Writers@Work Conference Elevates Writers

Photo Credit: http://altalodge.com/
When my friend Brandon asked if I knew about the "Flash Fiction" panel being sponsored during the "Writers@Work" Conference, little did I know his question would take me to new heights, literally. The conference was held at Alta Lodge. It was four days of reintroducing me to the "awe and wonder" of my soul as a writer.  If the altitude or the scenery didn't make me "heady," the energy of the participants and presenters elevated my thoughts about writing and about being a writer.

The faculty and participants were diverse and generous. "We are writers. We work in a solitary setting. We need to come together." (John Dufresne) This was the culture of the conference. The mix of small group workshops, faculty panels, and readings. There were repeat participants and newbies like me.  Local writers and out of state participants made the atmosphere electric with enthusiasm and energy. Here were artists from multi-genres of prose and poetry. Writers with multi-skill levels opening their minds and sharing experiences to help each others.

Those of you who know me know I am not shy or fearful of a new experience. But, I never have read my work in public, well not outside a classroom and certainly not in front of a group of experienced writers.  There I was, sitting in the lobby, preparing my work when the lovely woman who checked in at the same time as I asked, "Are you choosing something for your reading?"

I raised my head and in my shock at someone even asking me about the idea of doing my very first reading in front of this audience, I softly said, "A reading?  I've never done one. I don't have anything to read."

"What do you call that on your lap?" She said pointing to a page from my novel. "Pick an exciting page. Sign up for some coaching. You must read.  Everyone must share." Then she sat down and gave me her philosophy on readings and encouraged me. I still was very nervous when I did my reading, but my coach was excellent. I learned that a reading was more than reading the words you wrote. I learned to edit for a reading and much more.

How did my reading go? Well, I got very good reviews and some great tips on how to do a better job at my next reading.

This was only one of the many supported big and little actions of new and veteran attendees. The presenters were unbelievable. They called us "fellow artists" and treated us like colleagues. They encouraged us not to see "writing as an aside of our life, but as something that is a part of life, a seamless part of our life." (Michael Mertone).

The faculty included:
Katharine Coles:
  •  poet, novelist, and editor  
  • earned her BA at the University of Washington, her MA at the University of Houston, and her PhD at the University of Utah'
  • Awards and honors are a PEN New Writer’s Award, a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and a term as Utah’s poet laureate
  •  The Earth is Not Flat, Coles’ fifth collection of poems is available from Red Hen Press in March 2013.

 John Dufresne:
  • graduate of Worcester State College and the University of Arkansas. 
  • author of short stories, novels, plays, and screenplays. 
  • teaches in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami. 
  • awarded  a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2012
Michael Martone: 
  • attended Butler University, graduated from Indiana University, an MA from The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University
  • professor at the University of Alabama
  • won two Fellowships from the NEA, a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation
  • his stories and essays have been cited in the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies
Christopher Merrill:
  • published four collections of poetry, five books of nonfiction,  his articles have appeared in many publications
  • directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa
  • serves on the US National Commission for UNESCO
  • conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over 30 countries
  • appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President Obama in 2012 
 If I haven't mention it already, the staff at Alta Lodge was incredible. The service, food, and accommodations fostered the sense of community.  This was the most personal experience I have had in stretching my skills and calling upon my muse since my graduate days.  Thank you Writers@Work for giving me the boost and fuel until the next conference. 


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