A Workshop of Excellence. A Time of Laughter and Support.

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Fulfilling a Writer’s Wish.

I attended the tenth, 2018 Erma Bombeck¬†Writers’ Workshop. Held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, I wanted to be there for the first one but couldn’t schedule it on my calendar. Later, unfortunately, I listened to someone who had been at the first, and she did not recommend it.

Twenty years later, I listened to myself.

Erma Bombeck.

Erma Bombeck wrote a syndicated newspaper column featuring humorous stories about being a mother, a wife, living the stay-at-home-mom life in the suburbs during the 1960s-1990s. She received millions of dollars to write books chronicling this housewife-momhood life. For a woman, her place as a journalist and a big-publishing-contract author was unique. She opened doors for many funny women and columnists. In 1996, she passed away from cancer.

Two years after her death, in 1998, the first Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop began with Mr. Bombeck and the Bombeck children in attendance. They will always attend. Mr. Bombeck passed away a few months before this year’s workshop opened, but his children were there.

Be fast if you want in.

After four hours and forty-two minutes exactly, the registration window closed at maximum capacity of 350. A habit for this workshop.

I was flabbergasted.

With such popularity, it sounded like the Comic-Con¬†for writers who aren’t necessarily espousing comic books or science fiction and fantasy writing or superhero movies and television shows.

People traveled from across all fifty states and Canada, including a woman from Spain.

Even the faculty want to come back.

As I stood in the registration line at the University of Dayton Courtyard Marriott for my workshop materials, the first person I talked to was a male faculty member. He said he returns every year. He asks to be invited back. I got the impression if they didn’t invite him, he would register as an attendee to be a part of the weekend.

Why?

The attendees are the best, he said. They are kind, supportive, positive and funny. The staff runs a very organized program. The faculty is top-notch.

Later at a wine and hors d’oeuvres meet and greet, I spoke with another faculty member, a comedy writer from Los Angeles. His first Erma Bombeck workshop was two years ago. He had to return.

Why? For the same reasons as the first faculty member stated: supportive attendees, great faculty, super organized program.

Where men are an anomaly.

The two men I spoke with were an anomaly. Of the 350 attendees, 327 were women and twenty-three were men. The majority of the faculty were women. The director and most of her staff are women.

I’ve never seen so many women at a workshop except for the regional and national conferences of the Romance Writers of America.

It’s not intentional. Anyone can attend.

Erma Bombeck being a woman, a columnist and a humor writer, the workshop in her name attracts the same.

Laughter is always center stage.

Stand-up comedian and joke writer, Monica Paper, inspirational humorist and financially successful entrepreneur Rita Davenport and cartoonist for The New Yorker and CBS news Liza Donnelly were my favorite keynote speakers.

I changed eyeliner after the first night because the tears of laughter smeared my eyes.

Good thing I did. I laughed the whole weekend.

Of Special Focus: Writers looking for Mojo.

Many of the 75-minute sessions focused on humor and nonfiction writing. Throughout them all, and specifically in some sessions, writers staying true to their desire to write was foremost.

Complete your stories. Have courage to submit your work to others for critique or for acceptance in a marketable venue. Write queries and make personal pitches to literary agents. Get on Twitter and be funny to be noticed.

I’ve been an aspiring writer for a long time and took great comfort in knowing others were cheering me on, even if they never met me, never knew my name.

The Erma Bombeck Workshop Facebook group keeps the inspirational fires burning, in case a writer needs a reboot of courage and recharge of persistence after the workshop weekend is over.

YOU can do this. You CAN do this. You can DO this. You can do THIS.

I believe I can.

Thank you, Erma Bombeck Family. Thank you, organizers of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

 

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”

~Erma Bombeck

 

*All images are my own unless stated otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Convention of Rejuvenation

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Writing Panel “Don’t Ever Let Me Catch You Doing This” featuring Dayton horror writers, Brady Allen and Tim Waggoner.

I notice the excitement generated by a writing convention and how valuable it is to reigniting my own drive to keep writing and learning the publishing business.

I recently attended Context 25, one of my favorite conventions because its focus is on writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy. Many of its offerings are free with registration: one-hour panels on everything from “Children Characters in Fantasy and Horror” to “Nanotechnology.” Other sessions are more intensive and longer and cost extra. Two of the three of my choice were “World-Building” and “Revising Your Manuscript.”

I love being a student and taking notes; listening to interviews with guest of honor writers in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Editing; asking questions of the experts. I write it all down in a journal used exclusively for anything relating to writing, whether the source is a convention, workshop, online or in magazines.

My top task is connecting with other writers and those involved in publishing. Small talk isn’t my forte. How do I sidle up to strangers and just chat? Here, the Con Suite is a good beginning. It offers free food, snacks, sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages. Usually, some of the seasoned writers, singers (called filkers), boasters, thinkers, talkers come to sit around the tables and share stories. After a few minutes, I feel like I fit in.

Chatting gets easier as the weekend passes. Seeing similar faces at various activities builds camaraderie. Shared experiences lead to writing discussions.

A mere weekend is exhausting, but only physically, and mostly due to less sleep. What is accomplished is my rejuvenation of spirit. It is only with perseverance that a new writer can make inroads into professional publication. This age of e-books and self-published books is shaking up the traditional book publishing process. I can get lost in that surge of change. But if I stick with it, I will find my way.

Writing conventions like Context in Worthington, Ohio, buoy my spirit and energy level. I return home to the rather solitary life of a writer, eager to write something new and focused to submit something already written.