GOLD BEACH The 6th Annual South Coast Writers Conference last weekend was a great success, according to planners and participants.

The conference, sponsored by Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) and the Gold Beach Chamber of Commerce, drew participants from California, Washington, Idaho, as well as across Oregon.

Janet Pretti, coordinator of the conference, said there were more than 150 people participating this year, with only 49 from Curry County.

Presenters included published authors, instructors and award-winners involved in writing and publishing magazine articles, novels, poetry, short stories, autobiography, sports and travel writing, fantasy, nature, native American literature, and text books.

The workshops offered hands-on opportunities to learn about getting published, where and how to submit written material, beating the barriers to writing and selling, and where to find the inspiration and ideas for marketable writing.

The conference began with two six-hour workshops and an Authors Night on Friday. Saturday included 20 workshop opportunities, a fish fry, a closing reception, book-signing and an evening Writers Circle for those that just want to keep going.

It just keeps getting bigger and better, Ann Foekl said as she presented conference scholarships Saturday morning to Gail Oberst of Independence and Andrea King-Brockman of Selma.

The competition for the scholarship was open to women 40 years and older who submitted essays or short stories between 750 and 1,000 words addressing the subject: One Person Can Make a Difference.

The Eva Douglass-Starret Memorial Scholarship, which covered the conference fee and fish fry, began three years ago to honor the memory of a woman who was an active part of our reading-and-writing community...(who) shared generously her editing skills, Foekl said.

Three entries were received the first year. This year the 15 entries were so good the judges insisted on two winners, she said.

Conversations overheard at the afternoon reception indicated a lot of networking was going on. Most participants felt time spent at the conference was well-spent and were looking forward to the 7th Annual South Coast Writers Conference in 2002.

Were already starting to look at presenters for next year, Pretti said. We think it went off pretty darned well.

Pretti said she and other planners are accepting suggestions for next years presenters, and have already received review material written by some of the proposed participants.

Well be contacting people in the next two or three months, she said. We like to have speakers, especially the keynote speaker, lined up by summer.

Those working on this years conference included Gerry Hutson, who handled mountains of paper work; Kathleen Mickelson, who provided flowers and food; Eleanor Neisen, who set up the writers circles; and Dean Peggy Goergen, Audrey Fain and Kathy Walker, from Southwestern Oregon Community College.

Student volunteers, Shanna Nunnelley, Theresa Johnson and Darlene Pieri pitched in, and four or five Gold Beach High School Band members, who were martyrs endlessly moving chairs, Pretti said.

Throughout the year Ann and Bob Foekl, Arlene Dumond, and Walt Schroeder helped us, she said. And Bob Simmons, the father who started it.

When the college district was extended into Curry County (Simmons) told us he had always wanted to participate in a writers conference, but they were always too far away and too expensive, and we should create an affordable one here, she said. I think weve done that.