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The UC Davis Extension Words in Bloom writers' conference is coming to Midtown for the first time this spring, and it promises a fertile writing environment for area wordsmiths.
“There’s great power in coming together with a group of people to set words on a page, words that you never thought you could or would write,” said Kate Asche, Words in Bloom program director and UC Davis Extension associate director of arts and humanities.
Words in Bloom will be held the weekend of April 29 to May 1. Writers who register by March 15 receive a $150 discount. Three persons registering for Words in Bloom together as a writing group each receive a further discount of $100. The full tuition before discounts is $745.
One of the chief aims of Words in Bloom is to provide a conference experience for writers without the time or money to attend UC Davis Extension’s other writing conference, the Tomales Bay Workshops, Asche said.
“I’ve seen Tomales Bay change so many people’s writing lives and their lives in general,” she said. “I wanted to bring a conference of that quality to Sacramento.”
Tomales Bay is twice as long as Words in Bloom. Before early bird or other discounts full tuition for Tomales Bay is more than double that of full tuition for Words in Bloom.
Asche coordinates both events, and she noted key differences between Words in Bloom and Tomales Bay, which is in its seventh year.
“Words in Bloom is expressly focused on creating new projects,” Asche said.
Another important goal of the conference is networking.
The new conference was kept to two weekend days, so local writers would not need to take time off work, Asche said. They can rejoin their families in the evening and avoid paying for lodging.
In contrast, faculty at Tomales Bay provide critique for writers with working manuscripts within a retreat setting. There is some networking.
Words in Bloom features the same high-caliber faculty as Tomales Bay.
“Our reputation is built upon the quality of what we deliver,” Asche said. “I wanted to make sure that that same extremely high quality is observed.”
Words in Bloom faculty include Dana Levin (poetry), Pam Houston (fiction), Ehud Havazelet (fiction) and Brenda Miller (creative nonfiction). Levin has previously spoken at Tomales Bay. Houston is director of creative writing at UC Davis and program director for Tomales Bay.
UC Davis Extension instructors recommended Havazelet and Miller, Asche said.
Words in Bloom participants select the writer of their choice and attend that writer’s workshop on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Afternoon and evening sessions will feature readings and panel discussions with local authors, emerging writers and agents. There also will be an opportunity to meet with publishing professionals for an additional fee.
The conference will take place at Time Tested Books in Midtown. Parking is available at the UC Davis Extension Sutter Square Galleria parking garage on 29th and K Streets. From there it is about a 10-block walk to Time Tested Books.
Several restaurants are located in the vicinity of the bookstore.
“One of our hopes is that (students) would be able to continue the conversations by going to lunch and seeing where it leads,” Asche said.
Both Words in Bloom and Tomales Bay fulfill a portion of the elective requirements for the UC Davis Extension Creative Writing Certificate Program. For Words in Bloom, payment for units of academic credit is included in the conference fee, whereas there is an additional fee for academic credit for Tomales Bay.
“This is my way of getting a UC education,” said Brenda Nakamoto, who is pursuing the Specialized Studies Program in Nonfiction Writing at UC Davis Extension.
Nakamoto said she was attracted to Words in Bloom because of its lower cost and closer proximity than Tomales Bay.
“I thought I’d give myself two days to just be creative,” Nakamoto said.
Nakamoto has admired Miller’s work and said Miller was another draw to Words in Bloom.
She said the description of Miller’s workshop in the Words in Bloom program appealed to her: “Be prepared to check your critical mind at the door, and put on your play clothes instead.”
Nakamoto received a fellowship to attend Tomales Bay in October 2009. Roan Press will release her creative nonfiction book “The Peach Farmer’s Daughter” in April.
Words in Bloom is the only writers’ conference with offerings for writers in different genres in Sacramento, Asche said.
“As of right now we have an eye to the future for it,” Asche said. “We want to see this year’s conference succeed, but it’s a longer-term vision than that.”
The Northern California Publishers and Authors conference will not be happening this year, said Ken Umbach, NCPA communications director.
“(Words in Bloom) looks like a very promising conference for writers,” Umbach said. He said the NCPA conference focused more on the publishing side of the business.
Another Midtown writing conference is Our Life Stories, which focuses on memoir writing. The Ethel MacLeod Hart Senior Center will host Our Life Stories at Cosumnes River College on May 7.
UC Davis Extension is holding a free information session about its writing programs Monday night from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the UC Davis Extension Sutter Square Galleria branch at 2901 K Street. Topics will include Words in Bloom, the Tomales Bay Workshops, the Nonfiction Writing Specialized Studies Program and the Creative Writing Certificate Program. The information session will conclude with a panel discussion entitled “Marketing Yourself as a Writer.”
Attendees will receive a $50 coupon which can be used toward a spring class, but not Words in Bloom.
The early bird registration deadline for Tomales Bay, which will be held October 19 through 23, is May 6.