Sewanee Writers Conference 2013

100_1114It’s that time again–time for the Sewanee Writers Conference.

The conference begins tonight, Tuesday, July 23, and runs through Saturday, August 3. When this post appears online, I should be on the road, heading from Virginia to Tennessee. I can’t wait to get back to “the mountain”!

This will be my fifth time at Sewanee. I can’t help myself–it’s both great fun and a wonderful, stimulating learning experience. The first four times, though, I went for the fiction workshops. This time, I’m doing playwriting–a new experience for me. (I hope to have time to sit in on one of the fiction workshops, however, as that is still my primary interest.)

When I first went to Sewanee, I was still pretty new to writing. I’d finished my MFA, but hadn’t published much yet. I requested to work with Richard Bausch that year, and we had a wonderful workshop (with Jill McCorkle as the co-leader). For my workshop material I used the opening of the novel that had been my MFA thesis. Dick had some good suggestions, but that project is still stuck in a drawer. I’d like to return to it one of these days.

I went back two years later as a “scholar”–which means I’d published a number of stories by then and got some financial assistance to attend–and was in John Casey’s workshop (co-led by Claire Messud). Again, that was a wonderful experience, and stories I workshopped that year ended up in my first collection, although it was a few more years before that book came out.

Two more years later and I went back to work with Tim O’Brien (with Erin McGraw as the co-leader of the workshop). Working with Tim was sensational, and he was extraordinarily generous with his time. Stories he helped me with landed in my second book.

The last time I went, in 2010, was just after my first book came out, and I was honored to be awarded a fellowship. That year I worked with Padgett Powell (in a workshop co-led by the wonderful Christine Schutt). Padgett (or Colonel Powell, as he preferred to be called) helped with the novel I’m still working on–but hope to finish this fall.

And now it’s three years later. I wanted to go back, but it felt awkward to go back in fiction, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at playwriting, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ll be working with Dan O’Brien and Daisy Foote. It’s going to be great, and since I know I don’t know what I’m doing in this genre, I should have a pretty open mind when it comes to criticism.

Can’t wait to see everyone Tuesday night!

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