Tag Archives: funny

…and then I organised a FLASHMOB.

I have been fearless lately. It might be that the stress blew some fuse in my brain, the one that normally stops me from doing anything risky, especially when it’s not clear “what would people think?” Whatever it is, it has caused me to organise a flashmob which could have potentially embarrassed me and about twenty of my colleagues.

It all started back in June, when I was acting in a director role and so was part of the weekly executive team meetings. Normally it meant reading and discussing quite dense reports, but one of those was actually about Christmas party plans. The plans were very safe and conservative, the most controversial idea being that we add an 80’s theme to the festivities. Hold on to your legwarmers, woo-hoo!

By that time the fuse was already gone and I was speaking up at every opportunity. In this case, I suggested that in spirit of leadership change, the entire executive team could prepare a dance number and shock the staff by busting out a move. There was some support from other directors, but the CEO was firm: “I’m not gonna do it.”

But then he said these magic words: “I don’t care what you do.”

So I did.

It took months, but I have managed to convince over twenty people, some in key leadership roles, to spring this flashmob up right after the CEO’s speech. The best thing about it was that the CEO had no idea, much like the hundreds of other innocent bystanders. The music and choreography was by other members of the team, I was more of the cheerleader – and, of course, the participant. That’s me below, in a black dress with silvery scarf.

There was a technical glitch in the middle when the music stopped, but we got it back in order and most people actually thought it was part of the plan. Regardless, this was a hoot and I highly recommend trying it for yourself. Disrupt your office Christmas party! Shock your relatives! Break the Internet!

Whatever you do, have fun!


Filed under General thoughts

#ComedyBookWeek review – There’s been a Change of Plans by Amy Koko

Hey, it’s Day 7 of 8-day-long #ComedyBookWeek! It has been a surreal experience, and a hectic one, with emails pouring into my inbox every day, asking to add even more books to the participating list. Good thing I’ve been on leave, because all my energy went into making sure all the links work and all the emails are answered.

This has been going on for the last month or so, and to tell you the truth, I did not plan to review any of the participating books – simply no time. Still, one of the blurbs attracted my attention. The next thing I knew, I was reading “Look Inside” excerpt of There’s Been A Change Of Plans: A Memoir about Divorce, Dating and Delinquents in Mid-Life, and once I finished that, I had to know what happens next.

The author pretty much had me at the opening scene, in which she is admiring her brand-spanking-new washer and dryer and expecting an announcement about the overseas trip from her husband. Instead, she gets some unexpected news – there’s been a change of plans. No trip to Italy – Amy is about to embark on a rollecoaster ride through mid-life crisis.

I finished this book in two days. I would have read it in one setting, if not for the constantly dinging email notifications. It’s a true story, but told in such a funny, engaging voice, that I had to remind myself that this has actually happened to a real person and not to some fictional character. I was cheering along and face-palming with every twist and turn of the plot…I mean, the real story! I caught myself anticipating the reveal of the Other Woman’s hair style and body type; getting angry at The Husband; cringing at The Dates; and getting frustrated with The Job Search.

This is officially my very first review, so I am probably not following the Best Practice of Book Reviews. All I can say is that I loved it, and that the protagonist reminded me of Isa Maxwell, so I can confidently recommend this book to anyone who liked one of my own books. As mentioned, I found the voice of the author to be the best part of the whole experience, so I’d like to share a few of my favourite quotes with you:

“I pictured myself in the Pinellas County jail, my orange jumpsuit stained with sweat and maybe a little pee, eating beans from a tray with a spork and all bloated from not pooping in months.”

“No more drunk e-mails that now, for sure, had killed any chance I ever had at running for governor.”

“Think! I tell myself, think back to that day roughly thirty years ago when you made that brilliant decision to drop out of college. What was your career goal?”

“…for a moment I was temporarily blinded by a vision of me drinking champagne at gallery openings and exhibits, where the artist would probably approach
me and ask if he could paint me and I would have to politely decline and walk away leaving him standing there breathless and disappointed.”

“Yes, I went into divorce kicking and screaming and drunk texting with some slight stalking thrown in. But on a positive note, I came out stronger and with some great new underwear.”

