The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner


(Subject to change)


Speed Dating for Writers (advance registration required)
Moderated by Tracy Beckerman

Back by popular demand. Need encouragement or advice? Seasoned writers, marketers and agents will answer your questions and share writing and publishing tips. It’s based on a speed-dating model that allows writers to learn a variety of perspectives from the pros in a short amount of time.

Get Your Book Published! (one-on-one self-publishing consultations, advance registration required)
David Braughler and Donna Cavanagh

Struggling to decide between hybrid publishing and hands-on DIY publishing? Unsure of how to handle ISBN’s, copyrights and the Library of Congress? And what about getting your book into libraries and bookstores? From the mechanics of publishing to the realities of marketing and distribution, publishing experts David Braughler and Donna Cavanagh are available to meet individually with writers to discuss the questions you should be asking yourself before publishing your book.

10 Top Lessons Learned From 10 Years of Interviewing Bestselling Authors (one time only)
Jessica Strawser

Jessica Strawser, editor-at-large for Writer’s Digest magazine, distills best-in-class writing and process advice from her Writer’s Digest conversations with the likes of David Sedaris, Alice Walker, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Gardner and others.

Panel: Drag Races, Detours and Destinations: Finding the Power in Your Creative Journey (one time only)
Moderator: Nancy Berk
Panelists: Kathy Kinney, Katrina Kittle, Leighann Lord and Jessica Murnane

Creative success rarely happens overnight. Ask any “overnight sensation” and she will remind you of the years of hard work that led up to those late night shows and paparazzi moments. So how do you know when you’re in the right place? Is it best to tiptoe or dive into the experience? When do you embrace or ignore the critics? And what about shifting gears? Is dreaming big ever a detriment? This panel will help you identify strengths and weaknesses, look at your obstacles in new ways and discover alternative shifts and strategies to give you power and options on your writing journey and beyond.

Their, There, They’re: A Guide To Improving Communication and Using Words Goodly (one time only)
Leighann Lord

Do you have a love/hate relationship with the English language? Are you annoyed by acronyms? Humbled by homonyms? Does punctuation make you panic? You’re not alone. First words, last words, magic words, bad words. Logophile (word lover) Leighann Lord takes attendees on a fun frolic through the land of word nerdery, exploring the power that language has to hurt and heal; entertain and inspire. And why sometimes, even for professional speakers and writers, our communication efforts can fail. But fear not! Attendees will take away a renewed appreciation for the English language and concrete tools on how to use it better. In this fun refresher, Leighann will show you:

• The importance of text, tone and body language
• Why subtext and context matter
• Why autocorrect is not your friend
• Why you should not ignore Microsoft Word’s  “red” and “green” lines
• The three things you should do before you hit send
• The most important question to ask before you hit send
• five great resources literally at your fingertips


Pitchapalooza — American Idol for Books (one time only)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their books. Writers get one minute to make their best pitch. A panel of judges will help these writers, and everyone in the audience, improve their pitches. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much more. Authors and audience come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether you’re pitching yourself, or simply listening to trained professionals critique other writers, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for everyone. From Los Angeles to New York City, and many stops along the way, Pitchapalooza has consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors. At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. Numerous authors have received publishing deals due to Pitchapalooza. Bonus: Anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published will receive a free 20-minute consultation, a $100 value.

Secrets to Getting Published in Magazines That Editors Won’t Tell You (But I Will!) (offered twice)
Zachary Petit

In this candid, brutally honest and genuinely funny session, author and editor-in-chief Zachary Petit breaks down the many critical ins-and-outs of writing for magazines, including the ways in which magazine editors can be divas, how to get their attention, get published and begin a successful freelance career.

Ask the Agents (offered twice)
Moderator: Jessica Strawser or Sharon Short
Panelists: Lauren Abramo, Kate McKean and Saba Sulaiman

This Q&A with a panel of agents provides you with an opportunity to find out what agents look for in sample chapters, what makes them stop reading, what they can do for self-published authors, what they want to hear during a live pitch, and much more. You’ll get the chance to ask the agents about any topic, from platform and marketing to self-publishing and series writing. Whether you’re writing for children or adults, fiction or nonfiction, these agents can answer your questions.

What’s The Real Deal? Uncovering The Best Publishing Options for Your Book (one time only)
Moderator: Nancy Berk
Panelists: David Braughler, Donna Cavanagh, Cindy Ratzlaff

It’s ready and waiting — all your amazing book needs is a great publisher. But in the ever-changing writing world with many publishing and promotional options, do you know how to identify your best match? This panel will cover the pros and cons of traditional and independent publishing, the fascinating overlaps and gaps, and strategies, tips and tricks to maximize your publishing success.

Landing a Book Deal: Creative Ways to Grow Your Brand (one time only)
Jessica Murname

Erma Bombeck quipped, “I have always felt cookbooks were fiction, and the most beautiful words in the English language were ‘room service.’” Jessica Murname landed a cookbook deal because food helped her heal — and she had a story to tell. She’ll share how she went from “landing page to finding a publisher.” Her workshop will cover the importance of a “hook” and a sharable concept when pitching, proposing and writing a book; positioning yourself as an expert (even if you’re still technically a beginner; meeting your audience where they are; and growing your brand before and after getting the deal.

