JOAN BARTH ON: WRITERS’ CONFERENCES
For 25 years, I have attended the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. This conference focuses on women writing—not on what they write but that they do. Poets, playwrights, novelists, non-fiction writers gather together to share. Unusual in this group is the sharing of agent and editor names. No hoarding or competition seems to exist. Everyone is out to encourage everyone else.
One of the reasons I continue to attend this conference is that there is no pressure. Some attendees are famous (Barbara Kingsolver) and others have yet to be published. One is an ambassadress, another a waitress, and a third a schoolteacher. It makes no difference.
All the conferences are good but this one was extraordinary. I would suggest that all writers attend conferences simply to discover that their techniques of writing are not so unusual. I thought my writing in bits and pieces was not usual until I discovered that most of the other writers do the same. Each of the writers whose workshops I attended promoted a similar theory — be sure your writing is true and makes you feel good.
It is customary for writers to fill the gap of what is missing from the current scene but needs to be delved into. That writing rarely has passion in it. It is often done for money or fame. Writing from interest in the subject is true and makes the writer feel good about him or herself.
Another thing I got from this conference was that it is important to listen to no one about your work except maybe your Editor. Everyone else will give you his/her own opinion about the writing. Listen to yourself. I always tell my clients “I am one voice in six billion.” It keeps me humble.
Writers typically notice things —a new planting, changes in room set-ups, a hallway turned into a closet. Not so with many other professions. I like being in a setting where things are noticed.
The conference was very helpful for me. As Michelangelo said at age 87, ” I am still learning.”