About 150 writers filled Hemingbough’s Hempstead Hall in St. Francisville on Feb. 21 for the eighth annual Writers and Readers Symposium organized and produced by A Celebration of Literature and Art.
Featured authors included Moira Crone, an award-winning short story writer and novelist from New Orleans; Ava Leavell Haymon, Louisiana’s Poet Laureate; Abigail Padgett, a San Diego native whose latest book is set in St. Francisville and Angola; and Richard Sexton, a photographer and author from New Orleans.
The day was filled with discussions of the merits of literature in its various forms and genres, as well as the creative processes that the authors go through with their writing, Olivia Pass, CLA chairwoman, said.
Crone said she had to read aloud her manuscript of “The Ice Garden” in her New Orleans studio “to run the writing through” her body.
The oral rendering of the manuscript allowed her to achieve a novel with more nuanced speech that was more like oral language, Pass said
Haymon talked about the importance of sound in language. “There are sounds that we connect with church — sonorous vowel sounds — and those we connect with harshness such as with expletives, which have hard consonant sounds,” Haymon said. “Poets use these devices to hone their poetry, whittling away the deadwood, and hopefully, leaving the core of feeling that conveys emotions and ideas to others quite succinctly.”
Padgett discussed the characters in her most recent novel, “An Unremembered Grave,” which includes a vampire and witch. The author noted that vampire novels, which are so popular today, are generally popular during times of great change, such as in the Victorian Period and Industrial Revolution.
Sexton examined architecture in New Orleans, Cuba, Haiti and South America, noting the similarity of Creole communities in his book “Creole World.”
Sexton presented a slide show of photographs from New Orleans that he juxtaposed with photographs from other Creole lands, showing the similarity in the architecture, Pass said.
A panel discussion by local artist and writer Carolyn Thornton had the authors answering questions about their work.
“I think this was the best symposium ever,” said Wayne Blake, former symposium committee member.
Part of the symposium included the Novel Image photography exhibit, which combined photography with works of literature. Exhibit winners were Peter Verbois, first place; Nikki Chisolm, second place; and Helena Reynolds, third.
On Feb. 28, Haymon and Padgett shared their knowledge about writing poetry and prose, respectively, at a sold-out writers’ workshop at Butler Greenwood Plantation.
Most of the participants wanted to learn how to refine their prose-writing skills from fiction to memoir writing such as aspiring writers from Irving and Seabrook, Texas; Natchez, Mississippi; and Louisianians from Oak Ridge to Slidell, Pass said.
The group of writers were divided into prose and poetry sessions taught by Haymon and Padgett.
Pass said evaluations of the workshop revealed it was a success.
“Overall, everyone felt as if they benefited tremendously from a day of intensive writing and editing,” Pass said. “We kept the workshop at a maximum of 20 people so they could receive individual help with their writing. The fact that it sold out and that participants raved about the quality of instruction in their evaluations, showed us that our workshop provided a greatly needed service for many people.”
Pass said CLA hopes to offer similar workshops in the future.