Well, today concluded day 2 of the Western Writers of America Convention. There are 2 more days left.
The first day has been the highlight thus far. First there was a panel discussion on Zane Grey's work. Now not everybody appreciates Zane Grey's writing, particularly nowadays when everyone has ADHD. But even today, a bazillion western authors later, Zane Grey is still my favorite. And the panel acknowledged the significant contribution Zane Grey made to western literature with something along the lines of 89 novels published and about 113 movies made based on his books. Anybody would have to admit - THAT is success as a writer.
Then we broke for lunch and on my very first day of conference, whom should I eat lunch with but fellow ACFW member Cliff Hudgins and his wife! Small world, eh?
After lunch we loaded two tour buses and headed up to Payson to visit the replica of Zane Grey's cabin. A depressing anecdote - I moved to AZ in 1997, but I came to AZ back in late 1990 or 1992 (I forget which) and one of my express purposes was to visit the cabin where Zane Grey wrote many of his Arizona novels. Well much to my disappointment, when I drove up to Payson that year, I learned the cabin had burned to the ground in the Dude fire of 1990. I was heartbroken.
But on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, some sixteen or so years later, I got to walk through the replica. This cabin was painstakingly rebuilt using photos of the old cabin and input from as many people close to Mr. Grey and from correspondence to make it accurate. In the rim country museum there is a photo of the old cabin and it is amazing how precisely recaptured this cabin is. It was awesome!
Now some of the effect was lost in that the rebuilt cabin now stands on the property belonging to the Rim Country Museum - not up in the pines of the Mogollon Rim where Zane Grey actually spent so much time. That property is now in private hands and completely inaccesible. But still, for me, who has been awed for so long by Zane Grey's talent, it was as good a day as you can get! 8-) Payson was beautiful yesterday and the steady breeze and milder temperatures a blessed break from the 100+ heat of Phoenix, especially for our out of state visitors to the WWA Convention who are not accustomed to this kind of heat. We arrived back in Phoenix about 9:00 p.m. or so. I'm still tired from all the activity!
Today was a much slower paced day thankfully. I went to two panels. The first was The Top 100 Western Movies. Quite interesting to see what movies the panelists chose as their top favorites and their criteria for naming them so. As an extension of this discussion, the subject of "what defines a western" also came up. And, as I have blogged previously, if you ask a hundred different western writers what defines a western, you'll get a hundred different answers. The WWA Convention is no exception.
I'm more of a western television person rather then film person, but I still enjoyed the conversation immensely. I do confess utter confusion as to the popularity of the novel Shane. I have not seen the movie, but I have read the book, and I simply was not as moved by it as everyone else seems to be, so obviously I need to re-read it and see if I can "catch on" to what makes it such a stellar work.
The other panel of the day was on researching the frontier military of the American West. This was a good panel but I think it could have been better if the panel topic had been more finely honed - subject matter seemed to jump all over the place so I didn't find it as beneficial as I'd hoped. However, I DID come away with some great reference sources so I did gain something from the experience and I thank all the panelists for their time and insight.
And today I had lunch with Max Evans and his wife.
Also should mention I sat a the dinner table last night with Chet Cunningham and I am amazed at what a prolific writer he is! At one time he was writing 18 novels a year! That's not a typo - I do mean 18 novels a year. That's 1 novel about every 3 weeks!
I understand he comes from a journalism background where you can't make excuses for not delivering the goods and he feels there's no such thing as writer's block. I'll say! His results are the proof!
The best advice he'd give a writer? Go write. 8-) (Why do writers like me insist on asking this question, hoping for some easy miracle answer????)
I also had dinner last night with producer/writer Kirk Ellis, whose recent mini-series John Adams has been highly acclaimed. I personally have not seen the mini-series because I do not have cable TV, but everyone I have talked to thought it was outstanding! Congratulations to Mr. Ellis on that and all continuing pursuits. He too, comes from a business where you have to be able to churn out the work.
This is my first ever WWA Convention and I must tell you everyone is so very nice. It's been a real pleasure meeting and talking with people these last two days. Though I confess, being a hermit by nature, being in a large group of people for so many hours a day drains me to the core. I'm glad the conference ends Saturday because I'm going to need Sunday to regroup and re-energize by crawling back into my "no people" shell, despite how wonderful the people are.
As much as I'm having fun at WWA this week, it leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I am absolutely inspired to keep on keeping on with my novels. It is so wonderful to be in the presence of people who care as much about the western as I do - who are coming to this conference to share their knowledge and wisdom.
On the other hand, it is absolutely intimidating to be among a group of people with such solid writing credits and success behind them. It makes me feel like I'll never be as knowledgeable or as capable as they. It almost makes me want to crawl into a hole and disappear, thinking about what I'm trying to achieve and the talents and abilities of those who have gone before me.
But you notice I said almost. I may have fits and starts with my writing, but I don't think I could abandon it. And I don't think I'm supposed to. So as thoroughly intimidated as I may be at the moment, I'm going to keep pressing on, and hope that one day I will have the skill and knowledge of all these wonderful people.
But for now, I'm beat. I can't afford to stay up too late tonight. Tomorrow there will be panels on Magazine Writing, Agents & Editors and Matketing, which should make for a very informative day.