Write a Query Letter That Gets Manuscript and Proposal Requests (one time only)
Jane Friedman

If you’ve written your query like a pro, then you should be getting requests from agents and publishers for more material about 50 percent of the time. Learn the essential elements of any query, across all genres, and how to avoid the common mistakes that plague and sabotage your best efforts. By the end of the session, you’ll know how to seduce an agent or editor by showing off the best aspects of your work (rather than explaining it to death) — plus you’ll learn to uncover potential flaws in your work that run more than query deep.

How to Get Published Successfully (one time only)

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

It is the greatest time in history to be a writer.  The barriers have been torn down, and now anyone can get published.  But to get published successfully is a whole other matter. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry take you through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will remove the smoke and mirrors from the murky world of publishing and give writers a compass and map to a successfully published book. Topics include:

• Choosing the right idea
• Creating a blockbuster title
• Crafting an attention-getting pitch
• Putting together a proposal/manuscript
• Finding the right agent/publisher
• Self-publishing effectively with e-books, print-on-demand or traditional printing
• Developing sales, marketing and publicity savvy
• Producing a video book trailer and helping it go viral
• Building a following through social media


Memoir Boot Camp (offered twice)
Marion Winik

In this hands-on workshop writers will explore a step-by-step process of turning a memory into a crafted essay. A series of prompts will break this mysterious transformation into bite-sized tasks, from choosing what to write about to developing characters, setting and dialogue, to thinking about theme, structure and organization. Participants will give each other feedback along the way and all walk out with the first draft of a short essay. Marion will also share some insights about the ethics of writing about your family and friends, and about the uses of both research and imagination in memoir.

Wit, Wisdom and a Good Naked Workshop (offered twice)
Joni Cole

Don’t worry, there’ll be no shedding of clothes, but this lively, interactive session will expose the creative process in all its glory. Come prepared to write in response to guided prompts, and share aloud your efforts for inspiration and appreciation. Takeaways: insights into how to confront the dreaded blank page, and how to nurture a more productive, positive creative process. Bring something to write on, and leave any self-doubts at the door.

Write Without the Fight (offered twice)
Julia Roberts

Write Without the Fight takes participants through five steps to see and master their resistance within the creative process. (See it, Name it, Claim It, Tame It, Live it.) Take-aways include:

• Knowing exactly what you do — without being aware — that causes your resistance
• The one mind-tool that is right for you to get over the hump and just write
• How to choose your best collaborators and work with the right people

Geared for beginning writers, though appropriate for all who struggle with writer’s block.

How to Uncover Your Own Voice and Get It Down on Paper (one time only)
Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

Using a series of improvisational writing techniques and a simple kitchen timer, this hands-on workshop will help you get past your self-criticism, reveal your unique voice and help you incorporate that voice into your writing. You’ll learn how to use your voice to paint a clear picture for readers, helping them experience who you are, where you are, who you are to the others in your scene and what makes this day so important in the story. Come prepared to write without self-editing and to give your imagination a good workout.

Developing the Writer’s Eye (offered twice)
Katrina Kittle

To be a great writer, you need to do three things: write a lot, read a lot and pay attention. This class is all about that paying attention part. Paying attention takes practice and training because our culture doesn’t value it. (Our culture values filling up every second of spare time and attention with devices and being “productive.”) Whether you’re an experienced writer who needs your ideas energized or a beginner who wants to develop better habits and skills, this class will focus your observation skills as well as your ability to capture those observations in writing. A series of exercises will stoke your creativity, fan your senses and wake up your figurative language. This will be an inspiring, energizing class developing your artistic mindfulness and curiosity.

The F Word: Feminist Comic Writers Who Inspire Us (offered twice)
Peter Marino

How does outstanding feminist humor lead to better writing? In this workshop, you will focus on three iconic humorists — Nora Ephron, Fran Lebowitz and Tina Fey — and one writer’s writer novelist, Anne Lamott. Attendees will experiment with a writing exercise devised by Lamott, which is remarkable effective at unleashing creativity.

Developing Voice and Style (offered twice)
Susan Pohlman

An agent once told Susan Pohlman that the one thing she looks for in a submission is a solid sense of voice. Craft can be taught, editors can be hired, but voice is the real deal. A command of voice and style proclaims to the reader that you can be trusted to lead them on a worthwhile journey to a place of truth. This interactive workshop will clarify the definition of voice and equip you with specific tools to develop your own distinct writing style. Come ready to write and have some fun!

Create Vivid, Believable People, Places and Scenes in Fiction or Nonfiction (one time only)
Sharon Short

Through a mix of examples and writing exercises, writers will learn how to create compelling descriptions without stopping action, slowing pace or overwhelming readers. Techniques include bringing the senses to life, using simile and metaphor, creating context, mastering dialogue tags, describing action and knowing the difference between scene and narrative — or show and tell — and when to use which style most effectively.


