Thursday, May 6, 2010

Crested Butte Writers Conference coordinator Theresa Rizzo

Joining us today is Theresa Rizzo, coordinator for the Crested Butte Writers Conference in Crested Butte, Colorado. I’ve been to many, many conferences throughout my writing career, but none as unique as this conference.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t traveled as much as some of you (which could be very true), and I have heard Desert Dreams and Maui offer extraordinary experiences beyond the conferences revolving around the same old format: conference hotel, conference food, conference program and networking (yay! on that last one).
The CB conference does feed you and they do offer accommodations and yes, there are speakers, but the entire experience…well, let’s just let Theresa tell you about it : ) Welcome, Theresa!

What is the history of the CBWC. How did it begin and why?

The conference grew out of a one-day reader and author day called the Reader in the Rockies, started by Crested Butte author, Barbara Crawford. Curious readers were invited to have lunch with famous authors and listen to them talk about their writing process. Then while Barbara went to the expense to bring these authors in, she got them to give a half-day writing workshop to the writers in the area.

I first met Barbara at the 2006 RIR. She and I had both been to the Maui Writers Conference and admired the event. Barbara confided that she aspired to turn the Crested Butte event into a mini-Maui, but needed more money and help to grow the conference. I suggested, and offered to run a contest for unpublished authors, The Sandy, as a fundraiser to help pay to bring in agents, editors, and speakers. We quickly discovered that Barbara and I share a similar vision and work quite well together. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Why attend this out of the way conference as opposed to something central like Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers?

Barbara and I admired the beauty and specialness of the Hawaiian island local, the quality of the workshops, the high caliber of the agents, editors, and speakers, and the friendly supportive ambiance that distinguished the Maui conference. We hoped not to just duplicate those qualities, but to surpass the excellence of that whole experience—and the beauty and magic of the Crested Butte Valley gives us the perfect home to achieve such a goal.

Our conference is much harder to get to than more centrally located venues and because it’s nestled deep in the Elk Mountains, it will take more time, effort and expense to get there—but it is SO worth it. It may sound fanciful, but there’s a creative magic in the mountains—in the very air of the valley. It’s simply comforting and inspiring. Every time I drive into the valley, a peace settles over me and my soul sighs.
I’ve yet to meet a person who has attended that hasn’t felt the magic of Crested Butte and been charmed not just by the spectacular mountain vistas, but by the friendly people who call it home. You’re more at peace there, inspired and focused—which translates into the perfect writing environment. Ask any writer who has been to CB and I’d be willing to bet they’ve written far more and solved more plot issues by walking through those mountains, than any other writing place.

Simply put—it’s worth the trip. But just to make sure writers give us a chance, we stack the deck in our favor by inviting outstanding speakers and quality agents and editors and offering the best, most efficient conference experience we can conceive. We’re constantly trying inventive things to improve it.

How do you pull in the big names as keynote speakers for being a small, intimate conference?

This year we have the incomparable, best-selling James Scott Bell as our keynote speaker, as well as a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, H. W. Brands, Ms. Holly Payne, and such local talent of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s own Janet Lane and Jeanne Stein. And then as a final treat . . . we have our own Crested Butte Writer’s pride and Joy—Ms. Kaki Warner to close the show!

We’ve never had trouble getting speakers, agents, and editors to come to our conference for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is the lure of Crested Butte. Just send them a picture of the area—and that’s all it takes. If they can fit us into their schedule, they do. It doesn’t hurt that we pay for their travel and lodging expenses. But just to make sure, we make an effort not work them too hard—making sure they have a little time off to explore the area.

So what’s unique about this conference?

The Crested Butte Writer Conference has many unique features that really help distinguish us as an up-and-coming premier writing conference.

As I said, we strive to do things a little better, more efficiently, friendlier than other writing events from things as simple as name tags (everybody’s name tags—even our agents, editors, and speakers) with your first name written in HUGE letters to encourage that personal, informal connection to the efficient way we do our agent/editor appointments, to our brand new website)—packed with every bit of information a person could want to know.

