Corban hosts 2nd annual Portals Writers Conference

Monday, July 1, 2013

The 2nd Annual Portals Writers Conference brought aspiring writers to Corban’s Salem campus June 20-23 to hone their craft with help from many well-known Christian authors, bloggers and artisans. Attendees ranged in ages from 13 to their 70s. They heard words of encouragement, but also the realities of writing, from keynote speaker Deborah Smith Douglas, author of “Praying Life: Seeking God in All Things.”

“We are charged to write and speak of holy things, but that will mean first and always rolling up our sleeves and getting on with the job,” she said during her keynote address on June 21. “Do you think miners stand around talking about how hard it is to dig for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Some attendees took advantage of Corban’s newly completed Inspiration Garden Walk and its benches for reflection and writing. A group of middle school students practiced spontaneous poetry by writing poems in chalk on concrete walls, stairs and parking spaces surrounding the Psalm Performing Arts Center.

Digging deep and wrestling with the authentic faith-based content was evident in Dan Merchant’s award-winning documentary “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers,” as well as Fritz Liedtke’s nationally acclaimed collection of  photos titled  “Skeletons In the Closet,”  an exhibit featuring young men and women struggling with eating disorders.  Open-mic readings followed evening presentations as attendees, scholarship recipients and visitors from the Salem area read their work to an appreciative audience.

The conference was the culmination of more than a year of planning by Corban Writer-in-Residence Gina Ochsner. 

“There’s an old Russian saying, ‘those on the threshold need the biggest push,’” she said. “The guiding vision behind Portals is to throw open the doors and invite those at the threshold to come in. We want writers and artists of all ages and of any experience or skill level to know that the making of art is important, sacred even.  Each of us has a story to tell and have a voice that needs to be heard.”  

The next Portals Writers Conference is scheduled for June 19-22, 2014 and will feature several well-known keynote speakers and workshop leaders. These include Nathan Foster, author of “Wisdom Chasers:  Finding my Father at 14,000 Feet”; Paul Willis, a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in several anthologies including “Best Spiritual Writing and Best Christian Writing”; and musician Jeff Johnson of Ark Records, Inc. whose repertoire includes the acclaimed Windham Hill release “The Music of Celtic Legends’ The Bard & The Warrior.”

For more information about this conference or other writing events, email Ochsner at

  • Photographer Fritze Liedtke talks about his book and photography project, “Skeleton in the Closet.”

  • Dan Merchant, writer and director of “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers,” leads a film writing workshop.

  • Students from Memorial Middle School’s Iambic Poetry Society attended the Portals Writers Conference.

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