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2014 Bombeck Workshop faculty: Dan Zevin

 

Dan Zevin’s latest book is Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad (Scribner), which has been optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions along with his previous book, The Day I Turned Uncool.  The 2013 Winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, he has followed his readers through each phase of life, from post-college coping (Entry-Level Life) to tying the knot (The Nearly-wed Handbook) to developing a disturbing new interest in lawn care and wine tastings (Uncool).  And that was all before he had kids. Which leads us back to this minivan situation. Dan has been a comic commentator for NPR, a humor columnist for The New York Times and a contributor to print and digital publications, including Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Maxim, Details, Real Simple and Parents. He also wrote an original sitcom pilot for CBS and Warner Brothers. His latest project is “Star Vehicle,” a YouTube talk show he hosts inside his minivan. Dan lives with his wife, kids and pet rabbit in the suburbs of New York, where he has become an active member of his local Costco.

Dan Zevin and
Jerry Zezima

AUTHOR-PHOTO-FINAL-320x400Dan Zevin‘s “laugh-eliciting” pieces in The New York Times and Jerry Zezima‘s conversational, whimsical columns in The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) took first-place honors in humor writing in large and small newspapers, respectively, at the 2014 annual column contest sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Dan Zevin

Dan Zevin is the 2013 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.  His latest book, Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, along with his previous one, The Day I Turned Uncool, have been optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. He has followed his readers through each phase of life, from post-college coping (Entry-Level Life) to tying the knot (The Nearly-wed Handbook) to developing a disturbing new interest in lawn care and wine tastings (Uncool). And that was all before he had kids.

Bruce Ferber

ferber bruceBruce Ferber has garnered a gold award in humor and a bronze in general adult fiction for his second novel, Cascade Falls, in Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year competition. Humorist Dan Zevin calls the book “poignant, moving and ridiculously funny.” Bruce is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated comedy writer and producer whose credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Coach and Home Improvement, where he served as executive producer and showrunner. A former EBWW keynoter, he’s also the author of Elevating Overman, which is being developed for the big screen.

Mr. Selfie

Mr. SelfieThurber Prize-winning humorist Dan Zevin has published The Little Miss and Mr. Me Me Me Parody Series, described as hysterical parodies that feature “adorably damaged adults who’ll make you laugh (and cringe) in recognition.” Two of his previous books, Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad and The Day I Turned Uncool, were optioned by Adam Sandler, and the latter is now being developed as a sitcom by David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith.

Pomp in uncertain circumstances

Dan Zevin(Reposted by permission of author Dan Zevin. This piece appeared in The Huffington Post on May 22, 2014, and on Cognoscenti on May 21, 2014.)

Salutations and good tidings to the class of 2014. Today is a day to be met with youthful enthusiasm, steadfast commitment and powerful anti-anxiety medication. For today you stand poised on the precipice of Mount Tomorrow, searching for pomp in uncertain circumstances.

My friends, I feel your pain.

Long ago, I was much like you: a nervous young graduate forced to appear in public wearing a humiliating cap-and-gown ensemble. What the real world had in store for me, I did not know.

And yet, I persevered, learning the hard way the skills one needs to succeed. And now, as you approach the Starting Gate of Possibility, it is my honor to pass you the torch. Let the other commencement addressers puff you up with their pie-in-the-sky platitudes. I am here to dispense inspiration you will find far more useful.

As you set forth to negotiate the serpentine twists of your career path, you may occasionally find yourselves lost, confused, searching for a way to convince potential employers that your past jobs were vastly more professional than they actually were. It is at these junctures that I urge you to remember the impressive SAT words you memorized to get into college, and to apply them to your résumé.

Allow me to provide an uplifting yet fictionalized personal anecdote, a technique I have borrowed from my commencement-addressing colleagues. Many years ago, I spent an afternoon filing invoices at my father’s office. Here is how that career appears on my résumé: principal alphabetizing-systems-implementation liaison.

