Phobia noun pho∙bia \ foe-bee-a

Actually, I’m okay with bees but those wasps, yellow jackets, mud daubers—whatever they’re called—freak me out.

Speaking of fears, take Steven King—but don’t keep him—that guy writes horrors few humans can possibly survive, let alone think of: Carrie, The Secret Window, The Shining...

Now that I think about it, I have an irrational fear of science fiction writers too. What if I sit by such a warped genius in say, an airplane? Yikes! (Yes, Ken. I know you write sci-fi.)

Why in the world is that movie, The Time Machine so popular? Bad movies, a whole different level of anxiety.

What about those people who write literary fiction and those who are professional poets? How in the world can I face them, let alone actually engage in a conversation?  Smile, nod, “Beautiful,” repeat. Smile, nod, “Beautiful,” will certainly show my lack of knowledge of the genre. Never mind the obvious inexperience with a thesaurus.

Two crows, Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off, who was left? Consequently my phobia of bad jokes.

Then there’s—Holy eight legs, Batman!  That’s a huge…found a big boot to stomp it, but lost track of the hairy, speedy little devil.

Now, where was I?

Then there are snakes. As a child, I loved being around gardener snakes here in Colorado. No lie. Then one day, deep in the Ozarks as friends and I sat on a river bank a long, thin thing rapidly sashayed across the water, showing off the inside of its mouth. My so-called friends ran off and left me captive in the life-threatening situation. That cottonmouth snake pretty much did in my love of reptiles.

Oh sure, then there’s the fear of failure. Fear of success. What?

What happens if I write and sell a good book? Good books? (Success and self-defeating behavior often travel side by side, at least in my world.)

Having actually finished THREE manuscripts, stories, possible books, future fame and fortune endeavors, I then thought about edits and rewrites followed by my critique group. (Insert uncanny music.)

Abruptly, I rediscovered false safety also known as putting off today what can wait until tomorrow, trepidation, apprehension…. My mind immediately puts out an SOS to my body in such situations.

What the…?

Dang spider. Where’d I put the boot? Hairy thing is fast.

Which brings me to thinking about that carnival ride, the spider? Octopus? Yuck.

Moving on. But now I can’t get roller-coasters off the brain. Oh, gee whiz…s l o w l y going up that big hill…DOWN! The stinking bar that’s supposed to keep me in sure feels loose. Crap, more height. A loop, who the, what the, WHY incorporate that in a ride? A loop. I don’t want to be sick in public.

Great! There’s one stall available in the women’s bathroom. An OUT OF ORDER sign is duct-taped across the seat. And there’s no TP.

So, returning to the fear of failure, the fear of success thing. When my mind puts out an SOS to my body regarding such situations, I am entangled in the fear that I’ll never eat chocolate again. I don’t know the correlation between the two, but I rush to the store:

Candles and Diet Pepsi are optional

Now I have to worry about a diet again. If…dang spider. Where’d it go now? Oh, my head itches.

Harry has escaped repeated efforts of photos and the bottom of my boot again.

 

 

WANT vs NEED

Last month we took a step back from Boy meets Girl to focus on some preliminary work. Although you can certainly throw your Hero and Heroine together on the first page, it may be better to show them apart first.

Then, when Boy Meets Girl, you’ll have the opportunity for SOMETHING to catch your characters attention - and that SOMETHING will directly relate to what is missing in that characters life. Just be careful not to be TOO obvious about it.

Remember, your hero and heroine go into this story ready for love. Even if they don’t know it. Love is what they NEED, not necessarily what they want. If you asked the hero and heroine on page one if they’re looking for love, they would categorically deny it. Might even say HECK NO! I never want to love again. (Oooh, backstory.)

But in that first meeting, you can give the reader a glimpse into why these two are perfect for each other. Which means you have to know all that before you start writing.

If you look at the beat sheet I introduced last month (http://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/) you’ll see that the very first thing listed is the “Opening Image/Hook: Opening scene or sequence of story; create empathy with characters by showing they lack for something.”