A few points to highlight our uniqueness:
· Pie in the Sky Book signing
· Pitch and Pages
· Group Discounts
· Reader Day
· Sandy Finalists honored on panel & invited to evening reading at Trackers bar
· Gourmet Meals

To be honest, another goal we hope to accomplish with our conference is to help the resort area. Scheduling the conference at the opening of the summer season allows us to book our venue at a discounted rate we can afford to help keep the conference fees down for our writers. We work hard with local lodging to make it affordable for people to stay in the resort town. The local restaurants and stores are excited about welcoming our guests—not just because it’s their natures to be so friendly and open, but they also appreciate the income generated by visitors to help sustain them through the 4 months a year off seasons when the town empties out.

Come visit us and see for yourselves!

Thank you Theresa for the exciting glimpse into one of my favorite conferences. Like Theresa mentioned, Crested Butte offers a getaway for your mind, body and soul.

Keep the date open -- June 18 - 20, 2010. It's a weekend you won't forget!

And...just a little tidbit of inside info. After visiting Crested Butte the first time, I knew I just had to write a book set in this unique area that offers snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, a quaint town and a challenging ski area. Rocky Mountain Hero, my debut book, January 2011 Steeple Hill Love Inspired, reflects the beauty and grandeur of the Crested Butte area, under the pseudonym of Hawk Ridge, of course.


Helen Gray said...

Coffee's on. Timer's set.

Sounds like a great conference, but getting there is a problem for this little bumpkin.

Thanks for sharing.


Vince said...

Hi Theresa:

I have not been to a conference before. Is it worth going if you don’t have a finished book to pitch? Also, what about spouses? Is there anything for them to do at the conference or are they on their own if they are not writers? I’d like to go. Thanks,


Renee said...

This looks like a fabulous conference.

Dianna Shuford said...

The conference sounds great. I'm sure many writers (and readers)have enjoyed your efforts on their behalf.

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

Theresa!!! Great to have a nice Italian girl in Seekerville.

Thanks for putting on the coffee Helen.

The breakfast tray is here and I highly recommend the Denver Omelet.

The conference sounds wonderful. Remind us where in Colorado Crested Butte is...(direction challenged moi) as many of us incorporated our vacation into conference time. I have to tell you I am so clueless. No idea where the Elk Mountains are.

Rose said...

Although, I'm unable to go to the conference this year, I'm going to bookmark their website.

Thanks for sharing bringing this conference to our attention. I prefer to go to "recommended" conferences.


Audra Harders said...

Good morning everyone! After yesterday's party with Joan Marlow Golan, I didn't think anyone would be up this early! Glad Helen and Tina are way early risere...or is that late to bedders? Either way, coffee is so appreciated this morning : )

Vince, I know Theresa will be joining us a little later, but in the meantime, I'll try to fill in. Crested Butte has a lot of diversions to offer the non-conference bound, and for the conference attendee if you want to get away for a bit.

Miles of hiking trails, a quaint town and the local shopping is wonderful.

About that completed manuscript. It's helpful to have it completed, but not necessary. This is a very relaxed atmosphere. You could end up sitting next to James Scott Bell in the lounge and talking writing just as easily as an acquiring editor or other aspiring/published authors.

That's just the high points. Theresa will certainly gush more about the conference in a bit.

Audra Harders said...

Tina, mountains are to the west, plains to the east,LOL!

Crested Butte is west of Colorado Springs, about a half hour outside of Gunnison where Western State University calls home.

If you fly in to DIA, it's about a 5 hour drive taking you over beautiful Monarch Pass.

Did I mention Rocky Mountain Hero is set in Hawk Ridge, a Colorado mountain town suspiciously similar to Crested Butte?

Oh my. My inner Ruthy is coming out, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Okay, now that I have a couple of cups of coffee down, let's see what our buffet offers.

The omelette bar is fully stocked with sides of bacon, sausage and ham. Don't forget the homefries!

And our off season ski instructor, Swen, is operating the blender for smoothies to order.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Audra, look at you playin' hostess so nicely!!!

I'm so totally impressed, chica!!!


Theresa, you must keep doing this conference because it:

A. Sounds wonderful
B. Has an alliance with the Kakster (aka Kaki Warner) whom I met while judging her beautiful work long before either of us had contracts made out to us...
C. Had proximity to Audra and Tina, two of my fave people on the planet.
D. Has mountains that I vowed to explore (I'll be glad to drive, Teenster) when I was in Denver last year because I'm Irish/Scot/and hodge podge... And I love mountains, hence my new series set in the Allegheny Range (and YES they are mountains, they're just not ROCKY MOUNTAINS... We grow 'em different here in NY/PA.

