Biographers Rock!

What a great event — the 2nd annual B.I.O. conference in DC last Saturday! Thanks to Charles Shields for introducing me to the organization and to him, James McGrath Morris, Barbara Burkhardt, and many others for putting together such a bang-up event. Only a couple hundred attendees, so it felt both intimate and professional. Lively reception Friday evening in the charming garden of Kitty Kelley‘s Georgetown home. Afterward, a late bite with biographers Ellen F. Brown, Kate Buford, Marc Leepson, and Mark’s sweet wife Jana. As for the conference itself, in his lunchtime adress, Robert Caro talked about how important place/setting is in biography. We had a great conference setting — the National Press Club. The sessions, dealing with both the craft and business of biography, were stimulating. And what a thrill to chat with Pulitzer Prize winners Stacy Schiff and Debby Applegate as well as others engaged in the sometimes exasperating, often perplexing, and always inspiring work of biography. Whatever would Cyrus think? Back to such questions and the ancient Near East of 2500 years ago…

Assoc of Writers and Writing Programs Conference

Looking forward to the AWP Conf! I met keynote speaker Jhumpa Lahiri over beers at BU before she won the Pulitzer and before I, well, nevermind. SHould be a good conference. Check it out, and please say hi, if you’ll be there, too!

VA Festival of the Book

The Virginia Festival of the Book kicks off today, St. Patty’s Day! I’m on for a Bible Babel book talk tonight — 6pm at the Charlottesville Barnes and Noble on Emmett. If you’re in the area, do come! I had a chance to visit over coffee yesterday with my fellow panelist, Winn Collier, and our charming and insightful moderator, David Bearinger. I think it’s going to be great fun. The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has been putting on this remarkable event for years. You can check out the line-up for each day (it goes through Saturday) by following the link above. Hope to see you there!

Bourbon St. Meets the Bible

It’s a gray day in New Orleans, and rainy. No, not THAT rainy, but enough to keep the biblical scholars to their session… till nighttime, that is. The Society of Biblical Literature is meeting right now in downtown New Orleans, just off the French Quarter. This annual meeting, which gathers in a different place each year, is the biggie for all folks involved in studying the Bible. It’s a great mix, with sessions ranging from “the Forum on Missional Hermeneutics” to “Method and Madness in the Study of the Bible and Popular Culture,” from “Archaeology of Religion in the Roman World” to “the Formation of Isaiah.” But you’d have to choose, because those are held at the same time… along with 36 others, all meeting from 1-3:30. It’s a huge conference, and the opportunities for learning about anything related to the history, literature, and intepretation of biblical texts and their worlds is dizzying. And I haven’t even mentioned the publishers’ exhibit hall, much less the perfectly delightful chances — chance or planned — to visit with colleagues, friends, and maybe even a rival or two. Then it’s off into the streets and charming alleyways of this vibrant and storied place.

Word on Word

The James River Writers conference was a smashing success! Many thanks to Jason Tesauro, Ginny Pye, the Library of Virginia, volunteers, organizers, soiree hosts, agents, editors, panelists, moderators, and all who helped make it great! Although finally only writing is writing, talking about the craft, hearing the stories of how stories came to be, and simply hanging out with folks whose passion is the word is inspiring and invigorating. In the ups and downs of this business that some do pursue for the business of it all but most for love of the written word, the poem finely wrought, the tale that grabs and holds, the novel take on a nonfiction subject, it’s good to be reminded that each book is unique and the whole process innately subjective. Another’s success is to be celebrated as much as one’s own. This isn’t, as Katherine Neville pointed out, a zero-sum game. How great to have an opportunity to be with others sharing the experiences and products of our solitude.

Writing Conferences

Thinking about writing is not writing; talking about writing is not writing. Only writing is writing, or so the wisdom goes. The school semester is in full swing, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to carve out the time and maintain the concentration required to make progress on the projects I’m eager to do. So, I’m excited about attending our annual James River Writers conference in early October. Open to all — folks just beginning to sketch out their ideas, poems, and stories on paper; and seasoned pros who make a living at the craft — meetings such as this never fail to inspire and encourage. Sort of like the paradox of taking more time to sleep can help a person to get more done, carving out space for a writing conference here or there can boost the profoundly solitary experience of putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. So, about that thinking and talking bit…