Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Writer's Block Festival

Writer's Block: An inability to write.

It's a term I am sure we are all familiar with. But today, I took writer's block to a new level by attending The Writer's Block Festival. This was the second annual celebration of local, state, and regional writing. 

People could attend workshops on plot, poetry, place or playwriting. Or perhaps one had an interest in sitting in on panels discussing  publishing, blogging, or young adult fiction. Readings were held. Books were for sale. There was a print fair. A national poetry slam winner Anis Mojgani was to be the keynote speaker/reader/slammer at an event this evening.

I signed up for a 90-minute workshop on travel writing led by university assistant professor Robin Lee Mozer. There were six participants. 

To begin, we each wrote for 20 minutes about a trip we had taken recently: a trip to the airport, a river boat trip, an island off Hilton Head, and a stroll through an art fair. I wrote about my trip this week to the chapel at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky (here). One fellow had recently hiked the Appalachian Trail which led to a discussion of Bill Bryson (see my fan letter to Mr. B. here) who has written about his adventures conquering that trail.

Ms. Mozer explored how to create yourself as a character in a travel essay, spin a good yarn, and address awkward situations or uncomfortable accommodations. 

This is from her handout:

Good travel writing does more than simply tell readers about a place. Good travel writing invites readers to sit with you in that booth at that barbecue joint in Alabama or to pedal wildly along next to you on that unexpectedly grueling bike tour of Argentina's wine country. Part of transporting readers is giving them a character to travel with. In a travel essay, that character is you.

It occurs to me that those of us who write about books are writing 'travel essays' as well. To follow Ms. Mozer's guide: The book is the place we have visited, we tell the book's story (or part of it anyway), and some books are so uncomfortable to read that we flee from them as if their pages held bedbugs. 

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