2019 panel descriptions

For a detailed schedule of events, click here. Learn more about our featured artists and panelists.

Modern Love Panel.jpg



Sea View Theatre / 5–6 p.m.
Poems, essays, restaurant reviews, profiles, novels, and, of course, cookbooks—they all find a wide audience when they’re about food and drink. They entice us to try new cuisines and techniques; give us glimpses into the worlds of restaurants, sustainable agriculture, and locavorism; and help us decide how and where to sate our palates and fill our cupboards. Feast with this panel of experts as they share stories, wisdom, and dreams about how writing whets our appetites.

Panelists: Kim Bast, Jessica Gigot, Joe Ray, J. Ryan Stradal
Moderator: Iris Graville

This event is free and open to the public.


Two Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 9:30–10:35 a.m.
Children often become the translators and cultural bridges between their immigrant parents and their newly adopted communities. Five writers discuss how being immersed in two languages, two cultures, and often two conflicting sets of values have influenced them and their writing.

Panelists: Rick Barot, Donna Miscolta, Jed Myers, Paul Nelson
Moderator: Tina Schumann

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when bad things happen to good people

Black Box, Orcas Center / 9:30–10:35 a.m.
Much of our lives, from insurance policies to airbags, is devoted to protecting ourselves and others from harm. So why do we still crave stories of things gone horribly wrong? What does this interest say about us? What truths do we approach? This panel will ask acclaimed fiction writers to peer into a fundamental paradox of human nature: the pleasure of reading about terrible events.

Panelists: Katrina Carrasco, Sam Gailey
Moderator: Kevin O’Brien

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when fiction is truer than fact

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 10:45–11:50 a.m.
What kind of insights and truths uncovered by great reporting only truly come to life when they’re told as a story? Four current and former journalists turned writers of fiction and memoir discuss how the experience of reporting can inform narrative storytelling—and how great storytelling can help us better see and understand the world around us.

Panelists: Tom Barbash, Rebecca Clarren, Jennifer Haupt, Claudia Rowe
Moderator: Jule Treneer

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The “Unlikable” Woman

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 12:10–1:15 p.m.
When women characters are slapped with the “unlikable” label, what does it really mean? Can female protagonists get away with being as flawed as male protagonists and still be celebrated? In this panel, we’ll talk about the books we love that star so-called unlikable women, as well as the publishing industry’s appetite—or lack thereof—for heroines who don’t fit the stereotypical feminine mold.

Panelists: Allison Augustyn, Elisabeth Eaves, Sonora Jha, Kristen Millares Young
Moderator: Margot Kahn

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Truth Across Genre

Black Box, Orcas Center / 12:10–1:15 p.m.
A memoirist, a novelist, a children’s author, a poet, and a personal essayist will discuss different approaches to expressing truth in their genres of choice, examining the concept of truth in literature as both writers and readers.

Panelists: Lois Brandt, Heather Durham, Claire Gebben, Mare Heron Hake
Moderator: Deborah Nedelman

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Like Life: The Art of the Short Story

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 1:25–2:30 p.m.
The publishing ecosystem that cultivated the American short story for 150 years has been greatly diminished. Yet writers’ and readers’ investment in short stories has never been deeper. Moderated by one of the nation’s leading editors of short fiction, this panel of accomplished story writers will discuss why they remain devoted to the form—and what they think it achieves that no other form can.

Panelists: Tom Barbash, Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Donna Miscolta, Eric Puchner
Moderator: Oscar Villalon

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The Ties That Bind: Memoirists on Writing About Family

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 2:40–3:45 p.m.
What compels writers to make their personal family stories public? How do they navigate issues such as the ethics of disclosure and the reliability of memory? And how do they wrestle with deciding what not to say without compromising their work? This conversation between lauded memoirists will explore the risks and rewards of turning complex family narratives into art.

Panelists: Nicole Chung, Cere Demuth, Terese Marie Mailhot, Neal Thompson
Moderator: Theresa Harris

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How to Spot a Great Story

Black Box, Orcas Center / 2:40–3:45 p.m.
As the arbiters of whose writing gets pitched and published, agents and editors enjoy a unique vantage point for assessing the appeal of a story. From their behind-the-scenes perspective, what makes certain pieces of work stand out in a very crowded field? Some of the best in the business share their insights.

Panelists: Michelle Brower, Daphne Durham, Oscar Villalon, Jennifer Worick
Moderator: Mia Lipman Irwin

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Poetry in Place

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 3:55–5 p.m.
Civic and state poets play a unique role in defining the character of the place they call home. In this reading and conversation between artists whose current or former job is to represent a city or state in poetry, we’ll talk about the excitement, honor, and responsibility of serving the community through creative work.

Panelists: Anastacia-Renée, Elizabeth Austen, Thom Caraway
Moderator: Keetje Kuipers

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Keeping Company: How to Build and Sustain a Literary Community

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 5:10–6:15 p.m.
Writing is famously solitary—but there’s nothing like toiling alone together. As they celebrate 10 years as a nonprofit collective, the cofounder of Seattle7Writers and several longtime members will share stories and advice about connecting with your creative peers, bringing out each other’s best work, and benefiting your community in the process.

Panelists: Donna Miscolta, Kevin O’Brien, Claudia Rowe, Jennie Shortridge
Moderator: Anna Quinn

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Words + Music: An Unforgettable Evening*

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 7:15–9:15 p.m. A literary variety show like no other! Featuring readings by award-winning and best-selling authors Tom Barbash, Rick Barot, Nicole Chung, Mat Johnson, Terese Marie Mailhot, Eric Puchner, Kiwi Smith, and Judith Thurman, plus the celebrated music of Laura Veirs.

*Due to space constraints, admission to this event is limited to Weekend Pass holders.

sunday, april 7

My Body, My Voice

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 9:30–10:35 a.m.
A provocative and intimate conversation between authors who reckon with their bodies and their voices on the page. This timely topic with social, political, and emotional resonance will highlight embodied writing that defies genre and comes from a place of vulnerability and power.

Panelists: Anastacia-Renée, Keetje Kuipers, Anna Quinn, Natalie Singer
Moderator: Ayn Carrillo-Gailey

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For Love of Orcas: Artists Reflect on Saving Southern Resident Killer Whales

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 10:45–11:50 a.m.
When Tahlequah’s calf died, she swam with her deceased daughter for 17 days on a tour of grief that moved the world and inspired the anthology For Love of Orcas. Hear scientists, writers, and filmmakers discuss the ethics and challenges of writing to save these beloved animals and our beloved world.

Panelists: Bob Friel, Joe Gaydos, Paula MacKay, Jed Myers
Moderator: Jill McCabe Johnson

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Transformation: From Book to Script to Screen

Center Stage, Orcas Center / 12:10–1:15 p.m.
How does a story transform when it moves from the page to the screen? How does it stay true to the original work? Two authors whose celebrated works have been adapted for film and television meet with two expert screenwriters to discuss the possibilities and challenges of remaking a story for a new medium. This panel was made possible thanks to a collaboration with the Orcas Island Film Festival.

Panelists: Mat Johnson, Kiwi Smith, Judith Thurman
Moderator: Bryan Sipe