Now this lack that you introduce in the first scenes will be made up of things the character thinks he or she NEEDS. To save the ranch. To get that promotion. To fix a relationship. To attend a crucial event. You get the picture. (Quick assignment - go pick up a handful of romances on your shelf - read the first few pages and jot down the initial WANT for those characters.)

In these first scenes, you want to “introduce protagonists, hook the reader, and setup the romance conflict (foreshadowing, establishing stakes).” Does that sound daunting? It can be. But that’s why we read a lot of romance - to analyze and absorb how that’s done. And that’s why we do all that preliminary character work.

In these initial pages, you want your characters to come across as likable and to have wants that the reader can identify with. To do that, you have to know your characters. REALLY know your characters.

Why does she NEED to save the ranch? What’s in it for her. What’s behind that need/want? If you don’t allow your reader in to see the why then you won’t keep them reading, you won’t keep them caring. Most people never have a NEED to “save the ranch” - but most all of us can identify with keeping memories alive or fulfilling a responsibility that we’ve carried for a long time, or simply the need to make a living.

Are you confused by my interchangeable use of WANT and NEED? Remember, rarely does a character go into his/her story knowing what he truly needs. He knows what he thinks he needs. But that’s what the character arc is all about. The missing link in the hero’s life will be in the possession or person of the heroine and vice versa.
You’ve heard the phrase “he completes me.” Well, there it is.

A hero or heroine will likely go into the story not even guessing that there’s a huge hole in their life. One that only the “other half” will fill. That’s what the story is all about. That’s what the character arc is all about.

So, make sure you know what the true need is. But you don’t have to play that card yet. Please don’t. Simply open the H/H’s story with their normal world - skipping happily through life oblivious to what’s coming.

Make sense?

And if you’re still not sure how it’s done - keep reading great romance novels - the ones on the keeper shelf. Read them. Analyze them. Go through with the beat sheet in hand and figure out how that author did it. And don’t forget to WRITE.

Until next month - BiC HoK - Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard.

Rocky Mountain Writer #99

Kerry Schafer / Kerry Anne King & World Tree Girl, I Wish You Happy

We last checked in with Kerry Schafer way back in February of 2016 and she was on the phone from her home in Washington State.

This time, we’ve got her for in-person chat, recorded last week at Colorado Gold, RMFW’s big annual three-day writing conference in Denver.

We’re more than 18 months down the road since the last interview, but Kerry Schafer is as busy as she was back then, with two new titles – World Tree Girl by Kerry Schafer and I Wish You Happy by her alter-ego Kerry Anne King.

Kerry has also started working as a creativity coach and she is here to pass along a few tips, particularly around the attitude with which you approach your work.

Kerry Schafer holds a BA in English from York University and a master degree in counseling psychology from Washington State University. Kerry spends her days working as an RN in a clinic, spinning her tales early in the morning and in the evenings after work.

In addition to the chat with Kerry, we’ve got a new installment of Writer’s Rehab with Natasha Watts. This time, Natasha is here to encourage you to break out your “inner sadist” and try being a bit meaner to your main characters.

Kerry's website

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Take Two Advice, and Call Me in the Morning: GOLD EDITION

I’ll bet you came back from the RMFW Gold Conference, excited to dive into your current project, filling it with all those things you learned over the weekend. Right up until it came time to actually write. The post-conference blue/block is a very real thing. Trust me, I’m not a doctor.

And I don’t play one on TV either (*millennials, google that those last two sentences, it’s funny. Really).

Anyway, you, like me, might be sitting around in your pajamas (because, what else would you wear?) wondering about how to incorporate what you learned with your writing style and voice or promotional style and voice.

The thing about the advice provided at conference is, the facilitators aren’t looking to change you as a writer, but rather let you explore their ways and means of creating great books. The whole take some, leave some approach. Try things out, see what fits and what doesn’t with your own writing life.

There are no perfect fits when it comes to being an author. What works for one writer, might fail for another. My best advice, and you can take it or stick your tongue out at me, is don’t live your writerly journey in the shoes of another writer. For one thing, they pinch, but most importantly, wearing someone’s shoe is unsanitary. Trust me, I’m NOT a doctor.

What advice did you learn at the conference that you plan on implementing in your own style/journey?

