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Preliminary Judges

Humorists. Essayists. Authors. This is quite a talented slate of preliminary judges for Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing.

Writers with a hilarious, touching story are invited to submit a nonfiction essay about their sister (or a soul sister) in the competition. In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be funny, absurd, offbeat, quirky — or fun in a smart way. All entries will be blind-judged. The contest deadline is midnight (EST) Saturday, Aug. 1. Up to 20 winners will receive $300 each, and the winning essays are expected to make up the heart of a new book.

The preliminary judges will review all the essays before passing the ones they deem best to a panel of finalist judges — Karen Chee, Lian Dolan, Loni Love and Alan Zweibel — who will choose the winners.

Preliminary Judges

Tracy Beckerman, nationally syndicated humor columnist and author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir and Rebel Without a Minivan.

Dr. Nancy Berk, clinical psychologist, author, online entertainment columnist and co-producer and host for “Entertaining Insights with Dr. Nancy Berk,” a podcast that features celebrity and expert guests. She wrote the self-help humor book College Bound and Gagged.

Matt Bombeck, Los Angeles screenwriter and son of the legendary humorist, Erma Bombeck.

Kristen Hansen Brakeman, essayist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and Working Mother Magazine. She’s the author of Is That the Shirt You’re Wearing? — a collection of comic essays that was a semifinalist for the 2018 Thurber Prize for Humor.

Molly D. Campbell, author of three novels and one book of flash fiction. She is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing competition prize winner in both humor and human interest essays.

Donna Cavanagh, founder of HumorOutcasts.com and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press (humor books), which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books. She’s written four humor books, including How to Write and Share Humor: Techniques to Tickle Funny Bones and Win Fans.

Christina Consolino is a “mother, dreamer, author, editor, teacher” whose debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, will be published in spring 2021. She’s a senior editor for Literary Mama, an online magazine, and a founding member of “The Plot Sisters,” a writing community.

Matt Dewald, senior editor at the University of Richmond, where he edits the award-winning alumni magazine. He is a former director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Julie Fanselow lives in Seattle where, before the pandemic, she was a copy editor on contract with Rick Steves’ Europe and a seating host for the Seattle Mariners. She has also written extensively for magazines and travel guidebooks. She occasionally dabbles in improv, and she loves to laugh.

Emily Flake, cartoonist, writer, illustrator and performer. A regular contributor to The New Yorker and The Nib, she is the author of Mama Tried, a book of essays and cartoons about parenting, and the newly published That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug. She does a weird hybrid of standup and cartoons on stages throughout New York City and beyond and created and co-hosts a monthly live interview show, Nightmares.

T. Faye Griffin, award-winning humorist who has put words into the mouths of Academy Award winners, comedians, politicians and everyday folk. From A&E to BET to PBS, she has amassed an impressive list of writing credits that include the landmark comedy series In Living Color.

Mindy Hoffbauer, editor, writer and former social media director for bestselling author W. Bruce Cameron.

Curtis Honeycutt, award-winning writer of the nationally syndicated weekly humor column, “Grammar Guy,” and author of the amusing book, Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life.

Kathy Kinney, actress, improv star and co-author of three books, Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You DeserveQueenisms: 101 Jolts of Inspiration and Queen of Your Own Life: If Not Now, When?

Susan Konig is the founder and president of Willow Street Press and the author of a bestselling, critically acclaimed family humor series. A TV sitcom based on Susan’s books is currently in development. For two years she co-hosted Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace, a daily family humor show on Sirius Satellite Radio. She’s worked as a staff writer and columnist for The Washington Post, SeventeenCatholic Digest, National Review and New York Post.

Nancy LaFever, writer/editor/word polisher/book coach and author of thousands of articles on topics ranging from pop culture and humor to emotional health and art. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Readersdigest.com and other outlets.

Anna Lefler, comedy writer and author of the novel Preschooled and the humor book The Chicktionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, The Words Every Woman Should Know. She founded A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program, a writing residency for emerging comedy writers.

Shannon Shelton Miller, award-winning writer, editor and journalist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, Parents, Redbook and numerous other publications. For a decade, she worked for the Orlando Sentinel and Detroit Free Press before moving to higher education communications and freelance writing.

