Master humorist Wade Rouse to offer writing workshop in Tulsa
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, April 22, 2012
4/22/12 at 3:43 AM
Wade Rouse's childhood peers were, politely put, a smidgen less than accepting.
He knew he was different from the "rough-and-tough pre-teen cowboy wannabes" he went to school with in the rural Missouri Ozarks - "really rural," Rouse emphasized during a recent phone interview from California.
The divide between those wannabes and his "swishy, fat Husky-wearin' butt" didn't exactly shrink during a middle-school talent show, when he elected to sing "Delta Dawn" - Tanya Tucker's version, not Helen Reddy's.
He was heckled offstage, where his mom was waiting.
"You were being honest with yourself," she assured him, "and no one should ever stand in the way of that."
It's that blend of tragedy and comedy, with heart-warming and tear-wringing reflections on his Ozark roots and uproarious family, that Rouse, an award-winning author, has woven deftly through his memoirs, from his debut, "America's Boy," to his latest work, "It's All Relative."
Rouse will be in Tulsa this week to conduct a writing workshop sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, 1-4 p.m. Thursday.
Following that, he'll give a free talk and sign books 7-8:30 p.m. at Aaronson Auditorium at the Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue.
Rouse is renowned in the literary world for his intense, personalized writing retreats, in which he helps authors-to-be overcome their fears in their writing. Out of his workshops, three or four writers who attended have been picked up by major publishing houses.
"Quite simply, Wade Rouse is one of the best humorists writing today," said Teresa Miller, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers. "No one is funnier or more insightful. Not to mention the fact that he is an incredible speaker."
So it's a coup for the center to host Rouse, as not many best-selling authors are willing to share their talents like this, Miller said.
"Wade is giving us a rare opportunity to learn about writing from a master craftsman," she said.
And addressing those fears alluded to earlier is imperative when mastering that craft, something Rouse became all too familiar with when penning "America's Boy," which was reissued this month in paperback.
With sharp wit and aching honesty that could have you reaching for the Kleenex box on multiple occasions, the memoir chronicles Rouse's childhood: the motorcycle accident that took his older brother's life, and how Rouse went from retreating from who he was to discovering and, eventually, accepting himself.
"My family called me 'different,' " said Rouse, who reiterates frequently how much his parents loved him throughout his writings. "But they had no idea what to do with me, so they just fed me."
Hence those Husky jeans from the Sears store in Joplin, Mo.
But Rouse grew up, went to college, lost weight and fell in love with Gary Edwards, his partner of 16 years. Eventually, he came out to his parents.
Publishing "America's Boy," though, was like coming out all over again - not just to the public but his family, too.
"I was so scared to write that book," he recalled. It started out as a novel but became more of a memoir. Would it be good enough, he wondered - and what would his family think?
First, though, he had to rewrite it, as the best-selling debut his fans fell in love with wasn't the first version he finished.
He let his partner read it.
"I wouldn't even know this was you," Edwards told him. So Rouse started over, overcoming his fears.
He bases his writing on the three H's: humor, heartbreak and honesty, Rouse said.
He'll talk about that at the Tulsa library.
"Why isn't funny considered art?" he said. "Humor is so hard to do, but it's not often considered a high art form."
As a memoirist, he wants to laugh and learn simultaneously, a "roller coaster" he loves.
Rouse can write a 300-page book in about six or eight months, he said, but he'll spend that same amount of time editing the work.
Often, he'll have 100 pages of stuff he won't use, as was the case with "It's All Relative."
His next memoir is all about hair, with a working title now of "This Blows: My Life in Locks." His agent is looking at it now, and it should come out early next year.
"It's my obsession with hair styles," Rouse said, mentioning Madonna, Flock of Seagulls, even Robby Benson, whose feathery hair he tried to emulate as a kid. Of course, it will be juxtaposed with memories of his lovable family, perhaps even those gut-wrenching experiences from school when he stood out among the cowboy wannabes.
"I didn't really get through it for a long, long time," he said, looking back on his childhood. "I had no role models, nobody really to reach out to."
Strange as it is to look back, he said, Rouse is fulfilled and happy now, and he recognizes life as an evolution.
"It should change," he said. "That's a good thing. That's a growing thing."
To register for Rouse's workshop, call Miller at 918-594-8215.
And for more of Rouse's writing, check out his blog, tulsaworld.com/waderouse
‘IT’S ALL RELATIVE’
By Wade Rouse
Crown Publishing, $23.99
Original Print Headline: Mastering humor, heartbreak, honesty
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Critically acclaimed author Wade Rouse will conduct a writing workshop in Tulsa on Thursday. Courtesy