Friday, April 9, 2010

An Interview with Humorist Wanda Argersinger

Executive Director for The Lupus Support Network

I first met Wanda Argersinger at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton OH, and we had lunch with a group of other humor writers. We didn’t get a chance to spend more than just a few minutes talking, as the place was chaotic, but she did tell me about a book she was writing about people with chronic illnesses; so, we networked and exchanged business cards. Wanda is a writer, humorist, motivational speaker, and founder of L-Bow (Little Bit of Wanda http://l-bowonline) - she also has lupus. I wanted to follow-up and find out what exciting things she has been doing.

Wanda has been on a number of Florida radio talk shows with several call-in shows, and guests on many television programs.

On the exciting news front, clinical trial announcements for Benlysta, a treatment for lupus, can be found at:
http://bit.ly/1fTYR9
Glaxo Smith Kline and Humane Genone Sciences are working on these trials together. The lupus research institute (LRI) has also been instrumental:
http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org/node/593

As Executive Director for The Lupus Support Network, Wanda is an advocate for all lupus patients, working diligently as a member of the Statewide Coalition for the State of Florida Department of Health Arthritis Prevention and Education Program. She facilitates support groups in the Florida Panhandle and Southern Alabama and trains new facilitators to educate and counsel patients, plans and researches topics to be discussed at meetings.

As a published author, Wanda wrote the book currently being used in The Lupus Support Network SLESH (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Self Help) classes, written and published a number of pamphlets on various aspects of lupus currently being used for informational purposes at The Lupus Support Network, and My Personal Health Journal, a book sold for a patient’s use in recording and maintaining vital health information. This book is sold nationwide and all profits go to The Lupus Support Network.

Most recently, Wanda has written Y-Mee’s A-B-C Book of Emotions and created a doll that accompanies the book, which can be purchased from http://l-bowonline.com, or www.Lulu.com. She has also been featured in MD News Magazine, Lupus Now Magazine, Ladies in Business, the Pensacola News Journal, and the Tallahassee Democrat.

Wanda is constantly working and actively involved in the Lupus Research Institutes National Coalition (advocating for lupus patients, research funding, and legislative change), as an Associate Member of the American Academy of Rheumatology, a Member of The American Chronic Pain Association, and a Member of the National Fibromyalgia Association, a Member of the National Society of Newspaper columnists, and a member of the National Association of Professional Women.

Wanda has been published in The Legend, a monthly column entitled “The Write Site,” (spotlighting websites that are of interest to writers), Poetic Voices, June 1999, Emerald Coast Review, a short story and poem, and the Gulf Breeze News, as a guest columnist.

When I decided to interview Wanda, I contacted her publicist, Camryn M. Oliver Lemmon, APR, CPRC, of Oliver Consulting Group. Wanda later got back to me and graciously accepted this interview.

Her publicist describes her as “an amazing woman, with Lupus SLE herself, Wanda is the Energizer Bunny come to life, with no need of any batteries! She will keep on giving until she falls over from the weight of her purse while wearing a great hot pink lipstick!”

Another thing Wanda and I have in common besides humor writing is learning Egyptian Arabic. It was not too long ago that I worked with a girl from Alexandria, who was teaching me the basics of her language. I had my mind set on going to Cairo on a vacation. It turns out that since our last meeting, Wanda has learned it too. What a nice coincidence! Now we will have something else interesting to talk about at the 2010 Workshop.

My interview with Wanda:

Q1

Rosie: Wanda, what made you change your career path from network engineer to humor writer?

Wanda: I’ve known since the second grade I was destined to be a humor writer. At that time I wrote a story with my spelling words about mice that lived in the walls and had parties where they got drunk. Counseling was suggested, but I just wrote instead. I had to leave my job as an engineer in 2002 after nearly losing my life to lupus. I was always doing strange and stupid things. When I would share the stories of my mishaps with people they laughed. I decided it was better to have them laugh with me than at me. So I started writing about all of the adventures of a mother, patient, employee, sister, daughter and wife. No subject was safe. Neither were any of my friends.

