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I want to be Erma Bombeck

There were a million and one things that could have stopped it from happening. Actually, in the past 24 hours there were two, both of them significant.

1) I was told I will probably need surgery in the near future. Not life or death surgery, but minor surgery that will take me out of commission for a few days.

2) Our hot water heater decided to throw a hissy fit of spillage across the cellar, and the jury is still out as to whether or not we need a new one, to the tune of can-we-just-boil-water dollars.

But it’s a done deal.

I didn’t even tell my kids ahead of time. I probably won’t tell my mother until it’s over.

But let me get back to the beginning, which — lucky for you — means two weeks ago.

If you are reading this, you may have noticed I like to write. The truth of the matter is, my day consists of constant voices in my head — single sentences that describe the most unimportant moments with a bit of a twist. Sometimes they stay with me and sometimes I push them off, thinking they can’t possibly amount to something.

But everything amounts to something, or so the late Erma Bombeck, my hero of the humorous written word, would have me believe.

She got it. She understood that marriage and parenting and trying to do it all meant you either laughed or you cried, and it was all right to do both. She wrote about her life and times, good and bad, her husband and kids — with every step she took, she opened up a world of “Wow, now here’s someone who can make me put down the sharp objects and actually laugh about unfolded laundry or undefrosted dinner or unappreciated me.”

One recent afternoon when I was feeling particularly stressed or melancholy or some such emotion that led me to Google, I typed in these words:

I want to be Erma Bombeck.

Doesn’t that sound crazy? Isn’t this just asking for trouble — for proof that I should be thankful for my five readers (up from two) and let it go at that?

A link popped up right at the top of the screen.

The Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

My reaction? I started to cry. Every part of me knew this was where I belonged, with my peers, the people who see everything as something to write about. I approached S with caution. Yeah, right. I told him about it while flooding the car with tears. He found a way — without selling any organs — to come up with the registration. The hotel and airfare will be the next step, but we will climb the step together, clutching onto the railings and trying not to fall backwards. In other words, without having to live on the streets to support my habit.

Registration was at noon today. I had been scouring the EBWW page for days, reading other blogs, comparing myself to winners of the writing competition that begins in January, watching for any sign that they might open registration even One Minute Early, just to throw us off track.

At 11:59 a.m., my Outlook calendar reminder blinked at me.

At Noon on the dot my cell phone alarm vibrated on my desk.

I opened up the web page and voilà — the link to register was there!

Quickly plugging in all the necessary information — name, address, credit card number, etc., I hit ENTER.



My fumbling fingers and my baffled brain were on different planets, but once I followed those pesky directions, third time was the charm, and finally the much anticipated registration confirmation arrived in my email.

That was a bit anticlimactic to say the least, right?

Here’s the thing.

I am not a risk taker. Sure, I sent a song that I co-wrote to Collin Raye’s agent. Yes, I asked Phil Vassar if he ever collaborated with an unknown when I got his autograph after a concert (by the way, I had a horrible cold and my nose was so red I looked like Rudolph, so he probably thought I was on drugs, and not from my pharmacist). And I will admit I have been trying to get Ellen DeGeneres to pay attention to my blog for a while. But other than those whimsical efforts, which didn’t amount to anything, I have a fear of flying — a fear of falling. A fear of failure.

Yet… I raised two girls to believe they can do anything they set their minds to, and I meant it. So why not believe in me for a change? They do, and so does the guy who has stuck by me for going on 30 years, even when I threatened to change the locks on the doors.

So folks, you are reading the blog of a person who didn’t let the broken hot water heater (water is boiling on the stove as I type), or the possibility of surgery (I will work around it), or her own doubts stop her this time. Whatever comes of this experience, I know it’s all about standing on the peak of possibilities and stepping forward into the unknown.

And I would like to think someday someone will say this of me.

At 53, she flew.

— Janine Talbot

Janine Talbot has been writing since before her eighth grade teacher accused her of plagiarizing a poem she wrote. She has published locally in guest editorials, and her lyrics received honorable mention in American Songwriter Magazine’s Lyric Contest. At 50-something and experiencing the empty nest (i.e., a spare bedroom with a desk), she is diving into the blogging world, sharing her stresses about her long-distance daughters, a spouse who lives for Sponge Bob marathons, a blind golden retriever and a cat she swears screams “Now” at feeding time. She blogs here.

Mommy martydom

Tales From SuburbiaBrandi Haas, who blogs at Tales From Suburbia, has published her first book, Tales from Suburbia: You Don’t Have to be Crazy to Live Here, But it Helps. It’s a collection of hilarious stories about surviving motherhood.

Sold out!

Just four minutes before midnight, we sold out the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.  In 12 hours.  A new record.

Writers from around the nation and Canada will journey to the University of Dayton in the spring for a creative pilgrimage. For three days, we’ll laugh. We’ll be inspired and renewed.

Thanks for making history.  We’ll see you in April!

I worry, therefore I am

I Used to Think I Was Not That BadSyndicated South Dakota humor columnist Dorothy Rosby has published her first book, I Used To Think I Was Not That Bad And Then I Got To Know Me Betterdescribed as “the book for people who read self-improvement books and never get any better. Also for the people who sincerely wish they would.” Her column has been recognized by the South Dakota Newspaper Association, the South Dakota Federation of Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women.

Registration opens for 2014 workshop

Online registration for the April 10-12 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of  Dayton has opened. Click on this link to register:

Want to laugh for three solid days? Soak in advice and encouragement from other writers? Maybe hang out with a few celebrities in the hotel bar?

Then join Phil Donahue, the Bombeck family and an amazing slate of keynoters and faculty for the 2014 workshop.

Is the workshop worth it?  Here’s what writers told us after the last one:

* “When I came to EBWW in 2010, I had a blog and some dreams. I came to EBWW in 2012 having had several essays published and with a book contract. Did EBWW get me published? No. But did it make me believe I could do it? Absolutely.”

* “Truly, this was the best conference I’ve ever been to for writers. Not only were the classes very informative, but my smile muscles hurt each night. …And a unique thing at this conference was the overall feeling of warmth and unity I felt throughout with kindred souls who were out to support each other and not compete.”

* “The desserts rocked.” (Everyone agreed on that point.)

We hope you’ll join us April 10-12 for what’s shaping up to be an outstanding workshop. Check out the keynoters, faculty and workshop sessions here.

The registration fee is $395 and includes all workshop sessions as well as two continental breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners.

Persnickety fish

A Creek Trickles Through ItJim Mize’s new book, A Creek Trickles Through It: A Collection of Fly-Fishing Humor, was selected as this year’s top outdoor book by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association.

Will Durst

Will DurstThe New York Times has called Will Durst “quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” In his guise as mild mannered political comic and former radio talk show host, he is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the all-American sport of full body contact bi-partisan bashing. Sworn enemy to all tyrants, foreign and domestic, he abides by the motto: “You can’t make stuff up like this.”  He pens a nationally syndicated humor column, is a frequent contributor on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News, and has written three books, The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing, Where the Rogue Things Go and Elect to Laugh.

Shake, rattle and roll

Shake, Rattle and Roll With ItErma Bombeck meets Michael J. Fox in Shake, Rattle & Roll With It: Living and Laughing with Parkinson’s. Author and blogger Vikki Claflin chronicles her hilarious, and often poignant journey, dealing with Parkinson’s Disease with her usual irreverence and laughter in her newly published book. Whether she’s chasing her Chihuahuha or learning topole dance in her living room, she will have you laughing and crying at the same time. One reviewer calls her “the female David Sedaris.”

Reflections of Erma