The Cape Cod Writers Center Conference is celebrating its first half century next month with a series of classes and talks from August 5-10 at the Resort & Conference Center of Hyannis, Mass. Begun in 1963 by a dozen writers known as the Twelve O’clock Scholars, the first conferences consisted of talks for aspiring writers by authors visiting the Cape—Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Art Buchwald, and Jacques Barzun.
Fifty years later the focus continues to be on authors helping authors ready their work for publication, although that now includes new media and technology. “At a time when the publishing industry is in transition, it is gratifying to see that the literary impulse remains strong and continues to draw aspiring authors, poets, and screenwriters to our conference,” says conference director Nancy Rubin Stuart, executive director of the Cape Cod Writers Center.
In keeping with the Center’s tradition, this year’s lineup includes keynotes by bestselling writers Joseph Finder and Andre Dubus III and Beacon Press executive director Amy Caldwell, as well as presentations by novelist Matthew Pearl and Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, among others. For Finder, supporting the conference is a good thing. He hadn’t heard of writers’ conferences when he was trying to get his first book, The Moscow Club, published in the late ‘80s, but he wishes he had. “When I first tried to figure out how to write a novel,” he says, “I had no idea how to get it going. It was before the Internet. I didn’t know any writers. I felt like I was in the old Soviet Union. I had no idea how to write a query letter, or if you called. I went to Widener [Harvard University’s library] to look up literary agents. I was doing this in the dark. The purpose this conference serves is highly important. I’ve learned so much from other writers. I still do.”