Chuckanut Writers Conference, a Report by two WWP Members

Two WWP members took the time to write a few words about their experience at the recent Chuckanut Writers Conference. Many thanks to both Nancy Canyon and Laurel Leigh for volunteering to write something about the conference If you have an experience to share please share it in the comments below. If you have an idea for a blog post which you would like to write for the WWP blog please contact

laurel_leigh-011_hat-sm-colorFirst, a few words from Laurel Leigh, writer, teacher, blogger. Laurel is a long time WWP member and local writing celebrity. She is well loved by her students in writing and editing. She also hosts a monthly open mic night at Village Books which is a lot of fun and a wonderful opportunity to read your work in public. And to top it all off she was a recipient of the 2013 Mayor’s Arts Award. 

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In four years of participating in the Chuckanut Writers Conference, I’ve racked up some great memories. We are so fortunate to have this wonderful conference right here in Bellingham, and I’m delighted to have been a part of the original startup team and to return each year to help out. Each year, some pretty awesome authors grace the hallways of the WCC campus, and I admit to having been star struck more than a few times. Although often it’s the quieter moments that stick with me, where I see a group of writers talking and laughing, someone sitting quietly on a bench paging through a book they just bought, or one writer offering advice or encouragement to a fellow writer. I always spend some time walking around with SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAmy camera taking pictures, and here’s one of my favorites: a writer many of us know as the first one to offer to lend a hand or a friendly word of praise or encouragement. This year’s conference was no different. If I got to hand out gold stars, a big one would go to Amanda June Hagarty, author of the novelette Clean Slate, also an author platform specialist among her many ventures, and all-around nice person. I love this picture of Amanda, because it’s a familiar depiction of her demeanor—taking the time to talk to another writer as if nothing else matters in the moment. And it doesn’t.

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nancyAnd now, a report by Nancy Canyon. Nancy is a published author and artist. Her fiction can be read at Her new poetry book SALTWATER, published by Independent Writers’ Studio Press, is available at Village Books and in her studio, 1000 Harris, #6. If you want to come for a visit and view her art in person, give her a call at 360-710-7139 or go to

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Inspiration into Action
By Nancy Canyon

The 2014 Chuckanut Writers Conference inspired me to get back to work on my memoir LOOKOUT.  My biggest inspiration came from Brian Doyle, the editor of Portland Magazine, published by U of Portland.  The magazine investigates the sacred—not religious necessarily—but the spiritual and inspirational aspect of life.  What I loved the most about Brian’s presentation was his passion to make us feel the grief over a middle school shooting or his shame over hurting his child because we had a bad day at work. Whatever burns in us, we as writers and artists have the power to express the human condition and the responsibility to do so. If we have the courage to expose our point of view regarding the exchanges that happen between us, both good and bad, then our work can exude power and effect change in the world.

Here are a few points that Brian considers important areas of exploration:  Story doesn’t come to you, you go to it.  Be observant, you may find story in unusual places, such as a balloon convention.  Transpose things: What if the Japanese Tsunami happened here? Reveal yourself: did you catapult the kitten across the room because it climbed the curtain?  Connect with the reader by writing about our commonalities.

We can be complacent and not stir things up or we can jump in and stir away, expressing how we’re angered by bad behavior amongst humans.  Personally, I think we have amazing power to make change in the world.  What are you angry about?  What are you intolerant of in others or are ashamed of in yourself?  What do we turn a blind eye to? What shuts you up? Where and why are you complacent?

If you are interested in reading issues of Portland Magazine and perhaps writing something to submit to Brian, see And be sure to take his advice, read the magazine before writing your essay.


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