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5 ways to pass the time until 2020 Olympic swimming begins

Sammy SportfaceWe’re about four years away from when Tokyo holds the 2020 Summer Olympics swimming events.

Until then, what are swimming people supposed to do? Waste time? Get jobs? Take up scuba diving? Send tweets to Michael Phelps?

Four years can seem like forever. What’s the best way to pass the time until the splendid swimming extravaganza comes our way again?

Here are five ideas worth considering:

One: Go to Wikipedia.org. It’s an Internet site. The Internet is pervasive and easily accessible.

Read about the 50 or so American swimmers who participated in the 2016 Games. Learn about the early years, hometowns and spouses (if applicable) of Anthony Ervin, Michael Phelps, Ryan Murphy, Maya Dirado, Ryan Held and David Plummer. Oh, and Katie Ledecky.

See what each of their Wikipedia pages says about each of them beyond the basic who, what, where, why and when. If you spot any errors, correct them. This is the beauty of Wikipedia. Anyone can update the text. Don’t be paranoid that Swimswam readers will go on the site to correct you. This is an iterative, crowdsourcing endeavor. Embrace it.

Read each entry out loud five times. Do this every night for the next 100 days. If you are off on any of these your name pronunciations, read it again.

Once finished reading, cut and paste all the pages into a single email. Send that email to Swimswam.com. In the body of your email type: “FYI in case you might need it for some investigative stories you’re working on.” Include this caveat: “I can’t be sure everything I’m sending is true, only the parts that I edited and am knowledgeable about.”

Two: Chase down Rowdy Gaines. If you don’t have his number, call Dan Hicks. When you reach Rowdy, tell him you want to set up a weekly Skype call with him, one-on-one, to talk about who he thinks are the up and comers around America who are going to be first-time Olympians competing for the gold in 2020. Assure him you won’t bother him at any other time as long as he commits to one-hour calls with you every week until August 2020.

Three: Follow Michael Phelps on Twitter. Every day set aside two hours to track his account. It will be exploding non-stop. Even if he’s not posting tweets, other people will be retweeting his stuff or “liking” it. Everybody likes Mike. They will be sending him questions, words of praise, and just joking around. Some may be killing time until the 2020 Olympics — like you. In this sense you may feel symbiosis with these swimming soulmates.

Four: Read Swimswam for two hours every day. You choose when. You may want to read it for an hour in the morning and an hour at night, or two hours in the morning and none at night, or none in the morning and two hours at night. Or feel free to read it more than two hours each day. Maybe set aside four hours of Swimswam on Sunday. Your call. Keep scrolling and navigating around the site. Loose yourself in the content like you do in a bookstore. Don’t worry about time. Let it pass. You want it to pass. Go. Go. Away from Rio, onward to Tokyo.

Five: Comment on Charles Hartley’s Swimswam blogs. He will respond to your comments, and you will respond to his, and on and on. The time you eat up doing this will seem to fly by because you will be engaged and enraged. You will feel such vitriol you won’t even realize that minutes and hours and days will have gone by commenting and re-commenting on his bodacious blogs. It will all go by like a dream.

When you wake up, the 2020 Summer Olympics swimming events will be here. You will be able to read all about them on Swimswam.com

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

What doesn’t hurt? Aging gracelessly

I have bursitis in my hipsAnn_Green

Arthritis in my back,

I’m both near- and far-sighted

And there’s some memory I lack.

There’s discomfort in my legs

Sometimes in my tummy,

And my lack of total recall

Make me feel that I’m a dummy.

My posture has seen better days,

I’m careful with my knees,

I limp on some occasions,

And always lose my keys.

I see my dermatologist

For a nasty, ugly itch.

I have so many doctors,

I can’t tell which is which.

My neuralgia travels all around

Wherever it hurts most.

I forget what I was cooking

And always burn the toast.

Computers confuse me,

Make me feel obsolete

Somedays I’m stiff all over,

And, oh, my aching feet!

