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So you want to be an author?
That’s funny!

Once upon a time, all it took to write a book and make it a success was a good story and a lot of luck. Today, most manuscripts end up in the slush pile, unless the author is a criminal or a celebrity. The only exception — if the plot contains vampires. Let’s face it, books are changing and so are readers.

Since my book Mishegas of Motherhood. Raising Children To Leave The Nest…As Long As They Come Home For Dinner came out last year, it seems that I’ve spent as much time learning how to monetize my blog as I have writing chapters for the next volume.

By the way, since when did “hashtag” become a word?

For moms out there who believe that they have a book in them, here’s some general advice on how to turn your passion for words into a profitable business:

• Develop a comprehensive marketing plan on the back of your grocery shopping list.

• Position yourself as an expert in the field, such as “Specialist in disguising leftover chicken to look like something new for dinner.”

• Establish your brand, you know, “Coupon Mommy.”

• Identify your platform, and I’m not talking high-heeled shoes.

• Expand your reach, and I’m not talking Pilates.

• Increase traffic to your web site/blog by promising free cookies for whoever “likes” you.

• Engage in regular conversation and build relationships with readers via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube so that you have no time to clean the house, run errands, feed the dog, make dinner, take out the trash or make love to your husband.

• Convert your print book into an ebook with multiple formats. In other words, hire your teenager to use his video game skills to explain modern technology to you.

• Create speaking events and workshops, and pretend that you don’t have stage fright.

• Guest post to promote your own blog, and basically be your own pimp.

• Produce podcasts, web shows, videos. Just make sure your hair looks brushed and there are no poppy seeds stuck in your teeth when you’re in front of the camera.

• Learn the pros and cons of self-publishing, then get a REAL job to pay for it!

• Exercise everyday, and eat chocolate. Self explanatory.

• Obtain an alternative source of income or win the lottery.

• Don’t give up. It will make you appear weak in front of your kids.

For moms especially, it’s important to try to set a good example for your kids by teaching them that hard work pays off, even if it’s not monetary (at first). Sure, rejection letters can hurt, but constructive criticism from experts isn’t nearly as painful as the constant ridicule you get from your own children who complain, “This dinner sucks!”

Look at rejection as positive reinforcement to keep moving forward. It’s better than being ignored. Consider this:

Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before J.K. Rowling went from poverty to one of the richest people in the world, selling more than 400 million copies.

Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl was rejected 16 times and has now sold more than 30 million copies and has inspired numerous novels and films.

• Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times and was actually thrown away before his wife uncrumbled it from the trash and convinced him to try again.

• Kathyrn Stockett, author of The Help, survived a whopping 60 rejections and has now spent more than 100 weeks on the NYT bestseller list.

Good luck!

— Ellie S. Grossman

Ellie S. Grossman is the author of Mishegas of Motherhood. Raising Children To Leave The Nest…As Long As They Come Home For Dinner, which is a combination of domestic satire and Jewish wisdom that applies to all modern families.

Step into those platform shoes

Once upon a time writers polished their manuscripts until they shone, pulled on their best fancy clothes and rang the doorbell of the publishing world, hoping to be accepted into the crowds of book-happy partygoers inside. These days, the butler answers the door, looks behind you and asks, “Where are all your guests?”

If you want in on the publishing party, it’s strictly BYOM: Bring Your Own Mob. Agents and editors want to know how many will drink your particular Kool-Aid and buy the book, so the more published clips, blog hits and social media followers, the better.


The Internet is filled with blogs, so you can’t just create a site and wait for someone to show up. You have to put up notices and offer free refreshments, which means get the word out about your blog and keep the content fresh. Your ultimate goal is at least 1,000 visits a day. Don’t let tumbleweeds roll past. Get things started by joining a blogchain where you and other like-minded folks commit to visiting, commenting and promoting each other’s blogs. Also offer to guest post on popular sites and blogs in exchange for a bio and a link to your own site. List your link everywhere, from your email signature line to your kid’s birthday party invitations. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but you get the idea.

