Conference History and Archives

Conference History and Archives


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.

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Graduate Program in Creative Writing, Application Information

2014 Conference

Summer 2014's keynote speakers were four highly successful industry professionals.

Popular Genres Fiction/Nonfiction

Internationally acclaimed science and fantasy author Joe Haldeman is the author of the Forever War series. He's the five-time winner of the HUGO AWARD, five-time winner of the NEBULA AWARD, the John W. Campbell Award, the Locus Award, the Rhysling Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In addition to the Forever War series, he's authored the Attar the Merman series, the Worlds series, and the Mars series. He's written 25 stand-alone books, including novels, nonfiction, short story collections, and poetry.

Television Writer

Joel A. Thompson is a WGA member, was a science major in college, and attended medical school. Then he  found his way to NYU whereupon he received an MFA in writing for film, theater, and television. Before selling his first work, he taught in the Compton Public School System by day and wrote by night. His writing credits include House MD, Boomtown, Battlestar Galactica, and Steven Spielberg's Falling Skies series.  He was a former story analyst for Icon Pictures, Village Roadshow, and John Wells Productions.  He has also sold pitches to various networks including CBS, HBO Films, and Disney's Stage 9 Productions.


Born in England, Frederick Turner holds degrees from Oxford University and teaches at the University of Texas at Dallas. His books include Shakespeare and the Nature of TimeRebirth of Value: Meditations on Beauty, Ecology, Religion, and Education; Beauty: The Value of ValuesThe Culture of Hope: A New Birth of the Classical Spirit; and Epic: Form, Content, and History; as well as several volumes of poetry. He is married to Mei Lin Turner (née Chang), a literary periodical editor, and has two sons. Pub


John Helfers is an author and editor currently living in Green Bay, Wisconsin. During his fourteen years working for Martin H. Greenberg at Tekno Books (the largest commercial book packager in the nation), he has edited more than twenty short story anthologies, as well as overseeing numerous other ones for other publishers in all genres. He is also the Novel Line Developer for Catalyst Game Labs, which produces roleplaying game books and fiction set in the BattleTech® and Shadowrun® universes. He has also published more than forty short stories in anthologies such as If I Were An Evil OverlordTime Twisters, and Places to Be, People to Kill. His fiction has appeared in anthologies, game books, and novels for the Dragonlance®, Transformers®, BattleTech® and Shadowrun® universes. He has written both fiction and nonfiction, including the third novel in the first authorized trilogy based on The Twilight Zone™ television series, the YA novel Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers: Cloak and Dagger, and a history of the United States Navy. His most recent non-fiction book, The Vorkosigan Companion, co-edited with Lillian Stewart Carl, was nominated for a 2009 Hugo Award. He recently finished writing several novels in the Room 59 espionage series for Worldwide/Gold Eagle Publishing, and has written novels in their other long-running series as well. Currently he is working on several other tie-in projects, as well as an epic dark paranormal alternate history series with his wife, fellow author and editor Kerrie Hughes.