Ok, y’all know I love me a good writers conference. After I left a career in corporate sales to be a writer, I made attending writers conferences part of my ongoing education goal. I’ve attended at least one a year since 2012.
Well, this year something magical happened. I GOT INTO THE ERMA BOMBECK WRITERS WORKSHOP!
ERMA BOMBECK, FOLKS! ONE OF THE FOREMOTHERS OF FUNNY!
The Erma conference happens every two years, and the last two times I tried to get in, it sold out. No joke, this conference sells out faster every year, like in four hours or less.
So this year, I marked my calendar, I had my morning off, I was holding my credit card in hand with my laptop and my phone ready to GO!
And then, I flew to Dayton, Ohio and proudly wore my newbie sticker that said “Erma Virgin”. Yes, that is what they gave us. Be still my humor-loving, former Catholic heart.
I’ve been to some stellar conferences and always left inspired, but there was energy like you can’t imagine at this conference. (In fact, the organizers said this was the highest rated conference to date!) I got my schedule, planned out where I was going to go, and then immediately threw that out the window, tried something new, made great friends, and gave it all my best!
ERMAgawd, here’s why you should go!
Taking risks leads to opportunities and learning lessons.
You all know I like to say yes to new experiences, but being the newbie here, I was admittedly nervous.
A fair amount of the workshop focused on stand up comedy with the hilarious Wendy Liebman. Wendy’s been a stand up comedian for over 30 years. She’s performed on Carson, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Kimmel, and been a finalist on America’s Got Talent.
It seemed like everyone was talking about the stand up classes. Everyone I met was trying stand up or working on their bits. But I had no intention of going. I’m not a stand up, so that’s not for me.
You guys all know I went, right? LOL
I had planned what workshops I was going to attend the night before they started, and that was the last time I looked at that list. If the stand up classes were getting all the buzz, then I decided to go and see what I could learn from them. After all, I like working in different formats because it teaches you new things about your writing.
After the first class listening to people tell jokes, my gears just started rolling and I spent that night coming up with some material. So the next day, I got up with a bunch of other brave, risk-taking people and did a minute of stand up. And I got laughs! Good ones! That is a very good feeling. One that I’m interested and willing to try again! All because of a risk.
A risk, and the ever delightful and supportive Wendy Liebman, who just happened to be on the same flight to Chicago as me, and who gave me wonderful feedback and encouragement while sitting at our departure gate despite the fact that it wasn’t even 6am yet. Bless you, you’re so kind and charming, and I’m eternally grateful.
Find the Funny
The other classes I attended were about finding the funny, whether it’s using it to add heart or get through hard times. Or even just on Twitter.
One of my favorite workshops was with Lauretta Hannon, author of The Cracker Queen. She had a lot of great tips on being comfortable with writing your story, even the dark parts, while being ok with yourself in the process. I can’t wait to read her book after she shared some examples of how to use humor to write about the tough stuff, and also where to let the dark moments speak for themselves, because we know not everything we go through will be funny.
Both Lauretta and T. Faye Griffin, another presenter, reiterated that making people laugh is a gift. Some of the best writers out there have the ability to make you feel something or learn something, but do so through humor, and that is a very special skill.
It’s kind of mesmerizing to me how many different ways there are to be funny. You can do stand up, you can tell a story, you can caption a photo, you can come up with a punchy headline, you can tweet just to name a few. If there was one takeaway from this conference, it is that “funny” is all around us, and we have the skill to shape it.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity. The crowd at Erma is one of the most supportive I’ve ever seen, which is appreciated because I took one other risk while I was at the conference and signed up for Pitchapalooza, “the American Idol of books”.
In a room of roughly 100 people, I put my name in a hat that probably had at least 60 of those people’s names in it. Only 12 were chosen and I was one of them. I got to pitch my book for one minute to a panel of judges and get feedback on my pitch.
I swear I thought the audience would hear my heart beating through the microphone, but I had practiced my pitch beforehand and gave it my all. I didn’t win the contest. (Way to go, Liz Dubelman, who did win! She was the first person to say hi to me at the conference, so I have a soft spot for her as a human being. Thanks!) I got really positive feedback and simple tweaks to improve my pitch, and was even complimented on my performance! And that’s a win in my book!
