Erma Bombeck Spirit Still Alive Through Writers’ Workshop

Erma Bombeck Spirit Still Alive Through Writers’ Workshop


Erma Bombeck, one of University of Dayton’s most notable alums, was celebrated March 31 – April 1 at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Teri Rizvi, founder of the workshop, described the weekend as one not to be missed, “you can expect to laugh and expect to be empowered.” Keynote speakers included humorist and social critic, Roy Blount Jr., bestselling novelist, journalist and contributing editor for Vogue, Amy Ephron, creators of the "Queen of Your Life" book series Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff and stand-up comedian and actress Leighann Lord.

Erma Bombeck graduated from University of Dayton in 1949 and accredits the school to launching her writing career. It was Brother Tom Price, S.M. who first told her the three words that changed her life, “you can write.” According to the Writers’ Workshop website, this inspired her greatly and she went on to write, “12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Bestseller List” as well as regularly appearing on ABC-TV’s "Good Morning America" for 11 years, write for a column in the Universal Press Syndicate, and was in the process of developing a new book for HarperCollins Publishers when she passed away in 1996.

Rizvi was inspired to create this celebration of Erma back in 2000, when four years after her death, her family decided to donate all of her work and personal memorabilia to University of Dayton. Instead of just piling up in Dayton’s collection of great work, Rizvi wanted to create a fun writers’ workshop around her work and who Erma was, a funny and hardworking writer. With that idea in mind, and Bombeck’s husband’s connections to famous writers and Rizvi’s status as Director of Public Relations at the time, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop was born. What started out as a “one-time event” where audiences “laughed for three days” grew into a time-honored tradition, “institutionalized within the University of Dayton,” financed by the Brother Tom Price, S.M. endowment fund.

Rizvi excitedly explained that the workshop, “has acquired such a national reputation”, selling out in less than six hours. With that kind of attention, what helps the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop stand out among others?

“I think the rise of social media has really helped, in terms of, public relations, how do you communicate to people,” Rizvi explained. She also mentioned that, “with the rise of social media, you can create a community, and that’s what happened, we have a community of writers.” Clearly the impact the workshop leaves on the writers is a long-lasting one because many attendees come back each year. The workshop has as well gained a following among university faculty, for which now there is a waiting list and a required proposal of their session idea.

The workshop, for which Rizvi’s team, “never really quit preparing for,” featured over 300 writers from around the country, many who are highly acclaimed and respected in their fields. Authors, founders of publishing companies, literary agents and comedians all came together to make up the two days filled with laughter and inspiration for all attendees.

Sessions taught by these various members of the writing community covered a plethora of topics: Special Features, Publishing, Craft, and Marketing and Social Media. Just a few examples include: “Erma 101,” a session about the woman herself and why her writing is still important even today, “Behind the Curtain: Maximizing Your Comedy Power,” a lesson on kick-starting a comedy writing career, “The Journey to Publication,” a lecture by a seasoned author with years of experience within the publishing industry, “Finding Your Writer’s Voice”, a meeting tailored toward advanced writers about identifying your voice, and “This Ain’t Your Mother’s Resume: Turning a Simple Blog into a Great Website,” a session on advancement in today’s workforce in terms of resumes and applications.

The workshop, however, is not meant to attract just writer and professional attendees. A large part of the Alumni Association’s donation goes to student scholarships, equivalent to the price of the workshop, for students who apply to be a recipient in order to attend.

Rizvi’s ultimate goal with the workshop is both to continue to raise money for Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Endowment and empower attendees with a rush of confidence, especially for students because, “the student involvement is key; if we don’t have the students involved, why are we doing this?”

Junior and scholarship recipient Abby Papenfus discussed that the workshop is so important to her because she recently began writing for The Lala, an online publication geared toward college-aged women.

“Through this experience and through my coursework, I have developed a strong passion for my writing and can see it as a viable path for my future.”

Most of the student volunteers’ responsibilities were comprised of introducing the speakers at the beginning of sessions, saying prayers at meals in the evenings, and live tweeting throughout the three days. This allowed students to meet with the authors, network with attendees, and learn from experienced professionals.

