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Humorist-in-Residence Program

May We Introduce Our Judges?

We have lined up dozens of remarkable authors, bloggers and humorists to review and rank the 2023 entries in A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. The contest deadline is Oct. 5.

The judges, all established writers, will narrow the field for final judging by improvisor Dion Flynn, best known as Barack Obama (and other characters) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and comedy writer Monica Piper, head writer for the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats. Two grand prize winners, finalists ($250) and honorable mentions ($100) will be announced in November.

We’re grateful to the finalist and preliminary judges who are volunteering their time to assess the applications. All entries will be randomly assigned and blind-judged. Here are the preliminary judges:

Nicky Adams, principal lecturer and writing internship coordinator at the University of Dayton who facilitates professional writing workshops through her LLC, Workplace Communication Consulting. 

Anne Bardsley, a humorous and inspirational speaker and the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and MenopauseAngel Bumps, Hello From Heaven and Heartstrings from Heaven.  Her work can be found in two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Guidepost Magazine and other outlets.

Melissa Balmain, editor-in-chief of Light, America’s longest-running journal of comic poetry. Her humor has appeared in The American BystanderThe New YorkerThe New York TimesMcSweeney’sSlackjaw and The Washington Post. Her latest poetry collection is Satan Talks to His Therapist (Paul Dry Books).

John Batteiger, deputy managing editor of The New York Times News Service and biographer of 1920s newspaper columnist and humor writer Don Marquis.

Barb Best, award-winning humorist whose comedy material has been performed by Joan Rivers and other comedians. Her work has been published in numerous print and online magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Laugh Lines” and The Saturday Evening Post.  Her latest humor book is The Parenting Guide for Your Inner Child: HA!  

Tim Bete, former director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, author of two award-winning humor books, winner of several awards from the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers and co-host of the Lure Love podcast.

Matt Bombeck, Los Angeles screenwriter. (Oh, yeah — and Erma’s son.)

Ginger Claremohran award-winning syndicated columnist, motivational speaker and storyteller. She contributes to, has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and is a three-time winner of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest.

Mary Ellen Collins, freelance writer and essayist who has been a humor columnist for Angie’s List Magazine and a community columnist for The Arizona Republic. Her essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Next Avenue and Oh Reader, among other publications.

Debe Dockins, community relations specialist at the Washington-Centerville Library and director of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Mary Kay Jordan Fleming, professor emerita of psychology and an award-winning humor writer (Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop, Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing, National Society of Newspaper Columnists) with publications at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Next Tribe among others, and personal essays at Next Avenue and America: The Jesuit Review. Find her writing portfolio here.

Andrea Gelfuso Goetz, author of the humorous memoir, My Modena, a Year of Fear, Laughter, and Exhilaration in Italy. She’s currently writing a book about living in Malta, and her funny kids’ book, Zuri the Zebra and the Seasons of Giving, will be published in November.

Jason (Jase) Graves, department chair of language development at Kilgore College, where he also teaches English. His humor columns appear in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S. with the Cagle Cartoons Syndicate. He has won awards from National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Writer’s Digest, the Texas Press Association and Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing).

Mary Beth Hoerner, Chicago writer, playwright and winner of Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing. Her play Atomic Honeymoon was performed at the CORNservatory in Chicago, and The Charisma of Flying Saucers was in the Dionysus Cup Festival of New Plays at the Greenhouse Theater. She also received a Ragdale residency in playwriting, and her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous magazines. Her humorous memoir, “Night Games,” appears in the anthology Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year.

Jackie Hostetler, teacher, writer and author from Kansas.  She is currently head writer for the popular YouTube Channel and Netflix Series, Little Angel. Her work has appeared USA Today, Country Magazine and Her View From Home. In 2020, she was selected as one of 21 Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing winners, and in 2019, she was named a top-10 finalist in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. 

Leigh Anne Jasheway, stress management and humor expert, comedy writer, stand-up comic, comedy instructor/coach, and author of 28 books. In 2003, she won the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in humor writing.

Nancy LaFever, editor/word polisher/book coach and author of thousands of articles (Yes, she actually wrote, “How to Tape a Moving Box…”) on topics ranging from pop culture and humor to emotional health and art. Her work has appeared in USA Today, and other outlets.

