Music isn't the universal language; language is the universal language. Everyone uses words. And sooner or later they wonder if those words aren't worth putting onto paper.

Utah's writers conferences are set up to help them find out.The interest and enthusiasm Utahns are pumping into the vocation - or avocation - of writing is as strong as ever. And it seems to be growing.

This year the region will produce a dozen writers conferences - places where both novice and professional can meet to discuss how-to, where-to and when-to publish their work.

Utah will be the site for several writing get-togethers. Here's a look at four of them. Others will be featured in future editions.


The most high-powered local conference is the annual Writers at Work Conference in Park City. Again this year, the conference will be in two sections. The first (intensive writing workshops) runs June 12-15. The second (seminars/lectures) is June 15-18.

A dozen major American writers, editors and agents will participate. As highlights, look for poets May Swenson, Sandra McPherson and Marvin Bell; fiction writers Richard Ford, Charles Baxter and Gordon Weaver; and an assortment of agents and editors ranging from children's book specialist Ruth Cohen to W.W. Norton editor Carol Houck Smith.

Steve Wunderli, who helps ramrod the event, feels this year will likely be the best to date.

"We have about 180 people registered now," he says, "but we expect to have 255. We gave away many more scholarships this year, added work study grants and included more time at the conference for film script writers, children's writers and time for manuscript evaluation and writing itself.

"We also have a nice mix of professionals. Half of our visiting writers are national, half are local."

For information, brochures and details on lodging and cost, call Wunderli at 488-4200 or James Thomas at 355-0264.



Like those boxes of All-Bran, the Color Country Creative Writing Conference is 25 percent larger this year. There'll be four writers on staff instead of three.

Poet Marvin Bell will be in from Iowa. He read in Cedar City and Salt Lake City last year to such acclaim, he's coming back to tell how it's done.

Ken Brewer of USU is a poet and essayist. His humanity and humor have made him one of the most popular teachers and readers in the state.

Ivy Ruckman has a half-dozen children's writing awards to her credit. Her latest novel, "No Way Out," is set in the narrows of Zion Canyon, and will serve as the focal point for her workshops.

William Stafford is the dean of regional poets. His visits to Utah are always well received. He has served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (national poet laureate) and has won the National Book Award. His book, "Oregon Message," is the latest installment in a lifetime achievement.

The conference will be July 26-30 at the Holiday Inn in Cedar City.

"I think what separates us from other conferences is we really have a hands-on conference," says director David Lee. "The emphasis is on doing. We think we especially appeal to school teachers."

For more information call the Workshop Division of Continuing Education, SUSC, 586-7850. Ask for David Lee or Boydine Daniels.



These are weekend sessions, three of them. Set at Utah State University in Logan, the workshops will be on the West and its influence on both writers and writing.

July 1 and 2: Fiction with Patricia McConnel. A resident of Moab, McConnel is one of the brighter lights in Utah letters. Her upcoming book of short stories with Atheneum is bound to stir interest around the country.

McConnel has read with Joyce Carol Oates at the Library of Congress and has received two NEA fellowships and has won the PEN Syndicated Fiction Competition four times.

July 8 and 9: Poetry with Jim Heynen. Perhaps the best endorsement of Heynen's work came when an American astronaut took a tape of Heynen's short "fictions" into outer space to remind him of home.

Heynen is something of the Garrison Keillor of the Pacific Northwest. He has published five books of poetry, two fiction and a work of non-fiction.

July 22 and 23: History (with Anne M. Butler) and High School Teaching (with John A. Butler.)

Anne M. Butler was the 1986 recipient of Gallaudet University's Teacher of the Year Award. She has published many works on western American history and is a popular participant at seminars.

John A. Butler is a folksinger and has appeared in several television programs about public education. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

For information call Dr. Kenneth W. Brewer at 750-3516.


Perhaps the most distinctive writers conference in the state this year won't take place until fall. From Oct. 14 to 17, the Canyonlands Field Institute will be sponsoring its Desert Writers Workshop in Moab. The sessions focus heavily on writing that involves the landscape.

This year William Kittredge will be in from Montana to work with fiction writers, Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist extraordinaire, will talk about writing non-fiction and desert poet Richard Shelton and David Lee of SUSC will discuss poetry.

The conference is set for Pack Creek Ranch, a small "English Inn-style" resort just outside of Moab.

Sessions in the past have been specific with a lot of emphasis on the nuts and bolts of writing.

Hearing the poets and writers read their own work in the Canyonlands setting alone is worth the price of admission.

Write the Canyonlands Field Institute at Box 68, Moab 84532 for information, or call 259-7750.

Watch the Deseret News for upcoming stories on other writers conferences, including the Santa Fe Writers Conference the last of July, the Salt Lake City Arts Council "popular" writers get-together and the Boulder River Workshops set for Montana in August.