Colorado doesn’t have the same literary reputation as places like New York, Chicago or San Francisco, but there’s something about the state that draws men and women of letters here.
Beat prophets Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg all spent time in the Front Range; James A. Michener taught at what is now the University of Northern Colorado; and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson made Woody Creek, outside of Aspen, his mountain home.
That same atmosphere makes Colorado a popular place for writers in the making.
“Denver is this kind of quietly literary city,” said Corey Dahl, communications coordinator with Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an organization that has been around for 20 years, and offers classes and opportunities to amateur writers. “We have thousands of writers who come to us for classes and workshops, and we work regularly with the students and faculty associated with Regis University’s Mile-High MFA and the University of Denver’s creative writing Ph.D.”
For writers of all ages, skill levels, and genres of interest, there are options to perfect their craft, get feedback, and receive help pursuing a publishing deal.
“The goal is to support writers who are just starting and those who have been published locally before,” said Alice Aldridge-Dennis, president and conference director of the Castle Rock Writers. “Most of us have a story to tell, and many people need help working on the art and craft of it.”
Many local libraries offer programs for writers to get feedback on their work. According to Rebecca Winning, communications coordinator with Jeffco Public Libraries, the Evergreen Library does a Come Write In program on the last Tuesday of the month, for the sharing of writing. In January, the Arvada Library is starting Hard Times writing workshops to help people deal with difficult times, and the Golden Library is starting a series of workshops for writers age 60 and older.
In the south metro area, Englewood Public Library is hosting a two-day writers retreat, according to Michelle Brandstetter, adult services librarian. The retreat will feature award-winning authors speaking during the sessions.
Local independent bookstores like the Tattered Cover offer large writers resources section, and make a point to feature locally published authors.
“Supporting writing, stories, and information is our core mission, along with connecting readers to the books they are looking for,” said Heather Duncan, director of marketing and events at the Tattered Cover. “Aspiring authors often become published authors and their books may one day be on our shelves. Writer are also some of our most valued customers.”
Organizations like Lighthouse and Castle Rock Writers offer more regular meetings in addition to special events and conferences. These regular offerings give participants a chance to fully develop their writing and stories.
“We offer a variety of workshops and classes year-round, from eight-week workshops where students submit and critique each other’s work to one-day intensives that focus on a single element of the writing craft, like plot or character development,” Dahl said. “All of our classes are taught by local working writers, like Eleanor Brown (who wrote the New York Times bestseller ‘The Weird Sisters’) and David Wroblewski (who wrote the bestselling and Oprah Book Club novel ‘The Story of Edgar Sawtelle’).”
Castle Rock takes a more locally focused approach, and covers the difficulties of getting published, especially in a small market like Denver.
“People don’t realize how much of getting published is marketing oneself,” Aldridge-Dennis said. “You have to do a lot of that work yourself, at writers’ fairs, farmers markets, and other event. You have to sell yourself.”
Both Aldridge-Dennis and Dahl said the writing process requires a lot of determination, and commitment to sticking to it, especially when things get discouraging.
“Workshopping your writing or studying an element of craft can also open you up to new perspectives and ideas for your work,” Dahl said. “Workshops and classes are great for the community — a forum for discussing writing with people who enjoy writing.”