Judy Epstein, trying to work out the coordination and balance of a yoga position the first time she had ever tried the exercise, fell over.
Immediately, she had an idea for her newspaper column that would humorously depict her fall setting forward a human domino effect until the last yogi fell out the window.
“I went to yoga and it was a disaster,” Epstein, a Blank Slate Media columnist, said. “But I got a column out of it.”
Her column, “A Look on the Lighter Side,” is a weekly comedic take on everyday life, stemming from an experience like falling over in yoga class and learning that sitting is as dangerous as smoking.
Last week, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded her third place in the Humor category for publications with a print circulation below 50,000.
“I am really happy to have a forum in the Blank Slate Media papers,” she said. “The right to have your opinion in print has never been more important and it’s an honor that I get to do it every week.”
Epstein, who has written for Blank Slate Media since 2012, won second and third place in the Humor category in the Press Club of Long Island’s Media Awards earlier this month.
She also took home first place in column writing in March at the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.
“It’s heartwarming and really gratifying to win,” she said.
When her column ideas don’t stem from falling over in a yoga class, she said, she either gets them from her daily life or “trying things outside my comfort zone.”
“Once the idea strikes me, I’m lucky because it comes to me in a funny way,” she said. “Sometimes things will tick me off but I look to see what’s funny about it.”
After graduating from Yale with a degree in philosophy — one that she deems “totally useless” — Epstein worked in public television, producing and writing for Bill Moyers’ show and the Robert MacNeil show.
She had grown up reading columnists and various authors, she said, but didn’t discover she was a writer until she wrote for the shows.
“I didn’t think of myself as a writer, but I couldn’t ignore it anymore,” she said. “I took myself hostage in a coffee shop and wouldn’t let myself leave until I wrote an essay, and it was funny.”
Growing up, she said, she read Erma Bombeck columns and Art Buchwald pieces but fell in love with Robert Benchley’s writing.
“He would write about simple things,” she said. “I was a really insecure and worried kid and I read him and didn’t feel alone. It really helped me to know that I was not alone.”
Epstein launched her column in 1997 in the Port Washington Sentinel. She then wrote for the Port Washington News and Boulevard Magazine before landing at Blank Slate Media.