You've made this sound so inviting with just the writing elements that it would be wonderful alone without adding in the aforementioned treats.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, sharing with us!

And is it "Butte" as in 'butt' or 'beaut'... I've heard it said both ways and both insist their way is correctamundo. Logic tells me one must be wrong.

Make me sound smart, okay????


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Audra, this locale seems wonderful! I can't wait to read about "Hawk Ridge" aka "Crested Butte" in January...although I've gotten a glimpse when reading your first chapter last year before you sold.

Makes me want to go there.

Theresa! I enjoy working under you with the Sandy. What a wonderful coordinator you are.

Love Colorado. Have lots of writer friends there including Tina and Audra and Danica. Kim and Michelle. Have some non-writer friends there too.

If I didn't live in the south, I'd live in Colorado. My husband thinks the Rockies are THE only place to ski. He goes at least once per year.

Audra, the breakfast bar is YUMMY!

Helen, I SO needed that coffee. Those Seekers kept me up into the wee hours talking. Well...they were sleeping. I was talking. LOL!


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Theresa! The Crested Butte Writers Conference sounds wonderful and the area looks gorgeous. I have family near Denver, which adds to the appeal. The main problem is my conference budget is strained to the max. Maybe next year.

Audra, I can't wait to read Rocky Mountain Hero!!! Tell us the release date again, please.

Thanks for the coffee, Helen. My omelet is delicious, Audra and Tina!


Theresa said...

Hi Vince,
A conference absolutely is worth going to even if you haven't finished a book. We have wonderful workshops to teach the craft of writing and to teach all about the business of writing. Go to our website and read the descriptions of the workshops offered this year.

Spouses are on their own during the day while a writer is at the conference, but there is plenty to do in Crested Butte to fill her hours. Shopping, walking/hiking, horseback riding, catching up on a good book by the pool, and lots more. And actually, the whole Saturday program is geared towards readers and she could buy a ticket for just that day. Email me privately at if you'd like more information/clarification.

And a spouse could join you for The Sandy Awards luncheon if you were to buy a guest ticket.

Theresa said...

Thanks, Audra, for having me on Seekerville!

Thanks for the warm welcome!

Crested Butte is about 4hrs south west of Denver. It's just 30 minutes north of Gunnison, tucked into the most beau-tiful mountain valley in Colorado--my unbiased opinion of course . For better location go to

Not so far and it's a terrific weekend get away and LOTS for the family to do while you're being inspired and energized by James Scott Bell and the rest of the crew!

Theresa said...

Hi Ruthie,
So nice to finally meet you! Audra talks about you all the time--well, she talks about all you seekerville islanders all the time--quite fondly, I must add!

Thanks for the kind words. Each year we improve a little on the conference and I've made SO man new wonderful friends through my work with it--not just writer pals, but agent and editor friends--since it's a small conference it's more like a big family reunion. You must remember, I'm Irish Catholic. We have big families .

Kaki is a sweetie pie--and better still, she remained a sweetie pie even after all her success with selling not one, but TWO trilogies! And she writers really well! Can't wait to get Open Country coming out June 1.

I went to college in NY and we drove home to MI frequently, and I hate to quibble with you Ruthie, but those little hills y'all have . . . do they really call them mountains????

They are magnificent in the Fall--I'll give you that .

It's Butte as in 'beaut'. A butte is a conspicuous isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top; it is smaller than mesas, plateaus, and tables. Gothic and Crested Butte Mt are buttes, hence the name--or so I've been told.

Many CO people call it 'crusty butt'--but I think they'er just jealous!

Theresa said...

Hi Cheryl!
One of my best judges and a very kind soul. Thanks for visiting. Come play with us in CO!

And I'm confused a bit . . . there's skiing outside of the Rockies? Really? We tried Stowe Vermont once, but that was just ice-skating on skis. Has your husband skied CB yet? If not, we need to talk. Contact me abt skiing in CB next season.

Casey said...

Sounds ideal. I haven't had the opportunity for a retreat, but I hope to someday! :)

Tina said...

