In summer 1974, Watergate heated up and was about to boil over. At 16, I headed to my first writer’s workshop with equal amounts of trepidation and optimism. In my suitcase, I had a pair of blue Adidas tennis shoes and black leather slip-ons with three-inch wedge heels. Since freshman year, I worked on my high school newspaper. My small group of nerd friends in high school shared my love of writing.
The 2016 presidential election heated up and was about to boil over. At 58, I headed to my second writer’s workshop with equal amounts of trepidation and optimism. In my suitcase, I had a pair of white New Balance walking shoes and black leather Walking Comfort slip-ons with rubber soles. After a career in health sales and marketing, I started writing again in 2009. My small group of nerd friends on the Internet shared my love of writing.
My parents drove me to the dormitory where I stayed for two weeks. I had no idea what to expect. Within minutes, I met new friends from all over the country, including my roommate, Michelle from Dayton, Ohio.
I drove my black SUV from my home to the writer’s workshop in Dayton, Ohio, a five-hour drive. I had no idea what to expect. Within minutes, I met new friends from all over the country. I had a room with a king-sized bed.
At the first meal in Studebaker Hall, I dropped my cafeteria tray and scattered my breakfast all over the floor. That did not come out right.
During the first meal, the wine steward asked our table if we wanted red or white wine. All chose red but me. The steward came back the second time with another bottle of red. I shouted, “Hey, I am the white girl.” That did not come out right.
The classes and my teachers were amazing. Many wrote and designed for newspapers and magazines, or taught those who did. We published a paper during the two weeks. I interviewed and wrote about T.K. Ryan, writer and cartoonist of “Tumbleweeds.” His studio was about two miles from the workshop; I walked across the Ball State University campus in those blasted wedge shoes, regretting every step. Before I met Ryan, I met his assistant, a college student assisting Ryan. His name was Jim Davis, and he also wanted to be a cartoonist. Wonder what ever happened to him?
The classes and my teachers were amazing. Roy Blount Jr. was our keynoter on the first night. The next morning opened with Alan Zweibel, whom Lorne Michaels plucked from an NYC improv club as an original “Saturday Night Live” writer. Zweibel got Lorne’s attention with this joke, eventually the first “Weekend Update” quip Chevy Chase told.
The Post Office announced today — [ looks around, lost ] Just a second, I lost my place. [ shuffles his papers ] Oh! The Post Office announced today that it was going to issue a stamp commemorating prostitution in the United States. It is a 10-cent stamp, but if you want to lick it, it is a quarter.
A host of other A-list writers presented and networked all weekend. If you wanted to talk to “Dear Amy,” you said hello to Amy Dickinson. Kathy Kinney, Mimi of “The Drew Carey Show” fame, keynoted with her writing partner Cindy Ratzlaff. She and Cindy were so much more than the one-dimensional Mimi. Their message, “There is no infinite amount of joy and happiness and success.”
The longer I stayed at the workshop, the more I enjoyed my new friends. I was Dorothy Gale when she transformed from drab, sepia Kansas to the technicolor glory of Oz. I felt so affirmed; I knew writing is my passion.
The longer I stayed at the workshop, the more I enjoyed my new friends. Like Elphaba in “Wicked, I am “Popular” just like Elphaba; I felt so affirmed: I knew writing is my passion.
At the end of two weeks, my mother picked me up. I chose Ball State as my university and thirteen months later started J-school. I graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s in journalism and had incredible experiences and an excellent career.
At the end of the weekend, I drove out of Ohio and crossed the Ohio River both at Cincinnati and Louisville before arriving home to my supportive husband and paper-strewn office, where I will write until I no longer have breath.
— Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana author of four books, including A Piece of Her Mind and The Luxury of Daydreams. She likes to hear from readers at her blog.
“Hi, I’m the one with the cat that got stuck in the furnace last week,” said Mary Levad Lovstad, one of the first attendees I met at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. At that moment, she’d confirmed that I was in the right place, one where my peeps, cheerleaders and agenda-free friends gathered to listen to incredible stories, and share in our joy and sorrow.
