Celebrated humorist Erma Bombeck ’49 made the foibles of everyday family life her beat. “My idea of housework,” she infamously wrote, “is to sweep the room with a glance.”
That’s why she might get a kick out of the essays in Laugh Out Loud: 40 Women Humorists Celebrate Then and Now…Before We Forget, a nostalgic, humorous look at life through the ages.
“The stories in this book reflect a philosophy she always believed: If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it,” daughter Betsy Bombeck writes in the preface.
As the founder and director of the University of Dayton’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, I’ve encouraged writers for years to find the courage to put their words down on paper, even publish a book.
Yet when prolific author Allia Zobel Nolan approached me about collaborating on a book, I worried about whether we could find the time and discipline to solicit essays, edit the pieces and publish an anthology, all within six months. With the ink barely dry on the first copies, we introduced the book in April at the spring workshop, with half the essayists in attendance for a book signing. Last week, we launched the ebook. Part of the proceeds benefits the workshop’s endowment fund.
One of the contributors has written eight books. Others have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other national and regional publications. A few, like Fritzy Dean, an 82-year-old great grandmother, have never seen their work published in a book.
“Erma Bombeck put women’s humor on the map,” said Nolan, a former senior editor for Reader’s Digest, who has written more than 175 books herself and shepherded this book from concept to creation. “She was to housewives what Spock was to babies. She held up a mirror to her life, burst out laughing, then sat down and chronicled it for millions to enjoy. We hope this book makes readers feel the same way.”
From the beach to bookstores to bars, readers have posted photos of where they’re reading Laugh Out Loud. One was spotted at a “Leprechaun Crossing” outside Dublin; another at the Motor City Comic Con in Michigan. The oldest reader: 93. The youngest: a toddler.
“When humor goes,” Erma wrote, “there goes civilization.”