Meacham – A Writer’s Conference

October 26, 2019

Today I attended my first writing seminar outside of the confines of a college course. This particular nonfiction seminar was a part of Meacham Writers’ Workshop, a conference held in the spring and fall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. My mental preparation slipped away from me as the day of the seminar approached. All of those things I’ve taught myself about anxiety and mood slipped away in the grip of a brief flash of mania.

The coordinator had e-mailed three articles to the entire group attending the seminar. These were all on grief and general nonfiction writing. My paranoid brain, unaware that everyone had received these articles, took the articles as a sign that my essay on grief wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough. I nearly skipped the seminar, but I decided to attend mere hours before it started. The real me peeked through the mania to remind myself that it was my duty as an aspiring writer to look for feedback in any way I possibly could.

Once in the classroom, all paranoia disappeared. The coordinator had prepared a very thoughtful presentation on writing on grief because most of the essays dealt with grief or loss of some kind. There had been no personal attack. It was just the coordinator’s attempt to help us better our own works. After a few notes on her own work, she coaxed us through several writing exercises designed to polish our own essays, such as writing down the questions our essays answered.

At the end, I approached the coordinator for personal feedback on my essay, only to find there was very little left to do at all. I spent the rest of the day reminding myself that my paranoia was nothing to be ashamed of.

This won’t be the last time my mental illness throws a roadblock in my journey to publish my writing, but hopefully next time I’ll remember my own advice on decreasing anxiety.

Need help on surviving workshops? Check out this article.

Anyone else have a seminar experience to share? Comment below, or ask me anything. Keep writing!

Published by Keily Blair

Keily Blair is a creative writing student at UT Chattanooga, where her nonfiction won the Creative Writing Nonfiction Award. Her fiction has appeared in Nth Degree, Five on the Fifth, and is upcoming in Trembling With Fear and Night to Dawn. Her creative nonfiction is upcoming in Breath & Shadow. She is currently at work on a fantasy novel and a collection of essays about being a person with bipolar disorder. Her goal is to help other writers let go of stress and anxiety so they can reach their full potential.

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