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Saturday, October 19, 2013

KC's Giant Books and Lawrence of Arabia

Embassy Suites
Public Library
    In a city paying architectural homage to literary giants, it was quite fitting that Women Writing the West gather on Oct. 11-13 for their annual Conference. Kansas City, Missouri is known for its fountains, steaks and buried treasure, but one wall of their Public Library commands attention, even if you aren't a book lover or a Conference Junkie.
     Accomodations at the Embassy Suites hotel featured 11 floors of 2-room suites, breakfast comps, and evening "Manager  Receptions" with snacks...and drinks for thirsty writers.
"Lawrence" of Arabia
     A Friday morning tour of the Steamboat Arabia Museum was also an unexpected bonus, viewing a warehouse of objects sunk in the Missouri River 157 years ago and raised in 1988, in nearly pristine condition.  The boat's only casualty was a mule still tethered to a rail when the boat sunk after hitting a snag in the river.  Cleverly dubbed "Lawrence of Arabia," his skull, still in bridle and bit, was one of the more quirky artifacts recovered, along with champagne that still fizzed, scented perfume, edible pickles, castor oil, and enough cookware, china, footwear, tools and hardware to set up General Stores all over the western frontier of 1856.
    Amazing how much of the salvage could pass for contemporary goods, especially buttons, china, tools and rubber shoes!  I also loved the museum guide's story about the little "Frozen Charlotte" doll that was recovered, and how the Charlotte doll craze originated. Apparently, they were the "Barbies" of the 19th century.

     "Pick Me, Pick Me" was one of the more popular conference sessions offered, with editors judging manuscript "first pages" by holding up red paddles when they would have stopped reading the anonymous submission. "Lose the adverbs, more dialog, less description and always show, don't tell" soared as advice, even as it may have trampled a few egos.
Catherine Browder

Laura Finalists with Cynthia B.
     Catherine Browder's description of the short story hit home: "About little people; "bourgeois art forms."  She suggested Alice Monroe as a modern day short story mentor--"our Chekhov," then took us through an interactive exercise in controlling scenes in the short short story.
Pam T.(left front) and Willa Finalists
   Three of the Laura Short Story Finalists were on hand for the Friday night reception chaired by the 2014 WWW President, Cynthia Becker.  Most of the Willa Finalists were present at the Sat. luncheon and readings for this year's novel competition, awarded by Chairman Pam Tartaglio.  Check the Women Writing the West site for winner names, titles, and this year's Laura stories.
Susan Salzer

Saturday Book Signing
    The Saturday evening dinner was a gourmet treat with 3 creme puffs and a bonus "dessert" from Keynote speaker Susan Salzer, who won the WWA Spur Award for short fiction in 2009.  Her best advice was to add dimension, and create publishing success by fearlessly combining genres in Western writing.

Madame Morton
Kudos to LaDene Morton, our fearless Conference Chair, for a memorable weekend. Next year, WWW plans a return to their first Writer's Conference held 20 years ago in Denver. "Coming Home" is the 2014 theme at the historic Brown Palace Hotel Oct. 17-19.

     This Minnesota writer finds a fountain of inspiration WEST of the Mississippi. It was a long trip by car on great highways. Imagine Missouri's legendary outlaw, Jesse James, riding on horseback from Missouri to Northfield, MN. to rob a bank?  As long as we were in Missouri territory, hubby and I made a side trip to the outlaw's birthplace and museum.
      Also, across the river on the Kansas U. campus in Lawrence, the famous "survivor" of the 1876 battle at the Little Big Horn is on display. "Comanche," was luckier than "Lawrence of Arabia," living to a ripe old 29 years as the mascot of the 7th Cavalry. I learned he roamed the Post, enjoying his celebrity and loving the buckets of beer the soldiers offered him.  Is he still SMILING?