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Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Special Features

7 p.m. (EST)
Wednesday, March 23

Featuring keynote speakers Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff of Queen of Your Own Life. Sponsored by the Washington-Centerville Public Library. Free and open to the public, but registration required. Register here.

7 p.m. (EST)
Tuesday, May 3

Moderated by Nancy Berk, featuring celebrity judges Brian Kiley, Wendy Liebman and Joel Madison

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 later this spring or summer.

Free and open to the public, but registration required. Register here. Only attendees registered for the in-person workshop are eligible to audition, though all are welcome to be part of the audience. Apply here by April 18.

To watch a replay of the 2020 event, click here

7 p.m. (Eastern) 
Wednesday, Sept. 28

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. At the end of Pitchapalooza, Arielle and David 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.

To enter the drawing, fill out this form by Sept. 15. Names will be drawn at the virtual event. The event is open to in-person and virtual package attendees.

9 p.m., Friday, March 25
Marriott Tradewinds

Book signings with keynoters will be held immediately after their talks. A book signing with all workshop presenters will run from 9–11 p.m., Friday, March 25. The event will also feature signings for Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter with co-editors Marcia Stewart and Teri Rizvi and Fast Fierce Women with editor Gina Barreca.

Tours beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 22

Featuring a drive down Erma Bombeck Way to Woodland Cemetery to visit Erma’s gravesite, followed by photo opportunities at the Erma Bombeck historical marker and commemorative tree outside St. Mary Hall on the University of Dayton’s campus, concluding with a sneak peek of the Erma Bombeck Collection in a preview exhibit on the first floor of Roesch Library. Shuttle bus tours available. Attendees with cars are encouraged to carpool.

9:30–11 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 22

Hosted by Wendy Liebman

A crowd favorite, stand-up comic Wendy Liebman returns to emcee the traditional Stand-Up Comedy Night, featuring 18 attendees. Some comics were selected at the pre-workshop virtual event, “Erma's Got Talent: The Stand-Up Auditions,” after performing before a panel of celebrity judges. Others were chosen randomly after the auditions, and Wendy will pick another three from her Stand-Up Comedy Boot Camp.

7:45-8:45 a.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21-22

Publishing 101
David Braughler

What’s the right publishing path for your book? Struggling to understand the difference between traditional, hybrid publishing and DIY self-publishing? Grab a cup of coffee and a bagel and learn about the essentials of editing, cover design, formatting, ISBNs and copyright, marketing, retail and library distribution. You’ll leave knowing the questions you should be asking yourself before you publish your book.

Yes, You're Running a Business
Lori B. Duff

Licenses? Contracts? Accounting? Estate planning? What does any of that have to do with the art of writing? A lot! (Or maybe everything.) Judge Lori B. Duff will explain what you need to know to keep your writing business (yes, your writing is a business!) on the right side of the law. From navigating contract legalese, deciding whether or not to incorporate, managing business expenses, even considering what happens to your work after you're gone, Judge Duff will educate in an entertaining, understandable way. There's a reason she was awarded the title of “Atlanta’s Funniest Lawyer” in 2018.

Launching and Marketing Your Book
Elysse Wagner

Approximately 3,000 books are published on an average every day. How do you creatively market your book in such a crowded marketplace? In a publishing industry that is ever changing, it's imperative to keep up with digital and social media promotional strategies. Learn from campaign strategist and publicist Elysse Wagner about the various ways to promote your book, whether you’re an indie author or a traditionally published one.

Book Marketing Package (Raffle)

Authors, throw your name into a free raffle for a book marketing package (value $1,200), courtesy of Books Forward. Description:

Social Media Influencer Outreach Package (value $1,200) - Requires either you mail physical books to interested recipients (average requests range from a handful to a few dozen), or an additional $10/book per mailing Books Forward manages on your behalf (though some influencers will be able to accept digital copies)

Avid readers and book influencers on Instagram (called “Bookstagrammers”) and other social media platforms have hundreds or thousands of followers online and dedicate their accounts to book recommendations and spotlights. Books DIY+ will promote your book through our monthly email newsletter to our 2,000+ influencers, and we will send review copies to those interested in posting about your book and message.

