Overview of Horace Greeley Writers Conference by Catherine Oliverio

A n inspirational Horace Greeley Writer’s Conference held Sat., Oct. 15, proved to be a successful forum for all in attendance.

What better way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Greeley’s birth and a day filled with dynamic writing?

Linda Nye Knowlton, president of the Horace Greeley Foundation made opening remarks and introduced the presenters. Two individuals not on the agenda shared a bit of their writing before Dr. Paul Hancock gave an overview of the history of Horace’s writing and political undertakings.

Joan Loveridge-Sanbonmatsu, a regular at the conferences, as well as a published author, read a piece, “Drama in Radiation.”Later in the day, she shared one of her poems.

Ann Rich Duncan sang a quite entertaining and demonstrative song about Greeley.

The first workshop “Journal to the Self” began with Joanna Tebbs Young, originally from England. As a certified journal writing instructor, beginning journaling at the age of 12, Young emphasized the importance of journal therapy, also called expressive writing entailing 22 techniques that she utilizes when teaching.

“The biggest issue is the fear of writing,” said Young. “That blank page and stage fright.”

She had the writers working on five minute sprints, as well charting the fears of writing and the reality of getting it done, as well as the positive reason you should write. Her acronym, “ANTS”, automatic negative thoughts, is what holds up the process for any writer.

“The true stream of consciousness of writing is that you do not pick up your pens,” said Young. “There’s no need to check for spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure … you just need to keep writing,” said Young, “This type of writing increases writing confidence.”

Powerful sprints include, Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want?

John Manchester delivered a presentation on journalism, anecdotes of the trade, the family history of his family-operated business since 1875, and the future of journalism.

He said the days that Horace Greeley and James Lillie MacArthur, the founder of the Granville Sentinel, were the golden age of newspapers.  People relied on them for all their information.  Today, he added, there are many competing mediums and people have so many options to get their news.

He said the Internet has really transformed the newspaper business.  Today’s newspapers have to have a web presence and the ability to adapt to the new technology.

Poultney High School eighth-grade students, Daniel Hein and Brockton Corbett, the youngest among the writers sat in awe with each presentation, especially Manchester, who challenged all to submit an article on the keynote speaker Mickey Rapkin, the former senior editor of “GQ Magazine” and published author. The winner will appear in the paper, and the other submissions will receive feedback and be displayed on line.

The highlight of the conference was the keynote speaker, Rapkin. Poultney Town Business Manager, Jonas Rosenthal. “I am pleased and honor to introduce my nephew who has sold movie rights to his book “Pitch Perfect” with shooting beginning in Louisiana. His second book still has the possibility of a movie also.”

Rosenthal continued, “I admire writers since it can be quite difficult to put thoughts to paper. I once lived in Montana and did the writing for the Governor.”

Rapkin’s demeanor entranced the audience as reenacted his field of writing journey. “How did this happen?” he asked.”When I graduated from Cornell in 2000 with a major in communications, I was unsure as to where I was headed when all of my friends had banking jobs in October.”

He began with an internship in books and landed a job with MTV transcribing interviews, a boring process for most, but a learning process. Rapkin next moved to Madrid for a kindergarten teaching job, which he said that he was horrible at because of no patience. In Madrid he wrote for a magazine for a year and then returned to “my parents’ couch”.

Someone quit at “Details Magazine,” and he worked there for two and half years. Word came that someone quit at GQ, and he landed that job for seven years.

His first book, “The Undergraduate” about a Cornell student who lived indefinitely in the basement of a fraternity house consumed his time, but the main character decided to can the book since he claimed he had too much to lose.

Rapkin said, “I refused to let this be,” and came up with the “Perfect Pitch” book following three groups of a cappella. He learned much about reporting and listening. This book entailed 18 trips. His second book “Theatre Geek” had him spending time at the Stagedoor Manor camp, which has churned out celebrities.

“I love being a journalist and love hearing people’s stories,” said Rapkin. “It’s you and the page that come alive. Take a chance and do what you really want!”

Currently, Rapkin writes a column for “Elle Magazine” with his first assignment interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow in London.

His writing assignment had people pairing off to really listen and learn.

Burnham Holmes led everyone through “The Play’s the Thing”. After writing three plays, he finds that it is magic when you find that special place to write. “Mine is in a green Adirondack chair”.

The participants impressed themselves since they had never ventured into playwriting and the sharing received the chuckles as planned or unexpected.

David Mook, a published author, led the writers in some poetry exercises, beginning with the word “table”. Some poems were analyzed with looking for the five W’s, which inspired impromptu poems.

The day ended with a tour of East Poultney viewing where Horace Greeley lived.

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