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2014 Women Writing the West Conference

WWW ConferenceMid-October marked the culmination of a year and a half of planning for Women Writing the West’s 20th Anniversary Annual Conference in Golden, Colorado. The result of work by Colorado’s WWW Conference Planning Committee to plan the event spread among several venues was a huge success. The City of Golden was a perfect fit for our group. A synopsis of highlights will give those with a passion for the craft of writing an idea of the content of a really good writers’ conference, and the priceless value of this particular sold-out conference of 150 attendees.

Thursday, October 16 – provided a bonus day of activities at the Table Mountain Inn, full of panels, critique sessions, an annual board of directors meeting, and networking. In the evening, a reception at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum took place for readings by WILLA literary award winners and LAURA short story winners. A special quilt featuring squares hand-stitched by WWW members was introduced for the conference raffle, which benefits the WILLA Literary Fund.

WWW Raffle Quilt

Friday, October 17 – featured a full schedule at the Golden Hotel of panels and presentation about the business of writing, marketing, and trends in e-publishing. Private appointments with editors, agents and publishers were available. Author Margaret Coel captivated us with her stories about writing 20+ mysteries set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. LAURA short story awards were presented at the lunch banquet. In the evening, a feature film, The Cherokee Word for Water, was presented at the American Mountaineering Center. The film, about the life of first female Cherokee tribal leader, Wilma Mankiller, was followed by a Q&A session with members of the film production and Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, and from the local Cherokee Circle.

Saturday, October 18 – Following the annual WWW business meeting in the morning, participants enjoyed another full day of panels and presentations. A Luncheon honored WWW Founders and spotlighted WILLA Finalists. Later in the afternoon, Joyce Meskis enchanted us with stories from her many years as owner of the famous Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver. A booksigning session hosted by Who Else! Bookstore with networking capped off the afternoon. Evening brought the annual WILLA Awards banquet. Author and founding member Sandra Dallas presented an inspiring keynote speech. When the winner was drawn for the WILLA Fund Raffle, we were happily surprised when she insisted that the quilt stay with WWW.

WWW Conference Booksigning
Sunday, October 19 – Many conference attendees stayed for a Sunday morning gathering at the Briarwood Inn. Some wore historic costumes to the delicious high tea brunch. We were entertained by WWW founding member Corinne Brown, who portrayed five famous women from Colorado’s history. She did amazing costume changes when switching characters. It was a fantastic finale to a successful and memorable 20th Anniversary celebration and conference for attendees and members of Women Writing the West.

Joyce at Golden HotelJoyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

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Million Mile Reflections

When the year 2013 began, I was worried. People often ask about my next project, and I said I did not have one in the works at the moment. Stagnation might be setting in … or was it? A reflection of highlights from the past year tells me that I have little or no reason for concern. It was a very good year.

DWPC

Display of Joyce’s books at the Denver Woman’s Press Club.

Event Highlights in 2013

Two “salons”, interactive literary programs – at Denver Woman’s Press Club

TV Interview on Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Experience — Dr. Justina Ford documentary

Daughters of the American Revolution in Arvada — Eliza Routt presentation

CCIRA Conference at the Marriott – Filter Press booth, meet and greet the author

Erie Public Library — Women’s History Month presentation

Palmer Lake Historical Society — presentation on Baby Doe Tabor

National Mining Hall of Fame Museum, Leadville – banquet and program on Baby Doe Tabor

Fountain Public Library – presentation on General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer

Estes Park Genealogical Society – General Palmer presentation

Idaho Springs Public Library – Baby Doe Tabor presentation

Publication of revised e-book edition of A Yellowstone Savage – 40th Anniversary gathering in Montana

Denver Public Schools Book Fair — Filter Press Booth, Denver Merchandise Mart

Women Writing the West Annual Conference – Kansas City, Missouri

CU Anschutz Medical Center – STEM program on Dr. Justina Ford for Skinner Middle School students

Healy House Museum in Leadville – “Meet the Author” Day

Riverside Cemetery History Walk with “Dr. Colorado” Tom Noel – Eliza Routt portrayal

Piecing Partners Quilters Guild program – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Broomfield Public Library – Colorado History: Truth and Mystery Program

Monument Hill Kiwanis Club – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Sons and Daughters of Pilgrims – Castle Rock – Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen

Watch for new projects and programs in 2014!

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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What Happens in the Salon …

Midway through February, I will revisit the Denver Woman’s Press Club for some more historic journalism magic. My second visit within a month is part of their salon series. The program is entitled, Almost Famous: Crafting Characters from Colorado’s Past, which will feature myself and fellow DWPC journalist, Kimberly Field. In this program we will discuss several aspects of crafting characters from historical data into biographies. One of the inspirations for the program is my biography, First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado. It is the story of Colorado’s first elected governor and his wife, the first woman registered to vote in Colorado, who happens to be my first cousin, a few generations back.

