Emmy Award-winner Cathy Guisewite, creator of the iconic “Cathy” comic strip and an essayist, returns to her hometown to open the April 2-4, 2020, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton as part of its 20th anniversary.
At its peak, “Cathy” appeared in 1,400 newspapers. The strip, displayed on refrigerator doors across the land, focused on a career woman facing “the four basic guilt groups” — eating, work, relationships and having a mother. In 2019, Guisewite published a funny memoir, Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays From the Grown-Up Years.
Online registration for the popular biennial workshop, which typically sells out in hours, opens at noon (EST) on Thursday, Dec. 12. A link will be shared via social media and the workshop’s free e-newsletter, available for subscription at humorwriters.org. The registration fee is $485 with a number of free scholarships available for University of Dayton students, courtesy of the Alumni Association, beginning in January.
Besides Guisewite, the workshop’s all-star keynoter line-up includes:
Annabelle Gurwitch, New York Times’ bestselling author of four books, actress, essayist and storyteller. She was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor Writing in 2015. The original co-host for Dinner and a Movie on TBS, she has appeared in numerous television and film projects.
Wendy Liebman, stand-up comedian who has performed on late-night shows — from Carson to Kimmel — and appeared in comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime. She was a semifinalist on America’s Got Talent.
Mike Reiss, Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons and author of Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons and 19 children’s books.
Peggy Rowe, who at the age of 80, wrote and published a New York Times’ bestseller, About My Mother. A social media sensation, she counts more than 115,000 readers of her daily Facebook postings. Her letters and texts to her celebrity son, Mike Rowe, have reached millions.
Other highlights of the workshop include:
Patricia Wynn Brown, dubbed “the Mistress of Mayhem,” returns as the workshop’s hilarious emcee. Emmy Award-winning Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, will host the traditional Stand-Up Comedy Night that closes the workshop.
Singer/songwriter Kellie Haddock, who created the uplifting, viral “Thank You Project” video to thank caregivers who saved her son’s life, will take a break from her concert schedule to perform the workshop’s theme song and offer a workshop.
Two new features have been added to the program. “Essay Cabaret,” loosely fashioned after The Moth, will be co-hosted by Joel Madison and Anna Lefler, comedy writers from Los Angeles, who will randomly invite attendees to read their funniest essays onstage in a lively cabaret format. Lian Dolan, host of the podcast “Satellite Sisters,” will moderate a panel of national-caliber writers who beautifully, and often hysterically, write about the foibles of family life. It’s underwritten by Marcia Stewart, a Bay Area book editor and author, in honor of her late sister Nickie, an aspiring humor writer.
The workshop will once again feature “Pitchapalooza” — described as the “American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler.” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s wildly popular, entertaining event has drawn thousands of people into bookstores, writing conferences and book festivals all over the country — and captured national media attention. Writers get one minute to pitch a book idea before a panel. The judges pick a winner, who will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for the book idea.
Winners of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program and the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition will be honored.
Among the more than 30 experienced writers and publishing professionals, the workshop’s faculty includes a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Thurber Prize winner, a winner of The Moth GrandSLAM and four popular former keynoters —Leighann Lord, Sophfronia Scott and the writing team of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff.
• Jim Azevedo, marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks.
• Tracy Beckerman, nationally syndicated humor columnist and the author of two books, Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir: How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs.
• Dr. Nancy Berk, clinical psychologist, author, online entertainment columnist and co-producer and host for “Entertaining Insights with Dr. Nancy Berk,” a podcast that features celebrity and expert guests.
• Kim Bongiorno, author, freelance writer and the award-winning blogger behind “Let Me Start By Saying,” with thousands of fans on social media.
• David Braughler, founder and CEO of Braughler Books.
• Lian Dolan, author of novels and collections of essays and host of “Satellite Sisters,” a popular podcast she created with her four sisters. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine.
• Arielle Eckstut, co-founder of The Book Doctors, author of 10 books and literary agent at the Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
• Estelle Erasmus, award-winning journalist, writing coach and host of the podcast “ASJA Direct: Inside Intel on Getting Published and Paid Well.” She is an adjunct writing professor at New York University and teaches writing for Writer’s Digest.
• Chris Erskine, nationally known humor columnist and editor for The Los Angeles Times. His latest book, Daditude, is a collection of his favorite Times columns on fatherhood. He has written two other books, Man of the House and Surviving Suburbia, which reached the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.
• Jane Friedman, writer, teacher and speaker with 20 years of experience in the publishing industry with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the co-founder and editor of “The Hot Sheet,” an industry newsletter for authors, and is the former publisher of Writer’s Digest.
• Lisa Glowinski, director of More Content Now, GateHouse Media’s features and premium publications service.
• Stacey Graham, literary agent with Red Sofa Literary.
• Kellie Haddock, songwriter and singer who writes and performs music that “engages the soul in all of its beauty and vulnerability.”
• Sam Hiyate, president and CEO of The Rights Factory and literary agent.
•Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, and the author of two books, Maybe Kevin and The Astounding Misadventures of Rory Collins.
• Kathy Kinney, actress and author who may be best known for her iconic role as “Mimi” on The Drew Carey Show.
• Katrina Kittle, author of five novels, creative writing teacher and public speaker.
• Caitlin Kunkel, writer, satirist and co-founder of The Belladonna, a satire and comedy site written by women authors. She’s also one of the founders of the Satire & Humor Festival.
• Margot Leitman, author of the best-selling book Long Story Short: the Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, What’s Your Story? and winner of The Moth Grandslam. She has written for DreamWorks TV, the Hallmark Channel and the Pixl Network.
• Leighann Lord, stand-up comedian and author of several humor books and a popular podcast, “People With Paren
• Joel Madison, television comedy writer for sitcoms, variety, animation, late night and reality shows. Winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for his work on the original Roseanne sitcom.
• Lee Martin, author of five novels, including The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; three memoirs; short story collections; and a craft book, Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University.
• Jess Montgomery, author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries, including The Widows and The Hollows, as well as numerous other novels, short stories and essays. She is the “Literary Life” columnist at Dayton Daily News.
• Paula Munier, literary agent at Talcott Notch, editor and USA Today bestselling author with 25 years’ acquiring, editing and marketing fiction and nonfiction.
• Susan Pohlman, founder and director of the Phoenix Writers Network, freelance writer, editor, writing coach and the author of the memoir, Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home.
• Cindy Ratzlaff, author and a 30-year veteran of the book publishing industry who created and implemented the launch campaigns for more than 150 New York Times’ bestsellers.
• Rebecca Regnier, prolific author, columnist and podcaster. She left a 20-year career in television news as an Emmy Award-winning anchor, reporter and talk show host to write books.
• Sophfronia Scott, hailed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation,” is the author of numerous novels, essays, short stories and a memoir.
• David Henry Sterry, co-founder of The Book Doctors and author of 16 books on a wide variety of subjects, from memoir to middle grade fiction. Co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
• Jessica Strawser, editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest magazine, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade, and the author of three novels.
• Dan Zevin, Thurber Prize-winning humorist, award-winning humor columnist for TheNew York Times, comic commentator for NPR and a contributor to numerous national outlets, including The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. He’s written three books, including his latest, Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravations.
Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has attracted household names such as Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline, Amy Ephron, Liza Donnelly and Alan Zweibel, but the personal involvement of Erma Bombeck’s family makes the event at her alma mater memorable and sets it apart from the myriad other writers’ workshops offered across the country.
The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; Smashwords; Markey’s Rental and Staging; Marriott at the University of Dayton; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Writer’s Digest; Books & Co.; and the Washington-Centerville Public Library. Additional operating support is provided by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment and A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.