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Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop launches competition for funny stories about sisters

Anyone who has a sister knows it can be one of the closest and most fun relationships of your life.

That was certainly the case for Marcia Stewart, a West Coast writer and editor, and Nickie, her younger sister and hilarious soulmate. When Nickie, an aspiring humor writer, died eight weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018, Stewart turned her grief into a creative journey to honor the funniest person she’d ever known.

That journey led her to the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, which is launching “Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing,” a competition for humor writers with funny stories to share about their sisters. Online submissions will be accepted June 15 to Aug. 1. Up to 20 winning writers will be awarded $300 cash prizes each for previously unpublished, humorous nonfiction essays of 1,000 words or less.

All original material will be considered, including pieces that expand on the theme, such as close friends who are like sisters.

“In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be humorous, absurd, even offbeat,” said Teri Rizvi, founder and director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, which is co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences. “We encourage essays from a diversity of authors of all experience levels — from new writers and bloggers to published book authors — that are funny in a smart, not schmaltzy way. Think of this as a humorous spin on The New York Times’ popular ‘Modern Love’ section and share your most amusing story.”

The contest is open to writers 18 years and older. Entries will be blind-judged by a panel of established writers and humorists, with winners announced Oct. 19. The entry fee is $25.

Simultaneous submissions will be accepted. While material may not have been published in traditional print or digital publications, the judges will consider pieces written in personal blogs or social media posts. Winners will grant to the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop the nonexclusive right to publish the story without further compensation as part of a sister-themed collective work.

Founded in 2000, the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop honors the legacy of celebrated humorist Erma Bombeck, a University of Dayton alumna. Dubbed the “Woodstock of Humor,” the popular workshop sells out within hours and attracts writers from across the nation and beyond. In 2019, The Writer magazine named it “THE conference for humor writers.”

Originally slated for April, this year’s workshop was rescheduled for Oct. 29-31 on the University of Dayton campus.

Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing is just one of several competitions for writers the workshop sponsors. It offers an unconventional writer’s residency for two emerging humor writers called A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. It also co-sponsors the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition with the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

For more information about Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing and to enter the competition, visit the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop website.

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