The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner


Subject to change


Erma 101
Gina Barreca

Who is Erma Bombeck, and why has her writing endured the test of time? Best-selling author, syndicated columnist and feminist scholar Gina Barreca will provide a context for Erma Bombeck’s success and help EBWW newbies understand more about why being funny is essential — even when you’re addressing complex issues. Gina will show you how to bring your own humorous voice to life in personal essays. She’ll not only discuss how she works, but she’ll also dish about how other writers (including Erma) face the blank screen and page. To know whether you’ll be the next Erma, you need to know why she continues to inspire millions of devoted readers even today. Thanks to a grant from Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Erma 101 is open to attendees and the general public.
Offered Friday at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Mayhem in the Morning: Laughing With Erma
Patricia Wynn Brown and Ed Miller

For more than a decade, Americans started their day laughing with Erma Bombeck at life’s absurdities. As one of the original members of the “Good Morning America” cast, Erma entertained viewers from 1975-86 with three-minute humorous bits — from discussing picky eaters to trying her hand at the slippery sport of curling. EBWW emcee Patricia Wynn Brown chats with GMA producer Ed Miller and Erma’s children, Matt, Betsy and Andy, about life behind the scenes as we watch a selection of clips and appreciate how her witty writing has stood the test of time.
Offered Saturday at 2 p.m.

Let’s Talk about Success: Best-Selling Secrets, Novel Ideas and Hit-Making Humor, featuring Amy Ephron, Cathryn Michon, Cindy Ratzlaff and Alan Zweibel (one time only)
Nancy Berk

Imagine having coffee with four or five friends who happen to be acclaimed authors who want to help you write your own success story. Bring your “to go” coffee mug to this panel and soak up advice from the experts. From writing inspiration and productivity tips to promotional strategy and insights they never saw coming, you’ll benefit from the wisdom, history and candor of these unique writers.
Offered Friday at 2 p.m.

Behind the Curtain: Maximizing Your Comedy Power, featuring Judy Carter, Wendy Liebman, Kathy Kinney and Leighann Lord (one time only)
Nancy Berk

Whether you’re looking for the formula to kick-start your comedy writing or push you toward stand-up success, this panel of comedy experts will help guide you toward your next creative move. We’ll dig a little deeper with our EBWW comedy genius team to uncover strategies and secrets that have worked in a competitive industry notorious for being fun but fickle.
Offered Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Speed Dating for Writers (advance registration required)

As a special — and what’s bound to be a popular — add-on session, seasoned writers, marketers and agents will answer your questions and share writing and publishing tips. It’s based on a speed dating model that allows writers to learn a variety of perspectives from the pros in a short amount of time.
Offered Friday and Saturday at 7:45 a.m.



Pitchapalooza — American Idol for Books (one time only)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their books. Writers get one minute to make their best pitch. A panel of judges will help these writers, and everyone in the audience, improve their pitches, rather than tell everyone how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much more. Authors and audience come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether you’re pitching yourself, or simply listening to trained professionals critique other writers, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for everyone. From Los Angeles to New York City, and many stops along the way, Pitchapalooza has consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors. At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. Numerous authors have received publishing deals due to Pitchapalooza. Bonus: Anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published will receive a free 20-minute consultation, a $100 value.
Offered Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Ask the Agents, featuring Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank and Rachelle Gardner
Brian Klems

Moderated by Brian Klems, online editor of Writer’s Digest, this Q&A with a panel of agents provides you with an opportunity to find out what agents look for in sample chapters, what makes them stop reading, what they can do for self-published authors, what they want to hear during a live pitch, and much more. You’ll get the chance to ask the agents about any topic, from platform and marketing to self-publishing and series writing. Whether you’re writing for children or adults, fiction or nonfiction, these agents can answer your questions.
Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

