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Save the Date Chuckanut Writers Conference June 26-27, 2020 

*Please note we have not yet announced the faculty or schedule for the 2020 Chuckanut Writers Conference. The schedule for the 2019 CWC should give you a general idea of the kind of sessions we offer. Please check back in December 2019 and sign up to receive our e-newsletter for announcements about next year's event.*




Pre-conference Events: Thursday, June 20, 2019

Conference Events: Friday and Saturday, June 21-22, 2019


2019 Program Overview | Whatcom Community College

Pre-conference events start on Thursday, June 20, at 1:00 p.m. with optional master classes featuring faculty members Laurie Frankel, Claire Sicherman, and Anastacia-Renee. These three- and four-hour master classes are limited in size and often sell out well in advance of the conference, therefore we recommend registering early for these additional options. 

The conference registration fee includes admission to a special pre-conference Chuckanut Radio Hour with Terry Brooks that will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20.

Conference check-in opens Friday, June 21, at 9:00 a.m. sharp. Plan to arrive by 9:30 a.m. (or earlier) to park, check in, receive conference materials, and proceed to Heiner Theater for the conference welcome and opening address, which begins promptly at 10:00 a.m. The conference continues with multiple breakout craft sessions and extends into an early evening reception with readings and book signings by conference faculty.

The program continues Saturday, June 22, with a full day of breakout sessions, author panels, closing keynote address 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.

As co-presenter of the Chuckanut Writers Conference, Village Books is the exclusive on-site bookseller throughout the conference and will have titles by the faculty authors available for purchase. Founded in 1980, Village Books and Paper Dreams is a community-based, independent bookstore and gift shop with two locations: the flagship store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham and its second location in the iconic Waples Mercantile Building on Front Street in Lynden. Co-owners Kelly Evert, Paul Hanson, Sarah Hutton and their staff continue the mission to “build community, one book at a time” established by founders Chuck and Dee Robinson. 

Agent pitch sessions and marketing consultations will be scheduled concurrently with other sessions throughout the conference. Pre-registration for pitch sessions and consultations is required. The deadline to pre-register for pitch sessions and consultations is Friday, June 7, but because spaces are limited and sell out quickly, we recommend registering early. There will be no sign-ups during the conference.


Thursday | June 20, 2019

Pre-Conference Master Classes

9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Work + Magic: Strategies for Gettin’ It Done | Laurie Frankel | Foundation 201C

*This master class is now full.*

The barriers to turning ideas, outlines, opening chapters, and good intentions into finished manuscripts are many, but they are also surmountable. Via prompts, journaling, troubleshooting, and strategizing, we’ll combine magic and hard work to explore creative and practical approaches to gettin’ it done.

1:00 – 5:00 PM
Exploring the Authentic Voice | Claire Sicherman with special guest Ahava Shira | Foundation 105

What does it mean to be authentic in our writing? How does fear deter us from telling the truth? Why do we censor ourselves? In this class, we will explore embodied writing, go to places that scare us, and examine what we are not letting ourselves say. Using prompts that encourage a connection with the body, gestures, movement and mindful awareness, we will listen for the stories we are holding within. Sharing of our work is invited and always a choice. Special guest Ahava Shira co-authored the book Writing Alone Together and has been writing and teaching for 25 years. Claire and Ahava regularly co-teach writing classes. Please note: Participants should bring a journal and pen to class, as well as wear comfortable clothing.

1:00 – 4:00 PM
Time Traveling and Time Keeping: Conversations with Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler | Anastacia-Renee | Foundation 201B

In this course for intermediate and advanced writers, we will be in conversation with Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler. We will write and examine multi-genre writing and poetic craft elements to build multigenre work that bends, restructures and reimagines “form.” We will be creatively inspired by the notion that “paranormal” is normal and traditional fiction can inhabit a poem. The goal is for you to leave with at least one draft and confidently share what you’ve written or prepare to submit it. Please note: this class is intended for intermediate and advanced writers who are interested in hybridity and who are familiar with the work of Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde.

6:30 – 9:00 PM | Chuckanut Radio Hour with Terry Brooks Heiner Theater


Friday | June 21, 2019

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 | Location TBD

Join Paul Hanson, conference organizer and Village Books co-owner, 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

Sonora Jha | "The Writer in Uncertain Times" | 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: Alice B. Acheson, Hannah Elnan, and Natalie Grazian
Moderator: Chuck Robinson

Alice B. Acheson, Hannah Elnan, and Natalie Grazian discuss the business of pitching, editing, publishing, and marketing books in a panel conversation and question-and-answer session moderated by Village Books founder Chuck Robinson.

Trapped Poems | Claudia Castro Luna | TBD

Photographs are a great point of departure to study elements of craft in a poem. We'll look at examples of successful photograph-inspired poems, look at photographs and write our own poems.

