Why You *Really* Should Finish that Book

Author Head ShotI'm taking a page from Mike Befeler, and introducing myself, since this is also my first post on the RMFW blog! I'm Jeffe Kennedy and fairly new to RMFW, though I did attend the Colorado Gold conference a number of years ago.

It's kind of a funny (read: cringeworthy) story. I attended at the urging of my good friend, RoseMarie London. I lived in Laramie, Wyoming at the time - I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico now - so it was a fairly close trip for us. I'd been writing nonfiction for some time at that point. This was maybe 2006? My essay collection, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel, had come out from University of New Mexico Press in 2004. My next project, a novel-length narrative nonfiction story, had received the thumbs down from everyone I mentioned it to. At a loss, and flailing more than just a bit, I'd started writing fiction.

I was having great fun writing this new piece, a story about a neuroscientist who accidentally winds up in Faerie. RoseMarie said that, since I was getting into writing genre, I should go with her to the conference. Besides, our buddy Chuck Box would be there and it we could party. Sure! Why not? With enthusiasm, I paid my fees and signed up to pitch to an editor.

There was one problem: I didn't have a completed manuscript.

What was I thinking?? I don't know, really. Maybe some of it was coming from the Land of Nonfiction. After all, I hadn't had a completed book when my UNM Press editor read one of my essays and invited me to put a collection together for her. The book ended up being about half previously published essays and half new - quite a few that I wrote, completed or polished for the collection. I used to joke that people wanting to get a book published shouldn't try my method at home, but somehow it had never quite penetrated my thick skull just how unusual - and amazingly lucky - that path had been.

So, there I was, nervously waiting for my assigned pitch appointment with Shauna Summers. (That might tell some of you record-keepers what year this was.) In a surprise move, apparently Shauna decided to take everyone scheduled throughout the hour in a group pitch. We all went in and sat around the table. One by one I listened to my fellow sacrificial lambs, either with stammering nerves or brash confidence, spin out their pitches. After each one, she'd nod and ask, "Is it finished?" The answer was almost always no.

What were we thinking??

I think one girl had completed her manuscript and when Shauna smiled and said "send it," it was like the rays of heaven shone down on her. I was desperately envious, I don't mind admitting, because when it came my turn and I had to confess that it wasn't finished (hell - I had maybe three chapters), she told me what she told the others. She gave us her card and told us to send it when it was done. She figured our conference fee should include the opportunity to send her our work.

An opportunity I totally blew.

It took me another year or two to actually write that book. When I began shopping it, I discovered I'd lost Shauna's card. And then it turned out she'd changed houses anyway.

That book eventually became Rogue's Pawn, published by Carina Press as a Fantasy Romance just last summer. The sequel, Rogue's Possession, comes out in October, with the trilogy cap coming out next year. I've also now published three Erotic Romances with Carina, in my Facets of Passion series, with a fourth coming out at Christmas. I've just signed a three-book deal with them for three more novel-length erotic romances. I've also signed a deal with Kensington this year, for my e-serial Master of the Opera, which debuts in January, and for a Fantasy trilogy, The Twelve Kingdoms, coming out in trade paperback starting next June. (Incidentally, a prequel short story to that trilogy is included in the anthology Thunder on the Battlefield, Volume II, which just came out August 7, the day I'm writing this post!)

So, things have been very good for me. I've been lucky. I also figured out how to finish books, which always helps.

Still, just a few weeks ago, I was signing books at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Literacy Signing in Atlanta and who but Shauna Summers came by! Only she was visiting the author sitting next to me, who Shauna edits and whose books just happen to be on all the bestseller lists. They laughed and chatted and I nearly said, "Hi, remember me? I'm the dufus who pitched to you years ago with no actual book to submit." Of course, I didn't, because she wouldn't. I was forgettable. I wanted to clench my tiny fists and wail to the sky (or fluorescent-lit convention hall ceiling) that she should have been MINE MINE MINE!


At any rate, that's me and my cautionary tale. Now go finish your books!


Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up, Platinum, is climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and Make a Left: The Journey through Publication

By Julie Kazimer

Recently a friend complained of how long it took him to finally have success as an author. In his view, success meant a third book release in a year, signing with an agent, and good sales numbers and lots of press attention. Not a bad way to define success at all. I wish I had such complaints.

And I do.

You do too.

Being a writer takes a lot of hard work, many hours of butt in the chair, many words tossed in the trash bin, many ups and downs, rejections and a few acceptances, as well as the belief, even in the face of clear signs to the contrary, you can and will succeed.

Some call this belief delusion, and eventually quit. Others, like us, keep plugging away, so deluded in our desire that one day something magically happens.  We complain. We complain about taking two years to find an agent. We complain about the two years it takes for our publisher to release our book. We complain about sales numbers. Reviews. And that questionable wart we got from that booksigning in Boulder.

It’s not that I am ungrateful for what I have, instead, I am looking at my yellow brick road, and seeing only more yellow. Well it’s time to stop viewing my journey as to how long it’s taken, or how much longer the path might be. But rather what I have accomplished thus far. I hope you will join me, or at least, not laugh directly in my face.

I started and/or finished writing a book
80%of people in the US feel like they should write a book. Most never do.
My critique group loves my book
Weird since they normally make me cry.
I’ve sent a query to a real live agent (versus those undead ones).
Over 15,000 writers query an agent a year.
I signed with an agent.
And she didn’t ask for my blood or a thousand dollars in return.
I uploaded a short story collection to amazon.
The first year it sold well over 20 copies. I thought about retiring, but decided, in the end, I liked eating more than cat food. This year it sold over 1200, retirement still not an option, but I have hopes for 2075.
I received my 1027th rejection.
I’ve received my 1027th rejection!!!!! Whoo Hoo! Two more and I win a book deal!
An editor wants my book
And he’s not imaginary. I swear it.
I got a review in PW (a bad one, but still…)
Very few new releases get a PW review, good or bad, so why not embrace it?
Amazon ranked me at 50,000.
Ha! I’m better than 450,000 other authors! (Not really, but why burst my bubble?)
I gave a workshop on publishing.
And I didn’t throw up on the crowd.
I sold 5 books at my last signing
Damn straight. The average is only 4. Suck it, statistics.
I am part of RMFW or plan to join and/or belong to another writerly organization.
Joining a writers group increases others' chances of publishing success by 68%, mine by 100% since I sold my first book at the 2010 Colorado Gold Conference.

So which brick are you on your path to publication? Share with us your last accomplishment, your last brick in your journey, be it writing a thousand words or selling a million books.

And thanks for playing along.


kazimerJ.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE  as well as the forthcoming romance from Coffeetown Press, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

The Only Character Class You’ll Ever Need
Instructor: Trai Cartwright
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Platte River

From your hero to your villain to your comedic relief, characters are what every story is all about. Learn the key questions to ask yourself when you start creating the people that populate your fiction, how to build them in a dynamic, dramatic way, and of course, what to do with them once you’ve got them. We’ll discuss arcs, motivation, and why you never ever give your character what they want. Then we’ll move from a conceptual perspective to a craft one by breaking down 10 techniques for making our characters come to life.

This master class hits on all levels: from understanding how to build a protagonist (and a villain), to knowing how to assign roles for the secondary characters, and then of course looking at how a character's story drives the plot (I firmly believe it's not the other way around), and then even exploring motivation with some Shakespearean actor-ly input. Finally, I show them ten fiction-writing techniques, 5 overt and 5 subtexual, for taking all those those thoughts and ideas and executing them on the page in a high-level craft-intensive way.

Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. More information is available at Trai's Craftwrite website.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/ The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Talk to the Paw: Say it with Catitude

By Karen Duvall


I have three cats and one dog. My diva-dog, Kinsey, you've already met. She's the most demanding of the bunch, but my other fur-babies put her through her paces. Sometimes they have… disagreements. Ironically enough it's the youngest and the smallest of the crew that has Kinsey's number. My little tuxedo cat, Sammy, weighing in at a little over eight pounds, has catitude. She never gives Kinsey a break.

