The value of a writers’ conference

looking glass rock

In March I applied for the inaugural Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference at Brevard College.

Gratefully, I was accepted and today I set out for western North Carolina.

The last such event I attended was the Woodbridge Writers Retreat in 2011 in Woodbridge, Virginia. That working retreat was a phenomenal experience. It was led by Robert Bausch, Richard Bausch, Jill McCorkle, Randall Kenan and Ian Shapiro. The retreat is still going strong, and just finished up its 2016 session with the Bausch brothers and Tom Zoellner and Stephen Goodwin.

The Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference is organized by Dr. Ken Chamlee and facilitated by Rick Bass (non-fiction), Ron Rash (poetry) and Marjorie Hudson (fiction). About 30 of us are expected to participate. I’ll be in the fiction workshop.

How did I prepare?

I read about the location, facilitators and others expected to attend.

I critiqued the nine writing samples of other fiction workshop participants (they’ve got my short story as well).

I read the seven 2-4 page examples of fiction writing techniques that Marjorie Hudson sent and that she is going to emphasize in her class.

Thankfully, I’ve been active in a weekly critique group that meets in a coffee shop in Goldsboro. I learned from them to “read twice, critique once.” I also learned to:

  • Critique the writing, not the writer.
  • Be objective.
  • Look for strengths as well as weaknesses.
  • Be constructive and use positive language.
  • Make specific suggestions for improvement.

The goal, I’ve learned, is to clearly communicate to the writer how they can more clearly communicate to their readers.

My suitcase is packed with business cards, writing tools and layered clothing (as another writer said, you can hang meat in some conference meeting rooms!).

Once on campus, it’s show time. I want to meet and talk with as many people as possible. I want to actively listen during sessions and take notes. I want to open up to the experience as much as possible.

When I return home Monday, I will follow up. That means going over my notes, incorporating what I learned into my writing/marketing plan, and staying connected with any new contacts.

Most of all, it means moving forward. That’s what writers conferences are all about – helping each other on our journeys.