Erma Bombeck Essay Competition opens Dec. 3

Entrants can win up to $1,000 and free writers’ workshop.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

The University of Dayton and the Washington-Centerville Public Library are coming together to sponsor the bi-annual Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. The contest works to honor the late writer and highlight new ones around the globe.

As detailed in a press release, in order to enter, those interested must:

  • Be at least 13 years old.
  • Write an essay either focusing on comedy or human interest.
  • Submit their essays between 8 a.m. on Dec. 4 and 8 p.m. on Jan. 8.
  • Pay the $25 entry fee.

The competition is split into two categories, each representing aspects of Bombeck’s work, being humor or human interest. Entrants may choose one of the two categories and publish one piece . Entries coming from inside Ohio are considered local and will be judged separately from global submissions. A winner will be chosen from each area and category.

Winners are chosen by a panel of judges consisting of award-winning writers, columnists and authors. Local media figure Vick Mickunas will serve as the finalist judge for the human-interest pieces. As for the humor entries, those will be judged by Emmy-nominated Bill Scheft, who was a longtime staff writer for David Letterman.

Winners in each category will be rewarded with $1,000 and a complementary registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, which will be held April 4-6 at the University of Dayton. At 7 p.m. on April 3, the night before the workshop begins, the four winners will also be invited to an event dedicated to the competition. There the writers will be able to read their essay to the audience. The event will also feature a keynote speech by Betsy Bombeck, daughter of Erma Bombeck. While this event is free, registration is required.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

This competition is aimed to those who are fans of the work of Erma Bombeck and feel inspired by her signature style or comedy. Here is the full list of rules as detailed on the website:


  • Entries are accepted from anywhere in the world.
  • Previous contest winners are encouraged to enter.
  • Children under 13 are not eligible to enter.
  • Registration to the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is not required to enter the writing competition.
  • The following are not eligible to enter: Washington-Centerville Public Library employees and board members, contest judges and their families, and Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop faculty and speakers for the current year.


  • $25 entry fee.
  • Entry must be written in English.
  • Limit one entry total (not per category) per person.
  • Personal essay must be 450 words or less (entries of more than 450 words will be disqualified).
  • Essay must be previously unpublished in its entirety or pieces thereof. Essays must not have been previously published in a blog, book, magazine, social media, website or any other medium.
  • Essay must be written by one person; no writing teams, ghostwriters or writing partnerships. No AI assistance.
  • Payment and entry must be submitted online using the official online entry form. PayPal link will be visible below when the contest opens.
  • You do not need to set up a PayPal account in order to pay the Entry Fee. PayPal accepts credit cards and is simply the administrator of the payment.
  • Hard copy entries will not be accepted and will not be returned if submitted.
  • Deadline for entry submission is January 8, 2024, at 8 PM EST. Late entries are not permitted.
  • All submissions are final! Corrections to and replacements for submitted essays will not be allowed.
  • By submitting your entry, you guarantee the work was written by you and expresses your original ideas.
  • Washington-Centerville Public Library reserves the non-exclusive right to publish the winning entries; however, the owner retains ownership rights for future publication.

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