Lighten Up: Infusing Humor into Serious Nonfiction

Breakout Session


Humor can be a powerful tool to connect with readers, strengthen your writing voice, and make literary readings more engaging. Unfortunately, personal nonfiction can be dark. When exploring themes like illness, trauma, and loss, how can there be room for levity? This session will help memoir and essay writers, of all levels, find the funny in even their most serious work. We will discuss how to mine experiences for the absurd and unbelievable, how to leverage metaphor and imagery to craft comedy, and how to apply stand-up comedy tactics to writing and literary readings.

Key takeaways from this session:

  • Learn how to find the funny in even their most serious work, and evaluate when to use it to strengthen a story
  • Build the foundation of a humor-writing tool kit with various comedy techniques
  • Gain a craft-oriented understanding of written and performed comedy, including tips to add humor into literary work



  • Maryann Aita

    Maryann Aita is a writer, comedian, and author of the experimental memoir in essays, Little Astronaut (ELJ Editions, 2022). Her work has appeared in PANK, The Coachella Review, Okay Donkey, The Porter House Review, and other journals. She is a former St. Nell’s Humor Writing Residency Fellow, and performs around...