Marketing Physics

Back in the dark ages when I took physics, I learned about the six simple machines. When dealing with marketing, I find the lever makes a good analogy. It increases the force applied by a given amount of effort. Rephrased: You don't have to work as hard to get the same result.

Call me lazy, but any time I can get the same result with less effort - especially in marketing - I'm all over it.

The concept is simple. In marketing, we need to apply effort to gain purchase - literal as well as figurative. The more leverage we have, the less effort needed.

Marketing isn't the lever. It's the fulcrum. It's base you need in order to focus the application of effort. The fulcrum needs to be solid enough to take the load of both the effort and the output. If it's too squishy, applying effort will crush it. It can't really be too strong, but there's no need to make one stronger than you need. A fulcrum that can support ten tons doesn't actually give you any advantage when you're only trying to move a ten pound load.

In this context, marketing is not what you do. It's the way you've decided to do it.

I write SF/F novels. I self-publish them. I use social media as my primary communication channels. I follow the "Big Frog, Small Pond" and "1000 True Fans" strategies. Those were my decisions regarding marketing. That's my foundation, my fulcrum.

Effort is the sum of all the forces applied to the lever. For authors, that can be time spent at conventions, on social media, or writing blog posts. It can be cash spent on ad buys and market research. It can be anything the author does to promote the works. It's built from all the decisions an author makes about strategy and model. What do you have to offer? Where do you offer it? How do you choose to make people aware of your product?

The output load in this case is the number of purchases or - perhaps more accurately - profit. After all, it does little good to spend $10 for every $1 in revenue. It might be advantageous to achieve some short-term goal, but it's a bankrupt model in the long run. Literally.

The lever is the key. The lever is what multiplies the effort and provides the applied force to the output. For authors, that's the backlist. If you only have one book to sell, then the lever is short. You have to apply a lot of effort to get a unit of output. If you have two books to sell, then you get a multiplier. Perhaps people who buy the first will buy the second. You have more visibility - a bigger footprint - which makes your lever longer but also stronger. Add a third and a fourth and a fifth and you begin to build a machine where only the lightest touch of effort can give you a huge amount of purchase.

It's just simple physics.

Thrillers, Part 1 of 4

In my four-part blog series on the Thriller genre, I'm going to discuss the core nature of the thriller and what sets it apart from other forms of fiction. In three future segments, I plan to discuss the hero(es), the villain(s) and plotting and pacing. My intent is to offer some insights to fellow thriller-writers and perhaps learn something myself along the way.

The primary thing that sets the thriller apart from its cousin, the mystery, is that most often there is no whodunit. For the most part, the bad guy (or guys...assume hereafter I mean both singular and plural, masculine and feminine) is revealed fairly early on in the plot, if not the very first page.

This leads to a temptation for many aspiring thriller writers to open their book with a prologue, in which the villain incites the story through some nefarious act that sets his plans in motion. Please resist the urge. Most editors do not like prologues and neither do I. There are justifications for prologues, but they should be the exception, not the rule. Prologues are a whole other blog article.

While the primary question in a mystery is 'who?" the big question in a thriller is 'how?' How is the villain planning to accomplish his goal? This is critical for the hero to know how to stop the villain. In a mystery, on the road to finding out who committed the crime (usually murder), finding the 'why?' or motive goes a long way toward helping the protagonist sleuth to finding the culprit. In a thriller, similar but different is the 'what?" Finding out what the villain plans to do helps our hero know how to thwart him.

Which brings us to another difference. In a mystery, finding the perp is usually the end of the story, sometimes after a brief pursuit and/or capture scene. In a thriller, finding the answer to 'how' only kicks the thriller into high gear. Our daring protag still needs to execute a spectacular plan to dismantle the villain's plans. And of course when has a plan ever come off exactly as laid out? Therein lies more fun.

Your audience for a mystery is those who like the process of uncovering secrets and following obscure evidence trails to uncover even more. In many cases, the more shocking the secrets revealed the better they love it. I know that's part of what makes me love a good mystery. Your audience for a thriller are those who like action, adventure and daring do. The pitching of two enemies against each other until one comes out on top. Where a mystery is like the old card game Concentration - uncovering clues and remembering them, matching connections when they appear - a thriller is like chess - opponents making moves in attempts to misdirect and outwit each other and win the day.

