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Sisterly Love

By Teri Rizvi

“From the day she first broke me out of my crib, we have been creating havoc together,” one applicant wrote about her sister.

“No one in the world gets the quintessential me like she does,” another wrote. “We laugh to the point of tears and inability to breathe.”

From coast to coast and far-flung spots around the world, writers sent in funny, joyful, touching essays about their sisters — and soul sisters. In all, Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing drew 263 original essays from writers in 39 states, Washington, D.C., and six countries — Canada, Australia, Kenya, Israel, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Entrants wrote about the humorous ups and downs of sisterhood, friends who are like sisters, the sister bond among daughters (by a father) — and other twists, including amusing stories about a nun or two.

The writers, ranging wildly in age from early 20s to 80s, hail from different backgrounds — from humor writers and stand-up comedians to an occupational therapist, caregiver, lawyer, administrative assistant, teacher, grad student, CEO, rabbi, nurse and stay-at-home parent. Up to 20 writers will receive $300 cash prizes each, with the winning essays expected to make up the heart of a new book.

Nickie’s Prize 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, partnered with the workshop on sponsoring the contest and read a sampling of the essays as they poured in.

“I was blown away by the entries, which are funny and heartfelt, and all showed love for their sisters. If you could see me reading these entries, I would be crying one minute, laughing the next. Nickie would have loved this,” observed Stewart, who is not serving as a judge.

All entries 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. Karen Chee, Lian Dolan, Loni Love and Alan Zweibel will serve as finalist judges. The winners will be announced in October.

Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing is 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 and co-sponsors the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition with the Washington-Centerville Public Library.

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.”

— Teri Rizvi

Teri Rizvi is the founder and director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, where she serves as executive director of strategic communications.

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