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Not my privates you don’t

It’s 2004, and the day has dawned sunny and bright, giving me hope for my travels.

It’s my first trip abroad in 30 years. My driver drops me at the terminal in good time, leaving me two hours to get through security — maybe even time to loll in the café, sip coffee and obsess over my itinerary to Spain. I finger my boarding pass and peek at my ticket. Detroit to Madrid. Ten hours. I’m happy I brought my flight pillow and two bestsellers.

​Finally, my turn comes to put my jacket, carry-on, shoes and purse in the bucket and let them slide down the conveyer belt. Two men on either side of the screening booth look like the narcotics squad from “Law and Order.” ​I think, what can they do to a silver-haired lady?

“Step over here, lady,” the meaner looking officer says, motioning me into a large X-ray machine.

I enter the scanning booth and the warning bell goes off. I look around to see what has caused it. The two men also try to determine what caused the forbidden alarm.

​I look down. The shirt I’m wearing is a cute beige fashion T-shirt, given to me by my friend, Nancy, for the trip. I feel pretty sexy in it, but now, to my dismay, I see the neckline of my shirt is covered with gun metal studs.

​“Wow, I am so sorry, sir!” I say to the less threatening security guard. “I believe my shirt has set off the alarm. It has metal décor on it.”

​Both men stare at me. One of them turns to a guard at the next booth and asks, “Hey, can you see what set off the bell?” The third guard looks around at me and the people behind me.

​“Nope. Ya’ got me,” he says, and turns back to the people in his aisle.

​“Excuse me, I said, “if you will notice, I have metal buttons on my shirt, I believe they might be causing the alarm. Since I can’t take the shirt off here, can you suggest a solution?”

​The scary guard begins to rummage through my belongings that have already passed through the scanners.

The other guard says, “Lift your arms, ma’am. Keep them up.”

He proceeds to pat his hands up and down my body.  Passengers around me look on with sympathy, but they were not about to intercede. Feeling uncomfortable with this violation, I begin to panic. Having heard scary stories about TSA, I had promised myself I would be a little lamb and not be difficult. But now, the lioness emerges, and, as these two goons continue to rummage deeper into my luggage and pat harder in the wrong places, I lose it.

​“The problem, gentlemen,” I shout, with venom in my voice, “is my f–king shirt!”

The two men bolt upright as if they’d been shot in the rear with buckshot. Worse than that, they look as if they are delighted to collar a real perpetrator.

“OK, lady, step way over here!” the scary one says, guiding me further from my belongings and escape.

“Stand here and don’t move,” says the other. “Keep your hands out in the open. Don’t say another word.”

​Just as think I might be detained in a dark room with no food or water, another security guard steps up.  He looks over the situation thoughtfully. Then I hear him whisper to my two captors, “Guys, I think it might be her shirt.”

​After staring me down for a few seconds, the nicer guard, looking down at the floor, says, “You can go, Ma’am.  But don’t fly with that shirt again.”

“No problem,” I say, as I gather my things. “I wouldn’t want to meet up with you two again anyway.”

That brings a scowl from Mr. Meany, and when it looks like he might detain me again, I run like hell.

​— Kaye Curren

Kaye Curren has returned to writing after 30 years of raising two husbands, two children, two teenage stepchildren, three horses, umpteen dogs and cats, and several non-speaking parakeets. She used to write computer manuals but now writes humor essays and memoir, including two other blog posts on this site, humorwriters.org. Find her musings on her website/blog at www.writethatthang.com.

A Dog’s Purpose for a mom and daughter

Grace and I read A Dog’s Purpose over winter break in December, using two bookmarks.

It was the first time we have read a book at the same time. I had suggested it when I found out that the author W. Bruce Cameron and his wife, screenwriter Cathryn Michon, are part of the Erma Bombeck writers’ tribe to which I also belong. Though I’d never met either one, I felt a kinship with them. I needed to read and see their work. More importantly, my daughter and I needed something to bond us together during the trying times a teenager and her menopausal mom often experience. And we both love dogs.

On Jan. 26, we attended a private showing of the movie. Granted it didn’t officially open until Jan. 27, but I knew it would start playing a day earlier than advertised. I learned this a few years back when our family went to the theater to buy tickets the night before Divergent was to open. We discovered the movie would show in a few minutes, so we parked the car and went in to a practically empty theater then, same as now.

