The detailed program for this June’s (ninth annual!) Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference is now posted on the website, so check it out. It’s not too early to start making plans to come to Homer June 11-15 for your “fix” of sun-filled writing fellowship.
Here are a few highlights of what’s to come:
The featured writer this year is Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours (inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway), the genre-bending Specimen Days (involving Walt Whitman), and the stunning short story “White Angel,” (which some of you will remember we read together last summer in a workshop with Antonya Nelson.) His keynote is titled “Once You’ve Got the First Line, the Rest of the Novel is Easy.” (Do I believe that?) He’ll also be doing a reading, a Q&A, and a talk, “Starting Strong,” about opening your work with the kind of energy that ensures readers will want to keep reading.
If you can spare a couple extra days, consider registering for the post-conference workshop with Bill Roorbach, “Person, Place, and Time: Storytelling, Image, and Ideas from the Wild Heart.” Roorbach is a fabulous writer of both fiction and nonfiction (steeped in the natural world—he’s from Maine) and a gifted teacher (editor of a text I’ve used, Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: The Art of Truth). As a (major) bonus, the workshop takes place at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge, on China Poot Bay across from Homer, where you get to stay in the very lovely cabins, eat great meals prepared by the lodge staff, and wander through woods and along beaches. How often do you get to feel like a fancy lodge guest while filling your head and notebook with inspired writing? (Many thanks to Diane and Mike McBride for making this possible.) Be advised--this workshop is limited to 15 and filled up early last year.
Something new this year: a different scheduling of faculty and open-mic readings. In the past readings by faculty have been scheduled simultaneously at three in-town venues and open to the public. None of us are magical enough to be in three places at once, and so it’s been a bit frustrating to miss out on so many great readings. This year there will be two evenings of faculty readings, Sunday night at Alice’s Champagne Palace and Monday night at Land’s End, with five readers each night (and still open to the public.) Another four faculty (from among the “core faculty” that participate each year) will present their readings during the conference as “craft readings;” that is, they’ll talk about the genesis of the work at hand, challenges they encountered, and methods and craft applied. The open mic (in two sessions) will also be moved to daytime hours. (But don’t worry—the traditional beach bonfire and spontaneity will still take place Monday night.)
The writing faculty this year is outstanding (as always). Check out all their bios and scheduled presentations on the website. I intended to highlight my favorites here, but then I realized I would need to include the whole list, because I’m excited about every single one of them. As always, it will be tough to make choices among the three or four concurrent sessions. I always try to get (and read!) some of the faculty’s books ahead of time so I can have a better appreciation for their work and what I can learn from them. The faculty also includes editors (Jennifer Pooley from Harper Collins/William Morrow, Elisabeth Dabney from the University of Alaska Press, and Dinty Moore from the on-line journal Brevity and an agent (April Eberhardt from the agency Reece Halsey North in California).
One of my favorite parts of every conference is First Pages, when editors/agents look at the first page of book-length work submitted (anonymously) by conference participants and react to it (what grabs them, what doesn’t, whether they’d want to read page two.) I’m always surprised at how few participants take advantage of this opportunity to get a frank assessment from several professionals. Be brave!
The 2010 conference has all the other usual options as well—manuscript reviews with faculty, consultations with agents/editors, guided writing circles, yoga, end-of-day receptions, book table hosted by the Homer Bookstore, inspiring panel presentations, included meals and snacks (afternoon chocolate!), a Sunday boat trip on the bay, a chance to sun on the Land’s End deck while otters or possibly whales swim past. Some of these have limited enrollment, and the conference itself has filled to capacity the last couple of years, so don’t wait too long to register!
Many thanks to Carol Swartz, director of the Kachemak Bay Campus of UAA, who organizes the conference every year (and who was just honored with a literacy award from the Alaska Center for the Book for the conference); to the late Caroline Coons, who endowed the conference and made it possible for it to even begin; and to all the sponsors who help fund and support what has become a yearly highlight of Alaska’s literary scene.
And, of course, to all the writers, in every stage of their craft, who gather together each summer to share their ideas and enthusiasms with one another.