Driving down to Raymond, Mississippi on Friday for the first annual Mississippi Writers Guild Conference way to go, guys!) I was listening to the Rodney Atkins cd "If You're Going Through Hell" .... and singing along, especially on his single, "About the South" ... just gearing up for a weekend back in my home state and close to my home town, Jackson. I was sooooo excited because Joshilyn Jackson, (with me at right) bestselling author of gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia was going to be the keynote speaker. And because bestselling short story author, John Floyd (left, with MWG member, Lydia Bell), was going to be critiquing one of my stories. And because I was going to meet some new friends and fellow Southern writers. And buy some new books from sponsors, Leumuria Books in Jackson.
What an amazing conference! We started with a wine and cheese "mingle" at Pentimento Books in Olde Towne Square in Clinton, hosted by owner, Toni Walls (see Toni at left with artist, Wyatt Waters, whose studio is across the street.) (And check out author Keetha Reed, bottom, right, with Gwen Brown.) Then we were off in a caravan to Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond for Joshilyn's opening address, which she gave on stage with no notes. The evening wound down out by the lake just after sunset.
On Saturday the Guild had organized six different choices for four different workshops - what a lineup! Jon Rawl, publisher of Y'all Magazine in Oxford gave up his last weekend as a bachelor to share some industry knowledge with us, and Barbara Garshman came down from NYC to talk about writing for television. Ole Miss writing prof Sean Ennis taught us about "first pages" and the how and why of revising. Rebecca Jernigan gave several sessions on Playwriting. C. Hope Clark enlightened us about grants for writing careers and John Floyd shared some craft talks on writing and publishing short stories. Oh, and Charles Tolbert taught us about media rights and author/publisher agreements. Yep. They covered all the bases.
Dinner at Scrooge's (see right) in north Jackson was organized by Mississippi Writers Guild member Lydia Bell, whose son waited on our very lively table which included author Jerusha Bosarge (on my left). Thanks so much to Richelle Putnam and all the MWG folks for organizing such an amazing conference! I came home with new friends and new energy for the work ahead - to continue my "almost" final revision of my first novel and polish up a couple of short stories.
Driving back up I-55 to Memphis, I turned Rodney Atkins back on and found myself singing along with his great song, "These Are My People."
So, Joshilyn and all you other amazing
Southern writers, this one's for you:
These are my people
This is where I come from
Were givin' this life everything we got
and then some
It ain't always pretty but it's real
It's the way we were made
Wouldn't have it any other way
These Are My People
We fall down and
We get up
We walk proud and
We talk tough
We got heart and
We got nerve
Even if we are a bit disturbed . . . These are my people!