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.
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