It has been 10 years since James River Writers held its first conference to bring together writers and readers with literary professionals. To celebrate this milestone, conference organizers have found a new venue, planned many new events, and created new opportunities for attendees to connect.
The JRW conference is just one of many events included in the Virginia Literary Festival (VLF) taking place from Oct 17-21. Organized by the Library of Virginia, the VLF also includes a variety of workshops for all ages, presentations at the Poe Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Virginia Literary Awards, which is honoring author Tom Robbins with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The conference will officially take place on October 20-21 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. On Friday, Oct. 19, there will be a series of small writing workshops held at the State Capitol. The workshops will deal with the craft of writing, such as finding one’s authorial voice, and professional concerns like putting together a portfolio. Workshop coordinator Valley Haggard says that these workshops grew out of the attendees’ need to have a “hands-on element” at the conference. “They help provide an intimate atmosphere to work closely with a published author, poet, agent or publicist from outside the Richmond area that our members might otherwise not have access to,” she explains.
For those who are unable to make the Friday workshops, there will still be plenty of opportunities to be part of the conversation. Conference chair Kristi Tuck Austin states, “This year’s conference provides more structured time for us to meet other writers and connect over shared interests.” The Library of Virginia is hosting Saturday’s Literary Luncheon, where Virginia Literary Awards finalists will be present and Tom Robbins will give an interview. On Sunday, a number of conference speakers will be conducting facilitated discussions on topics such as “To MFA or Not to MFA,” “Southern Gothic,” and “Diversity in YA.”
Thanks to the size of the convention center, this year’s conference also features a literary marketplace. Local indie bookseller Fountain Bookstore will be selling titles from all the conference speakers. VCU Libraries and the Virginia Shop will also be represented. Writing services such as The Book Doctors, grammarRULES! and Well Put, LLC as well as a few self-published authors will be present to offer their services and their success stories to visitors.
“Magic happens when so many writers come together to share their journeys and learn from one another,” says Maya Smart, JRW’s chair. “Our 10th anniversary is a huge milestone and several of our founding members will be in attendance as speakers and moderators.”
With such strong support of the Richmond writing community, how could a visiting writer to this year’s conference not be inspired to pursue their passion?
— Elizabeth Rabin, JRW website contributor