Opening Lines

August 8, 2017 § 10 Comments

So, you’re going to a writing conference! Workshops! Readings! Panels! Networking! Networking! Lots of networking! Mingling! Socializing! Bonding! Casual chatting through which lifelong writer friendships are forged! INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION AUGHLH JHJKGJKFGHFDGHAKJ–

Hang on, let me just breathe for a minute, and get off this ledge.

OK. Whew.

Perhaps, like me, you are a mewling, soft-skinned introvert hiding in a shiny I-talk-to-people-professionally-and-I’m-great-at-it shell. But somehow, our work has been found adequate, our check has been cashed, and we are at a writing conference. With group meals. Receptions. Post-reading cocktail hours. Casual gatherings. Late-night lounge time. A few days or a week full of priceless opportunities to open our mouths only to alternate feet.

Fear not. Brevity is here for you. Simply print this handy list of conference conversation openers, tuck it in the back of your name tag, and you’re ready for any writing-related exchange between humans. Just approach any writer or writers, and begin.

  1. “Wow…that reading…what did you think?”
  2. “Gosh, isn’t (insert name of workshop leader) just fantastic?”
  3. “Whose workshop are you in? Oh, they’re great! Tell me all about it!”
  4. “What are you working on? Oh, that’s great! Tell me all about it!”
  5. “Is it me or are all these rooms freezing/boiling/too dark/blindingly bright?”
  6. “How about that box wine!”
  7. “Where did you come in from? Oh, that’s great! Tell me all about it!”
  8. “Is it me or is your dorm room mattress horrible, too? Tell me all about your back problems!”
  9. “Have you seen the book sale yet? I have no idea how I’m going to get them all in my bag.”
  10. “Box wine! Look, there’s box wine!”

Please note that #6, 9 and 10 can also be used for exiting conversations as needed.

Enjoy your new writing friends, and remember, soon you’ll be home again and can return to communicating with them only through keyboards.

Happy conferencing!

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Brevity’s Social Media Editor Allison K Williams is at conferences the next few weeks. Please come talk to her about box wine, lumbar issues and your writing.

The Art of Flash: Pamela Painter at VCFA

June 12, 2015 § 4 Comments

Vermont College of Fine Arts fountain

A guest post from Vermont College Postgraduate Writers’ Conference director Ellen Lesser:

When Pamela Painter and I first brainstormed about adding Flash Fiction to the workshop lineup for this summer’s Postgraduate Writers’ Conference at Vermont College of Fine Arts, she noted that writers often imagine they don’t need to work at and study flash the way they do other genres. They think it’s easy because it’s short, I remember her telling me.

Painter, who’s been an ambassador for flash as both an award-winning author and revered teacher, will share her approaches to perfecting the form in her intensive small-group workshop in August. The Conference, held on VCFA’s Montpelier, VT campus August 10 – 16, still has a seat open at Painter’s table. Here’s her take on the experience awaiting her workshop participants:

In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner said that when writers deal with particular small problems, the work can approach perfection. This is so true of Flash Fiction. I expect that many of the flash stories from the workshop will end up being publishable. Three-fourths of the students in my last class [in Emerson’s MFA Program] have published their stories. They have written and revised small gems that do not need another word, another scene, a double ending.

In this workshop you will be reading work submitted for the class, you will be introduced to exercises that consider interesting and tighter ways to execute character and conflict, texture and detail, and you will be given an exercise to help you finish each story after the workshop is over. I want you to be as excited about Flash Fiction as I am, and to consider Flash Fiction as something you will write the rest of your life.

In short, it’s going to be an invigorating and valuable work-out, as part of a week’s immersion in craft and community. Interested writers can visit the webpage at www.vcfa.edu/pwc for all the details, and email me, Ellen Lesser, at pgconference@vcfa.edu, to see if we still have a spot for you.

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Ellen Lesser is a fiction writer and member of the MFA in Writing Program faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she also directs the annual Postgraduate Writers’ Conference. She aspires to write shorter stories.

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