This past weekend, I attended the 2019 James River Writers Conference. I walked in this year feeling different. I didn’t care I didn’t have a book to pitch and all I wanted was to hear about was quality writing in all of the many forms it takes. I took some notes but I realized what I needed was to be around other writers.

I needed to catch up and laugh with some of my friends.

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I needed to be reminded to set aside time for myself each week to put pen to paper and let this particular truth deliver a gut punch: I shouldn’t be devoting more time to my blog than to all my other writing.

Which is exactly what I have been doing for several months now.

Every novelist, screenwriter, memoirist, short story writer, journalist, poet and agent reminded me that there was story still beating inside of me.

The keynote speaker, the incomparable Marita Golden, emboldened us to celebrate ourselves as writers even if we are not published or under contract. This wise woman had me at the edge of my seat telling us how she had been birthed twice. Once on the day of her actual birth and again when her mother told her she was a writer.  I also was blessed to hear her on the panel discussing memoir.

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Marita shared that sometimes you need to write the memoir to free yourself to write fiction. The vulnerability in memoir panel impacted me emotionally the most. I love how they brought three writers with wildly different tales to share their points of view. I wish I could take classes regularly from Marita Golden (Migrations of the Heart), Mary Bonina (My Father’s Eyes) and Jon Pineda (Sleep in Me).

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Vulnerability in Memoir panel: Moderated by Patty Smith with Jon Pineda, Mary Bonina and Marita Golden.

A special note about this year’s conference: It was beautiful to see the level of cultural diversity this year. James River Writers Conference has come light years in this respect, especially since my first year as an attendee in 2016. Thanks to the chair, Robin Farmer and co-chair Sonia Johnston for not only creating a conference that ignited my fire to devote more time to my craft but for creating an experience where I had the distinct pleasure of seeing faces that reflected the real world around us.

 

 

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