Writer’s Conference

This last week I was at the Catamaran Writer’s Conference.  I find these conferences a challenge.  On one extreme, the being with gifted writers and learning about the art and craft of writing a poem.  Then there is the introverted, insecure side of me that struggles to interact with others and not just hide in a conner – that part of me that constantly wants to say, “you don’t belong here.”

That second voice is hard to stop.  I know – folks have all kinds of answers and advice.  I get it, but in that moment, you listen to a powerful poem and then are called to read your poem about cheese that you wrote at breakfast – well it can be humbling.

I heard a lot of great poetry this week.  Some from teachers, some from participants, and once or twice I read some of my poetry thinking, “not bad.”

Each day had a general pattern:

  • Workshop where there were craft talks, writing prompts and we critiqued each other’s work.
  • Afternoons were for optional lectures, free time, tours, or writing.
  • Evening reception (with wine) and a featured reader.

They also had tours of local places of literary interest.  I did the tour of Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, www.torhouse.org in Carmel.  The place was smaller than I imaged, but it was nice to see and to hear some of Jeffers poems read where he lived.

I attended a few interesting lectures.  The two I liked the best were writers discussing their paths to being published.  The lesson here was that it’s difficult to get things published these days.  One of the the writers mentioned that she contacted 120 agents before getting her mystery novel published.  Fewer books are published these days so it requires a lot to get published.

I was asked a number of times if I had published anything or if I was submitting my poems.  The answer was no, I’ve not been doing that.  Honestly, I’ve not felt my current body of work is good enough for the literary journals.  Then there’s the amount of effort you have to put into the process.  It’s been much easier to just put it here on my blog and move on.

In our poetry workshop we were asked to bring five poems to the workshop and that’s where I got the most out of this conference.  After working with the group, I’ve come away with better poems and a lot of things to look for in my writing that can be improved.  I was also surprised (and slightly pleased) to have our teacher say, “Andrew, this fits your style.”  Wow, I’ve got a poetry style.  That made me feel good and hope that perhaps I’m starting to figure this poetry thing out.

Well, as much as you can understand an art form that is.  Poetry is art.  Until now I’ve done it mostly by instinct and intuition – that’s not a bad way to go, but having a deeper understanding of how words, images and metaphors work just widen the pallet a poet can use to create art. 

Of the five poems I brought, four are improved, one is still a problem, and yes, I did write a poem about my Father and cheese that’s not bad.

Sadly, I won’t be posting them here.  These days publishing a poem to a public blog is considered publication and most of the journals I’m thinking of sending these to won’t consider them if I’ve posted them here.  That’s one annoying thing I learned at the lectures.

It was a productive week for me and I did bring home bag of books to read and a brain full of ideas to work on.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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34 Responses to Writer’s Conference

  1. Hooray for a productive week; and hooray for you, being brave enough to and go and participate! Always a struggle for introverts… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good for you for going. I know those are tough.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. G. J. Jolly says:

    First of all, you answered a question for me. Posting poems on your blog would be publishing it. I’ve been wondering about this because there are authors who are posting their work on their blogs all the time trying to get feedback. I don’t think they’re realizing they are shooting themselves in the foot.

    I understand completely about the introvert wondering what he is doing with all those people around him. It’s the very reason why I don’t even consider going to a conference. I know I’d just wander through the crowds not being sure what I should be doing. You’re a brave man, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A publisher wants the exclusive right to publish your writing. When you self-publish, you’ve claimed that right for yourself and few other publishers will be interested in the work. If you want feed back on a work – that needs to be done with a closed, non-public blog, email or the like.

      Going to a conference is outside my comfort zone, but I just power through.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tertia says:

    I identify with the poem-about-cheese thing so much! At many of the poetry readings I attend, one poem after another is (understandably) about political or social justice topics and I’m squirming because mine is about a rose bush. Or I pressure myself to write on certain topics so I’ll be “taken seriously.” It tends not to give rise to good work for me. I’m glad you got to go to a conference, though. Just don’t forget that poetry is the ultimate subjective experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Write what you write about. Open mics and poetry readings tend to attract a more activist mind set. And who knows – maybe you’ll find a few there that feel the same you do.


  5. CJ Hartwell says:

    Good call holding back your poems if you hope to see them published. I wish you every bit of luck!
    Sounds like it was a great conference.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debra says:

    It sounds like a very valuable time, Andrew. I think it’s very possible that your talent matches the others more closely than perhaps you felt, at least some of the time. Some people seem to have natural confidence, and that can translate into the delivery of their work. I hope you have more of these opportunities to sharpen your skills with constructive advice and critique. I’m so sorry we won’t hear the “cheese” poem! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So, if you post on WordPress, does it become owned by WordPress?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No – under the terms of service, you own all the content you posted on WP. However, since it is public, most publishers will consider a WP post to be ‘published’ – self published. For those places that want, “previously unpublished” works a poem posted to WP is considered published. I might write a longer post about it.


  8. It’s nice to hear about your positive experience at the conference. Being around such a talented group of people is, in itself, a priceless bit of motivation and inspiration. Good luck in the future with your published works.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sounds like a great conference. A week long! Quite a commitment. But I can hear in your description it was well worth it.
    One point: You are published. Not traditionally but Indie. Those are simply different vehicles. A lot of people choose the former over the latter or vice versa but they are both accepted these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A whole week!!! Loved it. Yes, both are accepted. Both are difficult. There are some places I’d like to see my work published, and that means changing what I publish here.


  10. Deb Farris says:

    Andrew, thank you for this post. You always provide a good laugh out loud. I can’t wait to read the cheese poem! Keep at it! :)❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jfwknifton says:

    I’m still practicing those short sentences. The ones whose name I’ve forgotten, They make everything more dramatic. And they’re easy to do. I may try a crime novel: “Put the money in the bag, creep. Slide it over here. I have a gun. It is loaded. I’ll shoot you down like a dog.”

    I didn’t have to practice the other kind which have large numbers of subordinate clauses as, after sixty years as a fully qualified windbag, I write like that naturally, once even managing nineteen commas in the same sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • and those short sentences fit my poetic style. I have tended to use longer sentences. Often my editing is breaking those long winded things down into smaller, more pointed phrases.


  12. This sounds wonderful, Andrew. I wish I was able to attend these sorts of events. You have to be careful what you publish on your blog. Amazon rejects stories that are publicly available on a blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a great conference. Was happy I got to go. “Publicly” being the key word. In these days of self-publishing, a blog is simply another self-publishing platform. Book sells what to be the ones who exclusively have the right to sell your story. Why would someone buy a book from Amazon when the story is freely available on-line.


  13. Thanks for sharing this. Did they talk about self-publishing?? I’ve done that but my book sales are horrible :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • No talk about self-publishing. This conference was mostly about craft and not much on marketing. Any publishing is difficult these days – whether self or through a traditional publisher.

      Liked by 1 person

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