You’re traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead. Your next stop: The Erma Zone.
On New Year’s Day, son Jimmy threw down this gauntlet:
Mom, what are YOU going to do this year to get out of YOUR comfort zone?
He was just off to graduate school and I had asked him this same question. FYI, you are an official occupant of the middle-aged cheap seats when your children reach the age when they can, with great gusto, give it right back at ya.
As luck, karma, and the universe would have it, the announcement of registration opening for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop soon showed up in my inbox. It appeared that all were conspiring with my son to push me out beyond my little comfortable perch.
Despite major misgivings and struggling self-esteem, I ventured this past weekend to a land called Dayton and entered The Erma Zone. I discovered a rather magical place filled with girls (and a few fellas) who, just like me, were hoping to connect and find someone, anyone, to reinforce the concept that we can, perchance, write.
Of utmost importance for me was finding the holy grail of the conference – the swearing girls table. I soon persevered and was welcomed to the best swear-like-a-sailor group of gals in the joint. Dropping the F-bomb was mere child’s play here. I’m thinking of starting a group: “Sh*t Erma Would Say Today.”
Throughout the 2 and ½ days packed with workshops, presentations, and desserts, I learned some valuable insights and lessons. Here are a few standouts:
- Write drunk; edit sober. This quote is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. It sure sounds like him. I think its deeper meaning could be to write with joyful, drunken abandon, then go back and edit after you’ve let it all out. Or, it could just mean that a little bit of whiskey can sometimes help the creative juices flow.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/keyslibraries/11845074794/”>Florida Keys–Public Libraries</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
- I’m not the only one who has a difficult time walking into a room full of strangers and creating small talk out of thin air. I instantly loved the gal who walked up and announced I am such a dork at these kinds of things, can I just stand at your table for a minute? I will do everything in my power to stay in touch with this new bestie for the rest of my days.
- Men tell jokes, women tell stories. Women love the back story: why did a guy walk into a bar? The priest and the rabbi who are with him, are they his spiritual advisors? He walks into a bar, but doesn’t order a drink, what’s up with that?
- Women really, really, like to laugh. The entire weekend was a giant laugh-fest. Almost every conversation had me smiling, giggling or flat out laughing (and I have a mighty horse laugh indeed).
- Phil Donahue and Erma Bombeck were neighbors. I had no idea. Phil Donahue was the keynote speaker the first night and he lovingly described his fond memories of living across the street from the Bombeck house. Snaps to Mr. Donahue for being such an incredible sport – the man can still work a room teeming with estrogen.
- Tell the truth, but tell it slant – Emily Dickinson. I certainly channeled Ms. Dickinson when I was picked to pitch my new book – Magic Fishing Panties – during the “pitchapalooza” conference event. Telling my truth, but with a slanted pitch, in front of a packed room and four judges was a festival of nerves. However, I am so glad I stepped way out into The Erma Zone and gave it my best crazy Southern Irish gal try.
- You can’t edit a blank page – Nora Roberts. You have to write. Sit down, get it out, then go back later and edit. This one sort of goes back to #1 above; I’m still partial to Ernest’s addition of liquor…
- Erma had kidney disease. I discovered that Erma Bombeck suffered from polycystic kidney disease. As some of you might know I’ve recently published an article about one family’s fight against kidney disease. I was surprised that during my research I had never come across this information about Erma.
- Lefties still have to put up with right-handed flip down desks in the college lecture halls.
- Seize the moment – think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart – Erma Bombeck. This one needs no explanation.
This next week I’ll be culling through collected business cards, sending out emails, and tweeting and posting to Facebook. I’ll do so not for the purposes of selling my book or pitching my column, but rather to ensure these women know my time spent with them in The Erma Zone touched my soul.
Have you ever stepped out of YOUR comfort zone?