A Funny Thing Happened at Lunch: How the Spirit of Erma Inspired 153 to Join NSNC in One Weekend

President’s Message

By Lisa Smith Molinari
President
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
I could feel the tiny glands in my armpits firing off, one by one. I fidgeted, pushed the lettuce around my plate, and smiled blankly at the gentleman beside me, too distracted to make conversation.
It was no use. I would be a nervous wreck until my speech was over.
The organizers of the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had given me five minutes to speak about NSNC during the Friday lunch program. I had plenty of public speaking experience, but — if there was one thing I knew about these Erma folks — they didn’t want anyone to interrupt lunch unless laughter was involved.
I had stayed up late in my hotel room the night before, standing before a mirror in my Spanx, rehearsing my remarks, timing myself, and making sure I inserted a few decent jokes. The pressure was palpable. How could I plug NSNC and make hundreds of humor writers laugh in five lousy minutes?
“Let me introduce Lisa Smith Molinari of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for an exciting announcement!” I gripped my index cards with clammy hands and headed to the podium.
With 400 people staring up at me, I thought my bladder might let loose.
But then I remembered, that just a few years ago, I was one of those people out in the EBWW crowd, wondering if I could succeed at my dreams of being a columnist, looking for others who wondered, too.
I told the crowd my story. About the nights sitting alone at my home computer, figuring it all out by the seat of my double-digit-sized pants, with nothing but a can of Pringles and a Diet Coke to keep me company.
That is, until I found my tribe. Joining NSNC and attending EBWW gave me information, inspiration, and a whole bunch of new friends with the same hopes and dreams.
I asked for a show of hands, how many at the luncheon were NSNC members, and arms popped up at every table. I could see that the other attendees were surprised that their new friends were “newspaper people.” I explained to them that, despite its traditional name, NSNC is not just for newspaper people.
“NSNC members are columnists of all types, including bloggers … anyone who is a serial essayist,” I explained, hoping that they wouldn’t think we were a bunch of axe murderers.
I heard murmuring in the crowd, and could tell that they were skeptical that NSNC was open to bloggers. I made an offer to prove it: “Anyone attending the conference this weekend can join NSNC for a free 2016 membership.”
No sooner did I retake my seat, now starving and ready to wolf down my salad, than I was inundated with people crowding around me, grabbing at the NSNC sign-up cards I had at the table, asking me, “Are you sure I can join?”
I never got to eat my salad, but I was filled up with emotion over the deluge of 153 new NSNC members, and I was excited about finding ways to make them feel welcome in our tribe.
Erma Bombeck, who passed away on April 22, 1996, wrote her columns on a typewriter, alone in her bedroom. She once said, “It takes a lot of courage to show someone else your dreams.” But when Erma — a housewife in a world of serious journalists – mustered the courage to approach others with the idea that she might be a columnist, she became a phenomenal success, published in 900 newspapers each week and writing a series of best-selling books.
And I’d like to think, if Erma were alive today, she would have a successful blog, too.
With this spirit that Erma inspires, NSNC welcomes aspiring and established writers of columns in all applications – be it blogs, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, or alternative media.
Come to the table, and share your dreams with us.
Join or renew your membership HERE
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