For about a 10-hour span on Saturday, April 4, 2009, Wadesboro was the literary center of North Carolina – perhaps the world.
Not since the April 1900 solar eclipse, in which scientists determined that the best place to be for observing the phenomenon was in Wadesboro, has there been a gathering of minds the magnitude that the Carolinas Writers Conference provided. The only differences this time around was the happening occurred in another century and the gathering was for literary minds, not scientific.
The conference, held in the Ingram Room at South Piedmont Community College’s Lockhart-Taylor Center was, in my slightly slanted opinion, well-organized, flowed smoothly and offered a smorgasbord of authors who are well-known and quite prolific in their chosen genre.
Attendees and authors were greeted by Karen MacMurray, who chaired the conference’s oversight committee; Dr. John McKay, SPCC president; myself, as president of the Anson County Writers’ Club; and Wadesboro Mayor Bill Thacker, who officially welcomed one and all.
Robert Inman, one of four special presenters, kicked off the conference with his “Southern Fiction” address. He was followed by separate sessions headlined by Leigh Greenwood, who discussed “Romance from A to Z”; Kim Hunter, who introduced aspiring writers to “E-book Publishing”; Cindy Holby, who helped all of us to develop our characters; and Lena Claxton, who provided hints to “Publish for Profit Online.”
Presenter Judi McCoy capped off the morning session with her personal insight into the world of publishing and how to “Put Some Humor in Your Book.” Judi was very personal, telling her audience, “I will tell you anything you want to know about me – except my age and my weight.” I don’t think anyone posed the two taboo questions to her during the day.
Glenis Redmond started the post-lunch session with a dazzling performance while reciting her poetry, which captured the hearts of all – especially the “magic” poem about her mother.
Afternoon breakout sessions featured Mary Branson, who opened the door to unpublished writers with her topic, “How to Find a Literary Agent”; Joyce and Jim Lavene, who plotted the way to “Put a Little Romance in Your Mystery”; Lillie Templeton, who introduced her older audience to “The Graphic Novel”; Nancy Knight, whose role as publisher may have answered numerous queries on how to become a published writer; and Gail Martin, who talked about the science-fiction genre.
The second afternoon series of sessions featured an authors panel – Virginia Farmer, Kim Hunter, Judi McCoy, Susan Greene, Cindy Holby and Leigh Greenwood – that discussed in depth “The Importance of the Romance Genre”; Conor O’Callaghan, who presented a roundtable discussion entitled “Life Is Poetry, Poetry Is Life”; Jack Branson, who delved into “FBI and Private Eye Procedures”; and Suzanne Adair, who stepped back into history to help with “Plotting with the Hero’s Journey.”
The last presenter, Robert Macomber had his audience laughing, smelling the jasmine on his storyboard, yukking loudly over the thought of drinking cobra juice, and holding their breath while he described his “eyeball reconnaissance” on the Mekong River and his brief arrest in Singapore.
The conference concluded with an authors panel – moderated by SPCC’s William Dick and including Robert Inman, Kim Hunter, Jim and Joyce Lavene, Mary Branson, Lena Claxton and Robert Macomber – on “How to Get Published.”
That’s the hard copy, folks. Now the insider scoop:
Robert Macomber is not only a novelist, he is a storyteller in real life. My wife Carla and I had the distinct privilege of transporting Robert to the authors reception, held April 3, at SPCC’s Old Charlotte Road campus in Monroe. He enthralled us with his tribulations of flying from Florida to North Carolina. He had pre-booked his flight, but it just so happened that Northwest, his original carrier, had been officially purchased by Delta on the day of his flight. Needless to say, he had a few runarounds in Florida and his stopover to change planes in Atlanta.
Robert said he finally was pointed to a “supervisor” at the Atlanta airport, who actually was not a
supervisor, but who solved his problems in four minutes, 37 seconds. “Yes, I timed her,” he recalled.
He was about 2 ½ hours late in landing at Douglass International Airport and worried that his escort, SPCC’s Penny Lundblum, would’ve already given up on him arriving in North
Carolina, and he would be marooned at the airport with no transportation to Wadesboro.
vHe said he was very happy to see Penny holding a placard with his name printed on it. At that very moment, he knew he was in good hands and that his flight woes were over.
Judi McCoy, told her audience that compared to her hometown on Virginia’s Eastern Shore Wadesboro was a metropolis.
My observation, which surprised me somewhat at the beginning, was that our attending authors were actually down-home folks who did not mind talking to an aspiring writer or a fan one-on-one and discussing some questions in detail. No snobs here. The conference’s writers were just like you and me – only published.
The oversight committee provided box lunches for the authors and volunteers. The lunch, prepared by Beth Rogers and Cathy Thompson, was held in the Olde Mill Gallery’s meeting room and was set up by the oversight committee so that authors and oversight committee and volunteers could rub elbows. It was enlightening to see Robert Inman talking with Wadesboro phenom Lillie Templeton; or Glenis Redmond chatting with SPCC instructor Dorothy Morrison; or Robert Macomber and ACWC member Catherine Crandell talking about the weather (I’m guessing on the subject).
Robert Inman and I wound up together for Conor O’Callaghan’s poetry session, which ran over by about ten minutes. We both hastened to return to the Ingram Room because both of us wanted to hear Robert Macomber. Both Inman and Macomber were booked by the oversight committee to stay overnight at the Sullivan Place Bed & Breakfast (Judi McCoy and Glenis Remond had the Blue Room and the Green Room, respectively, at The Forever Inn Bed & Breakfast). Bob and I made it – with a few minutes to spare.
Inman graciously took my escort role since he had driven in from Charlotte for the reception in Monroe. The two Bobs became friends, I feel, since Bob Macomber invited Bob Inman to visit him any time on Matlacha Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
A post-reception gathering at the Hilltop Restaurant in Monroe allowed oversight committee and ACWC members to have a late supper with Inman, McCoy, Redmond and Macomber. One conversational segment allowed McCoy, a dog fancier, to talk about her pet(s), and for ACWC member Beverley Getzen to relate the trying time with her pet cat, Crusoe. Again, down-home folks talking about whatever suited their fancy.
ACWC members Betsy Haskell and Carla Marshall were in charge of the Green Room, a hospitality area for all to drop in and have a snack and a drink. The Friends of the (Hampton B. Allen) Library came through with additional home-prepared goodies that were scarfed up by the drop-ins. Macomber, in his address to attendees, singled out the baker of some fine chocolate brownies, saying he “could not stay away from them.” As it turned out, the baker was my wife, Carla, and I only got to lick the spoon clean when she had finished preparing the batter for the oven. As a matter of fact, neither of us got a taste of her cheese ball.
If I attempted to compose a thank-you list, it would a long one. The success of the conference began with its sponsors – the Anson County Writers’ Club, South Piedmont Community College and the Carolina Romance Writers. The smooth-running of the conference was in the hands of the oversight committee – particularly Karen MacMurray, Dorothy Morrison, Sharon Little, Sandy Bruney, Catherine Crandell and myself (with teleconference assistance from Virginia Farmer, president of the Carolina Romance Writers). The volunteers who devoted their Saturday to an array of duties kept the pressure off the oversight committee members.
And, the choice of presenters and session leaders proved to be the coup de etat, so to speak, for the first-ever Carolinas Writers Conference.