For the last 12 years I have been coordinating the South Coast Writers Conference in Gold Beach, Oregon, on the Friday and Saturday of President’s Day weekend. Every year it is a huge undertaking for our small college outreach center, and every year we manage to pull it off with a small but mighty group of volunteers. Every year the day before the conference, I wonder why we keep adding its pressure and stress to an already full workload and every morning after I wake up with a head full of notes to make things work just a little better next year. I have just spent two days swimming in the currents of 100 plus people learning, thinking, challenging their pre-concepts of creativity and writing. It is contagious. I don’t consider myself a writer, I am just a sculptor who writes as part of my process, but creativity is creativity, there is always a nugget I can take home to use in my work of making sculpture.
Every year I manage to attend just one workshop in the session after lunch when all the presenters have had at least one round of presentations so I can assume any glitches have been resolved and before the final session which we use to begin packing things away. Inevitably I am always late.... so I go to the library where I can slip in with the least disruption. Larry Brooks was presenting Unblocked, Unleashed & Uninhibited. He was already nearing the end of his list of ten suggestions for becoming unblocked, and then he began discussing what it takes to be unleashed - to break in to being published. Brooks began a discussion of the six components of writing. Four are essential - concept, theme, structure and character, and the two are necessary but not critical - voice and execution. He believes the odds improve considerably for a book to be published if at least two of the four essential components of it are stellar, fresh and memorable. You really will have to attend one of his workshops (usually in the Portland area, but he has tentatively agreed to come back to the SCWC next year) to get the full gist of this concept. I don’t think he ever made it to unfettered, but I was distracted trying to translate and apply his ideas to the visual arts and specifically to the making of my sculpture.
I have gotten so much better about avoiding dead-ends and detours early on in the making of a piece, but I still struggle with each and every piece. As I gear up for my first show off the coast in 23 years, I know I will be mulling over his ideas and trying them out, hoping to use them as a guide to stay on track; as a lens to reconsider previously finished pieces for modifications and as a measuring stick to assess the progress of the new pieces.
Information on Larry Brooks is at www.booksbybrooks.com and information on this years writers conference is at www.socc.edu/scwriters. Planning for next year's conference is just beginning so it will be awhile before any news on it gets posted to the website. You can be added to our mailing list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.