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Erma Magic

"I’ve attended plenty of retreats, conferences and workshops, and I usually feel a high after each one, but the high I feel after the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is next-level,” wrote one attendee on a survey rating the 2022 workshop. “I feel like my brain is in a vortex, but it is a magical, life-affirming one.”

A number of returning attendees said this was the best of all the workshops they’ve attended — and the survey bears that out. Approximately 55 percent of attendees completed the online survey and gave the overall workshop a 9.37 score (out of 10), the highest mark in EBWW history.

The workshop's cost vs. value and the opportunity to network with other writers and presenters also netted scores greater than 9. Approximately 86 percent said the knowledge and connections they gained at the workshop will cover the full cost of attending or far more than cover the cost of attending. More than 80 percent say they'd definitely come back or highly consider it.

Among the hundreds of write-in responses: “This was my first Erma, and I am hooked,” wrote one attendee. “It was a joyous, positive, beautiful event filled with love, laughter and fabulous people. I didn’t want the weekend to end. I gained so much knowledge about the writing industry and the craft of writing and storytelling. This is one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time.”

Here's a glimpse of what writers had to say about the keynote slate and the emcee:

Cathy Guisewite: “Knocked it out of the park.” “Cathy is a comedic genius and relates to her audience in such a special way.”

Dion Flynn: “He was absolutely hilarious and his speech was both engaging and interesting. The high energy he gave off was infectious.”

Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon and Adriana Trigiani: “Loved hearing how perseverance and self-belief are the keys to getting published. A message we all need to hear, regardless of our publishing status.”

Katrina Kittle: “Prepared, natural, authentic, articulate, endearing, funny, heartfelt. Perfection.”

Laraine Newman: “Absolutely HILARIOUS and so entertaining! I really enjoyed her stories, her humor, her down-to-earth personality. I didn't feel like I was listening to a celebrity. I felt like I was at a dinner party with a friend. 

Leighann Lord: “OMG, what is there to say? She was awesome — hysterically funny, gorgeous, kind and respectful, super high energy, clearly excited to be there, and such a perfect emcee — she absolutely hit it out of the park!”

The attendee stand-up comedy night concluded the workshop with peals of laughter and much praise for host Wendy Liebman and a line-up of mostly novice comedians.

“So much courage, heart and laughter,” said one attendee. “Wendy is the cheerleader, rooting for everyone to get up there and be brave.”

Another noted, “I enjoyed ending the conference on a note of laughter ... and have set myself a goal of writing myself a three-to-five minute stand-up routine. I don't know if I'll perform it, but I'm happy to have had the inspiration to try it and the belief that if I did, and if I tried out, the Erma Nation would support my efforts.”

New Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein “made magic happen,” said one attendee about his on-the-spot drawings of keynoters and a few workshops. “Could well be my favorite part about the whole conference. He captured perfectly the most memorable moments,” another wrote about the workshop’s artist-in-residence.

The optional “Erma Road Trip” proved to be meaningful for many attendees. “One of the highlights of EBWW22 was standing next to Betsy Bombeck while she told us the backstories of the family photos. Wow! That's a moment I don't believe I'll ever forget,” said one attendee after viewing a preview exhibit of the Erma Bombeck Collection in the University of Dayton’s Roesch Library.

In a special pre-workshop virtual event, Pitchapalooza, billed as the American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler, educated and entertained writers.

“This was a brilliant event,” wrote one virtual package registrant. “I found it incredibly helpful to hear from Arielle (Eckstut) and David (Henry Sterry) how to make book pitches better. The practical examples were so useful, and kudos to all of those who presented their pitches. What a creative bunch of people with so many great book ideas to offer.”

Other observations from the survey:

  • “The fact that you were surrounded for three days by nothing but supportive, positive vibes while amidst greatness among the keynote speakers and presenters was unbelievable.”
  • “There’s a magic to this conference. It’s the perfect balance of entertainment, education and networking.”
  • “The best part about the weekend is experiencing the Erma family feel, and getting to chat with the fabulous speakers and presenters.”
  • “(The workshop) is the most fun one can have as an adult.”
  • “There was an underlying feeling of positivity, joy, gratefulness and love throughout the whole event.”
  • “I love that the conference included sessions for writers of all kinds — fiction, memoir, screenwriting, oral storytelling, podcasting, stand-up and even song writing. I love that it covered the craft as well as the business side of things — getting published, finding an agent, marketing. The entertainment was stellar, the keynotes were excellent and the stand-up night was hysterical. Most of all, the supportive environment was amazing — that “Erma magic’ was back in full force. …The joy was palpable.”
  • “It was the BEST WORKSHOP EVER. The hospitality is spot on, everyone was so nice and friendly, and I feel as if I’ve spent the weekend with the most talented humorists in the country.”
  • “This may be the best Erma I’ve attended, and I think it’s because speakers and faculty were very targeted to exactly what aspiring writers need.”
  • “I’ve been writing for years. These few days changed my whole approach to this craft I so love. It is Monday evening and the only thing I’ve unpacked from my car is my computer. I’ve been sitting here pouring onto the page everything I learned from these experienced and skilled writers.”
  • “I will definitely come again — this was by FAR the best writers’ event I have ever been to. WOW!”
  • “NOTHING offered in the all-virtual workshop, onesie fleece pajamas included, could ever replace the impromptu laughs with tablemates at meals, the fun improv class or the impressive graciousness of the esteemed faculty who signed autographs, shared tips with individuals and blended seamlessly into the crowd despite their popularity.”

In-person attendees indicated that they strongly prefer gathering in Dayton. Others supported this year’s format. None preferred a totally virtual event.

Attendees offered a number of constructive suggestions, too — from ideas for future workshop topics to concerns from the virtual audience that the virtual package only included the keynotes and Pitchapalooza and none of the workshop sessions.

“If we offer a virtual package again, it’s very clear that we need to market it differently because too many people who registered for the virtual package had the misperception that it included all the workshop sessions — perhaps because we went totally virtual in 2020 because of the pandemic,” said Teri Rizvi, EBWW director. “We also heard from in-person attendees that they wished workshop recordings were available. We will evaluate both of these concerns against our budget constraints and determine the best path forward.”

Attendees either loved or had some qualms about the food. One wrote, “Less rubber chicken, which made me sad. More chocolate cake (with the option to eat before dinner), which made me happy.”

In addition to survey responses, nearly 30 writers tapped out literally thousands of words to capture their experience at the 2022 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop. For links to their newspaper and online stories, blogs and podcasts, click here.

The next Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop will be held April 4-6, 2024. Registration will open in December 2023. To keep in touch, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter. To subscribe, visit our website or click here.

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