2017 Nimrod Conference

For weeks, I picked out my most flattering and professional outfits. Two comfortable dresses, two cardigans, two pairs of nice shoes, some comfy clothes, just in case. I have this habit of packing early for every trip out of town I take. I still forget stuff, but it makes me feel better. On this trip, I forgot pajama pants. Figures. Nonetheless, I was excited for all that we would do and see.

We arrived in Tulsa in the early afternoon of Friday, October 20th, myself, six other students – Kelsey Boles, JC Pappan, Grayson Gorday, Bronte Young, Hannah Lyles, and Isaac Cervantes – Marlys Cervantes, and Ryan Doom. We made our first stop to the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, a beautiful and thoughtfully designed memorial to teach the community about the worst civic disturbance in American history, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

When you first enter, a waterfall greets you, to bring peace and tranquility, to block out the sounds of the Crosstown Expressway nearby. The Hope Plaza holds a structure with three bronze figures, actual figures from photographs taken during the incident. Humiliation – a black man with his hands up in surrender, Hostility – a white man armed to the teeth, and Hope – the white director of the Red Cross at the time, holding a black infant.

Further down the path is the Tower of Reconciliation, 25 feet tall, showing the grueling journey of African Americans from Africa to America, the Trail of Tears, the experience of slave labor in the Territories, the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, the development of all-black communities, all spiraling up toward a hopeful reaching to the sun, helping those below to reach the top. A circle of stories and a pathway of meditation surround the tower.

As you leave the park, one of the last thing you gaze upon is the statue representing Hope. A symbolic message, that hope is the most important thing to take away from the visit, hope that you can change the world around you into a better place.

In the evening, we attended Nimrod Write Night at the Tulsa Garden Center, first wandering the rose gardens, then listening to Laura van den Berg give an enticing excerpt from her upcoming novel The Third Hotel, and Jericho Brown read his own beautiful poetry to us, resonating pleasantly in the Italian style mansion built by a Tulsa oilman, David Travis in the 1920s.

After a restful sleep in the Hampton, the next morning we made our way to the University of Tulsa campus to attend the Nimrod Conference. The halls buzzed with excitement generated by creative minds. The group of us diverged into separate panels and seminars, focused on our writing interests.

I attended a panel called Digging In: Writing Through the Hard Parts, which featured Laura van den Berg and Jericho Brown from the night before, along with Jessica Cavero, Deborah Crombie, Sasha Martin, Mary Moore, and Keija Parssinen. The panelists discussed the difficulties of overcoming emotional, mental, and physical challenges brought on by their writing.

Shortly after the panel, I attended Laura van den Berg’s class titled The Blazing Thing: On Imagination in Fiction. We discussed interesting ways of expanding our imagination, different methods of conveying our thoughts onto paper.

At lunch, we gathered to eat and listen to the presentation of winners of the 39th Annual Nimrod Literary Awards. Mark Wagenaar and Mary Moore won first and second for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry. Jessica Cavero and Sandra Hunter won first and second for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction.

Last, I attended Tessa Gratton’s class on Worldbuilding: The Pyramid Approach. She used her universe from her The United States of Asgard novels to demonstrate simple ways to approach the daunting task of worldbuilding in any sort of story, whether it be fantasy, sci-fi, or even a normal setting. She engaged us with different ways to approach environment, politics and culture, and how these elements would affect the main character of your story.

After two days of enjoying other people’s work, it was a quiet ride home, delving into the books I accumulated over the weekend. I appreciated the opportunity to attend the Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers, and look forward to attending it again on my own in the future.

John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation

Nimrod International Journal