Turning Experiences Into Words

Farley Hall - Journalism Bldg Kathy in front of Farley Hall

The Japanese magnolias were pink and magnificent, daffodils were blooming, and tulips were on their way up, all in time for the 2008 Mid-South Creative Nonfiction Conference, held in Farley Hall on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Mississippi.

Thursday, Dinty W. Moore, editor of Brevity and professor at Ohio University, led a Manuscript Workshop. Eight attendees spent the day critiquing each other’s manuscripts, submitted earlier via e-mail.

Dinty’s Manuscript Class

Jane, Sarah, Nancy, Bambi, Dinty, Susan, Robert, and Sherry discussed memoir pieces. I was behind the camera, but that’s my open notebook next to Sherry.

Bambi and Sherry Sarah and Karen

For Friday’s “The Art and Craft of Characterization in Memoir” workshop, (L) Bambi and Sherry and (R) Sarah and Karen were busy with a writing exercise.

Characterization Class Dinty Moore

[L] The class was deeply engaged in writing about a character, and [R] Dinty offered a friendly greeting, so I could sit down and get busy, too.

Thacker Mountain Dinty Signing at Off Square

Dinty read a chapter from his new memoir Between Panic and Desire for the Thacker Mountain radio program, then signed at Off Square Books.

Signing at Square Books

I had my own booksigning at Square Books. Well, sort of. Sherry bought my book Pink Butterbeans, slapped it on the checkout counter in front of me, and said, “Here, sign it.” I looked at the clerk and said, “Can I have a signing here?” She laughed and snapped my picture.

Riding the Red Bus

Saturday, we rode the big red double decker bus to Oxford’s historic Square for lunch at Boure’s and sat on the top deck in the warm sunshine. [Sarah, Kathy, Bambi, Sherry]

Top of Double Decker

Sarah, Bambi, Sherry

Panel March 1

Presenters for a Saturday afternoon panel were New York literary agent Gillian MacKenzie, Charlie Conrad (Executive Editor at Doubleday/Broadway, a division of Random House), and Webster Younce (former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin). They talked about current trends — is the memoir craze dead? — how to tell if you have a good book idea, and how to prepare a proposal. After the panel discussion, we had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with our choice of panelists to pitch a book, or an idea, and get feedback. Sarah, Sherry, Bambi, and I sat on the steps outside the Overby Center, practicing our pitches prior to meeting with the agents and editors.

Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, moderated the panel discussions. After the conference, Lee will be taking creative nonfiction to China.

Panel on March 2

The Writers Life Panel

Virginia Morell (correspondent for Science and regular contributor to National Geographic), Rebecca Skloot (freelance writer for The New York Times Magazine, National Public Radio, etc.), and Mike Rosenwald (staff writer at the Washington Post) shared their experiences as writers during a panel on The Writers’ Life. They offered tips for supporting yourself as a writer, networking and making connections, and building relationships with editors.

In addition to the writing stuff, we enjoyed receptions, parties, music, dancing, and cocktails, and it was all fabulous. This was the first Mid-South Creative Nonfiction Conference. The plans are to have one annually and alternate between Oxford and Memphis. This was just the beginning!

My drive home up the Natchez Trace offered a slow, quiet ride with time to reflect on the relationships sparked, the knowledge gained, and the focus and direction I will take in the future. Thanks to Neil White and his staff and the volunteers for all their hard work to pull this event off successfully!

For many, many more words and bigger, better pictures, go to Susan Cushman’s Blog for her conference summary. She even chose the same title as did I. Brilliant minds think alike! Oh wait, that was the conference subtitle. Thanks for the Pink Butterbeans promo, Susan, and I hope you’re officially out of the boot!

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3 Comments on “Turning Experiences Into Words”

  1. Sherry says:

    The conference was great fun, and I learned so much. Thanks for such a great recap! Love the Pink Butterbeans.

  2. Enjoyed your comments and thanks for linking to my blog. Let me know of any upcoming writers goings-on in Nashville! It was great being with you at the conference, and especially in Dinty’s workshop.

  3. Sarah says:

    I can’t believe you already blogged all of this! No WONDER you’re such an inspiration to the rest of us! Thanks for putting our memories down… mine were already leaking away.


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