From Dayton to Home: Extra Delights!

Apr 21, 2024 by Amber McClain Shaw, in Blog Posts

After the Erma Writer's conference, I did a few trip add-ons that enhanced my overall experience of making the trek to Dayton. I want to call them shore excursions or bonuses. These delightful extras happened because I gave myself a little extra time. I met up in person with Jean Reinhold, poet, writer and artist, to catch up over a collaborative art project. I met up with Tandy, a fellow member of an online writing group, to take in a musical performance and some pizza. 

Collaborative art with Jean

Since I flew through Chicago on my way home, I stopped there for a couple of days. Unfortunately, my plans were made far before I was aware of the eclipse, so I flew out of the path of totality that morning and watched it at 93% from the beach in Chicago. I chatted with the people watching the eclipse near me, who had both eclipse glasses they were willing to share, and a bulky foil and duct tape-covered Saucony shoebox for viewing the shadow of the eclipse, which they made themselves and were super excited about. They moved to Chicago three years ago to be near their daughter, who was getting her PhD at Northwestern but was not viewing the eclipse with her very proud parents. They told me about a bar I must visit while in town, claiming it was the best in the entire country. This hyperbole piqued my interest. I jotted down the bar's name in the workshop notebook I was carrying everywhere.


I had an agenda for the Chicago part of my trip. Visit my niece who lives there, visit a friend who moved there a few years ago, and also get some inspiration to start my next book by wandering around the physical locations where an important part of the book takes place. My niece and I tried out the truly unusual bar that could be one of the best in the country if you like your drinks as both a science experiment and a show, your bartender in a tuxedo, and your tastebuds delighted and confused. 

I discovered there was a Moth Story Slam the next night. The prompt for the Moth was “green,” and referenced Erma Bombeck’s line “the grass is always greener. . .” It was sold out, but I got there early, and thanks to some lingering Erma magic, I got two tickets at the door.


The inspiration I was hoping for came from an unexpected source—it may even be the introduction to the book. I’m so glad I was able to add these bonuses to my workshop trip. The Erma workshop magic followed me all the way home.