What the hell is this song?” she said. “Who on earth likes something like this?” And, “Why on earth can’t they stop playing it and play something else!”

I think I looked a little hurt; I was sure that there were songs she thought were fantastic that in years to come, she’d cringe at. Not that I was cringing at Cyndi. How could I? It was ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’.

By the end of a fortnight’s holiday, the grimace had turned to looks of anguish and of someone undergoing the worst torture possible. She survived, especially when I pointed out that there were far worse songs of the 80s. I may have to play her ‘The Birdie Song’ by The Tweets sometime…







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Funny Of The Week/Silly Signs Part Four

My latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed them, here are part one, part two and part three. Here’s part four:



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Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the sixth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening.  I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. Last week, it was a competitions refresher. This week there’s some advice on the art of the short story:

Top Tips…

On how to avoid a short story no-no

Writing short stories seems more competitive than ever, with fewer and fewer markets accepting them. But writers often unwittingly lessen their chances of acceptance through some common errors. Here are 10 to avoid:

  1. Don’t open your short story with a long and wordy weather report about how the shimmering sky was a beautiful azure blue, the sun was shining through the trees and there was a soft and gentle breeze etc etc. You need to hook your reader’s interest in the opening paragraph. Incidental details about the weather may put the reader off your story even if the rest is good.


  1. Be careful of your paragraph lengths, especially your opening paragraph. If a reader is faced with a big block of words, it can be very off-putting as can page after page of long and lengthy paragraphs. It’s good to have a mixture as this aids readability, though it depends on your market. For example, the women’s weeklies all use fairly short paragraphs. The best way to get it right is to check the publication you’re writing for and to see their preference.


  1. Too many characters in a short story can lead to your reader being confused and the characters can easily become two-dimensional with no substance to them. In a short story, you only have a limited number of words in which to tell your story so make sure every character has a purpose for being there. The general rule is no more than four characters.


  1. Over-used clichés such as, ‘Her skin was as white as snow’, ‘He looked outside and saw it was raining cats and dogs’ and ‘She looked as light as a feather’ will have a short story editor cringing and putting your work on the reject pile.


  1. Exclamation marks can be effective tools in conveying strong feelings – if used sparsely. Overdo them and they detract from the story and lose their impact.


  1. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of changing a character’s name half way through a story. So your story might start off being about Lesley and her troublesome son, only for her to morph into a character called Lindsay towards the end of the story. This shows that you’ve been careless so your story will almost likely fail.


  1. Don’t try to make your story ending too clever or over-do the explanation. If your reader has to keep going over the ending to understand it, it could ruin an otherwise brilliant story.


  1. One short story faux-pas, which has editors cringing is the ‘And then I woke up’ ending. It’s been done to death and makes the story lose all credence. Another version of this ending is where the character wakes up and at first thinks it’s all been a dream but it’s actually reality. Again, it’s been done over and over before.


  1. Twist endings are very popular but the clues must be in the story. The reader wants to finish the story and then say, “Oh, of course. Very clever. Why didn’t I realise that?” If your reader says, “Where on earth did that ending come from?”, then you leave her feeling cheated.


  1. If you want your story to succeed, it needs to be as error free as possible. A couple of mistakes won’t put an editor off choosing your story but if you have clearly not bothered to read your work through and it’s full of omitted full stops, questions marks etc, it’ll have the editor choosing another story.






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