I’m back home and not a moment too soon. Too long away from my own stuff, and I can get a little punchy. Had a surprisingly fruitful trip back to (I’m going to name names in this post) Muncie, Indiana. See previous post about re: going home again and the character I’m about to send home again. Got to see a couple of old chums, people I used to work with and for. (Hi, CT!) Also got to hang out with Holly, my mystery writing friend. Which was great, because she’s even funnier than I remembered. For instance, we were sitting at a table talking about what we’d read recently or ever, and Holly says something about how she hasn’t read a lot of classics in English. So I ask, as you would, what language, exactly, had she been reading in? “Greek and Latin,” she says. Oh, right. Because she has a Ph.D. and used to be a classics professor. You forget these things when mostly you just talk about plot devices.

Visited my old alma mater, too, of course. (Naming names again.) Ball State University, represent. I went there for two different degrees and worked there in between. Met all of my best friends there, so many great friends I still have that I won’t even try to name them all here. They’ll know who they are if they are reading and they’d better be reading. Also, had the funniest surprise. A while back I sent a donation to BSU for journalism department scholarships. I sent enough to get a brick etched with something I wanted to say on the long walk up to the Alumni Center from its parking lot. I told them what I wanted it to say, but I haven’t been back since and I completely forgot. No, seriously. I’d forgotten entirely that I’d done this—until I was walking back to the center from lunch on Saturday and almost stepped on my own name. How cute is this?

It was pretty visible because I must be one of the last people to name a brick. It’s not too late, though, if you are seething with jealousy. My guess is there are still bricks to be had.

More awesomeness: The conference itself. If I sounded a little hesitant in that last post, that’s legitimate. I went to the Midwest Writers Workshop Summer Conference in 2001, and I hate to say it so publicly, but I wasn’t all that blown away by it. But this year was so much better. The faculty has expanded, for one thing. They had this guy. And this guy. And this other saucy guy without a web site of his own who threw around his energy like he had it to spare. The keynote speaker was folksy and charming and pretty darn funny. The attendees are always, I think, going to be mostly unpublished writers trying to figure things out. But the range of skill and experience is pretty vast. There are some people who want to write memoirs for their grandchildren and, you know, good luck to them. There are a couple of self-published guys trying to hawk books at the book table, sure. Everyone else, though, is just there trying to get some words out anyway they can. They don’t have the time to get an MFA, and why would they? Quite a few of them are genre writers, or as one of the faculty put it, “I write popular fiction. But who wants to write unpopular fiction?”

Gah. When you put it that way…

I had a really great time this year, so I can honestly recommend this conference, especially if you write genre fiction or nonfiction and/or want to write for magazines, and especially if you live in the Midwest and want to be around other writers.

In other news, I’m about to do what journalists call burying the lede. At the banquet on Sunday, I picked up some brass: a “Manny” Award for short story manuscript, and the R. Karl Largent Writer of the Year Award. I knew about the “Manny” earlier in the day, because I went to tell the conference director that I couldn’t stay for the banquet and she said, “No.” After a little back and forth, I finally realized there was a prize coming. So I stayed. It ended up being really fun, even with the five-hour trip I had ahead of me. But then it wasn’t just the “Manny” but the Largent, which I wasn’t suspecting and which I had to accept wearing my jean jacket and tennis shoes (see photo above). Advice to self: even if you’re going to be driving 300 miles later, maybe dress up a bit.

I’m quite pleased and quite socially hungover, but apparently people expect me to get dressed AGAIN and go out of the house later. They know not what they do, because I am wiped.

By Published On: July 26, 2009Categories: Life, Writing life