All I can say is, give the “Look Inside” excerpt a go – I’m willing to bet you won’t be able to put it down.

After reading the book, I just had to learn more about the author, and luckily she was willing to answer my questions. Everyone, please put your hands together for Amy Koko!

amy cover photo

Hi, Amy, and thank you for your time to answer the questions that I’m sure will be on the mind of other readers. For starters, your book is hilarious, especially the comedic voice, which I’m sure took years to develop. When and how did you come to be a comedian? Is it genetic or learned? Can you recall the first time you’ve made an audience of at least one laugh?

I will be honest Ana, I never really tried to be funny, I just started writing and this is what came out, so I am going to say it is genetic. That being said, I definitely have my comedic idols that I turn to for inspiration, such as Nora Ephron, Helen Fielding and I adore Mindy Kaling and Amy Schumer. Jenny Lawson is another favorite.

Do you have other outlets for your comedy, such as acting or stand up?

Oh my gosh no! I am horrible at telling jokes, I start speeding up as I get closer to the punch line and find people staring at me, mouths open, like, “What? I don’t get it,” as they head back to the humus dip.

Is your book mixing fact with fiction, or is it autobiographical? If it is close to the truth, how did you feel about a tell-all story – did you have fears or backlash from anyone?

Ana, this story is 100% true. Names have been changed such as my husband’s and my children and I also had to change Doritos to “chips” but it is all true. I did fear some backlash and long lasting effects on my kids, after all it does go into some very personal details of my intimate life with my husband, their father. Still, I felt like my story could help and hopefully inspire other women out there going through this gut wrenching experience so I had to get it out there, and I believe my kids are proud.

How long did it take you to create this book, from the first idea to publishing? How long did each stage take, for example, the concept, the first draft, and then preparing for publishing?

The book took me roughly a year of devoted writing. This includes formulating the book proposal which is actually harder than writing the book! It has to include your marketing strategy, stats and analytics, and WHO is going to actually buy your book and a completed table of contents. This 50 page document complete with the first three chapters, is what my agent was able to sell to the publisher. I met with my writing coach every two weeks which helped keep me on track and accountable.

How did you find the experience of selling your book to a traditional publisher?

The first step for me was finding an agent which is no easy task as any writer will tell you. Talk about low self esteem…wow! It’s not for the faint of heart that’s for sure. It was my agent who actually sold this book to a large publisher and I was thrilled beyond words. Imagine how devastated I was months later, when they told me that they had lost several editors and were no longer doing memoirs. I was able to keep my advance but they would not be publishing the book. My agent then sold it to a small independent publisher, Martin-Brown who published it in October.

What is next for you? Will we see more autobiographical stories, or will it be fiction? Have you thought of turning your book into a screenplay?

I am currently working on a fiction novel, although isn’t everything we write really based on things we know? I am excited about the concept and plan to have it finished in late September. It is a hysterical tale of a midlife woman who moves from a small town in Florida to New York City and becomes a…oops…you’re going to have to read it!

I would love to turn my book into a screenplay and as a matter of fact I have been looking for courses in screenplay writing as I have never attempted one before. I do think that Change of Plans, and my new book as well would do great as screenplays.

What do you wish you’ve done differently – or what were your biggest lessons learned?

As far as my book goes, my biggest wish is that I had paid for a professional editor. I now know I cannot edit my own work, it’s like trying to find imperfections in your children’s faces which we all know is impossible because they are totally perfect. So that is a BIG lesson learned for going forward. The other lesson I learned is to stop doubting and start doing. Life is short and based on the rate that my eyebrows seem to be disappearing, I don’t think I’m getting any younger.

Once again, please put your hands together for Amy Koko…I mean, put them on the keyboard and download her book:


Filed under #ComedyBookWeek

#ComedyBookWeek is coming – do you want to participate or help?

Marketing funny is hard. If you are a humor writer, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. If you are a humor consumer – it may come as a surprise.

Before I started trying to market my books, I naively assumed that funny should almost sell itself – after all, the biggest blockbusters are usually comedies, and isn’t it a natural for the word of mouth? When it comes to books, however, humor is a tiny category, dominated by autobiographies of famous comedians. In fact, most ebook marketing sites don’t even have a mailing list for it, so I’ve had to slot Shizzle, In into Action&Adventure or YA with mixed results.