Social media

There are several social media sites available, but the numbers you need to cultivate are on Facebook and Twitter. Agents and editors pay attention if you have 10,000 fans of your Facebook page or 10,000 followers on Twitter. Interact with folks and participate in chats or one-on-one conversations. You’ll get to know a lot of wonderful people who will then spread the word on how awesome YOU are.  Out of the rest, the other two I rely on are BuzzFeed and StumbleUpon. Between BuzzFeed and a fortunate retweet by a large business, one post of mine garnered 20,000 views. StumbleUpon, a review/recommendation site, has also sent thousands of eyes my way.

Group websites and print

If you’re submitting to the major humor markets, don’t overlook smaller venues like group websites and anthologies. I was invited to join the humor site An Army of Ermas two years ago, and it’s been one of the best time investments ever; everyone of us has experienced a moment when thousands of people laughed, snorted or sympathized with our words. Usually these types of sites require you to apply, but once you begin to build your platform, expect a few invitations as well. You can apply to the writer’s room of a major site like Cracked, but you’re more likely to get in with a smaller or new site.  Also submit to anthologies; many appreciate humorous submissions even if the main theme isn’t funny. Anthologies are a great way to network with editors and other writers, and they often lead to other opportunities that showcase your diversity as a writer. That’s important because once you strap on those platform shoes, you can show off all your dance moves when you hit the party.

— Beth Bartlett

Beth Bartlett is a freelance writer and humorist who landed an agent last year and is still gathering folks before she barnstorms the ballroom. You can visit her at or An Army of Ermas.

Put on something else

This humorous essay by Cindy Argiento, along with one titled “Honesty Will Kill a Relationship,” are published in the most recent Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life.)

“You gonna wear that?” is the question I have asked my husband many times over the span of our marriage. After 22 years of marriage I find it amazing that the man thinks a pair of clean underwear and a new tie meet the business casual dress code requirements.

Once again the other night getting ready for an evening out I looked at him and asked, “Are you gonna wear that jacket?” “I was planning on it. Why? What’s wrong with my jacket? You told me you like this jacket.” “Yes, I told you I like the jacket, back in 1980 when I met you. Now it’s old, worn, faded and small on you; besides I thought we got rid of it. Where did you find it?” “I found it on the floor of my closet. I forgot it was there until today when I decided to clean out my closet rather than listen to your constant nagging one more minute.” “I only nagged you to pick up your underwear since you ran out and the pile on the floor was obstructing the television. It was a choice of doing laundry or running to the store to buy new underwear.” Oh, that reminds me, next time you go to the store pick me up some underwear.”

“You gonna wear those sneakers?” “I was planning on it; they’re my dressy sneakers. Why? What’s wrong with my sneakers?” “Well, since tonight is formal, you should wear shoes. I don’t remember those sneakers. Where did you get them?” “I got them under the jacket in the closet.” “Oh.” “Do you think I should give the jacket to our son?” “No, he won’t want it.” “Why won’t he want it?” “Well, for one thing, he has taste. We could bury it tomorrow along with the sneakers. Now go put on a pair of dress shoes.” “I wear dress shoes to work.” “Yes, dear, I know, but you work from home now, remember?” “Yeah, so now there are boxes of untouched shoes in my closet.” “The only shoes you wear now are slippers, and you have yet to scrape off the dead spider that you crushed and is still dangling from the bottom of the right one.” “I’ll change.”

“You gonna wear that tie?” “I was planning on it. It has some green in it which matches my shirt. Why? What’s wrong with my tie?” “It has green in it because it’s a Christmas tie decorated with Christmas trees.” “Well, you gave me it to wear.” “Yes, at Christmas time, not the middle of July. Put it back and pick out a different tie. Hey, where are you going with the tie?” “I’m planning to go to the bathroom to hang myself with it before you look at the red socks I’m wearing that you gave me for Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, one last suggestion, while you’re in there you should change the undershirt I gave you for Halloween. The pumpkins show through your shirt. Hey, there’s no need to slam the door; I’m only trying to help. What’s going on in there? Is that the window I hear? If you’re sneaking out again, I’ll meet you in front with the car. I’ll get your coat. Do you want the one missing a button or the one with the broken zipper? Oh we really need to go shopping.”