We chose seats two-thirds of the way up and in the middle, sharing a large bucket of butter-drenched popcorn for our dinner. I made a Snapchat video to commemorate the occasion. It was a privilege to sit alongside my 15-year-old daughter and pretend this was our private screening of A Dog’s Purpose, with the exception of a man down front and two women who came in during the previews and sat a few rows behind us.

We leaned close and talked in hushed voices about how the movie differed from the book, like only hearing “doodle dog” spoken once when it had been used repeatedly in the book. There were scenes in the movie that never occurred in the book, like the swallowed coin, and vice versa, like the police dog having two masters. That is, of course, the way it is with book-to-movie scripts to condense some dozen-plus hours of reading into less than two hours of screen time. Some don’t succeed with the transition; this one did.

On our way out of the theater, Grace said she thought the book was better because more things happened. I think the real reason that may be true is because the book gave us more time together as we plowed through its pages. She never wanted me to get ahead of her either, so it made it a fun competition as reading became a priority over other daily distractions, such as checking social media and putting away laundry.

But the movie was great, too, she quickly added. Greater still, I believe, was sharing both with her, from laughing and crying as we talked about the chapters each of us had just read, to whispering at our private showing between more giggles and tears.

The book and the movie certainly served their purpose for us. Five stars and two thumbs up for that.

— Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin, a marketing professional, started her career as a journalist. Her essays have been published on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop blog and in The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Child Magazine — penned under various last names that she has tried on over time. Four children call her Mom, and each of them has provided their (un)fair share of writing prompts throughout their 28, 25, 22 and 15 years of life. Find her at www.lisamarlin.com, on Twitter @lisa_marlin and on Facebook at @lisamarlinwriter.

Start texting like an adult

The subjective topics in academia seem to suffer from the highest amount of oral and written atrocities. Front and foremost in our high-tech world are the text-atrocities. (Look, I just made a new word, so it must be true.)

For example, should I happen to text you that 5 x 5 = 20 and insist that it’s just the “way we do math,” you would probably put up a great argument. Perhaps enough people would like to decide that Washington, D.C. is in Washington state, or that Hollywood is not in Los Angeles. The new President of the United States must be President Bernie Sanders if we think it so in our colloquial neck of the woods.

No, you say? We cannot change the facts, you say? If your so sure, idk what your talking about. I may as well SMH and go on. For one thing that’s 4 sure, textbreviation (another new word) has become a harrowing nightmare for most people who are Baby Boomers. So, to regain my sanity (it’s shaky anyway), I occasionally slip on over to Ellen DeGeneres’ Clumsy Thumbsy site for a chuckle and so that I can blame it on technology.

I am unsure whether to be more bothered by poor grammar and the endorsement and adamant defense of same or in the deleting of letters from words and then pretending they are words. Perhaps we can throw both abominations together and text like this:

I seen ur bae 2day. Wow, YOLO, but she b w/a dood.

While your officially butchering the English language, go ahead and make it good. How bout dis:

U go wit me? Hav u eat der?

I think, “Sure, I will meet you there. While you’re waiting for me, please do not text me in 21st Century Technobonics (new word #3), because when the bill comes for our meal, and I debate that $15 will pay half of the $40 owed because I just do Mat like dat, “you’re” blood pressure will arise to astonishing levels.

One of the main reasons I believe this has become the norm is the explosion of social media. If you ask millennials and America’s youth the social media platforms they use the most, you’ll probably get Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Those four sites alone total over 3.3 billion active monthly users. No one writes like Charles Dickens on these sites. Social media, along with texting, are the two main contributors to this, let’s say, grammar nightmare.

Furthermore, when I do something nice or give a gift, I have become so accustomed to being told “Your welcome!” that I finally have retrained myself to just realize that the welcome must be all mine. Okay, I can rationalize that you are (which contracts into YOU’RE) giving to me a benevolent verbal gratitude, so it must be MY welcome.

LMAO today reading an article about texting faux pas. It was reassuring to me that I’m not the only so-called “Grammar Nazi” left. Or, as a society, perhaps we can also alter other dimensions, such as math, geography, science and so on. And that, my friend, is my defense for penciling in “Rocket Scientist” on my resume.

