Was Erma Bombeck enshrined on your mother or grandmother’s refrigerator? Her funny, insightful columns and books were a fixture in the lives of millions of moms and housewives. Maybe because of her audience she didn’t get the respect she deserved. But she was funny. Damn funny. Erma seemed to like it that way. She valued her audience more than the fame. As she once said:
Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.
– Erma Bombeck
During Storytellers Summit 2016, I got a chance to interview someone who had known Erma Bombeck while she was still alive. (She died in 1996 at the age of 69.) Teri Rizvi is the co-founder of the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop at the University of Dayton, Ohio, where Erma was an alum (1947) and trustee. Erma’s papers reside at the university, where Erma was encouraged to write, and where she met her future husband and laid the groundwork for her phenomenal life.
When I used to host GR8*Mom Radio weekly on the My Expert Solution radio network, I aspired to be considered the Erma Bombeck of my generation – ambitious indeed. I was funny, and a mom, and a radio host, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for Bombeck. Her credentials went on for miles: her 450-word columns were read by 30 million people twice a week in 900 newspapers. Her 15 books were mostly bestsellers. She spoke all around the country, wrote for national magazines, and was a regular contributor on the Good Morning America program. (And she had taken off a full ten years to devote to being a mother and housewife!)
In 1972, she got behind the Equal Rights Amendment and on the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women, for what she hoped would be the final implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment (which sadly was doomed to failure.) I’m sure she didn’t blame men…
God created man, but I could do better.
– Erma Bombeck
Erma however was a big success, by any measure – she was a tour de force. Not to be outdone, Teri Rizvi founded the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop in the year 2000, and has hosted it every other year since. You can read more about my experience with the event here. Spoiler alert: It was amazing. I was a baby. We all lived.
Teri and I talked about this powerhouse of a humorist, mother, and woman, and the history of the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop. You can listen in to her Storytellers Summit interview here. This was before I actually knew anything about the event or the biennial writing competition. As Teri talked about the writing competition I vowed to write my own 450 word Erma-esque column, and as it turns out several listeners did too. We met up at the conference and congratulated ourselves – just for entering. For winning entries, go to humorwriters.org
For me this kicked off my humor writing career – which is still nascent, but long overdue. I’m having FUN. I started a blog category I call Sunday Funnies, and sometimes, I write a bit of a story or essay to bring a smile to your Sunday faces. You can read my Erma entry. In a real paean to Erma it makes a big deal out of nothing. We can’t get the hang of our sprinklers.