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

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The tin files

Lucia Paul’s story, “The Tin Files,” will appear in the upcoming Not Your Mother’s Book On…Home ImprovementA humorous essayist from Minneapolis, she’s the author of Bad Catholic Mothers: A Book of Revelations.

A secret Bible

Angie Klink‘s new book, The Deans’ Bible: Five Purdue Women and Their Quest for Equality, will be published by Purdue University Press. Angie writes biographies, histories, children’s books, essays and ad copy. She received an honorable mention in the 2007 Erma Bombeck writing competition. Click here for Angie’s interview about the story behind The Deans’ Bible.

Toe jammin’

(This piece originally ran on Southern Reposted by permission.)

I started the day bouncing around my hotel room on one foot, so guests in the room beneath may have wondered if I’d packed a pogo stick. Jet-lagged and stumbling, I careened into the desk chair that stood between me and the coffee maker. As I hopped madly up and down, I yelled names, not very nice names, names I’ve privately called editors who’ve rejected my work.

With tears rolling down my face, I plunked down into the offending chair. As I scrutinized my foot, I noticed that it now matched the black and blue workshop tote bag. Four toes were properly aligned in their normal state, pointing straight ahead. Alas, one lone piggy was signaling to make a right-hand turn. And my pedicure was ruined.

I’d waited two years to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton. I admire Erma. When I was a young, insecure mother, her brilliant humor saved my sanity. Since the event sells out faster than a Kardashian sex tape goes viral, I’d chained myself to my computer desk before online registration began to ensure I got in. After months of planning, numerous flight changes, and several runway delays, I arrived the day before and claimed my name tag. No way was I missing this conference for a broken toe!

I scooted the office chair to the door and peeked out. Ice should temper the swelling. The ice machine may as well have been in the next county. It was too far down the hall for my achey-breaky toe to maneuver.

I rolled into the bathroom for water to brew coffee and wheeled back to the coffee maker. Waiting for the caffeine jolt to sufficiently erase my morning coma, I contemplated my next move. As I surveyed the room, I realized there was no bullet to bite on. This wouldn’t have been a problem back home in Texas. The closest thing I could find in Dayton was foil-wrapped dark chocolate. I’d have preferred an anesthesiologist.

I was motivated; if I had to gnaw my toe off, like some wild animal caught in a trap, I would. Instead, I grabbed the end of the toe, yanked it back into place, gingerly tugged on a sock, and crammed my injured foot into a shoe. I’ve never seen “broken toe” listed as cause of death on a toe tag in the morgue. I’d live until I could see my doctor at home.

A broken toe is such a wimpy injury. It’s hard to make it noticeable to elicit sympathy. If you’ve got a broken arm or a leg, people respect it. They cluck commiseration and pamper you with extra desserts. They sign your cast with colorful markers, creating witty sayings and drawing smiley faces. Stripping off my sock to ask them to autograph my toenail seemed too wacky. Even a Howard Hughes toenail wouldn’t hold many signatures.

By afternoon, still limping, I realized I’d left my over-the-counter pain medication in my hotel room. Going back for it or walking to buy some was definitely not in my throbbing foot’s near future.

I sat down next to another conference attendee, introduced myself, and asked if she had drugs. Her eyes grew wide, but before she could escape, I explained. After digging around for several minutes, she produced two well-worn aspirins in a Ziploc bag from the linty depths of her Dooney & Bourke. She generously shared, downing the second one herself. An aspirin in the hand is worth two back at the hotel.

Laughter’s a powerful analgesic. Over the next several days, 349 other humor writers often made me laugh enough that I temporarily forgot about my injured toe.

When I finally returned home and saw a doctor, my swollen toe had diminished in size from Ball Park Frank to Little Sizzlers link sausage. After reviewing X-ray films, the doctor prescribed a huge, black protective boot to clomp around in while I heal. I hate wearing the bulky thing, but I’m strapping it on the next time I go to the Dayton event. I’m hoping it’ll snag me an extra dessert.

— Hope Sunderland

Hope Sunderland is a registered nurse who’s retired her enema bucket and bedpan. She’s written for Gulf Coast Lifestyles, ByLine Magazine, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, New Christian Voices, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and contributes to, whose lists have been plagiarized by radio disc jockeys across the nation.


Mike McHugh, aka The Dang Yankee,” has two new stories appearing in the upcoming anthology, Not Your Mother’s Book…On Home Improvement.  This collection of funny tales by do-it-yourselfers from Publishing Syndicate will be released Sept. 10. Mike’s column is a regular feature in The Louisiana Jam, a local publication covering Southwest Louisiana.