So there you have it, taking risks and finding the funny is what Erma is all about. I’m so glad I could attend and so grateful to the conference organizers, presenters, the keynotes (btw, I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed all the female keynotes got standing ovations), and my fellow attendees. I’m still riding the highs and energized by all of you!
What are you currently learning about your writing right now?
What’s inspiring you?
My friend Heather is a smart, lovable lady who doesn’t watch a lot of movies. Ask her if she’s seen something and the answer is probably no.
A month ago, however, she messages me and tells me I need to watch the show Twin Peaks, a cult drama I had never seen. She described it as a small town murder mystery. Ok, sure, I wanna know what happened to Laura Palmer, the dead girl. I’ll watch.
So I reserve what ends up being a season one and two box set from the library, and I message Heather when it comes in so we can have a social media shared viewing party.
Only I never hear back from her.
I message her via text, I try Facebook messenger, and I tweet at her. But if Heather is bad at having seen movies everyone else on the planet has seen, she is terrible at checking social media. Like working for the CDC is so hard, Heather? Check your messages! I have questions about this melodramatic tv show you made me watch!
So I watched all of season one and over half of season two without her. In a state of growing irritation.
I hate this show. Now all I have are questions.
I finally heard back from Heather. Her phone died and it took days to get a new one. This loss would unhinge a social media person like myself, but Heather just went on living her life, working by day, eating pizza rolls like a boss at night, probably sketching something amazing because she is a talented artist too.
So by the time I heard back from her, I had my own melodramatic show to air. I wanted to know why she made me watch this ridiculous show.
Here are the screenshots of our text conversation in which I tell Heather she is a terrible human being for making me watch Twin Peaks.
*Warning: if you haven’t seen the show, there are spoilers ahead.
This song is three minutes of teenage torture. Get your shit together, Donna! This is not a healthy relationship!
And now I find out the show is being revived and airing on Showtime! People are eating pie and dream dancing all about it on Twitter.
Also Heather has stopped replying to my texts once again. I think the owls got her.
Your turn. What do YOU think of Twin Peaks?
My husband and I are celebrating two years of marriage this month. And we’ve been a couple for a decade.
We should probably have a song picked out by now.
I mean, we kinda do. We have the song we first danced to. The song we sang at our wedding. We’ve recorded two CDs for family covering songs we love. Given my husband is a professional musician, there is no shortage of music in our home.
Yet, on a recent car trip, a specific song came on the radio and Joe’s eyes lit up in excitement as he said, “Do you know what this is?”
“Think Tia Carrere.”
It was Dreamweaver by Gary Wright.
“This should be our song,” said Joe.
“Um, I’m not sure I agree with that. Even if it is the soundtrack for a great scene in Wayne’s World.”
I politely suggested another song.
Bird on a Wire by Aaron Neville.
And that, is when my husband gave me a look that said “we will not be figuring out what our song is today.”
Also, he was less than enthused when I started playing this song after he exited the bathroom later that day. *shrug* I still say it’s got a good groove.
What’s your song? How did you choose it?
What song recommendation do you have for Joe and I?
Because clearly, we can’t be trusted.
I’ve missed you. How the heck are each of you?!
I’ve been busy working on projects. Lots of projects!
So, here’s what I was up to while I was away…
Co-Hosting a Film Screening
That’s right! My talented and inspiring new friend, Stephanie Sharp, invited me to co-host a private screening of the indie arts collaboration film, Indie Kindred.
Are you ready to get inspired? Watch this!
The film and movement behind Indie Kindred comes from storyteller and filmmaker, Jen Lee. You might recall that name when I talked about The 10 Letters Project, which another local writer and I are emulating in a local magazine.
Indie Kindred is the story of makers paving their own paths, finding other creatives they can work with, and collaborating to make something good. Indie + Kindred + Collaboration.
So, 2 weeks ago, about a dozen of us makers (artists, designers,chefs, writers, and repurposers) met in Stephanie’s home for some good food, show and tell, a film screening and makers chat. Most of us did not know each other. Now, we’ve created our own private group of local makers online and have plans for a second gathering and retreat! Because as Jen Lee so eloquently puts it “Doing it yourself, doesn’t mean do it alone.”
Interested in hosting your own screening or meeting other makers? There’s a public facebook community for Indie Kindred!
A sampling of the work shown at our makers meetup.
Held Auditions and Cast a Show
Three days. Eleven hours. Almost 40 auditioners. And now…we have a cast!!!
La Crosse joins 40 other cities giving motherhood a microphone in our debut, live, on-stage storytelling event, Listen to Your Mother! I’m so pleased to be working with each of the cast members we selected to share their stories and to raise funds for our local YWCA who has worked to end racism and empower women and girls.
Behind the scenes at auditions.
Here’s an accurate account of my life right now…
And here’s what I came across on the internet and thought you might enjoy…
Me whenever anyone offers me caffeine lately.
This Tumblr account that imagines Kylo Ren living at home with Han and Leia.
This comedian talking about what we do when the doorbell rings.
(found via the hilarious Darla of She’s a Maineiac)
This book we bought for our nephew. Ok, actually for his parents.
You can’t beat this hilarious bedtime story for adults.
That’s what I was up to while I was away.
What have YOU been up to, friends?
The wide world of the interwebs has been on a role lately. It gave us these amazing gifts and scattered them across our Facebook feeds, blog readers, twitter timelines, and one of my particularly favorite time wasters, YouTube, and its endless rabbit hole of clips to watch.
With the new year already flying by, friends and family alike are feeling overwhelmed. Adding in the loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman only heightened all “the feels” and I think we could all use a little entertainment that makes us smile, or better yet, bust a gut laugh.
I Give You These Gifts the Internet Gave Us
Go Ahead and Laugh
Because everyone loves a good pun, Comedy Central sent out the hashtag request to #InternetABook, and Buzzfeed collected 29 Hilarious Literary Internet Puns. Don’t judge me, but my favorite one was “Moby Dick Pic.” I died laughing.
Reaching ERMAGHERD status – James Corden and Tom Hanks acted out Hanks’s film career in a matter of minutes and it’s spectacular.
Stop everything you’re doing right now and take this quiz. Wes Anderson has to be one of my all time favorite film directors. I will watch anything that man creates, even if it was an ad revival to bring back yellow pages on the home shopping network. (But why would anyone want that?) Anyway…
I got: Jane from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
“You and Jane share a tenacity and a love of words. Whether you’re also a journalist or not, you’re always searching for the truth and greater meaning in life, just like Jane. You’d make an effing great duo.”
Brace yourselves, children, because Anne of Green Gables is back!
Or check out celebrity nano-impressions by Ross Marquand! See celebrity impressions in common day snafus. My fave: Brad Pitt forgets what he was going to say.
In honor of Alan Rickman, let’s talk about that time he pranked Harry Potter with a fart machine. Don’t you wish you were a fly on that set?
And Now For Some Self-Care Super-Stories
August McLaughlin is my sister from another mother, and she penned this awesome post about 5 Empowering Questions to Ask Yourself Daily for a Groovier, More Impactful Life. I am all about the side hustle right now.
Kirsten Weiss of the Para Your Normal blog shared 5 Mantras to Boost Your Magick. Let’s just say, the universe has been telling me this for awhile, and I’m ready to listen.
My friend Liz from Be. Love. Live. is offering free life coaching now – and I jumped at the chance. Liz has 20 years of experience as a mentor and coach and her blog is one of my favorite motivational/inspirational blogs. It’s real, she’s on a journey too, and it’s full of her beautiful photography not stupid posters with kittens hanging from tree branches. (Note* I have nothing against kittens on tree branches.) Check out Living Intentionally: How to Take Control of Your Life One Moment at a Time.
“Raise your hand if you’ve felt completely overwhelmed sometime in the last six months.” That’s the comaraderie you’ll find with Heather at Hiya Tootsie who gifts us with How to Handle the Overwhelm: a 6 part strategy.
