By Isabel Loos
The Chuckanut Writers Conference began four years ago with the theme “Inspiration into Action” and will continue to inspire writers this year on June 26 and 27. It is a two-day event featuring many members from all genres, styles, and backgrounds who want to share their stories and skills with the community.
“We pride ourselves in being a conference you can go to if you’ve just started writing last week, or if you’ve been writing for 30 years,” said Jessica Lohafer, 28, conference chair. “At any point in your literary journey, you can get something out of it,” she added.
The conference faculty are invited by the conference planning committee, and it is looking like a great group this year, Lohafer said.
“For me, it’s kind of a special conference because there are some people within the faculty this year that I sort of came up in the writing scene with that are now doing really well,” said Lohafer.
Kate Lebo, Robert Lashley, and Denise Jolly are all poets like Lohafer, who added that she is looking forward to seeing them at the conference.
“I’m honestly really excited about everybody,” Lohafer said. Erik Larson, Elizabeth George, and Molly Wizenberg are a few more faculty to look forward to among a highly acclaimed list of writers.
“What I’m most excited about with the faculty is getting all of these different writers together in one room to see what they say to each other and what they learn from each other,” Lohafer said. “I am excited about every single person because I know that they are going to bring something so significant to that conversation, and it’s a really cool thing to get to watch.”
Lohafer studied at Western Washington University, receiving her bachelor of arts in literature and her master of fine arts in creative writing.
She has been working in literary event planning for the last 9 years. As a writer herself, she said many of the events she has planned have been focused around book releases or tours she has had. Lohafer has also participated in educational outreach as a program director for the Poetry in Public Education program, served on the board of directors of Poetrynight, and currently leads a poetry slam called the “Write Riot Poetry Slam.”
She also used to work as the offsite Association of Writers and Writing Program coordinator for VIDA, an organization that works to “illuminate and eradicate sexism in the publishing industry,” Lohafer said.
This is her first year serving as the conference chair, but she said she has been greatly enjoying it and definitely wants to stick around. She works with Chuck Robinson, Paul Hanson, and Shandeen Gemanis to pick faculty, program the event, and plan out all of the little details.
“Everything from the words in the program, to the flowers on the table, to the lemons in the water [is] something that we have to plan together,” Lohafer said.
The Chuckanut Writers Conference pre-conference events start on Thursday, June 25 at 1 p.m. with three master classes offered for an additional fee. Attendees can learn about marketing and book proposals from Kerry Colburn and Jennifer Worick, poetry from Sam Green, and fiction from Steven Galloway.
The fiction class is already full and the rest are sure fill very soon, so Lohafer encouraged registering for these classes as soon as possible.
Additionally, on Thursday night there will be a special Chuckanut Radio Hour featuring the poets of the conference, which is free for people who are registered for the conference and only $5 for those who aren’t.
The conference begins on Friday, June 26 at 10 a.m., starting with a keynote address.
Throughout the day, attendees can choose the classes they would like to go to and attend multiple breakout sessions, leading to an evening reception with readings and book signings with faculty authors.
The program continues Saturday, June 27, starting with early morning classes that are very informal and fun to get people talking and excited about writing. Then it is another full day with more breakout sessions and author panels.
At the same time, there are agent pitch sessions so that if an attendee has a book they want to pitch, they can pay $10 to do so. The conference concludes with a closing keynote, and then attendees break to head to Fairhaven where there will be open mics from 7-8:30 at a few locations.
Lohafer said the sense of community that can be found at writers conferences makes them a great place to get inspired and take writing to the next level.
“As writers, we can sometimes deal with imposter syndrome, feeling like you’re not a writer with a capital W. But the fact is, if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. That’s all it takes,” Lohafer said. “The conference is a great opportunity to meet people, wherever they’re at in their writing journey.”
Anyone who wants to attend the conference can register online or over the phone by calling (360) 383-3200. The cost of the conference is $269, but students with a valid, current student ID can register for only $199.