In 1973, novelist and poet Bill Ransom had an idea.
What could happen if a entire place—in this case, Fort Worden State Park, which the Washington state legislature had just signed into being—were to become a haven and a community for writers?
At the time, nation-wide, there were very few conferences and programs focused on nurturing creative writers. What could happen, Ransom wondered, if some of the best writers currently working in the country all came to hang out with beginning and emerging writing students?
Under the auspices of Centrum, Ransom and the Centrum staff began the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Port Townsend Writers’ Conference comes off a 2008 season that featured more participants, faculty members, and audience members than ever before; and in 2009, the Centrum community is celebrating 37 years of literary programming with a full year of events.
To launch the 2009 season, Bill Ransom will give a free poetry reading the evening of Saturday, January 17, in Room D of the Schoolhouse Building in Fort Worden State Park. The reading will begin at 7:30 pm.
Ransom will read from his newest collection of poetry, “The Woman and the War Baby,” a book built around themes, icons, and characters from the Pacific Northwest and Central America, where he volunteered for many years with humanitarian groups.
Bill Ransom was born in Puyallup, Washington, in 1945, and he began full-time employment at the age of eleven as an agricultural worker. He attended Washington State University on track and boxing scholarships, and the University of Puget Sound on a track scholarship. He received his BA in Sociology and English Education from the University of Washington in 1970.
From 1965 to 1970 Ransom worked as an expeditor on a Quick Engine Change team, building and repairing military and commercial jet engines. He studied American Minority Literature and Old and Middle English on an NDEA Title IV fellowship at the University of Nevada, Reno, then began a pilot project with the Poetry in the Schools program in Washington state. He received his MA in English from Utah State University.
Ransom has published six novels, seven poetry collections, and numerous short stories and articles.
His poetry has been nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Ransom is married with an adult daughter, stepdaughter and three grandchildren. He writes and splits his home between western Washington and southern Utah, where his wife teaches. He is currently Academic Dean of Curriculum at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.