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Sickness does make you the best mommy

I’m lying in bed, half worried to death because I cannot fix breakfast for my family.

I feel like the Salvation Army is doing a street march in my head. I also have a bout of diarrhea that came knocking minutes after going to bed.

In the meantime, my 7-year-old triplets are downstairs, simulating a war zone in the living room.  I quickly grab my phone to check what time it is. Sh*t, it’s 11 a.m.. I’d planned to call my GP at 7.  The last time I checked the time was 6:57 a.m.

I call Dr. Cy, then I call out to the trio. They come rushing to my bedroom, and my son blurts out, “Mom, I’m hungry.”  I direct Liz, the eldest, to go to the kitchen and get soda and cookies. They hug me for being such a nice mom, for allowing them to have an unhealthy breakfast without them begging.

I call a cab and then pick a dress because I only have the strength to wear one piece of clothing. Then I slip my feet into sandals and use the last ounce of strength remaining to brush my teeth and comb my hair.  As I leave, they call out, “Mom, don’t forget ice cream. You promised.”  I nod and slip out.

I must look like Bloody Mary because my GP takes me in quickly. He tests for malaria and I test positive. He immediately puts me on a drip and gives me a shot.

“You should be glad it hit your stomach and not your brain,” my GP tells me.

“It must have known I need a working brain to raise three young children,” I retort.  I don’t allow my mind to think what would have happened if I had cerebral malaria. I probably would’ve been chasing my children with a water gun in the living room.

He keeps me for another half hour, after which he sends me home recommending long rest and lots of fluids. I can take care of the fluids part; the long rest part, I’m not sure.

I am back at the war zone. “Mom, did you bring us ice cream?”

“I will buy ice cream when you tidy up the living room.”

Oops, its 1 p.m., time for lunch. I call the pizza delivery guy, requesting five boxes.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

We shall live on pizza and French fries until I gain enough strength to be the bad momma again — the one who feeds her children half-cooked vegetables and bland oatmeal. Pizza arrives. They eat it with relish.

“Mom, you are the best in the whole wide world.”

“Until I get better,” I muse.

— Florence Kimani

Florence Kimani is a humor writer and blogger from Kenya. She writes satire, parodies and self-deprecating humor.

The other Grandmom

She is Mimi. I am Gigi.

She is short. I am tall. She loves to make oodles of Christmas cookies. I bake mini-muffins. She excels in the small details. I’ve never even met a detail. Her nails are always done beautifully. My ring finger nail has a piece of mulch sticking out right now. She travels internationally and has tons of travel points. I have no travel points. She has a pleasant singing voice. You probably don’t need to hear me sing.

Mimi stands short at just under 5.’ I tower over her at 5’7.” When we visit together, she offers to take the very back row of seats in the van, past the kids’ car seats, because she can walk down the aisle easily. If I try that, I am hunched and get leg spasms. I say bad words.

Every Christmas Mimi and her daughter, Nikki, make enough cookies in one day to serve the entire state of Texas. None of them are burnt, and they decorate them, too. In the pictures they post, she is always smiling. This qualifies her for a halo in my book. I may make one batch and eat most of them before the sprinkles and icing even get out of the cabinet. Who am I kidding? I don’t even have cookie décor.

Mimi is detail oriented. She’ll take the time to fluff that bow to make it look special. She’ll add the little touches of flair to make a dining table enticing. I add a candle wreath to a table and call it a holiday.

Mimi is responsible for my first set of pink and white acrylic nails. Her nails always looked so polished and professional. Mine looked like they needed a good coat of polish.

We went to a nail salon with my daughter, Erika, and all got our nails done. I tapped them on every hard surface just to hear the “click-click-click” noise.

Mimi is always dashing off to Europe for business. I work writing in my sunroom; therefore, no travel points. This is not something she brags about. She has fun stories to share about her travels. I write humor, so we’re pretty alike in the funny story department.

On our last visit together, I caught a tender moment with Mimi and our four-year-old granddaughter, Riley. We were finishing up our tea party, in our jammies, when Riley mentioned “Beauty and the Beast.” Mimi started to sing the song. Her voice is beautiful, even first thing in the morning. Riley’s eyes popped wide open and she giggled, “You know the words, Mimi?” Riley sat on her lap while I filmed the two of them singing

“Tale as old as time
True as it can
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends unexpectedly”

I had tears streaming down my face. They rocked together singing the words. What a sweet, keepsake moment!

