Last year was my first at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and I confess that I was very much intimidated, but Wyatt Prunty, with the help of a long list of generous and able lieutenants, made it easy. Of course he did. He’s been directing the Conference for thirty years, and it has become as welcoming and nurturing a creative space as you will find.
Like all good hosts, Wyatt is something of a peripheral presence at the Conference. He’s always around, always ready to engage, always handy with a kind word, but he is content to let the participants shine. Only on rare occasions does he allow himself to take center stage. On the first night of the Conference, for example, it’s his job to introduce new members of the faculty. I don’t remember exactly what he said about me, but he did out me as a smoker, his tone playful and disapproving at the same time, the teasing itself, that low-key hazing, a particular and familiar brand of welcome. He sounded very much like my father in that moment. That, too, put me at ease.