Even though I skipped a number of sessions this year, Sewanee 2008 was my busiest, thanks to Tim O'Brien. As my primary reader this year, he responded very favorably to my submissions and encouraged me to do revisions immediately so that he could take a look at them. This process was incredibly helpful for me, and improved my manuscript without question. What I need to do now is apply the same sort of attention to the rest of the stories in my new book so that they meet the same standard.
Last night after John Casey's reading, we had the traditional final party for the conference. It featured a band, which was loud, and lots of people taking refuge on the patio, many of them smoking. I found it unbearable, so I called it quits early, as I have in each of my previous Sewanee visits. And facing a long Sunday drive, I didn't want to drink too much Saturday night. Plus, it's mostly an opportunity to say goodbye to people, and I don't much care for that either.
At breakfast this morning I managed to miss most people, arriving just as the 8 AM bus was supposed to be leaving, except that a few folks weren't moving fast enough and the bus was leaving late, probably causing at least one participant to miss her flight.
The highlight of the conference for me this year was Tim O'Brien. His workshop was great, his work with me personally was great, his reading and craft talks were great, his socializing with partipants/faculty/fellows/scholars was great. Beyond Tim, there were some memorable craft talks also, including Margot Livesey's discussion of fiction and extra-fiction, and Mary Jo Salter's talk about poetic influences. I also learned something about concrete endings from Wyatt Prunty's analysis of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry. In terms of readings, Randall Kenan's was a big hit, but I also liked Richard Bausch's reading, although he was a visitor this year and not faculty.
Anyone interested in attending a conference should take a look at Sewanee, which not only has great faculty and a lovely setting, but is also very well run, by a friendly staff.