Monday, May 30, 2016

Directing the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference

81º ~ a day of hazy heat with pop-up thunderstorms probable, thick white overcast, birds & squirrels abound

In late January this year, I was invited to attend a meeting about the possibility of creating an annual women writers conference at UCA. You can read about that meeting and the creation of the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference on the homepage of our website. After that initial meeting, we began gathering twice a month to lay the foundation for our first conference, which we scheduled for November 3 - 4, 2017. At some point along the way, I leaned in and requested the position of "director," knowing that someone had to hold all the threads, knowing that most of my colleagues had been at UCA long enough to have major initiatives of their own going, and knowing that directing a project like this is often a part of one's tenure package. Yes, having the title "Director" is prestigious, but that prestige will have to be earned through a lot of woman hours behind the scenes. I know this.

I'm confident in helping create and lead this conference in large part because of the fabulous colleagues with whom I work, especially the Executive Committee: Nan Snow, Terry Wright, Dr. Gayle Seymour, Jennifer Deering, and Dr. Stephanie Vanderslice. From the beginning, our committee has done a great job of task-sharing, communicating, and working toward a common goal. It is a delight and a privilege to be called the director of this group of people.

Building a conference is about details large and small, and everyone on our committee has brought vital experience to the table. We picked our locations and dates first and secured those. It may seem early to anyone who has never done this before, but key rooms and buildings on a campus go quickly, let me assure you. We also had to choose our name, and we are ever thankful to Forrest Gander for allowing us to honor the late C.D. Wright in this way. Now we are working on getting the word out, fundraising, naming our Board of Directors, and creating our media kit. In the fall, we will work on logistics and put together our call for proposals, which will go out November 3, 2016.

While our Mission & Vision Statement page offers a good idea of what we are aiming for, I want to re-iterate here that this conference is for women writers of all genres, styles, fields, and experience levels. We want to bring together academics, professionals, & writers-at-large -- poets, novelists & short story writers, young adult & children's lit authors, dramatists, journalists, bloggers, technical writers, advertising & marketing writers, scientific writers, and more.

If you are a woman and you write, we want to provide a space for you to discuss your work and to build a community with other women of words.

After announcing the conference about a month ago and releasing our first newsletter a few weeks ago, I've received numerous emails of enthusiasm and support. Most people ask, "how can I help?" For anyone interested, here's how to get involved.

1. Like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.
2. Sign up for our newsletter on the website (scroll down) and be the first to know about our call for proposals and registration details.
3. Share the news with your writer friends. Feel free to share this post, our newsletter, or any of our social media posts.
4. Make a financial donation if you are able. Founding Members (those who donate before our first conference) will receive a special gift and recognition at each conference. While we are hosted at UCA with most of the staffing hours covered by our contracts and we may receive a small amount of money from the College of Fine Arts and Communication, budgets are tight in academia. Initiatives such as ours must rely first and foremost on fundraising and registration fees. Your contribution will be used to support our ability to offer scholarships to women without the means to attend the conference on their own, to create an emerging women writers prize, and to help us spread the word through advertising and the creation of a media kit.

As ever, I am thankful for the opportunities and the responsibilities that have come my way as a literary citizen, and I am looking forward to hosting many of you at UCA in late 2017!

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