Because I couldn’t attend the 20th Annual South Coast Writers Conference in Gold Beach last year, I enjoyed it all the more this year. Of the 21 conferences, I’ve attended all but four and really miss it when I’m not there. It’s part of my life.
This year, Emily Kolkemo and I shared a room at Gold Beach Inn. She and I worked at Oregon Coast magazine for several years, and we were also neighbors for a few years. She and her family moved to Coquille 1½ years ago, but we’ve stayed in touch. Over the years, Emily has heard my take on the conference and has wanted to attend. Now that both of her girls are a little older, hubby agreed to babysit so she could attend.
Seeing old friends, being able to connect with other writers, and learning new skills at the workshops is what it’s all about!
I called all the venues between Florence and Gold Beach that carry my books earlier in the week. Most didn’t need any more books this slow time of year, but I stopped at two that did want more and one to set up a PowerPoint program this summer about the bridges. So making all those phone calls was worth it.
Emily arrived in Gold Beach early to attend one of the three in-depth, all-day workshops that are held on Friday each year. I’ve never attended any of these, but Emily was totally jazzed.
After Emily’s workshop and my trip south, we each arrived at the motel at 4 p.m. And by 5:15, we were seated in booths at Playa del Sol sipping margaritas and enjoying full platters of Mexican food. This is a yearly ritual that I really missed last year.
We arrived at the Fairgrounds building where SCWC has always held the opening and keynote address. It was great fun to see fellow writers that have become friends over the years and to introduce Emily.
This year’s keynote speaker was Peter Brown Hoffmeister. His topic was “The Intentional Art of Failure.” Although he had a rough life growing up, he’s turned his life around and is the respected author of four books with another due out next year.
The other presenters shared readings from their writings, which gave all of us attendees a preview of the workshop presenters we would have the next day.
The 110 or so attendees met at 8:30 a.m. in the large multi-purpose room at the high school to pick up packets and receive instructions before heading to the first workshop at 9 a.m. The workshops were held in various classrooms as well as the library.
Each workshop was 1½ hours with two held before lunch break and two afterwards. The 20 workshop sessions covered poetry, writing tips that could be used in fiction or non-fiction, writing tips especially for novels, and song-writing.
And each attendee signed up for first and second choices for each of the four time slots weeks in advance. I signed up last December on the day I received conference info in the mail. That way I made sure of getting first choice on each of my four workshops.
First workshop––Anne Osterlund is the award-winning author of four young-adult novels, and her session was titled “Sweat the Small Stuff.” The small stuff all fell under the headings of transition and pacing and could wait until the final draft. She had really good advice for fiction and non-fiction writers.
Second workshop––Eric M. Witchey has been a freelance writer and communications consultant for 25 years. His workshop was titled “Transform From a Reader to a Writer.” It was a bit more technical and involved than I thought it would be. I, actually, felt it was over my head. But he had a multi-page handout, which I will study. It’s good to be challenged, but after such a brain-strain, I was more than ready for lunch.
It rained off and on Friday and Sunday, but we lucked out Saturday. We walked, without fear of getting wet, from the high school where the workshops were held to the fairgrounds for a chicken dinner in the same building we were in the night before. The food tasted great. Since we were all from the conference, the talk was mostly about the workshops as well as more catching up and future plans.
Third workshop––Jason Brick writes for a living, and his books are in the young adult and crime genres. His topic was “Self-Publishing Self Defense,” and this was the most useful workshop for me. Lots of good stuff! I took plenty of notes. Among his suggestions for promoting books were up-to-date ways to use social media, which is exactly what I wanted.
Fourth workshop––Peter Brown Hoffmeister was our keynote speaker and was easy to listen to and to follow along. His topic was “On Writing Memoir,” and he advised us to not avoid the dark times. He also had us come up as a group with a list of overly used phrases to avoid, which was great fun! He is the only one I stayed to talk to after the session and to whom I felt a connection.
All presenters encouraged daily or almost daily writing—even if for just a short period.
As to the comments I heard from attendees and talking to the folks in charge, attendance was up over the past few years and many thought it was the best conference ever because of the high quality of presenters. (To learn more about the 2016 conference and presenters go to scwc.com.)
After a day of intense concentration, Emily and I enjoyed unwinding over a glass of wine and great food that evening. We ate at Spinners. I’ve gone there for years, and it’s consistently good. To make sure we’d have a table, I made reservations before I left Florence.
And we continued to unwind back at the motel over another glass of wine and some dark chocolate Milano cookies.
Sunday morning Emily and I met my friends Laurel and Evelyn at Gold Beach Books, over coffee and extravagant goodies. Although Emily knew Laurel from phone calls at the magazine office, she had never met her in person until the other night at the keynote address.
All four of us have had a connection to Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines. Laurel, freelance writer for several years; Evelyn, assistant editor in the office for several years in the 1990s; Emily, editor/staff writer in the office for several years and still working part-time from her home in Coquille; and I as an editor/staff writer for 21 years worked with all of them before retiring for good in 2009.
We spent a couple of hours telling tall tales and reminiscing about the years working for the magazines. Then we parted reluctantly, but with plans to meet same time, same place, next year.
As I read through this post, I see that to me the weekend was as much about food as the conference. What can I say; I enjoyed it all!
Note: Last year the folks at SCWC planned to ask me to be a presenter, but, of course, I couldn’t even attend. This year, I suggested a topic that I could present next year, which they liked and will keep under consideration. So maybe––just maybe––I’ll be a presenter as well as attend a couple of workshops in 2017. One way or another, I plan to be there.