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Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference to Feature Poet Laureate of Alabama

by Mandy Ochoa

Aspiring writers are familiar with the advice to “write what you know.” Jennifer Horne, poet laureate of Alabama, has this slightly different advice: “Write what you have learned.”

Horne will expand on that advice in Columbus at the 12th Annual Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference, to be held Sept. 29 at the historic Springer Theater. Her class will be among a handful of master classes that day, which will range from sessions on writing and publishing to marketing. Horne said it’s an ideal setting to learn as well as network with other writers.

 Writing what you’ve learned includes “the range of kinds of knowledge they have,” Horne explained, which sparks the imaginations of writers to include experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. "People can be intimidated at the thought of writing what they know, but writing what they’ve learned seems more accessible," Horne explained.

Gov. Kay Ivey named Horne poet laureate of Alabama in 2017. She has a long history in poetry writing. Horne’s mother was a poet, and Horne has been a poet since about 7 or 8 years of age. She had plenty of knowledge of poetry, and encouragement to write, she said in a recent phone interview from her home near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Jennifer Horne, Poet Laureate of Alabama, will be a featured speaker at the Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference this weekend.

Horne is honored to be recognized as poet laureate of the state and uses her title to “talk to people about poetry and encourage them,” she said.  Horne is encouraged by the popularity of poetry and is working to get poetry more entrenched in the community. She is currently working on a book about writer Sara Mayfield, who died in 1979. The late writer was the daughter of a Supreme Court justice and was institutionalized at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa for 17 years.

 Horne’s poetry speaks of her Southern heritage, although she has also written poems during her travels. She thinks a sense of place is important to one’s writing and encourages writers to cultivate it.

 Organizers of the Columbus event hope 150-200 people will attend the writing conference, said Melissa Dunlap, the event’s president. “We hope to inspire writers and give them a chance to network,” said Dunlap, adding it’s an opportunity to “help each other out.”

There will be six sessions at the conference. There are also events Friday and Saturday nights, including a wine and poetry party at the historic Rothschild-Pound House, and an event Saturday night with dinner and plays. "A VIP ticket includes everything," Dunlap said.

The conference will be held 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Springer Theater, 103 E. 10th St. For more information on the conference or to get tickets, visit the conference's website here. ◼︎


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