Q2

Rosie: What is your personal objective for writing your blog http://www.wandaargersinger.com?

Wanda: I want to show everyone that life is not all bad. So many things are funny. With all the bad news on the television, radio and in the papers and magazines, I want people to see life through different eyes and maybe laugh a bit.

Q3

Rosie: How did you land the job as Executive Director for The Lupus Support Network?

Wanda: I have been connected with the organization since I was diagnosed with lupus in 1992. In 2001, I was asked to be the treasurer. That year the organization lost its Executive Director and one member staff. When I left my job in 2002, I resigned from the Board of Directors and applied for the Executive Director Position and got the job. It’s my passion to educate and help all lupus patients; to give them accurate information and let them know they are not alone.

Q4

Rosie: Did you write your books and develop your humor blog after becoming Executive Director?

Wanda: I wrote one novel before becoming Executive Director. I had been writing humorous stories for years and had been sharing them with anyone who was interested, or anyone I could coerce into reading them. When the internet advanced enough I created the blog, it just happened to be after I became Executive Director.

Q5

Rosie: What are your job responsibilities as director?

Wanda: Anything and everything. I am charged with overseeing the support groups, the literature we have for patients, the website, the news letter, and all of other publications; whether written in-house or purchased from another organization. I qualify patients for financial assistance. I secure agreements with medical facilities and physicians to work with us in treating our patients. I am in charge of fundraising projects. I am in charge of the financial information and work with the Treasurer and Board of Directors on our investments. I search for grants, and write the proposals in applying for the grants. I do public speaking to educate others about lupus. I facilitate support groups, deciding when and where there is a need. But I have the most wonderful assistant in the world, who helps me with all of this. She keeps me organized, on track and where I am supposed to be each day. If I’ve forgotten anything, I’m in charge of that too.

Q6

Rosie: What was the most satisfying thing that happened to you as a facilitator for patient meetings?

Wanda: I’ve taught what we call a S.L.E.S.H Course. (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Self Help). When you see the patients begin to understand their disease and know that they are not alone, it touches your heart. You know that you have made a difference in a patient’s life. Nothing else feels so good. I’ve had patients in tears, hug my neck just to say thank you for being here. How can you not be touched by someone’s tears?

Q7

Rosie: Is a cure for lupus being discussed by the medical profession?

Wanda: A cure is a long way off. The cause is not yet understood and there has been no new medication approved for use for the treatment of lupus in over 50 years. There is hope though. A new drug, Benlysta, has successfully passed some of the clinical trials with proven success. The final clinical trial results were announced on November 2nd. The drug could hit the market in 2011.

Q8

Rosie: Is there a website that you recommend to patients for information about treatment for the disease?

Wanda: There are many. www.lupus.org is the main site with the most accurate information.

Q9

Rosie: How many books have you written so far?

Wanda: I’ve written 4 books. One is a novel, ready for publication. One is a medical journal that I wrote to help chronically ill patients keep up with all the medical information they have to track. I donated all rights to this book to The Lupus Support Network. I have Y-Mees ABC Book of Emotions that was released earlier this year. I also have a book of my blogs, and true short stories called Shhhhh I’m Trying to Eavesdrop that will be coming out early next year.

Q10

Rosie: How did you come up with the idea for the Y-Mee Doll?

Wanda: I was sitting at a support group waiting for the attendees to arrive. I am always thinking and writing and doodling. I began to think of all the patients who ask “Why Me?” a statement that always ends with a question mark. I was doodling with a question mark, turning it up and down, trying to find a head and a way to add arms to it. The poem just came to me. Together the doll was born in a crude fashion. I took the idea to my daughter-in-law who made a sample for me. We worked on the doll until I was happy with it, and Y-Mee was born.

Q11

Rosie: Have you received an especially touching testimonial that shows how your products have helped someone?

