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For the week of August 30 through September 5, 2000

Writing with conscience


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

Keynote speaker E. L. Doctorow told the crowd at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference on Friday that "writers are dangerous because they have no obligation to anyone."

E. L. Doctorow, author of the best-selling novel, "Ragtime," was the conference’s keynote speaker

 

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.

It’s 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 Lodge.

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’ block.

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 who’s born, then spends the rest of his life trying to figure out what he means by it."

 

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