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Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Two Words: Clean Towels

What writer wouldn’t want to spend two all-expenses-paid, blissful weeks at a hotel in Dayton, Ohio?

Yes, a hotel. Room service. An omelette bar. The sun rising over the Great Miami River. It’s the ultimate gift for any writer — the luxury of time to write … and on the “Dayton Riviera,” no less.

That’s the premise behind A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program, what Forbes says "may be the best writer's residency in the country.

The program is currently not accepting applications.

The Gift of Time

Thanks to a generous gift from humorist and novelist Anna Lefler and in-kind support from the Marriott at the University of Dayton, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop offers two emerging humor writers the opportunity to take a deep dive into their comedy writing without pesky everyday responsibilities.

A “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck,” Lefler says she was inspired to start the program in 2017 because it has the potential to transform a writer’s life.

“The chance to step away from your everyday responsibilities to concentrate on your humor writing AND have access to unlimited tiny soaps? The comedy practically writes itself,” says Lefler a Los Angeles-based author of two funny books, Preschooled and The Chicktionary, and a three-time workshop faculty member.

Meet Our Finalist Judges

For the 2024 residency, dozens of preliminary judges, all established writers, narrowed the field for finalist judges Dion Flynn, best known as Barack Obama (and other characters) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and comedy writer Monica Piper, former head writer for the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats. They selected two grand prize winners, a finalist and six honorable mentions.

The Winners

The contest attracted 243 applications from 40 states coast to coast, Washington, D.C., and four countries — Australia, Canada, Spain and the UK. Read a wrap-up story.

GRAND Prize winners

Kara Kinney Cartwright, North Potomic, Md.

Annmarie Kelly-Harbaugh, Shaker Heights, Ohio

finalist ($250 prize)

Aprilll Brandon, Somerville, Mass.

Honorable mentions ($100 prize)

Gracie Kairis, Springfield, Ore.

Talia Argondezzi, Phoenixville, Pa.

Megan Bannon, Nashville, Tenn.

James Folta, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kristy Dewberry, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Ben Ren, Chaska, Minn.

The biennial program is open to all humor writers regardless of gender or comedic point of view. For more information, visit