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Sessions

Sessions are subject to change

The program is available here. Download a PDF.

Special Features

7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 8

Virtual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition Awards Ceremony, featuring keynote speaker Betsy Bombeck. Sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

Free and open to the public.

To watch a replay, click here.


7-9 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 14

Moderated by Nancy Berk, featuring celebrity judges Brian Kiley, Wendy Liebman and Leighann Lord

Put your business card in the ring for a chance to test your two-minute stand-up routine in front of an EBWW audience and three stand-up veterans armed with insight and constructive criticism. Whether you get the golden buzzer or just some solid advice for taking it to the next level, this pre-workshop session will help participants and non-participant attendees craft better comedy and performances. A select number of participants from these auditions will be added to the Saturday night show lineup. The remainder will be chosen randomly.

Free and open to the public.

To watch a replay, click here


2:30-4 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

A workshop favorite! Pitchapalooza is American Idol for Books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book idea. Each writer gets one minute — and only one minute! Known as The Book Doctors, Arielle and David will help these writers, and everyone in the audience, improve their pitches. They will critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much more. Authors and audience come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether you’re pitching yourself, or simply listening to trained professionals critique other writers, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for everyone. From Los Angeles to New York City, and many stops along the way, Pitchapalooza has consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors. At the end of Pitchapalooza, they will select a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. Numerous authors have received publishing deals due to Pitchapalooza.


9 -11 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Hosted by Brian Kiley

In his debut appearance at EBWW, Emmy Award-winning comedian Brian Kiley will emcee the traditional Stand-Up Comedy Night, featuring 18 attendees. Some comics were selected at "Erma's Got Talent: The Stand-Up Auditions" after performing before a panel of celebrity judges. Others were chosen randomly after the auditions. Here's the list of performers.


Concurrent Sessions (FIVE will be offered in each time slot. all will be recorded and available immediately after the session as well as after the workshop for viewing.)

Craft of Writing

2:15-3:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Susan Pohlman

The literary world is all abuzz about this new, hybrid essay form. A term coined by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, the “hermit crab essay” is a delightful new breed of personal essay that borrows known structures — recipes, how-to manual, syllabus, drug facts, the pain scale, apologies, dating profiles, form letters — to tell a story or explore a topic. A great choice for both humor and human interest writers, these essays touch the heart and tickle the funny bone in creative and unique ways. In this interactive session, we will examine this emerging form and write one of our own.


3:45-5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Lee Martin

This generative session takes on the question of how to write the stories that matter. We’ll consider how to work with structure, characterization, detail, and irony to create memorable stories either in fiction or in creative nonfiction. Come prepared to write. After considering some models, we’ll close with an activity designed to generate the beginning of a story.


10:30-11:45 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Diana Abu-Jaber

Tell me what you eat, said Brillat-Savarin, and I shall tell you what you are. Lives are filled with stories and plots, but none is juicier than the one told with food. Culinary memoirs are wildly popular, taking readers beyond memory into the senses — especially the deep pleasures of the appetite. Food sharpens the focus, introduces universal themes and endows writing with imaginative, emotional and physical layers of complexity. This workshop will look at ways to write your life stories through the culinary lens. There will be writing prompts, exercises and discussions. We’ll be thinking and comparing notes, considering all the ways that our connections to eating give rise to remembering and inspiration. Come and see what you cook up. Bring your curiosity and your appetite, a sense of play and a sense of humor.


10:15-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Barbara Fant

This workshop is geared towards new writers trying to write their first poem and those just interested in poetry. Participants will be guided through a series of generative writing exercises geared to introduce poetry. Through the reading of poetry, poetry exercises and discussion, we will explore craft, poetic tools and forms, and create original poems.


3:45-5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

Using a series of improvisational writing techniques and a simple kitchen timer, this hands-on workshop will help you get past your self-criticism, reveal your unique voice and help you incorporate that voice into your writing. You’ll learn how to use your voice to paint a clear picture for readers, helping them experience who you are, where you are, who you are to the others in your scene and what makes this day so important in the story. Come prepared to write without self-editing and to give your imagination a good workout.


