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Novelist Bonnie Jo Campbell to serve as finalist judge in Bombeck Writing Contest

Award-winning novelist and short story writer Bonnie Jo Campbell will serve as the finalist judge in the human interest writing category in the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the bestselling author of Mothers, Tell Your DaughtersOnce Upon a River and American Salvage, among other works. Author Tom Bouman, writing in 2009 for the national British newspaper The Guardian, places American Salvage on the Top Ten List of Rural Noir novels alongside Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Complete Stories (1946-1952) of Flannery O’Connor. Campbell was a National Book Award finalist, NBCC Award finalist and a Guggenheim Fellow, and the Boston Globe  called her a “master of post-industrial landscapes.”  She rides a variety of bicycles and a donkey in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“Her characters are flawed, quirky and hardscrabble. Her storylines are original, inventive, unpredictable, sometimes bleak and sometimes hopeful. The writing style is absolutely beautiful, and Bonnie can pack an entire story into one page — a requirement of our contest,” said Debe Dockins, coordinator of the competition at the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

“Erma had that capacity for evoking great emotion within the confines of a small space and Bonnie’s short stories pack a wallop. The fact that she is both an Erma Bombeck fan AND a teacher of creative writing bodes well for anyone whose essay makes it to the final round,” she said.

Campbell, an adventurous soul who has hitchhiked across the U.S. and Canada, scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle and traveled with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus selling snow cones, joins humorist Dave Barry as a finalist judge. Barry will select winners in the humorous essay category.

The writing competition, held every two years in conjunction with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, pays tribute to hometown writer Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of the 20th century. The next contest opens Dec. 4, with previously unpublished 450-word entries in humor and human interest categories accepted until Jan. 3.

Four winners will receive $500 and a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, slated for April 5-7, 2018.

In 2016, 563 writers from around the world entered essays — roughly 253,350 words. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, and Daryn Kagan, syndicated columnist and former CNN anchor, served as the finalist judges for the humor and human interest categories, respectively. The nearly 50 preliminary judges included nationally known authors, columnists, screenwriters, stand-up comedians and a longtime writer for David Letterman.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communications.

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