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Teri Rizvi December 20, 2019

On the eve of registration for the 2020 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, emcee Pat Wynn Brown humorously urged writers to “get to the barricades at high noon” as she shared a link on Facebook to “One Day More” from the musical Les Misérables.

Within five minutes after registration opened on “E- Day,” more than 200 writers had claimed their spots for the spring conference, paving the way for a sellout in less than half a day (actually 10 hours and 28 minutes for those of us who appreciate precise details).

This is the writing world’s equivalent of snaring Bruce Springsteen tickets.

Approximately 350 writers are making the creative pilgrimage to Dayton from 40 states, Washington, D.C., several provinces in Canada, and Madrid (yes, the city in Spain). We have big contingents from Ohio, California, New York, Texas and Michigan. Nearly half — 160 registrants — are first-timers. That’s a record. Nine are mother-daughter duos, including Carmel, Indiana, author Julie Osborne and her 91-year-old mother, Lori Mansell. That’s a record. Another writer is bringing her son.

If you’d like to add your name to our waitlist, please fill out our registration form. The workshop runs April 2-4 at the University of Dayton.

Attendees may write funny blogs and books, but when it comes to registering for the popular biennial workshop, they’re dead serious.

“What are your registration preparations? Do these involve any calisthenics? S’mores? Incantations?” quipped Brown, a humor writer and performer from Columbus, Ohio, who’s been involved in every workshop since its founding two decades ago. She got an earful.

Pam Sievers of Sun City West, Arizona, planned to wear her Erma workshop T-shirt for “good juju.”

Carol Michel of Indianapolis recommended “finger calisthenics to warm up and a pre-check of Internet connectivity every 30 minutes.”

Gianetta Palmer of Cleveland, Georgia, readied for Murphy’s Law: “My septic already backed up in the basement this past weekend, so I don't have to worry about that. However, I do have my ‘regular person on standby’ if the power goes out.”

Chrissy Woj of Wheaton, Illinois, remembers the “mayhem” of trying to register from Disney World in 2018: “My bestie and I were in the midst of our first Four-Park Challenge, and I made him sit down and wait for an hour while I figured out the registration. I got my ticket to Erma before it sold out, and we still managed to visit all four parks that day. Tips: Set your alarm and calendar alerts. Be ready to register 15 minutes before go time. Check your connection, your credit card statement and your typin’ fingers. Have a snack at the ready for stress eating.”

Lori Duff, a municipal court judge and author from Atlanta, quipped that she was considering calling a recess when registration opened: “Justice can wait for Erma.”

Nobody was more prepared than Joanne Brokaw of East Rochester, New York, who ironically leads improv workshops. “Our eight-person planning group is alert and ready with backups in place for those who may need it (one person on a cruise, one person with iffy internet). One of us is charged with sharing the link as soon as it’s available for the new person in our group. I’m eating breakfast so my brain is fed and functioning — I need a Xanax with my eggs.”

Afterward, she posted her first meme: “Forget the Catskills! We’re going to Erma!”

First-time attendee Stanley Culler quickly caught the spirit of attendees: “It’s been so heartening for me to read everyone else’s posts, detailing how you also navigated the process of registering as if you were attempting to defuse a bomb in a preschool while woozy on NyQuil.”

Welcome to the 2020 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.