Dispatches from the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference
This week, I’ve been at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference at Centrum — an absolutely fantastic place to be reading, writing, and simply to be among writers. With morning and afternoon classes, afternoon craft lectures, evening readings, and views of the water, I can’t think of a more inspiring place to be.
On Monday, I spent the morning writing (working on a stubbornly unfinished short story), and then went to Sam Ligon‘s afternoon class on short-short stories — a form that I admire and love to read but haven’t had success with myself (I do well at 1,000 words and above — but writing a shorter story than that still mystifies me). Sam’s class went a long way in demystifying the form, and his examples (from Willow Springs authors to Amy Hempel to his own story “Glazed,” which appears in his collection Drift and Swerve) reinforced the major takeaway: that short-shorts must do away with most of the general rules of fiction (such as plot and character) and focus heavily on voice and mood, with a hard turn at the end.
Tuesday gave me more writing time, and in the afternoon I taught “Setting the Scene,” in which I gave everyone writers’ cramp as we discussed the various ways in which to insert the where into one’s work.
Evening readings have included works by Pam Houston, Carl Phillips, Sam Ligon, and Paisley Rekdal — and I am especially looking forward to Friday’s reading with Wendy Call as she reads from her hot-off-the-presses book No Word for Welcome.
And we’re only halfway through this amazing week. Visit the Centrum web site for more info on how to get your own self here for next year’s conference.
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