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WRITERS GATHER, 150 ATTEND ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Peggy Goergen, left, Rachel Koski, Ginger Rossi, Janet Pretti and Molly Cooley take a break to discuss the successes of this year's workshops. (The Pilot/Marjorie Woodfin).
Peggy Goergen, left, Rachel Koski, Ginger Rossi, Janet Pretti and Molly Cooley take a break to discuss the successes of this year's workshops. (The Pilot/Marjorie Woodfin).

Pilot story and photos by Marjorie Woodfin

The ninth annual South Coast Writers Conference held in Gold Beach last weekend was a success, according to planners, presenters, and attendees.

The conference has grown from three presenters and 30 attendees at the first conference in 1994 to the 12 presenters and more than 150 in attendance at this year's conference.

Presenters, including published poets, novelists, playwrights, travel writers, essayists, writers for magazines and children's books, publishers, and a Native American storyteller, came from as far away as Bronx, N.Y.

Many of those presenting also conduct writing workshops and performances across the country, and teach, or have taught, writing at a number of colleges and universities, including Oregon State University, Rogue Community College, University of Maryland and Michigan State University.

Poet Douglas Goetsch, from Bronx, teaches writing to incarcerated teens at Passages Academy in New York City, as well as workshops around the country.

During the "get-acquainted" portion of Tee A. Corinne's workshop, "Use of All Five Senses," a writer from Seattle said she came to the conference, "because it's the best bargain for a writers' conference in the country."

Many attending the conference who are already published writers were there to hone skills and stimulate additional creativity. Others were looking for help in getting started or getting published. The conference offered something for everyone.

Corinne, who is a published poet and editor, and teaches memoir writing and drawing, told those attending her five senses workshop to use all of those five senses – taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. During the workshop, she challenged them to write for five minutes on topics she suggested, using as many of the senses as possible.

The responses were impressive. Corinne told the writers and aspiring writers, "Write to delight yourself."

Diana Coogle, who has several published books and a play, and is a weekly commentator on Jefferson Public Radio, teaches writing at Rogue Community College and University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

One of Coogle's workshops, "Gold Digging," encouraged her audience to dig for the details to add spice and authenticity to the writing. Details she stressed included the five senses, plus setting, time, historical background, facts and figures, illusions, metaphor, example, action, lists, and quotations.

Kate Wilhelm, whose workshops presented, "More than One Way to Skin the Cat," has more than 30 published novels and a dozen selections of short fiction.

Her published works illustrate many ways to skin the cat, including science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, family sagas, comic novels, and magical realism. Wilhelm, who taught writing at Michigan State University during the summer for 28 years, was recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Wilhelm said there are two types of writers – the visualizer and the constructionist, or the natural story teller and the wordsmith – and both can be equally successful. She suggested it is good to recognize which one is and write to those strengths.

Some writers start with a plot, others with a character, she said. Some of her suggestions included telling a human story, everybody is interesting, who's behind the mask, knowing the adversary, and keep asking questions.

She emphasized the importance of patience and suggested pitfalls including "pity me," "I can do all things better," soapbox lectures, and one-dimensional characters.

Other workshops included "Are You In My Tribe," presented by novelist and playwright E. Sandy Powell; "Setting the Hook to Reel in Your Readers," by Lori Patch, coordinator for Willamette Writers of Southern Oregon; and "Writing Children's Books," with Terry Miller Shannon and Tim Warner.

Shannon, whose latest publication is, "Oregon," a nonfiction children's book, also writes children's books for educational publishers and has been published in Readers Digest and other magazines.

Warner, a published poet and business newsletter editor, has his first book, "Tub Toys," on the market and is working on his second.

Publishing was covered in workshops that included "From Idea to Distribution, a Publisher's Perspective" from publishers Kathy and John Morris; and "Successful Self Publishing," presented by eclectic writer William L. Sullivan, whose published works include travel, hiking, history, nature journals, computer texts and novels.

Tricia Snell, for eight years the executive director of the Alliance of Artists Communities, offered encouragement for beginning writers in her workshop, "Free Writing Prompts to Get Started."

In addition to the workshop, "Poems that Matter," offered by Goetsch, Portland poet David Biespiel spoke to poets with his presentation of "Poetry and Imagination, The Art of Revision." Biespiel, who writes the "First Sunday on Poetry" column for The Oregonian, also teaches at Oregon State University and has earned a number of awards for his writing.

Native American consultant and internationally acclaimed poet, playwright, performer, storyteller and lecturer, Ed Edmo, needed no name for the workshops he presented with new insight for writers who want to stretch and grow.

Southwestern Oregon Community College Dean for Curry County Peggy Goergan, Administrative Coordinator Janet Pretti, and their assistants are already working on next year's writers' conference, and have some of next year's presenters lined up.

In April and May the real planning will begin. It's a momentous undertaking, including the care and feeding of a dozen or more presenters, board and room for more than 100 visitors, logistics for locations for a minimum of two dozen workshops, plus special meetings with authors and closing activities, not to mention publications and advertising, the organizers said.

"Presenters love coming here," Goergan said. "They feel that the people who attend really want to write." The conference Web site, http://www.socc.edu/scwriters/ will continue to bring up news about this year's conference until after the planning sessions solidify the program for 2005, when next year's conference will be published on the Internet.

Goergan and Pretti, the planners of that first conference in 1993, are pleased that its reputation has grown, with this year's attendees coming from Arizona, California, Washington and Montana.

The conferences are self-supporting, without paying staff who somehow squeeze conference duties into their regular working hours. Ruefully, Goergan said, "I expect prices will be slightly higher next year due to increased expense."

Speaking to attendees between workshops and at breaks and closing time, it didn't sound as though a rise in price would deter many, who apparently agree with the woman from Seattle, "This is the best bargain in writers' conferences."

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