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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Bombeck Workshop Speakers

By Teri Rizvi

Emmy Award-winner Cathy Guisewite, creator of the iconic Cathy comic strip and an essayist, returns to her hometown to open the 2020 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, April 2-4, at the University of Dayton as part of its 20th anniversary.

At its peak, Cathy appeared in 1,400 newspapers. The strip, displayed on refrigerator doors across the land, focused on a career woman facing “the four basic guilt groups” — eating, work, relationships and having a mother. In 2019, Guisewite published a funny memoir, Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years.

The popular biennial workshop, which typically sells out in hours, is co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences. Online registration opens at noon (EST) Thursday, Dec. 12. A link will be shared via the workshop’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages and its free e-newsletter, available for subscription at The registration fee is $485 with a number of free scholarships available for University students, courtesy of the Alumni Association, beginning in January.

In addition to Guisewite, the workshop’s all-star keynote line-up includes:

  • Annabelle Gurwitch, New York Times’ bestselling author of four books, actress, essayist and storyteller. She was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor Writing in 2015. The original co-host for Dinner and a Movie on TBS, she has appeared in numerous television and film projects.
  • Wendy Liebman, stand-up comedian who has performed on late-night shows from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to Jimmy Kimmel Live, and appeared in comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime. She was a semifinalist on America’s Got Talent.
  • Mike Reiss, Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons and author of Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons and 19 children’s books.
  • Peggy Rowe, who at the age of 80 wrote and published a New York Times’ bestseller, About My Mother. A social media sensation, she counts more than 115,000 readers of her daily Facebook postings. Her letters and texts to her celebrity son, Mike Rowe, have reached millions.

Other workshop highlights include:

  • Patricia Wynn Brown, dubbed “the Mistress of Mayhem,” returns as the workshop’s hilarious emcee.
  • Emmy Award-winning Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, will host the traditional Stand-Up Comedy Night that closes the workshop.
  • Singer/songwriter Kellie Haddock, who created the uplifting, viral Thank You Project video to thank caregivers who saved her son’s life, will take a break from her concert schedule to perform the workshop’s theme song and offer a workshop.

Two new features have been added to the program. “Essay Cabaret” will be co-hosted by Los Angeles-based comedy writers Joel Madison and Anna Lefler, who will randomly invite attendees to read their funniest essays onstage in a lively cabaret format. Lian Dolan, host of the podcast Satellite Sisters, will moderate a panel of national writers who beautifully, and often hysterically, write about the foibles of family life. It’s underwritten by Marcia Stewart, a Bay Area book editor and author, in honor of her late sister Nickie, an aspiring humor writer.

The workshop will once again feature “Pitchapalooza.” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s wildly popular, entertaining event has drawn thousands of people into bookstores, writing conferences and book festivals all over the country — and captured national media attention. Writers get one minute to pitch a book idea before a panel. The judges pick a winner, who will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for the book idea.

Liz Kozak and Tracy Brady, winners of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence competition, will be honored April 2.

Among the more than 30 experienced writers and publishing professionals, the workshop’s faculty includes a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Thurber Prize winner, a winner of The Moth GrandSLAM and four popular former keynoters — Leighann Lord, Sophfronia Scott and the writing team of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff.

Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has attracted household names such as Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline, Amy Ephron, Liza Donnelly and Alan Zweibel, but the personal involvement of Erma Bombeck’s family makes the event at her alma mater memorable and sets it apart from the myriad other writers’ workshops offered across the country.

For more information, visit the workshop’s website.

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