Laura Wiens, The Triplicate

You don't have to be a writer - even a budding one - to enjoy the first night of the North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference on Friday at the Del Norte campus library of College of the Redwoods.

Being an appreciative reader will suffice.

The conference kicks off at 6 p.m. with an evening of free events, including a panel discussion of "Collaboration and Community," followed at 7 p.m. by readings by three authors, Rebecca Lawton, Zara Raab and Jim Dodge.

Those authors will be among the presenters of workshops all day Saturday. There's still time to register for the entire conference at a cost of $95, which includes all events, a continental breakfast and a hot lunch catered by Fabulous Foods by Julie. For more information, call (707) 465-2303, visit or just show up to register Friday at 5:30 p.m.

The Triplicate interviewed one of the featured authors, Jim Dodge of Arcata, who wrote the story "Fup," the novels "Not Fade Away" and "Stone Junction" and the collection of poems and short prose "Rain on the River."

Dodge is looking forward to the conference as "a chance to compare notes with my peers." He thinks the event will be enjoyable not just for developing writers, but also anyone who enjoys reading.

"Writing to me has been a process of getting humbled," said Dodge. "It stitches the human community together. That's what I like about it."

He was born in 1945 and grew up as an Air Force brat. He spent part of his adulthood living on a mostly self-sustaining commune in Sonoma County. He's been an apple picker, carpet layer, shepherd, wood cutter, environmental restorer and professional gambler.

When he was in his 20s, he discovered a passion that would forever change his nomadic career endeavors.

"In the mid-'60s I fell in love with poetry," he said. "It's a unique, brief and beautiful way to get to the truth of the mind and heart."

By 1969 he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing/Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

"I've always found enjoyment with language and storytelling so it seemed like a natural progression," he said.

Since 1995, he has been the director of the Creative Writing program in the English Department at Humboldt State University in Arcata, where he resides with his family.

"I found great success as a teacher because of my true love of the subject."

He wrote poetry up until about 1983, then turned his focus to fiction.

"When you're writing poetry, you spend two hours a day and you wake up in the morning and you have something," he said. In comparison to prose fiction, "after five hours you still have 500 miles to go. It's a different kind of discipline."

"Fup," was published in 1983 and garnered much success. "It really took off," he said, adding it's been translated into 27 languages and he was justcontracted by a company in France to illustrate the book.

Even though the main character in "Fup" is a duck, Dodge cautions that it is not intended for children.

Fup lives on a farm with an old man who believes he is immortal due to the homemade whiskey he drinks. The recipe for the whiskey, also known as "Old Death Whisper," was bestowed upon him by a dying Indian.

"It is absolutely adult reading," said Dodge.

"There's a spirituality in the book that people find value in and for that I'm eternally grateful," he said.

These days he's working on a short book of poems andthinking about writing a novel on baseball.

Other authors involved in this year's conference include:

andbull; Jean Hegland, author of a book of creative non-fiction, "The Life Within: Celebration of a Pregnancy," and two novels "Windfalls," and "Into the Forest," which has been translated into nine languages, selected for a number of reading programs and chosen for developing into a film.

On Saturday, Hegland will be the keynote speaker and offer two workshops.

andbull; Julie Crabtree earned the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature in 2008 with her first novel, "Discovering Pig Magic." Its sequel, "The Crepe Makers' Bond," was named to Book Expo America's Top 26. She's been published in theSan Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Highlights For Children, MotherVerse, Green Prints and Knowledge Questmagazine.

andbull; Rebecca Lawton has two books under her belt: her collected essays about life as a white-water guide, "Reading Water: Lessons from the River," which was aSan Francisco Chroniclebestseller; and recently released "Junction, Utah." Her latest work, "Sacrament: Homage to a River," is due out late this year.

andbull; Zara Raab's poems are collected in two books: "The Book of Gretel," and "Swimming the Eel." Her third book is based on Rumpelstiltskin and will appear later this year along with "Fracas and Asylum," due in early 2014.

andbull; Kim Wyatt, publisher of Bona Fide Books, has worked in most facets of publishing, including journalism, manuscript evaluation, textbook development, and as managing editor at print and online publications. She will lead two workshops, one of which is "Publishing 101 for Writers."

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