Caitlin’s Comedy and Satire Writing Newsletter
2019 is here 2018 felt like nine years in one
HELLO FRIENDS AND BUDS! Welcome to issue #16.
Welcome one and all! This newsletter is focused on comedy and satire writing and features interviews with writers about their process as well as what I, Caitlin Kunkel, have been up to. It’s my newsletter, after all!
Well, actually, contrary to the above statement, there is no interview in this newsletter. Just getting it out there is a big accomplishment for me a this point. And since we’re talking goal setting, I’m praising myself for this very minor accomplishment.
2018 was…a LOT!! Cliffnotes version: with my creative partners and Belladonna co-founders Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer, we published what we thought was a normal satire piece called “New Erotica for Feminists” in February. It went viral, becoming the second most-read piece of the year on the site. We wrote a book proposal, we wrote a book, the book came out in the US and the UK in November, we went on a book tour, we got very tired, and now I am a published author who pleads with people to please buy her book. WHEW.
That’s NOT how I thought the year was going to go when I made my 2018 goals! But it was still valuable to look at them yesterday and reflect on where I thought I would go compared to where life and career took me. In that spirit, I have a goal setting exercise for you in this issue.
I ended up having to hire a business coach, something that would have seemed really ridiculous to me prior to this year, but became a necessity to sort through how I had stacked WAY too much freelance and creative work into a five-month span. I became obsessed with making money, and getting publications, and just over scheduled myself for a long-ass time and needed someone to help me unwind my mess. Here’s an interview I did with my coach, Betsy Capes, in case anyone is interested in that process.
I’ll talk more about the publishing process later in the year, but a true highlight was being part of this amazing list on Vulture!
This newsletter unfortunately fell by the wayside in all the book madness, which is sad because I truly enjoy putting it together. So this year, I’m trying something new. I’m going to have a selection of guest editors interview writers they know and admire and provide their list of links they’re reading, to help me both expand the scope of people I talk to, and to take some of the time of doing it off my shoulders. I’ll still interview some writers myself, but am also excited to have new-to-me writers talk about their process this year.
TIME TO WRITE! Like last year, I’m doing a topical writing challenge to kick off the month. And it’s next week! Here’s the deal — from Monday, 1/7, to Friday, 1/11, you’re going to try to write a topical piece of humor or satire each day. The ideal is to finish it, but don’t worry if you can’t get it to completion each day. Last year I finished three out of five, and that was MAJOR output for me! The main goal it to sit down each morning and try to figure out the premise for a piece. Almost every topical piece I’ve ever written has been composed in 90 minutes or less.
Hit me up on Twitter (I’m @Kunkeltron) and let me know if you’re planning to do this with me. Then throughout the week, obviously if you finish pieces — submit them places! Places that take topical satire/humor subs are McSweeney’s, The Belladonna (heeyyyy), Robot Butt, Points in Case, Pink Canoe, and a few others. Follow these sites and start to read them if you’re not familiar so you can get a sense of tone and what they publish.
Starting the year off with some pubs always makes me feel like I have good momentum, and this is the easiest way for me personally to get the ball rolling. I’m also working on something VERY EXCITING in March of this year, official announcement coming soon!
This is an abbreviated newsletter, but below are links, my next show, and a goal setting exercise. This time last year we hadn’t even written the piece that became the book “New Erotica for Feminists,” and now it’s been out in the world as a book for six weeks. Time is weird!!!
I did the How to Write Funnypodcast with Onion co-founder and #1 NYT bet-selling author Scott Dikkers. I recorded it over the summer so it’s like a little time capsule. Listen to my episode here!
With the members of my amazing writing group, we now have a MONTHLY show at Velvet Brooklyn! Our next show is Sunday, 1/13/19 at 7pm, featuring guests KAREN CHEE (The New Yorker, NYT), JEN SPYRA (Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The New Yorker) and ORLI MATLOW (McSweeneys, someecards). It’s FREE and FUN and good for networking and inspiration.
I do this a few ways. Classically, I open a word doc, create categories (mine are for The Belladonna, my own writing, performance, overall career, but you can use any categories you want) and then list off regular and reach goals for each.
Of course, last year all of them were blown out of the water (I had “learn what a book proposal is” on my list to do by end of year, and by mid-March I had co-written one while crying because it happened so fast), but I do like having a document to look back on at the end of the year to see where my life diverged from my image of how I thought I might like it to go. Last year I didn’t know what a “gift book” was, and now I aspire to write many more of them. Very useful goal setting info going forward!
Here is another format I use to come up with clear action steps:
How would you like to advance your career in this kind of writing in the next six months? Be specific — get a new byline, publish one piece, finish three pieces, etc.
What is a goal related to the above that you think is well within your grasp? Like, you can strive for it and take steps related to it right now.
What is a reach goal? This is something you think you can achieve, but there may be elements (an editor, for example) that are a bit out of your control.
What is a reach, reach goal, one that would shock and delight you? This should be something you really have to push to imagine and would be totally game-changing.
How can you hold yourself accountable? Is it telling others? Co-writing with someone? Committing to a class or festival? Doing the topical writing challenge from 1/7–1/11?
What is one small change you can commit to today to help bring about the above? Something like writing for two hours on the weekend, searching for and joining a writing group, write five jokes a week on Twitter, etc. For me, my small change is keeping my phone out of the bedroom and doing some writing in the mornings before looking at it. This IMMEDIATELY results in a higher writing output for me.
LINK ROUNDUP! GETYA LINKS HERE!
Love this interview with Terry Gross on how to talk to people. Especially in NY, asking someone “what kind of work do you do,” can be so easily replaced with “tell me about yourself” and it’s a less aggressive way of getting into someone’s life.
Having now released a book and seen a bit of the PR process, this article about how the late night comedy shows are promoting books by “regular writers” (i.e. not superstars like Stephen King) and helping bump their sales was interesting to me.
There are GREAT exercises in this piece on how to be an artist, including this one:
Exercise: Artist’s Statement
Write a simple 100-to-150-word statement about your work; give it to someone who doesn’t know your work. Have them tell you what they think your work looks like. Note the differences.
(A) Don’t make writing a big deal. Just write, you big baby! You already know how to write.
(B) Never just say, “You tell me what it is.” That’s pompous bullshit. When it comes to your work, you’re the best authority there is.
I wrote a Twitter thread that became a “moment” (where they very annoyingly misspelled my name as “Klunkel” and will not fix) about a key moment in my writing life when I was 22 years old. Seemed to resonate with some people so sharing here.
ABOUT ME: Caitlin Kunkel is a comedy writer, satirist and famed pizza scientist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been featured in Shouts & Murmurs in The New Yorker, The Second City Network, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Reductress, and other places across the vast internetz. She created the online satire program for The Second City and writes for Live Wire Radio, distributed by Public Radio International.
Her first book, NEW EROTICA FOR FEMINISTS, co-written with Carrie Wittmer, Brooke Preston, and Fiona Taylor, was released by Dutton/Plume in the US and Sceptre in the UK in NOVEMBER OF 2018!!!
GUESS WHAT? Caitlin is also the co-founder and editor of the comedy and satire site for female writers, The Belladonna. Follow her musings on Twitter @KunkelTron.