I was reminded once again of how few comedy writers are out there when I joined KBoards and saw the invitations for author cross-promotion. They were all either for fantasy, paranormal, or romance. Or the combination of the three. That makes sense, of course – those are the largest categories of ebooks on Amazon. I was sad for all of three minutes, and then I did what I tend to – take some initiative.

I decided to start a humor/chicklit cross-promo. I was a little nervous at first – after all, I’ve been a member for all of five minutes, but the response has been overwhelming – so far a total of 24 authors have signed up! Not only that, one of them made a banner for the event, so we are all legit now:


So what is planned? At the moment, the main emphasis is on gathering numbers, and starting to promote #ComedyBookWeek as an event designed to help readers discover new Indie humor authors. All funny books are welcome, by the way – chick lit, satire, whatever, as long as it makes people laugh.

The rough plan at the moment is that during the event week, participants will post blogs with links to participating books, post interviews, guest blogs, tweets, and whatever else they usually do with their social media platforms. The aim will be to generate buzz with the hashtag #ComedyBookWeek, to help people connect and find new funny reads. We also plan to approach book reviewers and maybe some outrageous ideas as well – suggestions are welcome!

If you want to participate by submitting your book or by offering to host an interview or review, please let me know, or join us on KBoards!



Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

“Insert comment here”

The hardest thing about writing a novel is not knowing if my target audience, or anyone at all, would actually find it amusing. Originally I was going to self-publish Shizzle, Inc on this blog one chapter at a time, but not while I am hoping against all odds to get it traditionally published. In a desperate attempt to get feedback from someone other than friends and family, I even paid a professional at Writers Victoria to review the draft. To my surprise and delight, the anonymous reviewer found it funny. They also sandwiched in some constructive criticism, but that will be material for another post.

For now, I’d like to share with you a short story that started as a character development exercise for Shizzle, Inc. The story is set about five years before the novel starts and it introduces Isa and her family’s dynamics. I’d love to know what you think about it.


“Isabella? Is that you?”

I freeze, unable to say anything, or even think. Instead, I stare at his bedroom door, waiting for the door handle to turn.

“Isabella?” he says again. His voice is weak, but it resonates in the dead quiet of the house. “I need your help.”

I take a deep breath, let it out slowly, then turn the handle.

It’s dark, because the curtains have not been opened for days, and the last rays of daylight produce only a faint glow around the edges of old-fashioned heavy velvet. I shuffle towards the middle of the room, towards the greenish light of an alarm clock. I hold out my arms in hope of avoiding anything that could poke out an eye and, of course, bang my shin into the edge of the bed.

“Mother…!” I manage to catch myself just in time, finishing with a whisper of “Could I turn on a bedlight?”

He mumbles something that sounds like “If you must”.

I hold onto the edge of the mattress for reference and shuffle around it until I bang into the bedside table. This time I manage to keep quiet and pat the table until I find the lamp cord and the switch.

The light is weak, but he moans and turns his head away. I look down at him, waiting, but he does not move or say anything. He looks pale, like the sheets, and his matted hair is stuck to his forehead and temples. The room smells like sickness and old age. I try not to breathe.

Finally, he turns his head and looks at me. A weak smile is playing at the corners of his mouth.


“Yes, Dad. You said you need help?”

The smile fades. “Yes, but I’m afraid you can’t help me.”

“Oh,” I say. I hate to admit it, but I’m relieved. The fear that I will have to help him walk to the bathroom and wait outside the door, like yesterday, subsides.

“I’d like some water,” he says.

There is a full glass on the bedside table next to him. I pick it up and hand it over, but he just looks at me with that faint, pained smile, until I bring the glass to his lips and help him lift off the pillows. He drinks greedily, most of the water spilling down his chin, then falls back onto the pillows, exhausted. There is another moment of uncomfortable silence.

“Okay,” I finally say. “If that’s all, then I will get going. I will be back in a couple of hours…“

“Where are you going?” he asks, his voice quite a bit stronger. He must have really needed that water.