You CAN’T Write a Book!
David Braughler

You don’t have the time. What would you write about? Who would even want to read what you’ve written? How many writers have talked themselves right out of publishing a book? (And whose name did you just mutter under your breath?) David Braughler works with authors to help them turn their stories into published books. Under direct coercion of many of his authors, he is currently co-authoring a tongue-in-cheek book, You CAN’T Write a Book, that addresses many of the rationalizations he’s heard over the years from reluctant authors. In this publishing boot camp, he will address some of the bigger culprits — along with ways to move past them — so that you can self-publish your book. You’ll leave feeling a little less guilty about not writing, along with a clear plan on the steps you need to take to successfully self-publish, price and market your book.
Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The Journey to Publication
Nick Courage

Everyone agrees: It’s hard to get a book deal — and that’s just the half of it. Nick Courage, an author with more than a decade of publishing industry experience, will tell you what to expect both before and after publication so that you can make the most out of your publishing journey, from querying agents, to finding a publisher, to your first book signing. This session will include tips, tools and resources for the not-yet-published author, with ample time for Q&A.
Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Turn Your Blog into a Book (one time only)
Elaine Ambrose

This session focuses on the nuts and bolts of creating a self-published book from your best blogs. You will learn how to compile and format chapters, hire professional designers to create the cover and layout, hire editors to read your manuscript, obtain reviews for the cover, purchase an ISBN number and bar code, and submit to print sources such as CreateSpace to produce a paperback and e-book for mass distribution. Targeted to experienced writers who have written at least 100 blogs or 10,000 words of a manuscript.
Offered Friday at 10:30 a.m.

How to Get Published Successfully (one time only)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

It is the greatest time in history to be a writer.  The barriers have been torn down, and now anyone can get published.  But to get published successfully is a whole other matter. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry take you through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will remove the smoke and mirrors from the murky world of publishing and give writers a compass and map to a successfully published book. Topics include:

• Choosing the right idea
• Creating a blockbuster title
• Crafting an attention-getting pitch
• Putting together a proposal/manuscript
• Finding the right agent/publisher
• Self-publishing effectively with e-books, print-on-demand or traditional printing
• Developing sales, marketing and publicity savvy
• Producing a video book trailer and helping it go viral
• Building a following through social media
Offered Saturday at 10:30 a.m.


Is There a Secret to Writing Funny?
Alan Zweibel

Erma Bombeck wrote, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” Great humor writers — from Mark Twain to Tina Fey — have been adept at straddling those thin lines. Learn how to write funnier from one of the funniest writers in the country. Tapping into his wealth of experience as an award-winning television writer, screenwriter, playwright and novelist, Alan Zweibel will offer his secrets for writing humorous essays, sketches, stand-up routines, blogs and novels.
Offered Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Message of You: The Power and Humor of Your Story
Judy Carter

A seemingly ordinary day is filled with hidden stories that contain laughs, drama and a powerful message — all waiting to be uncovered and turned into comedy gold. In a fun, creative and interactive workshop, best-selling author and comedian Judy Carter will give you writing prompts that will show you how the stories from an ordinary day can turn into a TED talk, an essay or your memoir.
Offered Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Crafting Compelling Personal Essays, Blogs and Humor Pieces
Adair Lara

Writing coach, columnist, essayist and author of Naked, Drunk and Writing, Adair Lara will teach you how to write very funny short pieces using setup, angle and voice. A humor columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for 16 years, she will show writers how to use ordinary details and events to create extraordinary insights. Workshop includes great handouts (including a list of essay markets) and some fun (and useful!) writing exercises. Hundreds of Adair’s students have gone on to successful writing careers (including her son, who writes humor pieces for the New Yorker).
Offered Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Welcome to the Writers’ Room
Joel Madison

Writing scripted comedy is a dynamic, collaborative process. Re-writing scripted comedy is what a writers’ room is all about. This session will mirror the tasks and atmosphere of a professional rewrite room as you and your fellow attendees dig into a real sitcom script under the direction of industry veteran Joel Madison (“Roseanne,” “Fresh Prince,” “Undeclared”). You will have the opportunity to review and study pages of a real script in the weeks before the workshop and gather your thoughts on how to improve a few pages from your own comedy perspective.  Then, in a group setting, pitch your new jokes, scenes and even entire story lines to Joel and your fellow attendees as everyone collaborates to hammer out a better, funnier version of the script.  As Joel moderates this fun and lively session, he will also share his own hilarious anecdotes from the TV and movie trenches, giving you a true insider’s view of the scripted writing experience.  Whether you want to jump in and pitch your own jokes or you simply want to see what a real comedy writers’ room is all about, this session will give you a perspective that you can’t get anywhere outside of Hollywood. For the script and instructions, click sit-com script.
Offered Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Novel-Writing for the Faint of Heart
Anna Lefler

