Authors to offer free events tied to writers’ workshop

Although registrations for the full Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop coming up March 30-April 2 sold out in record time, the following events are free and open-to-the public:

• Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene: Author and humorist Roy Blount Jr., who will be in town to host the welcome dinner at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, will give a free, open-to-the-public reading from his newest book, “Save Room for Pie.”

• Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m., Centerville Library (111 W. Spring Valley Road, Centerville): Awards and reading for Erma Bombeck Writing Competition Award Winners, hosted by Gina Barreca. You may also read the winning entries at

• Friday, April 1, 3:30 p.m., and again Saturday, April 2, 10:30 a.m. (Auditorium in the 1700 South Patterson Building on River Campus): “Erma 101:” Barreca will provide a context for Erma Bombeck’s success and provide tips on how to bring a humorous voice to life in writing, even when addressing complex issues. The program is open to the public thanks to a grant from Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with both Blount and Barreca about their thoughts on Erma Bombeck’s legacy.

“I never had the opportunity to meet Erma, but my mother would send me her columns,” Blount says. “Erma wasn’t dainty. She was robust in her writing, and always went for the guffaw. I liked that!”

Blount is the author of 23 books; his newest is “Save Room for Pie.” He is a panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” He is also a recipient of numerous awards, including in 2009 the Thomas Wolfe Award from the University of North Carolina.

“Humor writers tend to fade. The life of most humor is not long,” Blount adds. “But because Erma was willing to take risks and get messy, her humor is still funny after all of these years. I think that’s a pretty important legacy.”

Learn more about Blount’s books and career at www.

Like Blount, Barreca learned about Erma Bombeck through her mother.

“I started reading Erma in the newspaper when I was 10,” says Barreca. “Through her, I fell in love with newspapers. I can say that in many ways, Erma inspired my own career.”

Barreca’s newest book is “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? Questions and Thoughts for Loud, Smart Women in Turbulent Times.” She has also authored eight more books and edited 16. Barreca has appeared on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, the BBC, Dr. Phil, NPR and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics, and humor. Additionally, her weekly columns from The Hartford Courant are now distributed internationally. She is also a professor of English at University of Connecticut.

“Then I read Erma’s hilarious collection, ‘The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank’,” Barreca adds. “I was young but I still loved it. Though I wouldn’t have put it this way at my tender age back then, I sense that under the domestic housewife humor, there was insurgent ‘bad girl’ stuff going on. ‘This is a troublemaker!’ I thought. And I loved that.”

Usually, Barreca says, “Women still get grief even today if they open their mouths and something more than cooing comes out. Erma was a master at smuggling contraband feminist ideas into her humor writing. She was an advocate of the push for an Equal Rights Amendment and a defender for gender equity in an era before there was a term for it.”

In the academic side of her work, Barreca says that she discusses how Erma is part of an important legacy of feminist writers who used — to varying degrees — “sleight of hand” to advocate feminist themes including Dorothy Parker, Shirley Jackson and Molly Ivins.

“Though they wrote at different time and with very different styles, thematically their work is linked by a sensibility that women’s voices are important and strong,” Barreca adds.

As for the writers’ workshop in Erma’s name, Barreca says “It’s fantastic to see many women and some men coming together at the workshop in a way that is not competitive but that has a spirit of camaraderie for writers to share and learn from one another.”

Learn more about Barreca, her writing and her career at

Additional Upcoming Literary Events

Thursday, March 31, deadline to submit to Flights, the literary magazine of Sinclair Community College: Learn more about the magazine at this link: Click on the “Submit” tab for details about submitting fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, photography and art.

Friday, April 1 and Friday, April 15, 7 p.m., Writers’ Café, (Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood): Held the first and third Fridays each month, the writer-led free café is open to writers 18 and older.

Wednesday, April 6, 7 p.m., Books and Co. at The Greene: Cinda Williams Chima will introduce “Flamecaster,” the first book in her new “Shattered Realms” fantasy series.

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