Creating writers with community

Creating writers through community

From the outside, the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference may seem like any other event taking place at Land’s End Resort, but a step closer reveals a strong community of growing individuals unified by a passion for putting words on a page — for creating a story.

Over the conference, attendees are given a plethora of options for workshops, panels, writing circles, and — perhaps most importantly — sharing.

Everyone, it seems, has learned or realized something of importance during their time at the conference. Long-time attendee Lin Hampson said that no matter how many times she attends this conference, she always learns new things. Hampson found herself unexpectedly inspired by a workshop on graphic narrative done by author Sarah Leavitt.

“A lot of my students write comics and anime… It made me think about what my students are reading,” said Hampson, a Homer High School guidance counselor. She is now considering doing something with graphic narrative for a Focus On Learning period at Homer High.

Kenai Peninsula College student, and first-time attendee, Delcenia Cosman, who has been in the process of beginning a novel, also found new inspiration. In her case, she gained insights into character creation from author Lee Goodman, a conference faculty member. Cosman said she believes that will help her writing process. Cosman said that the conference has taught her to be more open to the crossing of differing genres.

“There’s a lot more that you can draw from than you originally think there is,” she said.

Also discovering the importance of crossing genres was Amy Holonics, a student in the University of Alaska Anchorage master of fine arts program for literary nonfiction. Though primarily a nonfiction writer herself, Holonics said she was most impressed by the poets, and found herself drawing significant connections between two genres so seemingly dissimilar, which she hopes will enhance her future work.

When asked if these new ideas have really made a difference over time, Hampson said that you can really see some of the people have internalized skills learned at the conference, and that they’ve incorporated them in their work.

Despite all the great insights gained, perhaps the most significant development among attendees is increased confidence. Both local writer Richard Chiappone, another conference faculty member, and Cosman name this as something they’ve gained from the conference.

In a statement closely echoed by Cosman, Chiappone said, “Developing a kind of family gives you a confidence that you aren’t alone in this.”

This writing community is certainly a kind of family. Comprised of every genre of writing, this group is as varied as any community, but often operates at nearly the closeness of family. Holonics was impressed by this, saying that she was surprised by the breadth of people attending, which included teachers, published fiction writers, poets, journalists and many more, but also felt privileged to be in a place where the flow of ideas was so open. Adding to this dynamic, many of the attendees return every year, giving the group a kind of continuity uncommon to conferences like these.

With a smile on his face, Chiappone endearingly says of this group, “It’s like a family reunion without all the fighting.”

Mattea Peters is an intern for the Homer News.

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