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Instructions for my family
while I’m in Dayton

Gina ValleyMy pack watches a lot of detective shows and courtroom dramas, so I have to be a bit more specific when I leave the seven of them home while I’m out of town than simply telling them to “Be good” and “Don’t burn the house down.”

In hopes of covering every technicality and loophole, I leave a list of instructions:

Call me only if there’s an emergency. An emergency is when someone or something is on fire, or someone is bleeding profusely from the head. Pimples are not emergencies. The Xbox dying is not an emergency. Any person or beast having flatulence, no matter how revolting, is not an emergency.

No one may make any flame of any kind in any way at any point for any reason. If there is a power outage, birthday or zombie apocalypse,  just sit there in the dark until I get home.

Feed the dog only dog food. Yes, the dog likes ice cream, candy and pizza, but ice cream, candy and pizza do not like the dog, as evidenced by the projectile diarrhea he produced when I was out of town last month.

The dog having projectile diarrhea is not an emergency. Do not call me to tell me about it. Do not send me pictures. Do not send me a live action video. Again.

You must wear shoes to school every day, and they must be shoes that fit you, belong to you and were purchased by me for you. Do not tell your teacher that you have no shoes because “Mommy took them on her trip.” That only happened once.  And, they looked a lot like mine.

Your dad is not allowed to play basketball with you while I’m gone. The last time he played basketball with you he broke his ankle. The time before that he dislocated his hip. If your dad is on crutches when I get back, you’re all grounded. Including your dad.

The babysitter feeding you jar spaghetti sauce is not an emergency. Do not call me to complain about it.

Stay out of my room.  If you think you need to go in my room, stay out of my room. If you absolutely, positively must go in my room, stay out of my room.

Wanting to go in my room is not an emergency. Do not call to ask me if you may go in my room.

Lastly, if it involves the phrase, “Watch this, you guys!” don’t do it.  Don’t even think about doing it.

In other words, be good.

And, don’t burn the house down.

— Gina Valley

Gina Valley is a humorist who lives in Los Angeles. Her husband (The Professor) and her 7 kids (The Pack) provide her with more inspiration than she needs for her blog Gina Valley – The Glamorous Life Of The Modern Day Soccer Mom. Gina was a humor cast member in Listen to Your Mother in San Francisco in 2013. Her work appears on Voiceboks, Dads’ Round Table, and Inspiring Women Magazine. Laugh with Gina on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Madness or craft?

Cathyrn_Michon(Cathryn Michon, best-selling author, standup comic, actress and Hollywood screenwriter and director, talks to Teri Rizvi, EBWW founder, about adapting books into films, the writing process — and why she’s so passionate about a grassroots effort to bring her new movie, Muffin Top: A Love Story, to cities around the country. Cathryn is part of the faculty at the 2014 EBWW, along with her writing partner and husband, W. Bruce Cameron.)

You raised nearly $100,000 from a grassroots effort to give your new movie, Muffin Top: A Love Story, a red-carpet treatment in cities outside Hollywood. Why the passion for this movie?

In most of my writing, I’ve often been obsessed with the topic of low female self-esteem, in one way or another.  We always write about what we need most to learn, so, yeah, I struggle with insecurity. I had Graves Disease as a teenager, which caused facial disfigurement in and around my eyes. You would never know it, because I had seven reconstructive surgeries and I look completely normal today (thanks to great surgeons and generous eye tissue organ donors).  But as a teen, literally having people stop me on the street and say, “what happened to your face?” definitely set me on the path of examining how women limit themselves because of how they feel about their looks.

But I didn’t need the experience of being actually disfigured to feel inadequate, because I’m a woman in America, which means I see at least 400 photoshopped media images a day telling me I don’t look right. Of course, the model in the photo didn’t either; that’s why they photoshopped her. No one is good enough. That is the message, and I wanted to tell a story about a woman who lets that madness about appearance infect her life in really stupid ways, with hilarious consequences that lead her to grow out of her obsessions.

The movie is adapted from one of your own novels. What are the challenges of adapting a book into film?

