I know the mystery world is on the high/low this week with Bouchercon fall-out. The high of soaking up mystery book vibes, the low of total exhaustion. I see the pictures and posts all over the Interwebs. I’m sad I couldn’t be there for the good times and I know they were legion.
But I experienced some pretty awesome writerness this past weekend, as well. I got to hang out, learn, be inspired, and catch book industry gossip in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference. Since I started attending this con, close to twenty years ago, I haven’t missed it once. I debated long and hard this year, thinking maybe I’d head east to Albany for my first ever Bouchercon, but in the end, I couldn’t walk away from what might be my favorite weekend of the year.
Where Bouchercon and Malice Domestic are fan based conferences, Colorado Gold focuses on writers, the craft of commercial fiction, and the industry. From Friday morning until Sunday noon, four sessions run every hour all day with workshops geared toward beginners, seasoned and even multi-pubbed writers. It’s heavily genre laden so you won’t find a lot of raised noses at mystery writers or romancers or scifi/fantasy.
For me, Colorado Gold is the Woodstock of writers conferences. We all get down in the mud, expose ourselves, and have the time of our lives. Okay, I might have stretched that metaphor some, but a conference like this is one place where writers can go and be surrounded with others who share our same dysfunctions (which are also legion).
When I attended my first Colorado Gold, I brought a completed manuscript with me, certain it would thrill an agent and I’d be off on my publishing adventure. I signed up for a one-on-one session with Michael Seidman, a real live New York editor, to critique my first three pages. We got through page one, which started 1/3 of the way down the page. He didn’t spare the feelings of an idealistic Nebraska girl. I walked out of that session barely holding back tears, ready to abandon all writing aspirations. But I ran into Janet Fogg and Karen Duvall, Julie Kaewart and Karen Lin, who understood and who assured me that writer misery loves company and to this day, are still my critique partners.
Joanne Kennedy, me, Janet Fogg at 2009 Colorado Gold with our Pen Awards for First Novel
I first won the contest for unpublished writers at Colorado Gold in 1997. I was sure I’d be published within a year. I won the contest two more times, the last in 2008. I was finally offered a contract by Midnight Ink in 2012. It’s no coincidence I met the editor who acquired that book, Terri Bischoff, at the Colorado Gold conference.
I have no doubt I would not be published today had it not been for RMFW and the Colorado Gold conference. Attending year after year is like a Masters degree in commercial fiction and continuing education. Every time I gain some competency in a small area of craft, I discover a whole array of skills I need to learn that I didn’t even know I didn’t know, yet. Know what I mean? So I’ll keep going and keep learning and hopefully, keep improving.
With Midnight Ink Acquisitions Editor, Terri Bischoff and my contract for Tainted Mountain
I would have loved spending time in Albany with readers and other mystery writers and perhaps hanging out for a minute or two in the bar. But schmoozing with the writers at the Colorado Gold conference is like getting to spend the holidays at Grandma’s, with only the fun cousins and cool aunts and uncles, and no one brings green Jello.