Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MCCC Writers Confernce

I again had the pleasure of attending the Montgomery County Community College Writers Conference just outside of Philadelphia on November 7. The event has had many noteworthy keynote speakers in the past, including Norman Mailer, Edward Albee, and Michael Cunningham. This year there was a talk by Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Childhood Among Ghosts. The conference offers a bountiful continental breakfast and a tasty buffet lunch. There are many free samples of magazines and small press journals to fill up the free tote bags which the college provides. Only the writers who conduct the workshops are allowed to sell books, but, of course, I brought a large number of my bookmarks promoting my OTP book, A Lesson in Murder.

The workshop on memoirs emphasized using place as a character in the writing. The leader emphasized the use of smells, foods, religious and ethnic backgrounds, class structure, and topography. We did exercises on writing about visiting and leaving different locales.

The workshops on novels discussed the use of using alumni groups and ethnic bases for promotion, and soliciting endorsements from other writers. In the writing department, we dealt with the importance of developing character by the use of signature speech, actions, and appearance.

I always learn something at these conferences, and realize how I must work harder at my craft.

One more thing. I'd like to know how Mike Orenduff got Gov. Bill Richardson to review his book? That is so cool!

Gus Cileone


Monti said...

Hi Gus,

I learned something from your post--setting as a character. For sometime, I've considered setting to be a character in my books. Your review of the conference confirmed my thoughts. So, you learned a lot, and I learned something from you! That's the wonderful thing about blogs.

All the best in your writing,

BillieJohn said...

The first book I ever read where the setting worked as another character in the story was Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. This had to be the late 1950s, my very early teens. It made an indelible mark, although more of a emotional reaction at that time.

Years later, when I was writing my second novel, I wanted so much to pull that off as it really served what I was trying to do in the story. However, I struggled...and it really didn't come off. I recall tromping through dozens of LA-area used book stores until I found a used copy of Peyton Place and I read it about five times, trying to discern exactly how she pulled it off. I still regard it as quite brilliant, even though many people are critical of her writing.

I definitely recommend reading or re-reading this novel if you are trying to make setting work this way in your novel!