Monday, May 17, 2010

The Storytellers at the University of Florida

by Jane
This weekend, I spent a couple of days at a really super writers’ conference at the University of Florida at Gainesville, the Storytellers’ Summit, which was organized by Dr. William McKeen and Professor Mike Foley, two incredibly talented and inspirational journalists and teachers. There were over 200 attendees.

And, again at this conference as was the case at the one I attended in February in a far different setting, I spent time with some really wonderful people:

Michael Connelly, the down-to-earth, bestselling author who told us he had actually graduated from the University of Florida 30 years ago this weekend.

Rick Bragg, the outrageously funny and brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, bestselling author and fanatical sports fan.

Andrea Billups, the gorgeous journalist and author formerly from Florida, now living in Michigan.

Dear Roy Peter Clark, client, friend and mentor.

Nicole Cisneros McKeen, Bill’s wife and editor of the Engineering School Alumni magazine, who made me feel immediately welcome.

Jeffrey Klinkenberg, award winning journalist and book author who had great stories to tell. (I wish we’d had more time to chat).

Wonderful Tom French, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author and incredibly talented and inspirational teacher and his beautiful wife Kelley, a superb journalist herself who I am hoping will be writing a proposal for a book very soon.

Steve Johnson, a talented photojournalist and precocious junior at the university who many are certain will some day rule the world.

Witty and brilliant Norton book editor Amy Cherry with whom I shared a panel and who I like and respect deeply.

I have always found these gatherings so inspirational. We talk about the business and our experiences, we learn from each other, we discuss ideas for new projects, we laugh a lot.

I encourage everyone who can possibly do this to find at least one conference a year to attend – I think you will learn a great deal from doing so. If you have already been to some of these, I would be most interested in hearing about your experiences.


  1. I attended SCBWI NYC in January, and in a few weeks I'll be going to the regional SCBWI conference in Orlando. The one in NYC was very inspiring and well-done, but also very large and crowded. I'm looking forward to the smaller one in Orlando, which I think will be less generalized.

    Somehow I missed the one at UF? I only live 30 minutes away, how did I miss this?!? I really wish that conferences were better advertised, as I've missed a couple I would've enjoyed attending.

  2. Is Rick Bragg as wonderful in person as he is in his books? I admire his work and he's one writer I would love to meet.

    The workshops and panels are always great at writers conferences but sometimes its just the time spent chatting with other writers that leaves more of a lasting memory. I've attended the Bear River Writers Conference in Hemingway country on the shores of Walloon Lake in northern Michigan for the past 4 years. I'm excited to be going back this year as a panelist.

  3. Thank you, Jane. I think we all were inspired by talking with and listening to you. You are a force of nature!!! Such a stylish champion of writers. You tell us the truth and also give us great hope.

  4. It was a pleasure meeting you this past weekend. I will keep you updated on my travels, photos and writing. Can't wait to hang in NYC. I should be heading up there at the beginning of August.

    My Best,

    - Steve