2008 Erma Bombeck Writers Conference - The Low Down

Just back from the 2008 Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference in Dayton, my old stomping grounds. It was cold and gray when I arrived but the dirt was brown, as earth is supposed to be (not this red clay stuff forced upon us in North Carolina). Laughed a lot, made new friends, and even managed to learn a thing or two despite my best intentions to only drink wine, eat free desserts, and take guilt free long, hot showers.  A non-writer friend once asked me what goes on at these writer workshops, so here's my attempt at a summary:

  • Lunch and dinner speakers. Among others, Garrison Keillor from A Prairie Home Companion, Pulitzer Prize winner Connie Schultz, Martha Bolton who wrote for Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller, and Mike Peters who writes/draws the comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm. My impressions of these people: Garrison looks like a homeless man but he opens his mouth and a golden glow comes out and you realize you're in the presence of a writing/storytelling god; Simply put, I want to BE Connie Schultz when I grow up; I suspect Martha Bolton to be a Republican but she is so charming in every other aspect, I'm willing to overlook it; and Mike Peters seriously needs to consider Ridlin, but then again maybe not, as he's friggin' hysterical as is.
  • Workshops: Lot of attention paid to U-Tube this year. Will making bad videos sell books? We're writers... we're desperate... it's worth a shot.
  • American Greetings was there and my new goal in life is to have a greeting card published. If I do, be prepared to receive this card, and only this card, from me on every card-giving occasion for the rest of your life.
  • Got a good writing tip for essays. Instead of trying to dive in, write, "This is a story about..." and repeat for 10 minutes. The second part of the sentence should include sensory detail. So instead of "This is a story about animal shelters," it would be, "This is a story about cement cages with no beds and cold floors. This is a story about fur matted with lice, fleas, and the burns and scars of neglect. This is a story about a 10-month old Labrador puppy whose tail creates minor earthquakes as it thumps the floor in greeting."  You take a couple of statements that stand out for you and expand on them. It's a way of tricking your brain into getting started writing while starting to compile story details.

There's more, but tiredness just caught me.  I think I hear bad TV calling my name. Only I'm a writer, so it's not bad TV. It's "cultural research." I can probably even deduct the cable bill.