Another question you are asking yourselves as you come to the Crossroads of Potential is, “Where will I be after college?” To you I say this: you will be in an apartment with more roommates than rooms. But as you take that titan step from dorm to dump, do not settle for the first dump you see. Look at many dumps, and in time, you will find that special dump that suits your needs. This is because the more you look, the fewer needs you’ll realize you have. For here at the Tollbooth on Independence Turnpike, you do not need a microwave oven or a flat screen, internet-ready, high-definition television. You simply need a roommate who already owns these things.

Perhaps there is another question you are asking yourselves as you dive into the deep end of your destiny: “How will I adjust to life after college?” I will tell you how: by having a drink. Graduates, you heard that correctly. I said “a” drink. Singular. One. Of the myriad challenges that await you beyond these hallowed halls, the toughest of all will be that traumatic transition from keg to cocktail. I will not kid you by pretending it will be easy, for change never is. But I will assure you of this: in the years that lie ahead, the idea of drinking warm beer foam out a rubber hose connected to a garbage can will lose a certain amount of allure. And when it does, I am confident that you will rise to the occasion. For you are a generation of achievers.  Soon you’ll be achieving with one stiff cocktail what used to take half a keg to achieve.

In conclusion, I would not be doing my job as a commencement speaker if I did not leave you with some useful pearls of wisdom about the World That Is Your Oyster.

1.    When in doubt, choose a career the same way you chose your college major: according to which ones start latest in the afternoon.

2.    When reading classified apartment ads on Craigslist, remember that “fireplace” usually means “a place that was (or is) on fire.”

3.    Moving back into your parents’ house is an excellent idea as long as you move your parents out first.

4.    Treat your search for a perfect mate the same way you treat your search for a perfect job: lower your standards.

5.    Above all else, keep two very important words in mind as you leave the Sheltered Shores of Scholarship to enter this strange new world — a world where the calendar no longer revolves in cycles beginning in September and ending in May; a world where you are expected to wake up each day before the sun sets; a world where job attendance is mandatory. Those two words, my young friends, are these: graduate school.

— Dan Zevin

Dan Zevin, the 2013 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, served on the faculty at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. His latest book, Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, along with his previous one, The Day I Turned Uncool, have been optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. He has followed his readers through each phase of life, from post-college coping (Entry-Level Life) to tying the knot (The Nearly-wed Handbook) to developing a disturbing new interest in lawn care and wine tastings (Uncool). And that was all before he had kids.

The Erma place

Yvonne RanselErma’s created a monster, albeit, a happy one.

It’s Thursday after that weekend in Dayton and  I am still walking on air, two feet above the ground. I smile all the time, even when my husband spills coffee on the newly washed floor or when a library patron rants about the slow Internet or it snows in April. I smile because I keep thinking funny things and run to write them down, or not, and then try in vain to conjure that hilarious observation.

I found it interesting, and somewhat threatening, that so many of the attendees were much younger than my just-went-on-Medicare self. (See? I can’t even write the number down, let alone say it out loud.) They were so cute and perky and somehow have already been blogging and tweeting their way into readers’ hearts among birthing babies, carpooling and all that laundry. And do they have any idea what they’re in for with midlife-crisis husbands, teenagers who drive, teenagers who drink, college kids who drink? There’s enough material there to last to assisted living — that euphemism for nursing home.

From the minute I rolled my little red suitcase into the lobby of the Marriott, I knew I was in the right place — the Erma place. Chatter and laughter surrounded me, and every look was a smile. I literally bounced up the elevator to my room, unpacked and proudly donned my identifying lanyard that just happened to match my outfit.

It was 5 p.m., and I needed a jolt of Pinot Noir for courage and serenity both. Stepping into the tented cocktail party, I took a deep breath and wandered over to one of the bar tables. The smiling and chatting and sharing and love never stopped from that moment on.

The creative business cards came out, and I bemoaned my boring one with its sole social media connection, my original hotmail address. Yes, I was on Facebook but rarely used it to share my writing — mostly recipes and Throwback Thursday photos. How astute these attendees with six connectivity options, including Youtube.

I wandered into the ballroom with my second glass of $9 wine (thank you, hubby, for not putting a price limit on my happiness) and thus began this remarkable weekend with the stunning Patricia Wynn Brown, emcee extraordinaire. Phil Donahue seemed overwhelmed by the loving attention of the attendees at his impromptu photo-op, some of whom may have been children watching his show with their mothers. I don’t think he remembered meeting me in the elevator at the 2002 conference, even though I am still embarrassed by the memory of my dry mouth and a squeaky “hi.”

