A Writer In Residence Thanksgiving

It’s been a year since I sat on this same barstool and thought, “I could do that! IF I apply, I’ll have to write my story.”

I’m back at my home in Estes Park, thankful for so many different aspects of my life. Once again, I’m here with my dogs. Only this year, there’s the addition of my son’s puppy, Syrah. Having a puppy around is like having a toddler – can’t take my eyes off her for a second!

Once again, I came here with the intention of painting one of the bedrooms. Once again, I’m grateful that I have this retreat to call my own.

This year is different though. This year, I’m officially a writer. That thought still scares me. But, this year my goal is to write 10,000 words.

A year ago I was contemplating applying for the High Plains Library District’s first-ever Writer in Residence position. I saw the announcement on the library’s webpage. When the application instructions said applicants needed to have a library card, I laughed. I have one of the original gray cards! Yep, I could check that item off the list. More challenging was the section that required an excerpt. Here’s where I would be kicking myself in the rear to “get ‘er done.”

When I moved to Colorado in spring of 1999, my sons were finishing fifth and sixth grades. The first seeds of my novel were planted that summer. Watching the boys grow up in this magnificent setting made me think about what it would have been like for a young boy back when northern Colorado was being settled by “white men.” Then, real life took over and the story, while always percolating, was put on the back burner.

Seeing the Writer in Residence position brought the story to the forefront of my brain. I knew I had a decent plot. I certainly spend plenty of time reading, writing, and editing. I could do this! Of course, it was a huge risk. How embarrassing to be laughed out of town with my little story! And, young reader historical fiction isn't exactly a hot genre. If I had a young adult novel with vampires or zombies, maybe I’d be on to something.

Considering the embarrassment factor, I applied without telling anyone. I wrote when I had moments of solitude. I actually jumped right into a section that I thought was humorous, figuring I could always go back and write the beginning…if I needed to. Applications were due at the beginning of March. I finished the extensive application about a week ahead of schedule.

I had done it! I had actually sat down and written a portion of my story. Yay, me!

However, now that Josiah was “alive” in my mind, he wouldn’t go away. The applications were under review from March to mid-April, but in the meantime, Josiah was demanding my attention. So, I wrote more of his story. I still didn’t tell anyone I was working on a novel.

When the phone call came saying that I was a finalist for the position, I nearly fell off my chair! Someone actually liked my writing! I couldn’t believe it. I finally told my family. They couldn’t believe that I’d kept it a secret for four months. I was on top of the world. I honestly didn’t care whether I “won” or not. I had accomplished my goal of starting, and perhaps more importantly, continuing to write Josiah’s story.

After a panel interview, I was notified that I was the first Writer in Residence. My residency would be from May 1 to November 1.

It was a whirlwind six months. I learned so much about writing and publishing. I created a website and a blog. I joined a writer's group. I self- published a small children’s book for my grandson and learned that I really didn’t want to self-publish Josiah’s story. I taught an adult class that was far less successful than I had envisioned. I participated in a High Plains Library District Foundation fundraiser that included dinner with author Diana Gabaldon. And, I finished Josiah’s story.

The young reader chapter book is currently at the publisher. It should be out in all bookstores and in all formats at the end of January or early February.

In the meantime, I’m working on the second book in the series. This one is told from an Arapaho boy’s perspective. Not surprisingly, Estes Park, or The Circle, is featured prominently in this tale.

It has been quite a year. I’m very grateful to everyone at the High Plains Library District, including Foundation financial supporters. Without them, Josiah’s story would not have been written. Library staff was also extremely helpful with research, advice, classes, and supplies. Finally, once they were allowed in on the secret, my family has been very supportive. I’m thankful for you all!

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