Posts Tagged RMFW

Twelve Years Later: Another view of the Colorado Gold

Next week will mark one year of blogging on this site. I started with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Conference, which must have been a week or two later in September last year. I rated MY experience at this conference last week, and I do want people to note that I blamed no one for my lack of networking. I do think two things, other than my personality, didn’t help. First, I didn’t stay Friday night. Last year I was there on Thursday night, too, and I did meet two or three new women. I did see these women this year and talked to one of them a bit. I could have given her a card. In fact, I should have, but I never thought about it. The other woman, who is a Facebook friend, I barely said hello to and I don’t think she recognized me or something. The second problem was my perception of the hotel layout. There wasn’t a place to sit that made for easy mixing between sessions.

Here is another take on the same conference from one of my critique partners: http://cryptictown.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/happy-thirtieth-colorado-gold/

We met at that first conference and she joined our nascent critique group. I mentioned in another post that that group has been meeting for twelve years, and I guess this means we’re going on our 13th. Two other members of that group were also at the conference. One had attended many times before and many times before we connected. The other member was a first time attendee. Each of them reported a positive experience as well. When the first-timer gets around to posting his blog on the conference, I’ll link to that as well.

Part of the reason I don't have time to write more this week.

Part of the reason I don’t have time to write more this week.

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Grading My Conference Experience

I attended Colorado Gold, the 30th edition of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ conference this past weekend. Although I could get many other posts out of the conference, I’m going to start with grading my own experience.

Networking: (D- ) After the Crested Butte conference in June I had 500 business cards made. I handed out THREE. Although I chatted with a few people, I made no new contacts or even Facebook friends.

Hotel Location: (A ) Easily accessible from I-25 and N of the Denver metro area, which made the drive easy for those of us coming from the north. Not sure if people driving south felt the same way!

The hotel did have a spectacular view, although this is not it.

The hotel did have a spectacular view, although this is not it.

Hotel Reservations: (D- ) I never received a confirmation. When I called to check on this, I was assured by both the reservation service AND the hotel itself that I did NOT have a reservation. They offered to rebook me for $185 a night, seventy dollars over the conference rate! I made other plans. The only reason I’m not giving the hotel an F for this is they sent me a pre-arrival notice prior to the weekend so I was able to cancel the reservation I didn’t have before I was charged.

The Hotel Facilities: (C- to D) I’m not sure how a hotel in 2014 can get away without having Wifi in the conference rooms. Even worse, there was limited audio-visual ability. Most of the conference rooms were small. Many sessions held in those rooms required people to stand. Even after chairs were added, it was sometimes difficult to find a place to sit. The doors to the rooms opened at the front, making an early exit or late entrance noticeable and noisy.

Food: (C+) The rolls were good. Why there weren’t water pitchers on the table, I don’t know. The luncheon buffet tables were whisked away almost before everyone was served. The hotel restaurant had some interesting offerings, but my pinon-crusted French Toast featured nary a pinon.

Beverage Service: (B ) Four dollars for a club soda? Really? Last year I ordered club sodas and they gave them to me for free. Maybe it isn’t fair to compare last year’s hotel to this one. Water was offered in all sessions, which was fine, but again, the hotel last year gave us rootbeer  floats for free! Okay, no more comparing. On the plus side, this hotel did supply real glasses for serving the water.

Speakers and Banquet: (B ) I suppose if you’ve been to a conference of almost any sort, you’ve sat through the messages and speeches and jokes. Unless you’re part of the inner group, they aren’t really of much interest.

The Running of the Conference: ( A) This is run totally by volunteers, and they do an exemplary job. There were a few glitches, some foreseeable, others possibly due to the layout of the hotel. Some might have been due to the unreasonable expectation that everyone was staying at the hotel and attending all functions. Most were minor, and if not self-correcting, easily explained by asking questions.

Other stuff (No grade): I overheard complaints about the lack of a rating sheet for each workshop. The conference chair did specify everyone would receive an email to a survey monkey in the next few days. This seems sufficient since it saves paper, many people don’t fill out surveys anyway, and the results will be easier to compile.

