April 19, 2010

Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop

Everything was funny during the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop, especially what happened while I was giving my workshop. (I'll get to that in a sec.)

First, I loved being in Dayton, OH, where Erma Bombeck lived. I enjoyed strolling around the University of Dayton campus, where she went to school. Everything was in bloom. There was a street named after Erma and this display in the lobby of one of the buildings.

The wonderful thing about this workshop is that even though I arrived knowing no one, I left with new friends.

Here's Helen. We actually met on the plane ride to Dayton.

And here's Jon Hess, Chair of the Communications Department, and his lovely wife Minh.

This conference takes place every two years and always sells out. It's loaded with useful workshops, like how to publicize yourself on the web, get your humorous columns syndicated, sell to regional parenting publications, etc. The food was excellent and the speakers -- Bill Scheft, Loretta LaRoche and others -- were hilarious.

I laughed so hard, it hurt . . . in a good way.

So, in 2012, if you have a chance to go to this inspiring, informative event, GO! It's exceptionally well run.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled dose of EVERYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG WILL AND AT THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENT.

Friday morning, I gave back to back workshops titled "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones."

My workshops were held in a room called the Torch Lounge. Very appropriate name as the temperature was somewhere between Sahara Desert and Hades. Participants fanned themselves with their programs. I would have removed my jacket, but I had sweat stains from my armpits to Miami.

To alleviate the heat, windows and doors were opened. This would have been helpful if there weren't a construction site right next door! "Beep. Beep. Beep. Kaboom. Beep. Beep. Beep. Kaboom."

Thank goodness for microphones, right?

This is what the room looked like from my viewpoint before everyone arrived:

Because it wasn't a closed classroom, students from campus would stroll through on their way to other places during my talk. They probably wondered, Why are they talking about pickles, Twinkies and chickens?

Here are a couple shots of my poor, unsuspecting participants as they shuffled in and found seats:

Halfway into the first workshop, participants said, "We can hear someone else through the sound system."

No problem. I switched microphones and continued.

"Um, it's still happening. It sounds like a radio program."

Someone on staff ran to get help from the A.V. guy. Two minutes later, we could hear her talking to him through our sound system.

I found the "off" switch and motored through sans mic until the glitch was fixed.

That was NOTHING compared to what happened during my second workshop.

After teaching a segment about how embarrassing situations can be springboards for stories, I asked everyone to list his or her most embarrassing moments from middle school. I promised these lists would NOT be shared. I told them they could cover their papers as they wrote. I pinky swore and crossed my heart that their lists were for their eyes only.

Everyone hunched forward and began scribbling . . . just as the entire camera crew from CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood walked into our room. (Mo Rocca is doing a piece on the conference they plan to air on Mother's Day.) The camera guy approached several participants as they were writing and got close-up shots of them and their lists of THE MOST EMBARRASSING THINGS THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THEM.

Game over.

Not really. It was a humor conference, after all. When the camera crew left, we all had a good laugh over it.

But I suppose it all worked out because when my workshops were over, people came up to tell me they got a lot out of them and came up with ideas they plan to keep working on. Hooray!

And the lovely Andy Bombeck (Erma's son), who sat in on my workshop, stopped me in the hall later to tell me how much he enjoyed my workshop and said that I provided a lot of good information.

Erma's oldest granddaughter, Eva, took my workshop, too. At 13, she came up with some highly creative ideas and bravely shared them with the group. It seems she's on her way to becoming a writer, like her grandmother.

It's good to know that so much of Erma Bombeck's humor and heart live on in the spirit of her children and grandchildren and in the Erma Bombeck Humor Writer's Workshop.

I feel honored to have had the opportunity to be part of that unique and wonderful community.


Evelyn said...

Erma would have loved every minute - and gathered enough material for a month of columns and laughter. Thanks for helping keep her legacy alive.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, Evelyn!

Anonymous said...

Donna, thanks so much for coming. I've been hearing great things about your session. Glad we could make it Florida hot for you. I put up a photo gallery on Facebook, so you'll see familiar faces: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Erma-Bombeck-Writers-Workshop/119398108071400?ref=mf

Wild About Words said...

Loved that photo gallery!

Anonymous said...

I learned a lot in your talk. Nice meeting you. I bought AS IF... later. It's hilarious!

...and I'm soooo glad the cameraman didn't capture me on film...

--Barb (Owl from Verla's)

Wild About Words said...

Thanks for the nice words. It was GREAT meeting you there!