Let 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.
I 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 HumorOutcasts.com.
December 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.
The 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.
The cost is $425 and includes all meals (and much merriment).
We recommend registering early. As EBWW faculty member Anna Lefler humorously observes, “Last time it sold out in less time than the spin cycle on your Maytag.”
It’s a stellar line-up.
Roy Blount Jr., who’s been described as “a humorist and social critic in the tradition of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, H.L. Mencken and W.C. Fields,” will open the workshop Thursday, March 31.
And as a special treat, we’ll enjoy a staged reading of the new one-woman show, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End. Novelist Amy Ephron, stand-up comedian Leighann Lord and the writing duo of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff round out the keynote slate.
For openers, the high caliber of the faculty. More than 30 seasoned faculty, from Emmy Award winners and authors of New York Times‘ bestselling books to a trio of hilarious former keynoters (Alan Zweibel, Judy Carter and Gina Barreca), will offer ways to improve your writing.
You’ll meet agents. You’ll discover how to publish and market your work.
You’ll leave inspired.
Click here for all the details — from what sessions are being offered to how to reserve your hotel room.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m reminded of how grateful I am for a family who loves and supports me, a husband who puts up with me, and a son who makes me laugh every day. I have the added joy of announcing that just this week my son Jimmy attained the status of ABD — “All But Dissertation” — in his trek toward doctorhood. Proud mama is bursting with pride as Jimmy moves ever closer to #MYSONTHEDOCTUH!
I’m also grateful for my tribe of women bloggers who inspire me weekly with their wit, wisdom and often laugh-out-loud insights. Today I pay tribute to my favorite dirty dozen — I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check out their musings for inspiration, advice or a quick pick-me-up to get you through the day.
1. Elaine Ambrose has been a mentor and friend to so many of us fledgling writers. Not only has Elaine published several books, including the award-winning Midlife Cabernet (serious hat tip for garnering over 300 reviews!), Elaine also directs her own publishing company —Mill Park Publishing — and leads wonderful writing retreats. Her writing and blog posts are often syndicated. Best of all, Elaine works tirelessly to highlight and promote the work of other women writers. For example, in 2016 Mill Park Publishing will release the anthology Feisty After 45 which will feature 36 midlife authors from across the country and cover an array of topics to include humor, grandchildren, travel, inspiration, eldercare, travel and personal growth.
2. Vikki Claflin’s Laugh Lines has one of my favorite taglines: “Middle Age. Modern Marriage. Epic Fails.” Vikki’s book Shake, Rattle, & Roll With It is one of my top recommendations as a holiday gift for every woman on your list. And, Vikki has a new book coming out in 2016. I can’t wait!
3. I wouldn’t categorize Marquita Herald as a humor blogger. However, Marty’ uplifting and insightful posts on Emotionally Resilient Living always have me contemplating my attitude about life and how I connect with those around me.
4. Marcia Kester Doyle’s Menopausal Mother is my weekly reminder that my tribe of midlifers is a great bunch of gals. Marcia is also an author whose book Who Stole My Spandex? has just been released as a new edition. Check out both the book and the blog and be prepared to snort out loud.
5. I had the good fortune of meeting Jo Salemink at the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (EBWW2014), and I’m so glad I hooked up with this funny and inspiring chica. Her blog Sandwich Mom on Rye is my go-to when I need a smile on my face. I can’t wait to hang with Jo again at EBWW2016.
6. What I love most about B. Swangin Webster’s BSW – Books, Shoes, and Writing – is how diverse her weekly subjects can be. She discusses her life as an author, but peppers her posts with real-life advice and observations.
7. Amy Sherman is another one of my EBWW gal pals — she adopted me into her group when I must have looked lost and in need of a drinking buddy. Her blog Witfaced is indeed witty, with a splash of get-your-head-out-of-your-a** realism.