My dog            My Tuxedo cat

Kinsey: Paces back and forth in front of the back door.

Sammy Cat: Relax. Mom's gonna be back any minute.

Kinsey: How do you know?

Sammy Cat: She always comes back.

Kinsey: I saw her put on her leave-the-house clothes. She's going far, far away and won't be back FOREVER!

Sammy Cat: You watched her get dressed?

Kinsey: I always watch her get dressed. How else will I know if she's staying home or leaving me?

Sammy Cat: Stalker.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy Cat: Are too.

Kinsey: Curls her lip. She's supposed to be writing today, but she left the house. I saw her take Teddy with her. She never takes that tub of lard anywhere, and he didn't even want to go.

Sammy Cat: How do you know he didn't want to go?

Kinsey: Smiles. Because he scratched her and peed all over her when she carried him to the car to put him in the cat carrier.

Sammy Cat: You told him to do that, didn't you?

Kinsey: So what if I did?

Sammy Cat: Pauses to think. He'd never do that without a bribe.

Kinsey: Lifts her nose in the air. I promised to give him back the little yarn pom poms he likes to play with. I have them hidden in my crate.

Sammy Cat: That's extortion.

Kinsey: So what? Mom shouldn't leave me! I thought she'd stay home after getting peed on. Teddy didn't want to go anyway. It was supposed to be a win-win for everyone.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail. Everyone but Mom.

Kinsey: Hangs her head and tries to look guilty.

Sammy Cat: Faker.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy: Are too.

Kinsey: I'm the only one who should be allowed to leave with Mom. You cats have to stay inside the house.

Sammy Cat: Twitches her tail harder this time. Are you saying you'd rather be the one riding in the car?

Kinsey: No way. I hate riding in cars. You know that. I only like to chase them.

Sammy Cat: Dogs are supposed to love riding in cars.

Kinsey: Well, I don't.

Sammy Cat: I bet that's why Mom doesn't write about you. Because you're weird.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy Cat: Are too.

Kinsey: Long pause. I am?

Sammy Cat: Bats her favorite jingle ball toy across the floor. You are.

Kinsey: Resumes her pacing and starts to whine. Mom's left us and she's NEVER coming back!

Sammy Cat: Rolls her eyes and shakes her head, swishing her tail as she leaves the room. Pathetic.


Karen Duvall is a multi-published author with Harlequin Luna. Her current project is a fantasy romance that features lizards, birds, Dodos, pigs, a tiger and a cat, but no dogs. Her own dog is not happy about this and is thinking about going on strike.



Colorado Gold Conference Master Class — Formatting and Distributing to the Big Three: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

Formatting and Distributing to the Big Three: Amazon, B&N, and iBooks
Instructor: Jessica France
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Ballroom A

Join author and publishing consultant Jessica France for a step-by-step workshop on how to take your manuscript from a single Word or Pages document to clean, compliant e-book formats for the top three digital markets. At the end of the workshop, you'll leave with knowledge of a reliable conversion process based on freely available software that will quickly get your book exported to files for the Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble, PubIt, and Apple iTunes marketplaces. Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops with a finished manuscript, although it is not required. Bonus instructions will include how to further create a clean file for Smashwords submission.

Attendees will be leaving the class with lots of cheat sheets and shortcuts for working with Microsoft Word, and some bonus info on how to create their own covers for free (or very low cost). Those who arrive with Amazon's Kindle Gen and Kindle Previewer software already downloaded, the Calibre software, and Google Sigil will have a head start on the rest of the class.

Jessica FranceJessica France is an independently published author who provides publishing assistance to new and established writers across all genres. She has been writing web content and mastering the digital sphere for over 10 years and continues to do so as a business partner at Mission Marketing and Content Systems. Jessica's brain child is the indieBook Library, a website which aims to provide a wealth of free resources for independent authors and presses to help them produce the best books possible.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/. The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org.