— Gordon Hayes

Gordon Hayes hails from New York City where he is a marketing associate by day and blogger/wanna be funny guy by night.

Finding your tribe

I could feel the tiny glands in my armpits firing off, one by one. I fidgeted, pushed the lettuce around my plate, and smiled blankly at the gentleman beside me, too distracted to make conversation.

It was no use. I would be a nervous wreck until my speech was over.

The organizers of the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had given me five minutes to speak about NSNC during the Friday lunch program. I had plenty of public speaking experience, but — if there was one thing I knew about these Erma folks — they didn’t want anyone to interrupt lunch unless laughter was involved.

I had stayed up late in my hotel room the night before, standing before a mirror in my Spanx, rehearsing my remarks, timing myself, and making sure I inserted a few decent jokes. The pressure was palpable. How could I plug NSNC and make hundreds of humor writers laugh in five lousy minutes?

“Let me introduce Lisa Smith Molinari of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for an exciting announcement!” I gripped my index cards with clammy hands and headed to the podium.

With 400 people staring up at me, I thought my bladder might let loose.

But then I remembered, that just a few years ago, I was one of those people out in the EBWW crowd, wondering if I could succeed at my dreams of being a columnist, looking for others who wondered, too.

I told the crowd my story. About the nights sitting alone at my home computer, figuring it all out by the seat of my double-digit-sized pants, with nothing but a can of Pringles and a Diet Coke to keep me company.

That is, until I found my tribe. Joining NSNC and attending EBWW gave me information, inspiration and a whole bunch of new friends with the same hopes and dreams.

I asked for a show of hands, how many at the luncheon were NSNC members, and arms popped up at every table. I could see that the other attendees were surprised that their new friends were “newspaper people.” I explained to them that, despite its traditional name, NSNC is not just for newspaper people.

“NSNC members are columnists of all types, including bloggers…anyone who is a serial essayist,” I explained, hoping that they wouldn’t think we were a bunch of axe murderers.

I heard murmuring in the crowd, and could tell that they were skeptical that NSNC was open to bloggers. I made an offer to prove it: “Anyone attending the conference this weekend can join NSNC for a free 2016 membership.”

No sooner did I retake my seat, now starving and ready to wolf down my salad, than I was inundated with people crowding around me, grabbing at the NSNC sign-up cards I had at the table, asking me, “Are you sure I can join?”

I never got to eat my salad, but I was filled up with emotion over the deluge of 153 new NSNC members, and I was excited about finding ways to make them feel welcome in our tribe.

Erma Bombeck, who passed away on April 22, 1996, wrote her columns on a typewriter, alone in her bedroom. She once said, “It takes a lot of courage to show someone else your dreams.” But when Erma — a housewife in a world of serious journalists — mustered the courage to approach others with the idea that she might be a columnist, she became a phenomenal success, published in 900 newspapers each week and writing a series of best-selling books.

And I’d like to think, if Erma were alive today, she would have a successful blog, too.

With this spirit that Erma inspires, NSNC welcomes aspiring and established writers of columns in all applications — be it blogs, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, or alternative media.

Come to the table, and share your dreams with us. Join or renew your membership here.

— Lisa Smith Molinari

Lisa Smith Molinari is the president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, one of the partners of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been published in The Washington Postseveral anthologies, various magazines, websites and other publications. Her blog, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” is an expanded version of a weekly newspaper column that runs in military and civilian newspapers. In 2013, she won second place (under 100,000 monthly visitors) in the online/multimedia category of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition and was a finalist in the Robert Benchley Society Annual Humor Writing Contest.

How I turned down Brad Pitt

Once, about 20 years ago, I turned down a night with Brad Pitt.

It unfurled just before I was married, before he became a producer, aged backwards as Benjamin Button, or showed us his butt in Troy. Before a word like “Brangelina” made any sense.

Although my memory is foggy on the exact words, it went something like this:

My Roommate: “Wanna go bowling? We’re going with Brad Pitt.”

Me: “What?”

My Roommate: “Brad Pitt. The guy from Thelma and Louise.”

