From the opening address by Sonora Jah—The Writer in Uncertain Times—to the closing address by Omar El Akkad—Lies of Our Own Making: The Obligations of Literature in a Politically Fractured Age—my hometown writing conference contained immense ideas, blood-pumping inspiration, and a plethora of practical advice. The impressive faculty shared their stories, their hard-earned knowledge, and their passion for writing.
Village Books and Whatcom Community College have made the Chuckanut Writers Conference happen for nine years. For various reasons, I was unable to attend until this year. Logistically, this was an easy choice for me: the venue is eight miles away so I didn’t need to procure lodging—though Bellingham has ample choices for out-of-towners. I got to hang out with my local writing tribe and compare notes on sessions. Village Books set up a mini-store with the faculty’s books—an easy temptation I gave into both days and now have four new books on my nightstand.
The schedule of concurrent sessions required tough decisions: The Obliteration of Place: Writing Fiction in the Age of Climate Change by Omar El Akkad or Managing Creative Anxiety and Procrastination by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Sorry I couldn’t be three places at once, I choose The Things We Carry: Creating Characters with Depthby Garth Stein. Stein spoke of the fat draft and the lean manuscript: you write W X Y Z, you revise and realize Y isn’t needed, you make another editing pass and realize X isn’t needed. You’re left with W Z but you never would have gotten to Z without writing X & Y.
Two easy choices for me: How to be an Effective Ally on the Page (and Tips for the Real World, Too) by Anastacia-Renee and Seven Steps to a Strong Political Essay by Sonora Jha. Anastacia-Renee discussed, among other topics, the difference between pop-up characters thrown in for diversity and authentic in-person research before writing from the viewpoint of a person unlike yourself. When considering why you are the best person to write about a politically-charged topic, Sonora Jha encouraged us to consider our lived experiences and write from our hearts.
The refrain I heard throughout the conference—your writing matters—underscored the power of community to bolster your resolve when your confidence in your abilities or your material inevitably falters.
If you are looking for a well-organized writing conference brimming with cheerful omnipresent staff, friendly attendees, and a stellar faculty, come next year to the tenth annual Chuckanut Writers Conference, June 26th and 27th. I will be there—I took advantage of the on-site loyalty rate and registered. Once it’s officially announced, you can snag the early-bird rate. I’d love to talk shop with you and—you can buy books!
P.S. For more on the conference, check out Linda Lambert’s blog here.