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Writers in the Attic, Writers in the Park

The Cabin, serving as the only Idaho nonprofit devoted entirely to arts and educational activities that celebrate reading and writing.

Article by Louis Katz

Photography by Louis Katz

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

There are gems within gems here in Idaho. One such treasure is The Cabin, “an anchor of literary arts in our state, serving as the only nonprofit organization in Idaho devoted entirely to arts and educational activities that celebrate reading and writing.”

Among The Cabin’s offerings, one that caught my eye was the Writers in the Attic contest. I’d never entered a writing contest before, but this one was intriguing. My wife and I were location scouting back in February, eager to start a new chapter in our life. We’d stopped into a coffeehouse when I spied a poster for the upcoming contest. Winners get published in The Cabin’s annual anthology. The theme this year was THREE. I could submit an, as yet unwritten, chapter of my, as yet unfinished, novel, The Circus Comes to Sketchtown. What the heck!

Four months later, I learned that my entry, A Rocket to the Stars, was one of the winners. By then, our plans to move had solidified somewhat, but now there was a book launch party to attend. We adjusted our schedule to accommodate the launch, and I reached out to one of the previous year’s judges, J. Reuben Appelman, whose superpower is that he’s comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I’d like to be more like that. I’m just naturally uncomfortable. J is a somewhat unwilling true crime writer, and a private investigator as well. His antennae are always up, and he achieves combustion by dropping you right into a story that hasn’t yet reached its conclusion. I wanted to get his take on what The Cabin means to the community.

J. shared his Cabin insights with me. “I’d see young people wanting to be poets, and The Cabin had real poets, actively writing, mentoring them in the summers. It was very cool. Some of these kids go through the programs year after year. It’s immediate, and meaningful, a great stepping stone for a ton of people who are trying to get published. And not just the kids — also local writers who are having a real hard time breaking through on a national level. Many writers who I’ve seen first in the WITA anthology have gone on and published in national magazines. They’ve published novels and books of short stories and stuff. And that’s just in a few year period.”

Bottom line, even though The Cabin is an actual place, what goes on there is much more important than the building itself. Their programs are hands-on, roll up your sleeves, and let’s gitter done.

The day of the launch party was full of drama having nothing to do with the launch party. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that moving, running a business, and tending a Weber kettle and handyman at the same time don’t make for a winning combination. Somehow, everyone survived and we made our way to the bandshell at Julia Davis Park with time to spare.

The authors were friendly, and so were the organizers. I met the judge, Daniel Stewart, who didn’t know who wrote what till shortly before the launch party. That’s by design. Never mind all that, you’re probably wondering about the ice cream. Stella’s. So good. They’re local, and they make their ice cream from scratch. The push-up’s are a great concept, but I’m thinking a trip to one of their stores is in order. Maybe after breakfast.

THREE is such a great theme for a writer. The odd man out, the holy trinity, it’s a target rich environment. Daniel thanked me for participating, and made it very clear that not everyone got in. The ratio was somewhere around twenty percent. He said to be proud, but to not get too big a head about it. I’ll just have two ice creams, that’s all. The program for the evening involved eight of the winners reading their work from up in the bandshell. One of the winners read a story about wanting to be a savior, so he could save his dad from Korea and Vietnam, from alcohol. My favorite was about the last three days before the asteroid hit. Another was a gut-wrenching tale of a mom who lost her son to a brain tumor in his twenties.

After the readings, next year’s topic was announced: TART. I can do TART. As the Writers in the Attic in the Park gathered up lawn chairs and scattered, some of us lingered. I spoke to an author named Bean, shot some photos of her and her herding dog who’s still a pup. She introduced me to an editor named Yash, who’s got a really cool, photographable beard and curly black hair. I met the asteroid woman, and her mom, who came in from Couer D’Alene. Seems I’ve been misinformed. While not utopia, it DOES NOT snow forty feet. I still think I’d like to visit in the summer. Boise winter sounds more my speed. Guess we’ll see about that.

Now that I’m a published author and photojournalist, I suppose I should figure out what to do with my life. Run my business. Feed the dogs. Feed my wife and myself. Send money to my kid every now and then. Make sure the moms are ok. In other words, business as usual. After all, a Writer in the Attic’s still got to eat.