8. Astra Groskaufmanis, my fabulous Canadian chica, writes wonderful posts at The Dust Bunny Chronicles. However, what’s also terrific is that this year she published her first book Offside By a Mile. I highly recommend this book for everyone on your Christmas list who is living the life of a sports parent. Astra’s observations from the youth hockey world are universally poignant for all of us who have yelled and cheered from the sidelines and the bleachers.
9. Here’s another blog where the tagline says it all: Midlife at the Oasis by Lois Alter Mark, “where living an amazing life never gets old.” I can’t be the only one who hears that 1973 classic “Midnight at the Oasis” in my head every time I visit Lois’ blog. May well be the most clever blog title ever.
10. I love sharing how I met Kathryn Mayer, my genius friend who writes about life, warts and all, on her blog http://kathrynmayer.com/. Kate walked up to me at EBWW2014 and pronounced, “Can I just stand at your table for a few minutes? I suck at conference meet-and-greets; I could not be more of a dork.” Kate is one of my personal heroes and favorite writers. She can take topics like distributing condoms to teenagers and make you want to immediately hang out with her and buy her a drink.
11. The title of Helene Cohen Bludman’s blog Books Is Wonderful is a bit misleading in that Helene writes about so much more than books. Not that writing about books is a bad thing. But, I also enjoy Helene’s musings about relationships, parenting and traveling. Of course. I absolutely trust Helene’s book reviews. She has never steered me wrong.
12. I’ve saved the best for last with Sharon Hoder Greenthal’s Empty House Full Mind. Sharon is amazingly prolific; it seems she always has something new and fresh posted on her blog. She is also one of the geniuses behind Midlife Boulevard, which features a wide array of midlife women bloggers. I hope you can visit many of the sites I’ve recommended above, but if you have to pick only one, pick Midlife Boulevard.
Who are your favorite women bloggers? Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.
— Kimba Dalferes
Kimberly “Kimba” J. Dalferes is a native Floridian who currently pretends to be a Virginian. Her accomplishments have included successfully threading a sewing bobbin, landing a 35-pound Alaskan King salmon and scoring a ceramic sangria pitcher at an estate sale for $1. She also sometimes writes books such as I Was In Love with a Short Man Once. Her humor column – Dock Tale Hour – is published by Laker Magazine. She is often found hanging out on her blog The Middle-Aged Cheap Seats.
I was passing by the Irish Famine Memorial at the corner of School and Washington Streets in Boston today, a spot favored by what used to be called “bums.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a turquoise sweater, apparently abandoned, lying on an otherwise-empty bench.
I edged closer, looking to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear.
I picked up the sweater and examined the tag: Jantzen — not a prestige label anymore, but a respectable brand nonetheless. I looked around again; nobody was watching but the pigeons.
Still, I choked, and put it back down. I’d have to explain to my wife where I got it, and we disagree on the meaning of the old New England aphorism on thrift: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without. She says there’s nothing in that quatrain about bringing home clothes you find on the street; I say it can be found within the penumbras of the emanations, as the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas would put it.
It was a tough decision, and one I didn’t make lightly; you see, I’m a clothing re-cycler, or even tri-cycler, since I came this close to reusing a sweater that had been discarded by its previous owner.
You can imagine what that sweater’s second owner went through after some charitable soul gave it to him.
“Hey Butch!” one of the other regulars in the little park might have yelled. “You going to the Fletchers’ cocktail party tonight?”
“Naw,” another Gabby Hayes look-alike might say. “He’s got a charity gala tonight, so he won’t be drinking Thunderbird and Night Train anymore.”
Times are tough, but you can lower your total clothing bill with undiscards.
An undiscard is an article of clothing that someone else has thrown away — not given to Goodwill or the Salvation Army — which is free for the taking, and not subject to sales tax. No fussing around with inconvenient coupons, no waiting for after-Christmas sales. And you don’t have to listen to a temperance lecture to get it.
