I spent the weekend at Emporia State University at the 23rd Annual Tallgrass Writing Workshop. It was great to be engaged in learning, and with other writers, for a whole weekend. I know I’m going to want to go back again and again. I was very impressed with the level of instruction, as well as the other folks attending.
Max McCoy, who read at the library here a couple of months ago, organized this year’s event. The HRAC, one of the boards I’m on, brought him to Hutchinson. It was one of those things I intended to blog, but never got around to, other than a quick mention, although I did promo it. However, Greg did blog it, in his usual exquisite way.
One of McCoy’s presentations this weekend was about the Hero’s Journey, a reference to Joseph Campbell’s writing. It has been a long time since I read the “Power of Myth.” I think a rereading is in order. I obviously need to read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” If you haven’t read any of Campbell’s writing, I encourage you to give it a try. Really. Reading him is life changing. It’s not the easiest reading I’ve ever done, but it stays with you.
Max McCoy writes both fiction and non-fiction, including some of the Indiana Jones books, which are a hot topic now with the movie out. He also teaches journalism at Emporia State, and if the one session I was in with him this weekend is any indication, he’s a great teacher. It was almost enough to make me want to go back to school. OK, truth be told, I always want to go back to school. It’s just that part where they pay me to go to work and I have to pay them to go to school that stops me.
McCoy just won the 2008 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for his novel, “Hellfire Canyon.” This is not just a nice, little award – it’s a real honor. He has written a number of books, as well as tons of articles. Read about all things McCoy at www.maxmccoy.com. His blog has been one of my regular stops online since I met him in April.
This weekend he shared something else I found completely endearing – he loves Halloween. This came up when we were drawing names for door prizes out of a plastic pumpkin. Those of you who are regular readers know of my love of holidays – Christmas being my favorite, and Halloween my second favorite. Besides, keeping a plastic pumpkin around all year demonstrates a certain quirkiness you might expect from someone who spends a large part of their life engaged in creative work. I love quirkiness.
Joining us for Saturday was Cotton Smith, who writes westerns. He was a very engaging speaker and his advice went far beyond the genre where his work is focused. He gave us 12 points to consider in any work. It was valuable information. I came home with a stack of notes from his presentation as well as others.
Julianne Couch spoke to us about using “found stories” and also about travel writing. Her book is called “Jukeboxes and Jackalopes.” I was tempted to buy many, many books this weekend but I resisted because I’m in the process of weeding through books and giving them away. Until that’s done, and I know how much space I have on my library shelves, I’m going to be a devoted library user. Oh, but the temptation was strong.
The press info on her book says, “Jukeboxes & Jackalopes is an apt description of this collection of essays in which the author shares her impressions of some of the unique bars scattered throughout small towns in Wyoming–some so small that the bar may be the only business at a location named and noted on the map but perhaps only claiming two residents. Regardless of size or remoteness of location, these watering holes often serve as community centers and living rooms away from home for those folks who populate the neighboring ranches and energy industry camps and offer a delightful experience for travelers who dare to leave the Interstate in search of a unique experience.” Read more at Pronghorn Press.
Another faculty member was Don Coldsmith. I’m sorry I didn’t get to attend any of his breakout sessions. It was difficult to decide what session to go to at times because there was much from which to choose. I did have an opportunity to chat with him a little bit. I am certain he’s a man who has a million stories he hasn’t yet told. Even during introductions he had us all laughing.
There was a book signing Saturday night during a reception at the local Arts Center. I snapped this photo of Don visiting with a participant that night.
I found this bit about him on a Random House website. “Don Coldsmith served as a World War II combat medic in the South Pacific, graduated from Baker University, and received his M.D. from the University of Kansas. He has been a rancher and a horse breeder, among other professions and avocations, and currently teaches at Emporia State University when he is not writing his award-winning novels. There are nearly six million copies of Don Coldsmith’s books in print.”
