I am overwhelmed by this amazing experience. I am overwhelmed at so thoughtful and caring and supportive a gesture from my amazing parents. I am overwhelmed by the caliber of speakers that are willing to share what they know to a room full of rising humor writers. I am overwhelmed by the kindness and support of every person I've met. But I think the thing that has most overwhelmed me is the legacy of one woman, who I've never met, but who has made an enormous impression on my life.
Thank you, Erma.
Last night, the first night of the conference, the speaker introduced Bill Bombeck (Erma's husband) and her kids. Bill took the stage to read his favorite Erma story to us. Bill has to be in his 80's and could not read the story without choking up quite a few times. In fact, getting choked up would be the theme as each family member took the stage to share their favorite story. When she died, Erma left both an inspiring legacy and a gigantic hole...and sitting in the banquet hall last night and tonight listening to the love of her family, praise from professional writers and the adoration from all those in attendance...I couldn't help but feel them both.
I started writing sarcastic stories in elementary school. I was born with sarcasm...it was my spiritual gift. Of course, it has taken many years to hone this, um, gift into something that was actually funny and not completely disrespectful. Erma didn't inspire me to be a humor writer...I have always been a humor writer. When I was writing early stories about superfluous organs and how useless high school language classes were, I was in the beginning stages of finding my voice.
And Erma didn't teach me that.
What Erma taught me was that what I was doing had a name. It had a niche. It had a purpose. And mostly, that there was a classy way to be funny (or that you should just change people's names). Erma gave me direction. She taught me fearlessness. She taught me honesty. She has been to me, like to so many others, a silent mentor. She has helped me fine tune and define my voice as a writer. She has empowered me to say, "I am a writer," and not stutter while doing so. She taught me to, in her words, "hook 'em with the lead, hold 'em with the laughter and leave 'em with a quip they won't forget."
So I will not bore you with my very own Julie/Julia story...instead I will simply leave you with one of Erma's many amazing quotes:
"For me, heaven on earth is using up every bit of life before I leave it." Erma Bombeck
And although you left us too early, you continue to give back. So, thank you, Erma. I am forever an admirer and a humble student of yours.