Pop the champagne! This summer marks thirty successful years for the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference! Nine-morning workshops in multiple genres, for emerging writers to a juried master class, and afternoons of craft seminars, pitch panels, one-on-one consultations, and open mics. Evenings offer instructor readings while mingling over delicious cuisine and complimentary local wines in a spectacular seaside setting. It’s a package that keeps the conference thriving, and it all began with three writers pow-wowing around a café table.
“The heart of the conference has persevered through the years,” says board president, Ginny Rorby. “It’s always been primarily a teaching conference. Our goal is to find talented instructors who have established authors with a commitment to encouraging writers of all stripes.”
“We offer over eleven scholarship categories,” says Executive Director, Lisa Locascio. “One of them awards full tuition to five promising writers under age twenty-five.” Locascio shares an impressive experience teaching a workshop here in 2015. “The young scholarship students in my short story class have gone on to publish poems in The New Yorker and receive Fulbrights. Two are pursuing MFA degrees, one of whom is Mendocino County Poet in the Schools, and another is in grad school at NYU.” Locascio first attended MCWC as a student in 2012, returning a few years later as a teacher. She fell in love with the Mendocino Coast (and a certain local writer) and now lives and teaches here full time.
The board made the room festive with white tablecloths and flowers, and Steve and Monty took over the kitchen. It was decided the board would act as servers that night. “We flew from kitchen to tables and tables to kitchen all night, serving one hundred-plus all the various dishes, keeping water glasses filled and wine flowing.” Norma laughs at the memory. “It was a huge success. The exhausted board voted it the greatest closing dinner ever and swore never to do it again.” Says Ginny Rorby, “We can never know what impact hosting that kind of talent had on MCWC, but we’ve had no trouble attracting talented writers and teachers since. Marsha is now one-hundred and one years old,” she adds.
Another notable past highlight was Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life. Norma explains, “A suggestion in See’s book is to write a lovely note each day to a writer, editor, or agent you admire and don’t ask them for a favor. So I wrote Carolyn See a lovely note telling her how much I adored her book. And then I wrote a second note breaking the ‘no favor’ rule and asked her to come to our Conference.”
They were ecstatic when she said, yes! “Carolyn brought the crowd to their feet with the most inspirational speech we have heard in thirty years.” Carolyn’s daughter Lisa See carries on the family’s literary legacy, with books including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love.
“Of course we are grateful to our many sponsors through the years,” says Ginny. “Gallery Bookshop sets up a wonderful onsite bookshop, and the generous contribution of Mendocino County wineries like Frey Vineyards and Navarro Vineyards, add to our social events.”
The 2019 conference runs August 1-3, with an optional publishing boot camp on Sunday, August 4. Check the website: mcwc.org for details and registration. Come join in the learning, camaraderie, and connection that can make MCWC a life-changing experience.