Nationally recognized workshop brings laughter to writing

By: Kayleigh Fladung – Copy Editor

Every two years, University of Dayton students get the chance to hear, meet and laugh with some of the most famous humorists around at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

The 2014 workshop will take place April 10 to 12 on UD’s campus. Keynote speakers include Phil Donahue, an Emmy Award-winning talk show host and one of Bombeck’s friends, best-selling novelist Lisa Scottoline, and Bruce Ferber, an author and Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated writer and producer of shows like “Growing Pains,” “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch,” and “Home Improvement.”

Named for 1949 UD alumna and famous American humorist Erma Bombeck, the workshop was created to gather and inspire future and current professional human interest and humor writers, according to the workshop’s website.

“If you’re interested in writing, [the workshop] presents the opportunity to learn from people who are successful in their field or to just see what the opportunities are for writing or to network with people,” said Teri Rizvi, executive director of strategic communications for UD and the workshop’s founder and co-director. “It is just so invaluable.”

Communication professor Annette Taylor is the workshop’s co-director. Rizvi said she and Taylor work with an all-volunteer planning committee to shape the program.

The workshop was started in 2000 when the Bombeck family decided to donate her papers to the university. Rizvi said Bombeck always gave credit to her UD teachers for building the confidence she needed to start her writing career, so it seemed fitting to host the workshop here.

“We thought it would be fun to have a writers’ workshop surrounding the donation of the papers,” Rizvi said. “Bill Bombeck, Erma’s husband, invited some of her friends like Bil Keane, the cartoonist for ‘Family Circus,’ and Liz Carpenter, who was the press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson, and [Bombeck’s] agent and her syndicator and publisher. They all came and it was just a fun workshop.”

Rizvi said they intended to make the workshop a one-time event, but people enjoyed it so much they tried it again in two years and eventually made it a biannual workshop. It became a national workshop after a few years and is well attended by writing and publishing professionals from across the country.

Senior public relations major Andrea Massimilian works for the communication department and has helped with this year’s workshop. She said she is looking forward to attending the event.

“I help manage the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Facebook page and the amount of enthusiasm the attendees throw out on the page is contagious,” Massimilian said. “I’m really excited to attend the workshop and I’m absolutely honored to be a part of such a wonderful event.”

This year’s workshop sold out in just 12 hours, a record according to Rizvi. There is currently a waiting list of 200 people. The University of Dayton’s National Alumni Association sponsors the event and provides scholarships for over 30 UD students to attend.

Spanning three days, the workshop features workshop sessions led by UD faculty and other professional writers, five keynote speakers, networking opportunities and book signings. This year, the workshop with end with a new “Pitchapalooza” session in Boll Theatre during which 20 randomly selected writers will have the opportunity to pitch their book to a panel of judges. The winner of this session will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his or her book, according to the workshop’s website.

Rizvi said the workshop offers students a chance to meet with professionals, hear their stories and learn how they were able to build their careers, all in a fun, encouraging setting.

“This is a workshop where, particularly in the keynote sessions, people are laughing for three days. People have so much fun,” Rizvi said. “I think people come away from this and they are inspired and energized and you just feel like you’ve met a lot of great connections for your future.”

A limited number of scholarships are available for students. Contact Andrea Massimilian at by March 1 for information on applying for scholarships.

For more information on the workshop, visit

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