Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jambalaya Writer's Conference

I spent yesterday down in the lovely swamps of Houma, Louisiana at a one-day little gem of a writer's conference. I've attended parts of the Tennessee Williams and Faulkner Literary Festivals in the past, on an a la carte sort of basis - sitting in on a couple of readings and panels, but this was the first literary conference that I've attended from start to finish (well, not quite...I skipped the wine social at the end of the day because I had a long drive ahead). This conference is very reasonably priced, I think it was $35 for the entire day, meals included. It was quite the bargain!

I decided to branch out from my usual genre(s) and check out some sessions on poetry, picture books, and writing children's books in verse. These turned out to be fascinating, especially the verse books one, which was led by a woman named Caroline Starr Rose. I was mostly unaware of the re-emergence of verse novels for kids and teens, but now I'm re-imagining one of my (many) works-in-progress in this format. I'd heard of Rose's book, May B., and now it's on my must-read list. I wish I'd brought more cash or a checkbook for the book fair, so I could have purchased it there. I'm so accustomed to using my credit card that I didn't anticipate not being able to buy books with it at the conference. I only had enough cash on hand to buy one book, and I chose a book of poetry by Louisiana's poet laureate Julie Kane, who was charming in person, to give to my Aunt when she visits us later this month.

The conference took place in the breathtaking beautiful Terrebonne Parish Library. Seriously, this may have been one of the best libraries I've ever seen. I probably could have spent a day there even with no literary conference! Other highlights of the day included the hilarious keynote speaker, Rick Bragg, and "The American Idol of first pages" panel, where agents, editors, and successful authors gave helpful feedback on the first pages of attendees' manuscripts. I didn't submit a page for this event, but it was still helpful to hear their feedback on others' work. I had submitted an excerpt from my novel to the conference's fiction contest, and won Honorable Mention. So that was cool.

Fellow Louisiana writers, check this event out next year! It's got a friendly, helpful vibe and you get a lot of bang for your buck.

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