November 5, 2020
Last week I experienced my first Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. This biennial event is a biggie for humor writers, three days of stellar speakers and writing sessions. Usually this all takes place in Dayton, Ohio. Besides the fact that conference plus travel was never in my budget, the EBWW was just about impossible to register FOR. Beginning at 12:01 AM on the first sign-up date, the website would be inundated with applicants. The workshop always sold out within a couple of hours. I never tried; even if I made it to the front of the queue I knew my internet would fail, or my credit card would be rejected, or God would appear to me and whisper, softly, “They are looking for HUMOR writers, honey.”
But it’s 2020 and everything is topsy-turvy, and I did snag a spot for the online version of the festivities. Several pluses: I could attend from home, the cost was very reasonable, and I wouldn’t have to deal with what I call the Conference Cliques. These are the groups of (usually) gals who bond like squealing sisters within minutes of meeting and form an impenetrable tribe for the duration of the event. This is especially galling when I go to an event alone. Never have I ever been welcomed to join a table of retreat revelers, and it feels like the cafeteria at Epiphany Catholic School all over again.
This time I wasn’t shunned, though a version of the Conference Clique did play out in the chat section of the screen. I’d try to focus on the speaker, but all I could see was that someone was typing, “Joanne, you are HILARIOUS!” Then, “Yes she is! I want to buy her book!” Then, “Oh, she doesn’t have a book? You need to write one, Joanne, because you are HILARIOUS!” Veterans of EBWW would comment that they were wearing their tiaras (yes) and drinking wine from their Erma wineglasses. I lacked both, but in my house no one could see my bare head and unlabeled glassware.
Anyway, some of the sessions were hit-or-miss. The good part was everything was recorded, and you could just leave a session at any point, log into a different one, and no one would notice. Titles didn’t always tip me off about the value of the content. The hands-down best one for me, I almost skipped, because the title had 28 words, ending with “… Without Losing Your Mind.” I pictured a daffy dame riffing on Self-Marketing 101 stuff, but she was awesome and I learned a great deal, including the importance of being more active on certain social media, and coming up with a color scheme and font that matches across my whole platform (website, blog) so Elise Seyfried Writer has a recognizable “look.”
Add in the keynote speeches by several comedians I admire, and in the end it was well worth the cost.
Will I shoot for EBWW live in ’22?
Only if I can locate my tiara.