By Martha Rose Woodward
Whether she’s talking about how her clothes seem to be shrinking, how she tried to wiggle her way into her locked house by going through the doggie door, or her remembrances from days gone by, if you are listening to Judy DiGregorio, at some point, you are going to be laughing. “Make many people laugh, you are a comedian,” she says quoting George Burns, “make a few people laugh, you are a humorist, when no one laughs, you better sing.”
DiGregorio, who spoke to the Torch Club at the Orangery on Thursday, April 19, says she had a career, raised a family, and retired before she decided she’d try her hand at being a writer. At age 55, she began writing and sending in her articles to various publications and immediately began getting rejected. At one point, she had a collection of over 30 rejection letters. She didn’t let that deter her from her goals, but she will admit she did get discouraged. Finally, on one rejection letter, the person who had read the article she sent in had written, “Retry.” DiGregorio says she was so happy, she bragged to family and friends, she had a real live person who had read her writing and encouraged her to “Retry”. After weeks of carrying the rejection letter around, she looked at it more carefully, and realized the name of the person writing the letter was Betsy, and what she had read as Retry was actually Betsy. Never mind, she continued to write and continued to be rejected.
At one point, she decided to ask the editor of the Anderson County Visions Magazine in Oak Ridge if he would allow her to write a humor column. After their first meeting, he politely said that he didn’t need a humor columnist. Although she felt rejection once again, DiGregorio returned to the editor’s office a second time, and a third. Finally, possibly just to get rid of her, the editor agreed to let her write for his paper, but limited the number of words she was allowed and only paid a small stipend. No matter, she was off and running and she’s been a successful humor columnist ever since.
DiGregorio’s web site says: Judy DiGregorio was recently named a Distinguished Alumni of New Mexico Highlands University. She has written more than 300 columns and essays. She has published in The Writer, Army-Navy Times, New Millennium Writings, the Chicken Soup books, and numerous anthologies. She has been a humor columnist for Anderson County Visions Magazine, Senior Living and EvaMag. Judy’s collection of humor essays, Life Among the Lilliputians, was featured at the 2009 Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. She also participated in the 2010 Southern Festival with her second book, Memories of a Loose Woman.
Celtic Cat Publishing recently released a CD, Jest Judy, that features stories from both of her books read by the author. Judy is also a well-known speaker and workshop leader and writes press releases for the Oak Ridge Community Playhouse where she frequently appears on stage. She is also the author of three ten-minutes plays.
The following is an example of DiGregorio’s column. She is discussing pollen and how it keeps her ears all stopped up.
“When you can’t hear, it’s difficult to communicate effectively, as the following recent conversation with my husband, Dan, illustrates.
Me: Did you ask me if I wanted bratwurst?
Dan: No, I asked if you wanted breakfast.
Dan: Do you like yogurt?
Me: Sure, I think Dilbert’s funny, don’t you?
Dan: I didn’t say Dilbert. I said yogurt. Boy, are you stopped up.
Me: What did you say?
Dan: Forget it.”