memorial for a brilliant woman

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rubbin' elbow grease with writers

at the James River Writers festival-

Last today and best- Diane Mott Davidson- the culinary mystery writer - and a really nice person! She did at least 2 sessions today not feeling well, but didn't say a word about it until the end (and only to the last three people in the room). Had great advice, solid 'do your homework' stuff, sure, nothing new, but she's so personable and smart- I can't wait to hear her again tomorrow! (Jann Malone is a great interviewer, too).

Frankly, the attendees seem to be a step up this year- I never heard the idiot questions (maybe I was facilitating good sessions) but this group seems sharp, smart, and deadly serious about craft. No 'where do you get your ideas?' or 'how do I make money?'.

The poetry session was pretty good- though the title was a little off-putting "Happy poems-Are they ever possible?" The usual suspects were there: Claudia Emerson, Buffy Morgan, David Wojahn, Ron Smith (I do love them all, particularly Claudia, but geez- are there no other affordable poets in driving distance? - see below -My complaints are moot- I think there was only one hardcore poet in the crowd anyway- me- the rest were fans or dabblers).

Like most panels with indeterminate subjects (example:the memoir session hit the ground running)- it started off like an awkward first date- a little tentative until everyone got into a groove deciding what the title of the session really meant- I'm not really sure it got there, but the charm of the panel won at last, mostly due to dog doo and pigeon poo poems (sigh).
note to shann- the conference needs a way to make additional handouts when needed or tell panelists to not bring them

Maybe I'm a little spoiled by the Dodge Poetry Festival, where only Sharon Olds and Brenda Hillman comported themselves like goofball types who wandered all over the page and insisted on body parts as poetic device- everything else there was amazing!

but I digress- no one here was a goofball- though a personal note to David Wojahn- don't quote David Byrne to an over-sixty audience and think they'll get it- they won't. And maybe edit for time-

just saying (I liked the poem BTW)

tomorrow is another day....

and a little more about THIS and THAT
I think I offended a friend earlier this year by speaking my mind, but there must be a way to make poetry more important (and not so local) at one of these gigs- how about Charles Jensen from the Poetry Center? James Harms from West Virginia? BJ Ward (in New Jersey), I could go on- Ted Genoways was here Wednesday night- I dunno- I could suggest a dozen poets.

The other thing- David Robbins listed a zillion Richmond writers and not ONE poet- I know he could care about poetry, but we are actual writers- Diane Mott Davidson, upon being asked who she is reading right now listed poets- even the fact she'd just gotten Billy Collin's new book in the mail before she left-

Full disclosure- I'm a volunteer, I didn't pay to attend. I did, however, work all day today. With only one poetry session paneled by folks I already know well, I can't recommend this conference to a writer who only writes poetry.

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