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

Erma Bombeck Wrighters' Workshop Banner

OMG — feels like a teen spirit

Alisa SchindlerThe phone rings. I immediately recognized the number of one of Tyler’s friends. Not really wanting to, I pick up.

An extremely bored but familiar voice says, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I respond back and wait, but that was all I was getting.

“Do you want to speak with Tyler?” I prompt.

“Uh, yeah.”

Uh, fabulous.

Rolling my eyes (I am years away from them getting stuck there), I yell, “Phone! Tyler!” but there is no response.

Tyler is a very focused boy, and I happen to know that he is watching an extremely important episode of “Sponge Bob.”  “Tyleeeeer!!! PHONE!”

That did it. Something penetrated. My shaggy-haired boy slides in. “What?” He asks, clueless.

“Here.” I hand him the phone. Instantly, my son becomes animated. I listen in fascination to him planning some complicated play date. Uh, I mean, hang out. At 10, it’s a hang out. My bad.

Tyler finishes his conversation, which consists of a bunch of “yeahs” and “okays,” then reports to me.

“Okay, I’m waiting for Jack and then I’m going to Rick’s. We’re going…” The phone interrupts and Tyler immediately answers.

“Oh hi, Luc.”

He instinctively walks into the other room for privacy, where some heavy negotiations are in play.

After a few minutes, he returns. “Okay, Jack is going to Luc’s, so I’m going…”

The phone rings again. I’m guessing there has been a breakdown in the talks.

“Hold on.” He grabs for it and then runs into the other room.

In one minute, he’s back. “Okay, this is what’s going to happen. Because Jack talked to Luc first, now we’re both going to Luc’s.”

This is what’s going to happen? Who is this kid?

Unbelievably, the phone rings again. I don’t even look at it. “For you?” Tyler smiles sheepishly and disappears.  The negotiations resume.

When he returns, it appears there has been a settlement. “Okay, so Jack is coming here and we’re walking to Luc’s.  Rick’s out of the picture because Jay called him, but didn’t call Luc and they don’t want to hang out with so many people because Brian was already going there. It’s okay, because when Rick and Brian are together sometimes it gets, you know, anyway, so we’re just going to Luc’s.”

I’m speechless and exhausted, but have enough strength to raise a brow.

He gets it immediately. “Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.”

He smiles his goofy, boyish smile. I am wildly in love. He is still so much my baby and so solidly boy, and the next stage stands knocking at the door.

“Mom! Jack’s here! Can we go?”

I follow to where his friend waits. They exchange a very cool and manly, “Hey.”

I stand at the screen, watching them go. They start off walking. By the second house away, they are arm in arm, skipping for the half block to Luc’s. Then, there’s some pushing. Tyler’s friend is on the ground. Wait. He’s up. They’re arm in arm again, a skipping to Luc’s house they go.

My heart skips with them. My first real pre-teen moment. Sigh. I was on the verge of serious sappiness, when the phone interrupts my thoughts. It has begun.

— Alisa Schindler

Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog Her essays have been featured on and as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest.  She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.

The 7 deadly sins of menopause

Marcia DoyleWe all have them. The secret sins that keep us awake at night and tap us on the shoulder during the day while we try to go about our business. The sins that we would prefer our friends and neighbors never see. For some, this means dancing the salsa naked with a Hoover Upright (Hey! I didn’t say that was me!). For others, it’s sticking their face in a bag of mini, cheese-flavored rice cakes at 2:00a.m. (Okay, maybe that was me).

I’m not Catholic and I’m pretty sure you’re not a priest, but I’m sitting in a confessional booth right now about to spill the goods on Menopausal Mama’s seven deadly sins.

ENVY:  I live near a park and a jogging trail. I see women of all ages out there, rollerblading, jogging and biking. Certain ones catch my eye—the PERFECT ones, who look like they just rolled off the Barbie shelf at Target. Pink sweats with the Juicy label across their firm, little butts, and a matching tank top stretched tight across breasts that aren’t jiggling like jello cups in a truck when they jog. THOSE are the women I envy. Their pre-baby bodies are free of stretch marks resembling the NYC subway system. They are blessed with perky boobs on the high beam setting aimed at the stars instead of their kneecaps. It makes me long for my youth and a certain pink bikini I once owned.

