photo-3On August 7-10, I had the privilege of attending the Virginia Quarterly Review’s first writers’ conference, along with roughly 25-30 participants, at the Boar’s Head Inn right here in Charlottesville, VA. Three workshop leaders, poet Beth Ann Fennelly, Fiction writer Richard Bausch, and non-fiction/fiction writer Wells Tower each shone in their own way over the weekend; Beth Ann led a lively, ear-opening craft talk on sound (and a pretty great poetry workshop); Wells read from his GQ essay, “The Old Man at Burning Man,” sharing his experience of the event with his aging father; Richard opened the conference up with a recitation of James Dickey’s “For the Last Wolverine” and closed with a reading from his newest novel, Before, During & After. Panels on magazine writing, memoir writing, and print and digital publishing were paired with readings by instructors, honored guests and conference participants. VQR’s recap of all three days will whet your appetite for next year.

After publisher Jon Parrish Peede closed with a Frost quote, I sat there thinking about how I’d never remember everything I wanted to from the last three days. Would I be a better writer after this? Hopefully. Ultimately, for me, the value of this conference was in the intensive camaraderie I experienced with other writers—the famous and the not-famous—even if only for a few days.

While John Donne certainly nailed it with his line, “No man is an island,” being a writer often feels, to me, like just that: the raggedly-clothed cartoon character sitting next to a single palm tree on a lump of land surrounded by sea. It’s lonely business. I thank the staff, instructors and participants of the VQR conference for enabling me to visit that brilliant archipelago we writers form together.

Lisa Ryan, poetry editor

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