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40 writers selected for EBWW humor anthology

We’re bringing to life a book filled with funny coming-of-age essays from 40 women humorists.

More than 100 writers answered the call for submissions for a proposed humor anthology, edited by prolific writer Allia Zobel Nolan and a team from the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Tentatively titled Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, the book will feature a mixture of Zobel Nolan’s essays and “fall-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-in-stitches” humorous, eclectic contributions from these talented writers:

Amy McVay Abbott
Elaine Ambrose
Karen G. Anderson
Karla Araujo
Leslie Bamford
Jennifer Bryne
Tracy Roberts Buckner
Michele Poston Combs
Kaye Curren
Fritzy Dean
Janene Dutt
Lori B. Duff
Cindy Eastman
Janie Emaus
Christy Heitger-Ewing
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
Sharon Gerger
Tassie Hewitt
Georgia A. Hubley
Carolyn Anderson Jones
Sharon M. Kennedy
Sheri Kuhn
Sandy Lingo
Lisa Marlin
Kelly McKenzie
Amy Mullis
Alice Muschany
Risa Nye
Anne Elise O’Connor
Lucia Paul
Yvonne Ransel
Lorraine Ray
Joanne Salemink
Amy Hartl Sherman
Barbara I. Smith
DC Stanfa
Sherry Stanfa-Stanley
Janine V. Talbot
Denise Thiery
Pamela Wright

“Wow, it sure is great to hear those three little words, ‘You can write!,’ and that certainly applied to the more than 100 submissions we received for our EBWW humor anthology,” said Zobel Nolan, a former senior editor at Reader’s Digest who has published close to 200 books. “To a one, the submissions were all sterling. Of course, that made our job harder. But in the end, the team chose those essays that best spoke to the themes of aging and ‘the way we were’ with originality and clarity. These are unique essays that painted a visual portrait of those particular time frames — essays that made the reader shake her head in agreement and/or laugh until her sides hurt.”

The book is one of two new initiatives launched by the workshop this year. More than 400 writers competed for “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.”

“It’s our mission to encourage and support writers,” said Teri Rizvi, founder and director. “This book provides a creative avenue for some very funny, gifted writers.”

The other female in our bed

Janie EmausI would rather have come home from my spa weekend and discovered my husband in bed with another woman than with a two-month-old Labrador retriever curled between his legs.

The woman would have been gone within seconds.

As for that puppy? She was here to stay.

“Don’t you just love Ziva?” my daughter asked several days later, as I sprayed yet another carpet deodorizer promising to bring “pine freshness” onto our living room carpet. “Isn’t she adorable and fun?”

I didn’t find anything adorable about chewing up every paper product in our house: coasters, napkins, books. Or anything fun about moving items with the slightest hint of wood pulp to higher altitude.

“But you have to admit, Mom, a puppy is the best thing for Dad.”

On that I had to agree with my daughter.

The previous year had been tough for my husband. After being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor (ironically more prevalent in dogs), he survived an eight-hour surgery and then received his certificate from a seven-week radiation treatment.

During that period his best friend and business partner of three decades discovered he had liver cancer. He wasn’t so lucky.

After his friend’s passing my husband spent hours watching TV. He lost his passion for cooking. He quit playing his guitar. He hadn’t seen a sunrise or sunset in almost a year.

Once Ziva entered his life, everything changed.

During those first weeks, he got up every few hours to let her outside. I’d often find him in the morning stretched on a lounge with Ziva cuddled on his chest. The sun rising over the back fence signaled play time.

He began taking her for walks. He brought her to the pet store to pick out her collar and leash. He spared no expense on the finest puppy food. He took her to obedience school where he learned to obey her commands.

The TV went unwatched. Our kitchen became filled with savory aromas. In the evenings, we watched Ziva run circles through the backyard.

As the months progressed, Ziva grew from 20 to 50 pounds. Her culinary tastes expanded to include plastic such as gift cards, inhalers and pens. And for desert she loved stuffing. And I don’t mean the kind found inside a turkey.

There went our patio chairs, our swing cushions and her heart-shaped bed.

And little by little, there went my heart. How could I not love this precious puppy who had brought my husband back to me?