I’m short and getting shorter,

Everything is sore.

What did you say your name is?

Did I forget to lock the door?

My kids say they don’t mumble,

That I have trouble hearing

I can’t really tell, and,

Oh, damn, I lost an earring.

Some say use the heating pad,

Some say to put on cold.

Sometimes both or neither,

At least I think that’s what I’m told.

As soon as it’s made legal

There’s one sure thing — I’m gonna

Get me a prescription

For medical marijuana.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Why my plants hold their ears

Jan MarshallI heard plants are like people. They must be spoken to in a gentle manner.

I took elocution lessons from Ms. Manners. I enunciated every syllable. What did I get for my effort? Rotten roots, sagging stems and flaky foliage. My surviving plants don’t look great either.

I have spent a fortune on plants plus food for the plants and aspirin for me. Too much sun, not enough sun, overwatering or underwatering. Whatever the reason, many plants passed on.

A relative left me a rubber plant called a Ficus Decura, which was in our family for three generations and known as “the strongest of the ficus.

Thirty-six hours after it arrived in my home, it left for the rubber plantation in the sky. Perhaps it’s because one day in earshot of the Ficus I muttered, ”Geez, another mouth to feed.”

Could it have sensed my resentment?

Another time my Dieffenbachia wet the coffee table, and I admit I got angry and said a few choice words that required me to wash my mouth out with Tequilla. Sure enough, the thing wilted and died.

Then the Philodendron formed a fungus and was soon on its last leaf. Life, as you can see, was not a bed of roses. Next, the Creeping Charlie went, though slowly, and the Evergreen, now Puce, did not look well.

I’m embarrassed to tell you what I did. But I was desperate. I poured chicken soup in the soil. The plant seemed to rally. It said,”Oye! Oye! And then it was gone.

I bought more plants. This time I decided on complete honesty. I quoted Bronowski and said, “Nature is not mastered by force but by understanding.” I told them this worked both ways. I told them sometimes I would not feel like talking and they should respect that. I think I heard applause.

I felt much better after our chat. The pressure was off me to be sweetness and light all the time. They were  understanding. Except for the delicate Fern.

Once, after a particularly festive night and finding that my one silk plant had aphids, I let forth an expletive and Fern got the vapors and expired.

As for the few left, they love me for who I am — a kind, gentle, loving person. With our therapy sessions at Lowes, the rest now keep their opinions to themselves.

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall has devoted her life’s work to humor and healing through books, columns and motivational speaking. As founder of the International Humor & Healing Institute, she worked with board members Norman Cousins, Steve Allen and other physicians and entertainers, including John Cleese. Her newest satirical survival book, Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! is dedicated to Wounded Warriors, Gabrielle Giffords and Grieving Parents. She donates a percentage of the profits to these organizations as well as to the American Cancer Society and the American Brain Tumor Association.

What does it meme?

Melissa JablonskiI’ll tell you what makes me feel old. Every day, my teenage daughter shows me memes and I don’t understand them.

We’ve all seen them. Memes are small images with text on them that are all over the Internet. I suspect they are supposed to be funny because when she shows me one, she’s laughing out loud and looking for the same reaction from me. And I try to give her the reaction she’s looking for, I do try. But all I can manage is a look of confusion and a “Sorry sweetie, I don’t get it.”

I’ve learned that there are memes for just about everything including celebrities, shopping, politics, sports, school, bad days, short people, breakups and frogs. Frogs? Yes, there’s an entire line of frog memes. My daughter recently showed me a popular meme of a frog on a unicycle with the words, “dat boi,” written on it. She was laughing and I’m like, “huh?”

I know I’m not alone in my reaction to memes. When our daughter shows my husband a meme, he crinkles his brow, shakes his head and walks away. My daughter created a poll on her Twitter account asking her followers if their parents understand memes. The response was overwhelmingly “no.” So, I wonder, who takes the time to create memes? “We do,” my daughter says. And more importantly, why? “Because it’s fun,” she says. It is? Are there memes about not understanding memes? I might understand those.