For three nights, every two years, humor writers descend on Dayton, Ohio, to be reinvigorated by Erma’s reminder, “You can write!” I came to find my direction again. My spark had faded, and I need my butt kicked to get out of the funk. For the first time in 21 years, I did not have children to consume my time. With both of my kids in college, pursuing their own dreams, I was out of excuses.
When I arrived, I noticed other writers felt the same way I did, sorely lacking the mental energy needed to write and publish. Social media overwhelmed us, enthusiasm waned and inspiration was in short supply. We needed our tribe to feel whole, likeminded women who would push us forward and pull us up.
As I reconnected with amazing women, we shared our hopes, dreams and adventures since the last Erma workshop. As the attendees rolled into the Marriott, Elaine Ambrose, award-winning author of eight books, sat next to me and asked, “How’s the stand-up going?” Wow, she asked about me! At breakfast, Abbie Gale told me her social media story and the way a hashtag, #IndieFilm, had turned her family upside-down when an independent filmmaker contacted her. Now her son has a role in the upcoming The Moleskin Diary. During lunch, Gina Valley told me about her current projects, like finishing her humor books on parenting disasters, polishing a crime thriller and then casually mentioned that she has seven kids, eight in the summer. If she can find the time to write, what’s my excuse? Stephanie Mark Lewis and I joked around and she shared her latest book idea, one in the same vein as Gone Girl. By the evening, I felt at home, a place saturated with quirky, enterprising, passionate writers. And they welcomed me to their table.
Presenters like the talented Alan Zweibel, winner of multiple Emmy awards and the original writer of Saturday Night Live, provided inspiration during the workshop sessions. He had me at, “I love short stories.” He even took a copy of Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives and signed his book, Lunatics, “Hi, Stacey. Can’t wait to read your book. Love, Al.” We were on a first name basis! Joel Madison, writer for Rosanne, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The Larry Sanders Show, helped me figure out what I didn’t want to be when I grew up, a screenwriter confined to a small room, like Room, where mostly men gathered for 12-15 hours per day. In his session, we punched up his script and in response to my suggestion, he said, “Really good. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.” Thanks to Wendy Liebman, comedian and semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent, I discovered that I loved the rush of stand-up comedy. On the last evening, I did a four-minute stand-up routine and afterwards she texted, “You are a natural!”
Keynote speakers inspired, as well. Kathy Kinney, Mimi on The Drew Carey Show, and her best friend, Cindy Ratzlaff, author, speaker and entrepreneur, invigorated the workshop. Statements from their book, Queen of Your Own Life, electrified us. “Welcome to the second half of your life, or what we believe can be the best half of your life.” Leighann Lord earned a standing ovation for her keynote as she shared family stories about dealing with aging parents. We applauded when she said, “Finding your passion is the gift you give yourself. Pursuing your passion is the gift you give others.”
On Sunday morning, I lugged my binder, mugs, books and scraps of notes back to the airport. Back to California. I felt refreshed, and stories tumbled in my mind, begging to be written and submitted. The beauty is in the journey, whether or not I get paid. I know I have something to say. Laughter can change the world. The time to do it is now!
It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else. – Erma Bombeck
— Stacey Gustafson
Stacey Gustafson is an Amazon bestselling author, humor columnist and blogger who has experienced the horrors of being trapped inside a pair of SPANX. Her book, Are You Kidding Me? My Life With an Extremely Loud Family, Bathroom Calamities, and Crazy Relatives ranked #1 Amazon Best Seller in Parenting & Family Humor and Motherhood. Her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and seven books in the Not Your Mother’s Book series. Her work appears in Midlife Boulevard, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Better After 50. She was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month. Enjoy her blog, Are You Kidding Me? at StaceyGustafson.com or follow on Twitter @RUKiddingStacey.
Chatter filled the room as we squeezed through the crowd between clusters of reuniting friends.
