Colorado Gold Conference–Just What the Muse Ordered!

Sweet! I had another great time at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ annual conference, the Colorado Gold, this past weekend.  This was the 30th year the conference was held, and what a time we had!  I don’t want to make you jealous with the old “I had fun–don’t you wish you had made it” line, so here are a few highlights I hope you’ll enjoy:

William Kent Krueger

While we had a tremendous array of opportunity to learn this weekend with something near 80 workshops and lectures, one of my favorite presenters was William Kent Krueger. He is the author of the Cork O’Connor series of mysteries and a multiple award-winning author, including earning an Edgar Award (really big deal!) for his stand alone, Ordinary Grace.  Mr. Krueger was approachable and charismatic in his presentations, and he brought an energy to the conference I won’t soon forget.  This may be true in part because I purchased some of the recordings of his presentations, including the closing keynote, in which he recited sections of older poems and stories his folks read to him as a child. Wow! Very cool.

JoyCo Recordings

Each year, CO Gold records the sessions of the conference, and for a reasonable price, attendees can purchase those recordings a session at a time. I often buy these and listen to them in my car throughout the year.  I truly enjoy the motivational keynotes, and use them to quote from for this blog.  This year (I’m a real quick learner), I asked if one could purchase these recordings on-line and was given the affirmative response.  Whoo Hoo!  Guess what just became a site I’m bookmarking?  If you want to order a recording of a specific session, please contact JoyCo (Bob would prefer a call during business hours), and they can send you an order form.

New Features

Westin WestministerThe conference itself had a few new features this year, including a new venue in Westminster (pricey but oh so nice!).  Some new items I particularly liked included some discussion groups called “Birds of a Feather” and “Author One-on-One.”  In the one-on-one session, Carol Berg was kind enough to review the first chapter of Sliced Vegetarian for me.  She had enough observations that I’d like to run back to my publisher and retract my submission.  Too late.  But for the next novel . . .

The Birds of a Feather, I chose to go to, you guessed it, the mystery discussion.  When I mentioned I was concerned about profiting over murder as a subject, Chris Goff came right back with a great comment.  She said our cozy mystery books focus on putting the world back in order after a tragedy, and not on the murders themselves.  It made me feel better, and gives Daisy more motivation to get to work!  Loved it.

Conference Chair Susan Brooks

Conference Chair Susan Brooks

Awards

Each year, our Saturday evening dinner is closed with awards.  I am so proud of my critique group team members.  Here’s what they achieved this year:

GOLD NUGGETS FOR SERVICE – Littleton Writer’s member Wendy Howard received one of these awards for her work on the RMFW website.  She deserves all the credit she got, as the site is currently terrific, with a ton of information.  Hope you’ll visit it.

While Nikki Baird didn’t receive an award, she should have.  The new RMFW Anthology, Crossing Colfax, is out and you can see it on Amazon.com.

Colorado Gold AwardsPEN AWARDS – Although no one from Littleton Writers got this award for first publication, so many of our group are right there I’m sure we’ll see some next year.  Meanwhile, at least four members of our group got asked for “full reads” from editors or agents they met at the conference. That is the step right before representation or purchase.  Please keep your fingers crossed.

COLORADO GOLD AWARDS – These awards go to people who have submitted the first part of their novel, along with a synopsis of the book.  There are so many submissions that, to make the finals is a fantastic achievement, to win is incredible.  Here’s how “my” writers did:

Action/ThrillerKevin Wolf won for The Homeplace.  Kevin has been a winner before, but this man is going to be an author to keep an eye out for.  When he gets published, I’m sure several more awards will follow.

Mystery/Suspense – Sue Hinkin from our group received a final call up.  Soon, Sue, you’ll be taking the winner prize home.

