The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference (RRWC) is about a month away, and with a bunch of holidays in the mix, that month will fly by.
To look ahead at 2020 and the best start Roanoke writers can get in the new year, we got a little time in with RRWC Director Liz Long.
BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke: It’s almost time again! Let’s start with the basics, just in case there’s someone out there considering the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference for the first time. Who is welcome to attend–what level or type of writers?
Liz Long: ALL writers! Whether you’re considering tackling a novel (or screenplay or memoir or poetry or…), this conference is a fantastic way to not only meet other writers, but to learn and expand your own horizons. Every level is welcome – from beginners all the way up to the NYT bestsellers who’ve been around for years. We’re really lucky to have such incredible talent right here in our region’s backyard, and especially for the community’s willingness to share and learn from one another.
BCR: What was a favorite last year?
LL: It’s always hard to pick a favorite, and we’re lucky to have positive feedback about our presenters every year. When you cover so many different areas of writing, no two presentations are the same, and I LOVE that about RRWC.
BCR: What’s new this year?
LL: I personally can’t wait to hear Diane Fanning as our keynote, and learn a bit about her publishing journey. (I mean, her topic is “How to Succeed When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” – sounds like a fit for everyone!) She’s a powerhouse and even if we don’t necessarily write the same genres, she’s such a wealth of knowledge that it’s impossible NOT to learn from her! I’m also excited to have new presenters like Jane Fenton speak about social media advertising, as well as Jeanne Larsen sharing her thoughts on poetry, or Heath Lee sharing her insight on bringing others’ stories to life in an incredible way. The lineup is always great, but I think we’ve really knocked it out of the park for 2020.
BCR: What have you learned in putting on the conference?
LL: It’s always both easier and harder than most people think! I love bringing passionate people together, and seeing their faces light up in understanding or excitement when something clicks, or they meet a friend who is bound to have an impact on them in some way. I’m very honored to play a part in helping others create and follow their dreams.
BCR: How many people are you expecting?
LL: We almost always have a sell-out year, which puts us at just over 100 people. I mean, for $65, this weekend is a total steal!
BCR: How do you describe “Tribe Vibe”?
LL: Tribe Vibe is a very important concept to me that I constantly preach about – RRWC, along with other great events throughout the year, provides an opportunity for local writers to connect.
Writing is a very solitary thing for most of us, and it can get pretty lonely at our desks, but Tribe Vibe – whether in person at the local coffee shop or nearby library, or online in Facebook groups and NaNoWriMo camps – ensures that we understand we are never alone.
Even if we don’t write the same things, we still understand each other in how we tackle things, or can swap stories about readers or publishers, for example. Each year, RRWC reminds me I am not alone, nor am I forging the first path; instead, I’m able to learn from others’ experiences and even share my own experiences that might help someone else, and that to me is invaluable as a writer, knowing I have others to lean on when I need them most.
BCR: The 23rd anniversary gift is a silver plate. What will never be handed to writers on a silver plate?
LL: A publishing deal! (*wink wink*) Hard work and a lotta elbow grease go into every step of the way of a writer’s journey.
BCR: Why is this region a great place for writers?
How can anyone NOT be inspired by our region? I’m constantly slipping Roanoke or the Blue Ridge Mountains into my own fiction, and with so many amazing true stories of people and events, one tiny idea can spin off an entire series of work, so to speak. Whether you’re into fiction or nonfiction, poetry or screenplay, there are endless opportunities for writers to do what they do best: Tell stories!
BCR: That makes me want to go write! Thanks for the inspiration and the continued and important efforts building our community of writers. We’re better for it.
★ Register now for the perennial sell-out Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. The event takes place on the campus of Hollins University on January 24 and 25.