Of course, like all attempts to define something complex, these definitions (mystery vs. thriller) are not all-encompassing or true in all cases. For example, I haven't mentioned how many mysteries and most thrillers include elements of romance, or how either can take place within the realm of historical fiction or SciFi, etc. As with all forms of fiction, there is overlap. I've only attempted here to lay out the broad strokes of what makes a thriller. Your results may vary.

See you at the Colorado Gold!

The Colorado Gold Conference is upon us and I cannot contain my excitement. I will revel for three days in the company of fellow writers. I will meet amazing people. I will reconnect with old friends. I will learn about, and be inspired by, the craft of writing. I will get my batteries charged. I will surround myself with my tribe.

Colorado Gold means a lot to me.

Five years ago I was working for Denver Public Schools. I was in my early forties and I felt lost. None of the dreams I had for my professional life had come true. I was scared and angry and hurt. See, I had always wanted to be a teacher since I was in Mr. Perdy’s 7th grade World History Class. I had worked towards getting my bachelors and my teaching certificate most of my twenties, with some minor detours along the way. When I moved to Colorado in 2004 and got a job working for DPS, I thought my professional trajectory was set. But working in inner cities schools is hard. There is a lot of turnover among teachers and administrators. There’s also a lot of politics and a lot of heart ache.

Well, by 2012, I had enough. I resigned from my teaching position, thinking I would simply fine another job somewhere else. That job never came. I applied everywhere and got a couple of interviews, but no teaching positions. I was lost, embarrassed and ashamed.

Around the same time a friend I hadn’t spoken to since the late 1990s came back into my life. She had moved to Colorado because she had fallen in love. We spoke a lot over the phone, just reminiscing. Out of the blue she announced that her significant other was editing an anthology and needed short stories. Would I write one?

Now, like most Americans, I was definitely interested in writing. When I was in college I had started and stopped a novel about half a dozen times. This, however, was different. This was a legitimate opportunity for publication. All I had to do was write a short story. So I started writing.

Looking back I know the story was mediocre. But for some reason it was accepted and I was a published writer! I contacted my friend’s paramour about what I could do to further my writing career. What next steps should I take? What he said changed my life.

He told me to join RMFW. That was probably the best advice I have received in twenty years. Everything change for me after my first Gold Conference.

If you ever go to my Amazon page, or to my website, it will say “Jason always wanted to be a writer, he just didn’t know it.” All the things I pursued, or enjoyed in my leisure were always about story. Why did I love history? The stories. Why do I watch college football? The stories! Why do I follow politics? The stories! (Do you get the picture? Well I didn’t.) But I never knew any writers growing up. Writing fiction as a career was never presented to me as a career. No one in my family were writers. No one I ever knew either wrote or aspired to write.

While living my life I felt an acute sense of unease among most people. I thought I was just awkward.

But after my first Gold Conference, things changed. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable around other people. I felt comfortable in my own skin.

I was very lonely as a teacher. I always felt like I had to watch what I said. I felt like I was going to do something to upset my colleagues. Now I know why. I was never meant to be a teacher. It wasn’t them, it was me!

When I attended my first Gold Conference I was overwhelmed with the warmth and acceptance people gave me. Shannon Baker greeted me warmly. (She had just won writer of the year.) Author Christine Jorgensen gave me compliments on my comments in her seminar. I met author Catherine Winters, Corinne O’Flynn, and countless other people who befriended me, supported me and welcomed me. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. It has been that way every year I have attended.

So at Colorado Gold I plan on renewing those friendships and making others. I plan on learning and laughing and making memories. See, in RMFW, we’re not just colleagues pursuing publications, we’re not just a guild. We are family. The Gold Conference is our family reunion.

See you at the Gold.

 

You can follow Jason on Twitter @evans_writer.

You can like his FB author page at Jason Henry Evans

Read his blog on his website: www.jasonhenryevans.com

 

The Price of Our Dreams (Title Borrowed!)

