Behind the Scenes at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference by Erin Hollowell

The Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference was established in 2002. That’s twenty-two years of writers gathering on the shores of Kachemak Bay to learn from each other and form a community that includes members from all across Alaska and the lower-48. Like many long-established events, the conference is trying to evolve to meet the changing needs of writers. I thought I might take a moment to discuss some of the changes.

After the 2019 conference, the folks behind it took a moment to examine how we might better serve the needs of what is a diverse and robust group of writers in Alaska. The idea was to take 2020 off to regroup, and well, we know that then there was the pandemic that ground everything to a halt. So that year when we were all so separate, I became the new director of the conference and I used that time to reach out to individuals who I knew had been to the conference, asking what they needed and what in the conference felt superfluous. Then I reached out to writers in Alaska who had never been to the conference and asked them what they needed and what the conference might be able to provide.

The first thing decided was that the conference should come to the Kachemak Bay Campus. Why? The facility has the technological capabilities to amplify the speakers so that everyone can hear. It is also much more accessible for those with mobility disabilities. And finally, being in town means that people can see more of our community, walk to local restaurants, take breaks by looking in the art galleries or on the wooded paths that surround the campus. Also, hotel rooms in town close by the campus are more affordable.

Secondly, we sought to further diversify the faculty. By placing diversity in the forefront, we could assure that not only would participants see writers that looked like them on the faculty, but we could assure that every participant was learning from writers with a wide range of backgrounds. Diversity is more than a buzzword. Diversity is a way of looking at the world that says our strength as a community is in our various differences and our many similarities. Diversity means that sometimes subjects arise that are uncomfortable, but in that space, real learning can occur.

In addition, we moved the conference to May so that more college students could take part before they left for summer jobs or fishing. At first, we saw only a handful of students, but time has passed and students have begun to talk with one another, so this year with the conference now more than three-quarters full, close to one-fifth of those participants are university students. The conference is truly nurturing the next generation of writers.

I encourage you to check out the faculty of this year’s conference: Nuar Alsadir, Destiny O. Birdsong, David Nikki Crouse, Debra Magpie Earling, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Hafizah Augustus Geter, David George Haskell, Sean Hill, Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Priyanka Kumar, Ethan Nosowsky, Emily Wall. Their bios on our website are filled with interesting accomplishments and even more interesting publication credits. Check out the full schedule as well to see what craft classes will be happening.

Finally, know that this year’s conference is meant to foster participant interaction in whole new ways, from small group discussions following the opening and closing panels to a casual “festive finger food” event on Monday night. Some guided nature walk possibilities and a beloved bonfire on Bishop’s Beach. We hope that participants will leave with new connections along with their new skills.

As always, you are welcome at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference. I hope to see you on Kachemak Bay and learn from you and share the joy that is a community of writers.

Check it out at Registration is ongoing and may fill up before the conference.

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