Wednesday, February 23, 2011

South Coast Writer's Conference Gold Beach, OR

 This year marked the 16th annual South Coast Writers Conference on Presidents' Day weekend in Gold Beach, Oregon.  A couple of years ago I attended the free keynote speaker and Author readings event on a Friday evening, because my science fiction loving son wanted to see one of his heroes, Timothy Zahn.  The event was great and we still treasure our autographed Star Wars novels.

Now that I have published, Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, I wanted to participate in the full conference so I managed to shell out the money, and rent a cabin, and promise myself I would eat out of the grocery store and not buy a carload of books.  (4 is not a carload, right?)

Since my husband, not only did not have the day off, but had to work from 7 AM to 10:30 PM with a before school Stag band and an evening basketball game with his choir singing the "Banner" and his Pep band playing the game, I went alone.

The drive up the coast offered both a rare view of snow on the hills and a stunning rainbow!

Oddly, this was on the "Rainbow Rock Overlook"

Must be sunken gold under here

snow on the hills, beachside with fireplaces.

Melissa Hart, Author of Gringo

Of course, I was trying to learn how to add drama and suspense to my writing.  My 17 year old son showed that he had already mastered that, when he interrupted one of my classes with a six word text, "sittin' in the ER LOVE YOU"

He is still suffering a nastily burned hand from trying to deal with an exhaust pipe that came loose and was dragging the asphalt.

Workshop and my water bottle :)
The weather was cold and rainy, but that was good, as most of our time was spent in High School Classrooms or at the Curry County Fairgrounds.  BTW, the fish fry fund raiser held to earn money for the Fire Department was a delightfully timed extra and gave me a wonderful chance to sit and visit with the locals.

workshop by Naseem Rakha author of  The Crying Tree

Gold Beach Books Selling local authors works

I am extremely fond of this local bookstore.  Not only do they carry my novel, they have an astonishingly large collection of local art in their gallery, a yummy bakery and coffeeshop, and the entire upstairs is an amazingly, clean and organized used book section.  The whole building is large, open, airy and sunlit.  They served a delicious array of warm shortbreads, caramel rolls or clam chowder while hosting an Author's critique meeting.

Sun sets over the Jetty

Between the last workshop and an evening of author critiques and music, the sun came out and I scrambled over the jetty to enjoy the beach at sunset.  Some luckier people found a few of the glass floats that were scattered around the beach at this time each year.  (February, March, and April)

I walked quietly so as not to disturb this lady meditating on the sunset

Then found out "she" was driftwood

What was the best part of the Writers Conference?  The fact that there were so many people there, and they were extremely diverse.  You would look at a young person, or a tired old person and make a snap judgment and then find yourself overwhelmed at the strange and unexpectedly moving stories that they had to tell.  I met a woman who survived a nasty divorce by becoming an Alaskan Fishing Boat owner.  I met a man who loved all that same authors I did and a young woman who had found her need for the family farm by traveling to Peru.  I met a high school boy who looked shy but had the bravery to read his novel to a crowd of strangers.  I met a woman who teaches writing memoir's that people are moved by, to murderers and a man who teaches writing down your like stories to people in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

There was no way to predict what you would find out about someone next, but in these strangers, whom I would smile at, but never talk too in most settings, I kept finding co-incidences which amazed and delighted my mind.

I found a woman knitting in class because it helps her to be a better listener.  I do the same with doodles but used to knit or tat, and she once wove and I ran a college weaving lab. She raises alpaca and spins her own yarn.  I don't but COOL!

The most extreme link I discovered was one woman, who every time I said something about my life, echoed it about hers, to the point where it felt eerie.  I have a brother, with down's syndrome, born in 1975, a time when most down's kids were institutionalized but my parents insisted on raising him as normally as possible.  So does she.  I became a special Ed. teacher for awhile and have now published a novel.  Her too.  I adopted a child. I love hiking.  Ditto.  But on the surface we would not look to have much in common if you were studying us in a grocery line.

Would I recommend this experience, or go again?  Of Course.  But next time, I would plan on buying more books.  The ones I brought home with me are the kind of books that call me back to them once I have put them down.