Who’d A Thought It
Some years ago – we’re bad at keeping records – members of the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop decided to have a free writer’s conference, just to see how it might work out. We had plenty of members to help, and the best thing, a free room. In those days Jones Center was our host for weekly meetings and they allowed us a large room as long as we didn’t charge for the conference.
Those days are long gone, but we now are hosted by Ozarks Electric in Fayetteville, thanks to Dusty Richards, who is a board member there. We are so very grateful to them.
But back to having a free conference. Northwest Arkansas is home to uncounted writers of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays and songs, many of whom were just getting started back then. Many of us remembered when we were getting started and needed answers to so many questions regarding our craft. Our group was begun around 1985 in order to help those like us learn together how to get started in this crazy business.
Holding conferences can get complicated really fast because they are allowed to become so. We decided to keep ours simple. Hey, it’s free. We’re all volunteers. Did we dare ask speakers to do the same? It was worth a try. So those of us who had been in the business a while called in favors from writer friends and found most of them happy with the idea. So for ten years writers from all over our great area have given of their time one Saturday a year to help those who otherwise cannot afford to attend conferences.
Dusty and I have pretty much been chiefs, but all our members have stepped in each year without complaint to show up early, help set up tables and chairs, make coffee, bring home baked goodies and just otherwise prepare everything. There is no president and vice-president, no treasurer, no dozen or so people given official titles. We simply step in and do the work necessary.
This photo shows four members of The Sisters of the Traveling Pen, Pamela Foster, Ruth Weeks, Linda Apple and Jan Morrill, who actually met and formed their group through our writers group. They presented a wonderful program on writing that wowed the audience.
This year for the first time since beginning our free conference, we are sending everyone out for lunch. We once brought lunch in and charged a minimal fee for that, because there weren’t many close places to eat. But that has changed, and besides it’s a lot of work to arrange for and bring in all that food, then pass it out. Something that’s been handled by Dusty and his most gracious wife Pat for all these years. We’re letting them off the hook and asking everyone to please return from lunch on time to keep from interrupting the after-lunch speaker.
We have had some fabulous speakers over the years to fill the morning spots, then Dusty and I each give a short workshop on writing from our experiences over the years. Another caveat of this conference is that any published author may display and sell their books at no charge. This conference folks said would never work has hosted up to 90 people, but mostly our average is around 50 to 60, and we’re pretty sure we’ve been doing it ten years. Like I said no officers so no one kept track, we just started doing it.
This year John Biggs is our featured speaker with his take on Magic Realism. We also have Mark Landon Smith, a playwright from Ft. Smith, Lori Ericson, a mystery writer and contest winner, and of course Dusty and I. The conference is set for Saturday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ozarks Electric on Wedington Road, Fayetteville, AR. That’s exit 64 off Interstate 49, go west almost a mile, we’re on the left. Come in the west side door. Please email or message me on Facebook if you need table space.
See you there.