A friend of my daughter’s recently told her that he noticed his mom using the word “meme” in casual conversations. She said that filled them both with hope. And my daughter is thrilled that I can now pronounce “meme” correctly. Though, I’m still disappointed that it’s not pronounced, “memay.” These are all steps toward embracing this meme generation but still not necessarily understanding the point of their memes.

While I was writing this, my daughter texted me many memes desperately trying to find one that I might relate to. She sent me a couple more of the frog memes. And still, “huh?” There were a few with her favorite band on them that went way over my head. And then, she sent me one of a picture of a woman cleaning and the words, “Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” Finally, a meme I understand! A meme that made me laugh a little even if I still don’t see the point.

— Melissa Jablonowski

Melissa Jablonowski is a mother of two who doesn’t put all sarcasm aside as she tweets about it at here. She writes about midlife and motherhood.

You know you are the queen of suburbia when your life changes over new couches

Kristin McCarthyLast Saturday my life changed.

No, I did not get a promotion, we didn’t move and Lord knows there is no pregnancy announcement coming.

Friends, we are getting new couches.

Those who know me already know that this is actually big news in our home. Those microfiber monsters have been a real point of contention in my marriage for years.

You see when I was preggers with the twins, I was a bit hormonally whacked and all over the place emotionally. This is not that far of a stretch from my normal self, just amplified. For the majority of my pregnancy I was on “suggested precautionary bed rest.”  In short, I was supposed to take it easy. The twins were my third pregnancy, they were identical — posing all kinds of great little trials and concerns — and I had gestational diabetes and high blood pressure to boot. Oh yeah, I also carry a mean predisposition to postpartum depression and anxiety.

SUPER.

Anyways right around the twin delivery date was mine and Sam’s nine-year anniversary. I was pretty giddy when he came home and let me know that he got me an anniversary gift. Holy Mother of The Pregnancy Gods, I just KNEW I was getting those new couches. I had been bitching about the old ones for months at this point. That should not be surprising considering I was basically living on them.

Spoiler alert — no new couches. He got the “family” an iPad. I went totally bat sh** crazy. Screaming, crying, sobbing, throwing my preggo body over those ratty old couches in the most dramatic ways I could think of and muster up. I was beyond devastated. My hormones had convinced me that this was the worst betrayal of gift giving ever known to mankind. I was devastated, he was confused, the kids were terrified, my mom was laughing hysterically.

Sam and I are marital soldiers. We recovered and we moved on. We welcomed beautiful twin girls the day before our anniversary and spent our ninth anniversary feeding four-pound twins and sharing a vending machine cinnamon roll. I highly doubt anything will ever top that one. We brought the twins home to their two older sisters and giant fur beast, and life started moving at warp speed. There was barely any time to throw angry dagger mom eyes at the couches. There were boobs to pump, kids to feed, laundry to clean, floors to scrub…you know the spiel.

Fast forward a year to when the twins were about one. Sam and I decided it was, in fact, time to replace the beige bastards, and we hiked it over to Art Van, sat on every surface and decided on a glorious grey sectional. It was nearly a done deal. All we had to do was go home, take a few measurements and call the order in. Six weeks from then I would be lounging on those suckers drinking wine and hanging with my girlfriends from The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Could.not.wait. I felt more luxurious just imagining that sectional and all of its sexy throw pillows.

We got home, grabbed the tape measure and took one look at two tiny toddlers waddling around the family room spilling sippies in their saggy pee pee diapers. Christ. We can’t get those expensive couches! They will be saturated in stinky old milk, pee and goldfish crumbs before we ever grace them with ourselves.

Couches on hold. Suburban mom life resumed.

We settled for giving those old battle axes a good cleaning, restuffing the backs and rebatting the cushions. Even though one cushion zipper and had to be safety pinned together, they didn’t look half bad. Life continued on fast as a speeding bullet and with four screaming little princesses running around my legs 24 hours a day, I just about forgot about my old couch desire.

