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

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So, you got a TV gig …

Erma Bombeck was very comfortable in front of a television camera. (See her here on Oprah. Her segment begins at the :55 mark.)

TV doesn’t always come so naturally to writers, though. Syndicated columnist Tracy Beckerman has done her share of TV appearances and offers some tricks of the trade:


I recently met a guy and was introduced to him as a humor writer.
“Oh, cool,” he said. “Say something funny.” I didn’t really have a funny response so I just karate-chopped him instead. It worked: It made him forget he asked me to say something funny.
This is a problem a lot of humor writers encounter: the expectation that we can perform funny, whether socially, on stage, or on camera, simply because we write humor. There are some of us who can do that successfully, but for many, there is a good reason why we spend our time behind a computer screen and not on a TV screen. However, since getting the word out about what you write often necessitates public appearances, and even sometimes TV appearances, it is helpful for those of us who are a little camera shy to have some tricks up our sleeve on the off chance The Today Show calls:
1. Try to find out what the questions are in advance. Not always possible, but usually you can at least get a general topic or focus from the producer so you can prepare some funny responses in advance and not have to rely on making fun of the host’s bad plastic surgery.
2. Have a couple of funny stories in your pocket that you can pull out no matter what the question is. A good lawyer always has a response ready no matter what gets thrown at him in court. A good humorist should have a funny retort ready at all times that does not include the release of bodily gases.
3. Wear something funny. Not your whole outfit, because then you just look like a lunatic, but one thing that is comment-worthy. The interviewer will definitely mention it and then you can say something funny about it, or …
4. Bring a visual aid. Don’t overdue this (I mean, I wouldn’t bring a goat on the show with you), but something that can help you make a funny point. For instance, one time I brought a bumper sticker I made that said, “Reluctant Minivan Driver On Board.” (Trust me, it was funnier in context).
5. When all else fails and you are sure you are going to screw up, give the camera guy and the director mass quantities of chocolate before the shoot. That way they’ll make you look good no matter how badly you do on camera.
—Tracy Beckerman
Tracy Beckerman writes the syndicated humor column and blog “Lost in Suburbia.”

Got your trophy husband?

Lisa Tognola’s parody ad for a “Hunk of the Month” club (made of “medical grade plastic … as close as you’ll get to the real thing”) is included in the new Valentine’s Day anthology My Funny Valentine. The compilation’s editors came to her, she said.
“Since creating my blog last summer, I’ve benefited from increased exposure online. The co-author of My Funny Valentine spotted my work and suggested I submit a Valentine’s Day themed piece for consideration in her book,” she said.
The collection was released Nov. 30.

Making an impression by doing one

Humorist, speaker and mad genius E. Mitchell says she’s had success standing out from the crowd by blending in with the styles of other writers:
Looking for ways to invigorate your writing career? There are a number of prestigious humor writing competitions that turn the sincerest form of flattery — imitation — into an art form for fun and profit. In addition to the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition (which commences January 3, 2012), there are many mirthful masters to choose from with rewards for your résumé, plus revenue.
My second place win in the Will Rogers Writing Competition included remuneration for registration to their writers’ conference, where I received invaluable publishing and networking information. As winner of the Thurber Treat Writing Contest, I was a featured guest at the Thurber House literary picnic. An imitation of Edward Albee won the Happy Tales Literary Contest, including a cash award. (I’m also a two-time Robert Benchley finalist). And publication was the prize for penning a winning essay in a parody competition found in the new book “Bad Austen” (Adams Media).
So exercise your writing muscle by channeling the masters, and you just might increase your chances of channeling success through publication and promotion.
—E. Mitchell

Use it or lose it

Wanda Argersinger offers some advice for writers so simple we often forget it:
Have you ever lost a great idea, the perfect ending to your story, the next turn in your mystery, or the title that will scream “read me”? Most writers have.
Ideas are fleeting and difficult to coax into existence. They appear at the most inopportune time, unless you are always ready to capture the thought.
It doesn’t matter what you use to record your ideas, as long as it is always handy, used consistently and doesn’t fail when it’s needed most. For me, a notebook tucked in my purse works best. I stick a pencil inside the notebook, and use the same book, day after day. My method allows me to find all my ideas, good or bad, in one place. Whether you choose to use electronic devices, note cards, a notebook, or paper, find something, keep it handy, use it and never lose a thought or idea again.
—Wanda Argersinger

How writers can use QR codes

Erik Deckers, co-owner and VP of creative services for Professional Blog Service in Indianapolis, has plenty of experience attracting audiences. He has been blogging since 1997, has been a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years, and co-authored Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies.
On his blog, he recently tackled QR codes, those unsightly blocks popping up everywhere from museum displays to magazine advertisements (that’s a QR code pointing to the workshop). But are they useful for writers? Read on:


What can writers do with QR codes? Do we even need them? When most writers still have that “I’m a writer, not a marketer” attitude, embracing something as 21st century as a smartphone, let alone a QR code, is going to be difficult.
But, if you’re trying to reach a particular kind of audience — let’s say a tech-savvy audience — or people who might not otherwise discover your work, a QR code could be a great way to market your work in some surprising and creative ways.
The whole point of a QR code is to reach a mobile audience. People who use their mobile phones to read articles and watch videos. People who use their tablets to read ebooks. Basically anyone not using a laptop or desktop computer, or reading paper-based articles and stories.
By tapping into the growing mobile market — and it’s growing fast — writers can get their words in front of a brand new audience, or at least an audience who can access your old work in new ways.
 You can read his full post here.

Is it hot in here?

Tampa-area writers: Creative Loafing has relaunched its fiction contest. This year’s theme: heat.


Details are available from Creative Loafing here, as are lots of clichés: Get it while it’s hot, turn up the heat, hot under the collar, etc., etc. Submission deadline is Dec. 22.

2012 Bombeck Workshop registration opens Dec. 6 at noon

The 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton will kick off with a keynote talk from Alan Zweibel, an original Saturday Night Live writer and author of the 2006 Thurber Prize-winning novel The Other Shulman.

Online registration for the workshop, slated April 19-21, opens at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The registration fee is $375, with 35 free scholarships available for University of Dayton students, beginning in mid-January. More information about faculty and sessions is available through the “2012 Workshop” tab above and here. We will post a link when registration opens.

If past workshops are any indication, the popular event will fill up quickly. Every workshop has sold out — some in a matter of days, others in weeks.

The 2012 workshop is expected to bring more than 350 beginning and professional writers to Dayton. Why the enormous appeal? The workshop has attracted such household names over the years as Dave Barry, Phil Donahue, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins and Garrison Keillor, but the personal involvement of Erma Bombeck’s family makes the event at her alma mater memorable and sets it apart from the myriad other writers’ workshops offered across the country. Alumnus Bill Bombeck and his children, Betsy, Andy and Matt, regularly attend the workshops.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s National Alumni Association, the University of Dayton’s College of Arts and Sciences, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Greyden Press, Dayton Marriott Hotel and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment. Workshop sessions will take place on campus, with dinners held at the Dayton Marriott Hotel, 1414 S. Patterson Blvd.

Are you fluent in Chick?

No? Maybe The CHICKtionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know by Anna Lefler can help you out. Anna will be with us at the 2012 Bombeck Workshop talking about how a publisher came to her to write the book.


Reflections of Erma