The Meacham Writers' Workshop is the result of an endowment grant made by Jean Meacham to UTC to promote writing as an expressive art, and to draw together university and community writers and readers. Her ideal, which we maintain today, was to create an informal atmosphere where nationally known writers, local writers, students, and novice writers and their readers could freely, and on an equal basis, exchange ideas, works, and readings. In order to promote this she asked that the workshops be free and open to all.
These are ideals that we faithfully maintain today; indeed, the Meacham Writers' Workshop is the only free writers' conference in the country. There is no registration; the writers make themselves available 15 hours a day, having lunch and supper with local participants and engaging in informal talk through the days and evenings. In addition, the writers conduct workshops, individual manuscript conferences for whomever wants one, and present readings of their works. The conference is open to persons of all age, race, religion, sex, veteran status, national origin, or disability.
The Meacham Workshop has enjoyed a reputation such that writers such as Pulitzer Prize poets Philip Levine, James Tate, and Charles Simic, Guggenheim fellow Stanley Plumly, National Book Award Winner Gerald Stern, Oprah selection novelist Bret Lott, and others have called it the best small conference in the country. Local participants have corresponded with these and other writers, forming lasting bonds, and a number of local novice writers have gone on to publish books, to appear in various journals, to win several fellowships and prizes. In fact, the Meacham has produced as many writers as much larger conferences.
Chattanooga is known throughout the writing community here and abroad for the Meacham Writers' Workshop. In 1999 we were mentioned in an issue of a Slovene magazine published for President Clinton's visit to Slovenia and Austria. We have had writers from major universities in half of the United States, Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, England, and Czech Republic. Each has publicized the city and its arts programs in his or her own home as a consequence of their participation in the Meacham Writers' Workshop.
Several of the participants, including Ruzha Cleaveland, Helga Kidder, and Bridgette Bates, have produced chapbooks of translations of foreign writers; one has produced a book describing his experiences in the medical field; one has produced historical biographies; one has produced several travel articles for the Smithsonian and other journals; two have produced full length books of poetry; one writes romance novels under a pen name; almost four dozen have won fellowships to graduate writing programs--this is a list that could go on and does not include any of the several people who have been working on manuscripts and continue to receive help through the Meacham Workshop.
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