In the Spotlight today: Barry Parham, the award-winning author of humor columns, essays and short stories. He is a recovering software freelancer and a music fanatic. A busy man, he’s published five books, the fifth released in April, contributed to My Funny Major Medical which came out October 24th, and Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales available now (December 1).
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get your copy My Funny Major Medical here …
Q) Full Frontal Stupidity , a collection of your columns, is book five for you, Barry. From where do your humorous topics develop, and how long does a piece take to complete?
A) Actually, I never intended to write books. I always wanted to write a weekly humor column that eventually would grow up, move out, and go live with many newspapers. Unfortunately, I picked the worst time in about three decades to try and get newspapers to spend money they didn’t have to spend.
To that end, in early 2009, I took on the self-inflicted hobby of writing a minimum of 625 words, every week, and submitting the column to various dailies. I was extremely successful, unless you’re one of those purists who define “extremely successful” as “published.”
Then, somewhere along the way, I read that enclosing a book along with one’s pitch to editors might help generate a little more interest. So, in September 2009, I built and published my first book, Why I Hate Straws. And to my very grateful surprise, people started buying the book. (though it didn’t budge the ‘newspaper excite-o-meter’ needle in the least…)
And now, nearly four years later, I’m still writing at least a column a week (which, effectively, is a book chapter a week), and every so often I’ll gather up the syllables and lob another collection at the public, with hopes that one of the columns, one day, will carom into the lap of an editor out there who’s one humor column shy.
Q) Your writing style is admittedly a take-no-prisoners one: what do you mean by that, and are there any topics you would not tackle, or some you wish you hadn’t?
A) I’ve always tried to live by two simple rules: never intentionally hurt anybody, and always call a jerk, a jerk. (You don’t have to analyze that philosophy very long to discover its gaping flaws…)
So I’ll write about nearly any topic that one group or another considers sacrosanct. Some events, traditions, and interactions, in and of themselves, can be horrible, but people’s responses to them can be hilarious.
Politics, of course, is almost too easy — but we’ve lately gotten so defensive about our politics that a writer risks losing half her/his audience simply by pointing out that dedicating a ‘Clinton Bedroom’ in the White House would be redundant, or mentioning that ‘Orrin Hatch’ sounds like a debilitating dental condition. (did I say that out loud?)
Are there topics I wouldn’t touch? Absolutely. I don’t write about private citizens, by name. I don’t carve columns out of people’s physical problems, intentional violence, racism, or vulgarity simply for the sake of being vulgar. But then, as a humorist, that’s an easy decision for me, because I don’t find such things funny in the first place.
Q) Give us a run-down of your four other works, how they’re different yet unique to your writing style, and reveal what’s next in the pipeline for you.
A) We’ve touched on my first collection (Why I Hate Straws), and my latest (Full Frontal Stupidity). The middle three children’s names are:
Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny
Blush: Politics and other unnatural acts
The Middle-Age of Aquarius
Although Blush represented a conscious (and partly successful) attempt to stick to a single theme, all five collections are broad, rather than deep (oh, count on it).The Middle-Age of Aquarius contains more than a few essays related to growing old, occasionally gracefully. And then there’s this insider tidbit for your readers: Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny was the actual text of a rejection letter I received from one newspaper editor.
As it turns out, not being bound to newspaper-column guidelines has allowed me a flexibility – to write longer pieces, to create some recurring characters, places, and situations, things like that. And increased exposure, such as your ‘Spotlight’ series, has helped land some of my stuff in three national humor anthologies.
What’s next? Hopefully, each collection has gotten a bit better…a touch smarter…a smile funnier. I’m very proud of my ‘kids.’ And thanks, Roxie, for letting me show them off a bit.
My pleasure, Barry, thanks for hanging out with us!
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