Next Monday: James River Writers 2014 Registration Opens

Next week you’re going to be hearing a lot from me about the 2014 James River Writers Conference here in Richmond, which will be occurring in October. Registration opens this Monday, and if you want a little preview of what the programming is going to look like, well, just have a gander. I’ll talk more about our guests down the road, but I know that many of you out there will be excited to know that Barbara Kingsolver will be at the conference! In the meanwhile, here’s a video to give you some idea of why the 2014 James River Writers Conference is worth your time if you love the written word.



James River Writers logo

Why James River Writers?

Folks, I’ve always enjoyed James River Writers activities, and that goes about quadruple for this year. FRAGA Studios filmed a promotional video at last year’s James River Writers Conference, and it looks really good. If you are in Virginia, or might want to travel here for the conference, or are just interested in what we do, take a gander.



James River Writers logo

Baby’s First Author Event

Following the photo shoot, the author was heard to shout "now give me back my goddamn whiskey, or you're getting written into the novel."

Following the photo shoot, the author was heard to shout “now give me back my goddamn whiskey, or you’re getting written into the novel.”

As previously advertised, yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking at VCU on a panel about research for creative writing. The weather here wasn’t blizzard-in-Atlanta bad, but the university opened late, it was cold, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if we’d had no attendees at all. Instead, there were more audience members than panelists. It was like a dream come true. The panelists warmed up by swapping stories with each other about encounters with vermin, after which historical and market research were a breeze.

My co-panelists were a lively and interesting bunch, each with great tips and stories to tell. Lindsay Chudzik talked about how much is too much, up to and including a detailed discussion of when and how to engage with seedy hotels, and what they can teach. Mary-Chris Escobar discussed writing close to home, as well as dropping a lot of knowledge about what’s actually involved in becoming your own publisher. Mark Meier talked about the treadmill of freelancing, and he warmed my librarian heart by talking about using both microfilm and government documents to add verisimilitude. Sarah Pezzat detailed deep-diving into your subject and interviewing people, as well as talking about when and why it is appropriate to taste-test celluloid.

Like a lot of things in life, it didn’t start with a flourish of trumpets or end with a crash of cymbals, but it was the first event where I appeared as an author with billing. Of course, given it was at the university where I work, I was juggling hats a little bit, but I’m getting more comfortable with that. On which note, let me don one more hat and say that if you’re in the Richmond and want to learn about self-publishing, check out JRW‘s January Writing Show, Great Expectations: The Realities of Self-Publishing, at The Camel at 6:30.

For the curious, here’s the flier we used to advertise, along with a few basic research resources: rev.handouts.

Research for Creative Writers

If you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area tomorrow, January 29th, come to VCU and hear writers talk about their research! Lindsay Chudzik, Mary-Chris Escobar, Sarah Pezzat, Mark Meier, and I will conduct a panel discussion on using research in both fiction and non-fiction creative writing. Free and open to the public. At VCU’s University Student Commons, Forum Room, 907 Floyd Ave, at 4:30 p.m. Curious for more about research & writing? Check out this post about research by Mark Meier.

Just Outside the Archly Post-Ironic Irony Processing Plant

A few years back, I enroled in a short story workshop in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University, home to the library where I work. The students were lively, interested in their craft, and critiques slanted useful. All in all, it was a very useful experience and helped me to grow as a writer.

The classroom dynamic varied like every workshop, with discussions ebbing and flowing around the speaker of the moment and the writer of the story, but I was always glad when Tom Batten‘s work came around. Tom’s a dark-haired guy with a perpetual five o’clock shadow, and he’s blessed with a thoughtful face. Presumably he’s occasionally thinking something like “urrrr, pickles good,” but he doesn’t look it. His mien wanders from reserved to intensely conversational (conversationally intense?). In short, he could have come out of central casting under the description of “writer,” but his stories! They brim with character. I’m not talking George the Butcher or Susie Ewok, but, you know, character. Every time you bite into one, it’s rich and chewy, with no artificial filler.

tom batten show

ID even K. Ask Tom.

Which brings me to The Tom Batten Show. Look, you already know: most blogs are pretty bloggy. If they’re not about selling something or “building a brand,” they tend to the inchoate. Not a bad thing, but it’s what they are, and your pleasure in reading them usually is tied to whether you’re buying what the author’s selling.

Tom’s blog wanders from one thing to another like most blogs but it’s damn good. Punchy prose, listicles, creepy anecdotes, soul-crushing cynicism: every post a different thing, but wit and a love of words run through it all. Reading Tom’s blog is like (warning: tired trope incoming!) watching SNL, back when it was good. Humor often gets a bad rap, and for a good reason: the formulaic, standardized humor that appeals to enough people to make it big tends to be… formulaic and standardized. Tom’s the opposite of that, near as I can tell. He likes to smile at the raw pieces of life that haven’t yet made it to the Archly Post-Ironic Irony Processing Plant.

Check it out.