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Spokane Author Taught for SCC’s Act 2

[SPOKANE, Wash.] Spokane author Sarah Conover believes that writing memoir can be like seeing a great therapist.
She designed the “Making it Matter” writing workshop for Spokane Community College’s Act 2 program several years ago as a way for people to contemplate what’s been important to their lives and to learn writing to communicate that to others. Act 2 is a series of programs generally geared toward people over 50 years old, but people of any age can take the classes.
“Act 2 people don’t step into my “Making it Matter” (writing) classes unless they’re willing to face something,” Conover said. “What is your life’s reckoning? There are very few arenas to talk about that with other people and have that reflected back to you.”
But even the most experimental writing needs certain elements to capture a reader. When she was a high school teacher, Conover developed a literary toolbox filled with the rubrics needed to craft a dynamic story. She and her students determined that every paragraph of good literature used around 13 sensory descriptions – like shape, smell and touch – to draw a reader into the text. Another important aspect is, what she calls, “first paragraph promises.” For this practice, the first paragraph should set the tone of the book, establish whose point-of-view the reader is following and, most importantly, provide the hook and mystery to be pursued in all the writing that follows.
When working on her most recent book, Conover said the first sentence was so powerful that she felt compelled to keep writing. “I was reluctant about writing a memoir, but a friend nudged me into it,” she said. “I wrote that first sentence and there was such an energy behind it that the whole premise of the book was established right there.” Her new book, Set Adrift: My Family's Disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle, a Mystery and a Memoir, starts with: “This I have come to believe: when a boat goes down, it’s only the shell of things – the hull and the bodies – that vanish.”
“I never changed that sentence, which tells you a lot,” Conover said. “That whole first paragraph is a punch to the gut.”
Her eighth book and first memoir, Set Adrift is about her parents’ and grandparents’ disappearance while sailing in the Bermuda Triangle – between Key West and Miami, Florida – in an unpredicted storm in 1958. That event set off a nationwide search for her grandfather’s yacht, the Revonoc. Her grandfather, Harvey Conover, was one of the most trophied sailors in the country at that time, so the story made national headlines. The History Channel, as part of  their television series, “The Bermuda Triangle – Into Cursed Waters,” is searching for her family’s boat and creating an hour-long episode on their story to air late this fall.
“Mine is a dramatic story because my grandfather was a big deal in the both the business and ocean racing world. At the time of the disappearance, the search was the among the most expensive and largest sea searches undertaken,” Conover said. “One thing that I show in the book is that a tragedy of that magnitude – losing your parents and grandparents – can blow a family apart. It doesn’t bring your family back together. We had to find our way back to one another.”
Conover said that people’s writing rapidly improves once they know their story’s goal and how to make their writing connect to the reader. Even though her memoir is a personal story, she said that its themes are universal.
“Grief and loss is a club that no one wants to belong to, but we all will,” she said. “It puts you in a whole new landscape, and writing is one of the ways that we’re able to navigate that landscape and heal.”
That was the theme for one of the most interesting stories that came out of one of her writing workshops for Act 2. One student, Christine Eddy, wanted to work on a memoir about being married to a white supremacist but was too ashamed to make it public. Conover and other students coaxed her into writing it, and, as a result, Eddy published Torn: Married to a White Supremacist.
“She was in my class for about three years before she was willing to tell that story,” Conover said. The Act 2 class found Eddy’s memoir so important that they paid for its publication when Eddy died suddenly.
Conover enjoyed teaching people in the Act 2 program because they typically had important stories. “You don’t make it to that age without some big stories,” she said. “No matter what age you are, what’s been important in your life and how do you say that to other people? How do you craft that?”

 Act 2 currently offers the writing class “Express Yourself” along with several other classes, including “Find Your Inner Artist,” “Get Fit” and “Learn a Language.” Explore their offerings or contact them.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Strategic Communications Manager, Rachel Román, at

Posted On

7/7/2023 10:10:08 AM

Posted By

Rachel Román



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