I learned so much about the story from the time I wrote the novel until Bruce and I co-wrote the screenplay, and so the film is very, very different from the novel. At least in this instance, I’m one of those jerky Hollywood writers who ruined my perfect novel. And by the way, it wasn’t perfect. I would rewrite it today if I could, but I would also rewrite grocery lists if I could. I had a list last week that would have been BRILLIANT if only I had put the bell peppers before the paper towels.  That would have been a kick-ass list. In short, I’m a perfectionist, and I do believe that writing is rewriting, so I was thrilled to have another shot to get the bones of this story right, but if I could, I’d rewrite the screenplay and reshoot the film, too.  Is that madness or craft? Hard to say, but it’s how I am. I never get it exactly right, but I never stop trying to get it right.

What advice would you give other writers who believe their book can be brought to life on the screen?

Many of my personal favorite films are from books, such as Silver Linings Playbook. But on the other hand, that same filmmaker made a wonderful film from an original screenplay, American Hustle. Both methods work, and can make for great films. The biggest challenge with adapting your book is that, well…novels are longer than films. So you will have to, as in the famous phrase, kill your darlings. It can be painful. There is a reason a lot of very successful book authors want nothing to do with writing the screen adaptations of their books: they just can’t take the pain of throwing out very good material. As a filmmaker, my favorite part of the process is editing, paring it down in the edit bay, so I kind of love killing my darlings. Maybe I’m a bad person. It’s just so great when you realize that you didn’t need a sequence you thought was essential. Not great for the time wasted in getting it on film, but great for reducing a story down to its essential, elemental core. But that’s the difference between filmmaking and writing. If you’ve got great details you envision as belonging in your book, there’s no limit to how long and rich that book can be. You have to decide if, as an artist, you want some total stranger paring your book down, or if you can stand to do it yourself.

How did you get started as a writer? Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or an actress?

I always say I should refuse to answer this question for sexism reasons because I find it is more often asked of women than men. But I don’t think you’re being sexist, and I’m also terrible at refusing to do things (I love to say yes!)  so here goes: The truth is, I want to be like Albert Brooks, or Lena Dunham: people who write and direct films in which they also act. I figure for one thing, it’s convenient, as I always have at least one actress who won’t drop out of the project. I really found out who I was creatively at The Second City in Chicago, where we did live improv in front of audiences. So basically you are writing, acting and directing yourself in real time. That’s where I learned to do everything. That’s still one of my favorite creative outlets, and why I just simply refuse to pick between any of my artistic disciplines. It’s all good, I’m grateful to do all of it and want to continue to do all of it.

What drives you to write? Do you have a routine, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

If I’m writing for someone else, for hire, I procrastinate until my stomach hurts and then I write.  If I’m writing something for free that I plan to try and make…oh wait, I do the same thing, but the stomach ache takes longer to show up. That’s not admirable. If you want a process that’s admirable you should ask my husband. We’re like the writer versions of those cartoon characters Goofus and Gallant in Highlights for Children Magazine.  I’m Goofus, so don’t do what I do, do what Bruce does.

Your husband, W. Bruce Cameron, is your writing partner — and your life partner. Together, you’re turning a number of books into movies. Why do the two of you collaborate so well on projects?

Well, neither of us likes to commute. We live in L.A., so that’s only partly a joke; you simply cannot underestimate the value of having your commute consist of walking to the dining room table.

We met on book tour, when we were both published authors, so we came to the partnership with established voices and skill sets. I think that’s the main thing. We liked each other’s books before we even liked each other, so we each respect the other’s talent. Even on projects we don’t partner on, we are each other’s primary first read and edit staff.  If the answers in this Q & A are poorly written, it’s his fault, he had the last pass.

This is your first time on the faculty at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Why did you say yes?

Because they asked me and I love to say yes!  Well, that and the fact that Erma Bombeck was a pioneer who I so admire; she wrote an astonishing word count in a medium I wouldn’t dream of tackling. Bruce was a syndicated columnist for years, so I know what it’s like to have that  “Sword of Damocles” of a deadline hanging over your head. Bruce wrote one newspaper column a week; Erma wrote three columns a week. I cannot imagine that. If she whined three times more than Bruce, I feel a little sorry for her husband.

And her columns (and also books) were funny, smart, and honest. I think Erma gets dismissed by some critics because her topics are considered women’s topics, and, therefore, less important. My hero Nora Ephron was another funny woman writer like that. In my opinion, these ladies did not get the acclaim they deserved.