Go to this conference if you can. I was blessed to be one of the guest speakers last year and it really changed me as a writer. This conference is more intimate than others and the location is beautiful. Barabara, Theresa and their staff of volunteers are amazing people. This is really the very best conference I've ever been to.


Sounds like growing a conference is like growing a writing career. Takes time and patience.

Anne Randolph said...

I was blog hopping and was delighted to see Theresa Rizzo as a guest here today. Theresa is a mover and shaker and has created an authentic writer community. Check out Crested Butte. Comments from the Crested Butte Contest are extremely helpful.
Go, Theresa
Anne Randolph

kevin wolf said...

Mornin' T

See you in June.


kakiwarner said...

It'll be a fabulous conference! I can't wait! So many new people to meet--the CB Writers are sooo supportive of each other. If anyone out there is looking for a great writers group, this is one of the best. See you soon, T.

Vince said...

Hi Theresa:

Crested Butte is only 815 miles from Tulsa. Mapquest says it is a 13 hour drive. I’ll email you about things my wife could do. I have to talk her into it and since we are going to Chama for her birthday in August (she wants to ride the train) it might be a hard sell. Do you have a scenic train in Crested Butte?

BTW: I do have a first draft of a long novel but it is not ready to show.

I’m sold on the beauty of the location alone. I will fully explore your website today.


Theresa said...

Hi Casey,
Writer retreats are wonderful. My husband encouraged the first one--and I came back so happy and fulfilled that he doesn't mind my going away a couple of times a year.

Tina Forkner, what a treat to see you here! Thanks for sharing your experience with us last year and for the kind words. Except now I feel pressured to make sure we live up to your rave review.

Kelly, growing a conference is very much like a writing career--no, it's better than my writing career at least 'cause I have more control and can see tangible results and it's less subjective than writing, however it is a slow process in that there are all kinds of wonderful things we'd like to try, but we insist on improving slowly 'cause we want to make sure that whatever we do we do very well.

Thanks for stopping by and for the compliments. I haven't done all that much other than introducing the writing community to the secret of Crested Butte and sharing wonderful, talented writers with the Crested Butte Community. A match maker--that's what I am. Hmm not jewish, but an Italian matchmaker. Go figure.

Good morning, Kevin.
Thanks for stopping by. See you in CB in June!

Theresa said...

Morning Kaki!
We are going to have such fun in CB! Bring your walking shoes. I can't wait to brainstorm books while we walk and gawk at the mountains. I'll have to bring some binoculars so we can see the Beavers playing in the pond near the playground! Remind me.

13 hours is a long drive, but so worth it. There are tons of stuff for your wife to do and the locals are so friendly too--very welcoming, which was one of the main motivators behind our making this our second home--the people are more friendly and welcoming than I've found in any other mountain area.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh my, a conference in Colorado ... twist my arm!! Sounds like a wonderful conference, Theresa and Audra ... saying one right now that I will be able to go someday ... :)


Victoria Dixon said...

This answered some questions for me, Theresa. Thanks! I look forward to meeting you in person. :)

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:


I just noticed going over yesterday’s 200 plus posts that I won Waiting Out The Storm! When does it become available? I can't wait. : )

If you don’t have my snail mail address please let me know. I’ll email it to you.

vmres (at) swbell (dot) net



Kav said...

This does sound absolutely divine. And I'd love to go just to be in the area that so many of the historicals I read are set in!

I absolutely LOVE the reader connection. I'm a reader who loves to talk books with other fan-atics like me! And your 'pitch & pages' sounds so much less intimidating than the kind at other conferences. Sigh. Now all I need is a winning lottery ticket! LOL.

Tina Pinson said...

Where is Created Butte at in relation to Grand Junction?? Just kidding I honestly didn't know about the conference. I can attest to the beauty of the area. Don't know that it's my fav cause I like the stretch between montrose and Durango alot

Back to the conference. I'll have to give it a looksee on the web

As for breakfast, a Denver omelet huh? I'd love to share some peaches from my valley here and strawberries but have to wait forvthe season. We have some of the best fruit veggies (Olathe sweet corn) around and wines too.

Oh well, I'll share another day.

Mary Connealy said...

Sorry I didn't leave a comment earlier. I clicked on the link to the Crested Butte Conference and spent so much time looking at the beautiful pictures and reading about the conference I sort of forgot to say HI.