When he talks about writing, George Saunders brings it all down to earth.

He’s so straightforward, so sure, so clear about every phase of the process.

And reassuring, too.

Literary snobbishness?

Zip and ola.

I’ve sung his praises before and reviewed Tenth of December, a terrific collection of imaginative short stories.

I could also post link after link of thoughtful exchanges with Saunders, including from The Big Think podcast and a fabulous two-parter on Bookworm about his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

Anyway, I really didn’t expect to see Saunders pop up on an advice podcast but there he was with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. Turns out Saunders was one of Strayed’s writing teachers and mentors at Syracuse University.

The topic was chasing creative dreams while managing, you know, little practical things like work and income. You can read the question and listen to the entire conversation, called 'The Price of Our Dreams' at WBUR.

It’s powerful.

Saunders argues you can do both—and that work and the workplace can provide a wealth of inspiration.

Saunders: “There's a crossroads moment where you say to yourself, ‘okay, either I'm going to do the starving artist route and make these kids suffer or I'm going to suck it up and find in myself the potential to go into a job that I wouldn't have dreamed of taking a year ago.’ And what I found was that actually that was great. To go in and say I have to give up my image of myself as this scrappy, cool young guy and put on a tie and go into this job. So maybe as a way of gaming myself I said ‘Ok, look, if you're a writer you should be able to find material even here, everywhere.’ Since these are human beings gathered together, this must be percolating into my artistic machinery, therefore it's not a waste."

And later in the same podcast, Saunders: “The path that lies between you and the book you dreamed of is actually not a different day to day life except the addition of some writing time. The magic that's going to make you published and beloved is yet to be found. When I was working a day job and writing my first book, I noticed that you can get a lot done in 15 minutes. In some ways, writing at work or writing when you're tired has a way of focusing your mind. I like to gently say to anybody who wants to be an artist, it doesn't always work. Your worth as a human being is not tied to your productivity as an artist, those are wildly divergent things. The pure artistic path is the one that's not too tied to the outcome but is tied to the transformation that happens.”

I like those last two sentences so I’ll highlight it for emphasis:

Your worth as a human being is not tied to your productivity as an artist, those are wildly divergent things. The pure artistic path is the one that's not too tied to the outcome but is tied to the transformation that happens.

Over and out.

Colorado Gold 2017: Some Practical Information

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Conference is almost here!

In addition to the previous conference day-by-day walk-through info post, here is some practical information to help you get organized:

Parking: Parking is free at the hotel for conference attendees. Yay! You'll need to validate your parking ticket at the front desk before you leave.

Airport Train Info: From the airport, you'll need to take the Light Rail train, ($9.00) to the the Central Park Station, which is 0.7 miles from the hotel. If you arrive and there is no shuttle present, call the hotel. They will pick you up at the station. For more details about train times, station stops, and other info, download the RTD info flyer or check out the LIGHT RAIL schedule. There is no longer a free shuttle from the airport.

First-Timer Meeting: On Friday at 12:00pm (before conference officially begins), our New Attendee Liaison, Kevin Wolf, will be hosting our "first timer meeting" in the Vail Room.  This is an opportunity to meet some of the RMFW conference staff and get a brief orientation about conference. We will also have a special prize to give away to one lucky attendee! This meeting will last about 30 minutes. Feel free to bring lunch or purchase a boxed lunch from the hotel kiosk.

Conference Badges: Your 2017 official conference badge must be worn AT ALL TIMES. If you are not wearing your official conference badge, you'll be asked to retrieve it. Without your official conference badge you will not be able to attend the meals. If you RSVP'd to bring a guest to any meals, your guest must wear their official guest badge in order to attend the meals. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

Don't Forget! Bring a Blank Journal to Conference! RMFW Special Guest, Stuart Horwitz, is delighted to share: Book Architecture has partnered with Cocoon Journal, a non-profit organization that puts blank books in the hands of high school writers.

The idea is that by writing, they can clear their head (and maybe generate the first draft of a future project). Do you have some blank journals lying around that you aren't using? Now, the solution: BRING THEM TO CONFERENCE! Cocoon Journal will be collecting unused, blank journals during Colorado Gold this September. You can also ship blank journals to: Cocoon Journal P.O. Box 740340, Arvada, CO 80006.