Gina BarrecaMy love, yes, love, for Lisa Scottoline and Gina Barreca goes beyond admiration for their witty deliveries and meaningful advice to us fledgling writers. Growing up in an Italian family, I felt embraced by their ethnic narratives as if they were my own. Unwritten memories flooded back to me, and I knew I would make them part of my stories. When Gina was signing her book for me, she asked why I had a French name if I were Italian.

“Because my mother loved the movies and Yvonne DeCarlo!” And she laughed. I made Gina laugh!!

My goals before the next workshop are pretty lofty, but I soaked in so much information and advice from all the presenters to stoke my fires for quite a while — Anna Lefler and her repetitive editing; Donna Cavanaugh and her astute blogging hints; Dan Zevin and his humor journal; Cathryn Michon and her perseverance.

I can’t wait for 2016.

— Yvonne Ransel

Yvonne Ransel is a writer of essays — some humorous, some poignant — who is inspired by life’s crazy, everyday events. She was a librarian, then a bar owner, now a librarian again. She survived the ’60s and the millenium and the years in between as mother, wife and now grandmother of six. Her goals for writing and publishing between now and 2016 are quite lofty, but “Erma’s got my back.”

Landed at the wrong airport?
Imagining a PR response

Dan Zevin(Dan Zevin’s piece appeared in The New York Times on Jan. 30, 2014. Reposted by permission of the author.)

A Southwest Airlines jet touched down at the wrong Missouri airport this month, a mix-up that comes two months after a cargo jet landed at the wrong airport in Kansas. How will the industry bounce back from the embarrassing publicity? Herewith, some suggestions for an emergency P.R. campaign.

1. Your Fitness Comes First.

Our award-winning pilots know what sitting on a plane can do to your spinal column, and that’s why we unveiled our heart-healthy Fly n’ Walk© program that not only gets you where you want to go, but also gets you in shape! Here’s how: On select flights, we’ll “go that extra mile” for you by landing the aircraft at an airport several miles away from the one on your boarding pass. After some gentle calisthenics, lace up your sneakers and follow our flight attendants on a brisk fitness walk to your original destination. Not only will you burn calories and work those tough-to-tone glutes, you’ll also receive bonus frequent flier points.

2. Safety. Our Promise to You.

Like fire drills or tests of the emergency broadcasting system, our Passenger Protection Preparation Procedures (PPPPs) include occasional unannounced — but 100 percent planned — landings at neighboring airports, or “safe havens.” Whether you’re flying to southwest Afghanistan, southwest Syria or southwest Missouri, these landings are completely 100 percent planned. It’s just that we make them look unplanned in order to simulate the unlikely event of an actual emergency landing. So relax! Your safety. Our planes. All planned.

3. Pay Less, See More.

How do we keep our fares so low? It’s simple. We have a vast network of partner airports that grant us last-minute deals on rock-bottom runway prices. And the more last-minute, the more savings we pass on to you. It’s all part of our “Pay Less, See More” initiative. More exciting destinations. More sizzling attractions. More surprising airports. After all, isn’t that what travel is truly about?

4. No Hidden Fees or Vendettas. Ever.

We pride ourselves on never engaging in New Jersey “Bridgegate”-style shenanigans. For example, if one of our co-pilots flying to, say, Branson, Mo., had a vendetta against his captain because his captain selected a pilot 10 years his junior for the plum flight to St. Croix that day, you can bet that this co-pilot would never, under any circumstances, have sent the following email to his buddy Mort in air-traffic control: “Time to land the plane at the wrong airport in Missouri!”

— Dan Zevin

Dan Zevin is the 2013 winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.  His latest book, Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, along with his previous one, The Day I Turned Uncool, have been optioned by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. He has followed his readers through each phase of life, from post-college coping (Entry-Level Life) to tying the knot (The Nearly-wed Handbook) to developing a disturbing new interest in lawn care and wine tastings (Uncool). And that was all before he had kids.

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Reflections of Erma