Lightening Up! Finding Moments of Humor in Heavy Stories

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm Eastern

The experiences we seize upon in our memoirs or personal essays are often the “heaviest” of our lives – family secrets, deep griefs and traumas.  In other words, they’re no laughing matter. 

Additional Information

Like the shifts in our daily moods, every story has notes of comedy, and to ignore the possibilities for humor in our work risks bogging down readers and missing the full, complicated truth of our humanity. A genuinely funny turn, however brief, can be a gift to readers – showing the writer’s self-awareness and offering release. In this webinar, we’ll examine work by writers who manage to weave amusing – or even laugh-out-loud funny – moments into brutally honest stories. As we study their moves on the page, you’ll think about how to recognize similar moments in your own work and how to capitalize on them, whether it’s revealing a character’s absurd side, tucking in a lighthearted scene amidst difficult memories, or floating a wry observation that makes readers smile with recognition.

In this webinar, you will:

  • EXAMINE sample passages by nonfiction writers who successfully hit funny notes in their work, with guided close readings that will illuminate how they pull off those moves.
  • LEARN techniques for crafting such moments of humor in personal writing, even when the material itself is hard or dark – and how to do so without derailing the thematic drive of the story, betraying your narrator’s sensibility, sacrificing gravitas, or tipping into mockery.
  • EXPLORE possibilities for comedic or witty turns in your own work, with prompted reflection on where the “lighter spots” might lie in your material and sample writing exercises you can do on your own.

There will be time for a Q&A at the end of the presentation.

The ideal writer for this webinar is working on personal nonfiction – essays or a book-length memoir – at any stage in their process or career. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by the weight and vulnerability of their material, and are looking for ways to inject a bit of levity into their storytelling.

All registrants receive a recording.

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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

Read Success Stories


I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill