The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

6 Things I learned at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

Well the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop afterglow is slowly starting to subside. But it was such a life-altering experience for me that I can’t help but revel in its glory just a little longer.

I’ve been reflecting all week on some of my favorite moments and life lessons from the workshop, and honestly, I could fill a book. But if I had to pick a few, these would definitely make the list:

1.) I am a sucker for funny Jewish men with ginormous hands.

Leslie with Alan Zweibel, one of the original SNL writers. (OMG!) Such a funny and charming guy. Check out that catcher's mitt. Rarrrr.


It’s my Dad’s fault.


Hey now, no need to get all Freudian there penis. I know what you’re thinking bowling ball hold and you’re wrong. That’s just weird. Look at that punim, even then I was all hell no. Besides, I married a Catholic Italian. A Catholic Italian with really big hands. Shut up. Okay, you’re right. There’s something very wrong with me. Daddy issues are just the tip of the thumb iceberg.

2.) Pace yourself. Don’t drop it like it’s hot on the first night of a conference buying half of the keynote speaker’s library. There will be many additional fabulous speakers over the course of the next few days whose books you will also want to buy and have signed. (Dammit.)

Fortunately for me, Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel is Bucket Head’s new favorite book. We have read it every night this week and I don’t even want to hit myself with it like I do when he picks almost anything else. It has that magical mix of laughter and tears that keeps us both coming back for more. Truly, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone should have their own Steve.

3.) The elegant, quiet woman sitting next to you might not necessarily loathe you just because you have celebrity-blogger-proximity-induced-diarrhea of the mouth, she might just be painfully shy. Talk to her. And no, “please pass the creamer” doesn’t count, dumbass.

4.) Yellow is my color. I know this because three different people told me so, including  THE Karen Walrond. And frankly, if that woman told me I looked good in a pelt of deli meats and pimento cheese, I would wear that mofo 24/7.

leslie with karen walrond at ebww

Leslie relishing a hug from THE Karen Walrond, and then editing the photo into a super creepy romance-themed vignette for funsies.


Sadly, I am only just learning this about the color yellow NOW, at the ripe old age of 42. Ack…better late than never. And that’s why I’ve been wearing my new yellow sweater all. damn. week.

This is me writing in my awesome new journal...because Karen told us to. That's why. (Suck up.)


That’s right. Get used to it, people. You know that song Lady in Red? I’m commissioning a rewrite called Crazy Bitch in Yellow.

5.) According to Suzette Standring in her incredible session, Hypnotic Recall Fills the Creative Well, self-hypnosis, meditation, and guided imagery are all the same thing, and a great way to access memories and details for one’s writing. Also, people who meditate tend to look 10-15 years younger than people who don’t, so guess who’s got a first class seat on the meditation bandwagon this week! {OHM.}

“I write. I heal. My writing serves others.” ~ Suzette Standring

6.) Photo-bombing can make any social situation more fun.

Front row: Kim Katcham, Deb Amlen, Nicole Morgan, Tracy Beckerman. Back row: some nutjob (ahem).

(photo used with permission by EBWW on Facebook)

So, this actually doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the wonderful things I learned at Erma. I think you better come on back tomorrow and hear some more.


Leslie (formerly known as Iris, but whatever, call me anything, just call me.)


  1. Wasn’t this conference just THE BEST? I felt high for days after I got home.

    Well, could have been low blood sugar too… no one around to grocery shop.

    But, either way: came home floating on air.

    No offense, but next time… yes, “pass the creamer” doesn’t count.




    • Oh God, I know! I should probably prepare some questions in advance that aren’t so utilitarian. Maybe you could help me with that so I don’t end up asking you things like “So…come here often?” or “Is that some non-dairy creamer in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” See? I have issues.

  2. I love the photo bomb, I-lie. I mean, Les-Ris.

    And you met my most favorite person ever that I’ve never met!! (Alexandra)

    I know, I sound like I’ve never typed a word in my life. I’m just so distracted by the yellow sweater (my new favorite color).