Books Forward will need to send physical copies of the book to each selected influencer as their coverage is visual. The goal is to create a targeted visual campaign that enables readers to see coverage for your book across multiple platforms and accounts, creating a groundswell of excitement for and interest in the book, and boosting your brand recognition.

Concurrent Sessions (Six will be offered in MOST time slotS. Most presenters offer their workshop twice.)

Craft of Writing

Brooke Warner

Memoir is more than just a story of what happened to you. Its heart and soul lies in two elements of craft that every memoirist needs to have a firm handle on: reflection and takeaway. Most beginning memoirists are so focused on the plot of their story that they forget that readers love memoir for what it says about the human condition, for its capacity to help us understand something about the world we live in, or about ourselves. Reflection requires you to stop your narrative and answer the question: What sense do I make of this part of my story? Takeaway asks you write about your thoughts and impressions on your subject matter, to delve deeper into your experience, your message, and to be a wise voice for your reader. In this session, Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press and author of three books on memoir, will address reflection and takeaway and show you exactly how to implement this kind of writing into your memoir, complete with examples from published works. You’ll leave knowing how to tap into the heart of your memoir, and to connect with your reader on a whole new level.

Offered Friday at 10:35 a.m. and 3:35 p.m.

Kellie Haddock

Singer/songwriter Kellie Haddock has lived through tragedy and found hope and joy on the other side. In her workshop, she will invite writers into the behind-the-scenes experience of crafting a song and help them find their own writer’s voice as they explore song structure and lyrics. As part of the workshop, she’ll perform original music, written from the heart, that speaks to love, compassion and hope.

Offered Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

Susan Pohlman

Erma Bombeck was a master at mining her life for meaningful and relatable material. This interactive workshop will explore how to sift through our own lives for stories and anecdotes that can be crafted into essays and short stories. We all sit on a treasure chest of material — the secret lies in knowing where to dig. Come ready to write and have fun!

Offered Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

Ann Garvin

What’s the biggest mistake writers make? They have difficulty merging the technical aspects of plot with the desire of the character at the helm. Without these things working together, authors get rejected time and time again. The job of a writer is to entice, compel and seduce readers, to tell a story while entertaining and evoking real feelings. Emotion and scene are the secret weapons of plot and creating a truly compelling story. In this workshop, participants will be taken step-by-step from idea to emotion to story. Participants will understand plot and never get stuck in the mushy middle again.

Offered Friday at 10:35 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

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.

Offered Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Julie Cantrell

Have you ever read a book and thought, “I wonder if I could write a story?” Julie Cantrell is here to tell you, “YES, YOU CAN!” Whether you’ve already finished a manuscript or you’re just beginning to brew some ideas in the back of your mind, Julie will help you understand the basic building blocks of narrative structure, discuss the secret ingredient that keeps the pages turning and offer prompts to help you bring your words to the page. Come ready to write and to celebrate the power of STORY!

Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Joni B. Cole

Don’t worry; there will be no shedding of clothes, but this lively, interactive session will expose the creative process in all its glory. Together, we’ll discover practical ways to skirt self doubt, mine meaningful material and make the most of the creative process from your first draft through your final revision. Come prepared to write in response to a guided prompt and share aloud your efforts for insights and appreciation. Bring something to write on and leave all self doubts at the door.

Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

Adriana Trigiani

Bring your work from book to screen. Do you think your story has potential to come to life? Learn the steps of adapting your art into television or film. You have your writing, now turn it into screenwriting. You will learn both the business and the art of adaptation and have access to creators who’ve mastered this themselves.

Offered Friday at 10:35 a.m.

