The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

Saralee Perel

Here’s what happens when you write your own obit. Saralee Perel, who won 2012 awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for humor and general interest writing, describes herself as a 55-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who rehabilitates a swaggering Charlie Sheen and will be buried, according to her wishes, with the Oscar she won for writing and starring in the remake of the “Titantic.” In reality, the Cape Cod writer did just publish a book of columns, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance.

A life out of balance

Saralee Perel, an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist from Cape Cod, has just published a new book, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance. Her column, which runs in 44 newspapers, has appeared in the nation’s leading publications, including Family Circle magazine, Woman’s World, Funny Times and Animal Wellness.

I’ll take a wife

Lisa Smith Molinari, an 18-year Navy spouse, mother of three and humor columnist, published an article, “I Want a Wife, Too” in the May issue of Military Spouse magazine. Check out her blog for her weekly column that’s also published in the Indiana Gazette and on the Stars and Stripes Military Moms website.

True confessions

Katherine Turski’s humor essay, “Confessions of a Husband Beater,” appears in the latest of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader (Flush Edition). She also published a short story in The Anthology From Hell — Humorous Stories From Down Under (Yard Dog Press).

Unwavering loyalty

W. Bruce Cameron, part of the 2012 EBWW faculty, has published A Dog’s Journey, a sequel to the New York Times‘ best-selling novel A Dog’s Purpose. Bruce has always loved dogs, which he concedes puts him in a “unique category with maybe two or three billion people.”

Mike Farley

Mike Farley writes a weekly humor column that captured first place in the 2012 National Society of Newspaper Columnists competition in the online, blog and multimedia category (under 100,000 monthly visitors). The Massachusetts writer claims it was a case of mistaken identity. He insists he writes “for people with nothing else to read.”  The judges differ: “Mike Farley’s writing captures the amusement and wonder in the everyday moments of family life. His columns about braiding his daughter’s hair and three-way conversations between husband and wife make you smile and chuckle out loud. He teases the reader into wanting more.”

A real mother

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Denise Malloy has released a book, A Real Mother: stumbling through motherhood. A columnist for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, she quips her bio reads like a bad joke: “After working as a lifeguard, a Peace Corps volunteer, a middle school teacher, a switchboard operator and finally, an attorney (but don’t hold that against her), she is uniquely qualified to do absolutely nothing. That is why she writes.”

When your friends are your material

I recently praised the witty writing on my friend’s blog and told her that she should consider submitting for print.

“Yeah, but I could never publish the things about my kids that you do about yours.”

Such candor validates her true friend status. And often as a writer, I wonder how many real friends I have left.

On the days I muster shedding my uniform drawstrings for appropriate lunch attire, I sit across from radiant women who bubble bathe and work out and wonder if they would invite me back if they knew …

… that as they lightly laugh, their words crank through a mind that twists their tragedies into plot points, conjugates their conundrums into dialogue that may or may not end up on the cutting room floor.

As writers, our worlds — our people — are our material. Do they know?

Weren’t they there in our workshops when proven scribes assured us to “write what you know?” Aren’t they privy to the fact that to invite us into their lives, they subsequently invite themselves onto our pages?

And if they know, why do they stay? To be exorcists to the alternating narcissism and self-doubt that taunt us upon deadline? To serve as tranquilizers for our relentless angst? Perhaps we are their projects.

As competent adults, it is my friends’ prerogative to remain in my world. But there are four little people with whom I cohabit, and as my progeny, are powerless– having been born into their role of my built-in and best material.

Their every charming antic is recorded on a notecard — their dialogue so fresh, their conflict so natural.  And ever so perceptive, they watch me view their best performances, and knowing they can do nothing to prevent it, murmur, “Oh great, she’s going to write about us.”

—Autumn McAlpin

Autumn McAlpin is the author of Real World 101: A Survival Guide to Life After High School and a columnist for the Orange County Register in southern California.

Reflections of Erma