Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Northern Colorado Writers Conference

My good friend and writing buddy, Julie Saffrin, and I attended the Northern Colorado Writers Conference (NCWC) this past weekend in Fort Collins.  We met lots of friendly writers--mostly all from Colorado--and connected with quite a few, collecting the usual array of author business cards and postcards.  The workshops were helpful and enjoyable, like "Selling your book to film and television" with Ken Sherman, or "Intimate emotions, universal themes & synchronicity" with Page Lambert.  It was fun to meet Page before I attend the "Landscape and Literature" retreat that she is hosting in Wyoming this May.

Kerrie Flanagan, Director of the NCWC, did an amazing job overseeing the many aspects of a large conference, and took care of everyone's needs with a smile on her face.  The keynotes were great, starting with author/screenwriter Stephen Cannell on Friday, and Colorado author Todd Mitchell on Saturday.

I had a pitch session with agent Rachelle Gardner, which was my main reason for attending this particular conference.  I think both my novel "Seeds of Salton" and my new nonfiction book "Michigan & Rookie" will appeal to a crossover audience.  From what I've read about Rachelle I think she might have the ideal background for these types of stories.  Time will tell...  :)

Of course I love traveling west for any reason--and combining Colorado and writing makes it even better.  Old Town Fort Collins had lots of cool shops and restaurants and we had a gorgeous view of the Rockies--that alone was worth the trip!  The conference was held at the Hilton and I must say "Hilton" is the way to go--no more Motel 6's for me! :) I loved having four feather pillows on my bed!

Meanwhile, now it's time to get back to the new episodes for "Hidden Heritage" on RFD-TV and start on my book proposal for "Michigan and Rookie...Guardians of the Night."  It seems I never run out of things to write, which is a good thing!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest - Quarterfinals!!

I, along with a thousand other writers, waited not-so-patiently yesterday for the posting of the quarterfinal entries.  This is the stage in the contest where hopeful authors go down from 1,000 to 250.  I won't say how many times I logged on to  check the Amazon/abna website, but finally around ten o'clock central time zone, the list was posted. 

My husband happened to be in my office when I scrolled the list (going alphabetical by last name), down through A, B, C...K, L, M...Ma  and we both spotted it simultaneously:

Marshak, Barbara - Seeds of Salton  (And both cheered simultaneously:  Wha-hooh!)

It may or may not meaning anything to my career--time will tell--nonetheless it brings a good dose of encouragement as I prepare to head off to Colorado tomorrow for the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in Fort Collins. 

Until the next round!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Road Trip to Branson!

As some of you may know already, Paul LaRoche and the Brule' gang are booked full-time in Branson, Missouri at the beautiful RFD-TV Theatre starting March 2010.  Their extended concert run in Branson means they had to move from their home-base in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Branson.  And while it might seem a bit strange for them to leave South Dakota, Paul and crew are thankful for a full-season performance schedule in one of America's most popular tourist stops. 

Moving the entire Brule' entourage to Branson--which includes 18 people by the way--also means upcoming episodes for Hidden Heritage-The TV Series will be produced from their new home-base.  When Paul asked me to come to Branson last week to assist with the interview for Episode #15, I said sure.  Then I realized it was "off-season" and airfare to Branson was INSANE!   So I called up my sister Norma and dared her to come on a roadtrip to Branson with me while she was still 69!  (Her 70th birthday is March 22nd!)  Being the good sport that she is, she signed up to go...and off we went.  We didn't see much of Iowa either way since it was covered in thick, soupy fog that made driving quite stressful.  Even worse, we drove 640 miles straight south to southern Missouri only to endure cold, misty, windy weather--so not fair!  

Upon arriving in Branson, Norma and I were happy to discover a Panera next door to our hotel.  Needless to say, we started every morning there!  Branson was quite an interesting town, think Vegas/Orlando/Nashville.  There were tons of theatres everywhere and I must say the RFD-TV Theatre was a beautiful facility, inside and out.  The photo of the Brule' gang on the big marquee outside looked impressive--and should draw in a number of tourists with that alone. 

Norma and I didn't have time to do much sight-seeing, after all I was there to work.  The theme of Episode #15 is one where we feature a Native American hero story.  This episode features Officer Joaquin Guerrero from Saginaw, Michigan, a Mexican Indian man just happens to have another incredible life story.  Officer Guerrero created Precinct 131, a program designed for young children to say "no to guns, gangs, drugs, and violence."  He has worked the night shift in Saginaw for 21 years and feels it's his calling to work the dangerous night streets.  After meeting Joaquin, it is easy to see that he is a man with a very giving heart.  A man whose life story--God willing--will be my next book.  In fact, my working title is "Michigan and Rookie...Guardians of the Night", a remarkable story of a cop and his K-9 partner Rookie, dedicated to serving their community as the eyes and ears of the night. 

It was fun to meet both Joaquin and Rookie and assist Paul and Shane with the interview process.  I do know that you won't want to miss this episode of Hidden Heritage, scheduled for June 7, 2010 on RFD-TV. 

I want to give a special "thank you" to my sister Norma for going with me on the roadtrip to Branson while she was still a young 69 years of age!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What's Your Heritage?

I thought about my heritage a few weeks ago when I wrote a short story for a contest sponsored by the Jackpine Writers group in Park Rapids, in northern Minnesota. The story needed to have a Minnesota connection, and since my hometown of Wadena is in that area I started to brainstorm, trying to think of something to write about.

Late one night when it was well below zero and a full moon lit up our snow covered back yard, I thought about the pioneers and the difficulties they must have experienced, coming to make a home in this “new land.” My great-grandparents, Charls and Carolina Veden, on my Dad’s side, emigrated from Sweden in 1858 and bought land in Chisago County near Lindstrom, where many Swedish immigrants settled.

Notes from our family history tell us that around 1870 Charls and Carolina bought 80 acres by Horse Head Lake in Ottertail County. Carolina was a midwife so many people turned to her for help. One winter night a family who had a house across the lake lost their home to a fire. They walked across the frozen lake in their bare feet and some of them were burned so badly they left a trail of flesh across the lake. Most of the family died from gangrene…except the youngest child who’d been carried. My great-grandfather built their coffins.

Around 1877 Charls and Carolina relocated again, this time near Wadena, in Compton Township of Ottertail County. Their son, Herbert, took over the family farm from them, followed by Herbert’s son, Percy, who was my dad. The Veden family farm is now operated by my nephew, the fifth generation of Vedens.

My short story, Prairie Promises, is a fictionalized version of that horrific event on Horse Head Lake back in 1870. Writing about that time period made me curious as to why people were compelled to leave their homeland. On my last trip to the library I picked up The Emigrant series by Vilhelm Moberg, a four-book account of the Swedish emigration to Minnesota, based on the fictional Karl Oskar Nilsson and his family. It’s a real-life look at a remarkable period in history, written with stunning detail and great humor.

So far I’m on Book #2 – Unto a Good Land and enjoying every page!