That’s why I’m so glad that this workshop has become like a shrine to her point of view, and is encouraging others to write in her genre, because her topics were interesting, important and even profound.  Certainly other columnists, my husband included, felt that domestic concerns of family were worthy topics, and so I’m glad that there are also men who come here to celebrate the genre. I couldn’t begin to do what she did, but I’m honored to be even a small part of a program that honors her wonderful writing.

Fashion…or maybe not

Noah and Mary FarrGabe and I were enjoying a friendly round of cribbage this morning when Madam pulled up a chair and sighed.

“It’s time for some resolutions,” she muttered.

“You’re late,” replied Gabe without looking up. He continued to deal me a new hand. “We celebrated the new year three months ago,” he added. “Besides that, we horses are kind of averse to a bunch of tedious rules that begin with no.

”Perhaps you should be conducting this conversation with Henri le Chat Noire,” I offered delicately. “Now there’s a cat who has parlayed tedium and ennui into a fine career.”

“No, no, that’s not it,” exclaimed Madam. “I’m talking about my wardrobe, and my weight,” she snorted. “And what about this hairdo that just spent a long winter under a Carhartt hat? Good grief, if we intend to go to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop next month, I’ll need a serious fashion tune-up,” she groaned.

She made a good point.

“And how would you like to begin your trend-setting makeover?” I asked this woman who still operates a 1975 Lady Kenmore washer and dryer.

“That’s why I’m here,” she retorted, “I need your advice.”

Gabe folded his cards and waited for something brilliant to spring from my lips.

“… Um, maybe we should add a cheery twist to this plan of yours,” I proposed.

She surveyed the filthy Muck Boots on her feet and shot me a disbelieving glance.

“Let’s plan that Happiness Project we’ve been talking about for months,” I offered. “It calls for resolutions of a more pleasant nature. So, for example, you could whip up a slimming kale smoothie, while I enter my 24 Karat Cake in the Pillsbury Bakeoff. We’ll call it a Spread the Joy resolution.”

Gabe rolled his eyes and began perusing his Wall Street Journal.

“Next, you might consider donating all those stylish sweat pants of yours, and I’ll dump my Rambo blanket that Patrick shredded,” I soldiered on. “That sounds like a Lighten Up resolution to me.“

She was beginning to catch my drift.

So there I stood on the threshold of April Fools’ Day, fielding Madam’s style worries. It’s true I’ve morphed from a first-class racehorse to a life coach for a woman of a certain age — traded glamor and speed for a role of attentive husband or hairdresser. Yet, as good as I’m getting at this tony tutoring business, even I will never convince Madam to take her spurs off before grocery shopping.

— Noah Vail

Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on a book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy” blogs hereNever Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival.

Ultra mom style

Lucia PaulMy daughter and I flew in from our separate cities to Miami last weekend to celebrate her birthday.

My first clue that I was going to be even less “South Beachish” than previously feared came when my cabdriver asked, “Are you here for music festival?”

One look at me should have been enough to indicate that, unless it was Captain and Tennille headlining, I was not here for the music festival.

“No, but what festival?” I asked casually while fighting a rising panic.

“Is Ultra! Most famous techno DJ festival in world!”

I don’t get out much, but as the mother of one person who has been a teen and another person who still is a teen, I know what techno music is. Let me do my on-paper imitation now: “Unsuh, unsuh, beep, beep, zip, zeeep, unsuh, zeep, unsuh, yeep.” But scream that really, really loudly. And scratch your fingernails against a chalkboard. Please also grab a dentist drill and just pulsate the on/off button. That, my friends, is what techno music sounds like to me.

At the hotel, the check-in person gingerly offered me a letter.

“We’re giving this to all our guests. You probably know it’s “Ultra” this weekend and noise ordinances are lifted in the city of Miami. The hotel can’t control the many DJ events occurring all around the hotel.” Wanting to be thought of as a good sport, I assured her that I knew the hotel could only control its own grounds. But I was praying that wasn’t really true.

My daughter didn’t arrive for a few hours, so I went up to the room. Could it be my imagination or was there also a gathering of drum circle instructors staying at the hotel? The walls of the room seemed to swell and retract on their own. Just like the blood vessels in my brain. I stepped out onto the small balcony. Big mistake. I thought about immediately self-reporting to Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” because I was staring onto a rooftop of a neighboring hotel that was having a roof-top afternoon dance party. Everyone appeared to be very young and very much in their underwear. I went back into the room and shut the curtains.