Gertrude Stein

Before this program came up, I was not especially familiar with the concept of a salon and what it means. I knew that at the beginning of the Twentieth Century there was a cluster of artists and writers living on the Parisian Left Bank, encouraging one another, feeding off of their respective talents, and repeatedly toasting their good fortune. A ring leader of these talented folks was an eccentric writer named Gertrude Stein. Whether she was brilliant, or simply good at positioning herself as such, is not clear, but as her influence increased while her writing gained in importance and popularity, she hosted salons, a series of casual gatherings in her parlor for her talented friends. It was an affirmation of a person’s artistic talent and status in creative circles to be included in Stein’s salons, where abstract ideas and conversation flowed, lubricated by liquid attractions.

When I was invited to host a DWPC salon, joined by respected journalist Kimberly Field, I jumped at the chance. What an honor to share my craft with my peers while enjoying the ambiance of a lovely, historic setting. This should be a really special event. RSVP to DWPC (www.dwpconline.org) for the Almost Famous salon on Sunday, February 17 from 3-5 p.m. Otherwise, to learn more about salons, rent or borrow the movie, Midnight In Paris, starring Owen Wilson, produced by Woody Allen. It is extremely entertaining and a must see for those who are passionate about writing.

Au revoir! A bientot!
Joyce Lohse – http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

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The Walls Inspire

DWPC

Denver Woman’s Press Club

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how a building can lend so much inspiration and ambiance to a program. This was the case this past weekend when Filter Press publisher Doris Baker and I presented our program at the Denver Woman’s Press Club in Denver. The topic, Kid Lit: Tools, Trends, and Markets, was challenging and could have taken off down any number of paths. As it was, it became a magical mix of history oozing from the historic little structure surrounded by high-rise office buildings a block from the state’s capitol, and the lively conversation among professional writers who came to learn and share. Our talk went overtime, but nobody seemed to care.

Like a rich dessert, the topic of trends was saved for last. Everybody wants to hear about them, although by nature, they are here today and gone tomorrow. Doris and I referred heavily on a list of “Top 10 Trends in Children’s Books for 2013” from David Allender and the editors at Scholastic Books. In a nutshell, here they are:

1. Bullying – every child will face or witness the effects of bullying at some point in their lives. I pointed out that author James Howe has switched from writing about talking animals in his YA (Young Adult) Bunnicula series to his latest title about bullying called The Misfits. As a successful author, he obviously saw a need and filled it.
2. Science Fiction – Dystopia (yes, I looked it up) is a make-believe place or situation, wherein the state of living is very bad, because of scarcity, tyranny and terrorism. This topic remains timely with an updated raw new edge to it. I pointed out the continued popularity of an old standard, Madelaine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time.
3. Intriguing Nonfiction – Biographies (yesssss!!) have always been a kids’ staple, and more are on the way. It was an easy slam dunk to mention the value of “Now You Know Bios” from Filter Press at this point.
4. Novels-in-Cartoons – Graphic novels are booming. I was skeptical, but was assured there are some really fine works out there in this genre. I quoted a January 6 Denver Post article that said basically the same thing.
5. Kid Lit on the Screen – We all know that name recognition can make book sales skyrocket when the story reaches the big screen. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games are all the rage. There are bound to be more.
6. War – An ever-timely topic, this one has been evident with attention to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
7. Tough Girls – Who can resist girls with bows and arrows after the Hunger Games hit the screen. More powerful female characters will appear, although I personally hope some of them show up in biographies.
8. Survival Stories – These topics continue in popularity. Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet is still popular.
9. Spotlight on Diversity – Kids want to see themselves in the novels they read, and publishers are embracing their individuality, and are adding more contemporary settings.
10. Nature Runs Amok – Eco-thrillers pick up on stories straight from the newspapers. With names like tsunamis, Katrina, and Sandy, plenty of topics are ripe for publication. This subject is wide open.

There you have it. We added our own comments and sidebars to the nucleus of this list. Adults are reading more YA books. Somebody in the audience asked about animals … where are they? What about the horse stories treasured by girls? They appear to be absent, at least in the above list. Look around and draw your own conclusions. For instance, I don’t see any signs of anything western. However, I bet a good steam punk adventure would get somebody’s attention.

During times of uncertainty, the only given is CHANGE. Trends constantly change. Watch them carefully, but don’t be blinded by their supposed importance.

Coming soon: Sunday, February 17, 2013 – 3-5 p.m. – Denver Woman’s Press Club – Salon Series – “Almost Famous: Crafting Characters from Colorado’s Past” with biographers Joyce B. Lohse and Kimberly Field.

Joyce B. Lohse, http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Western history, Writing Life

 

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Life After the Titanic

Survivor CollageBefore we move on from the Titanic disaster and Margaret “Molly” Brown’s heroic actions as a survivor of that tragedy, it is important to note that her life following that event was full of activism. She must have known as she fought for survival that she still had much to do during the rest of her life. Her immediate concern was for other survivors who lost their belongings and loved ones, and suffered terrible losses and difficulties. She organized a survivors’ association while still on the ship, and stayed on the rescue ship Carpathia until each person received care, was allowed to send translated messages to their loved ones, and she made sure all had a place to go from the port in New York City. Although she wasn’t invited to include her testimony with other survivors before a Congressional hearing, she used her connections to tell her version of the story in Denver newspapers. She helped organize a memorial for those who perished, and arranged special recognition of the crew of the Carpathia for coming to the aid of survivors.