Antonia Felix spoke about the power of dreams in the creative process, as well as her own path in the publishing world. She is a multi-talented woman. In addition to being a writer, she is an accomplished musician, and also studied psychology. I knew I was going to like her the first time I heard her mention Jung.
She has written a number of non-fiction books, including “Condi” about Condoleezza Rice and “Laura” about Laura Bush.
It was interesting to hear her talk about her life. I’m always amazed at how some people can accomplish so much with the same number of hours the rest of us are given in a day. She is an example of someone who must use every single second.
The remaining faculty member was Phillip Finch, who shared his personal story in publishing. I’m not going to go into details, because it’s not my story to tell, but suffice it to say it was fascinating.
He is the author of 13 books, the latest of which is “Raising the Dead,” which will be released in the US in November. It’s the story of divers Dave Shaw and Don Shirley. I saw a documentary about these divers and it was fascinating. I’m sure this book will go into far more detail and be a wonderful read.
He sold his first book over the transom, which is publishing speak for selling it by just sending it to a publisher and they pick it out of the big pile of things that have been sent to them. He said the year his book was published there were only two books published by major houses that had come in that way. The other one was “Ordinary People.”
Finch apparently had been writing a blog for awhile, but has discontinued it because of the time it takes. I’m sorry to say he has removed it, so we can’t even read the older entries.
Blogging certainly does take time, but I’ve been writing a chronicle of my life for most of my life, so I think I’d be spending this time anyway. I still do the more personal things in handwritten journals, but blogging simplifies the non-personal aspects. And, so far, I enjoy sharing these sorts of events with readers, just as I like to read about such things on other people’s blogs.
Saturday night I mentioned there was a reception at the art center. It was very nice, although I left a little early to go write.
I’m not sure how I’ve missed this wonderful event all this time. But, my friend, Cynthia, sent me the info on it some time ago. I didn’t pay any attention because I knew the timing wouldn’t work for me – I was supposed to be on a “Food Coma Caravan” trip this past weekend.
Well, as fate would have it, Cynthia sent it to me again on June 11. Something told me I should pay more attention. When I looked at it more closely, I knew I needed to go to it instead of going on the FCC trip. I hated to miss that fun, but this was definitely the right thing for me to do.
One of the highlights for me was a critique of the first few pages of my novel. Max McCoy was the faculty member who critiqued my pages. He gave me some things to think about, but overall he was very positive and encouraging about the project. I asked him to be brutal – and told him if I cried I’d get over and for him to keep being brutal. He laughed and said he had seen people cry, but he didn’t think he was going to say anything to me that would make me cry. There were no tears, for the record.
Tonight when I was searching for info for this post, I ran across this on McCoy’s site:
“Q: What advice do you have for young writers?
A: Believe in yourself and have something to say. Then, write. If you must take classes in how to write, that’s okay, but don’t let it stand in your way of actually writing for publication instead of a grade. Ditto with teaching writing instead of actually writing. Teaching writing is fine, but I see so many writing teachers who have no credentials – they’ve never sold anything, they’ve just earned grades for their work. There are exceptions, of course, but the best writing teachers I’ve had were writers first. Reaching an audience is important. And, I think so many people are waiting for somebody to give them permission to write. Their teachers, their family, an agent, a well-known novelist. This is deadly, because the only one who can really give you permission is yourself. Also, when you start regarding yourself as a writer, and acting accordingly, it shakes up the status quo. When it moves from the realm of just a hobby, this is going to bug the hell out of your family and friends, because it is threatening the status quo. Stick to your guns. Write with your heart. Also, in the sense of the word “young” writers, I’m addressing all beginning writers, no matter what age. Writing is one of the most democratic of pursuits. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or your education, or what you look like. What does matter is what you get down on the page, and expect to write around half a million words before you start writing publishable material.”
I’m happy to say I’m way past the half a million words mark. I’m sure I’ve written far more than that longhand, much less what I’ve written on the keyboard. Thank goodness. Otherwise I’d find that pretty daunting. However, I’m sure he’s not too far off the mark.
Check www.patsyterrell.com for the blog, art, and more.