The Return of Midwest Writers Workshop

Tomorrow I will return to my alma mater (Ball State University) for the 2019 return of Midwest Writers Workshop’s summer conference. It has always been my favorite writers’ conference, and I really missed it last year. MWW is now run by an almost entirely new Board of Directors (only one board member remains from previous years), and they have completely revamped things, which should be interesting.

As many of you remember, MWW was the center of a Twitter storm in January 2018 that arose from events that took place in the fall of 2017, which concerned inappropriate comments made by a Board member concerning a long-time intern who was nominated for the Planning Committee. Fast-forward a few months, and there was a public call-out on Twitter by a former faculty member that went viral, followed by half-hearted apologies from MWW, and things just sort of blew up. The ultimate result was the cancellation of the 2018 conference. There was more, and I wrote about all of this at length in a blog post on 1/22/2018.

Many months later, I heard privately from people I trust that everything was not exactly as it had been reported. That’s to be expected, of course, but I was frustrated that MWW didn’t publicly correct any misinformation. Since they never took issue with any of the allegations, it was left to all of us to assume (reasonably) that the allegations were all accurate. I was told that they were advised not to argue, and that arguing would only make matters worse. I can see some wisdom in that advice, but I think it only applies to the short-term blow-up. When in the middle of a social media pile-on, nothing you say will change anything; but once tempers have cooled and emotions aren’t so raw, I think it would have been helpful to hear another side of the story, so that reasonable people could weigh both sides and make up their own minds. I feel like we were all robbed of that opportunity.

Be that as it may, the cancellation of the 2018 conference left a hole. They scheduled a 1.5-day “Super Mini Conference” for late July–which only caused a second backlash, after they’d announced they were taking a year off to reorganize–but I did not attend. I am looking forward to the return of the full conference this week.

I have met some of my best writer friends at MWW over the years. Unfortunately, many of them will not return to MWW after the events of January 2018, which makes me sad, but I fully support their decision. I will miss having most of my regular crew there with me, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of the others, and of course to meeting new people. As I mentioned above, MWW has revamped the conference, and it won’t be in exactly the same format as previous years. For one thing, it will be 2.5 days instead of 3 full days. I’m eager to see how it goes, and I’ll report back after I get home.