Conference History and Archives
Conference History and Archives
WRITING THE ROCKIES: A BRIEF HISTORY, by Larry K. Meredith
Way back before the turn of the century, in late 1999, I was serving as Assistant to the President and Director of Public Relations for Western State Colorado University (then Western State College). Corinne Brown, a freelance writer from Denver, visited Gunnison as part of a group of travel writers and quickly fell in love with the area.
Corinne came to my office to say she thought the area and especially the University would be a perfect location for a writers conference. She wanted to know if I would be interested in helping get one established. I considered the idea for at least a full second before telling her I thought it was a wonderful idea.
Both Corinne and I were members of Western Writers of America (WWA) and we approached the group’s leadership about endorsing such a workshop. When they enthusiastically agreed, we decided to call the workshop “Writing the West: The Gunnison Creative Writers Workshop.”
In the summer of 2000 the first workshop convened with about 15 participants and a faculty of noted writers of Western literature that included Elmer Kelton, named in 2009 the “All-Time Best Western Author” by the WWA; Don Coldsmith, author of dozens of books (notably “The Spanish Bit” series) with more than 6 million books in print; and others including Jon Chandler, W. J. Jameson and Mike Blakely.
Over the next two years we added a concert of Western music called “Singing the West” and even joined forces with a massive Chuckwagon Cookoff ramrodded by Cliff Goss that helped attract a crowd of 800 people to the concert after the evening meal.
Over the years the workshop became more and more associated with, and and was ultimately sponsored by, the University and the name was changed to “Writing the Rockies” to reflect the workshop’s inclusion of many different genres.
As interest in the workshop grew and attendance increased, respected authors in a number of genres from throughout the U.S. agreed to serve as faculty members. Published writers and those hoping to join their ranks came to Gunnison from across the country and even from abroad.
The University embraced the workshop and gave it its wholehearted support, helping it earn even more respect and leading to a move of venue from one campus building to a larger facility for general sessions and to additional buildings for small group meetings.
Beginning in 2010, with the advent of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western and with the leadership of Dr. Mark Todd (founder of that program) the workshop has come under the umbrella of that academic program and has grown even more quickly. Dr. Todd brought in faculty members with world class credentials who also became faculty members for Writing the Rockies, giving the workshop even more prestige.
In 2014 Dr. David J. Rothman, a nationally recognized poet, assumed the role of Director of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing and has used his national persona to attract additional faculty members with notable credentials and substantial publications and awards. As of 2015, Writing the Rockies has become a major literary event not only in the region but in the entire west. I am honored to have had the opportunity to set it in motion -- long may it thrive.
Summer 2014's keynote speakers were four highly successful industry professionals.
Popular Genres Fiction/Nonfiction