The Lost Lessons of Frederic Ogden Nash by B. Elwin Sherman

Dear young humor writers-to-be:
Whereas, I hold myself evidence of these truths:
 
So, you're looking for tips for your quotable quips
Be they straight up, across or oblique?
And, not just to sell, but to know that as well
They're as good as a fate accomplique?
 
A tutorial clue is worth two in the loo
If bestowed on uninterested parties.
But, you've asked impromptu for cathartic menu
When you sup of freelance a la carties.
 
No lambasting lyric ever sideswiped so Pyrrhic
As the didactic prose of THE EDITORS,
Lamenting rejections like bear claw infections
Disarming the hands of those preditors.
 
No movers of pens, be they womens or mens,
Not a Wordsworth or Parker or Keats
Ever suffered more ways upon reading the frays:
“Sorry, Bub, We Appreciate Your Sending The Enclosed Material, But At Present It Doesn't Fit Our Editorial Neats.”
 
If your pain is subjective, 'tis purely elective,
And just soz you're not misconstruing,
It was you who has writ the unread manuscript
Without knowing quite what you wuz duing.
 
From third-person fiction to first-person diction,
You've mailed it alone and in groups.
But, not even tense brought as much recompense
As basketball lay-ups sans houps.
 
You asked me, young peer, so lend me your eer.
Over hear:
 
No incisive ditty, no matter how witty,
With laughs cutting up like a rapier,
Will serve to attract or amuse a redactor
When scribbled on yellow-lined papier.
 
Now, as writers we think what we set down in ink
Is transmitted from voices in Heaven.
But, Sea Scrolls long Dead would be penciled in red
Unless found 8 1/2 by eleven.
 
No flinches; I’m talking inches.
Unerased.
 
And double-spased.
 
And, no essay, you see, without SASE
Has the chance of a perdition snow.
Or, you'll wonder again not just where it has been
But just where in the hack did it go?
 
No contention bone ever stood up alone
Without splint from a purchasing reader.
So, keep this in mind when you write:  To design your piece with respect for your prospective market, I'm talking their needs, not yours, or it will be stuffed under the slushpile because it's good but not the right meader.
 
Don't think for a minute that what you put in it
Will promise seduction or clout.
Like cakes laced with onions or shoelace-tight bunions,
It isn't what's left, but left out.
 
Chop out the bad sentence, like tooth wise at the dentence.
 
Yes, even a stanza, wherever you canza.

Take times to just write in the dark or daylite,
And with them be strictly religious.
No book on a shelf's ever written itself
Like a wand waving prestidigitous.
 
Put domestic noises like kids zooming toises
On hold when aspersions you're casting.
You must skip the distractions, and if need be, attractions,
Like computer games or breakfasting.
 
Does this make you feel like the consummate heel
Or a pondering, castawayed Bligh?
Then, you're on the right track, you incurable hack,
Like a Mays Willie's bead on a fligh.
 
With chameleon changes in homes on the ranges,
We all must be natural adaptors.
Some publishers look for just part of your book,
Say, an outline in lieu of the chaptors.
 
Still others desire all the smoke, wind and fire
Of your whole syllabic culmination.
So, send them your muse, send them lock, stock and fuse,
In fact send them the whole fulmination.
 
The right place, the right time for your rantings and rime?
This enhances your chances at fame.
But, sometimes pure luck will join hands with your pluck
And shed light on the dark of your name.
 
Now, what you've submitted could go unremitted
If sent with provisional hitch.
Just be sure beforehand what the publisher's planned
Lest you cause subcutaneous itch.
 
And, speaking of hitches, another good glitch is
To post it without the right stamp.
It'll then be consumed like the blood, I've presumed
When I suffixate ire to vamp.
 
Copyrights and consent of where what you wrote went?
Know the one-time or second-time serial.
Or, what you've researched may be later besmearched
By the bye of your bylined material.
 
The submissions of sellers, if they're chronic mispellers
Or they, mispunctuate like:  like…an; actor!
They're the bane of existence for those whose subsistence
Is earned by perusing this factor.
 
Most would rather have a chiropractor.
Or that tooth extractor.
Or their big car compactor.
 
What does drive us to write?  Some think study in frite.
It's rich grist for the headshrinker's mill.
It's the glorious chore, nothing less or much more
Than I THINK, therefore I'LL WRITE, I will.
 
I'm in hopes that your future is one that'll suture.
I pray writing will fill up your cache.
And, for year after yearly, I mean this most sincerely,
 
As I'm truly yours,
       Ogden “El” Nache
 
* * * * *
Copyright 2008 B. Elwin Sherman.  All rights reserved.  Used here with permission.
* * * * *

[Cow Hampshire note: El Sherman adds, “Mr. Nash wasn't born here and didn't die here, but he's buried here, and that's about as native as you get.”]

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