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We are already planning the 2019 Chuckanut Writers Conference, and we anticipate announcing the faculty and accepting registrations in January 2019. In the meantime, please save the dates, June 21-22, 2019.




Pre-conference Events: June 21, 2018

Conference Events: June 22-23, 2018


2018 Program Overview | Whatcom Community College

The Chuckanut Writers Conference pre-conference events start on Thursday, June 21 at 1:00 PM with optional Master Classes featuring faculty members Kathleen Alcalá, Robert Wilder, and Jane Wong. The conference registration fee includes admission to a special pre-conference event that will begin at 6:30 PM (details TBD).

Conference check-in opens Friday, June 22 at 9:00 AM. The conference begins at 10:00 AM with featured speakers and multiple breakout craft sessions, extending into an early evening reception with readings and signings by faculty author presenters.

On Friday, plan to arrive by 9:30 AM (or earlier) to park, check in, receive conference materials, and proceed to Heiner Theater for the Welcome/Opening Address beginning promptly at 10:00 AM.

The program continues Saturday, June 23 with a full day of author sessions, panels, and an additional book signing. The conference concludes Saturday evening with concurrent open mics for conference attendees at venues in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district.

Village Books Conference Bookstore will be open throughout the conference. As co-presenter of the Chuckanut Writers Conference, Village Books will be the exclusive on-site bookseller throughout the conference and will have titles by the faculty authors available for purchase. Village Books is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, where it has celebrated building community one book at a time since 1980.

Agent pitch sessions, marketing consultations, and editing consultations will be scheduled concurrently with other sessions throughout the conference. Pre-registration for pitch sessions and consultations is required. There will be no sign-ups during the conference.


Thursday | June 21, 2018

Pre-Conference Master Classes

1:00 – 4:00 PM
How to Write an Honest YA (or Crossover) Voice | Robert Wilder | Foundation Building 105

According to Publisher’s Weekly, 55% of YA books are purchased by adults. Would classics like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill A Mockingbird be considered Young Adult fiction if published today? Does any of this matter if you are trying to write a novel with a teenage protagonist? In this workshop, we will discuss how to approach writing for and about teens. In addition to writing exercises to further our own work, we will also look at a variety of YA authors whose fiction appeals to a wide range of readers.

1:00 – 5:00 PM
The First Twenty Pages | Kathleen Alcalá Foundation Building 201C

This master class is based on an essay by Zadie Smith called “That Crafty Feeling," in which Smith describes taking the first twenty pages of a book to establish setting, POV, and other aspects of a novel. By concentrating intensely on the first twenty pages, rewriting them over and over again, she solves many problems that would crop up later in the process for less experienced writers. We will study examples from E.M. Forster in parallel with Smith’s work.

1:00 – 5:00 PM
Your Turn: The Volta and Ending Poems | Jane Wong Syre Student Center 211

The volta, or the “turning point” of a poem, is a central moment of surprise—moving the reader in a new direction to end a poem. How does a volta operate in contemporary verse? What kind of voltas are possible in a poem? Leading toward a conversation about ending poems, we will take risks in our approach to voltas and poem-endings. We will draw upon voltas from poets like Eduardo C. Corral, Natalie Diaz, and Monica Sok. Participants should bring in at least two poems written prior to our session.

6:30 – 9:00 PM | "An Evening with Natalie Goldberg" Village Books in Fairhaven

Our pre-conference special event is “An Evening with Natalie Goldberg,” which will be held at Village Books in Fairhaven on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. At the event, Goldberg will read from her new memoir, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home. She will also engage the audience in a short question-and-answer session and sign books.

The much-publicized deadline has already passed for Chuckanut Writers Conference registrants to RSVP in order to receive priority admission to "An Evening with Natalie Goldberg." However, Village Books may have some standing-room-only spots available to the general public for the purchase price of $5 at the door. Seating is limited, and the event is expected to sell out. Doors to the Readings Gallery at Village Books will open at 6:30 p.m.

