FRIDAY, June 8

4:00-8:00 p.m.            REGISTRATION AND CHECK-IN                                            

7:00 p.m.                    OPENING DINNER

Introduction: Carol Swartz, Director, Kachemak Bay Campus-KPC

Keynote Address: Anthony Doerr Some Thoughts on the Importance of Artistic Failure



8:15 a.m.                     Coffee, Tea, and Continental Breakfast                                       

8:30 a.m.                     WELCOME                                                                                     

8:45-9:45 a.m.


Samuel Beckett writes, “Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail better.” Panelists will discuss just a few of the many ways they’ve stumbled and what has arisen from the ashes. We’ll discuss how novelists, memoirists, and poets use artistic failure and risk as a catalyst. Failure is an inevitable part of the writing process, but how you frame it and what you do to move past it will constitute the arc of your writing. Every phoenix needs a little ash to get started.

9:45 a.m.                     BREAK

10:00-11:30 a.m.


Jean Hegland

Every piece of fiction is the result of some blend of authors’ experiences, their imaginations, and–often–their research. This workshop will use lecture and several writing exercises to help writers explore how they can use their own experience to inform their stories, how they can cultivate their imaginations to be both more bold and more precise, and how they can embrace the pleasures and avoid the perils of researching in order to “make things up.”

THE SELF IN A SHIFTING WORLD                                                                            

Ernestine Hayes

In this workshop, we challenge the shifting boundaries in literary arts by examining and producing work that draws on cross-genre narratives and non-linear structures. Through exercises and discussion, we locate our unique stories in the context of a shifting world.

THE PERSONAL AND POLITICAL IN POETRY                                                      

Rick Barot

We’re living in tumultuous, grief-struck times, and poetry’s role as a catalyst for redress has never been more necessary. As we process each day’s onslaught of news, many of us struggle to reconcile our roles as artists, citizens, agents of resistance, conscience, and care. In this class, we’ll look at a handful of poets whose works illustrate the ways we might pivot—whether messily or fluidly—between the personal and the political, the private and the historical. The poets we look at will include Lucille Clifton, Danez Smith, Layli Long Soldier, and others.

11:30 a.m.                   BREAK

11:30 a.m.       Check-in for Open Mic for Saturday readers                                         

                        Erin Hollowell, Richard Chiappone

11:45 a.m.                   Luncheon                                                                                   

12:30-1:30 p.m.           OPEN MIC   Readings by conference attendees 

1:30 p.m.                     BREAK

1:45-3:15 p.m.

INSIDE OUT: INTROSPECTION IN PROSE                                                              

Jean Anderson

The best writing often comes from a deeply felt wellspring: a troubling personal problem, a topical issue, or a long-pondered internal question. Yet we all know the rule that says: “Show, don’t tell.” We also live in a culture that seems to reward action rather than introspection – at times overvaluing impulse and devaluing contemplation, especially in writing. Yet many of us love “thoughtful” characters, drawing on situations that explore what Eudora Welty called “a ponder heart.” So, how can we as writers effectively bring ideas, thoughts, questions and varied species of internal anguish – or endless pondering and its tragic, ironic, joyful or comic resolution — to life on the page? We’ll explore this dilemma as a form of craft with samples of work that successfully bring what’s inside out. 

THE MUSIC OF CREATIVE NONFICTION                                                               

Diane Glancy

Creative Nonfiction is a genre that covers essay, memoir, diary, journal, letters, confessions, autobiography, experimental units of narrative. Using the chapter “Sonata” from my book The Dream of a Broken Field, we’ll examine how the technique of musical form – exposition, development, and recapitulation – can be transposed to nonfiction.


Joe Wilkins

Too often unapproachable, unassailable, absent—our fathers are our first gods. How have we known them? How might we know them now? How deep is our ache that we didn’t know them more fully, in other, deeper ways? And are we ready, if we are to know them, for our fathers to fall from their thrones and become not gods (or devils) but the human beings they are? In this experiential workshop participants will think, discuss, and write about their own fathers in the hopes that all will leave with the beginnings of a number of personal pieces, as well as find their way toward more fully knowing their fathers. Participants are asked to bring a pen and paper or a laptop computer for in-session writing.

