Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop to go virtual

Registration for event that sells out annually to open Sept. 1

The University of Dayton’s popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is going virtual for 2020, organizers announced today.

Emmy Award winners, celebrated authors and comedians will headline the virtual Oct. 29-31 workshop.

The workshop will be recorded through the interactive platform Crowdcast, which gives attendees the opportunity to watch replays of every session. Registration opens Sept. 1. This event typically sells out in hours.

The cost is $199. A link to register will be posted at

The lineup for the virtual event features six keynote speakers and the chance to participate in 25 sessions, as well as an attendee stand-up comedy show and Pitchapalooza, billed as “American Idol for books, only kinder.”

“Erma Bombeck had a couple book titles that speak to our times — If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and Aunt Erma’s Cope Book. I am certain she is cheering us on from above with our new virtual format urging us to not just cope, but revel in our ability to reach an even bigger audience,” said emcee Patricia Wynn Brown, who’s participated in every workshop since its founding 20 years ago, in a news release. “In a pandemic with the conference facing its second postponement, we asked, ‘WWEW? — What Would Erma Want? We are doing it. Carrying on,” she said.


  • Mike and Peggy Rowe: Brown will open the festivities with a “fireside chat” with Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and his mom Peggy Rowe, who wrote two New York Times’ best-sellers after the age of 80.



  • Annabelle Gurwitch, New York Times’ bestselling author of four books, actress, essayist and storyteller. She was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor Writing in 2015. The original co-host of “Dinner and a Movie” on TBS, she has appeared in numerous television and film projects.
  • Wendy Liebman, stand-up comedian who has performed on late-night shows and appeared in comedy specials on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime. She was a semifinalist on “America’s Got Talent.”
  • Mike Reiss, Emmy Award-winning writer for “The Simpsons” and author of “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons” and 19 children’s books.
  • Sophfronia Scott, award-winning novelist, journalist and essayist who’s been hailed by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as “potentially one of the best writers of her generation.”

The workshop’s faculty includes a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Thurber Prize winner, a winner of The Moth GrandSLAM and three popular former keynoter speakers — Leighann Lord and the writing team of Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff.

Brian Kiley, head monologue writer for Conan O’Brien, will host the Attendee Stand-Up Comedy Night.

Since its launch in 2000, the workshop has featured Phil Donahue, Dave Barry, Art Buchwald, Nancy Cartwright, Don Novello, Gail Collins, Roy Blount Jr., Lisa Scottoline, Amy Ephron, Liza Donnelly and Alan Zweibel.

How to register

Registration will open on Sept. 1.

In the meantime, visit the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop website for a schedule, speaker and faculty biographies and more.

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