FRIDAY, June 14

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

7:00 p.m.                    OPENING DINNER                                              

                        Introduction Carol Swartz, Director                                

                        Keynote Address: Diane Ackerman Everyday Heroism, and The Zookeeper’s Wife


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

8:30 a.m.                     WELCOME                                                                  

8:45-9:45 a.m.

WRITING FROM THE CORE                                                                                         
Moderator: Nancy Lord
Panelists: Martha Amore, Janet Carey, Ishmael Hope, BJ Hollars

Our most compelling writing often results from courting our deepest uncertainties, demons, and fears. Panelists will offer strategies and suggestions to help writers dig beneath the surface of their own stories and experiences in an attempt to uncover the driving forces. In addition, they’ll discuss how those same emotional hardships as raw materials that can, with some direction and guidance, be crafted into more potent human stories.

9:45 a.m.                     BREAK 

10:00-11:30 a.m.

OPENING GAMBITS                                                                                
Jamie Ford

Agents, editors, and more importantly, readers, are often turned on or off by the first chapter, even the first page. In this workshop, we’ll analyze opening scenes we’ll focus on immersing the reader, sinking story hooks, banking and spending emotional currency, creating likeable protagonists (or loveable anti-heroes), and examine the types of contracts we make with readers on page one.

MEMOIR FUNDAMENTALS                                                                   
Barrie Jean Borich

In this course, we break down the narrative fundamentals of the literary memoir. We look closely at an array of storytelling tools and focal points, such as character, scene, summary, reflection, point of view, positionality, setting, space, place, structure, and deep subject. We also discuss issues all memoir writers must consider, such as writing about family, embracing vulnerability, and fact vs. invention. Through close reading, text-based discussion, and revision-focused exercises we move from reading as writers toward writing as fine storytellers of memory and lived experience.

WRITING PLACE IN THE POST-NATION                                            
Kazim Ali

Many indigenous writers are grappling with questions of community and identity. How can a writer best write about place and space while recognizing the many historical, geographic, cartographic and linguistic realities that govern a place? We will look at recent work by Layli Long Soldier, Natalie Diaz, Tommy Pico and Craig Santos Perez and think of new ways of conceiving “place” and “space” in our own writing. 

11:30 a.m.                   BREAK

11:45 a.m.                   Luncheon                                                                

12:30-1:30 p.m.           OPEN MIC                                                                   

                       Readings by conference attendees (Sign up on-site at Conference Information table)

1:30 p.m.                     BREAK

1:45-3:15 p.m.

Christian Kiefer

Join Christian Kiefer in an exploration of setting in photography, film, and fiction, with the goal of analyzing the most significant details to include in creating “the reality effect.”

THE OLD COLLAGE TRY                                                                          
Elena Passarello

A lyric essay uses vivid images and quick cuts to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments, rather than in one specific narrative line. Inspired by visual art and film, collage storytelling is a lynch pin form of the sub-genre known as “ lyric essay,” and it serves as an inspiring way to supercharge your writing. Bring your notebooks to this very hands-on, get-out-of-your-chairs session, which outlines the basics of reading, responding to, and–most importantly–writing your own prose collages.     

MIGHTY MIGHTY ARS POETICA                                                           
Tess Taylor

The phrase “ars poetica” means art of poetry, and in poetic history writers have used them to create their own poetic mission statements, their portraits of belief about what a poem is and how it can work in the world.  Sometimes writing ars poetica can be a way of organizing our practice and revealing our fascinations and core beliefs about art to ourselves. In this class, we’ll read a number of art poetica and explore the act of writing our own. Ideally participants will bring three or four finished poems to class.  This is at once a reading workshop and one that is meant to generate critical new material.

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!                                                                                
Richard Chiappone

From Dickens’ Oliver Twist plaintively requesting more porridge, to Chekhov’s cruel Dimtiri Gurov enjoying a slice of watermelon while the ruined Anna Sergeyevna sobs in despair, food has been used by fiction writers to highlight human emotions and complex interactions for centuries. Join us in this hands-on workshop examining the ways characters’ relationships with food can be used in evocative narrative strategies in stories and novels. We’ll write our own food-related scenes and find out what’s satisfying and what leaves us hungry for something more.