    • I KNOW! Believe me, I know what a Blogosphere rockstar she is which is precisely why I froze up like a deer in the headlights when she sat down next to me. At least I didn’t hump her leg, which was my other instinct.

      Luckily for me, I was wearing my yellow sweater that day. That’s probably why she sat next to me in the first place. My yellow sweater is like a drug.

  3. I’ve only just found your website a few days ago (I know! And, yes, that IS a rock I live under), from following a link from another blogger who wrote about EBWW. I must say, I left the conference inspired and excited, too, and I wasn’t even there. I used to blog with a lot more humor but in 2010, I moved to my “outed” blog and it’s been almost non-stop navel-gazing ever since. I don’t know why I equated seriousness with a URL that contained my name… but then I don’t know why I do most things. But, you and the other women from this conference have inspired me to find the humor again and inject my words with giggles.

    Love your site and am glad to have found you. And, high-five your son for me, he sounds like a cool kid.

    • Thank you, Debra! “Non-stop navel-gazing”…that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. Some people have really cute navels…right?

      Glad you’ve enjoyed all the EBWW follow up posts and hope you’ll be inspired to join us there in 2014! And yes, inject that humor, girl! No fear!

      Thanks for being here. Off to high-five my awesome son for you.

  4. I’m now waiting for the appearance of Crazy Bitch in Yellow on a vlog! Sounds like it should have a rap music feel about it…

    • Oh LAWD, I don’t rap. Or crunk. Or breakdance. I can sprinkler! I don’t think you want to see a yellow sprinkler though. That sounds pretty gross.

  5. LOVE! Your smiles in this post are just the best. And yes, jewish men with big hands are adorable. Hell, I’ll take any man with big hands (if you know what I mean! *wink wink* *nudge nudge*)

  6. Things I learned from this post:

    1) I am just now finding out about this workshop, and it sounds like a great experience. I must go sometime.
    2) You have most awesome hair.
    3) You are a fellow lefty. I knew I liked you.

  7. You’re left-handed?

    I had the chance to talk with Alan Zweibel for nearly an hour in the pub after his speech. He was kind and encouraging, and more or less ordering me to write a book on the idea I had told him about. He kept reaching up and patting my arm, and a few times patted my cheek. His hands are huge. I felt, for the first time in my life, petite. (I’m not petite.)

    When I went back to my room that night, I deliberately didn’t wash my makeup off. Zweibel magic was on my face. (Please don’t take that out of context.)

    • Girl, you are torturing me with a final paragraph like that! But I get what you mean, and won’t turn it into something filthy (even though it is painful for me not to.)

      He totally seems like the kind of man who would be an arm patter and a gentle, kind face toucher. Thank you for validating my theory about his hands…for a minute I thought it might just be a weird camera angle.

      I think you better write that book!

  8. You are not making me miss the workshop any less, so screw you for that. But thank you for making me remember how much fun it was. So that’s one in the plus column, one in the “screw you” column, if you’re keeping track at home.

    We love the Steve book, too. I also chose Bunny, Bunny. And like 5 other books I wasn’t planning to buy. Oy.

    Why can’t we just go live in an Erma Bombeck commune, anyway?

    • Hold the phone…you have a “screw you” column for me? No wonder WordPress put this one in the spam folder. Dang, how about WordPress having my back like that?! Holla, WP!

      Okay, for realsies, I would totally live in an Erma Bombeck commune. Let’s get right on that. The reentry after the conference has not been pleasant. Who are these kids and why do they need to eat so much?

  9. Yes, yellow is your color.

    However, I would like to see you in a pelt of deli meats and pimento cheese. For comparison reasons only.

    You are pure joy. =)

  10. I have only envy. No, I don’t want to see your post-meditation face that looks 2 years younger already and you’ve only been at it for a week. It cuts. It cuts like a knife, Lesiris. (That’s LEZ-iris.)