Thanks for being on with us Theresa.

Mary Connealy said...

Sorry I didn't leave a comment earlier. I clicked on the link to the Crested Butte Conference and spent so much time looking at the beautiful pictures and reading about the conference I sort of forgot to say HI.


Thanks for being on with us Theresa.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Everyone!
Just dropping in over lunch to see how Theresa is doing and I see she has everything in hand! My office has shut down access to social networks. How dare them!!

BTW, give Theresa a hand for being coherent today...her favorite son, Brian, is graduating from the University of Colorado tonight!!

Tina P, you'd love the conference!

Kaki! Glad you stopped in! Theresa is so proud of you since she feels she had a hand in your stellar career! A second trilogy. Can't wait until it comes out!

Theresa said...

Tina P.
Do you live in Grand Junction? I'm not surprised you didn't know about us, none of us are real tech hounds--well, that's putting it kindly. Very kindly .

But as our membership grows, so does our volunteer talents, so we're getting a little better at getting the word out.

I'm so glad you enjoyed our website. That was my major accomplishment this year--designing it while my darling husband built it for us. I wanted it to be as informative as possible.
Thanks for coming back to say hi and I hope to meet you in person at the conference.

Mary Connealy said...

You know I always wrote Crested Butter?
who wrote Created Butte?

How about Crusted Butter?

Very fun name for those of us on Typo Alert on these comments. :)

Tina Pinson said...


Yep, I live in Grand Junction. I lived in Olathe a few years back. Have been into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on several occasions and been to Crested Butte, but that was a while ago.

Tina Pinson said...


I get Crested Butter when I whip it up too much.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks so much for being with us today, Theresa! And thanks for letting us know about this conference. It sounds wonderful!

KC Frantzen said...

Thanks for stopping by Theresa! It was a real pleasure to "meet" you with my first contest entry. As the Seekers stated, the Sandy's judges were quite helpful and generous with their time, critiques and suggestions.

It doesn't get a whole lot better than CO (Though I'm partial to Estes Park in the summer, I've skied CB and it's GOOD!!!)

Would love to attend but won't be able to this year...

Vince - you'll love the area, as will your wife. You can BREATHE that fabulous air if nothing else. It's magnificent!

Theresa said...

Thanks for the warm welcome, Missy!

KC, so glad The Sandy didn't disappoint you. I am blessed with wonderful judges! Skied CB, but have you been there in the summer? I think I may like it better then 'cause there is SO much to do! And . . . it's warmer. Brrr.
Our conference is the perfect excuse to visit in the summer!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, Dude!!!!

Sorry, I was working today and just saw this, but yes!!!!

E-mail me your snail addy, bud...

It should be arriving soon and I've got to send a copy to you and Kav so far...

Unless I've forgotten someone. Which would not be a big surprise!!!

Congrats, Dude!!!!

Ummm... Vince.... Does a philospher like you like sheep??

Just wondering... ;)

Anita Mae Draper said...

This sounds like an excellent conference.

That's the weekend I'll be attending my writer's group spring retreat in a monastery. I went last year and really liked the solitude. Eating great meals without having to cook or wash the dishes enhanced the experience, too. :)

Have fun everyone.


Audra Harders said...

Thanks for joining us today, Theresa : ) I think you've succeeded in making a few folks drool : )

Thanks everyone for giving Theresa a great day! Seeker friends are the best!!!

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

Philosophers and sheep are a natural match. Remember: PhD’s (Doctors of Philosophy) are given on sheepskins. And shepherds have more time to think than almost any other profession. (Though lighthouse keepers also have a very good job.) Shepherds look up at the stars at night and see more things than are dreamt of in many a scholar’s philosophy. (It’s something like that from Hamlet! :) It’s late and I don’t have time to look it up.)

I just emailed you my snail mail address. I think we may get to go to Crested Butte so I hope we’ll get to see some genuine Seekers.



Cheryl Wyatt said...

Theresa, I mentioned to hubster about skiing in CB...and he's STILL salivating. LOL!

Thanks for being here today!

Audra, thanks for bringin one of my most favorite coordinators.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Gosh, I don't know why that time stamp thing says two something am! It's just past Midnight here.

Heading to bed and hopefully dreaming about Denver omelettes...