So while Mimi can sing, I make one hell of a tea party. It’s very fancy as you would imagine. The very moment the girls’ eyes open, “Tea Party” is the chant. They run to find the basket of little metal teacups. There are two designs. One has hummingbirds with yellow and green little stripes. The other has purple dots and butterflies. A battle usually ensues choosing cups while I make the tea.

Before I came to my senses, we had what one might call “a sugar party.” When I placed the tea on the little tray, I made room for a small sugar bowl. There was a flurry of excitement to add that sugar to the tiny cups of tea. One bowl of sugar sweetened exactly four half mini-cups of tea. Gigi got smart and began to add the sugar to the tea in the pitcher. Otherwise, there was way too much energy for Gigi at that hour of the morning.

Mimi is the grandmom who finds the most beautiful dresses for dance recitals. I don’t know where she finds them, but she has an eye for cuteness. Our granddaughter, Kaylee, wore a flowing lavender dress which looked elegant when she spun in circles.

She should seriously open a children’s boutique. I would shop there!

While Mimi and I are different, we are very alike in many ways. We both laugh at simple things, like dieting. We both love our family. We are both totally over-the-moon in love with our grandkids. We both roll our eyes, which are both blue…not both eyes specifically. We both have blue eyes. (I’m getting detail oriented!!!)

I especially love that Mimi treats my daughter like a daughter. Erika is blessed.

There can never be enough people in our lives who love our children and grandchildren, just like we do.

I am very blessed, too. I love you, Mimi.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Florida, with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause and Angel Bumps. She blogs at

Because nothing says romance like a bread maker

The tree was dead. Completely dead. Brown, crispy, surrounded-by-a-circle-of-needles-half-naked dead. And under it was a bread maker, that he swears to this day had no ulterior motive.

Three weeks earlier, we had lugged the booty from a bridal shower in the backroom of Breadeaux up the steps to our new apartment, having just signed the lease on the second story space above the weekly newspaper where my fiancé had recently been named editor. It was $250 per month and had one leg of the city’s water tower sprouting from its roof, but it was going to be ours, together. He had moved in two days before and, after the altar, I was going to migrate the 90 miles south to join him.

His mother had very thoughtfully planned a small shower for me, but then had to change venues when word got out in the tiny town. I knew something was amiss when she mentioned I should go select more stuff because my very rational and reasonable registry had already been run through. Hmmm.

So, my soon to be spouse had dutifully driven me around to every venue in the vicinity to choose any checklist affordable I-don’t-really-know-you-but-I’m-dying-to-see-who-he’s-marrying-while-still-being-very-thoughtful-and-generous-about-it suggestions for our newly extended registry. Economical essentials like tea towels and toothbrushes. And then…
For some reason, that still escapes me to this day, I don’t know why I did it, but I did. I threw in a bread maker.

In the winter of 1994, bread makers were the new novelty marketed to the masses, especially…brides. Which means they came close to the cost of our entire rent and were the fantastical, fantasy fad people threw on their registries, but rarely received. Especially people like us. People who had completely forgone registering for China because the pricey porcelain patterns were far too impractical. People who were grateful for every last gift they had already gotten. People who felt gigantic guilt at the thought of going out to get more.
But nevertheless, the bread maker made the list. Just to prove it could. Just because I’d never actually get one. Just because anyone who knew anything about me, anything at all, could plainly see that I wasn’t very domestic and wouldn’t dare.
But mostly because that bread maker made this bride mad. It was somehow taunting me. With everything I wasn’t and couldn’t have. So, right on the registry it went.

And on the day of the shower, to my shock, I got every item I had registered for but the bread maker. From the 89 women, most of whom I had never met, who had come that afternoon to catch a glimpse of the girl who would be moving to Wayne county after the wedding. My mother-in-law hadn’t even sent that many invitations. Many of them had just shown up; gifts, potluck, and plated cream cheese mints in hand.

