Aspiring writers get chance to learn from authors at conference

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Georgia Highlands College is offering a golden opportunity for those who love the written word and yearn to write themselves. 

The college is bringing together several acclaimed authors to offer guidance to local aspiring writers during the second annual Highlands Writers Conference Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at its Cartersville campus at 5441 Highway 20.  

“The humanities department of GHC has wanted to host a conference like this for a long time,” assistant professor of English Jessica E. Lindberg said. “We had such positive feedback from last year’s conference. We see it as a long-term investment in the health and vitality of the writing community for northwest Georgia, and we hope to see it grow and expand over many years.”

Participants will be able to learn tips for honing their craft and seek advice about getting published from writers of four genres: fiction, poetry, memoir and screenwriting.

“Our goal is to keep this conference open to a variety of writers working in a variety of styles,” Lindberg said.

After registering, participants will choose one of two sessions in the morning workshop: memoir with Anjali Enjeti, a memoirist and vice president of membership for the National Book Critics Circle, or fiction with this year’s keynote speaker, two-time Georgia Author of the Year Raymond L. Atkins.

The aspiring writers then will break for a 90-minute catered lunch, during which Atkins, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Writers Association in 2017, will make a presentation.   

His first novel, “The Front Porch Prophet,” was published in 2008 and was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel, and his third novel, “Camp Redemption,” was released in 2013 and received the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction and the 2014 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction.

The author, who teaches English at Georgia Northwestern Technical College and creative writing at Reinhardt University, just released his latest novel, “Set List,” in September.

“Ray has been an extended member of the GHC community for many years, either as a teacher or as a contributor to our literary magazine, Old Red Kimono,” Lindberg said, noting he’s written pieces in three of the four featured genres. “Ray is a member of the northwest Georgia community as well. He’s a lot of fun to listen to as a speaker, and he always offers practical advice and support for writers when he shares his success story. We’re honored to have him here to celebrate his latest novel, ‘Set List.’’

Atkins said he agreed to be the keynote speaker because he has “kind of a fondness in my heart for Highlands from way, way back in the day, back when it was Floyd Junior College.”

“That was my first school,” he said. “So whenever they have something that they need for me to do, I kind of like to give back a little bit. They sort of launched me on my collegiate career.”

The Rome resident said he will do readings from two or three of his books and talk about his newest one.

“And I’ll talk about the writer’s journey a little bit because a lot of the folks that are coming there are just beginning their writing journey, and that’s sort of what the whole thing’s about so I’ll be talking about that a bit,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. It ought to be a pretty good event.” 

Atkins also will conduct a limited number of individual manuscript consultations with writers who registered for one and paid an additional fee.

After lunch, participants will attend a second workshop, where they can learn about poetry from prize-winning poet Christopher Martin, author of three poetry chapbooks and recipient of the Will D. Campbell Award in Creative Nonfiction, or screenwriting from Charles Thomas, author of the award-winning script for the upcoming feature film “Kaylee, Age 8” and host of the podcast “Atlanta Film Chat.”

Writers will have an afternoon musical coffee break featuring the GHC Quartet, led by Sam Baltzer, before winding up the conference with a publishing panel made up of Will Donnelly, fiction editor and social media coordinator for Juked magazine; Anna Sandy-Elrod, current editor-in-chief of New South and managing editor of Muse/A; and Nury Castillo Crawford, local educator originally from Peru.

Lindberg said around 40 people attended last year’s conference, “including some who had no connections to GHC but had traveled from Atlanta for the day,” but she’s expecting closer to 50 aspiring writers this year. 

“Registration is open through the morning of the conference so it is difficult to guess,” she said. “Participants are welcome to wake up Saturday morning, check the weather and join us if it’s raining again, too.”

Full-day registration is $45 and includes two workshops, the publishing panel and the catered-lunch presentation.

Discount registration for all area high school and college students is $10, but they will need to present their student ID at the conference.

Every registered participant will receive the new Highlands Writers Conference T-shirt, designed by a GHC student, and a gift bag from the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

To register or learn more about the conference, visit hwc.highlands.edu.