The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Romance Writers Do It with Enthusiasm

lipstickSo it turns out our mothers were right about never leaving the house without lipstick. “You never know who you’re going to meet!”

Of course, they were probably talking about actual lipstick and not my book, “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth,” but I’m all about the loose interpretation.

Thus, with “Lipstick” in hand, I met Sally Kilpatrick six months ago on a busy street corner. No, no…it wasn’t like that. It was at the Decatur Book Festival, and Sally was manning the booth for the Georgia Romance Writers. Turned out she was the group’s president and the next thing I knew, she booked me to keynote one of their monthly meetings. (I may have begged. Details.)

And that’s how I wound up presenting “What’s So Funny? Twelve Tips for Injecting Humor into Your Writing,” last Saturday to about 60 of the most enthusiastic and warm-hearted writers you could ever meet. No surprise, really…I mean, these people write romance novels; they know a thing or two about making a person feel all warm and tingly, if you know what I mean. {WINK!}

Y’all…those sexy bitches may have ruined me.

The difference between reading a blog comment at home in my PJs and physically experiencing a hotel conference room of writers howling with laughter at the sound of my words is a lot like the difference between seeing a black and white photo of a chocolate chip cookie and actually eating a half dozen still hot from the oven…with Ryan Gosling…half-nekkid.

Hey girl read me another blog post

I know what you’re thinking. Mmmmm, cookies.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure I’d be able to make a room full of people laugh. In fact, when the bad weather hit last week and we were all snowed in for three days, I secretly hoped the event might be cancelled and I wouldn’t have to get up there and publicly humiliate myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been making people laugh all my life with things like walking home from school with the back of my skirt accidentally tucked into my drawers, or that time I called my boss’s kids “carpet munchers” when I meant to say either “rug rats” or “crumb snatchers” and my brain seized up.

So I feel pretty confident about my ability to make people laugh AT me. But laughing WITH me? On purpose? With my writing? I had stopped believing that was possible.

You see, until last fall, I had never publicly read any of my own writing aloud.

And as luck would have it, the first time I did it, I completely bombed. 

Actually, you know what? Scratch that. I didn’t bomb, the audience did. 

Hand to God, all three of them (oh yes, only three people stuck around while I was reading) looked at me like this the entire time:


Granted, one of them *may* have been homeless and was just there for the free snacks, but the other two were just not very hospitable with their “Oh. My. Gawd. Is he talking about his mangina?” faces.

And for the love, just because I have large hands and a facial hair issue does not make me a dude. (But yes, I’d be happy to open that jar for you, Ma’am.)

I don’t know…maybe it was the venue. Maybe it was my choice of material. Maybe I should have remembered to shave my pits for my sleeveless dress. Regardless, it wasn’t my finest hour. And I had nothing to compare it to, so of course I blamed myself. As I do.

Two weeks later, I climbed back in the saddle and did another public reading and book signing. The only people who showed up and stuck around were some family and a few close friends, and those people HAVE to do stuff like that or they know I’ll spit in their soup.

In my mind, I was zero for two.

And just like that, doubt crept in, took off its shoes, and put its stinky feet up on my coffee table.

I know, I know: humor is subjective, and I’m “not everyone’s cup of tea,” as one of my incredibly affirming relatives pointed out the next day. (Wow…thanks. Here—have some soup.)

But when you stack a series of humbling experiences like these back to back, well—you can start to lose faith in yourself. And then the words stop coming, and it gets harder to see the funny in everyday life, so there’s nothing to write about. Oh hello, vicious cycle.

Which is why standing up in front of the Georgia Romance Writers, reading my stuff, and hearing genuine belly laughs instead of crickets, gagging, or “Shhh, Mommy!” was such a gift.

Those 60 women (and one very strong-stomached man) restored my faith in myself. They laughed WITH me, at my words, and at the words of the very funny women I chose as my co-authors for “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

Their laughter bolstered me. It affirmed that maybe I’m not as bad at this thing as my inner critics keep telling me I am.

I actually witnessed one woman in the audience removing her glasses to wipe her tears. (Unless that was Bob Costas, and then I’m going to be really embarrassed about complimenting her sassy short hairstyle.)

They even helped me edit a piece I’d been struggling with by showing me which bits were funny and which ones fell flat. I revised the piece later that day and it’s now one of the best things I’ve ever written.

All this to say: that whole Southern Hospitality thing is no joke. And thank God the snow melted and the meeting wasn’t cancelled, or I’d still be glaring at those footprints on my coffee table instead of writing again and shaving my pits (finally).

Georgia Romance Writers, thank you for making me feel so welcome, entertaining, and valued. You’ve inspired me to write again, and I am grateful.

Happy GRW attendees

I mean really, have you ever seen a more inviting audience?! Look at those smiling faces!

More happy GRW attendees

…and this was BEFORE my presentation. (Maybe there was Xanax in the OJ.)

Keynote selfie at the GRW meeting

Thank you GRW! (Not pictured: Bob Costas.)


  1. Girl, you ain’t ever going to be right, bless your heart, but you sure are FUNNY!!! Glad the stinky feet are gone! (And since I’ll see you tomorrow I’m kinda glad you broke out the razor too!)

