One of the defining aspects of fiction as a craft is the mentoring and support that is often necessary to birth a new writer. While there are lots of books on how to write (many of them written by people who haven’t published anything!) there is a respected tradition in writing of a published author taking a newcomer underwing. Sometimes it’s in a workshop environment, and sometimes one-on-one, but the relationship is always the same: the veteran spends time with a beginner, offering advice, war stories and encouragement.
This mentoring process is needed in writing because writers understand that every story is unique and presents subtle challenges unlikely to be answered by stock answers in books. Furthermore the perceived barriers to publishing feel daunting; the process seems mysterious, if not scary. A veteran writer willing to dispel myths and provide advice is sometimes just the antidote to the terrors of breaking in. Sometimes the relationship blooms into a lasting friendship. Sometimes it’s a timely observation that is forgotten by the teacher but long remembered by the student. I’ve been at the receiving end of both kinds of help, and frankly don’t know how far I would have gotten as an author without it.
When I first set out on the writing path I found support at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, now the Pacific Northwest Writing Association in Seattle. There I met great teachers like Robert Ray and Don McQuinn, and I owe much to both of them, as well as the nurturing environment of that marvelous weekend conference.
When I first moved to Wenatchee, Washington, I found that there wasn’t any writers’ conference outside of a 3-hour drive. Not that the area didn’t have many good writers–a few widely published–but we were disconnected, operating to some extent solo and isolated. Fortunately there was a group of fellow writers who wanted to remedy that.
Thus was born the Write on the River conference that debuted inMay 2006. Here in Wenatchee, we brought together 12 regionally and nationally-known writers and 120 attendees to gather in workshops, hallway chats, lunch tables and over a glass of wine at end of day–all to share the writing life and the writing craft. We had a ball the first year, and quickly sold out. You can take a look at: Write on the River Conference.
We’re back on May 12, 2007 for another conference with a line-up of teachers who have the same idea I do: to nurture the next crop of writers.
It feels like giving back. I remember how much it meant to me. Maybe everything.