(This piece originally ran on Chick Lit Central: The Blog! Reposted by permission.)
A weekend away. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance, right? Mix in a three-hour drive consisting of nonstop chatterbox banter with my friend, author Angie Klink; I’m sold. Our destination was the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.
Angie was embarking on her fourth trip to the prestigious workshop; I was the token virgin. Two full days of workshops, guest speakers, networking and free wine at dinner sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?
When you put 350 people, funny people that is, all together in a room, you must be on your toes and ready to deliver one-liners at any time. When you put 350 funny people in a room, who love and revere the body of work Erma Bombeck produced over her prolific career, you find something quite different. You get funny with a side of sensitivity. Tears married with knee slapping. Supportive comrades that love idea swapping while waiting their turn for a bathroom stall. “High fives” for those with red stickers representing food allergy purgatory (If you would have seen the delicious chocolate cake staring at this celiac from her table at dinner, you would have hugged her — tightly).
This was not just another writing conference. This one was different. I learned more than I could ever adequately share with you in a few paragraphs. Supremely difficult to accomplish, but I boiled it down to three important things.
Laughter is the best medicine.
I truly believe that. When funnyman Alan Zweibel, “Saturday Night Live” comedic writing genius and best friend of Gilda Radner, took the stage, attendees received their daily dose of vitamin giggles. Recommended daily allowances were dispersed throughout the weekend by television writer and author Adriana Trigiani; political columnist Connie Schultz; and “feminist humor maven” and author Gina Barreca. Luckily, there is no such thing as an overdose of laughter. If anything, chronic laughter tightened up my abs a smidgeon. How about that for a bonus! And it didn’t just come from the speakers; the majority of laughs came from talking about life with anyone and everyone I met. Silliness was unavoidable. Chuckling concluded our time together when 20 attendees took the stage to perform stand-up on Saturday night. Man, were they brave! Hilarious and brave!
Meeting new friends is bliss.
When you sit next to a gorgeous, gray-haired beauty, with a nose ring and headscarf all a glitter, you will find a kindred spirit who wants to join you on your quest for tattoos the next time you visit New York. She will also desire to see you attain your bucket list item of being a flower girl, just because she wants to see you cross it off your list. I later realized that this splendid creature was author Ilene Beckerman, who penned and illustrated the book Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Her first publication became an off-Broadway sensation in the hands of sisters Nora and Delia Ephron. The book that Ilene defines as “accidentally published” also made a television cameo appearance. It was a part of a bookstore scene on a little show you might have heard of called “Sex and the City.” Did I tell you that this all happened for Ilene at the age of 60?!? It’s never too late to write; just begin!
Guess what? I learned that I can make blog videos on my iPhone (don’t ask me to show you any, and don’t tell The Bobblehead Dad that downloading iMovies is still on my to-do list)! I renewed my passion for journaling, Keep it simple, keep it honest, keep it daily. I realized that at times I need to remove the clutter from my thoughts and get “in the game” when it comes to my writing (Don’t we all?). Lastly, I am reaching more often for my camera as a way for me to relax; attempting to venture away from autofocus (a scary thought that the brilliant Karen Walrond held my hand through).
You do not have to wait to travel to the University of Dayton in 2014 to find laughter, new friends or inspiration. It surrounds us daily. Be open to the experiences life places right in front of you. However, if you want to stretch yourself as a blogger, complete that novel or need the nudge to begin, or you want to connect with others who love to laugh, then EBWW is the place for you. If you want extra dessert while you’re there, make sure you sit by this particular gluten-free gal on chocolate cake night. My staring at you while you take each glorious bite is a small price to pay in exchange for seconds, right?!?
— Jen Tucker, author of The Day I Wore My Panties Inside-Out, hails from West Lafayette, Ind., where she writes women’s fiction and children’s books. Visit her website and blog. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.