The Obliteration of Place: Writing Fiction in the Age of Climate Change | Omar El Akkad | TBD

How do you write fiction knowing that the places in which that fiction is set are themselves becoming fictional? How do you write about a world in climatic flux, a world becoming in many ways ruined at a rate faster than anything in recorded human history? In this workshop we explore the ways in which writers have tried to tackle this challenge.

Managing Creative Anxiety and Procrastination | Lyanda Lynn Haupt | TBD

Creative anxiety and procrastination—these things are often confused with blocked writing (or contribute to it). Becoming an expert in managing writer’s anxiety is essential. This session will involve discernment (Are you blocked? anxious? depressed? Or do you just not feel like working? Writers confuse these things all the time and help in overcoming them should be specific.). And it will include exercises and ideas for working through (and sometimes alongside) these psychological tricksters.

The Things We Carry: Creating Characters with Depth| Garth Stein | TBD

This session will explore the use of backstory to shed light on the motivations and intentions of our characters. Remember: something happens only because something has happened—cause and effect. Your story has two elements: the “now" of what's happening in the moment and the "then" of how we got here. The momentum created by the immediacy of the now is important, but so is informing the now with the consequences of our characters' past actions. How far back do we trace the sequence of cause and effect? The answer to that question is the key to compelling storytelling, and it is also the key to creating characters with the ballast to carry the weight of our narrative.


12:15 – 1:30 PM | Lunch

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


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

Jane Wong | Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads: Using Imagery in Writing | Heiner Theater

In this plenary session, we will explore the complexities of imagery across genres. How can we create an image to encapsulate an idea, emotion, or state of mind? We will explore the power of imagery—especially simile and metaphor—and sift through the visual material of the world to find evocative images for what we want to say.


2:30 – 4:00 PM | Breakout Session 2

Make It Strange | Quenton Baker | TBD

In this session, we'll explore the value of the associative leap, the purposefully absurd, the logically surreal, those movements and moments of estrangement that attend to the emotional realities within a poem when the quotidian will not suffice. Poems from Tada Chinako, Aime Cesaire, Harryette Mullen, Fred Moten, and Nathaniel Mackey will guide us in discussing the value of what's strange.

What Chord Was That? The Music of Syntax | Kate Carroll de Gutes | TBD

Syntax is not unlike the circle of fifths in music—once you, as a writer, can hear where your sentences or lines are going, it becomes easier to get there. And then you can manipulate syntax both for artistic effect and to shake up your reader. We most often think of poets when we think of syntax, but prose writers can use syntax, as well, to indicate different emotional states, different characters, different moods. Do you want Beyonce or Gaga, Dixie Chicks or Reba, Coltrane or Chet Baker? By varying sentence length, structure, and pattern, you can give your reader something different every time.

Process Journaling: Writing About Your Writing | Laurie Frankel | TBD

Process journaling is not keeping a diary or writing about your feelings. Instead it's a way to keep yourself productive, creative, motivated, and on track over the many research, drafting, and revision phases of long writing projects and to ensure the finished product lives up to its promise.

What Is Your Novel Really About? | Kim Fu | TBD

This workshop is for writers who are actively working on a novel manuscript, especially those who have completed a first draft. Through lecture, group activities, and guided written reflections, participants will come to see their project and intentions more clearly, and leave with specific strategies for editing and rewriting going forward.

Writing Home | Margot Kahn | TBD

Home can be where we learn to first understand our place in the world, and a place we return to, again and again, for answers about how to be. Looking at several essays in the collection This Is the Place, we will discuss how choices in form, voice, and content work in a variety of “home” narratives, from the sprawling multi-generational family story to the domestic vignette. We’ll conclude with a series of prompts to inspire new work. 


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 from 4-5 p.m. Faculty readings will begin at 5 p.m.


Saturday | June 22, 2019

8:45 – 9:30 AM | Early Morning Sessions

Writing a Page-Turner| Roby Blecker | Location TBD

This session will offer you a quick guide to making your readers say, "I couldn't put it down!"

The Tao of Writing Daily | Susan Colleen Browne | Location TBD

In this early morning session, we’ll explore and share simple, go-with-the-flow ways to start and maintain a regular writing practice.

Coffee Talk | Nancy Canyon | Location TBD

Bring your coffee, journal, and questions: what can you expect of creative process, work patterns, editing opportunities, readings, publishing, and more. Enjoy this early morning time together candidly discussing the writing life.

Writing from Your Body | Courtney Putnam | Location TBD

Using prompts from Courtney Putnam's oracle deck Body Cards: Insight for the Body, Wisdom for the Soul, we will write from our bodies—perhaps our spleens, our scalenes, or our stirrup bones—and immerse ourselves in embodied writing practice.

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

Emcee Bob Winters


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

The Body As Muse
Featuring: Claudia Castro Luna, Ely Shipley, Claire Sicherman, and Anastacia-Renee
Moderator: TBD | Location: TBD

Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna writes, "One way to think of our bodies is as muse." Poets Ely Shipley and Anastacia-Renee and memoirist Claire Sicherman join Castro Luna to discuss embodied writing. This session will explore how the body offers a landscape of personal experience, how the breath interacts with the poetic line, and how movement can lead to breakthroughs.