Me: “You’re serious?”

My Roommate: “Dead serious. My sister met him at a club last night. He wants her to bring friends.”

Me: “I can’t bowl!”

My Roommate: “Don’t worry, he’ll like you. Best thing is, if you run out of stuff to say, you can just stand there and look at him. I’m sure he’s used to it.”

And what would a middle aged woman, as I am now, 20 years on, do if in such a position? Would she run in for a bit of quick Botox? Get a pedicure? Would she spend hours trying on the coolest designer Manolo Blahnik bowling shoes (surely this product must exist, for exactly these moments)?

Here is one thing a middle-aged woman would not do: she would not say no.

She would not say “no” to going bowling with this man, under any circumstances. If her child were graduating from high school, she’d hand her husband a video camera and say, “Tell her I wish I could be there. Get me some video. I’ll be back by midnight.”

If her beloved dog of 10 years has just died, she’d say, “Put that thing on ice until tomorrow…I have some pins to take down!”

But, since I was only 23 and didn’t have the wisdom of age, I said: no.

I had just met my husband-to-be, Tim. I loved him, and still do. I loved him more than Italian sausage pizza, more than crème brulee. I had more feelings for him than Brad Pitt had muscle packed into his derriere, which is saying a lot.

But these thoughts still ran through my mind:

What if I’m hanging around with all these A-List celebrities and lose my anonymity? Could I still go to WalMart undetected by paparazzi?

What if Brad decides I’m the perfect leading lady to star in his next film, and I need to move to L.A., away from Tim?

Of course there was the best of all, the question still conjured up purposefully at times when I need a laugh:

What if Brad falls for me, and I have to choose between Tim and Brad?

These are the thoughts of someone who is 23. At 23, we’re romantics. We still believe the endings of movies. We have big, watery eyes. If you could somehow draw a picture of our souls, the portrait would have eyes like characters in Japanese anime — huge, reflective, dual abysses that reach deep inside, but see only possibilities and never ghosts. Back then, there was one thing we definitely would have all believed in: the notion that a People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive could somehow cause us a dilemma.

A married 45-year-old does not have such thoughts. Here’s what she thinks:

He’s rich…maybe he can pay for my bowling.

Or, more than likely,

Damn, it’ll piss Tim off if I go bowling with the sexiest man alive. I’M THERE!

And that’s the extent of it. We of middle age have been around the block a few times. We know nothing unusual would happen.

Even though she still might have the last minute Botox, the middle-aged woman has seen enough to know that talk of French fries and bowling form would be the likely conversations. Why? Because despite what you may think, this is what people talk about when bowling, even people with rock hard abdomens.

Gals who have crossed the zenith of that “over-the-hill” hill accept that our bowling companion may be A-List, but we already have the real sexiest men alive.

The really sexy ones are waiting for us at home. They’re sitting on our couches, grinning like boys because they secretly took the remote control when we got up to pee. They’re the ones cutting the grass, sweaty bellies sticking out from under yellowed T-shirts.

The real sexiest men alive are snoring in front of the TV, tired from working to pay for the dream house and college fund. Their feet are up, propped on top of our stack of women’s magazines featuring photos of a certain Mr. Pitt. They’re tired from loving us so hard.

They love to look at us despite our saddlebags and gray hairs. They stand by us. They don’t duck out after a quick game. They stick around, always letting us choose which restaurant we’ll go to, which video we’ll watch. They rarely comment on our form. They build something with us every day, something worthwhile, and, in some instances, everlasting. And we know that nobody in a bowling shirt with “Brad” embroidered on it could ever have an effect on any of that.

So we middle-aged ladies, we’re unafraid. We go bowling. We stare at the abs, unashamed, with absolute glee.

— Kara Martinez Bachmann

This essay is a shortened/adapted excerpt from Kara Martinez Bachmann’s essay collection Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age. Her work has also been heard on NPR radio and has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Writer, Funny Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Find out more at Karamartinezbachman.com.

Balance

In the photo, the beautiful, young woman is doing a headstand on the beach, her legs arranged like the wings of a mythical bird. In my mind’s eye, I see myself there, hands in the sand, seeing the world upside down and being at total peace.

