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Scenes from a (Boomer) marriage


Roxanne JonesAnyone who’s in a live-in relationship surely has them — those slices of life that reveal what day-to-day cohabitation is really like. With apologies to Ingmar Bergman for co-opting the title of his cinematic masterpiece, here are some scenes from my marriage that take a somewhat — shall we say — lighter tone:

Scene One:

It’s 3 a.m. Hubs has returned to bed from his nightly trip to the bathroom. I’m awakened by his jostling and so decide to get up and pee as well. Upon my return to the marriage bed, I take his hand. He speaks:

Hubs: Ith Teth neckth to you?
Me: What?
Hubs: I thed, ith Teth neckth to you?

I suddenly realize that his unintelligible mumble is because he’s wearing his dental guard and I’m wearing earplugs. We laugh so hard I’m glad I just emptied my bladder. (BTW, he was asking me if our cat Tess was next to me.)

Scene Two:

Hubs and I are in the kitchen, having just finished lunch, and are putting our dishes in the dishwasher. I look at him and notice a blob of mayonnaise at the corner of his mouth.

Me: There’s a blob of mayonnaise just outside the right corner of your mouth; can’t you feel it?
Hubs: Yeah, I knew it was there.
Me: You did not.
Hubs: No, I didn’t. Isn’t it weird that as we get older, you don’t feel stuff on your face?
Me: Let’s promise to always tell each other if there’s food on our faces, especially if we’re out in public, okay?
Hubs:  Okay.

Scene Three:

It’s a warm summer day in Maine. All the windows in the house are open to catch whatever breeze may waft by. The air is so still I can even hear our neighbors working in their garden across the street. Hubs and I are walking from the kitchen to the living room, with one of our cats leading the way, when I blurt out loudly:

Me: Dammit, you just dropped a turd on the floor…and you’ve got poop stuck to your butt!
Hubs: (Looks at me, silent.)
Me: I hope the neighbors remember we have cats and don’t think I’m yelling at you.

Scene Four:

Hubs and I have just finished breakfast and, in his endearing way, he starts thinking about dinner.

Hubs: So, what’s for dinner?
Me: I don’t know; I hadn’t really thought about it. What would you like?
Hubs: Oh, I don’t care. You’re cooking, so you decide.
Me: Okay, I’ll make that salmon and pasta dish.
Hubs: (Scrunches up face to show distaste.)
Me: Well, I guess that wasn’t the right answer. Did you have something in mind?
Hubs: What about chicken piccata?
Me: Why didn’t you just say that when I asked you what you wanted?
Hubs: I didn’t think of it then.

Scene Five:

Since Hubs has retired and I continue to work, he’s taken on several household chores that used to be my domain — laundry and grocery-shopping chief among them. I come downstairs from my home office to find a load of laundry on the dining room table, all folded and ready to be put away.

Hubs: I did your laundry today.
Me: Oh, you didn’t do your laundry, too?
Hubs: You know what I mean.
Me: No, what did you mean?
Hubs: Well, you could say thank you.
Me: Like how you say thank you when I clean the bathrooms, wash the floors, scoop the litter box, wash the windows, vacuum, dust, wipe down the counters, periodically clean out closets and drawers, change the sheets and water the plants?
Hubs: Oh, never mind.
Me: Thank you.

The secret sauce for
long-term relationships
got to be laughter.

–Roxanne Jones

Roxanne Jones blogs at, a mostly lighthearted, often irreverent look at life as a baby boomer, 17 syllables at a time. When she’s not tapping out haikus, she’s a freelance medical copywriter, enjoys chardonnay and contemplates plastic surgery to get rid of the wattle on her neck.

Princess boy: Two strategies for turning Barbie into C3PO

Courtney BennettSandwiched between two sisters, it’s easy to see where our special needs son gets his love for all things sparkly, pink and royal.

