Why Solstice?

I’m sitting here at my desk this morning, with windows open on either side of me. The sky is blue, the sun is bright, and the air is warm. This is the weather I’ve been waiting for all winter. It’s truly one of those remarkable days up here in the mountain tops! I plan to spend a good part of the morning writing, but I will be heading outside later to enjoy this beautiful day!

But before I do all of that, I want to invite you all to come to Solstice in July. Escape to Midway for three glorious days and learn from some of the best writers in Utah among the peaceful surroundings of The Homestead Resort. The writing talent here in Utah is deep, and we’re fortunate that so many authors are willing to share their time and expertise. The conference last year was remarkable. We had a lot of fun while improving our writing skills. The faculty, without a doubt, was top-knotch; but it was the attendees who brought so much heart and soul to our event. We met passionate writers from all walks of life. They showed up and jumped in with both feet! We had people who wanted to write about their personal experiences; whether they were raising a special-needs child, gathering family histories, or sharing stories about training horses. I think we all walked away feeling enriched and better for having been there.

And that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? Writing is about people. Everyone has a story to tell.

If you want to tell yours, then Solstice is the place for you.



Insights from Chris Crowe

Today Chris Crowe answers our questions. Chris will be teaching Writing Nonfiction for Teenagers at Solstice this year.

1. Why should writers consider writing nonfiction?
The bulk of what is published in print and online is nonfiction, so it provides many more opportunities for aspiring writers to find an audience. Nonfiction, of course, comes in a huge variety of flavors, so writers will never run out of subjects to explore—and to put into writing.

2. What’s your favorite nonfiction book?
I like too many to single out just one book, but for years I have really admired Jennifer Armstrong’s Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World.

3. What are your writing habits?
I have horrible writing habits, but when I’m disciplined and productive, writing is the first thing I do when I get to work. I have a secluded cubicle in the belly of the BYU library—no windows, no cell phone reception, no wifi connection—and I sit at a small and aging Dell desktop computer and write. A really good day provides me three hours or more; most days an hour or less.

4. What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I teach in the English department at BYU, and that takes up a large amount of my time—not just the teaching, but the meetings and the conferencing with students, and the other stuff that fills a professor’s day.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read, read, read. Establish a writing routine. Write with your internal editor muffled and stuffed in a sound-proof box. Enter contests. Attend workshops. Find smart and trusted readers who will give you honest feedback about your writing. Never give up.

6. What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out as a writer?
I wish I had understood better the importance of knowing your audience. I also wish I had taken typing in high school.

7. And just for fun…salty or sweet?
Salty AND sweet!

Thanks, Chris!

To sign up for Chris’s class this summer, head on over http://www.highvalleyarts.org/solstice.

An Interview With John Bennion

We are excited to have John Bennion returning to Solstice this year! The class he will be teaching is entitled “Writing Family History with a Sense of Place.”

John answers some questions for us:

• Why should writers consider writing nonfiction?

Fiction writers and poets draw from their own lives, but essayists and memoirists get to write about their experiences without inventing material; their tools are honesty and clear vision. In a way, saying that is a distortion, because reimagining the past, reinterpreting experience, and gaining new vision are essential to the nonfiction writer. This kind of writing is essential for experts and for people who want to write for themselves and their families. I believe that as children (and adults) we create our identities as we tell and retell stories about personal history, family culture, community practice, and experiences with the earth. It is a glorious mode of recording lived truth.

• What’s your favorite nonfiction book?

I have several favorites. In the category of memoir, I like Growing Up by Russell Baker and Goodbye to Poplarhaven: Reflections of a Utah Boyhood by Edward Geary. In personal essay I like Pat Madden’s Quotidiana and Philip Lopate’s Against Joie de Vivre. In the category of natural history writing I love Wendel Berry’s The Gift of Good Land, Amy Leech’s Things That Are, and George Handley’s Home Waters: a Year of Recompenses on the Provo River.

• What are your writing habits?

When I’m happy, I get up and write in the morning for 3-4 hours. I actually mean, when I write for 3-4 hours I feel happy. That doesn’t happen much when I’m teaching. Sometimes I have to get a fix at night when everything else is done. When I’m rolling, I can grab an hour here and there and make it work. Dean Hughes is the model; he writes 8 hours every day, like going to work.

• What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Teach, take students outdoors to experience the natural world and then write about it. Play basketball. Read mystery and science fiction novels. Spend time with my children and grandchildren. Work in my garden.

• Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

After my masters thesis defense, my mentor Doug Thayer said to me, “If you write for 4 hours a day for 10 years, you’ll become a pretty good writer.

• What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out as a writer?

I wish I had known how much work it takes to get something published. I might have not gotten discouraged so easily if I’d had in my head that my efforts had to be complete. I thought that talent would make the job easy. I also wish I’d known more about the process of publishing.

And just for fun…salty or sweet?

Both. I love yogurt-covered pretzels, popcorn with salt and gooey sugary stuff on it, and those roasted almonds that have both salt and sugar on them. So good.

Louise Plummer

Solstice teacher, Louise Plummer, answers a few questions about writing:

Why should writers consider writing nonfiction?

It requires the same skill set as writing fiction: choosing subject matter, characterization, setting, voice etc.

What’s your favorite nonfiction book?

An impossible question, but today I’ll say, David Shield’s Remote.

What are your writing habits?

I am not writing any fiction anymore and don’t plan to.  Occasionally, I do short personal essay pieces on request, but mostly I keep my blog going.  I write it in bed on my laptop.  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s lame, but I have a sizeable reading audience either way.  It’s a way to know that I’m still alive.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Watching movies. Reading. Watercoloring.  Hanging with Tom.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself and your talent.  Do the work and send it off.  There is no magic dust to make this happen.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out as a writer?

Each writing project feels like the first time.  The middle of a book is the most difficult to get through.  Beginnings are the easiest.  You’ve got to want it more than anything else.

And just for fun…salty or sweet?
Salty, definitely.  If there isn’t a tragic underpinning to comedy, then it’s just burlesque.  Life is a tragedy with a really bad ending.  That alone makes me laugh until snot comes out of my nose.


Thank you, Louise!

You can sign up for Louise Plummer’s Memoir class by going to http://www.highvalleyarts.org/solstice