Where are the best places to find undiscards? I hate to divulge my professional secrets, because it will only make competition for the choicest items tougher, but in the spirit of the Christmas shopping season, I’ve decided to share them with you:
Public transportation: I don’t know what you people are doing in the back of the bus while the rest of us are up front drinking coffee and reading the paper, but as I make my way to the rear door at the end of the line, I often see unclaimed articles of clothing. I once found a nice Oxford cloth shirt on the bus to Watertown, which I still wear. The shirt, not the bus.
High-end clothing store wastebaskets: I once found a Gap tie in a wastebasket in a Brooks Brothers dressing room. I suppose what happened is that a callow youth with cheeks of tan decided at last to dress like a man, or something like that. Maybe the kid got a gift certificate from his parents, threw off the flimsy Gap item and upgraded to Brooks Brothers. Since Brooks Brothers ties on sale will set you back the price of a dinner in an upscale restaurant, I stuffed the Gap cravat in my pocket. I wore it just the other day.
Swimming pool lost-and-found bins: For the best selection of sizes and styles, wait until Labor Day, right before the pool closes for the season.
Snow banks: Snow banks attract articles of clothing the way black holes indiscriminately suck in all forms of matter. You’ll find a wide variety of mittens, gloves and other items of winter clothing if only you’ll stop your car on a dangerously slippery highway and look. I slammed on my brakes and picked up a chic “California Pizza Kitchen” muffler just the other day. Wash it, dry it and wear it tonight!
Warning: Do not use the above list of helpful hints when you shop for a Christmas gift for your wife. For some reason, women prefer new, unworn clothing, especially when choosing underwear and pajamas.
When it comes to fashion, there’s no accounting for tastes.
— Con Chapman
Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.
Roy Blount Jr., who’s been described as “a humorist and social critic in the tradition of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, H.L. Mencken and W.C. Fields,” will kick off the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop next spring.
A master storyteller and prolific writer, Blount has written two dozen books and is a familiar voice on NPR’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me! He’s part of an all-star workshop lineup that includes a staged reading of the new one-woman play, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End, starring Barbara Chisholm, who most recently appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Boyhood.
The workshop is slated for March 31-April 2, 2016, and online registration opens at noon (EST) Tuesday, Dec. 1. A link will be posted at www.humorwriters.org at that time. The registration fee is $425 with a number of free scholarships available for University of Dayton students, beginning in January.
Besides Blount, the workshop’s keynoters include:
• Amy Ephron, bestselling novelist, journalist and contributing editor at Vogue;
• Kathy Kinney (known for her iconic role as “Mimi” on The Drew Carey Show) and Cindy Ratzlaff (marketing guru behind The South Beach Diet). The longtime friends are the creative force behind the Queen of Your Life book series, calendar and blog; and
• Leighann Lord, stand-up comedian, actress, commentator and author who’s known as “the Urban Erma.”
The humorous and poignant Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End is billed as “a look at one of our country’s most beloved voices, who captured the frustrations of her generation by asking, ‘If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?’” Twin sisters Allison and Margaret Engel wrote the script for the play, which is receiving its world premiere at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Oct. 9-Nov. 8 as part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. While Chisholm’s performance is open only to workshop registrants, the playwrights hope to bring the one-woman show to Dayton at a later date.
Wendy Liebman, a semifinalist on season nine of America’s Got Talent and a frequent guest on late-night TV shows, will teach a stand-up comedy boot camp and serve as emcee for the attendee stand-up comedy night.
The workshop will once again feature “Pitchapalooza” — described as the “American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler.” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s wildly popular, entertaining event has drawn thousands of people into bookstores, writing conferences and book festivals all over the country — and captured attention from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and NPR. Writers get one minute to pitch a book idea before a panel. The judges pick a winner, who will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for the book idea.
The workshop also will include a special panel, “Ask the Agents,” moderated by Brian Klems, online editor of Writer’s Digest, and a new add-on session, “Speed Dating for Writers,” where writers meet briefly with a variety of pros to learn writing and publishing tips.