3:15 p.m.                     BREAK

3:30-5:00 p.m.  


Barbara Hurd

Whether we write poems, stories, or essays, we might sometimes suspect that the apparent subject of the work is not the real subject that interests us.  We might even realize that our involvement with that “apparent subject” could be keeping our attention diverted from the “deeper subject” that more powerfully compels. In this session, we’ll look at how writers can alter their habits of attention—deliberately experimenting with obstacles and resistances—in order to find the more urgent, often buried story.

THE LITERARY ECOSYSTEM                                                                                      

Kevin Larimer

A look into the history of the publishing industry, from 1920 to today, including the rise of independent presses, literary magazines, and small presses. Kevin Larimer, editor of Poets & Writers will talk about best practices for submitting your work, self-promotion, writing contests, and MFA programs in context of what has come before and what the publishing industry is evolving into.

THE TERRITORY OF HIDDEN MUSIC                                                                      

Floyd Skloot

This workshop will focus on formal strategies for shaping and communicating intense personal experience. It will consider advantages of working with traditional structures and of working with alternative structures, explore the management of music in poetry, and discuss the various tools–line length and breaks, sounds, breath, structure–that can be used to best control and convey powerful feeling. Examples will be examined and, time permitting, we may try an exercise focused on finding the hidden music within a poem.

5:00-6:30 p.m.            RECEPTION GATHERING                                                        

5:15-6:15 p.m. WRITING CIRCLE                                                                                                            

Join others for an informal hour dedicated to individual writing. A guide will offer a prompt, or you can devote the time to your own ideas. No sign-up necessary; just show up prepared to write.

8:00 p.m.   READING: Anthony Doerr                      Homer High School Mariner Theater

      Open to the public. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Book signing will follow in Commons.


SUNDAY, June 10

8:15-10:00 a.m.           Kachemak Bay Boat Cruise

Enjoy beautiful Kachemak Bay and a continental breakfast with visiting faculty and fellow participants. (Optional. Space limited; sign up and pay fee by Saturday noon.)

8:30-9:30 a.m.            KUNDALINI YOGA                                                                       

Stretching and meditation with Anna Raupp from Many Rivers Alaska are great ways to stimulate your creativity and focus.          (Complimentary, limited space; first come, first served)

9:45-10:45 a.m. Writing Circle                                                                                                            

Join others for an informal hour dedicated to individual writing. A guide will offer a prompt, or you can devote the time to your own ideas. No sign-up necessary; just show up.

10:45 a.m.-11:45 a.m.

HOW TO LAND AN AGENT                                                                                           

Sally Wofford-Girand and Kevin Larimer

Kevin Larimer interviews Sally Wofford-Girand of Union Literary about what an agent does, and how a writer can best prepare to approach one successfully.

11:45 a.m.                   BREAK

12:00 p.m.                   LUNCHEON                                                                                   

                              “Q and A” with Anthony Doerr

1:30 p.m.                     BREAK

1:45-3:15 p.m.


Richard Chiappone

Who is telling the story and why? Let’s talk about reliable and unreliable narrators (both intentionally unreliable, and unintentionally unreliable). Let’s talk about “peripheral” narrators. What are the advantages and disadvantages of letting one of the characters in a story tell the story? Is the narrator of a story always the main character? Join this hands-on discussion and workshop, looking at famous narrators and experimenting with writing exercises exploring the first person point of view.

TOO MUCH/NOT ENOUGH                                                                                        

Peggy Shumaker

Drought, then flood. Water’s vital every day of our lives.

We’ll look at poetry and prose that flows, that seeps, that dries out, that opens floodgates.

