A Riverside Room of One’s Own

Learn to Tell Your Story at the Ninth Annual Chesapeake Writers’ Conference

A woman’s place is in a room of her own, preferably with an incredible view. The Chesapeake Writers’ Conference offers this much and more.

In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote that an aspiring woman writer must “have money and a room of her own” to be productive. In other words, she needs a place to think, write, reflect, write more, think again, revisit, rewrite, and repeat. Brigid Schulte, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post, concludes that women have a hard time cultivating these places and habits because we are busy protecting time and space for others and working inside and outside of the home. According to Schulte, feminist researchers have also found that many women don’t feel that they deserve long stretches of time to themselves the way men do. They feel as though they have to earn it by getting “to the end of a To-Do list that never ends.”

One way to kick start the practice of making time and space for ourselves is by attending a writer’s retreat or conference. In the third week of June, writers from all over the country convene in Southern Maryland to attend what may be the region’s best-kept secret for doing just that: the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference held on the breathtaking campus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). Now in its ninth year, participants across genres spend a week immersed in all of the tools of imaginative trade: craft talks, lectures, panel discussions with publishing professionals, readings, networking opportunities, as well as daily workshops with accomplished faculty in fiction, poetry, songwriting, and creative nonfiction. There’s also a youth workshop for high school students and a daily Teachers’ Seminar for educators.

The daily Teachers’ Seminar focuses on pedagogically harnessing the skill and enthusiasm that comes with the conference experience. It offers a novel opportunity for public school teachers to earn two graduate credits from SMCM, which can be used toward fulfilling continuing professional development requirements in Maryland. Each morning of the conference, participants in the Teachers’ Seminar meet to discuss how they can better intersect their writing practice and teaching before spending the rest of the day on their creative pursuits. This format provides a tremendous opportunity for educators to deepen their teaching and writing practices so that they may recharge and prepare to excite their students. The timing works great for Southern Maryland teachers, too: by the third week in June, many teachers are on summer break. Another bonus? The conference fees are often reimbursable by the teacher’s employer.

This year, for the first time, the conference will host a Writer-
in-Residence in the SMCM Tiny House that lives on campus. The featured writer will spend a week living and writing in solitude and sustainable comfort in the cottage on wheels. The Tiny House was built with salvaged materials and state-of-the-art technology by SMCM professors Barry Muchnick (environmental studies), Carrie Patterson
(art), and 110 SMCM students in collaboration with high school students at the Forrest Technology Center.

While the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference cannot guarantee an income from your creative output, it can provide a private room with structured and unstructured moments on the serene banks of the St. Mary’s River. The result? Time and space to have a productive, creative experience that feels more like a retreat than a conference.

Time matters. Space matters. Words matter. Even though Virginia Woolf penned the words nearly 90 years ago, she was right, and her words still ring true today. Claiming time and space for ourselves is important. Our stories are essential. How we express ourselves to each other, and the stories we tell about ourselves is crucial. Spending time in a room of one’s own with our words, our truth, and our purpose helps us to remember how much we matter. 

For more information, visit ChesapeakeWritersConference.com.

Crystal Brandt
Crystal Brandt is a freelance writer and contributor to WOMAN magazine. A Southern Maryland native, she lived in New York City for almost 8 years before returning to St. Mary's County in 2007. She has taught writing and literature in Maryland and New York, including courses at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Pratt Institute, and Brooklyn College. She earned a B.A. in English (2000) from the University of Maryland - College Park and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2006) from Brooklyn College. In addition to writing, her interests include making and talking about music, practicing yoga and meditation, and experimenting with her blender and bread machine.