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I laughed so much at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last weekend that my stomach still hurts. Since the next one isn’t until 2016, I figure I have two years to recover – and to come up with a book proposal. And if you’re considering going, well, I highly recommend it as both a literary lovefest and a great ab workout. 

I’ve already told you how much Erma means to me, and those feelings were magnified a thousandfold as writer after writer shared deeply personal stories about how she had inspired them.

The stories were so obviously what this weekend was all about – and they were amazing. I heard happy ones, sad ones, poignant ones, embarrassing ones. All told with humor. All easy to relate to even if they never happened to me.

You probably don’t need to hear how much I learned about writing at EBWW – although hopefully that will become apparent in future posts – so I’m just going to share a couple of highlights from the conference.

Phil Donahue. He is always a highlight. As a keynote speaker and Erma’s childhood friend and neighbor, he shared anecdotes about growing up together, and read the eulogy he gave at her funeral, bringing the audience to tears. He showed us the importance of Erma’s words and how she gave a voice to a generation of women who were feeling unsatisfied by housework and motherhood. Although she used humor and wrote about everyday domestic issues, her impact was powerful and far-reaching, he explained, calling her a vocal proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (which still hasn’t been passed, people).

When I got home, I found an old VHS tape of the time my sister and I were in Phil Donahue’s audience. It was 1989, I was pregnant and Erica Jong was the guest. I got to ask a question and it was a thrill to have Phil stand next to me with his signature microphone.

Here we are then:

Phil Donahue and Lois

Here we are now:

Phil Donahue and Lois

Although I recognized him immediately, he didn’t seem to remember me at all. Hmm. We haven’t He hasn’t changed one bit.

The women. I was so blown away by mother/daughter authors Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella, and the panel featuring Ilene Beckerman, Gina Barreca, Suzanne Braun Levine and moderated by Patricia Wynn Brown, that I’m saving them for special posts. I still have to process everything I took away from those, and definitely need to share the experiences with you. Soon.

Lisa Scottoline, Lois, Helene

Me, Lisa Scottoline, Helene Cohen Bludman

The other women. My old friends, my new friends. Everywhere I turned, people were smiling, laughing, hugging and sharing. It was the warmest and fuzziest conference I’ve ever attended, which is not to say it didn’t involve lots of cursing and alcohol.

Me, Helene, Margaret, Marci

Margaret Robinson Rutherford, me, Helene, Marci Rich

Pitchapalooza. Twenty writers were randomly selected to pitch their book idea in front of the crowd, and Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, the warm, funny and oh-so-smart husband and wife authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, would select a winner and introduce him or her to an agent or publisher. I learned so much just listening to the judges’ constructive criticism. I was proud of my three friends, Julie Danis, Noelle Gunn Elliott and Janie Emaus, in order below, who got up and did their one-minute pitch so brilliantly, and especially excited that Julie won! Yay, Julie! Can’t wait to feature your book when it comes out!

Janie Emaus

Julie Danis

Noelle Gunn Elliott

Stand-up Comedy. You couldn’t pay me to do this and I give so much credit to the 18 people who got up the nerve to perform. “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else,” Erma once said. These people were courageous and hilarious, and the crowd was behind them all the way.

As I sit here now, reminiscing and smiling at the memories, I guess the big takeaway is that humor is what gets us through life. And if laughter is truly the best medicine, then, last weekend, a whole lot of people were made healthy.


  1. And thank you, Lois, for cheering me on and taking my photo! I missed everyone the day I got home.

  2. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Ditto to everything you said. It was an experience I will never forget, and being with you made it all the more special.

  3. I have another blogging friend who attended this workshop and I wanted to be in attendance so so much. Erma Bombeck was a writer I read avidly as a young girl and a teen and I have loved her so much. I know I would love every minute of this event. I enjoyed your post immensely. Maybe in 2016 I will be ready to get there!

  4. Looks like you had a great time at this writers conference! Very cool you got to rub shoulders with some celebrities!

  5. Lois, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve always had a fear of this conference- a fear of needing to be as funny, warm, smart, relatable as Erma to be worthy of being there! You made it sound like such a wonderful experience though, I may have to go just to soak in the courage of others 🙂

  6. I’ve only heard wonderful things about this conference. I’m glad you had such a great time.

  7. Maria Oller says:

    I read about this in another blog as well, it seems you ladies have the time of your life’s, what an amazing experience!

  8. I am going to have to save the date for the next one it sounds like so much fun.
    I am looking fotward to reading your posts on the panel members.

  9. Glad You Enjoyed Yourself At The Writers Conference Looks Like You Had A Fun Time!

  10. Sounds like you had an awesome time! How cool to meet Phil Donahue twice.

  11. What a wonderful opportunity. Looks like a fantastic event.

  12. Looks like a fantastic time. I would love to meet Phil.

  13. Looks like you met some fellow bloggers! I bet it was a fun time!

  14. I keep reading about this wonderful conference and feel like I really missed out on a great time with a great group of people. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us

  15. That looks like a great trip, plus you got to meet Phil Donahue. Score.

  16. I really loved Erma Bombeck. I still have several books of hers that are signed.

  17. sounds like you had a great time, what a nice experience!

  18. Loved every second of it, Lois. Dayton is obviously a magical place.

  19. This sounds like it was a great conference! I love that shot of you in Phil Donahue’s audience!

  20. It looks like you had such an amazing time! Loving all the pics! And.. Phil Donahue.. priceless. He does look pretty darn good!

  21. This looked like a fun time! All the smiles in these pictures are evidence.

  22. Sounds like such great fun. Found more details about this event from another blog. I think it’s your friend Helene’s blog. Really nice to know there is such an event. I’m sure your 2 years will fly and you’ll get to all reunite again 🙂

  23. Sounds so great, Lois! I love the photo, too, of you and Phil. You were so Lois even back then! 🙂

    (Don’t know why I didn’t get a notice of this post in my Inbox cause I subscribe. Hmm.)

    I will not, NOT NOT NOT, miss the next Erma. No matter what. I vow out loud right now!

  24. I’ll bet you laughed more than you have in a long time. What an awesome event, and how come Phil Donahue looks the SAME after all these years?

  25. I love how beautifully you captured the warmth and glow of the weekend, Lois! I’ll look forward to reading your upcoming posts. It was great seeing you again, and finally getting to meet Helene and Margaret. FANTASTIC then-and-now photos of you and Phil!

  26. I love Erma Bombeck! That looks like you had a really great time.

  27. What an awesome conference! I’ve seen so many posts on Facebook from others that went. I had a ticket but couldn’t go 🙁 Hopefully next year! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Sounds like you had a great time. I love when I laugh so hard it hurts.

  29. Good lawdy but it seems like a lot of pressure to come prepared with a book to pitch, a stand up comedy routine, and ideas to work on. Yet you all met the challenge! I have enjoyed reading all the Erma Bombeck post events posts. Looking forward to your future pieces as well.

  30. What an awesome time, it looks like you had so much fun! I would LOVE to meet Phil Donahue1

  31. Can’t wait to work out my abs and spend time around such joy!

  32. Phil and Erma are from my hometown, Dayton, Ohio!

  33. Can you imagine that two years have already passed and it’s happening again? Oh, Erma would be so proud that her name lives on like that.

  34. Sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  35. It sounds like an amazing event. Erma was always one of my favorites too. Loved her books!

  36. I had no idea that Phil Donohue & Erma Bombeck were neighbors growing up! Sounds like a grand conference! Loved Erma & love watching Phl back in the day. Thanks for sharing!

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