Southeastern Writers Conference

Attendees of the 2018 Southeastern Writers Conference are pictured at Epworth by the Sea on St. Simons Island.

Fictional — and not-so-fictional — worlds will collide this weekend on St. Simons. From the industrial surroundings of steampunk to the interior of the FBI building in Washington, D.C., the Southeastern Writers Conference (SWC) is set to tackle writing in all settings and styles.

The SWC, founded in 1975, will take place at Epworth By the Sea from June 7 to 11. Featuring a track that includes panels, classes and open mic nights among other events, the conference is beneficial to local writers, Dana Ridenour explained.

Ridenour, an author based out of Beauford, S.C., was an FBI agent for 21 years, a career background that has greatly influenced her novels. She has attended the SWC for four years, but this is her first year as a faculty member.

The conference greatly helped her improve upon her writing skills, she said.

“When I first started being an agent, I didn’t have a background in writing and I found people in Southeastern Writers willing to share,” she said. “The motto is ‘writers helping writers,’ and I found that there. People are always willing to help day or night.”

Not only does the SWC help writers with their technical skills, but it also helps build a community in the publishing industry that might not otherwise be as accessible in the South as it would be somewhere like New York or Los Angeles.

SWC faculty member Barbara Duffey has been attending since 1989 and has written collections of ghost stories and miracle stories from the coast, as well as her latest book, “Of Faith and Courage,” which is based on her time as a nurse in veterans’ hospitals.

No matter your level of skill or history with writing, the conference has something for everyone, she said. The faculty members hosting panels are published authors local to the Southeast and are there to share their knowledge and help those in attendance.

“A lot of the attendees are published, and they come back year after year to network and perfect their talents,” she said. “It’s a very inspirational and uplifting five days. It always has been for me, and I think it has been for a lot of the others.”

There are not just writers onsite, either — editors, publishers and agents are also available to critique writing and also to receive pitches.

Epworth By the Sea has been the location for the conference for “almost every year” since its inception, Duffey said, and it is an ideal location for creativity to flourish.

“The location on the island with the beautiful live oaks on the inland waterway — it has a lovely peace about it,” she said. “You can sit on a bench anywhere and kind of think about what you want to write next, or what you’re working on, how you need to change things.”

Overall, Ridenour explained, SWC has something for local writers that other conferences cannot compete with.

“The first time I went to a writer’s conference, it was large, I didn’t know any of the terminology, I couldn’t even read the schedule,” she said, with a laugh . “SWC is small, there’s only one track – I was blown away at how accessible everybody was. Everyone will sit there and talk to you and help you along the way.”

To register for the Southeastern Writers Conference, visit https://www.southeasternwriters.org/workshop-registration. It is $445 for the whole conference, $250 for two days and $160 for one day.

Duffey and Ridenour along with authors Patrick Hempfing and Alexandra Christle will be signing books on Friday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Casino. The signing is hosted by the St. Simons Literary Guild and is open to the public.

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