Arts and Entertainment

Writers gear up for annual Whidbey conference

Dorothy Read, Jan Lautenbach and Teresa McElhinney review submissions for the upcoming 2013 Whidbey Island Writers Conference.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Dorothy Read, Jan Lautenbach and Teresa McElhinney review submissions for the upcoming 2013 Whidbey Island Writers Conference.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

The Whidbey Island Writers Association has an inspiring task to help self-described non-writers develop into writers.

The association’s mission is to help sharpen the skills of writers of all ages, said Dorothy Read, member of the association and Spirit of Writing contest leader.

“We want to take them from where they are and help them grow,” she said.

The group has many resources available with their new Bayview location including classes, contests and conferences. Their upcoming 15th annual conference, the 2013 Whidbey Island Writers Conference, will be held from Oct. 25 to 27 in Coupeville.

This year the conference is placing emphasis on young writers, an effort led by Nicole Persun, and workshops that define the female voice and songwriting. Workshops are held at  Coupeville High School.

One of the most distinctive aspects at the event are “chat houses” that will happen at a handful of homes near Coupeville. Each is limited to 20 participants, to provide one-on-one time with presenters.

Conference Director Kim Cottrell said one of the goals of the conference is to provide the most cutting-edge information to writers.

“In today’s changing environment where everything is so electronic, it’s important to stay on top of it,” Cottrell said.

Having critiques and interacting with writers who have that experience and know how to make their pitch, is a popular topic at the conference, she said. 

Cottrell is excited about Write Night on Saturday evening at Jenne Farm, 538 S. Engle Road, in Coupeville. The event will feature a live concert by Ian Moore, keynote speaker Karen Finneyfrock and a poetry slam. The evening, open to the public for $20, benefits the group’s newly developed Youth Writing Program.

Freeland resident Hannah McConnaughey, 16, has been to the conference twice and is planning to return this year.

“It’s so inspiring to hear success stories,” she said. “The presenters especially have so much great advice … it’s almost overwhelming.”

McConnaughey hopes to build on what she has learned in previous conferences and contests through the Whidbey Island Writers Association as well. In 2011, she entered an adult writing category in the Spirit of Writing Contest as a 13-year-old. She wanted criticism and feedback without being judged on the basis of her age.

Her work paid off — she received positive feedback praising her use of vocabulary along with constructive criticism. She said the contest helped expose her to new works and writers while developing her own style.

“I have no limits,” McConnaughey said.

For details on the conference, visit Submissions for the Spirit of Writing Contest are due Oct. 13. For more information on the contest, visit


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