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Oxford Writes to Host First Workshop This Saturday, April 2

This Saturday, April 2, publisher and author Neil White, author Julie Cantrell and songwriter Jim Weatherly will guide the very first Oxford Writes workshop at The Orchard in Oxford at 295 Highway 7 North.

Jeff Roberson, picture courtesy Twitter (@@JeffRoberson_OW)
Jeff Roberson, picture courtesy Twitter (@@JeffRoberson_OW)

The founder and director of Oxford Writes (www.oxfordwrites.com), Jeff Roberson, says the workshop is full, and there is also a waiting list. The organization plans future events and will stay in touch with all of those who have expressed interest.

Oxford Writes is a mentoring and development venture designed to connect writers regardless of their skill levels so they may learn from each other. Oxford resident and Ole Miss alumnus Jeff Roberson, who has written for the Daily Mississippian, the Oxford Eagle, the Oxford Citizen, and the Ole Miss Spirit, created Oxford Writes as a way for writers to connect to each other for free.

“I know everyone who attends will take something away from it, whether it is learning something more about the art of writing, improving writing skills, getting new ideas and interacting, making new friends, or just enjoying a day away from what they might normally do on a spring Saturday,” Roberson said. “This isn’t going to be some intense, work up a sweat, mind-boggling event. It’s just going to be an initial gathering of people who want to be a part of something like this and who want to write – or already are writing. And this time, at least, it’s free. So they’ll get their money’s worth, right?”

Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes
Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes

The idea to begin Oxford Writes dawned upon Roberson one day last fall as he parked his car after driving around the Square.

“I looked at the courthouse, at the businesses, at the people, and I thought, ‘There is something more here,'” Roberson said. “And by that I meant for the writing community, for people who don’t write yet but want to, for people who aren’t ready to write a book but want to improve their writing to perhaps be able to do so, things like that. A mentoring venture and an interactive environment with people who have this type of interest.”

Roberson then contacted a few writing friends who later became the board of directors and the advisers for Oxford Writes. The board members are Cindy Davis Howle, Ty G. Allushuski, Wesley Bell and Adam Ganucheau. The advisers are Wayne Andrews, Mary Margaret Andrews, Alley Bell, Billy Roberson, David Waddell, Neil White, John Wilbert, R.J. Morgan and Slade Rand.

They all had a meeting on November 6, 2015, and now five months later Oxford Writes is hosting its first workshop this Saturday.

Roberson said that as of this past Wednesday 74 people had signed up for the workshop, which is 14 more than Oxford Writes anticipated for its free all-day event.

“We have people registered for this weekend’s event from Ocean Springs on the gulf coast, Memphis, Clinton, Columbus, Tupelo, Pontotoc, Water Valley, Byhalia, Panola County and Calhoun County, and really a lot of other places in Mississippi and surrounding areas,” Roberson said. “Some of our registrants have lived in other areas of the country but live in Oxford or in Mississippi now, and they want to be a part of something like this. We want them to tell us what they would like this to become.”

Neil White
Neil White

Roberson hopes that Ole Miss students will become more involved in Oxford Writes so the writers can learn from them, and the students from the writers. In the meantime, Oxford Writes’ first workshop has a whole day of events planned for April 2.

Between 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., the attendants will go from mingling with muffins to learning online writing, feature writing as well as fiction and non-fiction writing for most of the day. After 4 p.m. everyone is welcome to go upstairs at City Grocery to socialize.

The keynote presenters at the first Oxford Writes workshop are author Julie Cantrell, author and publisher Neil White and songwriter Jim Weatherly. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cantrell will lead a fiction workshop from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Neil White operates Nautilus Publishing Company and has written a memoir, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. He will be leading the non-fiction workshop from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Songwriters Hall of Fame 2014 inductee Jim Weatherly was one of Coach Johnny Vaught’s Rebel greats. Now an accomplished songwriter, he will have a Q & A session during the lunch break.

Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes
Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes

“Most people view an event like this or a group like this as simply the written word in book form or poetry form or maybe a blog or internet writing these days. We want to branch out a bit to other aspects of writing, such as songwriting and sports writing, which is my craft and my livelihood for 25 years,” Roberson said. “Neil and Julie are best-selling authors, Neil is also an accomplished publisher, and Jim is a Hall of Fame songwriter – and a former Ole Miss quarterback, which adds another aspect to the day. Who among us doesn’t like music or football or both? And we can’t thank all three of them enough for being a part of this first Oxford Writes. They are all very willing to help us get started.”

Roberson said in addition: “The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council has also been very involved in our start and so helpful with our plans. We also have other sponsors who have been important to what we’re doing, including author David Waddell, Bottletree Bakery, Panera Bread, Pitner Office Supply, Visit Oxford, and the Orchard church, where we are having the workshop Saturday. ”

Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes
Photo courtesy Facebook.com / Oxford Writes

Roberson hopes that Oxford Writes will help writers get a taste of everything from fiction and non-fiction to feature writing, reporting, online writing, blogging, poetry, Christian writing and publishing, magazine writing, songwriting and sports writing.

“All kinds of people live in Oxford, work in Oxford, go to college in Oxford, visit Oxford, retire to Oxford, and look for reasons to come to Oxford for a day or a weekend,” Roberson said. “We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t be all things to all people.” And while that may be true, Oxford Writes says, “Why not?” So we’re going to give it a shot and see where the road leads Saturday and beyond.”

To register for future workshops, visit www.oxfordwrites.com.

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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