The 2017 recipient of the Jane E. Decker Award is Tate Crowley. Tate attended the 2017 Chuckanut Writers Conference, in Bellingham Washington.
“Come closer. Come into this. Come closer.” Thus began Anis Mojgani’s opening speech at the 2017 Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. I sat in an auditorium full of fellow writers, bookstore visitors, and library card holders. I felt full of a defiant sort of hope, as if I was in a bomb shelter with these people and we had turned our music up and begun to dance.
I was struck by how many types of writers were drawn to the conference; novelists, activists, poets, even essay writers. They wrote of human connection and climate change, racism, and our shared experience on this planet. Though the writers in attendance were so varied in topic and writing style, they came from the same literary root. I was completely inspired by these people, all with powerful voices and important things to say. I felt at home in that world, and left the conference full of purpose. My sense of self had been renewed and my heart felt light enough to float right out of my chest.
While there were many engaging conference presentations, I was most excited to hear Anis Mojgani perform his poetry. I was first introduced to his work in a poetry class, and had immediately been entranced by the magical way he crafts words. When Anis Mojgani performs, the world seems to hold its breath. He pours his heart into the delivery of every line and is fearless in the way he shares his heartbeat.
At one point between seminar sessions, an older gentleman approached me and congratulated me for attending the conference. We briefly discussed the weight of writing in the modern world, as well as the steadily decreasing funding for the arts in many public schools. Though I was one of the youngest conference attendees, I felt welcomed and accepted. The community of writers who gathered at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference were warm and willing to share. I found particular value in this because so often I feel that people try to keep the tools of the trade from newcomers.
As I get ready to declare myself as a creative writing major, I often feel a sense of panic. It’s easy for me to feel discouraged and worry that books are quickly becoming something of the past. As attention spans seem to become shorter by the day, I often wonder who will even read the words I’m writing. Yet against all odds, this beautiful group of people gathered for a weekend of celebration for a glorious and essential art. I was reminded that as long as there are writers, there will be readers. Being surrounded by people with such positive attitudes reminded me that writing will always be worth it, even if my words only reach one person, and even if that person is just me.