Summer in Words

Writing Conference

Cheryl Strayed, part 1

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The keynote speaker At SIW this year is Cheryl Strayed. For those of you not familiar with this thoughtful, talented writer you  might want to read her essay ‘Munro Country’ first published in The Missouri Review for which she won the Pushcart Prize.

Here’s how it opens:

One afternoon when I was twenty-five, I opened the lid of the black metal mailbox that was bolted to the front of the house where I lived and found a plain white envelope addressed to me in a grandmotherly scrawl from an address in British Columbia. It was January in Minneapolis and cold-really cold-but I pulled my gloves off anyway and tore the envelope open and stood on the frozen wooden stairs to read the letter inside. Dear Cheryl, it began in the same hand that had addressed the envelope:

Your letter and story were forwarded to me here in B.C. where I am staying until April-near to 2 of my daughters and my one grandchild. I want to say that I was moved and delighted by the Horse and Blue Canoe. It’s a wonderful, unexpected kind of story and I wouldn’t change a hair on its head. (That’s what my favorite editor always says to me before he proposes about 50 changes.) You are quite right to stay out of academic life if you can. Are you eligible for any grants? If you were in Canada I’d certainly urge you to apply for one from the Canada Council. You must continue writing but you do have lots of time. You’re two years younger than my youngest daughter. I wasn’t writing nearly so well at your age.

Author: jessicapage2

Jessica Page Morrell lives in Portland, Oregon where she is surrounded by writers and watches the sky all its moods and shades. She’s the author of Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected; Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, How to Write the Bad Guys in Fiction; The Writer’s I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life, Voices from the Street; Between the Lines: Master The Subtle Elements Of Fiction Writing; and Writing Out the Storm. Morrell works as a highly-sought after developmental editor because if your characters are a bundle of quirks and inconsistencies, or the plot stalls and the scenes don’t flow, these problems need to be unriddled before you submit it to an agent or editor. She also works on memoirs and nonfiction books with a special focus on logic and voice. She began teaching writers in 1991 and now teaches through a series of workshops in the Northwest and at writing conferences throughout North America and lectures to various writing organizations. She is the former writing expert at which was voted as one of the best 101 sites for writers. In 2008 she founded Summer in Words, a yearly writing conference held on the Oregon coast. She hosts a Web site at, and she’s written a monthly column about topics related to writing since 1998 that currently appears in The Willamette Writer. She also contributes to The Writer and Writers Digest magazines, writes a monthly e-mail newsletter, The Writing Life, and a Web log at

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