Drumroll! Introducing Preliminary Judges

Posted Sep 24, 2019

We have lined up nearly 50 top-notch preliminary judges to review and rank the entries in “A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.”

The judges, all established writers, will narrow the field to 10 funny writers for judging by Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and best-selling novelist Adriana Trigiani. All entries are blind-judged. Two grand prize winners, three finalists ($250) and five honorable mentions ($100) will be announced Nov. 12.

We’re grateful to the finalist and preliminary judges who are volunteering their time to assess the applications. Here are the preliminary judges:

Alan Abitbol, assistant professor of communication, University of Dayton.

Elaine Ambrose, author, syndicated blogger and humorist, is the founder of Mill Park Publishing. She has written or co-authored 15 books, including Menopause Sucks and Midlife Cabernet, both national bestsellers.

Natasha Baker, lecturer in the communication department at the University of Dayton and former editor of Dayton Magazine.

John Batteiger, deputy managing editor, New York Times News Service and biographer of 1920s newspaper columnist and humor writer Don Marquis.

Tracy Beckerman, syndicated humor columnist and author of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir and Rebel Without a Minivan.

Barb Best, award-winning humorist whose comedy material has been performed by Joan Rivers and other comedians. Her work has been published in numerous print and online magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Laugh Lines” and The Saturday Evening Post. She’s written seven humorous books.

Tim Bete, former director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and author of two award-winning humor books, In The Beginning…There Were No Diapers and Guide to Pirate Parenting, and two books of poetry, The Raw Stillness of Heaven and Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim.

Matt Bombeck, Los Angeles screenwriter. (Oh, yeah — and Erma’s son.)

Kim Bongiorno, author, freelance writer and award-winning blogger. She’s a contributor to various online publications, has been published in 11 books, including The New York Times bestseller I Just Want to Pee Alone, wrote a short story collection called Part of My World and recently completed her first middle grade novel.

Donna Cavanagh, founder of HumorOutcasts.com (HO) and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press (humor books), which expanded to include the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books so authors of all genres would be represented. She’s written four humor books, including How to Write and Share Humor: Techniques to Tickle Funny Bones and Win Fans.

Karen Chee, inaugural humorist-in-residence winner. The Brooklyn-based comedian and essayist is part of an Emmy-nominated group of comedy writers on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Her writing credits also include the 2019 Golden Globe Awards and the upcoming Reductress pilot on Comedy Central. She’s also a regular contributor to The New Yorker and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeneys and others national outlets.

Ginger Claremohr, an award-winning self-syndicated columnist and motivational speaker. She contributes pieces to HumorOutcasts.com, and one of her humorous essays won an award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Tom Columbus, editor emeritus of the University of Dayton Magazine and author of a book of essays, Amazing Grace: Hopes and Memories.

Laura C. Combs, instructor of communication at the University of Dayton.

Michelle Poston Combs, blogger and essayist. In her blog “Rubber Shoes In Hell,” she explores the absurd side of aging, parental narcissism and anxiety. Her work as been featured in The Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, In The Powder Room, Scary Mommy, The Mid and Mock Moms.

Matt Dewald, editor of the University of Richmond Magazine and former director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Debe Dockins, community outreach and development coordinator at Washington-Centerville Library and director of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Allison Engel, journalist, author and playwright (Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End and Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins). Mostly recently, she co-authored ThriftStyle: The Ultimate Bargain Shopper’s Guide to Smart Fashion with her twin sister Margaret.

Margaret Engel, journalist, author and playwright (Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End and Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins). She and her twin sister Allison wrote Food Finds: America’s Best Local Foods and the People Who Produce Them and helped turn the book into a show for Food Network, where it ran for seven years.

Karin Esterhammer, author of the humorous travel memoir, So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam. Editor, writer and travel columnist for 15 years for the Los Angeles Times.

Mary Farr, author of eight books, essayist, blogger.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, award-winning essayist, feature writer and blogger. She serves as communications director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Cincinnati Enquirer and Scary Mommy Medium, among other outlets.

Jason (Jase) Graves, department chair of language development at Kilgore College, where he also teaches English. His humor columns appear in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S. with the Cagle Cartoons Syndicate. He has won awards from National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Writer’s Digest and the Texas Press Association.

Sarah Hunt, founder of Storybuzz, a communications firm. An award-winning writer and editor, she chaired the annual contest for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in 2019. In 2018, she won top honors for human-interest writing in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Leigh Anne Jasheway, teacher, humorist, stand-up comic, stress management coach and former radio host. The author of 25 books, including Not Guilty by Reasons of Menopause, Bedtime Stories for Dogs and Life is Funny, she won the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in humor writing in 2003. She organizes an annual comedy benefit, the Laff Off, and coordinates the annual Northwest Women’s Comedy Festival.

