Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Appalachian Heritage Trek

Last Friday and Saturday, I took a road trip to Richlands, VA. I attended the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium at Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands. I'd been asked to do a presentation about children's literature.

It took me about three and a half hours to get there via Route 220 to Roanoke and Route 460 most of the rest of the way. I'm still dealing with some diabetic and other health issues, so I didn't want to travel I-81. I wanted to be able to stop every so often and walk around. Using 460 allowed me to do that.

The symposium was sponsored by the Appalachian Authors Guild, a chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, and those folks really know how to put together a symposium. It was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The college's Charles R. King Community Center was a perfect place for a symposium. The parking lot was right in front of the building, the presentation rooms were close together as well as close to the auditorium, and the food was great. Since lunches were buffets, I could adjust a bit for my limited diet. (Yeah, I went off my "no wheat" policy for the weekend—but not as bad as I could have.)

Here'a a view from a parking lot looking down on the center. Check out those mountains!

Both mornings, we had breakfast of pastries, fruit, granola bars, coffee, tea, etc. Before the presentations started we could eat at the tables in one of the three classrooms. Above, you can see folks enjoying breakfast in a classroom right behind the table.

Here's one of the wall decorations hanging in the foyer:

But the coolest thing about the foyer is the Jack Tale wall made of bricks. It was designed by Charles Vess, who happened to be at a presentation I did last June for the Children's Literature Association Conference. I'd always wanted to see this wall.

The wall was so big, I couldn't get it all in one picture, so I took pictures of parts of it:

I couldn't resist the urge to let the wall plug my Appalachian tale, Ferradiddledumday . . . 

. . . or to have my picture taken in front of it.

 Because I did my presentation twice, I could only see two other presenters. I picked Joe Tennis's "Paranormal Writing" and Rebecca Elswick's "Creative Writing." Both were excellent.

A few years ago, I'd enjoyed reading Joe's book, The Marble and Other Tales of Tennessee and Virginia, so I wanted to hear how he wrote. His talk was interesting, and I learned a lot. He began with some writing hints: Write what you know and what you're interested in; find a place to write that's not distracting; outline your projects so long projects won't seem so daunting; take breaks; don't be impatient and try to write a really clever first draft; rewrite over and over—the best writing has been written many times; sound out your times of writer's block—if you can say it, you can write it; double and triple check your sources of information; set a deadline and word count—don't overdo; show, don't tell; used adjectives to season the stew—like a recipe; know who your audience is; get used to the idea of varying sentences; practice writing; in research, there are no dumb questions. Then he told us about writing ghost stories.

 I'd read, thoroughly enjoyed and blogged about Rebecca Elswick's debut novel, Mama's Shoes, so naturally I had to see her. She gave a wonderful workshop about creative writing, with emphasis on diction—and using specific words. Plus, she had some good handouts that I can reference when I do workshops for young writers.

 After all the presenters had finished on Friday, everyone went to the auditorium to hear Gurney Norman, who would give Saturday's keynote address, speak about fiction. I'd enjoyed his short story collection, Kinfolks, several years ago. Unfortunately, from where I was sitting, I couldn't hear him very well. He talked about how real life events can figure into fiction, and used a scar on his hand as a example. After telling us how he cut his hand while making a snowball when he was a child, he read a short story based on the incident.

 Following Norman's speech, we presenters signed our books at a reception that, again, featured great food.

On Saturday, everyone did writing exercises with three different presenters rotating among three different groups. An open mike session, split between two groups, gave everyone who wanted to read a chance to share work. People read fiction, memoir, and poetry. I was impressed with what good quality good everyone's work was. I read part of Ferradiddledumday. Then we had the banquet. Because fatigue was catching up with me, I figured I'd better start for home, so I didn't stay for the keynote or the awards. Here's another shot of the mountains while I was stopped at stoplight:

And here's the West Virginia line ahead:

Even though I made a couple of rest stops on the way home, my return trip took less than four hours. I was pretty tired the next day and my blood sugar was elevated for a while—but it was worth it. It was nice to meet other writers I had originally met years ago at Appalachian Writers Association conferences, some I had met last fall when the Appalachian Authors Guild hosted a VWC board meeting, and a few I had seen at Galax.




Blogger Kimberly said...

I love Gurney Norman! Back in the 1980s, i attended the Highland Summer Conference at Radford University where he was the guest teacher. I learned so much from him. On some nights, we would all get together and play music and socialize. I have such great memories of Gurney!

7:39 AM  

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