These days if you should enter our home in the evening, you’ll find all three of us in bed together. Snuggling, loving and taking care of each other.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. This essay won an honorable mention in the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop writing competition. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

Ride ’em, cowgirl

Brown, Patricia Wynn(Editor’s Note: At the 2016 EBWW emcee Patricia Wynn Brown regaled the audience with some amusing stories attendees shared about how they registered within the first six hours before the workshop sold out. For more registration sagas, click here.)

Some of you went to extreme measures to be able to get your registration in under the wire to be here.

We appreciate your zeal, valor, creativity — and the fallout within some of your families because of your single-minded determined focus to be here today.

For example:

Gianetta Palmer had no power, no Internet and no front door most of the day. She had to outsource the registration process to someone else.

Janet Sheppard Kelleher was out hunting and had to leave her tree stand for lack of Internet service in the South Carolina Low Country and high tale it to a restaurant with WiFi. Didn’t we all? (We’re sorry that Janet’s surgery prevented her from joining us.)

Jane C. Rosen’s aging dogs are still mad at her for speedwalking them in the morning so she could register West coast time.

Samara Rose traded her firstborn child for a registration.

Anne Parris scheduled having her dog fixed around her need to get in right away on the conference site to register.

Janie Emaus nearly bit her dear old mother’s head off when mother dared to call her at registration time…merely to say hello.

The best: Stacey Hatton registered for the conference while in stirrups — for her annual pap exam. I say, Ride ’em, cowgirl.

We thank all of you for your heroic efforts in being part of our magnificent group of people this weekend.

— Patricia Wynn Brown

Patricia Wynn Brown is a performer, producer and author of two books, Hair-A-Baloo: The Revealing Comedy and Tragedy on Top of Your Head and Momma Culpa: One Mother Comes Clean and Makes her Maternal Confession. She has performed her humor-memoir Hair Theater® shows across the U.S. She is a featured humorist in a PBS documentary, A Legacy of Laughter, about the life and work of Erma Bombeck. She also is a three-time winner of the James Thurber Summer Writing Contest. She served as emcee at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Winners!

Gina-Barreca-SignBest-selling author, humorist, syndicated columnist and feminist scholar Gina Barreca will emcee the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition Awards Ceremony at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 30, at the Centerville Library, 111 W. Spring Valley Rd. It’s free and open to the public.

In this year’s competition, 563 writers from 46 states and eight countries entered previously unpublished essays in humor and human interest categories — roughly 253,350 words.

Here are the winners:

Humor (Global): Mary Kay Fleming, Crescent Springs, Kentucky
Humor (Local): Kevin Tucker, Vandalia, Ohio
Human Interest (Global): Vikki Reich, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Human Interest (Local): Becky Koop, Dayton, Ohio

Here are the honorable mentions:

Humor (Global): Karen Hamilton, Toronto, Canada; Sharon Kramer, Wheaton, Illinois; Laurie O’Connor Stephans, Plano, Illinois; Nancy Roman, Litchfield, Connecticut; and Marcia Smart, Thousand Oaks, California

Humor (Local): Darlene Sunshine, Dayton, Ohio, and Timothy Walker, Dayton, Ohio

Human Interest (Global): Maia Aziz, Lasalle, Canada; Marti Benson Smith, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Andrea Darvill, Christina Lake, Canada; Janie Emaus, Winnetka, California; and Mona Shand, Brighton, Michigan

Human Interest (Local): Wendy Gilmore, Centerville, Ohio; Allison Mundy, Dayton, Ohio; and Lindsey Roth, Dayton, Ohio

The four winners receive $500 and a free registration to the sold-out March 31-April 2 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton. They will read their essays at the awards ceremony.

Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson and a Kettering, Ohio native, was the finalist judge for the humor category. Daryn Kagan, syndicated columnist and former CNN anchor, served as the finalist judge for the human interest entries. The nearly 50 preliminary judges included nationally known authors, columnists, screenwriters, stand-up comedians and a longtime writer for David Letterman.

“I’d like to give a special thanks to our outstanding panel of first-round judges. The caliber of writing for the essays that advanced to the final round was spectacular,” said Debe Dockins, coordinator of the contest for the Washington-Centerville Public Library. “Nancy and Daryn had their work cut out for them, and they did not disappoint. This contest aims to channel the spirit of Erma’s writing, the beauty and absurdity of everyday life, and I think these essays hit the mark.”

