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Sister Love: Nickie's Prize Winners Named

Magazine editor Diana Aydin of New City, New York, remembers being introduced to comedy writing through her mom’s “dog-eared copies of Erma Bombeck’s books” but had never attempted to publish humor herself until she entered Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing with a funny, touching story about an emergency room visit with her older sister.

Sharon DeVellis, a Canadian freelance writer and mother of two teenagers, quips that since the pandemic started she likes to “scream into pillows, say I won’t drink today, then drink today, make my weighted anxiety blanket put in long hours (and) wear pajamas as clothes.” You can add “win a writing contest” to that new list. Her piece about how she formed a bond with her soul sister over Twitter captured high marks and laughs from the judges.

Of his essay, humor writer Jase Graves of Longview, Texas, says “if there’s one thing I’ve learned about raising three sisters, it’s that laughter (usually in the form of giggle-snorting) is truly the best medicine.”

These three are among 21 winning essayists in the Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing competition sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Each will receive $300 and a complimentary registration to the Oct. 29-31 virtual Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Their winning essays are expected to make up the heart of a new book.

The winners in alphabetical order:

Diana Aydin, New City, New York: “Blame It on Mom’s Chicken”

Theresa Boedeker, Columbia, Missouri: “Leaving a Trail of More Than Breadcrumbs”

Kim Bonner, Arcadia, Florida: “Conversations in Cars with Sisters”

Patricia Wynn Brown, Columbus, Ohio: “Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters”

Karen Bucci, Xenia, Ohio: “The Babushka Sisters”

Sharon DeVellis, Oakville, Ontario: “How Twitter and a Dead Bird Helped Me Meet My Soul Sister”

Mandy Fernandez, Pensacola, Florida: “Code Word: Hoobasflagen”

Mary Kay Fleming, Crescent Springs, Kentucky: “A Date with Tom Jones”

Lee Gaitan, Lawrenceville, Georgia: “Lost in the Labyrinth of Life”

Jase Graves, Longview, Texas: “The Sisterhood of the Giggling Rants”

Caroline Herschbach, Cross Roads, Texas: “Adventure in a Small-Town Mall”

Mary Beth Hoerner, Chicago, Illinois: “The Glue of Sisterhood”

Heidi Horner, Scottsdale, Arizona: “Scrabble Confessional”

Jackie Hostetler, Edgerton, Kansas: “The Girls”

Stacey Langheim, Waunakee, Wisconsin: “Soul Sisters”

Robb Lightfoot, Chico, California: “My Little Sister’s Roller Skates”

Colleen Markley, Chatham, New Jersey: “Unflappably Calm, Occasionally Furious, Ready and Willing to Hide the Bodies”

Laurie Stone, Easton, Connecticut: “A Night to Remember… For All the Wrong Reasons”

Irene Tassy, Oak Park, California: “Dear Sis”

Jesseca Timmons, Greenfield, New Hampshire: “Sisterly Love”

Jillian Van Hefty, Waconia, Minnesota: “Be Careful What You Wish For”

From coast to coast and far-flung spots around the world, writers sent in funny, joyful and 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.

The prize winners 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 an amusing story about the influence of 22 nuns. They hail from different backgrounds — from novice writers to novelists and from humor writers to a former paralegal, authors, bloggers, a playwright, teachers, a technical editor and stand-up comedians.

The contest was open to writers of all experience levels, with entries blind-judged by a preliminary panel of established writers and humorists before finalist judges Karen Chee, Lian Dolan, Loni Love and Alan Zweibel weighed in on the top entries.

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. 

“I love the diversity of writing styles and stories — from hilarious childhood memories to the meaning of sisterhood late in life,” Stewart said “My goal from the beginning was to honor my sister and make opportunities available to writers like Nickie — particularly those who wanted to try their hand at humor writing. Nickie would have loved this contest, and the chance to share her funny stories with others than her family and friends. I’m so pleased with the humor, heart and quality of the essays submitted.”

So were the judges, who offered such praise as “clever, creative and FUNNY,” “this reads like a script from a funny indie movie” and “might be the best representation of what the contest is about — showcasing the sister connection.”

The winners will be honored in a video tribute at the Oct. 29-31 workshop. For more information or to register, click here.

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