I spent the weekend of May 18-20 at the inaugural River Teeth Nonfiction Conference at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, and let me tell you: It was the best conference I’ve ever attended.
Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
Here are the Top Ten Reasons that the River Teeth Conference Rocks:
1. It’s small. (Seriously, have you ever had to wait in a mob of people for an elevator at AWP? You can just feel the introverted stress levels rising as the bank of elevators becomes more and more crowded.) That would never happen at River Teeth. There were about fifty people total.
3. Food is provided. Okay, it wasn’t the most amazing food ever, but it was fine and you didn’t need to think about where to get your next meal; you just followed the small crowd across campus. It was like camp.
4. Ashland is lovely in May. Warm and sunny. Perfect for long walks across the picturesque campus. And they have eagle statues everywhere, so that’s kind of fun.
5. Bob Cowser. Who is freaking hilarious. (Though next year he won’t be there, so maybe I shouldn’t build him up so much.)
6. Amazing panelists and presenters. Honestly, I was taking notes and thinking about my own writing and teaching in that excited-buzzing-with-ideas kind of way, which hadn’t happened in a very long time. And Hope Edelman read her stunning essay, “Bruce Springsteen and the Story of Us.” If you haven’t read this, do so. Now.
7. Welcoming and open. When do you ever have authors (and high-profile authors at that) hanging out drinking beer and wine with emerging writers in someone’s apartment? Only at River Teeth, people. I read the Best American Essays every year, and I never thought I’d be chatting it up with editor Bob Atwan over glasses of Chardonnay.
8. Not pretentious. (Maybe all these things are connected–just different sides of the same beautiful thing created by Joe and Dan and Sarah.) I have been to conferences that are dominated by older white men who have an inflated sense of importance. It’s no fun. But everyone at the River Teeth conference was down-to-earth, warm, and smart as heck.
9. Gender-equal. (See number 8 re: white men.) There was an equal balance of women and men presenting. Hallelujah!
10. You actually get to see and talk to your friends and colleagues. None of the waving across a crowded hallway or losing people in crowds. (So guess this is a repeat of #1. ) But it so refreshing to actually be able to catch up with friends–the lovely Jill Christman, Sonya Huber, Hope Edelman, and Marilyn Bousquin, among many others.
Thank you, Joe and Dan and Sarah for making it such an amazing weekend. Readers, stay tuned for next year’s conference. You’re not going to want to miss it, and I have a feeling that it will fill up fast!
Some photos for your enjoyment:
Joe and Hope signing books. (Sorry I caught you with your eyes have closed, Joe. I had to include it anyway.)
Me with Bob Cowser and the amazing Ana Maria Spagna.
These women are fabulous: Marilyn Bousquin, Valerie Due and Sonya Huber (and Lisa Hardman in the background)! Whoop!