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  • Writer's pictureBex

Recap of the 2019 Gold Rush Writers Conference

writers conference writing supplies notebook folder

Wow. What a crazy weekend. I feel like I blinked, and it was over. I attended the 2019 Gold Rush Writers Conference for the fourth year in a row, and it’s something I look forward to every year (as you have seen in previous posts).

And—as I do every year it seems like—I didn’t fill out my evaluation form at the end to let the directors know how much I enjoyed myself. Whoops.

So, I’ll just post my evaluation of my workshops here. I will rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “didn’t work for me,” and 5 being, “great!” as per the evaluation instructions.

Finding your Voice with Kevin Arnold

Rating: 5

We each read short portions of our work, to see if our “voice” could be heard in the story, and if it fit that particular story. Since we only had an hour-and-a-half, I was made the official “time keeper” and we tried to keep each reading and voice critique within 7 minutes. This worked really great for us, and I liked the camaraderie of the workshop.

Indie Publishing Panel with Kevin Arnold, Anara Guard, and Monika Rose

Rating: 5

As an intern with an independent press, I enjoy learning about the publishing process as much as I do about writing, and this class was fairly insightful. Monika gave an interesting description on how her nonprofit literary press, Manzanita Writers Press, functions and works to support authors. Anara also showed us the importance of hiring a good cover designer and showed us examples of works that had been self-published but had amazing covers. They also gave us hand-outs with links to websites and other resources for us to research more about self-publishing and independent presses, which I’ve found to be super helpful.

Creative Nonfiction with Amy Smith

Rating: 5

I’ve actually taken this workshop before in the past and enjoyed it just the same. I have a copy of Amy Smith’s travel memoir All Roads Lead to Austen, about her journey travelling in Latin America and reading Jane Austen novels and it’s one of my favorite memoirs. I have yet to say this to Amy’s face, because every time I’ve had the opportunity in the past, I do a fan-girl-freeze-up and nothing comes out. I also majored in creative nonfiction writing when I finally went back to college, and in general have a fondness for the genre. So, any opportunity to learn more about it always benefits me.

(Also, while we were sharing about the nonfiction works we were writing, one fellow attendee shared an incredibly powerful story that needs to be shared with the world. If you ever read this, Ruth, I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey. Stay strong!)

The First Page of Your Novel You were Born to Sell with Erika Mailman and Antoinette May

Rating: 5

I loved this workshop. We each read our first pages aloud (kind of like we did in Kevin Arnold’s workshop “Finding Your Voice”) and then critiqued them, saying what worked for us and what didn’t. We attempted to answer the question: were we hooked by the first page?

Honestly, I’ve come to really love the critiquing process; it has made me a better writer, and I love offering input that helps other writers as well.

Prior to the workshop, we sent Erika and Antoinette the first 10 pages of our works-in-progress and they gave our manuscripts back with constructive feedback. The fact that they took the time to read and offer their notes and suggestions means a lot to me.

brandy orange juice 7 up mixed drink beverage

Overall, the 2019 Gold Rush Writers Conference was a joy to attend, and again I have been sent home with even more tools and tips to be a better writer. The workshops are so helpful and intimate, and the workshop leaders clearly care about helping attendees. I love the one-on-one feel, and I love unwinding at the Hotel Leger bar with a Fischer. This year was another success for me.

Here are some other conference highlights:

Our keynote speaker, Kathleen Kent, gave a wonderful speech about her journey to becoming a writer in her two main genres, historical and crime fiction.

She shared with us a family legend she accidentally overheard growing up as a young girl in Texas. Her grandmother was telling the story of an ancestor who was accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch trials.

Fascinated, Kathleen asked, “Are witches real?”

After a pause, her grandmother replied, “There’s no such thing as witches, only ferocious women.”

hotel leger vintage chandelier writers conference kathleen kent
Kathleen Kent gave a great speech during dinner on May 4 at the Hotel Leger.

Awesome line, right? The story stayed with Kathleen, and later became her first book, The Heretic’s Daughter.

The Viking, my history nut whom I snuck into dinner for the night*, was feeling inspired himself after her speech.

“So, how do I write a book?” he asked me as we walked back to our cars.

Folks, we may have another Gold Rush Writer attending next year.

Anyway, as per my usual, I spent a bunch of money on books. Here’s what I bought:

new books independent publisher traditional short stories humor historical red sheet

Remedies for Hunger by Anara Guard: This is a collection of short stories by Anara Guard. She also published it independently through her and her husband’s small press, New Wind Publishing based in Sacramento. I picked this book up because of the cover. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to regal, vintage architecture and I loved all the doors and windows speckling the front. Half of the photos I took while staying in Austria are of the buildings, doors, and windows I liked in Vienna, much to the chagrin of a few family members. But anyway, the book looked good, so I picked it up. The well-designed book cover did its job. (And actually, looking inside, I read that it was designed by Karen Phillips. So, if you are looking for a cover designer, there you go.)

Darn Weeds! by Don Urbanus: This is a hilarious collection of short stories by local nursery owner, Don Urbanus. It was published by the local nonprofit literary press, Manzanita Writers Press, and was illustrated by Don’s very talented daughter, Erin. If you are a gardener or plant-person in general who loves a good joke, you will like this book!

(I hope to post book reviews on Remedies for Hunger and Darn Weeds! on this blog at a later date, so stay tuned.)

The Murderer’s Maid by Erika Mailman: I met Erika at the Gold Rush Writers Conference a couple of years ago, and she is always a joy to see and chat with. I’ve read her young adult fantasy trilogy about ghosts, the Arnaud Legacy, which she authored under the pen name Lynn Carthage. All three of those books made me cry. Erika has a niche, and she writes it well: historical horror. The Murderer’s Maid is about the infamous Lizzie Borden murders, told through the eyes of Lizzie’s maid, Bridgit. Erika won an Independent Publisher Book Award for this book, and I am so excited to read it and happy to finally have it on my shelf.

Seasteading by Joe Quirk with Patri Friedman: This book’s hefty subtitle is, “How floating nations will restore the environment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and liberate humanity from politicians.” And, well, that basically sums up what the book is about. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested with it to start with; I like living on land. Joe Quirk was our Sunday lunch speaker at the Gold Rush Writers Conference. He made his book sound more interesting than it originally was to me during his speech, so I bought it directly from him and he signed it.

Even if I don’t end up “seasteading” anytime in the future, it’s certainly an interesting topic to explore.

Plus, the Viking, who’s heart yearns to go raiding and pillaging on the open sea, was thrilled by the idea of starting a farm on the ocean. When I asked him about the chickens I want in the future, he replied, “Well, they say tuna is the chicken of the sea.” Can this fair farm maiden convince her Viking to remain on land? We shall see. I bought it for him to read but started reading it a bit myself already.

*Thank you, Sally, for letting me bring the Viking to dinner on such short notice. I’ll let you know sooner next year that he’s coming along! Unless we can convince him to be an attendee…?

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*This article was previously published Feb. 14, 2019 on the Calaveras Enterprise for my column Mother Lode Millennial.* When you think of true love, who comes to mind? Your parents? Your grandparents?


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