When Erma Calls: The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

images-58My mother is an avid newspaper reader. As a girl I can remember finding her with the paper spread across the dining room table. She would read it cover to cover, clipping recipes, reading aloud the latest hint from Heloise or cutting articles to send to various family members that she was sure they’d appreciate. My favorite memory, however was watching her giggle as she read the Erma Bombeck column of the week. She, like so many of her generation, would tape it to the refrigerator for the rest of us to enjoy.


Imagine my delight when I was invited to participate as faculty in the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop this past March in Ohio at the University of Dayton (Erma’s alma mater and mine as well!) I had been eyeing this writing conference as a participant for years and had never managed to register in time for one of the 200 sought after slots.

To make the most of the adventure, I arrived two days early so I could have some time to stroll down memory lane. I wanted to settle in, perhaps see a few old friends, walk the campus and rattle the bushes to see if I could scare up a few ghosts. Two of my five brothers went to this school, the three of us spending a combined total of fifteen years walking these streets. As I drove into town, I slowed my car as every corner seemed to stir a memory. Those were good years.


The location of the conference, the Dayton Marriott, made me smile. It opened in 1982 when I had just graduated from college and was starting my teaching career. The bar in the hotel was considered snazzy (remember when we used to use that word?), a step up from Tim’s and Flannigan’s, two of UD’s legendary watering holes. It is also situated just up the road from Carillon Historical Park, a well-known Dayton landmark on which stands a 150 ft. carillon that rings throughout the day. The sloping lawn that surrounds the carillon also happens to be the exact spot where I began a journey with the man with whom I have shared the last thirty years of my life.



After checking into the hotel, I walked along the Miami River to the park. Spring had just begun and the budding trees swayed in the cool breeze. I climbed the sloping lawn and stood at the base of the carillon. As the sun slid down the sky behind the UD Arena across the highway, I reminisced about the girl I was at twenty and the boy he was at twenty-one. We had sat on this very lawn in our bell bottoms and UD sweatshirts and shared a tender first kiss. How little we knew of life then. How far we have traveled together since that moment so long ago.

Dusk was soon upon me, but I knew that I would not leave until I heard the carillon ring. I circled the base and came upon a door on which is inscribed a portion of a poem by Longfellow, written upon hearing that his son had enlisted with the Union army, much to his dismay.


…It was as if an earthquake Rent the hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song.Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I had forgotten about this door. Now a writer, I read each word with a new reverence, marveling how Longfellow could capture the heartache and fear of an entire country in just eighty-nine words.

At the stroke of six, the bells above began to ring and I smiled, looking up to watch them, the evening breeze soft upon my face. There is something about the sound of bells I can’t resist. I love how they stir a yearning, deep and primal within me. How I feel them in my center, a sacredness. When I hear the rich pealing of bells, I instinctually look in their direction. A calling I can’t ignore.

And I thought, too, of how writing was like this. A calling, deep and primal that, try as we might sometimes, we simply can’t ignore. Then I imagined the hundreds of writers journeying here to this small spot on the planet as if the tolling of these bells were calling them. As if Erma, herself, was calling us to this unlikely haven to gather courage, to sharpen craft, to claim our art. To celebrate and continue her important work of capturing the complexities of the human experience in just a few words.

As writers we hold whole universes in our souls. Page by page we share stories that chew on life, love, loss and the blessings of family and friends. Page by page we try to somehow lift our own little corner of the globe through frank observation and humor, just as Erma taught us to.

Soon the other writers arrived, one by one, with suitcases, laptops, and hopeful smiles. From the opening ceremony it was obvious to me that this would be no ordinary writers’ conference. The energy and excitement that infused the air was palpable.

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The Bombeck Family



Here I am teaching a class on how to write a great scene. Note to self: don't wear husband's glasses ever again.

Here I am teaching a class on how to write a great scene. Note to self: don’t wear husband’s glasses ever again.


I watched as instructors and participants alike laughed and learned together. We connected in deep and powerful ways as we wrote and shared about deep and powerful things. The family atmosphere was disarming and reaffirming.