And as we hoisted our haul into our new home, there was one more gift…from him. A Christmas tree, set up and ready to decorate with the lights and ornaments he already knew we were going to be gifted.  My husband had a way of making the most minimal gift magical with just a few romantic words. It was his habit and he had done this from the very beginning with everything from journals, to love letters, to three simple carnations because they were all he could afford. His gifts were the best because each one had meaning and said something about us.

And this was no exception. So, we decorated and delighted and dreamed of sharing our first Christmas morning under that tree as a married couple only three weeks later.

But now…the honeymoon was over.

I sat under a tree that had died while we were away, staring down at a bread maker in a box where my romantic gesture should have been, wondering what exactly he was trying to tell me about “us.”

And that was it. No card. No note. No cute little words or romantic ideals. A bread maker. You know, for all of the bread he expected me to bake him…now that I was his wife.

Fear struck me right in my shellfish little soul. What had I done to deserve this? Or rather what kind of man had I married that would buy me a bread maker?
And the cost! We didn’t have this kind of money! Here we were only eight days into our marriage, breaking the bank on bread makers! What kind of spendthrift was he?
My God, what kind of life was this going to be? What was I thinking? Was I thinking? Obviously not! He didn’t know me at all! And really I didn’t know him either! When it all boiled down, we were little more than strangers…BOUND FOR LIFE! I was now bound to a bread maker buyer for the rest of my life!

Maybe I had missed something. Surely that was it. I looked up into his expectant face and…

“It’s a bread maker!” He beamed.

He was happy about this. Proud of it. And obviously expected me to be too.

“Thank you.” I said as I sat and stewed in my nightmare visions of future giftings of crockpots and blenders as I thanked him in my apron and pearls just before vacuuming up the debris with my brand new Hoover.

I have made a horrible mistake! What have I done? My God, what have I done?!?

“I thought you put one on your registry. Didn’t you put one on the registry?”

“Mhmmm,” I nodded biting my lower lip.

But Christmas as a married woman was well underway and we had places to be. So I tucked the bread maker back under the brown tree and thanked him again as we headed out to house hop and spend Christmas with family.

“So what did you get?”

“A bread maker.”

“Wow! That was nice.” And I knew that she knew. My mother-in-law is not one of those naggy or nosey ones. She’s actually quite nice. So, if she already knew, there was something I didn’t.

It turns out that when my husband saw that bread maker on the registry, he got quite a jolt. Not only because it was completely out of our reach, but because he couldn’t possibly imagine me as a bread maker. But if I wanted it, somehow, he would make it so!

There had been 50. 50 that would be available for $50 over 60 miles away. And he had solicited her help in preplanning and plotting to procure one through the hellacious herds of Black Friday humanity. And even though $50 was still a stretch, there it miraculously sat, under my dead tree on Christmas morning. Because this bride had requested it.

That silly bread maker said so much more about “us” than any words or whimsy ever could. And I have learned over the years to be very selective when soliciting what I might like to have. Because he will remember it and do everything in his power to make it so. No matter how odd or out of character or out of the way, there it will be.
Because it has been my husband’s habit and he has done it from the very beginning. He has a way of making the most “minimal” gift magical.

— Laura Becker

Laura Becker is an essayist who currently resides in Redondo Beach with her screenwriting partner/husband. Born in Missouri. Raised in Kansas. Adolescence/young adulthood in Iowa, which, according to Walter Neft in Double Indemnity, makes her a native Californian. She writes, quips, muses and laughs about almost anything…almost.

In. Bam.

In the first 20 minutes alone, 150 writers registered for the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, paving the way for a sellout in record time — just shy of five hours.

(Actually four hours and 42 minutes, but who’s keeping track?)

Writers are flocking to Dayton from 41 states, three provinces in Canada, and Madrid (yes, the one in Spain). We have big contingents from Ohio and California. Nearly half — 167 registrants — are first timers. Five are mother-daughter duos.

If you’d like to add your name to our wait list, click here. The workshop runs April 5-7 at the University of Dayton.

