I am friends with all the people I met at this conference, to this day. I loved this experience so much.
As a writer, this is one conference I would recommend you attend either virtually or in-person (if that is ever a thing again).
First published April 25, 2014
When my friend Shannon called me last fall inquiring if I wished to go to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in the spring, it intrigued me.
I remember Erma Bombeck from my childhood. My mom and grandma would watch her on Good Morning America. They bought her books and chuckled at her newspaper columns. I didn’t read her or watch her or laugh at her because I was, like, seven. I was laughing at Scooby-Doo. But she made two women whom I cherished laugh, so I guess you can say I laughed by association.
She was from my home state of Ohio; she was entertaining, and I regarded her writing. I felt like it would be a learning experience, and a getaway with a good friend was something I desperately needed.
But it was this remark on one of my blog posts in April 2012, that was the real reason I wanted to go:
I absolutely loved your island makeover! I think I loved, even more, your
commentary—you remind me of Erma Bombeck—so funny!! Keep up the
good work and keep me laughing!! You are great medicine for what ails
It is that note that shaped the path of my blog; from DIY to humor in nature.
2020 note- And you don’t think your comments mean anything. 😉
The more I considered being part of this conference, the more enthusiastic I grew. Because a writer is what I wanted to be. A writer who not only writes a blog but also someday pens an excellent novel.
I love to make people laugh.
In fact, when I make people laugh, I think it gives me some of those hormones that Dr. Oz speaks about that are helpful for your core.
|I have a slight peanut allergy. This was on the back of my name tag the whole weekend. Of course, I have no nuts.|
So attending this conference with a trusted friend (and 350 new funny friends)? It was like every atom in my body was exploding.
That sounded dirty. And scientific.
Friendly people, funny people, cake with EVERY SINGLE MEAL!
I learned so much!
I took eight pages of notes.
Front AND back.
|Phil Freakin Donahue|
-That Phil Donahue is drinking from the youth fountain.
– Never pay an agent to read your manuscript.
– That life at home can’t exist without me. As evidenced by the massive amounts of texts sent to me from my family.
YES, THE 14-YEAR-OLD HAS TO GO TO HER SOCCER GAME.
NO THE SIX-YEAR-OLD CAN’T EAT A CHOCOLATE EASTER BUNNY FOR BREAKFAST.
YES LEGO’S CAN FIT IN A NOSTRIL.
NO DON’T PUT THEM THERE.
I also learned:
– That I might not want to self-publish a book?
– That it is quite difficult to get a book published.
– That women release a hormone (oxytocin) when they get together.
I heard so many great quotes from throughout the weekend:
“Girlfriends are like an apple a day,” – Suzanne Braun Levine
Shannon and I formed a pact that we would sit with different people at every meal. To be clear, this was all Shannon’s plan. She wished for us to meet ALL THE PEOPLE. I might seem outgoing, but I can be timid when meeting a table full of new people.
Multiply this times 3 per day? It was my worst nightmare.
But she preferred for us to brighten our perspectives; meet diverse writers from distinct backgrounds.
Let’s blockade the cake! Thus the entire table will share it! Seven ways.”
This was an exact exchange at our lunch table on day two of the conference.
With each meal, we were each provided one slice of cake. But at this table, there was one vacant spot. And one piece of cake at said vacant spot.
All of us (who were strangers before) banded together to secure our hidden gem; the vacant cake.
EXTRA CAKE IS GOOD! EXTRA CAKE IS WHAT WILL TAKE THIS WORKSHOP TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!
We barricaded the cake with the pansy floral centerpiece, a pitcher of iced tea, and a table number tag. Instead of plotting out our afternoon of writing sessions with famous writers and publishers, with agents and celebrities, WE BEGAN PLOTTING HOW TO DIVIDE THE EXTRA CAKE.
We would split the cake in seven ways. This way we would have our individual pieces of cake AND the extra sliver of cake split into seven tiny slices.
Nothing like cake to bring people together.
EXTRA CAKE IS GOOD.
It looked like we all were getting our extra cake!
Until some snooty girl sat down in the empty spot.
I whispered to Shannon something about meeting new people at every table and gave her the side-eye.
|This sign was in a McDonald’s parking lot in Indiana on the way home. I just had to take it. I mean, NO EXIT. HOW THE HELL DO WE GET OUT OF HERE?|
Pooping! I did it!
Last summer, I mentioned that there was this ridiculous “no pooping” rule at the BlogHer convention in Chicago. You can read all about it here if you’d like.
Side note: If you need to save money by sharing a room with four grown women, you have no business being at a conference to begin with.
But this time, I got to poop!
And it felt right.
I think Shannon is the first woman I’ve farted in front of besides my mom, grandma, and daughters.
So there’s that honor.
I got to reconnect with a friend from high school who I haven’t seen since graduation day. It was so good to see her and meet part of her adorable family and just be with her.
|My friend’s adorable daughter. After being away from my daughter’s for two days, I was missing them. I didn’t want to let go of this sweet girl.|
On our last morning in Dayton, I wanted to stop at Erma’s grave.
Her grave is across the street from the University of Dayton campus, which is where the conference was being held. I found this information out from a former newspaper journalist I sat next to at breakfast on day two.
I guess it does pay to sit next to new people at every meal.
It felt magical being here that morning. Maybe it sounds weird to describe it as such. I don’t think visiting a graveyard is weird, nor do I think calling it magical is weird either. Some people have issues with it, I don’t.
On this day, the sun peeked out while we were visiting. The birds were singing. For most of this weekend, it was gloomy and rainy. But this morning, it was lovely.
It was a special way to end our weekend with Erma.
I told Shannon that I would love to come back to her grave and write with Erma sometime.
|Why, yes, that’s a miniature baby doll with a handmade ski mask on.|
When you get 350 humor writers in a room, there’s bound to be trouble. And by trouble, I mean wonderful.
Each night we met a new group of friends.
Then the new friends introduced us to newer friends.
And so on and so on.
I met journalists for Pulitzer prize-winning papers, magazine editors, published authors, moms, and dads of real and fur babies from all over our country.
These aren’t just people with who I exchanged business cards and friended on Twitter or added their blogs to my blog feed.
I added most of these people to my personal Facebook.
I hardly ever do that.
That’s when you know it’s hardcore.
|Go home, Scary Baby. You are drunk.|
Don’t take this the wrong way, but your ass looks fantastic in those jeans.
You know it’s going to be a great day when your roommate tells you this first thing in the morning.
I can’t imagine enjoying this conference half as much if Shannon wasn’t with me.
She pushed me out of my comfort zone and I learned so much more and met so many amazing people.
It was an honor to share this experience with her.
And I can’t wait to do it all over again.
2020 note- I never went back. I regret those decisions.