When Susan Purvis began her writing journey 12 years ago, she didn’t consider herself a writer, nor did she have the expertise needed to do what she wanted: pen a memoir.
“I was a fledgling writer; I had all these hopes and dreams and I couldn’t write,” Purvis said.
A dozen years later, she’s the author of a successful book, “Go Find,” a memoir detailing her time training her first search-and-rescue canine companion and all the lessons the pair learned along the way.
Purvis credits much of her success to the Authors of the Flathead writing group, which will host the 29th annual Flathead River Writers Conference on Sept. 14-15 at Flathead Valley Community College.
When she walked into the group, she started a years-long journey into the craft and business of writing. It “takes a village” to take a book from a vague idea in someone’s mind to a full-fledged, printed story, she said, and she learned it from Authors of the Flathead.
“I went through this whole program year after year, not giving up,” Purvis said. “Through the conference, I found inspiration and agents willing to help me.”
Along with Purvis, this year’s conference speakers include:
• Ben Loehnen, an editor from New York City who co-founded Avid Reader Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. He is also an editor for HarperCollins and Random House, a Harvard graduate, and a Montanan
• Jeff Giles, the executive Hollywood editor for Vanity Fair and local author
• Kathy Dunnehoff, an award-winning author of four novels
• Haven Kimmel, a New York Times best-selling author for her memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and teaches a master class for creative non-fiction at Duke University in North Carolina
• Bob Mayer, an author from Tennessee with at least 75 books under various pen names
• Jess Owen, a local author and creator of the Summer King Chronicles, an award-winning young adult fantasy series
The conference will feature two days of presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities for anyone in the writing field, from writing and editing to the world of agents and publishing.
It’s also a chance to get an intimate, one-on-one feel with the conference speakers, because attendance to the event is limited to 100 participants.
Workshops and presentations run the gamut discussing the publishing industry, from conversations between authors about how they got published and what it took to get there to how best to communicate with an editor. There are also discussions about how to sell a pitch, how best to use social media and other online tools to further your career, memoir writing, young-adult fiction, and what makes a great book.
The final panel of the conference is dedicated to its speakers reading writing submissions aloud and giving their first impressions and critiques.
Purvis said it can be an overwhelming experience to first start, but like anything else, if you practice and stick with it, you can make progress. Her memoir has received acclaim from New York Times best-selling authors as well as local writers, and Purvis is set to present at the conference she first attended a dozen years ago.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said. “You just can’t give up.”
For more information on the Flathead River Writers Conference and Authors of the Flathead, visit www.authorsoftheflathead.org.