“This will be my first year attending but I can already tell that this will be one of the most beneficial extra circular events I will go to hosted by UD. To be in the presence of such talented and well-renowned writers, and talk to them, and learn from what I’m sure will be hilarious sessions is truly priceless. It would be such a waste if I missed this.”

Rizvi agrees with Papenfus’ sentiment, noting that UD does an excellent job of inspiring students to move in the right direction, “with that nudge of encouragement…you begin to see yourself in a different way. ‘Oh, I can do that!’…Or it could even be running a special event, not just the writing aspect of it, the whole behind the scenes, putting it together.”

Throwing something together as vast and nationally recognized as the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is no easy feat. It requires months of preparation and dozens of people to truly make it the best it can be. Rizvi reflected that, “it’s always a challenge to find really strong and really funny keynote speakers and to keep it fresh, and to look at new trends within the industry. When we first started we never had sessions on how to market yourself through social media!”

To find more information on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop visit

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I Stalked The Carells Around UMich Campus, And I'd Do It Again

Elisabeth Carell, you should DEFINITELY go blue.

Last Monday, I was sitting in lecture with three of my friends when we first heard the rumor: "Somebody just told me that they heard Steve Carell is coming to campus tomorrow." What?? No, way. I could not stop thinking about how cool it would be if I met him.

Unsure of why he was coming, we asked the girl, and she then told us that he was apparently touring the school with his daughter. She heard it from someone who heard it from a tour guide. We were aware that the Carells were touring University of Wisconsin that day, so it made perfect sense that they were coming to Michigan next.

I got home from class and did what any Steve Carell fan would do: binge-watch The Office. After doing so, I was even more determined to make it my mission to meet him. My two friends, Grace and Katherine, were just as determined as I, and the three of us started to devise a plan.

"What if we sign up for the tour?!" suggested Grace. We decided to go with this genius idea. We logged on and realized there were still open spots on the tour, so the three of us used our high school emails, fake names, and signed ourselves up!

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn, the eager Steve Carell fan girls that we were, and headed to the Student Activities Building where the pre-tour presentation was. We sit down in a room with about 60 people and listen to a woman go on and on about how to apply to the school we already got into, and statistics about the school that we already attend.

I wasn't paying any attention, for I was looking around the room for Steve! That's when my friend Katherine leaned into my ear and said "Steve is sitting DIRECTLY behind us." My jaw dropped, my heart started beating faster with excitement, and I caught a glimpse of Steve Carell out of my peripheral vision when turning to look at her.

OH.MY.GOD. I could not believe I was sitting ten inches in front of a legend. It was the best 45 minutes long presentation of my life, and I simply could not wait to hop on his tour.

But then....a plot twist. Steve, Nancy, and their two kids left the presentation a few minutes early, and we soon realized they were going on a PRIVATE TOUR!!

Our plan was officially ruined. We had thought out conversations to have with his daughter to become friends with her, and jokes to drop on the tour that we thought Steve would appreciate, but all of that was out the window now. We had no chance of getting on his tour and we only had one option left.

We had to stalk him.

We immediately ditched our tour group (which we never had any real interest of going on anyway) to follow the Carell family. We kept a distance, for we didn't want them to know they were being followed.

For a while, it was just Katherine, Grace and I following them everywhere they went. We felt like true spies. We even asked Steve if we could get a photo with him, but he was deeply focused on the tour guide, and respectfully declined.

We continued to follow the Carells for about another hour, but more and more students began to catch on and, as the news of them being on campus spread, our posse grew.

We finally decided to leave the Carells alone once the tour ended, and they had hundreds of students following them. Part of me felt bad that there were so many people stalking them, but I'm sure they are used to it by now.

I can honestly say that it was one of the most exciting and adventurous days I've had at Michigan so far, and I can only hope that Elisabeth chooses to be a Wolverine so I can do it all again on Parents Weekend.

Cover Image Credit: Flannery O'Donnell

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Without R2D2, The Events Of Star Wars Would Never Have Happened

R2D2 is the unsung hero of the Star Wars franchise.