  2. You just made my morning. Of course I hate that you ever doubted yourself, and of course I understand that completely. Writing and sharing those words is a series of tiny, short-lived triumphs peppered with doubt. Agony and doubt.

    But we all know you’re funny, and I love that you got the feedback you so deserve! And I have to tell you – I died laughing that one of your relatives said you’re “not everyone’s cup of tea.” Isn’t family great? I’ve heard similar from my family. We cannot help it that their senses of humor are underdeveloped. Soup for all of them!

    • “Agony and doubt.” YES. That.

      And yeah. That relative. Her negativity was actually the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been told I need to pray for her…but I can’t. I’m too busy stirring the soup.

  3. I wish I was a Georgia Romance Writer! Your inner critic is such a bitch. And Bob Costas-thank you. Muah. (is it weird I kissed the computer screen?) I been missing you!

  4. I wish I could have been there! I know first hand the magic of your hilarious storytelling!

    • Now, that doesn’t count…we were at a restaurant table and you were laughing AT me. And rightly so. But I do love you and your faith in me. Thank you for that!

  5. You have restored my faith-maybe I can speak in front of the Local Plumber and Sewage Union Writers #201-when I found out my parents read my blog, regularly, and decided to have opinions about it, that’s when the funny balloon went pppffffftttt…I wish I was there to cheer you on-sounds great and I am so glad you are baaaacccckkkkk…

    • Well let’s not get crazy now. I don’t know if I’m baaaaaacckkkk… but posting one thing is probably a step in the right direction. And you would ROCK the Local Plumber and Sewage Union. Save me a seat.

  6. I am so glad you found your audience. Now get up to NH and talk to my Mom’s League. We are your demographic….

  7. Yay! I knew you were LOL-funny, but I’m glad you remembered, too. 🙂

    P.S. “Here, have some soup” is going to be my new covert eff-you.

    • Oh my Lawd, yes… have some soup! Great idea! Hey, my friend Janie always says, “Well, isn’t that nice!” when she secretly means “eff-you.” That’s a great one for those rare moments when you don’t actually have a bowl of soup to offer someone.

  8. Lady, you’ve been making me laugh for years with your writing. You are one of the funniest people out there and I’m glad that the Georgia Romance Ladies got to see that too!

  9. Love those Romance Writers. I live next door to one — she is the most supportive gal I know when it comes to encouraging other writers. You are right. There is nothing like hearing people laugh at your words. Especially in the spots that you intended that they do so. Glad it was such an awesome experience.

  10. Girl, you are SO funny!!! Not many things make me laugh out loud, but you totally do!!! And I have thoroughly missed your posts–please, PLEASE keep them coming!!!

  11. Thank goodness you found the right group, I know one of those bad audiences you spoke of, and please know it’s not you, it’s 100% them.

    • I do know that NOW, Anna. I do. But at the time, since that was my first experience reading my work aloud, I couldn’t put it in perspective. It’s all about perspective. Thank you though. I imagine it would have been much much worse without you guys there to hold me afterwards. 🙂

  12. I knew you would be terrific! Romance Writers are the best.

  13. So glad you got an audience who appreciates your special skills, both the comedy and the jar opening.

    If I didn’t live nine hours away, I’d have crashed that event.

  14. HA! You’re hilarious and your writing is mm mm better than good! But hold the soup, I’ll have the sandwich. 😉

  15. I am sure you were brilliant. You are my favorite writer. If anyone says otherwise I will send AbbyGoat to butt them

  16. Suzy Soro (@HotComesToDie)

    February 21, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I’ve been a standup comic for over 25 years. I know how to get my laughs, or so I thought. I did a spoken word show a year ago and the editing job I got back on my piece made me scoff at these OBVIOUS amateurs who knew nothing of getting an audience to laugh, or so I thought. Right up front, they’d edited out 2 bits that were TRIED AND TRUE in my standup. Even though they said they wouldn’t work, I knew better. Or so I thought. So I kept them in and of course they died the biggest death on planet Earth.

    They’d been doing spoken word shows for years and they did indeed know what was going to work. WhatEVER.

  17. I was cracking up just reading this post (and ONLY thinking about cookies, NOT a nekkid Ryan Gossling). I can only imagine how fun you are in person. Hopefully I will get to find out soon! 🙂

  18. I am really not one to spit out my coffee, or to claim to have spit out my coffee when really I just chuckled. But I will have you know that actual coffee made it’s way into my actual sinus cavity when I read that you called you boss’s kids “carpet munchers” and dribbled delicately down my face.

    So no, technically I didn’t spit out my coffee. This was better, because all morning I will have that coffee-up-my-nose feeling to remind me of that line.

  19. That’s wonderful, Leslie! It doesn’t surprise me at all that you were a huge hit with these women. The other situation was more a bad location problem. Your peeps weren’t there to laugh with you. You always make me laugh! Now I’m buying that book right now!