The Important Part: the Workshops

Probably your perception of the workshop offerings depends on how many conferences you’ve attended in the past, your level of writing experience, and your interests, as well as the ability of the presenters. I do know one person who said she was attending as much or more for the networking as for the workshops, but to me that is an expensive way to make contacts! I consider a conference a success if I come away with a new friend or contact, but the actual content of the conference is still of utmost importance.

The Friday morning add-on sessions didn’t interest me this year, either due to the subject matter or the presenter. There were small group critique sessions with agents and editors. Normally I might have availed myself of these. If I attended one of these,  I would have wanted to have stayed overnight to make sure I didn’t get caught in rush hour traffic.That effectively would make the cost of the critique session more than $150 as I would have had to pay for the session, an extra night of lodging, dinner, and breakfast.

I was most looking forward to the Writing with Scrivener class. It was good, but I would have preferred to have spent all that extra money mentioned above in order to attend a longer session.

My other main objective during this conference was to acquire more social media knowledge. I was disappointed in the few offerings. A local writer commented that she felt there weren’t that many offerings, because most people already knew all they needed or weren’t interested. I attended Marketing for the Introverted Writer, which touched on social media, as well as the two dedicated classes, Websites and Social Media and How to Manage Your Author Social Media Platform in 30 Minutes a Day. Both classes offered a plethora of information on what to use. New, useful websites were mentioned and useful handouts provided. What I was looking for, and what I overheard many others say they needed, were the nuts and bolts of how to make these techniques work. This workshop was missing from the conference schedule. Again, I would have been willing to pay extra for an in-depth explanation.  Another option would have been a series of free sessions on each of the various social media outlets. In truth, this might have been very difficult with the limited audio visual and lack of Internet connectivity.

Up until late Saturday afternoon, I would have said the conference wasn’t really worth the cost, but finally the session on science fiction got me excited and smiling. Although I still might not have thought I’d gotten my money’s worth if I’d gone home at that point, at least I would have been happy.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning had the most enticing classes. Why unfortunately? Because most of them overlapped. I could have attended any of three of the 8 am sessions, but two of my critique group members had stories in the RMFW’s anthology, Crossing Colfax. I had agreed to attend the panel discussion on the formation of the anthology, which was concurrent with the other three sessions of interest. I did enjoy the panel and hearing the impetus behind the accepted stories.

The speaker for the New Golden Age of Short Fiction, Thea Hutcheson, was a dynamic presenter. Her enthusiasm was contagious and her insights and ideas useful. Literary Pulp: What it takes to Write Literary Genre Fiction was my last session of the conference. It might not have completely filled the premise of that title, but the speaker, John Blair, was interesting and entertaining. He engaged the audience and we left on a positive note.

At the 2013 conference I met Najah Lightfoot. This year she was presenting. I planned to attend her session, Show and Tell: Magic and Magick Tools of the Trade. I wanted to be a supportive friend and also thought I might glean some interesting tidbits I could use in a story. Instead of that small expectation being met, I thought the first half of Najah’s session had to be one of the most interesting and best presentations of the conference. As I was also looking forward to the session mentioned above, I only attended half of the magic session, but that half was moving and wonderfully presented. I hope that I can someday listen to the rest of her session. Thank you, Najah.

If I were to actually grade the sessions, I would say the Sunday sessions brought up the average. Since they were last, the impression I was left with was of success. I’d have to give the overall conference an A. Okay, to be true to my curmudgeonly self, I’d give the overall sessions an A-.

 

Were you there? What did YOU think? What was your favorite session?

 

 

 

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Recommending WFWA as a Great Information Source.

I just read a long and interesting blog post on types of critique groups. I especially appreciated this post because one of Anne R. Allen’s three main points of advice is to “consider the source” when you are deciding what weight to put on specific comments. For years, I’ve been loathe to enter writing contests and ask for a critique, for this very reason–I don’t know who is doing the scoring and making the suggestions. Is it an elderly woman who writes poetry for her cat or a twelve year old writing space opera? To me, it matters. Of course, either of those two could give very sage advice, but it might not fit the type of story I write.

