Several hundred people cheered, but later, when strong winds flapped the
big, white tent noisily, novelist Peter Mathiessen said the gods must be angry at the
effrontery of so many writers gathered in one place.
Its true that writers gather at conferences to conspire, but the
conspiring is almost always on how to craft words better.
The situation was no different at the sixth annual Sun Valley
Writers Conference that took place Friday through Monday outside the Sun Valley
Saturday and Sunday morning began with small groups of attendees meeting
with established writers to discuss a variety of literary topics.
In a talk called "Sticking it out," best-selling novelist Anne
Lamott told her group about the journey from the first idea for a book to the final draft.
Gary Kinder, a best-selling nonfiction writer, explained that much
writing, although grammatically correct, lacks punch because the writer uses the passive
voice and unnecessary words.
For attendees who brought along their own works in progress, veteran
editor James Bellows offered one-on-one critique sessions.
Lamott held another drop-in clinic for writers crippled by writers
In all, there were more than two dozen such sessions.
But the big attraction for the greatest number of participants was the
afternoon tent talks where literary luminaries such as Doctorow, infinitely jesting
memoirist Dave Eggers, The New Yorker staff writer Lawerence Weschler and
others riveted listeners with their own life stories.
"A writer," said Doctorow, "is someone whos born,
then spends the rest of his life trying to figure out what he means by it."