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Powerhouse Panel of Finalists Judges for Nickie's Prize

A comedian who writes for and appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers. A bestselling novelist and host of the podcast Satellite Sisters. The hilariously popular comedian and Emmy Award-winning co-host of the daytime talk show The Real. And an Emmy Award-winning and original Saturday Night Live writer and author who dedicated his newly published memoir to his late, beloved sister.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop would be hard pressed to find four stronger finalist judges for “Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing” than Karen Chee, Lian Dolan, Loni Love and Alan Zweibel.

Between now and midnight (EST), Saturday, Aug. 1, the workshop is accepting original, unpublished funny essays of 1,000 words or less for a new writing competition. Essayists, authors, bloggers — anyone with a hilarious, touching story — is invited to submit a humorous essay about their sister (or a soul sister).  In the spirit of Erma Bombeck, the tone can be funny, absurd, offbeat, quirky — or fun in a smart way.

Up to 20 writers will be awarded $300 cash prizes each. The winning essays are expected to become the centerpiece of a proposed book. The winners will be announced Oct. 19.

All submissions will be blind-judged. A preliminary judging panel of authors, essayists and comedy writers will assess the quality of the essays, with the best ones passed along to the finalist judges for the naming of winners.

Here’s more on the finalist judges:

Karen Chee: A Brooklyn-based comedian and Emmy Award-nominated writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, where she appears in a recurring segment, “What Does Karen Know?” She’s written for the Golden Globe Awards and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Chee’s humorous essays have also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and McSweeney’s. In 2018, she was one of two inaugural winners of an unconventional writer’s residency for emerging humor writers, “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.”

Lian Dolan: A self-described “professional sister.” She’s the author of the newly published novel The Sweeney Sisters and host of Satellite Sisters, a podcast she created with her four real sisters that’s described as “pep talk for modern women.” Lian’s writing includes two LA Times bestselling novels, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife, and two collections of essays, Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses and You’re the Best: A Celebration of Friendship. She created The Chaos Chronicles about her life as a talk show host, mother and serial volunteer. It began as a column in Working Mother Magazine, then became a podcast and later developed for TV by Nickelodeon. Lian has written a regular column for O, The Oprah Magazine and is currently a humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine. 

Loni Love: Emmy and two-time NAACP Image Award-winning co-host of the FOX’s The Real Daytime Talk Show and co-host of the only Gracie award-winning nationally syndicated radio show for women of color, Café Mocha. Her inspiring, hilarious memoir, I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To, will be published this month. Love also has written Love Him Or Leave Him But Don’t Get Stuck with the Tab. A popular stand-up touring comedienne, Love was tapped as recurring guest DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, guest host on Fashion Police, correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, E! and the new voice of We tv’s Bridezillas. She’s appeared in numerous movies, including Adopt-A-Highway, Mother’s Day, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2Soul Plane and the Bad Ass action-comedy films. In addition, she’s the subject of the documentary Being Loni Love, which traces her life story from her early days as a latchkey daughter growing up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglas housing projects to an electrical engineer to a celebrity. Last year, Love made history as the first-ever female to host the Essence Festival in New Orleans. She stays true to inspiring others to spread love and take control of their own destiny.

Alan Zweibel: Legendary Saturday Night Live writer who has won five Emmy and two Writers Guild awards for his work in television, which also includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (which he co-created and produced), The Late Show With David Letterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He collaborated with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award-winning play 700 Sundays, Martin Short’s Broadway hit Fame Becomes Me and six off-Broadway plays including Bunny Bunny – Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy, which he adapted from his bestselling book. He has written 11 books, including the 2006 Thurber Prize-winning novel The Other Shulman, the popular children’s book Our Tree Named Steve, the novel Lunatics that he co-wrote with Dave Barry, and a parody of the Haggadah titled For This We Left Egypt? that he wrote with Dave Barry and Adam Mansbach. With Billy Crystal, he co-wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film Here Today that stars Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. Zweibel dedicated his newly released humorous memoir, Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funny People Be Funnier, to his late sister, Franny, with the inscription, “I loved making her laugh.”

Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing is named after an aspiring humor writer and beloved sister who died eight weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018. Nickie’s sister, Marcia Stewart, a West Coast writer and editor, is partnering with the workshop on sponsoring the contest. For more information about Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing, read the “Call for Entries” and “Frequently Asked Questions.” Email with any questions.

Founded in 2000, the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop honors the legacy of celebrated humorist Erma Bombeck. 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.”

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