Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Next Erma Bombeck

Anyone who writes a mommy blog (and could we come up with a better name, by the way?) has heard someone say, "You could be the next Erma Bombeck."

Yes! Pick me. Pick me. I dearly want to be the next Erma.

I just attended the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop this month in Dayton, Ohio. We were 350 writers and wannabes who met for seminars, encouragement, inspiration and tips. It was a grand party where everyday people like me got to listen to and rub elbows with Pulitzer Prize winners, Hollywood writers, uber-successful freelancers and even (in my case) share an elevator with Betsy Bombeck, Erma's daughter. It was hard to leave when it was over.

I spent much of the ride home thinking about Erma. Wondering if there ever could be another one like her. I doubt that her brand of gentle humor would garner much attention in the midst of our in-your-face television and potty-mouth blogs teeming with--what I'm fairly certain Erma would deem--way, way too much information. Does anyone still laugh along with sweet and funny stories from the suburbs? I know plenty of people laugh AT them. But WITH them? I'm not so sure.

We talked a lot at the workshop about a writer's voice. Since I had three nights of genuine peace and quiet I had more than a passing moment to ponder my own voice as a writer. I read back through my blogs, old articles, and even Facebook status updates. And, frankly, I'm afraid my voice might be outdated. It is gentle. Humorous, yes, I'd like to think so. But I guess my mission statement wrote itself without me giving it much thought. When pressed to put it into words at another workshop seminar, here was my first draft:

Life is absurd. And life is precious. And family is a lot of both. It's fragile too. So fragile that it possibly cannot withstand biting, sarcastic poking fun. I have tears in my eyes usually when I think about my family. Sometimes from pain, sometimes from laughter, sometimes from fear, sometimes from relief. But the tears are okay; they soften the view. That's the view I want to write about and remember.

1993 - Brand new baby, brand new mama.

Yes, I want to be the next Erma. I wouldn't mind wide syndication, a shelf full of books with my byline, a million dollars of thanks, and a personal secretary. I'm betting that along with those things come a private office and a computer with all of its keys. I would jump at all of that in a minute.

But thanks to my time at the workshop I know why I really want to be like Erma. Her sweet, stoop-shouldered husband and all three of her middle-aged children stood in front of us at different times. They each read an essay of their choice that she had written about them and their little family. Each one laughed. And then each one cried. And how much she loved them came pouring through those words even 16 years after her death.

I know her words are kept on millions of bookshelves. But they are kept on her family's hearts forever more. And I am certain that Erma would say that is really all that matters.

Though a private office would be a nice second. I'm certain Erma would agree with that too.







14 comments :

  1. Susanna,

    This is beautiful and so true.

    I don't believe we met this weekend, but I wished we had!

    My husband is serving in the Army National Guard and I have been published in 2 Chicken Soup books. I am a board member on the non-profit, PRISMS (Parents and Researchers Interested in Smith-Magenis Syndrome), which helps children like my oldest son. I have taken one seminar on grant writing (wow!), but thankfully, PRISMS has other board members much smarter than I.

    Did I mention that I wished we had met??

    Can't wait to snoop around here....

    Tina

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    1. Thank you, Tina! I wish we'd met too... 2014? Let's make a date.

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  2. First, I really can't stand the term "moomy blog".
    Secondly, how lucky you are to have been able to go to this conference and hear Erma's children. My book club read one of her books a while back. Loved every page of it, dirty socks, girdles, and all.
    And I very much appreciate blogs that are funny without the swearing and ranting. Keep it up.

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    1. Thank you!!! The conference was so worth the effort to get there. It will happen again in 2014. Maybe I'll see you there?

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  3. Beautifully said, Susanna, and I love your mission statement.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie! It's time to set a date for O'Malley's! I miss you guys already. :)

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  4. This: "But the tears are okay; they soften the view." So perfect. I adore that.

    And oh my gosh, what I wouldn't do for an office. My two re-purposed kitchen cabinets and kitchen table just are not cutting it.

    It was an amazing workshop, and I can't wait to go back in 2014!

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    1. Thank you! Yes...my calendar is already marked for 2014. In ink!

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  5. Beautifully said and a huge improvement over all the varied versions of "I'm a Drunk Mom" blogs. Thank you. Sorry we didn't cross paths there.

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    1. Me too, Tara! We'll have to make it happen in 2014.

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  6. Lovely to have met you! I completely agree with you, I too think her children were her biggest accomplishment.

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  7. What a lovely post.

    I wonder the same thing - whether non-shocking, non-trashy writing still has a powerful place in this noisy, often tacky modern world.

    I truly believe it does. I hope I never feel differently about that.

    I'm so glad you were at the conference - it had the same impact on me in so many ways. Unforgettable.

    Take care and chat soon...

    :-) Anna

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    1. Thanks!
      Now if I could just figure out this Twitter business...

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