Friday | June 22, 2018

9:00 – 10:00 AM | Conference Check-In | Syre Center Lobby

9:15 – 9:45 AM | Optional Info Session: Getting the Most Out of Your Conference | TBD

Join Conference Organizer Paul Hanson in an optional info session on how to get the most out of your conference!

10:00 – 11:00 AM | Conference Welcome and Opening Address | Heiner Theater

Conference Welcome | Emcee, Bob Winters

Claudia Castro Luna | Opening Address: How Poetry Found Me | Heiner Theater


11:15 AM – 12:15 PM | Breakout Session 1

Of Agents, Editors, and Marketing: Navigating the World of Publishing | Agent and Marketing Panel Discussion and Q&A | TBD

Featuring: Gary Luke and Elizabeth Wales
Moderator: TBD

Achieving Unity in Your Work | Jonathan Evison | TBD

In which we will discuss how the elements of plot, character, and theme work together to make a work cohesive. We will examine the intersection of these elements and the importance of unification in the work.

Doing Things that Other People Say You Shouldn't | Frances McCue | TBD

Sometimes, being an alert writer involves collecting adages and advice from other writers. “Show don’t tell,” for example, is a mantra that we’ve all heard. But what if one were, like Knausgaard, to mostly “tell” and not show? Or “Avoid Abstractions,” is another wisdom tidbit floating in the world. But what about Wallace Stevens who wants us to imagine “having a mind of winter”? This workshop will look at counter examples to common myths about writing, including the whole notion of facing taboos. In the end, we’ll develop the confidence to follow our writing to the methods most useful to its content.

The Rules of Writing Practice | Robert Wilder | TBD

Based on Natalie Goldberg’s pivotal Writing Down The Bones, we will practice timed writings and reading aloud with no comment as well as discussing how to sustain a regular writing schedule in this insane world.


12:15 – 1:30 PM | Lunch

Choose from a variety of excellent lunch options, including the Kid Sister Food Truck, the Community Food Co-op Cordata Store, the Dockside Café in Syre Center or nearby eateries—visit the concierge desk for recommendations.


1:30-2:15 PM | Writers Studio Plenary Session

Paula Becker | What to Expect When You're Expecting Publication | Heiner Theater

This session begins with the assumption that every project is a passion project, or can become one. What must writers consume during the writing process in order to achieve our desired outcomes? What does it mean to show up for our work? How can a project's incremental growth ease the stress that often accompanies the writing process? How can structure help writers deal with the stress of pushing a finished project toward publication? Once work is published, what are our duties to that work?


2:30 – 4:00 PM | Breakout Session 2

Are You Allowed to Joke About That? Using Humor to Tackle Tricky Subjects | Kate Carroll de Gutes | TBD

Illness, death, divorce, money—these are all loaded subjects to talk about, much less commit to the page. And if you make a joke about your mother's Alzheimer's or how Ikea facilitated your divorce, is it even more inappropriate? Not necessarily.  Humor can be used to navigate tricky subjects, give your readers some breathing room, and make a lasting point without sounding like you're on a soapbox.  In this class, we’ll look at how several writers actually make us laugh about the dark, then work from some prompts that edge us into taboo topics with a laugh rather than the hammer of gloom.

Finding the Unexpected in Scenes | Charmaine Craig | TBD

The surest way to make a scene fall flat is to have it perform precisely what it should or merely one thing. In this session, we’ll look at some highly dramatic scenes and discuss how they destabilize expectations (those of their characters and readers) and so augment mystery and narrative tension. If time affords, we’ll perform a quick exercise in scene-building, and then discuss strategies for deepening and thickening scenes.

Once | Jourdan Imani Keith | TBD

“Once I Was Told the Air Was Not for Breathing” by Paola Corso tells the story of 20 people who died from air pollution just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. It was 1948. This once upon a time story came true before the EPA was created and other safeguards for human health in the USA. This generative workshop will use the famous opening of “Once” to examine a past we don't want to repeat and envision a future we’d like to inhabit. Prompts will include texts from Afro-Futurism, magical realism, fairy tales, poetry and environmental health headlines to create the spines for our narratives. This is a cross-genre workshop for writers of poetry and prose.

