Two prolific authors — Bill Bryson and Jess Montgomery — will serve as finalist judges for the 2020 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.
And none other than Betsy Bombeck, Erma’s daughter, will keynote the 7 p.m. awards presentation on April Fool’s Day at the Woodbourne Library, 6060 Far Hills Ave.
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 The next contest opens Dec. 2, with previously unpublished 450-word entries in humor and human interest categories accepted until Jan. 6.
Four winners will receive $1,000 and a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, slated for April 2-4, 2020. Writers receiving honorable mentions will be awarded $100 prizes. Winning entries will be posted online and in the workshop’s program.
Bryson, who will judge the finalist humor essays, is best known for his humorous books on travel as well as a variety of other genres, including the English language, science, history and non-fiction. In all, he’s penned nearly two dozen books. His book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, garnered the prestigious Descartes Prize and the Royal Society’s Aventis Prize. One of his travel books, A Walk in the Woods, was made into a movie starring Robert Redford.
One popular book, I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away, is filled with comic musings and prompted this review from The Wall Street Journal: “Bryson is unparalleled in his ability to cut a culture off at the knees in a way that is so humorous and so affectionate that those being ridiculed are laughing too hard to take offense.”
Montgomery, who will judge the finalist human interest essays, is the author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries, including the debut title, The Widows, and most recently, The Hollows (forthcoming from Minotaur Books, January 2020). Montgomery, under her given name of Sharon Short, also writes the “Literary Life” column for the Dayton Daily News.
A three-time recipient of the Ohio Arts Council’s Literary Arts Excellence Award (2012, 2016 and 2018), she is the author of other published novels, short stories and essays. For a decade, she directed the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.
“In my mind, very talented and very busy people with impeccable credentials agree to judge because they care about the craft of writing and want to encourage aspiring writers. But, most importantly and, perhaps, elusively, I think they agree to judge because of the power of Erma,” said Debe Dockins, coordinator of the competition at the Washington-Centerville Public Library.
In 2018, 657 writers from around the world entered previously unpublished essays in humor and human interest categories — roughly 295,650 words. The nearly 50 preliminary judges included nationally known authors, columnists, screenwriters, stand-up comedians and a longtime writer for David Letterman. Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and award-winning novelist and short story writer Bonnie Jo Campbell served as the finalist judges for the humor and human interest categories, respectively.
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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