The Geneva Writers Conference, organized by many passionate writers under the gentle but firm guidance of Susan Tiberghien*, needs no advertizing. It's fully booked and always will be. But I would like to pause a moment to consider just why it is so good.
First (and I say this with love) it is not the food. Food, like classrooms and meeting halls, are workmanlike and devoted to craft, not frills.
And that, ironically, is a plus.
GWC is not part of the luxury writer tourism industry. It is organized by and for writers. Focused. Professional. Spare. A writer in any stage of his/her career can actually learn something here. There are no gimmicks. Just a desire to learn and share.
Second. The atmosphere. Open, welcoming, low key yet buzzing with energy. Everyone is approachable. Nametags are distributed the first day and generally worn nearly to the end. People introduce themselves, exchange stories about work, problems, triumphs, hopes and fears. All to do with writing. Even agents and publishers are friendly.
Third. The instructors. Geneva attracts experienced writers with serious publication track records and a talent for teaching. Poetry. Theater. Memoir. Travel. Fiction. Each class focuses on some aspect of the craft. I am continually blown away by the quality of student in-class writing--though I shouldn't be since many of the students are themselves published writers. During the Saturday night dinner instructors entertain us with their reading--funny, moving, original texts. The delightfully witty John Zimmer serves as MC.
Fourth: The bookstore. All participants are invited to bring their books for the bookstore to sell. It's a wonderful way to discover each other's talents.
Fifth. The cost. Hotels and transportation are what eats one's budget--not the workhop. It is priced to be affordable, and that's important.
And finally, most important of all, the participants. I have met fascinating and talented writers in Geneva, some of whom have become good friends.
There are many workshops out there. Few work as well as Geneva.
* On Sunday 19 February at 14h00 veteran writer and teacher Susan Tiberghien will lead Writing Short and Long Memoirs at The American Library in Paris