Sunday, June 13, 2010

At the West Virginia Writers Conference

The conference is over, and I am home with a pile of new reading material, some new ideas for writing and questions to ponder.

For example, can a writer model a poem on a famous work by another poet? Yes, said Irene McKinney, West Virginia's Poet Laureate. She read a poem she'd written and had us write our own poem using her work as a model. Dana Wildsmith delved into writing with the purpose of addressing a topic we feel deeply about without alienating readers who might have an opposing viewpoint. Tell a story, she advised, use humor, don't beat them over the head with your position. In today's divisive political, religious and environmental atmosphere, hers are words to heed. The panel discussion of "Appalachian voice." From left: Irene McKinney, Denise Giardina, Danny Boyd (filmaker), Norman Jordan, Kirk Judd, Gretchen Moran Laskas and Tim Poland.

Gretchen Moran Laskas discussed the uniqueness of life in the mountains and how that impacts our writing; we explored ways to make our poetry more powerful with Fairmont State professor Donna Long, who won one contest with a masterful example of her technique. I listened to poets reading their work, stumbled into a playwriting workshop accidentally and decided that I might try converting one of my short stories into a one-act play.

We were serenaded by Pops Walker, Kipyn Martin and Kathleen Coffee, entertained by a series of performances both comedic and touching in a take-off of the radio show Prairie Home Companion. We were challenged to explore whether there is indeed an "Appalachian voice" and if so, is it evolving or dying, by a panel of some of our state's best authors. We talked and laughed by the bonfire and bemoaned the lack of enough coffee to fuel so many writers through a long weekend. (There were many more workshops and activities than I am listing here; these were the highlights for me.)

Then we all went home. I have email addresses jotted in my journal and people to find on Facebook; I have poems to read and poems to work on. I have some cool things from the Silent Auction and a few dollars from sales of my latest CD. I have memories of laughing faces, kind words and hugs.

It will be another year before the next conference. In the meantime, I am left wondering how I can sustain the inspiration and creative force of the weekend. Our local writing group has dwindled away and I miss the creative energy of our weekly meetings. Email and online groups can be helpful but there is nothing that can replace face-to-face sharing of work and ideas. For now, I am satisfied. That is enough. For now.

A few pictures from the weekend:

Me with writers Gretchen Moran Laskas, author of the West Virginia-based young adult novels The Midwife's Tale and The Miner's Daughter; Denise Giardina, who wrote the best-sellers Storming Heaven and Unquiet Earth; and Irene McKinney, West Virginia's Poet Laureate since 1994.

Poet Kirk Judd clowning around with a carrot, showing me how to eat healthy:

Writers doing what writers do--sharing ideas:


Susan at Stony River said...

Oh, I would have loved, loved, loved this! I'll keep the calendar clear for next year's; this year, I'm in Seattle.

Sounds like your writing batteries are fully charged; the talks sound fantastic.

Connie said...

I have never been to this conference (although I entered and won a contest one year). Always, it's on my to-do list and ALWAYS I can't fit it in.

Kirk is a treasure. His poem, Comin' Home, is my favorite and one I chant driving up my hill after a trip.


Granny Sue said...

Susan,join WVW so you get the newsletter and emails. It's only $20 a year and worth the cost. Then submit to the contests. I bet you'd win hands down in the nonfiction category or humor category! Not to mention the scifi or fantasy genres...

I didn't know you knew Kirk, Connie. He is one cool guy and was the one that jumpstarted my writing. He's asked me to be the Creative Writing Master at Allegheny Echoes workshops this year. His poetry is amazing. My favorite is that one "My people was music"--that's not the title, but that's how I remember it. I think it's something like The Mountain People Remember Their Heritage.

Connie said...

I've been trying for years to get to Allegheny Echoes - it's a bad time of year for me. I was close friends with a couple that Kirk was close to. While he's more than an acquaintance, I'd be stretching it to say we're good friends. I first heard his poetry at a camping trip on the Williams River.

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