Friday, June 15, 2012

The Writers Conference

Writers conferences are not what you might expect. At least, that is true for the West Virginia Writer's Conference. When I think of a conference for writers, I think of authors earnestly reading their work, people in odd clothing and wild hair hurrying from one workshop to another, and poets gathered under trees and looking moodily into the distance. I also expect cafeteria type meals, lots of coffee and earnest conversations in the booksale area.

You can probably find all of the above at the West Virginia conference, but you will also find the unexpected: an elderly man with his own vision of creation drawing caricatures of people he chooses to draw, a blues musician sharing conversation with a mountain poet, a woman on roller skates zooming by, geese everywhere (and be careful where you step). You might also find a bonfire with young interns making s'mores, a crowded hall where ventroliquists, storytellers, poets, actors and others present zany, touching, funny, sad or just plain weird acts. You will listen to country music by a soulful husband and wife duo, hear a composer of symphonies stroking her guitar and singing in a voice like an angel. You might happen on a white-haired handsome man reading from his just published, fascinating, twisted novel, accompanied by the blues musician who knows every beat of the story and coaxes the perfect notes from his guitar.

If you stay up late enough you might hear voices in the distance and if you follow them you might find a motley group assembled on a patio. Work your way into the circle and listen. You will hear powerful poetry, silly tongue-twisting tales, heart-touching melodies and rocking rhythms as one by one, those gathered feel moved to share something with the group. Someone might call out a name, and a new story or song comes forth. You might find a quart jar with suspicious liquid that burns its way to your tummy. You might be moved to share something yourself. You might even see a certain granny of undetermined years do a double back flip (yes I can, but not on this blog). Photo by Daleen Berry.

You might hear the whippoorwill call as the moon ascends, and see the mist rise from the creeks. You might look over your shoulder for the headless dog of Tug Fork or other spirits that roam these hills. You might even see the sun's edge peek over the horizon and stumble off to bed only to rise a few hours later to begin another day.

Of course, these things only happen if you are at the conference, and if you are open to the unexpected gifts that come from being with writers and musicians.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


  1. You paint an intriguing and colourful scene, Sue. Wish I'd been there.

  2. John, I bet you'd be right at home with this group :)

  3. Sounds absolutely delightful. My kind of party! And please, tell us more about "the headless dog of Tug Fork." I'll bet it was one of my ancestors who cut the dog's head off!

  4. I will have to write about that dog, Wayfarin'. It's a local legend, and a great tale to tell, especially at night and even more especially if one happens to be at Cedar Lakes. While I haven't told it at the conference yet (but I will next year), I did tell it to the young adults at the Spina Bifida camp on Tuesday evening and they were enthralled...and a little nervouse, I think.

  5. Yep, you summed it up quite well.
    Wasn't it just so much fun???
    I think I enjoyed it more than anyone. I'm several years behind.
    I'm already looking forward to next year.
    Thanks for writing this. I could see it all.
    Blessings. Barb

  6. I had so very much fun at conference this year -- it was the best one so far, for me. Enjoyed chatting with you outside the Assembly Hall. And I am amazed and astounded at the skill you demonstrated doing your double back flip!!! <3 Ya

  7. A double back flip? I'd have to see that one!!!


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