I called the front desk. I won’t bore you with the entire contents of the conversation but the words “mom, Midwest, birthday, migraine” and “quieter room” were used.

Props (look at me with the terms!) to the hotel for helping me move to an interior facing room. Oh this one still pulsed, too. But more gently, and the dentist drill could not be heard.

My daughter arrived and practically fell into the room.

“Oh Mom, I’m so sorry! It’s Ultra. I had no idea. Some friends told me that it was in Miami this weekend. They said, ‘Your poor mom.’”

Again, in the spirit of her birthday weekend, and wanting to rise to the (loud) occasion, I hugged her and assured her it would be fine. And it was.

I got to see women in their bathing suits and high heels having dinner at a nice restaurant. I got to see every color of pastel pork pie hat ever made. I got to hear what sounded like a remix of ACDC’s Thunderstruck, the national anthem, and the time I got the basement pipes rotored.

You might say it was an ultra unusual weekend.

— Lucia Paul

Lucia Paul’s humor writing includes an award-winning sitcom script and essays that have appeared in numerous publications. Her parody, 50 Shades of Flannel, earned a cult following, and was an Entertainment Weekly online Editor’s Pick in 2012. She has been a regular humor contributor to MORE magazine’s online edition, writing on topics ranging from the financial crisis to parenting teens. She is a contributor to two Not Your Mother’s Book titles: NYMB…on Home Improvement (2013) and NYMB …on Moms (June 2014). She blogs at dysfunctionalscrapbooking.blogspot.com.

If it’s not me, it’s Carmen Miranda
Fashion mistakes of my youth

Linda WolffI cringe at the thought of my first (and only) date with Mr. Handsome. I had a HUGE crush on him and his chiseled features for years. He was several years older, so naturally, I wanted to wear something special. That was my first mistake.

I was going to pull out all the stops. I was going to WOW him…which I’m pretty sure I did, just not in the way I had hoped.

I wore black satin puffy gauchos with gold flecks that caught the light in such a way it could blind you, like the sun, if you stared directly at it. To complete the look, I wore the matching fitted jacket because nothing says sexy better than looking half matador/half court jester. The cherry on the icing was the pair of shoulder pads that made me resemble an NFL linebacker. The only thing wider was my hair. I thought I looked, like totally, cool. I shudder at the memory.

Even though he kissed me at the end of our date (actually, it was more like a hit and run), he never called again. Was I just too young or did the fact I had broader shoulders scare him away? I will never know.

When I look back on my years in high school, there were those girls who didn’t succumb to the latest fashion trend. They had long, smooth, shiny hair and wore simple body-skimming wrap dresses with nary a shoulder pad in site. They had style and classic beauty and wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pair of jodhpurs.

Linda WolffI, on the other hand, would wear the latest fad no matter how big, puffy, neon, shiny or unflattering. The glitzier the better. My hair was thick, kinky and curly, and wouldn’t know a modicum of control until decades later, when women would start to use nuclear strength varnish to tame their mane. I was under the false impression that once I got rid of the braces and the training bra I was home free. What did I know?! Admittedly, it was not my best look.

You think I would have learned something from the many fashion mistakes of my teen years. But, sadly not. Decades would pass before I would even have an inkling that some of my choices in clothes were less than awesome.

In fact, there was a little black velvet number with a fuchsia ruffle that Carmen Miranda would have killed for, that I just had to have for my engagement party. Did I mention the giant flower the size of a Thanksgiving turkey flanking my hip? Oh yes,  I was a show-stopper that night — probably a traffic stopper, too. Blame it on youth.

It’s good to know I have learned a thing or two over the years. I no longer wear anything puffy or with shoulder pads or that could double as reflective safety apparel. According to my teenage daughter, I play it too safe. I say, better safe than sorry. Been there, worn that — I have the photos to prove it.

— Linda Wolff

Linda Wolff writes the blog Carpool Goddess where she shares her adventures from carpool to empty nest. She no longer drives carpool, but that’s our little secret. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, Scary Mommy, Better After 50, Generation Fabulous and others. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

10 simple reasons today is awesome

IMG_04971. I woke up this morning.

