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Write On! Workshop Goes Virtual

By Teri Rizvi

Coming soon to a laptop near you — the University of Dayton’s popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Emmy Award winners, celebrated authors and comedians will headline the virtual Oct. 29-31, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. The cost is $199 with the opportunity to laugh and be inspired by six keynote speakers and participate in 25 sessions, an attendee stand-up comedy show and Pitchapalooza, billed as “American Idol for books, only kinder.”

A bonus: you can attend in pajamas (either your daytime or nighttime ones.) The workshop will be recorded through the interactive platform Crowdcast, which gives attendees the opportunity to watch replays of every session. And, as a special feature, celebrated New Yorker cartoonist and former EBWW keynoter Liza Donnelly will "live draw" the keynote speakers and post her drawings in real time on social media.

Beginning Sept. 1, writers can register here.

“Erma Bombeck had a couple book titles that speak to our times — If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and Aunt Erma’s Cope Book. I am certain she is cheering us on from above with our new virtual format urging us to not just cope, but revel in our ability to reach an even bigger audience,” observed emcee Patricia Wynn Brown, who’s participated in every workshop since its founding 20 years ago.

“In a pandemic with the conference facing its second postponement, we asked, ‘WWEW? — What Would Erma Want? We are doing it. Carrying on,” she said.

Brown, the workshop’s “Mistress of Mayhem,” will open the festivities with a “fireside chat” with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame and his mom Peggy Rowe, who penned two New York Times’ best-sellers after the age of 80.

Besides the famous mother-son duo, the workshop’s all-star keynoter 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 Carson to Kimmel — 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.

Sophfronia Scott, award-winning novelist, journalist and essayist who’s been hailed by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation.”

Among the nearly 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, Bruce Ferber and the writing team of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff. Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, will host the Attendee Stand-Up Comedy Night.

The slate:

• Diana Abu-Jaber, award-winning novelist and memoirist who often writes about the intersection of food, family and cultural identity. Her latest novel, Birds Of Paradise, won the Arab-American National Book Award.

• Jim Azevedo, marketing director at Smashwords, the largest distributor of self-published ebooks.

• Tracy Beckerman, nationally syndicated humor columnist and the author of two books, Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir: How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs.

• Dr. Nancy Berk, clinical psychologist, author, online entertainment columnist and co-producer and host for “Entertaining Insights with Dr. Nancy Berk,” a podcast that features celebrity and expert guests.

• Kim Bongiorno, author, freelance writer and the award-winning blogger behind “Let Me Start By Saying,” with thousands of fans on social media.

• David Braughler, founder and CEO of Braughler Books.

• Lian Dolan, author of novels and collections of essays and host of “Satellite Sisters,” a popular podcast she created with her four sisters. She’s a regular humor columnist for Pasadena Magazine.

• Arielle Eckstut, co-founder of The Book Doctors, author of 10 books and literary agent at the Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.

• Estelle Erasmus, award-winning journalist, writing coach and host of the podcast “ASJA Direct: Inside Intel on Getting Published and Paid Well.” She is an adjunct writing professor at New York University and teaches writing for Writer’s Digest.

• Barbara Fant, award-winning poet, teacher, performer and author of Paint, Inside Out. She serves as the artistic director of Harmony Project and teaches poetry in correctional institutions and schools.

• Bruce Ferber, Emmy-nominated comedy writer and producer whose credits include Home Improvement, where he served as executive producer and showrunner. He is the editor of the anthology The Way We Work: On the Job in Hollywood and has written two novels, Elevating Overman and Cascade Falls.

• Lisa Glowinski, director of More Content Now, GateHouse Media’s features and premium publications service.

• Stacey Graham, literary agent with 3 Seas Literary.

• Sam Hiyate, president and CEO of The Rights Factory and literary agent.

• Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, and the author of two books, Maybe Kevinand The Astounding Misadventures of Rory Collins.

• Kathy Kinney, actress and author who may be best known for her iconic role as “Mimi” on The Drew Carey Show.

• Katrina Kittle, author of five novels, creative writing teacher and public speaker.

• Riane Konc, author, humor writer and essayist who teaches satire and humor writing online for Second City.

• Margot Leitman, author of the best-selling book Long Story Short: the Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, What’s Your Story? and winner of The Moth Grandslam. She has written for DreamWorks TV, the Hallmark Channel and the Pixl Network.

• Leighann Lord, stand-up comedian and author of several humor books and a popular podcast, “People With Parents.”

• Joel Madison, television comedy writer for sitcoms, variety, animation, late night and reality shows. Winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for his work on the original Roseanne sitcom.

• Lee Martin, author of five novels, including The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; three memoirs; short story collections; and a craft book, Telling Stories:The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University.

• Jess Montgomery, author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries, including The Widows and The Hollows, as well as numerous other novels, short stories and essays. She is the “Literary Life” columnist at Dayton Daily News.

• Paula Munier, literary agent at Talcott Notch, editor and USA Today bestselling author with 25 years’ acquiring, editing and marketing fiction and nonfiction.

• Susan Pohlman, founder and director of the Phoenix Writers Network, freelance writer, editor, writing coach and the author of the memoir, Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home.

• Cindy Ratzlaff, author and a 30-year veteran of the book publishing industry who created and implemented the launch campaigns for more than 150 New York Times’ bestsellers.

• Rebecca Regnier, prolific author, columnist and podcaster. She left a 20-year career in television news as an Emmy Award-winning anchor, reporter and talk show host to write books.

• David Henry Sterry, co-founder of The Book Doctors and author of 16 books on a wide variety of subjects, from memoir to middle grade fiction. Co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. 

• Jessica Strawser, editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest magazine, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade, and the author of three novels.

• Dan Zevin, Thurber Prize-winning humorist, award-winning humor columnist for The New York Times, comic commentator for NPR and a contributor to numerous national outlets, including The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. He’s written three books, including his latest, Very Modern Mantras: Daily Affirmations for Daily Aggravations.

Read the keynoter and faculty bios and peruse the session descriptions.

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, Connie Schultz, Bruce Cameron 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. It typically sells out within hours.

The virtual workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; Smashwords; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Writer’s Digest; Books & Co.; and the Washington-Centerville Public Library. Additional operating support is provided by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment, A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program and Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing.

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