3:15 p.m.                     BREAK

3:30-5:00 p.m.  

Elizabeth Evans

Creating a book is a long-term investment that takes passion, energy, time, and occasionally, money.  Simply put, it’s hard work, and it requires that pesky thing called perseverance. The good news is that once writers acknowledge they’re in it for the long haul, they can make smart choices to set themselves up for success down the road. There is much writers can do to ensure their own success, but it’s also okay to seek outside help when needed.  Today, myriad businesses advertise services to help writers cross the finish line and bring home the book deal, but how is a writer to know whether or when to take advantage of outside resources?  And with whom should they trust their work?

ON SAYING LESS                                                                                
Rosemary McGuire

Revision is often an act of removing un-necessary words or scenes, as much as it is a process of adding new material to the page. What do we cut from our rough drafts, and why? Students are encouraged to bring in a page of their own work. We will edit as a group, and talk about the challenges we face as self-editors as well as writers.

Erin Coughlin Hollowell

Okay, yeah, some people call it writer’s block, but I don’t believe in such a thing – plumber’s don’t get plumbing block, do they? I do think that our funny little brains can outwit our creative urges, but that there are many methods for getting the upper hand so that you can write again. This workshop will provide more than a handful of possible way to get yourself writing (again). And while none of them are particularly original, I have tried them all with success, and you can too.

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: Diane Ackerman                   Homer High School Mariner Theater

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

SUNDAY, June 16

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. Conversation between author Jamie Ford and his editor Kristin Nelson

11:45 a.m.                   BREAK

12:00 p.m.                   LUNCHEON                                                               

                              “Q and A” with Diane Ackerman

1:30 p.m.                     BREAK

1:45-3:15 p.m.

BJ Hollars

How far can you bend a piece of nonfiction before it breaks?  Or to put it differently, What are the limits between facts and fiction and how do you stay within them?  Join B.J. Hollars, editor of Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, as he offers insight on the many unique–and often circuitous–explorations nonfiction writers take in service to getting to the truth.

Ishmael Hope

A working poet will have access to numerous terminologies and methodologies for their craft. Lesser explored are the inner workings of Native American oral narrative, which contains a richly complex structure of patterns not altogether unlike the oral formulas and themes explored by linguistic scholars of Homeric and South Slavic epic poetry. This workshop will demonstrate some of the mathematical and thematic patterning evident in Tlingit storytelling.

THE TROUBLE WITH TITLES                                                               
Nancy Lord

Coming up with the best title for a piece of writing in any genre can sometimes be the hardest thing you do (as a writer.) It is also a critical element of the work. We’ll discuss what makes a weak, good, or great title and look at examples, including some works that changed titles along the way and sometimes even after a first publication. Bring your own examples of titles you think work well and consider “pitching” a title you’re considering for a work-in-progress.

Janet Carey

Are you writing a fantasy or sci-fi novel for children, teens or adults? Join this workshop covering the techniques authors use to build believable worlds. We’ll look at openings that draw readers into your world, explore story sources, discuss ideas and approaches, and spark your imagination with dynamic writing games. We’ll look at terrain, weather, ecosystems and life forms. Then move on to building interesting societies with unique social, political, and economic systems. World Building is a demanding process, but doable when you set the foundation and create from the story’s dramatic structure. Ask the right questions, research, make connections, and all the elements from natural setting to social structures combine to create the inevitable conflicts and tensions each novel demands.

3:15 p.m.                     BREAK

3:30-5:00 p.m.

WHOSE STORY IS IT?                                                                            
Moderator: Erin Coughlin Hollowell
Panelists: Kazim Ali, Jamie Ford, Nancy Lord, Rosemary McGuire

Increasingly, responsible writers are asking where the line rests between imagination and cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. Panelists will discuss how cultural appropriation differs from cultural exchange, and what techniques might be used by writers to examine their own writing and mindset.

