This past Saturday (April 20), I drove to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the Southern Kentucky Book Festival Writers Conference. Two reasons I enjoy this conference: 1) It’s easy to get to and 2) It’s free.
Don’t let “free” put you off. This is my third time attending and each time the workshops have been informative and well-presented.
There are four sessions from 9 AM to 3:30 PM. (Let’s just say having Bowling Green be on CST is an added bonus.) This year I attended three: “The Moral Premise” (Patti Lacy), “Taming the Shaggy Beast: Letting Your Novel Write Itself” (Lee Martin), and “Changing Fact into Fiction” (David Bell).
“The Moral Premise”, based on Stanley D. Williams’s book, focuses on the conflict of values. Using The Help as an example, Patti Lacy discussed how the characters were in conflict not only with one another but also with themselves, depending on their core values.
She handed out bookmarks with a Moral Premise story check list that I plan to utilize in hopes of making my writing stronger.
Lee Martin’s workshop, “Taming the Shaggy Beast”, gave five tips then expanded on them. According to Lee, a story needs interesting characters, a sense of mystery, action, causality, and details. He added another word: curiosity. Writers need to be curious about what happens next.
He also had us do a character sketch, this time adding a twist. As Martin put it, “Characters become unforgettable when they act out of character.” My character was a flamboyant professor who spent his evenings meditating. Not perfect, considering I had to write quickly. But it did plant the seeds of a story in my mind.
In “Changing Fact into Fiction” David Bell talked about how our lives are research projects and we only need be observant of our surroundings to find story ideas. Albert Camus did the same in his Notebooks, jotting notes, snatches of conversations, and observations of people around him. Writers are observers and even if we don’t know the circumstances of particular situations, we can make up our own.
I also got to spend time with Fiona, an editor for a digital publisher. We had lunch and talked about the state of publishing, editing, the viability of the short story, and writing in general.
Overall, I had a great time in Bowling Green. Can’t wait for next April.