If inspirational just isn’t your thing, then I leave you with Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. He’s got this thing figured out, and it’s funny.
What’s been making you laugh this week?
How are you following your dreams?
Many of you now know about my serendipitous run-in with Keanu Reeves. I still don’t understand quite how that happened, but I’m glad it did as it was awesome. What you don’t know is that I also ran into Bigfoot.
I was planning to write a very different story for my blog that weekend. A story about a hiking trip that Joe and I went on.
And to that I say, at least we’re consistent, which is a prime foundation to have in a marriage, especially when one party may have pooped their pants while hiking thereby ruining all shreds of romance forever.
So before Joe and I ended up at the bar where I glanced out the window and commented “That guy looks like Keanu,” we were hiking.
Sure, sure, this is exactly how it’s supposed to look. I always crawl through death branches to get from point A to point B.
True to form, Joe rarely lets me pick what direction we go since I’m supposedly the one that got us lost the first time. But then, he went and picked a trail that looks like this!
Me: “Well this looks like a dark and treacherous path.”
Joe: “I’ve made my peace with it.”
It doesn’t even phase him anymore!
When we crept upon the creepiest cavern looking structure, we debated.
Me: “Oh look at that. I bet that’s the witch’s cabin.”
Joe: “That’s just a rock formation.”
Me: “That’s what she wants you to think.”
Amazingly, we were not witch-napped and forced to eat sweets until our bellies burst and no one made pies out of our intestines and such. But it was a close call, lemme tell you.
On a sunnier trail, we fell into one of our usual conversations comparing our relationship to various film or book references. You know, a “you’re Wild Bill Hickock and I’m Calamity Jane from Deadwood” or “you’re Lonestar from Spaceballs, but I’m Dot not Princess Vespa.”
And then Joe tried to sum us up with this…
Joe: “The difference between us is that I’m more crass, but you have the dirtier mind.”
Me: *leans in really close to his ear and whispers* “You’re welcome.”
And then this is the part where I’m guessing Joe got sun poisoning. Or temporarily possessed by aliens because I shot this photo….
Pretty funky lighting, amirite?
And then he did this…
Who knew, Bigfoot’s in Wisconsin?!
How was your week everyone?
I am not a photogenic person. I never have been. I simply don’t have one of those faces that effortlessly looks amazing all the time.
I have one of those faces that requires work. It is great for making really awkward faces. I have a big nose, that scrunches up when I show any kind of emotion, and I have gigantic teeth. No, literally my teeth are so big, I’ve had NINE removed, and I still have a full set of teeth.
You may be thinking, “That’s…a fun fact. Thanks for sharing?”
Those selfies you see on my instagram account probably required like 20 or more shots. My photo collections from trips I take or events I’m involved in are all staged. You will not find candids, because when people try to take candids of me, they look like this…
That is a real, undoctored photo my husband took of me while storytelling.
And I was telling a funny story! Why do I look so…so…annoyed?
Have you ever watched America’s Next Top Model, that show hosted by Tyra Banks? She’s always telling the girls to smile with their eyes, she calls it SMIZE. Well, if the photos from above are any indication, the only contest I’m going to win is for the smier – I can sneer with my eyes, you guys. Or maybe it’s smudge? Cause I’m judging you with my eyes. All I know is, look at that epic scowl, folks?
And that’s why I’ll never be a teen model.
Also I’m pretty sure there’s an age clause in the contract that requires the model to in fact, BE a teenager. But I haven’t looked into it, who knows?
How do you feel about photos of yourself?
Do you know how to smize or better yet, smier?
I turn 30 next month.
I’ve moved on from childish behavior like eating Cheetos for dinner. Now, I am a sophisticated adult who eats Cheetos for dinner…with a glass of wine. And with better clothes, because I shop at Stitch Fix.
Thanks for the “fashion advice,” Mom. NOT.
I’ve surpassed the emotional roller coaster that this new decade has been inducing. I’ve let go of “do this by the time I’m 30” deadlines. And now, I’m looking forward to it. I think 30 is going to be a great year.