At first, we decided not to make an issue of it, and our princess boy happily pranced around in mermaid dress-up clothes and asked for dolls at every gift-giving opportunity. While typically developing kids may have a deep interest in a toy, topic or play theme for about six months, our son lived in a magical kingdom for a solid three years.

Really dude, Barbies?

As he grew older, we realized that we needed to manage his obsession with pink-hued play options. For one thing, his peers were starting to notice. “Really dude, Barbies?” asked one younger boy, when our son was discussing his interest in dolls.

Social interactions will always be a big challenge for our son, and we didn’t want his interests to contribute to the problem.

Expanding and redirecting

To help find a balance, we used two strategies: redirecting and expanding. Most parents know the strategy of redirecting, and it works great with typical children: you redirect a child’s attention to something else by offering another option. Here’s an example: your youngest child is throwing a fit because her older siblings are excluding her from a game. You redirect by a) offering to read her a book, b) finding a game that all three can play, or c) banishing all three outside to play while you pour yourself a glass of wine.

Redirecting isn’t sufficient for kids with autism because of their tendency to focus with laser-like intensity on ideas and objects, also known as perseverating. But fortunately there’s another strategy you can use in tandem with redirecting, which builds on the child’s interests and develops them in different directions. It’s called expanding.

We started working with an in-home Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapist and our son’s teacher to expand his interests. For instance, we expanded his princess theme by getting a castle that any boy would love — dark, scary and complete with dragons, a moat with flames and a prince. His in-home therapist also started to encourage him to play the part of the prince in games. At first, he wasn’t having it: “I’m not a prince, I’m a princess,” he declared, but his (male) therapist kept talking about how great princes and boys are, and one day my son decided he was a boy after all. At school, we shifted his rewards from princess stickers to iPad activities.

We also encouraged his interest in any character or toy that was more gender neutral, or boy-focused. He doesn’t have an interest in sports teams or athletes, but he likes baseball hats, a small victory. Recently he discovered Star Wars and Chima Legos, and happily dressed as C3PO at Halloween. We also bought him clothes and toys featuring gender-neutral characters from popular movies, like the Minions. If that sounds too pricey, printing a picture of the character or toy for him to carry around was often enough.

Finding a balance

While he still gravitates toward his sisters’ interests, and enjoys activities and toys that are more girl-oriented than boy, our son now has enough gender-appropriate interests to engage peers in play and conversation.

— Courtney Bennett

Courtney Bennett is the mom of three kids, two typically developing girls and a boy with special needs. In addition to parenting and blogging, she works in education policy for a university. She has contributed pieces to Sunset magazine, Psychology Today, parenting magazines, public radio and the op-ed pages of The Philadelphia Inquirer. She spent a long time in school avoiding the real world and holds a Ph.D. in communications and an MSc in social psychology.

What’s in a name?

Helene Hirsch WingensMy name is Helene.

Once upon a time I lived in a nice little town with a Starbucks. I visited almost every day and ordered my usual. They knew me so well that after I gave birth to my third child my husband went in and ordered my drink and based solely on what he ordered they asked, “Did Helene have the baby? How is she?”

They cared or I thought they did. Then in an ironic twist, one day they began to ask customers for their names to put on their coffee orders. It was ostensibly a move that would help the baristas get to know their customers better and distribute the drinks more efficiently but in fact the new methods proved to me that they didn’t know me at all. It was a new company policy, they said. Well, none of us liked the new policy, but what were we at the store level, consumer or employee to do? In the words of Yul Brynner’s Pharaoh, “So it is written, so it shall be done.”

The first time they butchered my name on a cup I was deeply disappointed but not enough to correct the barista. They had enough problems keeping up with the drink orders, didn’t they? Deeply disappointed, you ask? Over a misspelled name?  What, after all, is in a name? Just everything — identity, belonging, all that you are.  It’s the first thing your parents do, they name you. And, as it turns out, the number of ways you can misspell Helene are as limitless as the stars in the sky and many of the ways were so creative that I wish I had kept all of the cups with my misspelled name just for a hoot.

