AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR TELLS ERMA: ‘YOU CAN WRITE!’
Brother Tom Price, S.M., a University of Dayton English professor and adviser to the literary magazine, The Exponent, first encouraged Erma Bombeck to try her hand at humor writing.
“That was like a breath of fresh air,” she remembered. “No one wanted anyone to write humor at that time. …It was tricky for one thing. To make fun of someone or something takes a pretty thick skin. I started to write humor for The Exponent, and one day he said to me three magic words: ‘You can write.’ I needed it at the time. It’s all I needed as an impetus to keep going, and it sustained me for a very long time.”
Here are Erma’s early pieces:
The Exponent, May 1948 – Erma discusses her eyesight, and a subsequent eye exam.
The Exponent, October 1948 – Erma attends a football game, where she has some trouble understanding what is happening.
The Exponent, November 1948 – By this time, Erma is editor of the women’s section, “With the Coeds.” She remains editor until her graduation and continues to write an opening column, retaining her humorous tone.
The Exponent, December 1948 – This issue focuses on Christmas, a timely topic.
The Exponent, January 1949 – Erma sets out to start her own sorority.
The Exponent, February 1949 – In an oddly serious tone for Erma, she writes about a UD student who attended the presidential inauguration.
The Exponent, March 1949 – Erma discusses the alternate studies that accompany a college education. In addition, she does a character sketch of a fellow writer.
The Exponent, April 1949 – Erma writes about Mother’s Day cards.
The Exponent, May 1949 – In her last issue, Erma writes about the things she will miss, and the class gift to the school.