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Drive hopes to revive Writers Conference

Elizabeth George - submitted photo
Elizabeth George
— image credit: submitted photo

There is no Whidbey Island Writers Conference this year, but a fundraising drive has been launched to assure the attraction returns next year.

The Elizabeth George Foundation, based in Langley, has offered the Whidbey Island Writers Conference a challenge: to raise $15,000 by July 1 in order to match their $15,000 grant and claim the first $30,000 of its overall fundraising goal of $90,000.

In announcing the grant, best-selling author and Langley resident Elizabeth George said, “I see the Whidbey Island Writers Conference as one of the signature events on the island. Like Djangofest, Choochokam and the Open Studio Tour, the writers conference showcases the artistic nature of both the people here and the place itself.”

The Elizabeth George Foundation is committed to several areas of interest, among which is the literary arts, and the board of trustees sees the conference as a primary way to support and encourage writing at all levels. “We encourage all who feel likewise to join us in supporting the return of a conference that is unique among writing conferences in the nation. I know this well, because I’ve been to a lot of them,” she said.

The familiar banners and reader boards welcoming writers to Whidbey Island, usually seen the first weekend of March, are missing this year. Like many such events nationwide, the WIWC has been a victim of the economy. Volunteers, with the support of WIWC’s newly reorganized parent organization, the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, are hard at work to keep the conference spirit alive and to raise the $90,000 needed to put it back on its feet for 2011 and ensure its future health.

Susan Wilmoth, secretary of the NILA board of directors and member of the conference team since its debut in 1998, said, “Our conference is rated as one of the best in the nation. Men and women have come here from every part of the country —- thousands of them. We’ve given a full-service, three-day conference, at less than $400, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Thanks to the boost Elizabeth George has given us, we’ll be able to continue doing that.”

Writers understand the importance of deadlines. Dorothy Read, long-time Whidbey Island Writers Association activist and volunteer, likes to compare the fundraising campaign to writing a book. “Let’s think of these dollars as words. We need 90,000 of them to finish the project and we need the first 15,000 by July 1.”

Conference teammate, Rowena Williamson adds, “With the grant, we’ll have 30,000 words—a third of the book!”

The book actually has a title, “Return of the Killer Conference,” and it can be viewed on the web at www.writeonwhidbey.org, according to Brett Rebischke-Smith, who chairs the Whidbey Writers Association/Whidbey Island Writers Conference Steering Committee. “Instead of a thermometer, we have a book that’ll grow dollar by dollar. Fifteen thousand dollars by July 1 is our first big goal, but we’re not finished until we get to $90,000.”

Rebischke-Smith issues an invitation to anyone who would like to join the WIWA/WIWC volunteers. “We are in the business of supporting writers in this community. We have many activities, many jobs,” he said. “Get in touch with us at wiwa@whidbey.com or call 360-331-6714.”

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