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Humorist-in-Residence program launched

(This piece appeared in Sharon Short’s Literary Life column in the Dayton Daily News on Sept. 10, 2017. Reposted by permission.)

Thanks to a generous gift from comic novelist and writer Anna Lefler, the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is offering a new program, “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck |Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.”

Two emerging humor writers will have the opportunity to dive into their comedy writing at the Marriott at the University of Dayton without the interruption of everyday responsibilities, explains Teri Rizvi, founder and director of the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Writers selected for the inaugural residencies will receive a free registration to the April 5-7, 2018, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop as well as travel, hotel and meal expenses for a two-week experience of a lifetime. The Marriott at the University of Dayton is an in-kind sponsor for the program.

Online applications are due by midnight (EST) Oct. 6, with the winners announced Dec. 4. The program is open to all aspiring humor writers regardless of gender or comedic point of view. The application fee is $25. All entries will be blind-judged by preliminary and finalist judges, all established writers.

“The premise of the program is to give a creative boost to writers who do not yet have the benefit of a milestone achievement such as a traditional book deal, a sold script or the like,” says Teri.

The program is being underwritten by Los Angeles-based author Anna Lefler, author of the humor book, The Chicktionary, and the humorous novel, Preschooled. Anna has taught or presented at the last three Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshops (2012, 2014 and 2016) and will also be at the 2018 workshop.

Anna explains that she worked as a crisis communications consultant before marrying in her 30s and starting a family. Shortly after that, she began pursuing a long-held desire to write. She started by writing a humor blog, connecting with a writer’s group, and learning from feedback, she says. Her first book deal, The Chicktionary, came as a result of her blog.

“I’ve loved Erma Bombeck’s writing since I was in middle school,” Anna says. “I still remember attending my first Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop conference and finding myself seated at the banquet with Mr. Bombeck, his and Erma’s children, and other faculty. I thought, Wow — I grew up in Houston and read about this family sitting up in the tree in my parents’ front yard and laughed my face off at their antics — and now here I am sitting with them in real life! It’s still one of the highlights of my career.”

“I’ve observed how the Bombeck workshop is a magical experience,” Anna says. “I realized how lucky I’ve been to juggle parenting and writing, and know it would be difficult to add a full-time job or other responsibilities to that mix. I also know that when I was able to say ‘I am a writer,’ that changed my life. So I wanted to give back to the workshop and to writers.

“I wanted to provide a way for writers to take a step out of the pressure of their regular lives and live like a full-time writer, without the financial pressure,” Anna adds. “This program is a way to honor Erma and her legacy, to give back and help other writers, and also for a selfish reason — I want more humor out there, humor that doesn’t necessarily hinge on current events or politics, but observational humor, as Erma wrote, that everyone can relate to.”

As part of the residencies, the two winners will write funny essays about their experience living and writing at the Dayton Marriott for the workshop’s blog and meet with University of Dayton classes to discuss the writing journey.

For more information about the writing residency, visit

— Sharon Short

Sharon Short, executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, has written the coming-of-age novel My One Square Inch of Alaska (Penguin Plume); two mystery series; and a collection of humorous essays. She is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council individual artist’s grant, a Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts and Cultural District Literary Artist Fellowship, and was the 2014 John E. Nance Writer-in-Residence at Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Sharon is also the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, an adjunct instructor at Wright State University, and is part of a fiction manuscript consulting group, The Write Sisters.

Reflections of Erma