A piece of her mind

Visit a universe where roosters crow 24/7 and The Rolling Stones perform unnoticed on the neighbor’s lawn. Journalist Amy McVay Abbott shares 35 of “The Raven Lunatic” newspaper columns in this romp of a book that will keep you laughing from start to finish.

Divorced dad’s humoirs

Joel Schwartzberg‘s The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad is now available as an audiobook. An award-winning humorist, essayist and screenwriter, Schwartzberg has published work in NewsweekThe New York Times MagazineNew Jersey Monthly, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Star Ledger, and “in the flimsy pages” of regional parenting magazines around the country.

You can have cake, but you can’t eat it

(This piece originally ran on Chick Lit Central: The Blog! Reposted by permission.)

A weekend away. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance, right? Mix in a three-hour drive consisting of nonstop chatterbox banter with my friend, author Angie Klink; I’m sold. Our destination was the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

Angie was embarking on her fourth trip to the prestigious workshop; I was the token virgin. Two full days of workshops, guest speakers, networking and free wine at dinner sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

When you put 350 people, funny people that is, all together in a room, you must be on your toes and ready to deliver one-liners at any time. When you put 350 funny people in a room, who love and revere the body of work Erma Bombeck produced over her prolific career, you find something quite different. You get funny with a side of sensitivity. Tears married with knee slapping. Supportive comrades that love idea swapping while waiting their turn for a bathroom stall. “High fives” for those with red stickers representing food allergy purgatory (If you would have seen the delicious chocolate cake staring at this celiac from her table at dinner, you would have hugged her — tightly).

This was not just another writing conference. This one was different. I learned more than I could ever adequately share with you in a few paragraphs. Supremely difficult to accomplish, but I boiled it down to three important things.

Laughter is the best medicine.

I truly believe that. When funnyman Alan Zweibel, “Saturday Night Live” comedic writing genius and best friend of Gilda Radner, took the stage, attendees received their daily dose of vitamin giggles. Recommended daily allowances were dispersed throughout the weekend by television writer and author Adriana Trigiani; political columnist Connie Schultz; and “feminist humor maven” and author Gina Barreca. Luckily, there is no such thing as an overdose of laughter. If anything, chronic laughter tightened up my abs a smidgeon. How about that for a bonus! And it didn’t just come from the speakers; the majority of laughs came from talking about life with anyone and everyone I met. Silliness was unavoidable. Chuckling concluded our time together when 20 attendees took the stage to perform stand-up on Saturday night. Man, were they brave! Hilarious and brave!

Meeting new friends is bliss.

When you sit next to a gorgeous, gray-haired beauty, with a nose ring and headscarf all a glitter, you will find a kindred spirit who wants to join you on your quest for tattoos the next time you visit New York. She will also desire to see you attain your bucket list item of being a flower girl, just because she wants to see you cross it off your list. I later realized that this splendid creature was author Ilene Beckerman, who penned and illustrated the book Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Her first publication became an off-Broadway sensation in the hands of sisters Nora and Delia Ephron. The book that Ilene defines as “accidentally published” also made a television cameo appearance. It was a part of a bookstore scene on a little show you might have heard of called “Sex and the City.” Did I tell you that this all happened for Ilene at the age of 60?!? It’s never too late to write; just begin!

Inspiration abounds.

Guess what? I learned that I can make blog videos on my iPhone (don’t ask me to show you any, and don’t tell The Bobblehead Dad that downloading iMovies is still on my to-do list)! I renewed my passion for journaling, Keep it simple, keep it honest, keep it daily. I realized that at times I need to remove the clutter from my thoughts and get “in the game” when it comes to my writing (Don’t we all?). Lastly, I am reaching more often for my camera as a way for me to relax; attempting to venture away from autofocus (a scary thought that the brilliant Karen Walrond held my hand through).

You do not have to wait to travel to the University of Dayton in 2014 to find laughter, new friends or inspiration. It surrounds us daily. Be open to the experiences life places right in front of you. However, if you want to stretch yourself as a blogger, complete that novel or need the nudge to begin, or you want to connect with others who love to laugh, then EBWW is the place for you. If you want extra dessert while you’re there, make sure you sit by this particular gluten-free gal on chocolate cake night. My staring at you while you take each glorious bite is a small price to pay in exchange for seconds, right?!?

You can learn more about the workshop on Facebook and Twitter.

— Jen Tucker, author of The Day I Wore My Panties Inside-Out, hails from West Lafayette, Ind., where she writes women’s fiction and children’s books. Visit her website and blog. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

We all have issues

The brilliant blogger Abby Heugel has published a sequel to her book, Abby Has Issues. It’s called, appropriately, Abby Still Has Issues. She shares everything from the drama of a cab ride with Aunt Mable to an exclusive interview with Vanilla Ice and her quest to become a naked sushi model.

Reflections of Erma