Romance – Janet Baltz won for Beloved Foe.  This was her second trip to the stage, having been a finalist last year.  Congratulations to Janet.  Now, I haven’t had a chance to work with Janet in our group, as she tends to go to the Tuesday night sessions, but I understand she’s interested in our Thursday night group, so I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

Speculative Fiction – Darla Upchurch from our Tuesday group was a finalist here.  How very cool!

Young Adult/Middle Grade – Although Littleton Writers wasn’t represented in this group, it is a growing interest area and I hope next year to announce someone from our group made it to this final.

That’s a wrap.  Right now, I’m so excited about writing again, I’ve got to let you go, but if you’re interested in finding out more about Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers or Colorado Gold, please let me know.  I’d be happy to start a conversation with you.

 

Road Trip

We could have taken a plane to the wedding last weekend.  We could have gone through the hassle of trips to the airport (probably speeding because we would probably be late),  found parking (after 300 or more slips of the tongue into F-bomb territory).   We could have gone through security (a nightmare in itself). And at the other end of the ride we would have no car and no way to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast the next day.  Instead, my good guy and I decided to drive.

HotelBristol, Steamboat

Quaint and fun!

Road trip!  Whoo Hoo!  Denver to Park City Utah in about eight hours. How cool. Driving is a little different for us these days.  No big family van to haul kids, pets, and petrified french fries that had dropped “somehow” in the days and weeks before.  No fighting over which Disney video we would watch next.  No “are we there yet?” (well, except I guess I kept saying that to my handsome driver who politely ignored me).

Hubby and I drove his zippy little car, setting the cruise control and driving on and on.  What a wonderful way to go.  When you take a plane, it’s almost like being in some futuristic teleport. You step into a box and after a set of time, you step out of that box in an entirely new place.  But with a car ride you see everything.

First we stopped in Steamboat Springs for the night and stayed in a hotel that could have come right out of a Zane Grey western.  The halls were narrow, our room only large enough to hold the bed, and room keys that were real room keys (not the plastic cards that most hotels have these days).  I saw a few old-fashioned telephones and was charmed entirely by “old town” Steamboat.  The next morning I had to have had the world’s largest cinnamon bun.  I swear the plate was eight inches around and filled to the brim with pastry and sugary goo. Wonderful! Of course, I didn’t have room to each much else the entire day, but who cares? Sugar highs are the best, right?

World's biggest cinnamon bun

World’s biggest cinnamon bun

We drove through the day Friday and I have to say, I can’t believe I haven’t explored more of Colorado since we moved here so long ago.  The state is beautiful. Truly. Our trip had us drive through many small towns with quaint “Main Streets” and what seems like a quieter lifestyle. Simple homes dotted the landscape everywhere we went.

And what a landscape!  When we first moved to this part of the country, I couldn’t understand how people could tell one mountain apart from another.  But I promise you, if you’d been on this trip with me and my guy, you’d be hard put NOT to name the various mountains we saw.  Each one was unique.  Every five minutes we’d blink and see an entirely new vista.  Some were barren and looked almost like sand dunes.  Others were covered in a blanket of pine trees.

And then Utah took me by surprise as well.  Not sure what I’d been thinking before.  Something about deserts as far as the eye could see.  I guess I thought that with the border between Colorado and Utah, the mountains all belonged to Colorado and the flat dry lands belonged to that other state. Wrong-o!

Utah had a lot of cities along a scenic trip through many more beautiful mountains.  Many of those places were surprisingly large–not mining towns per se, but oil and gas cities with all of the chain stores you might ever want to see.  They were modern, clean, and bustling.

Then we arrived in Park City. My goodness, what a breathtakingly beautiful spot up in the mountains.  One thing that caught my eye was the “shoe tree” where apparently a few guys got drunk one night and threw their shoes into the tree. People had been adding their shoes ever since, and when we drove by, the tree looked like it was an apple tree with shoes instead of fruit. Hmm.