Paul Lander, TV comedy writer, award-winning columnist and producer. His humor pieces have appeared in MAD, American Bystander, Weekly Humorist, McSweeneys, National Lampoon, Robot Butt, Little Old Lady Comedy, Humor Times, Humor Outcasts and more. He’s written standup material that’s been performed on The Daily Show; Real Time; Conan; David Letterman: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize; and The DL Hughley Show.

Peg Loftus, former USA Today reporter whose career includes a stint as assignment editor for AP Television in London.

Joel Madison, Peabody Award-winning sitcom writer and standup comic. During his stand-up days, he wrote for numerous comedians including Rosanne Barr — who gave him his first TV writing gig. His television credits include more than a dozen shows, including The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Larry Sanders Show, America’s Funniest Home Videos and Malcolm and Eddie, which he created and served as co-executive producer. He frequently writes for various Judd Apatow projects. Most recently, he wrote for the HBO series Crashing.

Colleen Markley, novelist, blogger and freelance writer. Her latest novel, Lilith Land, is a story about a pandemic virus and the end of the world where only the women survive, which she describes as “a novel, not an action plan.” She’s one of 21 winners of Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing and was named Humor Writer of the Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in June 2021. 

Kevin McKeever, two-time National Society of Newspaper Columnists top winner (general column and humor column), City Dads Group website editor, humor blogger at Always Home and Uncool and an occasionally paid freelance writer.

Kristen Mulrooney, humor writer and editor of The Belladonna who was a 2022 grand prize winner of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. Her short humor has appeared in numerous outlets including The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. She is the co-author of Gilmore Girls: The Official Cookbook and has two humor books on the way. 

Mary Oves, a professor of English in New Jersey and former op-ed writer for The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She is the proud 2022 grand prize winner of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program, a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, and an essayist whose work has appeared in prestigious literary magazines all over the world.

Anne Parris, blogger and a partner in Midlife, a lifestyle site for women.

Lorraine Ray, award-winning author of the devotional Yes, Cheese-Us Loves Me! and associate professor emeritus at Ohio University. Her other works include humorous essays in BELLAmagazine, plays performed for the South Carolina Writers Association and short stories in various anthologies, including Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget. In 2019, she won The Saturday Evening Post limerick contest.

Kassie Ritman, journalist, author of four books and an on-air contributor to the popular “Hoosier History Live.” She avoids work by volunteering for various things — likechairing the professional contest for Women’s Press Club of Indiana and the student essay competition for Indianapolis Fortnightly Literary Club, a fixture since 1885. To be clear, Fortnightly has been around since 1885, not the chairwoman.

Ron Rollins, artist, writer and retired journalist who wrote and edited at the Dayton Daily News and other Cox newspapers for 34 years. He is the editor of four books on Dayton history.

Lisa Rae Page Rosenberg, former writer/director/producer for television. Credits include series and specials for NBC, WB, Comedy Central, MTV and VH-1Her stories have been published in essay collections, Listen to Your Mother, Moms Are Nuts, A Letter to My Mom and True to Life Parenthood

Anne Saker, retired health writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer/ and author of Amid the Flowers, a memoir about her midlife year in the floral department of a local grocery. She was part of the Enquirer team that earned the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and this summer was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame.

Mark Shatz, author of Comedy Writing Secrets (3rd edition), is a psychology professor specializing in the benefits of humor in everyday and visual settings. Dr. Shatz is unique among humorists because he is also a death educator. Mark’s most important job is single parenting and convincing his son that daddy is funny, which sadly hasn’t yet happened.

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley, an award-winning writer and author of Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares, which chronicles her hilarious and enlightening year of midlife misadventures. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Healthy Aging, First for Women and The Huffington Post, as well as the anthologies Fifty Shades of Funny, Laugh Out Loud and You Do You.

Marcia Stewart, a Bay Area writer who coedited the award-winning Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter, published by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2021.

Jillian Van Hefty, a 2022 grand prize winner of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. She’s a contributing author to Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter after being named a winner in the Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing competition. She’s also a former Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Humor Writer of the Month. 

Jerry Zezima, award-winning author and columnist. He writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of six books: One for the Ageless, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures, and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won eight awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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