“Just to the movies, with girls,” I lie. I can’t quite tell him that I’m going on a date. Dad still thinks that dating should be reserved for college. I disagree, of course, and so does my older sister, who has never been to college and yet is currently in a hospital, trying to push out a couple of babies.

“The movies?” he asks and pauses for an effect. “You are leaving me here alone?”

“I thought you were asleep,” I lie again. “You need your rest, and I will only be a couple of…“

“I’m starving!” Dad announces. The illness has not affected his appetite, and ever since Mom practically moved into my sister’s hospital room, I’ve been required to serve full breakfasts, lunches and dinners, most of them in bed.

“But you just had pasta…“

“That was hardly a balanced meal,” he says, covering his eyes with a plump hand. “I need protein to repair tissues and help sustain my bodily functions.”

“It had cheese…“

He peeks at me from behind the hand, his gaze permeated with hurt feelings. “What I really need right now is chicken protein, preferably in a form of a chicken soup with vegetables! The vegetables would provide the antioxidants I so desperately need to support my immune system.”

“No problem!” I say, trying to sound helpful and feeling guilty as hell. “I have a can of Campbell’s…“

“A can!” he says and lets the hand fall onto the pillow. His gaze directed to the ceiling, he asks nobody in particular, “Perhaps I have a bowel cancer, too? It must be the BPA levels in canned soup that left me unable to pass a stool since yesterday…“

“Okay!” I say and back out of the room. “I can make some soup from scratch, that’s no problem!”

In the kitchen, I empty two cans of Campbell’s chicken and vegetable soup into a pot, add a chunk of butter, and light up the stove. I open and close cupboards and bang pots and pans, as I dial Brad’s number. My hands are shaking. We’ve only been going out for a couple of weeks and tonight was going to be the third date, making it officially okay to let him put his hands under my shirt. Brad is the hottest guy on the football team, which makes him the hottest guy in school, and me the luckiest girl in the entire universe. I put the phone to my ear and listen to the beeps and the pounding of blood in my ears.

“Hello there,” he answers and I nearly burst into desperate tears.

“I’m so sorry,” I say. “I can’t go out tonight. My Dad is sick, and I thought I could sneak out, but he heard me, and he wants soup, but not from a can, and my sister is in a hospital, she is having twins, and Mom is with her, and I can’t go out. I’m so sorry!”

He doesn’t say anything for a second. “Brad?” I ask and take a breath, ready to explain the whole thing again.

“That’s okay,” he says.

“Really?” I nearly burst into tears again, the relieved kind.

“Yeah, I can wait,” he says. “I wouldn’t wait for anyone else, you know. But you are hot, babe.”

He’s never called me hot, or babe, before and my heart stops for a full second.

“Thanks,” I say. “Babe.”

I carry the pot of soup into Dad’s bedroom. He looks suspiciously at me as I ladle a bowl for him. I help prop him up with pillows and watch as he brings a shaky spoon up to his mouth.

“This is good,” he says approvingly. “Not like that canned crap.”

He asks for a second helping and then I carry the pot and bowl back into the kitchen. I dial Mom’s number, but it goes to voicemail. I think for a second, shrug, and dial Felicity’s number. It goes to voicemail, too, which is to be expected, I guess. She is probably all drugged up on an epidural or something, anyway.

I turn on the TV, but there is nothing even half-decent, which is really off-pissing on a Saturday night. Whoever comes up with a TV schedule must assume that people either have plans or paid channels. I, of course, have neither. Mindlessly flipping through ancient movies and infomercials, I wonder how long I can bear being alone with Dad and his mystery illness. It came on gradually over many months, starting around the time my sister announced that she is pregnant. It was right before her graduation, but when it turned out that her highschool sweetheart Mark knocked her up, Dad didn’t have the strength to kill him, despite many earlier promises to do so. Dad went to the graduation, but complained a lot more than usual, although I’m not sure if others noticed. Felicity was too happy to notice anything, glowing from either the pregnancy hormones or the wedding plans. She married Mark, despite Dad’s rumbles of “over my dead body”. He didn’t die, but started growing weaker every day, missed work, had trouble walking up the stairs and often paused to grasp at the left side of his chest. When Felicity told us that she was having twins, Dad announced that his pulmonary artery was on the verge of collapsing. Mom begged him to go to a hospital, but he refused, on the grounds that doctors are charlatans and hospitals are hotbeds of new and deadly bacteria.

