We just returned from the David R. Collins Writer’s Conference in Davenport, Iowa, held on June 26th through the 28th. For those of you who are not familiar with this part of the Midwest, Iowa’s Davenport and Bettendorf are just across the river from two cities in Illinois—Moline and Rock Island. Together these four cities make up what’s known as the Quad Cities area, which encompasses a population numbering around 350,000 people—not small by any means.
The conference was held on the St. Ambrose University campus, which is in Davenport. The Midwest Writing Center, which sponsors the conference, has its own office space in a beautifully restored building in downtown Davenport. Even the elevator is a work of art there!
We camped out at the Radisson, only a block or so from the center of a vibrant city, which was like being in the center of a gallery—art everywhere. What a place! Great restaurants, fantastic food, an art museum two short blocks away and, for those more adventurous, a riverboat casino. All of these were within walking distance, making it sort of like a mini-NYC.
St. Ambrose has smart classrooms, which helped make us seem lots smarter (lol) and made it possible to use the Internet in our PowerPoint presentations. That, in turn, made it easier to show some examples of what we were talking about during the classes and also allowed us to show participants some hopefully useful Web sites, so that was a good thing.
Sharene and I taught six 90-minute classes: Novel Beginnings, Red Flags That Label You, Publishing Credits, Machete Theory (manuscript revision), Mother, I’ve Shrunk My Book (how to tell your book’s story in one paragraph), and Three C’s: Craft, Credits and Contracts. We’ve taught these classes separately and together at conferences just about everywhere and have rewritten and reorganized them at least a dozen times. This time they all got a complete update, and we really enjoyed teaching them.
When we arrived, I felt some apprehension because the classes were new and I’d never used PowerPoint before. I might have also feared that the classes wouldn’t work as well as they had in the past. However, it only took a moment or two and I was chugging right along. That’s the glory of PowerPoint.
This was a smaller conference, at least smaller than some that we’ve attended. Many of the classes we taught here had the same students who had attended at least one class taught before it and, because of this, after the first day, it was like teaching in a regular classroom situation where you know everyone. This made teaching even more enjoyable as it allowed us, before the conference ended, to teach friends rather than strangers.
We also sat on a panel the first evening there. We love panels. We think writers learn more from them because the questions usually asked are ones no one else has adequately answered for them in the past. This one was two hours, which we think it is a great length. Most conferences limit panel time to one hour, thinking that writers would rather spend more time in classes or pitching. However, our experience shows that writers never tire of asking agents and editors about publishing.
We would again like to thank Susan Collins and her staff of efficient and energetic folks for their Midwest hospitality, which put our Hoosier hospitality to shame, as well as their kindness, professionalism and dedication to purpose. We enjoyed every moment of our stay in Iowa and will probably visit there again just to see more of the area. We would also like to thank those staff members at St. Ambrose who made everything work right. They have a great university and it was a pleasure teaching there. Thanks so much!