10:15-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Katrina Kittle

Are you seeking the inspiration (and nudge) to start a new project (or finally finish one!)? This workshop provides a creative boost by focusing on creating and defending a writing schedule, dealing with the inner critic and defeating writer’s block — as well as providing writing prompts and exercises to get you back on track when you’ve lost your way (or your muse has stopped taking your calls).


10:15-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Paula Munier

In this interactive and informative workshop, literary agent and USA Today bestselling author Paula Munier reveals the secrets to writing stories that grab the readers’ attention on page one and keep them turning the pages until The End. You’ll learn how to build tension, dramatize the various kinds of conflict and master such page-turning plot elements as twists, reveals and reversals. Paula uses lots examples and exercises to illustrate the special storytelling tools, tips and tricks you need to write suspenseful, engaging stories that leave your readers begging for more.


3:45-5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Jessica Strawser

Suspense isn’t just for thrillers. It’s not even just for fiction. Whether we’re reading a humorous essay, a heartfelt memoir or a page-turning novel, we love the build of anticipation, the satisfaction of the unexpected. This interactive workshop uses prompts, examples and tips to help you master tricks for keeping your readers on the hook, from the paragraph level to the story’s premise. You’ll twist turns of phrase, uncover your character’s secrets (even if that character is you!), pull the rug out and leave with plenty of ideas for adapting these techniques to your own work-in-progress.


Humor Writing

3:45-5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Moderated by Lian Dolan
Featuring Tracy Beckerman, Bruce Ferber and Leighann Lord

With humor, compassion and irreverence, Erma Bombeck brought to life “a strange little band of characters,” the family, in her writings. Lian Dolan, host of Satellite Sisters, a podcast she created with her four sisters, moderates a panel of writers who beautifully and, often hysterically, write about the foibles of family life.


2:15-3:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Dan Zevin

Your friends think you’re funny, your family thinks you’re funny, and your sensibility is more Seinfeld than Sartre. So how come your writing sometimes winds up so dry? Hint: Your high school English teacher said that writing was solemn business. In this workshop, it’s payback time. You’ll be encouraged to look at the world the way nature intended: with your sense of humor. We’ll discuss personal essays, comic fiction and topical satire. And our in-class exercises (relax, no cardio) will help you find the funny in the characters, dialogue and situations you create. Whether your goal is to write a “Shouts and Murmurs” piece for The New Yorker, a list for McSweeney’s or a book-length humor collection, the first step is the same: take your sense of humor seriously.


10:30-11:45 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Annabelle Gurwitch

New York Times best-selling author, Thurber Prize finalist and humorist Annabelle Gurwitch leads a workshop on finding the funny in your story. She will lead a creative brainstorming session with writers on current project ideas and works in progress. She’ll share her process of cultivating humor in even the most serious subjects and work with writers individually on finding opportunities in a piece of writing they will send in advance. You’ll learn a process you can apply each time you sit down to write. This workshop combines (short) lectures, writing, reading short excerpts of their work (unless a student prefers not to), discussion of craft and brainstorming with Annabelle and class members. If you're interested in Annabelle critiquing an essay or work-in-progress, please email a 500-word piece to Sarah Alice Keiser by Oct. 12. Check out her recent work in which she marries comedy and pathos: an LA Times story about inviting an at-risk couple experiencing homelessness into her home (finalist for a Los Angeles Press Club excellence in journalism award), her quarantine diary in Los Angeles Magazine and a New York Times’ op-ed about sending her child back to college after a stint in rehab.


9-10:15 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Riane Konc

Satire is often called the “comedy of outrage.” It’s a form of writing that uses the deep emotions of the author to express a point of view through comedy. In this workshop, you’ll look at satirical examples, learn tips and tricks, discuss different formats that work for The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” section and McSweeney’s and learn a repeatable brainstorming process to use going forward to create topical and evergreen satire.


