The small town of Mokelumne Hill will soon be taken over by writers. The Gold Rush Writer’s Conference will return to the Hotel Leger on May 3, marking the 14th year the event has been held in the historic Gold Rush town.

The intimate conference allows writers the opportunity to network, learn and share their passion with like-minded individuals. Founded in 2005 by then-Mokelumne Hill resident and New York Times bestselling author Antoinette May, along with a group of fellow writers, the conference is an opportunity for writers of all skill levels to learn, share and network.

Rebecca Fischer, graphic designer and columnist at the Calaveras Enterprise, has attended the event since 2015. She has loved reading and writing stories since she was a child, but being an introvert caused her to encounter the same issue many writers experience at some point in their careers: how to meet and network with other writers.

“I didn’t personally know any writers, so I had no idea how to be a writer professionally or even where to start. I went to the conference on a bit of a whim, just to see what it was like,” Fischer said. “I was kind of terrified; I didn’t know anybody and I’m a huge introvert, so just the idea of meeting a bunch of strangers nearly kept me from going. Also, I was an amateur writer, so I was intimidated by the idea of meeting writers who were much more experienced than me.”

The conference ended up being an incredibly positive experience for Fischer, and she continues to attend.

The conference will feature a series of panels, specialty talks, workshops and celebrity lectures, according to the website. Some of the featured speakers include Kathleen Kent, who has published multiple bestselling novels, including “The Dime,” “The Heretic’s Daughter,” “The Traitor’s Wife,” and “The Outcasts.”

Kent was invited to speak at the conference by Erika Mailman, who she has known for many years. She was intrigued by “how enlivening and intimate” she was told the weekend conference is.

“When she asked me to be a part of this year’s event, I jumped at the chance,” Kent said. This will be Kent’s first time in Calaveras County.

Kent shared her excitement and enthusiasm with the Enterprise and gave some insight into what inspires her about weekend writers’ conferences such as this one.

“The point of a writing retreat is to give the attendees the best possible experience in developing their own writing. A smaller group is less intimidating to the beginning writer, and provides more one-on-one engagement and encouragement with both the writing coach and fellow writers,” Kent said. “I’ve taught writing classes for Dallas Writers’ Workshop and the Writer’s Guild of Texas, but those are usually single, three-hour classes that can only briefly touch on the elements of writing fiction.”

She went on to say that a weekend retreat gives the writers “a more in-depth and substantive exploration of disciplines and techniques for achieving a finished work.”  

Kent became a full-time writer later in her life. “I had lived in New York for over 20 years, working in various commercial enterprises and came to writing professionally rather late in the game. ‘The Heretic’s Daughter,’ my first novel, wasn’t published until I was in my late 40s,” Kent said. “It took me five years to write that first book, and I use in my writing classes the strategies that took me from inception to publication. I’ll also be exploring what it takes to change genres, for example, making the switch from historical fiction to crime fiction, discussing the elements of writing that are universal to both genres, as well as the elements that are unique to each.”

Kent will be the headline speaker after dinner on the night of May 4.

“I like that this is such an intimate, small conference – that everyone is on the same level – a chance for beginning writers to rub shoulders with successful writers,” said Sally Kaplan, executive director of the Gold Rush Writer’s Conference. Kaplan joined the Gold Rush Writers in 2016, became co-director in 2017, and executive director in 2018.

The conference will begin on May 3 and run through May 5.

Tickets are still available for $215, which includes Friday’s picnic supper, Saturday night dinner and Sunday lunch. For the full schedule, registration and workshop information, visit goldrushwriters.com.

Beginning this year, locals have the opportunity to enroll in individual workshops for $40 per 90-minute session. If you are interested in enrolling in individual workshops, email Kaplan directly at salkap123@att.net.

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