Writing workshops abound in summer

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Eleven mature writers gathered around a water bottle- and manuscript-strewn "roundtable" at the Depot Art Center last week. The makeshift roundtable was two long conference tables that were pushed together to create one large square. The writers were surrounded by a mounting pile of donations for Saturday's Arts Council rummage sale, but they were undaunted by any clutter or commotion. The group was engrossed in each other's readings, intent on sharing constructive comments and critiques about character development, plot, clarity and flow.

This is the group that brings the 23rd annual Writer's Conference to Steamboat Springs on July 17. It will be a jam-packed day of writing workshops for scribes of all levels and styles. It is just one of the unique opportunities for aspiring and experienced writers to vastly expand their horizons without leaving the Yampa Valley this summer.

"This gives us the opportunity to expand ourselves," said Harriet Freiberger, a charter member of the weekly writers' group whose volunteers put on the one-day workshop. The writers' group conference, called "A day for writers in Steamboat Springs," is an intimate affair at the Depot that features workshops on getting the unedited words onto the page, thickening plot and research techniques for all kinds of writers.

"Everybody adds to everybody's knowledge," Freiberger said, adding that the day always inspires writers to keep going.

The writers' group is bringing accomplished poet David Mason and award-winning science fiction author Connie Willis to the table this year. The conference typically attracts a diverse range of attendees, from novice to experienced writers in a full breadth of genres. The guest teachers will be giving back to people who love to write, Freiberger said.

In the mean time, local writers are invited to join the writers' group for free critique, discussion and inspiration at noon Thursdays in the Depot baggage room. There are a couple of spots left for the writers' conference.

TV producer Dori Weiss used to drag her children around on location when she was producing her Emmy-nominated pilots, series and movies. Now she's on full-time location in Steamboat, and she's ready to share her 25 years of experience as a studio executive and producer with aspiring local screenwriters. Weiss is teaching an eight-week screenwriting seminar June 9 through July 28. It will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at the Depot. And if it fills up, she'll run it again, she said.

"Not every idea is appropriate for a film," Weiss said. She said the workshop would help students with blank slates or ongoing projects develop dialog, plot, character and structure that works on screen. Everyone should be actively writing their screenplays by the end, Weiss said.

Using personal experiences to expand individual writing horizons is a focus of two noncredit summer workshops offered at Colorado Mountain College. Faith Hansen is teaching a journal-writing workshop July 10 and 17, and Susan deWardt is leading a weekly, summer-long class called "Writing and Being." DeWardt's class starts Monday night.

"I'm hoping there will be a lot of people who want to use writing as a personal tool," deWardt said.

She will focus on writing memoirs, history and opinions as a tool for personal development. All writing will be experience-based, or "writing to get to the personhood," de Wardt said.

Poverty in the Yampa Valley is the focus of a Barbara Sparks' workshop called "Exploring Poverty Through Writing and The Arts: A Workshop on art with a point of view." Sparks will focus on "ethical engagement and social commentary by creating work with a commitment to information," she wrote in her class description. The class starts July 13 at the Depot.

The week-long Colorado Mountain Writer's Conference -- featuring authors Sheila Bender, Meg Files and Jack Heffron -- will teach poetry, personal essay, memoir and fiction writing June 21 through 25 at CMC. Residents can pay for and attend individual lectures throughout the week.

And last, acclaimed author Pam Houston will be making a Yampa Valley appearance to help writers explore how their work can be influenced by nature. The Nature Conservancy is hosting an advanced writing workshop Aug. 27 through 29 at the Carpenter Ranch that will focus on using the landscape as metaphor. Houston will facilitate the weekend workshop. This will be an interactive experience that includes active writing, group critiques and time to explore the ranch's unique natural environment along the Yampa River. Place-based writing will be encouraged.

--To reach Jennie Lay call 871-4210

or e-mail jlay@steamboatpilot.com

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