Time moved on and so did we, to a new town and a new Starbucks and I had the opportunity for a clean slate. So at the new Starbucks when they asked for my name, before I could stop myself I said, “Pam.” You can’t get Pam wrong. It just can’t be done. And, each time thereafter when they asked for my name, I said “Pam” because once you’ve fallen into a hole, unless someone hands you a ladder, it’s hard to climb out. They never ever misspelled Pam, but I never for one second felt good about this foolish, petty deception. A friend saw “Pam” on my cup and asked why my coffee cup said “Pam?” And I was compelled to launch into the whole asinine explanation of my Starbucks alias, and then in yoga class they saw my cup and begin to call me “Pam.” The effort to avoid spelling H E L E N E has ended in long explanations of why my coffee cup said “Pam.” What in the end have I gained?

Then after three years of frequenting this new Starbucks the workers there start to become familiar with me and after a three-day absence the barista says, “I’ve missed you, Pam.” That’s when I crack. I’ve never been a good liar, so I lean across the counter, “My name is really Helene,” I whisper. “What?” she asks. “My name is not Pam,” I say a little louder this time. “Pam is my Starbucks alias. My real name is Helene.” Oh, she says, looking at me oddly.

But, no matter, because I feel lighter, no longer burdened by my alias.

Make that a tall, skim mocha, no whip for H E L E N E.

Let P A M  get her own damn drink.

— Helene Hirsch Wingens

Helene Hirsch Wingens is a mother of three boys, wife, daughter, sometimes writer and retired lawyer. With 50 in the rear-view mirror, she’s trying to figure out if there’s a second act — and what it is. Her writing can be found online at, The Forward and

Christmas gone, my Christmas present

Bob NilesAs I’ve aged, I have realized that Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas until it’s over.

It’s not until after all the baking ingredients are bought, baked and consumed that I find Christmas.

Christmas, for me, happens long after a turkey is stuffed, cooked and devoured. It’s not until after the gifts are all purchased, wrapped and given, and family has come and gone, that I can find that childhood Christmas peace the season’s about.

It’s the gift of peace from that first Christmas.

The house is now quiet from its annual Christmas Day celebration. The fancy nut and chocolate dishes are left with a small array of what once was. The baking that earlier slid from overladen platters is evident only from crumbs on the many dessert plates scattered and hidden around the room. Punch glasses in varying degrees of half empty and half filled compete with dessert plates for position. The kitchen is filled with dirty plates, cups and bowls that we only use for fancy occasions. It’s a special kind of mess all around the house that you only find at Christmas.

“Let’s leave all this clean up till tomorrow and go to bed,” the wife directs as she tops the stairs. “You coming?” She asks, more out of courtesy than a need to know.

“No, I’m just going to drain the last of the coffee from this pot and enjoy the lights on the tree for a while,” I respond, knowing she can’t hear me anyway behind the bathroom door.

I turn off the little orange light on the Mr. Coffee maker as the upstairs goes dark leaving only the Christmas tree to guide my way back to my favorite chair.

Oh look, I can see the floor under the tree again. For weeks colorful boxes and bags would appear at its base, blocking floor access — and by doing so, any way of watering the now fire hazard that’s been in the house for three weeks.

“Tomorrow, I’ll water it tomorrow,” I think to myself as my butt is halfway to the chair beyond the point of “I’ll stand up and do it now before I forget.” But it’s today! I see only three numbers on the digital display of some gadget around the TV. I was expecting four. I try to convince myself it’s still Christmas Day. But, it’s not.

Christmas is over. That was a short two months, of everything and nothing but Christmas. I guess I’m glad it’s over. Maybe I can breathe again. That was a lot of work to get to this moment. All the “they need, they want, they gotta have or it’s not good enough” is done.

