The Annual Clarksville Writers’ Conference opened with a full schedule for the participants. A diverse group of writers gave the participants a cross section of experience to draw upon.
Presentations included readings of their works to workshops focusing on elements of writing, style, character and story development. A new feature at this year’s conference is the opportunity for writers or other interested participants to meet with professional literary agents to discuss any aspect of the literary trade, and their own works or projects.
Austin Peay State University’s Morgan Center’s third floor served as the hosting location of the annual two-day conference. From the opening hours where participants picked up their conference credentials packet at the registration table, attendees gathered to await the beginning of the conference’s first sessions with eagerness. Breakfast snacks were enjoyed in the break room as authors and participants arrived and were shown to their perspective presentation rooms. The APSU Bookstore set up a table featuring the works of the conference authors.
Authors appearing at this year’s conference included
- John Egerton, a self-proclaimed “professional South-watcher”
- Bernis Terhune, poet, playwright, storyteller and author
- P. M. Terrell, author of the suspense/thrillers Exit 22 and Ricochet
- Christopher Burawa, poet, translator and author of Small Mystery of Lapses and director of the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts
- Susan Gregg Gilmore, journalist and author of “Looking for Salvation at the Diary Queen”
- Katherine Sands, NYC literary agent and author of “Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye.”
- Darnell Arnoult, author of “Sufficient Grace,” and the poetry collection, “What Travels With Us: Poems.”
- Earl S. Braggs, poet, University of Chattanooga Foundation professor of English, author of “Hat Dancer Blue,” and “In Which Language Do I Keep Silent.”
- George Singleton, author of often humorous stories of the rural South including “Work Shirts for Madmen,” “Pep Talks,” “Warnings,” “These People Are Us,” “The Half-Mammals of Dixie,” and “Why Dogs Chase Cars.”
- James O’Connor, president of O’Connor Communications- a marketing company specializing in book promotions and author of “Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How To Curb Your Cursing.”
- Lynda O’Connor, executive vice president of O’Connor Communications, a principal of O’Connor Communications specializing in book and author promotions.
The first sessions set the tone for the conference with two instructional workshops and appointments with a literary agent.The O’Connor’s spoke on how to maximize benefits from your book tour. Darnell Arnoult gave a guide to writing quality fiction titled, “The Sublime Fiction Triangle.” Literary agent Katherine Sands was available for appointments. Potential writers and budding writers alike were engaged in lively discussions that delved into the mechanics of writing as an endeavor and the means of gaining beneficial representation in the literary arena.
While sitting in on Ms Arnoult’s session, she recommended that writers should write every day. She said that the ‘Sublime Triangle of Fiction’ consisted of Character, Action and Language. Character gives the reader someone to care about or be curious about, Image gives the writer and the reader an opening to walk through, Action makes the story live on the page. Additional elements also include Energy which keeps us engaged, Language makes the experience rich and evocative, Shadow makes the story stay with us, Plot gives the story a shape and Theme is the last thing you worry about.
The second round of sessions saw the O’Connor’s give a presentation on, “How to sell Oodles of Books by Promoting Yourself and Your Books.” Ms Arnoult spoke on “Writing Prompts: How to Get Them and How to Get the Most Out of Them.” Ms Sands continued with scheduled private appointments with conference participants. Both of these sessions were well attended with many participants continuing on from the first sessions, respectively and being joined by later arrivals.
Ms Arnoult again provided guidance for authors in creating their writing. She provided a handout of using applied characterization (term from Noah Lukeman’s The Plot Thickens). The guide urges the writer of fiction to use short assignments to get your characters moving, doing or saying. See what they do, how they interact with space, place, other characters, their fears, etc.
Here is a small sample from her list of writing prompts for fiction:
- List all things your character loves to do. List something he or she loves to do but can’t. Why?
- List things your character would never do or hates. Write about the character doing something from the second list. (Instant conflict!)
- Write about your character from another character’s point of view.
- Write about your character from a child’s point of view.
- Write about your character from an elderly person’s point of view.
- Have your character do a physical activity he or she has never done before.
- Write a scene where your character touches five things.
- Write about hunger. Write about something your character hungers for.
- Write about a mistake your character made.
A catered lunch was served in the Morgan Center’s Ballroom, where author Susan Gregg Gilmore was the keynote speaker. Ms Gilmore is a Nashville native who has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor and the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Her writing has focused on ‘Life in the South’ and the quirks that are peculiar to living in the South, its hardships and its unexpected surprises and simple pleasures.
The afternoon sessions opened with James and Lynda O’Connor conducting the literary agent appointments while Katherine Sands spoke on what writers can do to attract the attention of literary agents. She drew upon her own book, ‘Making the Perfect Pitch: Catching a Literary Agent’s Eye,’ a collection of pitching wisdom from leading literary agents. She likes books that have a clear benefit for the readers’ lives in categories of food, travel, lifestyle, home arts, beauty, wisdom, relationships, life challenges or popular culture.
Susan Gregg Gilmore spoke on “From Twittering to Blogging: A Novelist Online,” where she shared her experiences as a novelist discovering how to utilize the modern digital communication world as a means of increasing her exposure and awareness among the reading public. Authors are being caught up in the online world of personal communication that uses the phenomena of Twitter and Facebook.
Images from the 2009 Clarksville Writers’ Conference
[Uncredited photos by Turner McCullough Jr.]