Life is better with a few good laughs
By Deirdre Parker Smith
Probably her most famous story is the one about the time she caught the mayor's mustache in her tooth polisher.
That ended Ann Ipock's career as a dental hygienist.
Lucky for her.
It started her on a new, no less humorous path.
Ipock will come to Salisbury Thursday night at 7 p.m. for the annual Friends of the Library meeting.
A freelance writer and speaker, Ipock's columns appear in the Georgetown Times in South Carolina, other writings in a number of regional magazines.
What's her subject?
"Oh, I write about family happenings ... people have said I was a magnet for the unusual," she says, giggling.
"Things either happen to me or the people around me with no warning," weird or odd things. Nothing too scary. And she writes about it.
When she went on a whale watching trip, she didn't see any whales, "but I saw my breakfast six times. I made a deal with the Lord, if you'll let me get back to land, I'll never get on a boat again."
At a baseball game, a foul ball hit a roofing screw and it fell on her head. "So when people say, 'You're missing a screw,' I say, 'No I'm not. It's in my jewelry box.' "
She writes a lot about male/female relations. She calls her husband Oscar the Grouch. He calls her Prissy Pollyana.
She spent her entire life in Jacksonville, N.C., water skiing, crabbing, working in one of her father's three shoe stores starting when she was 14. Dental hygiene wasn't meant for her. She ended up in sales for a phone company. She and her husband moved to Pawleys Island in 1986 and she was laid off in 1991.
"I'm a North Carolinian at heart. I say I'm a 'Snorth Carolinian' now."
The layoff started her new career.
"In '91, I started a home-based medical transcribing business." She started writing then, devoting about two-thirds of her time to the business and a third to writing. "When I was a little girl, I wrote my mom cards and poems and I did a little writing in high school."
In the late '90s, she approached the Georgetown Times with some humorous essays. The editor immediately said, "Yes, write one every week."
She self-published her first book, "What Was It I Was Saying?" in 1998, a year's worth of of her columns.
"Oh, what a story!" she says. "I had to help (the publisher) put the book together," physically. But she sold more than 2,000 books from her car to tourists, book stores and gift shops and gave talks to libraries and clubs.
"I like to do a lot of things. I like to stay active in the community," she says, adding she has a passionate curiosity, and gets bored easily. She says she's enthusiastic, but that's obvious from the moment she opens her mouth.
"I love it, I absolutely love writing." She's even written a three-act, one-woman play based on her writings.
"I would have studied drama if I had it to do all over. I do community theater a lot."
People have been very positive with her. The running joke, as it is with most columnists, is, "Watch out, your name might be in the newspaper."
Once people saw her in print, she started getting requests for speeches.
She loves libraries. "I love the people who work in them," she says, and she always loves coming to speak to groups at libraries.
She describes her other speaking engagements as humorous, entertaining, inspirational. "My big thing is never give up. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself."
There's so much sadness and hardship in life, she says. "A hard belly laugh is so healing.
"I've always loved mingling with people. ... I love to see how people turn negatives into positives."
Her latest book
She's written two complete novels, which have not been published. She talked to a Hollywood producer about a screenplay of one, but it never materialized.
She also does restaurant reviews and writes for Pee Dee magazine, Strand magazine and Sasee, a women's magazine for the Grand Strand. She's written a history of the Intercoastal Waterway.
Her second book of columns was published by Carolina Avenue Press. "They can get in big book stores. I market in small book stores and gift shops." She's got the third and fourth collections all ready to go, too.
"I'm querying people about a Southern primer for women, humor for Southern women. ... There's a real mystique about their charm and humor."
Her favorite writer is Clyde Edgerton, especially "Walking Across Egypt," which reminds her of her mother-in-law. Her favorite of all times is Anne Tyler. She likes Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird."
"I Love Marian Keyes. She has the funniest book, "Under the Duvet — Shoes, Reviews, Having the Blues, Builders, Babies, Families and Other Calamities."
She reads Dorothea Benton Frank, a popular Low Country writer whom she calls a "dear, dear lady."
She realizes life is one third luck, one third who you know and one third talent, but she loves the flexibility of what she does. She wants to travel more, maybe write about that. Maybe write a humorous food column.
She and her husband have been on three cruises, and several people have suggested she might make a good cruise comedienne. She'd like to read her pieces on NPR.
Until all that happens, she has a pretty good gig doing something she's always wanted to — and getting the best pay: laughter and appreciation.