Digging Deeper – Indiana Writers’ Conference 2011

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I attended my first “Gathering of Writers” conference in Indianapolis over the weekend and it was quite a remarkable experience for me.

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[photo borrowed from the Indiana Landmarks.org website]

The conference was housed in the newly restored Indiana Landmarks Center in the historic district of the city.   The Landmarks Center was a former Methodist church and in such disrepair that it was considered a lost cause.  The Cook Family of Bloomington, Indiana donated $10 million to have it restored.  What was very fortunate for me was that the building was finished six months prior to my visit, and I was able to attend this function in such a beautiful place.

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[one of my favorite writing acquaintances.  Hi, J!]

Approximately one hundred writers attended the gathering and 14 published authors (some non-fiction and fiction writers and some poets) gave talks with writing exercises for the attendees to participate in.   The theme for the 2011 Gathering was “Digging Deeper” and our keynote speaker was Lee Martin who gave a powerful keynote address called The Accidental Memoirist.

One of of the most notable quotables from Mr. Martin was this:

We speak when we have a reason to speak: to understand more fully.  A memoir is not about the past but about the future.

…[it is about] resolving past issues

Mr. Martin cautions that writing a memoir should never be “an act of revenge”.  One should strive to tell the truth with love, empathy and compassion.  Listening to Mr. Martin’s keynote speech, I found it peppered with not just good writing advice, but great advice for living.  He quoted from the the wisdom of Miller Williams who penned this poem:

The Ways We Touch

Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it.

What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism
is always a sign of things no ears have heard,
no eyes have seen.

You do not know what wars are going on down
there where the spirit meets the bone.

A final thought from Mr. Martin, the writing of a memoir helps us move from

…the tangle of experience to clarity.

I must admit, I was really surprised by what I had learned at the conference and it did live up to it’s theme of digging deeper.  I chose two poetry breakout sessions, a session on fictional writing and the techniques of “showing vs. telling” and a session on “chasing the shadow” – employing Jungian psychology to help us give an honest, accurate account of the flaws as well as the strengths as we write to make our characters or ourselves (if we are writing a memoir) have authenticity and credibility.

I went into the writers’ conference fully expecting to learn about the craft of writing.  What I also learned were valuable lessons on what it means to be fully human, to be a “human being engaging with the world” as Mr. Martin describes, with all the complexities, the strengths and the frailties of the human character.

To me, they were not just lessons on writing authentically, but lessons on living truthfully, compassionately, and respectfully in this complicated world of ours. This was truly an amazing and uplifting experience about digging deeper into the wondrous complexities of the human spirit.

And I’m so glad I was able to attend so I can share a few pearls of wisdom with you.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Inner Excavation, Inspirational quotations, Lee Martin, The craft of writing, The Gathering of Writers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Digging Deeper – Indiana Writers’ Conference 2011

  1. Mr. RSG says:

    Sounds like it was a really great time, with a lot to be learned in other areas besides just characters. I really liked this part of the poem:

    “You do not know what wars are going on down
    there where the spirit meets the bone.”

    It helps to try and remember that not everyone’s life experiences are identical, and even two people witnessing the same event at the same time may have vastly different interpretations of how it relates to them based not only on past life experiences but what might be occurring in each’s head at the time.

    Glad you had a nice time.
    Maybe you can take me with you next time… 😉

  2. Thanks, sweetheart.

    I did have a really great time. I do agree that life experiences and current mindsets do impact the interpretation of an event. People have different perspectives and we’d do well to keep that in mind.

    Yes, it would be nice to take you with me next time. It was a nice conference and the bed and breakfast I stayed in was really a beautiful place.

  3. Phil says:

    “We speak when we have a reason to speak: to understand more fully. A memoir is not about the past but about the future. …[it is about] resolving past issues”

    I like that a lot. The body and soul are meant for traveling forward.

  4. They sure are, Phil, they sure are.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

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