Humorists encourages other local writers

Published 12:08 pm Friday, October 3, 2008

An award-winning humorist and published author, who many call the new Erma Bombeck, makes Shelby County her home.

Susan Murphy has been columnist for the Over The Mountain Journal since 1990, inspiring and entertaining us all.

Murphy is outgoing president of the local branch of the National League of American Pen Women. This week I joined her for the league’s meeting at The Club in Birmingham. Along the way, we chatted.

“Tell me about the League and what it means to you,” I began.

“It’s an opportunity to meet with many creative, bright people — visual artists, writers, poets, a composer. We understand one another, so I feel uplifted among them. I’ve been a member about six years.”

I considered the league’s history: founded in 1897 by Marion Longfellow O’Donohue, niece of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for the purpose of “bringing together journalists, authors and illustrators for mutual benefit and the strength that comes of union.”

The league’s first national convention was received by President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Mrs. Harding were members. In 1978, the league was presented the Literary Hall of Fame Award for its contributions to our country’s culture, joining the ranks of greats such as Charles Shultz and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

For years, Murphy’s columns have been an inspiration to my own writing, so this day I felt as high as Alabama cotton in August, just to be invited to the league event.

“Who inspires you most?” I asked her.

“Right now, I’m enjoying author Haven Kimmel’s series of memoirs. In the past, I read Poe, Dickens … the classics. I’m still amazed at their unique choice of words, creativity.”

Murphy’s book, “Mad Dog Mom,” was published in 1998 by Crane Hill and won the Small Press Award for Humor. Also, a series of her columns seen in Over The Mountain Journal are published in a book titled “Murphy’s Law: The Greatest Hits.” I thumbed through the book and looked at chapter groupings. The first was “Family: The Ties That Bind and Gag,” and a chapter titled, “Smile Darling! The Outfit’s Paid For.”

Yes, I smiled.

During these days of financial doomsayers, maybe we need to exercise our power over the remote control, pick up a copy of Murphy’s book and laugh ourselves to sleep at night.