Saturday, January 24, 2009

Roanoke Writer's Conference

Last night and today I spent my time at Hollins University at the Roanoke Writer's Conference.

The evening session on Friday consisted of a welcome, lots of introductions, and a keynote speaker.

Liza Field, a columnist for The Roanoke Times whose work I have admired for a long time, gave a talk about fire. She never said the word "passion" but I took it as that.

I very much wanted to talk to her about Chinese Medicine and the elements because her talk reminded me of that but when I did get have a chance encounter with her in the ladies room I instead talked about planning commission and supervisor members who pay no attention to the people who actually live in a community because they heed the call of the dollar bill. Silly me.

The event was scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday; when 8:40 p.m. rolled around and it appeared they were only then starting to think about having the keynote speaker talk, I left. It had been a very long and not-so-good day and my husband and bed were both calling to me.

Saturday held a long line-up of events, starting at 9 p.m. and ending sometime after 5 p.m. I left at 3:30 p.m.; there were still other seminars I could have attended but again, other things called for my attention.

I saw many people whom I know and met others, always fun. Two of them were fellow bloggers: Becky at Peevish Pen and Debi at Greener Pastures. I have known Becky for quite some time; we are also in the Roanoke Pen Women together. It was a treat to meet Debi after reading her blog all this time.

I recognized her name on her tag and said, "Hey, you're Greener Pastures, aren't you? I'm Blue Country Magic." What a way to make an introduction, eh?

Becky introduced me to another blogger named Sally (I think) but I didn't get the link. I should have written it down. My apologies, new friend!

I saw a number of writers from The Roanoke Times, a couple of old classmates from Hollins, and numerous other folks I have worked with in the past and/or present. Definitely a good networking event.

I ate lunch with Gwen who writes for The New Castle Record, which used to be my beat in Craig County until 2004.

I did not get around to talking to as many people as I like; I generally don't at these things. I am, believe it or not, rather shy. I stay to myself far too much.

As for the seminars, I enjoyed the day but just like last year I did not come away feeling like I had learned much of anything new. I suppose that is because I have read practically every book on writing ever written and had lots of other courses over the years.

I did feel maybe a tiny bit inspired, so that was okay.

I was disappointed in one of the speakers. This was the fourth time I have heard her speak and I don't think I will go out of my way to hear her talk again. I was impressed the first times but today she left me feeling very flat. I got the impression of a prima donna and I confess I would rather have not had that in my head. I won't name names so don't ask.

All in all, I think this conference is a good thing for the area's writing community. There are a few things I would like to see changed - the meal, for one, and some way to bring us shy folks out of our selves a little more for another - but I like the Hollins venue very much.

I will likely go back next year.


  1. I think the conference is a good thing for us local writers too, but I do believe it needs to go beyond what they've done so far. Last year's was just okay, and from what I saw of this year's line-up I thought it would most likely be a repeat of last year's but only less. It's like a "been there, done that." I think it would probably be a good "networking" thing if you're into that sort of stuff, which I'm not, unless there were some big shot agents present, but hardly anything "educational". I thought if I went this year I would just come back annoyed rather than "inspired", although I would have liked to hang out with you. I'll reserve that for the Pen Women luncheons ;) I got the vibe of who you meant as "prima donna" and you need not say anything more. We need fresh blood infusing the writing scene...

  2. Oh how fun to meet Debi! And yes, what a funny intro...I would love to meet up with all of you local blogging friends one day :)

  3. I had a good time, too. It would have been nice to have a lounge area where we could sit around and chat for a while. I agree that the meal could have been better. I had to go off my low-carbing to eat it, and my higher blood sugar last night and today shows it.

    And for my last gripe: I attend conferences to get information—not to do busy work and "share" the results of our busy work, as we had to do in one session. But then, I've never been a fan of free-writing except when I was an English teacher and having the students do it gave me a few mintues to sit down and relax.

    The other blogger you met is Sally, whose blog is

  4. Believe it or not, but I am shy too. Nobody believes that but it's true. Even my mother doesn't believe it when I tell her. She says, "You're not shy!" Ha! I think I know how I feel, lol. Maybe that's why we're writers!

    Anyway, I think Becky's idea about having a lounge area is a good one. Plus maybe they could come up with some other way to help us socialize--support and camaraderie is helpful to me because writing is a lonely job. I want to know how YOU agonize and how YOU get motivated, and how YOU almost gave it up but didn't, etc.

    I also didn't learn much of what I already didn't know. Like you, I got a little bit of inspiration. Plus, I got a story idea which may make it all worth it!

    I would have liked more nuts and bolts stuff, like how to keep a reader's attention or how to use description or how to develop character, write dialogue, or create suspense, end the story. What's new? What are the trends? What can a writer do to make a reader feel so much emotion the hair stands up on her neck? What about using the senses to bring a story to life? There's tons of stuff that we all could be reminded of. That kind of thing helps me hone my writing.

    Rex Bowman was pretty good with that kind of stuff. He told us things like eight ways to convey intimacy. That was good.

    And boy, was I pooped at the end of the day. I can't keep up with that Becky, lol.

  5. I've never gone to a writer's conference or taken a class (though I've always wanted to). But, really, I think for me the best method of learning to write has been simply reading the writing of others. Not so much "how-to" books but just reading good writing---mostly books---but also a lot of the good blog writing out there (including yours)! Of course, that can be intimidating because I start to compare myself to them and start thinking about how I can never measure up. But, then, I'm a little neurotic that way. :-)

  6. Cool you got to meet fellow local bloggers!

  7. Thanks for the report. I wonder if Mara went. Liza Fields has written columns for the Floyd Press too. I particularly remember one about the death of Irish writer John O'Donahue. I have a few of his books and reading him puts me in a good kind of trance. (unlike the Tolle book which I never finished because the trance was that of a different kind).

  8. Beth, that's exactly what one of the speakers at the conference said to do. He said he doesn't even read how-to write books. He said he only reads good short stories and he said we should read at least one a day. Also, there was an article about John Updike last week in the Roanoke Times and he said the same thing. He said writing is not something you can learn from school.

  9. Hmmm, I just got the standard e-mail saying what it was a pleasure it was meeting at the conferences along with..."Since the conference, I have come to an even greater appreciation of the work you do. Please know that I and the entire Arts Council staff are looking forward to supporting your art in any way we can!"

    And that's exactly why I didn't bother to attend. Next time they need to throw out the previous year's e-mail list.

  10. Hmmm. I'm sorry you weren't inspired. I didn't want to leave my family for two weekends in a row so I didn't go this time. But I know how disappointing it is to have to sit through a primma donna speaker. Yuck.


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