There was a social first, and another one halfway through. These are great at writers' conferences because you have a built-in conversation-starter: "What do you write?" And the variety of the answers is fascinating. I talked with a fellow who does technical writing for businesses but is trying to get into creative nonfiction, a retired librarian who's writing a novel for a class at VCU, a man from Turkey who writes stories from "the old country" in both English and Turkish, a woman who writes sci-fi and horror, and another woman who writes alternate-world fantasy.
This month's show had a broad enough topic to interest everyone, and I think the panel addressed it admirably. Of course, there's only so much you can say in an hour and a half, but they addressed Creative Writing MFAs, publishing novels and short stories, writers' conferences and retreats, and more. I especially appreciated some specifics they mentioned, like the websites NewPages and Duotrope, which let you search for fiction and poetry publications. Very useful.
I also got to say hi to Professor Robbins and meet some of the other people who run James River Writers. It's a great group. If you're a writer and anywhere near Richmond, you might check it out.