Santa Barbara residents publishes stories in “Chicken Soup for the Soul”
Ernie Witham likes to find laughs in the aisles of Home Depot, Costco, CVS Pharmacy and, well, everywhere.
His ability to pull humor from the mundane has landed him many published works in “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
Two of the Montecito Journal humor columnist’s short stories are featured in the latest edition “Read, Laugh, Repeat,” a compilation of the funniest stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul.
The first story, “Perfect,” describes a Sunday redecorating his Santa Barbara home under his wife’s direction. He writes about hanging a quilt over the fireplace as his wife tells him to keep climbing higher up a ladder (despite warnings not to pass the rungs up top) until it’s “perfect.”
His wife, Pat Sheppard, often makes an appearance in his writing and always proofreads the stories. Just like her role staging their home, she edits Mr. Witham’s writing to perfection.
When she attends conferences with him, his readers and colleagues laugh meeting the woman from the stories. When he tags along with her, her friends and colleagues tend to recognize him from his column.
“Oh, you’re THAT Ernie,” they say.
Before his writing career, he didn’t like his name. Now, he’s learned to embrace an unusual name — after all, he looks for unique things.
“I didn’t like my name Ernie. I always wanted to be a Billy or a Tom,” he told the News-Press. “But now I’ve turned my name into a world: Ernie’s World.”
His column is named “Ernie’s World,” and his first book is “Ernie’s World: The Book.”
The Santa Barbara Writers Conference was the catalyst for his new world of humor writing.
He first attended with an idea of a novel but was disappointed that his concept needed a lot of work.
He participated in workshops during the conference and was particularly drawn to humor writing.
“I wandered into the humor writing workshop,” he said. “The whole room was full of funny people, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve found my family.’”
The next year’s workshop, he won an award for his humor writing and was encouraged to publish the piece.
He took it to the News-Press, where it was published alongside advertising, and began to write more for the paper.
In 1999 at the conference, he connected with the then-editor of the Montecito Journal and created his world, publishing once a month in the Journal.
When the former humor writing workshop teacher retired, Mr. Witham stepped up and has taught the workshop every year since.
His history with “Chicken Soup for the Soul” goes back to an advertisement in a magazine for writers. The company was looking for short stories, and Mr. Witham mailed in a few clips.
He received a letter that his stories were finalists, and he was shocked when his friend found three of his pieces in the book.
Since then, he’s frequently submitted stories.
As of today, he has published three books and is featured in many others. He estimates that he has written pieces for around 20 Chicken Soup books.
He likes “Chicken Soup for the Soul” because the stories tend to be funny or heartwarming, and the people are nice.
Its original co-author Jack Canfield, a Montecito resident, gave a testimonial for one of Mr. Witham’s books: “The diversity and good clean fun of Ernie Witham’s humor makes him one of my favorite contributing writers to our Chicken Soup books.”
Now, with the pandemic keeping Mr. Witham from taking frequent trips to Costco, he writes about walks around the neighborhood and jigsaw puzzles.