Eleven Days

We’re finishing up some final preparations for the 38th annual Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, and looking forward to welcoming everyone here!

Here are the planned events for the first two days of the Conference, Sunday and Monday. Check in happens from 3:30 to 5:30, followed by dinner, followed by a welcoming at the Wheeler Theater and readings by Pam Houston and Carl Phillips.

Sunday, July 17
3:30-5:30—Check-in outside the Centrum office building


7:00—Welcoming at the Joseph F. Wheeler Theater

7:30—Readings by Pam Houston; Carl Phillips

Monday, July 18
7-8—Morning Freewrite Room D


9-11:30—Morning workshop
• Sam Ligon Room F
• Cheryl Strayed Room H
• Benjamin Alire Sáenz Room M
• Bob Shacochis Room K
• Pam Houston Room D
• Cate Marvin Room L
• Dorianne Laux Room J
• Carl Phillips Room O
• Paisley Rekdal Room N

9-10:30—Morning Exercises
• Ellie Mathews Room I


2-3:30—Workshops and lectures in special topics
• Susan Rich Room H
“The Poetry of Social Change”
Does poetry change the world? Can we, as poets, imbue our work with a message of social change without sacrificing aesthetics? Yes, we can. Natasha Tretheway, Mark Doty, Sherman Alexie, Brian Turner, Carolyn Forché, Naomi Shihab Nye and W.B. Yeats have succeeded in this endeavor as have many others. Together, we will look at poems that front load their politics and discuss strategies for how to write successful poems with a social message. Then, of course, we will dive in with poems of our own.
• Sam Ligon—Room N
“The Short-Short Story”
In his novel “In Search of Lost Time,” Proust talks about the tyranny of rhyme forcing poets into some of their greatest lines. But prose writers have less experience with formal constraints, like rhyme, to put pressure on lines, and as a means to consider form in general. In this class we’ll examine the form of the short-short story, how it often works (and doesn’t), as well as how formal constraint can change the way we approach line and story. Because there’s so little space in a short-short, evocative outlines, shadows, implication, and suggestion hover at the edges. Short-shorts tend to rely on surprise, a hard, tight turn at the end. They can feel elliptical or fragmented, and are not always concerned with depth and complexity of character as much as with emotional gravity within a moment. Lydia Davis calls the short-short “a nervous form of story.” Charles Baxter says the short-short needs “surprise, a quick turning of the wrist toward texture, something suddenly broken or quickly repaired.” Mark Strand says, “its end is erasure.”
• Susan Landgraf, Room K
“We Are What We Eat”
Whether we live to eat or eat to live, eating (and shopping for food, peeling, shucking, scraping, mixing, kneading, cleaning up) takes up years of our lives. There are travelers who swear that the food on their travels was their most memorable—and certainly most unique—experience. This workshop will metamorphose into a kitchen while we look at poems about food and prepare a new “recipe” of our own.
• Gayle Kaune Room F
“Writing and Healing”
We’ve all heard that writing can be healing, but exactly what elements are healing and how do they intersect with good writing? We’ll talk about current research,  do our own writing, and discuss possible implications for our writing, writing groups and teaching.
• Laura Read Room J
“Counterpoint and Dissonance: The Prose Poem in the Manuscript”
In this workshop, we will examine a variety of prose poems by Robert Hass, Kim Addonizio, Naomi Shihab Nye, and others, in the context of their collections.  We will discuss how this form works, especially in contrast to the poems that surround it in a longer work, either chapbook or book-length manuscript. Then we will write our own prose poems, working with subject matter about which we’ve already written poems in free verse or other forms, and discuss how this particular form affects the subject matter about which it is written and how it can create a different voice and thread in a collection.
• Wendy Call Room D
“Build Your Own Rainbow: Narrative Arc”
In this workshop we’ll talk about how to build (and rebuild) a sturdy structure for your story. How do you create a narrative arc? What might one look like? Why have one at all? With help from Eduardo Galeano and Sandra Cisneros, we’ll answer all these questions and more, then we’ll map our own color-filled arcs.
• Jeremy Voigt Room L
“Give Me My Closet and Let Me Write My Poems: Reading Emily Dickinson”
When Charles Simic turned down a second term as the U.S. Poet Laureate he said the position took too much time away from writing poems and cited Emily Dickinson as his ideal model for a writer, stating, “give me my closet and let me write my poems.” Dickinson has been a pervading influence on poetry both through her poems and the mythology surrounding her life. She serves both as model and inspiration for countless poets. In this reading and discussion group we will spend some time reading a selection of Dickinson’s poems and letters closely and addressing the such questions as: Why is her influence so wide-ranging and prominent? What can we learn from her poems for our own writing? How does form support content? How does solitude promote poetry? What can one learn from Dickinson about the writing process, or the writing life?

4-5—Craft lecture by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

• Emily Dickinson Dinner-time Poetry Reading. (If you want to be a part of
this, talk to Jeremy Voigt—who will be in Room L from 1:50 pm to 3:40 pm—or just show up at the Dining Hall and migrate to where people are reading poems aloud.)

7:30—Readings by Sam Ligon; Paisley Rekdal

10:00—The Ten O’Clock Open-Mike Readings (Building 262)