3:45-5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Margot Leitman

In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn how to turn painful, strange or even mundane life experiences into performable funny stories from a master — a winner of The Moth GrandSLAM. You’ll dig inside your own lives to find humorous, relatable material, which unifies an audience, making them laugh at their own experiences through your performance. You will leave with a strong direction of how to structure a live story while thinking, “I can’t believe I told a room full of strangers about that and I can’t believe they all laughed!” Workshop includes writing and oral exercises, for all levels of experience.


10:30-11:45 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Joel Madison

Writing scripted comedy is a dynamic, collaborative process. Rewriting scripted comedy is what a writers’ room is all about. This session will mirror the tasks and atmosphere of a professional rewrite room as you and your fellow attendees dig into a real sitcom script under the direction of industry veteran Joel Madison (Roseanne, Fresh Prince, Undeclared, Crashing). You will have the opportunity to review and study pages of a real script in the weeks before the workshop and gather your thoughts on how to improve it from your own comedy perspective. Then, in a group setting, pitch your new jokes, scenes and even entire story lines to Joel and your fellow attendees as everyone collaborates to hammer out a better, funnier version of the script. As Joel moderates this fun and lively session, he will also share his own hilarious anecdotes from the TV and movie trenches, giving you a true insider’s view of the scripted writing experience. Whether you want to jump in and pitch your own jokes or you simply want to see what a real comedy writers’ room is all about, this session will give you a perspective that you can’t get anywhere outside of Hollywood. 

Attendees are requested to read Joel's script before the session.


9-10:15 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Tracy Beckerman

How can you find your funny and regain your mojo during such uncertain times? It’s time to channel your inner Erma and inject humor into your life and the lives of others through your writing. Nationally syndicated humor writer Tracy Beckerman will talk about what you can make light of and what you shouldn’t during a pandemic, the ways social media can help or hurt your brand, and how you can find the funny even if you don’t feel especially on top of your game right now. This session will include a short writing prompt, spurring you to write in a way that’s relatable, uplifting — and funny.


Publishing

9-10:15 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Estelle Erasmus

Whether you want to write a first-person essay, how-to, reported piece or profile, a good pitch letter with a great spin on a topic, timely element, newsy connection or an unusual personal experience will capture the attention of an assigning editor. That’s no easy feat. Editors receive hundreds of pitches a day, and as a magazine editor, and widely published journalist and writing coach, Estelle Erasmus knows how to break through the noise to elicit an editor’s interest. The first part of the session will feature tips and tricks — and show why Estelle and her students have gone viral in The New York Times and the Washington Post. In the second part, she will review your written pitches and help you to make them pique an editor’s interest. Please email your 300-500 word pitches to Estelle by Oct. 15.


9-10:15 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Moderated by Jessica Strawser
Featuring Stacey Graham, 
Sam Hiyate and Paula Munier

This Q&A with a panel of agents provides you with an opportunity to find out what agents look for in sample chapters, what makes them stop reading, what they can do for self-published authors, what they want to hear during a live pitch, and much more. You’ll get the chance to ask the agents about any topic, from platform and marketing to self-publishing and series writing. Whether you’re writing for children or adults, fiction or nonfiction, these agents can answer your questions.


2:15-3:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Jim Azevedo

It’s easier to self-publish an ebook than you might imagine. No technical knowledge required! In this introductory, jargon-free primer on ebook self-publishing, Smashwords marketing director Jim Azevedo covers the basics. The workshop begins with an overview of the latest publishing industry trends, then delves into the benefits of ebook self-publishing and concludes with an ebook publishing checklist covering everything you need know to get started — from ebook formatting and pricing, to metadata and cover design best practices. Attendees will leave with actionable information they can use to get their ebooks distributed to global retailers and public libraries.


