Peggy Sanders: Western Writers conference brings chance to socialize
July 29, 2016
A few weeks ago I joined 300 other writers at Western Writers of America, held this year in Cheyenne. Nearly one-third of the attendees were there for the first time and most of those were also new members of the organization.
An important part of these gatherings are the field trips to area historical locations which this year included Fort Laramie, the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum and the Nelson Museum of the West. Each of these is a "must-see" attraction for anyone who loves the West.
Western Writers of America (westernwriters.org) is a group to which you do not have to be a member to attend its conventions, but once you attend you'll want to join, if you can meet the requirements as detailed on the website. Spending time with others of the same interests can spark ideas and lead to learning.
Prominent members include Paul Hedren, Paul Andrew Hutton, Johnny D. Boggs (the editor of "Roundup," WWA's bi-monthly publication for members), Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Matt Braun, CJ Box and Nancy Curtis, owner and operator of the High Plains Press in Glendo, Wyo. Attendees include agents, editors, publicists, poets, children's writers, young adult writers, filmmakers, songwriters, non-fiction and fiction writers — all with the commonality of the West.
The executive director of WWA is Candy Moulton, another Fence Post writer. She is a Wyoming native, author of several books on history as well as a film writer and producer about immigrant trails, in particular the Oregon Trail. She plans and executes excellent conventions.
Kirk Ellis, the new president of WWA, is a writer and producer. Among his impressive works is the HBO miniseries "John Adams," for which Ellis won two Emmys and many other national awards. One night of the conference he directed a fun and interesting staged reading of "Comanche Station, " written by Burt Kennedy, a widely-know screenwriter.
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Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire books, hails from Ucross, Wyo., which he proudly boasts has a population of 25. I've met him before so when he got on the elevator with me, we chatted as usual. When we got to the lobby one of the gals near me asked who he was. When I told her she went nuts and chased after him for his autograph. Needless to say, she is not from the West.
We tend to live and let live, realizing everyone puts their pants on the same way. Later in the day when Kirk Ellis interviewed Craig for one of the presentations, it was a fun conversation between two men who knew each other well.
The nights are always topped off by music, much of it original. One night we have two very skilled fiddle players and an auto harp along with 15 guitars.
They go around the circle with each one performing. There's a lot of joint strumming and singing, but it's not really a jam session. You will just have to attend and find out. Next year the conference will be in Kansas City. Watch the website for details.
Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is always out through firstname.lastname@example.org. ❖