    • Now if only I could meditate my Mommy Apron away…

      I kinda like that LEZ-Iris thing…it’s like Lazarus, but with a Lez…like a leather clad woman who rises from the dead while singing Indigo Girls. Let’s think about it. Have your marketing people call my marketing people (i.e., call me, bitch.)

      • You should know I picked an Indigo Girls song for my wedding. I don’t think the Hibs had any idea what the fuck it was aout. But then, he’s no LEZbian. (Not sure why I needed those cap letters, it just *felt* right.)

        Also, none of this information is remotely relevant. Surely they don’t stress relevance at this EBWW?

  11. Kris the Colts Fan

    April 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    You’ll always be Iris to me. Unless we become neighbors or something and then I’ll call you by your given name. 🙂

    • I am totally cool with that, Kris! Iris was my great-grandmother’s name and it’s really grown on me these past (almost) four years. Thanks for being here. XO

  12. I’m pissed that I missed that awesome workshop! I miss EVERYTHING good! >:-( I am definitely making the next one. And even though I am a snitch strange on my blog, I am kinda normal and shy in real life, so if you were sitting next to me and said “pass the creamer,” maybe it could be code for “YeeHAW! Lets get this party started!!” Or something. Then we could be 42 year old friends. Because I’m 42 too!! Oh my Cod we have so much in common. I swear I’m not a stalker.

  13. Oh Leslie/Iris – you have flung more funny on me again. I am in the middle of trying to get over your baby pixs and you go and photobomb on me. That is so you. Now I have to go meet all these wonderful people you are introducing. I swore I was going to be all grown up and not say this but – your hair cut is soooooo cuuuuuuttttttteeee!!!!

  14. Thanks for the chuckles, Iris. Keep them coming!

  15. Oh hells to the yes! Yellow IS your color. I love that sweater.

    • Thanks JQ! Lands End, baby. Don’t hate me. I’m high Fashion with a capital F.

      • I just discovered how much I love their overpriced swimsuits. I bought one on the discount rack (well whatever you call the online discount rack) for $50. It has a weird pattern and I still look a great in it. (NB: I weigh just under 200 pounds. This is saying something.)

  16. You, ma’am, are a badass.


  17. I love the photobomb! I will have to start meditating everyday – thanks for the tip.

    • Oh my darling Snappy The Turtle Tamer, I love that you put “Snappy” as your name when you comment here. It truly makes me smile every. damn. time.

  18. What? You didn’t learn anything from me? I could have taught you how to spit food on famous people if you had moved to the Bombeck table with me! BTW did you know I have abnormally large hands. Just saying’…

  19. Still sort of disappointed that you’re name really isn’t Iris. You know cuz Bearded Iris is a flower and I was all “how f-in clever is that” and now it’s like…well to put it bluntly…like sex with my ex. (a letdown)

    • Hey, woman who owns a stuffed beaver, it’s just a name. It’s not like I was claiming to be the illegitimate love child of Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, which I would never do. It’s just a name. I promise you, this Iris by any other name will smell just as sweet. 😉

  20. And you could have missed it all. I’m so glad you had the experience even if I only saw you once in the entire time.

    • Seriously Wanda. If you and Janet hadn’t prodded me into going, I would have missed the time of my life. You are a Godsend. Now heal up that knee so we can dance together in 2014!

  21. You look so good in yellow that I just officially changed teams. Just sayin.
    The girl with the great hair who sat next to you on a table because – hi – how hard is it to get to a session on time – whatever. Yes, the one with a baby in a helmet.

    • OMG, you! I know you. You do have great hair! My brother had a helmet. Long story. I actually love helmets. I wear one all the time. I should really stop making helmet jokes, shouldn’t I. It’s offensive. I hate myself. I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for the compliment on the yellow and reminding me about my verbal diarrhea.

  22. It is not cute sitting in hair salon trying to look all suave and shit then belt out a garbled bark of laughter!!

    You’re there and I’m here and your totally causing me to reveal my white trash to these people!! Stop it!

    • What in the Sam Hill are you doing? Back for more? Are you having your curtains dyed to match your rug, or vice versa? Betty Beauty? Fun Betty? Vajazzle? SPILL IT, beeyotch.