Erma Bombeck’s humor and influence on contemporary writers will receive special attention at the workshop. Former Good Morning America producer Ed Miller and the workshop’s popular emcee Patricia Wynn Brown will offer “Mayhem in the Morning: Laughing With Erma,” featuring some of Bombeck’s funniest television clips and a conversation with the Bombeck family. Humorist and feminist scholar Gina Barreca, a former keynoter, will teach a workshop, “Erma 101,” geared to workshop newcomers.
The workshop’s faculty includes two other former keynoters — Emmy Award-winning writer and author Alan Zweibel and comedian and author Judy Carter — among the 25 experienced writers and publishing professionals. Here’s the full slate:
• Elaine Ambrose, founder of Mill Park Publishing and author or co-author of 10 books, including Midlife Cabernet: Love and Laughter After 50 and Menopause Sucks
• Gina Barreca, feminist scholar and author of nine books, including the soon-to-be-released If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times
• Tracy Beckerman, nationally syndicated humor columnist and the author of two books, including Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir: How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs
• Nancy Berk, radio personality, host of the celebrity podcast Whine At 9 and online entertainment columnist for Parade magazine. Her book College Bound and Gagged can be seen in the Tina Fey movie Admission.
• David Braughler, founder and CEO of Braughler Books
• Patricia Wynn Brown, performer, producer and author of Hair-A-Baloo: The Revealing Comedy and Tragedy on Top of Your Head and Momma Culpa: One Mother Comes Clean and Makes her Maternal Confession. She has performed her humor-memoir Hair Theater shows nationally.
• Judy Carter, comedian, speaking coach and bestselling author of The Comedy Bible, The Message of You and The Message of You Journal: Finding Extraordinary Stories in an Ordinary Day
• Rachel Ekstrom Courage, literary agent at Irene Goodman Literary Agency
• Nick Courage, book marketer, author and co-founder of Littsburgh, Pittsburgh’s literary community
• Arielle Eckstut, agent-at-large with Levine Greenberg Literary Agency in New York and the author of nine books, including The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
• Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank, literary agent at Fairbank Literary Representation, which she founded in 2002
• Rachelle Gardner, literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency
• Katrina Kittle, author of five novels, creative writing teacher and manuscript consultant
• Brian A. Klems, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular parenting book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters
• Adair Lara, writer, teacher and author of 11 books, including Naked, Drunk and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay
• Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”), author of two New York Times’ bestsellers, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
• Anna Lefler, humorist, comedy writer and author of two books, including her latest novel Preschooled
• Wendy Liebman, stand-up comic who’s performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, Ferguson and Hollywood Squares. She was a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent
• Joel Madison, sitcom writer for more than a dozen TV shows, including Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
• Cathryn Michon, best-selling author, actress, Hollywood screenwriter and director who stars in and directs Muffin Top: A Love Story
• Ed Miller, former Good Morning America television producer
• Shannon Olson, director of creative writing at St. Cloud State University and author of two best-selling novels, Welcome to My Planet: Where English is Sometimes Spoken and Children of God Go Bowling
• Susan Pohlman, writing coach/instructor, freelance writer and author of the memoir, Halfway to Each Other
• Sharon Short, executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and author of a coming-of-age novel, My One Square Inch of Alaska, two mystery series and a collection of humorous essays
• David Henry Sterry, author of 15 books — from memoir to young adult fiction — actor and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
• Alan Zweibel, producer, novelist and Emmy Award-winning writer who has worked on such productions as Saturday Night Live, PBS’ Great Performances, and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
For a description of all the workshop sessions, click here.
If past workshops are any indication, the popular event will fill up quickly. The 2014 workshop sold out in 12 hours.
The 2016 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, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Garrison Keillor and Alan Zweibel, 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, have regularly attended the workshops. In 2010, the workshop was featured on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Books & Co.; Dayton Marriott Hotel; Dayton Mailing Services; and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment.