I’ve lived in four major cities beyond Denver during my life – Detroit, Tampa, Dallas and even London, England for a year. Guess you could say I’ve been around the block a time or two. And in my experience, one of the things I’ve found to be unique and special about Denver is the vibrancy of the writing community here. Over the past couple of years, therefore, I’ve toyed with the idea of how we might establish Denver as the Literary Capital of the West.
Whoa! Literary Capital? Can we truly think about this?
As creative writers, I know we can. Let’s play that brainstorming game, “What if?” and see what happens . . .
What if Denver were the literary capital of the West?
If that happened, wouldn’t we then see an influx in great and world renowned authors living and visiting our area? Jack Kerouac traveled here and wrote a significant portion of his “On the Road” based on life in Denver. Alan Ginsberg, also a leader in the Beat Generation of the ‘50s, established a school of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. We need more established authors to represent today’s writing superstars. People like Doris Kerns Goodwin might do an updated history of our wild west. Or Stephen King might come by to add to his “The Shining” with maybe a story or two about the haunting of Cheesman Park or the Denver Children’s Home. Or maybe with big name writers around, the level of our own local talent would continue to zoom ahead of the rest of the country. We have great authors at RMFW. Denver needs to support them and get the word out on them so they can sell more books, and make a living in this adventure.
And, what if our booksellers wanted to get involved?
I’m heading to the Mountains & Plains booksellers conference next week with some RMFW published authors where we’ll meet up to 250 booksellers interested in the books by us western-based authors. Okay, so Portland, Oregon has Powell’s Books, but the Tattered cover is adding steam to their engine with some new owners we’re all excited about. We have a solid community of great independent booksellers and plenty of Barnes and Nobles to excite the reading public. What if we set our relationship with this group and created new markets for our books to be sold at?
If we were better formed as a publishing force, could we also contemplate encouraging big publishers to come west, or maybe create big publishers from the small and start-up organizations that already exist here? Could we evolve the face of publishing by working together on goals and needs to grow and fulfill demand for our work?
What would happen if we had more writing groups?
RMFW is huge. Over 700 members work in our critique groups, come to our annual conference or visit through our monthly programs. But RMFW is only one writing group in Colorado. I have heard that there are more than 40 groups where writers constantly keep current and grow their writing skills and aspirations. Think Pikes Peak, Lighthouse Writers, Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime and many more. Perhaps the question isn’t what if we had more writing groups, but what if all the writing groups came together at one huge event?
What if we had a Denver Lit Book Festival every few years?
We might have books, authors, publishers, agents, professional story tellers, play writes, librarians, and more. Wow! Can you imagine that? We could have poetry slams, book readings, music and food—always good food. The blue bear at the convention center might become a great reading example if we hung a book inside the windows for him to read.
So What If we had more and better examples of readers?
Maybe we’d re-inspire the governor’s book club, give more support to Dom Testa’s “The Big Brain Club” or start our own programs for literacy in Colorado. Did you know that only 38% of eighth graders tested in Colorado are reading at a proficient level? We can do better. Maybe we writers and authors could team up with some of our terrific literacy programs and help make reading popular. It’s good for the kids, it expands our marketplace, and it helps people live better lives.
Can you envision all of this?
What thoughts can you come up with when you ask, “What if Denver were the literary capital of the West?”