Classes to Prep For: If there are classes on the schedule that you're planning to attend, be sure to read the class description in the event the instructor wants you to bring something to use in class. Some that have requested a mention:

  • Deep Revision Master Class - Heather Webb: Bring a some pages of your writing to work on in this session.
  • The Joy of Writing Great Sex - Andrea Catalano & Heather Webb: Anyone who'd like to participate in an anonymous critique may bring one printed page from one of their scenes without a name on it. We'll read aloud and talk about what's working and what isn't.
  • The Art of the Author Reading - Aimie Runyan: please bring a short cutting from one of your works! Laptop, printed pages, bound book--anything you can read from comfortably.
  • The Faster I Go, The Behinder I Get - Becky Clark:  Check the handouts download and bring a paper copy of the calendar with the times down the side.  We'll be doing an exercise with that one

Handouts: Handouts are available online. Check the HANDOUTS page often as we get closer to conference and more are added by our presenters. Please download handouts to your device or print them at home. You *can* download them at the hotel using the public wifi in the common areas of the hotel, but you will have to leave the classrooms to do so. While there is Wi-Fi in the hotel, there is NO Wi-Fi in the classrooms. 

Wi-Fi: There is wifi in the hotel public areas but there is NO WIFI in the classrooms for presenters or attendees. If you wish to access the handouts for a class but your device requires wifi, you will need to download them before your class.

Agent & Editor Pitch Appointments: If you requested one, your specific appointment details will be included in your registration packet. There will be a separate check-in table for the pitch appointments located on the third floor. Please make sure you arrive at least 10 minutes before your appointment. If you have any questions or conflicts regarding your pitch appointment, you will need to speak to the volunteers at the third-floor check-in table. Additional pitch appointments are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis while space allows. Any questions about booking additional free pitches should be handled at the check-in table for the pitches with our Pitch Master, Mike Ruchhoeft, and his team of volunteers.

Preparing for Your Pitch Appointment: We always have many questions about pitch appointments. Remember to relax and know that the agent is there to hear about your story. It's ok to be nervous. It's ok to ask questions. Your appointment should be a conversation. It's not a requirement that you have your pitch memorized; bring notes and read from them if that's what you need to get it right. For more prep, here is an excellent blog post from RMFW Pitch Coach, Susan Spann.

Have a Special Appointment? Arrive 10-minutes early please! If you have an appointment with Pitch Coaching, Mentor Room, One-on-Ones, or Agent/Editor Pitches, etc., please arrive 10-minutes before your appointment. This helps everyone stay on schedule and prevents delays.

Leaving Classes In-Session: If you signed up for an appointment, it is likely that you will have to leave a workshop in-session in order to attend. If you need to leave a workshop in-session, this is perfectly fine and happens throughout conference. Simply gather your things and quietly depart. Once your appointment is over, feel free to return to any workshop in-session.

Conference Check-in/Registration: Conference Check-in will be at the bottom of the escalators, accessible from the lobby. If you're attending a Friday morning session (Master Class or a Critique Round Table) check-in opens at 7am. If you're not attending a morning session, check-in opens at 10:30am.

Need Help? Have Questions? “ASK ME”: We have a whole army of conference veterans who know the ropes and are there for you to ask questions. If you see someone with an ASK ME ribbon on their badge… don’t be shy! Also, the Registration Table is HQ for conference. We will have volunteers there just about all the time throughout conference, so this is another place to go if you need assistance.

At-A-Glance Schedule & Brochure: The AAG is the go-to document when you're looking for the workshop schedule. There are lots of shifts that happen with the AAG over the months leading up to the conference, and the brochure updates lag behind. In the event the brochure elves slip up and there is a discrepancy, the AAG is the true schedule.

Workshop Recordings: All the open workshops/panel programming at conference are recorded. If you’re unable to be in two places at once, or if a class was especially helpful to you and you want to listen to it in the future, purchase a copy during conference at the recording room, next door to Boulder Creek. Orders placed before the end of the day on Saturday will be available on Sunday. Orders placed on Sunday will be shipped to you.

