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Open letter to the Dayton Marriott

Dear Dayton Marriott Management,

Thank you for your recent communication of 4/23/12 (forwarded to me by your corporate legal department and hereinafter known as “the steaming pantload”) regarding my recent stay at your hotel while attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the various allegations therein, all most some of which are completely without merit and may adversely affect your hotel’s score on the guest survey card which I have yet to complete and mail in.

First, it is outrageous and preposterous to assume that my suitcase was responsible for the malfunction and ultimate failure of elevator #3.  I believe the security tapes will show that the fault lies not with my sleek, utilitarian baggage but with the housekeeping staff member riding in the elevator with me and struggling under the weight of 3-4 thick, fluffy and obviously highly absorbent bath towels made from an exotic strain of imported cotton known to be both unstable and, well, really heavy.

Second, it saddens me to know that the microwave cozy I crocheted for (keynote speaker and comedy legend) Alan Zweibel and stapled to his hotel room door left him feeling (as your so-called report puts it) “disturbed and anxious” rather than relaxed and heartwarmed as I intended.  As for my decision to staple it to his door at 3:14 am, I believe the logic behind that strategy is self-evident.  That being said, I really don’t see how this matter is any of your bossy hotel security team’s business, as Mr. Zweibel has thoughtfully begun a separate correspondence with me regarding this matter.  And when I see him in at our appointed court date, I will finally have the opportunity to tell him in person how much I admire his work.

With respect to the cake, I would like to remind you that I am an attendee/presenter in good standing at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop with all rights and privileges thereof, including – but not limited to – assorted desserts, baked goods and non-dairy creamer.  I have reviewed my official workshop documents and have found no language that asserts a fixed limit on the number of desserts an individual attendee may commandeer, assuming those desserts have not yet been laid claim to by another attendee.  As those slices of carrot cake were unclaimed at the time I consumed them (fact:  not a single person had even entered the ballroom yet when I stumbled across the pieces of cake at tables 14-17), I herewith reject your catering bill of $276.55 and demand that you reverse the charge in the aforementioned amount that you ran on my Mastercard.

Lastly, in the matter of the white school bus, it was my understanding that the bus was no longer in service as a shuttle for workshop attendees at the time I drove that out-of-state drum and bugle corps to Arby’s for a late afternoon snack.  (Those kids must really have been practicing hard, because I have never seen young people with munchies like this in my life.)  I believe a review of the facts will clarify that it was completely beyond my control that the bus ran out of fuel on the way back to the hotel and had to be abandoned on the shoulder of the I-75.  And also, if you don’t want anyone borrowing your vehicles, you probably shouldn’t leave the keys in the lockbox under the registration desk where people can easily find them.

In summation, I have no doubt that we will be able to reach an equitable settlement in the matters above, especially in light of the fact that I have now returned the 769 facial soaps, 412 miniature bottles of body lotion, harvest gold woven blanket and pneumatic desk chair that I mistakenly interpreted to be gratis souvenirs of my stay at your hotel.

Note:  please address all future correspondence directly to me, as I have terminated my dealings with my previous counsel (who, it turns out, characterizes an evening of foofy-drink-fueled line dancing followed by a late-night half-stack at the Waffle House out by the airport as a “bizarro, one-off odyssey” rather than the sublime prelude to long-term romance we both knew damn well it was up until that unfortunate incident Saturday morning).

Thank you and good luck,

Anna Lefler

WOW.

So here’s the thing:  the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop was amazing.  (I hesitate to apply this word because it is so overused these days, but this instance calls for it.)  Other words come to mind, such as inspirational, humbling, hilarious, educational, magical and poignant.  I could go on and on, but I will simply say that, for me, unforgettable is the word that best captures every aspect of my four days and three icing-flecked nights among my fellow humorists and heroes in Dayton.

To the organizers of the workshop who paid me the tremendous honor of inviting me to teach two of the sessions, to the folks who spent their time listening in the audience, to the people who went out of their way to ask questions, share experiences and pay compliments, to the warm and gracious Bombeck family who welcomed me into their company at dinner, and to every attendee and speaker, I would like to say

THANK YOU.  From my heart.

— Anna Lefler

Anna Lefler, author of CHICKtionary, served on the faculty of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer, editor and aspiring hermit in Michigan who is waiting to be discovered as either a brilliant blogger, creator of yoga pants that double as lint rollers or a professional asparagus eater. Her work has been featured on numerous websites, including The Huffington Post. Her latest of two self-published books is Abby Still Has Issues. Check out her funny blog here.

Dancin’ with the scars

Author, humorist and cancer survivor Jan Marshall has published Dancin,’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! The book is dedicated to Gabrielle Giffords and Wounded Warriors. A percentage of the profits goes to their causes as well as the American Cancer Society, American Brain Tumor Association and Meningioma Mommas, “a truly heroic group of survivors.”

