by Carmen Peone
Have you ever wanted to write? Fiction? Non-fiction? Short Stories? Memoir? About women and girls in the west…west of the Mississippi? I recently came back from our WWW conference in Redmond, OR. What a trip! I mean both journey and event.
I met agents and editors, I was the committee chair for this year’s conference, and just got to know those scary people, finding out they are not scary at all, but actually people who want to see writers and authors succeed. Succeed. Isn’t that what we all want? To succeed at our gifts and talents?
The first and basically only workshop I was able to attend was Reader’s Brain, Writer’s Brain: The Science to Connect, by Stephany West Allen. We learned about the 7 synapse supporters to deepen synapses so reader will remember what they read and how the writer can hone in their craft and pull in readers from their emotions. How the brain works to connect with words on the page. Ms. Allen talked about the “Big 6” to get the reader’s attention which include: intensity, novelty, scary, interactive, diverting, and emotion. She discussed how we as writers need to trigger the reader’s body for them to mirror the character’s emotions. In essence, to feel what the characters feel. That’s the hook.
Then on Friday morning we toured the High Desert Museum. It was like coming home to the Colville reservation. It felt like home. When I saw names of relations to my husband in the Native American Section of the museum that spotlight the Palouse tribes, I knew it was from home. I felt peace and comfort as I studied each Native artifact, taking in the descriptive tags that went with each basket, tipi, regalia, and beaded bag.
On Saturday Jane Kirkpatrick and I presented our workshop entitled: Weaving Life on the Reservation into Fiction. We talked about our experiences with Native Americans: Jane mostly with the Warm Spring Natives of Oregon, and myself with my time on the Colville reservation studying with elders, one in particular, Marguerite Ensminger.
I shared pictures of tule-mat tipis, cattails, and my coveted language notebook I used with Tima Mugs.
Jane shared stories of working with children and families on the Warm Spring Reservation and how she wove what she’d learning into her stories. She used four threads: landscape, relationships, spirituality, and work. We both talked about the ceremonies and ties to land and food, about legends, and family.
Dinners were shared with winners from the LAURA Short Story contest and the WILLA finalists and winners. Authors read short excerpts of their winning stories and delighted the audience. What an honor to hear what was written from the heart.
Most of all we were able to fellowship, writer to writer. We know that writing is a lonely craft, but worth it when we able all get together and uplift, encourage, applaud. We are members of Women Writing the West. We’re one big family. Wouldn’t you like to join?
Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Reservation since 1988. She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes-Sinyekst- Language and various cultural traditions and legends. With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons who are tribal members.