by Erin Dalpini
Judy Lockhart DiGregorio has a knack for telling funny stories. When she realized that she could share her talent on paper, her career as an author began to take shape. Tenacity, creativity, and a special touch for lightness led her to numerous credits, awards, speaking gigs, and two books. Freelance-Zone caught up with the published author, humor columnist, actress, and speaker to find out more about her background and what led her to success as freelancer today.
Judy Lockhart DiGregorio: I started writing stories and light verse in elementary school. . I always loved working with words and won my first writing contest in the eighth grade when the El Paso Times named me first place winner in an essay contest where we wrote about our feelings about being an American (or something like that). They took a photo of me and put it in the paper, and I was famous for one day. I always did well at essay writing in school. In college I majored in English and did quite a bit of writing on literary topics that didn’t really interest me. In hindsight, I should have majored in journalism but didn’t think about it at the time.
FZ: What are you doing now in the field?
JD: I am a monthly humor columnist for a local publication. In addition, I write about 50 press releases a year for the Oak Ridge Playhouse, where I frequently appear on stage. I teach non-credit workshops on getting publishing and writing humor, and frequently speak at writing conferences.
FZ: How did you begin publishing humorous writing? What are some tips for freelancers interested in breaking into this genre?
JD: I got into humor writing by accident. I’ve always told funny stories, and after I attended my first writing conference I realized I could write down those stories. I took several writing classes from a well-known writer to polish my technique. Then I began submitting the stories to a variety of publications and met with some success. Finally, I approached the local newspaper editor for a column. I brought him new material every couple of months trying to wear him down. After nine months, he finally hired me. (I think it was to stop my visits to his office!)
There are quite a few markets for humor writing out there if you can find one that matches your style. Lots of publications want humorous fillers; I subscribe to Writers’ Market online to keep up with these. I also subscribe to The Writer and Poets and Writers for market information.
FZ: What does your workspace look like?
JD: It has a large computer desk and chair, two bookcases, two files, a stand for my printer, a small desk and chair, and a sleeper sofa.
FZ: Can you share a special moment from your writing career?
JD: After about ten years of writing and submitting, I decided to try for a book. Having your own book gives you great credibility as an author. For several years, I submitted proposals. The first five publishers rejected my proposal, but the next one accepted it. I have never been as thrilled as I was the day Celtic Cat Publishing agreed to publish my book, Life Among the Lilliputians. They recently published my second collection of humor stories too, Memories of a Loose Woman.
FZ: What is the best advice you can give to other writers?
JD: Join writing organizations, attend conferences, and keep polishing your skills. I have been active in several writing organizations and have served on their board of directors—it’s a great way to network and meet writers and editors. Beginning writers should submit often and never give up. It took me ten years to get published in the Chicken Soup books. Then they published three of my stories all in the same year. Also, get your own website so you can market your writing there. My website has been a big help to me.
Judy Lockhart DiGregorio retired from the Oak Ridge Operations Office, Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN, after 27 years as a training specialist. She is now a humor writer and speaker who has published more than 300 articles, including essays in The Army Times, The Writer, ByLine Magazine, and the Chicken Soup books. She is the author of two collections of humorous essays from Celtic Cat Publishing (Knoxville, TN) – Memories of a Loose Woman and Life Among the Lilliputians. Judy writes press releases for the Oak Ridge Playhouse, where she frequently appears on stage. She is the author of the ten-minute play, “Let There Be Light,” which was recently staged at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville.
To learn more about Judy, including video interviews and samples of her work, visit her website, www.judyjabber.com. She can be contacted at jdigregorio60(at)hotmail(dot)com.