  20. Hi Leslie,
    I laughed my way through this post–and with a week of my daughter home from school 24/7 I really needed it. Can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

  21. I never doubted you for a second!!!

    You wrote these words to me a year ago, “…In fact, I’m going to print out that pic of us at the Pee Alone party and put it on my cork board to remind me daily of the power of enthusiasm and what a positive impact it can have on the people around me.” You have such an amazing impact on people – don’t forget it!


  22. I love you.
    I’m so creatively stuck right now, between discontinuing my eyelash extensions and these seemingly never ending gray snow days…well, I’m pretty sure I’m dead inside. Thanks for reminding me that it’s only temporary.

    In the meantime…umm…when you said “carpet munchers”, I was like,”what’s wrong with that? Wait…Oh shit! I’ve been using it wrong!”

  23. Oh, I have sooo missed your posts! I hope you come back to us soon. And who knew there were so many romance writers in Georgia alone?

  24. Loved reading this, Leslie! You are so funny and fresh and real — reading your posts is like listening to you across the table as we down margaritas. (Not that we’ve done that before. But we totally should!)

  25. One of them may have been homeless…Bahahahaahaha!

    You let your guard down a bit here, Ms. Thang, and I was surprised to find you don’t find yourself a hilarious success. I think everything you write and do is a home run, and it was interesting to learn that you don’t share the same opinion of your talents. You’re perfection, for what it’s worth. xo

  26. I am Bob Costas, and I am in the photo (minus the eye infection)!

    You had me fooled. You have the aura of a natural-born public speaker. You need to start charging $$$ for appearances.

    So, I was reading humorous political commentary and could spot all the techniques you mentioned. Woohoo! And, it actually made the piece more fun, not less. I could appreciate why the writing worked.


  27. Bitch, you are brilliant.

  28. I’m so happy for you! You’ve always made me laugh- in person or not. It’s great you got the validation you needed to squash the doubt!

  29. Congratulations. I love that you got back in the saddle. I just had a scathing Anonymous comment posted on my blog about how horrible I was and it was hard to shake it… I’m glad to hear that it’s even happened to someone as hilarious as you. I love your blog and get excited every time my e-mail tells me you posted something new:)

    • Thank you so much Michelle! Ugh, scathing blog comments are the worst. I can handle constructive criticism, but give me something I can work with and improve on. Don’t just be mean for the sake of being mean. Those people suck and I’ve come to learn that their negativity is more of a reflection of their own self-loathing than it is about anything you or I have done. (And why is it so easy to give you that advice than to give it to myself when a pack of bitches is making fun of my mustache?) Also – one last thing about negative blog comments: “You’re nobody until somebody hates you.” My boss told me that once, and it helped. We are somebody! WOOOOT!!! 🙂

  30. Congratulations—-I’m betting you were awesome. I had more to say here but I can’t concentrate because I’m still laughing about that photo bomb. BAHAHAHA!!!

  31. I have a hard time imagining an audience not howling with laughter while listening to you. I think you’re flawlessly funny. (And your grammar, syntax, and phrasing are drool worthy.) I’m happy you had such an affirming experience! You should always stand in front of a room of people reading.

  32. Great to hear it! I know you got me through some bad times, actually looking back now, those were good times! Here in Reno getting fitted for the dress I am wearing to my 34 year old daughter’s Maui wedding next month to my SECOND Catholic son-in-law! So glad we did not scare him off! Break another leg or in your case finger(writing)!

  33. So glad you got the audience you deserve. I have no doubt you are just as hilarious in person. Also I’d like to make a wallpaper pattern out of that Gosling photo.

  34. I get so excited when I get an email that you’ve got a new blog post! You seriously brighten up my day! The Ryan Gosling analogy is perfect! And your selfie kills me! Genius!

  35. You ARE funny. But I can totally see how the humbling experiences can be, well, humbling. And then paralyzing. Way to go for shutting up that inner critic!

  36. Girrrrrrl, that first venue of your first reading wasn’t exactly what the word “ideal” was invented to describe. But I still laughed a hezzlelot because of your words.
    You are magic & laughter. We’re lucky to have you.

  37. I’m so thrilled to hear this. Thrilled. Tickled. It’s nice to get your awesome reflected back at you—because you shiny, baby.

  38. YES! Good for you 🙂 And now, get your butt to Seattle! My dental hygienist and I will be in the front row. (weird, I know, but she’s the one who introduced me to your blog. I love her so much that I drive for an hour to get my teeth cleaned since I moved to a different city 6 years ago. clearly she has great taste and a sense of humor).

    • WOW – that is one awesome dental hygienist! I love Seattle. Honeymooned there and on Orcas Island 17 years ago. Underground Seattle was my favorite. So interesting! Thomas P. Crapper for the win! 🙂

  39. Laura Davis Ferris

    March 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Dear Iris – you may remember me from college and our sorority…and at least in my humble opinion, you are all kinds of talented. I regularly LOL in my office while reading your stuff when I am supposed to be working. Keep doing what you are doing, in your unique and hilarious voice, and don’t let the haters get to you.

    • LAURA!! Hello! Of course I remember you! Thank you for the kind words, my friend. So glad I can help you procrastinate at work and bring some LOLs to your day. If you keep laughing, I’ll keep writing. XO

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