2. I arrived at work safely and only almost hit two cars on the way, but they deserved it.

3. I have a check to deposit in the bank meaning my banker will love me again and lift the block on my account.

4. I had an idea for a great story.

5. No laxative needed today. Pooped au natural.

6. My one knee-high stocking is still at knee level.

7. My one thigh-high orthopedic stocking is at knee level and has not rolled down to the ankle and then launched itself at anyone, anything, or any animal killing or wounding them in the process.

8. I survived yesterday.

9. I didn’t have to wear clothes when I went to the kitchen this morning because no one else was home.

10. Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is less than one month away.

-Wanda Argersinger

Wanda is the author of Y-Mee’s A B C Book of Emotions, a contributor to Bare Elements with a novella about Southern Women, co-author with Clay Mercer ofThe Education of Joe Willy, and the co-author with another EBWW alumni Jody Worsham of the soon to be released Kin We Aren’t Related To whose idea was conceived at the 2012 EBWW. (For those of you who want to know, this is the Mabel & MayBelle book. Look for it soon in paperback and Kindle). She writes from her hurricane ravaged home located on the Florida Panhandle where huge quantities of margaritas are consumed.

How spitting cheesecake at EBWW
can help advance your career

Beckerman, TracyI have a special place in my heart for the Erma Bombeck conference. This was really the place where I got my humor writing start. Well, actually, sitting at my desk in front of my computer was where I got my start, but the Erma conference was the place where I found the courage to turn my passion for writing into a career.

I started writing my humor column for one local newspaper back in 2001, and five years later, decided that I wanted to be the next Erma Bombeck. Where better to learn how to do that than at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop?  I remember being incredibly nervous and in awe of the other writers who seemed like they were so much further along in their journey than I was. On the first night, I noticed a syndicated Canadian columnist surrounded by attendees. I thought, “Gee, if I can get to know him, maybe he can show me the ropes and help me achieve my dream.” So I introduced myself and he invited me to sit next to him at dinner.

Being the cool New Jersey girl that I am, I tried to entertain him with funny stories, and in the process, accidentally knocked an entire glass of wine into his lap.

Then I tried to wipe it off.

Although this was not the impression I was looking to make, it was AN impression, and not one I thought he would forget too quickly.  Being a humor writer, though, he could see the funny in the situation and invited me to sit with him at dinner again the next night.

Dinner with Tracy: Take 2

We made it through almost the entire meal without incident. And then while we were having dessert, he made a joke, and I laughed. Unfortunately it was while I had a large wad of partially chewed strawberry cheesecake in my mouth.  Did you know that when you laugh with strawberry cheesecake in your mouth, it sprays out in a million little tiny yellow and red spots all over whatever or whoever is directly in front of you?

Now you know.

My dinner companion assured me that he would not hold my dual dinner faux pas against me and would most likely make sure to wear a raincoat for all future meals together.

I actually learned two important lessons from that experience.

The first is an equation that has served me well throughout my career. It goes, Tragedy+Time=Comedy.  As bad as something seems at the time, in the hands of a great writer it can become excellent fodder for a humor column.

The second thing I learned was that humor writers, especially those who attend the Erma Bombeck conference, are an incredibly supportive community of people who are just as thrilled for your success as they are for their own. Many of the people I met at my first conference are my biggest supporters, my most trusted editors and some of my closest friends. This is not to say that given the chance they wouldn’t try to bump me off and take over my newspapers contracts, or run away with my Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award, but I know that they would do that in the most loving and supportive way.

Many humor writers today would be surprised to know that Erma Bombeck was almost 38 when she started writing her humor column for the Dayton Journal Herald. By today’s work standards, that is practically old enough to retire to a senior community called “Journey’s End” in Florida and start stealing dinner rolls at the Early Bird Special. Like Erma, I was also in my 30s when I started writing my column. And, also like Erma, my column grew out of the experience of becoming a mother. It was not something I could have written in my 20s. I actually don’t even think I really hit my writing stride until my 40s. With age, they say comes wisdom…but also, sometimes, children.  So, you know, that kind of blows that whole wisdom theory. But with children come hemorrhoids. And with children and hemorrhoids come a humor column.

At my first conference, Dave Barry was the keynote speaker and he was asked the question: “How do you come up with your material?” Dave responded, “You got kids. You got a dog? You got a column.”  Since I was in awe of Dave Barry and his success, I immediately went home, popped out a few kids and got a dog and I have been successful ever since. Eventually, of course, the kids leave home and the dog dies, so it’s good to have a couple more tricks up your humor sleeve…

or at least get another dog.