What to Wear: Dress comfortably for conference, and wear shoes that make walking easy. You’ll do a lot of walking at conference. Dress in layers to be sure you aren’t too hot or cold as the temperature shifts. Some people do dress up for the Friday Kickoff and Saturday Awards Banquets, but you’re going to see everything from jeans to cocktail dresses and capri pants to suits. Don’t be afraid to dress up, but be equally assured that you can wear whatever makes you comfortable.

Need a Break? Take a Break! You don’t have to attend a session every hour. If you need to take a break, then you’re totally welcome to skip a session, go back to your room, hang in the open areas, or find a quiet place to write.

Drink Water! CO is very dry, and if you’re not from here, it can come as quite a shock how easy it is to become dehydrated. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. And if you're not sure... DRINK LOTS OF WATER!

Meals: Your conference registration includes several meals:

  • Fri Lunch - ON YOUR OWN
  • Fri Dinner - Kickoff Banquet, Plated Meal, Included
  • Sat Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sat Lunch - Buffet style, Included
  • Sat Dinner - Awards Banquet - Plated Meal, Included
  • Sun Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sun Lunch - Buffet style, Included

Conference Badges: Your 2017 official conference badge must be worn AT ALL TIMES. If you are not wearing your official conference badge, you'll be asked to retrieve it. Without your official conference badge you will not be able to attend the meals. If you RSVP'd to bring a guest to any meals, your guest must wear their official guest badge in order to attend the meals. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

More Questions? Join our
FACEBOOK GROUP
for Conference attendees!

The Sacred Work of Storytelling

Nearly two weeks ago, the sun disappeared (at least if you were in the direct path of the eclipse). For a few minutes, the air grew cooler and the birds grew quiet. I couldn’t help but think about how ancient people must have viewed an eclipse. They may have wondered if the sun would come back. Their worry may have made them anxious enough that they came up with elaborate rituals to appease the Sun and make sure he (or she) didn’t abandon them altogether.

But who came up with the rituals, the story, the cosmography, that explained why the sun disappeared and what must be done to ensure it always returned? Priests, you say? Priests may have performed the rituals, but the person who created the myth the rituals were built around was undoubtedly the tribe’s bard or storyteller. She or he might not have had the position officially, but they were the members of the tribe with the imagination and the gift with words to explain the phenomenon.

The word religion comes from a Latin word that means"to tie or bind". And that’s what religions do—they tie the events of the world together and make sense of them. They also bind people together in a shared experience, even if that experience is a re-enactment or ritual connected with the story created by the storyteller. Storytellers make sense of the world. And that’s why I believe we will always have need of them, not matter how sophisticated the world is.

Just look at the rabid following of The Game of Thrones series. It keeps gaining momentum and attracting more viewers (and readers). We dissect and analyze the episodes and return to them over and over, trying to figure out this world George R.R. Martin has created. We want to know the "why" for all the details in this world and we want to make sense of the events that take place. Martin, the storyteller, has created a grand myth, an imaginary world that people discuss as if it were totally real.

That’s what writers do, and that’s why storytelling is so important. The worlds we create as writers connect people. In making sense of imaginary worlds, we help people make sense of the real world. (Which at times is proving to be just as horrific and terrifying as anything Martin has created.)

Despite the multitude of fans, there are plenty of people who consider TGOT escapist fiction and therefore, silly and unimportant. But I would argue the series isn’t trivial or a waste of time because it binds us together and gives us a story that we share. As we reflect on the meanings of the myth, we reflect on our own values and what is important to us. We are forced to confront questions of good and evil and what is involved in making those distinctions.

A recent study showed that reading fiction tends to make people more empathetic in their choices. Experiencing things from the viewpoint of a fictional character teaches us to get outside our own world viewpoint and look at things in a new and more empathetic way. Maybe storytelling can’t change our turbulent, chaotic and violent world, but it can help us make sense of it and connect us in meaningful ways.

Storytelling is ancient and at the heart of the very essence of what it means to be human. So next time you get totally discouraged and want to give up writing, remember that the work we’re doing as writers is sacred and essential.