Author with her traveling companion Et2Fay
by Kelley Callahan Chikos
My first ‘Erma,’ Erma One, was a smack-in-the-face rush. I’d been to other good writers’ conferences, but EBWW had something pleasantly unique. I just didn’t know what it was.
My aha moment arrived at Erma Two.
I told myself on the flight to Dayton not to get my hopes up, that, as wonderful as Erma One had been, sometimes elements just come together once, never to be replicated. I told myself it would be a good, educational experience with nice people and that would be enough. It didn’t have to be the Workshop of Wild Wit and Wonderment that my Erma One had been. It was highly unlikely to happen again.
Yet there it was—the same waves of ease, of feeling instantly valued by these excited strangers, their first curiosities being, “Where are you from? What kinds of things do you enjoy writing? Is this your first Erma?” Instead of, “What do you do for a living? Have you been published? Where? How often? Can you make a living at it?”
I never met Erma Bombeck but I’m aware of how a legacy can be created for others’ personal or monetary benefit.
But Erma was the real deal. Even within the self-teasing, jab-in-the-ribs comments about herself: “The last person to see me in a pleated skirt went blind!” it was always clear she valued herself and her family. She was ‘just folks,’ and that was her magic.
I have decided to call it the Spirit of Erma. The Spirit that, regardless of publishing successes or frustrations, we are simply ‘just folks,’ using our time on earth to write, to express, to share and grow. To “use everything the Creator gave us”. To ride that EBWW three-day cloud of synergy that rises from this unique group of creatives who gain strength from one ‘just-folks’ woman who went to Dayton University and was told she could write. And that is enough.
This Spirit pushes my introverty self into the dinner ballroom early and alone, to sit at an empty table, and enjoy watching the table fill with new faces. The eager introductions. The smiles as we ask each other, “Are you having fun?”
The Spirit emanates from the Bombeck family, ever present, smiling and listening graciously to yet another writer tell them how much their mother meant to them. As her writing reflected her love for them, they reflect their love for her. That’s all it’s about.
This Erma we crowned a man ‘King of Erma’ and an 89-year-old newlywed woman Queen. She wore a tiny tiara and he a Crown of Burger King and we all laughed together.