Western Colorado Writers’ Forum conference attracts talent from across U.S.

Writers from across the country traveled to Grand Junction this past weekend to attend the first Writers’ Conference hosted by Western Colorado Writers’ Forum.

The nonprofit forum, which coordinates literary programs and workshops in the Grand Valley, welcomed writers from Michigan to California for the three-day conference. Writers’ Forum Executive Director Sandy Dorr said the conference was open to authors and poets nationwide so people from outside the area could see what talents this small city has to offer.

“I’ve lived in New York, Paris, and I grew up in Minneapolis, but what we’re doing here rivals readings anywhere else,” Dorr said.

Eleven authors, including Colorado’s poet laureate, Dave Mason of Colorado Springs, read their works and shared writing tips in workshops Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, conference presenters and some local elders shared their backgrounds and historical tales of the Western Slope at a community breakfast, the final event of the conference. Mason said he has traveled to several conferences around Colorado but was impressed by the event in Grand Junction.

“This is a very well-run one. I particularly love how they took time to listen to elders” on Sunday morning, Mason said.

L. Luis Lopez, a Colorado Mesa University professor who presented a workshop Saturday on rhythm in sports poetry, said the conference was lucky to get qualified presenters and a wide array of participants. Lopez serves on the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum board and said the conference took a year-and-a-half to organize.

“This is a great thing to do. It encourages a lot of (participants) to write and we get to meet people from other places,” Lopez said.

Dorr hopes the conference is just the start of projects that will help Grand Junction become known as a literary center. The group, which started in February 2010, hosts readings, workshops, classes, community discussions and an online information exchange.

In addition, the forum organized Poetry in the Streets in 2010 and Poetry in the Streets 2 in 2011, both times though grants from the Grand Junction Arts Commission. The programs placed poetry throughout downtown and in Grand Valley Transit buses.

The forum also organizes volunteers who teach writing skills to students at the Division of Youth Corrections, homeless people who seek services at Catholic Outreach and women affiliated with Latimer House.

Beginning this month and running through December, the forum will participate in Writers in the Schools, a Colorado Humanities-funded program that places volunteers in public schools to teach children how to write poetry. Door said she and board member Jill Burkey will volunteer with students at Pomona Elementary on-and-off for six weeks. The students will have their poetry published by Colorado Humanities in an anthology.


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