Several writers likened the opening of registration for the workshop to standing in line for concert tickets. “Anyone remember back in the day when you would camp out overnight outside the mall waiting for concert tickets to go on sale? That feeling of we are willing to do whatever it takes, and we are all in this together?’ That is what this feels like. Good luck, fellow Ermites. I’ll meet you in the front row,” wrote Lisa Packer of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Others described their elation after receiving confirmation: “I’m feeling like that kid in first grade who’s wound up and can’t sit in his seat and can’t hold his pencil because he’s so tense with excitement, so he’s poking his desk mate and singing songs and bouncing in his chair, and the teacher is all, ‘Jimmy, if you don’t settle down you’re going to the principal’s office,’ when in reality Jimmy is just happier than he’s been in a while and doesn’t know what to do with all of the emotion coursing through his veins. Yeah, that’s what Erma registration day feels like,” said Joanne Brokaw of East Rochester, New York, who developed a “happiness overdose headache.”

Lela Davidson, of Rogers, Ohio, expressed her joy in two words: “In. Bam.”

One writer humorously detailed her pre-registration preparation: “For weeks beforehand, I did hand and finger calisthenics ensuring that my digits were as nimble and fast as can be. Then, I went online and ordered a bunch of things I didn’t need to test how fast I could put in an order for “stuff.” The day of registration, I got up early, did my hand exercises for two hours, ate plenty of protein, set up my computer to open on, set up three back-up computers, just in case, closed the cats out of my office, (despite the mewing and scratching at the door), took the phone off the hook, and prayed. One minute to registration, I was poised and at the ready. I was fortunate enough to get straight in on the first try, but because I have a double last name, had trouble. So I did the only thing I could, I deleted my husband’s name and went with my maiden name. It worked. I exhaled YUGELY after I got my confirmation, let the cats back in, and ordered a pizza,” said Allia Zobel Nolan of Norwalk, Connecticut.

Ann Morrow, of Custer, South Dakota, shared her game plan, too: “I marked it on my calendar. Told Siri to remind. Set the timer on the stove. Had my credit card ready and my hands poised over the keyboard like a NASA launch conductor waiting to send the shuttle into orbit. Other than that, I didn’t stress out about it at all.”

Two writers registered despite adversity. “With power down here for hundreds of miles due to nearby fires, I caught a momentary wink of electricity, allowing my registration to go thru, and got in! See you in April!” tweeted Margaux Hession, of Santa Barbara, California, one of the 10 finalists for the inaugural A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.

First-time attendee Julie Burton, of Overland Park, Kansas, registered on her smart phone “completely nude and feet still comfortably in stirrups” because she booked her annual pap smear at the exact time registration opened. “I’m finally going to meet some of the best humor writers in the world. I’m going to learn from them and laugh with them,” she wrote after landing a spot.

Christy Heitger-Ewing, of Avon, Indiana, noted one of the hallmarks of the workshop, its supportive atmosphere. “I think it’s beyond awesome how we all freak out about getting registered but even after registering cannot rest easy until we know all our friends got in, too. It’s like being on the Titanic and making sure our loved ones are in a lifeboat!” she posted on Facebook.

Welcome to the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder and director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. By day, she works as the executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton.

Naked and afraid to eat

“Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain

Well, Mr. Twain, I beg to differ. Little did you know that we’d have naked dating shows, naked real estate shows and naked survival shows. Oh, and naked restaurants. I’m thinking naked people do have a wee bit of influence these days.

Oo la la! France is on my bucket list of travels. Food, wine, fashion and sites –  oui! I am looking forward to seeing more of the country than I saw recently, which was the inside of an airport on a layover.

But, one place I will definitely avoid is the new, all-nude restaurant. (Don’t believe me? Google it. I can’t be responsible for the spam bots, okay? Okay!) Hey, if I plan to drop a boatload of money on clothes in Paris, I want to show them off. Right? I mean, I’m all for themed-restaurants, but who comes up with the idea that people want to eat when they are nude? I’m thinking they aren’t going to be famous for their wings, ya know?

My mind goes places. Places I don’t want it to go… like to pre-teen immaturity when I hear “naked.”

So… please bare with me while I have a little fun.

I envision patrons lining up out the door, waiting for their table, wearing big-brimmed hats, Jackie O-style sunglasses and trench coats. Apparently, when patrons come in, they remove their clothes in a changing room, and bounce on over to their table. The windows are covered to keep peeping Toms inquisitive folks from sneaking a peak. (See what I did here?!) This new restaurant is among a few others around the world where the folks give new meaning to eating raw.

