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Erma Bombeck and the Flu

I know there’s a joke in here somewhere.

… I opened the window and in-flu-Erma!*

“Huh?” – you. Let me explain:

I recently returned from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton. The workshop was uplifting, inspirational, informative, fun, and, apparently, contaminated. I began my journey home last Sunday morning filled with renewed passion, brimming with ideas and motivation. By the time I pulled into my garage half a day later, I was filled with new fever, brimming with body aches and chills.

I spent the following several days in my husband’s recliner watching Netflix, sipping tea from my new Erma mug, and alternately layering on blankets and kicking them all off in a sweaty panic that left me shivering, exhausted, and indelicately profane. The days are a blur to me, except the discovery that I was not alone. The Facebook group for conference attendees began to look less like a networking platform for writers, and more like a hospital ward roll call as more and more of us posted about our ailments.

You Can Flu

As my mind melted into the flu fog, I feared that all I had learned at the workshop would fade into the mist never to be rediscovered. Practical tips on getting published lost forever in the shrouded moors of my memory. Soundbites, precious wisdom nuggets, and the inspired surety that I CAN WRITE – all wandering in the haze that might inexorably claim them.

The Facebook group flu fighters and flu sympathizers continued to post. Complaints of headaches and wracking coughs, jokey attempts to out Patient Zero, and our pathetic commiseration soon looked a lot like witty banter. My contributions evolved from “flu here” to attempts to make my Comrades in Condition laugh. And it dawned on me: I’m back. And then I made this t-shirt to share with the group:

Erma Bombeck Lousy Flu Shirt

I realized I needed to write a post to go with it. And that brings us to the here and now. To my fingers once again flying over the keys as I try to paint a picture with my words. I find myself where I belong, in my element, plucking words out of the air, shaping them, bending them to my will where I can, and abandoning them where I am unable. My purpose realized, my passion ignited and leading the way, I am my fullest self – as I was when surrounded by like-minded individuals at the conference.

Just like that, the vapor thins a bit and I can see into the foggy wasteland of my mind. Hidden among the debris and rolling mists is all I took away from the weekend.

Just there! Alan Zweibel regales us with stories pulled from his own memory moors. His career is sweeping and impressive and more than I ever dreamed of for myself, and, yet, he refers to the collective room as “us” and “we” when discussing the craft of writing. Because he believes that we are doing the same thing, even though he’s him and I’m me.

Look! Here’s Katrina Kittle leading a class on description. As a strictly non-fiction writer, it’s not entirely applicable to me. But wisdom nuggets don’t care who you think you are. They plop themselves down in the midst of all you were certain of, and detonate. In the mess following the mind blow an altogether new thing emerges. I still need to decipher this new thing, work out what it all means, but I know already that I love it.

Conversations with other attendees, (is that patient zero?), laughing, crying, awkwardly managing both at once, a solid ten minutes obstructing sink access in the bathroom while talking to Kathy Kinney. It’s all coming back to me.

Snapshots and pearls shake off the miasma and begin to organize themselves once more into coherency. Hallelujah!

Several months ago, after deciding that the number of hours I spend sitting in my desk chair was incompatible with physical health, I raised my desk up and ditched the chair, creating a new standing work environment. I tell you this now so you can understand why, at this moment, the overwhelming feeling I have is holy shit my legs ache! Ah, yes. The flu. Despite the recent change in fog density, I am not all better. Standing at my standing desk while writing this is more activity than I have engaged in since arriving home from Ohio. I can’t do it a moment longer. So this post, which very well may be utter nonsense borne on a flu-addled fog, ends now.

*Part of a historical nursery rhyme dating back to the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop flu epidemic.**

**Look at that- fiction!

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