June 28, 2015
Chuckanut Writers' Conference
I attended the 6th annual Chuckanut Writers' Conference on Thursday through Saturday and heard some of the best sermons ever. It was awe inspiring. I went to Conference #1 with Martin in 2010 and for a variety of reasons haven't gone back. This year names like Bryan Doyle, Erik Larson, and Elizabeth George drew me to submit my application and put aside the time. I'm so very glad I went.
Thursday evening began with the Chuckanut Radio Hour and some fine poets including Sam Green who is one of my favorites in the Northwest. I've heard Sam before at the Skagit Poetry Conference. He was there with his wife, also a poet and others as well as the Radio Hour regulars and a band from San Francisco. It was a nice beginning.
On Friday, cookbook writer, Kate Lebo gave the opening address about authority and risking being wrong if you want to get anything really right. After, I attended an interesting workshop given by a physician/fiction writer, Carol Cassella who is an excellent speaker, who talked about facts and fiction and how important it is to get the writing close to real life. The afternoon keynote speaker, William Kenoyer, was quite an entertainer but the best of the day was the workshop with Elizabeth George who explained how she developed characters in her books and then put us through some really intense character development exercises.
But, the piece de resistance was definitely on Saturday. The whole day and every event was wonderful from the early morning sharing on the topic, "Why Write?" to the first session, an author's panel with Elizabeth George, Erik Larson, Carol Cassella, and Canadian Steven Galloway. Chuck Robinson from Village Books moderated the authors as they answered questions about their process, how it has changed over time, and about their writing life. What was enjoyable was watching how they interacted with one another, truly interested in questioning the way each other wrote and why they did this or that. It was a stunning hour and worth the entire conference.
And, then we heard from one of my favorite authors, Bryan Doyle, who basically preached an hour long sermon on the fact that everything is story and that everyone has a story. And, he told moving stories as he paced the stage. He was mesmerizing as he encouraged us to get our stories out no matter what the genre. He actually reminded me of several of Don's sermons over the years about our life stories. He moved me to tears at times. And, it was especially poignant after taking the long character development exercise with Elizabeth George where she helped us flesh out real characters with real lives and real events for our various stories.
Later that day, I attended a well planned and helpful workshop on Building an Author Platform with two women who work in the publishing industry and then heard Erik Larson on how to know when your ideas are actually a book. He had people pitch some ideas to him which he critiqued. Then, Elizabeth George delivered the final address of the day which was stunning. Her outline was: 1) Develop a process that works just for yourself and that reflects who you are. 2) Discover if you have the "fire power"to carry whatever you are working on to completion. "Fire Power" takes discipline (treating your writing like a job), a schedule that works in your own life, and sacrifice. She ended with 3) Have no regrets. If something else is taking your attention, maybe it is more important than writing. She has friends who are excellent published writers, but because of their life circumstances, other things (health, family, etc.) have taken their attention. If that is so, stop writing and stop feeling bad about yourself for doing that. During her talk she was very vulnerable about explaining how her early difficult years have often led to deep depression which has been alleviated by her creative endeavors. For her, writing is therapeutic and totally necessary. But, everyone has to decide for him/herself.
It was a wonderful two days, and I'm so glad that I was able to attend. It did fire me up. I want to try George's character development ideas and remember that I'm basically telling stories. I want to see if I can find the discipline or if other things are really just more important to me than writing. Lots of think about and ponder.