To say I'm a Star Wars fan is an understatement. My parents grew up on Star Wars and implemented their love for the franchise into my brother and me at a very young age. Movie nights in my family consisted of a wood burning fire, buttered popcorn. and binge-watching the original Star Wars trilogy, until my younger brother and I inevitably fell asleep on the couch. That night, I'd dream of becoming a Jedi like Luke Skywalker, flying around in space like Han Solo and being a badass woman like Leia.

Recently, while driving in the car with my boyfriend (who is also an avid Star Wars fanatic), he mentioned that although R2D2, Luke's robotic companion, is wonderful comedic relief, he didn't add much functionality to the overall plotline of the trilogy. I thought it over and realized that although my boyfriend is wonderful, on this front he is absolutely and irrevocably wrong.

My argument is this: Without R2D2, the entire Star Wars trilogy would never have happened.

Now, this sounds pretty weird, but bear with me, and I can tell you exactly why.

The backstory for R2D2 is pretty generic, which is why his capabilities within the movies are so amazing. R2D2 was manufactured as a maintenance droid for Queen Amadala's ship, a droid with basic capabilities When Queen Amadala and Anakin Skywalker were married, Amadala gave R2D2 to Anakin as a gift to keep him company on his adventures during the Clone Wars.

Later, after Anakin becomes Darth Vader, R2D2 stays on the light side, working alongside Senator Organa, and then with the resistance as a droid on Princess Leia's ship. This is the beginning of the original Star Wars movie, "A New Hope," and where everything important really happens.

At the beginning of "A New Hope," we watch Princess Leia try to deliver her message to Obi-Wan Kenobi by way of the droid. Although this is a valiant effort by the princess, there are a few problems with this plan.

1. The resistance has no idea if Obi-Wan Kenobi is even alive, let alone where he is

2. There are millions upon millions of miles of the galaxy to search in order to find Obi-Wan

and 3. Princess Leia's whole plan is based on relying on two droids to find an ancient Jedi Master, and convincing him to take on The Empire singlehandedly.

By the grace of the Force (and the magic of cinematic writing), R2D2 and C3PO miraculously land on the planet of Tatooine, a desolate, sand-covered planet home to Banthas, Jawas, and many other species, including humans. Once landing on Tatooine, R2 and C3PO are bought by Luke Skywalker to help with the harvest on his Uncle Owen's farm. This leads to one of the pivotal moments in the movie, when Luke Skywalker discovers Leia's hidden message to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Intrigued by the message, and the beautiful girl crying for help, Luke goes to his family for advice on what his next steps should be, only to be told to wipe the droid's memory by his Uncle Owen. And so, like the clueless teenager he is, Luke goes to comply, only to find that the little blue droid is missing from the workshop. R2D2 has set out on his own to find the missing Jedi.

Although this may not seem like that big of a deal, we have to keep in mind R2D2's history, and specifically, his purpose during his creation. He was originally intended to be a maintenance droid, and therefore, is mainly focused on fixing things that are broken around him. Namely, the resistance against the tyrannous Empire.

The resistance is falling apart. Princess Leia has just been abducted by Darth Vader, the Jedi Order has all but disappeared, and the Rebels' last hope lies in the memory of a maintenance droid they have sent out into the galaxy. R2D2 realizes how dire their situation is, and sets off to complete his mission, and find Obi-Wan Kenobi. He rolls off into the desert of Tatooine, determined to find Obi-Wan, and fix the broken rebellion.

Eventually, R2D2 finds Obi-Wan with a little help from Luke Skywalker and sets the events of the rest of the series in motion. Luke realizes his destiny, and sets out to help Obi-Wan save the rebellion. But without the initiative of one little maintenance droid, the resistance would have been all but destroyed. Because of the utter incompetence of the humans around him, R2 realizes that he must take matters into his own hands, so to speak, and ensure that hope can be restored to the resistance.

Although Luke, Leia, and Han Solo may be the heroic faces of this epic franchise, their stories would never have been put into motion without the initiative of a little droid trying to do what he does best: fix what's broken, and effectively, save a revolution.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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