I needed some sort of visual, didn’t I?

My post today isn’t about critique groups or writing contests, but about the large organizations writers belong to. I’ve recently joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. My favorite part of this group is the Industry News they send out to members every Sunday. This digest includes links to blogs and articles on publishing, craft, agents, marketing, and other topics. Quite possibly this digest alone is worth the cost of joining this association. (I suppose, in the interest of “full disclosure,” I should mention that a post from this blog was referenced a few weeks ago. It certainly increased my readership, if only for that week.) The blog on critique groups mentioned above was one of the suggested reads yesterday.

If you happen to write something that might be called women’s fiction, you might consider joining this organization. Started only last year, there are already close to 350 members, including agents such as Donald Maass and a number of published authors. The group is planning a retreat for fall of 2015 and has offered numerous online workshops.

I also belong to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I’ve belonged to this local/state group on and off for years. They offer workshops in the Denver area and on the Western Slope, as well as online. Other resources include a blog and a monthly newsletter, plus a yearly conference, which is being held Sept 5-7 this year. According to an email sent this morning, there are only 49 slots left for the conference.

RMFW offers critique groups both in person and online. I attended a few meetings of a local group through RMFW a number of years ago, but the process they used didn’t work well for me. I do believe a woman who was in attendance at the first meeting I visited has gone on to be a well-known fantasy writer, so obviously the critique method works for others. The WFWA is in the process of setting up more online critique partnerships or groups.

There are numerous other local, state, or national writing organizations that provide different services. What writing organizations do you belong to? What do they offer, and which would you recommend?

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Music, Writing, Critiques; What Movie Scores Do You Love?

Recently a post, The Curse of the Critique Button? by Pamela Nowak appeared on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ blog. It discussed the problem of not being able to turn off your critique button when reading or watching movies. As I mentioned in the comments to that post, my first problem with movie watching is the soundtrack. Many years ago I took a music appreciation course for the heck of it. I don’t know a middle C from an F sharp. (Is there an F-sharp?) I learned a number of musical concepts, but what I most remember about this class was that the teacher was very skinny and had his pants cinched with a belt that had at least eight extra inches. He also mentioned that the movie score was what he most listened to at a movie. Up until then, I only noticed the music the few times I’d really loved it, such as in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

But after he mentioned this, I was more atuned to music. Suddenly, if the music felt manipulative, which it very often did, and told me how to feel, or what the impact of the scene should be, I was pulled out of the movie’s world. I often dislike popular movies and the soundtrack is often one factor why. A good illustration of this, for me, is the  difference between the two 1999 movies dealing with World War II ,Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line. SPR won awards and the hearts of most moviegoers. I thought it had a predictable plot with over-orchestrated music (the chorus in the theme song, for example). TRL, its competitor in a number of Oscar categories, including Best Music, Dramatic Film Score, was, for me, more of a tone poem.

I’m not sure either of these composers (John Williams vs. Hans Zimmer) is among my favorites, but I can routinely pick out John Williams’ scores. Being able to recognize a composer doesn’t necessarily degrade the quality; I usually know Phillip Glass or Ryuichi Sakamoto, too. For me, it is a heavy-handedness and manipulative element that makes me like most John Williams scores less than others.

In my original blog post comment, I suggested there might be a correlation between musical scores that direct your feelings and good writing. Although subjective, I find writing I most enjoy to be that which is similar to the scores I prefer: ones that actually make me feel rather than those that dictate how I should feel. In writing this is illustrated by the difference between telling me how a character feels and allowing me to feel what the character does. Although I suspect I fall far from my ideal, that is what I usually strive to do. Maybe if I listen to more of the music that achieves this state, my writing will approximate that level of art.

What movie soundtracks with original music do you find most enjoyable? Do you feel the sort of music  you prefer, as illustrated by film scores, also informs your writing or what you consider good writing?

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