I exhale at the thought, blowing across the top of my coffee as I take the first sip. As I focus on the level of coffee in my mug, I see a reflection of Christmas tree lights in the coffee. It’s just me and the tree now. I don’t know how I’m going to break it to him that he’s now trash. The highly decorated, illuminated, but poorly irrigated, fire hazard will soon be striped of all its man-made bobbles and bangles. Soon to be tossed aside and then dumped in a yet-unknown location. Its once-proud eight-foot splendor has started to become a needle-dripping, unloved eyesore.

Pondering which neighbors are away on holiday and would enjoy an eight-foot, horizontal fir on their front lawn upon their return, I’m drawn to a childhood memory.

Back in the tree behind the 20,000 or more bright LED lights, hidden by plastic ornaments from China and Korea, is my childhood Christmas memory. It’s a glass ornament of a choir boy holding a hymn book, mouth open, eyes closed, singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Well, probably not, but as a kid it was fun to think that he was. He was with two other singers back then, the first hand-painted boy band from Germany.

The ornament originally belonged to my grandmother, which would make the last remaining member of the group about 100 years old, old enough to be in the Rolling Stones. Nothing says Christmas like a little glass figurine of Mick Jagger hanging in the tree.

As a kid, I would lay under the Christmas tree and enjoy the colored lights, ornaments and the smell of the tree. It smelled like the little cardboard tree Dad hung from the rear-view mirror in the car.
Ornaments would sparkle under the colored lights and compete with tinsel to see who could outshine the other. Christmas carols would play on the big stereo HiFi — a source of pride for my Dad, who would brag that it was big enough to bury him in.

All these sights and sounds would combine with the heavenly smell of Mom’s Christmas baking. All together, this created an outdoor cinnamon kind of aroma.

My problems back then were too few to worry about, which is the luxury of the young. I had needs and wants that money could still buy. My whole life was ahead of me, and it looked exciting. As a kid, I could lay under a Christmas tree without someone dialing 911. Just lay there in peace and be hypnotized by the sights, sounds and smells of the comforts of home.

I take another sip of coffee and wish for more sugar. My singing choirboy is looking straight at me through lights and ornaments, but actually he’s look at me through time. He looks across the time that’s been my life — from my youth filled with happy Christmas memories with family to my life 55 years later.

My Dad’s gone now, but we didn’t bury him in the HiFi. We wished we had, though. It would have been easier having six guys carrying him out in it, than trying to recycle its seven-foot HIFI splendor. My Mom can still bake but infrequently is her main dish now. And me, I only lay under the tree to water it, which, if not done in a speedy manner, scares the wife.

I’ve married, twice, and am now happily into my 25th year with my second wife. We share three wonderful children and four even better grandkids. We’ve worked together to build a family we’re proud of. I’m lucky to have lived long enough to where money can’t buy me what I want anymore. And all my problems I thought were problems are in my pine-scented rear-view mirror.

The furnace kicks in and reminds me to turn down the thermostat before I make it to bed. My coffee’s cooled to where gulps replace sips. And my shoulders relax as I breathe deep in the satisfaction of another happy family Christmas.

Is all the work and effort surrounding Christmas worth it? Yes, it is, every year. Thank you, Mom and Dad. You created memories for your family that have lasted more than your lifetimes. You set a solid foundation for me to build my own family, one that’s allowing us to create memories for the kids and their kids. We’re building on solid rock, sitting strong in these stormy times.

All is right in my world, little choirboy. Even though outside my door trouble, hate, disease and wars abound, I’m at peace. Bethlehem peace. An inner peace, found only because of that night so long ago.

It’s a comforting peace that spans throughout all time. It’s an all-encompassing peace to surround the grandchildren, shelter them and comfort them when they fear wars, disease and home-grown terror. It’s a peace that’s anchored by strong roots in my humble home.