So in order to get my real world to jibe with my cracked internal version of reality, I went to a yoga class today. It was the first time in 40 years.

They weren’t doing the headstand that I saw in the photo, but close.

There was a throng of people at the community center, like spring break on a Florida beach. They sat on their yoga mats peeling off their socks. “Am I not supposed to wear socks?” I had hiking socks on, nice and warm, but right away, I saw that they were shedding big pills of wool the way socks will when they’re old. I plucked one pill off and tucked it under my purple mat while the woman on one side stared straight ahead as if already dosed for the day and the woman on the other, perfectly attired in J. Yogi, remarked to me that the Monday class had even more people in it. Grateful for that small break, I arranged myself and waited.

As usual in a class involving physical things, I looked for the weakest link — the crummiest swimmer, the slowest cyclist, the walker wearing an orthopedic boot. The weakest link is my baseline, the person that I will always be better than. It’s an evil little way to think, but I invite no correction. Anyway, as it happens and as you might suspect, I quickly discover that it is me, in fact, who is the weakest link since I a) have no clue what I’m doing and b) cannot hear the little wee teacher whose voice is remarkably similar to the Tiny Tears doll I had when I was six.

Right away, we were all kneeling with our faces on our mats and arms outstretched. “How long are we supposed to do this?” I looked left and then right. Everyone face down. I pressed my forehead into the mat to take my mind off the pain in my thighs. Right away, I thought about the book I read written by a woman hostage in the Middle East who, when in a terrible situation (of which there were hundreds but she did survive), would ask herself, “Are you okay right now, in this moment?” And when she answered yes, she would just go to the next moment. So I tried that approach, but it didn’t work as well for me.

Grinding my face in the mat made my glasses all blurry. “Isn’t anyone else wearing glasses?” I couldn’t tell without standing up and doing an inventory. The other yogis seemed so intact and fit, probably all with 20/20 vision, uncorrected. Or wearing contacts, probably ones that made their eyes extra blue.

We did the thing where you form an upside down V and then you walk up to where your hands are and hang there until you pass out. My T-shirt came up to my mouth while I was hanging upside down and I wondered if my belly was showing. I’d purposely worn my longest black t-shirt but I could feel it riding up, or down as the case may be, along with my bra. I was already sweating. My hands were slipping ever so slightly but I stayed focused on my wool socks, considering new pills to pull off when we were allowed to stand up again. I can do this, I thought, I am okay right now, in this moment.

We did a lot of other things that were unpleasant and then briefly lovely like the warrior pose. I think if all of yoga was the warrior pose, I’d be fine with it. When we were doing the warrior pose, though, the tiny instructor came up behind me and patted the backs of my knees. “Bend your legs just slightly.” I did and it made my legs shake. But stretching out my arms was glorious and triumphant, worth the price of admission as they say. And then she told us to lie down.

Now we were all face down with our arms out in front of us like postulants taking our final vows. I wondered how long we were to lie like this, though it seemed like rest, naptime at kindergarten, or it would have if I’d had a small pillow. I felt like I’d earned this repose until I saw out of the corner of my eye that I was supposed to be raising my head and then my feet, actions that seemed almost preposterous given what we’d already done.

There was no end to it, the world’s longest hour in this sweaty room with these mouth-breathing people. Exhale! Then I saw the perfectly attired woman next to me putting on her socks and rolling up her mat and I took that as permission to leave, which I did, tiptoeing over people deep in their serenity. I acted like I had an appointment, somewhere important I needed to go in my big black T-shirt and hiking socks.

I wondered if I would ever come back. I texted my husband from the parking lot.

“Yoga was hideous. I have to take to my bed.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Oh God, so hard. I almost threw up.”

I could skip out, not come back next week or ever. No one would notice, only me. But then there’s the beach and the headstand, my inner self. What to do with her?

 — Jan Wilberg

Jan Wilberg writes about everything from national politics to outwitting rats in the basement with the help of her two sons. She is a mother, grandmother and a formerly hearing impaired person rejoicing in the miracle of her new cochlear implant. Her blog Red’s Wrap has a tagline that says it all: Happiness. It’s relative.

Papa had another stone

It may come as a shock to you that I can’t get pregnant. The reason, of course, is that I am too old. But that did not stop a doctor from sending me for a sonogram.

