My Erma Experience

Last week I went to the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, an event I had been looking forward to since December. It is a place for humor and human interest writers to gather.

I began my time in workshops from Sharon Short on “Finding the Writer’s Voice” and Adair Lara on “Crafting Compelling Personal Essays.” The voice class was interesting in that we worked exercises in which we paired different writers’ points of view with  musical, artistic and literary options. This struck me as a little funny because the universe puts out the same idea in several scenarios at the same time, and I had just been writing about art and music. Adair’s class was fun because she gave us the tools to create the essay, and then took experiences from people in the class and showed them how to craft a great story.

Next, I sat in a panel called “Let’s Talk About Success…” with Dr. Nancy Berk, Cathryn Michon, Amy Ephron (lovely lady), Alan Zweibel (funny dude) and Cindy Ratzlaff who I will say impressed me so much that I changed my plans to take another class from her later. This session provided several bullet point notes such as: “writer’s write,” “publishers have no clue what is popular,” “let your idea tell you where it fits,” and my favorite line, “self-publishing can lead to traditional publishers and is becoming more common.”

My last class of the day was by Katrina Kittle, a local Dayton-area author, entitled “Skipping the Parts People Skip: Strengthening Description.” The room was hot and crowded but she managed to convey much useful information and gave us a rather extensive handout. My favorite line from her class was about revising the rough draft, “…corral and teach it manners.” She obviously loves horses.

I skipped dinner that night to go out to a fancy local restaurant with my hubby, so it turned into quite a nice date night.

The next day I took the session from Cindy Ratzlaff called, “It’s a Brand New Brand You World…” This lady currently works for Simon & Schuster so I intently paid attention. She gave and gave and gave excellent information. I’m still sorting through my notes on her session, but she gave this wise and sage advice, “Be Brave. Be out there. Be your best self.” She wins the prize for the most notes taken during any of my workshops!

The next fabulous session was by “The Book Doctors,” David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut. Their energy lifted the room, man. They teach on publishing, creating a great pitch and pretty much anything else you want to know about the writing/publishing industry. A quick funny story is that I actually met David in the elevator in the morning, but did not know who he was, so did not give him my “elevator pitch!” Missed opportunities make for learning adventures. They were great and were also on the judging panel for the later “Pitchapalooza” which was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t get called.

The only other session I attended was “Ask the Agents.” I was really happy to meet Brian Klems as he is the Writer’s Digest online editor and I see his face in my inbox often. The agents were Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank and Rachelle Gardner. They answered every question asked, even though many of the answers were “it depends.” I was a little sad to learn that agents really only like to see new work and that there weren’t any children’s agents, but it was very informative anyway. And, I understand.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen my many posts about the great speakers I heard. Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney struck a chord in me as they talked about their forty year writing partnership and friendship. I’m hoping to have that with my writing buddy. Amy Ephron was very funny and kind as she told stories, especially about how she gave up being a psychic, even though when she signed my book I thought she was delivering a slightly psychic message.

I also heard Leighann Lord speak. This is one amazing comedic talent and a lovely person to talk to as well. These people made me very sad the weekend came to a close. I’m hoping to get into the next one, but there are wait lists and each year it sells out faster. Start praying for me now, the registration opens in December 2017.

I learned so much from this conference and met a few really good people. It definitely makes me want to do many other workshops. This year I’ve already been to this workshop and on a writing retreat. I am one lucky girl.


Published by Dawn M. Paul

I am an artist and writer at Come take a mental rest with me.

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