Joseph Campbell

Casper College and ARTCORE Literary Conference Director Joseph Campbell poses in his office Tuesday at Casper College.

Elysia Conner, Star-Tribune

The Casper College and ARTCORE Literary Conference is for writers at any level, from beginners to published authors. The 31st annual event features professional writers and educators from around the country who will give workshops and talks.

The conference Thursday and Friday features four authors and is designed to be small and intimate, said festival organizer Joseph Campbell, who teaches English at Casper College.

“The whole idea is not only to provide craft talks but workshops,” he said. “And that’s the big thing that we can offer, is that these are published authors. They’ve won awards, and this is your chance to sit down with them and and workshop to get some get some feedback and work on your own art.”

This year’s festival theme is “Eclipse” and the event features author Stephen Graham Jones, who wrote the werewolf novel “Mongrels.” Attendees will have chances to attend fiction and poetry workshops, including Jones’ “What If Your Dialogue Wasn’t Terrible?”

The workshop deals with the tricky job of writing dialogue as well as identifying and solving its problems, according to the conference schedule. Jones teaches in Boulder, Colorado, and has been an NEA Fellow and a Texas Writers League Fellow and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Multicultural Award. He’s written more than a dozen novels and hundreds of published short stories, according to the conference website.

Another fiction workshop features Casper College creative writing instructor Anthony Guerriero with “Brief Encounters: Writing Flash Fiction.” Participants will learn not just what cuts can be made but what omissions make stories better, the schedule says. Flash fiction is generally considered any piece of fiction under 750 words, Guerriero said in an email. The topic also relates to the eclipse theme.

“Eclipses are brief. Flash fiction is brief,” he said. “I wanted to engage the theme of the eclipse in a unique way.”

Poetry workshops include “From the Inside Out: Writing about Family” with poet and author Nickole Brown. Participants should come prepared to write in this workshop, which uses “the ethnographic methods of an anthropologist” to tell those stories of those closest to you with clarity, empathy and culpability – scrubbed of lies and self-pity, according to the conference website. Brown was the editorial assistant for Hunter S. Thompson and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Arts Council. She worked at Sarabande Books for a decade, and she was the national publicity consultant for Arktoi Books and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

Love is the topic of another poetry workshop, “Blah, Blah, Love: Pushing Past Clichés in Love Poems.” Jessica Jacobs will help writers ground love poems “in the rough, vibrant texture of the world.” Jacobs’ poetry, essays and fiction has appeared in many publications, and her book “Pelvis with Distance,” won the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry, an Over the Rainbow selection by the American Library Association and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary and Julie Suk Awards, according to the festival website.

Besides workshops, the four featured writers also will give talks on topics from writing hook lines to blending genres of poetry, fiction and prose.

The entire event is free, though participants need to sign up for the workshops in advance. It’s a rare chance to learn from a variety of professional writers, Campbell said.

“The opportunity to sit down with these writers and really kind of roll up your sleeves, that’s what’s cool,” he said. “You get the chance to have a professional novelist talk to you about the craft and look at your work directly, for free.”

Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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