Emulating Erma…Posted: April 3, 2016
In 2009 Erma Bombeck was one of the reasons I started writing a blog. She was someone whom I admired and who made me laugh when she appeared on Good Morning America or when I read her columns in the newspaper. I was a kid then and really didn’t understand her rantings about motherhood, but intrinsically I knew someday her truisms would make sense to me in a powerful way. Her humorous assertions made you feel like she could be your mom and her complaints and observations mirrored those voiced by my own mother at times, such as
“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.”
“Everyone is guilty at one time or another of throwing out questions that beg to be ignored, but mothers seem to have a market on the supply. “Do you want a spanking or do you want to go to bed?” Don’t you want to save some of the pizza for your brother?” Wasn’t there any change?”
So, seven years ago, on a cold February evening, I was stuck in a nearby hotel room because our house almost collapsed due to a botched contractor’s basement project. We remained stranded at The Majestic Inn for forty days; me, my husband, our six year old son and two year old daughter. As you can imagine, the stress of my tilting house, combined with cooking three meals a day with only a microwave and a bathroom sink caused me to need a mental outlet and my blog was born.
Fast forward and last fall a friend mentioned she would be attending the bi-annual Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, which was happening in March of 2016. After checking the website, I learned the event sold out in six hours. Oh well, I thought, as I absentmindedly added my name to the waiting list. And then in December, I was surprised to receive a phone call in the middle of a busy work day from a nice young girl, who informed me a spot opened up for me and would I like to attend? I waffled for about four seconds because my husband’s travel schedule is perpetual, but I went out on a limb and accepted. It was a good decision.
This afternoon I returned from a busy, fulfilling weekend at EBWW in Dayton. More than four hundred women, of all ages, all walks of life and a wide variety of experiences converged upon the University of Dayton to learn, share, listen and above all, laugh in a way only Erma would want us to. The Bombeck family was there, along with distinguished author Roy Blount Jr., celebrated journalist, screenwriter and author Amy Ephron, Kathy Kinney, famously known as “Mimi” from “The Drew Carey Show”, Alan Zweibel, one of the original writers of Saturday Night Live, Wendy Liebmann, well known stand up comedienne, who has appeared on all of the major late night shows, Joel Madison, comedy script writer for shows such as “Roseanne”, and Jenny Lawson, “The Bloggess”, among many other amazing writers, agents and publishers.
When first I walked into the hotel lobby, I was filled with intimidation. “What in the hell am I doing here?!” I thought. “Look at all of these accomplished writers; I haven’t written any books. My blog looks like a six year old put it together! Maybe if I slip up to my room I can binge watch “Flea Market Flip” and no one will notice….” At about that time I ran into the one person I knew at the event and she promptly introduced me to about twenty people. So much for being incognito. Time to grow some, pull up the big girl pants, walk past the fear and fake a little confidence. And what a wonderful few days it has been…
What I learned was this:
- Most everyone felt as small, inadequate, stupid, inexperienced and not funny as I did.
- The amount of support, interest and genuine positive feedback amongst the guests, faculty and presenters was crazy and overwhelming.
- There was no snarkiness whatsoever and women can be snarky!
- I haven’t laughed so hard and for so long in ages!!!
In the workshops I learned:
- How to write a book, find an agent and get a book published.
- How to structure a memoir.
- How to find your voice and to make the details funny.
- That the fun is in the process and to be patient with yourself.
On the last night of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, my name was one of fifteen lucky cards pulled out of a hat in a packed auditorium at “Pitchapalooza, American Idol for Writers”. The rules are you get one minute to pitch your book idea in front of four VIP agents and then they critique you. My heart hasn’t raced that fast since it was my turn for the under water lifeguard exam at Riverside Pool in Moline. I was cotton-mouthed and terrified during the whole contest. Author after author were called up to compete and I half hoped my name wouldn’t be read and half prayed it would. Two of my new friends stayed with me for support, just in case I was chosen. Almost at the end when it seemed I was sure to have escaped certain humiliation, someone blurted, “Um, Lor ILE, um HERL…..” OH MI GOOOOOD……. and then it was kind of a blur.
The minute ended with my pitch only one third completed, but I am told the agents were wide-eyed as I spoke, hopefully in a good way. I think I might have fared better if I could have finished. It’s okay, though. I faced a fear of speaking before a large group of people and in front of agents. As a former model, auditions are nothing new to me, nor is rejection, but your body is one thing, your art is another. Who cares if you are brunette and they want a blonde? It’s different if they think your story sucks. That was not the case and I plan on fleshing out my idea into a book now that I have a road map to get there. It was exhilarating, like how I imagine it might feel after jumping out of a plane. My friend, Lisa, buckled the parachute to my chest and Rebecca made sure my goggles were snugly fitted.
The idea of writing a book was a scary, romantic one before I knew exactly how to do it. Now it has become an exciting project. And as my best friend knows…..I love projects!
The weekend was kind of like sorority bid night. I made a ridiculous number of new, fantastic friends, learned a whole helluva lot, was inspired and now am so tired I might fall asleep at the hockey rink tonight. Life doesn’t stop because I had a few epiphanies. In fact, I am sure Erma probably has a key saying the puts it all into perspective like;
“He who laughs…..lasts.”