Here in Southeast Texas, spring and autumn are only a couple weeks shoehorned between a brief, but sometimes bitter winter and long months of blistering summer. That’s okay though for one of my favorite summer pastimes is going to the beach and watch tarballs melt.

Despite its brevity, for the last twenty-five or so years, autumn is one season I always anticipate, not only because of the break in the blistering temperatures, but because each October, the Golden Triangle Writers Guild hosts a national writing conference.

The first one I attended was back in eighty-four at the old Hilton, now the MGM Elegante. It was a one-day affair, hosted by the Golden Triangle Romance Writers’ Guild. I started not to go, figuring it was just a bunch of women, but my wife insisted, telling me I’d probably learn a lot more from a bunch of women than a gaggle of men telling war stories.

As usual, she was right.

Robert Vaughn was the speaker. Fantastic presentation. A morning and afternoon session. When it was over, I was hooked. I joined the Guild and started attending the monthly meetings regularly.

And they’re still going on. The second Tuesday of the month, 7:00 pm, at Barnes and Noble at Parkdale.

Being sort of slow, I had always figured writing was strictly talent. You sat down, dashed off a hundred thousand words, sent it to a publisher, and wrote out your acceptance speech for the Pulitzer Prize.

As usual, I was wrong.

Though the Guild, I learned that writing is a mixture of talent and craft, the latter being as important as the former. Nothing turns an editor or agent off like poorly constructed sentences, grammatical errors, or lack of motivation. You might have the greatest story ever told, that legendary ‘Great American Novel’, but if the editor can’t get past the first few pages because of poor writing, it will make no matter.

Conferences provide not only the nuts and bolts of the craft, but also contacts with people who can help you get published. Here in Beaumont, our annual conferences were going like ‘gangbusters’ (you younger readers probably have no idea what that means). The organization had international recognition with membership in many foreign countries. Then Rita the Witch rode in on her broomstick. Ike didn’t help. With members scattered, meeting rooms destroyed, GTWG fell into a slump.

As most worthwhile organizations, it pulled itself out for a 2009 conference at the MGM Elegante. It was a dandy. Many of the editors, publishers, agents, and writers who conducted breakout sessions let the Guild know they would be available for the 2010 conference.

I wish I could say this year’s conference would surpass last year’s, but I can’t. Due to a set of bizarre circumstances not even a best selling writer could plot, there will not be a conference.

However, rest assured there will be one in 2011. The board for the Guild has already met and is working on putting it together.

Sure, it’s a disappointment for us all, but you can still pick up information on the craft and contacts by attending guild meetings. If you’re looking for additional information and one-on-one help, take at look at Lamar’s Continuing Education.

Lamar offers a series of non-credit writing courses, both online and on campus.

There are several from which to choose: article writing; teen writing; how to write fiction; novel writing, and several others. Instructors are experienced writers such as Jessica Ferguson, D.J. Resnick, Wendy Lanier, D.B. Grady, and yours truly.

Yes, I shamelessly admit that I teach a short six-week course in the spring and fall titled ‘Writing the Novel.’ It is a hands on course in which students actually write parts of the novel at home that we critique in class.

By the end of the six-week period, many students have written the beginning, the end, and outlined the middle of the book.

If you’re interested in more information about any of the writing classes at Lamar, go to or contact Rhonda at 880-2233.