The second annual Seaside Writers Conference (SWC) took place May 11-16. Jointly produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance, The Seaside Institute and Seaside Neighborhood School and sponsored by Sundog Books, this conference brings together accomplished writers, aspiring writers and writing-related professionals for a week of events to celebrate and tackle the written word.
This year’s headline author was New York Times bestseller Jacquelyn Mitchard, the author of nine novels for adults, a memoir, and 12 other books for YA (young adults) and children. A member of the 2003 Fiction jury for National Book Awards, her first novel, “The Deep End of the Ocean,” was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and was later adapted for a feature film, as was her novel “Still Summer.”
Joining her were novelist Matt Bondurant (author of “The Wettest County in the World,” “The Night Swimmer,” and “The Third Translation”) and poet Seth Brady Tucker (author of “Mormon Boy,” and “We Deserve the Gods We Ask For”) who helped found the conference last year with Jonathan Davignon, the principal at Seacoast Collegiate High School.
Bondurant said having Mitchard at the conference was an incredibly valuable addition. “She can talk about issues of publication and the business of writing from basically every possible angle,” he said. “Also, Jacquelyn is an experienced teacher and the mother of nine children. So she was very adept at connecting with students from local schools that attended her headlining event.”
Agents and editors who attended included Melissa Flashman (Trident Media) and Roger D. Hodge (author of “The Mendacity of Hope” and editor at the Oxford American).
The conference was held at the Seaside Academic Village. Out-of-town guests stayed in the Seaside Academic Village cottages. Classes and lectures were held in the Assembly Hall and a few social events were held in the Village courtyard.
For the first time, Robert and Daryl Davis Fellowship awards were presented in fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. This competitive fellowship gave the recipients full conference tuition waivers, as well as free housing. In return, the fellows were responsible for assisting the core faculty in their workshops and spending time helping students in the classroom at the Seaside Neighborhood School and Seacoast Collegiate High School.
Tucker said this year’s crop of highly competitive fellowship awards was populated by poets and writers who all had extensive teaching experience at the primary and secondary level and were all established writers.
“Their work with the students at both schools was a resounding success, and their expertise and skill and talent was also critical for the workshops and seminars in the conference itself,” he said.
The fellowship awards this year went to Blake Sanz (fiction) from Denver, Colo.; Rose Bunch (fiction) from Fayetteville, Ark.; Kimberly O’Connor (poetry) from Denver, Colo.; and Rebecca Snow (poetry) from Aurora, Colo.
Next year’s Seaside Writers Conference will be held May 9-14.