BY SIRI BARDARSON
October 29, 2014
Whidbey Life Magazine was a sponsor of this weekend’s 2014 Whidbey Island Writers Conference and, as a blogger for WLM, I was allowed to go as a member of the “press.” What a blast! I felt I knew the secret handshake or the special wink as I breezed into lovely Chat House settings and convenient classrooms in the uber-charming waterfront town of Coupeville on beautiful Whidbey Island.
Kudos to Kim Cottrell, Executive Director, and Terry Persun, Conference Director and their hard working staff and volunteers who handled the many details of this successful event!
At morning registration at the Rec Hall, the energy was palpable, similar to when I stand next to the huge lavender bush in my backyard on a sunny, summer day and hear the honeybees rattle the air with their industry. There was real bustling and conversation while the attendees registered but what I also felt was the interior whirring of wordsmiths and word artists. The sound of a bazillion ideas, hopes and dreams and the words that help manifest them.
I found a seat at a table where other attendees were poring over their conference program and finishing up their Continental breakfasts. I considered my responsibility as a member of the “press” and I asked each person the reason they were here. The answers were as varied as the ages, genders and looks of my six tablemates: learn to pitch, continue as a lifetime writer, this is my birthday present to myself, get motivated to finish my project. The youngest writer was staying at her family’s beach cabin; this was her first conference and she was working on a middle-grade fantasy novel set on Whidbey Island.
And then it was time to go find the answers to our questions or the information to help us reach our goals and we hurried off to our Chat House sessions.
My Chat House session was nearby and I was grateful for the walk. I was already too excited and I was only two hours into a full weekend! As everyone clambered into car pools, I saw the swarm of ideas released into the morning sky like a swarm of honeybees or those cool murmurations of starlings that have been filmed and posted to YouTube.
But all these ideas and words that my fellow writers have aren’t coordinated like the drones of honey making. No—each writer was tasked with finding out how to make the perfect container for his or her words and to create a writing project. That is the beauty of the Writers Conference: come and figure out what you need to know because it takes more than a butterfly net or a video camera to capture the huge cloud of words that surround a good idea.
This year’s conference had a wonderful menu of presenters and classes. I was interested in working on conflict in my current project and I heard professional advice on this tricky craft skill presented two very different ways. On one hand, the published writer spoke in a linear way about plot points and strategies, while in a similar class the next day, a different published writer dished out the same excellent advice with the tone of your best friend who loves ya! People don’t learn the same way and writing is certainly not a one-size-fits-all exercise, and it was great to hear two different approaches to an identical craft issue.
The conference attendees have travelled home now and some of us are already at the computer or chewing on a pencil stub. I can hear across the universe—the soft whirring and grating sounds that we writers make as we sort and sift and work our way through one more word choice or craft experiment. Writers, like all artists, make decisions constantly, tiny and big. It is a lot of work.
My boy and I used to play a game. One or the other of us would start it.
“Have I told you today how much I love you?”
“No,” the other would answer.
“Well, see those fir trees over there?” The other would look into the distance and smile. “I love you more than all the pine needles on all the fir trees in all the forests of the universe.”
“Mmmm, that’s a lot,” the other would contemplate and smile more broadly.
In this silly game, the thing to be counted can be anything. After this weekend, having met so many wonderful people and communed with the huge number of ideas and words that exist in the vast collective consciousness of writers, I have an idea for the next time I play the game, for the moment when it is my turn to express a huge, incalculable, infinite number.
“I love you more than all the beautiful words and wonderful ideas of all the writers in the universe!”
Good luck, my fellow word artists and thank you, Whidbey Island Writing Conference 2014!
Siri Bardarson is a musician who writes a lot. She is ecstatically happy when she makes stuff!
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