Buoyed and inspired I left the conference with new friends, renewed vigor, and cheeks that ached from abundant laughter. On my way out of town I drove past the carillon and smiled to myself again, hoping that two years hence I would stand at its base once more, called back to Dayton not only to reminisce about the girl I was at twenty but to continue to celebrate the woman writer that I have become.

Thank you, Erma!


For more information about the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop stay tuned at www.humorwriters.org

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Writer Travel – Santa Fe! June 21-26, 2016



Writer Travel – Santa Fe!

Writing Retreat

June 21- 26 2016

“Writing is the painting of the voice.” ~Voltaire

An agent once told me that the one thing she looks for in a submission is a solid sense of voice. Craft can be taught, editors can be hired, but voice is the real deal. A command of voice and style proclaims to the reader that you can be trusted, that you know who you are and will lead them on a worthwhile journey to a place of truth.

Mindful travel coupled with daily workshops on craft and creativity will help you develop your authentic voice. How do I know? It happened to me! (Read about it here.)


Travel is a powerful writing instructor, leading us somewhere that classes and seminars can’t always do effectively. Travel leads us to self-knowledge. Self-knowledge strengthens voice.


Surround yourself with other seekers and writers and feel your muse come to life with renewed vigor.  This one-of-a kind retreat is designed for all levels of experience whether you are exploring writing for the first time or are a seasoned veteran.

Invest in yourself and join me in uniquely inspiring Santa Fe!


There are only 15 rooms in the historic 

El Paradero Bed and Breakfast Inn and one of them is waiting for you!

There are 52 weeks in 2016.

Will you save one for yourself?

For more detailed information please  head over to


Can’t wait to share the magic of Santa Fe, New Mexcio with you!


“Your purpose in life is to use your gifts and talents to help other people. Your journey in life teaches you how to do that.”  ~Tom Krause

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The Magic of Women Gathered

Transformational Travel – Santa Fe!

“I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe

I love creating retreat experiences for women. To gather groups of seekers in beautiful settings. The energy created could light the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center for the entire holiday season.

Oh, it doesn’t happen in a flash, it builds slowly as we circle each other in conversation. As we listen and share and laugh or hand each other Kleenex to dab at unexpected tears. I watch the magic unfold every time. The power of vulnerability melts barriers of all sorts in the room and, soon, it transforms into sacred space.


It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes an Olympian effort to be vulnerable in public. But I have found that the most genuine friendships and meaningful connections with other people take place in that space.

Though I am inspired by valiant acts and articulate speeches by dynamic leaders of all sorts, my heart is often left unchanged. I suspect greater power lies in shared seeking. Taking time out of life to reassess who we are at this particular stage and who we want to be, or what we wish to accomplish, in the next chapter.


It is often a relief to engage in important conversations that explore shared truths or weaknesses, that offer glimpses into our collective hopes, dreams, pain or uncertainties. It is a relief to let down our guards and be imperfect. To embrace our imperfections and exhale. And did I mention the amount of laughter and good-natured sarcasm that comes with all of this? (When is the last time you laughed until your sides ached?)IMG_2164

Trust is built at this level. Vulnerability is the soil that will bear the fruit of growth and inner peace.

Travel offers unique opportunities for emotional, intellectual and spiritual growth. When we venture beyond the boundaries of our everyday lives and slip out of our cultural constraints, we find ourselves opening to possibility, imagining a life of greater meaning, and seeing ourselves in a new light. Our creative energies have room to churn and bubble to the surface.  New friends expand our worlds in beautiful ways.


Adventure is a basic human need. New landscapes, colors, textures, foods and flavors. The sounds of other languages and diversity of cultures. Inspiration happens in such circumstance. A journey feeds the soul.

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I encourage you to grant yourself and those you love these formative experiences. They are life affirming, life changing, and just plain fun. If you feel drawn to a destination, find a way to make it happen! It is calling you and waiting to reveal its lessons to you. The beach, the mountains, the hustle bustle of a large city, Italy, Bali… you get the idea. Life is for living!