— Cindy Argiento

Cindy Argiento, author of Deal With Life’s Stresses With a Little Humor, writes a blog, “Cindy’s World.”

Southern writers and Krispy Kremes

Nancy LaFever explores Southern writers and Krispy Kremes in an interview with writer pal, Amy Mullis, author, humor writer and food enthusiast. Amy lives in South Carolina “in a suburb of Sugar Tit, which is possibly the best thing that could happen to a humorist.” This piece appeared on LaFever’s blog, Single People’s Grocery Lists, on June 1, 2012.

SPGL: Welcome, Amy!

AM: “First I’d like to say that I love your blog. I regularly stop by to read it, but I don’t always comment because the lists make me hungry and I wander off for a snack. Also, I’ve noticed that your lists often contain wine. Handy tip:  I save money by substituting comparable but thriftier items, such as juice from the grapes I forgot to throw out last month.  Always remember that good things can come from refrigerator harvests.”

SPGL: Thanks for the plug, A! You’re a talented and successful writer. Here’s a question about your “process.” Do you live to write or do you live to eat? (Since this is a food-focused blog, I have to ask the hard questions.)

AM: “I believe that eating and writing can co-exist peacefully. I haven’t seen an essay yet that isn’t made better by a smudge of chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed pecans. And raspberry filling. And whipped cream. And…could you excuse me a second? I have to go check on something in the snack aisle.”

SPGL: I know from previous chats that you’re quite a fan of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As a writer, do those misspellings bother you? Is glazed your favorite?

AM: “Krispy Kreme originated in my backyard. Not my actual backyard because they’d be covered in red mud, but in the “other” Carolina just over the border.  So I thought Krispy Kreme was the correct spelling until I conducted in-depth research on Google five minutes ago. But people who spell doughnuts without the “ugh”?  I have ughly thoughts about them. (See what I did there? I call that humor. My kids call that an excuse to roll their eyes like Atlantic City dice.)  Also, I’ve had a flirtation with glazed for years, but my blood runneth raspberry cream. Or kreme. Either one makes my arteries go pitter pat.”

SPGL: You live in South Carolina. We Northerners believe that y’all (is that correct?) live on chicken fried steak and grits. Have you ever made a sandwich replacing bread with chicken fried steak?

AM: “You can’t replace bread with chicken fried steak because done correctly there is gravy on top and that would send the whole meal into the “gooshy stuff we eat over the sink” category.  (Interesting fact: There is also chicken fried chicken, which is not the same as fried chicken although it’s fried. And chicken. Go figure.) However, if you’ll check with Paula Deen (referenced below and who always, I mean ALWAYS, looks like a zombie in her photographs and who is probably planning a meal around chicken fried brainz), you can make a sandwich using a sliced doughnut for bread. Add bacon and it’s nature’s perfect food. Y’all.”

SPGL: According to Southern cook Paula Deen, TV star and High Priestess of fat content, recipes should always stick to a 75 percent fat to 25 percent sugar ratio. Would you weigh in on that?

AM: “Never say ‘weigh’ to a Southerner.”

SPGL thanks Amy for taking the time to stop by, especially since she had to put down a donut to focus. Catch more of her on her blog, Mind Over Mullis and on An Army of Ermas, where she’s a regular contributor.

— Nancy LaFever

Nancy LaFever pens a blog, “Single People’s Grocery Lists.” Why? Because she “discovered the crap we buy is actually pretty funny when you look at your list.”

Long live Erma’s humor

This piece first appeared on the Senior Wire News Service. Reposted by permission.

“My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.” — Erma Bombeck

In April, I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop 2012 at the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater. It is a bi-annual event that I have registered for since 2004 because I love humor writing. There are always more than 350 people in attendance and seats sell out quickly, so I have learned to sign up on the first day of registration and make hotel reservations early in December.

I first read Erma Bombeck in the late 1960s. She hooked me with At Wit’s End; Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own; Aunt Erma’s Cope Book; If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and many other hilarious books. I have been an avid fan ever since.