I still feel the need to document my life thus far though. A lot of change and growth, and loss and love, has happened in my 20’s and I want to acknowledge it. I’d been thinking of doing some kind of 30 facts before 30 post, when lo and behold, blogger pal, Liz from Be. Love. Live shared her own 31 Questions theme. And since she invited others to join in, I’m doing just that.
Here’s 30 Questions Answered Before I Turn 30.
- Where’s your cellphone? If not in my hand, then it’s right next to me. I have a problem.
- Where’s your second half? After making us a scrumptious breakfast this morning, he is out for a run, letting me work in peace.
- Your hair? Is messy. I let it air dry. But the color is my natural red.
- Your mood? Excited. It’s going to be a good day.
- Your plan for today? To catch up on writing assignments and then go hiking with my bae.
- What’s the best you know? Best I know of what? I know I like red ales and Leinenkugel’s Red is a great one. I think David Sedaris’ essay Six to Eight Black Men is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. I think sharing that story about that time I pooped my pants has made more people come forward and share their own shitastrophies, and that makes me like each of them a bit more.
- Your dream last night? I didn’t dream last night, or if I did, I don’t remember it. But last weekend after Joe and I binged watched Season Five of The Walking Dead, I dreamed that I was out scavenging for food and shelter all night long. I was exhausted the next morning.
- Your goal in life? To publish my book, and to make people laugh.
- The room you’re in? The kitchen, at the table by the window. The most common space I write in, and where Joe often catches me.
- Your hobby? Blogging, reading, hanging out in coffee shops, doing improv, talking in weird voices, shocking my mother…
Hobbying like a boss.
- Your fear? Bugs.
- Where would you like to be in six years? Celebrating the six year anniversary of you asking me that question. 😉
- Where were you yesterday evening? At home with the hubs, watching The Grand Budapest Hotel.
- What are you not? I am not coordinated. Please don’t throw balls at me.
- Something you wish? I wish I had some chocolate. Like now.
- Where did you grow up? In a small town in southeast Wisconsin.
- What was the last thing you did? Watch Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen: Toad in a Hole. This girl makes me giggle.
- Your clothes? I’m rocking my Dolly Parton tshirt.
- Your TV? Is a host to many epic marathons such as #Keanuthon.
- Your computer? Is a multi-holiday gift from my husband after my old one died. It’s a MacBook Air, and I still don’t really know how to use it. For the love of God, why can’t I just double click on things??!
- The best thing you own? My journals. Those notebooks hold my soul.
- Do you miss anyone? I miss my family. I miss the members that passed on too early. I miss friends that are kindred spirits despite living across the country.
- Your car? Is a 2004 Nissan Sentra, and her name is Dionne.
- Something you’re not wearing? Socks.
- Favorite store? It is quickly becoming Etsy. And does Stitch Fix count? It is a store, but you don’t go to it, it comes to you.
Where my book nerds at?
- Your summer? The highlight was our annual summer vacation and road trip to Tennessee where we ate copious amounts of barbecue, listened to lots of live music, and visited with friends and family. Additional highs include storytelling at the Old School Variety Show, co-hosting part of the Film Freaks series with the library, and joining an improv troupe.
- Do you love anyone? Yah, there’s this boy I like.
It’s the one on the left.
- Favorite color? Green and turquoise.
- When did you last laugh? I laughed watching that Hannah Hart video. Did you watch it? Go watch it. She’s so silly.
- When did you last cry? I cried watching The Walking Dead because some of my favorite characters were killed off. I won’t say who, but it’s sad.
Feel free to copy these questions and share your own responses.
Thanks for tuning in!
Co-starring Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Daniels, Keanu plays a cop that has to rescue a group of strangers trapped on a bus that can’t go less than 50 mph. If you already feel like one epic joy ride isn’t enough, rest assured, there’s a Speed 2: Cruise Control – which takes place on a boat. Unfortunately, Keanu isn’t in that one.
We’ll be live tweeting the movie once again on Wednesday, September 16th at 8:00pm CST. Join me and friends or follow along using #Keanuthon.
Get ready for rush hour!
Also this happened last night. What. Are. The. Odds?
Now, even KEANU knows about #Keanuthon.