A Veritable Laugh-Inn: University Of Dayton Launches Humorist-In-Residence Program

Posted Sep 06, 2017

DAYTON, Ohio — Room service. An omelet bar. The sun rising over the Great Miami River or, as some affectionately call it, the Dayton Riviera.

Thanks to a generous gift from comic novelist and writer Anna Lefler, the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is offering two emerging humor writers the opportunity to dive into their comedy writing without the interruption of pesky everyday responsibilities.

That’s the premise behind the newly launched “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program” at the University of Dayton Marriott.

What writer wouldn’t want to spend two all-expenses-paid, blissful weeks of solitude at a hotel in Dayton, Ohio? Yes, a hotel. It’s the ultimate gift for any writer — the luxury of time to write. Winners also will receive a free registration to the April 5-7, 2018, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Online applications are due by midnight (EST) Oct. 6, with the winners announced Dec. 4. The program is open to all aspiring humor writers regardless of gender or comedic point of view. Writers working on novels, narrative non-fiction, plays, essays, sitcom scripts and other humor writing are encouraged to apply, with special consideration given to emerging writers. The application fee is $25. All entries will be blind-judged by preliminary and finalist judges, all established writers.

“The premise of the program is to give a creative boost to writers who do not yet have the benefit of a milestone achievement such as a traditional book deal, a sold script or the like,” says Teri Rizvi, founder and director of the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. “The application process is open to all, with the understanding that judges will be keeping this premise in mind throughout the selection process.”

A self-described “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck,” Lefler says she was inspired to start the program because, much like the wildly popular biennial workshop, it has the potential to transform a writer’s life.

The chance to step away from your everyday responsibilities to concentrate on your humor writing AND unlimited tiny soaps? The comedy practically writes itself.

“The chance to step away from your everyday responsibilities to concentrate on your humor writing AND unlimited tiny soaps? The comedy practically writes itself,” says Lefler, a Los Angeles-based humorist who is the author of two funny books, Preschooled and The Chicktionary, and a three-time faculty member at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

“This is an opportunity for funny writers to deep dive into their comedic voices and create without limitations. I would be thrilled for this program to provide the catalyst for emerging comedy writers to break through with their art.”

For any writer, an uninterrupted block of time is golden.

In the early days, celebrated humorist Erma Bombeck kept her bedroom door closed while she tapped out her syndicated column on a makeshift desk — a plank between cinder blocks. When the children came home from school, they pushed notes under the door. At one point, Bombeck quipped to her husband, “You know, Bill, I have lost chapter two of my book, and I found out I had been sleeping with it.”

Lefler says she wrote much of her first book in her car. “I always carried my writing with me and when my children, who are 17 months apart, happened to fall asleep at the same time while I was driving, I would find a shady spot to park and work until they woke up. I didn’t have a laptop back then, so I wrote longhand in pencil on a legal pad propped on my steering wheel. Quiet writing time was golden and I made the most of it — at least until I had to go to the bathroom,” she remembers with a laugh.

As part of the residencies, the winners will write funny essays about their experience living and writing at the Dayton Marriott for the workshop’s blog and meet with University of Dayton classes to discuss the writing journey.

“Like all serious writers, we expect our two residents to fritter some of their time away on social media. Look for updates from the Dayton Marriott under the hashtags #HotelLOL, #RoomServiceWriter and #LaughInn,” Lefler says.

A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program is one of a number of unconventional writing residencies popping up around the country. This year, more than 4,000 writers applied to be the Mall of America’s writer-in-residence. The Kerouac Project of Orlando offers four residencies each year to writers, who stay in the Florida cottage where Jack Kerouac wrote. And Amtrak has funded a writer-in-residency for scribes who enjoy writing on a train — and blogging about their experience.

Founded in 2000, the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop has been dubbed the “Woodstock of Humor.” It’s the only workshop in the country devoted to both humor and human interest writing and is so popular that it sells out within hours. It also co-sponsors an international writing competition.

For more information about the writing residency, visit www.humorist-in-residence.com. For more information about the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, visit www.humorwriters.org.