Today we welcome first-time guest blogger, Kristie Browning to Write from the Inside Out. I’ve known Kristie for many years and have enjoyed watching her writing career grow and grow! Enjoy this post on Kristie’s experience at the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Thank you so much, Alice Osborn, for your wonderful writing workshops that gave me the courage to start writing several years ago. I also appreciate Alice’s monthly e-newsletter that encouraged me to go to my first writing conference in 2008 (the North Carolina Writer’s Network fall conference). Alice keeps me  informed of writing opportunities—such as guest blogging here!

Days before my 40th birthday last April, I flew to Dayton, Ohio, to attend the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. As I boarded the plane alone, I couldn’t believe I was actually flying across the country (okay, so Ohio’s not that far away) to attend a workshop where I didn’t know a soul. I’m still a new writer, just about finished with my first book, and I didn’t feel qualified enough to attend. Never mind that it felt so strange to be going on a “vacation” by myself to pursue my own interests, instead of visiting family, while leaving my husband at home working. I reassured myself that I deserved a special treat because I was turning the big 4-0.

I registered for the workshop on a whim, six months in advance, goaded on by the repeated warnings from workshop coordinators that the 2010 conference sold out in a matter of weeks and lots of disappointed writers were turned away. It was Erma Bombeck’s name that drew me to the workshop. I remember Erma Bombeck from when I was a kid, seeing her colorful books in the library and reading funny quotes from her. More recently, I read her book, A Marriage Made in Heaven: Or Too Tired for an Affair while I was engaged to be married for the first time at 37 years old. I was apprehensive to make such a big change in my life after being single for 15 years and living alone for eleven. Erma’s funny anecdotes about her 43-year-long marriage gave me confidence that, as long as I kept my sense of humor, I could handle marriage just fine.

The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is held every two years and claims to be the only workshop in the country focused on humor and human interest writing. The workshop has been held at the University of Dayton, Erma’s alma mater, for decades and was renamed the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop to honor Erma after her death in 1996. She credited the University of Dayton with launching her writing career and was a strong supporter of the workshop. Speakers and attendees speak affectionately about Erma’s legacy and how, so many years later, she is still a role model for humor column writers, especially mothers or “mommy bloggers.” I’m impressed by the fact that she wrote her first humor column at the age of 37.

There were many sessions covering column writing, travel writing, blogging, and publishing held simultaneously. The only problem was picking which session to attend. A few of my personal favorites are below:

  • Tim Bete, author of Guide to Pirate Parenting, gave a hilarious presentation sharing his experiences with traditional publishing, where he made a little money, and self-publishing, where he made a lot more.
  • Karen Walrond, author of The Beauty of Different, spoke about creativity and how to keep the creative juices flowing by journaling, making mind maps, keeping a photo journal, and taking photo-walks where you stop, look, and take pictures of the details around you.
  • Nancy Berk, Ph.D., the “stand-up psychologist” and author of College Bound and Gagged, shared how the lessons she learned at the 2012 Bombeck Workshop inspired her to take her writing more seriously.
  • Tracy Beckerman, writer of the syndicated humor column “Lost in Suburbia,” gave lots of tried-and-true tips for making your humor writing funnier.
  • Dave Fox, author of Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and Still Have Time to Enjoy Your Trip!), shared his tips and experiences for turning travel catastrophes into funny writing.

The lunch and dinner speakers, Alan Zweibel, Adriana Trigiani, Ilene Beckerman, and Gina Barreca to name a few, were hilarious and entertaining. I love Ilene Beckerman’s comment, “I write when I have something to say.” The sweetest parts of the workshop were after each meal when Erma’s husband, three grown children, and her personal assistant of 20 years, all of whom attend the workshop regularly, read one of Erma’s columns in tribute to her. Erma’s youngest son read the column she wrote about him in 1979 “’Different Drummer’ Boy Marches to Special Beat.” The sharing from Erma’s family added a special touch of sentimentality to the workshop.

As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried about attending the workshop alone. It wasn’t long before I found a conference buddy, Susan. We exchanged a lot of notes and sat together at meals. Other attendees were also friendly and I had no trouble finding someone to chat with at meals, in-between sessions, and in the line for the restroom (a problem with having a female-dominated conference!). I’m looking forward to 2014.

About Kristie

Kristie Jo Browning is the author of A Bride at Last. 52 Lessons from the Year I was Engaged, which is in its final editing stages and will be available soon. She is a graduate of Cornell, Clemson, and North Carolina State Universities and still takes classes just for fun. A Bride at Last is her first book and she’s ready to start on her second about 52 lessons she learned during her first year of marriage. She has a blog at She lives with her husband Mike in a three-bedroom townhouse crammed with stuff in Morrisville, North Carolina. 

Your Turn:

What writing conferences are you going to this year or next? Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and attend a conference, workshop or retreat in another state to grow your craft!