Don’t Be Afraid to Be Embarrassed by Jo Whittemore

Whittemore_ConfodentiallyYoursWhen I was in elementary school, all the 4th-6th graders took part in a musical extravaganza called The Legend Train, where different narrators would ride around on this wooden train, pulled by the strongest 6th grader in the world (considering he was able to cart narrators of various sizes all around the auditorium).

One of the stories we told was the Battle of New Orleans (between the British and Americans). As is historically accurate, my fellow 5th graders and I were American soldiers, and we re-enacted the battle scene against some 6th graders, crouched behind an invisible barricade.

We held our invisible rifles and fired at the British, making those fake shooting sounds that children of the 80s are awesome at.

One of the other 5th graders said something funny, and we all started laughing. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was lying on my stomach that was to blame, but mid-laugh, I released a butt battle cry.

You know…a fart.

I hoped I was the only one to hear it since everyone else was laughing so loud, but no such luck.

Whittemore_FPFaceOffThe laughter turned into, “Aw dude!”, “Gross!” and my fellow soldiers retreated when no British musket could have made them. Because of the ensuing chaos, my teacher decided it was time we switch to a different act of the play.

So the Battle of New Orleans ended not with American grit and gumption, but with a fart.

Why am I telling you this story? It’s funny. And it’s real, which makes it even funnier. See, I could hide forever in shame OR I could embrace the event and share it with others so we could all get a good laugh out of it. When you can laugh at yourself, mean people can’t get to you and nice people want to be part of the fun by either sharing THEIR stories or adding to yours.

Here’s a more recent example. I’m a rather socially awkward person (which is why I’m telling strangers of my gassy childhood), so recently when trying to introduce myself to someone outside the writing world, I panicked. Let’s see how I handled it:




Note that I described the situation in a humorous fashion, and what happened? Two people shared funny stories of their own.

I’ll bet embarrassing things have happened to you in the past. (To the one person saying “No,” you just wait. There’s a bird plotting to poop on you. I’d start carrying an umbrella).

When you have one of these mortifying moments, ask yourself, “How could I tell this story in a funny way?” That’s one of the first steps to being a great humor writer.

As a matter of fact, why not do that right now? Time for a writing exercise!

Think of an embarrassing moment from your past, think of how you could tell that story in an amusing way, and write it down. Share it with a loved one (or your writing group…or even me!) and see what happens. I bet you’ll get some laughs and feel better about the situation afterward.

My final advice for you:

  • Let life happen. It will, whether you want it to or not.
  • Be aware. What makes a story realistic are the details that come from living in the moment.
  • Find the humor in life and pass it on. So that future generations will know to eat less beans.


WhittemoreJ_HeadshotJo Whittemore is the author of the tween humor novels Front Page Face-Off, Odd Girl In, D is for Drama, Colonial Madness, and the Confidentially Yours series. She also penned The Silverskin Legacy fantasy trilogy. Find her online at

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Jo’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.

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258 comments on “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Embarrassed by Jo Whittemore

  1. julicaveny says:

    Yes! Laugh at yourself and the world laughs with you! Great insights. Thanks for sharing with us!


  2. Myrna Foster says:

    This was the funniest post I’ve read on humor, and it gave me a great idea. Thanks a bunch!


  3. I love that you told this story on yourself. As writers, it’s a great way to connect with readers to have the character get through those embarrassing things that happen to all of us. Thanks for a terrific post. By the way, I haven’t been able to get to the exercise book page for the last couple of days. I get a page that says “Well this is embarrassing…” I’ve tried everything I can think of. Anyone else having trouble?


  4. “Let life happen.” So true!! 🙂


  5. Kristen Browning says:

    Thanks for the funny post! Makes me want to read your books. I could fill volumes with all of my embarrassing moments–I guess I’d better get to work 🙂


  6. Aimee Haburjak says:

    Good humor advice! It’s so true that real life has golden opportunities to use for writing. Great post. Thanks


  7. Seize life’s “real” humor moments! Love the advice!


  8. This was the funniest post and I kept trying to remember something embarrasing from my past to re-tell it as a joke. Thanks.


  9. Mindy says:

    Thanks so much!


  10. Mindy says:

    Thanks! Funny!


  11. Angela Turner says:

    It always makes me feel better when I hear others embarrassing stories. I guess I should share mine to make them feel better. That is gonna take some courage. Thanks for the encouragement!


  12. 01chicchick says:

    We must all learn to embrace embarrassing moments, they may make great stories! If you accidentally make a fool of yourself, do it with a smile.


  13. Lynn Alpert says:

    Laughing at yourself makes everything better. Great idea to use those embarrassing moments you’d rather forget to add humor to your writing!


  14. Keila Dawson says:

    Oh gosh, that is funny now but imagine so embarrassing then! Buy heh, we’very all been there. Love your advice.


  15. phyllis chery says:

    You have courage. I remember embarrassing moments, so now to look at them again and realize that “things happen” to everybody. Only the ones with real “guts” can share. Thanks for your courage.


  16. Marianne Chalk says:

    Your advice is thoughtful and helpful; good reminders about enjoying life and being observant. Thank you for your willingness to share and instruct.


  17. Lauri Meyers says:

    Oh, farts. Why do they appear at so inopportune times? At least sometimes they can create such a terrific chorus of sounds to result in uncontrollable laughter!


  18. Kirsten Bock says:

    Great advice, not just on writing but for life!


  19. Karen Leiby Belli says:

    Thank you, Jo. Advice children of all ages should hear. When we can laugh at ourselves we feel better and it makes everything less dreadful.


  20. donnacangelosi says:

    You have a great way of teaching with humor, Jo. Thank you for sharing your stories and ideas.


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