This procedure, which is often performed on pregnant women, was done on me recently, not because I was expecting a baby, unlikely since I am still infantile myself, but because I had a kidney stone.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t my first. It was my fifth. Or sixth. I have lost count, mostly under the influence of painkilling drugs, but I do know that I am a human quarry who manufactures these things at an alarming rate. If I could outsource this manufacturing to another person, I would. But I can’t, so I continue to have kidney stones.

The first time I had one, a nurse told me it was the male equivalent of childbirth. I told her that at least I wouldn’t have to put the stone through college.

This time, my urologist, Dr. Albert Kim, who has a practice in the appropriately named New York hamlet of Stony Brook, ordered a sonogram because I’d already had enough X-rays from my previous kidney stones to glow in the dark, which at least would reduce my electric bills.

When I arrived at Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology, I spoke with Amy, one of the nice people who work at the front desk.

“I’ve been here so often that I should have my own parking space,” I told her.

“Even I can’t get one,” Amy said with a smile. Then she handed me paperwork whose sheer volume rivaled that of “War and Peace” and asked me to fill it out.

“I’ve had to do this so many times that my right hand should be X-rayed,” I said.

Amy nodded sympathetically and replied, “You can keep the pen.”

Then I was called in by a nice technologist named Erin, who asked if I had been drinking.

“No,” I replied, “but I could go for a beer.”

“I mean water,” Erin said. “You have to have at least 24 ounces before we can do a sonogram.”

“I had a bottle on the way over,” I told her.

“Good,” said Erin, who asked me to lift my shirt so she could rub some jelly on my belly and watch it on the telly.

“Am I pregnant?” I asked.

“Sorry,” she responded, “but no.”

“Do you see my kidney stone?” I wondered.

“I’m not a doctor,” Erin explained, “so I’m not allowed to say.”

But she did say that a report would be sent to Dr. Kim, with whom I had an appointment the next day. That evening, however, someone from the radiology center called me at home to say I had to come back because part of the sonogram was blurred.

The next morning, I returned for another one. While I was waiting, I had a kidney stone attack. Fortunately, it was no worse than having hot tar injected into my right side. When the pain subsided, I had a second sonogram and then went to see Dr. Kim, who said the stone was probably dropping and that this, too, shall pass.

Sure enough, at home later that afternoon, it did. Dr. Kim ordered an X-ray, which I tried to avoid in the first place.

I had one a couple of days later from another nice technologist named Jenn, who said I could keep the blue paper pants I had to wear for the procedure. She also gave me a copy of the X-ray, which I had to bring to Dr. Kim a few days later.

I also brought him the stone, which looked to be the size of a bocce ball but was actually, according to Dr. Kim, five or six millimeters.

“It’s fairly big,” he said. “Did you have a tough time passing it?”

“It wasn’t pleasant, but it could have been worse,” I replied. “At least I didn’t have a baby.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

No joke: Dave Barry to serve as finalist judge in Bombeck Writing Competition

Want a shot at having your humorous musings judged by someone who’s a master at writing funny?

Pulitizer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry will serve as the finalist judge in the humor writing category of the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, according to Debe Dockins, coordinator of the competition at the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

“Inviting writers to judge the Erma contest has become a science for me — who can turn a phrase just so? Does this judge’s writing style remind me of Erma? Is it funny, is it kind?” Dockins said. “I spend a lot of time reading humor and short stories and, over the years, Dave Barry has been sitting at the top of my Wish List for Judges (yes, I really have one).

“I am so excited for the contest, very honored for the opportunity to work with Dave Barry and thrilled for the writers whose essays will make it to the final round,” she said.

Barry has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City. He has also written a number of books with titles like Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland, which, he quips, “are technically classified as nonfiction, although they contain numerous lies.” In 2006, he served as the opening night keynote speaker at the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

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. 4, with previously unpublished 450-word entries in humor and human interest categories accepted until Jan. 8.

Four winners will receive $500 and a free registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, slated for April 5-7, 2018.

In 2016, 563 writers from around the world entered essays — roughly 253,350 words.

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

— Teri Rizvi

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. (Photo credit: Daniel Portnoy Photography)

Reflections of Erma