New Hampshire Writers’ Project 603 Conference Featured Author Geoffrey Ward

With Geoffrey Ward, editor, author and screenwriter of documentaries on American history.

On Saturday, June 2, the state’s largest writing group, New Hampshire Writers’ Project, held its annual 603 conference via zoom. Masheri Chappelle, President of NHWP, opened the meeting. The keynote speaker for the event was Geoffrey C. Ward, best known for his collaborations with Ken Burns, with whom he partnered with Burns as sole or lead writer for Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, Mark Twain, and many more. In addition, he was the winner of the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award for his biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, A first-class temperament: the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt.

Peter Biello, longtime NHPR radio host and author, conducted the interview with Geoffrey Ward, who told the large Zoom crowd that there is “very little evidence that people learn from history. “. He’s been active in doing upcoming projects via zoom, but “human connections are important, and he’d like to ‘be in a room with other people.’

Like Franklin Roosevelt, Geoffrey Ward had poliomyelitis as a child. He spent three months in hospital with his parents, only being able to visit them for an hour a week. The doctors did not tell the parents of his diagnosis, not wanting them to be afraid of what might happen. But, unlike Roosevelt, he was able to regain his ability to walk.

He advised those writing about history to “believe in the timeline of history”. He told the crowd as he worked on historical pieces, “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” He was always interested in Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. He tells us you never get FDR. He was, like Lincoln, “incredibly compartmentalized”. He’s still trying to figure it out.

A round table of What makes a good story was chaired by Peter Biello, with Alison Weiss, Acquisitions Editor at Trustbridge Global Media, Paula Munier, Senior Literary Officer and Content Strategist at Talcott Notch Literary Services, and Jess Reino, Senior Officer at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. The panel advised:

  • Resistance is futile: we must rewrite.
  • Write your stories now. Banned books are changing the industry.
  • Lean on your community.
  • You have to be a hustler to self-publish.
  • Evoke emotions through your characters. The details make it real.

The final event of the day was the Pitch Party, where authors were invited to submit a 125-word literary pitch about their project to a panel of judges for a chance to win a prize. Among the five finalists, Ronald Kaiser was the winner with his pitch of mystical havena young adult fantasy.

Beverly Stoddard

Beverly Stoddart is a writer, author and speaker. After 42 years working in newspapers, she retired to write books and a blog. She serves on the board of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project and is a member of the Winning Speakers Toastmasters group in Windham and the Ohio Writers’ Association. Her latest book is Stories from the Rolodex, mini-memoirs of journalists from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. A prized achievement was winning the voice of Carl Kassel for her voicemail when she won the National Public Radio game, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! She has been married for 45 years to her husband, Michael, and has a son and two rescue dogs.

Lola R. McClure