Monday, July 20, 2015

Dispatches from the 2015 West Virginia Writers’ Workshop: Day Four

Our final panel of the 2015 West Virginia Writers’ Workshop began Sunday July 19th at 9:30AM.  The topic was publishing, and the members of the panel consisted of the lovely ladies from PageSpring Publishing, Katherine Matthews and Rebecca Seum, Abby Freeland from the WVU Press, Renee Nicholson, Erin Murphy, and Natalie Sypolt.  Mark was kind enough to moderate the panel, and the audience (including yours truly) chimed in with thoughts on self-publishing, social networking, and the kind of relationships that writers have with their publishers. All of the panelists had great advice, so check out our Twitter feed to see what they had to say.  It was just the perfect event to end our Workshop this year, because all of us were able to get involved, sip coffee, and just talk about that “next step” for our writing.  Maybe some of the writing that we were able to do this last weekend will be published next year? Only time will tell...
After our publishing panel, we bid adieu to our wonderful Workshoppers, until next year.  And that means it’s time to reflect on our magical weekend.  If you wanted some numbers, here they are: four days, more than fifty writers, two big open readings (one for high schoolers, one for adult writers), several hundred live-tweets, yet another visit (and ringing endorsement) from our university president, and countless memories made. Jim Harms founded this Workshop nineteen years ago, and it’s still going stronger than ever under Mark’s direction. Honestly, it’s crazy to think that next year will be the twentieth West Virginia Writers’ Workshop! If you think of panels, or readers that you would like suggest having next year to celebrate our twentieth, please contact Mark, or Renee, or reach out to us on the Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.  

I will now echo Mark’s thanks to everyone who helped make this Workshop possible. Out of the Colson Office, Amanda, Cindy, Mary, and especially Marsha, who are all miracle-workers, helping our faculty, our writers, and our guests with gracious kindness, and making incredibly difficult look so so easy.

I must fold in (the first of many) thanks here to my dear friend Renee Nicholson. She is the unsung hero of this Workshop every single year, making everything run so smoothly, and gracefully solving problems even before they start.

All of the West Virginia University English Department, including this year’s reader Kevin Oderman and our founder Jim Harms, who also read with Paula McLain.  

Paula, Kevin, Joanne Veal Gabbin, David Hassler, Renee, Natalie Sypolt, and John Hoppenthaler, thank you all for reading, and giving such amazing craft talks.

To Abby Freeland, Katherine Matthews, and Rebecca Seum: thank you for enlightening and empowering our writers with your discussions of publishing and marketing. The audience loved hearing from you, and you all made everything about the world of publishing much clearer (not to mention less scary).

Thank you to our Workshop instructors, Mark, Renee, Erin Murphy, Natalie, and our pinch-hitter extraordinaire, Rebecca Thomas, for giving your time effort and expertise over to more than fifty people this weekend. Thank you for reading from your work, and reading and responding to the work of others. We know that it took tons of preparation and commitment to do this, and you prove it by keeping our Workshoppers coming back. You are all amazing writers, scholars and ambassadors for literacy at our university, and in our community.  Essentially thank you for being you.  

Thank you to all the students from WVU’s English programs who helped organize events, chaperone high school students, provide refreshments for readings, and answered all of the foolish questions that I could think of.  Some are MFAs, some will be MFAs, and some are undergraduates, but thank you to Jake Maynard, Whit Arnold, Megan Fahey, Claire Fowler, Shaun Turner, Elizabeth Leo, and Jordan Carter -- thank you all.  Rarely have I felt so supported in my behind-the-scenes work as I did at this year’s Workshop. You folks made all the difference.  

Thank you to the WVU Bookstore, for providing books for all of our book-signings, and for generally putting up with me. Trust me, I know it wasn’t easy!

Thank you to Mark Brazaitis, without whom none of this would even be possible.  Here’s to the next nineteen years, Mark! We love working with you.

Thank you for the continued support of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, particularly our outgoing Dean Rudy Almasy and new Dean Maryanne Reed.

Thank you to University President Gordon Gee, who has made a point of supporting this workshop since he arrived in Morgantown (and lets us all take a million selfies with him whenever we see him).

Thank you all of the writers, Workshoppers, and high school students! We love you, and we love hosting you in Morgantown each summer. Please come again.

Finally, thank you to all of you, my dear readers.  Social media is all about instant gratification, and this weekend, I was instantly gratified by your readings, your responses, your "follow"-ings on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, your retweets, your "liking/favoriting," your posts, your mentions, your messages of support, and just the “clicks” on your smartphones, tablets, and computers. You help keep this Workshop on the map by generating buzz, and drumming up support in your individual communities of writers, and that's why we are able to make this happen each year.

To anyone I have missed, thank you as well. And thanks,Tenants of Colson Hall. Have a great summer, and we hope to see you next year.

Best Wishes -

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