Colorado Gold Conference Master Class: Copyediting for Fun and Profit

We'll be featuring information about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Friday morning master classes throughout the month.

Master Class: Copyediting for Fun and Profit
Instructor: Angie Hodapp
Friday, September 20, 8:00-11:50 Ballroom B

Copyediting is tough. It takes years of professional practice just to become proficient. Whether you’re interested in learning to copyedit for yourself or for others, this intensive, hands-on master class will set you on the right path. How do you mark up a manuscript? Why are there so many style manuals, and which one is best for copyediting fiction? Is it better to copyedit on paper or on screen? What’s the difference between copyediting and proofreading? Is editing fiction different from editing nonfiction? How do you find clients, and what should you charge? Come find out!

Headshot_Angie HodappAngie Hodapp holds an MA in English and is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute. A 2011 winner of the Colorado Gold Contest and a 2012 semifinalist in the Writers of the Future Contest, she has extensive editorial experience in both the book- and magazine-publishing industries. She has taught workshops and developed curricula for Writer's Digest University and currently works at Nelson Literary Agency in Denver.

The registration link for the Colorado Gold Conference, scheduled for September 20-22, 2013, is http://www.rmfw.org/conference/ The deadline to register is September 15th. The cost of each workshop is $50 add-on to the regular conference fee.

Additional information on the conference schedule, hotel accommodations, and presenters is available in the brochure at: http://www.rmfw.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Colorado-Gold-Brochure-07.17.13.pdf. If you have additional questions, please contact Susan Brooks, Conference Chair, conference@rmfw.org

Scrub Your Mindscape Clean

By Mark Stevens

Skip the tips.

Forget everything you’ve learned.

Put down your copy of 100 Fabulous Secrets to Better Writing Now!

Move away from the stack of books you slowly acquired ever since you first had the thought that you might want to write fiction. (Spoiler alert: all those books pretty much all say the same thing. They are as repetitive as magazines about how to swing a golf club. Or how to diet.)

That’s right.

Forget it all.

Put it aside, shove it to the back of your brain or, even better, scrub the whole mindscape clean. Lesson-free, worry-free, anxiety-proofed. Silence the inner coach.

Oh yeah, one more thing: don’t even think about your favorite author or some writing style you’d like to emulate.

There. Got it?

Now, tell me a story. Only, pretend I’m in a soundproof room and you’re going to have to slide me pages under the door as the story unfolds—as you write it down. In your writing voice. With your words.

Okay, there you go.

Here’s what I want: I want to know your character—inside and out. And, well, it would be pretty cool if something actually, you know, happened.

There must be a reason this is a story and not just an account of some random, meaningless day. Or week. Or series of connected events.

My point? My point is sometimes you have to get back to basics. And those basics are:

1. See clearly.
2. Describe honestly.
3. Keep things moving.

Sometimes (drum roll, please) you just have to write.

And write some more.

(Of ALL the writing advice you’ve received over the years, isn’t that the most common refrain? “Write every day.” “Keep on writing.” “Write, write, write.” “Write a million words.” Or some such variation. Has one writing coach or respected elder of the writing community ever suggested that you think more or suck your thumb harder? Didn’t think so.)

And after you’ve written, have some other readers check what you’ve written, to see if they get the story you’re trying to tell.

That’s it.

Your voice, your words, your damn story.

It’s bound to be one of a kind.

But if you do need a jump-start or if you’re looking for that one magical moment of inspiration, come to Colorado Gold, RMFW’s massively brilliant three-day conference Sept. 20, 21 and 22 in Denver.

For more information about the conference, visit the RMFW website.

I can promise you one thing: you won’t starve for advice.


Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.

