One of the great gifts given to regional writers is access to other regional writers of substance – not only of talent but friendship with that special spice which is the understanding that comes only writer-to-writer. Yesterday I enjoyed the day-long Sinclair Lewis Writer’s Conference in the company of one such talent, Julie Jo Larson – MStorian and road-trip pal of excellence.
We hit the road at 6:30 a.m., neither one of us thrilled with the early October black-out and fog morning. We arrived at the Sauk Centre High School in plenty of time to register and down cups of coffee before the first event of the day. The conference opened to a panel discussion with questions offered by the event organizer, Jim Umhoefer, fielded to an impressive panel represented by Faith Sullivan (Keynote Speaker), Judith Guest (author and screenwriter), Lorna Landvik (author and comedian), and Erik Hane (literary agent and editor).
Each attendee had the opportunity to learn from the professionals in one-hour sessions:
- Writing a Screenplay – Judith Guest
- Honor Your Imagination and Find the Fun in Writing – Lorna Landvik
- Keys to a Strong Book Proposal – Erick Hane
Breaks were short and learning was intense with interesting questions and discussions between participants and guest presenters. JulieJo and I were ready for the conference reception at 4:30 in the Palmer House Pub. We later ate in the dining room then hiked up to our rooms on the third floor of the hotel, fully prepared for a night’s sleep interrupted by whatever bumps in the night at the haunted historic Palmer House. I slept soundly, thank you, but Julie Jo did have a visitor who chose her bedding as a better place for the bathmat to reside.
Faith Sullivan – the author of Repent Lanny Merkel (1981), Watchdog (1982), Mrs. Demming and the Mythical Beast (1986), The Empress of One (1997), The Cape Ann (1988), What a Woman Must Do (2002), Gardenias (2005), Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse (2015).
Judith Guest – author of Ordinary People (1976), Errands (1996), Second Heaven (1982), Killing Time in St. Cloud (1988), The Mythic Family: An Essay (1988), Ice walk (2001), and The Tarnished Eye (2004).
Lorna Landvik – author of Patty Jane’s House of Curl (1995), Your Oasis on Flame Lake (1997), The Tall Pine Polka (1999), Welcome to the Great Mysterious (2000), Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2003), Oh My Stars (2005), The View From Mount Joy (2007), Tis the Season (2008), Mayor of the Universe (2012), Best to Laugh (2014), Once in a Blue Moon Lodge (2017).
For twenty-eight years, the Sinclair Lewis Writers’ Conference has helped aspiring writers of all levels and genres better understand their craft. Through lectures, workshops and social events, this annual conference provides learning and encouragement from the best minds in the industry.
Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. Although he was proud of his Midwestern roots, he traveled widely and was interested in many different aspects of American society, from business and medicine to religion and small-town life. His concern with issues involving women, race, and the powerless in society make his work still vital and pertinent today.
As Sheldon Norman Grebstein wrote, Lewis “was the conscience of his generation and he could well serve as the conscience of our own. His analysis of the America of the 1920s holds true for the America of today. His prophecies have become our truths and his fears our most crucial problems.”
Sinclair Lewis was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Main Street and Babbitt and won the award for Arrowsmith (although he turned it down). He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in Rome in 1951. His cremated remains are buried in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
The Palmer House Hotel
When you stay at The Palmer House, choose from a room tucked away in the recesses of the hotel or directly above the Original Main Street where you can observe the hustle and bustle of small-town life. The spacious lobby is perfect for whiling away the hours reading & visiting. The distinct photography scattered throughout the hotel, restaurant and lobby tell the tale of Sinclair Lewis and his night clerk duties, as well as the story of the town. The Palmer House Hotel was at the center of Sinclair Lewis’ boyhood home, and the Original Main Street, of Sauk Centre, at 500 Sinclair Lewis Avenue, Sauk Centre, MN.
The Sinclair Lewis 2017 Writers Conference is made possible by the financial sponsorship of the following organizations: The Stearns History Museum, Minnesota National Bank of Sauk Centre, First State Bank of Sauk Centre, Central Minnesota Federal Credit Union, Stearns Electric Association, and the Sinclair Lewis Foundation. This activity is also made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Private donors include Pat Hanauer, Dick and Pat Lewis and Dave and Linda Simpkins. Sauk Centre Community Education is a co-sponsor of the event.
I’m looking forward to the North Shore Readers and Writers Festival , November 2-5 in Grand Marais, MN, featuring authors and book professionals: Erik Anderson, Mary Casanova, Sharon Chmielarz, Tim Cochrane, Lily Coyle, Staci Drouillard, Katie Dublinski, Chris Fischbach, Peter Geye, Diane Glancy, William Green, Emily Hamilton, Patricia Hampl, Erin Hart, William Kent Krueger, Julie Landsman, Lise Lunge-Larsen, Shoshanna Matney, Ann Regan, Kathryn Savage, Sun Yung Shin, Nina Simonowicz, Moheb Soliman, Faith Sullivan, Bart Sutter, Kari Vick, and Kao Kalia Yang.
Maybe I’ll see you there!