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Writing on the Wall

James River Writers Conference addresses the blog and other matters of writing.


Ron Hogan, creator of, an online format for author interviews, books and the publishing industry since 1995, and author of the soon-to-be-released "The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane," receives more than 100,000 visits to his blog per month. But Hogan promises that the Internet is no competition for the printing press.

"The printed word isn't in danger of disappearing anytime soon — certainly not at the level of the book," Hogan says. "The idea that the Internet will kill the printed word is about as accurate as the idea that TV will kill radio or that cable will kill the networks or that home video will kill the cineplex."

Hogan believes that literary blogs fill a niche for people who are looking for a meaningful discussion of literature but are unable to find it in the mainstream media. "This is especially true for genres like mystery and science fiction or, at the more literary end, poetry and literature-in-translation that gets very little, if any, mainstream coverage," he says.

While the bloggers make their debut, the JRW Conference embarks on its third year Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 at the Library of Virginia. (Since its start, the grassroots organization has expanded from being conference hosts to serving up a yearlong calendar of events, including monthly writing shows at C3, Just! poetry slams at the Firehouse Theatre, book fairs, a bimonthly newsletter and more.)

At the conference, more than 40 speakers are scheduled to lead intimate discussion panels. And there should be meat and potatoes for every species of writer known to the area: poetry, theater, screen- writing, freelancing and fiction categories including hip-hop, gay, young adult, women's, historical and sci-fi.

Topping the conference docket of literary giants is D.C. native Edward P. Jones, 2004 winner of the Pulitzer Prize and 2005 winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his novel "The Known World." A historically fictional account of black slave owners in Manchester, Va., the novel is a complex and important contribution not only to a Southern body of literature, but also to a global one.

Also headlining is Morgan Entrekin, head of Grove/Atlantic, the publishing industry maestro who launched the careers of the "Cold Mountain" and "Sex in the City" authors, to name a few. Entrekin will divulge his secrets on how to create a best seller and what goes on behind the scenes of New York's independent publishing houses. Dean King, JRW co-chair and author of nine books, including "Skeletons on the Zahara," says, "It is incredibly exciting to be able to hear what a guy like Entrekin has to say about books, writing, editing and the state of publishing."

Two more big-name, award-winning authors icing the conference cake are Rosalind Miles, English author of "I, Elizabeth," and New Yorker Richard Price, author of "Clockers" and "Samaritan."

From newfangled to ye-olde English, the conference includes almost every genre imaginable. Cheryl Pallant Style's former dance critic, a JRW board member and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is a poet, author of the collections "Into Stillness" and "Uncommon Grammar Cloth."

She sees the conference as a valuable resource for area poets. "Poets need to meet other poets for all sorts of reasons," she says. "To find out who's publishing what types of poetry, to learn that eight months waiting to hear back from a publisher is common ... to get turned on to a great book — in general, to converse with others who, like yourself, have chosen a vocation that plunges you into a world where things like metaphor, rhythm and line break matter greatly. Most dinner conversations I know rarely cover such topics, so poets have to make an extra effort to seek each other out." S

JRW events that dovetail with the conference include the Just! Poetry Grand Slam at the Firehouse Theatre Sept. 26, Virginia Arts & Letters Live at the Barksdale Theatre Oct. 10, and the People's Choice Awards held in partnership with the Library of Virginia Literary Awards at the Library of Virginia Oct. 15. Winners of Style Weekly's Third Annual Fiction Contest also will be announced at the conference. Visit or call 474-3575 for more information.

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