Questions? EBWW 2012 had answers!

If you went to EBWW 2012 looking for answers, you weren’t disappointed.  Whatever question you had, it was answered.  And if you didn’t like the answer you got in the first session, you could just go to the next one and keep going until you got the answer you liked.  For example:

Question #1:  How do I get something published?

Session A:  Build your platform.  Show that you have ten million followers on Facebook and ninety-nine trillion stalkers on Twitter.  Then add Pine-trees for graphics and spend the next four years of your life marketing the book.

Session B:  Start writing when you are 68, print 7 copies of your first book at Staples, give 5 to your children and 2 to your two best friends.  Then a publisher will call you and publish your next four books, and two playwrights will find you and turn your book into an off Broadway play all before you are 74. It helps if you live in New York.

Session C:  If you have money, I will print.

Session D:  Talent helps.

Question #2:  Should I write for free?

Session E:  Absolutely!

Session F:  Absolutely not!

Session G:  Absolutely not, unless you are getting something in return!

Session H:  Absolutely up to you!

Question #3:  How important is social media?

Session I: If you can speak Geek, totally important.

Session J:  If you have live human, breathing friends, not so important.

Session K:  If you have a 10-year-old living next door who will tutor for free, it can be helpful.

I hope you are making plans for EBWW 2014 where these same questions will be asked and answered in various formats and languages once again.

— Jody Worsham

At  age 61, when Jody Worsham became the mother of a 1-day-old baby and a 3-year-old, she found writing humor was cheaper than therapy, legal, no hangover, and it didn’t matter if Medicare covered it or not.

The proverbial doughnut

No stranger to the doughnut, veterinarian David Abramowicz believes there is no better way to start one’s morning than with a smile and a doughnut. He’s just published 101 Doughnut Proverbs, a delightful collection of humorous adages related to the beloved pastry.

A Dayton gal

(On the anniversary of Erma Bombeck’s death, Sharon Short writes about the humorist’s enduring appeal in her new column, “Literary Life,” in the Dayton Daily News. Here’s an excerpt from Sharon’s April 22 debut column.)

I am delighted and honored to launch a new column today — Literary Life.

I will share the stories of book clubs, writing groups, writing workshops and published writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays in the greater Dayton area.

I’ve shared news of this column with friends and literary cohorts from Dayton to New York and beyond, and universally I’ve received two reactions: (1) That’s so exciting! and (2) Wait, is there that much going on, literary life-wise, in Dayton, Ohio?

My responses: (1) Yes, it is exciting, because the arts are lively and growing in Dayton, including the literary arts and (2) Yes. The challenge isn’t going to be finding material to cover, but how to choose among all the creative, cool, literary people, places and events each week.

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the passing of nationally beloved humor columnist and best-selling author Erma Bombeck, a household name for her witty and poignant insights into American family life during the 1960s-1980s. Yesterday wrapped up the biannual writers’ workshop held in her name.

“Erma wrote about real life, the kind of life most of us live every day, not the cartoons and fantasies that populate so much of our entertainment media,” says Matthew Dewald, workshop director.

The University of Dayton’s National Alumni Association sponsors the biannual Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, the only one in the United States devoted to human interest and humor writing. Registration for the workshop, which attracts hundreds of aspiring and professional writers from around the United States and Canada, sold out the first week it was open. So, writers interested in 2014 are advised to visit humorwriters.org.

Bombeck was born in Bellbrook in 1927 and grew up in a working-class family in Dayton. She attended University of Dayton and began writing for the Kettering-Oakwood Times in 1964 and the Dayton Journal Herald in 1965. After just three weeks at the Dayton newspaper, Bombeck’s column, At Wit’s End, was picked up for syndication.

In many ways, Bombeck’s and (Manning) Marable’s literary and personal lives couldn’t have been more different. Yet, both grew up in and were, in part, shaped by their experiences in Dayton.

— Sharon Short

Sharon Short is the author of the novel “My One Square Inch of Alaska,” to be published by Penguin Plume in February 2013, and the director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Click here for the complete version of this Literary Life column.

Gina Barreca

Gina Barreca launched her publishing career with They Used to Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor. University Press of New England is re-releasing the book with a new intro exploring the last two decades of women’s humor. Ms. Magazine calls Gina a “feminist humor maven” and Dave Barry grudgingly concedes she’s “Very, very funny. For a woman.”

Not your mother’s book

Three of Terri Spilman’s humorous essays have been published in Not Your Mother’s Book: On Being a Woman,” part of a new and edgy humor anthology series. “The workshop gave me invaluable experience and the confidence to officially label myself a “humor writer” and pursue outside publishing opportunities,” says the blogger from Carmel, Ind.

Reflections of Erma