Posted on June 15, 2017

#FellowshipofWords — Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference 2017

As you may know, I declared this the #FellowshipofWords year, and I’m exploring how words and books can bring us together. (See my first blog post on this topic at http://tinyurl.com/jtjpamr.)

I recently attended the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference (http://sites.kpc.alaska.edu/writersconf/) in Homer, AK. I always enjoy the camaraderie and inspiration from this conference, and this year was no exception. But this time, several of the speakers reflected on themes that echo the #FellowshipofWords.

The panel discussion on “Writing and Empathy—Making the Connection” was excellent. Moderator Peggy Shumaker and panelists Kate Carrol de Gutes, Thomas Larson, Linda Martin, and Don Rearden had a lot to say on the subject. What struck me was how readers find more empathy when reading about fictional characters, and writers also do as they create characters and find ways to understand them. For example, Kate said our work resonates when it has empathy, connecting with emotion beneath the experience. Don said writers help readers see things that couldn’t before or see things in a new way. Good food for thought there.

I met one great writer who explores her characters with empathy: Nina McConigley. Her short stories in Cowboys and East Indians show us a modern, more diverse side of the West. As the PEN Judges’ Citation states, “In Cowboys and East Indians, Nina McConigley gives us Wyoming precisely the way we expect it—in landscape, sky, and animal life—and in ways we don’t.” Learn more about Nina and her work at http://ninamcconigley.com.

May we all read and write books that build our #FellowshipofWords. As Kate Carrol de Gutes put it, “writing that way is what will save us.”  

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