My childhood ornament, old, still precious, almost hidden, symbolizes the real meaning of Christmas behind the glitz, noise and distractions of the season. So precious, still valued, it represents a quiet kind of Christmas peace.

— Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names), honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs here.

11 reasons I hate art projects

Sara LindbergLet me just start by saying I hate art projects.

Anything that has to do with glitter, glue, scalloped scissors, paint, oil pastels, construction paper, yarn, fabric scraps and colored chalk sends my anxiety into overdrive. I would rather lick the door handle in a public bathroom than have to make something presentable out of those items. By the way, the licking of the door handle comes from my 5-year-old son who made out with one at a rest stop.

According to my daughter, I am the only mom who did NOT volunteer in the classroom last year. Not wanting to endure another year of gossip about my lack of involvement, I decided to make this the year that I volunteer.

In anticipation of this glorious event, I crossed off my calendar at work and contacted her teacher. The next day, I received an email with the dates and time to show up. Feeling like I finally have my act together with this mom gig, I send my cursor to the little trash can.  As I’m about to delete the email, I notice the subject line. Holiday Art Projects.  Are you kidding me??  You want me to do art. I can teach those little booger eaters how to read. PLEASE, don’t make me do art. I HATE art.

Realizing I am committed, I march my DIY meets WTF attitude into the classroom. Upon entering the land of the littles, I immediately start to sweat. My hands are clammy, my heart is racing and I’m trying to find any excuse to go to the bathroom and hide. Of course, SHE is there. Who invited her? You know, the mom who was born to do these things. She has her own Pinterest page dedicated to all of her original DIY work. Just another reminder that I suck at this stuff.

The kids are waiting patiently for me. Riddled with excitement, there are 48 eyeballs pleading with me to lead them to eternal bliss in craft land.  I can’t let on that I am secretly terrified. Hanging on my every word (oh wait, I haven’t spoken yet because I am scared s***less), they wait for me to demonstrate my masterpiece. I can’t back out now. My daughter already thinks I’m lame, so what do I have to lose? It’s time to get to work and embrace the eleven reasons I hate art projects.

1. I can’t follow instructions.

2. I can’t make sense of those Kids Giant Art Jars. You know, the ones that come with 500 different pieces and NO ideas.

3. I have PTSD from my 7th grade art teacher declaring in front of the entire class that “an artist you are not.”

4. No one does paint by number anymore.

5. I can never get the tip of the glitter glue cut right. It’s always too wide and squirts all over the place.

6. I can’t even get past #1 of the Chinese Lantern instructions. It says to fold the paper length-wise. I fold it width-wise, and the whole damn thing is messed up.

7. I always seem to get matched up with the kid who thinks the glue is finger paint and my shirt is a towel. Did I mention that I also caught him with his fingers up his nose before he wiped them on me?

8. Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and cotton balls. What do I even do with these things? Frustrated with my lack of creativity, I decide to borrow glue boy and shove the Popsicle sticks in his mouth, jam the cotton balls in his ears and wrap the pipe cleaners around his writs like handcuffs. Genius!! Now he can’t talk, hear or use his hands to wipe glue on me.

9. Foam stickers. I bite my nails, so there is NO way I am ever getting that thin layer of paper off. It’s always a treat to watch little kids get really close to my fingers trying to see if I can get it off. This might be an appropriate time to say sorry to the parents who don’t use bad language. I almost ALWAYS say some colorful words when I am trying to pull these suckers off.

10. Finding glitter in places that is nowhere near where the project was done.

11. Beads. Everywhere. I hate stepping on them, vacuuming them up and jamming my finger in my cat’s mouth to dig them out.

I did survive art day. In fact, I’m pretty proud of the masterpieces produced in that room. I left that day with glue in my hair, glitter on my butt and lots of great memories from some amazing kids.

Do I still suck at this stuff? Pretty sure most people would say YES, but I don’t care.

— Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg is a full-time school counselor with two kids, ages 5 and 7. Her background includes a B.S. in exercise science and a M.Ed. in counseling. She has never considered herself a writer, just a woman with a lot of random thoughts in her head and access to a computer.

Bad librarian!

Roz WarrenI work at the circulation desk of a suburban Philadelphia library. I recently handed a patron’s library card back to her after scanning it, but I lost my grip and basically ended up throwing it at her instead. “I’m so sorry!” I said. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Yes, you did!” she said.

At first I thought she was just joking around but she was dead serious. She really believed that I’d deliberately thrown the card at her. She lit into me, then promised to write an angry letter to my boss and stormed out.

Flabbergasted and shaken, I logged on to my favorite Librarian Facebook hangout and asked: What’s the weirdest thing a patron has accused you of doing?

I got quite a few responses:

One patron accused me of being “out to get her” because I told her that she couldn’t use the computer because of her outstanding library fines. She got extremely hostile and wanted to “go outside and settle this.”

A patron accused me of trying to kill him telepathically. Because I was Catholic.

I recently had a patron tell me that my face was wrong for working with children.

I am often accused of breaking the Internet.

I had a patron repeatedly accuse me of being “spiritually abusive.” I still haven’t figured that one out.

We have a patron who believes that I am “stealing her information” and sending it to Vladimer Putin.

I’ve had several patrons accuse me of hiding tax forms.

I was once accused of being in the Portuguese Mob. (I didn’t even know that the Portuguese had a mob.)

I have been accused of being part of the Seth Myers clan of the Sea Pirate Mafia. I wish I were joking.

I was recently accused of being anti-Semetic. I’m  a Jew.

I was accused of being racist when I wouldn’t let a woman check out materials without her library card or any identification.

I’ve been accused of engaging in cyber espionage and electromagnetic warfare. We’ve got some serious conspiracy theorists here.

I’ve been accused of reading someone’s thoughts. And then stealing them.

I had a little girl tell me that I wasn’t real because I had the same name as her imaginary friend and her mother had told her that imaginary friends weren’t real.

One of our patrons is convinced that I’m a CIA operative who is stalking her.

After I asked a member of the cleaning staff to stop leaving her dentures sitting on my desk, she “rebuked the Satan out of me.”

A patron once threatened to kill me when I told him that he had to move his cell phone call out to the lobby.

A patron who believes that the government is run by Satanic Reptilian Vampires accused me of treason because I refused to help her overthrow them.

Yesterday a homeless man accused me of moving the toilet when I asked him to stop urinating on the floor.

I’ve been told that my whole staff has racist body language.

I was accused of “making children turn gay” because we have LGBT-supportive books in our junior room collection.

A woman demanded that I apologize to her son because my aura was too strong and it upset him.

A white woman who was making a ton of noise accused me, another white woman, of being racist when I asked her to quiet down.

We have a patron who has accused me of having it in for him and adding fines to his card.

A patron whose Internet I blocked lodged a formal complaint against me for interfering with his basic human right to watch pornography.

A patron once submitted a written formal complaint about me for “smiling too much.” He said it wasn’t professional.

It may be unprofessional for a librarian to smile, but by the time I was done reading these comments, I had a big grin on my face. The lesson? You just can’t let the hotheads and the crazies get you down. Instead, you have to laugh. The important thing is that I wasn’t alone. My fellow librarians always have my back. And just like that, I was back to loving my job.

But the next time I’m wrongly accused by a paranoid patron, I just might enlist my pals in the Seth Myers Clan of the Sea Pirates Mafia to steal her information and send it to Vladimir Putin.

— Roz Warren

Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor.  This essay first appeared on

A writer’s Christmas

Molly CampbellDecember first. Decorate one tree. Flocked, it sheds hunks of what might be poisonous snow all over the floor; grandson may be in peril.