The Comfortable Chair: Bringing Humor to the Personal Essay (offered twice)
Dinty W. Moore

Humor on the page is a delicate flower, and there is nothing quite so awkward as watching it wilt. This interactive workshop will explore the basics of using humor effectively in the personal essay, and in nonfiction writing generally, including the user of juxtaposition, irony, understatement and exaggeration. You will examine a few sterling examples and then pull out your pens and notebooks to try it for yourselves.  We will laugh, too, along the way.  For those bothered by delayed gratification, here’s a preview: The best humor sneaks up on you.

Maximize Your Funny: Strategies for Busting the Humor Block (offered twice)
Mark Shatz

Funny writing demands funny thinking. Yet, humor block happens frequently, and it ain’t fun or funny. Fortunately, a number of brainstorming strategies and creativity techniques can help bust humor block. This “minds-on” workshop will identify the obstacles that prevent writers from being funny and explore ways to overcome humor block. By completing an integrated series of thinking and writing exercises, participants will learn how to maximize their funny.

Inspired: The Art of Writing with Humor and Heart (offered twice)
T. Faye Griffin

This lighthearted and highly interactive workshop is an entertaining primer on the rapidly growing genre of inspirational humor writing. Audio and visual materials will be employed to engage participants in fun and thought-provoking writing exercises, readings and gentle critiques.

It’s Okay to Laugh: How to Use Humor in the Dark Places (offered twice)
Lauretta Hannon

This interactive workshop examines how to use humor when dealing with painful material. Wildly interactive, participants will do exercises such as six-word memoirs and then share them with the class. The session aims to open writers up to parts of their story they thought were better left unmentioned. There will be much cackling in this session and probably a few tears as well.

Stand-Up Comedy Boot Camp (one time only)
Wendy Liebman

Learn the basics of stand-up comedy and hone the four-minute set you’ll perform Saturday night at the workshop. Nationally known stand-up comic Wendy Liebman will share writing techniques to make your stories funnier — and ways to deliver them to get a laugh. The workshop is open to stand-up performers and anyone who wants to learn the techniques for writing and performing stand-up comedy. Come prepared to laugh and scribble down your own hilarious ideas. A dozen comedians will be selected in advance to perform at stand-up night. Wendy will choose an additional three from the hilarious writers she meets in the workshop.


Sit-Down Comedy: Tweet Like a Standup and Kill it on Social Media (offered twice)
Joel Madison

Joel Madison wants to help you be funnier online. Are your tweets tired? Does your Facebook fall flat? In this hands-on session, you’ll learn the tricks of the joke-writing trade from a pro. Under Joel’s guidance, you’ll refine your comedic online voice by “punching-up” your own tweets and posts. Then you’ll create new posts from scratch. You’ll walk out with skills that will take your social media presence to the next level. Remember: you may not hear the spit-takes out in Internet-land, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

It’s a Brand New Brand YOU World: Why Authors MUST Treat Themselves and Their Books as Brands — Even Before Publication (one time only)
Cindy Ratzlaff

You are the brand and every book you write is a brand extension. Developing a personal author brand will save you time, money and frustration as you move from the writing phase to the marketing phase of your book — and help you attract a large following of passionate readers who are truly interested in your books. Cindy Ratzlaff will share the exact tips, tools and strategies she has used to help best-selling authors create their own personal brands, promote their books through a set of massive, branded social platforms and drive sales — all without compromising their privacy or engaging in hardcore selling. You’ll come away from this workshop with a step-by-step guide to developing your own personal author brand and a checklist of action items you can take immediately to build your own brand and position your social influence for rapid growth.

How to Build an Effective Author Website (one time only)
Jane Friedman

If you want to find success as a writer — whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing — you need a website. It’s critical for effective marketing (online and offline), as well as long-term career growth. Whether your website is one day old or 10 years old, you want to make sure the resources that you’ve put into your site will pay off with more readers and lead to more sales and opportunities for your career. Learn best practices for design and content, the most important visual areas to focus on, plus search-based strategies to help bring readers to your door. No need to be a techie or understand jargon — this session speaks to all skill levels.

So, What’s Your Website Done for you Lately? (one time only)
Tracy Beckerman and Anne Parris

Is your website really doing all that it can to attract an audience? If you’re putting all your effort into your content, but not enough into your web tools, you may just be shouting into the void. In this tip- and trick-laden session, Tracy Beckerman and Anne Parris will select the websites of three session attendees (submitted in advance) and do live website reviews while telling you how to make your website work harder for you.

How to Grow Your Facebook Fan Page (one time only)
Tracy Beckerman and Anne Parris

Many people wonder why they may have 1,000 Facebook fan page followers but only a tenth of their fans actually see their posts. Facebook can be an incredibly powerful tool for promoting your blog and getting more eyeballs on your work, but you have to know how to be Facebook savvy and use its tools to engage more people with the right content at the right time. In this session you’ll learn why you should:

• share video that’s already on Facebook, rather than from YouTube or another platform
• create and use memes
• use the Native Scheduler function to schedule your posts
• share 20 percent of your own material and 80 percent of other people’s stuff
• and lots more tips for increasing the number following your fan page, and the number Facebook chooses to share your posts with

Reflections of Erma