An assembly of writers from across the south converging on a summer day in Charleston for workshops, panel discussions, some good food and comradery. Sounds like a recipe for success. One that worked well for South Carolina Writers Association last year. This year SCWA combined efforts with The Pat Conroy Literary Center, the Companion Foundation and Buxton Books to further test that method.
The day-long conference was held in true southern style at the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street in Charleston on June 29. The sold-out event accommodated fifty aspiring writers from across the south east, eager to learn from the talented faculty gathered at the historic venue.
Jonathan Haupt, Co-Editor of Our Prince of Scribes and Executive Director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center and Roger Jones, Director of Board Development for the South Carolina Writers Association and co-founder of Companion Foundation, gave attendees a warm welcome with introductions to the presenting faculty.
This year all members of the faculty were contributing writers to the literary center’s anthology of Pat Conroy remembrances, Our Prince Of Scribes. Memories and individual stories of the famed South Carolina writer were shared throughout the day. Attendees benefitted from the lessons instilled by the beloved mentor from some of those who knew him best.
The event gave writers of every genre an opportunity to mingle with Conroy’s inner circle, while learning valuable lessons in the long and challenging road writers take from the first key stroke through submissions, editing and the prize of publication.
Author, lawyer and former creative writing teacher, Sean A. Scapellato, delivered a dynamic explanation regarding the importance of a story’s beginning and evolving arc in the era of social media and rapid binge watching. The message was to deliver every writer’s desired result of landing in the submission keep zone. The workshop, titled The Lukeman Hurdle and How to Leap It, focused on overcoming the obstacle Literary Agent, Noah Lukeman, exposed as the desire of agents and editors to approach a manuscript with an eye to dismiss it; hence lessening their overwhelming load of submissions.
South Carolina’s Poet Laureate and New York Times bestselling author, Marjory Wentworth, inspired the crowd with the love she and Conroy shared in expressing imagery and geography when setting the stage for their gift of the written word.
Following a Brown Dog Deli lunch delivery of sandwiches and sweet tea, SCWA continued to discuss membership and accept applications thanks to Ann Chaney’s and other board member’s steadfast efforts throughout the day. The morning faculty team was then joined by the rest of the day’s presenters.
Ellen Malphrus, University of South Carolina Beaufort’s writer-in-residence, and Stephanie Austin Edwards, a New York theatre veteran and current fiction writer, joined the faculty for the panel discussion centered on Conroy and Our Prince of Scribes.
Conroy was described as an avid reader and loyal defender of his craft. It seemed he never lost his life-long sense of humor or Irish gift of gab, even as his health was failing at his final book signing in Savannah, GA. Ellen Malphrus, who accompanied him to the book signing, told a brief story referencing a bit of those characteristics on that day.
She asked Conroy why he was talking to so many of the people in line.
“You never know when they are going to stop buying your books,” Conroy answered, as he looked with a grin to the next person in line.
Amid some gentle laughter, pens were at the ready. We were prepared to continue gathering notes on accomplishing the common goal of putting our writing in the hands of those who love the craft. Most attendees left ready to focus on their work, eager to find future opportunities to share their common love of the written word.
Charleston’s Buxton Books provided an opportunity for faculty book signing and sales throughout the afternoon and later at their store’s new location on King Street.
There was abundant interest in SCWA’s many membership opportunities, including our state-wide critique groups, workshops, retreats, yearly state conferences, and access to our own publications.
A special nod was given to SCWA’s newly revised on-line journal, The Petigru Review, with reminders about the TPR website and the deadline submission of July 31. The upcoming August 1st submission opening for SCWA’s hard copy member’s anthology, Catfish Stew, was also announced.
Attendees were reminded of upcoming events co-sponsored by PCLC and SCWA, including another Our Prince of Scribes one-day conference in Aiken and the three-day writer’s retreat in Beaufort. Upcoming events can also be viewed at the SCWA and PCLC Websites.
Concluding the event was a poetry presentation by Lexi Thornton, a 16 year old rising junior at Porter-Gaud High School in Charleston. The poem she quoted was, “Skinny Girls Bleed Flowers,” by Savannah Brown.
A day full of opportunity, all geared towards the love of the written word. An admitted ardent life-long reader as well as one of the world’s best-selling authors, Conroy would have probably been pleased.
The rest of us take heart in the fact that although writing is often a singular endeavor, coming together with other like-minded souls is indeed a recipe for success.
“If you are part of the tribe, you look out for the tribe,” said Jonathan Haupt. “South Carolina writers look out for each other.”
Many thanks to all who participated.