In just a few days I will be happily surrounded by a hoard of smart, funny, wisecracking women (and a few less men) whose mission to the naked eye is to inspire each other. This crew is already preparing the newbies — those who have never stepped foot into such a swarm of knowledge, camaraderie and good old guffaws — by sending a warning that they may wet their pants from hysterics. We are not your normal workshop attendees. We are humor writers swooping in from various parts to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.
For me and for many others, Erma was and will forever remain the Streisand of humor columnists. As a teen who loved to write, I was enamored by her humorous view of life as a woman whose identity was firmly and unabashedly connected to marriage, motherhood and carpools. Back then I had nothing in common with Erma, but even so it was a dream of mine to draw readers by so easily exuding that same style of wit and wisdom.
At EBWW an enthusiastic assortment of talented professionals will graciously and openly share their knowledge. We, as workshop participants, are privy to their most relevant advice and their little tricks as if they’re telling a secret to 350 pairs of ears. They embrace us all — the closet writers, those stretching out their writing limbs to find a home for their work, and the newly published seeking to refine their skills for the next challenge — with tremendous support. And then they make us laugh our butts off.
We each find our way to Erma in various ways. Maybe a friend who previously attended this invaluable conference recommended it. Possibly you follow a particular speaker who will present a session. Or, like me, desperate to connect with like minds, you googled, “I want to be Erma Bombeck.”
At noon on the day of registration, when I would have normally been glued to my computer ready to lunge at the sign-up page, I was on a flight between Budapest and Delhi. Deciding it was too difficult to try and somehow register was not an option. A few weeks prior to the trip I stuck a check in the mail after begging my sister in Kansas to Get Me In That Workshop No Matter What. She hunkered down at her iPad and managed to push through until her mission was accomplished, making up for all those times she tortured me when we were kids (she tells it a bit differently).
How you get there isn’t what matters most. It’s that a part of you feels like you’re coming home. Once you’ve experienced EBWW in all its glory, it’s almost impossible not to start planning for the next one.
I’ve been waiting for two years to get back to my people. Thanks to Erma and the unstoppable, dedicated crew that reverently carries on her message, there’s a place for us.
— Janine Talbot
Janine Talbot has been writing since before her eighth grade teacher accused her of plagiarizing a poem she wrote. She has published locally in guest editorials, and her lyrics received honorable mention in American Songwriter Magazine’s Lyric Contest. At 50-something and experiencing the empty nest (i.e., a spare bedroom with a desk), she is diving into the blogging world, sharing her stresses about her long-distance daughters, a spouse who lives for SpongeBob marathons, a blind golden retriever and a cat she swears screams “Now” at feeding time. She blogs here.