“Hey babe, you want to go to that new restaurant?” Gives me chills just thinking about being asked that innuendo-laced question.

First off, I’d be a little squeamish on the seating arrangements. Do I really want to share a previously occupied chair with my unprotected derriere? No. Maybe disposable seat covers are an option? But I’m unclear as to whether that would be comfy. Imagine getting up after eating and peeling that off your bum like a wrapper on a sticky taffy. Now that’s how to impress your date!

Oh – yikes – can you imagine seeing a fellow diner get physically excited over the daily specials? Lord, have mercy! Me either!

Imagine the frustration of the waitstaff. Phrases like, “Keep your shirt on. You’ll be seated soon,” or, “Don’t get your pantyhose in a knot,” are rendered useless.

In case of emergency…

What happens if some prankster pulls the fire alarm? Or the kitchen catches on fire? Are disposable hospital gowns attached to the bottom of each chair in case of emergency? Was this a thing in the business plan? Did anyone think this through??? Or maybe there’s a pile of fig leaves by the emergency exits, just in case.

I don’t know about you, butt (pun intended) I might be a bit self-conscious about eating dessert when other patrons could see back fat or belly rolls. But, at least there would be no “muffin top” views, because, well, obviously one is not in jeans. So, I guess that’s good.

Keeping it clean

Another benefit I can see is that slopping red wine or marina sauce on yourself would be an easy clean-up. Much less costly than the dry cleaners. So, there’s that.

You certainly wouldn’t need to worry about over eating, because there is no intrusive belt or waist band to remind you to control yourself. I wonder if that would lead to clothing theft in the changing room as people rummage for bigger pants than they originally wore…

For menopausal women, I guess dining in the nude would be helpful, as there is no need to strip off layers of clothing during a hot flash. Well, now, you know what? That could be a game-changer.

Maybe, after all, this whole naked-while-eating concept has some merit. However, I’m betting the dining establishment is not catering to us mid-lifers. Soup-boob syndrome is probably not their end-goal. All I know is that this restaurant gives a whole new meaning to “Moon(light) over Paris.”

–Lynne Cobb

Lynne Cobb is a metro Detroit freelance writer, with articles, essays and blog posts featured in major and local dailies; national and niche magazines; and various Websites, such as Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, HuffPost50 and Midlife Boulevard. Recently, a blog post was published in the popular anthology Feisty after 45 — The Best Blogs from Midlife Women. Keep up with Lynne and her “Midlife Random Ramblings” at

The next Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop takes place April 5-7, 2018, at the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. We are sold out. To register for the waitlist, click here.

2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop sells out in record time

The 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop has sold out in a record four hours and 42 minutes. To register for the waitlist, click here.

Craig Ferguson, comedian, actor, writer and, for 10 entertaining years, the madcap host of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, will kick off the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop next spring.

An author of two books, he won two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show Host for “Celebrity Name Game,” and can be heard nightly on The Craig Ferguson Show on SiriusXM.

The biennial workshop, which hits a milestone with its 10th offering, is slated for April 5-7, 2018, with online registration opening at noon (EST) Tuesday, Dec. 5. A link will be posted at at that time. The registration fee is $450 with a number of free scholarships available for University of Dayton students, beginning in January. Besides Ferguson, the workshop’s all-star keynoter line-up includes:

• Liza Donnelly, award-winning cartoonist with The New Yorker Magazine, resident cartoonist for CBS News and author/editor of 18 books.

• John Grogan, author of the international #1 bestseller Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, a memoir and numerous children’s books.

• Karen Walrond, bestselling author, photographer, coach and speaker who inspires others to find and celebrate their own uniqueness, through the power of storytelling.

• Monica Piper, Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and stand-up comic who has written for sitcoms Roseanne, Mad About You and Veronica’s Closet, and was the head writer of the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats.

Patricia Wynn Brown, dubbed “the Mistress of Mayhem,” returns as the workshop’s emcee. Anna Lefler, author, comedian and “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck,” will recognize the two winners of the inaugural A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. Winners of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, which opens Dec. 4, also will be honored.

