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Can you craft a short essay that either sparks laughter or touches the heart in the way that Erma Bombeck wrote?

Writers around the world are encouraged to capture the essence of Bombeck’s work by submitting an original essay in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, sponsored by Washington-Centerville Public Library in conjunction with the University of Dayton. The contest opens at 8 a.m. (EST) on Monday, Dec. 4, and entries will be accepted until 8 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. The entry fee is $15.

The competition, held every two years, pays tribute to hometown writer Erma Bombeck, one of the greatest humorists of contemporary times and arguably the University of Dayton’s most famous graduate.

Entries should be 450 words or less. Essays submitted may not have been previously published (either print or online). New this year: the local category will include all of Ohio. The global category will include the rest of the world. It’s a chance to win $500, a free registration ($450 value) to the April 5-7, 2018, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton — and bragging rights.

One entry per person will be accepted, and previous contest winners are encouraged to apply. All winning essays will be published on the library’s website, as well as in the Dayton Daily News and the workshop’s printed program. Those receiving honorable mentions will receive certificates.

The entries will be blind judged by a panel of authors, syndicated columnists and experienced writers. Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and award-winning novelist and short story writer Bonnie Jo Campbell will serve as the finalist judges for the humor and human interest categories, respectively.

Winners will be announced at the end of February with a celebration event set for 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 4, at the Centerville Library. The awards ceremony is free and open to the public.

“The quality of these essays has shot through the roof over the years. Having Bonnie Jo Campbell and Dave Barry as our final judges escalates the excitement factor to a new level, and I am excited to get started,” said Debe Dockins, Erma Bombeck Writing Competition coordinator.

In 2016, 563 writers from around the world entered previously unpublished essays in humor and human interest categories — roughly 253,350 words. To read the 2016 winning entries, click here.

For complete writing competition guidelines, the online entry form or more information, click here.

Reflections of Erma