Fly Fishing with Park City on the Fly

Fly Fishing with Park City on the Fly

Over the weekend we celebrated my sister and new brother’s wedding, went on an adventure called a “ropes course” at the Olympic Village, and enjoyed fly fishing. Fly fishing!  No, it’s not just because I’m getting so old that this was fun.  It was great to stand in a river and feel the current pushing constantly against us.  I loved the casting (mostly, I think, because our guide kept telling me I was doing well). And yes, I caught a fish. Two even. But they were little guys and I felt mean. Jen, our guide, took them off the hook for me, we snapped a photo or two and released the little guys back into the river.  That’s the way fly fishing can work these days.  Most people don’t keep what they catch.  We just look at the beautiful creatures for a moment and let them go.

Kind of like special events. We dive into them completely, enjoy them tremendously, and then let them go, keeping only the memories.  My sister, after enjoying her wedding let her shoes go into the shoe tree.

Volunteering–How Do You See It?

My head is down this week, with a lot of great activity. My fuzzy list of things on my mind includes:

  • A wedding this weekend!  I am so excited.  My “little” sister is getting married to a man who seems to make her heart sing.  In fact, he actually sang his proposal to her. Is that wonderful or what?  And this sister is such a treasure, I’m hoping for many happy years for both she and her new husband.
  • As always, I have work for clients to finish up before I can take time off for the weekend.  As a freelance writer and marketing consultant, my schedule is unsteady, even at the best of times.  Lately, a couple of big projects have had me neglect a couple of smaller ones, and it’s time to get back on track there.
  • Volunteer projects.  Oh my goodness!  Volunteering? Say it isn’t so.

I have put in a lot of volunteer hours in the course of my lifetime.  Not half as many as some, and quite a bit more than others.  I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Why do we need so many people to give away time and talents that others get paid well for?  Hmm. Perhaps it’s the causes we work for, or the belief in “giving back” we seem to share as a community value.

picture of Volunteering HandsDid you know that statistics show over a quarter of our American population donated approximately 7.9 billion hours of service in 2012, worth a staggering $175 billion?  We work at fundraising, food collection and distribution, physical labor and transportation, and tutoring or teaching.  Even in this spread-out community of Facebook friendships and tweets around the world about life being a pain-in-the-you-know-what, people make time to help each other out. Is that cool or what?

And I’m lucky.  I’ve been volunteering lately for the two writing groups I’m part of–Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America.  Both organizations would probably wither and die but for the work many people put in, often without pay or worthwhile recognition.

But there are hidden benefits to volunteering.  According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering can bring you these terrific benefits:

  • Connection with others — I have to say, this is really big for me.  I remember when I used to write in a vacuum, wishing I could get feedback and grow as a writer. Now I can, thanks to people who voluntarily set up critique groups, and both my organizations’ pubic meetings (not possible without tons of volunteer hours by others)
  • Volunteering is good for your mind and body–combating things like depression and increasing people’s self-esteem.  I’ve witnessed this over time and have to agree.  The site also claimed that volunteering keeps people living longer. As humans we need our social connections to survive–literally.
  • Volunteering can advance your career–I’m more skeptical of this claim. I’ve put in a lot of hours and have never seen it turn into anything much. In one place, I voluntarily organized a big event, and three months later got offered a job–at  minimum wage. Hmm. Meanwhile, some of my non-volunteering friends were making the six-figure incomes I coveted. Perhaps I just had a bad experience. Maybe you can give me a better case study.
  • Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life. Well, again, that’s a great claim.  Not sure about it when at midnight, I’ve been known to be up doing work on something I just want to throw out the window.  Yet, then I think about the smiles, hugs, and joy I shared with a small group of kids for six years and feel that happiness each time I remember them.  Yes, I felt fulfilled with that.

Yes, volunteering is good. I’m going to go back to a booklet I’m working on, and layout for a sign one of my groups needs.  I just wish that only people who volunteered could buy lottery tickets. Volunteers deserve big wins in life.