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Write On

The wildly popular University of Dayton Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop will feature celebrated writers ? and a few celebrities. Registration opens Dec. 5.

Craig Ferguson, comedian, actor, writer and, for 10 entertaining years, the madcap host of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, will kick off the University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop next spring.

An author of two books, he won two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show Host for "Celebrity Name Game," and can be heard nightly on The Craig Ferguson Show on SiriusXM.

The biennial workshop, which hits a milestone with its 10th offering, is slated for April 5-7, 2018, with online registration opening at noon (EST) Tuesday, Dec. 5. A link will be posted at at that time. The registration fee is $450 with a number of free scholarships available for University of Dayton students, beginning in January. Besides Ferguson, the workshop’s all-star keynoter line-up includes:

  • Liza Donnelly, award-winning cartoonist with The New Yorker Magazine, resident cartoonist for CBS News and author/editor of 18 books.
  • John Grogan, author of the international #1 bestseller Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, a memoir and numerous children's books.
  • Karen Walrond, bestselling author, photographer, coach and speaker who inspires others to find and celebrate their own uniqueness, through the power of storytelling.
  • Monica Piper, Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and stand-up comic who has written for sitcoms Roseanne, Mad About You and Veronica’s Closet, and was the head writer of the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats.

Patricia Wynn Brown, dubbed “the Mistress of Mayhem,” returns as the workshop’s emcee. Anna Lefler, author, comedian and “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck,” will recognize the two winners of the inaugural A Hotel Room of One's Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. Winners of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, which opens Dec. 4, also will be honored.

Wendy Liebman, a semifinalist on season nine of America’s Got Talent and a frequent guest on late-night TV shows, returns to teach a stand-up comedy boot camp and emcee the Attendee Stand-up Comedy Night that closes the workshop.

The workshop will once again feature “Pitchapalooza” — described as the “American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler.” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s wildly popular, entertaining event has drawn thousands of people into bookstores, writing conferences and book festivals all over the country — and captured attention from The New York TimesWall Street JournalWashington Post and NPR. Writers get one minute to pitch a book idea before a panel. The judges pick a winner, who will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for the book idea.

The workshop also will include a special panel, “Ask the Agents,” and sessions on “Speed Dating for Writers,” where writers meet briefly with a variety of pros to learn writing and publishing tips. In addition, two publishing professionals will offer one-on-one consultations with writers considering options for publishing their books.

Among the nearly 30 experienced writers and publishing professionals, the workshop’s faculty includes three former keynoters — stand-up comedian and author Leighann Lord; actress and author Kathy Kinney, best known for her iconic role as “Mimi” in The Drew Carey Show; and Cindy Ratzlaff, author and a 29-year veteran of the book publishing industry. The rest of the slate includes: 

  • • Lauren E. Abramo, vice president, subsidiary rights director and literary agent for Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.
  • • 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 for Parade magazine, adjunct professor and host of the celebrity podcast “Whine At 9.”
  • • David Braughler, founder and CEO of Braughler Books.
  • • Donna Cavanagh, author of five books and founder of and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press, which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books.
  • • Joni B. Cole, author of the newly released Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier and two other books. She serves on the faculty at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
  • • Jane Friedman, writer, teacher and speaker with 20 years of experience in the publishing industry with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She's the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, a publishing industry newsletter for authors, and is the former publisher of Writer's Digest.
  • • T. Faye Griffin, award-winning humorist who’s put words into the mouths of Academy Award winners, comedians, politicians and everyday folk alike. From A&E to BET to PBS, she has amassed an impressive list of writing credits that includes the landmark comedy series In Living Color.
  • • Lauretta Hannon, bestselling author, Huffington Post blogger, speaker, performer, teacher and author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life.
  • • Katrina Kittle, author of five novels, creative writing teacher and manuscript consultant.
  • • Joel Madison, sitcom writer for more than a dozen TV shows, including Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
  • • Peter Marino, playwright, novelist and emeritus English professor at SUNY Adirondack.
  • • Kate McKean, vice president at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, literary agent and an adjunct professor at New York University.
  • • Dinty W. Moore, author of 11 books, including The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, he edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.
  • • Jessica Murnane, women’s health advocate, podcast host and author of One Part Plant.
  • • Anne Parris, blogger, marketer and a partner in Midlife Boulevard, a lifestyle site for women, and the BAM Conference, a blogging conference for women in midlife.
  • • Zachary Petit, journalist, magazine editor, photo dabbler and "lover of all things writerly, design-ish and nerd-like." He is the author of three books, including The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work andThrive On Your Own Terms.
  • • Susan Pohlman, essayist, editor/writing coach, retreat leader and author of the memoir Halfway to Each Other.
  • • Julia Roberts, creativity coach and author of three books, including Sex, Lies & Creativity– Gender Differences in Creative Thinking.
  • • Saba Sulaiman, literary agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services.
  • • Mark Shatz, author of Comedy Writing Secrets who teaches humor writing and conducts research on the benefits of humor at Ohio University.
  • • Sharon Short, executive director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, who has written the coming-of-age novel My One Square Inch of Alaska; two mystery series; and a collection of humorous essays.
  • • Jessica Strawser, editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest magazine, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade. A novelist, she wrote Almost Missed You and the upcoming Not That I Could Tell.
  • • Marion Winik, professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore and the author of nine books, among them First Comes LoveThe Glen Rock Book of the DeadHighs in the Low Fifties and The Lunch-Box Chronicles.

Read the keynoter and faculty bios and the session descriptions.

Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has attracted such household names as Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Garrison Keillor, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline 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. If past workshops are any indication, the popular event will fill up quickly. The 2016 workshop, which drew 350 writers from around the nation, sold out in less than six hours.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Writer’s Digest; Books & Co.; Marriott at the University of Dayton; Washington-Centerville Public Library; McMeel Family Foundation; Markey’s Rental and Staging; A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program; and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment.


News and Communications Staff