Dayton native Cathy Guisewite to kick off Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

There are limited spots still available for this year’s in-person Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, slated Oct. 20-22 at the University of Dayton.

The workshop is a place for writers who love humor to explore their passion and gain insight from industry experts. This year, one of the keynote speakers is a Dayton native known for the comic strip that bears her name: Cathy Guisewite.

Guisewite began the comic strip “Cathy” in 1976. She was going through a difficult time at her first job as an advertising copywriter. She’d draw cartoons and send them to her mother, who suggested she try publishing them. Thankfully she heeded her advice.

“I’d send drawings home to let her know I was coping,” said Guisewite. “They were very scratchy stick figures. It was humiliating because it was me at my worst.”

Even though she wasn’t a natural illustrator, she sent a “package of scribbles” to the Universal Press Syndicate. She said they immediately sent her a contract and said if she has to draw 365 “Cathy” cartoons a year, she would learn how to draw.

Guisewite lived in Dayton for the first five years of her life before moving. However, she eventually moved back to Dayton later on and said she considers it home. As a Daytonian, she has a deep admiration for Erma Bombeck.

“I grew up during the Erma Bombeck era and that seeped into my young mind,” she said. “She dumped real life on the page, and I started doing that. Every problem I had, I could use and get back at people and sort things out with my mother. It’s therapeutic to do the kind of writing Erma did. Making observations about real life.”

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The workshop includes three days of sessions on various topics including humor writing, publishing, marketing and social media. Guisewite will be kicking off the event on Thursday night followed by a book signing.

“That they would choose the queen of procrastination tells you a lot of what you need to know about this group and their humor,” she said. “There are so many great speakers and workshops all geared toward humor. It’s for those who love to write and those who are terrified to write.”

While the event is being held in person, there is also a virtual option. Attendees will be required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of arrival. Masks will be required indoors for all persons at the event.

Other special features of the workshop include an Erma Road Trip, stand-up comedy night, a book marketing package raffle, and Pitchapalooza, where each writer will get one minute to pitch a book idea. Guisewite said the workshop is beneficial in so many ways.

“Writing is a lonely business,” she said. “It can be very depressing when it’s just you and the blank page. It will be a fun two days. This is a chance of a lifetime to learn and connect with other people. Come relax and take a break from your brain.”

According to Teri Rizvi, founder and director of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, the event is close to being sold out. Rizvi is also excited for the event and happy Guisewite is going to jump-start the fun.

“Besides Erma Bombeck, has anyone else had their work so prominently displayed on refrigerator doors around the country?,” Rizvi said. “Cathy Guisewite has always struck a chord with her writing, whether in cartoons or essays. We’re delighted she is coming home to share her humor and wisdom with writers.”

For more information or to register for the event, visit the website.

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