Alabama Writers Conclave Annual Conference: To go or not to go?

I will admit I teetered back and forth considering whether or not to go to the Alabama Writers Conclave Annual Conference. Like that too oft played Clash song, for weeks I debated, “Should I stay or should I go?”

My reasons to not go were plentiful. Baby is still part-baby. His sixteen months are too few for me to leave for a weekend. The conference was four hours away in Birmingham. I didn’t want to drive that far alone. (Sometimes my wussy-ness knows no limits.) And then there was the question of money. Would the sessions offered be worth the financial investment? Hotel costs, food, gas, and conference fees would add up quickly.

Then, T.K. Thorne, Conference Chair, asked if I would volunteer to M.C. the open mic event. That’s when my ego trumped the con list, and I’m so glad it did. The AWC Annual Conference was my fifth literary festival/conference I’ve attended to date. Without a doubt, it turned out to be my favorite, and I will go again next year, without the annoying debate.

Ten reasons I’ll be back:

  1. No faculty member gave me a sales pitch. I have attended workshops and left as hot as my lead-painted steps in the Mobile sun. Once, with the promise of breaking through writer’s block, I was forced to listen to and then pressured to buy the instructor’s latest poetry collection. I left the tome on the table and walked out. Another festival drew me in on a Sunday afternoon with the promise of digital marketing mastery, and then offered a publicity package at the unbelievable price of $4,000. Who thinks a small press author has $4,000 lying around? Don’t mess with my Sundays or my bank account.
  2. I want to be as smart as T.J. Beitelman, Creative Writing Chair for the Alabama School of Fine Arts. My mind was sufficiently blown during his session. Little gems such as “Show and tell,” make protagonists survive rather than perform, and allow mystery into plot lines and characters may change my fiction writing forever.
  3. The food was actually good. Enjoying delicious meals I did not have to prepare was a glorious treat. And let’s face it, typically food cooked in mass quantities can often be compared to wet cardboard. I still want more of the BBQ Turkey from Friday’s dinner. If only I lived in Birmingham. (Imagine the yummy noises for a moment while my taste buds reminisce.)
  4. The participants were outgoing. Writers are often by nature introverts. These may have been so, but the participants seemed to put their natural shyness on hold and seized the opportunity to share and learn from their fellow conference-goers.
  5. The organizers were welcoming. All of them, not just the one with the microphone charged with giving the opening address. Thank you for that!
  6. Smart locations and facilities encouraged learning but also encouraged participants to explore a little bit of Birmingham’s revitalized downtown rather than just the inside of hotel ballrooms.
  7. The hotel was well appointed and well worth the money. Without a good night’s sleep, I am a horrible, awful person, and usually sleep is hard to come by in a hotel. The Tutwiler had a noticeable lack of elevator noise, slamming doors, and screaming neighbors. Of course, the hospitality suite was rocking a bit at times, so the Tut’s other guests may have a different opinion of my peace and quiet.
  8. The organizers encouraged networking. The conference facility naturally forced networking as all participants were funneled to one common area between sessions. So smart.
  9. Participants’ bookstore! That one common area was the conference bookstore where all of us could, for a tiny percentage, offer our books for sale to fellow participants. Score!
  10. Abundant talent. From the knowledgeable faculty to the open mic event to the spirited conversation over tasty morsels (and I’m back to the food), Alabama Writers Conclave gathered so many fabulously talented writers into one location. My brain is overflowing, fried, and properly pickled.

Thank you, AWC. Until next year, happy writing!



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