Right to write exercised at Vancouver celebration

About 100 people turn out for Unpublished Writers Day event

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor


photoA short story called "The Smile" by Patricia Joy Stepp is posted on the blog "Very Very Very Short Stories."

(/The Columbian)

Did You Know?

The Brautigan Library in Vancouver, named for Northwest author Richard Brautigan and housed at the Clark County Historical Museum, has manuscripts from authors who live in 31 states, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, India and Saudi Arabia.

On the Web

Brautigan Library

Josh Erdahl’s blog

Clark County Historical Museum

You don't have to write a lot to be a writer. Just write something.

That was one theme Sunday as Washington State University Vancouver celebrated National Unpublished Writers' Day.

About 100 writers showed up at the Clark County Historical Museum in downtown Vancouver to check out the event that featured 10 "creation stations" staffed by writers of many ilk. The museum co-sponsored the event.

If you needed inspiration, third-graders from Image Elementary School bravely shared their haiku at a 2 p.m. reading.

Those poems were titled "Cake," "Ice Cream," "Roses," "Emperor Penguin" and "Grass," and were well received.

Topics at the writing stations included poetry, six-word memoirs, screenwriting, electronic literature and a half-dozen more.

Josh Erdahl was encouraging writers to participate in a blog called "Very Very Very Short Stories."

How short?

One writer offered a question mark and a period and called it good.

Erdahl has 70 short stories so far and when he gets to 100, he'll compile a book called "100 Pieces of Impossabilia."

"This is a way for writers to get over their concerns or worry about writing," Erdahl said of the effort.

Patricia Joy Stepp of Vancouver took Erdahl up on his offer. On Sunday, she put her hands to the laptop and wrote about 144 words in a piece called "The Smile."

"I love to be published," Stepp, 72, said. She also writes a newspaper column called "Stepping Stones" for The Review in Woodland.

Erdahl is a consultant at the WSUV Writing Center. He and other authors have already published a book of short stories called "99 Ways to Die (and Other Party Tricks)." Amazon has it for $9.99, he said. He wrote a short piece for that book called "Cats," and his colleague, Kandy Robertson, contributed a shorty called "Puppy Love."

Robertson is a clinical associate professor at WSUV and director of the Writing Center there. She said 300 to 500 students a month use the center.

At another station, Stan Torrence, 82, of Tigard, Ore., was showing writers how to design and make a book, complete with putting the manuscript in clamps, scoring the edge, and gluing on the cover. He uses a professional-grade printer to make his own color covers. Torrence said he's written seven books and might make money some day.

The former school art teacher said, "I find writing is as wonderful as a painting."

The Sunday event was tied to the Brautigan Library at the museum.

"Richard Brautigan envisioned a library for unpublished authors," said John Barber of WSUV's Creative Media & Digital Culture department.

After two years of negotiations, in September of 2011 the museum took ownership of the Brautigan Library, which had been in Vermont. It has 304 manuscripts, most unpublished. The library occupies a book case in a corner of the museum. The Northwest author is best known for his 1967 novel "Trout Fishing in America."

"People think it's pretty wonderful," Barber said of the library.

Barber said there is no more room for manuscripts on paper, but the library is accepting unpublished digital manuscripts.

There are 13 sections in the Brautigan Library at the museum with topics including poetry, spiritual, love and meaning of life.

The bookends feature graphic presentations of mayonnaise jars.


In the last sentence of "Trout Fishing," Brautigan wrote: "Expressing a human need, I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word mayonnaise."