Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference returns May 13-16

The event will be held at Kachemak Bay Campus with readings at other venues in Homer

The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference returns to the Kachemak Bay Campus this weekend.

This is the 21st year of the conference, with one year canceled due to the COVID pandemic. Carol Swartz with the Kenai Peninsula College established the event.

“She did an amazing job, setting it up and organizing it to be a world-class conference,” Erin Hollowell, director of the conference, said.

This year there will be 95 participants arriving in Homer for the event, Hollowell said. About 75% are Alaska residents and many of these are students in the University of Alaska system. The event has always served writers in the outside writing community as well, and some of them have been coming to conference since it first started, Hollowell said. She noted that most participants are age 18 or over.

The event will begin with a keynote presentation delivery from Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist, professor and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Other faculty at the event include Christine Byl, Francisco Cantu, Reyna Grande, Sara Eliza Johnson, J. Drew Lanham, Paisley Rekdal and Daniel Slager. Faculty from Alaska and other places in the United States are published writers in nonfiction, fiction and poetry as well as a contributing editor to Orion Magazine and publisher/CEO of Milkweed Editions, an independent literary press based in Minneapolis. Some are also faculty in university writing programs.

There will be four days of craft classes in all writing genres: fiction, nonfiction and poetry. There will also be “craft conversations.”

The conversations “will be a time when we can have the two fiction writers discussing some component of their genre or panel discussion where a fiction writer, a poet and memoirist might talk their general creative writing process, how they generate ideas on topics,” Hollowell said. “The cross-genre component is a good way to bring everyone back together in one room.”

Hollowell has attended the conference several times and worked as an assistant director. She served as faculty to the campus after publication of her first book of poetry, “Pause, Traveler.” This is her third conference as director.

“Last year people were still a little COVID-leery. I think this year we’ll be a little more relaxed,” she said.

One of the biggest changes since the start of the event is the location of the event; originally it was held at Land’s End Resort on the Homer Spit. This will be the second year that it will take place on the Kachemak Bay Campus in downtown Homer. The university wanted the event to be more aligned to the school and students and Land’s End was a little remote for that, Hollowell said.

“We have a gorgeous campus right in town so we made it a priority to hold the event on-site,” Hollowell said. “It makes the event a little more accessible to those who can’t afford to stay on the Spit. We can have more students and others who are actually working writers. Now, if you’re a student and you’re camping, you can do it,” Hollowell said.

Registration to the workshop is full with a waitlist but event includes several public readings available.

“For us, part of the excitement is bringing the writers to Alaska to share their work with the students and public, but the conference participants also have the opportunity to share their work in evening readings that are free and open to the public and that feels like a real service,” Hollowell said.

“The opportunity to have the writers here and working on all components of creativity is a force for summer literary arts in Alaska.”

There are three readings available to the public associated with the event:

Robin Wall Kimmerer, May 13 at 8 p.m. at Homer Mariner Theater.

Christine Byl, Francisco Cantu and Paisley Rekdal, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Alice’s Champagne Palace.

Reyna Grande, J. Drew Lanham and Sara Eliza Johnson, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Kachemak Bay Campus.

Access to recordings of the keynote, classes and panels is also available by registration as well as more information about the faculty and their publications on the event website at http://writersconf.kpc.alaska.edu/.