Eventually Mom stopped begging, probably because she was too distracted by the excitement of getting not one, but two grandchildren, and by the constant need to remind Felicity of what to eat and what to do. When Felicity checked into the hospital at around the eighth month of the pregnancy, it was probably to get away from Mom, rather than to have her blood pressure monitored. Of course it didn’t work, because Mom never left her hospital room. Upon hearing of that development, Dad announced that his liver has joined the ranks of the defiant organs. He explained over and over again, usually during dinner, how the toxic waste accumulating in his blood stream was slowly destroying him from inside out, and what his liver probably looked like at that stage. Then finally, when Felicity went into labour three days ago, Dad refused to get out of the bed.

I was alone with him, and also alone with the crazy thought that maybe he was faking it. I could not say it to anyone, leave alone constantly weeping Mom, but it was there, in the back of my mind. It was in fleeting moments of anger at being involved in his bodily functions, in long stretches of wishful thinking that he will be okay, that my sister and her yet unborn twins will be okay, and in constant selfish wishes that I will be okay. It was all too much at the time when adolescent depression was ready to sink its claws into my teenage body.

A raspy cough interrupts my thoughts. Dad is in the doorway, leaning heavily on the frame and blinking at the light.

“Dad!” I jump up from the couch. “What are you doing up?”

“I tried to call for you,” he whispers. “I guess you didn’t hear me over the TV.”

I help him back into bed, choking with guilt over my previous thoughts. He looks old and defeated, not at all his usual fieldmarshal self. I can’t believe I could ever think that he is faking it, he probably is dying. I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and I swallow to hide them. They taste like remorse with a touch of love.

When I’m finished re-arranging the pillows and refilling his water glass, he pats the side of the bed for me to sit down. I perch on the edge, feeling very uncomfortable and using all my psychic powers to will Mom into coming back and relieving me from this duty.

“Isabella,” he says. He started calling me by my full name lately, which is not a good sign. When things are good, I’m usually “Isa”. “Isabella” is reserved for lecturing me about my poor grades, or attitude, or lack of common sense, and I honestly have not done anything wrong lately, except maybe dating Brad behind Dad’s back.

“Isabella,” he says again and takes my hand. This is excruciating. He is not a touchy-feely person and I can’t remember the last time I got a hug from him. This holding-hands-on-a-deathbed is worse than even waiting for him outside the bathroom door.

“I have to tell you something,” he croaks. I can’t help but brighten up. I’ve always hoped that I have some kind of a birth secret, like I’m actually related to royalty and will one day be shipped overseas to take my rightful place on the throne. The deathbed is a perfect place to spring that kind of news on a teenage girl.

“Your maternal grandfather,” he begins, and I nearly faint. This is it! I always knew I was special, not the learning-disabled kind, but the psychic, or magical, or at least royal blood sort. I grip Dad’s hand, and he takes it as a sign of encouragement.

“He didn’t like me from the start, you know? I was too young, too poor, and too skinny for his Princess.”

His voice sounds as if from afar. My head is swimming with royal images: kings and princes staring at me with admiration; walking through an endless cathedral isle, with an equally endless train behind me; a heavy crown being placed on my chastely bowed head.

“He said that I would never amount to anything. ‘Over my dead body’ is what he said when I asked for your mother’s hand in marriage. Thankfully, your mother had a lot more sense than him, although lately I’m not so sure. ‘Over my dead body’! I showed him, of course. I am a well-respected historian, as you know, and he always was, and remained to the last day, a car mechanic.”

The images in my head disappear, as if blown aside by a cold gust of reality.


“That’s right, a car mechanic! Sure, he maybe owned the shop and made a lot of money, but it didn’t change the fact that his nature, his very essence was that of a tinkerer! He tinkered with car parts, which required no original thought, no analysis or theory! In a way he was like one of those doctors your mother insists on, the simpletons barely able to look up symptoms in a reference manual!”

