It’s been a week since I returned from the 2014 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Most of the attendees have already posted on their blogs about their experiences there, but I have not.
I am late. Very, very late.
It’s not because I didn’t have an unbelieveable time. I did.
Or that I didn’t connect with old friends and meet loads of great new ones. I did that, too.
It also has nothing to do with the fact that I went on spring break with my family the whole week following the conference, or that we had our kitchen and baths demolished while we were out of town and I had to set up a makeshift kitchen in the living room when we got home.
The issue is, I needed some time to let it all sink in. The sessions. The friendships. The moments of pure joy, feelings of connectedness, and inspiration. The sheer “Erma-ness” of the whole thing. Like a great brisket, my thoughts needed time to bake, absorb the flavor, and sit for a bit before being served.
I know, pretty poetic for a humor writer, huh?
This was my sixth Erma conference. I first went in 2004, so this was actually my ten year anniversary. For my ten year wedding anniversary, my husband took us to Italy. For my ten year Erma anniversary, naturally, I went to Dayton.
Although I had transitioned from attendee to faculty member several years ago, I realized there is still not all that much that separates me from the other writers. We all have insecurities about the work we birth into the world. We all want to be paid for our writing. We all want to be acknowledged on some level for our contributions and achievements. And we all want to be successful.
But how we define success is different for each person. Some people measure it by the dozens of newspapers or websites that carry their column or blog. Some measure it by the one newspaper or website that carries their column or blog. We often quantify it by hits, likes, retweets and visits.
As writers, success is often marked more by response than output.
Wouldn’t it be great if more of us writers could feel successful simply for writing?
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and creating something meaningful, relatable and well-crafted is almost more difficult than childbirth. In the case of my book, “Lost in Suburbia,” the gestation period was actually the same. It took me nine months to write the book, and in the end, I finally had to give it over to God. More than anything else this weekend, I realized that for each of us, writing is the way we communicate our feelings and describe our world. It is not the way we work. It is the way we breathe.
Thank goodness for conferences like the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop for reminding us that it’s not about the swag, the sponsors, the number of unique visitors we have to our sites, and the people who want to compensate us for our work with “exposure.” It’s about realizing that what we do has value, whether that value is felt by one person or a million, by friends or family or complete strangers. It’s about connecting with like minded people. And it’s about recognizing how very lucky we are to have discovered this gift and love we have for writing.
I want to thank Teri Rizvi, Bob Daley, and the rest of the University of Dayton crew for putting this conference together every two years; to Debe Dockins and the Washington Centerville LIbrary for graciously hosting the awards competition; to Patricia Wynn Brown for generously donating her time to be the Master of Ceremonies throughout the weekend. Also, my pit crew, Michele Wojciechowski, Anne Parris, Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Suzette Martinez Standring, Joy Steele, Rose Valenta, Wanda Argersinger, Sharon Dillon, Michelle Momper, and so many others who share my passion and support my goals.
To Betsy, Matt and Andy Bombeck for continuing to be a part of this celebration year after year. To their dad Bill, in absentia.
… and to Erma Bombeck, for showing us that We. Can. Write.