Laura Rink

Writer

Chuckanut Writers Conference

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.

SHOTPOUCH

A wash of pink spreads across the lavender sky. The apple orchard grays into view. Soon Shotpouch Creek will surface, rippled in white. But first something new: bits of darkness darting through the air. It’s too early for the robins that will dot the meadow feeling out worms or the kinglets that will flitter in the willows along the creek. The winged darkness flies at the floor-to-ceiling windows and disappears soundlessly. Bats. A dozen visible and then poof—gone. One flies toward me and then melts away. Another scrabbles against the glass for half a second before slipping under the flashing over the sliding glass door. They pour through the dim morning light and secure themselves for sleep.

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WRITING RETREAT

Check out my guest blog at BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog:

Real Life vs. the Failed Writing Retreat

 

I WRITE MEMOIR, PART I

In the third grade, I read The Little House in the Big Woods series of books. You could write about your own life—what a revelation! I wanted to do that. But also, a disappointment—my life wasn’t as interesting as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s. Mine was a normal life. Two parents and two sisters, a house on a cul-de-sac, school a half-mile walk away.

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OUT OF MY BUBBLE

In my Red Wheelbarrow Writers guest blog, Resist: Ignorance, I discussed reading books to help deepen my understanding of and empathy for other people. Still working on that list, still glad I’m doing so. But reading a book is not the same as speaking with a person. Along came The Bellingham Herald’s “Outside the Bubble Dinner” sponsored by Whatcom Community Foundation’s Project Neighborly. The idea was to get matched up with a person outside your bubble and share a meal and some conversation. In order to apply for one of the five dinners, I first had to take a Bubble Test (You can too!) so organizers would know where my bubble fell on the spectrum. Then I filled out a short questionnaire.

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RESIST: IGNORANCE

Check out my guest blog:

http://www.redwheelbarrowwriters.com/blog/resist-ignorance/

HUMMINGBIRD WINTER

Upon returning home, from a road trip, in the middle of November, I saw a hummingbird dart out of the large rhody in the backyard to the nearby feeder, a little sugar-water still in it, hover and drink, and then dart back into the rhody. A hummingbird in November—a novelty to me. This one had bright red over its head and neck, a male Anna’s hummingbird. I immediately boiled water and poured a cup over a quarter cup of sugar, stirred until the sugar dissolved and then let it cool.

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SPEEDY

The vet assures me our cat’s ill health is not my fault. Speedy, our thirteen-year-old tiger tabby, has lost over three pounds, has a urinary tract infection, bleeding gums, and failing kidneys. Cats are stoic, the vet continues, by the time you realize they are ill, they are at death’s door. Speedy is dying, and I’m pretty sure it is my fault.

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WHAT ARE YOU DOING TODAY?

The worst part of my day, on the days I run errands, is in the morning when I’m standing in the grocery store watching the clerk ring up my purchases and she asks, “What are you going to do today?” A part of me finds that question an invasion of my privacy, while at the same time I realize she is making small talk. Another part of me is curious—what am I going to do today? My mind scrambles about for my own benefit as well as a polite answer.

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Writing For Personal Insight

Check out my first guest blog:

Writing for Personal Insight

THE WRITER AS ATHLETE

I exercise every day. Every day some form of stretching and strengthening, and a hike or a walk must be done. Why such dedication? Because I’m in training, not for a marathon but for a sit-a-thon. And as we are all learning these days, sitting is not for wimps.

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CELL PHONES AND THEIR ILK

For over ten years, I had a Nokia cell phone, a standard one piece, no flip, no slide, no touchscreen—a basic cell phone. I used it to make calls, and to receive calls. This phone fulfilled its purpose. When my children entered high school, I was pleased that my basic phone could also send and receive texts, as this is the preferred mode of parental communication.

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A CHRISTMAS PAST

What sticks in a child’s mind and survives into adulthood? What joy? What fear? What anger?

Forty-five years ago, my mom’s extended family rented a large cabin in Big Bear for Christmas. There must have been at least twenty of us, pretty chaotic. It was the first Christmas in seventeen years that it didn’t snow there, a fact that has nothing to do with this story, but it is noteworthy, it is mentioned every time this story is told, it is part of the family folklore—the year it didn’t snow.

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I WRITE! PART 1

Every time I start to write a new piece­—a story, a novel, a blog post—I get a sinking feeling in my gut, my chest constricts and a sigh slips through my lips. The glorious piece of writing floating in my mind sprawls on the page like a pig wallowing in the mud. A big smelly mess. What is worse than not writing? Writing poorly. If you don’t write, no one will know that you stink. Well, that your writing stinks. (It’s good to separate your self-worth from your work, though most writers will say that’s near impossible.)

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I HAVE A BLOG!

People blog for many reasons: to inform, amuse, advise, pontificate (what a great word—sounds like what it means), but in general, people blog to share their life experiences. And that is what I intend to do here—share my writer’s journey, and, on occasion, the journey of my daily life, because writers, like all people, must live life daily and sometimes it will feel good to rant about that.

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I HAVE A WEBSITE!

Authors are expected to have an online presence—when an editor or an agent types your name into a search engine, stuff has to come up. Not only do authors need a website, but they need a twitter account and a Facebook page. They need to be Linked-In and have a Pinterest. They must Blog and post photos on Instagram. And then there’s Google+, Tumblr and whatever else has sprouted up since I started writing this post. To sum it up in one word, an author is expected to have a platform.

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