The following year, Mrs. Brown briefly ran for Congress until it became apparent that she had no chance of winning her campaign. The following year, she organized Denver women to send supplies and assistance to poor mining families following the Ludlow Massacre in Southern Colorado. While visiting southern Florida, she led guests of the Breakers Hotel to safety when fire broke out. She turned her house in Newport over to the Red Cross during World War I, and traveled to France to help there with the war effort. She helped injured soldiers when they returned from battle, earning the French Legion of Honor Award. She attempted to organize a female military troop, and succeeded in establishing a female coalition for mine operations in Leadville. She supported the arts by organizing art collection displays, and helped mentor young women studying drama. When her life ended, previously arranged gifts arrived for struggling mining families in Leadville, so their families would have presents to open for Christmas. Her life, which continued to be full of adventure, was that of an involved person with intelligence, spirit and purpose.

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

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An Evening with Muffet Brown

Muffet Brown

In Denver, Colorado, we are fortunate to have access to many fantastic resources of Western history in general, and specialized repositories and museums such as the Molly Brown House Museum. The staff at the Molly Brown House has done their usual magical planning by hosting Muffet Brown for the 100th Anniversary of the RMS Titanic Steamship’s Maiden Voyage and ultimate demise in 1912. Last evening, Margaret Brown’s great granddaughter spoke and answered questions to a roomful of history buffs at the historic Brown Palace Hotel. I was able to visit with her briefly, and gave her a copy of my book, Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story.

An Unsinkable Gift

An Unsinkable Gift

Muffet Brown’s presentation was enlightening and entertaining. She is thoroughly charming, intelligent, and a real person. Margaret Brown, her great-grandmother, must be smiling and appreciative of the job Muffet is doing to preserve the family legacy and to share its fascinating part in history in an open and unobtrusive manner. Her opinions and observations are fair and provocative. It was truly a pleasure to hear her speak. While in Denver, she is also visiting school classrooms, and a gala Titanic dinner celebration, which will bring out many historians dressed in period costume.

It occurs to me that descendants of historic figures carry a responsibility to maintain and preserve the stories and artifacts of a time past, to solidify their place in history, share their stories with those who wish to learn more, and to clarify the truth from past events whenever possible. I found this to be true when writing about Eliza Routt, Colorado’s Original First Lady, the first woman to vote in Colorado, and my cousin from my Illinois homeland. Accepting her induction in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame was an honor I will not soon forget.

Joyce B. Lohse
LohseWorks.com

 

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Titanic – A Scene of Tragic Beauty

As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster approaches next week, the prevailing question is “Why?” Why does this story touch us so deeply a century later? Why did the Titanic sink?

The story is best told by one who survived the tragedy. If you asked Colorado’s Margaret Brown, known in modern culture as “Molly Brown”, she would describe the Titanic as a great equalizer. In the Denver Post on April 27, 1912, Mrs. Brown said, “It isn’t who you are, nor what you have, but what you are that counts. That was proved in the Titanic.” Death and loss did not choose between classes or character. Heroics and cowardice came forward and became readily apparent and helped determine survival. Regardless, whoever or whatever you are can be found among those who lived and died on the ship that fateful night, providing a link to our own lives.

Ice fields had been reported on the wireless radio. Other vessels had slowed their progress to dodge icebergs in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. As of 9 a.m. on April 14, White Star Line officials announced, “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is absolutely unsinkable.”

On its maiden voyage, Titanic was racing across the ocean to break speed records and to reach a grand celebration of its achievements in New York City. According to Mrs. Brown, “The tragedy of the Titanic was indirectly due to J. Bruce Ismay [Managing Director of the White Star Line]. He was speed mad and paced the deck like a caged lion as the ship surged through the icy waters. His hand, deadly and terrible, was, figuratively speaking, on the throttle, and in his powerful selfishness, he cared not for human life. All day Sunday shafts of bitter cold swept the decks from the ice fields. The ship was plowing ahead at the rate of twenty-three knots an hour and most of the passengers had remained in their cabins or salons.”

In the Denver Times, on April 30, 1912, Margaret Brown described the collision. “I was lying in my berth reading when the ship struck directly beneath my stateroom, and it scattered ice and glass across the deck. I looked out and seeing nothing but a strange, dark object looming through the cold and blackness beyond, went back to my book. Sailors came beneath my window, laughing, talking, and joking, and I was not alarmed. Finally, however, I was told to dress warmly, don a life-belt and bring all I had to the deck. I have no fear of water — it fascinates me. I saw none of the horror of that shipwreck — nothing harrowing, and to me it was almost a scene of tragic beauty.”

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com
To learn more, read my book, Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story
and my “Unsinkable” article in the April Issue of Colorado Central magazine

 
 

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