Wanda: Two actually. I was chosen as an “Angel In Our Midst” by the local TV station after the doll was released. It was quite an honor to be included with all the other Angels. The other testimonial came from another lupus patient who lives in Boise, Idaho. She wrote - “Wanda Argersinger’s Y-Mee’s A B C Book of Emotions is a wonderfully written book that comes from the heart. As a Lupus sufferer herself, she has been able to use the humor and the alphabet to describe different emotions that not only lightens the spirit, but will put a smile on your face and laughter in your heart even through difficult pain and distress. I recommend this book for anyone who is battling a chronic disease or depression, or who needs a laugh to just break the stress of everyday life. Wanda has helped so many people through her commitment to support those in need, and if you read her book, she has just helped one more. I extend a grateful hand to Wanda for all of her efforts and for expressing herself through humor to do good for everyone who needs a lift in life. God created a miracle, and her name is Wanda Argersinger."

Q12

Rosie: Who is the most interesting person that you have met on your book signing tours, or as a motivational speaker?

Wanda: I had the opportunity to meet the first Surgeon General of the State of Florida - Ana M. Viamonte Ros, M.D., M.P.H - last year when I was speaking at a woman’s conference in Florida. I was also asked to speak at the International Lupus Conference a few years ago in New York City I met Mary McDonough in New York. She played Erin in the television show The Waltons and is now an advocate for lupus, as she is a lupus patient. I met so many people from all over the world, too many to name.

Q13

Rosie: Have you given motivational speeches for organizations not related to Lupus?

Wanda: Yes. I was asked to be the final speaker in 2008 at Camp MASH in Mobile, AL. They asked me because of my humorous approach to a chronic illness. I’ve also spoken at a number of women’s conferences.

Q14

Rosie: How would someone contact you to schedule a speaking engagement?

Wanda: Via e-mail at wanda@wandaargersinger.com, and through my website are the best ways.

Q15

Rosie: Are you writing another book?

Wanda: I am currently working on a book tentatively titled How The Chest Was Won - Breasts, Bras and Mammary Mishaps. I seem to have some bizarre bad bra/breast karma going on. I might as well profit from it. I am also working on one with stories of humorous things that have happened to lupus patients. I don’t have the title for it yet, but one story is titled, “I Can’t Eat, I Can’t Have Sex, And He Just Ate The Last Piece of Chocolate.”

Q16

Rosie: Tell us something about your personal hobbies?

Wanda: I love potted plants and have a green house that allows them to propagate by themselves each winter when they are put in there for protection. I don’t see what goes on in there and not sure I want to know. But each spring we bring out more than we put in. I love bonsai trees, have all the tools required to tend to them but seem to kill all that come to reside under my care. I love swimming, at night, in the pool, can I say in the nude? I consume books, especially humor books. I gave up my addictions or hobbies of collecting Hall Teapots, and unused exercise equipment for lack of funds to support those hobbies. I currently have about 50 teapots, but always need one more.

Q17

Rosie: How many blogs/columns do you write and what are the URLs?

Wanda: I currently write three. My personal humor blog can be found at www.wandaargersinger.com/blog. I write one for The Lupus Support Network, found at www.thelupussupportnetwork.org/blog. The third one is written weekly for Everyday Health and can be found at www.everydayhealth.com/blogs/defined-by-lupus.

Shukran (Thank you), Wanda!

4 comments:

JanetElaineSmith said...

I have had the pleasure of "meeting" Wanda through Jay's Writers World e-group. I love her wonderful sense of humor, and what a great interview to let me peek into what makes her tick. Thanks for sharing her story. Onward and forward, Wanda!
Janet Elaine Smith, author/marketer/whatever

~m said...

I second Janet's emotion. Rosie's interview with our resident Funny Woman was excellent -- and I discovered a great new chuckle resource! ~Molly Swoboda, Short Writer.

Joyce Anthony said...

What a wonderful interview!!! Wanda, I'm glad to get a deeper glimpse into who you are.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Great interview, Rosie, about a wonderful Wanda! How fun to see two of my favorite humorists, together again. Luv you Ermies bunches!!