I spent the last two days at the Library of Virginia enjoying the James River Writers Conference. It’s a very different format than I’m used to as far conferences go and I really liked it.
Each day opened with a group meeting/presentation then broke into smaller session on more specific writing topics which varied from writing about nature to discussions on what you wish you knew about publishing. I really like the panel format. There is never ONE teacher or instructor but instead a panel of speakers led by a moderator who is well prepared to lead an informative discussion and keep audience questions pertinent and directed. This was great. So much better than the occassional workshop I’ve attended where a speaker was ill-prepared or only spoke for 20 minutes of the 60 and assumed attendees would ask questions the rest of the time. Ack!
One session was called First Page Critiques. A couple of writers read aloud previously selected first pages of attendees WIP. Then a panel of agents would say what they liked and disliked about the opening. It was well-done. Honest comments but not brutally delivered. Author David Robbins did an excellent job as moderator in recapping the common mistakes and trends that each critique produced. It seemed the most common mistake was starting the story in the wrong place and/or not setting up immediately what was at stake for the characters.
Overall, I felt for the price the conference was superb. There were plenty of opportunities to meet with agents and a great and varied number of experienced writers to meet and chat with ….covering a vast variety of fields: poetry, journalism, novels, biography, memoirs and more.
And the food was great (had to say that since I was on the food committee). Next year, I’ll be on the actual conference committee. If you were there and have suggestions, let me know here and I’ll pass them on…