Summoning the Creative Muse on Deadline | Kate Troll | TBD

This session will explore techniques to find creative topics or twists for regularly scheduled columns or features for local media outlets. These techniques also provide insights and tools for writers who may be stuck in the middle of a non-fiction piece. How does the pressure of a deadline spur or deter creativity? Where can writers look for inspiration to spur creativity in a timely manner? These questions and techniques will be explored in writing that all important first paragraph. 

The Craft of Line Breaks | Jane Wong | TBD

Jack Spicer writes: “Break / Your poem / Like you would cut a grapefruit.” We will consider the line break in all its glory: when should we break a line? How does a line hold tension? How does a space break differ from a line break? With examples from poets such as Hannah Sanghee Park and Richard Hugo, we will re-energize our writing through line break experiments.


4:00 – 7:30 PM | Reception, Faculty Reading, and Book Signing | Heiner Foyer and Heiner Theater

A highlight of the conference!

Be sure to join us for a chance to mingle and converse with authors and fellow attendees, and take advantage of the opportunity to get your books signed. And of course, you won’t want to miss the truly riveting and inspiring readings of our incredible faculty! Appetizers and a no-host bar with beer and wine will be provided.


Saturday | June 23, 2018

9:00 – 9:45 AM | Optional Morning Sessions


9:45-10:00 | Announcements | Heiner Theater

Emcee, Bob Winters


10:15 – 11:15 AM | Concurrent Author Panels

“This Too Is Part of Life”: Telling the Hard Truths (TBD)
Featuring: Paula Becker, Kate Carroll de Gutes, and Natalie Goldberg 
Moderator: Linda Lambert

“[W]hen everything you know and lived is tossed out the window and glass shatters . . . this too is part of life," writes Natalie Goldberg in her latest memoir. Nonfiction writers Paula Becker and Kate Carroll de Gutes join Natalie Goldberg to talk frankly about writing personal narratives of illness, loss, identity, and change and the challenge of discovering and revealing sometimes painful truths.

Environmental Writing: Confronting Change, Inspiring Action (TBD)
Featuring: William Dietrich, Jourdan Imani Keith, and Kate Troll
Moderator: Saul Weisberg

What challenges and opportunities do writers confront when responding to social and environmental crises? William Dietrich, Jourdan Imani Keith, and Kate Troll explore possibilities for creative work to intervene in emergent crises and inspire action. Moderator Saul Weisberg is an ecologist, naturalist, and writer, and is the executive director and co-founder of the North Cascades Institute.

How We Teach: Writers Teaching Writers  (TBD)
Featuring: Daemond Arrindell, Kevin Murphy, Robert Wilder, and Jane Wong
Moderator: Kami Westhoff

A collegial conversation about the art and craft of teaching with writers who teach in a variety of settings—in high school, community college, and university classrooms; in correctional facilities; in community and continuing education programs; and through Seattle’s Writers in the Schools program.

Giving Voice to Your Ghosts: Bringing Family Lore, Personal Experiences, and Historical Research to Life in Fiction (TBD)
Featuring: Janie Chang, Charmaine Craig, Jonathan Evison, and Ian Weir
Moderator: Paul Hanson

Four novelists whose books span time and place, will discuss how they draw on family lore, personal experiences, and historical research as material for bringing their fictional characters to life. Paul Hanson, co-owner of Village Books, will moderate the conversation.

Writing Home: Place-Based Prose and Poetry
Featuring: Kathleen Alcalá, Claudia Castro Luna, Iris Graville, and Frances McCue
Moderator: Mary Vermillion

“We each carry a personal map of the place we inhabit,” writes Claudia Castro Luna in her introduction to her web-based project, the Seattle Poetic Grid. Writers of poetry and prose will discuss their approaches to place-based writing. How can exploring our personal and natural landscapes help us trace our many connections to place and to each other? Moderator Mary Vermillion is the marketing director at Village Books.


11:30 AM - 12:15 PM | Writers Studio Plenary Session

Jonathan Evison | Your Partner, The Reader | Heiner Theater

In this session, we will consider the relationship between author and reader and explore methods to make the most of what is ultimately a collaborative effort. Jonathan Evison will discuss how the reader is the best tool in any writer’s belt, and the risks we run by failing to consider the reader.