Novel Development: From Appalling to Polished
Featuring: Terry Brooks, Tara Conklin, Omar El Akkad, Laurie Frankel, and Nancy Pearl
Moderator: TBD| Location: TBD

Novelists Terry Brooks, Tara Conklin, Omar El Akkad, Laurie Frankel, and Nancy Pearl share the lessons they’ve learned plotting, planning, researching, and developing novels over the long haul. They’ll offer strategies for the daunting work of turning messy, lousy, embarrassing, and frightening first drafts into polished novel-length projects.

Characters First
Featuring: Kim Fu, Sonora Jha, Margot Kahn, and Garth Stein
Moderator: Paul Hanson | Location: TBD

To what extent do characters—fictional, real-life, questionable, animal, and otherwise—drive all other elements of a story? Join novelists Kim Fu, Sonora Jha, and Garth Stein and biographer Margot Kahn for a deep-dive into writing memorable characters.

Demystifying Voice
Featuring: Quenton Baker, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and Jane Wong
Moderator: TBD | Location: TBD

What does it mean to find your voice? From sound and syntax to tone and point of view, writers of prose and poetry—Quenton Baker, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and Jane Wong—discuss the challenge of crafting voices that carry.


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

Kate Carroll de Gutes | In Praise of Slow Writing | Heiner Theater


12:15 - 1:30 PM | Lunch

Choose from a variety of excellent lunch options, including local plant-based food truck Sage Against the Machine, 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

Write Well, Market Better: Six Tips | Alice B. Acheson | TBD

Writers ask how they can market their books effectively and economically. No matter the genre, these tips help if you are self-marketing or working with a publicist. Learn how, when, and why to share what others need to know about you and your book.

YA All Grown Up | Terry Brooks | TBD

For years, YA literature was anathema to most teen readers. It was for the most part a mark of immaturity to be seen reading it. What happened to change all this and make YA now one of our premier centers of storytelling and bestsellers? How hard is it to write YA as compared to adult fiction?

Breaking the Silence: Writing Family Stories | Claire Sicherman | TBD

So much of writing our families' stories can be found in what we don’t know, in what is not said and not spoken. But what if we start uncovering what is true? In this session, we will use prompts, write together, and then read aloud, if desired. The prompts are designed to touch into those silences and facilitate connection with the body in order to stir stuff up and bring it out.

How to Be an Effective Ally on the Page (And Tips for the Real World, Too) | Anastacia-Renee | TBD

Do you get overwhelmed or feel helpless at the mere thought of raging against the racism machine? Do you ever feel like you want to help individuals who are systemically and subconsciously racially targeted or consistently being treated unfairly, but you aren’t sure how? This is the class for you! Bring your guilt, your overwhelm, and your open mind as we successfully navigate the path to a better understanding of ally-ship through conversation and writing.

The Elegy | Jane Wong | TBD

How can we honor the people and places we’ve lost? This session engages the elegy, a lament for the dead. Through generative writing exercises, reading, and discussion, we will sing of grief, honor, and hope in verse. We will read powerful elegies from Jack Gilbert, Kimiko Hahn, Gregory Orr, and Claudia Castro Luna.


2:45 – 3:45 PM | Breakout Session 5

Remove the Author: A Primer on Free Indirect Style | Tara Conklin | TBD

In How Fiction Works, critic James Wood states that free indirect style allows the writer to “inhabit omniscience and partiality at once.” We’ll look at examples of free indirect style, what it entails, and how free indirect style can loosen up your writing, help you tap directly into your characters, and create fiction that’s persuasive and true. Includes in-class writing exercises and critiques.

Seven Steps to a Strong Political Essay | Sonora Jha | TBD

You have something to say and you are the best person to say it. Take seven concrete steps toward finding your voice, blending the political with the personal, and crafting an essay that commands attention.

Rethinking Genre: 4 Doorways to Fiction | Nancy Pearl | TBD

In this class, Nancy will offer a new, more expansive way of thinking about how we categorize fiction. Why do readers like books they like? Why do you like the books you like? How does that knowledge help us in writing fiction?

Moving Through Time in Poems | Ely Shipley | TBD

This session explores how to move through time and place in a poem, whether through sign posts like adverbs, images, or memory triggers. We’ll experiment with various techniques, such as using flash back, narrative braiding, and parallel structure. We’ll read poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Boruch, Terrence Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Li-Young Lee, and Solmaz Sharif, among others.


4:00 – 4:30 PM | Closing Address

Omar El Akkad | “Lies of Our Own Making: The Obligations of Literature in a Politically Fractured Age” | 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 in Fairhaven

Poetry Open Mic: TBD

Nonfiction Open Mic:  TBD

Mixed Genre Open Mic:  TBD

Fiction Open Mic:  TBD