Boldface Conference builds community beyond campus
Ph.D. candidate and fiction instructor Dana Kroos’ teaching methods can get a little eccentric. Sometimes she like to start with an exercise in point-of-view, where she tells her students to describe the Rockwell Pavilion as themselves, then through the eyes of a haughty architect and then as if they had a hangover.
“(Boldface attendees are) game for anything … (they’re) willing to be courageous and (they) think analytically about writing,” Kroos said.
The 2015 Boldface Writing Conference was hosted by the University’s undergraduate literary magazine Glass Mountain. Between May 18 and 22 students gathered in the Honors College to prepare themselves for publication and assemble into a diverse writing community.
“(It’s an) extremely affordable conference that gives you the level of professionalism and feedback that more expensive, prestigious conferences do,” said Kay Cosgrove, the administrator of the conference and Glass Mountain graduate advisor. “There’s a mix of ages, skill-levels and backgrounds and all kinds of things. You get this fun community of people who aren’t otherwise connected.”
In its seventh year, the 2015 Boldface boasted an enrollment of 71 students — 29 of them were out-of-state. For students, it’s $125; for non-students, $225, and an extra $200 for housing at Cullen Oaks. The conference holds group workshops in non-fiction, fiction and poetry instructed by UH English graduates.
By second grade, recent graduate Jesse Garcia had already decided he wanted to write. So, although initially “wishy-washy,” when professor Aaron Reynolds told him to apply to the conference, he did.
Now a five-time conference alumnus, Garcia credits the Boldface workshops for helping him develop the Hemingway-esque themes in his hunting, ranch life suburban satire pieces.
“Exposure to different types of critiques (helped me) find a dynamic writing style,” Garcia said.
In addition to the critique-groups, participants explored venues to share and express their writings. Evening trips to the Kaboom bookstore and the Brasil Café to read their works aloud to an audience coincided with readings, craft talks and master classes from the Boldface faculty and visiting authors. On the last day, the staff held a panel on Masters of Fine Arts and publishing work to literary magazines.
The conference was UH creative writing alum, Jeni McFarland’s first teaching experience. Despite her apprehension about teaching, she found herself sharing her affection for horror-satire film Cabin in the Woods in her master class, “Strategies for Creating Memorable Characters” by discussing how the techniques in the film applies to characterization.
“I’m not the most outgoing person,” McFarland said. “(A week) spent among people who are equally introverted is good. A week spent among writers is amazing.”
Kroos agrees that participants aren’t the only ones who benefit. She said that in a week filled with collaboration and commerce between writers, everyone had something to learn.
“Your students always teach you,” Kroos said. “You know they might know something about a piece that had never occurred to you. That’s so great about being in a community like this. You don’t know from whom or where the best or insightful point will come.”