By Amy Lutz, MCWC Executive Assistant
At MCWC 2019, we celebrated our 30th anniversary with over 115 participants in nine morning workshops, two well-attended public faculty readings, and an unforgettable keynote address by Pulitzer prize-winning poet Sharon Olds. The greatest success of MCWC 2019, however, was the conference’s ability to maintain its unique sense of community along with its growth.
MCWC 2019 first-time participant Julie Ushio enjoyed connecting with other writers at the conference. “So many of us carry around stories inside of us,” she said. “Only at a writers conference, can you sit down next to a stranger, and in a few minutes learn something of what they most care about—because when you ask them what they are writing, it’s all right there.”
Though she was new to MCWC, Julie has been a participant at quite a few conferences and workshops. When asked how MCWC compared to her past experiences, Julie said, “The conference far exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t have asked for a better slate of workshop leaders as they were young, ethnically diverse, and all deeply engaged in the current literary scene. The MCWC community of volunteers was terrific and supportive.”
Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione also attended MCWC for the first time this year after being selected for the Master Class with Myriam Gurba. Lindsey said, “I’ve been doing workshops and writing groups for quite some time, and I’ve come to really appreciate teachers who can facilitate safe spaces that promote inclusivity, question bias, and combat prejudice, where each writer is treated with respect, empathy and honesty. Myriam not only created a dynamic and engaging workshop that accomplished all of this, but she also helped me to break through a creative block I had hit with my memoir.”
Lindsey participated in one of our two Pitch Panels this year, even though she said, “I was super nervous and I have never pitched my book before.” She was surprised when Sarah Bowlin, an agent from Aevitas, expressed interest in her book. “It was a validating experience for me to hear that this project caught her attention,” Lindsey said.
MCWC scholar Adriane Tharpe found the direction she needed in MCWC’s newest offering, the Speculative Fiction Workshop, taught this year by Scott Sigler. “I learned so much from Scott about polishing a manuscript and publishing. As someone who is trying to finish a manuscript and wasn’t sure about the next steps, this was incredibly helpful.”
Like Lindsey and Julie, the benefits of MCWC went far beyond just improving craft for Adriane. “At the open mic, I read a flash essay about growing watermelons with my mother and watching her mental and physical health decline over time. For the rest of the evening, people kept coming up to me to thank me for sharing. Several told me about their own family members: a grandmother with dementia, a mother with breast cancer, a mother who recently passed away. I was so moved. I kept thinking, This is why I write.”
We extended the MCWC community to welcome the local public as well. On Friday, August 2, MCWC held its Friday Night Reading at Cotton Auditorium in Fort Bragg for the first time. “The decision to move the event to Cotton was inspired by a desire to truly invite the community in to this event, which is our offering to the Mendocino Coast and our largest public celebration of the Conference,” said Executive Director Lisa Locascio. The reading, which featured Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Victoria Chang, Myriam Gurba, Jeannie Vanasco, and keynote Sharon Olds, was a smashing success. “I’ve heard from so many locals that having the reading at Cotton Auditorium felt festive and welcoming, and encouraged them to take part in the Conference’s offerings more fully than ever before,” Locascio adds. “As this was my first year as ED, I was somewhat nervous about whether the changes and new ideas I brought to MCWC would work out, from moving the reading to Cotton to bringing a Pulitzer Prize-winner into town from New York City. Thankfully, it seems to have gone well—people keep stopping me at the Farmer’s Market to tell me how much they enjoyed MCWC 2019.”
We are looking forward to continuing to grow our community at MCWC 2020, and have already started lining up faculty, including poet Michelle Peñaloza and speculative fiction writer Kij Johnson. We are also thrilled to announce we will be expanding into Historical Fiction in 2020 with a workshop taught by Susan Stinson.
To receive updates and faculty announcements for MCWC 2020, add yourself to our mailing list using the form below. And to see all the MCWC 2019 photos from our wonderful photographer, Mimi Carroll, please click here. We encourage you to order a print as a memento of your time with us, and to thank Mimi for her involvement.
Finally, MCWC would not be possible without the generous donations of time and funding by our volunteers, donors, and board members. And thank you, MCWC participants, for making this conference such a beautiful community. If you would like to help us make MCWC accessible for all writers through scholarships, please consider donating here for MCWC 2020. We look forward to welcoming you all back to the Mendocino Coast next year!
MCWC Retiring Board Members
MCWC Board Members Norma Watkins and Barbara Lee retired from the board after MCWC 2019. The Conference would not be what it is today without either of these incredible women and we cannot thank them enough for their years of service. Click on the images above to read more about Barbara and Norma.