Great Expectations: Going to a Writing Conference

By Darlene Cah

In a few days, I’ll be heading to the Hub City Writing in Place Writers’ Conference. The workshop, started by Betsy Teter and The Hub City Writing Project in Spartanburg, is in its 14th year. I’m on my ninth. The weekend event takes place on the lovely campus of Wofford College (for you football fans, also the training camp of the Carolina Panthers). Deciding to attend a writing conference is a pretty big commitment of time and money.

So what keeps me coming back to Hub City, and how will I prepare for another weekend of literary inspiration?

A writing workshop is only as good as its faculty, and The Hub City Writers Project consistently brings in top-notch writers to teach. Some of my favorites over the years have included, George Singleton, Wiley Cash, Philip Gerard, C. Michael Curtis, Elisabeth Cox and Tommy Hays (who will be teaching this year), among others. The registration fee, even including the dorm, is quite affordable, and a weekend is not too long a time to be away from family, work and other responsibilities. Though, I no longer live a mere 30 minutes from the campus, it’s still an easy drive, but I’ve also met participants from all over the south who travel hundreds of miles to attend. Returning year after year, one might think I’d be burned out, bored, or too complacent. I agree that artists should step out of their comfort zones, but just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it won’t push you creatively.

Though the Hub City format remains relatively the same, every year brings a new challenge, and every new writing assignment encourages me to try something different. Every instructor offers a new twist on a familiar lesson or a completely unique perspective that opens new possibilities. To read about the writing exercises Wiley Cash gave us last year, read my previous post The Hub City Writing in Place Experience.

Then there’s the social aspect. I go to Hub City with writer friends I know from where I used to live in Tryon. We’ve recruited a few more this year. Once at the conference, we meet up with other writers we’ve become friends with, who also attend every year. In effect, we’ve developed quite a wide network of writers—and partiers. Indeed, last year our conversations and debates got so lively (Full disclosure: wine may have been involved), I pulled out a pretzel rod from the junk food stash, and used it as a “talking stick.” We needed several pretzels since we kept eating them and we continued talking well into the wee hours.

Preparing for the big weekend

Hub City Troublemakers

What serious writers look like

I have my priorities! The first thing I did was buy two bags of pretzels and two bottles of Chardonnay! Does that not demonstrate I’m a serious writer?

This year, I registered for Christopher Bundy’s fiction workshop, so I checked out his bio and his website, read a few of his essays online, but didn’t get a chance to read his novel, which is something I would normally do. Knowing your teacher’s background and writing style will help you determine whether or not he or she is a good match for you and what you want to achieve with your writing.

Since, this conference emphasizes writing new pieces in the workshops, there’s nothing to prepare in that respect. I know from past experience, we will have two hours on Saturday to complete our assignments and there may be in-class writing, as well. That puts a little bit of pressure on students to perform on the spot, but there’s a way to feel comfortable and confident in that situation. Writing from prompts is a good way to keep your writing spontaneous and sharp.

Have a clear goal for what you want to get out of the conference you choose to attend. If you’re at the stage where you’re shopping a manuscript, you may want to network with other writers, meet editors and agents and have the opportunity to pitch your project. If improving your writing is the objective, you may want critique workshops and seminars to help you refine your craft or learn new techniques.

My goal for Hub City is simply to write. Oh, and schmooze.

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  1. Waiting for Inspiration | Five Writers

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