For more than three decades, the Sandhills Writers’ Conference was a ritual of spring.
Participants gathered on the Summerville campus to lap up the wisdom of literary luminaries such as Rick Bragg, Ray Bradbury and Maxine Hong Kingston.
The atmosphere was charged with the possibility that attendees would one day see their books in print. Why not? It happened to former Sandhills’ alumni Janelle Taylor, Julie Cannon and Louise Shivers. (Also yours truly.)
Several years ago the beloved Sandhills Writers’ Conference evolved into a reading series, leaving area scribes without a venue to improve their craft.
Thankfully, a new conference has sprung up, and it’s expanding rapidly. The Writers Weekend at Summerville, now in its third year, will be held April 17-18 on the GRU campus. Anna Harris, a GRU assistant professor and conference director, has grown the event from a modest, single-author lecture to a weekend packed with activities for aspiring writers.
Harris’ goal is to feature emerging authors who might be more relatable to conference-goers.
“There’s a lot to be said for hearing and seeing Stephen King read,” Harris said. “There’s a lot to be treasured for engaging in conversation with the next Maya Angelou.”
The guest authors might be early in their careers, but they are already making a splash.
Phil Klay is the author of Redeployment, a collection of short stories that transports readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014.
Wiley Cash’s debut novel, A Land More Than Home, hit The New York Times list. The novel examines the repercussions of religious frenzy in a small North Carolina town. Cash has been compared to Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.
Aja Monet is such a talented poet, singer and lyrist that Harry Belafonte called her, “The true definition of an artist.” Her books of poetry are Inner-City Chants & Cyborg Cyphers and The Black Unicorn Sings.
The conference kicks off with Klay’s keynote address on April 17 at 7 p.m. Admission starts at $16 and includes a copy of Redeployment. The rest of the weekend is free and open to the public.
On April 18, the guest authors will share writing wisdom in a series of lectures. Local authors and GRU faculty will also give readings and offer workshops on everything from flash fiction to fantasy writing. Later that evening, aspiring writers can debut new work at an open mic event at the Book Tavern.
For more information, visit www.gru.edu/colleges/pamplin/efl/writersweekend/
A FAREWELL TO KELLMAN AND FAVORITE: Speaking of Sandhills, Anthony Kellman, its longest-serving director, is moving back to his native Barbados with his wife, poet and visual artist, Malaika Favorite.
As a farewell event they’ll be reading and leading a series of poetry writing exercises at Morris Museum of Art on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details at poetrysocietysc.org,
POET LAUREATE TIME? Edgefield, S.C., is a small town, but it’s mighty when it comes to paying homage to the literary arts. Laurel Blossom, a prize-winning writer, was named Edgefield’s first poet laureate. Isn’t it time Augusta followed Edgefield’s lead and named our own poet laureate? E-mail me at Karin.email@example.com with suggestions, and I’ll get the campaign started.
KARIN GILLESPIE IS A NOVELIST AND PART-TIME INSTRUCTOR AT GRU. E-MAIL HER AT KARINGILLESPIE.NET.