Writers, poets will gather to share their art,encourage others looking for that big break

Christian Kiefer found his people through creative writing.

As an undergraduate studying filmmaking at the University of Southern California, Kiefer realized his definition of a successful film differed from his peers. He said it was after he took a class taught by novelist T.C. Boyle that he realized he wanted to write.

"He's largely the guy who ruined my life by making me a writer," Kiefer said. "Those were my people. They were talking the language I wanted to talk."

Kiefer, whose latest novel "The Animals" was published in March, is the keynote speaker and leader of three workshops for the 15th annual North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference next weekend. It's open to aspiring and experienced writers, readers and anyone else who wants to speak the language.

The theme of this year's conference is "writing is magic."

This year's presenters also include Ellery Akers, whose poetry collection "Practicing the Truth" won the 2014 Autumn House Poetry Prize; Midge Raymond, author of "Everyday Writing" and "Everyday Book Marketing"; Minneapolis writer Holly Day, whose works have appeared in The Tampa Review and other publications; author, journalist and blogger Julia Park Tracey, who used her great aunt's journals to write about the 1920s.

The conference begins Sept. 18 with a panel discussion on this year's themes and readings from Akers and Tracy followed by a question-answer session. The workshops and keynote presentation are Sept. 19.

The first evening of the conference is open to the public and is free. Registration to attend the workshops is $95, according to Lynn Durkee, member of the Coast Redwoods Writers Conference steering committee. College of the Redwoods Del Norte Education Center will host the conference.

"It's for anyone who wants to be a better writer, anyone who's interested in writing, anyone who has a book they want to publish, anyone who wants to have a book to publish," Durkee said of the conference. "We even encourage people who just like to read to come and listen to the authors read their writings and learn about the process that goes into it."

Kiefer is hosting three workshops on setting in fiction, character development and how to write a sentence. The second workshop will focus on how to write an ornate sentence in the style of Faulkner, Hemingway, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldow Emerson; something he said is lost in the "American mania for clarity."

"Clarity is my enemy," Kiefer said. "Clarity's great if you're in journalism or business writing, but clarity for me... I don't want clarity. I want richness and depth of expression and on a sentence level, those things are somewhat at odds, especially when you're learning how to write."

In the mania for clarity, Kiefer said, subtlety has been lost.

"A lot of sentence-level writing these days feels really wooden," he said. "This is why somebody like Cormac McCarthy seems like from another generation of writers because he's doing that kind of work in a field where nobody else is."

In his character development workshop, a topic he teaches in his classes at American River Community College, Kiefer said he may have attendees sketch out a character, trade with their classmates and create a conflict between the character they created and their partners' character.

"It just gives you an opportunity to develop dialog or thoughts or actions or movements or whatever the situation is," he said. "We don't know who we are until we're put in the pressure cooker and then the core part of ourselves rises quickly to the surface."

Other workshops at the conference cover topics including research tools for historical fiction, social media, how to "be your own editor" as well as how to market and get paid for your writing, Durkee said.

When determining who the presenters will be, the committee for the writers conference talk about the different authors they'd like to see at the conference, find out if they're interested in traveling to Crescent City and pick which authors they feel will be interesting.

"One of us had read one of Christian Kiefer's books and fallen in love with his writing style and a number of things about him," Durkee said. "We knew we wanted at least one poet and Ellery (Akers) was a favorite of someone on the committee, and then the others we had read their stuff or had heard about their stuff or had someone who had seen a presentation whether we got it from a friend of ours or from our own experience."

The North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference starts at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at College of the Redwoods, Del Norte Education Center, 883 W. Washington Blvd. in Crescent City. The conference resumes at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

Durkee said registration continue for the workshops through the morning of Sept. 19, although some may be full.

For more information and to register, visit www.ncrwc.org.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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