Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What Good Are Writer's Conferences?

They do good.

From an interview in the Huffington Post between Andre Dubus III and Gina Barreca...

Why are writing conferences important enough to take us away from writing?

: I'm a big believer in the importance of writers' conferences. Many writers do not enroll in MFA programs, and most people who write know few others who do this strange, eccentric thing we do, which is to go to a quiet room every day and make things up with words.
The central gift of these conferences, it seems to me -- even beyond what is learned about craft -- is that it introduces one writer to another, and they can then keep the conversation going long after the conference is over. Helping to foster these connections is worth whatever time teaching or speaking at a conference demands from the visiting writer, especially now when -- thanks largely to Amazon and its predatory actions on bookstores and publishers -- the book itself seems imperiled.
It's not, of course; live theater has survived for hundreds of years and is still alive and well despite all of its flickering screen competitors. And the book, in one form or another, will live on, too. But each generation must have its passionate writers and readers for this to work, and that's the main reason why I show up at conferences.

Gina: Writing conferences make me nervous and excited in equal measure. I worry about everything from what to say to what to wear, and whether the students will profit from the experience. Like anything important, conferences offer the honor of giving you attention while demanding that you, in turn, give attention to others. I want to make sure I give the students something new and practical.
Finally, I wonder--always--whether I can afford the time to do this when I should be sitting at the desk and writing instead of talking to other people about writing.

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