In Praise of the One-Day Writers Conference

I’m sure when you think of writers conferences the image you have is a multi-day affair like AWP, Writers Digest, or ThrillerFest. They are great places to go and learn and network, but take AWP, for instance. At AWP Boston this past March, you were one among 12,000. How on earth do you network successfully there? Even the time between panels is compressed, when you have to move that many people in a large convention center. I’m not dissing big conferences or suggesting they’re a waste of time. They aren’t, but they can be overwhelming.

One-day conferences are more intimate, and the opportunities for networking, not just with fellow participants but with faculty as well, are better. The mini-workshops are intensive but because you don’t have to rush across a convention center the size of a city block for your next panel, you can actually stay behind and talk to the instructor or have plenty of time to network.

Press53, an independent press in Winston-Salem, NC, sponsored the second annual “A Gathering of Writers” this past Saturday in Winston-Salem (or “Winston” as the locals call it). The faculty consisted of Press53 authors and/or teachers of writing from universities up and down the east of the country. Press53 limits the number of attendees to 53 on a first-come, first-served basis. As much as I enjoyed A Gathering of Writers last year, somehow Press53 managed to improve upon it. Last year and this year, I came away with more writer-friend connections, and kernels of information on how to enhance my writing. And the cost (under $200) is reasonable. It’s not a case of getting what you pay for but, rather, getting a lot for a little.

A Gathering of Writers offered six workshops then repeated them in the afternoon, and the most you could work into the day was four. It was difficult to choose because all six sounded great. Here are the offerings with the ones I attended in red:

How to Haunt Your Readers, given by Mary Akers
The First Five Pages, given by Marjorie Hudson
The Compelling Story, given by Michael Kardos
Sandbox Game: Writing as Discovery, given by Steve Mitchell
Inhabiting Story Through Images of Place, given by Darlin’ Neal
Picking Your Perspective, given by Henriette Lazaridis Power

After the workshops ended, the faculty each read from their current, published works or works in progress. Throughout A Gathering of Writers, two West Virginia writers, Natalie Sypolt and Renee Nicholson, did live interviews and live-Tweeted for their great podcast, summerbooks. They even interviewed me, and it was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done–sitting around chatting about writing and reading with two other writers and voracious readers.

Later this week, I’ll post about the workshops I attended and why they were so successful–even given my momentary and embarrassing case of writers block.

A Gathering of Friday Fictioneers

If it’s the weekend, I must be going to a writer’s conference. This weekend is “A Gathering of Writers” in Winston-Salem, NC. Press 53, a small, independent press, sponsors this one-day conference. I attended last year and enjoyed the presentations and the camaraderie. So, I’m off again–though the three-hour drive while still recovering from my cold is a bit daunting.

There”ll be a book launch on Friday night–Mary Akers’ Bones of an Inland Sea, published by Press 53–then the panels begin on Saturday morning. I’ll actually be attending a workshop given by Mary Akers entitled, “How to Haunt Your Reader.” No ghosts for this, just the use of language to evoke mood that resonates.

I’ll also be going to “The Compelling Story” workshop, given by Michael Kardos; “Inhabiting Story Through Images of Place,” given by Darlin’ Neal; and “Picking Your Perspective,” given by Henriette Lazaridis Power. We’ll close out the day with faculty readings lots of writer networking.

Friday Fictioneers LogoToday’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt is one of those shots you can’t plan, and most of the time you don’t realize you have “the shot” until you look at it later. There are lots of things to focus on in this picture, but you’ll see in my story, “Prima Ballerina,” what stood out for me. As usual, if you don’t see the link on the title, scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.