Do you have an idea for a comic novel that you’ve been lovingly stroking for ages but can’t seem to sit down and begin? Does the thought of writing anything longer than a blog post make you want to lie down — and not in the sexy way? Do you have a passion to tell a long-form story but you’re not sure what that process would look like in your busy life? Great! Bring ALL of that (and your idea, if you happen to have one) to this session, where we’ll be digging into the processes and practices of getting you started on your novel-writing journey. From silencing insecurities to combating procrastination to carving out time to write, this session will provide you with a “tool kit” of techniques, resources, and — yes — downright tricks that you can rely on for the long haul. Along the way, we’ll wrangle with a real-world exercise that will focus your energy and leave you fired up to get started … writing your novel.
Offered Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

How to Uncover Your Own Voice and Get It Down on Paper (one time only)
Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

Using a series of improvisational writing techniques and a simple kitchen timer, this hands-on workshop will help you get past your self-criticism, reveal your unique voice and help you incorporate that voice into your writing. You’ll learn how to use your voice to paint a clear picture for readers, helping them experience who you are, where you are, who you are to the others in your scene and what makes this day so important in the story. Come prepared to write without self-editing and to give your imagination a good workout.
Offered Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Introduction to Memoir: Write What You Know (one time only)
Susan Pohlman

Everyone has a natural writer within, and everyone has something meaningful to say. Our lives hold many tales, but how do we bring our personal and family stories to life on the page in a compelling manner? This interactive workshop, tailored for less experienced writers, will explore the art and craft of memoir writing and include writing exercises to help you narrow your focus, be authentic — and take readers on an emotional journey of the heart.
Offered Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Skipping the Parts People Skip: Strengthening Description
Katrina Kittle

Best-selling author Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.” Nothing makes a reader skim more than long, flat passages of description that stop a story’s momentum. No matter what kind of writing you do (fiction, memoir, poetry, essay), this class is chock-full of tips, tricks and exercises designed to make your descriptions come to life. We’ll give tired old clichés a makeover, bolster our figurative language and embrace concrete, sensory details. Everyone is always telling writers, “Show, don’t tell,” but this workshop will show you to actually do that effectively and creatively. We’ll look at lots of published samples of description that is doing double- and triple-duty in a story, and you’ll write some of your own as well.
Offered Friday at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Art of the Anecdote: Crafting Small Stories
Shannon Olson

The anecdote has been the focus and the building block of work by writers as different in style and voice as Erma Bombeck, Garrison Keillor, David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Russell Baker and Jo Ann Beard. Though small in scale, the anecdote packs a punch on the page. Told well, these little stories — often amusing, sometimes profoundly moving — draw readers in by offering an illustration of shared experience, by opening a window on a moment. In this workshop, novelist Shannon Olson will show participants how to make their own small personal stories come to life. This interactive session includes brief writing exercises.
Offered Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

Write Funny, Now! (one time only)
Elaine Ambrose

Experience the serious work of humor writing. In this interactive session geared toward beginning writers, participants will learn how to use various types of humor to deliver humorous lines and grab readers. Participants will read a sampling of Erma Bombeck’s columns, discuss why certain lines are hilarious, share their own on-the-spot work and interact with others to improve their writing.
Offered Friday at 2 p.m.

