Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wordcrafters Writers Conference in Eugene Promises to be One of the Best (I asked 5 Questions)

I had the good fortune to meet my friend and mentor, Elizabeth Engstrom, years ago when she was coordinating the writers' retreat at the Maui Writers Conference (now defunct)--a dream-come-true conference and retreat that was held in Maui, Hawaii. The conference featured amazing, NY Times Bestselling writers as speakers and teachers: Terry Brooks, Elizabeth George, Susan Wiggs, and many others.

Guess what?

They're back!

At the Wordcrafters Writers Conference in Eugene, Oregon--March 7, 8, 9, 2014 (There's a writing retreat the week before, but sign up fast, because space is very limited.)

If you can, I urge you to attend. I'm sure this will be one of the best writing conferences on the planet, and the retreat will be amazing. Find out more here

Eugene, Oregon

When I heard about the conference, I felt compelled to ask Liz 5 Questions. Here's our exchange:

Wow. The lineup for the Wordcrafters Writers Conference in Eugene is impressive! Terry Brooks, Elizabeth George, Susan Wiggs. And I love that you and Susan are offering a preconference writing retreat for twenty lucky writers. This reminds me of the magical Maui Conference—no longer in existence—an event I attended many times.
Truthfully, I have a lot questions for you, but I’ll limit it to 5:
1) Please tell me about Wordcrafters—when and how did it form?
First of all, Wordcrafters is more than a conference. We intend to pull together many literary events in the community, from poetry slams to summer teen writing camps, community-wide book club, to special presentations by authors, editors and agents. Wordcrafters is all about the craft of writing. Everything we do is geared toward improving the craft, with the Conference being the centerpiece. There will be no promotional programming at the conference: no agents, editors, pitch sessions, social media, self-publishing, etc. at all. In 2014, the focus is on fiction.
So to answer your question, the idea of a writer's conference in Eugene has surfaced many times, but suddenly a core of people came together in that synergistic way that sometimes happens, and boom, Wordcrafters in Eugene was born. This group formed an enthusiastic and talented board of directors, crafted a mission statement, and we were off and running.  Our first general interest meeting was in November, 2012. Now we have nonprofit tax status, the tireless Patricia Marshall as our Executive Director, Daryll Lynne Evans as our Volunteer Coordinator, and a wonderful lineup of events, both pre- and post-conference.
2) What inspired you to put together this conference?
I have missed being part of the conference inner workings since the demise of the Maui Writer's Conference. We did not want to compete with the San Francisco Writer's Conference nor the Willamette Writer's Conference, as they do what they do so well. So we created a very specific survey, which was sent far and wide, to find out what people wanted in a writing conference, and we designed the curriculum accordingly. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, we just wanted to tweak it.
3) What can attendees expect to experience and come away with?
One of the things that was clear in our survey was that the attendees wanted a professional to look at their work. So in addition to the incredible lineup of speakers and presenters, we will have the Craft Lab, where every attendee will have an opportunity to sit one-on-one with one of the presenters to discuss their project. We'll have a couple of interesting social events to promote a little writer-to-writer networking. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion, and as Ken and the whole Kesey family is an integral part of our local literary heritage, we will have some events to honor that milestone in his career.
My vision for this conference is that everybody will get back to the love of crafting good stories. With all the emphasis these days on marketing and publishing and promotion, we hope to be a little oasis where it's all about the writing. Good writing.
4) You are an amazing writer and teacher; what is the best advice you can offer aspiring writers?
That's so nice of you to say. I guess my advice is to write every day, and don't expect that everything you write is worthy of being published. We have to practice our craft before we can become professionals.  But with dedication to learning the craft, and persistence in seeing your projects to completion, your best work can be out there for the world to appreciate, and it will be something you can be proud of.
5) Who has been the greatest influence on your writing, and why?

I grew up reading Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even Ian Fleming.  I read voraciously, everything I could get my hands on, and these early forays into great literature of our time had a profound effect on me. I always knew that I would write, and when I had enough life experience to have something to say, out poured a body of work that is clearly an homage to my early literary heroes. 

Thanks Liz. And thanks for organizing the retreat and conference. I'm sure it will be wonderful. I hope to attend!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Back from Turkey

The Spice Market
I returned from Turkey right before all the unrest. While there, I experienced an amazing country filled with history and seemingly endless resources. My trip began in Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city reminiscent of New York, London, Paris--with an eastern twist: the spires of mosques rising from the skyline, unexpected bazaars tucked into alleyways, palaces and art, great little outdoor cafes where you might enjoy a cup of tea or smoke a hookah.

Here are a few of my photos:


Istanbul is a city that spans two continents: Europe and Asia. It's possible to walk across a bridge from one continent to the other.
Crossing from Asia to Europe

Ceiling in the Grand Bazaar

Rich merchants would band together at caravan stops
on the silk road--and find protection from outlaws like
Ali Baba and his thieves.
The Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar are amazing marketplaces. Haggling is a must--especially at the Grand Bazaar. I did most of my shopping outside of Istanbul, because I felt overwhelmed by the intensity of bargaining in the big city.
Where the camels stayed

Caves of early Christians

Before the Roman Emperor, Constantine, 
declared Christianity the official religion, early
Christians lived in fear, hiding in caves carved 
out of tufa, like those above in Cappadocia. They
also dug tunnels--some ten stories deep.