When Bobbi Carducci attended her first writers’ conference 16 years ago, she was unpublished, and a little uncertain. The forum turned out to be the push she needed to start submitting—and publishing—her work. Now she’s on a mission to give other writers the same kind of boost.
Since that first inspiring conference, Carducci has published numerous short stories and a children’s book. And her 2014 memoir “Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver” has made her something of a guru in the caregiving community. Today, she’s a fairy godmother to aspiring writers in Loudoun.
Her second annual Writers Project Runway conference for aspiring writers will be held Saturday, April 2, at the Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg.
“There’s a symmetry to creativity in this community that I find absolutely wonderful,” Carducci said. “I believe that writers are the most generous artists. … It seems that we’re not competing with one another; we’re always supporting each other.”
The conference is sponsored by the nonprofit organization Pennwriters, of which Carducci was recently elected vice president. Launched in Pennsylvania in 1988, the organization has members across the country and, thanks to Carducci, a growing membership in Loudoun.
Despite a lifelong passion for the written word, Carducci, who lives in Round Hill with her husband, Michael, came to writing professionally relatively late in life. Carducci had raised three children and built a career as a security officer for a company that built embassies and secure facilities around the world for the U.S. government. But two events in the early 2000s changed the course of her life. The first was that Pennwriters conference, which inspired her to start submitting her work for publication.
“They welcomed me with open arms,” she said of conference organizers. “I felt like an impostor being with all these published writers and editors and agents, but I received very good feedback from the teachers when they saw my work. I decided I would take a year of submissions—at least once a month—somewhere to see if they would take what I wrote, and within a few months I had my first sale.”
The second event was the death of her mother-in-law in 2002, which led to her decision to quit her corporate job and care for her father-in-law, Rodger, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, age-related dementia and other health conditions. Carducci was Rodger’s caregiver for seven years until his death in 2009.
The experience was at once grueling and rewarding, and provided the impetus to write her memoir. “Confessions,” described by one critic as “brutally honest,” was published in 2014 and since then Carducci has established herself as an important voice in the caregiving community. She maintains her own blog and is a regular contributor to two popular websites: agingcare.com and “The Caregiver Space.”
Carducci now balances her role as writer and caregiving expert, with her position as a mentor for many of Loudoun’s aspiring writers. “They call me the connector,” she said with a laugh.
In addition to her work with Pennwriters, Carducci runs two local writers group—the Round Hill Writers Group, which meets regularly at Purcellville Library, and a writing group for seniors held weekly at Purcellville’s Carver Center.
Maureen Skahan of Round Hill met Carducci at the Carver Center workshop and participated in last year’s Pennwriters conference. She went on to win an honorable mention in last year’s Write On short story contest sponsored by Loudoun County Public Library.
“The conference helped me to expand my thought process about writing and about what I wanted to write,” Skahan said. “It gave me an opportunity to meet other writers and to hear successful writers and their processes.”
This year’s event includes workshops from award-winning writer Nancy Martin, author of nearly 50 fiction novels, including the bestselling “Blackbird Sisters” mysteries and non-fiction author; as well as Pennwriters president Carol Silvis, and a host of local writers including Dan Morrow, Dixiane Hallaj, Linda Sittig, Sharon Kraftchak and David Sackrider. For writers who have a manuscript, representatives from S&H Publishing and Freedom Forge Press will be on hand to take 10-minute pitches. The conference will offer plenty of opportunities for unpublished writers to put themselves out there and open their work up to others.
“[Writing] is so personal,” Carducci said. “We talk about this in the writers’ groups: being brave enough to let other people see it and comment about it.”
Writers Project Runway takes place Saturday, April 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg. Cost is $75 for Pennwriters members, $100 for non-members and $85 for students. Fee includes a catered lunch. Registration is available at pennwriters.org (under Area 7 Mini-Conference). For more information, contact Bobbi Carducci at 540-903-6831. To learn more about Bobbi Carducci and read her blog, go to theimperfectcaregiver.com.