Humor Writing

Julie Schumacher

Here’s a way to combat the terror of the blank page or screen: rather than beginning a story or essay or memoir by concentrating on subject matter, try starting with a shape or a form. We’ll experiment with a number of options, turning that minefield of a family gathering into a board game, or describing that climb up the corporate ladder in terms of a never-ending to-do list. Bring material from your real life or your imagination, and get ready to have fun with form.

Offered Friday at 3:35 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

Annabelle Gurwitch

New York Times best-selling author, Thurber Prize finalist and humorist Annabelle Gurwitch 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 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 300- to 400-word piece to Sarah Alice Keiser by Oct. 1.

Offered Friday at 3:35 p.m. and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

Karen Walrond

So writing and humor are your superpowers — but can they change the world? Join Karen Walrond, author of The Lightmaker's Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy, to learn how your gifts of expression and perspective can not only be catalysts for change, but might even be the keys to shifting mindsets while creating joy — for others, and yourself.

Offered Friday at 10:35 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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.

Offered Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

Alan Zweibel

Erma Bombeck wrote, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” Great humor writers — from Mark Twain to Tina Fey — have been adept at straddling those thin lines. Learn how to write funnier from one of the funniest writers in the country. Tapping into his wealth of experience as an award-winning television writer, screenwriter, playwright and novelist, Alan Zweibel will offer his secrets for writing humorous essays, sketches, stand-up routines, blogs and novels.

Offered Friday at 9 a.m. and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

Judy Carter

Bring in your breakups, heartache and character flaws, and Judy Carter, the author of The New Comedy Bible, will help you turn those into comedy gold for stand-up performances or funny essays and stories. What will you learn?

  • How to develop strong openings that make them love you in 17 seconds
  • How to write comparison and dialogue and mix in jokes
  • Create comedy material from your life experiences
  • Turn the crazy characters in your family into material
  • Get an instant connection with any audience

Offered Friday at 10:35 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Dion Flynn

Want to add more creativity and confidence to your life? The basic tools of improv are the basic tools of human relationship. In this highly interactive workshop Dion Flynn will show you how to develop an improvisor’s mindset that will prepare you to move through the unknown without a script and THRIVE. Described as the Dave Chapelle of applied improvisation, Dion uses insightful humor to share innovative ways to connect. Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at Dion's improvisor’s mindset workshop.

Offered Friday at 3:35 p.m.

Wendy Liebman

Learn the basics of stand-up comedy. Nationally known stand-up comic Wendy Liebman will share writing techniques to make your stories funnier — and ways to deliver them to get a laugh. The workshop is open to stand-up performers and anyone who wants to learn the techniques for writing and performing stand-up comedy. Scribble down your own hilarious ideas and come prepared to laugh. While most comedians will be selected in advance to perform at Stand-Up Night, Wendy will choose an additional three from the hilarious writers she meets in the workshop.

Offered Friday at 2 p.m.


Featuring literary agents Wayne Arthurson, Margaret Danko and Naomi Eisenbeiss

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.

Offered Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. (Lian Dolan moderates Friday's panel. Katrina Kittle moderates Saturday's panel.)

Eva Lesko Natiello

A supportive big sister session for new writers. In this presentation Eva talks about topics that new writers wonder about but are too afraid to ask. Or don't know who to ask. Topics include: how to start, writer's block, getting feedback, waning enthusiasm, what if this is horrible?, finding community, ego, bad reviews, how to forge ahead when insecurity strikes — and more.

Offered Friday at 9 a.m.

Marketing and Social Media

Dave Jackson

What does it take to start a podcast? How much does it cost? What are the benefits? Hear amazing stories of listener loyalty that have sent books up the Amazon charts. You already have the skills to be a podcaster and didn’t know it.

Offered Friday at 9 a.m.

