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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writers Conference Makes Waves

I just returned from tropical St. Simons Island, Georgia, where I spoke at the Scribbler’s Writers’ Retreat. I could not ask for a more inspirational setting. Behind the speaker’s lectern a wall of windows revealed the ocean breaking on the rocks a few feet away. Dolphins rolled in the waves, swimmers walked past on their way to the beach, and sailboats and ocean liners floated by. Inside we heard talks from the trenches, writers who wrote through serious hardships, who bucked the odds, and who spoke from years of writing experience.

The Scribbler’s Writers’ Retreat awards quite a few scholarships to young college students, plus it attracts people of all ages. How reassuring it felt to scan the room and see a wide variety of ages, origins, and interests, yet everyone shared one important trait: we all loved words.

In my talk, “Yes, You Can Make a Living with Words,” I told of my high school English teacher, Martha DuBose, who selected me among only twelve students to take a creative writing course in our senior year. Being picked for that class gave me validation as well as information. Because of her I believed in my ability to communicate with words and so set out to make a career of writing and editing. The day after I told that story, one of the other speakers struck me as having an uncanny resemblance to that same teacher, although Mrs. DuBose would be considerably older, if she is even still alive. How eerie a coincidence, I thought, that I should mention someone one day and see her doppelganger the next. Think about it, though. If such a juxtaposition appeared in a novel, it would constitute too much of a coincidence to be believable, right? I’d have to tone down my life, my coincidences, my ups and downs, to turn them into a believable novel.

I liked the setup of this latest conference, because all speakers spoke to all participants, with no breakout sessions and no need to choose between speakers or topics. It meant I also could sit in on all the other speakers and glean information to pass along to readers.

The keynote speaker, John DeDakis of CNN and author of Fast Track and other novels, revealed that I had earlier inspired him when he attended the Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, Georgia, and heard me speak years ago. What an honor!

As a bonus, writer and artist Charlotte Harrell sketched each speaker. If you want to see the sketch she made of me, visit my Facebook page (become my friend at Bobbie Rothberg Christmas), where I have posted the image.

I believe in attending conferences, no matter what skill level you possess. You never know what you might see, learn, or experience, and the networking is priceless.

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