Poet Afaa Michael Weaver reads from his work Sunday at Alice’s Champagne Palce.-Photo by Shana Loshbaugh

Poet Afaa Michael Weaver reads from his work Sunday at Alice’s Champagne Palce.-Photo by Shana Loshbaugh

Writing faculty inspires aspiring authors during annual conference

An exuberant mood ruled the 14th Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, held June 12-16 in Homer. The public readings crackled with enthusiasm. The radiant weather didn’t hurt, either.

This year 127 attendees shared the power of the written and spoken word, and the inspiring camaraderie of those who write such words.

The keynote speaker was Andre Dubus III, whose work has topped the “New York Times” best sellers list and inspired films. His charm and public speaking skills matched his literary talent and wowed the listeners. At the end of his public reading Saturday night in the Homer High School Mariner Theatre, the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Dubus combined gravity and humor while talking about painful topics.  He read a story about a failing romance from his most recent book, the short-story collection “Dirty Love,” and then an essay about the emotional trajectory of his own life.  He spoke frankly about incidents from his dysfunctional youth and how writing redirected him.

At age 22, he sat down to write out a scene blooming in his mind. He told the Homer audience how that writing felt like a euphoric high and made time stand still. He realized then that he had to write, and doing so dissipated the anger and aggression that had poisoned his life. He said, “I stopped hating people. I started hating actions.”

Dubus described his current life as full of “sweetness” — living in a house he built and devoting himself to his wife, children and writing. 

He urged writers to unleash their imaginations rather than trying to control the story-telling process. That process is more like dreaming than calculated planning. Authentic curiosity is the spark needed to bring writing to life. Writers must be willing to accept inspirations that come to them and also be willing to fail. To create vibrant characters, authors must have the empathy to ask them, “What is it really like to be you?”

Afterward, the real work begins with rewriting, he said.

Following Dubus’s presentation, the writers’ conference provided what Carol Swartz, conference chair and director of the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, called “an extravaganza of literary readings.” 

In addition to his public reading at the Mariner Theatre, there were two more evenings of free readings by other conference faculty. Seventeen writers presented a diverse mix of poems, essays, short stories and book excerpts (fiction and nonfiction) at Alice’s Champagne Palace on Sunday and at Land’s End Resort on Monday evening. The crowds showed their appreciation with raucous applause and cheers.

The annual writers’ conference is organized by the Kachemak Bay Campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage and held at Land’s End Resort. It would not be possible, Swartz stressed, without the campus staff, volunteers on the planning committee and an array of generous benefactors, patrons, contributors and supporters. She also made a point of thanking the adventurous writers from far off places who respond to what she called “the strange email from Alaska.”

Frank Soos, the new Alaska State Writer Laureate, gave the final talk of the conference, pondering both irony and Alaska. “You’ve got to love this place — it’s crazy,” he said.

The gathering ended with Swartz’s announcement of the headliner for the next conference, slated to begin June 10, 2016. The keynote speaker will be Natasha Trethewey from Mississippi, the current U.S. Poet Laureate. That will be the next and 15th installment in the ongoing saga of the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference.

 

Conference
quotes

 

“It makes our big state smaller … sharing the written word in this setting.” 

– Carol Swartz
regarding the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference

“You can’t force it.”

– Keynote speaker
Andre Dubus III about inspiration

“Art is transferring feeling from one heart to another.” 

– A quote from Leo Tolstoy
that Andre Dubus likes to share with writers

“He talked about the writing life in a way that every writer needs to hear.” 

– Frank Soos talking about what Andre Dubus presented

“When you are wonderstruck, there is no cognition.” 

– Frank Soos talking about intense experiences

“I’ll buy it right now!” 

– Unidentified fan calling out to writer Joy Castro from the back of Alice’s Champagne Palace when Castro announced she has a new book coming out

 
Keynote speaker Andre Dubus III signs books after his reading Saturday.

Keynote speaker Andre Dubus III signs books after his reading Saturday.

Frank Soos chats with a conference goer.

Frank Soos chats with a conference goer.

More in News

A school closure announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Schools closed for Tuesday in Homer, Anchor Point

Winter storm continues through Tuesday morning, with high winds.

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

Diamond Ridge Road near Homer, Alaska, had been plowed on Monday morning, Dec. 5, 2021, but visibility was limited. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
School district announces 90-minute early release today.

Winter storms makes driving difficult on southern Kenai Peninsula.

A reader board sign on the Sterling Highway announces COVID-19 testing and vaccines at the South
Anchor Point man dies of COVID-19

Death rate of COVID-19 is now 17 since start of the pandemic.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

fund
Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read