Judith Briles wanted to honor and promote the works of outstanding published authors from all genres and generations who have a vibrant connection to Colorado — in part just for the love of the written word, but also to help ensure that those literary legacies won’t be lost.
So she formed the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame, which will hold its inaugural induction ceremony on Saturday, September 14. The event starts at 5 p.m., and tickets are $115 for the ceremony and the after-party.
We caught up with Briles to talk about the idea of the Hall of Fame, about how it began, the scope of this important launch, and what her hopes for it might be in the coming years.
Westword: This is the inaugural year for the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame. What brought about the idea initially?
Judith Briles: It was in my heart for years. I wanted to create a special recognition for authors who had been a lifeline for me growing up and provided wisdom as I built my businesses. They delivered thousands of hours of reading delight with their stories. As an author myself and someone who coaches and guides writers in the quest, I know that authoring can be lonely. In the back of my mind was always: We need to create a platform to truly honor the gift of words and those who create them.
I’ll never forget what one of my friends said when I shared what was evolving with the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame. “Who would care about this but authors?” she asked. I was stunned. “Who?” I questioned her. “Why, anyone who has been inspired by something they read; motivated to take action; obtained the know-how and steps to start a business, or save it; needed answers to problems and solutions and discovered them within a book; wanted to learn something new; wanted to discover what made a famous or successful person tick; wanted to improve relationships with loved ones; wanted to escape for a few hours with an amazing story; even to rediscover a purpose and reason to live.... That sounds to me that that is a huge amount of people who would care.” She didn’t respond.
Can you tell us a little about the organization itself?
The Colorado Author’s Hall of Fame is an all-volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was originally founded in 2014 with a vision to recognize and preserve the recorded accomplishments of past and present authors who have created and published books. Both historical and contemporary authors who have shared their words of wisdom, encouragement and entertainment are celebrated. The Hall ensures that their insight and visionary achievements will not be forgotten.
The inaugural inducted authors come from diverse backgrounds and have created major social, personal and professional impacts on the lives of others with their words. They do it and did it by elevating readers’ knowledge; solving problems; inspiring them to reach and stretch; delivering stories that entertain; stirring the imagination of young and old alike; and changing lives within our state, our nation and, for many, around the world.
So what are the criteria for nomination?
The Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame inducts authors, both historical and contemporary, who have significant ties to Colorado and during their lifetimes. Requirements for consideration were:
- Born in Colorado, currently live in Colorado, or created one of their published works in Colorado.
- Write about Colorado or include a location or event in Colorado as part of their published work.
- Made significant and enduring contributions to their fields of work.
- Helped open new frontiers for writing styles, ideas and concepts.
- Inspired others by the breadth of their writing and work.
And who made — and will make — decisions as to inclusion?
After all the nominations were in, there was a separate nominating committee that evaluated all that were nominated. Those nominations were confirmed by the board, and then I personally called each one and shared the news. It was so much fun. W.C. Jameson, now in Texas, responded to his invitation to come to the induction ceremony by saying, “Little lady, I’ll be there with my boots on.” And Helen Thorpe shared, “Authors are so often forgotten. This is wonderful.”
Will these inductions be a regular thing? Annual, or just on an “as-needed” basis?
Inductions will be in odd years. The next one will be late summer/early-fall 2021. Nominations will be open in August of 2020 via the website.
The initial inductee list is an impressive authorial who's-who (the full list is below). Which writers on the list will be able to make it in person?
Eleven of the living will be there: Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, Jerry Jenkins, Ann Parker, Kris Tualla, Rex Burns, John Dunning, John Fielder, Jill Tietjen, Helen Thorpe, Connie Willis and Mary Taylor Young. We’ll also have a few representatives for those awardees who can’t make it; for example, inductee Jerry Jenkins is friends with Stephen King, and Jenkins will be accepting for Stephen and is carrying a personal message from him to share with all in attendance. Louis L’Amour’s widow, Kathy, is also coming in from California.
As the founder of the Colorado Hall of Fame, what are your hopes for the future of the organization and what it will mean for the state?
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Ahh...my hopes. An awareness for the creativity that is sparked here, and the breadth of work that's been seeded. Whether it's the scenery, the dramatic seasons or just Colorado, there's a reason "America the Beautiful" was penned by Katherine Bates as she viewed Colorado from Pikes Peak. The words of authors can change lives, even save them. To acknowledge and celebrate them is the best of the best.
