Sunday, June 14, 2009
ANNE ELIZABETH TOM TOUTS THE WRITER FRIENDLY CAPE COD WRITERS CENTER CONFERENCE
BY DOUG HOLDER
I have known Anne Elizabeth Tom, the director of the Cape Cod Writers Center for a number of years now, and find her an untiring advocate of writers, a whirlwind of creative energy, not to mention a warm and generous person. Tom is now putting on the finishing touches for the 47th Cape Cod Writers Center Conference starting Aug 15. There will be two separate conferences: one section Aug 16-18, the other Aug19 –21. The Craigville Conference Center is located on a bluff overlooking Nantucket Sound and Craigville Beach on Cape Cod. I talked with Tom about the Cape Cod Writers Center and Conference on my Somerville Community Access TV show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Doug Holder: Can you tell us about the history of the Cape Cod Writers Center and Conference?
Anne Elizabeth Tom: It was established by Marion R. Vuilleumier in 1962. She was definitely a woman ahead of her time. She was a writer, and she wanted to get a writing group together. She did form one and eventually they decided to have a couple of creative writing teachers come down to the Cape for a week in the summer. This grew with more and more teachers. So now we have fiction writers, nonfiction writers, creative nonfiction writers, etc. This summer we have folks teaching like poet Richard Wollman, who runs the Zora Neale Hurston Center at Simmons College with the founder Afaa Michael Weaver. We also have screenwriting and poetry courses. All of this has evolved over the years, and the annual Conference is the Center’s major program. But we support writers all year long. We have an author interview TV show and recently we have had poets CD Collins, Lisa Beatman, and Tracey Fern, (a children’s book author) on the show.
DH: I recently read an article in the New Yorker that discussed the question: “Can writing be taught?” Well, can it?
AT: I think like anything there needs to be a certain amount of native ability there. But most definitely people can be guided to write well. Just being exposed to other writers at conferences and workshops as well as reading a lot helps. I think the momentum of getting together with other writers makes a difference. A lot of it has to do with the fact that you become exposed. It supports you. It’s lonely being a writer. And there is a lot of networking at our Conference for instance.
DH: I know you are going to have some literary agents this year.
AT: Yes-we have. Jason Ashlock, an Agent and Contracts Manager at Moveable Type Literary Group, and Molly Lyons of Joelle Delbourgo Associates.
DH: Do you have any anecdotes about writers making connections at the Conference?
AT: We actually do. Last year we had a mock editorial panel with the publisher David Godine and some other publishers and agents. It really was a lot of fun. We had asked faculty to pick some manuscripts they thought might be worth running past the editorial panel. There was someone who had a really interesting book on gardening. His book considered the impact of English gardening on American gardening. Another book that was considered was a romance. Both were reviewed by the panel.
DH: Can you name some of the teachers this year?
AT: Well, Richard Hoffman the author of the memoir “Half the House: a Memoir” will be teaching a memoir and an advanced memoir course. Suzette Standring, a syndicated columnist, will be teaching a column writing course, Tom Daley will be hosting our Box Lunch briefings (These are 45 minute discussions on writing and publishing.) There is just a small part of our offerings.
I would advise people to sign up for classes as soon as possible. We are already 30% full, and our catalogue has only been out for a few weeks. Registration closes July 15. Go to our website for a registration form and other information. http://capecodwriterscenter.org
DH: Can you talk about your background and how you became involved with the center?
AT: We used to spend summers on the Cape when I was a kid. There are so many people I know who have experienced the haunting beauty of the Cape like I did. I had wanted to return here to do some writing. I had been a museum director, and I did a lot of corporate writing to earn a living, but I hadn’t done enough creative writing. When I came back I enrolled at the Cape Cod Writers Center. Afaa Michael Weaver was a poet teaching there that summer, as well as Fred Marchant, Wes McNair and others. The experience jumpstarted my own poetry. Later, it turned out the Director of the Center was leaving after eight years. I applied for the job and got it.
DH: Can you talk about the accommodations during the workshop?
AT: It is possible to stay at the Craigsville Center where the conference takes place. It is rustic. The rooms are $122/ a night but that includes all meals. The meals are family style. You don’t have to stay for the full week. You can just stay as few as a couple of nights. And there are hotels on the beach that you can stay at as well that are not expensive. There are all varieties of options.
You can also come down for the short courses like “Books & Blogs.” This course concerns the use of the Blog to publicize your work. This course is taught by Lisa Warren of Da Capo Press. There is also a course concerning publishing your first book.
DH: Many people fear poetry workshops because they hear stories that members, teachers, etc…literally tear their work apart. Is this true at the Conference?
AT: We have a very friendly Conference. It’s folksy with sophisticated people. This is the culture of the Conference. People have told me the environment is conducive to a positive experience.
DH: What else goes on at the Conference?
AT: Every night we have speakers. Our first night Aug 15 we will have an open mic where people can read from their work. Our keynote speakers are Roger Sutton, Editor-In-Chief of “The Horn Book,” and Martin Sandler who wrote: “The Story of American Photography.” He is well known for his young adult history books.
DH: Why do you think folks should attend the Conference?
AT: It is really about the contacts you make and the friendships you develop.