This year, Erma’s family dedicated a Hoopsi Blue Spruce in her memory outside St. Mary’s Hall at the University of Dayton to commemorate the 16th anniversary of her death on April 22, 1996. “They planted trees and crabgrass came up,” the inscription read on the stone in front of the small evergreen. It ended with these words,  “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, 1976 – Erma Bombeck ’49.”  Erma’s husband, Bill Bombeck, spoke at the dedication ceremony. and WDTN-TV covered the story. Later, I managed to get a photo with him.

I noticed a new trend evolving at the workshop — many seniors had registered to start new careers in writing. I networked with as many people as possible at the workshop sessions, lunch and dinner during the three-day event. I met retired business owners, government workers, IT professionals, law enforcement officials and school teachers. Their stories were similar to mine: “I read Erma Bombeck while raising my kids,” or “I always admired her writing.” Some said, “I’d like to learn how to make money at this, so I can supplement my Social Security income.” They were not all humor writers;  some were there to learn how to interject humor into more serious topics and presentations. I met folks who wrote health columns, blogs, Christian books, children’s books, greeting cards, and newbies just learning the craft of writing.

Among the sponsors, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) boasted that it has the oldest columnist in America as a member, Harriette B. Leidich of North Bennington, Vt., who turned 100 on April 19opening day of the workshop. Harriette is still writing columns for the daily Bennington Banner.

The concurrent educational sessions at the workshop were excellent, covering everything from basic humor writing to social networking and blogging. I was able to order a CD with the soundtrack from all of them because I had to miss a few sessions that conflicted with my schedule.

Keynote speakers during meals included feminist humor maven Gina Barreca; Ilene Beckerman, who started her writing career at age 60; Pulitzer Prize-winner Connie Schultz; television writer and book author, Adriana Trigiani; and Thurber Prize-winner and original “Saturday Night Live” writer Alan Zweibel.

Gina Barreca brought the house down when she entertained us with standup comedy for over an hour after dinner on Saturday. After that, about 27 of the attendees, including yours truly, were given five minutes each to perform standup comedy for folks energetic enough to stay awake until midnight.

Mascot EB Heron, a blue heron adopted by a small group of “Ermies” at the 2010 Workshop, was in attendance again this year. His fan club sported yellow T-shirts and tiaras. His handmade tuxedos (he owns two) got more attention at the event than Kate Middleton would wearing maternity clothes. He was named “EB” after E.B. White following a  “Name the Bird” contest at the 2010 workshop.  Seven ladies contributed to a Kindle biography about him titled EB and the Ladies of the Bird Table Take Flight.

This was a wonderful experience. I learned about the benefits of social networking, made many new friends and plan to attend the 2014 workshop. Actually, I can’t wait to see EB’s new tuxedo.

— Rose A. Valenta

Rose A. Valenta writes Rosie’s Renegade Humor Blog. Last spring, she published Sitting on Cold Porcelain, a book of satirical essays.

Seven ways to hilarity

I’ve overdosed on humor columns.

I’m afraid that I’ve dissected the frog of humor to the point that everything that once was funny is now as lifeless as another article on characterization or copyrights. But in consolation, several typical patterns have emerged, and I offer them to you the next time you need to cough up 600-800 hilarious words.

The basic typology of the humor column mimics most other literary formats.  Here are seven basic forms of the humor column along with some examples from my own writing.

1. The List

Magazine feature writing has long relied on the list. Tens ways to improve your marriage, laundry, sex life or breath are still hot copy in the slicks. David Letterman’s “Top Ten List” is this classic in its video incarnation. James Thurber was a master of the form and even developed a list of rules for humor writing. The list evolved from the classic string-of-pearls formula in which one anecdote follows another, only loosely connected by a common topic. Many of the best things ever written follow this formula — the Ten Commandments, The Bill of Rights, the article you’re reading. The following example lists rules for parents to use in assessing their Christmas purchases.

The Quantity Test: Simply are there enough of them? Will the child have a sufficient number of things to unwrap Christmas morning? Experience has taught that 12 to 15 presents is a minimum number for a successful Christmas. Don’t get lazy and start wrapping presents together. While it’s not a good policy to wrap the crayons individually, remember batteries are not included. Save them for the stocking.

