Celia Rivenbark to bring laughter

Published 8:48 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

Celia Rivenbark, humor columnist and author, will speak at the Third Annual Washington Women’s Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 8. (Submitted Photo)

Humor columnist and author Celia Rivenbark doesn’t plan to bring insight, motivation or life’s wisdom to Beaufort County next month.
She simply hopes to make people laugh.
“I’m not a motivational speaker,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Wilmington. “I’m there to make people laugh.”
As a girl growing up in rural Duplin County, she would listen to the trucks passing by on the road outside her window, wondering where they were headed. And as she did, she would dream of a career as a journalist and writer.
Since then, she has become an award-winning columnist and author, sharing her thoughts on eating pizza, car window decals and the latest reality television star, Honey Boo Boo.
Rivenbark, 56, will share her brand of humor at the Third Annual Women’s Lunch set for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Washington Yacht and Country Club. The event is sponsored Washington/Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.
Rivenbark got her start as a journalist writing press releases for James Sprunt Community College, formerly Institute, where she earned an associate’s degree.
That training gave Rivenbark the experience she needed to get a job writing for her hometown newspaper, the Wallace Enterprise.
While there, she was occasionally the sole reporter tasked with writing articles about everything from weddings to wrecks and photographs of the occasional piece of produce that looked like a famous person or interesting body part.
“Taking weird produce pictures was my specialty,” Rivenbark said.
She said she learned a valuable lesson as a journalist after taking a photograph for a woman of her unique watermelon only to learn later that it was bought that day at the local Piggly-Wiggly.
“I learned that people do lie,” she said.
After about six years, Rivenbark landed a job with a newspaper in Wilmington, now the Star News, where, among other duties, she began writing a humor column.
She married Scott Whistnant, a sports writer at the same newspaper, and at age 40, had her daughter, Sophie.
After Sophie’s birth and having worked in journalism for 21 years, Rivenbark wanted to take a break. The Star-News passed on her offer to continue to write her humor column.
But about a year later, she received a call from The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., writing columns about her experiences as a new mother while her daughter took a nap.
Today, the column runs weekly and is syndicated by the McClatchy-Tribune News Services. (Readers in Washington and Beaufort County can find Rivenbark’s column in the News & Observer of Raleigh.)
Rivenbark said she always pictured herself pursuing a career in journalism, but she described her life as an author of best-selling books as “a happy accident.”
Her columns were compiled into a book, Bless Your Heart, Tramp, that was distributed by the Coastal Carolina Press. After its success, she was contacted by a literary agent who asked if she had any more stories.
Since then, she has published five books, We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier in 2004; Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank in 2006; Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits in 2008; You Can›t Drink All Day If You Don›t Start in the Morning in 2009, and You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool in 2011, which was a New York Times bestseller.
Three of Rivenbark’s books were nominated for the James Thurber Prize. Three were finalists as Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Nonfiction Book of the Year with We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier winning the title in 2004. Entertainment Weekly Magazine designated her Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank as 2006’s best title.
Throughout most of her life, Rivenbark — who was once voted class clown — has been able to find humor in most situations, except when her husband was diagnosed with and treated for cancer.
“I could not find the funny,” she said, adding that she stopped writing her column during that time.
Only after his recovery did she resume writing.
“I was glad he was well and I was glad to be myself again,” she said.