GLUTTONY:  This is the reason I no longer own the aforementioned pink bikini. I am a wine hoarder and a Nutella crack head. I am also selfish when it comes to Chinese take-out. Don’t touch my egg roll or lay a finger on my chicken chow mein. To prevent anyone else from stealing my leftovers from the fridge, I cleverly disguise my food in a covered jar marked “URINE SAMPLE.” It keeps my thieving teenager away from my stash while I’m busy Googling Nutella rehab centers.

PRIDE:  This is something easily lost when you’re driving an old minivan with missing hubcaps and a broken door handle, which is why you’ll NEVER see me behind the wheel of the mommy mobile that seizes up at every stop light in town. My husband has inherited that hemorrhoid on wheels because he happens to know car CPR. My own pride is seriously challenged every day at the gym when I look in the mirror and see body parts wiggling and waving back at me in an unnatural way. But if you ask me about my kids or my granddaughter, I’ll whip out my cell phone faster than you can say moo shu pork and force you to watch a terminally long slide show of every phase in their lives, starting with their ultrasound images all the way to their college graduation ceremonies.

LUST:  When you’re menopausal, the mind says, “Yes” but the body says, “Oh, hell no!” So you learn to lust after other things, like a beef burrito the size of a Chihuahua. Or Ben and Jerry’s Triple Caramel Chunk ice cream and a good bottle of Dom Perignon. A trip to Tahiti would be nice too, but at this rate I’ll never be able to fit back into that pink bikini again.

ANGER:  Think Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs. This is what I become when my son misses the school bus at 6:30 a.m. My head has also been known to spin like I’m in the throes of an exorcism when I send The Hubs to the hardware store for a socket set and he returns with a water-spraying fan or a singing can opener. What’s next, a toilet plunger that chants, “I think I can, I think I can”?

SLOTH:  When I think sloth, the first image that comes to mind is Jabba the Hutt. No, I do not resemble a bloated, slug-like alien, nor do I eat fleshy, aquatic creatures with slimy legs. But I do like having minions (a.k.a. children) around to take out the trash, wash the dinner dishes and fold the laundry before all the socks play hide-and-seek or join to find their missing partners.

GREED:  While most people associate greed with money and power, neither of those things appeals to me. I’m greedy when it comes to sleep. Those evil, menopausal twins Hot Flash and Fatigue have joined forces with their mischievous cousin Insomnia to deprive me of a solid, seven hours of slumber. My bladder is never one to miss a party either, so she’s right up there playing checkers with her cohorts at all hours of the night. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a bear so I can hibernate for a few months in a cave and bite the head off the first person who wakes me.

There should be an 8th deadly sin as well, called INSANITY. When my body thermostat mimics the mercury levels of an Arizona desert during the month of July, or I suddenly find myself trolling the girdle aisle at Wal-Mart, I’m bound to feel a little crazy. To combat the bipolar symptoms of my fluctuating hormones, I’ve discovered that the road to happiness is paved with Prozac, chocolate and maybe a side trip to Tahiti with a pink bikini in my suitcase.

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a staff writer for In The Powder Room and and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013.

Stars! They’re just like us!

Abby HeugelAnyone who has “accidentally” flipped through an US Weekly magazine (as I did while waiting to get my hair did the other day) knows there is more important information on the back of a shampoo bottle than there is in that publication.

One of the most ridiculous things is the “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” segment. For the uninitiated, this is where they feature photos of celebrities doing things like breathing, eating, drinking out of straws and carrying adopted children named after obscure fruits found in Ethiopian villages.

The captions of these paparazzi photos verify/explain the celebrity is breathing, eating, etc., since it would otherwise be unclear that this person is, in fact, a human doing shockingly mundane human things — just like us!

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, these are a few of the captions from that issue:

• They Indulge in Fast Food!

• They Strap on Shoes!

• They Eat Off Others’ Plates!

• They Use the ATM!

• They Write Names in the Sand!

• They Balance Cans!

I don’t know about you, but I would never have guessed that Jennifer Lawrence uses the ATM — just like me! Of course her balance is astronomically higher than mine, but still! She’s so normal!

To be fair, a lot of magazines make the assumption that we all live a charmed life. Food Network Magazine had a spotlight feature on a new cast member and her kitchen in the Hamptons.

She said, “People hear ‘the Hamptons’ and they think glitz and glamour, but it is really just farmland.” The article then goes on to suggest we pick up some of Katie’s finds for our own kitchen. Those include:

• French Bistro stools $674

• Rivera strop shade for a window $209

• Natural-edged bowl hand-carved from a single log $564

I would, but I just won $2 on a scratch-off lottery ticket and am busy trying to decide if I want to take it in one lump sum or a dime for the next 20 years.

