Last weekend, Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) held a writing conference in Ann Arbor, MI. I attended and it was a fabulous two days. My brain is on overload.
Friday introductions began at a unique restaurant, The Quarter’s Bistro. It’s known for serving a European Bistro menu with a Cajun/Creole twist. We were treated like royalty with a lovely array of colorful, delicious foods to nibble while mingling in a private room.
Following the reception was a short walk across the parking the lot to Nicola’s Books. The moment I breathed in the pure literature air, the kind of air that can only come from a genuine book store, I became light-headed. My eyes feasted on the many sections and polished wooden shelves. This store reminded me of the one in the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Charming, loved by its owner and employees, cared for with an unsurpassable dedication! We were seated for the readings and I didn’t get the chance to explore. I will revisit this store soon so I can lazily browse through the nooks and crannies of this magical place.
Many of the authors in our group were alumni from VCFA, along with its present students. These authors read with intense passion from their manuscripts or already published books. Listening to their words and stories while watching their expressions as they read certainly left a memorable impression on my mind and in my heart. I left knowing I had made the right decision about attending this event.
Saturday the presentations were held at Kerrytown Concert House. It’s historic interior decorated with vivid mosaic art pieces bringing an extra creative vibe to the space. It was the perfect venue for this size group. I loved that no microphone was needed, keeping it personal and comfortable.
It was an honor to listen to, and spend time in conversation with Marion Dane Bauer. I’m going to call her, The Wonder Woman of Wisdom and Generosity. This teacher of writing, winner of many awards, and author of over 90 books is still going strong. She has produced decades of creative, profound work for both teachers and children of all ages. She is amazing. I can’t wait to read her next book.
Marion shared her insights about style, voice, and formats, tenses and character point of views. She has embraced the changes that are occurring in the world of publishing and knows her personal limitations. Her soft voice captured and enthralled the entire time she spoke.
Author, psychologist, and teacher Coe Booth hit a home-run with her presentation and workshop. She is from the Bronx and is an author of four popular books. Her exuberant personality and voice spoke great volumes about fictional characters and how to deepen your relationship with each one. She shared her secrets on how to get into your characters minds reminding us that our characters didn’t come to our pages at twelve or fourteen, they had a life before, habits, quirks, guilt-trips, etc… and readers need to see a bit of that to understand and love the characters the way… we the writers do. I absolutely tingle when things click and make sense.
I have enjoyed and learned at least something from every writing conference I’ve attended in the past ten years. I’ve met amazing authors, editors, and agents. I’ve made loyal, helpful, and compassionate friends. They are all part of this writing journey and I am grateful.
In closing, I’m excited to say that I brought home much more than books, imprinted lanyard, and souvenir prize cup.
The writing exercises Coe taught were just what I needed to make the four young teens in, “Holler’s Pond” stand out, and be the memorable characters I want them to be.
From Marion I received a suggestion for a style and format to try out on my newest writing project. Plus much to study in my notes.
VCFA, well done and an ENORMOUS thank you to all those involved in the planning. It was a pleasure meeting all of you.