Finding Your Writer’s Voice
Sharon Short

Tailored to more advanced writers, this interactive session will help writers develop a deeper understanding of what makes a compelling writer’s voice — and how to bring yours to life on the page. In this session, writers will learn to demystify the concept of “voice,” using examples from literature, film, music and even one’s own speaking style and voice. Through writing exercises, you’ll learn how to identify, embrace and apply your unique voice to your own writing — whether it’s fiction, memoir or humorous essay.
Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

How to Write a Compelling Story, One Vivid Scene at a Time (one time only)
Susan Pohlman

All of us have treasured scenes from movies or books that have imprinted themselves upon our souls forever. They make us laugh, cry or root for the hero/heroine. Scene is the element of craft that captures the heart of the reader. Designed for all levels of writers, this session will clarify the difference between narrative summary and scene and present the fundamentals of how to create effective scenes. You’ll leave with a user-friendly checklist that will help you strengthen your scenes and take charge of your writing.
Offered Friday at 2 p.m.

Stand-Up Comedy Boot Camp (one time only)
Wendy Liebman

Learn the basics of stand-up comedy and hone the four-minute set you’ll perform Saturday night at the workshop. Nationally known stand-up comic Wendy Liebman will share writing techniques to make your stories funnier — and ways to deliver them to get a laugh. The workshop is open to stand-up performers and anyone who wants to learn the techniques for writing and performing stand-up comedy. Come prepared to laugh and scribble down your own hilarious ideas. A dozen comedians will be selected in advance to perform at stand-up night. Wendy will choose an additional three from the hilarious writers she meets in the workshop.
Offered Friday at 3:30 p.m.


It’s a Brand New Brand YOU World: Why Authors MUST Treat Themselves and Their Books as Brands — Even Before Publication (one time only)
Cindy Ratzlaff

You are the brand and every book you write is a brand extension. Developing a personal author brand will save you time, money and frustration as you move from the writing phase to the marketing phase of your book — and help you attract a large following of passionate readers who are truly interested in your books. Cindy Ratzlaff will share the exact tips, tools and strategies she has used to help best-selling authors create their own personal brands, promote their books through a set of massive, branded social platforms and drive sales — all without compromising their privacy or engaging in hard-core selling. You’ll come away from this workshop with a step-by-step guide to developing your own personal author brand and a checklist of action items you can take immediately to build your own brand and position your social influence for rapid growth.
Offered Saturday at 9 a.m.

From Misfit with Blog to Author with Deal
Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson (aka “the Bloggess”) is an Internet rock star, with millions of readers — women and men — clicking on her every irreverent, hilarious thought. Her blog is consistently rated as one of the top blogs in the country. How do you create a social media persona, draw the attention of readers and build a community? Discover how to improve your blog, promote your writing — and maybe even land a book deal.
Offered Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Real Hollywood Dream Is in Your Purse:  How to Use a Smartphone to Create an Empire
Cathryn Michon

Though some mistakenly think dreaming of being a creative artist in Hollywood is a long shot, and you need to live in L.A. or New York to realistically pursue mass media, nothing could be further from the truth. The rise of social media has leveled the playing field like never before in history — and anyone can turn their creativity into a media empire. Just ask Psy, who with one deliciously crazy music video (Gagnam Style), turned himself into the world’s most-watched pop star ever! Discover how to use your smartphone, Twitter feed, Facebook fan base, Tumblr blog and other new media to market yourself and promote your writing — whether it’s your blog or book — to build an audience, develop leads, attract mainstream media attention and perhaps even land a contract, or better yet, to monetize and distribute your content without old media middlemen. The most powerful writer in Hollywood, E.L. James, started as a self-published fiction author. The power is in your purse (or backpack!). Learn social media tips from author/screenwriter/director/actress/entrepreneur Cathryn Michon, who created a “movie-ment” with her small, independent film, Muffin Top: A Love Story, now available on Netflix and multiple other platforms.
Offered Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

This Ain’t Your Mother’s Résumé: Turning a Simple Blog into a Great Website
Tracy Beckerman

There was a time when you would have to mail a cover letter, your résumé and writing samples to an editor in order to get a writing job. Not anymore. These days your website is your résumé, and email is your cover letter. Writing samples? They’re hyperlinks to your work online. If you’re not optimizing your website to make it your most effective selling tool, you’re missing a huge opportunity to market yourself and get work. However, creating a great website can be incredibly intimidating. In this session, you’ll learn to how to turn a simple blog into a compelling website that catches an editor’s eye and increases readership.
Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Reflections of Erma