  23. Get Crazy Bitch in Yellow written and I’ll buy it just as soon as I see it in the 10 for a pound bin at our local charity shop – promise 🙂

  24. 1. You are so gorgeous
    2. You look so happy and in your element in all the photos (especially the photo bomb). It’s a joy to see!
    3. Yellow? Golden Showers?
    4. If I met Alexandra in person I’d probably piss myself and ask her to pass the creamer, too.
    5. Next year I want to go and sit at your table!

  25. I want to go with you next time!!

  26. It sounds wonderful!! And you are stunning! Your smile lights up every photo!

  27. Well this just kept getting funnier and funnier. I nommed a whole bowl of popcorn reading this because the more I laughed the more I crammed greasy fat fists of exploded kernels in my face.

    I love all the suggestions you made. Can you give me like 3-5 more humorists to read? For adults? I want to hit a summer reading list and have it to look forward to.

    Wait whut? Your name’s not Bearded Iris? I mean I knew the Iris thing was made up, but I totally thought “Bearded” was real. Dammit.

    What did you decide to do about the 12 year old boy situation? Did you modify/edit or are you here just loving life being you? I’m certainly glad you’re still here!! Are you writing your book yet? You should.

    • Holy CRAP – what a great comment! Okay, let’s break it down:

      1.) Thank you for the high praise and popcorn visual! I love popcorn too and often find myself cramming it in my popcorn hole when I’m involved in a good movie or read.

      2.) Good humorists, eh? Well first off, start with Celia Rivenbark. She is one of my favorites and people tell me all the time my writing reminds them of her, which is incredibly flattering. You can’t go wrong with classic Erma Bombeck. Her writing totally stands the test of time. And of course Adriana Trigiani. I also really enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants! Obviously, I’m a sucker for funny women. But I’m sure there are some funny men out there too. 😉 I’m hoping Alan Zweibel’s books are as funny as I found him to be in person. I’ll let you know.

      3.) The beard is real and it’s spectacular. It was the inspiration for The Bearded Iris brand. My great-grandmother’s name was Iris and I’ve always liked it. It just all came together one night when I was holding my hairy chin in my hands and trying to come up with a blog name. Definitely meant to be.

      4.) I’ve decided to not worry about the 12 year old boys. There is much worse smut on the Internet to keep them entertained. I will, however, be more cognizant to not write anything about my two older kids (aged 12 and 9) that could embarrass or humiliate them.

      5.) About the book: YES! I’ve started brainstorming about what previously published posts to use (or use pieces of) and how I want it to all come together. It will include tips, recipes, and inappropriate crafts, but mostly be a book of the same kind of stories I tell here. I’m really excited about it and feel like it has a lot of potential. Thank you for asking and for the vote of confidence! 🙂

      XO, Leslie

      • Aw that’s my momma’s name. Thank you so much for the suggestions and I can’t wait to check them out. Look forward to seeing your book progress and your name in lights!

  28. Oh, Beardy, you had me at Crazy Bitch in Yellow. I envy you, for I just look like a banana in yellow, but it’s such a lovely color. So unless I’m trying to impress a monkey, I avoid it.
    I, too, love old funny Jewish men.

  29. Haha! Love your photo bomb! Great post about the workshop. It was awesome!!

  30. I think you should still sign your posts “Iris” just for kicks! XD

  31. Great blog. EBWW was life changing for me, too. It opened my mind to all the opportunities. Great meeting everyone.

  32. Cracking up about ginormous Jewish man hands (as someone who is internationally renowned for her hands, this is a subject of great interest to me).

    And I’m slightly fearful about Alan “petting” Crystal’s cheeks–but maybe that’s just me.

    Alas, you remind me that I bought that same children’s book for my kids and have STILL not given it to them. (Good to know what good reviews it’s gotten from yer kids.) Maybe I’ll keep it stowed away and pretend it’s what I got the rugrats in Miami…

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