You can write!

Teri Rizvi | Contributing Writer

Unsure of herself as a writer, Erma Bombeck ’49 slipped a humorous essay under the door of her University of Dayton English professor and waited for “the great critic” to comment. 

“He saw me one day outside the cafeteria, and he said three words to me, that’s all, just three words that were to sustain me for the rest of my life. He looked at me and said, ‘You can write,’” recalled Bombeck, whose columns later graced the pages of 900 newspapers and books topped the bestseller list.

Liz (Mund) Ryan ‘81 and Jamie Ryan ‘82, an alumni couple in Columbus, want new generations of UD students to hear those same words of encouragement. That’s why they’re establishing a creative writing retreat for University of Dayton students, no matter their major or their experience level. The only requirement: a desire to tap into their imagination and tell stories on the page.

The first retreat is slated for Feb. 2-4 at the Bergamo Center and will be led by Katrina Kittle and Meredith Doesch, two novelists who co-teach a novel-writing class in the English department. Interested students can apply here by Nov. 10. A dozen students will be selected and notified by Dec. 1. 

All retreat expenses — lodging, meals, snacks and transportation — will be covered. As a follow-up experience, the participants will receive a full scholarship ($499 value) to attend the April 4-6, 2024, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop where they will continue to hone their craft and network with professional writers from around the nation.

“We want to help cultivate confidence and spark a fire in students. This retreat is for all students, but particularly that student in the back of the class with a passion for writing but needs a nudge of encouragement,” said Liz Ryan, an English major and retired teacher.

“We want this retreat to be a door where students can peek in and see if creative writing is for them,” added her husband, Jamie, an American studies major and lawyer.

John McCombe, chair of the English department, expressed gratitude to the Ryans for nurturing the talents of budding writers: “Liz and Jamie Ryan recognize the value of creative writing. So many UD students — regardless of major — possess a desire to write fiction or poetry, but they simply need the encouragement and the space to cultivate their gifts and talents. The Ryans are helping UD to create such a space.”

For more information, contact the English department at 937-229-3434 or send an email to

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