Swaddle Me in Terry Cloth

Posted Sep 30, 2021

“Let’s face it: I’d rejoice if I had a wobbly table in a leaky cabin all to myself for two weeks,” one writer wrote in a pitch to be selected for A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.

“Virginia Woolf believed that access to a room of one’s own was what women needed to pursue their literary goals; she didn’t even consider the creative inspiration generated from a breakfast buffet, all-you-can-drink coffee or a fluffy robe,” she added.

The writing residency’s perks inspired others, too. “Two words: Clean towels,” one wrote. “Swaddle me in terry cloth — I’m eager to crack my knuckles over the laptop,” another said.

In all, the 2021 contest attracted 282 applications from 43 states coast to coast, Washington, D.C. and four countries  — Australia, Canada, Spain and the UK.

What humor writer wouldn’t want to attend the University of Dayton’s wildly popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and spend an additional two all-expenses-paid weeks at a hotel in Dayton, Ohio? Free room service. A housekeeping staff. An omelette bar. A TV remote of your own. The sun rising over the Great Miami River (aka, the Dayton Riviera). 

And, most importantly, a “Do Not Disturb” sign.  Forbes says it “may be the best writing residency in the country.”

“I can’t imagine a bigger kick in the leggings than attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, then walking down the hall to your hotel room, settling in with a nice Monte Cristo sandwich, and channeling all that fresh creative energy into your writing for two straight weeks. Either you make substantial progress on your humor project, or you get totally caught up on All My Children. Talk about a win-win!” said Anna Lefler, a Los Angeles-based novelist and humorist who underwrote and helped create and launch the biennial program in 2017.

Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, and Mike Reiss, writer for The Simpsons for three decades, will serve as finalist judges. Preliminary judges include dozens of authors, bloggers and humorists. All entries will be blind-judged. Three grand prize winners, three finalists ($250) and five honorable mentions ($100) will be announced in mid-November.

The program attracted entries from a diversity of writers working on comedic novels, narrative non-fiction, plays, essays, sitcom scripts and other humor-writing projects.

“This is the writing getaway that will be the catalyst to my comedy writing career,” one applicant wrote. I am the ideal candidate for the program because humor is what drives me, what saves me, and what keeps me going.”

Besides the residency, the workshop also co-sponsors an international writing competition organized by the Washington-Centerville Public Library. The contest opens Nov. 30, with entries accepted until Jan. 4, 2022.  Four winners will receive cash prizes and free registration to the March 24-26, 2022, workshop.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is the only workshop in the country devoted to both humor and human interest writing and is so popular that it typically sells out within hours. Registration for the spring workshop will open in December. Registration is currently open for a half-day virtual workshop on memoir writing with Jenny Lawson and Wade Rouse on Saturday, Oct. 23.