Marilyn and I traveled to Clarksburg, West Virginia over the weekend so that I could attend the WV Writers Fall Conference at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library. I consider West Virginia to be my home, and I am a very proud Mountaineer. I was born in Parkersburg and grew up in Vienna before my family moved to Cadiz, Ohio when I was fifteen years old. I am very pleased to be getting back in touch with my home state, and more importantly, my Appalachian roots. I am a seventh generation Appalachian. My first traceable ancestor is Daniel Minney and his brother Peter, who appear in the 1789 tax records of Bethel Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
The weekend was absolutely amazing and unexpected in so many different ways. I honestly had no idea how I would be received. So many people actually wanted to meet me, and I was made to feel so very welcome with lots of warm hugs. I felt like I truly was back home among friends that I had known for years, and I really connected with people on so many different levels, which is unusual for me. Indeed, I felt and still feel so very emotional, and the least little thing causes me to start to cry. I always welcome these feelings since I have spent most all of my life with my emotions and feelings so tightly locked up.
I was also quite surprised to be chosen as the “random” winner of the snap contest for posting a picture of myself wearing my WV Writers hoodie. I actually posted it on my birthday after wearing the hoodie to breakfast at Bob Evans.
I attended all four of the poetry workshops, and the first one was perfectly stunning. The Topic was “Revising the Problem Poem,” and it was facilitated by Renée K. Nicholson, who directs the Humanities Center at West Virginia University. I got more enlightening tips in this one-hour workshop than in all of the other combined poetry workshops that I have attended over the years. I was also able to do a more powerful revision of the poem that I have written to read in church on November 20th in commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
I also attended Renée’s second workshop on “The List Becomes a Poem,” which was equally enlightening and instructive. I have written list poems before, and in fact, one such poem was recently accepted for publication. During the workshop, I wrote a poem that I considered to be a “throw-away,” but Renée thought that it was amazing. I spoke with her again as we were leaving the conference, and she reiterated her request that I share the final versions of both poems with her.
In addition, I attended the two poetry workshops facilitated by Art Stringer, who taught writing and literature at Marshall University for 24 years. His topics were “Poetry: Sound and Sense” and “Ekphrastic Poetry.” These workshops were good as well.
In looking back on the weekend, it occurs to be that there are several very important take-aways in terms of my own personal growth. First, President M. Lynne Squires and the other officers and staff are truly to be commended for what they have and continue to accomplish. Second, I left the workshop feeling energized and empowered and so very emotional. Third, I took a big chance and ventured beyond my diffident walls and actually connected with people on so many different levels, including sharing during the workshops. Finally, I felt like I was actually a part of something. Again, it has to do with my diffident walls and self-preservation. As an example, I have been a part of a year long poetry intensive workshop and while the other members of the group talk about each other as if they are a family, I have never felt like I was a part of that. Always on the outside looking in. The WV Writers, Inc. is different, and I feel like I truly belong.
I am sincerely and from the very bottom of my heart so full of gratitude and feel like I have profoundly come home.
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, speaker, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian via West Virginia and Eastern Ohio. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available at www.poetryislifepublishig.com. Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.