We didn’t know a soul, so we retreated to our room until the opening dinner in the hotel’s huge ballroom. There we sat at a table tucked in the back and, by the end of the night, made two new friends. We were a mother-daughter pair of newbies. Actually, we were known as virgins, officially “Erma Virgins” to be clear and precise as all writers should be — a tip gleaned in the days to follow at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. My mom was a lifelong Erma fan with a dream to be a writer, so I knew this conference would be a perfect Christmas gift. In the end it was so much more.
Day one started with a decision to “divide and conquer,” to soak up more knowledge from concurrent sessions jam-packed with knowledge. As I furiously jotted notes and snapped iPhone shots of PowerPoint presentations, I was convinced of several things: 1. My website wasn’t as good as I thought. 2. Any type of writing class in my first 50 years of life would have been enormously helpful. 3. The experts and fellow writers were community, not competition. By the end of the first day, we had conquered nothing except finding bathrooms and snack tables.
By day two we gave up on conquering and focused on companionship. Together we attended the first workshop on branding using social media tools. I peered over at Mom’s notes knowing she had no idea what Facebook Live was on “The Facebook,” as she called it. I was clueless, too. I did, however, receive one of the most important pieces of advice from presenter Cindy Ratzlaff when I asked about my brand and audience. After sharing a few sentences of my background and writing topics, this stranger responded assuredly without pause, “Write to people just like you — an empty-nester Christian mom.” That one sentence provided instant clarity.
Feeling empowered and now connected with other attendees, Mom and I found our way to lunch as the program began with the coronation of the conference king and queen. As Master of Ceremonies Patricia Wynn Brown spoke of a mother-daughter team she had met the previous day, the story grew familiar. Emotions overcame me with her words, “Will our new queen, Lori Mansell, please come forward with her daughter Julie?” On the stage, Kathy Kinney (aka “Mimi” from The Drew Carey Show) placed a jeweled plastic crown on Mom’s head, and the newly crowned queen was offered a moment at the microphone, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and you’ve all inspired me,” she began. “I’m going to write a book. It’s never too late. This is a new beginning.”
With that, the Erma Virgin had become the admired Erma Queen, inspiring more than 350 attendees from all over the country. Throughout the afternoon fellow writers greeted her with bows and hand kisses. Selfies with the royal family became commonplace. The queen perfected her regal wave. And just before we departed back to our Indianapolis castle, it could be nothing less than a divine hallway encounter that we would run into the Bombeck family. I know if Erma were still alive that she and Mom would have been great friends.
At least friends on The Facebook.
— Julie Osborne
A former editor, feature writer and columnist for Current Publishing in Indianapolis, Indiana, Julie Osborne recently launched into the freelance world with her blog, Tales of Oz. By sharing her tales of an empty-nester Christian mom, she hopes to not only inspire and encourage readers but also to empower them to be intentional with how they live, parent and learn from those who cross their yellow brick road.
The 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop was great, fantastic and all the other superlatives found in the dictionary.
These are always fun conferences with a lot of laughter and fun. Here’s my true story from this year’s gathering.
Prior to the conference, I’d been putting notices on the Erma Bombeck Facebook page that I was looking for a male to share my hotel room at the conference to save on expenses. This guy — who calls himself the Urban Cowboy Poet — contacts me and we agree to share the room at Conference Central at the Marriott.
Except, I forget to tell my wife and muse, Madeline, that I’m sharing my room with this guy I’ve never had contact with until the day before I leave for Dayton. When she hears the news, she’s shocked.
And she goes: You’re sharing a room with a complete stranger? You don’t know him. He could be a serial killer.
And I go: Hey, if it were a Serial Killer Mystery Writers conference, I might have concerns. But this is a humor writers group, and the guy is the Urban Cowboy Poet from Cleveland and wears Hawaiian shirts and a straw hat. How deranged can he be?
And she goes: Well, I don’t like it. I’m worried for you.
And I go: Look, the worst thing that can happen is he’ll make me listen to his book pitch.
How right I was. On the second morning, we get up to get ready for the conference and Urban Cowboy Poet gives me a stand up reading of one of his cowboy poems — in his underwear.
It was the strangest thing that ever happened to me at a writing conference. But the poem was pretty good.
