As a writer of books set predominantly in the west, being a member of Women Writing the West has been a great advantage to me, and attending their annual conference a must. Aside from the educational benefits, the conference is a chance to put faces to names on its listserv, an opportunity to reunite with old friends, and a great chance to make new friends. This year’s conference was held in Kansas City, MO—about as far east the organization will go—and among the new faces was TWRP’s very own Editor-in-Chief, Rhonda Penders.
With thanks to United Airlines, my flight to KC was three hours late, pretty well knocking out any opportunity to do more than a late dinner on the Thurs. evening. Come Friday, however, Rhonda and I were amongst those who were off to the Steamboat Arabia Museum, a fascinating showcase of two hundred tons of merchandise meant for sixteen towns along the Missouri River from a boat that sank in 1856. In 1988, the boat was raised, its cargo virtually intact. This exhibit provided a perfect morning’s pastime, especially when a delicious lunch in the Old Market area followed, enhanced by getting to know my boss a wee bit better!
Back at the Embassy Suites, the more serious segment of the conference began in the afternoon. Speeches of welcome were followed by a publishers panel in which Boss Lady more than held her own with Filter Press, University of Iowa Press, The History Press and Pen-L Books. The audience was given a wide range of views on the current state of publishing. For me, this was followed by a panel on ‘Making the Most of Your Research,’ which discussed excellent ideas for tracking down those worrisome facts one wants to get correct in historical writing. That evening, I was delighted to be able to drag Rhonda off to dinner with a few friends, including Conference VP LaDene Morton. It was a great meal to unwind and end a busy day.
Saturday started bright and early with a ‘Pick Me, Pick Me’ in which panel Rhonda was included. Random first page entries were read out, while panelists had paddles announcing either “No, thanks”—which they would hold up where they would have stopped reading—or “Yes, please.” This was an honest, unrestrained session with highly constructive criticism. Although the entries were anonymous, I have to admit I was glad my own was not chosen. Telling not showing, too much description, too much grey area, not enough dialogue—a veritable catalog of writers’ faults was laid out for one and all. By the end of it, I was glad to escape to Brian Shawver’s ‘The Language of Fiction’ swiftly followed by a personal critique session of my WIP.
Other highlights included award ceremonies and readings from winning books. But what struck me through that day was how popular Rhonda Penders had become. I could hardly sit down without someone singing her praise. When I proudly owned up to being a TWRP author, I was cross-examined as to what the Press is like from the author’s viewpoint. Everyone, it seemed, suddenly wanted to become a Wild Rose author! In the quiet of those private agent/publisher sessions for which authors assiduously sign at conferences and conventions, Rhonda Penders had become flavor of the weekend.
Well, lucky me. I’m already a Wild Rose Press author. Thanks for coming along, Rhonda. You’re a Star!
Rhonda with EPIC Award winner Karen Casey Fitzjerrell at the Kansas City Old Market
The Steamboat Arabia Museum