WRITING YOUR MONSTERS                                                                 
Martha Amore

This workshop explores gothic conventions in classic and contemporary literature and reflects on the monstrous in several genres of both fiction and non-fiction. How do writers capture frightening, negative, and grotesque aspects of their stories? In the workshop portion of this session, students will practice writing their monsters through direct methods of character presentation and setting.

WRITING PLACE IN A TIME OF TRAVEL                                           
Tess Taylor

In this workshop we’ll explore ways of writing place, and using writing to forge a language of connectedness to the places that form us. We’ll discuss dialect, ecotone, weather, plant names, landmarks and explore poems by writers as diverse as Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Camille Dungy, Arthur Sze, and Bob Hass, and Brenda Hillman to cast light and offer pathways for our own efforts.

5:15-6:30 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.

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

                        Open to the public; book signings will follow.

Kazim Ali

Martha Amore

Barrie Jean Borich

Erin Coughlin Hollowell

Christian Kiefer

Rosemary McGuire

Elena Passarello                                                    

 MONDAY, June 17 

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                   

8:30-9:30 a.m.      FIRST PAGES
Elizabeth Evans, Kristin Nelson, 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.

BJ Hollars

How do we ever really know our subjects?  And how can we accurately and ethically take what we learn and put it on the page?  Join B.J. Hollars as he explores the many techniques he uses as a nonfiction writer–from immersion journalism to fly-on-the-wall–in order to share other people’s story with the wider world.

PROSODY, AURALITY AND ORALITY                                                   
Kazim Ali

Attention to meter, rhythm and rhyme can help any poem, even one written in free verse or without a metrical pattern. We will pay attention to the poems sound out loud to think about revision strategies that can help our own poetry. Looking at choices made by poets like Stanley Kunitz, Lucille Clifton, Sekou Sundiata and Susan Howe will help us to look at our own poems with an eye toward its aural and oral potential.

PERFORMANCE PROSE                                                                                     
Elena Passerello

Drawing from her professional experience as an actor, radio announcer, and a reader of her own writing all over the country, author and essayist Elena Passarello leads seminar on the finer points of reading prose aloud. How do we turn a reading into a performance? What particular strategies and skills can we borrow from the theater to animate dialogue and narrative description? How do we make our texts come alive? This workshop will give you tips, tools, and the chance to practice. 

11:15 a.m.                    BREAK

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

                        Readings by conference attendees  (Sign up on-site at Conference Information table)

12:15 p.m.                   LUNCHEON                                                                 

1:00-1:45 p.m.                                                                                                     

Memoir Through Sickness and Health
Diane Ackerman

1:45 p.m.                     BREAK 

2:00-3:30 p.m.

HOW TO WRITE A SENTENCE                                                               
Christian Kiefer

Sentence-obsessed novelist Christian Kiefer leads a lecture/workshop exploring what makes a truly great sentence, how to read such a sentence, and how to write one. Authors considered include Hemingway, Faulkner, Stein, Austen, and Salinger.

Barrie Jean Borich

How does nonfictional experimenting, questioning, uncovering, and essaying lead the way into radical surprise? We may feel we can’t afford to dwell in possibility and doubt, but certainty is the death of remaking, particularly in the essay arts where we create to discover what we know, what we seek to understand, and even what might transform our worlds. We won’t be able to make anything new if we don’t lurch into uncertainty and risk failure. Through close readings from recent books and a bit of hands-on writing, as well as some wandering and chasing of the unanswerable questions, we will explore the role of the essayist as curious citizen, innovative researcher, and architect of the examined life.

OPENING UP THE ELEGY                                                                                  
Erin Coughlin Hollowell

What calls us to commemorate what has passed? The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical poetic form and was traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Over time, the strictures of the form have softened, though most elegies still contain three phases: lament, praise, and solace. We’ll investigate some modern elegies, and see how the form/concept might open up a way for us to explore the grieving process through poetry, for as we all learn, loss is a part of all lives, a constant that we must come to grips with.

3:30 p.m.               BREAK

3:45-5:15 p.m.

