2016 Conference


James_Bradley_slwc2016James Bradley is the New York Times #1 bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, The Imperial Cruise and The China Mirage. He is a son of John Bradley, who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The photograph of that event is the world’s most reproduced photo. Clint Eastwood told their father-son story in his movie, Flags of Our Fathers.

James attended Sophia University in Tokyo and is the president of the James Bradley Peace Foundation, which for the last decade has been sending American students to China and Japan to live for a year. James is America’s best-selling Pacific historian. His first book, Flags of our Fathers, chronicled the island-hopping campaign and the battle of Iwo Jima.

His second book, Flyboys, detailed the air war and the dramatic story of George Herbert Walker Bush’s close escape from capture and death. Bradley’s third book, The Imperial Cruise, tells the story of how President Theodore Roosevelt concluded secret agreements in 1905 that lit the long historical fuse on World War II in the Pacific. His latest book, The China Mirage, recounts how American misunderstanding of China has resulted in over 200,000 combat deaths in three preventable wars.

A best-selling author as well as an acclaimed professional speaker who has entertained thousands, James brings Pacific history alive like no one else. James’ keynote talk will focus on “You’ll Always Get a “No” If You Have a Good Idea.” Twenty-seven of the largest publishers in the world turned down James Bradley’s first book, which later became a New York Times #1 bestseller. The publisher of that first book turned down James’ second book, which later became a New York Times #2 bestseller.

Clint Eastwood shook his head when James told him this story. Eastwood said, “You’ll always get a “no” if you have a good idea.” James will talk about achieving your goal, no matter how many say it can’t be done.line

Claudia_Schmidt_slwc2016Garrison Keillor once said that “when Claudia sings a song, it stays sung.” Kevin Kling, who has shared the stage with Claudia, said that “though she is known as a musical performer, she is a great storyteller in her own right.” It is this gift of telling a story put to music that has kept audiences coming to her performances for almost 40 years.

Of her gift, Claudia refers to it as a “quirky and wonderful hodge-podge of music, poetry, story, laughter, drama and celebrating the moment.” She performs her original work and personal versions of the work of others in clubs, theaters, festivals, TV and radio.

Claudia has recorded 19 albums of mostly original songs, exploring folk, blues and jazz featuring her acclaimed 12-string guitar and mountain dulcimer playing. Reviewers note that Claudia “takes her audiences into her world as easily as the child who discovers the endless universes that exist in a cardboard box.” She leaves it to the imagination of her audience to conjure their own images of her storytelling and songs. No interpretation of her songs or stories are wrong—Claudia invites audiences to “tie their own associations to her style.”

About her writing process, Claudia says “I like to eavesdrop when I am alone in a restaurant. A line will drift out of a conversation and although I have no idea of its context, it grabs me and starts things rolling.”

Her presentation will show how this process works for her. “This involves letting a visual image or a resonant sentence open a portal to the next place, and so on, allowing things to unfold and surprise,” she said. In reference to her presentation, Claudia quotes E.L. Doctorow: “Writing is like driving in the dark; you can only see what’s in the beam of headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. It makes for a surprising journey.”line

Larry_Watson_slwc2016“Larry Watson is a generous writer, and his love of the West and the people who live there shines through,” wrote a reviewer of his new novel As Good as Gone (2016, Algonquin Books).

Watson’s fiction has been published in more than a dozen foreign editions, receiving prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, New York Public Library, Critics’ Choice and the High Plains Book Award, among others.

Larry received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. He is the author of Montana 1948, White Crosses, Orchard, American Boy, Let Him Go, As Good As Gone and other novels, as well as the story collection Justice and the chapbook of poetry Leaving Dakota.

His short stories and poems have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, New England Review, North American Review and other literary magazines. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Post, among other periodicals and anthologies.

Larry currently teaches writing and literature at Marquette University. He and his wife Susan live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

About his presentation, Larry states “I’ll offer some tips and strategies for creating a sense of place in fiction, using both my own experiences and some examples from other writers’ fiction.”line

Dave_Simkins_slwc2016About himself, Dave Simpkins writes “Dave Simpkins was born very young.” He majored in journalism at the University of Minnesota and has been the editor and publisher of the Sauk Centre Herald where he has been covering Sinclair Lewis since 1988. Dave also is active in Minnesota’s Parks and Trails Council, first publishing the popular Minnesota Trails Magazine in 2005.

Dave has won several awards in news reporting, column writing and general excellence in journalism. He is currently writing a book on the early years of Sinclair Lewis’ writing career, from his formative years in Sauk Centre to his breakthrough novel Main Street.

Dave has read most of Sinclair Lewis’ novels and short stories as well as much of what has been written about Lewis and what Lewis read as a young man growing up in Sauk Centre.

About his presentation, Dave states that “Sinclair Lewis said he caught the itch for scribbling at the young age of 10 when he set out to be a great author like his heroes, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens.” Dave will share how Lewis developed the writing skills that led him to become the most popular author of the 1920s and the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Participants will explore Lewis’ techniques, influences and writing habits.