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My happy place

Life gets in the way of my writing way too often, so I am late to this Erma experience party.

Yvonne RanselAfter leaving three hours late from Dayton because of high winds and snow in April and missing my flight in Atlanta, I spent a sleepless night at a Residence Inn with a police car parked outside, when I should have been revelling in Erma memories. So, after the two-day drive back home from Florida and then a trip to Ohio for an important event — here I finally am at my kitchen table with forsythia and tulip blooms outside my window. And remembering my happy place at Erma.

It was my second “official” Erma, so I wasn’t a virgin. Terry Sykes-Bradshaw and her daughter, both alumni of many Ermas, were on the same flight from Atlanta and we shared my first Uber ride in a tiny red sedan with an Erma newbie, Kathy Shiels Tully.  When we entered the Marriott lobby and saw the smiling faces and heard the chatter, I grinned at her and said, “See, I told you!” It wasn’t until the last night in the hotel bar did she reveal that she wrote for the Boston Globe, with way more experience than most of us, proving that Erma’s content reaches wide.

So many faces in the lobby smiled at me and Gianetta Palmer, the unofficial official greeter, gave me a big hug. Bless her. Oddly, my room was on the lobby floor in a distant wing, so I never rode the elevator with fellow writers or other famous people. A silly disappointment, but one that I noted. The first cocktail party was a joy, reaching out to familiar Facebook faces and hunting down my publisher, Elaine Ambrose, to thank her in person.

After that, it was all a blur, albeit a happy one. I propped myself up in bed that night, with my final glass of pinot noir, to finally narrow down my session choices. It wasn’t easy, but I knew from 2014 that I wanted to hear Tracy Beckerman, with her quit wit and succinct advice about blogging, and she did not disappoint. And there was no way I was going to miss Elaine Ambrose’s session on turning my blog into a book — one, because I have every intention of doing just that with my dozens of essays and two, because she is responsible for my being published in her Feisty After 45, a wonderful anthology by women writers (if I may say so myself.)

After taking myriad notes, I took a break and was entertained by a panel of funny people, including Alan Zweibel and am grateful that I purchased the audio cd. I listened to and laughed at his session this morning in the car and want to replay it for my husband. Friday night’s dinner was so enhanced by the poignant solo performance of Barbara Chisholm as Erma. Tears and laughter and joy were felt throughout the ballroom

I saved Gina Barreca for Saturday morning because I wanted to be fresh and funny when she signed my book. She was delightfully hilarious, as usual, and pranced across the stage in her Italian New Jersey way, waving her arms and expounding on feminism and our incessant need to apologize for everything. I took that to heart when I got back to Florida and did not apologize to my son for the rainy day, as if it were in my control anyway.

Elaine and Gina have emerged as tribal leaders among many in this group of attendees and my confidence has grown because of them, even spilling over to other parts of my creative life. Earlier this month a friend and I were staring in awe at a stunning pink and orange sunset over the water. She said, “You could paint that,” and I started to say, “Oh, no,” but then replied, “Yes, I could,” and smiled.

There was no better way to send me off on Saturday afternoon, than to take in Judy Carter’s “Message of You” workshop. I unknowingly sat down at the same table with Lisa Marlin who shares a crooked smile with me — mine from surgery years ago, hers from Bells Palsy. Neither of us bemoaned our fate much, though she sadly had to give up a television news career. We both cheered and teared up at the emotions Judy evoked in her insightful demonstrations and knew we would be better for it.

Fate or serendipity or whatever you would like to call it also sat me at two different lunch tables with attendees who could very well help me along this year with my family memoir/cookbook — Debbie Moose, who has written cookbooks and Barb Cooley, who will help me “preserve my family memories” as her business card reads. I am confident I can publish this before Erma 2018, because  Erma has my back.

— Yvonne Ransel

Yvonne Ransel is a writer of essays — some humorous, some poignant — who is inspired by life’s crazy, everyday events. She was a librarian, then a bar owner, now a librarian again. She survived the ’60s and the millenium and the years in between as mother, wife and now grandmother of six. Her goals for writing and publishing between now and 2018 are quite lofty, but “Erma’s got my back.”

Reflections of Erma