Writers’ conference includes graphic narrative in the mix, celebrates 15th year

  • Pulitizer prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey is the keynote speaker for the 15th annual Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference on June 10-14.-Photo by Nancy Crampton; Blue Flower Arts
  • Sarah Leavitt will give presentations about her graphic memoir and an upcoming graphic novel at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, as well as a youth workshop on drawing comics.-Photo by Teri Snelgrove

The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference will mark changing tides in the literary world and the Homer community with its 15th year.

Sarah Leavitt, a writer from Vancouver, British Columbia, will give the conference’s first workshops on graphic narrative. Leavitt’s first book, “Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me,” told the story of her mother’s illness by combining words with drawings. While Leavitt planned to write a memoir after her mother’s death in 2005, but she didn’t always plan for it to be in the style of a graphic narrative. 

“I had always done drawings, and I had little drawings in my journals, and when my mom died I went through my journals,” Leavitt said. “I had drawings and notes and I put those together … and I just realized I wanted to do a full length graphic novel, even though I really didn’t know what I was doing.”

The process of creating her memoir and figuring out how to use the words and drawings together took about four years – Leavitt started working on “Tangles” in 2005 and finished around 2009, she said. The book first came out in Canada in 2010, followed by a release in the United States in 2012. Since the book’s publication, it has been translated into German, French and Korean.

At the conference, Leavitt plans to do a reading from “Tangles,” as well as show some of a project she is currently working on – a historical fiction graphic novel based on a British Columbia legend.

“(It’s) based on this story of a woman named Agnes who supposedly lived in British Colombia and was a serial killer,” Leavitt said. “There’s no proof it’s a true story. I was fascinated by her story and started making things up about her childhood and what would lead her to be a serial killer. It’s a bit different than a memoir about your mom dying, but it’s awesome.”

Leavitt will also lead the Youth Writer’s Workshop on Friday, June 10. The three-hour workshop is for students entering 10th, 11th or 12th grades and will walk participants through the process of creating their own comic. 

Graphic narrative has slowly morphed from children’s comic books to a form of legitimate literature, said Homer author and Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference faculty member Nancy Lord. Starting with American cartoonist’s Art Spiegelman’s Pulitizer Prize-winning graphic novel, “Maus” that told the tale of his father’s survival of the Holocaust, graphic narrative has evolved over the last 30 years.

“It kind of started off being talked about as graphic novel and then it has expanded into graphic narratives of all kinds,” Lord said. “It’s helping raise awareness of the expanding of forms. I think it will appeal to a larger audience. Not just young people, though I do think its attracts young people, but anyone … I’m expecting it to be very popular.”

The conference’s 15th year marks a milestone for the conference, a feat of time that surprises Carol Swartz, campus director at the Kenai Peninsula College Kachemak Bay Campus. The conference focuses on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s writing and publishing, pulling in a variety of writers and faculty from all over Alaska and the Lower 48. The conference will recognize the passing of time and the accomplishments of the conference, which has grown over the years.

“It’s considered state-wide, from what I humbly pick up, as the state writers’ conference,” Swartz said. “We’re trying to get the word out that it’s the 15th and we’re trying to recognize that it’s 15th and there might be some surprises happening at it that remind people it’s the 15th and we’ll be talking a lot about it being the 15th. Other than some of the context and how its going to be framed, its not like I have a different speaker just because it’s the 15th year or added a new day or something like that but we’ll probably have a cake.”

Homer author Eva Saulitis, who passed away in January, will also be honored at the conference, Lord said.

“She’s been with us from the beginning. It definitely will remind us of our beginnings and endings,” Lord said.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.


Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference

 

Keynote Speaker:

Natasha Trethewey,
Pulitzer Prize-winner and former U.S. poet laureate.

Faculty:

Miriam Altshuler (agent), Jane Rosenman (editor), Dan Beachy-Quick, Rich Chiappone, Jennine Capo Crucet, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Forrest Gander, Lee Goodman, Richard Hoffman, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Sarah Leavitt, Nancy Lord, Peggy Shumaker, Sherry Simpson, Frank Soos, and David Stevenson.

Activities:

Daily workshops, panel presentations, readings, craft talks, opening keynote dinner, four luncheons and receptions, open-mic sessions and writers’ circles. 

Optional activities:

Manuscript reviews, agent and editor consultations, boat cruise with authors, and post-conference workshop. 

Academic credit available for conference attendees.

Open to the public: 

Evening readings by authors

Cost: 

Registration through June 9: $400; 

June 10: $450, if space is available.

For additional information: 

writersconference.homer.alaska.edu

iyconf@uaa.alaska.edu

907-235-7743


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