Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Six Writing Tips from the Woodstock Writers Festival

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 9:37 AM

The popular Memoir a Go-Go panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival

As I sat in the Kleinert/James Art Center waiting for the Woodstock Writers Festival's Historical Fiction panel to start, I overhead a woman sitting next to me complaining to her friend in the row behind us.

"I'm feeling so tired. I just couldn't sleep last night. I find myself just too...I don't know too inspired. I couldn't settle down when I came home from last night's panel," she told her friend. The WWF is indeed inspiring and energizing for readers and writers. The weekend flew by.

Philippe Petit, author of Why Knot? captivated the Woodstock audience with his self-deprecating humor, wit, French accent, and passion for knots. Joe Donahue, who I have heard on the WAMC radio but have never seen in person, gave a fantastic juicy interview with Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, and there were a few serious good laughs. Advice gleaned from this discussion:

"You have to write what you must write!"

"Own your place in the world and write into it."

Cheryl Strayed says she writes "fearlessy, open-heartedly, with abandonment, and without seeking approval."

Although I don't read or write fiction, I did enjoy the Historical Fiction panel: Charley Rosen (author of Scout's Honor), Ann Hood (The Obituary Writer) Tad Richards (Nick and Jake), and Carey Harrison (Justice).

"Don't overburden yourself with too much research. The flight of your imagination won't take off with too much baggage," says Carey Harrison.

Martha Frankel moderated a fantastic emotional and lively panel of memoir writers: Andre Dubus III ("Townie"), Christa Parravani (author of Hers), and James Lasdun (author of Give Me Everything You Have).

"Go where the story takes you!"

"It's what we don't know about our past that makes us write."

I didn't go to the story slam on Thursday night or the breakfast with Abigail Thomas and Bar Scott like I did last year, but I did go to the Friday night cocktail party at Photosensualis, and had fun talking to Fabulous Furniture's Steve Heller, mystery writer Arlene Kay, Stacy Clark from Inkubate, and I met a few Hudson Valley Good Stuff followers too. The delicious appetizers from Bistro to Go are worth mentioning too.

If you missed the Woodstock Writers Festival, you can catch all the panels via webcast at It's well worth the small fee to listen to these engaging discussions. I can't wait until the next Woodstock Writers Festival!

Writer Vanessa Geneva Ahern founded Hudson Valley Good Stuff 4 years ago. Visit and find out where to eat, play, and recharge your spirit in the Hudson Valley.

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