Then it happened.  We came home from vacation Saturday to CAT PEE ON THE COUCH. Can’t get around that no matter HOW hard you try. Cat pee is a furniture death sentence. “Better buy some new couches,” the hubs grunted while pushing those soiled couches out of the family room.

OMG. OMG. OMG.

It. is. happening.  The very next morning I raced to the local furniture store, lounged on all sorts of sectionals and decided to take one little hottie home. Yep. True story. Couches AND A BONUS CHAIR come one week from that day. The cat I almost always resent is now my very favorite child. She bypassed all four princesses with a few strategic squirts of her ammonia-laced pee pee. Well played, cat.

Everyone, come over and sit on my new couch. I will pour you a glass of wine and we can watch BRAVO together. Let us bask in the suburban mom glory that is new family room furniture.

You spill your wine on those couches and I will throat punch the he** out of you.  Kidding!  (Nope.)

— Kristin McCarty

Kristin McCarthy is a stay-at-home mother of four little girls known as her “blonde-tourage.” She enjoys eating cheese and drinking good craft beer while vacuuming up as many Legos and Shopkins as she can. She is a contributing writer at Suburban Misfit Mom. She also writes her own blog, where she shares her very uncensored rants and failures regarding the world of marriage and parenthood.

Corporate naming rights for great works of literature

Paul_Lander(This piece first appeared in Huff Post Comedy. Reposted by permission of the author.) 

National Parks, sports venues, you name it — a corporation has its name on it. So, c’mon, stuffy world of literature,  get off your high horse and cash in with the corporate naming rights craze:

Tinder is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Johnny Walker Red and the Johnny Walker Black – Stendahl

Moby Dick’s Sporting Goods Whale of a Sale – Herman Melville

Henderson the Rain King of Mattress Sales (Specially ½ Price Deals for Labor Day) – Saul Bellow

The Lord of the Burger King Onion Rings – JRR Tolkien

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Flying Southwest Airlines – Ken Kesey

All Quiet on the Western Front So Get A Netflix and Chill – Erich Maria Remarque

The Sun Also Rises Be Prepared with Coppertone – Ernest Hemingway

The Big Sleep On A Sealy Posturepedic Mattress – Raymond Chandler

Gulliver’s Travels Booked by Travelocity.com – Jonathan Swift

The Sherwin-Williams Painted House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

Full Metal Jacket and Pants from Men’s Warehouse – Michael Herr

One Hundred Years of Solitude Or Go To Match.com – Gabriel García Márquez

The Golden Microsoft Notebook – Doris Lessing

Lolita, The Original ‘To Catch a Predator’ as Seen on Friday nights on MSNBC – Vladimir Nabokov

Lonesome Dove Bars – Larry McMurtry

The Farmer John’s Dodger Dogs of War – Frederick Forsyth

The Jose Cuervo Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

A Room with a View at a Marriott – E.M Forster

A Clockwork Orange Julius – Anthony Burgess

The Del Monte Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

— Paul Lander

Paul Lander is not sure which he is proudest of — winning the Nobel Peace Prize or sending Sudanese peace activist, Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, to accept it on his behalf, bringing to light the plight of central Africa’s indigenous people. In his non-daydreaming hours, Paul has worked as a writer and/or producer for shows on ABC, NBC, Showtime, The Disney Channel, ABC Family, VH1, LOGO and Lifetime. In addition, he’s written stand-up material that’s been performed on “Leno,” “Letterman,” “Conan” and “Last Comic Standing.” His humor pieces have appeared in Huff Post Comedy, McSweeney’s, The New YorkerSanta Fe Writers Project Journal, Humor Times, The Higgs Weldon and Hobo Pancake. In 2015, he placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ annual column contest in the online/blog/multimedia category for his pieces in Humor Times and was named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month.”

