Editors: Sue Cryer & Jayne Bowers
Kudos to Conference Chairperson, Amber Wheeler-Bacon, and the Assistant Chairperson, Roger Jones. Well done!
The South Carolina Writers Association 2018 Pawleys Island Writers Conference began with a reception dinner followed by faculty introductions and readings from Leigh Stein and David Gates.
Stein read a passage from Land of Enchantment, her heart-rending Junior Library Guild selected memoir based on the tragedy of young love. Gates read a short story from his critically acclaimed, latest collection, A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, about the depths of desire and addiction. The story originally appeared in the Emerson College Literary Journal, Ploughshares.
Both readings provided poignant insight into the creative minds of these two award-winning, New York Times celebrated authors.
Saturday brought a full day of faculty-led workshops, which followed breakfast at the Coastal Dish, Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort’s on-site restaurant.
There was positive feedback about all three workshops, but my account will focus on the one I attended, Leigh Stein: Writing Your Obsession. The workshop focused on writing family history and memoirs, and since this is my genre, it seemed a good fit.
I was delighted with Stein’s delivery and her ability to connect with her large audience. Her work as both a book coach and writing teacher was evident. One of the most impressive observations for me was her advice to “honor our own truth,” reminding us that not everyone will remember events in the same way. Important words when working on a memoir.
In addition to some memory and writing exercises, we were given constructive ideas on “striking a balance,” boundaries regarding prioritizing writing time, and accepting dreams versus goals. Writing the next bestseller is the dream while writing a chapter a month is a goal. My biggest take-away from Stein’s session was the realization that I have been working on a piece of creative non-fiction, not a memoir.
After lunch, we heard Keynote Speaker, Therese Ann Fowler , author of the New York Times bestseller Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and the newly released, A Well-Behaved Woman.
Fowler delivered a well-thought out and precision-timed presentation for a room filled with diverse and often struggling writers. She reminded us there was no wrong answer when asked “Who are we writing for?” In most cases, she said, “We write to be read.” No matter the genre, Fowler reminded us to “Learn how to do it effectively.” She obviously has done this well with “Z” going on to become a limited television series and her current book tour taking her to a different event in a different city almost daily.
Fowler also reminded us that age is not always a factor since she was forty years old before she saw her first words in print, reassuring and encouraging words for us baby boomers and millennials in the audience. She emphasized “persistence” as one of her most important pieces of advice and reminded us to focus on the writing, not the publishing.
“We are like magicians,” Fowler said. “Making little marks on the page” for the sake of our readers. In the end, “It is not magic. It is work.”
Following the Keynote, we heard encouraging and impressive readings from first a poet and then a Science Fiction writer.
Gary Jackson, a poet and Kansas native, is a teacher in the MFA program at The College of Charleston, where he also serves as Associate Editor for the college’s Literary Journal, Crazyhorse. Jackson infuses his well-honed poetry with love of family and the superheroes from his youth in collections including Missing You, Metropolis.
John Kessel is the author of five Science Fiction novels including award-winning Pride and Prometheus, which he highlighted in his reading. Kessel teaches at North Carolina State University, where he served as the first director of the MFAprogram in creative writing.
After these readings, we were free to venture out to additional faculty readings at Litchfield Books, take a stroll on the slightly Florence-ravaged (but still breathtaking) Pawleys Island beach, or refresh with a bite of local flavor for dinner.
Open Mic and Petigru Review readings took place under outdoor lights near a cozy fire as darkness brought us to the end of a busy Saturday.
On Sunday morning, all present enjoyed a breakfast buffet while attending the SCWA Annual Meeting with membership and The Board of Directors.
The Conference ended on a highly positive note with a cutting edge and informative Slush Fest with Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press, and Jonathan Bohr Heinen, Managing Editor for Crazyhorse, and teacher at the College of Charleston.
Following the fest, Reid and Heinen led a fast-paced enlightening panel discussion on What Editors Want. They seek a short but sweet query biography that manages to tell what you know about your subject and the discovery of emerging talent.
Encouraged, inspired, and educated, I think everyone went home determined to write, write, and write some more!
Sue Cryer is a member of The SCWA Board of Directors and works as a Freelance Writer in Chapin, SC. She is a former Newspaper Correspondent and Feature News Writer.
Photos by: Sue Cryer & Mary Sturgill