The Mission of the Blue Ridge Writers' Conference is to educate, inform, and inspire writers. While the North Georgia Mountains is blessed with many aspiring writers, opportunities for them to learn and excel in their craft are fewer than for the larger metropolitan area. The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association has sought to fill that need for the last decade resulting in the Blue Ridge Writers' Conference becoming a unique cultural asset to the area.
What began in 1996 as a small gathering at the Fannin Middle School featuring local authors as speakers, has grown to an annual event, which draws 80 to 120 participants with nationally prominent speakers. Some of the participants are in the fledgling stages of their craft, while others have been writing and publishing for years. No matter the level of expertise, these writers want to step it up a notch. The conference provides a venue for professional writers, editors and agents to provide honest and accurate feedback to the aspiring writer in how to sell a magazine articles, finish a novel, or do historical research.
The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association provides the space required for this venue, easy access, as well as handicap accessibility. The day begins with a keynote speech. This has been done in the past by a number of well-known writers including novelist Terry Kay, mystery writers Patricia Sprinkle, Kathy Hogan Trocheck, Jocelyn Jackson and Sharyn McCrumb, essayists James Kilgo and Steven Harvey, suspense writer Karin Slaughter, and former Georgia poet laureate, David Bottoms. We continue the day with concurrent workshops on everything from writing screenplays to assembling a book of poetry to marketing a manuscript.
Participants typically have the opportunity to submit their work for critique by one of the conference speakers... This is one of the most valuable aspects of the conference. Conference attendees also appreciate the opportunity to network with other writers and speakers during the day. Many maintain contact via email throughout the year. As a result of attendance, many writers have seen their work published in literary journals, magazines, and other venues.
High school students from area counties are invited to attend, and the Art Center offers scholarships to make this more affordable. At our last conference, a number of students from the Blairsville and Fannin high school creative writing clubs attended.
Most of our constituency comes from eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and all of Georgia. We also draw a few people from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The Blue Ridge Poets and Writers, a critique and support group for writers in Fannin County , grew out of the conference. We believe the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference enhances the cultural life of the North Georgia Mountains in a unique way.