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It's not too late to sign up for the Central Coast Writers Conference

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The Central Coast Writers Conference may be starting Sept. 24, but the annual event's executive director, Teri Bayus, wants everyone to know that it's not too late to get in on the fun.

That's because this year's conference, normally held at Cuesta College, is going 100 percent virtual.

INDUSTRY LEADERS Ricky Roxburgh, an Emmy-winning Disney staff writer, is one of the many big names the Central Coast Writers Conference has on its virtual schedule this year. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTRAL COAST WRITERS CONFERENCE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Central Coast Writers Conference
  • INDUSTRY LEADERS Ricky Roxburgh, an Emmy-winning Disney staff writer, is one of the many big names the Central Coast Writers Conference has on its virtual schedule this year.

"Because people don't have to make a hotel reservation and fly and drive and everything else, there may be a bunch that just sign up the day of," Bayus said. "I don't turn anyone away."

The conference begins Sept. 24 at noon, and ends with a closing keynote in the evening on Sept. 26. The three days in between are packed with virtual workshops, mentor sessions, keynote speeches, and conversations with some of the biggest names in all corners of the writing industry. Poets, novelists, screenwriters—anyone who has a passion for taking pen to paper—can find their place at the virtual event.

The conference costs $225 this year, nearly $100 less than last year's fee. Bayus said that every workshop, keynote presentation, and master class being held on Zoom will be recorded. This means conferencegoers can "attend" all the sessions at their leisure, even after the weekend concludes.

"Even if you can't come this weekend, you can sign up and then you have 62 workshops you can watch any time that you want," she said.

There's also a variety of scholarships available this year, and thanks to the virtual platform, Bayus said there's no maximum number of recipients. If you fit the scholarship requirements, you can attend free of charge.

The Voices of Color scholarship is new this year and open to any person of color interested in attending the conference and sharing their story, Bayus said. The Teachers' Writing Program is available to teachers and educators. The Teen Program scholarships are open to anyone from age 11 to 18, and include a one-day pass for the conference's Saturday workshops as well as a special Teen Program poetry workshop on Friday.

Bayus added that essential employees—medical workers, grocery store clerks, farmworkers, or any employee deemed essential during the pandemic—have fee-waiving opportunities available to them as well.

Those interested can email centralcoastwritersconference@gmail.com to inquire about attending this weekend or gaining access to the Zoom recordings after the conference concludes.

Another advantage to going virtual is that attendees and workshop leaders alike can be anywhere in the world while they tune in. The conference already has a history of bringing in best-selling authors, Emmy-award winning screenwriters, and poet laureates to teach workshops, but now instructors don't have to make the journey to SLO to participate.

"This year we've got Alaska, we've got Denver, one of our presenters is from Greece, one of them is from Australia," Bayus said. "Making it virtual has really opened it all up so anybody can come."

"The way I look at it is, it's the ultimate voyeurism," she added with a laugh. "We're going to get to see these people's bookshelves."

One of the biggest names the conference brings this year is Ricky Roxburgh, an Emmy-winning screenwriter known for his work with Disney's animated film and television studios. He's currently a staff writer for Disney Studio Animation's multiple Emmy award-winning Mickey Mouse Shorts.

"I'm just treating it like an in-person conference," Roxburgh said. "I'm prepping my presentation so that there's going to be as much room for being interactive with the students as possible."

When working with budding screenwriters, Roxburgh said he likes to take an optimistic but practical approach, just as his mentors did with him.

"There's a certain level of cynicism that happens when you work in the industry," he said. "Even when you've 'made it,' you still face challenges and it becomes something that's normal to you. ... It's about nurturing the optimism and the hopefulness in the bright-eyed artist that you're speaking to, and then at the same time giving practical advice that's real."

Roxburgh will teach Making the Magic: How a Disney Show is Made on Sept. 26 in the afternoon.

A full list of the conference schedule and class offerings can be found at cuesta.edu/communityprograms/writers-conference.

Fast fact

• The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF), an advocacy organization serving families in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties who have a child with cancer, has upped its services during the pandemic by providing financial assistance to 31 local families who have been severely affected by the pandemic, according to the foundation. One of those families is the Meloncon family from Santa Maria. When 17-year-old Audreyanna Meloncon was diagnosed with cancer in March 2018, she and her family received support from TBCF and have continued to benefit from the organization's services through the difficulties of the pandemic. The organization is hosting its annual Gold Ribbon Campaign throughout September to raise funds during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. To be a part of the campaign and help families like the Meloncons, visit teddybearcancerfoundation.org/2020-gold-ribbon-campaign. Δ

Staff Writer Malea Martin from New Times' sister paper wrote this week's Strokes. Send tips to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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