The authors are gone, their tables put away, food from the breakfast and lunch are cleared, and there’s a hollow sound to the huge lobby at the Municipal Complex Building in Pell City. The 2019 Mid-Winter Writers Conference is over and presenters, authors, aspiring writers and coordinators have gone home.

Hopefully, the attendees left with new energy, ready to direct it at finally finishing that poem, that article, that story or even that book they’ve always wanted to write. The tired sponsors from Writers Anonymous and the Pell City Library were the last to leave, but they were pleased with everything that happened on Saturday.

With more than 75 people in attendance, it was one of the largest conferences we’ve had so far, and 21 authors had tables to display their books. After a country breakfast of several casseroles, scones, assorted Danish rolls, fruit, juice and coffee, it was time for the introductions and the “Icebreaker.”

Urainah Glidewell served as emcee for the event and did the amazing job everyone has come to expect from this particular young lady. David Bennett, Editor of “HomeLife Magazine” and the “Open Windows” quarterly devotional, led the “Icebreaker,” which was similar to “Let’s Make a Deal.” Amid much scurrying and digging in purses and pockets (and more than a little cheating, I think), Table Four was announced the official winner.

My own Keynote, “If Not You, Then Who?” was next on the agenda. My purpose was to encourage writers to see their own unique story and to realize no one can tell it the way they can. It seemed to be well received.

After a joint session on “Tapping into Your Creativity,” by Jacqueline Trimble, attendees broke up into smaller groups. With 12 workshops from which they had to choose four, making those choices was probably the hardest part of the day. Workshops covered everything from how to write a query letter to how an author can self-publish and even design their own book.

A variety of topics included devotional/inspirational writing, writing for magazines, computer skills authors need to know, flash fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Reviews from attendees were positive, and they left with a new spark in their eyes and a new spring in their steps.

Sue Brannan Walker’s Keynote was about letting out the angel within with the kind of perspective each individual brings to the creative process. She emphasized the importance of investing in other writers.

For me, the high point of the conference was the privilege of awarding the second “Horace Ray (Buddy) Roberts Jr. Award for Excellence in Writing” to Sue Walker. That award, called the “Buddy Award” by members of Writers Anonymous, was created in honor of and named by the Writers Anonymous Board for my son Buddy, who died in December 2016.

Buddy loved books more than any person I have ever known, and he was prouder of my writing than anyone else. He dreamed of writing a book someday. However, his dream was not to be. To honor him and everyone who has ever loved words and the people who write them, I was both honored and humbled that it was named after him.

The recipient of this year’s “Buddy Award” was Sue Brannan Walker. Her accomplishments include authoring or co-authoring 18 books and two chapbooks, published in multiple magazines, books, anthologies and literary journals. Walker’s writing includes poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction, magazine articles, critical scholarly articles, and much more. She was won numerous awards including multiple Pushcart Nominations and a First Place in an Electra Award nomination. In addition, one of the recipient’s books was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Walker was the Alabama State Poet Laureate from 2003-2012. She began Negative Capability Press in 1981 and has published more than 40 books, many by nationally recognized authors and poets.

“I had no idea I was even nominated,” Walker said as the audience applauded. “It truly is an honor.”

Anyone can nominate an author for the “Buddy Award.” To see the required criteria and how to nominate an author, go to https://mwwconference.com and click on “Buddy Award.”

We’re already planning for next year’s Mid-Winter Writers Conference, and you can bet it’s going to be amazing. If you would like to be added to the list for updates, send me an email at rita@ritamoritz.com.

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