How to bathe a dog

Jerry ZezimaOver many years of living in a household where the fur frequently flies, I have learned that the best way to get rid of fleas, ticks and other pests, and to stop incessant scratching, is to bathe the itchy sufferer with a liberal application of special soap, rinse thoroughly and follow up with a treat.

It works on dogs, too.

My wife, Sue, whose grooming is impeccable, recently suggested that our granddog, Maggie, be given a bath. Maggie doesn’t have fleas, ticks or other pests. In fact, she is impeccably groomed herself. But she does have dry skin that causes her to do what people often tell me to do: go scratch.

So Sue thought it was time for a bath.

“Can’t I just take a shower?” I asked.

Sue sighed and said, “Hook up the hose outside and get the doggy shampoo.”

It’s a good thing we weren’t doing this in the bathroom because Maggie doesn’t like to be bathed. She’s totally unlike our late pooch, Lizzie, who loved being given the spa treatment. She’d just stand there, soaking it all in. After she was dried off and brushed, she’d go back inside and preen. Then she’d plop down and take a nap.

That is the difference between dogs and humans: After a bath or a shower, a person has to go to work to keep man’s best friend in the style to which he or she has become accustomed.

And we call dogs dumb animals.

To bathe a dog, you will need the aforementioned hose and shampoo, as well as a towel. That’s for the dog.

For you, there’s a much bigger list: three pairs of rubber gloves, a bathing suit (or, if it’s chilly, a raincoat), flip-flops (or galoshes), goggles, a shower cap, fishing waders or, depending on how much the dog shakes, rattles, rolls and otherwise dislikes the bath, scuba gear.

You’ll also need a collar and a leash. So will the dog.

Step 1: Put the collar on the dog, attach the leash and, with one hand, hold firmly. With your other hand, hold the hose. With your third hand, turn on the water. If you have an assistant, he can turn on the water. I was assisting Sue, so that was my job. Since dogs have four hands, you wonder why they just can’t bathe themselves.

Step 2: Wet the dog, being careful that the dog, in its excitement, doesn’t wet you. Then hold on to the leash for dear life because most dogs won’t like this and will pull you with such force that one arm will end up being six inches longer than the other one. If you have a mastiff, you may also be dragged for three blocks. It will hurt like hell if fences are involved.

Step 3: If the previous step goes well, apply the shampoo or soap and rub it into the dog’s coat. At this point, your fingers will pop through your first set of rubber gloves. Put on another pair and continue washing. Be sure to get behind the ears, around the haunches and along the tail. If you have a bulldog or a schnauzer, or if you are washing yourself, this last part will be unnecessary.

Step 4: Don your last pair of rubber gloves and rinse the dog off. Then stand back or the dog will shake enough water on you to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. At this point, fur will be all over your legs, feet and face, in your hair and wedged permanently under your fingernails.

Step 5: Dry off the dog with a bath towel.

Step 6: Burn the towel.

Step 7: Brush the dog to get off the rest of the loose fur. You will notice that the dog has dandruff. Ignore it and give the dog a treat.

Step 8: Give yourself a treat. A beer will do.

Step 9: Have another beer.

Step 10: Take a shower. Just like your dog did, you’ll need one.

— 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 BestLeave 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 the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

I don’t want to be a YouTube star
or do I?

Allia Zobel NolanI popped out of the womb with a pen in my hand. So I knew I had to write.

It hasn’t always been easy. Yet I managed to stick with it through the years.

And now, just when things were looking up, Bam!, my world’s gone topsy-turvy.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let me rewind.

As a young single woman, Mom told me I had plenty of career options: “Be a secretary or a nurse,” she advised, “or get married and have babies.”

All the eligible men at the time either dribbled from the side of their mouths, or were 4 foot 6 and from countries I couldn’t pronounce. So I learned to take dictation really fast and type like I had 15 fingers. Problem is I hated it. I tried other jobs: I delivered the Bargain News, but gave everyone the wrong change and ended up owing the company money. I did a midnight-to-eight gig typing video labels, but fell asleep once too often in front of the boss. I was a cook in a private home until I tried to bake potatoes by putting them in water and placing them in the oven. (Who knew?)