The Dollar Amount Test: Secondly, did you pay enough for the presents? This test can be conducted by simply determining if you have reached your credit limit on at least one major credit card. If not, it’s back to the mall. You have obviously not spent enough.

2. The Q&A and the Quiz

The question-and-answer column is a form the humorist can easily exploit using a mock expert to provide snappy answers. Due to the unshakable popularity of Ann and Abby, this form has high recognition value for readers. Second cousin to the Q & A is the quiz. I prefer the multiple-choice format since it provides more opportunities for gags in the distracters.  Since we’ve all had to contend with tests, this is a perennial favorite. Psychological tests are especially easy to parody.

Paranoia Self Check-up

A. The FDA has conspired to allow unhealthy food products on the market. (5 points)
B. So far, only my Lucky Charms have been tampered with. (100 points)

A. The CIA and FBI are watching me. (10 points)
B. The CIA and FBI are watching my rear end. (1,000 points)

3. Recent Personal Event

Many humor writers use the personal anecdote to illustrate some broader cultural issue. “A funny thing happened to me on the way to the _____” is the essence of this form. This example uses a graduation.

We’ll Remember Always

I just attended a double graduation and sat through four hours of national anthems, platitudinous advice and the mispronunciation of names. Four hours were only interrupted by a brief foray into the blazing hot sun to take pictures of the sweating graduates. I would rather have attended a double murder.

4. Childhood Event

Nostalgia is big business since Baby Boomers crashed into the gerontology bus. Childhood memories particularly from the 1950s and 1960s are appreciating in value daily. They have high recognition and, when handled appropriately, are a strong hook. The following is such a piece on holidays.

My family always went overboard on holidays — like the Christmas my electrician father installed 200 red and green 100-watt light bulbs around our front porch. He thought it lent that special holiday magic. My mother said it made our house look like a damn tavern… 

5. Current Events

Most humorists look for unusual new items for their comic premise. These show up nightly in Jay Leno’s and Letterman’s monologues.  Dave Barry even had his readers constantly searching for the unusual. These pieces have a short shelf life, but they also have considerable impact if your timing is right. The following piece relates to the short-lived push for a constitutional amendment on flag burning.

Getting it Etched in Stone

Proposed constitutional amendments proliferate like pimples on a first date. First there was ERA, prayer in public schools and abortion, and then congressional term limits, the balanced budget, flag desecration and, of course, the mandatory purchase of crocks and private health insurance. As someone who had to pass three constitution exams to complete my education (8th grade, 11th grade and college) I’m violently opposed to any additional amendments, especially if they’re going to be on the test.

6. The Interview

From the comedy team of Bob and Ray to Andy Borowitz, the faux interview is a great format for the humor writer.  Below is an example of my ersatz radio interview of a conservative child-rearing expert.

Interviewer: Welcome to WNRA. All Right Radio, All the Time. Today’s guest is child-rearing expert and nationally syndicated advice columnist, Cornelius Bottomwacker. Dr. Bottomwacker’s latest book, It’s Time to Take The Carrot off the Stick and Put it to Better Use, has been on the Conservative Gazette’s best-seller list for the last six months. Dr. Bottomwacker, welcome.

Bottomwacker: Thanks, Bob. It’s a pleasure to be here. I should correct you. It’s Mr., not Dr. Bottomwacker. I don’t believe in higher education. I believe that higher education is to blame for most of the problems we currently face. Those snide self-satisfied liberal intellectuals are the ones who have supported legalization of drug abuse, teenage sex, satanic rock-and-roll and arugula. Too much liberal higher education is the bane of our times…    

7. The Parody                                                        

Television, radio, theater and other writers are grist for the humor mill. Parodies can be formulated as scripts, stories or imitation. One of my favorite old movies led to this piece.

