I thought I'd take a tip from Toastmasters International ("Where Leaders are Made") and open this (virtual) speech with a funny joke about writing. <ahem>
A writer dies and arrives at the Pearly Gates where she is greeted by St. Peter. Having reviewed her life, the saint confirms that the author will, in fact, be spending eternity in heaven and invites her to come inside.
"Before I do," the writer says. "I'm wondering if I could see where the writers who don't make it into heaven go."
The saint's brow furrows.
"Yes," she says. "I'd like to see what writers' hell is like."
It's an unusual request, but St. Peter has seen a few writers in his day and he knows that they're a curious bunch.
"All right," he says. "You may go."
In a flash, the writer is transported to the depths of Hell where she's ushered into a cavernous room reserved for writers.
She looks around, horrified by what she finds: row upon row of tiny desks, each with a hard, stiff-backed chair and a manual typewriter over which is hunched a writer, chained to the desk and typing away with gnarled, arthritic fingers. Flames shoot up from the floor, burning the soles of the writers' feet and sweat pours down their faces and into their eyes while imps lash them with whips.
"I've seen enough!" the writer cries, and is instantly transported back to the heavenly gates where St. Peter himself accompanies her to the place in heaven reserved for writers.
As the door opens, however, the writer gasps. The room is filled with row upon row of writers chained in stiff-backed chairs, typing on manual typewriters while flames burn their feet, sweat pours into their eyes, and imps lash them with whips. The writer, horrified, turns and stares at St. Peter.
"But this is exactly like writer's hell!" she wails.
"Yes," the saint says, and smiles. "But in here, you get published."