FIRST BOOKS: HOW THEY HAPPENED                                               
Moderator: Rich Chiappone
Panelists: Kazim Ali, Christian Kiefer, Elena Passarello, Tess Taylor

How do writers develop their first books from idea to manuscript? How do authors find publishers for their first work, and what has the publishing experience has been like for them? What they would tell others completing books about what they might expect or try to do?

Martha Amore

“I never travel without my diary,” Oscar Wilde wrote. “One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” This workshop, geared for students of both fiction and nonfiction, considers the power of nontraditional forms of storytelling, such as diary entries, letters, texts, newspaper articles, story-within-a-story, and social media posts. Students will then engage in a writing practice that incorporates several of these forms.

WRITING THE LAND                                                                            
Rosemary McGuire

In Alaskan literature, the natural world often becomes a character in its own right. How do we describe this world without anthropomorphizing or over-simplifying it? Particularly in this time of rapid environmental change, how can we give our descriptions emotional weight and compelling meaning without using overly politicized key words? Students will discuss work they generate during the session.

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.

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

                                    Open to the public; book signings will follow.

Richard Chiappone

Janet Carey

Jamie Ford

BJ Hollars

Ishmael Hope

Nancy Lord

Tess Taylor

TUESDAY, June 18 

10:00 p.m.              After-Hours Gathering   (For Adults Only)

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

8:30-10:00 a.m.

THE FINE ART OF PLAYING GOD                                                   
Jamie Ford

One person in this workshop will die. The rest will go on to write bestsellers. As a group, we’ll choose who the unlucky person is. Ready?

(See, plot does matter).

From ballads to imbroglios, this workshop is about the fine art of playing god. Pulling embryonic characters from the ether and menacing them in search of that unique “ah-ha” moment that is the beating heart of a great story.

GETTING IN CHARACTER                                                                     
Janet Carey

How do we step inside a character’s skin? See the world through his or her eyes? Whether we write novels for children, teens or adults, those of us who work on the page can learn a lot from the stage. We’ll look at exercises actors use to embody characters, sharpen dialogue, evoke emotions and explore ways to uncover the drama hidden in character relationships. Come and try out some new dramatic tools to create memorable characters and deepen your fiction. 

THE POETRY OF NORA DAUENHAUER                                                                   
Ishmael Hope

The late Nora Dauenhauer, Kheixwnéi was one of the finest scholars of Native American oral literature. She was also one of the most widely anthologized Native American poets, and a hugely respected and beloved Tlingit Elder. Still, she remains relatively unknown outside of Alaska, even among living Native American writers. This workshop will celebrate the delightful, idiosyncratic, deep, healing, place-driven and richly cultural poetry of Nora Marks Dauenhauer.

10:00 a.m.                   BREAK

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

Moderator: Erin Coughlin Hollowell
Panelists: Barrie Jean Borich, BJ Hollars, Elena Passarello, Tess Taylor

It’s really difficult to write joy, to create poems and stories that make the heart leap with gladness. Panel members will discuss their favorite moments of wonder and bliss in writing, from our own era and from times past. We’ll read brief excerpts and then discuss how writers create in us such pleasure.

Nancy Lord

Many of us hold strong feeling about social and political issues. They may be our natural and necessary writing material. How can we embrace what we feel passionate about without being didactic or polemical? We’ll consider the history of didactic writing and look at two varieties of contemporary writing—those that effectively carry heart-felt values creatively into understanding and even activism, and those that either speak only to those who are already convinced of a truth or bully those who aren’t. Our examples will come from fiction and poetry as well as nonfiction. 

THE “NOVELISTIC” SHORT STORY                                                                 
Rich Chiappone

A look at stories that defy the convention that says short stories should be about a single (but significant) moment in the life of a character. Even some of the longest famous short stories cover the briefest periods of time: “The Dead” involves a couple hours of a dinner party. “Heart of Darkness” covers only the time it takes to travel up that jungle river. But what of others, like De Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” which spans ten years? Or consider Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” and more recently, Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain,” both of which span decades of the characters’ lives. Join us in discussing the advantages and challenges of writing these novelistic short stories.


Introduction: Keren Lowell, Alaska State Council on the Arts

Closing Remarks

Farewell: Carol Swartz