As you Dear Readers know, I was unable to attend the Women Writing the West Conference due to a family emergency. This is an excellent conference and a wonderful group of writers, and I was sorry I couldn't report to you about the conference this year. Fortunately, today's guest blogger, Ann Parker, comes to the rescue. Ann is the author of two critically acclaimed historical mysteries set in the during the silver rush in 1880's Leadville, Colorado. Ann's Silver Lies won the Willa Award for Historical Fiction, and her second book, Iron Ties, received the Colorado Book Award.
A Like-Minded Circle of Friends …
Attending the Women Writing the West (WWW) conference in San Antonio this October was a bit like coming home after a long absence.
Don’t get me wrong, I love mystery cons as well and have attended my share, as a mystery author and even before that, when being published (heck, of finishing my first draft) was but wishful thinking.
But Women Writing the West is different. Not better … just different. At the latest WWW conference, I rubbed elbows with poets, nonfiction and creative nonfiction writers, and authors of contemporary fiction, historical fiction, children’s books, young adult ... and yes, mysteries. Add into this mix a healthy smattering of editors, agents, publishers, and a movie producer. What brought us all together? A passion for the American West, past and present, its women, and their stories. Former WWW President Jane Kirkpatrick summed it up nicely when she said: “Women Writing the West [grew] from the ideas of a few good women to the ideas of many with the focus on the western landscape and themes and the roles of women within them.”
So, what is the West? It's a geographical area, certainly. It's those wide-open spaces in Wyoming and Texas, but it's also Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and the ubiquitous freeways. But beyond that, the West represents a way of thinking, a sense of adventure, a willingness to cross into a new frontier.
So, there I was, in San Antonio, Texas, taking on a new frontier (for me anyway) and picking up a few history lessons in the preconference tour of the Alamo. THE Alamo. My first thought on seeing THE Alamo was "Wow, smaller than I thought." Closely followed by a quick memory flash of John Wayne (a la Davy Crockett). But that didn't stop me from being awed by the history and the "feel" of the place. After the Alamo, we toured the Menger Hotel, built in 1859 (anything built in 18-whatever gets my attention pretty fast), and strolled through the Riverwalk area.
Having got my "history fix," I was now looking forward to the panels and workshops, and to catching up with folks I hadn't seen (except in virtual space) for several years. The panels included writers talking about how they got started, a discussion of "pitching" (Describe your book in 10 seconds/two sentences? I can always use help with that!), and the ubiquitous agents/editors/publishers panel … always interesting… And it was great to hear the agents/editors/publishers encouraging us to SUBMIT our work, rather than saying "there's no room at the inn" (which is sadly often the message these days). Workshops covered a variety of topics including writing small town and regional histories, what's new in the children's/YA market, and, of course, marketing … a topic near and dear to us all.
In between the conscientious note taking, we applauded the pronouncements of "cowboy poets," cheered on the winners and finalists of the Willa Awards, consumed far too much food, coffee, and chocolate, and exchanged news and views on this writing project and that manuscript. I gathered up a wallet-full of business cards and bought way too many books.
All in all, I rode away (well, flew away, actually), into the sunset, feeling renewed and, once again, ready to (metaphorically speaking) hitch up the horses, fill the canteens, settle my hat, and get busy working the little corner of the American West I've staked out through my Silver Rush mysteries. And isn't that what a good conference should inspire us to do, after all? Get busy and get down to the business of writing?
For more information:
Women Writing the West HYPERLINK "http://www.womenwritingthewest.org/" http://www.womenwritingthewest.org/
The Menger Hotel: HYPERLINK "http://mengerhotel.com/page/ntm5/The_Menger_History.html" http://mengerhotel.com/page/ntm5/The_Menger_History.html
Check out Ann's web site at http://www.annparker.net