Mr. Netherland’s Masterpiece (as told by those who knew him)

(Miss Crabbyappleton, retired  junior high school principal now residing in the State Home for Educators and the Insane): I remember Mr. Netherland’s first day on the job at Al Sharpton  Junior High School. This reckless, feckless, ambitious young man with sawdust in his hair  wanted more out of life than being a shop teacher. He had taken a temporary teaching job just to quell the incessant nagging of his new wife.  He intended to work after school and summers on his masterpiece, the world’s largest faux walnut plywood whatnot shelf. Yes, Mr. Netherland dreamed large. But as the years passed, there never was enough time. What with grading bird feeders and ashtrays, filling out requisitions for nails and crazy glue, and laundering shop towels, his life was rich but somehow unfulfilled.                                

Power of the Comedic Twist

Familiarity makes the comedic twist  in humor writing successful. From experience, readers immediately recognize the legitimacy, which reinforces identification with the content and acceptance of the comedic premise. The twist is provided though the traditional humor techniques of exaggeration, reversal, self-deprecation and the use of metaphors.

Whatever form you ultimately choose, make sure that it is familiar and distracts the reader from your comedic sleight of hand.

— Terry L. Stawar

Terry L. Stawar is president and CEO of LifeSpring Inc., a community behavioral health center serving six counties in south central Indiana. He writes a weekly newspaper column for the Southern Indiana Evening News and Tribune, a blog for Behavioral Healthcare Magazine and the Welcome to Planet-Terry blog and podcast.

Tweeting for the Pulitzer

Despite the ever-progressive state of the technological age, it seems if we want to achieve real success as writers, we actually must regress back to behaviors we learned in, like, high school.

In the olden days, writers wrote. They moved to the forest to cabins with no electricity and hunted or trapped their own dinner or better yet never ate at all because they were too busy chain-smoking and ignoring everyone they’ve ever met and WRITING. The more angst and reclusivity, the better their work.

Oh, to be Harper Lee.

Now, if I want to make it as a writer, my muse is a homecoming queen. Because everyone “likes” her.

Social media has invaded even the most lonely of professions, and just like the quill, the solitary life has been expelled from the writer’s toolkit by the landmines of the “Like Me” world.

I discovered my passion for the page right around the time I opened my first email account, then shrunk away to have babies for a decade. By the time I reappeared in my cabin clothes, inkwell in hand, I realized the party’s actually been moved to my high school cafeteria.

Here I stand, tray loaded with ideas and drive, wondering where to sit.

Front and center are the mommy bloggers, the “popular group” with mad skills for making the best (or even better, the worst) of their existence, but there is some mad back scratching going on over there. Not sure I can keep up with all that constant validation and remembering everyone’s names and pages.

Passing through are the crafty class clowns, who show up for roll call to post their status, then disappear and reappear at random to start a new planking, coning or flash fun movement.

Out on the lawn is the artsy group, who know just what filter to instagram their coolness through. Their lenses don’t care if you like them, but deep inside, they really do.

LinkedIn is the National Honor Society, all grown up. Don’t show up without a briefcase and resume if you want to be taken seriously.

And then there are the too-cool-for-school tweeters squatting under the bleachers as their thumbs procure clever punchlines that knock you out in 140 characters or less.

In high school, I constantly wished we could just skip lunch and get back to business. I still do.

I now pen the weekly Cracking Up humor column for The Orange County Register, a dream job in theory.  But to take the next step and get syndicated, I won’t be crafting an ingenious query and crossing my fingers for 4-6 weeks. Oh, no.

First, I’ll need to sneak under the bleachers and recruit 4,000 more Twitter followers, then comment and flatter my way through the center of the cafeteria until I convince you to follow the Conga line to my blog. All the while I’ll quip back to the clowns’ status updates and wear a necktie to widen my links, then take up photography so I can insta-open an account to make pinboards on snapfly.

With all this time spent “writing,” when am I going to find time to write?

But seriously, if you ‘like’ me, I’ll ‘like’ you. Follow me at and @autumnmcalpin, buy my book Real World 101: A Survival Guide to Life After High School on Amazon, and friend me on Facebook!

