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.


  1. Dawn Quyle Landau

    Awesome that you finally got to go, Laura! I wanted to, but just couldn’t this year. Conferences are so great for inspiration and a gentle (or bigger) nudge! Really enjoyed your re-cap!

  2. Paul Rosetter

    Donna forwarded your message to me. Thanks for your comments. I attended different break-out sessions than yours. You may send future messages directly to me at paul.rosetter@gmail.com. I intend to spend much of this year editing!

    • Laura Rink

      Hope you enjoyed your sessions. You can sign up to follow my blog and then you’ll get an email every time I post one. Revision is where the real writing is done—have fun.

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