Writer’s conference considered great success

Crystal Hohenthaner

Crystal Hohenthaner

With over one hundred people at certain events on Monday, the 28th Annual Great Plains Writer’s was, “very successful,” according to event coordinator Dr. Mary Ryder.

The conference focus this year was “Untold Stories: Lost and Forgotten Voices of the Plains.”

This focus was highlighted in various ways, ranging from special sessions that dealt with the mechanics of writing untold stories to speaker’s revealing accounts of different ethnic groups, such as blacks and Jews, and their experiences on the plains.

This year’s keynote speaker, Harriet Rochlin, author of “Pioneer Jews: A new life in the Far West”, discussed the presence of Jewish people in the frontier west. She gave such examples as Jewish cowboys and a Jewish madame.

She also spoke about the context history gives people for dealing with their difficult life experiences.

“My father thought he was a personal failure because he lost his farm during the depression,” Rochlin said.

Knowing that many people lost their farms during that time period indicates that it happened regardless of their personal strengths or weaknesses.

“History gives you a context for your experiences that can free you to release your pain,” Rochlin said.

Ryder was very pleased with the attendance of the conference.

There was a nice mix of townspeople, students, professors and scholars,” she said.

Ryder also said that a large number of high school students attended the 2:00 p.m. panel discussion titled “Retelling the Family Story: Bringing the Diary of Fannie Howe to Life,” and that they seemed to respond well because the panel was centered around a book for young readers.

“The different speakers all appealed to a different audience,” Ryder said.

Ryder also said that there was a lot of interest in recovering personal stories regardless of age.

The aspect of the conference that Ryder was most pleased with, and found most successful, was, “the enthusiastic interchanges I observed between the audience members and speakers after the formal presentations.” She said she felt that all the speakers had been very open and responsive with audiences.

“Each of the speakers did a wonderful job,” Ryder said.

The purpose of the conference, according to Ryder, was to “call attention to the variety of voices that have long been lost from the plains.”

She said she thought that the variety of programs and presentations did an excellent job of focusing on the purpose of the conference.

“We have awakened a consciousness and raised knowledge that was not previously known,” Ryder said.