Writing Unchained

By Mike Befeler

mike_befelerThis is my first post on the RMFW blog, so let me introduce myself. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mike Befeler. For those of you who do know me, I’m still Mike Befeler. In the past I’ve been know as the Geezer-lit Guy because I’m author of the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series, which includes Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living with Your Kids Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder and Care Homes Are Murder. Like Clark Kent, I’ve now taken on a new persona. I have two published paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing. The V V Agency introduces a new type of shape-shifter called a transvictus, and The Back Wing gets back to my roots (they’re blond)—it’s a paranormal geezer-lit mystery. Don’t believe the myth that vampires don’t age. They get older, lose their teeth and gum people on the neck.

I want to thank Pat Stoltey for inviting me to join this blog. I’ll be your entertainment for the first and third Mondays of the month. I enjoy hearing from readers, so please respond, bug me, send notes, etc. I’d particularly like to hear what subjects you haven’t seen addressed in blogs that you’d like commented on.

The topic I’d like to address today is experimenting with different genres. When I started writing, which was in 2001 when I was 56 years old, I had no clue what I was doing. Some may say that’s still the case, but what the heck. Along the way I’ve learned a thing or two, which is important, because if our ancestors hadn’t, we’d still be watching cave drawings instead of Downton Abbey. One lesson learned is that we can write whatever we chose. Nothing says we have to be pigeonholed as one type of writer or another.

My first published novel didn’t even start as a mystery. I began writing a relationship story about three men and three women in a retirement community. At the same time I was writing a collection of mystery short stories featuring older people, and the two concepts combined, and Retirement Homes Are Murder was born.

The best part of the writing process for me is being intrigued with a subject and then pursuing it. As a mystery writer I can investigate different ways to kill people (don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything more than kill off people I don’t like on the printed page or e–book page). I keep a manila folder full of writing ideas—things clipped from magazines and newspapers (yeah, I still read print newspapers) and notes I make when a person, event or location fascinates me.

The beauty is we can write about anything. We can invent new worlds, take actual events to their absurd conclusions and turn the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.

That’s what brought me to writing paranormal mysteries as well as geezer-lit mysteries. I’ve also become fascinated with historical characters. Two that have led me to written manuscripts are Athanasius Kircher, the last man to know everything, and Nikola Tesla, a brilliant eccentric. So I’ve tried my hand at historical novels and thrillers.

But wait, there’s more. I recently met a 94-year-old man who was an infantryman in World War II and fought in Operation North Wind. He was captured, put in a prisoner of war camp, and repatriated by the Russians. He recounts some of the most amazing stories about his experiences, so I’m writing his biography.

So don’t feel you have to be chained to whatever you have been writing. Let your imagination soar. Try something new.

What are your thoughts?


Learn more about Mike Befeler and his novels at his website.

Talk to the Paw: A weekly column featuring writers and their pets

My name is Karen Duvall and I'm a writer. And a pet owner, or a slave to my pets, depending on your perspective. I work at home and my animals are my constant companions.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and many of us have pets to keep us company (or to distract us) as we work. I have four wonderfully spoiled animals whose antics inspire and infuriate me, so I thought it would be fun to share as it applies to my writing life. But it won't all be about me, I promise. I plan to invite other authors to share their pet stories and interviews with their cats, dogs, lizards, mice, spiders… Pets come in a variety of species and I don't discriminate when it comes to the creatures we choose to bring into our families.

Karen's Dog

Meet my dog, Kinsey. She's a four-year-old border collie/pitbull mix (aka border-bully) and quite the character. Kinsey hangs with me 24/7 so it's no wonder we get on each other's nerves sometimes. She's self-absorbed and stubborn and too smart for her own good.

My dog has grudgingly agreed to be my first guest. You'll be hearing a lot from her in the coming weeks. I don't know about you, but I sometimes wonder what my pets are thinking and what they might say if they could talk, especially if they talked with each other. First let's see what my dog has to say to me.

KD: Kinsey, say hello to the nice people.

My Dog: She yawns and an orange Chuck-it ball drops from her mouth.

KD: Can't you put that away for just five minutes?

My Dog: No. Life is all about the ball, man. Wake up and smell the Chuck-it. Play with me. Now.

