Sunday, November 15, 2009

SCWW 2009 Conference Notes

By Janie Kronk

Here are the positive aspects of 2009’s “The Method, The Market, and The Muse” that stand out in my mind, regarding everything from the conference’s setting, its set-up, and it’s sessions.

1. Setting: The Chance to Retreat--But Not Too Far!
What can I say, it’s great to get out of town for the weekend. Myrtle Beach is a short enough trip from Columbia, and since I am not “marketing” myself as a writer at this point, this is purely a fun, stress-free weekend for me--a chance to relax at the beach and learn a few things. I enjoyed sitting on my ocean view balcony with my guitar (the wind off the waves loud enough to drown out the fact I can’t actually play) almost as much as I enjoyed the conference itself.

2. Set-Up: Less Paper in the Bag
Ever concerned about the environment, I was glad to see there was much less superfluous material in the goodie bags this year. The conference guide has been pared down from a binder to a simple folder with only the essentials, which was easier to carry around as well as being easier on resources.

3. The Book Nook: An Adventure
I also always enjoy book shopping at the retreat. It’s not as if there aren’t book stores right down the street from my house, but something about the limited and careful pre-selection of titles available at the “Book Nook” leads me to discover a few reads I really enjoy that I never would have picked from the glut of everything available at a mega-bookstore. This year’s fun finds include A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Kinsella, and poetry collections from regional authors Maureen Sherbondy and Paul Allen.

4. Sessions: Just Get the Drift
Not having a clear agenda in terms of what I wanted to learn and get out of the conference this year, I did much more drifting between various sessions than I have in the past. Having done so, I would actually recommend this as an effective strategy at a conference for a neophyte interested in learning more about the industry. You pick up tips. Most importantly, you see that all the agents, editors and publishers don’t always agree--some say resubmitting to them after you’ve been rejected is the kiss of death, others say why not. Some publishing houses work only with agented authors, some will not deal with agents. Although you get less out of each session by drifting around, you get a great number of snapshots contributing to the larger picture. Another interesting controversy between several of the faculty was the topic of the e-book. Is it the wave of the future, or are new books never to be replaced?

5. My Favorite Thing: Poetry Open Mike Night
I did not participate, merely listened, but for me this stole the show over any of the sessions. There was an air of festivity to the event, with writers from all over in the region coming together to share and celebrate their work. Writers, young and old, new and experienced, came together to read work that was funny, serious, and, in one instance, sung. My favorite piece was by Maureen Sherbondy (one of the fun finds mentioned above), a poem from her chapbook After the Fairy Tale called “Alice in AA.” To me, this event gave the conference a new light, and really underscored that we aren’t ONLY seeking to become better writers and achieve the ultimate goal of publication through these conferences--we are also participating in a rich creative culture that is very much an end in itself.

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