Monday, November 1, 2010

Authors Retreat to Rancho de los Caballeros

Author Mary Trimble, standing on viewers’ platform, watches Heidi Thomas make friends with a ranch horse. Image by Linda Mocilnikar

Women Writing the West’s 16th Annual Conference was an opportunity to reconnect, re-inspire, rejuvenate and relax. A retreat in every sense of the word. What better place to accomplish all these things than at a guest ranch, namely Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona, in the High Sonoran Desert. Set in the graceful hacienda of the ranch, this year’s conference was the best of both worlds.

Rancho de los Caballeros was an extraordinary western setting for a group who writes about the American West. The Gant family has operated the 20,000 acre ranch for nearly 60 years. The ranch’s name implies “gentlemen on horseback” and horseback riding is just one of many recreational opportunities. An 18-hole golf course is another, or there’s tennis, hiking, biking, or swimming in an outdoor pool.

A guest doesn’t have to ride horseback to enjoy the horses. Each morning we watched the “Running of the Horses,” a twice-daily event when about 100 magnificent horses–manes flying, hoofs pounding--run from where they’re stabled at night to the large ranch coral. A group of us enjoyed dinner in town before returning to the ranch for a Board Meeting.

The next day, Friday, many of us braved a “Morning in the Desert” tour to Hassayampa River Preserve. An amazing array of wildlife exists in the wildly changeable desert and our knowledgeable guide shared fascinating information. The hike wasn’t too vigorous, but the heat around high noon encouraged us to seek the shelter of the scrubby Smoke Trees. Rather than the desert tour, some of the group visited the Desert Caballeros Museum, also worthwhile from all reports.

Friday afternoon brought a wide selection of presenters and workshops. A colleague, Joyce Lohse, and I shared the spotlight with “Adventures in Freelancing,” sharing tips on submissions and war stories about the freelancing process.

Friday night’s event was truly a highlight with a hay ride to a cookout a distance from the ranch buildings. Afterward we sat around a bonfire and listened to Caroline Markham’s remarkable singing while she accompanied herself on the guitar. A very special evening.

Saturday’s itinerary was chocked full with more inspiring sessions. The WILLA Finalist Awards Luncheon and WILLA Awards Banquet dinner were both marvelous, well thought-out events. The prestigious WILLA Awards, named after Pulitzer-Prize winning Willa Cather, honors the best in literature that features women’s or girls’ stories set in the West.

Sunday morning it was my pleasure to introduce our Marketing Specialist, Mara Purl, who spoke on the importance of newsletters. After her presentation we held our annual WWW meeting.

As usual, all during the conference a bookstore sold books written by WWW authors. Members and hotel guests had ample opportunities to browse the varied selection of books.

Also during the conference, publishers, a magazine editor and a marketing specialist were available for private appointments to discuss attendee writing projects. This year, I again coordinated that event. My mother used to say that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. I can vouch for that–it was again a pleasure to manage that part of the conference.

All in all, it was a marvelous conference with an amazing setting, inspirational presenters, and, most of all, comradery among a very special group of Women Writing the West members.

To learn more about Women Writing the West, visit


Renaissance Women said...

You captured it exquisitely!

Julie said...

Mary, it sounds so wonderful. I am truly sorry I had to miss it. Next year in Seattle!

Joyce Lohse said...

Mary -- You recounted the weekend beautifully. It was truly memorable. Remarkable how these WWW conferences keep outdoing themselves.

Terri McIntyre said...

I'm glad you enjoyed Arizona, Mary, and sounds like a great conference. Terri