9-10:15 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Rebecca Regnier

Within three years, Rebecca Regnier earned enough money from book revenue to put her son through college and quit her TV journalist’s job. Rebecca did it without an agent or a publishing house. In this dynamic session, Rebecca explains why she chose independent authorship and why it might be right for you.  She’ll blow the doors off of antiquated publishing business models and share methods on how to discover a profitable genre. Rebecca will lead attendees through in-depth analysis of cover design, successful book blurbs, and how to craft stories that readers want. Learn the mindset and the resources needed to succeed as an indie author. If you’ve ever dreamed of earning a full-time income as an author, this session might your first chapter.


2:15-3:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Lisa Glowinski

What does it take to get nationally syndicated and paid? Is syndication the holy grail as perceived? As the writing landscape has changed, it is no longer about being an excellent writer. It’s about branding. What’s your niche elevator pitch? Lisa Glowinski, who oversees More Content Now for Gatehouse Media, will share how writers with expanded platforms — podcasting, video blogging, YouTube and other social media — can attain national syndication.


10:30-11:45 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Moderated by Nancy Berk
Featuring Jim Azevedo and David Braughler

Over the last decade, the publishing industry has undergone tremendous evolution with the growth of online retail and digital books, as well as the power of any author to publish and distribute their work at the click of a button. But which path is right for you and your book — and how do you sift through the increasing number of hybrid publishers and services that make a lot of promises, but cost you a lot upfront? A panel of publishing pros helps you understand the pros and cons of every major publishing path.


10:15-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry 

It is the greatest time in history to be a writer. The barrier to publishing has been torn down and now anyone can get published. But to get published successfully is a whole other matter.  Two publishing pros — The Book Doctors — take you through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will remove the smoke and mirrors from the murky world of publishing and give writers a compass and map to a successfully published book. Topics covered include:

  • Choosing the right idea
  • Creating a blockbuster title
  • Crafting an attention-getting pitch
  • Putting together a selling proposal/manuscript
  • Finding the right agent/publisher
  • Self-publishing effectively with ebooks, print-on-demand or traditional printing
  • Developing sales, marketing and publicity savvy
  • Producing a video book trailer and helping it go viral
  • Building a following through social media

Marketing and Social Media

2:15-3:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Kim Bongiorno

Writers want to spend their time writing, not building and managing a social media platform. This class is designed to teach you how to create a professional online presence, plan promotion of your work using social media and engage an audience in a way that is fruitful for your career without making it the focus of your workday. You’ll learn which social media accounts you should consider, how to set them up to appeal to their specific audiences, how to improve the quality/content of your posts and how to manage it all in a much more time-efficient way. By setting your online self up properly and making smarter choices about how/when/what to post, you will find social media not only gets more eyes on your work, but also can create connections that result in opportunities for growth in your writing career. Taught in relatable terms with clear visuals and helpful handouts, this class is suitable for everyone from the newcomer to social media on up to all who want to make the most of their online presence without taking time away from the writing that they love.


10:30-11:45 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 30

Jess Montgomery

With a plethora of social media platforms, aren’t blogs and email newsletters passé? Best relegated to the realm of dinosaurs…and dial-up modems? No! The overwhelming swirl of social media is just one of several reasons why you DO need a blog and an e-newsletter, created in tandem, no matter where you are on your writing and publishing journey, and no matter what kind of writing you do — fiction, humor, nonfiction or other. But fear not. Though the idea may at first make you groan at “having-yet-one-more-thing-you-must-do,” by the end of this session, you’ll feel energized about jumping in (or jumping back in) to creating your blog and e-newsletter. You’ll learn why it’s best to create both together, as a pair that supports one another. Plus, you’ll learn practical tips and how-tos to keep your blogging and e-newsletter creating time simple and fast, so that rather than just taking time from your writing life, the practice will enhance your writing life.


10:15-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31

Cindy Ratzlaff   

Cindy will share the exact steps she used in helping bestselling authors create powerful, purposeful and result-oriented personal brands on their websites and through social media. She’ll share her formula for determining which social platforms will work best for you, based on your unique goals. You’ll come away from this workshop with a step-by-step plan for creating a digital footprint that will help readers find you and your work. A handout with free social tools and recommended uses will be included.


CONTACT

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

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