If you feel a call to the creative energy of Santa Fe and the rugged beauty and colors of New Mexico, please join me in June for Writer Travel Santa Fe! O’Keeffe country is the perfect destination to explore the artist in all of us. (Talk about a strong and inspiring woman!)











In closing,  please enjoy one of my favorite poems by Macrina Wiederkehr.

Have a vulnerable day! ~ Susan

The Sacrament of Letting Go 


She celebrated the sacrament of

Letting Go…

First she surrendered her Green

Then the Orange, yellow, and Red…

Finally she let go of her Brown…

Shedding her last leaf

She stood empty and silent, stripped bare

Leaning against the sky she began her vigil of trust…

Shedding her last leaf

She watched its journey to the ground…

She stood in silence,

Wearing the color of emptiness

Her branches wondering:

How do you give shade, with so much gone?

And then, the sacrament of waiting began

The sunrise and sunset watched with

Tenderness, clothing her with silhouettes

They kept her hope alive.

They helped her understand that

her vulnerability

her dependence and need

her emptiness

her readiness to receive

were giving her a new kind of beauty.

Every morning and every evening she stood in silence and celebrated

the sacrament of waiting.


For more information about our upcoming retreat in Santa Fe, please go to www.transformationaltravel.weebly.com or email me at susan@susanpohlman.com

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Dream of Venice

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A few years ago, I received an email from JoAnn Locktov inviting me to contribute to a book project about Venice that she and esteemed photographer, Charles Christopher were putting together. Honored to be asked, I accepted and was then sent a series of photographs taken by Charles. I was to choose one as inspiration and then compose a short piece.


I remember opening that email and marveling at the photographs. Each was stunning, mesmerizing. Charles had captured the ethereal essence of Venice in ways I had not yet seen.


Stirring my memory, they transported me back to the first time I visited. Venice is not just a city, it is an experience. An evocative watery labyrinth where one can wander for hours, days, even weeks at a time. It holds a mystery that is difficult to express in words.

Charles Christopher Photography via Dreams of Venice - Matthew White quote - as seen on linenandlavender net

I explored it for the first time in winter. A friend had urged me to wait until Spring, to wait for balmy breezes and geraniums in bursts of crimson along the canals. But I didn’t listen to her, I imagined that a city of such grandeur would bear gifts regardless of the season. I decided it fitting to ring in the New Year on Piazza San Marco, a countdown to midnight I will never forget.


However, the Venice I had preconceived, the one I knew from TV programs and guidebooks did not match the Venice that greeted me. Indeed, there were magnificent buildings and bridges and gondolas waiting with striped shirted gondoliers, but I sensed something deeper about this floating city that I could not name. Photos meant for tourism did not capture its complexity, its moodiness and mystery.


I spent those few days studying the interplay of contrasts. Life and decay, sun and mist, busy campi and empty ally ways, ever shifting shadows and illusions. I simultaneously loved it and felt wary of it. I knew it would be a place that would haunt me, call me back to reveal its depth in small, magical doses.


I am happy to announce that Dream of Venice, with a forward by Frances Mayes, is now available and has already garnered esteemed reviews. (See J. Michael Welton’s review in The Huffington Post!) I am honored to be included among a notable list of contemporary Venetophiles including Peggy Guggenheim, Patricia Highsmith, Erica Jong, Julie Christie and Woody Allen.

A percentage of all the book sales will be donated to Save Venice Inc. to support vital art and architecture restorations in Venice. Since its founding in 1966, Save Venice has funded the restoration and conservation of more than 450 works of art.

If you love Venice or know someone who does, don’t miss this treasure!

You can follow Dream of Venice on Facebook by clicking here.

Grazie mille!

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Art and Soul Adventure ~ Santa Fe!

Are you feeling the call to adventure?

Transformational Travel – Santa Fe!



Join us for the Art and Soul Tour ~ Santa Fe!

