Nov. 3: National Housewife’s Day

For Erma Bombeck, 1927–1996

And today I’m thinking of Erma,
the humor columnist from Dayton who,
typing from her kitchen starting in the 1950s,
elevated the role of the humble housewife,
who composed, she said, on a typewriter
that wrote funny, and who, on her funny
typewriter, wrote back to me—
a journalism major in the late ’70s.

And though she must have been swamped
with column and books, fan mail and family,
she answered my questions for a class
assignment, her humor bouncing off
the IBM Selectric’d pages about her
first big story for the Dayton Herald—
interviewing Shirley Temple in 1944.

And when I asked for advice, she urged
me to get used to rejection and failure
and even getting fired because how
you handle the rough stuff is what
determines your success as a writer.

And meet every deadline, she wrote,
even if you have to stay up all night.
And always write to fit the space you’re
given so some harried editor doesn’t
trim your best stuff.

And keep writing, even if you think
you don’t have to, she said, even someday
when you have to clean your own toilets.
I promise it’s worth it.

Erma Bombeck at her trusty IBM Selectric, 1970s

About janishaag

Writer, writing teacher, editor
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2 Responses to Nov. 3: National Housewife’s Day

  1. Dick Tracy says:

    In a world STUFFED FULL of bad news written by people in my profession, Erma was a big HUG for readers. A rare talent!

  2. Donna Just says:

    Sound advice from Erma herself!!

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