Greg Campbell knows a bit about adventure and horror. The Fort Collins freelance writer and dad was held at gunpoint and hung with the boys of Soldier of Fortune for his first book, The Road to Kosovo. But he upped the danger quotient in 2002's Blood Diamonds, his investigation into the Sierra Leone diamond trade. In that West African country, Campbell found villagers who'd had their hands chopped off by machetes to ensure their cooperation with the Revolutionary United Front militias; he also witnessed instances of ethnic cleansing and mass rape. In his 282-page book, he explores the role of diamonds in financing the country's civil war and terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda -- and their effect on everyday people. Campbell, who has given up the war-correspondent life, is currently posted Stateside, as the founding editor of the Fort Collins Weekly.
Our very own single-name artist, Avi, finally won the coveted Newbery Medal this year with his fiftieth adventure novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. The Brooklyn-born writer dabbles in many genres, but in Crispin, he combined historical and young adult fiction, portraying the life of a thirteen-year old peasant boy living in fourteenth-century England. The parentless lad is accused of murder and must win his freedom and find his own identity. Maybe he and Avi's next fictional character, Oscar Westerwit, the New York City "full-sized uptown romantic" squirrel, should compare notes.


Women have been trying to balance life and art since before Virginia Woolf longed for a room of her own and Tillie Olsen traded her ironing board for a typewriter. And for the past 27 years, Colorado women looking to fend off the mundane for twelve glorious months have turned to the Rocky Mountain Women's Institute. The well-connected non-profit artists' colony annually grants approximately ten artists, writers and scholars $1,250 stipends, a venue to show their finished work, and the sense of a creative life. What the winners do with their laundry is their business.


There was an international flair to the fifth annual "Writers Respond to Readers" event at the Tattered Cover, where aspiring scribes and readaholics rubbed bookmarks with known authors in a small group setting. Esmeralda Santiago, Francesca Marciano, Lynn Freed and Simon Winchester made up the eclectic writerly circle this year, suggesting that the event is crossing borders, both geographic and literary, as it grows. Authors even go so far as to give sage advice on getting from the page to the publisher.


The Old Firehouse Art Center in Longmont really knows how to throw an artwalk. The community celebration, held along the town's main drag, includes a slew of art openings, live music, artist and vendor booths, dancing, and art workshops for kids. There's the inevitable street food, of course -- hot dogs, lemonade, kettle corn and more. But what really makes Artwalk Longmont a special event are the extras: Last year, for instance, brought Geese Galore, the town's amped up version of CowParade. They kicked off the program using nineteen oversized, artist-decorated, fiberglass fowl rather than the traditional bovine beauties. And while no festival is complete without a little brawling in the streets, the Artwalk's was just a bit more civilized, with the Longmont Theater Company staging exciting Shakespearean swordfights for everyone's entertainment. Touché!
It's time to cut the cards -- aces high and seven-card stud. And just $10 will get you in the game every Friday night at Breckenridge Brewery. You can spin the wheel, but you don't have to worry about losing the rent or your pink slip: Once you're in, it's all Monopoly money. The door charge is given to local charities, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and the Denver Ronald McDonald House. And even if you blow all of your funny money, there's still free food and live music. Such a way to soothe your soul.


With good screen size and projection, state-of-the-art sound and the latest in stadium-style

seating, the Colorado Center rates just fine in our theater-comfort category. But what sets it apart from the many other stadium-theater venues is the consistent helpfulness of the staff, good access to theaters and -- as the real estate people like to say -- location, location, location. Situated at the crossroads of two arterials, I-25 and Colorado Boulevard, it's easy to reach from almost anywhere in the metro area, and the indoor/outdoor parking is both ample and convenient. Catch Daredevil or Chicago wherever you like, but the Colorado Center makes the experience a breeze.

Landmark Mayan Theatre
While taking in the latest indie romance or taut French thriller at the Mayan, why not take something good into your body, too? The concession stand is well stocked with upscale delectables, including the Alternative Baking Company's new vegan cookies, in Peanut Butter Persuasion or Phenomenal Pumpkin Spice. The ice cream bars are from Ben & Jerry's (try the Heath Toffee Crunch), the coffees now come from Vail Mountain Coffee Roasters, and the juices are Odwalla. The bestseller? Superfood, an apple-based nutrient drink chock-full of spirulina and open-cell chlorella. Choose chocolate from Switzerland (Rod Lindfils) or Germany (Ritter Sport), and if all else fails, fall back on the time-honored Vienna Bagel Dog, slathered in mustard and relish, or that exotica called popcorn.


Madstone Theaters at Tamarac Square
The arrival of the New York-based Madstone chain on Denver's art-film scene is most welcome -- especially in the affluent, educated southeast quadrant of town, where the theaters are located. At the slickly redecorated complex that was once the Tamarac 6 multiplex, Madstone unspools an intriguing mix of first-run imports and the latest homegrown films for thinking audiences. Best of all, there's a rich array of revival fare, ranging from such Hollywood classics as Dr. Strangelove and On the Waterfront to independent features like Blood Simple and Stranger Than Paradise. Directors' retrospectives feature double bills, children's classics run on weekends, and Madstone's popular "Shock Therapy" programs curdle the blood 'round midnight.


Documentarian Donna Dewey is the only Denver-based filmmaker to win an Academy Award, and last year she put her heart and soul into producing a moving non-fiction film called Chiefs, which chronicles two seasons of play by a high school basketball team on Wyoming's impoverished Wind River Indian Reservation. Dewey and Wyoming-born director Daniel Junge capture the sweet hopes of these boys from the rez, as well as their troubles and traumas, in unblinking fashion. Among the new wave of films about contemporary Native American life, this take on the hoop dreams of kids may be the truest and most emotional.


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