All the while, I wrote…on stained napkins at diners, on the bus, in my crummy one-room apartment.

Then, suddenly, I copped a break: The New York Times took one of my opinion pieces; then three more. I parlayed these into work with local newspapers — no serious assignments — just advertising inserts about camps and health clubs. In my mind, though, I had arrived. I ordered really cheap business cards that read: “Freelance Writer.”

Then my big break: I sent one of my op-ed pieces, “The Joy of Being Single,” to Workman Publishing, and they accepted it. You could hear my shrieks in Mexico.

Many years, and six books later, I traded the free part of my title for a corporate job editing and writing children’s titles for Reader’s Digest. I did that for nine years and saved my money. Then I quit to do my own thing. At last, I was in heaven. Then all hell broke loose. See, part of the allure of being a free-lance author is that it’s me and the computer. I love the silence. I love the dress code — pjs until maybe four o’clock — then jeans before hubby comes home. I love the hours. I can work an all-nighter, sleep in, and get up at noon the next day. I love the commute: one minute, maybe two, if I trip over a cat toy. I love the emphasis on “free.”

Another plus: I can do this job until I drop. I don’t have to impress anybody with anything except the writing. If my cover photo reveals some upper lip hair, or a few grey streaks, well, that’s what photoshop is for. I’m not Nora Ephron, so it doesn’t matter. As long as I can turn out a good kids’ book, or a YA novel, or bodice ripper, I have it made.

Or so I thought.

“This is 2016, babe,” some publishing types reminded me. “If you want to survive, make some dough, avoid fading into author nothingness,” this literati insisted, “you’ve got to be OUT THERE!”

I pleaded for directions: “Where’s OUT THERE?”

“OUT THERE,” came my answer, “IS EVERYWHERE. “You can’t just write a book anymore. Publishers want a package. You’ve got to have followers; belong to associations; Tweet, give seminars; have an RSS; a website, four blogs, Google buzz, and Instagram. You have to have a platform, babe, and I’m not talking shoes here.”

Translation: If I want to continue being an author, it’s no longer me and the computer. It’s me, the computer, and the whole world — that is, if I’m lucky enough to entice everyone in it to “friend” me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter; love me on Instagram; Google Plus, and get LinkedIn to me and God only knows what all else down the pike.

If I want to survive, I’ll have to take time out of my regular writing to tell everyone I know and don’t know, and hope to know, and don’t hope to know, personal info — from what I eat in the morning, to what cream I use on my varicose veins. I’ll have to have book trailers for my new releases, and that means I’ll have to let people see me dressed up and looking buff. I’ll have to be a YouTube star.

That means I’ll have to go back to the gym, invest in a media coach and elocution lessons to 86 the “New Yawk” accent, plus I’ll need a session with the “What Not to Wear” lady about my clothes. Before I even get that far, I’ll probably need a whole new makeover, some Botox, maybe a chin lift (or two), and some purple and puce hair extensions, and a nose ring (so I’ll appear more interesting.).

So I’m in a quandary. I know I love to write, but am I up for what goes with it? Do I want to friend the whole world on Facebook? Twitter away my time? Be a YouTube star?

Not really. But then, I’m a practical person. So who knows? Maybe my media training will make me stand out. It could get me noticed. I might even attract some big-time producer who’d want to do the Hollywood version of my kids’ Bible book. It could be an epic, like Exodus or Cleopatra. I could write the screenplay. I could become famous….make a living, even.

Then, when I’ve stashed away millions, I could retire. I could take up where I left off. I could go back to my room, slip on my pjs, listen to the quiet, and do what I love to do: write books again.

How many videos can you upload to YouTube anyway?

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan
 is the author of Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much and 200 other titles. Overachiever. Humorist.

Reflections of Erma