To read the winning entries, click here.

The biennial Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, which began 20 years ago, pays tribute to Erma Bombeck, one of America’s greatest humorists and coincides with the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

The importance of eyebrows

janie3-214x300So, the other day, I looked down and wondered whose hands were those attached to my wrists. They looked too dry and wrinkly to be mine. They reminded me of my grandmother. Well, she was a hard-working woman. Having her hands might not be such a bad thing.

Then I looked at myself in the mirror. And I realized that my teeth weren’t exactly in the same place as they were yesterday. But my smile is still a good one.

And my ears. Well, let’s just say, I knew from family photos, that this particular part of my body would someday get larger.

In fact, it seems that the entire landscape of my face is experiencing a shift in its foundation. From a geological point of view, I’m having eruptions (old age spots) floods (eye leakage) and quakes resulting in new fault lines everyday.

Most of these changes I expected and can deal with.

But the other day, I discovered something quite unexpected.

I took off my glasses. Something was missing. I leaned closer to the mirror. And closer still. Until my nose pressed against the cool surface. Yes, this particular part of my anatomy had vanished.

My eyebrows!

Where there should have been a nicely shaped arch covering the length of my eye and beyond, there was this little apostrophe. Just hanging there. Like it actually belonged on my face.

When did this happen? I have a ton of hair. On my head. Under my arms. Sneaking out from my bathing suit bottoms. Even some very unwanted hairs above my upper lip.

So why had my eyebrows gone missing?

I thought about all those wonderful adjectives associated with one’s brows, words used  to describe feelings and  emotions.

Sadness:  Her eyebrows dipped inward.

Confusion:  His bushy eyebrows crinkled.

Determination:  Her eyebrows, straight as a ruler, told me she played by the book.

Flirty:  He lifted one eyebrow and winked at me.

Eyebrows scrunch, gather, stray, lift, sag. They are an important part of our face.

I couldn’t help but stare at myself.

I was totally shocked.

But, of course, you couldn’t tell by looking at me. Because I no longer have eyebrows to raise in surprise.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

Meet me in the bar

Janie EmausPOV. Tags. Hooks. Dark moments. Arcs.

At a conference I recently attended, these terms were tossed into the room, with everyone in attendance taking copious notes, asking questions and adding their opinions.  Now, if you’re not a writer, these expressions may mean nothing to you.

Your world may consist of such terms as: dibble stick, compost, annuals, stratification. That is, if you’re into landscaping and gardening.

Or perhaps you’re familiar with Brazilian Wax, French Tip and Egyptian Threading. And no, these applications do not apply to a foreign translator, but to your neighborhood cosmetologist.

Every profession and every hobby has its own lingo, complete with inside jokes and greetings that only those in the know will understand.

But there is one universal expression, one common phrase that everyone gets, no matter what type of conference they are attending. And that is “meet me in the bar.”

Let’s face it, a lot of great information is garnered in the workshops, taking notes and watching PowerPoint presentations. But some of the real knowledge and connections are made coming to and from the lecture halls, in the elevators and in the lobby.

How many of us have had that serendipitous moment when we find ourself in the elevator with the editor (editor interchangeable with person of power in your chosen field) you’ve been dying to meet forever? And in casual conversation she mentions she’s looking for a story about a middle-aged woman having an affair with the ghost of her first boyfriend. You just happen to have such a story. And the guts to tell her.

In that short ride to the lobby, you see yourself years from now on The New York Times’ bestseller list. Or walking the red carpet at a movie premier staring Diane Keaton.

Or perhaps the elevator dings before you open your mouth.

In any event, you see my point.

Don’t get me wrong. When I pay hard earned money to attend a conference, I want to come away feeling as if I’ve learned something new.

But I usually get just as much from the networking which takes place between the sipping of cocktails, the crunching on nuts and the swapping of business cards. I love all the schmoozing.

But that’s just my POV — point of view.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

Thanking the Academy

Janie Emaus“I’d like to thank my first husband for allowing me to find him in bed with the lead singer in his band. It helped me write the dark moment in this screenplay.

And thank you to the doctor who took me off my hormone pills so that I could have all those hot flashes and sleepless nights, giving me time to write while everyone else slept  peacefully in their beds.

