Suit Up!

Posted Sep 25, 2021

Take a look at who’s suiting up to serve as preliminary judges. We have lined up dozens of remarkable authors, bloggers and humorists 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 for final judging by a duo from The Simpsons:  Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, and Mike Reiss, writer for the animated sitcom for three decades. All entries will be blind-judged. Three grand prize winners, three finalists ($250) and five honorable mentions ($100) will be announced in mid-November.

Finalist judges Nancy Cartwright, Mike Reiss

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

Nicky Adams, director of the writing internship program at the University of Dayton, where she teaches in the English department.

Melissa Balmain, editor of Light, America’s longest-running journal of light verse. She’s written a poetry collection Walking in on People (winner of the Able Muse Book Award) and the humorous The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy-tale Reboots for Adults. Her humor has appeared in The American BystanderLighten Up Online, Little Old Lady ComedyThe New YorkerThe New York TimesMcSweeney’sThe SatiristThe Washington PostWeekly Humorist and many anthologies.

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

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, author of two award-winning humor books, winner of several awards from the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers and co-host of the Lure Love podcast.

Tracy McArdle Brady, novelist (Confessions of a Nervous Shiksa; Real Women Eat Beef), essayist (The Boston Globe Magazine, Adweek, Fortune), communications executive and a 2020 grand prize winner of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program. Her blog Festival of Need chronicles the things everyone thinks about but no one says out loud.

Karen Bucci, a Dayton, Ohio, writer and one of 21 winners of Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing.

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

Mary Ellen Collins, freelance writer and essayist who has been a humor columnist for Angie’s List Magazine and a community columnist for The Arizona Republic. Her essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Tampa Bay Times and Writer’s Digest, among other publications.

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

Mary Farr, essayist, blogger and author of Don’t Postpone Joy and four other books.

Mary Kay Jordan Fleming, professor emerita of psychology and an award-winning humor writer (Erma Bombeck 2016, National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2019, 2020, 2021; Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing, 2020). She has published at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (including its upcoming parenting anthology), Next Avenue, Next Tribe, Points In Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Boomer Café and others.

Andrea Gelfuso Goetz, author of the humorous memoir, My Modena, a Year of Fear, Laughter, and Exhilaration in Italy.

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, the Texas Press Association and Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing).

Mary Beth Hoerner, Chicago writer, playwright and winner of Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing. Her play Atomic Honeymoon was performed at the CORNservatory in Chicago, and The Charisma of Flying Saucers was in the Dionysus Cup Festival of New Plays at the Greenhouse Theater. She also received a Ragdale residency in playwriting, and her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous magazines. Her humorous memoir, “Night Games,” appears in the anthology Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year.

Jackie Hostetler, teacher, writer and author from Kansas whose middle-school book Dare to be Amazing! is due out in October. Her work has appeared USA Today: Reviewed, Country Magazine and Her View From Home. In 2020, she was selected as one of 21 Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing winners, and in 2019, she was named a top-10 finalist in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.

Sarah Bricker Hunt, freelance writer for multiple outlets and copy editor for Pride Source Media, which publishes Between The Lines — the largest and longest-running LGBTQ+ publication in Michigan. She chaired the annual contest for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in 2019 and 2020, and in 2018, she won top honors for human-interest writing in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Karen Iseminger, pharmacist by day who blogs and writes a monthly column in her spare time.

Liz Kozak, award-winning producer, writer, editor and co-author of the book The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History. A 2020 grand prize winner of A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program, she serves as director of editorial and content development at The Second City.

Nancy LaFever, editor/word polisher/book coach and author of thousands of articles (Yes, she actually wrote, “How to Tape a Moving Box…”) on topics ranging from pop culture and humor to emotional health and art. Her work has appeared in USA Today, and other outlets.

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 Comedy, 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.

Margot Leitman, author of the best-selling Long Story Short: the Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever NeedWhat’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.

Peg Loftus, former USA Today reporter whose career includes a stint as assignment editor for AP Television in London.

Joel Madison, Peabody Award-winning 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.

Colleen Markley, novelist, blogger and freelance writer. Her latest novel, Lilith Land, is a story about a pandemic virus and the end of the world where only the women survive, which she describes as “a novel, not an action plan.” She’s one of 21 winners of Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing and was named Humor Writer of the Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in June 2021. 

Kevin McKeever, two-time National Society of Newspaper Columnists top winner (general column and humor column), City Dads Group website editor, humor blogger at Always Home and Uncool and an occasionally paid freelance writer.

Allia Zobel Nolan, former senior editor of religious books at Reader’s Digest and author of over 150 titles. 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. Her “what-I-did-during Covid” new releases include The Worrywart’s Prayer Book; What I Like about You: a Book about Acceptance; and Why a Cat Is Still Better than a Man. Her title Cat Confessions: a Kitty Come Clean Tell-All Book recently won an ECPA Bronze Award for selling over 100,000 copies.

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

Lorraine Ray, award-winning author of the devotional Yes, Cheese-Us Loves Me! and associate professor emeritus at Ohio University. Her other works include humorous essays in BELLA magazine, plays performed for the South Carolina Writers Association and short stories in various anthologies, including Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget. In 2019, she won The Saturday Evening Post limerick contest.

Rebecca Regnier, award-winning journalist, television host, humor columnist and author. Her paranormal mystery series, Widow’s Bay, are a witty mix of True Blood and Desperate Housewives. In 2020, she won first place in humor writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for her columns in the Monroe News.

Lisa Page Rosenberg, a former writer/director/producer for television. Credits include series and specials for NBC, WB, Comedy Central, MTV and VH-1. Her stories have been published in essay collections, Listen to Your Mother, Moms Are Nuts, A Letter to My Mom and True to Life Parenthood

Anne Saker, health writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer/ She was on the Enquirer team that earned the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. She is also the author of Amid the Flowersa memoir about her midlife year in the floral department of a local grocery. 

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. She is co-editor of Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter, to be published by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop this fall.

Jerry Zezima, award-winning author and columnist. He writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.