Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop: What I Took Away and What I Left Behind

What else did I take away from the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop? A handy EBWW bag, which held everything I needed every day. And which Calvin has decided ist a cat bed. Because. Cats.

What else did I take away from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop? A handy EBWW bag, which held everything I needed every day. And which Calvin has decided is a cat bed. 

It was the first day of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and I was so thrilled/excited/nervous that I didn’t notice until I stepped off the shuttle bus: something wasn’t quite right with my left shoe.

I have “Princess and the Pea” feet; even the smallest grain of sand in my shoe will drive me crazy. So, as soon as I could, I tucked myself into a corner, slid off my boot, and there it was: a very large hole in the heel of my sock. It wasn’t there when I got dressed that morning, and it very rudely appeared when I didn’t have time to hop the shuttle back to the hotel and grab a replacement.

I tried to pull the two parts of the gaping sock hole back together, hoping that when I slipped my foot back into the shoe, the material would magically reunite like Fleetwood Mac, but taking a cue from Lindsey Buckingham, the cotton polyester blend would not cooperate. 

I was doomed to spend the first day of the the workshop with a nagging foot distraction. How could I focus while constantly aware of the the dual sensations of socked and unsocked foot within my shoe? How would I walk and talk at the same time, with each step reminding me of the hole, the hole, the hole in my sock?

However, to my surprise—other than a brief comment and a shared holey sock commiseration with a woman in an elevator (who turned out to be an agent!)—there was so much to learn, so many fascinating and gracious people to talk with, so much concentrated funny that I made it through the day barely (hah!) thinking about my naked heel. 

I had waited two long years to attend #2018EBWW, and not even a peditorial (if it’s not a word, it should be, derived from the Latin “pedis,” relating to feet, and the word “sartorial,” relating to clothing) failure kept me from soaking it all in.

I had heard that the workshop was different from other conferences (in the way that an orange is different from a tire; they’re both round but…) However, after attending my first Erma (apparently that’s how we Ermites refer to each workshop, a time measurement similar to the way the International Olympic Committee refers to each Olympiad), I found that the main difference was that I left behind as much as I took away. 

What I took away and what I left behind from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

What I took away: Write more. 

What I left behind: That there isn’t time to write: I will make time.


What I took away: Follow my passion.

What I left behind: Do what others require or expect.


What I took away: I found my tribe, and they graciously welcomed me. 

What I left behind: My fear of not being included.


What I took away: Even the most incredibly talented people sometimes think they’re not good enough.

What I left behind: That I was alone in questioning my capabilities.


What I took away: “The most important quality for a writer is persistance.”

What I left behind: The feeling that I should just give up, that I’ll never make it.


What I took away: How to hone my powers of observation and use them in the service of funny. 

What I left behind: Thinking my humor isn’t good enough.


What I took away: Different perspectives create different ways to laugh at the same situation.

What I left behind: There is no single point of view, no “right” in humor.

Thank you to Erma, to her family, to the incredibly supportive, talented, warm and witty people who make this awesome event every two years, to the inspiring and hurt-my-stomach-from-all-the-laughing speakers, and to the other attendees Ermites—all of whom fed me their creative energy when I was starving for it.

See you all in two years. And next time, I’ll bring extra socks. 


10 Comments on "Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop: What I Took Away and What I Left Behind"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Sounds like a wonderful conference….and I think we could all learn things from your take aways

    • It was. And much of what I took away (other than specific craft techniques) is applicable to everyone. As Erma says, “If you can’t make it better, laugh at it.” Great advice for anyone.

  2. Lynne says:

    I love this photo!!! It was so nice to meet you! What an experience of a lifetime! See you in 2020!

  3. Mary McNeil says:

    Wow ! I love(d) Erma Bombeck and am so glad to know this tribute to her exists ! Glad you got to attend and best wishes for your endeavors and those of the other Ermites !

    • Thank you! Erma was awesome, wasn’t she? I was so excited when I found out about this conference two years ago and feel privileged that I was able to attend this year. Her legacy is incredible; such talented people are inspired by her and follow in her footsteps.

  4. Sounds like it was an awesome workshop.

  5. Jen Gregory says:

    Great essay! I have a similar quirk…with stains on my clothes. I cannot handle it when I have a stain, no matter how small. Great to meet you and so glad we got a NJ crew together!

    • Thank you! For me, I can feel every little speck in a shoe or sandal and it drives me nuts. That’s what was so amazing about Erma. I really stopped feeling my naked heel! Looking forward to getting the NJ crew together some time…

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: