Port Townsend Writers’ Conference to begin Wednesday

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s one thing to key your secret thoughts into a computer or set them down onto a piece of paper — and quite another, Bill Mawhinney says, to lay them out for listeners.

Mawhinney knows this much from hosting frequent poetry readings at the Northwind Arts Center.

Now, Mawhinney is about to start an especially heady two weeks.

They’re the weeks of the Centrum Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, which draws poets, novelists and memoirists from across the continent to Fort Worden State Park.

Mawhinney has left a sign-up sheet with programs director Jordan Hartt, so participating writers can choose to take part in the Northwind readings set for this Wednesday and next Wednesday, July 18.

In past years, the writers have come. They’ve stood up before the audience and read from their hearts; they’ve read poems and stories as wildly varied as their own life experiences.

These gatherings, Mawhinney promised, are “a grab bag of voices.”

The two Wednesday readings start at 7 p.m. at Northwind, 2409 Jefferson St.

Admission is free, while donations to the nonprofit arts center are welcome.

Then come the readings-and-then-some: Festive Friday nights of wine, hors d’oeuvres, poetry, prose and conversation with Port Townsend Writers’ Conference faculty.

Among these literary luminaries are Cheryl Strayed, Dorothy Allison and Pam Houston, poet-novelist Kim Addonizio and poets Erin Belieu and Gary Copeland

Lilley.

These are elegant evenings, Mawhinney said, and they are free to all.

They start at 9 p.m. both this Friday and Friday, July 20, and since they are benefits for Vida, an organization supporting women in literary arts, donations will again be accepted.

Belieu and Cate Marvin, whose books of poetry include The World’s Tallest Disaster, founded Vida in 2009; information awaits at www.Vidaweb.org.

Last year, the writers’ conference was just a week long, so only one Vida reading was held — but it raised a healthy $1,000, Mawhinney said.

Thanks to the writers’ conference, many other free lectures and readings are slated over the coming two weeks at Fort Worden State Park’s Wheeler Theater.

For details, visit www.Centrum.org/writing or phone the Centrum office at 360-385-3102.

“Attendees come from all over the world to study here; the Wednesday-night Northwind readings show what happens when writers are fully immersed,” Hartt said.

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