In 2018 the Ron Cree Memorial Scholarship was established. This post, by Tracy Neis, is dedicated to Ron’s memory.
Scholarship recipient, Tracy Neis, shares her experiences from 2018 PPWC, Don’t Quit!
I just returned home from my second trip to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The last time I went (in 2011), I had applied for a scholarship at the suggestion of my dear childhood friend, Ron Cree. I won the scholarship and flew out to Colorado to attend the event. Ron picked me up at the airport and hosted me at his condo. A few months after I returned home, I signed a contract to publish my first novel through a small Southern California-based publishing house. The road to publication has been long and winding, but my book, Mr. R, was finally released November 7, 2018.
Late in 2017, Ron suggested I apply for another scholarship to attend the PPWC so I could pick up some pointers for marketing my book. He once again offered to collect me at the airport and host me at his condo. I applied for the second scholarship, won, and booked my flight to Denver. Then on March 25, 2018, Ron died of a sudden heart attack. His presence loomed over me throughout my attendance at this year’s conference.
With a heavy heart I flew into Denver on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. I was looking forward to attending this year’s conference and meeting up with some of Ron’s friends. But I knew this year’s PPWC would not be the experience I’d envisioned when I applied for and received my scholarship.
2018 Speakers were Great!
That’s not to say it wasn’t wonderful. The speakers were great – especially Aaron Michael Ritchey and Johnny Worthen. The quirky workshops gave me a lot of ideas for my next novel (I now know several poisons I can include in my forthcoming cozy mystery, which I’m planning to set on a farm in Ohio). I learned a lot about monsters and Magick. And Friday night’s keynote speaker, Mary Robinette Kowal, was worth the price of my plane fare, rent-a-car and hotel fee put together. She was hysterical, inspiring, and entertaining in every way.
But I missed my childhood friend. At every meal, I heard his name spoken when the emcee announced the PPWC’s scholarship program was going to be renamed in his honor. Ron’s friends and I toasted him at every lunch and dinner (and with many drinks at the bar as well). We shared stories about him throughout the weekend and mimicked the catch phrases he liked to use (“You had one thing to do!”).
Garden of the Gods
Then on Sunday morning, before I headed back to the Denver Airport, one of Ron’s closest friends took me to the Garden of the Gods and showed me the spot where Ron’s memorial service had been held the previous weekend. The roses his family had left by a flat rock on a hillside were still there. Untouched by the elements, they were as white as the snowcap on Pikes Peak. As the two of us drove through the park, a bobcat crossed our path. We stopped our truck and watched it through the window. It stared back at us for several seconds before running off into the foliage.
Tracy Neis is the author of the newly released novel, Mr. R (Mischievous Muse) – a contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre – and the YA collective biography, Extraordinary African American Poets (Enslow). She lives in Southern California, where she works as a professional resume writer.