The 2013 Napa Valley Writers Conference has concluded. A beautiful venue deep in the California Napa Valley wine country. Exceptional faculty and participants from all over the country and even some international attendees. Poetry and Fiction with five intense days. Delicious mostly vegetarian breakfast and lunch meals prepared by the Napa Valley College Culinary school. Since I attended for poetry, I won’t attempt to speak to the fiction experience. For the poets though – WOW! This is very much a working conference – poets produce new work daily. Days are long with the first craft class at 9 am and the nightly readings ending about 8:45 pm. In between is an hour for lunch (provided) and a couple hours for dinner (on your own). The rest of the time is chock full with craft, workshop, more craft and panels. Every night was a faculty poet and fiction author reading.
For me, this conference provided great transformation in my journey as a poet. While the pace was brutal, the workshops were not. Camille T. Dungy was my workshop leader and by far, this was the best workshop experience I’ve had to date. Each day a little different with variations on the workshop process. Highly adaptable, Camille easily switched up or changed up her plan for the day based upon the needs as presented by the students and the progress we were making. Her prompts were demanding and the poetry birthed from them provided us with insight and innovation into our craft. Respect for the writer, the writing and the process was always evident.
I particularly enjoyed and appreciated when she called me out on my own workshop critique pet peeve. “We don’t say like or don’t like…” given that is a fundamental in my own book, No Red Pen: Writers, Writing Groups & Critique, there was a certain irony to her holding us to that standard and having to remind me mid-workshop.
This is a conference I can highly recommend. I will be applying to return next summer.