A Feast of Days (Part 1) - Writer's Digest

A Feast of Days (Part 1)

Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Pictured above: Streets of Oxford

Today's guest post is by emerging writer Darrelyn Saloom, who recently attended the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference, and is offering up a 4-part narrative on the experience.

Darrelyn is a regular guest here at No Rules. Follow her on Twitter or read her previous posts.

--

On a Wednesday in November, Deirdre Gogarty and I flew to Memphis at sunset and landed an hour later in darkness sprinkled with glittering lights. A minivan pulled in front of Delta’s Concourse B. Mike Stanton, photographer and self-described coffee evangelist, hopped out of the driver’s seat and loaded our bags into the back of the rental. Another writer/blogger/conference attendee named Louise Julig perched in the front passenger’s seat.

Mike drove Louise, Deirdre, and me to Oxford, Mississippi, in a vehicle that smelled of a finely, brewed bean. A full thermos and cups waited to be filled with our driver’s special blend. We poured. We drank. We shared stories. And then Mike took us to a tiny market/restaurant around eight o’clock that night. He ordered tacos for us in effortless Spanish. Hungry, we inhaled the best Mexican food I’ve tasted since my childhood in McAllen, Texas.

As homemade tortillas assailed my senses I entered a fictive dream. No longer in the real world but in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or Ellen Gilchrist’s In the Land of Dreamy Dreams. We drove around the center of Oxford called the square, a haven of independent bookstores, restaurants, churches, and courthouse. Our chivalrous driver then unloaded our suitcases at The Inn at Ole Miss and bid us farewell. “You’ll be seeing me around,” he said as he gave us his phone number in case we’d need a ride.

Thursday morning I awoke to blinding sunlight, trees bursting with color, and a hilly landscape that begged to be walked. Deirdre and I trotted down steep steps, passed an old train depot, followed sidewalks to the square. We feasted on books, roasted vegetable sandwiches, and High Point Coffee lattes. We crossed streets as courteous drivers stopped and waited. Everyone yielded: men, women, even students who looked too young to drive.

Later that day we attended Neil White’s pre-conference workshop. The author mapped out his approach to writing his memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. He handed out brochures and posted diagrams of Art & Craft. We connected dots from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron and stared at our lopsided lives. Then we discussed Voice and David Sedaris, Details and Rick Bragg. Neil explained how his original 300,000 words had become 87,000. He brainstormed 150 titles before his intuitive wife pointed the way to the one he would choose.

Just as the sun began to sink and brighten the trees, Deirdre and I rode a red double-decker bus to Off Square Books. We sat near a circular corner stage in fourth-row seats as Jim Dees introduced the house band, the Yalobushwhackers—this was Thacker Mountain Radio, a live broadcast for Rebel Radio 92.1 FM to be re-broadcast Saturday night on Mississippi Public Radio. Here I slipped deeper into my Oxford dream. I held onto my chair as Ian Frazier read from his latest book Travels in Siberia. Would someone please pinch me?

Taylor Hildebrand then sang a few original songs and Lee Gutkind, the “Godfather of Creative Nonfiction,” took the stage and performed as though he were in a play. He entertained with a story from his travel memoirTruckin’ with Sam. His reading evoked laughter as he humorously described physical problems he’d had which also made me worry like a mother or a wife. I’ve never seen an author execute a reading quite like Lee’s. Still in the fictive dream, no one had pinched me.

Image placeholder title

Next, the Bill Perry Trio played keyboard, drums, and bass. (Pictured above: bass player Keith Fondren.) They slid from blues to a funky jazz which transported me closer to home. I had to blink. But when I opened my eyes, I was not leaning on a bar in my hometown in Louisiana or some jewel of a dive in the French Quarter. Instead, I sipped wine in a bookstore on the square in Oxford, Mississippi. I’d been gorging on hors d'oeuvres before the main course arrived.

For the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference did not officially begin until the next day.

Pictured below:Susan Cushman and Kathy Rhodes during Thacker Mountain Radio's live broadcast at Off Square Books. (These two ladies were the force behind the Oxford conference.)

Image placeholder title
Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

15_things_a_writer_should_never_do_zachary_petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.

Green_10:26

Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.

Bell_10:25

Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.