A collaborative post between Andria Nealis and Tiffany Hughes.
The Southern Kentucky Writers Conference and Bookfest is one of the largest annual literary events. It hosts thousands of potential writers each April. This past Bookfest was held Friday and Saturday, April 25 & 26. During this event, there were several writing workshops on Friday, April 25th, where authors that had books available for the Bookfest on Saturday, the 26th, provided their audiences with the wisdom they’ve gained over the years.
Some of the English Majors’ Weblog interns had the opportunity to attend several events during this event. Both Andria Nealis and I attended “Science Fiction: Fun on the High Road” with Jack McDevitt and “How to Create Suspense in Fiction” with David Bell. As you might have read previously, Ashley Dyer attended the session: “Heroines, Humor & Homicide” with Julie Anne Lindsey. All of us enjoyed each of the sessions we were able to attend, and hopefully, we will be able to go again to the SOKY Writer’s Conference and Bookfest. But until then, we have some items that we would like to discuss about the sessions we took part in.
The first session, “Science Fiction: Fun on the High Road” with Jack McDevitt, was very interesting if you’re a beginner writing student. Having been an English major for most of my college career, everything that was discussed during McDevitt’s session I’d already been taught by my professors since the beginning of my very first English class. The information passed from the seasoned writer to the waiting hands of the audience in this session was like water, dripping from our minds as we walked out the door. Mature writers shook the droplets from their hair, but those just starting out (perhaps a middle-schooler with a dream to be the next Stephanie Meyer) drank in DcDevitt’s advice. As a matter of fact, Mr. McDevitt didn’t speak at all about any science-fiction ideas, concepts, or images within the session. Instead, he gave us the basics of writing that every professional writer should know. The basics are always great if you need the first step in the right direction, but if you’re already an established writer, this session was useless.
In the next workshop, “How to Create Suspense in Fiction,” we were introduced to the idea that “All novels are suspense novels.” Although Dr. Bell also focused his workshop on introductory writing, he addressed his genre of expertise—suspense. Personally, if I tried writing suspense, it would probably come off as a cheesy version of Nancy Drew. That being said, I thought he gave sound advice to a room packed with people of all ages and from many different regions of the United States. Though all novels may be suspense novels, Bell described two types of stories: someone goes on a journey and someone comes to town. Within those stories, there should be an unequal balance of good and evil forces. Your characters should be put into a situation they can’t get out of; they can’t be allowed to walk away. You can listen to what Dr. Bell had to say on openers here.
Is the Kentucky Writers Conference a fantastic event for readers and writers alike? Yes, of course. Is it for everyone? No. Andria and I both agreed that the workshops weren’t for us. Call us arrogant, call us ignorant; however, we can’t help but admit that we’ve learned these writing tips in our coursework already. Take Dr. Bell’s suggestion for writing outlines, for instance. He says you, the writer, must decide for yourself whether you need one or not.
The same principle can be applied to the Kentucky Writers Conference. You must decide for yourself if you need or want to attend these workshops. While some are wonderful, some can turn out below your expectations. I suspect part of the problem for us was that we did not choose workshops that were largely unfamiliar to us. Had I gone to a horror workshop rather than science fiction, I most likely would have learned many new writing tips
Choose your workshops wisely, friends. We’ll see you around the conference next year.