I had a ball at the conference. It was a hard trip and I drove five hours through rain and fog to the Raleigh/Durham Hilton. However, once I got there, I was treated like visiting royalty. I made a lot of friends and it was a gratifying experience to be with folks who shared my interests. There were playwrights there, fiction writers, non-fiction writers and journalists. I suspect that we have those people up here, but I rarely meet them.
I heard Ron Rash's keynote speech and it was a winner. He talked about research and the fact that it sometimes comes dangerously close to eclipsing the actual writing of a novel. He addressed its significance in relation to Serena and talked about eagles and rattlesnakes. He also discussed the "chorus" in the novel, the voices of the workers in the lumber camp that enabled him to add richness to his plot.
The workshop that I taught, a total 18 people who were interested in converting oral history into effective theatre was a wonderful experience. I had playwrights in the class that were far more experienced than I, but the basic simplicity of what I presented appealed to them. I am still getting calls from them, and I have even been advised as to how to promote myself in the piedmont. That was wonderful to hear, but I prefer to mimic the mountain laurel and "grow where I am planted."
The conference offered endless opportunities for writers and the display area in the lobby was filled with folks who offered opportunities that ranged from self-publishing to manuscript evaluation. Several publishers were soliciting regional history and non-fiction, memoirs, essays, etc.
There was also an impressive display of North Carolina writers ranging from Ron Rash to Vicki Lane (who I had dinner with) and new works from people like Jill McCorkle, Reynolds Price, Lee Smith, Randall McKehan, Ruth Moose ... all of whom I have been reading for years. I was impressed enough by a fellow named Stacy Cochran to buy his video on "How to Get Published and How to Get an Agent" and I brought it home where Ben Eller and I watched it and decided that it was worth the money. He also has a website.
I was also approached by some media people who asked about interviews for local TV shows and radio programs, but it depresses me to think that I have to drive to Raleigh to be interviewed. I have a healthy ego, but I am not driving five hours to be interviewed.
In fact, that is pretty much the way I feel about the Conference. It was like a candy store for writers, but it is in Raleigh. I guess our resources are scant by comparison, but I do intend to find whatever I can in this region. I won't drive to Raleigh, but I will drive to Asheville. There seems to be a tendency to hunker down and try to practice our art in a very narrow area ... like a twenty-mile radius of home. That needs to change.
Gary Carden lives in Sylva, NC. He is a storyteller, writer, playwright, teacher and journalist. Contact him at email@example.com