Friday, June 14, 2013

Visiting Wojo's World

Recently Michele "Wojo" Wojciechowski spoke to members of the Maryland Writers’ Association Carroll County Chapter, briefly introducing us to “Wojo’s World,” “where life is always funny.”

The award-winning author, freelance writer, humorist, and stand-up comedian gave humorous slice of life examples as she encouraged the writers to add humor to their writing.

Write down the little things you encounter daily on whatever piece of paper you have, she said. Then put the notes in a file or envelope to use in the future, some type of humor file. Pay attention. Be aware of what is happening around you.

“Jot it down,” recommended Wojciechowski “even if you never use it.”

“What do you like?” she asked. “What do you like to read?” What makes one person laugh may not be what you think is funny.
Decide what type of humor appeals to you and that you can use in your writing.

Humor helps people relax and they pay more attention, she said. Comic relief can lighten a serious scene or a scary program, allowing the reader to get through it.

Thinking of some of the funny things that happened in th past, I remembered when I worked in Human Resources. Just like now, I made notes on whatever I had at hand, even using napkins at lunchtime. Around Christmas my assistant handed me a small gift. As I started to open it, she said, “It’s a new notepad.” I looked down at a bunch of napkins stabled together. That made my day and years later still brings a smile to my face.

I can think of other funny events at home, at work and on vacation. Perhaps some of my notes are fuel for an article or part of a story or just inspiration to get the juices flowing.

People remember humor and many can identify with it, she said. As for the writer, “it’s cheaper than therapy.”

One thing she loves about her job(s) “It’s great to make people laugh.”

Wojciechowski writes the humor column, Wojo's World. In addition, her writing has appeared in the LA Times Magazine, Family Circle, Boys' Life, Maryland Life, Baltimore magazine, and other publications.

She has also written and performed standup comedy at several of the annual Erma Bombeck Writers' and venues such as The Baltimore Comedy Factory, Ryan's Daughter in NYC, and E. M.P. Collective Theater.

This year Wojciechowski’s book, Next Time I Move, They'll Carry Me Out in a Box, won an Outstanding Book Award (Lifestyle/Memoir category), from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She also was a 2012 first-place winner of the MACPA award for Original Writing-Personal Column for the column Wojo's World and a 2012 award winner from the Society for Technical Communication.

She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), American Society of Journalists and Authors, and National Society of Newspaper Columnists and is a Contributing Editor to
Learn more about her out at

Monday, June 3, 2013

Write Small

I just finished reading Microstyle, The Art of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson.

Dividing the book into four sections:  Meaning,  Sound, Structure and Social Context, Johnson delivers examples of writing small in short chapters with titles such as “Paint a Picture,” Say the Wrong Thing,” Give It Rhythm,” Make the Sound Fit,” Break the Rules,” Coin a New Word,” and “Create a Microvoice.” 

“In This age of the Incredible Shrinking Message,” Johnson writes that “Messages of just a word, a phrase, or a short sentence or two……” require microstyle. I liked his statement in the introduction that “Microstyle is really about language at play – even when it’s used at work.”

The author knows what he is talking about. He has a PhD in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. More impressive to me is that he created and analyzed product and company names for more than a decade at Lexicon Branding, a top naming firm that developed the names Pentium, PowerBook, BlackBerry, Swiffer, Febreze and others. 

Sometimes the linguistic terms and explanations slowed me down, but the examples added spice to what otherwise could have been dull reading. He gave examples of how words, basically meaning the same thing, can result in a huge difference in the number of results in Google searches.

He explained why Apple turned out to be a good fit for a new computer company because of the associations it brought to mind. “Nothing is more familiar, more accessible, or less intimidating than an apple.” He also gives examples of names that missed.

“Effective micromessages often push our emotional buttons.”    Some appeal to our sense of self-worth: “You deserve a break today” (McDonald’s) “Because I’m Worth it” (L’Oreal).  Some try to inspire infectious enthusiasm “Leggo My Eggo,” “Nobody Better lay a finger on my Butterfinger” and “M’M! M’M! Good” (Campbell Soup).Some give a certain mystique: “Does she or doesn’t she?” (Clairol), “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants?” and some a generational rebellion “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Also micro messages can use our relationships: “When you care enough to send the very best” (Hallmark), “Reach out and touch someone” (AT&T) and the desire to do right “No more tears” (Johnson’s Baby Shampoo) or “Doesn’t your dog deserve Alpo?”

Johnson writes that we should zoom in on telling details. A good example is from a talk by Simon Dumeno at the Ad Age Digital Conference in 2010, “I’ve seen the future and it’s covered in greasy fingerprints.”

He recommends playing with rhythm and poetic patterns, breaking the rules and coining new words. Johnson uses examples of business names, movies books, ads, and twitter that use microstyle.

Maybe I shouldn’t quote so much from the book, but I did enjoy the way he wrote and using one of his examples of metaphor, Nissan’s “Life is a journey. Enjoy the Ride.”

Check out the blog thenameinspector.