She had all of Erma’s books and would make sure to tune in anytime Erma appeared on TV. I remember watching Erma one time with my mother and, after the segment, I turned to my mother and said, “She seems like a really nice lady.” My mother agreed.
The niceness that Erma exuded also permeated her columns. You could tell from her essays that she was just a really good person and someone you would want to have as a friend.
It is this same air of niceness that seems to envelope the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. In a sometimes brutally competitive world, I was somewhat surprised to find so many supportive, helpful, and encouraging colleagues at the conference. In the beginning, as the new kid on the block, I was grateful for that support and encouragement. Now as the more seasoned columnist, I am just as grateful to return to the conference to give back to other writers who are just starting out.
What I realized in my time with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, is that we writers who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Erma do not just seek to follow Erma creatively. We also want, I think, to keep the spirit of her “niceness” alive.
It was in that spirit, upon hearing that I’d won the Global Humor category in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition three days before it was publicly announced, that I asked to donate the majority of my winnings back to the Workshop. The Workshop uses every dime that it brings in to create the unique, invaluable, and utterly life changing conference that so many humor writers, myself included, have had the good fortune to attend and grow from. I was thrilled to have the unexpected opportunity to help them continue their mission. Could I have used the money myself? Of course. Who couldn’t? I’ve got a kid in college and another one on the way. But I felt it was something I wanted to do.
As the top winner, I was also the recipient of a free registration for the conference. Since, as a speaker, I was already comped my conference registration, I told the conference and contest organizers that I would like to donate my free registration to someone who had not been able to get into the conference. We all felt that it should go to the two women who were the honorable mentions in my category.
Now, I’m not mentioning this to get kudos or claps on the back. I actually would have preferred not to mention it at all but I have heard whisperings that I should not have been allowed to enter the contest… did not deserve to win… because I am a “professional,” or a “speaker.” The truth is, I followed the rules, like everyone else, crafted my essay the best I could, like everyone else, and paid my entry fee, like everyone else. As for the facts that I already had a free registration or didn’t need the money, that is irrelevant. I like to think that everyone who entered the contest, and everyone who attends the conference would have done the same if circumstances allowed, without being asked… whether they were a professional writer or a novice… a speaker or an attendee… a syndicated columnist or a five-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition loser (like me), because we all have a little bit of Erma in us, and if Erma had won, she would do the same thing.
I am honestly humbled to have won, and delighted to have the opportunity to share my good fortune with other writers. I look forward to meeting all of you at the conference so we can support our mutual writing dreams!