IF YOU ARE of a certain age and have a sense of humor, you will enjoy Lenore Hirsch’s new book, Laugh and Live: Advice for Aging Boomers. In this collection of witty and sometimes poignant essays, Hirsch addresses the many unexpected (and mostly unwelcome) aspects of aging with straight talk and humor.
These quick-read essays are guaranteed to bring smiles to your face and elicit wise nods from anyone over 60. And it’s a perfect addition to your family room bookshelf or coffee table.
As Hirsch notes in her introductory chapter on why you should read the book, if it seems like all your friends are getting joint replacements, the medical professionals you meet look like Doogie Howser child geniuses, and waitresses regularly call you “sweetie,” this book is for you.
If you deal with occasional “senior moments,” worry about whether you forgot to turn off the stove, and find yourself regularly enjoying early bird dinners, this book is for you.
“At least you’ll know from reading this book that you’re not alone. … So look for your friends and spouses in these essays, but also look for yourself — for a laugh, a moment to ease your aches and pains, and a positive outlook for all you can still do.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Lenore’s essays — I think my personal favorite is “What’s That Word?” — and was curious about what it takes to compile and publish a theme-based collection like this. So, I asked Lenore if she would be willing to do a Q&A interview for WritingThroughLife. Fortunately, she agreed, and the discussion is posted below.
If you are interested in publishing your own collection, or simply interested in what’s behind Laugh and Live, then read on.
Interview with Lenore Hirsch
WTL: What initially gave you the idea to put together a collection of short, humorous essays on aging?
I started writing the essays as a twice-a-month newspaper column called “Boomer Blues.” I knew how many millions of my age-mates out there would appreciate the content, and I did develop a following. After a year, however, my editor was pushing me to limit my snarky humor. Not everyone can look at their own physical decline and laugh! So I stopped doing the column but decided to write more chapters and publish the essays as a book.
WTL: How did you find ideas for the individual pieces?
That was easy! I just needed to look at the difficulties and annoyances in my own life. I think the first two pieces I wrote stemmed from one friend who is always late and who called me in the middle of the night when she fell in her bedroom. Getting into her house was a nightmare. It not only made a humorous story, but I also wrote some suggestions for how to avoid the situation.
WTL: What were your biggest challenges when writing and/or compiling the essays?
Writing for the newspaper, I had become accustomed to writing what I have to say in 700-1,000 words. It was a challenge to make the pieces for the book a bit longer. I also worried over how my critique group pals would take some of the humor. For example, a friend who has a bit of a tremor took issue with me for making fun of getting a spoon of soup to my mouth without spilling on my shirt. So I added a serious suggestion to ask for a cup if this is your personal challenge.
WTL: How did you choose which pieces to include and which to leave out?
I wanted to balance the already-published pieces and the new ones. I also added pieces, like “Get a Dog,” that focused more on advice than humor. And I added chapters on sex and my favorite, “Everything Leaks,” which I didn’t think were appropriate for the paper.
WTL: How would you describe your target audience? And what do you want them to take away from reading your book?
My audience is anyone born between 1946 and 1964 — that is, Boomers. However, it’s also a good read for those older (who could add some chapters, I am sure) and I tell the younger ones it’s a great gift for Mom or Dad. I want them to laugh, pure and simple. Maybe pick up a suggestion or two, but primarily learn they’re not alone in this journey. Especially the parts nobody talks about.
WTL: What marketing methods are you using to help your book get noticed and in the hands of your audience?
I have an author website, as well as a site for my publishing company, Laughing Oak. The book has a Facebook page. I have used Help a Reporter Out to get mentioned on various blogs and recommended lists. I joined the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor — I advertised in their conference program and they sold the book at their conference bookstore (without me having to attend.) They also wrote a great review. I have left copies at the offices of my chiropractor and hairstylist, and my gynecologist has the book displayed and for sale! I got interviewed on my local radio station and did a reading on another station. I go regularly to open mics. I have given books away at Rotary meetings. And I have done other events, both where I live and in a distant state while I was vacationing there.
WTL: What are you working on now?
I continue to write short pieces for the newspaper. I’ve started what I hope will be a novel about all of my humorous experiences as an educator. The plan is to squeeze them all into one year in the life of a new middle school vice-principal.
WTL: What would you recommend to anyone who is thinking about publishing a compilation of prose or poetry?
I am always surprised by people doing compilations who give little thought to the order in which the pieces are presented. I think that is a very important editing job. For example, in Laugh and Live, I put the pieces that are mostly advice near the end and closed with a chapter called “Another Year Bites the Dust” about how quickly time flies as we age. Although there is no chronology in the book, it seemed to be a fitting way to close.
WTL: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks, Amber, for inviting me to share my experience. Putting a book out into the universe may not be a route to fame and riches for most of us, but it is a very satisfying experience. We are fortunate to be living at a time when the technical aspects are relatively easy. So if you have a message or a great story, have at it!
Lenore Hirsch is a retired educator in Napa who writes features for the Napa Valley Register, poetry, and stories. Her books include her dog’s memoir; My Leash on Life, Foxy’s View of the World from a Foot Off the Ground; a poetry collection, Leavings; and Laugh and Live, Advice for Aging Boomers, essays about aging with humor. Her websites include lenorehirsch.com, laughing-oak.com, and myleashonlife.me.