Thursday, April 21, 2016

Conversations and Connections: A Must for D.C. Writers This Weekend

By Jessica Flores

Speed Dating Session

On April 23, writers will have a fresh opportunity to present their work to editors face to face. Located on the George Mason University Arlington Campus, Barrelhouse, an independent press and magazine, will host its 10th annual Conversations & Connections conference. The day of panels, workshops, and socializing focuses on inclusion and provides writers with useful tools to improve or publish their work. For a full schedule and registration to the Conversation and Connections Conference click here.

The idea for the conference started when Barrelhouse founder Dave Housley and Susan Muaddi-Darraj, an editor of the Baltimore Review were bored at a conference. “We kind of looked at one another and said ‘we can do better than this, right?’” says Housley. Their first effort was held in 2007 at The Writer’s Center with the support of the Baltimore Review and the Potomac Review. Notably, half of every dollar spent on registration fees is shared with the independent presses that take part in the conference.

“The guiding principle is really openness,” says Housley. “We want to be the shiny, happy writers’ conference where everybody feels welcome no matter their level of experience. We also want it to be useful.” The entrance fee is only $70 and includes a full subscription to one of the participating magazines, a copy of one of the four featured books, and access to panels and events taking place throughout the day. Present a student ID and attend for $65, while groups with 10 members or more pay $60 per person. The price ensures that novice writers won’t be scared away by high prices.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., participants will find their day packed with events. Registration takes place between 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. followed by opening notes. This year, Joe Callahan, executive director of The Writer’s Center will help launch the day’s activities. More than 34 guest speakers, including editors, writers, and publicists, will be offering panels and workshops. Featured speakers are: Erica Lewis, Susan Muaddi-Darraj, and Clifford Thompson. They will discuss personal experiences as writers, advice on craft and publishing, and ethical topics such as race and gender in literature. 

At noon, the popular “speed dating,” session starts, allowing writers to present poems, short stories, or the first few pages of a longer work to editors and receive honest feedback. Each “date” will last roughly 10 minutes. Please note that the first round is free with registration but subsequent rounds are $5 each. Afterwards, featured authors will participate in a keynote discussion moderated by Leslie Pietrzyk

The day will wind down with a boxed wine happy hour where attendees can mingle and swap stories about the day or go to author signings. 

Be sure to stop by The Writer’s Center table to say hi!

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