From Virgin to Queen

Chatter filled the room as we squeezed through the crowd between clusters of reuniting friends. We didn’t know a soul, so we retreated to our room until the opening dinner in the hotel’s huge ballroom. There we sat at a table tucked in the back and, by the end of the night, made two new friends. We were a mother-daughter pair of newbies. Actually, we were known as virgins, officially “Erma Virgins” to be clear and precise as all writers should be — a tip gleaned in the days to follow at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. My mom was a lifelong Erma fan with a dream to be a writer, so I knew this conference would be a perfect Christmas gift. In the end it was so much more.


croppedmemomDay one started with a decision to “divide and conquer,” to soak up more knowledge from concurrent sessions jam-packed with knowledge. As I furiously jotted notes and snapped iPhone shots of PowerPoint presentations, I was convinced of several things: 1. My website wasn't as good as I thought. 2. Any type of writing class in my first 50 years of life would have been enormously helpful. 3. The experts and fellow writers were community, not competition. By the end of the first day, we had conquered nothing except finding bathrooms and snack tables.


By day two we gave up on conquering and focused on companionship. Together we attended the first workshop on branding using social media tools. I peered over at Mom’s notes knowing she had no idea what Facebook Live was on “The Facebook,” as she called it. I was clueless too. I did, however, receive one of the most important pieces of advice from presenter Cindy Ratzlaff when I asked about my brand and audience. After sharing a few sentences of my background and writing topics, this stranger responded assuredly without pause, “Write to people just like you — an empty nester, Christian mom.” That one sentence provided instant clarity.


Feeling empowered and now connected with other attendees, Mom and I found our way to lunch as the program began with the coronation of the conference king and queen. As CroppedCrowningMaster of Ceremonies Patricia Wynn Brown spoke of a mother-daughter team she had met the previous day, the story grew familiar. Emotions overcame me with her words, “Will our new queen, Lori Mansell, please come forward with her daughter Julie.” On the stage, Kathy Kinney (aka “Mimi” from The Drew Carey Show) placed a jeweled plastic crown on Mom’s head, and the newly crowned queen was offered a moment at the microphone, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and you’ve all inspired me,” she began. “I’m going to write a book. It’s never too late. This is a new beginning.”


With that, the Erma Virgin had become the admired Erma Queen, inspiring over 350 attendees from all over the country. Throughout the afternoon fellow writers greeted her with bows and hand kisses. Selfies with the royal family became commonplace. The queen perfected her regal wave. And just before we departed back to our Indianapolis castle, it could be nothing less than a divine hallway encounter that we would run into the Bombeck family. I know if Erma were still alive that she and Mom would have been great friends. At least friends on The Facebook.



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17 Responses

  1.' Sharon Tjaden-Glass
    So glad I was one of your new friends that you met on your first night there! It was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to more of your posts!
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks, Sharon! You were my first Erma friend. I loved your blog when you shared it on Friday night. Can you please send me your website address again? Keep writing and keep in touch!
  2.' Helen
    I was in the session with you when you asked about the "Empty Nester Christian Mom". We got timers there too, remember? I started using mine, limiting my Facebook time to 15 minutes. Funny how worlds collide because with 8 minutes left I came across your blog and read (and remember) you and your mom. I have three daughters and I am in the trenches of raising teens. I too left my home for that workshop with uncertain expectations and I didn't know a soul. But now, even though we didn't speak to each other in Ohio, I feel one more connection and have one more memory that touched me. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope to meet you in 2018 ! Best of luck to you and your mom. Sincerely, helen
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks for your kind words, Helen. Yes, we will meet in 2018! I would love to hear about your writing and keep in touch. Thanks for the reaching out and reading my story.
  3.' Pam E.
    Julie, your writing here took me with you through the crowd, to the sessions, and ultimately into the room where your mom was crowned. It makes me happy to know that you two also found this workshop to be a defining moment in what can be an unclear journey.
    • Julie Osborne
      You made it all possible, Pam. I can't thank you enough for telling us about the conference. Mom was beaming the whole weekend -- even before the crown. You are going to Erma with us in 2018!
  4.' Mike C
    Julie. I always look forward to you stories. I am always left wanting more. Can't wait to read the book one day. Looks like you guys had an awesome time. Give the queen a kiss for me.
    • Julie Osborne
      Will do! The Queen and I are both working on books -- we may write one together. The Queen's first story is coming soon!
  5.' Peggy sugphin
    What a wonderful time for about you and your mother. I am so happy that you were both blessed.
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks, Peggy! It was an unexpected blessing when Mom was crowned queen. Just being there together was a gift.
  6.' Cathy Taisch
    Loved seeing you and Lori together at such an amazing event. And then to be Queen!!!!! Such fun and great inspiration. Sending hugs to both of you.
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks, Cathy! The Queen and I had a memorable weekend. I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog. Hope to see you soon!
  7.' Lisa
    Love the Virgin to Queen piece! :) Definitely one of your best!
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks, Lisa! It was an awesome weekend, and I was grateful to be able to share the story -- all made possible by the Erma Bombeck staff and The Queen, of course!
  8.' Dan M.
    Love it...... :)
    • Julie Osborne
      Thanks for the feedback, Dan.
  9.' Janet
    You and your mom have shared so many unforgettable experiences. How great that you have the talent to write about them so that the world can be inspired by your Tales of Oz. Love, Janet