— Tracy Beckerman

Tracy Beckerman, who’s on the faculty at the 2014 EBWW, writes the syndicated humor column and blog, “Lost in Suburbia,” which is carried by more than 400 newspapers in 25 states and on 250 websites to approximately 10 million readers. She’s also the author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir and Rebel Without a Minivan: Observations on Life in the ‘Burbs. In 2014, she was the global humor winner in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library in Centerville, Ohio.

Cry baby

Ronnie WalterWe are a family of criers. Weepers, sobbers, hanky twisting bawlers. We have sniffled through Mother’s Day TV commercials, teared up reading a particularly sentimental birthday card — and that’s in the greeting card section in Walgreens — and as tiny children, we wailed over the death of Bambi’s mom, but then, who wouldn’t?

It’s a given that you will hear the wail of Walter women crying at weddings — lots and lots of weddings — including our own, our friends, our relatives, virtual strangers and the random wedding we catch on television. We also cry at sad books, happy endings, at least one news story a day and pretty much everything in between. My truck-driving daddy choked up at every reading he did at his daughter’s weddings, at the sight of each new grandchild and of course, when Johnny Cash died.

One night my mother and two youngest sisters and I were wrapped in blankets in the den watching an old black-and-white movie. I wish I could remember what movie it was so that I could revisit it now that they have invented Netflix but I can’t, so I’ll never know what it was. I’m pretty sure Bette Davis or Claudette Colbert or maybe even Loretta Young was in it — but unless Jane or Sarah can conjure up the name, it will be lost for all eternity. We turned off the TV and sat in the darkness wiping our tears and blowing our noses in a solemn act of sympathy for old Bette or Claudette or Loretta as she slipped into the next world.

My dad, just returning from a couple of days on the road, popped his head around the doorway. Seeing his wife and three youngest daughters sobbing amidst a sea of used Kleenexes he immediately looked alarmed and said, “Oh my God! What happened?” “Oh, Dad! It was the saaaadest movie!” Sarah piped up from under her quilt. “It was a movie? I thought somebody died!” he replied. “Yeah Dad, she died in the end! It was sooooo saaad!” That was all he needed to go in search for a beer in the back of the fridge.

There are obvious circumstances where it makes sense to cry. When a tiny child sings “Silent Night” at the Christmas Eve service at church. At really truly sad things. During every single episode of Parenthood. And of course, when anyone else does.

But there are certain times when you shouldn’t cry. Like at job interviews. Or on your second date with someone. And if you must weep at work, for God’s sake, do it out in your car with the rest of us. Do not cry in the fitting room at Nordstrom no matter how rotund you might look in the 46th dress you’ve tried on for your old college roommate’s third wedding where your ex will probably show up with his much younger and hotter second wife.  That’s a situation that calls for getting drunk, not blubbering all over a frock you clearly cannot afford.

I’ve always admired the women who can shed a tear or two and, with a quick swipe of powder and lipstick, revert back to their formerly unchoked-up and composed self. I, on the other hand, look as though I’ve been a victim of a horrible and sudden onslaught of nuclear fallout. Swollen, reddened eyes, a nose that becomes both shiny and bright pink and lips enlarged to rival Goldie Hawn’s at the Oscars. And that’s just when I saw a particularly poignant Hallmark commercial.

There is not much I can do to quell the tide of tears once they make an appearance. I’ve tried thinking happy thoughts, doing the double fan effect with my hands and channeling my own inner unflappable Joan Crawford. No go. Once the tears start, I’m done. So if we ever get together for coffee? Or a movie? Or greeting card shopping? Please bring tissues. Your sleeve will thank you.

— Ronnie Walter

Ronnie Walter is an illustrator, writer and self-professed smart aleck. Over the past 20 years she has licensed her artwork and writing onto a wide variety of gift and stationery products and she’s the author of License to Draw — How I built a fun career in Art Licensing and you can too!  As Ronnie says, “nobody has more fun at work than me!” She is currently having a great time working on a collection of humor essays to be published in fall 2014. You can find her in the little house by the water she shares with her husband Jim and Larry (the best shelter dog ever) hard at work writing, drawing or blogging on her website, www.ronniewalter.com.

Reflections of Erma