Attending two Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshops has transformed my writing life. In 2016, I first engaged with Erma’s work as an adult and met dozens of writers who continue to influence me with their amazing voices.
My late mother waited for the newspaper delivery on days she knew At Wit’s End (Erma Bombeck’s column) ran. Mom read the funny parts to us — often the entire column. How could a writer make someone laugh and cry in the same piece? Even as a young person, I was awestruck by Erma’s skill.
I’ve been writing since age 14 when I worked at a weekly newspaper for the summer. After journalism school, the dearth of reporting jobs sent me into healthcare public relations. I was ultimately Peter-Principled into healthcare marketing and sales. Writing was always a part of my career, a role that diminished as I headed up the ladder. Ten years ago, I started freelancing.
Nothing in a lifetime of writers’ workshops prepared me for my first Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Prominent writers didn’t get whisked off by handlers after their talks. People like Cindy Ratzlaff, Kathy Kinney, Dr. Nancy Berk and Alan Zweibel networked with attendees like old friends. The Bombeck family attended and talked with everyone. In 2016, I was able to meet Matt Bombeck and interview him for Senior Wire News Service.
Both of my EBWW trips have been worth the five-hour drive to the Dayton Riviera. I’ve listened, taken, copious notes and parlayed what I’ve learned into a more active freelance practice.
The workshop means everything to me. My new book, A Piece of Her Soul, is dedicated to the memory of Erma and in honor of the staff and writers of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Matt Bombeck graciously wrote my book’s foreword. The apple did not fall far from his mother’s tree. He spoke beautifully of the workshop and what it means to him.
“My mom passed away over twenty years ago, but I’m convinced, more than ever, the world needs more Erma Bombecks. Writers like Amy Abbott who can observe our ordinary, average lives, give us perspective, and make us laugh. Writers who see the humor in descaling a coffeemaker and the new challenges of being an empty-nester. Amy refers to them as random outtakes of life but knows these are the common threads that hold us together.
“I know Amy as an attendee at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held biennually at the University of Dayton. It’s a weekend of notable speakers and workshops attended by funny people who like to seriously write. Most already have a writer’s voice.”
Why is the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop so special? Through Erma’s words, one can feel the enthusiasm jumping out, even when she’s encountering piles of dirty laundry. Her legacy flows through everyone involved with the workshop, her family, staff and volunteers, and especially writers, eager to learn about their craft. Erma’s writing and the legacy it leaves through the workshop is pure joy.
— Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is a Midwestern writer, retired from a career in healthcare. She’s one of 40 women humorists featured in Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now Before We Forget, published by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2018. She’s been published in Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Boomer Café, Making Midlife Matter, Salon, Nostalgia, and is a regular on Humor Outcasts. Her fifth book, A Piece of Her Soul, will be published by The Backpack Press. This piece is part of a series of videos, blogs and social media shout-outs by “Erma Champions” during the workshop’s #25Kin25Days campaign.