James River Writers Conference (postgame)

I enjoyed my moderating duties. Both panels went well. The organizers of the conference went out of their way to advise moderators to maintain a low profile in the discussion. There was only one time I had to chew my moderating tongue. During the pacing panel Q & A one of the panelists advised avoiding dialogue as an enemy of good pacing because real conversation is filled with deadwood, giving a lengthy example of tape-recorded conversation. What about Chandler? Mamet? What’s that dude’s name, Shakespeare? Who ever said dialogue is real conversation? The words on the page are never what’s being represented there—the description is not the countryside—even when what’s being represented is words. The best advice I ever had about dialogue was from playwright and novelist Jim Pendleton who said good dialogue is action. People are acting on each other when they talk. Every line of dialogue should be a significant action. Do you include every “hi Bob� or “well, uh�? Of course not. No more than you would describe every leaf or drop of blood. That doesn’t mean you avoid forests or murders.

The social consciousness panel was a lively bit of serious fun with poet Elena Georgiou, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Mark Holmberg, and GQ staff writer Andrew Corsello coming at the subject from radically different directions and ending up at the same place: Socially conscious writing begins and ends with empathy, the experience of it and the desire to pass it on.

I also attended a panel on the community of poets with Elena, Christian Peet, and Joshua Poteat, moderated by Cheryl Pallant. I always go to the poetry panels. It’s so easy to find a chair. Most of the people there could’ve been up front. The audience was a who’s who of Richmond poets. I asked a question and got a page full of answers. Elena and Christian have a press and poetry journal, Tarpaulin Sky, publishing some excellent poetry.

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