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Writers at Work 

Hear the clangor of writers hammering out a living at the annual PCC conference.

Want to sit with best-selling authors and hear the scoop on how they made it? Listen to a poet give his words flight? Ask an essayist about the details of her craft? The annual Pima Writers' Workshop lets you do just that, kicking off Thursday, May 23 with a new cast of characters.

Well, not completely new. Pima has a rep that pulls people back, presenters and participants alike. A dozen writing mavens including agents and editors converge to share what they know best. Writers and book lovers come curious and leave inspired.

Meg Files, a published author and chair of Pima Community College's English department, initiated this conference 15 years ago and it takes year-round effort to keep the magic fresh. The Pima Writers' Workshop stands out from other conferences in its easy access to experts and the synergy created from the faculty Files recruits. "I invite writers across the spectrum to offer real variety, from poetry to fiction to memoir to stories for children to screenplays," she says.

Award-winning, best-selling Gap Creek author Robert Morgan headlined last year and returns with his sixth novel, This Rock, which Morgan describes as "a story of loyalty, and conflicts of loyalty, ambition and big dreams colliding with the wildness of the Prohibition era." Morgan shares the spotlight with Sinclair Browning, known for her Southwestern Trade Ellis mystery series. She also penned the hot new book Feathers Brush My Heart: True Stories of Mothers Touching Their Daughters' Lives After Death. She says she hopes her session will give writers courage. "Being published takes persistence," she says.

While the lineup includes the business side with presentations on publishing advice and trends like e-books and print-on-demand, it's not all about grownups. Also taking part is children's author Juanita Havill, whose picture-book character Jamaica made it to Reading Rainbow, as coveted a spot in the world of children's writing as Oprah's now defunct reading group was to adult fiction. Havill also compiled essays for Booklove: Creating Good Books for Children in an Age That Values Neither.

Richard Michaels Stefanik, with experience at Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, will talk about the story structures found in mega-hit movies. Sunday afternoon features award-winning Tucson poet and essayist Nancy Mairs, who'll read from her most recent book, A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories.

Springboards and time for writers to apply what they learned is one of the conference's strong draws. "Writers talk with one another, too, share experiences and information, and shortcut the learning process," says presenter Havill. "Not to mention the inspiration factor that comes from gathering with people who understand you when you talk about the agony/euphoria of first drafts or the pain/pleasure of revision."

"Previous participants have had wonderful success publishing poems, articles, stories and books," Files says. Writers discover the voice of their own stories in writing exercises. Feedback helps them reshape their book, story or poem. Networking points them in the right direction.

"Returning presenters tell me they love our participants' energy and genuine devotion to writing," says Files.

Morgan agrees: "There is such a fine sense of community at the Pima Writers' Conference, almost a sense of family. The writers respond to each other, and learn from each other in a memorable way."

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