KD: Maybe later. I'm still wiping the slobber off my keyboard from last time.

My Dog: Rolls her eyes. You were supposed to grab it and throw it before it landed.

KD: You ambushed me. Look, we'll have our ball time, I promise. This is my time now.

My Dog: No. It's MY time. Play with me.

KD: First let's talk about the writing life and the part you play in mine.

My Dog: Seriously? What does your writing have to do with me?

KD: You're my inspiration. I always include animals in my stories.

My Dog: But you never write about ME. You never even write about a dog. You include cats, a mongoose, dodo birds, a coyote—

KD: A coyote is like a dog.

My Dog: No, it's not. You write about Chimeras, even gargoyles of all things, and most recently I saw a tiger in the book you're writing now. And a pig! Never any dogs.

Awkward silence.

KD: You ready to go play some ball now?

Why Should Authors Care About Screenwriting?

By Trai Cartwright

This is part one of Trai's six-part monthly series.

Why in the world would a fiction writer care about screenwriting? Turns out, films are a prime educational resource for novelists, and whether you’re a fictioner or a filmite, our communal and cultural understanding of our craft is drawn from both realms of storytelling.

My background is in both realms of world building, the 50-foot high visual and the black-and-white textual. I love them both and work and play in both. However, thought I’d approach this blog as a map of my adventures as a new screenwriting resource in Denver. And what’s more appropriate than introducing myself in the story structure way?

Act 1 – Meet our main character: a teenaged refugee of Fort Collins, passionate about theater and novel writing. I went on to graduate from a highly esteemed but overpriced film school with a new passion: screenwriting! Destined to be in the world of storytelling, I embarked for Los Angeles.

Trigger Incident – Landing a job with an old school Hollywood moviemaking pro! I was mentored by an Academy Award-winning mensch who taught me the ways of the Force: how to use kindness and enthusiasm to get the best out of writers. He optioned one of my own screenplays, let me develop the scripts our company was interested in, and made me believe in myself. On to Act 2! Lots of practice, lots of dead ends, produced a few movies, worked for some major studios, always learning, learning, learning…

False Resolution – The head of CAA, the biggest talent agency in the world, loves one of my scripts! He’s going to “send it out,” and when he sends something out, careers start. It’s my big break!

Oh wait. He was just forced out by the young guns nipping at his heels. My script has been “burned.” He’s out; so am I.

Things turn dark. LA begins to implode. The writers strike, coupled with the burst of their freakishly out-sized housing bubble and the downward-spiraling economy—it all equals no jobs for writers. Or anyone else. No work to be found in the industry I love.

It’s the end of Act 2 and my lowest point…or the beginning of something amazing?

Act 3 – A move to Colorado, my home state, results in levels of professional growth and community-building I’ve never experienced. As a teacher of both screenwriting and fiction writing, I get to connect with hundreds of writers, teach in a myriad of classrooms, edit dozens of manuscripts. I’m having an amazing time, and really developing my skills on all levels. Don’t tell anyone in LA that working outside of Hollywood rocks this hard. They might get wise and get out, too!

Which brings us to The Sequel:

Act 1 – Making the big move to Denver, a storied land where many wildly accomplished and talented writers live and learn and publish. I’ve just finished a screenplay that’ll fly back over the mountains shortly and bang some drums, and I’m nearly done with my first YA book. Could I be more excited to land in the Mile High City at this crucial juncture in my own writing life?

I could, because Denver is also home to a Top 25 Film School, where I’ll be teaching future filmmakers how to get their voices heard. Connecting to the amazing film resources here is important, so I’m meeting folks from the Denver Film Society and the Denver Screenwriters.

But I’m still fiercely in love with Fiction, so I’m also looking for ways to connect to more novelists. How lucky are we that grounding this community is the amazing Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. What fun you all have, what joy you bring to the study of our craft! I’ve already had some terrific experiences with you all and can’t wait to continue. I’ll see you at the conference in September, for sure. Come find this old Hollywood hack so we can continue this conversation about our love of story.


Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.