why you should attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Last week Rachel and Claire each published a book in their kindergarten class. Claire wrote and illustrated a mini-memoir about visiting the Great Wolf Lodge last year, while Rachel wrote about how Mommy comes to wake her up in the morning. I was able to see their process from first draft to final, and now I had little writers who were so proud of their work. God bless those teachers who patiently help them revise and edit those stories from we wit to grt wf ldje it was fun we wit swmmg  to something slightly less headache inducing.

I just returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, a conference centered around humor writing, publishing, and honoring the late great Erma herself. It was, in a word, remarkable. There’s nothing like being surround by something you are passionate about to get you inspired and totally pumped for your next project. And really, where else are you going to be stuffed in a room with a hundred or so other people who all say things like OMG I LOOOOOVE thesaurus.com!

Here are reasons YOU should attend the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop


You will learn that it’s okay to own it

Admit you’re a writer, and people ask when you’re going to write the next Great American Novel. But admit you’re a humor writer, and people look at you expectantly, like okay, so BE FUNNY.  Which is why I tend not to declare those types of goods on my writerly customs form. It’s just too much pressure.

But truth be told, I to like to make people laugh, or at the least, I like to make myself laugh. If I scroll through my blog, I find more funny than I do not, and I know that’s my true voice. So here I go. I’m declaring it. I am a humor writer. Ish. But seriously, I’m not a performing monkey, so stop waiting for me to be funny.


Your voice/story/idea/passion is valid

How many people have said Well I kinda wanted to write a book about ______, but that’s all been done before. Well, sure it has. By someone else. But not by YOU.

If there’s one thing that was repeated by several faculty members, it’s that your perspective is what will make your project unique. Author Kelsey Timmerman suggested we to find the thing that we are perfectly suited to write about. Writer and humor columnist Gina Barreca urged us to tell our stories the way we alone can. Humor author Dan Zevin encouraged everyone to be true to your point of view. Your unique perspective is what makes something funny.

Basically, who cares if someone has written a book about whatever it is you want to write a book about? YOU haven’t written it yet.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies

–Emily Dickinson


You’ll find idols, new and old

Two days before the conference I decided it would be a good idea to actually look at the sessions and figure out where I wanted to go, and that’s when I noticed that one of my favorite humor authors was leading a session. I’d chatted with Dan Zevin on twitter briefly after I read his book last year, so I was stunned awkward when he recognized my name and declared us “old friends.”

erma bombeck writer's workshop
Me and my old friend. Next time we see each other, we’ll be geriatric friends.

As for new author crushes, I loved listening to Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella speak about writing humor and working as a mother/daughter team. I’m now putting my three girls through rigorous training to see who can come out on top as my new sidekick.

erma bombeck writer's workshop
Lisa, Francesca, and me. I wear a lot of cardigans.


You will be among your people

Erman Bombeck Writer's Workshop
Just a few of my people: Allison Slater Tate, Kristin Shaw, Missy Stevens, me, Angie Kinghorn, Andrea Mowery. Related: I am short.

I have friends and loved ones in from many different fields, and I adore them all, but there’s truly nothing like being around my people.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t exactly comfortable until the second day and the third drink, but you know what I mean. Writers at every turn, fabulous speakers who were truly experts in their field and masters of their craft, and of course, hilarious to boot. And lots and lots of friends, old and new. There’s nothing like exchanging business cards with someone and then saying OMG I KNOW YOU!  Instant friends.

Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop
More of my people, with a some interchanges and possibly a few libations: Amy, Leigh, Amanda, Missy, Angie, me, Andrea. I am still short.


(Almost) Everyone is awkward

Andrea and Angie measuring themselves in Leigh Anns.
Andrea and Angie measuring themselves in Leigh Anns.

I can be outgoing and open and funny online. That’s truly a part of my personality. But meet me in person for the first time and be prepared to be underwhelmed by my less than sparkling personality. I’m all Hey! You’re ________! It’s so great to meet you in person finally!  And then… Now what? Am I supposed to keep talking? What do I say? Why are there no words coming out of my mouth? Why am I sweating? 

And (almost) everyone felt the same way. I think.


The downsides? Well, you’ll eat a lot of conference food, so pack some protein bars in your bag for those days when you just can’t with the chicken salad and ambiguous rice mound. And when you crack a joke in the airport on your way home, you’ll realize that no one at this airport thinks you are funny. They’re all boring duds.

And that’s when you’ll start counting the days until Erma 2016.



Join the Conversation


  1. This is absolutely perfect.
    How is it we both had the same experience?
    Annnnd both love cardigans???

    I am so glad we met, I feel so less alone in the humor writing ….field? Genre? Mental institution?

    My people get me.
    And my people are amazing.

    1. I am so glad you walked up to our circle that night. You had me at “I was pitting out by like 9am!”

  2. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this conference and meeting you there. You recapped it perfectly (and did a much better job of taking pictures than I did).
    I can’t wait until 2016!

    1. It was so great to meet you! And I made a pact with myself to take lots of photos. I usually leave these things wishing I had taken more.

  3. 1) Is it wrong to put it on my calendar even if I am not funny? I want to go anyway.

    2) I am obsessed (moderately and not in a steal-in-from-your-closet way) with your polka dot cardigan.

    3) You sound inspired! I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the upcoming months.

    (insert obligatory nudge to work on your human interest article)

    1. Totally okay to go if you’re not funny, but you ARE funny. I met lots of great people there who weren’t humor writers, but they were hilarious. Totally worth it.

  4. Love it!! It was such a great time. Thank you again for the push. And cardigans are truly the most perfect conference attire – said the other person who is wearing a cardigan in that photo. So easy to take a layer off when you find yourself sweating profusely.

    1. Only I never take that layer off because then an offensive smell would waft from my armpits.

  5. I LOVE being with my people. It feeds my soul. Conference food? Not so much.

    Glad you girls had a great time. Wish I could have beamed myself over. Or up. Or whichever.

    Love all the pics and the ideas you came away with…

  6. Truly wonderful to be in a room of kindred spirits who all get it. Loved every minute of it.
    I came away with a major author crush on the Scottolines too. I want them to adopt me.
    I hope we meet in 2016. 🙂

  7. I LOVE this. You’ve summed up perfectly the Erma experience, right down to the elbow-rubbing with your own kind. Of course, Dan Zevin and I are not old friends, but I’m pretty sure Lisa and Francesca and I are going to hang out sometime real soon.

    The biggest thing I learned there was your #1: OWN IT.

    How many days again ’til 2016?

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