— Myron Kukla
Myron Kukla is a Midwest writer based in Holland, Michigan, Tulip capital of the world. He is the author of several books of humor including Guide to Surviving Life: A 3,487-step Guide to Self-Improvement and Confessions of a Baby Boomer available at www.squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks. Email him at myronkuklabooks.com.
We came from all directions dragging our baggage stuffed with the tattered egos, unrealized dreams and the belief that we may never write again. Some are close to quitting, yet others are hoping to begin. We carried our wounded souls looking for those who would hoist us from despair and support us while we recovered and learned to laugh, dream and once again put words on the pages we were meant to write.
We desperately sought the laughter, camaraderie and electrically charged air of others like ourselves. We were in need.
Recognizing family was easy — they are those who came seeking similar affirmation of who they are. The bodies, the faces, the ethnicity, the coloring may have differed, but we knew none of that mattered, we were with family.
“These are my people,” could be heard over and over again. “This is where I was meant to be.”
After attending five times I shouldn’t be surprised, and yet I am. How can this place, so many physical miles from where I live, feel so much like where I belong? How can these people who look nothing like me, feel so like my family?
I have never attended any other conference where the attitude of the attendees actually infiltrates the air. You walk and breathe support, love, hope, admiration, curiosity and absolute acceptance of who you are.
Information is not considered wealth to be hoarded, but rather fertilizer to help young writers grow into who they were meant to be. Laughter is treated as food for more laughter, and no one leaves hungry. Encouragement is offered by all to all. Belief in others isn’t written as a rule to be observed, but exists in every step taken, as if planted in the very ground we walk. Impossible stories of success are shared.
We leave recharged, reinvigorated and ready to write the stories in our hearts, in our minds, and the ones that live inside our souls. We have new friends, so many memories, bags full of encouragement and a belief in our abilities to do great things.
Writing still doesn’t come easy. It is elusive. But the belief in our ability has been seated in our minds, hearts and souls. There was laughter, excitement, encouragement, creative nourishment and support for all. No attendee leaves untouched, or unchanged.
The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Worship of 2016 was the best so far. I should know. I’ve been to five. On or around December 1, 2017, 11 a.m. Eastern time you will find me sitting in front of my computer, credit card in hand, ready to register for the 2018 EBWW experience. April 5-8, 2018 I will once again be found in Dayton, Ohio, back with my family in the most supportive, positive, life-enriching environment I’ve ever experienced.
Thank you, Erma, for opening the door.
— Wanda Argersinger
Wanda Argersinger writes from the beaches of the Florida Panhandle, while trying to stay out of the sun and enjoying a top-notch margarita or two. Her humor is shared on her blog, books and publications near and far. You can read more about her life In the land of confusion on her website.
Registering on a whim years ago, I slipped away from family obligations to enjoy my first Erma workshop. It is no exaggeration to say I laughed ‘til I cried. But what I remember most is wondering if … IF I could be the kind of writer people would actually want to read.
My first piece of Erma swag, a deeply yellowed and slightly crunchy mousepad, now hangs on my office wall as a reminder of when the writing seed planted. Over the years, Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” nestled next to Erma’s mousepad. A plaque “Well behaved women rarely make history” joined the wall party. A flying pig landed nearby proclaiming anything is possible. And, a knight in shining armor, sword in motion, stands tall to slay my inner critic. But, while my walls sag with the paraphernalia of encouragement, my writing never works itself loose from the hard drive.
Last fall, while cleaning the tumbling debris of a decade-old clutter pile, I uncover a tiny watercolor quote long forgotten. “Don’t wait for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent one out.” Karma speaks — it’s time to sail.
A self-diagnosed introvert, I can competently address a room of 500 people, but in a social gathering, walls are my friends, observation my forte. Sometimes in uncomfortable situations, I experience a quirky mix of verbal diarrhea and tongue tie. After a cocktail party-ish gathering, my thoughts swim furiously, rerunning dialogue over and over, revising spent script, longing for another chance meeting to perfect tone and vocabulary.
