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Dreaming: Ellen Waterston and the Nature of Words

Ellen Waterston and the Nature of Words

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I've witnessed two close friends give their all to creating book festivals. When new friends here raved about the huge gift of The Nature of Words, I asked Ellen Waterston for her story:


How did the notion of the Nature of Words come to you? Holed up at a coveted writing retreat at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, I thought how wonderful it would be to balance my own writing life with some give-back to the literary arts and the Central Oregon community. The Nature of Words came to be. Now headed into year five at its current size and year seven overall, The Nature of Words attracts nationally acclaimed authors and poets to Bend for readings, workshops and panel discussions; and conducts year round programs in creative writing in regional colleges, public and alternative schools.
I also founded the Writing Ranch nearly ten years ago, offering workshops and retreats for emerging Central Oregon writers. We hold a creative writing series each winter, an annual early spring week-long creative writing workshop retreat to the Baja California Sur and the summer High Desert Retreat in Oregon's Outback - all offered through COCC's Continuing Education program. More retreats are on the drawing board, so stay tuned to the COCC web site!
My dream has come true. Like most dreams it has taken much work and is well worth the effort - in great part due to the strength of its amazing and dedicated Board of Directors and the great generosity of its supporters. I am deeply grateful to all who have made it possible to hold this year's event with an amazing roster of authors and planned activities, including Sherman Alexie and Myrlie Evers-Williams. This will be another extraordinary year.
How do you envision a literary community?
The Nature of Words brings in authors representing a variety of genres, perspectives, voices, ethnicities, cultures. It is thanks to that mix that participants in The Nature of Words activities can begin to identify what resonates for us as readers, writers, listeners. We develop an ear, experience the cellular shift that takes place when we come face to face with outstanding literary writing. The in-school programs further encourage participation in the literary arts through creative writing instruction and exposure to authors of great literary talent.
How might you imagine a potential blend of academy and street writers?
The Open Mike event that concludes The Nature of Words each year (Sunday, November 8 at 11:00 a.m.) is the "passing of the baton" - with the guest authors in the audience as workshop participants read their writing in the Brooks Room of the Deschutes Public Library. This year poet Charles Goodrich will be the featured reader to open the event.
How does working with the Nature of Words feed your writer spirit?
The amazing writers who participate, the positive response of the community, the boost the Rising Star Creative Writing Competition gives young writers, the excitement about our in-the-schools creative writing programs - all of it. They carry me as a writer who is faithful to her daily writing practice - I received the 2009 WILLA Awardin Poetry in October and have a novel and a collection of essays under consideration by two different publishers.
Please send writing news: bstarr67@gmail.com

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