Skip to main content


Coming soon to a laptop near you

Coming soon to a laptop near you — the University of Dayton’s popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Emmy Award winners, celebrated authors and comedians will headline the virtual Oct. 29-31 workshop. The cost is $199 with the opportunity to laugh and be inspired by six keynote speakers and participate in 25 sessions, an attendee stand-up comedy show and Pitchapalooza, billed as “American Idol for books, only kinder.”

A bonus: writers can attend in pajamas (either daytime or night ones.) The workshop will be recorded through the interactive platform Crowdcast, which gives attendees the opportunity to watch replays of every session. Registration opens Sept. 1. A link will be posted at

“Erma Bombeck had a couple book titles that speak to our times — If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and Aunt Erma’s Cope Book. I am certain she is cheering us on from above with our new virtual format urging us to not just cope, but revel in our ability to reach an even bigger audience,” observed emcee Patricia Wynn Brown, who’s participated in every workshop since its founding 20 years ago.

“In a pandemic with the conference facing its second postponement, we asked, ‘WWEW? — What Would Erma Want? We are doing it. Carrying on,” she said.

Brown, the workshop’s “Mistress of Mayhem,” will open the festivities with a “fireside chat” with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame and his mom Peggy Rowe, who penned two New York Times’ best-sellers after the age of 80.

Besides the famous mother-son duo, the workshop’s all-star keynoter line-up includes:

Annabelle Gurwitch, New York Times’ bestselling author of four books, actress, essayist and storyteller. She was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor Writing in 2015. The original co-host for Dinner and a Movie on TBS, she has appeared in numerous television and film projects. 

Wendy Liebman, stand-up comedian who has performed on late-night shows — from Carson to Kimmel — and appeared in comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime. She was a semifinalist on America’s Got Talent.

Mike Reiss, Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons and author of Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons and 19 children’s books.

Sophfronia Scott, award-winning novelist, journalist and essayist who’s been hailed by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation.”

Among the 30 experienced writers and publishing professionals, the workshop’s faculty includes a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Thurber Prize winner, a winner of The Moth GrandSLAM and three popular former keynoters —Leighann Lord and the writing team of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff. Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, will host the Attendee Stand-Up Comedy Night.

Read the keynoter and faculty bios and peruse the session descriptions.

Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has attracted household names such as Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline, Amy Ephron, Liza Donnelly 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. It typically sells out within hours.

The virtual workshop is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton’s Alumni Association, College of Arts and Sciences and Bookstore; Smashwords; National Society of Newspaper Columnists; Writer’s Digest; Books & Co.; and the Washington-Centerville Public Library. Additional operating support is provided by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment, A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program and Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing.


News and Communications Staff