I went to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last week with 300+ people I had never met. Surrounding yourself with strangers for three days is an excellent way to test your social skills.
Overall it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot, I was inspired, and I met some truly kind and funny people including Leigh Ann, who convinced me to attend. She wrote a great recap of the event here. I admit I was pleasantly surprised to discover that so many of the people I’ve come to ‘know’ online were even more likeable in person. The internet has normal people in it!
I was leery that I wouldn’t measure up to the experience of other writers in attendance, but I did my best to convey my expertise with opening lines like, “I have a blog and a really shitty Facebook page.” This is how I actually introduced myself. Twice. Fortunately I had the wisdom to stop mentioning my abysmal Facebook presence by Day Two.
I finally hit my stride on Day Three when I sat next to a nice woman during a workshop session. She was polished, poised and professional and I enjoyed chatting with her. I gave her my business card, sat up straight, and did a decent job explaining my background. At last maybe I, and others around me, could begin to take me seriously as A Writer.
Once the session got underway, the moderator gave us all 60 seconds to write a list of words we thought were funny. He encouraged us to be creative – any and all words were welcome!
I fought the thick haze hanging over my brain and managed to scribble 5 words. I knew they were lame, but at least I wrote something.
Then the moderator instructed us to share our words with the person sitting next to us, who would have to use them in a sentence.
Oooh sweet mother NO. Abort. Fake an injury. Find the nearest exit immediately.
No more than 10 seconds after I had just begun to feel like a grown-up, I had to reveal my award-winning list of words to this poor woman. My list looked like this:
Hello my name is Amy and I am 12. I felt so bad for my partner that I only shared my first two words – as if I were doing her a favor by forcing her to write a sentence about moist panties, and nothing else. I can only imagine how troubled she must’ve been by my thought process.
It was not my finest creative moment, but I have never been quick on my feet. And while I stand behind my belief that ‘boobies’ is a mildly amusing word, I would like to redeem myself a tad by saying that ‘moist’ is a word I have always disliked. I have no idea why I wrote it down, other than I was in a state of panic. Surely if I had been given three hours vs. one minute, I would’ve come up with words more like kerfuffle, lutefisk or blarney. Right? RIGHT? But I didn’t. Because I’m me.
And that was one of my favorite takeaways of the workshop – be true to yourself, your voice and your humor, regardless of what everyone else is doing. The additional lesson for me? Always have an emergency exit strategy. The lesson for everyone else? Whatever you do, do NOT sit next to me at a workshop.