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.

 

Finding Treasure at Colorado Gold

Hi Reading and Writing Friend,

First, an apology.  I forgot to take pictures this last weekend!  Not sure how that happened, but we’ll blame it on Father Time, and move on.

ANYWAY . . .

My big event of the year was this past weekend, and here’s why I’m so excited about it:

ONE . . . Chloe!

I love my granddaughter and was very proud to take this budding writer around with me to meet friends of all sorts.  She was graceful and confident.  She looked people in the eye to talk with them about writing and was able to say yes, she is a writer and her genre is YA Romance.  I was so proud of her!  Now I realize how this helping through the generations thing goes.  Cool, cool, to the ends of the earth cool.

TWO . . . Industry updates.

It looks like Independent Publishing is grabbing hold in the fiction writing industry.  Authors who have traditionally published in the past are considering the opportunities of going global with an e-book title they create themselves.  Jeff Shelby, a firmly established traditionally published author broke down some of the financial opportunities, and his sessions were well populated with other established authors looking to jump on this new train.

Here’s where the secret is out.  When I used to dream of writing a novel, along with that vision came thoughts of having a career where I could support myself into my golden years.  I have to admit, my first advance was something a lot less than a salary for the three to four years I spent trying to get published in the first place.  Jeff let us know that those big figures don’t come as often any more for even better known authors.  And if you’re trying to focus on improving your craft and submitting high-quality work, this lack of pay is a detriment to everyone.

Publishing ebooks on the internet allows a writer access to immediate income, and more of it.  Will it pay out as much over time?  Hard to tell, but for now the stigma of what used to be called “Vanity Press” seems to be falling by the way-side.  One in three readers has a device these days for electronic reading, and the numbers indicate the market is growing. So look for this trend in self- or indy-pubs to continue. (BTW:  Faith on the Rocks was just launched by Five Star in electronic format – only $3.19!  Much better for readers with devices).

THREE . . .  Writing craft

Writing craft still had a lot of great sessions.  Chloe went to more than I did and had a great time jotting notes here there and everywhere.  I was particularly taken by two classes focused the structure behind the story.  Great stuff!

The first class was called “Plotting Your Novel Using a Dynamic Grid” conducted by Christine Jorgensen.  Christine showed how to capture ideas and place them on a grid that naturally structures your plot into the traditional three to four act story that leaves readers satisfied and wanting more at the same time.  Wonderful!  I’ll try to talk more about this plotting method in upcoming posts.

The second class, titled “Become a Clue-Master,” was presented by Kris Neri.  She added a new twist to how I’ve used clues in the past, and I can’t wait to get started with some of the great tips she gave us.  I mean, I’m rather used to Daisy stumbling around on a page until the bad guy becomes crystal clear.  Now I hope to make the stories I write have a better “aha” at the end because readers can go back and say “Oh! I should have seen that.” Very cool stuff.

FOUR . . . Meeting Ronald Malfi.

Okay, so I’m not a horror reader.  But Ronald is a well established writer with twelve books out on the bookshelves.  Not all are horror. He’s just best known in this genre.  He has won several awards and has a large following.

Friday night at the conference, we had our annual book sale, where authors are given a table to share and the chance to sign copies of their work for those who want autographed books.  This was my first event, and I couldn’t believe my luck. Ronald Malfi’s last name is right next to mine in the alphabet, so he was put at my table. So here we sat, newbie next to famous author.

Did this man put up his nose and demand another place? No. Did he draw all the readers to himself and leave me feeling like yuck? Nope.  In fact, Ronald was so amazing, he was pushing my book!  Can you believe it?  He bought  a copy of Faith on the Rocks, and was telling everyone they had to buy a copy for themselves! Amazing.  I would never expected such a generous spirit from one of the “big guys,” but here’s some icing on the cake–Ronald is only in his mid-thirties. This guy is going to be a favorite in the book business for many years to come. Look for his books on the link with his name above. I could spend an entire post on the meeting and how super he is, but I hope you’ll explore his work for yourself.  I can’t wait to dive into Floating Staircase — but only in the day.  I’m a scaredy-cat through and through.

FIVE . . . Donating to the Red Cross.

Okay. You see it at every disaster.  The fires, the hurricane damage, and, in Colorado’s case, the floods.  Television cameras focus on disaster and PR gurus.  Then, a couple of days later the story goes stale and the cameras flit off to the next big deal.  What’s left behind? Red Cross volunteers.

I saw the Red Cross up close back in the early ’90s when a little autistic boy was kidnapped.  They fed us volunteers who searched for the boy over a couple of weeks.  The story didn’t end well, but the Red Cross was there for us.

I’ve seen the Red Cross at other places and during other times of need.  They gave me a babysitting kit to help my special needs child learn the basics of child care.

But this weekend, the Red Cross was housed with our group of writers in the hotel.  We had already planned a make-shift fundraiser to help victims of the floods here in Colorado, but to see the people our funds would support was inspiring.  Yes, my eyes welled a little each time I had the chance to shake hands and say thanks to all colors of faces, all ages, and a consistent upbeat feeling of helpfulness.  The teens were adorable.  Those more my age, confident and articulate.  I was very lucky.

The RMFW silent auction for the victims of the flood raised over $7,000.  Yes, I got teary-eyed.  Dollars are hard to come by these days, especially for most of us writers (see point one above). Yet people donated time, talent, and of course, books.  Others bid on those items and the auction was a success.

The one thought that ties this conference memory together for me is community.  As Americans we seem a generous lot.  When disaster strikes, we’re there for others. When the new meets the old there is a sense of welcome and support. When family gets together, love is found.  As storytellers, I hope we always remember the lessons of Colorado Gold 2013, and share them widely. After all, isn’t that what storytelling is all about?