Kanab residents are invited to the Friday evening session of Kanab Writers Conference to be held October 25 at Kanab Middle School. This free event begins at 6 p.m. with the opening of the conference bookstore. Books from local authors and conference presenters will be on sale, and the writers will be there to meet the people of Kanab.

At 7 p.m., local writers will read selections of their work from The Red Rock Review. These include Greg DeLuca, Tom Carter, Raven Chiong, Vickie Hooper and Doug Keller.

Keynote for Friday evening will be folklorist, radio producer and musician Hal Cannon. A resident of nearby Virgin, Cannon has been playing music most of his life and has gathered together many original songs and traditional folk tunes and songs. With The Deseret String Band (a.k.a. The Bunkhouse Orchestra), he made a specialty of researching and performing 19th century music from the West.

As the founding director of the Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Cannon published dozens of books and recordings on the folk arts of the West. He received three Wrangler Awards from the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the 1998 Will Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Folklore Society’s Botkin Award, and the Utah Governor’s Awards in both the arts and humanities. 

Cannon recently retired from the Western Folklife Center, but continues, along with producer Taki Telonidis, to produce features for NPR national news shows including their radio series, What’s in a Song, airing on Weekend Edition. They also produced two Emmy award-winning TV documentaries, Why the Cowboy Sings and Red Rock Rondo: A Zion Canyon Song Cycle, both airing on PBS. 

“I met Hal Cannon at the Kane County Fair this summer,” said Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca, Juilliard graduate, San Francisco Bay Area performer, and music instructor for Kanab schools. “I was fortunate enough to rehearse and perform with him every day. He was so kind.” Ghidossi-DeLuca goes on to describe Cannon as “an absolutely superb musician, very sensitive, a fantastic composer, and a very talented performer. I would jump at the chance to perform with him again.”

Hal Cannon will have books and CDs for sale in the bookstore, which will stay open for a half hour after his performance.

The Saturday session of Kanab Writers Conference begins at 8 a.m. with registration. The cost for the Saturday session is $40 and includes lunch catered by Houston’s Restaurant.

At 8:30 a.m., Janette Rallison will give her keynote presentation, “The Book That Will Make All the Difference: Yours.”

Rallison says one sentence changed her writing career. She was perfectly happy writing adult romantic comedies, because as she says, “Who doesn’t want to write about men who are tall, dark, and brooding?” That all changed, however, when she heard her seventh-grade daughter’s commentary on her Language Arts reading list.

Rallison’s daughter, Asenath, had always loved books and read voraciously. “I was excited when Asenath went to junior high because I knew she would have a whole class devoted to reading,” Rallison said. “I thought she would love it.”

Instead, the class spent the entire year reading books in which important characters tragically died. About halfway through the year, Rallison was in the room when her daughter picked up her next assigned book. Asenath read for awhile, then asked, “Does someone die in this book?”

Rallison nodded. Asenath put down the book with a grunt and said, “If I didn’t already love reading, this class would make me hate it!”

That sentence struck Rallison to the core. She couldn’t help thinking about all the kids in class who hadn’t loved reading beforehand. “I realized if parents and teachers want to teach kids to love reading, we need to let them read some fun, happy books. I didn’t find enough of those at the bookstores and libraries.”

That’s when Rallison began writing young adult books for the national market. Fourteen books later, Rallison’s teen romantic comedies and her action books written under the pen name, C.J. Hill, have sold over a million copies. Her books have been translated into several different languages and can be found on many state reading lists, including Utah’s Beehive Book Award.

“Being a mom of teenagers has really helped me write for kids,” she said. “You couldn’t make up the stuff that happens in their real lives. Every day when my daughter came home from school, I would ask her how her day was – and then I would go jot down notes for future novels.”

Once Rallison even used text messages on her daughter’s phone for dialogue in a novel. “My daughter had just broken up with her boyfriend, and I was writing a book with a breakup scene. I thought, “Why go to the trouble to come up with new dialogue when all that perfectly good dialogue is just sitting on my daughter’s cell phone?”

Rallison is the mother of five children, so she feels she’ll have material to draw from for years to come.

On October 15, Rallison’s 15th YA book, Slayer’s Friends and Traitors, will come out under her pen name, C.J. Hill. Besides keynoting at Kanab Writers Conference, she is also teaching a class entitled How to Stay in High School Forever: Writing the Young Adult Novel.

As part of the conference, Rallison will be visiting Fredonia, Kanab and Valley High Schools on Thursday and Friday. Her books will be available at the conference bookstore, and she’s looking forward to meeting area residents.

Anyone interested in registering for the conference can go to the website at www.kanabwritersconference.com and click on the “registration” tab at the top.