Writers’ Forum can help you tell your story

The Western Colorado Writers’ Forum is an excellent community resource for writers and readers of all stripes, yet you may have never heard of it. I had the pleasure of speaking with chairman Virginia Jensen and longtime member Linda Skinner recently, and they filled me in on the multitude of activities and opportunities WCWF offers.

The group originated in 2010 under the direction of local writer Sandra Dorr. At that time, much of their focus was on poetry. With the aid of a Colorado Humanities grant, the WCWF was able to support and help staff the Writers in the Schools program. This program put a writer in most of the schools in the Grand Valley and helped many students get their poems published locally. If you take a stroll downtown, you will find some of these poems posted as part of the Poetry in the Streets program. Students also had the pleasure of seeing their work in an anthology produced in the program. 

Local anthologies are not the only place members of WCWF are published. Jill Burkey, Frank Coons and Dorr are area poets and WCWF members. Burkey won the 2015 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize and has been featured in a variety of publications. Coons, a local veterinarian, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award with his collection, Finding Cassiopeia. Dorr, WCWF’s first chair, won the Writer/Rosebud’s New Discovery Prize. Jensen and Skinner say helping such writers make the bridge between the solitary act of writing and getting published is a big part of their mission. 

Critique groups, in which members hone their craft with the constructive advice of peers, help writers make this leap between rough draft and polished product. WCWF members run four critique groups. Three groups focus on fiction and nonfiction, and one on poetry. They are open to all members and meet twice a month, with times available during the day and the evening.

Helping people get published is only part of the WCWF’s mission.

“Writing is for everyone. Everyone has a story to tell,” Jensen says. 

With that in mind, the forum sponsors writing programs in many local nursing homes, with Latimer House, and with veterans. With the help of local authors, attendees tell their stories. Some participants find the writing process therapeutic, and see their stories as something to pass onto future generations of family and friends. Others welcome the escape that writing can bring. 

Since its inception, the WCWF has evolved to encompass many different types of writing and events. Their Writer’s Night Workshop series, at the Mesa County Libraries central branch, offers the community opportunities to learn from local authors about creating stories from daily life, writing for the screen, and writing for young adults. In April, WCWF will sponsor a Writer’s Challenge to create one-act plays, flash fiction, and poetry for performance. It will also hold workshops about how to write in these genres, and how to turn that writing into performance pieces. KAFM will air the performance pieces in June.

WCWF plans to have science fiction events at the next Mesa County Libraries Comic Con. In August, a workshop featuring published poets will address the transition from writing for yourself to publishing. Finally, WCWF is putting together a SLAM poetry event for later this year. 

All of this is a boon for local readers. The monthly WCWF newsletter contains a list of area readings stretching from Fruita to Aspen. Each newsletter also lists recent member publications.

Organizations like the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum enrich the local literary scene because they encourage every variety of writer — from the very young to the very old, and the novice to the expert. In an effort to meet the needs of the writing community, their group is always evolving and exploring different genres. They want to make writing accessible to anyone who is interested. The WCWF is run completely by volunteers and exists solely on donations, membership fees and grants. 

If you are interested in donating to the WCWF, or better yet, becoming a member, visit their website: http://www.westerncoloradowriters.org.

LaReina Kalenian is an elementary school teacher and mother of two. Her column appears here the last Sunday of every month. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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