The recent High Plains BookFest in Billings was a treat in every way.
I kibitzed with old friends and met new ones, gained invaluable nuggets from the panels, and heard knock-your-socks off readings by novelist Melanie Rae Thon (The Voice of the River), poet Sheryl Noethe (Grey Dog Big Sky) and science author Julianne Couch (Traveling the Power Line). And my novel, Montana, won the prize in the first book category.
In journalism, that last sentence probably would be called “burying your lead.” The lead is the first sentence of a newspaper story and is supposed to contain the most important information.
I’m not going to play the false-modesty card. It was beyond wonderful to win. But the weekend’s best reward was the festival itself. This year festival organizers included writers from Canada’s prairie provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba—reasoning correctly that we have more in common with one another than writers on the coasts of either of our countries. Total stroke-of-genius move.
It was great to hear the Canadian writers’ perspectives on topics like the publishing industry there and government support (uneven though it may be) for writers. And, of course, we all wrestle with the same writing dilemmas. I left feeling as though some very rewarding friendships were begun, and others strengthened.
A couple of days later I was in Helena for the Lewis and Clark Library’s Mystery Book Club meeting. The group had read Montana and, as always with book groups, came up with super-sharp questions, along with some great suggestions about books to read. And, they served thematic cookies–in this case, they looked as though they were covered in blood spatters. Excellent!
As always after listening to other writers and talking about writing, I returned to my own work reinvigorated, only to face the recalcitrant ending of the WIP. Lately, it’s been kicking my ass. But armed with all that High Plains BookFest energy, I think I’ve given it a pretty good whupping in return these last couple of weeks. It may actually be shaping into something workable. Not quite ready to type “The End” on the draft yet. But it’s within view.