Join travel writer, author and photographer Lynn O’Rourke Hayes and author and writing coach Susan Pohlman as we explore uniquely inspiring Santa Fe, New Mexico.
With the Springtime spirit of rebirth, come share in this magical journey of heart and soul. Disconnect with the busyness of life and re-connect with yourself as we enjoy the art and alleyways of this historic city, rich in diverse cultures and surrounded by the expansive natural beauty of New Mexico.

What is transformational travel?

Transformational travel is the willingness to embrace the power of adventure as a vehicle to self understanding. When we venture beyond the boundaries of our everyday lives and slip out of our cultural constraints, we find ourselves opening to possibility, imagining a life of greater meaning, and seeing ourselves in a new light.

This unforgettable retreat will combine this thrill of adventure, soaking in local tradition and feasting on authentic Southwestern food and wines, with focused self-exploration workshops and quiet journaling time. Tapping into the same restorative creative energies that has made this region a mecca for artists, we will learn to listen to the voice of the artist within for guidance and possible new directions for a richer, fuller life.

Our home for the retreat will be this refurbished 200-year-old farmhouse, Santa Fe's oldest inn.

Our home for the retreat will be this refurbished 200-year-old farmhouse, Santa Fe’s oldest inn.

New year, new experiences, new friends!





Now registering for both the January and April retreats. Space is limited! Click here for more information or email me at susan@susanpohlman.com

There will be 52 weeks in 2015.

Will you save one for yourself?

A few testimonials:
A soul enriching, transformational retreat! I loved every minute of this experience. Your thoughtful attention to detail and flexibility made the trip all I could have hoped for and more!

~~Sally K., MA

Susan and Lynn are remarkable ladies, both in their area of expertise of writing and photography, respectfully, as well as strong, centered, inspirational women. They know how to lead a group of individuals who do not know each other and infuse a level of comfort for all participants to be genuine and respectful of the transformational process. They allowed the experience to be personal for each person in a sincere and truthful manner. For me it was it was the chance to remember what my priorities are by allowing quiet reflection as well as interactive cultural experiences and a lot of laughter.

~~ Melissa C., AZ

Transformational Travel… this is the perfect way to describe this retreat. I felt so taken care of but, at the same time, on my own journey. I could share (in a safe environment) if I wanted to or listen and learn either by what others had to say or as we were guided by Susan and Lynn in journaling and the art of photography. I am the “Hero” of my own story. How I wish every woman could be as fortunate as I was to be guided by these two very peaceful and knowledgeable women. If you are even considering this gift for yourself, SIGN UP.
I will forever hold in my heart how this trip/experience has positively influenced my life!
~~Nancy M. Hall., MD
One of the things that I enjoyed most was the camaraderie of the women I met. We started out as strangers and quickly became friends sharing stories – some funny, some sad – but all inspirational. In sharing our stories, it bonded us. I left feeling more connected as a human being and more confident to pursue my creative side.

Hope to see you in Santa Fe!

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48 Hour Film Project Update!


A heartfelt thank you to all of you who generously contributed to our recent Kickstarter campaign! We met our goal and were able to successfully finance a short film in this year’s 48 Hour Film Project in Baltimore.

To jog your memory, the 48Hour Film Project is an event that takes place in almost every major city world-wide. It draws veteran film makers and students alike. It basically works like this:

On a Friday evening at 7:00 PM our volunteer team is handed a genre, a line of dialogue, a prop and a character. Then we write, rehearse, shoot, edit and score a complete short film that we must hand deliver by Sunday night at 7:00PM. You can imagine the creative frenzy that whirls through the weekend. It is 48 hours of film making madness!

This year our AVA Productions team reassembled for the sixth time. Having developed into a well-oiled machine, we were eager to focus our efforts to deliver a thoughtful film that would bring attention to those to whom we all owe a great debt. We wanted to honor our steadfast, and sometimes forgotten, soldiers.

Here’s how the weekend evolved:

On June 6th, we pulled a genre out of a hat. Sci-Fi! Oh no!! This did not seem to support the emotion we wanted to portray so we put it back into the hat. In this case, you are allowed one more try that you MUST use.