NARRATIVE SCIENCE                                                                                                    

Nancy Lord

According to surveys, the American public is simultaneously very interested in science and largely ill-informed about it. This workshop will focus on storytelling as a way to convey both the scientific process and scientific information. We’ll look at examples in both nonfiction and fiction, discuss strategies, and respond to some storytelling prompts. If you have an interest in a particular science area or subject, come with some facts, data, or observations (optional.)

3:15 p.m.                     BREAK

3:30-5:00 p.m.

CANON OF ONE’S OWN – Panel                                                                                    

Writers are nothing without readers, so it may be smart to think about how readers choose what books they read. What is the difference between reading for edification, and reading for entertainment? When you were a child in school, were the books you borrowed from the Bookmobile written by the same authors as the ones your teachers assigned you? And now, as an adult, are you still reading the authors you were required to read in high school or college? Do you read a book for the ideas within it? Or do you read for the joy of seeing great prose unfold on the page? Do some writers offer both? Join this “readers” discussion of how each of us creates one literary canon of most admired writers, and another of authors we love to read.


Bryan Allen Fierro

This workshop will center on how dialogue functions to push story narrative in prose and screenplay, and necessary component when creating unique and lasting character. We will explore the places where great dialogue takes place. Instead of your characters sitting at a table over coffee, having a conversation, we will explore how dialogue changes when we keep our story and characters active.


Erin Hollowell

In this workshop, we’ll be examining poems where beauty is yoked to science. How do poets manage to get enough of the facts in to tell the story while maintaining the compression dictated by the poetic form? We’ll look at poems by Linda Bierds, Pattiann Rogers, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Elizabeth Bradfield, and others. Come with some bit of science that you’d like to explore in a poem, or be given a scientific fact to wrangle with in a writing exercise.

5:15-6:30 p.m.            RECEPTION GATHERING                                                        

5:15-6:15 p.mWRITING CIRCLE                                                                                                            

Join others for an informal hour dedicated to individual writing. A guide will offer a prompt, or you can devote the time to your own ideas. No sign-up necessary; just show up prepared to write.

7:30 p.m. Readings BY CONFERENCE FACULTY          Alice’s Champagne Palace

                        Open to the public; book signings will follow.


MONDAY, June 11

7:30-8:30 a.m. WRITING CIRCLE                                                                                   

Join others for an informal hour dedicated to individual writing. A guide will offer a prompt, or you can devote the time to your own ideas. No sign-up necessary; just show up.

8:00 a.m.                     Coffee, Tea, and Continental Breakfast                                       

8:00-8:20 a.m. Check-in for Open Mic for Monday Readers                                        

                        Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Richard Chiappone

8:30-9:30 a.m.                                                                                                                       


Sally Wooford-Girand, Kevin Larimer, and Nate Bauer

Professionals in the business will analyze the first page from book-length fiction and nonfiction manuscripts written and previously submitted by conference attendees, giving an honest reaction to the first page of a novel, the first page of a proposal for a nonfiction book, or the first page of a nonfiction book. Panelists will explain why the page at hand would encourage them to read more (or not) in the context of their jobs. Selected “first pages” representing a variety of types and qualities will be distributed and publicly evaluated. The writers will be anonymous, and each first page will be discussed for 5-10 minutes.                     

9:30 a.m.                     BREAK

9:45-11:15 a.m.


Floyd Skloot

When an old friend discovered a 55 year old cookbook containing a very strange recipe contributed by my mother, who never cooked, I knew I’d been handed an irresistible subject for a personal essay. Using as its main focus “The Famous Recipe,” which appeared in The Best Food Writing 2011, this workshop will trace step-by-step the evolution of a personal essay from triggering moment through research and interviews to the discovery of the essay’s narrative spine and the exploration of meaning.


Jean Hegland

A good plot not only keeps readers reading, but also offers writers a powerful tool with which to deepen a story’s characters, create compelling conflicts, and explore significant themes. However, creating a plot that adds momentum to a story without taking over it over can sometimes be a challenge. In this workshop, we will discuss the particular opportunities and pitfalls that plot has to offer, and experiment with strategies for creating plots that enhance the stories we want to tell.