In my world, EBWW is a 56-hour cocktail party. For 2016, I make a commitment to myself. Instead of rerunning the cocktail chitchat through my mind, I decide to set sail, focus on the presentations, and share my ideas without apology. I leave EBWW the first two nights overwhelmed by encouraging feedback from attendees who listen without judgment, and faculty who embolden with abandon.
Then, in the waning hours of the conference I share my projects with a few newly met attendees whose judgmental criticism slaps me breathless. “Oh, that’s wrong, that’s not a good idea.” “That’s not what people need. Don’t do that.” “You’re way off… that’s not right … you don’t really know –”
And that’s the precise moment the workshops coalesce into my own writing revelation.
A month ago, I would have sponged up those judgments and let them swim like sharks in my head until they devoured all the positive feedback I’d collected.
But not this time. I listened politely. Then with Cindy Ratzlaff‘s voice still flowing through my thoughts said, “You’re not my audience. I’m a photo-taking, travel-loving, almost grandma, recovering helicopter mom, who works every day to silence the call of judgment. I experienced an epiphany moment (thanks Adair Lara), when creating such a vivid scene for discovery (thanks, Susan Pohlman), that I live a message rooted in my childhood backstory (thanks, Judy Carter). I’m determined to spread my message. Don’t tell me that I’m wrong. I merely see the world through a different lens. It’s taken me 55 years to understand that I am Queen of my own life, and the rest of my life starts today (thanks, Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff). I’m going to use every single bit of talent God gave me in this life (thanks, Erma). And, frankly, if you don’t back away now, I’m enlisting the help of my new Italian cousin, Gina Barecca, to help me show you what kind of impact a loud, smart woman can make.”
Of course, I’m still working on the introvert stuff, so I didn’t actually say anything aloud, but as soon as my naysayers paused, I excused myself and slipped away. The next time I see them, I’m going to tell them that I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the sweater they’re wearing (thanks Alan Zweibel).
Drifting off to sleep Saturday night, the only rerun in my mind is the lovely lullaby Leighann Lord so beautifully and humorously crafted.
– Becky Berens Koop
Becky Berens Koop is a freelance writer, recovering helicopter parent and the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition Local Human Interest winner for her essay Revealing Ink. Having shed her technical skin for creative pursuits, Becky believes she is finding her voice (thanks, Sharon Short) and starting to polish her craft (thanks, Katrina Kittle). She shares her ongoing recovery from helicopter parenting at CopterDetox.com and struggles daily to view the world through nonjudgmental eyes. Follow her on Facebook and learn more at BeckyBKoop.com.
In nearly 38 years of marriage, I have found that food shopping is a matter of putting the cart before the horse’s behind. This explains why I am the designated driver whenever I go to the supermarket with my wife, Sue.
It also explains why I had the same job recently when I stopped and shopped at Stop & Shop with my granddaughter, Chloe.
The difference is that Chloe likes to go food shopping with me, whereas Sue would rather leave me home or, if I must accompany her, ditch me at the deli counter because, as she has always known, I am full of baloney.
On our most recent visit to Best Yet (we refuse to shop at Worst Yet), Sue asked if I wanted bananas.
“Yes,” I replied. “And do you know why?”
“Why?” Sue wondered warily.
“Because,” I announced triumphantly, “they have appeal.”
Sue sighed and said, “I don’t know why I take you shopping.”
Still, the supermarket is the only place where she doesn’t want me to get lost. If I wander off with the cart, or linger in the beer aisle, or get into a traffic jam in the frozen food section, which creates so much tension among shoppers that I am surprised there hasn’t been a push-by shooting, Sue will come looking for me and exclaim, “There you are!” when she finally finds me.
I am not much help at the checkout, either. I’ll just stand there while Sue pays for the groceries, which she also bags because she is afraid I’ll drop a watermelon on the eggs.
Things went much more smoothly when I went food shopping with Chloe, who’s almost 3. According to her daddy, Guillaume, who accompanied us, Chloe is obsessed with Stop & Shop.
She also likes other stores, including Costco, which she always spells out, saying, “C-o-s-t-c-o, Costco!”
