Julie McDonald: Early Registration Deadline Approaches for Southwest Washington Writers Conference


Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest.

Washington State Chief Historian John Hughes.

James L. Rubart, a member of the Christy Award Hall of Fame.

Melanie Dobson, winner of five Carol Awards for top-notch Christian fiction.

These highly recognized writers and a dozen others will gather at Centralia College Sept. 10 and 11 to teach at the seventh (almost) annual Southwest Washington Writers Conference.

After a hiatus last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference that raises money for the Centralia College Foundation is back.

In 2014, members of a small critique group that met at Centralia Unity Church decided in May to hold a conference in September. That’s not a blueprint for success, but we scraped together enough registrations to cover expenses and raise money for the Literacy Council. Other beneficiaries of past conferences are the Lewis County Historical Museum, the Veterans Memorial Museum and Fox Theatre.

The last several years, the Lewis County Writers Guild organized the conference and proceeds have benefitted the Centralia College Foundation.

It’s a terrific partnership, teaching people the writing and marketing skills to successfully share their fiction and nonfiction stories with the world while raising money for students pursuing a career in writing.

This year, an ad-hoc committee of volunteers pulled together an exciting lineup of presenters to teach. Until July 31, people can pay $75 for the master class, $75 for the conference or $120 for both. Student rates are lower. Lunch is included. Costs increase Aug. 1. To register, visit www.southwestwashingtonwriters.com.

On Friday, Sept. 10, during the five-hour master class, Rubart, a longtime Seattle marketer, will show writers how to discover their brand and use it to make themselves unforgettable to agents, editors and readers.

At lunchtime, I’ll join fellow Chronicle columnist Brian Mittge and two other history writers — Sandra Crowell, who wrote “The Land Called Lewis,” and Bill Lindstrom, a former Aberdeen Daily World journalist and author of two nonfiction books — to share research and editing tips for accurate and authentic writing.

Friday afternoon, Priest, a member of the Lummi Nation near Bellingham, will teach a workshop, “What Muse? Finding Poetry at the End of Our Pens.” Then, at 7 p.m., she’ll provide a free poetry reading at the Toledo Community Library.

The next day, Sept. 11, the conference begins with a keynote address by Dobson, award-winning author of more than 20 historical, contemporary and time-slip novels, who will talk about the “Words Beneath Our Wings.” She’ll also teach two workshops — “A Road Map to Writing Fiction” and “Inside Out: Breathing Life into Fictional Characters.”

Those are two of the 18 conference workshops.

Hughes, chief historian for the Secretary of State’s Office and retired editor and publisher of The Daily World, will present an oral history workshop called “Shut Up and Listen!” Recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement Award, Hughes has penned 12 books on Northwest history, including biographies of Gov. Booth Gardner, Sen. Slade Gorton, and Rep. Julia Butler Hansen.

Jeff Burlingame, award-winning author of more than three dozen nonfiction books, is scheduled to teach a workshop called “Who Needs Fiction when You’ve Got the Truth?” His biographies include books on Kurt Cobain, Jesse Owens, Eminem, Malcolm X and the late state Sen. Sid Snyder. 

Two authors from Eugene, Oregon, will present workshops.

W.H. “Bill” Cameron, author of six books and many short stories whose “Property of the State” young adult mystery was named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016, will teach workshops on “Getting to Know Them: Tips and Techniques for Creating Characters Who Jump Off the Page” and “World Building for the Real World.”

Christina Suzann Nelson, award-winning author of five novels and mother of six who is involved in foster care, will teach “The Art and Adventure of Fiction Writing” and “Making Marketing Work on Your Schedule.”

Longtime Lower Columbia College instructor Mary Stone will teach two workshops: “Creating Captivating Conflict” and “Speech Tags and Narrative Action in Dialogue.” Stone, a Nebraska native, is author of “Run in the Path of Peace — the Secret of Being Content No Matter What” as well as anthologies and short stories.

Award-winning author and poet Jennifer Anne Messing, of Portland, past president of Oregon Christian Writers, will teach a step-by-step workshop called “Seven Steps to Design and Publish Your Print/E-book on Amazon.” She is the author of four books and more than 250 articles, short stories, and poems.

Once your book is published, you need to promote it. To that end, Vancouver’s Traci Tyne Hilton will offer “Advertising Hacks for Indies.” Hilton, whose award-winning cozy mystery “Plain Jane” series has been on Amazon’s top 100 best-sellers list, will show how to grow your audience, improve sales, and launch books through targeted advertising.

We’ll also have two romance writers teaching workshops. Theresa Scott, author of 18 romance, historical and contemporary novels, will share “Five Top Areas to Cultivate in Your (Fiction) Writing Career” while Centralia’s Debby Lee, who has novellas in six traditionally and four independently published collections, will teach “The Long and the Short of It,” a plotting workshop.

Readers enjoy humor, and Seattle area author and producer Tiffany Pitts will show writers how to employ it in all genres in “So Funny It’s Frightening.”

Lindsay Schopfer, author of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels and sci-fi stories, will teach a packed two-part workshop called “A Novel in Four Drafts.” He teaches creative writing at South Puget Sound Community College.

Although they may hate it, introverted authors must learn to speak in public. To that end, author Mary Lou Sanelli, a professional literary speaker, will present a workshop called “Literally Speaking: Developing Your Speaking Voice: Tips on How to Present Your Work to an Audience.” She is a dance instructor, columnist and author of seven published collections of poetry and three nonfiction works. All conference attendees will receive a copy of her book, “A Woman Writing: A Memoir in Essays.”


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.