I spent part of Friday and all day Saturday at the KWA Writer’s Conference in Wichita. It was wonderful to be with other writers and to pick up some tips on structure.
Saturday evening’s ending presentation was one of the most beautiful speeches I’ve ever heard about books. It was by William Bernhardt who is funny, as well as apparently brilliant. (I met him for the first time this weekend, so I’m not really qualified to make that determination, but all indicators would say “brilliant” is accurate.)
I can’t possibly do it justice. He is obviously far better-read than I am, and I was so swept away listening to him that I didn’t take any notes. Trust me, this does not happen often.
One story I do remember is him talking about Harriett Beecher Stowe’s book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and its impact on the civil war. He told the story of Lincoln meeting her in 1862 and saying, “So, this is the little lady that started the big war.” Bernhardt pointed out that the power of those words had such an impact on the world that we elected an African-American president less than 150 years later. As he said, whether you voted for Obama or not, you cannot deny that is an amazing change in attitude.
Speaking to a room full of writers, he encouraged us all to go write, because the words we put on the page do matter.
Many people encouraged him to print his speech, and I will be one of the first people buying it if he does. I wish I could share more of it with you, but I was so caught up in the experience I didn’t capture the details sufficiently. In fact, I know I’m only giving you the scarcest hint at how magnificent it was.