GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Geneva Writers’ Group will turn 20 next year and as its 2012 conference drew to a close last weekend, it was clear that the group has matured into a body that today offers an established, “adult” level conference for writers who are looking to become, or already are, serious professionals.
The first conference was held in 1998.
Regular monthly workshops for members cover a variety of topics. The conference, held every two years, takes this a step further, offering “high-level instruction, support and feedback through workshops, discussions, and readings”.
The 2012 conference was sold out, as was the previous one. Some 210 people attended from 30 countries if local expats’ nationalities are considered, “with writers flying in for the weekend from Australia, Iran, Qatar, Kenya, Italy, Austria, United Kingdom and the USA,” according to the group’s founder, Susan Tiberghien.
The list of instructors was impressive and included, for fiction, writers Patricia Duncker, Sheila Kohler and Bret Lott; for non-fiction Nick Barlay, Dinty W Moore and Geneva-based Susan Tiberghien (who founded the conference). Poetry and playwriting instructors led sessions, as did sevral editors and agents (complete programme).
The value of quality conferences like this cannot be understated in an era where digital publishing makes it too easy to put your words into book form. A steady stream of unsolicited self-published books, almost all of them short on professionalism, comes my way for review, and while I admire the determination it takes to write a book from start to finish, I am not happy about the lack of respect for professional skills. Sometimes it is simply naivete. But writers need to keep in mind that readers deserve and demand books whose authors have mastered technical skills, understand the value of good layouts, have taken on board time to proofread and the cost of editorial help.
Professional writers work hard, mostly without much glory or money. Meetings like the Geneva Writers Conference are a wonderful source of inspiration and help to those willing to take the trouble to ask for it; these are the writers who have earned their audiences.