Google “flocked trees.” Sigh in relief. It is non-toxic. That reminds you that in your novel that is in revisions, you probably misspelled the word “toxic” because the “c” key and the “x” key are next to each other. Vow to spellcheck everything, maybe in an hour.

While spellchecking, peruse the chapter in your book about a failing relationship. The woman is too shrill. As a matter of fact, this shrill thing took you over completely at the hardware store. You got distracted, and bought the wrong kind of battery-operated Fairy Lights, and now you have to return them. This will totally delay the hanging of the wreath on the front door. Damn. Set bag of lights on the kitchen table for right now and open laptop. Delete the offending scenes. Fix a few errant adjectives while you are at it. Take out five adverbs. Look up at the clock. My God, the chicken should have been in the oven an hour ago.

December fifth. Thank God for Internet shopping. While on Amazon, look at your book ranking. Shudder. Go to the work in process and punch it up a bit more. Consider not just “killing your darlings,” but slaughtering them.

December sixth. Vow to cease all literary activity until holidays are over. After all, there is still a bag of pinecones just waiting to be hot-glued to something. The kids will be here in a week. There is a Christmas Eve menu to plan. Maybe soup this year. Soup! That’s it. Just what the protagonist should have for the luncheon with her sister when she confronts her about being the cause of her broken marriage. Husband-stealing confrontation over corn chowder. Or maybe it should be gazpacho. The book is set in the summer. But corn chowder will be perfect for Christmas Eve over here.

December seventh. Getting confused with mixing not only a few metaphors in chapter six, but in mixing my soup recipes. I put tomatoes and peppers on my grocery list, then had to cross out and list corn and potatoes. This is getting to be too much. I have to stop doing book things until after Christmas…

December eighth, two a.m. Sit up suddenly in bed with a huge plot breakthrough concerning either pregnancy, cancer or a maybe a car accident. Decide that a story boarding exercise is in order. Schlep downstairs to the computer and do that. Afterwards, look around the kitchen and see it as it really is: sort of dirty around the edges. Get down on hands and knees and Swiff all that horrid linoleum. Survey. Decide it needs something a little Christmasy in there. Scrounge around in pantry. Discover some little silver balls. Place in a bowl in the center of the kitchen table. Sigh. Shuffle up to bed.

December eighth, eight a.m. Reread the email you sent to your editor with the storyboard results and revisions. Note that he approved wholeheartedly. Remind yourself that the deadline is in April. Sigh. Push every single thought of your book out of your mind. Vow to wrap as many gifts as possible today.

December ninth isn’t here yet. Your Resolve is withering. New character springs to mind. Decide to try to limit writing to just using the “notes” feature on your iPhone until Dec. 27. Text daughters, asking them to hide your laptop as soon as they get here for the holidays. Study text message for 30 seconds. Would either girl actually do this for you? Nope. Delete text.

Give up. Make slice-and-bake cookies. Contemplate the fact that you ought to go to a “Show, Don’t Tell” workshop. Take your laptop next door and make the neighbor promise that no matter what you say, how much you plead, SHE IS NOT TO GIVE IT BACK TO YOU UNTIL DEC. 27. Your neighbor agrees, but she looks very worried.

Feeling liberated, you go to the mall to look for the perfect gift for your husband, who is a professional accordionist. There is nothing out there. Frustrated and sad, you text your neighbor, asking if you could just get the computer back for maybe an hour a day. She texts back an entire paragraph laced with the F word and a rather grouchy refusal. And says, “don’t text me again.” You put her on your Christmas list for reparations.

That afternoon, you rummage around in your junk drawer for a legal pad. Your husband hands you the three Valium tablets he saved from his hernia surgery. You actually tear up with thankfulness for such a mate.

Christmas can’t come soon enough.

— Molly D. Campbell

Molly D. Campbell writes a blog from her pantry, often in pajamas. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition award winner, winning honorable mentions in both the humor and human interest categories in 2010 and 2012. She self-published her first book, Characters in search of a novel. Her second book, Keep the Ends Loose, was released by The Story Plant in 2015.


speakers background2The 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop sold out in record time — just under six hours. (Actually, five hours and 41 minutes, but who’s keeping track?).

