To mark the final conference, co-directors and associate professors of English Christina Bucher and Jim Watkins themed the conference “Beginnings and Endings.”
“When we decided that this was going to be our last conference, we changed the theme to ‘Beginnings and Endings’ to both note the ending of the conference as well as to suggest that not all endings have to always be sad, that new things can come from endings as well,” Bucher said.
The conference spans three and a half days and brings together scholarly and creative-minded writers, recognizing the contributions southern women have made to American literature. The conference will feature 12 southern, female writers who will give presentations as well as head workshop sessions in a variety of areas such as poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.
Bucher said that Saturday through Sunday registration, a $100 fee, is geared toward people in the surrounding communities and regions who are not necessarily linked to academics or creative writing and who have to return to work on Monday.
Watkins said the conferences are coming to an end because of lack of external as well as Berry College funding. However, both Watkins and Bucher were adamant that the national conference series, which have become a staple among southern writers and for the Berry College community, will go out with a bang.
“It’s a unique conference, one, because it’s the only conference that focuses on Southern women writers, so it’s the flagship conference on that particular subject,” Watkins said. “But also, what’s unique about it is that it combines, as far as its constituency, aspiring writers, scholars and book lovers. So it has this mixture of being a writer’s conference, as well as a literature conference.”
Bucher said the conference brings together writers who can learn and grow from one another’s work.
“It builds bridges between these groups,” she said. “It’s not just an academic conference. It’s not just a writer’s conference or a book festival. You have all these people coming together to form this really pretty unique and, I think, cohesive community for
the three and a half days that they’re here.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will give the Conson Wilson Lecture
on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Berry College Chapel. Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize after having spent 15 years interviewing more than 1,200 people in order to write her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which follows three people through The Great Migration. The event is free and open to the public.
Bucher said she felt that those who attend the conference walk away on Sunday feeling as though they are a part of something big, a family of sorts. Watkins agreed and said the conference evokes something unique from every writer.
“They come away from that with a sense of awe that writing isn’t just words, it’s action; writing can make a difference,” he said. “When people tell stories that they were ashamed to tell before, when they tell stories most people haven’t heard before, they’re moving something forward, right? Because they’re talking about things that really happened to real people, usually. And all it takes is a few people to start telling those stories and the other people who’ve experienced that think, ‘Hey it didn’t happen only to me. And maybe I have something to say about this as well. So all these voices that have been silenced over time we have people coming up saying I broke the silence, I wrote about this issue and nobody wanted to hear about it. It’s so inspiring.”