This page will host my non-fiction materials that are not yet published, or written for competitions, or not intended for publishing elsewhere...
The following article was submitted to Writers' Digest Magazine for the 1993 annual competition. It placed 50th in the magazine article category and I was listed in the winners lists in a subsequent issue. 50th doesn't sound very impressive, but there were over 18,000 submissions.
The first Occasional Creative Arts Festival
March 31, 1993
A strange invitation lead to a family reunion with a twist, or more accurately, a theme; the first Occasional Creative Arts Festival (OCAF). It was "Occasional" because my family is so spread out that "Annual" is not likely. This gathering focused on creative writing, recording, and photojournalism. Your family might be more interested in a sports tournament, a crafts fair, a cook-off, or any of a host of other possibilities. A reunion with an activity theme could bring new vitality to your next family gathering.
In February of 1992 I prepared an unusual invitation to send to my three sisters and mother. My mother, two of my sisters, and I are actively pursuing free-lance writing careers. All of us have musical backgrounds, as do several members of our own families. With so much common interest in writing and music, it seemed logical to propose that our next get-together focus on sharing these talents. The invitation I sent out, written in large Old English lettering, read: "Once upon a time there was a big brother who wanted to have a creative arts festival at his house. So he sat down and wrote a letter to his sisters and his mommy inviting them to come and play for a week during the summer. The big brother/son suggested that they all pick a week and get together to write, swim, record music, swim, eat, swim, hot tub, and swim. And so the sisters and mommy said..."
In response each completed the 'story' with a creative confirmation of the idea, and July 3 through 10 became the appointed week. I developed a logo and began working on a variety of support materials. Little things added class to the event, such as, a parking place established for each family complete with a 'reserved for...' sign. A tri-fold flyer was printed for the event as well as menus. It was decided in advance that dinner would be the only official meal each day, so breakfast and lunch would be small group events. A shopping list was drawn up several months in advance, allowing many of the non-perishable items to be purchased as each went on sale prior to the festival. Arrangements were also made over this period to rent or borrow equipment that would be needed for the event. Five Macintosh computers and a network system were secured to support the writing activities. A mixing board, microphones and other recording equipment moved into a basement room became 'the studio'.
Originally, I had anticipated a schedule of events emphasizing writing sessions in the morning and afternoon and recording sessions in the evening. However, fun and flexibility were the key words to the philosophy behind the festival.
On July third as the families arrived, each member was welcomed by a member of my family and OCAF flyers were presented. Then they were escorted into the house past the banner welcoming them to 'the first Occasional Creative Arts Festival' to a check-in point where a computer display cycled through a 'slide show' graphic presentation outlining the upcoming events.
First impressions certainly set the expectations high for the next week. The central instrument of the writing efforts was the OCAF newsletter intended to be produced once a day. I used a desk-top publishing program to prepare a template with a banner including the logo. The networked system allowed the participants to contribute to each issue by using a simple word processing program to produce an article, which was then 'poured' into the template. The first issue was composed of tentative commentary and first impressions occupying one page. The following issues grew to two and three pages, and there were two special editions. The newsletter soon displayed editorials, fiction, poetry, movie reviews (of the previous nights movie rentals), and weather reports. One surprise was that everyone was contributing, not just the 'writers'. Even the preschoolers were using the drawing programs to contribute to the literary efforts.
The recording sessions didn't begin until the third day, but quickly grew in popularity as everything from Disney tunes to classical music became committed to tape. Recordings included instrumental and a cappella as well as accompanied vocal. More than half of those present took advantage of the recording sessions.
In addition to the thematic involvement of writing and recording, much time was spent in the usual family reunion activities such as feasting (each evening's meal was prefaced by an official OCAF menu), swimming, archery, volleyball, visiting, lounging, card playing, croquet, and of course television watching (especially the days the weather didn't cooperate). One of the real benefits of the thematic approach to this family reunion was the fact that the writing and recording opportunities seemed to 'fill the cracks' such as the early risers found in the morning and the times the weather kept us inside. The children, when they became restless, were easily guided to creative activities, practicing for the next recording session or writing or drawing for the next newsletter.
At the conclusion of the week each family went home with a complete package of the printed newsletters, menus, and other computer generated writing and drawing projects, a computer disk with all of the documents and templates, a cassette with the recordings, and a four hour video taped documentary of the entire week. Shortly after the event I prepared and sent to each participant embossed bookmarks and large and small computer generated iron on transfers using the OCAF logo and dates of the event.
This all may sound expensive, but with careful planning, borrowing, and tapping all of the resources of everyone involved, the cost was minimal. Out of pocket expenses other than food totaled less than one hundred dollars. The big question now is "When is the next OCAF going to be held?” Soon, you may be assured.