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Smell the Coffee: Chance for a do-over

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last summer, I wrote about an amazing night during the West Virginia Writers Conference at Cedar Lakes in Ripley. After the evening's scheduled events had ended, the performers -- acoustic bluesman Pops Walker and Americana musicians Doug and Telisha Williams -- were coaxed out onto the lodge porch by a bunch of the writers. There, they played well into the early-morning hours, their talents intermingling with readings by the writers and poets who shared space on the porch.

I've never in my life experienced a night like that. Others there said the same. It was magical in a way I'm not writer enough to describe, but I must've done it some justice because after reading the column I cobbled together last year about that evening, I heard from many who said they wished they'd been there.

Now, they have their chance.

The conference runs June 8-10. Conference organizers managed to get the same musical acts as last year, Pops Walker and Doug and Telisha Williams (Have you heard them yet, "Mountain Stage"? You should come!).

And once again, they've convinced one of my favorite writers in the world, Lee Maynard, author of the Crum trilogy, to share his talents and wisdom. Meeting Maynard is like meeting a character who stepped out of a novel, rather than one who just writes them. He's like hanging with Hemingway or Kerouac. I've never met anyone like him.

A few of the conference regulars aren't going to make it this year, but those I've come to view as the core will be in their usual places. Some by the bonfire, some on the porch. Many have never met before, but that doesn't matter considering the common ground of writing beneath all their feet.

I can't promise the magic of last year will happen again, but by not attending -- by not taking the chance and being there, just in case -- you absolutely ensure that if it does, you will miss it.

"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" -- author Frank Scully

I'm not much of a risk-taker myself, so it's perhaps a little hypocritical for me to be prodding anyone into doing something they normally wouldn't. Still, it frustrates me when those who would enjoy such an easily obtainable experience don't chance to attend.

But it's a little more than that, though. It's the many who want to write, who have long dreamed of putting their ideas onto the page, yet don't take that first little step. Like attending a conference where they could take workshops and hobnob with those who share the same interests.

Every year, when I talk to new writers, I tell them about the conference and try to convince them to attend. I don't get any kind of commission from this thing. I'm not even on the board or the planning committees, though I've been in the past.

It's just that I've been attending for about 20 years now, and I've seen firsthand the opportunities that have sprouted as a result. Yet so many of these new writers, when I see them again, will admit they didn't go because they were afraid, claiming they feared being singled out as a newcomer somehow and being embarrassed -- never happens! -- or were worried they wouldn't know anyone there.

We limit ourselves by settling for security instead of discovery.

"You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." -- Wayne Gretzky, hockey player

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did." -- Mark Twain, author

Claim you're just there for the music. For a little time on the porch.

Instead of letting another year pass to regret.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com. For more information about the conference, visit www.wvwriters.org.


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