Monday, March 23, 2015

The Gathering: A Report

First: I'm chagrined I didn't take any pictures at the Gathering of Writers.

I should have.

Next: These conferences are a mix.  I've been to enough of these conference-type things, and I wish I could be a little more optimistic and excited about the whole process.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I will analyze the advertisements, perceive the pomp, and ignore the arrogance (yes, this isocolon is intentional and purely to irritate).

That being said, the Gathering had two immense positives.  Spending time with some really great writers--Randy and Keith, certainly (missed you, Mike)--Kimberly, Steph, and a new found friend that may make it to David's group.  This time and bonding is awesome.

The other aspect was listening to Ben Winters talk.  He gave a break-out session about "How to Use Mystery in Your Fiction."  But allow me a superfluous flashback for a moment.

I took an interesting teacher--twice--in my MFA program through University of New Orleans because she challenged me.  The second class I took was a class in the novels of sensibility and the gothic.  The topic intrigued me.

The first assignment for the class was to read Clarissa.

The class had the assignment and the reading list before the end of the fall semester, and I wanted to read Clarissa over the holiday break.  I was flying to Portland to visit family, and I had Clarissa in tow.

This book is famous for being the longest novel in the English language.  It is 1500 pages long and seems to weigh that much.

I had a window seat on the flight to Portland and planned to do some serious reading.  I'm a small-framed woman, so I like having a wall to smash up against when the inevitable overweight person comes to sit next to me.

She did.  She and her husband sat next to me, and she wasted no time settling into her seat, elbowing me in the side, and touching knees with me in a way that I am not comfortable.

And then, she pulls out Ben Winters' Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  I had heard of it before, but as I had said, I wanted to get some serious reading done.  I was only on page 300 or something.

The woman started talking to me.  I tried to be polite and answered briefly.  Finally, she said, "Have you ever read Jane Austen?"

"Yes."  I replied.

"It's about time someone rewrote this story," the woman told me.  "Jane Austen had no sense of humor whatsoever.  This novel is actually funny."

I thought about correcting her, but instead, I stifled a laugh and created a negative impression of Ben Winters's writing, as a dumbed-down version of Austen, intended for the masses.

This was an unfair judgement.

Since that plane ride, I have heard much positive of Ben Winters, and for good reason.  His energy, humor, and talent are apparent.

Listening to him speak, engage, and inspire the room full of writers at the Gathering inspired me, a jaded, over-analytical and discouraged writer.  His passion for writing and for the craft is exciting.

His ideas of mystery writing parallel the tension and suspense that any writer should create in their writing, and he applied this well to a group of fiction writers, eager to hear all of his theories and any of his other tangents about writing in general.

Here is the shameless and unrequested plug.  Which book of his should I read?

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