By Amy Lutz, MCWC Editorial Assistant
We are proud to announce that we have a new, incoming Executive Director! Lisa Locascio (whom many of you know as MCWC faculty) will be taking over the leadership of the MCWC Board as soon as MCWC 2018 is over, in order to manage the year-long run-up to MCWC 2019. A new board member will be helping her—another face you may recognize: Kara Vernor.
Both Lisa and Kara have experienced the conference first-hand as participants. Kara first attended MCWC on a scholarship in 2011 and won the short story contest. She met Lisa in the short story workshop the following year. That year, it was Lisa’s turn to receive a scholarship and win the short story contest.
Kara especially loves the community created by MCWC. “MCWC is a special conference. It has what you might expect—quality faculty and a variety of learning opportunities—but it’s also welcoming and intimate and, of course, located on the beautiful Mendocino coast. I met some of my best writer friends while a conference participant, friends I’m still close with today.”
Since attending MCWC, both Kara and Lisa went on to build successful writing careers and have worked together on multiple projects. Both writers returned to MCWC as faculty: Lisa taught the short fiction workshop at MCWC 2015 and the emerging writers’ workshop at MCWC 2017; and Kara taught a seminar on flash fiction at MCWC 2017.
Becoming the Executive Director of a writers’ conference is a natural next step for Lisa. “I have taught writing at universities, graduate schools, summer camps, mentorship programs, and as a tutor; I have edited literary magazines large and small, as well as an anthology. My passion is for creating literary communities for everyone: inviting, safe, dynamic places where people can experience and experiment upon the wonder of the written word. As Executive Director, I’ll be able to apply my diverse experience to the broadest demographic yet.”
Lisa and Kara plan to continue the conference’s current growth. “I returned as faculty five years after I had last been a participant,” explained Kara, “and in that time it seems the board has drawn a more diverse pool of participants and faculty. I hope to continue these efforts, so the conference is truly welcoming to, and helpful for, all who attend.”
Lisa added, “As a participant and teacher, I’ve had the best possible experiences at MCWC, and I want to continue to deliver the conference’s uniquely inspiring brand of creative welcome. The cultivation of an inclusive, warm, and fun environment is my priority, as is populating the conference with as many different types of people as possible, so that all participants can see their experiences reflected and validated by a diverse group. I believe that amplifying voices that might otherwise struggle to find recognition enables all of us to rise as a circle.
“I’d like to partner with the community in a bigger way, to bring in scholars and teachers from local tribes and reservations, Mendocino College, and neighboring Humboldt and Lake Counties. I will work to expand our incredible donor base and bring MCWC up to speed with other local events such as the Mendocino Film and Music Festivals.”
Kara will use her experience as a grant writer to bring in more support. “I imagine looking for grant opportunities that fund scholarships for low-income participants, draw quality faculty, and, above all, help sustain the conference. The MCWC makes a huge cultural contribution to life on the Mendocino Coast, and there are likely funders who want to help preserve this enrichment.”
In conjunction with their plans for growth, Lisa and Kara will maintain MCWC’s strengths. Lisa said, “My primary goal is to maintain the incredible conference my predecessors have so carefully built. My dream is to build a bigger profile for the conference so that we can continue to attract the superlative and diverse teachers and students who make the conference so special.”
When asked about the secret to their successes—how they went from young writers participating at the conference to acclaimed writers and part of MCWC leadership—they both answered: Read!
“There is no great writing without even more great reading. Read what you love, read what you don’t, read everything. Understand that everything you read is part of your writing,” said Lisa. “And don’t be afraid to be yourself. You can only do you, and ‘doing you’ means being governed by your idiosyncratic passions, experiences, interests, obsessions, and desires. Make a project of exploring and confronting yourself and use that knowledge in your work. It’s what will make your writing authentic and worthwhile.”
Reading and writing need not be solitary exercises. Kara recommended getting involved in literary communities. “Hosting a reading series, joining the staff of a journal, even connecting with other writers on Twitter can open up opportunities and help buoy you when you’re struggling with your own writing and the isolation it demands.”
While we wait to see what Lisa, Kara, and the rest of the MCWC Board will create with MCWC 2019, you can take their advice and immediately enrich your own writer’s journey: registration for MCWC 2018 is now open at mcwc.org.