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Georgetown hosts inaugural writers convention

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By Corinne Westeman

There’s an eerie atmosphere that has always enveloped Georgetown, which seems to act as a way station for more than simply those in the physical realm.

On those windy nights, when the wind comes howling through houses, the attics creak under the weight of some unwelcome footsteps; the breeze catching in the trees sounds more like the whispers of a lost soul; and when walking down Rose Street on a lonely autumn night, there’s the vague sense of someone close by, watching without being seen.

A group of writers decided to take advantage of the community’s history and unique atmosphere by holding the inaugural Ghost Town Writers Retreat in Georgetown this past weekend.

The horror- and paranormal-aimed retreat, which began Thursday and ran through Sunday evening, offered 100 novice and professional writers — short story authors, novelists and screenwriters — a weekend of workshops, panels, trips to the local museums, train rides and several other events. The goal, the organizers said, was to help writers improve, network with fellow writers and help them find inspiration in Georgetown.

Founders Aaron Bennett of Aurora and Jhonette Perdue of Littleton said they’ve been working for more than a year to bring the retreat to Georgetown.

While there had previously been a horror writers’ convention at Estes Park’s Stanley Hotel, Bennett said that when the founders revisited the idea, they wanted to host it somewhere more cost-effective.

Georgetown’s atmosphere was quaint and open, and local businesses were receptive to the idea, Perdue said.

“We wanted it to feel more intimate,” Perdue said. “So, we purposely kept (the attendance) to less than 150.”

Finding inspiration

The retreat hosted workshops about writing horror, working with illustrators, creating audiobooks, supernatural world-building and dozens of other topics at the Heritage Center. It also took the writers around Georgetown to get a feel for its past as a Victorian mining town and all the haunts that come with such a history.

Between the setting and the workshops, the writers said their creative juices were flowing.

“The quiet is inspirational,” said John Palisano, a horror author and screenwriter from Los Angeles. “Everywhere else, there’s always some kind of noise pollution. But, here, there’s that peace that descends.”

Palisano said his girlfriend is from Denver, and he had been to Georgetown once before. He loved the town and was excited to come back.

“This place is like magic. ... It was calling me to go to this,” he said.

Katy L. Wood of Colorado Springs decided to camp off Guanella Pass, rather than buy a hotel room for the weekend. Wood, who is an illustrator and fantasy and paranormal romance writer, said she was really enjoying the mountain atmosphere and history, saying there was plenty to do in Georgetown.

Excited to get a feel for the place, Josh Viola of Denver, who writes and edits horror and science fiction, said he brought his laptop with him just in case he felt like writing.

The writing ‘tribe’

Between her full-time job and her two young children, science fiction writer Dacia Arnold said she regarded her weekend in Georgetown as her vacation.

While she doesn’t write horror, Arnold said she had already learned a lot through the workshops, but the most rewarding part of the retreat had been the sense of community among the participants.

“There’s that thick sense of a writing tribe — to be around people who understand what it’s like to give of yourself as a writer, who understand the process,” Arnold continued. “And, most of us are introverts, so we understand what it’s like to be ‘peopled out’ at the end of the day.”

Both Wood and Viola were helping lead various sessions and panels throughout the weekend and said Saturday that the retreat was going well, with good panels and good participation.

The event allowed for more facetime with professional writers who were leading workshops, agents who were holding meetings and fellow participants in general, Palisano described. Meanwhile, other writing conventions can have upwards of 1,000 attendees, he said.

“This way you’re able to have conversations with people, instead of saying a few words to each other in passing,” he said. “The fellowship is inspiring.”

Regardless of whether horror or paranormal were their particular genre, the participants said they would support another Ghost Town Writer’s Retreat next year.

“It’s a very inclusive, welcoming, inspirational group of people,” Palisano said. “I have learned a lot from people who don’t necessarily write in my genre; and hopefully, they’ve learned a lot from me, too. ... It’s good to be with your tribe.”