We hear a lot about “Not in my backyard,” but Friday night it was “Yes! in my backyard” — a concert of baroque music by the Chesapeake Orchestra, the River Concert Series Festival Choir,
and three professional soloists (soprano Joan McFarland, countertenor Roger Isaacs from South Africa, and trumpet soloist Jeffrey Silberschlag), all under the direction of guest conductor Larry Vote. The music was Purcell and Handel, the third of six Friday night programs in the River Concert Series at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (www.smcm.edu/riverconcert).
And the concert was right in our back yard–we were staying in a townhouse backing up to the green and the concert tent pavilion with a view of the St. Mary’s River, while attending the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
The conference was delightful. http://www.smcm.edu/summer/writing/
- On Thursday evening on this tree-sheltered campus, we heard poetry readings by U. of Maryland poet Elizabeth Arnold
and author Patricia Henley: Arnold has published three books of poetry: The Reef (1999), Civilization (2006), and Effacement(2010).
Henley is author of two books of poetry, four short story collections, a stage play, and two novels, including Hummingbird House, a finalist for the National Book Award.
- On Friday evening, Jeff Hammond and Matt Burgess read to us.
Hammond has published three scholarly works on early American literature and several books of creative nonfiction, including Small Comforts: Essays at Middle Age.
Burgess’ first novel, Dogfight, A Love Story, was a New York Times Editors’ Pick and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His second novel, Uncle Janice, is forthcoming from Doubleday.
- On Saturday evening, we heard readings and saw slides from Wayne Karlin’s book Wandering Souls: Journeys With the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam.
Karlin is the author of seven novels and three books of creative nonfiction, and has received several State of Maryland Individual Artist Awards in Fiction.
During the day we had craft sessions in one of three genres—fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction–and worked in small workshops in groups of about a dozen participants led by acclaimed writers, reviewing and critiquing each others’ work. My fiction group was led by Patricia Henley, and I was continually impressed by her comments and insights. Saturday morning there was a publishing roundtable discussion led by two agents, a novelist and a small, independent publisher.
Besides the concert and a good Latin jazz trio on Thursday night, Sabor Trio, there were activities such as kayaking and trips to nearby parks and shops, as well as tours of historic St. Mary’s City,
site of the fourth permanent settlement in British North America, Maryland’s first capital, the birthplace of religious toleration, and Lord Baltimore’s 17th-century capital. http://www.stmaryscity.org
Altogether, the conference was pleasant, informative, and inspiring. For more information contact the conference director, Jerry Gabriel, author of Drowned Boy, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction.