Inspiration and Farewell: Highlights from Compose Creative Writing Conference

By Erik Paul & Gabriel Elmosleh
Design Editor & News Editor

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Students, Instructors, and community members take part in different sessions at Compose Creative Writing Conference 2024. The 2024 keynote speaker was Casey Parks.

Sue Mach opened this year’s Compose Creative Writing Conference, sponsored by the Clackamas Community College English department, by announcing her retirement, marking this as her last conference at the college.

In Mach’s time at CCC she made numerous contributions such as organizing Compose, chairing the school’s global learning committee, and collaborating with the theater department on numerous different productions.

“In the past we’ve hosted the likes of Rafael Alvarez, Sierra Crane Murdock, Eli Saslow last year and now Casey Parks. I’m pretty excited,” Mach said.

Casey Parks, author of the book “Diary of a Misfit,” delivered the keynote address at this year’s Compose Creative Writing Conference held in Roger Rook on May 18.

Parks’ book, a narrative of Roy Hudgins, a transgender man from Delhi, Louisiana, combines with Parks’ own story, delving deep into themes of identity, acceptance, and personal growth.

“This is a writing conference, not my personal therapy appointment,” Parks said as part of the opening remarks. “So I won’t talk too much about my mom today.”

Parks initially began working on a video documentary of Hudgins, who, though born female, lived as a man and found acceptance within his community. Alongside Hudgins’ story, Parks shares her journey, detailing her struggles with coming out, career challenges, and her complex relationship with her mother.

Parks told the story of how she transformed her documentary footage into a compelling narrative. Her casual storytelling style and deep empathy made the session engaging and impactful.

Parks offered invaluable advice for writers, emphasizing the importance of following personal obsessions.

“You have to follow your ghosts, like what things are haunting you, what things can you…just not stop thinking about,” Parks said. “That’s the thing that you have to write about.”

The Q&A session focused more on the writing process than on Parks’ own story. Vidalia Flores, a student, writing tutor and peer mentor at CCC, said, “The Q&A felt like a little behind-the-scenes of the book, as with each question that people asked, it felt like we as a group got more of an insight of how much work went into making it. Casey answered every question so in-depthly, covering what the person asked and also delving deeper.”

The Compose Creative Writing Conference offered a range of ten different workshops that covered different writing styles from poetry to playwriting and graphic novels.

“Making the Invisible Visible,” by award-winning narrative nonfiction writer Lauren Kessler, offered those in attendance a chance to look at the world around them in new ways, making the unforeseen and unassuming the hero of the story.

Portland-based author Emme Lunde led the “Writing the Magical, Writing the Real: On Making Magical Stories Believable” workshop where attendees discussed techniques for seeing magic in the world, and looked at elements that make magical stories more believable.

Flores said, “I now have a list of some cool stories to read from the quotes we read and a better idea of where to start when writing a magical story.”

The workshop “Writing: Aggregating the Raw Material” by poet Emmett Wheatfall explored the foundational elements of writing.

Wheatfall demonstrated the importance of collecting and utilizing various forms of raw material, such as diction, dictum, metaphor and analogy. His emphasis on these components aimed to help those in attendance to realize just how crucial they are in crafting effective and engaging compositions.

The atmosphere allowed participants to share insights and techniques as a group, enhancing their understanding of the writing process. The workshops not only offered practical tools for writing but also encouraged a deeper thinking about the practice of constructing narratives, poetry, and developing a personal lexicon.

The Compose Creative Writing Conference not only honored the past achievements of its community but also highlighted the profound impact that dedicated educators and writers can have on emerging talents.

As the day wrapped up, participants left the conference equipped with new tools and perspectives to further their writing journeys.

Despite Sue Mach’s retirement, the Compose Creative Writing Conference will continue under the leadership of Nicole Rosevear and Matt Warren of the English department.

Erik Paul

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