Wendy Liebman, a semifinalist on season nine of America’s Got Talent and a frequent guest on late-night TV shows, returns to teach a stand-up comedy boot camp and emcee the Attendee Stand-up Comedy Night that closes the workshop.

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 attention from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and NPR. 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.

The workshop also will include a special panel, “Ask the Agents,” and sessions on “Speed Dating for Writers,” where writers meet briefly with a variety of pros to learn writing and publishing tips. In addition, two publishing professionals will offer one-on-one consultations with writers considering options for publishing their books.

Among the nearly 30 experienced writers and publishing professionals, the workshop’s faculty includes three former keynoters — stand-up comedian and author Leighann Lord; actress and author Kathy Kinney, best known for her iconic role as “Mimi” in The Drew Carey Show; and Cindy Ratzlaff, author and a 29-year veteran of the book publishing industry. The rest of the slate includes:

• Lauren E. Abramo, vice president, subsidiary rights director and literary agent for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

• 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 for Parade magazine, adjunct professor and host of the celebrity podcast “Whine At 9.”

• David Braughler, founder and CEO of Braughler Books.

• Donna Cavanagh, author of five books and founder of and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press, which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books.

• Joni B. Cole, author of the newly released Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier and two other books. She serves on the faculty at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

• Jane Friedman, writer, teacher and speaker with 20 years of experience in the publishing industry with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, a publishing industry newsletter for authors, and is the former publisher of Writer’s Digest.

• T. Faye Griffin, award-winning humorist who’s put words into the mouths of Academy Award winners, comedians, politicians and everyday folk alike. From A&E to BET to PBS, she has amassed an impressive list of writing credits that includes the landmark comedy series In Living Color.

• Lauretta Hannon, bestselling author, Huffington Post blogger, speaker, performer, teacher and author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life.

• Katrina Kittle, author of five novels, creative writing teacher and manuscript consultant.

• Joel Madison, sitcom writer for more than a dozen TV shows, including Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

• Peter Marino, playwright, novelist and emeritus English professor at SUNY Adirondack.

• Kate McKean, vice president at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, literary agent and an adjunct professor at New York University.

• Dinty W. Moore, author of 11 books, including The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, he edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.

• Jessica Murnane, women’s health advocate, podcast host and author of One Part Plant.

• Anne Parris, blogger, marketer and a partner in Midlife Boulevard, a lifestyle site for women, and the BAM Conference, a blogging conference for women in midlife.

• Zachary Petit, journalist, magazine editor, photo dabbler and “lover of all things writerly, design-ish and nerd-like.” He is the author of three books, including The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work and Thrive On Your Own Terms.

• Susan Pohlman, essayist, editor/writing coach, retreat leader and author of the memoir Halfway to Each Other.

• Julia Roberts, creativity coach and author of three books, including Sex, Lies & CreativityGender Differences in Creative Thinking.

• Saba Sulaiman, literary agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services.

• Mark Shatz, author of Comedy Writing Secrets who teaches humor writing and conducts research on the benefits of humor at Ohio University.

• Sharon Short, executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, who has written the coming-of-age novel My One Square Inch of Alaska; two mystery series; and a collection of humorous essays.

• Jessica Strawser, editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest magazine, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade. A novelist, she wrote Almost Missed You and the upcoming Not That I Could Tell.

•Marion Winik, professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore and the author of nine books, among them First Comes LoveThe Glen Rock Book of the DeadHighs in the Low Fifties and The Lunch-Box Chronicles.

Read the keynoter and faculty bios and the session descriptions.

Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has attracted such household names as Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Garrison Keillor, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline 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. If past workshops are any indication, the popular event will fill up quickly. The 2016 workshop, which drew 350 writers from around the nation, sold out in less than six hours.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Writer’s Digest; Books & Co.; Marriott at the University of Dayton; Washington-Centerville Public Library; McMeel Family Foundation; Markey’s Rental and Staging; A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program; and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment.

Battle of the dorm room moms

I knew it going in.

Christine was everything a dorm roommate’s mother should be, starting with being on time for college move in day. What’s more, she was armed with cleaning products. And while that was several months ago, the problem has only gotten worse, not better…

The day had not started well. I’d misplaced the keys to the van and in a panic had to unpack everything into the Subaru. Check in was set for 7:30 a.m. It was already 7:10 a.m.