Recently, we took her to Dunkin’ Donuts, another favorite. As we were leaving, she found a piece of paper in the backseat of the car.
“Look, Poppie!” she said to me. “A receipt from Costco!”
Then she spelled it out.
But for Chloe, Stop & Shop is the place to be. That was amply evident when Guillaume pulled into the parking lot on a brisk Saturday afternoon.
“Stop & Shop!” Chloe exclaimed, spying the supermarket sign from her carseat.
After we got out of the car, Guillaume put her in the child seat of the shopping cart, which I got to drive. “We’re going to Stop & Shop, Poppie!” Chloe informed me.
“Yes, I know, Honey,” I responded cheerily. “We’ll have fun.”
Did we ever. As I maneuvered the cart through the fruit and vegetable section, Chloe picked up a packet of strawberries.
“Strawberries, Poppie!” she said. “They’re red!”
Then she turned around and dropped them into the cart.
“We really don’t want strawberries,” said Guillaume.
That made no difference to Chloe, who picked up a packet of blueberries.
“They’re blue!” she said as she dropped them into the cart, too.
I steered the cart through the next aisle.
“Bananas!” said Chloe. “They’re yellow!”
I pointed to the apples and said, “What are they, Chloe?”
“Apples!” she squealed. “They’re green!”
“And how about these?” I asked.
It went on this way for the next 45 minutes. When we got to the checkout, Chloe said, “Number 5, Poppie!”
We were, indeed, at checkout number 5.
Guillaume bagged a few groceries, including a pineapple but minus the strawberries and blueberries, which he put back when Chloe wasn’t looking.
As we rolled back out to the parking lot, Chloe said, “Bye-bye, Stop & Shop!”
When we got back in the car, I said, “Poppie drove the shopping cart. Did I do a good job?”
“Yes, Poppie!” Chloe said. “You did a good job!”
And I didn’t even make any banana jokes.
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
EBWW faculty member Nancy Berk spends her days interviewing celebrities — everyone from James Earl Jones and Dolly Parton to Buzz Aldrin, Deepak Chopra and Cheech and Chong — all for Parade.com and her popular podcast Whine at 9.
“I love that within Kathy Kinney is the vulnerability that allowed us to embrace the headstrong, lovable Mimi, and that Mimi Bobeck’s sassy attitude gave Kathy Kinney a big shot of strength to shoot for her dreams and help others reach theirs, Berk wrote in a March 24 piece.
“I don’t think that everybody has to go to full warpaint, which is what Mimi wore you know, but for me, it certainly helped balance who I am,” responded Kinney, who became “the queen of her own life.” Listen to the podcast and read the interview.
With Roy Blount Jr., who has two dozen books under his belt, Berk chatted about chickens, tambourines and writer’s block.
“I would say about every second minute I’m at a loss for words,” conceded Blount who described his writing and rewriting to Berk as a “tortured process of striking words, revising and replacing.” Read the interview here and listen to the podcast.
What advice does the prolific writer have for those trying to express their creativity? “You have to find those little details,” Blount said, and “realize the comic potential.”
In 2015, Berk interviewed comic Wendy Liebman, a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent (Season 9) who’s performed on Leno, Letterman, Fallon and Kimmel. This week, Liebman is traveling to Dayton, Ohio, to teach a stand-up comedy boot camp and emcee a stand-up comedy night at #2016EBWW.
In 2012, best-selling author, screenwriter and essayist Amy Ephron joined Berk on her podcast to discuss the paperback release of Loose Diamonds…and Other Things I’ve Lost (and Found) Along the Way. She’ll talk about her life as a writer in a keynote address at this week’s EBWW.
And for those heading to the Erma workshop this week, you can catch up with the Bombeck family in person — and you can listen to them share their memories of Erma in a podcast and Parade.com feature story.
In Berk’s Parade.com piece, Matt Bombeck, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, concedes, as a child, he was clueless about his famous mother’s profession. “Someone asked what she did,” he remembered, “and I said she was a syndicated communist.”
— Teri Rizvi
Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton.