UPDATE: I found this sitting in Drafts — I thought I’d published it. Anyway, better late than never, I guess.
August 6, 2015
Karen Lewis is the new executive director of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, but Maureen Epstein, “Director Emeritus” was there to step in should any spinning plates start to wobble. I took one picture of Karen during the first day and I started to post it, but it was so bad and so unflattering I deleted it.
The conference seemed a bit smaller this year. I knew that including myself, 75% of the Benicia Crew would be there, but some longtime writing friends didn’t make it this year. I didn’t know how many other familiar faces I would see.
As I walked across the dried grass, a slender man fell in alongside me. “How are you?” he said. I was surprised to see Ron Morita, from the Atlas Coffee group. Ron has finalized his move from the east coast, to the SF bay area, to the Anderson Valley, which is where he is now. He was in the short fiction workshop.
I also ran into Susan Hensley, who was in a MCWC workshop with me years and years ago, and who I had also seen at the Nebula weekend and FogCON. Susan is writing YA fantasy. I’m looking forward to seeing some of it!
We had a great collection of excerpts for the master class. David Corbett was the instructor. David’s love is of character and he has written a non-fiction book called The Art of Character. David lectured about the first hour of the first workshop, which meant we were a bit behind on manuscript review. It turned out we were not alone; I found out from my own personal grapevine that in one workshop, they reviewed no manuscripts at all the first day.
We all want our manuscripts reviewed, but David is a great teacher, and I would not have minded a little more lecture. If only the conference could go on for four days! Or five! Or two weeks or…
In our group, we had:
A chapter about a girl with a very strange mother, in 1956 Missouri; a brilliant opening of a story called “Bearded Lady” about a teenaged girl with a condition and a strange family; a philosophical science fiction novel; a techno-thriller; magical realism; a love story from 1973; a story about a woman trying to find a place when her daughter in law has no place for her; a fascinating historical novel set in California; a police procedural with father-son cops; a poetic, impressionistic bad boyfriend tale; a fictionalized account of a young girl institutionalized during the 1970s, and my story, set during Prohibition, with magic.
The “master class” is a juried class, so I had an expectation of good writing and I wasn’t disappointed. It isn’t just the ability to write, though, you need to tell a story that’s interesting and compelling and every one of my workshop mates knew how to do that.
After lunch, I listened to the faculty readings. The memoir instructor read a sad piece about visiting her chronically ill father and realizing it is probably for the last time. David read the eerie opening of The Mercy of the Night.Indigo Moor, the poetry instructor, read a number of poems. Now I will have to find and purchase his poetry books. When I read them I hope it’s his voice I’ll hear in my head.
Lunch in the courtyard. Maureen is second on the left at the first table; Indigo Moor is standing at the back in the blue shirt.