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Bob Dyer

A nearly 30-year veteran of the Akron Beacon Journal, Bob Dyer has earned  52 regional and national writing awards — including this year’s top humor award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for large newspapers. In 2008, the National Society of Professional Journalists voted him Best Columnist in the Nation. He has been named Best Columnist in Ohio by at least one professional journalism organization for six consecutive years. He was one of the lead writers for A Question of Color, a yearlong examination of racial attitudes in Akron that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. In addition, he has written two books.

Woodstock of humor

For three days, we laughed. OK, howled.

We left renewed, inspired, motivated.

Fresh from the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, some of the 350 attendees and faculty tapped out humorous and, often, heartfelt columns and blogs. Here’s a sampling:

“Postcards From the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop” from Yuliya Patsay of the  She Suggests blog

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop 2012: Will Somebody Please Remove the Ferret from my Toe?” by Dave Fox, author of Getting Lost: Mishaps of An Accidental Nomad

“Being Erma” by Tracy Beckerman, nationally syndicated humor columnist and author of Rebel Without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs. And another, “Here’s Why Jennifer Aniston Probably Won’t Be Inviting Me to Her Wedding”

“Life Keeps Getting Weirder: An Open Letter to the Dayton Marriott” by Anna Lefler, author of The CHICKtionary

“Draggin Girl” by Deb Amlen, New York Times WordPlay columnist and blogger

“Best Moments From the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop” by Tara Adams

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop — A Unique Chance To Study ‘Funny'” from The Laughing Mom blog

“Erma Bombeck, I Am a Writer” by blogger Nicole Shirley Morgan

“An Ode to the EBWW” by Gianetta Palmer

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop?…We’ll See” by Carolyn Plath

“You Had Questions? EBWW 2012 Had Answers” by blogger Jody Worsham on the National Society of Newspaper Columnists website

“The Once and Future Queen. Finding Erma Bombeck” by Kyran Pittman, author of Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life 

“The Spirit of Erma” by Karen Walrond, author/photographer of The Beauty of Different

“On Being Erma’s Child” by Jim Higley, author of Bobblehead Dad

“Lovefest — Erma Bombeck Style” by Suzette Martinez Standring, author of The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists

“What Erma Bombeck Taught Me (Just This Past Weekend” by Amy Wilson, author of When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be

“14 Things I Learned at the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop” by blogger Joe Donatelli

“Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Closes With Dedication” by Mary McCarty, Dayton Daily News columnist 

“Stooges Funny? Don’t Make Me Laugh — Bombeck Rules” by Gina Barreca, author of It’s Not That I’m Bitter or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World  “Erma

Bombeck’s True Gift” by blogger Stacey Hatton

“How I Overcame Chronic Shyness at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop by Jef Blocker

“The Spruce is Greener Surrounded by Family” by blogger Steve Vest

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop: The Meat and Potatoes (And the Chocolate Cake)” by Lisa Tognola, creator of “Main Street Musings” column

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Wrap Up” by Sarah Hunt

“Life According to Erma” by blogger Jen Havice

“College Boys Aren’t Cute Anymore” by blogger Erin Breagy Gross

“Literary Arts Alive and Growing Here in Dayton” by Sharon Short, Dayton Daily News Literary Life columnist

“What Would Erma Say?” by blogger Dawn Weber

“UD Dedicates Tree to Writer’s Memory” by WDTN-TV

“The Next Erma Bombeck” by blogger Susanna Hickman Bartee 

“Six Things I Learned at EBWW” by blogger Leslie Marinelli 

“Six More Things I Learned at EBWW” by blogger Leslie Marinelli

“Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop: The Craft of Writing; the Gift of Friendship” by blogger Darlene Sneden

“From the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop — Blogging, Branding and Social Media, Part 1” by blogger LD Masterson

“This is Where I Come From. And, I Might Be a Little Irreverent. And Also Irrelevent. And I Kinda Don’t Care,” by blogger Janet Frongillo 

“Tricks to Beating the Shy Monster” by blogger Alexandra Rosas

“Dessert AGAIN? OK, I’m In!” by blogger Nancy LaFever

“Thank you, Erma Bombeck” by blogger Jules Fredrick

Attendee Susanna Hickman Bartee penned one of the best descriptions of this year’s workshop: “We were 350 writers and wannabes who met for seminars, encouragement, inspiration and tips. It was a grand party where everyday people like me got to listen to and rub elbows with Pulitzer Prize winners, Hollywood writers, uber-successful freelancers and even (in my case) share an elevator with Betsy Bombeck, Erma’s daughter. It was hard to leave when it was over.”

Mark the date: April 10-12, 2014.  Join us for the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi, associate vice president for University communications at the University of Dayton, founded the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2000.

Laura Rafaty

Laura Rafaty, a columnist for the St. Helena Star, took first place for humor writing in both the 2012 and 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists award competition (newspapers with 50,000 and under circulation). She resides in the Napa Valley where she bases her law firm, Napa Valley Immigration Law. She is producing director of the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater and operates an online retail site and perfume company. A Tony-nominated theatrical producer, she co-authored the book, Straight Women, Gay Men: Absolutely Fabulous Friendships. She blogs at Up the Valley with Laura Rafaty. Read one of her winning essays here.

Never say neigh

How many horses blog? Or dish on the economy and the human condition? Mary Farr’s newly published Never Say Neigh is told through the mouth of a wise and witty horse. Meet Noah, a handsome bay gelding with a debonair flair, on YouTube. Welcome to the world of horse hilarity.

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


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.

Reflections of Erma