July 29-August 1,2009


Charlaine HarrisThe Summer Workshops—where we’ll be teaching July 29-August 1 here in Gainesville—have all the Anhingae scrambling as manuscripts roll in for evaluation, writers are registering for the courses and events, and ticket sales are soaring for our evening with Charlaine Harris and the Book Fair with all our authors signing.

We thought everyone was coming to work hard on writing, but something unexpected and fun is happening. The Hilton reports to us that registrants are making reservations before and after the workshops … and the Anhingae have turned into junior tour guides for Gainesville and the surrounding wonders. As much as we are concerning ourselves with contracts, registration, and logistics, we’re also in search of canoes and the best places to see crystalline springs, admission for the Butterfly Rainforest across the street from the Hilton, a tour of UF, art lessons at the Harn Museum, and activities that can entertain whole families while mom or dad studies. Who would have thought!?!

And Rochelle, our representative at the Hilton, is quietly working behind the scenes to accommodate the “special” needs of writers in a gathering. She now thinks we’re the strangest profession on the planet with the most odd people. Her contribution to spoiling us: Access to food and drink around the clock. Ice and room service for after-class get-togethers in private rooms. A lounge for members of the Florida Writers Association and people who want to meet them. Plenty of retreat space that’s cozy and comfortable … and away from the madding crowd. Poolside laziness, where no one on Hilton staff will admit they saw you there. A menu just for us in the bar. Shuttles for quick escapes. Listings of restaurants and stores and movie theaters within walking distance. A gift shop on site and filled with souvenirs of all things “gator.” Services for business to help the writer who needs to keep jamming. Services to heal the weary spirit. Services to spoil us all rotten. Wrap all that up in designer carpet and marble, throw in leather chairs and some ferns, staff it with people who are there to serve our every whim … and well, we might not want to leave. In fact, if they have someone to do Michael’s laundry, I’m thinking I won’t even be missed!

Speaking of over-the-top hospitality, I have invited an author coming in from Texas the night before the workshops to come with me deep into the palmetto and pine of backwoods Island Grove, past Cross Creek, to the gravesite of Pulitzer Prize winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I tidy up Ms. Rawlings’ grave every year before the workshops so it will be nice for our visitors, but mostly I go for one quiet moment of remembering who we are, what she did for us, and the heritage that writers in Alachua County honor. I always leave behind a pencil to add to the little collection that writers have left in homage. On our way to Island Grove an Antioch Cemetery, we’ll stop by the Rawlings grove and farmhouse, Mecca for pilgrim-writers who come to Alachua County in search of the inspirations that helped shape Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her work. The trusting author from Texas, who was only looking for a ride from the airport, is probably wondering how she got roped into such a disquieting little ritual with a total stranger, but I’m betting that if I don’t scare her to death, she’ll remember it reverently for a lifetime.

The conference is coming together beautifully. We have 21 nationally recognized faculty members: authors, editors, agents, and publishers. All were recruited for two reasons. First, they’re amazing in their respective fields. And second, they can teach! That’s the winning combination our writers deserve! This conference attracts a serious writer. Participating is a huge commitment. Most of the workshops are during the workweek. Programs run day and night and through lunch hours. Most attendees are coming from way out of Gainesville, as far away as Ohio. And it’s expensive. With commitment like that from writers, we are will be here with our A-Game.


I’ll post more news of the conference! Keep watching as exciting things start happening.



The Anhinga Writers’ Studio Summer Workshops:

Conversation with Charlaine Harris, July 30, 2009:

Charlaine Harris:

True Blood (HBO series based on Charlaine’s work)

Butterfly Rainforest:

The Harn Museum:

Canoes in Alachua County:

Rawlings’ grove:

Friends of MKR:

All the fun to be had in Gainesville:

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