12:15 - 1:30 PM | Lunch

Choose from a variety of excellent lunch options, including Feast Food Truck, the Community Food Co-op Cordata Store, the Dockside Café in Syre Center or nearby eateries—visit the concierge desk for recommendations.


1:30 – 2:30 PM | Breakout Session 4

Diverging Story Lines | Kathleen Alcalá | TBD

What to do when your cast of characters go off in different directions? How to save the plot and keep your readers satisfied. This workshop will discuss the art of plotting and offer examples of several ways to solve problems generated by multiple characters and complicated plot lines. We will study an example that we may rewrite or comment on.

Make Your Thriller More Thrilling | William Dietrich | TBD

How do you keep the pages turning so your book flies off the shelf? We discuss thriller-writing techniques that have worked since The Odyssey: plot, pacing, narrative tension, raising the stakes, the ticking clock, a relatable hero, an engaging and believable villain, romantic tension, twists, and so on.

The Profile Essay as Genre—Telling Other People's Stories | Iris Graville | TBD

Everybody has a story to tell, and the profile essay, a subgenre of literary nonfiction, is a form well suited to bring those stories to readers. This session will explore various forms of profiles, craft elements involved in writing such essays, and publication possibilities. The presenter, Iris Graville, is an experienced profile essayist and the author of two books in this genre.

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal | Gary Luke | TBD

Publishers and agents expect to see certain elements in a professionally prepared nonfiction book proposal. In this session, we will walk you through each of these parts of a proposal and explain how to find pieces of information, how to describe your book and yourself in a way that will make publishers and agents pay attention.

Duende: Baptism by Dark Water | Kevin Murphy | TBD

Drawing on the work of Federico García Lorca, we’ll explore the concept of “duende.” If the angel is the first force of art, and the muse is the second, Lorca considered duende to be the third, “the mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.” We’ll look at the role of duende primarily in poetry, but also in music.


2:45 – 3:45 PM | Breakout Session 5

Breathing Fire | Daemond Arrindell | TBD

Our first and often most formative experience with stories is hearing them read to us as children. How can we, as writers, bring that same power and wonder to what we have penned and to what lives statically on the page in order to help reach every single person in a room?

Skin in the Game | Paula Becker | TBD

Memoir is by its nature transgressive, and writers working in this genre must be willing to reveal difficult, often painful, truths about themselves and others. How do we choose to tell our stories? How do we plan for, and stand firm within, the wake of reader reactions?

On the Velocity and the Physics of the Prose Poem | Claudia Castro Luna | TBD

Speed, torque, force are some of the elements that act upon a prose poem to make it an ideal form to work with when considering writing poems of place. We will look at how these craft elements interact using a short collection of prose poems and then utilize the techniques discussed to write one or two postcard poems.

Before and After: Working with Professional Editors | Janie Chang | TBD

What’s it like working with professional editors through the phases of story development editing, line editing, and copy editing? Learn from a real-world example as author Janie Chang shares selected sections from her novel Three Souls. You’ll get copies of actual text from the original manuscript, the associated comments from her editors, and the final version that went to print.

Finding the Heart | Ian Weir | TBD

It’s one thing to write a draft—or several drafts—of a story or novel. It can be quite another to find the heart of the narrative: to navigate the way to the essence of what your story wants to be . . . and to clear your own path to writing it. In this session, we’ll explore strategies for delving down to the undiscovered heart. Along the way, we’ll examine questions relating to voice, structure, and character, as well as the pros and cons of outlining.


4:00 – 4:30 PM | Closing Address

Natalie Goldberg | Closing Address: The True Secret of Writing | Heiner Theater

4:30 – 5:00 PM | Faculty Book Signing | Syre Auditorium

Last chance to mingle with authors and get your books signed!


7:00 – 8:30 PM | Open Mics

Poetry Open Mic: TBD

Nonfiction Open Mic:  TBD

Mixed Genre Open Mic:  TBD

Fiction Open Mic:  TBD