Anyway, I might actually take interest in these features if they included things I could relate to a little bit more.

Stars! They’re Just Like Us! They:

Light incense, forget they lit incense and then freak out when they smell smoke five minutes later!

Say, “There’s fungus among us!” while picking out mushrooms at the store!

Excel in “Procrastibaking” — baking instead of doing a bunch of more important things instead!

Get up 10 minutes early in the morning so they have that extra time to stare mindlessly at the wall as they shower!

Can go from “nothing sounds good” to “why isn’t there more of this to shove in my face?” in mere seconds!

Get terrified when putting back a shirt without folding it and then making eye contact with the store worker!

Beat the crap out of a black bean with their spatula when they thought it was a spider!

Spend more time picking out broccoli at the store than picking out the clothes that they wear!

Will practically break their arms before making two trips into the house with the groceries!

True, it might not be as glamorous as sharing that they “Pull Their Hair Back On the Go!” but you can’t tell me they’ve never stood up and had a chickpea fall out of their bra.

Now that’s a headline that I’d like to see.

— Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal. She’s the author of Abby Has Issues and Abby Still Has Issues.

How to buy a bathing suit without crying

Linda WolffBathing suit shopping isn’t for the faint of heart. It involves nudity, bad lighting and the awareness of your every flaw. But I’ve found a few tricks to making bathing suit shopping less painful.

Go to your nearest department store, I usually prefer Bloomingdale’s, a day (or two, at most) before you need the bathing suit. It is imperative that you’re slightly desperate and short on time. This helps with decision making.

Head straight to the restroom. You must pee. Any bloat can and will work against you. Then make your way to the cute dress and T-shirt section of the store. Choose a few T-shirts and some pretty flowy dresses that you know will fit. Maybe even a beaded number. Anything sparkly. The key is to divert attention to the task at hand.

Then, and only then, approach the bathing suit section. Pick out a few cover-ups or caftans. They’re a safe bet. As you head towards the bathing suits, move quickly and grab larger sizes than you think you’ll need. Asking the sales lady for a smaller size later will only boost your confidence. The reverse will bring nothing but tears.

Go to the dressing room and try everything on, except the bathing suits. Leave them for last. You will need some successes before you strip down to your skivvies in front of a three-way mirror under fluorescent lighting.

Once in the suit, give yourself a 15-second look-over (no more!) and decide. If at first glance it’s not that bad, buy it and never look back.

And that’s what I did today.  I opted for the sassy sailor one-piece.

— Linda Wolff

Linda Wolff writes the blog Carpool Goddess where she shares her adventures from carpool to empty nest. She no longer drives carpool, but that’s our little secret. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, Scary Mommy, Better After 50, Generation Fabulous and others. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Honoring Erma winners,
Talking books with Lisa Scottoline

Mary McCartyDayton Daily News columnist Mary McCarty will emcee the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition ceremony, which will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 9, at the Centerville Public Library, 111 W. Spring Valley Rd., in Centerville, Ohio.

This free event celebrates the winners of the biennial Erma Bombeck Writing Competition sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library and the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

In 2014, 853 writers from 48 states and 13 countries entered previously unpublished essays in humor and human interest categories — roughly 382,500 words.

Nancy Cartwright — the voice of Bart Simpson — and a slate of accomplished writers from around the country and Canada are judging the entries, with winners to be named in mid-March. The four winners receive $500 and a free registration to the sold-out workshop.

In another event that’s free and open to the public, New York Times’ bestselling author Lisa Scottoline will introduce her latest novel, Keep Quiet, at Books & Co. at The Greene, 4453 Walnut St., in Dayton, Ohio, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 10.scottoline_Lisa_300x400_11262013

A prolific writer, Scottoline has written 22 novels and pens a weekly Philadelphia Inquirer column with her writer-daughter Francesca Serritella. Called “Chick Wit,” the column is a witty and fun take on life from a woman’s perspective.

Scottoline and Serritella will offer one of the keynote addresses at the April 10-12 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

That’s Paris

That's ParisThe newly published anthology, That’s Paris: Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light (Velvet Morning Press), includes a story by Lucia Paul. Her piece, “Chaperon et Liberté,” is a fictional story of a mother chaperoning her son’s trip to Paris, and how she spends the one afternoon she has to herself. Author proceeds from sales of That’s Paris benefit the charity Room to Read, which supports literacy and gender equality in education.