“Mom! We’re gonna have to take two trips. Come on! We’re gonna be late!” my daughter, Nell, worried as we jammed the last of her things into laundry baskets and duffel bags.

“No big deal,” I told her while hip-checking the car door to force it closed. Everything fit, just as I said. Well, with the exception of one thing: Her sister.

“We’ll just tie you onto the top of the car,” I told Susannah as I jokingly began tying a rope around her legs.

I still can’t believe she thought I was serious. Sure, she’s undertaken some adventuresome challenges on our cross county trips to spread her father’s ashes when counting things like rock climbing a 1200 foot mountain or 30 foot tidal bore rafting in the Bay of Fundy. There was also the time I talked her into horseback riding in the Grand Teton Mountains and yes, she did fall off just like she said she would, but never would I tie her to the roof of a car.

“Mom! That’s sooo dangerous!” she cried, struggling to untie herself.

“Don’t be an idiot Susannah,” Nell scolded. “Mom would never do that. You’d dent the roof.”

There really wasn’t any room left in the backseat, but I didn’t want her to miss the day.

“Just lay down on the seat, strap yourself in as best you can, and I’ll put the duffels on top of you,” I instructed Susannah. “If we have an accident, don’t worry. You have a lot of cushioning!”

Some 45 minutes of grumping later, we were greeted in the dorm room by her roommate and her roommate’s very cheerful mother.


This is Christine.  This is me, trying to look like Christine.

She’d arrived early. We were late.

Her nails were painted. Mine were dirty from gardening.

Her hair was done. Mine was in a pony tail.

She wore a pretty sweater. I’d thrown on a hoodie and pink tee-shirt.

What’s worse, her daughter’s side of the room was already made up in a beautiful white comforter with a string of lights, assorted fluffy throw pillows, a side table, and a cute rug. Oh and did I mention the brand new big screen TV and bright red vacuum cleaner?

Nell had forgotten her pillows.

“Hi, I’m Christine!” the Mom chirped, popping her head out from the refrigerator she’d been filling with groceries from Whole Foods. She’d already scrubbed down the cabinets.

“Hi!” I croaked, feeling like Humpty Dumpty.

I was suddenly glad to have splurged on a brand new set of pots and pans at Bed Bath & Beyond rather than shopping at the local Goodwill.

“Here. I got these for the girls,” I said with a little swagger as I set the shiny new boxes on the kitchen counter. I shot Nell a look that said, “Ha, told you so.”

She knew exactly what I meant. I’d told her all along that her roommate’s Mom would be the perfect Mrs. Clever who’d bake cookies and do the girls’ laundry and how I’d basically fail in comparison. I could just tell she was one of those Moms.

“Nobody’s mother is going to wash their clothes or mine for that matter,” Nell said with annoyance. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mom! She works just like you do.”

Fast forward a few months to last night while chatting with Nell on FaceTime.

“What’s in the foil?” I asked. She had “brought me” into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

“Oh. That? It’s banana bread.”

I immediately knew something was wrong with this picture.

“You baked banana bread?”

“No, Daniella’s mom made it. She dropped it off for us today.”

“She did? She came all the way into the city to bring you girls homemade bread?”

“No, um, well, she was also dropping off our laundry too.”

“’Our’ laundry? What do you mean, ‘our’ laundry? You mean she did your laundry?”

Out came a sheepish “yes.”

I could hear Christine in the background giggling and laughing on FaceTime with her daughter.

“Will you put her on the phone?” I asked. “I want to say hi.”

“You did their laundry? Really?” I said, not saying hi. “I haven’t done Nell’s laundry since she was 12. And you delivered it with a loaf of homemade banana bread? You’re showing me up here woman. What are you, the perfect dorm room mother?”

“Believe me, I’ve been called worse,” she laughed.

While making plans to sneak off for a cup of coffee at Christmas vacation pick up, I secretly hoped she’d bake me a loaf of banana bread too.

— Laura Fahrenthold

Laura Fahrenthold is a New York City crime reporter and a content editor at Woman’s World Magazine. She has an upcoming book, “I’m Fine” to be released in June 2018, and writes about widowhood and parenting her eyeball rolling teenagers on her hit blog,

Reflections of Erma