STRING OF PEARLS: THE GHAZAL FORM AND CONTENT                              

Erin Coughlin Hollowell

An Arabic verse form that consists of highly lyric often songlike couplets. In fact, in Iran, India, and Pakistan, ghazals are often performed by singers. In this workshop, we’ll investigate how this beautiful traditional form informs the content it contains. We will be looking at poems that strictly adhere to the form as well as a few that deviate from it in purposeful ways. In the end, we’ll try our own hand at writing a ghazal, after we examine what subjects might best be enhanced by the form. 

11:15 a.m.                    BREAK

11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. OPEN MIC                                                                                      

Readings by conference attendees 

12:15 p.m.                   LUNCHEON                                                                                   

1:00-1:45 p.m.                                                                                                                        


Anthony Doerr 

1:45 p.m.                     BREAK

2:00-3:30 p.m.

LITERARY BONSAI                                                                                                          

Barbara Hurd

Proust supposedly kept three bonsai by his bed in Paris to remind himself of the intricate richness of small worlds we so often overlook. In this session, we’ll explore how the constraints of a tight focus and short form – 750 words or less – can jolt us into new ways of regarding the world, our lives, and small moments in a day. We’ll look at the shorter works of several writers, experiment with prompts, and practice methods of seeing, as Blake says, “a world in a grain of sand.”


Rick Barot

The problem at the heart of writing a poem is the problem of dramatization. That is, how do we dramatize in language – an arguably limited means – the dynamics of thought, sensation, mystery, knowledge, and unsayability that often comprise human experience? In this class, we’ll discuss the crucial importance of syntax in vitalizing a poem. We’ll look at poems with powerful content and the syntactical correlatives the poets use in dramatizing that content. The poems will include the work of Louise Glück, Sharon Olds, Arthur Sze, and C.K. Williams.

CLAIMING OUR STORIES                                                                                                          

Ernestine Hayes

In this workshop, we explore personal and cultural histories, drawing on our own life experiences as inspiration for our writing. Through exercises and discussion, we discover the importance of our singular stories against the backdrop of our shared history.

TIME TO FLY: WRITING THE PILOT                                                                        

Bryan Allen Fierro

Can you envision your short story or novel as a television show? Like in flying, there are some hard and fast rules to making the pilot successful. We will explore how to translate written work to screenplay with focus on the obligation demands of the pilot episode. We will explore the character cast, the story’s conventions, the rules of the story universe, all in the name of getting to that lasting cliffhanger that will keep your audience coming back for more. The workshop will look at two successful pilot scripts, and discuss how to adapt the writer’s own work.

3:30 p.m.               BREAK

3:45-5:15 p.m.

EXPECTATIONS – Panel                                                                                                 

For centuries, writers were told to be quiet. Or if they must speak, they should speak in particular ways. For centuries, writers were told that they should write to support or protest or move others to action. How do we create our own priorities? On this panel we’ll talk about expectations fulfilled and expectations thwarted. We’ll look at impositions and how to deal with them. (We’ll also look at expectations writers create and then how they thwart or fulfill them in interesting ways.)


Joe Wilkins

In his seminal creative writing craft text, The Triggering Town, poet Richard Hugo claims, “all truth must conform to music,” for in music, Hugo goes on to argue, we find a fuller, stronger truth. As a prose writer, I’m not sure I buy that 100% of the time, but, nonetheless, I think Hugo is on to something. In attending to language, we not only say what it is we’re after in more effective, vivid ways, but we very often find ways to say that which we didn’t even know we could say—we discover what it is we really mean to say. In this craft workshop we will discuss four techniques for attending to language and crafting evocative prose. Participants are asked to bring an essay/story-in-progress (though prompts will also be available at the session), as we will have some time to apply these techniques in revision and share revised work at the end of the lesson.


Nancy Lord

Especially for memoir but also for any nonfiction writing narrated by an “I,” the writer needs to create of him- or herself a fully drawn character to both narrate and inhabit the story. This character is not exactly or completely the author but rather a version of the author that can best illuminate the particular story. We’ll look at some examples, consider strategies, and try on some masks for ourselves.