Calling all writers

Greyden Press logoThe Greyden Press 2014 Book Competition is now open.

The deadline for manuscripts is midnight, June 2. Children’s works will be accepted until July 1, and all winners will be announced Oct. 1. Greyden Press will publish the books of the grand prize winners for free. For details, follow this link.

David Braughler, publishing adviser with Greyden Press, and author Robin O’Bryant will give an overview of the self-publishing process at the April 10-12 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in their session, “Self Publishing is the New Black.”

This is not an April Fool’s joke. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists has extended its contest deadline to April 1.

“The extension is a direct result of so many of you emailing me with messages that essentially said, “Please, sire, I beseech you — give me more time to peruse my 2013 columns so that I may guarantee that only my very best work is submitted for thine most glorious contest,” NSNC President Eric Heyl wrote in a tongue-in-cheek note in the organization’s March newsletter.

The annual column competition by our EBWW partner welcomes bloggers, new writers and established columnists. For details, click here.

The early-bird deadline for the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition is May 5. Entries are being accepted in a variety of categories — from memoir and magazine feature article to short story and poetry. For more information, click here.

7 tips to achieve an exhausted and haggard look

Kathy RadiganAre you getting bored with all the articles telling you to look and feel your best, you need at least eight hours of sleep a day?

If you’re like me, you feel you look better with dark circles and puffy bags under your eyes teamed with a sallow complexion.

Have you caught your husband lustily eyeing the groggy woman ahead of you at the checkout line, confirming your suspicion that he feels haggard is the new sexy?

Have no fear. I’m here to give you some tried-and-true tips for capitalizing on your lack of sleep. Follow my advice, and you, too, can achieve that harried look and attitude of a mom on the edge. Healthy and well-rested is so yesterday.

1) Have children. One child can do it, but if you’re really going for the too-exhausted-to-stand-upright look, have three.

2) The kids should feel free to sneak in your bed at all hours of the night. If you’re not woken up with at least one of your kids’ feet on your face or a little arm wedged under your ribs, you’re not doing it right.

3) Keep your office in your bedroom. Your computer should call to you in the middle of the night, with emails that need to be answered and a blog that needs updating while everyone is tucked safely in bed. This will ensure that you will be completely shot by breakfast. You may even get a headache. Doesn’t everyone know that nothing is sexier than a tired, haggard, cranky woman with a headache? You’ll be the envy of every mother at the PTA meeting, school drop-off lane or toddler gym class.

4) Teach your children that you’re at their beck-and-call at all hours of the night. If you have gone a week without one of your children asking you to make scrambled eggs and bacon or asking if they could build a rocket ship in the basement at 3 a.m., you’re really at risk at looking well rested.

5) If you should decide to ever lock your door in order to have a little private time with your mate, or just sleep uninterrupted for more than two hours, make sure you have the type of kids who are willing to camp out by the door for at least two hours. If they are clever enough to sing 10 versions of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” or say things like, “But mom, you are my best friend” and “Let me in. I can’t hack sleeping on my own tonight,” you’re golden.

6) Drink coffee. All. Day. Long. Here’s a special tip: Go to Starbucks and get a grande with three shots of espresso. It’s highly recommended if you need to clean out your closets and fridge at 3 a.m.

7) Send your kids to school or daycare. This will ensure that they will get sick and you will be woken up by a little one with a fever or projectile vomiting. This is really essential. Seeing your child sick and in pain will add more than a little stress to your exhaustion. You’ll feel so helpless and sad for your child that you are sure to have an extra layer of sluggishness.

Follow one or two of these tips, and you’re sure to look a little bleary eyed. To achieve the maximum effect of weary-and-shattered beauty, you must follow all of these steps. This task isn’t for the faint of heart.

After practicing these tips for 15 years, my look is so haggard and exhausted that any day I expect Vogue to schedule me for a cover shot.

I hope they use Patrick Demarchelier.

— Kathy Radigan

Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog,  My dishwasher’s possessed!, and has had her writing featured on BlogHer and Cribster. She’s also a contributing author in Sunshine After the Storm: a survival guide for the grieving mother and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female FriendshipYou can follow her onFacebookTwitter and Google +

Reflections of Erma