Saturday, June 13, 2020

Roz Warren Writes for Everyone from the New York Times to the Funny Times

Librarian/author Roz Warren
As I've indicated many times, Medium has been a great place to meet a lot of interesting people. It's a community of writers and readers, with a full spectrum of interests on every facet of life and a range of experience from beginners to lifetime professionals.

In some ways Medium is similar to other social media platforms. For example, you can choose to "follow" people, and they frequently follow back in turn. And since Medium was founded by Ev Williams, who co-created Blogger and later Twitter, it has gives member writers a chance to write self-descriptions that succinctly say who they are. I very much liked Roz Warren's slogan, which got me into reading one of her stories, and then another.

She's got a bright wit, and knows how to tell a story.

EN: Can you briefly describe your path as a writer?

Roz Warren: Like a lot of writers, I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil and never stopped. I began publishing short fiction in my 20s, in magazines from Beatniks from Space to Seventeen Magazine. These days, I write essays and humor, for everybody from the Funny Times to the New York Times.

And, of course, I write on Medium.

EN: What kind of law did you practice and was there a trigger incident that prompted you to leave that behind to become a librarian?

RW: I was a bankruptcy attorney. Twenty-two years ago, I impulsively took a job at my local public library when I realized that having fun was more important to me than having money. I have no regrets.

EN: Do you have an especially funny library story you can share here?

RW: Here's the first funny story I ever wrote about library work. It's included in Our Bodies, Our Shelves, my collection of library humor.
(EdNote: Go read A Nun Walks Into A Library...)

EN: Were you a class clown? Would it surprise your Detroit classmates to see you getting published in Reader’s Digest and the New York Times?

RW: I was never a class clown. I was not a goofy, attention-grabbing little girl. Instead, I was the kid in glasses with her nose in a book at all times. So I doubt anyone was surprised when I became a writer. But they may not have expected that I'd be a humor writer.

EN: Do you have a philosophy or process about humor writing?

RW: I don't know why, but I've always cared a lot more about funny stuff than other people seemed to. I like to laugh. I read a lot of humor and watch a lot of comedy, and when I write, I "write funny." That's just my voice and it always has been.

EN: What is it that makes written humor effective?

Roz loves libraries and being a grandma.
RW: For written humor to be effective, it has to surprise the reader. In a good way.

EN: In the same vein, have you ever done stand-up? You strike me as outgoing. How is stand-up comedy different from humor writing?

RW: I'm not at all outgoing. I think of myself as a friendly introvert. Library work is perfect for me because I love interacting with people, but one at a time. And in a situation that has some structure.

I've never wanted to do stand-up. Becoming a successful stand-up means hanging out in bars and clubs with other comics till 2 in the morning. It also means hitting the road to hone your act.

I want to write in my home office alone in my pajamas and be in my own bed every night by 10. That, to me, is a perfect life.

I once appeared on the Today Show. My Today Show goal was to not die of fright on live TV in front of 5 million people. I'm happy to say that I met that goal. And while I'm glad I met the challenge of entertaining millions of people on live television, that one taste of fame didn't make me eager to repeat that kind of live, high-pressure tightrope walk.
(EdNote: Here's where you can read Roz's An Introvert on the Today Show.)

EN: Your Leonard Cohen story was a fun read. Did you ever get a chance to see him again?

RW: I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's so great when your heroes turn out to be as wonderful as you'd hoped they'd be.

My editor at the Times required that Cohen sign off on the accuracy of the essay before it was published, which he did, through his manager, so I know that Cohen read it. But I never saw him again after the night I wrote about.

But that's okay. I got one more night with Leonard Cohen than most fans got.

EN: Any tips here on how to get bylines in Reader’s Digest or the NYTimes?

RW: In both cases, I didn't submit work. Instead, editors read my work online and got in touch with me. Reader's Digest asked if they could reprint one of my humor pieces. And an editor at the Times recruited me to write for "Booming," their (at the time) brand new blog for Baby Boomers.

I wrote about that experience here: Why Every Essay You Write Should Be the Best Essay You Can Write.

The takeaway? Make sure that everything you write on Medium is as good as it can possibly be before you publish it. Because you never know if an editor for Reader's Digest or the New York Times (or a Today Show producer) will end up reading it.

EN: Thanks, Roz. Great fun, and useful info for writers as well.

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Related Links 
You can also read more of her work here:
What’s In A Name? A Batch of People With Interesting Medium Profiles
Roz Warren on Medium

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