Western Writers of America, Denver Public Library schedule Western writing symposium

DENVER – New York Times best-selling novelist Sandra Dallas of Denver and critically acclaimed historian Mark Lee Gardner of Cascade will headline Western Writers of America’s inaugural James Ersfeld Western Writing Symposium on January 28 at the Denver Public Library.

Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis (John Adams) of Santa Fe, N.M., will moderate the panel, which will begin at 8 p.m. and is sponsored by the nonprofit WWA and the Denver Public Library. The library, 10 W. 14th Avenue Parkway, will open its East entrance doors on Broadway at 7:30 p.m. for the session only – not for checking out books. The event is free.

Other panelists will be juvenile nonfiction author Nancy Plain of Short Hills, N.J., and novelist Johnny D. Boggs of Santa Fe. Plain has won three Spur Awards from WWA. Boggs, whose novels include Northfield and Camp Ford, has won six Spurs.

The intent of the symposium program is to encourage people in the writing field, with a focus on the Western genre. “Our membership includes novelists, historians, screenwriters, poets and songwriters who have a common link – we all draw upon the stories of the American West for inspiration,” WWA Executive Director Candy Moulton said. “We are pleased to launch the Ersfeld Symposium program in Denver, where our organization was founded more than 60 years ago. We particularly encourage high school or college students and people who are just beginning their writing journey to attend.”

The symposium is named after Ersfeld, a longtime WWA member and the organization’s assistant director who died of cancer in 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the age of 62.

Incorporated in Colorado in 1953 to promote and honor the literature of the American West, Western Writers of America today has more than 650 members worldwide, including mystery writers Anne Hillerman, C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, historical novelists Lucia St. Clair Robson, Thomas Cobb and Stephen Harrigan, historians Paul Andrew Hutton, James Donovan and Robert M. Utley, thriller writer David Morrell, romance writer Kat Martin and screenwriters C. Courtney Joyner and Miles Swarthout.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Dallas began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. While a reporter, she began writing the first of 10 nonfiction books, including Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, before turning to fiction in 1990. She has 13 novels, including her latest, A Quilt for Christmas and two children’s books, The Quilt Walk and Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Skies. Her adult novels The Chili Queen and Tallgrass won Spur Awards.

Gardner is the author of To Hell On A Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West and the Spur Award-winning Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape, both published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. He is at work on his third book for William Morrow: the story of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

Ellis, WWA’s vice president, is an Emmy-, Spur- and Western Heritage Wrangler-award winning screenwriter whose credits include Anne Frank, Into the West and John Adams. He has several ongoing projects, including an HBO film about the life of Harriet Tubman to star Viola Davis, and The Order: 1886, a history-based video game for Sony.

Plain writes histories and biographies for children and young adults. Her biographies of the cowboy artist Charlie Russell (Sagebrush and Paintbrush), the Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph (With One Sky Above Us) and the pioneer photographer Solomon D. Butcher (Light on the Prairie) won Spur Awards. Her latest book, This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon, will be published by the University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, in 2015.

A former newspaper sports journalist in Dallas-Fort Worth, Boggs has been writing fiction full time since 1998. In addition to his adult and young adult novels, he has written books about film (Jesse James and the Movies; Billy the Kid on Film, 1911-2012) and is a frequent contributor to True West, Wild West and Western Art & Architecture magazines.

Among the members who will attend the symposium are WWA President Sherry Monahan, of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., Past President Dusty Richards of Springdale, Ark., and Board Members William Groneman III of Kerrville, Texas, and Jon Chandler of Denver.