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Redwoods writers' conference

 (Photo Illustration/ Bryant Anderson).
(Photo Illustration/ Bryant Anderson).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

This year's North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference celebrates the event's sixth anniversary, and has attracted 50-plus attendees from as far away as Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Portland, Ore.

They're coming to learn more about the craft that attracts them: the precise and methodical use of their vocabulary to convey information, or entertain, or invoke emotion in their readers.

It's called writing. It may sound simple, but at the professional level that some of the conference attendees long to attain, the process is anything but.

"I wouldn't change my life," said Derrick Jensen, a local writer who is one of this year's panelists. "The clich is that it's a great way to enjoy life, but a bad way to make a living."

Jensen is hailed as "the philosopher poet of the ecological movement" by some. In truth, he's not a poet, but a strong voice for the harm that's been done to the planet.

"Writing is how I keep from getting angry at the destruction of the planet," Jensen said. "We're really screwed, but living is really good; I cry a lot, but I am really happy."

Jensen has taught writing at the university level and at Pelican Bay State Prison. He uses a lot of praise to do so, because "writing is really scary and praise creates a situation where students can write."

"I have to be honest, when you're not, people can smell that in a minute," he said. "I'm a real social critic, it has to do with power; with students, I have to use the power for good."

Joining Jensen is keynote speaker Dorianne Laux. She is a poet—a writer whose craft is said to be the most exacting and demanding, and least lucrative of writing genres.

Laux agrees with the characterization.

"I think poetry takes a certain concentration, both in its creation and execution ... precision is paramount," Laux said. "There is a sense that (the poet) has somehow fit the whole word into one of his poems."

She was drawn to the genre because of its musical qualities, and agrees that "many poets feel visually, or see emotionally."

"All people probably do, but poets are the ones who try to capture that phenomenon," Laux said.

Like a Blues musician, Laux turns her life experiences outward in poems to share them with readers.

"I sing what I live, I think most poets sing out of a wound," she said. "A poet once said that all poetry is either elegy or ode, praise or loss: we praise what we've lost, we are bound to lose what we love."

When young poets seek out her advice, she works to quench their thirst for inspiration, their need to find a model for how to be in the world.

She also helps them understand "how a poem works ... the specifics of structure, image, syntax and rhythm."

"Mostly, they want to be given permission to write poems," Laux said. "We read and write poetry to remind us of who we are, why we're here, where we're going."

Also presenting this year is short story/science fiction writer Jay Lake.

"I'll mostly talk about transitioning from a writer to a published writer," Lake said. "Writing is like learning any other skill: you do a lot of it. If you want to be successful in a financial sense, you work on a deadline."

He described publishing as "a meritocracy."

"It's not a fair one, but life is not fair," he said. "I did everything I could think of before I was published."

Lake wrote for 10 years before he sold anything. He now commands "a two-figure salary," and is the parent of a 9-year-old daughter, Bronwyn, who is immensely proud of him.

"She tells everyone her dad's a writer," Lake said. "She's extremely proud of me."

Lake was finishing his latest book, "Escapement," and readying himself to travel to Japan when he spoke with The Triplicate. He is a presenter at this year's Hugo Award ceremony.

If you go

•What: North Coast Redwood

Writers' Conference

•When: Sept. 14-15

•Where: College of the

Redwoods, 883 West

Washington Blvd.

•Free session: Del Norte

Public Library

•Book signing: Featuring

local writers from 5-7 p.m.

at Del Norte Public Library

SOURCE: Lynne Mager, writers'

conference publicist


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