In the first 20 minutes alone, 200 people registered. One person quickly pulled over on the highway and registered for the workshop from her phone. Another shared a Willy Wonka “I’ve got the Golden Ticket” video clip after she received her confirmation. That speaks to the popularity of this workshop that honors Erma’s legacy and continues to support writers at every experience level.

If you’d like to add your name to our wait list, click here. The workshop runs March 31-April 2 at the University of Dayton.

Writers are flocking to Dayton from 35 states, a couple provinces in Canada, and Madrid (yes, the one in Spain). We have big contingents from Ohio, California, New York and Florida.

We asked attendees what they did to ensure that their names were on the confirmation list. Some of their responses:

• “Simply vigilance, an eye on the clock and weeks of planning.”

• “I just woke up from a dream where we were all fighting over the same computer in a cubicle. Just so you know, I got there first — at 8 a.m. PST. I turned on the light, then went down for coffee. So back off. It’s mine. EVERYone knows that turning on the light is all that’s required to stake your claim.”

• “Stayed in my jammies all morning, my laptop with me at all times. What did I think it was going to do, sprint away when I wasn’t looking? But the Erma workshop has us all doing irrational things, I guess. Refreshed a zillion times starting at noon. Couldn’t get in at first, then when I did the link took me to a post about fishing. Amusing, I’m sure, but not what I was going for. After about 10 tries I was in! And then I drank a bottle of bourbon. Okay, Just kidding about that last part. But it was quite a day!”

• “Had to speed walk my aging dogs to get online, fingers ready, at 9:01 a.m. (PST).  They’re still pissed.”

• “Easy-peasy! A few sacrificial goats and one chicken, and I was in!”

• “I had to reset my password (did I have a password before?)… and wait to be redirected to reset my password, fretting the entire time.. and then reset my password three times because I didn’t actually read the instructions on how to reset my password. Longest. 30. Minutes. Of My Life.”

• “This is my first one, and I’m so excited I’ve been jumping up and down, nonstop squealing to Hubs about what it is and who’s going and why it’s so freakin’ cool. He said all he could understand was something about Ohio and needing a plane ticket. He did mention that it would be nice if I acted that excited to see him every day.”

• “I’ve wanted to go for years but never registered in time. This year I set the alarm on my phone and walked out of a meeting (“oops, nature calls”) to register. I’m so excited!”

• “Yahoo!! I’m in!! I attended Erma in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and the conference changed my writing (and real life). I missed the next few, but I’m thrilled to be able to attend again with some new friends, will get to see some old friends and will renew, refresh and recharge my humor batteries!!!”

• “I’m in!!! My gosh … Pulled over on the side of the highway … Stressing out trying to register on my phone … The things I will do to hang with my tribe!!!! Merry Christmas to ME!!!!!!! See you all soon! XOXOXO”

• “Maybe reg should be a bit later in the day; toasting you all w my Erma glass at noon on a Tuesday? Oh, WTF!!! CHEERS!”

• “In. BOO YA!”

• “Last week I went to Bath and Body Works and learned that on that day, the store accepted as many coupons as you had on you (instead of one coupon per visit like normal). I keep coupons in my purse at all times, along with 4,000 other things I usually don’t need. But on that day, I hit the jackpot and got $80 worth of stuff for just $8.That felt good but today felt better because today I registered for my all-time favorite writer’s workshop — a workshop that is so popular it sold out in under six hours. So this is actually the day I hit the jackpot. [Insert squeal here.] The only thing that would make me happier is if ALL my writing friends were able to attend. You know who you are. Xoxoxo”

Welcome to the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. By day, she works as the executive director of strategic communications at the University of Dayton.

Reflections of Erma