Right up front, let me say that Epworth-by-the-Sea, a Methodist retreat on St. Simons Island, Georgia, is a lovely place to hold a workshop. Which is something the Southeastern Writers Association does every June.
I just got back from my fourth workshop in five years there and fully intend to return. It’s one of the best writers’ conferences in the country. This year’s gathering featured best-selling novelist Steve Berry, literary agent Molly Glick and the editor of Guide to Literary Agents, Chuck Sambuchino.
But despite the luminaries in attendance, the hump-busting work of the SWA board of directors and the graciousness of Epworth’s staff, there were some, well, glitches. Several of them were beyond anyone’s control and fell under the euphemistic heading of “Stuff Happens.”
One that wasn’t, however, was the disappearance of all the nonfiction manuscripts submitted for critique and awards. Apparently the U.S. Postal Service’s pony got lost or died somewhere between South Carolina and Florida. (The manuscript coordinators live in South Carolina, the critiquer/judge in Florida.) So, everyone has to resubmit and we’ll take another run at it. Bigger, healthier and smarter horse this time, we hope
When my wife and I arrived at St. Simons on the afternoon of June 21st, the heat was absolutely unbearable. The worst in memory, several long-time residents told me. The car thermometer had registered 102F as we drove down I-95. Later, after arriving at Epworth, I flicked on The Weather Channel. The heat index, it me informed me, was 118F. “Let’s go home,” my wife said. She was only half kidding.
The enervating heat broke late the following day, but so did the air conditioning in the building in which we were housed. I suspect lightning unleashed by the thunderstorm that signaled the end of the hot spell fried some wires or circuit breakers or something. All we had to keep us “cool” that night was the system’s blower. To me, it brought back memories long ago and far away of sleeping in a place called Viet Nam. “Let’s go home,” my wife said. She was only half kidding.
Epworth had the air conditioning up and running again the following morning. But then the Palmetto bugs came. At least that’s what they’re called in the South. Palmetto bugs.
I call them cockroaches. My wife doesn’t call them anything. She just screams. “I’m going home,” she said after she settled down–sort of. She was less than half kidding this time.
But Epworth got everything under control. Moved us into another room, a bug-free zone apparently, and carpet bombed our previous abode with whatever is an anathema to Palmetto bugs. (Nothing really kills them.)
I should mention in fairness to Epworth that my previous trips there have been problem-free. The staff is great and the food, outstanding. This trip was just an anomaly. Besides, I’ve come to believe over the years that cockroaches have some sort of homing device, a bug-based radar, that seeks out my wife. If there’s a roach within a thousand miles of her, believe me, it’s headed her way.
Hopefully, it’s coming via the U.S. Postal Service.
Photo: Sunset over the Frederica River at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
The annual Southeastern Writers Association Workshop is held here every June.