Drum roll… we pulled Monster/Creature film! Are you kidding?

The assigned character: Fred. A barber.

Line of dialogue: Does this look right to you?

Prop: Lollypop

The director, Joe Hall, gathered us together to deliver this awkward package of ingredients. As a team, we chewed on it a bit and, undaunted, began. I sat down and churned out a script that approached the genre in a thematic sense: War is the monster our character had to face. I chose the early morning of the day of deployment as our premise/setting to simplify sets for our camera/lighting/sound crew and then wove the rest of the assigned pieces into the storyline with a little creative storytelling.

The basic story question explored: How does a soldier deal with the possibility of loss as he/she heads to war?

We finished the film and felt great about what we had accomplished in just two short days. We achieved our goal and are proud of our film.

A few production photos:image-345682-full





Here is the trailer:


Relentless played to a full house at the Charles Theater late last month and was acknowledged by the audience as a standout among a strong slate of films. Unfortunately, while clearly among the festival’s best entries, we didn’t take the honors this year.

As we head into the fall, however, we await word on more than a dozen other festivals. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, best wishes for a happy and healthy summer!


The REEL Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington D.C. and the Rehoboth Beach Festival’s Regional Showcase have selected to screen Relentless!  Stay tuned for more festival news~


The Alexandria Film Festival has selected to screen Relentless in November!

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A Time to Embrace… A Time to Speak… A Time to Love


They leave family and friends to protect and fight on our behalf — in conflicts no longer in the headlines.

This one’s for them.

After I published my first memoir, Halfway to Each Other, and began speaking to groups about our story and about my writing process, a common question was “When did you begin to write?” I began to study writing in a serious manner when we lived in Los Angeles. Surrounded by some of the most creative minds in the world, I became fascinated with the art of screenwriting. I loved the structure, the precise dialogue, the visual poetry of chosen images and, most of all, I loved the aspect of collaboration. When a film is birthed, the family of artists kisses it farewell and the film ventures into the world to entertain, communicate, inform, inspire and unite us as human beings on our human journey.

A screenplay is a blueprint that calls artists of every facet of movie making to one round table where each applies his/her vision and talents to create the masterpiece at the end. Like any art, each collaboration is an opportunity for hands-on learning. No one learns this art by sitting in an office and wondering about it. Making a movie is “roll up your sleeves” hard work.

In seeking every opportunity to participate in an art form I love, I join a team of volunteer movie-makers every June and enter the 48Hour Film Project, an event that takes place in almost every major city world-wide. It draws veteran film makers and students alike. On a Friday evening in June at 7:00 PM our team will be handed a genre, a line of dialogue, a prop and a character. By Sunday night at 7:00PM we must deliver a 7-8 minute short film that is fully edited and scored. It is 48 hours of film making madness! The joy of creativity in action.

Each year our films have won honors in various categories, in one case we won the CINE Golden Eagle for Independent Short.

This year, though we have yet to know the genre in which we will be writing or any specifics, our goal is to honor those who honor us at home and abroad in our fight for freedom. Our dream is to produce a short film that will be entered in film festivals across the country that will illuminate our nation’s respect and love for our military and their families.

In order to finance this effort, we have decided to dip our collective toe into Kickstarter with the hopes that you might be inspired to join our team in this year’s movie short. All of the funds collected will go to production costs. None of the people involved will receive any of the monies.

We appreciate your consideration and hope to see your name on the list of credits at the end of the movie!

Click here to learn more🙂    There are also a few excerpts from some of our past films… keep in mind they were completed in a mere 48 hours!

Thank you for your time spent in reading this extra long post!

Blessings to you and to those in your family who serve~



Below is an excerpt from the Kickstarter Campaign page.


What happens when a creative team of writers, actors, filmmakers, artists, musicians and friends gather for a sleepless weekend of intense film production? On five past occasions, the results were award-winning.

AVA Independent has produced five short films to-date. Each film has been submitted to the 48 Hour Film Project and other Film Festivals and Award Ceremonies, and each has come away a winner of multiple honors — in one case, the CINE Golden Eagle for Independent Short. Conceived and filmed in just two days, these short pieces have successfully competed against films of substantial budgets and flexible production timelines. (Scroll down for links to three past 48 hour films — and behind the scenes production photos!)

What is the 48 Hour Film Project? Now run in over 100 cities around the world, this annual film challenge invites production teams to do the unimaginable — write, rehearse, shoot, edit and score a complete short film in just 48 hours. Assigned a genre, character, line and prop at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, our volunteer crew will work around the clock to deliver a festival-quality film by Sunday night.

The AVA team is gathering again in June for the 2014 competition — this time, stepping into the same unpredictable format with intent to honor our steadfast, and sometimes forgotten, soldiers.


Every day, these women and men leave their families and friends to protect and fight on our behalf — in conflicts that have long ago fallen from the 24-hour news cycle. While they are not always foremost on our minds as we go about our daily routines, we are foremost in theirs. Our film, as of yet unnamed, and, by the rules of the 48HFP, not yet written, will touch on the human story behind these daily departures.

Humorous, sad, dramatic, peculiar or scary — however the story is ultimately assigned and written — our all-volunteer production team will deliver a thoughtful film that brings attention back to those to whom we all owe a great debt.


Whether you’re inspired by our intent to honor those who serve our country, or you like the idea of supporting a team who will create this film in just two days, your support will bring this story to the screen. Join us. Make a contribution to our effort — any level gets us that much closer — and then share our project with your friends by Facebook, Twitter or however you get your message out.


We have planned carefully and are committed to maximizing resources and seeking in-kind goods and services when possible. The funds we raise through this effort will enable our team to secure the necessary logistical support required to produce an impactful film. These items include:

Equipment Rental
Location Fees
Set Design
Craft Services
Promotion and Distribution
It’s important to note that no member of the cast or crew will receive compensation for their involvement. We do it because we love it!


Within our dynamic crew is a crack promotions team that will help ensure the widest possible audience. In addition to the Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project, the finished work will be submitted to as many as a dozen or more national and regional festivals. We’ll keep you posted with developments as the film does the circuit!


Meet some of the team leadership!

Joe Hall Director/Producer

Joe Hall Director/Producer


Sarah Baker Morgan Producer

Sarah Baker Morgan Producer





Susan Pohlman, Writer

Susan Pohlman, Writer










AVA Independent represents an ever growing creative team. Here’s our 2014 Crew Roster in development (as of 05/01/14):

Joe Hall, Director/Producer

Sarah Baker Morgan, Producer

Yanik Ruiz Ramon, 1st AD

Patricia Woolsey, 2nd AD

Sarah Crahan, Script Supervisor

Susan Pohlman, Writer

Jonny Meyer, Director of Photography

Andrew Albosta, 1st AC

Jim Gilchrist, Location Sound

Mark Judson, Boom Operator

Jeremy Hall, Grip

Will Ley, Production Design

Graeme Hall, Set Dresser

Samantha Ible, Makeup

Gwyneth Hand, Hair

Jeff Wolfram, Set Photographer

Sergio Herrera, Editor

Mike Greenberg, Second Editor

Sarah Albanawi, Field Editor

Nick Vaka, Motion Graphics

Cedric Ruiz, Graphic Art

Charles Randall Choice, Composer

Catherine Hall, Craft Services

Ruben Steck, Production

Scott Rodgville, Production

Alex Jones, Production

Christian Hall, Production

Jacob Crahan, Production

Patrick Hall, Production

Matthew Pohlman, Production

Dave Welch, Production

Matt Cloud, Production

Josh Berrier, Production

Dave Medinets, Production

Valoree Vargo, Promotion / Distribution

Vanessa Wozniak, Promotion / Distribution

Pattie Roberts, Promotion / Distribution

Our pre-production planning is well under way and, with your support, AVA Independent will once again deliver a Winning Short.



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