A heavy cloud fogs up my brain, as I realise that this is no deathbed revelation, that this is the same story I’ve heard at least a hundred times. I can’t tell him that, of course, just in case he is dying and this is the last time I’m hearing it. The combination of disappointment and guilt is overwhelming and I look down in hopes that he will not see it in my eyes. He doesn’t, of course, and keeps going on and on about Grandpa.

Thankfully, the phone rings in my pocket and I answer it despite Dad’s protests. It’s Mom and she is crying. For a second another image, of my dead sister, enters my head, but then Mom starts screaming, “Boys! Boys!”

“What?” My first thought is that she somehow found out about my dating, although I’m dating only one boy. Mom explains that Felicity just had two boys and that I’m now a fifteen-year old auntie.

“Wow,” is all I can manage to say, over and over. I mouth “two boys” to Dad, who seems to be either pouting or smiling that sad smile again. Mom passes the phone to Felicity, who sounds tired and groggy, just like I’d imagined.

“Congratulations!” I exclaim and inwardly congratulate myself on coming up with something appropriate to say.

“Thanks,” she says. “Boy, I’m glad it’s two of them, because I’m never doing this again!”

I laugh hysterically and she asks when I’m coming to see them.

“I don’t know, Dad has taken a turn for the worse,” I say and Dad nods in approval. “Maybe when Mom is back home?” I look at Dad and he nods again.

“When is he coming to see them?” Felicity asks and suddenly she doesn’t sound groggy at all.

“I don’t know, talk to him,” I say and pass the phone to Dad, who looks at it as if it’s a bomb, but takes it and holds it to his ear.

Dad starts saying his version of congratulations into the phone, but Felicity cuts him off. I can’t hear what she is saying, other than it sounds like barking. Whatever it is, it has a magical healing effect on Dad. Color returns to his cheeks and he even sits up in bed.

“I’m not…“ he says, but the barking does not stop. I can only hear his side of the conversation, and it sounds like a defendant trying to appease Judge Judy. The color in his cheeks turns from peachy pink to beetroot red.

“You don’t understand…“

“The symptoms…“

“Of course I do!”

“Please don’t!”

Finally the barking stops. Dad takes the phone away from his ear and looks at it for a moment, then pushes a button and hands it back to me. I stare at him.

“We are going to the hospital,” he says finally.

“Oh my God!” I freak out with realisation that the news must have pushed his liver over the edge. “I can’t drive! We have to call you an ambulance! Can you wait for an ambulance?”

“Not for me,” he waves me off and pushes the comforter away. “Let’s go see the babies.”

“But…what about your condition?”

He ignores me and swings his legs down, searching for slippers with his feet. His face is contorted in a deep thought.

“I still can’t drive…we can call a taxi, I guess…”

“I’m not paying for a taxi,” he says and shuffles towards the wardrobe.

I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing, just follow his lead. When fifteen minutes later we get into the station wagon, the color in his face is back to peachy pink and he almost looks healthy. We drive through the dark streets in complete silence.

“Grandpa,” he says.

Not again. “I know, he was a car mechanic and he didn’t want you to marry Mom…“

“No, I mean me. I’m a grandpa. A bit early, if you ask me.”

I laugh from surprise and relief. “Tell me about it. I’m an auntie at fifteen! I’ve never even babysat! I’m probably going to drop one of the boys and Felicity will have to kill me…”

“Nah,” he says, and smiles. This one is good, a hearty full smile. “You’ll be great.”

“Really? You think so?”

“For sure. You are good at so many things.” He doesn’t say what they are and I hope that he is not thinking that lying is one of them. Still, it makes me feel warm inside, for the first time in weeks, if not months.

“Thanks,” I say. “You’ll be a great grandpa. I mean, you will be great at being a grandpa, not that you will be a great grandpa. I mean, one day, you will live to be a great grandpa. I hope.” I look at him, dreading his response, but he doesn’t look back. Only the hearty full smile is still there.

“For sure,” he says and we keep on driving through the dark.

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Filed under Shizzle, Inc.