Wallow in Words

Posted Oct 07, 2023

“Who wouldn’t want this honor because Erma is the G.O.A.T.,” 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.

All applicants told us they thirst for a block of uninterrupted time to lock themselves in a hotel room and write.

“My computer is filled with works in progress and my desk is a hodgepodge of ideas, inspiration and Cheetos dust,” one writer said. “After four drafts and six cups of sweat, I find words that make ideas come together. I now think of myself as an emerging writer, not someone who occasionally writes. I will continue to scrunch one hour of writing time into each morning, but would love the opportunity to wallow in words for multiple days.”

In all, the 2023 contest attracted 243 applications from 40 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 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.”

“There’s so much that can be accomplished with some quality time and solitude. Think of it as a two-week creative stakeout — just swap a comfy hotel room for your Chevy Caprice,” said Anna Lefler, a Los Angeles-based novelist and humorist who underwrote and helped create and launch the biennial program in 2017.

Improvisor Dion Flynn, best known as Barack Obama (and other characters) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and comedy writer Monica Piper, former head writer for the #1 children’s animated series Rugrats, will serve as finalist judges. Preliminary judges include dozens of authors, bloggers and humorists. All entries will be blind-judged. Two grand prize winners and a select number of finalists ($250) and honorable mentions ($100) will be announced in November.

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

“The world is a hot mess and despite the cliché, I do think humor is the best medicine. And what better way to learn more about that than the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop? I’m itching to join fellow funny-bone ticklers and immerse myself in that infectious energy,” one applicant wrote. “Carrying that over into dedicated time at University of Dayton Marriott would be a great way to infuse energy into my project. Plus, the hotel has a Fitness Center. I’m more inclined to pump prose than weights. So I’ll definitely stay in my room and be productive.”

Besides the residency, the workshop also co-sponsors an international writing competition organized by the Washington-Centerville Public Library. The contest opens Dec. 4, with entries accepted until Jan. 8, 2024. Four winners will receive $1,000 and a free registration to the April 4-6, 2024, workshop.

The workshop offers virtual programs, too. Pitchapalooza, a free event, takes place at 8 p.m. (EST) on Oct. 9. Register here. Registration is also currently open for an Oct. 21 half-day virtual humor-writing workshop featuring keynoter Marta Kauffman, the Emmy Award-winning creator of Friends.

The popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is the only workshop in the country devoted to both humor and human interest writing. Registration for the spring workshop will open Nov. 15.