5:15-6:15 p.m.             Reception Gathering                                                        

5:15-6:15 p.m. WRITING CIRCLE                                                                                                            

Join others for an informal hour dedicated to individual writing. A guide will offer a prompt, or you can devote the time to your own ideas. No sign-up necessary; just show up prepared to write.

7:00 p.m. SILENT AUCTION                                                                        Quarterdeck

Bid on literary and book-related items to benefit scholarships for the conference. Bidding closes at the end of the faculty reading.  

7:30 p.m. READINGS BY CONFERENCE FACULTY                              Quarterdeck

                                    Open to the public; book signings will follow.  

10:00 p.m.              After-Hours Beach Gathering

                                                     (For Adults Only)


TUESDAY, June 12

8:00 a.m.                     Coffee, Tea, and Continental Breakfast                                       

8:30-10:00 a.m.

ALL OR NOTHING:  TIPS FOR DEBUT AUTHORS                                                  

Sally Wofford-Girand

Every year a handful of books take off while most others fail to find their readers.  What can authors do to help their book stand out in a fiercely competitive market? I will share a few stories of successful publications at both small Independent Presses and corporate giants.


Jean Anderson

Exciting work is commonly thought of as “fresh” or “new.” But excitement may come from well-worn topics viewed from an unusual perspective. What’s life like in Alaska for an aging fisherman? A homeless teen? A fashion-obsessed former model? How do adults appear to a young child in their midst? Among Chekhov’s gifts was his ability to “see” everyday events with fresh eyes, often by giving contrasting viewpoints: (1) a mourning horse-cab driver, finding no sympathetic ear among many partying fares, tells the news of his son’s death to his horse; (2) a boy enduring a harsh apprenticeship carefully pencils his loneliness into a letter, then mails it off to Grandfather in the Village; or (3) an inept and abusive street performer, who cares nothing for his amazing performing dog, barely notices when the loyal dog rejects a real chance to escape. Plunging deep into mysteries of viewpoint is an old technique that carries great, and enduringly fresh, power.

WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT?                                                                                              

Peggy Shumaker

You think you know where a piece of writing is going. Then you’re in another place. Wait! What just happened? We’ll look at turns that leave us breathless, at shifts dramatic or subtle that open the writing in unpredictable ways. 

10:00 a.m.                   BREAK

10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.                                                                                   

BUILDING A COMMUNITY FOR YOUR WRITING – Panel                                    

Panelists will share information about writing groups (online and in person), artists’ colonies and residences (established or DIY), writers workshops, MFA programs, conferences, and online ways to form the support you need to write. We may all write mostly alone, but it’s tough to stick to it without some form of support.


Rich Chiappone

Everyone seems to want to simplify life. The self-help sections of bookstores are positively cluttered with titles like Declutter Your Way to Success, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, and Less Clutter More Life. And what about our prose styles? From Strunk and White’s venerable Elements of Style (written in 1918!) to numerous current writing advice blogs, conventional wisdom seems to argue that less is more when it comes to literary prose. But not everyone agrees. Are you inclined to verbosity and proud of it? Or is your over-wordy writing holding you back? Bring some of your pages and join us in this workshop considering how much is too much, and how little is too little.

PUTTING TOGETHER THE POETRY COLLECTION                                            

Diane Glancy

How does a poetry manuscript come about? We’ll discuss the many factors that go into putting together a collection of poetry, the long journey that it often takes. We’ll also talk about the parts of a poetry manuscript beyond the poems themselves, such as the back matter and acknowledgements. 


Introduction: Andrea Noble-Pelant, Executive Director, Alaska State Council on the Arts

Closing Remarks: Ernestine Hayes, Alaska Writer Laureate

Farewell: Carol Swartz


See you at next year’s conference: June 7 – 11, 2019 

Many thanks to the generosity of our sponsors!









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