Inaugural Inductees to the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame
- Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A prolific author, she has written thirteen books and contributed many forewords for other authors. Her first home in America was Denver, where her father was a professor at Denver University.
- Rex Burns, a professor of American Literature at the University of Colorado, has been writing Colorado-based mysteries since 1975. To date, he has published seventeen novels.
- Margaret Coel is the author of the Windriver mystery Series, the first and only series featuring the Arapaho people. She also wrote the Catherine McLeod Mysteries, set in Denver, her original hometown.
- Clive Cussler, a Colorado resident for many years, began writing novels in 1965 and published the first work featuring his continuous series hero, Dirk Pitt®, in 1973. He is an internationally recognized authority on shipwrecks.
- Sybil Downing (1930 to 2011) wrote novels based on historical events, including The Binding Oath, about the Ku Klux Klan in Denver; In Plain Sight, about child labor in the northern Colorado beet fields; and Fire in the Hole, about the Ludlow Massacre.
- John Dunning has revealed some of book collecting’s most shocking secrets in his bestselling series of crime novels featuring Cliff Janeway: Booked to Die. As the owner of the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years, he became an expert on rare and collectible books.
- John Fielder is the photographer of more than forty photography coffee table books, guide books and children’s books, all but four about Colorado. He has worked tirelessly to promote the protection of Colorado’s open space and wildlands.
- George Cory Franklin (1872 to 1962) sold his first story at the age of 55. Through more than a thousand articles and stories, he defined the American West through authentic tales of the people and the creatures that lived in the rugged Colorado backcountry.
- W.C. Jameson is the award-winning author of more than 100 books, 1,500 published articles and essays, 400 songs and dozens of poems. He is the bestselling treasure author in America. A professional fortune hunter, he has been a consultant for the Unsolved Mysteries TV show and the Travel Channel.
- Jerry Jenkins has sold more than seventy-million copies of the Left Behind series and has written more than 190 books across several genres including romance, mysteries, children’s adventures and biographies. He owns the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild and trains writers online from his home in Black Forest, Colorado.
- Stephen King, the recipient of more than 100 book and writing awards, including the Grand Horror Master, has sold over 350 million copies of his books, several of which have transitioned from print to television and film. He lived in Colorado for a year to create the movie The Shining.
- Louis L’Amour (1908 to 1988) wrote more than 100 published works that sold more than 325 million published copies. His books defined the American West and created a legacy of American history because of his vivid imagination and extensive research.
- Ann Parker is the author of the Silver Rush mystery series, including six novels, set in the 1880s mountain town of Leadville, Colorado. Ann has uncovered a tremendously rich vein in Colorado history, all connected to the state’s many years of mining for gold, silver and other metals.
- Minnie Reynolds (1865 to 1936), the society editor for the Rocky Mountain News, was one of a handful of professional women journalists in Denver in the 1890s. She used her writing platform to fight for women’s rights and served as press chair for the state’s successful women’s suffrage campaign of 1893.
- Helen Thorpe is the author of three highly acclaimed books, Just Like Us, Soldier Girls, and The Newcomers. Her works of narrative nonfiction have prompted a rich national conversation about difficult but important topics as she documents in a very human and intimate way the lives of immigrants, refugees, and veterans of foreign conflicts.
- Jill Tietjen is ensuring that women are reflected in the historical narrative of the United States. The author of nine books, she is a pioneer for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and has conducted research into historical women around the world.
- Kris Tualla writes and publishes historical romance whose heroes are all Norsemen. She started in 2006 with nothing but a nugget of a character in mind and has created a thirty-book series.
- Marilyn Van Derbur and her words "I am an incest survivor" opened the door for tens of thousands of people to speak about their own sexual abuse. Her inspiring book, Miss America by Day, has been used in colleges and mental health associations as a teaching tool.
- Connie Willis creates science fiction and fantasy that is out of this world from her Colorado home. She is known for writing romantic "screwball" comedy in the manner of 1940s Hollywood movies.
- Mary Taylor Young is an award-winning nature writer who has been bringing the West to life in books and other significant ways for more than 25 years. She is the author of eighteen books.
- Ann Haymond Zwinger (1925 to 2014), Colorado’s most outstanding naturalist/author, wrote twenty books, ten anthologies, twenty forewords and numerous articles for such magazines as Smithsonian, Adventure Travel, Orion and Audubon.
The first inductees to the Colorado Author's Hall of Fame will be honored at a ceremony at 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, at the Courtyard Marriott Cherry Creek, 1475 South Colorado Boulevard. Tickets for the event are still available.