March is women’s history month, a time to celebrate women’s accomplishments and contributions to our world. There’s no doubt that columnist Erma Bombeck earned her legacy among the ranks of great women here in Ohio and around the world. A champion for the rights and opportunities of all women, Erma left a legacy for writers at her alma mater, the University of Dayton.
I first attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2012. The conference runs every two years and sells out its 300+ spots every time in a matter of hours. At my first Erma Conference (as we Bombeckians call it) I met feminist scholar, humorist, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Gina Barreca, Ph.D.. She was the pee-your-pants-funny keynote speaker with a tribe of loud smart funny women surrounding her (look it up, it’s even a hashtag).
I don’t think I was an official member of the tribe until 2014. There are no membership cards and no official sign-on for this tribe, but you know when you’ve become a member. For me, it was after the 2014 Erma conference. Gina and I sat at the same dinner table and this time Phil Donahue gave the keynote talk. Donahue was Erma Bombeck’s neighbor and friend.
After that conference I sent Gina an essay I had been working on and asked for her feedback. She welcomed the opportunity and offered honest, precise input. I listened and learned and edited and then my essay was published in the New York Times.
Gina Barreca is strong and assertive which pairs surprisingly well with funny and kind, but what stands out the most about her is that while she’s ambitious, she’s also the kind of person who reaches a hand back for you while she continues to move forward.
Well, she’s done it again in a new book of which I am thrilled to be a part. Fast Funny Women — a flash nonfiction collection of 75 essays published by WoodHall Press all began with a personal invitation to contribute from Gina, the book’s editor.
She says it best in her introduction:
“A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, a TV mega-star, two members of the American Academy of Poets, four accomplished stand-up comics, a director of the center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the university of Pittsburgh, a director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, three award-winning screenwriters, two New Yorker cartoonists, a Commander of the British Empire, and a whole coven of New York Times Bestsellers walk into a book.”
Add me to that list, a columnist from Cincinnati. I am so very humbled to be among such great women as those mentioned in that quoted paragraph above. Gina’s tribe of loud smart funny women is for sure much larger than 75, and I picture them all in a long line, with one hand holding the hand in front of them while reaching the other hand back to help more women along the way.
Writers from the tribe came together at Gina’s invitation to offer the whole tribe something much better than a membership card.
We have a book.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is an award-winning freelance writer and columnist. She is the communications director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, member of the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board, and a board member for the Cincinnati chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She lives with her family in Northern Kentucky. Find her on social media @WriterBonnie or at WriterBonnie.com.