Writers' Conference, on second or five hundredth thought

After months of carrying the brochure around and re-reading the schedules, I have decided not to pursue this year’s Midwest Writers’ Conference at Ball State. I’ve thought about going since 2003, but I have yet to sign on the dotted line.

And I think I’ve finally figured out why: it’s just not for me.

The three-day session with hotel would cost about $600. There are scads of workshops to choose from, but none really jumped out at me. There is only one author I’ve heard of and he’s not exactly my niche. The only manuscript evaluator with whom I felt an online connection was Heather Sellers and she’s only reviewing five manuscripts. But the real reason behind my decision is that I have to admit my own weaknesses. I’m not a networker, I’m not an initiator, I’m not a seller - especially if I’m flying solo – and I know that I’m not ready to fight 200 people for a five-minute session with an agent or publisher. I don’t know that I ever would be.

Though, I imagine someday, under different circumstances, this conference might be a treat to attend, I think I would be better served right now by more of a retreat environment, a community college class, a couple of critique/editing/validation partners who might constantly remind me to ignore the gremlins, as Cynthia Morris would say. I thrive in supportive, non-competitive environments.

I’ll never, ever, ever forget my first writers’ conference in 2001. It was the Welty Symposium at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, MS, where attendees listened to readings from authors and participated in a panel discussion about these writers’ lives and experiences. So it wasn’t a conference at all, really.

Regardless, it was a spiritual awakening for me. This sounds strange even to write, but I felt like I became my God for a moment – I left my body and was looking down at myself as though I were my own child. I smiled at me and welcomed myself home. Floods of tears (hidden as well as could be expected in an auditorium) and waves of contentment.

I was surrounded by history and academia and like women and Southern writers, past and present. Mississippi is the best place in the world to connect with spirits and ghosts and I was moved and changed by the experience.

Maybe the MWW has intercepted a call home. It might be time to go sit with Ms. Welty again. Take a week or so to listen to her and reconnect with the Spirit she stirs in me. Then, maybe she'll give me some pointers on our next steps.