— Autumn McAlpin

Autumn McAlpin  is the author of Real World 101: A Survival Guide to Life After High School, a columnist for The Orange County Register in southern California and a regular contributor to

No laughing matter

(This humorous essay appeared in the Salem News on June 1, 2012. Reposted by permission.)

Last month, I attended the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers’ Conference in Dayton, Ohio.

People came from Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana and even California. As far as I could tell, I was the only one from Massachusetts. That is because it’s easier to fly to Juneau, Alaska, than to Dayton, Ohio, from here.

I realized this while scrolling through the airlines’ schedules. Dayton is a small airport with few flights from Logan and fewer nonstop.

Eventually, I settled on a US Airways flight from Boston to Washington’s Reagan International. Unfortunately, I had only 30 minutes to make the connecting flight to Dayton.

Should I not make it, there were few alternatives. Even in Washington, flights to Dayton were as scarce as pickle barrels. I pictured myself in desperation, boarding a Greyhound bus to Ohio.

Thus, I decided against checking a suitcase. If I missed the connecting flight, my suitcase could end up in Juno. Instead, I crammed everything into carry-ons.

My “pocketbook” was an enormous tote stuffed with clothes. When I reached in to pay for a headset, I pulled out my underwear.

During the flight from Boston, I glanced often at my watch. We were flying into a wind that would eventually morph into a storm. The turbulence created a drag, the pilot said, leaving me with only 20 minutes to make my connection to Dayton.

I showed the flight attendant my ticket, hoping she’d phone ahead: “Hold that plane!” Instead, she scoffed and said, “You’ll have plenty of time.”

When we landed and the doors opened, I resisted the urge to climb over the seats. I’d resigned myself to missing my connection at that point.

Imagine my surprise then to discover the flight to Dayton had been delayed by two hours. Thank you, US Air!

I found the gate and sat down to read. Later, I decided to go into the main terminal to browse the shops. As often happens, I got distracted. When I checked my watch, I realized my plane was boarding.

I rushed to the security checkpoint and got in line. As I walked through the full-body scanner, a security guard motioned to me.

“I have to go through your things,” she said, unzipping my bags. She took everything out, shaking the box of Cheez-Its along with my underwear. She examined my makeup case.

Then she said, “I have to feel you now.”

I heard her correctly — as did everyone else within earshot. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

“Do you mind?” she added.

What to say in a situation like that? If I acted reluctant, she’d be suspicious. On the other hand, if I acted enthusiastic, she’d wonder.

I nodded and glanced at the clock. My flight was leaving in 15 minutes. I cursed myself for straying from the gate.

As the guard performed her duties, I asked why I’d been singled out. It was my bra, she claimed. The multi clasps had created a blur on the screen. (Note to self: Leave bra at home while in the nation’s capital.)

Next, she sprayed my hands and forearms with a strong chemical.

“This detects the presence of explosives,” she informed me. I kept silent.

Finally released, I raced to the gate to find it empty. The monitor showed the delayed flight was now canceled. What?!

I approached a nearby agent.

“Didn’t you get our phone call about the cancellation?” he asked. Apparently, while I was buying Lincoln Memorial paperweights, US Air was calling my house to announce they’d canceled the flight.

“What can I do?” I wailed.

He checked his computer and said, “There’s a flight to Charlotte in 10 minutes,” then handed me a new boarding pass. “You might make it. I’ll take you.”

Together, we raced through the airport, the agent running ahead, me far behind, dragging my bags. Just like in the movies, the doors were closing when I staggered in, taking my seat on the tiny plane.

It was only after we were airborne that I realized I was going to Charlotte, which is in North Carolina. I’m no geography whiz, but isn’t there an easier route to Dayton?

I studied my ticket. Upon landing in Charlotte, I would have 20 minutes to make the connecting flight to Dayton. “You’ll have plenty of time,” the flight attendant assured me.

Needless to say, after three flights and 12 hours in airports, I made it to Dayton. When I checked in at the Humor Writers Conference, I was not amused. Nonetheless, I’ve got it all arranged for next year: I’m going Greyhound.

— Sharon L. Cook

Sharon L. Cook is author of the mystery novel, A Nose for Hanky Panky.

Reflections of Erma