Rebecca Regnier

Rebecca Regnier's videos on TikTok and Facebook have gone viral, racking up millions of views. Rebecca will break down how she uses social media to connect to new readers for her books and columns. You’ll also learn about BookTok, where voracious readers are discovering new authors every day. From TikTok to Instagram reels to YouTube shorts, you’ll see examples of how to turn your columns into videos and use your videos to build an audience for your work.

Offered Friday and Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

James Breakwell

There are many, many ways to sell books. They all suck. Well, almost all of them. If you actually want to move copies, build an audience and generate income, you need a newsletter. Yes, the art of the mass email is alive and well. Unfortunately, most people screw it up. Let James show you a way that works. After building up huge (and mostly useless) audiences on every social media platform imaginable, he finally mastered newsletters, the one consistent way to achieve real-world results. He learned everything the hard way, and he has the scars to prove it (They’re mostly emotional scars, but trust us: They’re there.). The future isn’t TikTok; it’s the inbox. Let James show you why.

Offered Friday at 3:35 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

Moderated by Lian Dolan, featuring Dave Jackson and guest podcasters

These days it seems like everyone has a podcast, from top celebrities to your barista.  How hard could it be to conceive, launch and sustain a successful podcast? Lucky for us, we’ve some successful podcasters in the same room for an eye-opening Q & A.

If you’re thinking that you want to turn your written material into a podcast, this is the session for you. We’ll dive into the pros and cons of hosting your own podcast. Our panel of experienced podcasters and producers will break down how they do it, from the creative development of a concept to the production process to post-production obligations. Bonus information for would-be podcasts guests: how to pitch a pod you love. A must-attend primer for would-be and new podcasters.

Offered Saturday at 9 a.m.

Jane Friedman

Most working writers have at least one thing in common: they seek to grow the readership for their work. But what leads to readership growth? And what can you do, especially without a publisher’s help (or a large bankroll), to encourage that growth? Sometimes this is called “platform development.” Author platform is one of the most difficult concepts to explain in publishing, partly because everyone defines it a little differently. But by far the easiest explanation of platform is: visibility to your target audience — which translates into an ability to sell your work. Platform building requires consistent, ongoing effort over the course of a career; the work is never really done, and your strategy will evolve over time. We’ll discuss how to

develop an approach and philosophy that fits your personality and the unique qualities of your work.

Offered Friday at 3:35 p.m.

Eva Lesko Natiello

When authors ask, "Do I really need to market my book?" There's only one answer: "Only if you want to sell it." Have you published a book but wish your sales were more robust? Are you about to publish and want to put marketing strategies in place to strengthen your launch? The hard truth is that no matter how you publish these days, authors need to contribute to the marketing. This talk is designed for all authors, indie or traditional, introvert or extrovert, fiction or non-fiction. Learn actionable marketing strategies that even the most introverted author will not balk at. Instead of thinking of marketing as a negative, grab ahold of the power you have, and get your book noticed.

Offered Saturday at 9 a.m.

Jane Friedman

Whether your website is one day old or 10 years old, you want to make sure the resources that you’ve put into your site will pay off with more readers, more sales and more opportunities for your career. Learn the biggest mistakes that authors make with their websites that can affect their usefulness and impact. You’ll also learn best practices for design and content, the most important visual areas to focus on (where do visitors’ eyes land first and how can you take advantage of that?), plus valuable online strategies to help grow your career.

Offered Saturday at 2 p.m.

Lian Dolan

Not all book marketing is done on TikTok or Reese Witherspoon's Insta feed. Face-to-face interaction with readers still works! For over 20 years, author Lian Dolan  has maintained a busy schedule as a speaker that has supported six books making the LA Times Bestseller list. In this workshop, Lian makes the case for cultivating a speaking career, taking lessons from your writing and crafting them into material for talks, connecting with booksellers who report to "the list," and the nuts and bolts of putting together an appearance schedule to support a book launch or writing career.

Offered Saturday at 2 p.m.


Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop