Writer’s conference comes here

This week’s column previews a literary event every Rockford writer should know about: “A River Runs Through Us,” scheduled for Sept. 18-21 in Rockford.

About this conference

The four-day conference, designed for women, men, and older teens, is centered on the metaphor “A River Runs Through Us.” Writers will stir the creative muse; practice the craft of writing; appreciate, evaluate, edit and discuss publishing matters; share fresh writing through public readings. The primary setting for this conference will be locations along the Rock River in downtown Rockford.

Thursday evening’s keynote address by Ellen Kort, Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, will be held in the auditorium of the Rockford Public Library, 215 N. Wyman St. Friday and Saturday sessions will be held at another beautiful location on the Rock River, the offices of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, 946 N. Second St.

The last day’s workshop, along with brunch and public readings, will be held on the northeast side of the city, in the Womanspace gardens and environs, 3333 Maria Linden Drive. For its support of this project, Womanspace is grateful to the Rockford Area Arts Council which, in turn, receives support from the city of Rockford, the Illinois Arts Council, and its members.

Workshops and presenters

A. Ellen Kort: “Living Life, Living Poetry”—Poetry is a way of tapping into the rich reservoir of our life experience. This is a supportive workshop for those who want to play with language, who want to discover the pleasure and power, the healing and renewing effect poetry can have on our lives. Ellen lives in Appleton, Wis., and is currently serving a 4-year governor-appointed position as Wisconsin’s first Poet Laureate. She is the author of 11 books, has been featured in many anthologies, and won several awards. (Note that Ellen is also the keynote speaker on Thursday evening.)

B. Carolyn Kent-Bailey: “Journaling, Dialog and Poetry: Rivulets Converging into the Source of a Book”—Bring pen and paper. We will write a journal entry, fabricate dialogue, and try our hands at poetry. Then we will dabble at ways to converge them, forming the wellspring of a book. Carolyn lives in Rockford with her husband Jim. Her memoir, Out With It!, was published in July 2002. She has had poetry published in numerous journals including Earth’s Daughters, Koroné, Mid-America Poetry Review, Rockford Review and (forthcoming) Kalliope and Karamu.

C. Barbara Santucci: “Exploring Deep Waters of Nature and Childhood Memories”—Drawing on nature in both her writing and art, Barbara uses it as a backdrop for the themes she presents in her children’s stories. She will present a slide show and discussion of her process, her books, her inspiration in both fields of writing and visual art. This workshop will also include a writing activity where participants will discover how the use of the five senses and memories can enhance strong imagery in their own writings. Barbara is the author of two picture books, Loon Summer and Anna’s Corn. A third book titled Abby’s Chairs is forthcoming.

D. Dorothy C. Bock: “What the Weather Was & Other Realities”—The text for this workshop (for poets, fiction writers, nonfictionists) comes from Ernest Hemingway, which is that we include in our work, whatever its form, the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and the sorrow, and what the weather was. That is, the imagination must make room for the ordinary, the actual, the “weather.” As writers, we need to check out the barometer of our feelings and our place in time to be so ordinary we are sublime—to tell what the weather was when inspiration struck. Dorothy earned her M.A. from Marquette and her M.F.A. from Notre Dame. She has published articles and poetry in numerous magazines and anthologies, and teaches writing to both adults and teens. Dorothy co-founded Womanspace Center in 1975.

E. Fran Bock: “Pebbles in the Water: Getting Started, Again”—Those small stones of possibility may have their chance in this workshop. Through timed writings and varied exercises, we will throw pebbles into the wataer and follow where the ripples lead. As time allows, we will write and share, even if some stones are neither fully shaped nor polished, the water still moving. Having earned her M.A. from Marquette University, Fran taught English literature and writing for more than 30 years. She has worked as a reporter and has conducted many workshops on writing and journalism, winning state and national awards for her work.

F. Nancy Christiansen: “Writing the Commercial Novel”—This workshop will cover ways to create suspense, build plots, select a viewpoint, develop characters and avoid common pitfalls. Nancy will also speak about her own sucesses and failures in the publishing arena. She is the author of two suspense novels: Mirror of Riches (1992) and Deadly Deep (1994); her most recent novel, Somewhere a Tiger (now with International Creative Management in New York) is mainstream fiction. Nancy has twice been accepted into the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in California. A resident of Rockford for more than 25 years, she moved to Oregon, Wis., in late 1999.

G. Christine Swanberg: “Like a River to Its Source”—Poetry is a highly reflective art that captures both the inner and outer worlds of the writer and audience. Like a river, poetry is never stagnant but always flowing. Poetry can meander and often leads us downstream and sometimes to its source, to a place we never expected. In this workshop, we will examine what makes a poem—sometimes, but not always—different from prose, memoir or journal. Christine has published several books of poetry: Tonight on This Late Road, Invisible String, Bread Upon the Waters, Slow Miracle, The Tenderness of Memory, The Red Lacquer Room. Her work appears in anthologies, and her poems have been published in 70 journals. Currently, she is a core instructor for the Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies at National-Louis University and poet in residence for Midway Village.

H. Judy Bridges: “Coaching for Public Readings: How to Present Your Writing at its Best”—If you write, you have to read your work to others. The goal is always the same—you want to present your writing at its best. How do you read with confidence and grace when your knees are knocking, and you don’t like the sound of your voice? You do the same thing you did with your writing—you learn basic skills and practice to develop the craft. This session is designed to give you skills you can use to become a confident, graceful reader. Through demonstration and practice, you will learn how to prepare for a public reading, handle manuscripts, use your voice, deal with a mike and manage timing. You are welcome to bring a brief passage from one of your manuscripts to this session to use for practice. Judy is founder of Redbird Studio writing center in Milwaukee, Wis.

“A River Runs Through Us”

conference schedule

Sept. 18 (Thursday) 7-9 p.m.

Keynote Address: “The Journey of Words” by Ellen Kort, Poet Laureate of Wisconsin

A poem, a story, a memory told or heard at just the right time can help us discover who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. The real journey is owning what we know and being willing to give it away in language.

Location: Rockford Public Library, 215 N. Wyman St. Cost for Lecture only: $10

Sept. 19 (Friday)

8:30 a.m.—Continental Breakfast

9 a.m.—Introduction to the Conference—Dorothy Bock, Arts Director, Womanspace

9:30-Noon—Two workshop choices: A or B

Noon-1:30 p.m.—Box Lunch and River Walk

1:30-4 p.m.—Two workshop choices: C or D

4:15-4:30 p.m.—Wrapup; supper on your own at a location of your choice

Sept. 20 (Saturday)

8:30 a.m.—Continental Breakfast

9 a.m.—Overview of Today’s Program–Dorothy Bock

9:30-Noon—Two workshop choices: E or F

Noon-1:30 p.m.—Box Lunch and River Walk

1:30-4 p.m.—Two workshop choices: G or H

4:15-4:30 p.m.—Instructions for evening’s “Lantern” project

5-6 p.m.—Buffet Supper at Womanspace

7-8 p.m.—Lantern Ceremony on the Rock River

Sept. 21


11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.—“Upstream”—Christine Swanberg

This practical workshop will provide advice on: marketing your own work; demystifying reading your work to an audience effectively; submitting short pieces to small presses found in Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market; finding new markets using IWWG newsletter and Poets and Writers; dealing with editors and publishers.

12:15-1:15 p.m.—Lunch

1:30-3:30 p.m.—Readings by Conference participants

Price & payment information

Full Conference: Price for the full conference including the Thursday evening keynote address by Ellen Kort through Sept. 8: $150; after Sept. 8: $175. Price includes: lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as supper on Saturday; a materials packet; all handouts from speakers; materials for the “lantern ceremony” on Saturday. Please note: There is no reduction in the fee for incomplete attendance at the conference. The options are limited to: full conference and keynote address only.

Keynote Address Only: Price for the Thursday evening keynote address by Ellen Kort: $10

Payment by mail is accepted only by check. If you wish to pay by VISA, you may do so using the secure PayPal system on the Womanspace Web site: www.womanspace-rockford.org.

Refunds: $25 is non-refundable. Reservations cancelled through Sept. 10 will be refunded less the $25. No refunds after Sept. 11.

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