Bombeck workshop ushers next generations of humorists

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By: Julia Hall – Staff Writer

Correction: “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” was written by Allison and Margaret Engel, not Leighann Lord. This story has been edited to reflect this.

Brace yourself for a weekend of sidesplitting laughter because the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is coming to campus March 31 through April 2. Writers from around the United States will flood the University of Dayton campus to participate in a witty writing convention in commemoration of Dayton’s own Erma Bombeck, the humor columnist and writer.

Amongst the established, published writers, 20 University of Dayton students have the opportunity to attend the workshop with the financial support of the University of Dayton Alumni Association. Full scholarships cover the registration cost of $425 and are still available for UD students who are interested in networking with and learning from a group of well-respected writers.

Two 2014 UD graduates, Andrea Massimilian and Kayleigh Fladung, attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop their senior years. They described their experiences with enthusiasm.

“If there are any students who are questioning whether or not they should attend, I would 100 percent encourage them, even if they are not a journalism major and they love creative writing,” Fladung, now the marketing and grants coordinator at Josephinum Academy in Chicago, said. “There is so much to learn.”

Massimilian, marketing specialist at CloudOne and Orr Fellow, shared her experience from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2014: “Basically, the Erma Bombeck writing workshop has people from all different backgrounds in writing at it. So, they had directors of movies, columnists and screenplay writers, all over the board.”

The format of the workshop includes a variety of speakers who have made a living from entertaining the masses with humorous, sassy and entertaining pieces of literature, film and blogging.

“One of my favorite people was Cathryn Michon and Bruce Cameron. They were a part of a panel. [Michon] wrote, stared and directed in a movie called ‘Muffin Top,’” recalled Massimilian.

“One of the people I was introduced to was a mom-blogger,” Fladung said. “It was amazing how many people she attracted just because she was speaking at the workshop. Having all of those amazing professionals on UD’s campus for an entire weekend was an experience as a student that I wouldn’t have changed for the world.”

This year’s speakers will include humorist Roy Blount Jr., a humorist and social critic, novelist and contributing editor at Vogue. Amy Ephron, comedian and actress Kathy Kinney, marketing guru Cindy Ratzlaff, stand-up comedian Leighann Lord and the authors of the new one-woman play “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End,” Allison and Margaret Engel. The play’s star, Barbara Chisholm, who recently appeared in “Boyhood,” will also attend.

“They are not just newspaper columnists from hick towns in Canada, but they are super successful writers and directors,” Massmilian said.

“There are amazing things that you get to take away. One of mine, a take away I got, was ‘do not take yourself too seriously in writing,’” Massmilian said. “I would always write in a serious tone, and I began thinking ‘why would people want to read that?’ unless you are reading chemistry. People love laughing.”

“A lot of the workshops that I attended personally were about how to create your brand, which is something that I think is really important for young writers today,” Fladung mentioned. “You could be working for a newspaper or a magazine, but you really need to build yourself up in a way that you are able to market yourself and market your style.”

“This type of workshop totally speaks to the type of community that Dayton tries to build, where you could be an engineering major, but if you write in your spare time, this is definitely the event you want to go to because you’ll learn a lot and it will be interesting and applicable to everything you do,” Fladung encouraged.

“There were people who were like ‘I do not even write, but I want to start,’” Fladung stated.

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop contact Annette Taylor at ataylor1@udayton.edu or Teri Rizvi at erma@udayton.edu by Wednesday, Feb. 10. The workshop will be held March 31-April 2 at the University of Dayton.

Photo courtesy of the University of Dayton.