And finally, thank you God, for the aging process. For turning my firm, young body into one with wrinkles and spots. You’ve given me the incentive to keep working at my craft with the hopes of earning a living at it in order to purchase all those expensive anti-aging creams.”

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve pretended to stand at the podium in front of the audience giving a speech such as this.

Well, of course, I wouldn’t really say it quite like the above. But I probably would thank everyone I’ve known in my life. Coming a close second if not surpassing Sally Field in her famous 1985 speech, “You like me.  Right now, you like me.”

I’d have to wear flat shoes because these days I can’t walk too well in heels anymore.  Which means I’ll have to get the right dress to complete my look.

I’ll need a high neckline because sometime last year, my “real” neck disappeared and I haven’t been able to find it.

I’ll have to have a long talk with my hair because like a spirited teenager, it has a mind of its own. And I don’t want it acting too wild on my big night.

And someone other than myself will have to apply my makeup because although I can see quite well up close, I’d hate to scare my fans in the balcony.

Right now, you might be thinking: Is she serious? She really thinks might win an Academy Award?

My answer — you never know.

But I do know one thing. If I stop working toward that goal, if I stop dreaming, I’ll never give my well-rehearsed acceptance speech.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

It’s a wrap

janie3-214x300The older I get, the more I dislike gift wrapping.  Not that I ever really liked it in the first place.

I’d just as soon put the presents I’ve bought in paper bags.  But all that brown isn’t very festive, and I don’t think my family would be too happy with what resembles bags of groceries for them to open.

So, I usually set aside a few hours, preferably when something I enjoy is on TV, sit on the floor and surround myself with the necessary materials:  scissors, wrapping paper, tape and a very large bottle of vodka.

Now, I’m a pantser when it comes to gift wrapping. I delve into it by the seat of my pants, not really knowing where I am going.

Inevitably, a few minutes into this wrapping expedition, I lose the scissors.  I start tossing paper around until I locate them. Then I can’t find the paper I needed.  After several exasperating minutes, I find that much needed paper, only to have lost the gift.

And let’s not talk about bows and ribbons.  I’m still at Gift Wrapping 101.

My husband on the other hand is my wrapping opposite.  He’s a  plotter with a doctorate in gift wrapping. He sets the gift onto the paper, rolls it over onto its side, measures exactly how much paper he needs, cuts and then wraps. Not a scrap is left over

My gifts look like they have been dressed in a second-hand store, whereas my husband’s sit like kings under the tree.

This got me thinking. Why do we wrap presents so differently from one another? There may be a government study on this topic. I mean, they’ve researched the antidepressant qualities of semen, of all things.  So why not this?  So far, I haven’t found one.

But after years of receiving gifts I have come up with my own conclusions based on the personality types which have existed since my high school days.

1.  The Cheerleader, known in adult life as the social butterfly or the woman who decorates excessively. Her need for acceptance makes her wrap a present as if it were a competition with colorful tape and  matching bows. She waits eagerly for the giftee to comment that the present looks way too gorgeous to open.

2.  The Nerd-Turned-Successful-Entrepreneur. His energy goes into choosing the right present; wrapping it is just an afterthought.  He’ll use scraps of paper so as not to waste anything. Rarely will there be any extra ornamentation such as bows and ribbons.

3. The Class Clown, or that annoying relative who tells too many jokes.  He, of course, will put a necklace inside a box.  Put that box inside another one and so on, ending up with a gift as large as a dishwasher, which takes up all the space under the tree.

Anyway you look at, when it comes time to open the presents, everyone tosses paper and bows every which way. All that mess gets shoved into a big bag and carried to the recycle bin. Where it ultimately gets turned into grocery bags.  And we’re right back to where I started.

Why not go with paper bags in the first place? This year, I think I just might.

— Janie Emaus

Janie Emaus believes that when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. She is the author of the time travel romance, Before the After, and the young adult novel, Mercury in Retro Love. She has an essay in the best-selling humor anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth and is proud have been named a 2013 BlogHer Voice of the Year. To read more of Janie’s humor, you can find her every week In The Powder Room. To learn more about her crazy life, visit her website www.JanieEmaus.com.

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Reflections of Erma