Kathy Kinney, actress, improv star and co-author of three books, Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You DeserveQueenisms: 101 Jolts of Inspiration and Queen of Your Own Life: If Not Now, When?

Caitlin Kunkel, satirist, author and co-founder of The Belladonna, a satire site for women authors. Along with The Belladonna editors, she co-wrote the gift book, New Erotica for Feminists: Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust and Equal Pay, in 2018. She created the online satire program for The Second City and co-founded the Satire and Humor Festival in 2019. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

Paul Lander, TV comedy writer, award-winning columnist and producer.  His humor pieces have appeared in MAD, American Bystander, Weekly Humorist, McSweeneys, National Lampoon, Robot Butt, Little Old Lady Blog, Humor Times, Humor Outcasts, and more.  He’s written standup material that’s been performed on The Daily Show, Real Time, Conan, David Letterman: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize and The DL Hughley Show.

Dave Larsen, award-winning journalist (Dayton Daily News and Hartford Courant), now serving as communication coordinator for the University of Dayton’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Margot Leitman, author of the best-selling Long Story Short: the Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, What’s Your Story? and Gawky: Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase. She has written for DreamWorks TV, the Hallmark Channel, and the Pixl Network and worked for “This American Life” as the West Coast story scout.

Wendy Liebman, stand-up comic who’s performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, America’s Got Talent and her Showtime special, Taller on TV.  She currently produces Locally Grown Comedy, a monthly stand-up show in Studio City, California.

Peg Loftus, former USA Today reporter, AP television assignment editor.

Joel Madison, sitcom writer, standup comic. During his stand-up days, he wrote for numerous comedians including Rosanne Barr — who gave him his first TV writing gig. His television credits include more than a dozen shows, including The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Larry Sanders Show, America’s Funniest Home Videos and Malcolm and Eddie, which he created and served as co-executive producer. He frequently writes for various Judd Apatow projects. Most recently, he wrote for the HBO series, Crashing.

Lois Alter Mark, a travel expert at USA Today 10 Best, a regular contributor to Forbes.com, blogger at Midlife at the Oasis and winner of three BlogHer Voices of the Year Awards.

Fred Marion, essayist and author of a weekly email newsletter on art, life and creativity with a children’s novel in progress.

Kevin McKeever, award-winning humor writer whose work appears regularly in the Stamford Advocate. His scribblings also have been featured in the (New York) Daily News, The (Toronto) Globe and MailUSA Today and The Huffington Post.

Holly Michael, associate vice president at Fahlgren Mortine, an award-winning marketing and communications agency.

Nichole Morgan, founder of the Sisters’ Hood, an online magazine-styled community website of wordsmiths and gurus encompassing women in all stages of life worldwide.

Allia Zobel Nolan, former senior editor at Reader’s Digest, who has published close to 200 books — some for children, others for cat lovers, some humorous, some devotional. In 2018, she collaborated with the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop on the humor anthology, Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget.

Gianetta Palmer, blogger, copywriter and essayist. Her work has appeared in EverydayHealth.com, Healthline and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of four books, including Scrunchie-Fried and the forthcoming novel The Wayne Valley Lady’s Supper Club.

Anne Parris, blogger and a partner in Midlife Boulevard.com, a lifestyle site for women.

Susan Pohlman, writer, editor, writing mentor and retreat leader in Phoenix. She wrote the memoir, Halfway to Each Other, and six short films.

Anne Saker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Cincinnati Enquirer reporter and author of Amid the Flowers.

Barbara Sanders, author of five books, including Puttin’ on the Dog and Gettin’ Bit: A Madcap Memoir of Sorts.  

Samantha Schoech, inaugural humorist-in-residence winner. She’s published pieces in Seventeen, Glimmer Train, the Sun, The New York Times, and other magazines and literary journals. She’s also co-edited two books, The Bigger the Better, the Tighter the Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image and Other Hazards of Being Female and Tied in Knots: Funny Stories from the Wedding Day, and recently finished a collection of funny personal essays, Lucky Like That.

Suzette Martinez Standring, executive director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, syndicated spirituality columnist for Gatehouse Media and author of The Art of Column Writing and The Art of Opinion Writing.

Sherry Stanfa Stanley, writer, humorist and squeamish adventurer. Fighting midlife inertia, she stared down a year of fear through The 52/52 Project: a year of weekly new experiences designed to push her far outside her comfort zone. She wrote the award-winning memoir, Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truth and Dares.

Marcia Stewart, a 30-year publishing veteran who spent most of her career acquiring, editing and writing books for Nolo and is now writing and developing humor books.

Jerry Zezima, award-winning author and columnist. He writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group that is distributed nationally and abroad by Tribune News Service of Chicago. He’s written four books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Grandfather Knows Best, and won seven humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, where he served a stint as president.