Lisa Smith Molinari, author of the hilarious memoir, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Former president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, she writes the award-winning column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” which appears in print weekly in Stars and Stripes and military community newspapers worldwide.

Allia Zobel Nolan, author and former senior editor at Reader’s Digest, who has published more than 150 books, including her latest one for children — What I Like About You: A Book about Acceptance. In 2018, she collaborated with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop on the humor anthology, Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, which was a humor finalist in the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards program.

Peri Pakroo, arts publisher, business author and coach specializing in creative and smart strategies for self-employment. She is the founder and publisher of Pyragraph, an online creative career magazine featuring content by and for artists and community builders worldwide. She plays in a number of bands including her own lo-fi rock project, Peri & the FAQs.

Susan Pohlman, founder and director of the Phoenix Writers Network, freelance writer, editor, writing coach and the author of the memoir, Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home and the soon-to-be published A Time to Seek: Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality at Midlife.

Rebecca Regnier, award-winning journalist, television host, humor columnist and author. Her paranormal mystery series, Widow’s Bay, are a witty mix of True Blood and Desperate Housewives. In 2020, she won first place in humor writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for her columns in the Monroe News.

Ron Rollins, writer, editor, poet, artist. He recently retired as senior editor at the Dayton Daily News, where he worked in various editing positions for 34 years, including arts and entertainment editor. He’s edited three books about Dayton history, For the Love of Dayton, Dayton Ink and Gentlemen Amateurs.

Anne Saker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Cincinnati Enquirer reporter and author of Amid the Flowers.

Arlene Schindler, author, humorist and spoken word performer. She’s written a funny memoir, Stand Up & Heartbreak: A Comic and a Sex Addict Walk Into a Marriage, and a novel, The Last Place She’d Look. She originated the comedy column in The New York Post, one of the first of its kind in the country.

Amy Schmidt, podcaster, author, public speaker, blogger and creative mind behind www.fearlesslyfacingfifty.com, which inspires people to change the narrative around midlife from crisis to opportunity and cannonball into life with confidence. Her first book, Cannonball! Fearlessly Facing Midlife And Beyond, topped the new releases within hours of being published. She is a regular contributor to Today Parents, Grown and Flown and others, and she hosts the weekly podcast, Fearlessly Facing Fifty.

Pam Sherman, nationally syndicated columnist (The Suburban Outlaw), actor, recovering lawyer and leadership consultant who was profiled in People Magazine about her career transition from attorney to actress. Most recently she starred in the one-woman show Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End breaking box-office records around the U.S.

Suzette Martinez Standring is a syndicated spirituality columnist with GateHouse Media since 2008. She is the award-winning author of The Art of Column Writing and The Art of Opinion Writing, which are used in journalism schools nationally. In addition to religion, she has written columns on humor, lifestyle and food.

Rich Stim, author of numerous legal books and a middle-grade mystery series and winner of the Reed Magazine John Steinbeck Award for Fiction. He has written for Newsday, Interview, Spin Magazne, AudioFile and California Living, and has a popular blog on issues of interest to writers and other creatives.

Lee St. John, author of two humorous books, the #1 Amazon bestseller Teacher Tattletales and Other Southern Shenanigans and She’s a Keeper! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess. Her writing is featured in two anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Believe in Miracles, and she contributes a weekly column to the Fayette-News in Georgia.

Kathy Shiels Tully, a regular contributor to The Boston Globe and the 2020 winner of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition for human interest writing globally. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including FamilyFun, The Christian Science Monitor, The Writer and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Karen Walrond, leadership coach, author and the creative mind behind the award-winning Chookooloonks.com, which features travel, art, food and life and serves as an inspirational source for living with intention, creativity and adventure. She wrote the bestselling book The Beauty of Different and is a contributing author to the books Disquiet Time and Expressive Photography. She is currently working on her second book, about the intersection between joy and activism, to be published by Broadleaf Books in 2021.

Jude Walsh is a writer and creativity and mindset life coach. She writes memoir, personal essay, self-help and romance, which have been published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. She is the author of Post-Divorce Bliss: Ending Us and Finding Me.