The write stuff

2019 Idaho Writer’s League conference comes to Sandpoint

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

There’s a myth about writers, silently toiling in solitude to turn out a perfect page of prose. There’s truth to it — writing can be a lonely business — but no piece of good work ever makes its way from inception to publication without passing under at least one other set of eyes.

Getting writers together to hone their craft is a crucial component in their success, and that’s the purpose of the annual Idaho Writer’s League conference, this year taking place in Sandpoint from Thursday, Sept. 19-Saturday, Sept. 21.

Regardless of their experience, wordsmiths from across the state will converge on the Best Western Edgewater Inn and Resort for workshops and sessions engineered to help sharpen their prose and their business savvy. 

“The whole point is to crank up their writing skills for one thing, and all of them come with a desire to write,” said IWL Sandpoint Chapter President Bonnie McDade. “Many of them are published authors, some of them want to become published authors. The toolbox is hopefully showing them how to do the things they want better, and part of it is just rubbing shoulders with people who are getting it done. Because that’s one of the biggest bugaboos: Just getting it done.”

Keynote speakers include Port Townsend, Wash.-based writing teacher and author of urban fantasy and young adult adventure Mary Buckham, along with regional award-winning author and naturalist Jack Nisbet. 

Buckham will lead two two-hour workshops focused on pacing and developing active settings. She is also donating her time and professional editing skills to provide authors with 20-minute feedback and critique sessions on their 20-page — or less — manuscripts. Nisbet, who speaks at the Friday luncheon, will delve into the nuts and bolts of memoir writing and personal essays in another two-hour workshop. 

More than a dozen published authors will also offer workshops on topics including character development, the use of humor, keeping energy in your plot, how to conduct research, editing tips and more. In addition, attendees can take advantage of a 24-hour writing room, where authors are invited to sit, talk and work. 

“The spirit is going to grab you at some point during this conference,” McDade said, adding that the other big takeaway of the conference is simply the act of sharing work and receiving input from others.

“Critique is a gift,” she said. “Some people don’t look at it that way, they see it as criticism and it’s not that. You don’t internalize it; you don’t turn it around. I think it’s really valuable if you know how to listen.”

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