Philantopia: Lots of meaning in Aspen Words |

Philantopia: Lots of meaning in Aspen Words

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“A writer is someone who can’t not write.” — Sol Stein

So this is kind of weird. A column about writing from a columnist who does not really consider himself a columnist or a writer, but more of a storyteller. In fact, if my columns were grammatically graded by Sister Mary Jameselle, the principal of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Boulder, where I spent my formative years of education, I would be spending a lot of time at the chalkboard after class forming my adjective clauses, correlative conjunctions, adverbial phrases, genitive cases, simple tenses, split infinitives and passive voices into compound sentences with the fewest number of dangling modifiers. I also need to work on my run-on sentences. See previous sentence. And of course, you should never, ever start a sentence with “and.” In essence, I think good grammar is a total downer.

What I do like about the written word is that if you can write, the world is your audience. And if you love to write, the world is a much better place. I love to write. I like starting from scratch and enjoy the process of interweaving random thoughts into a relatively cohesive paragraph and connecting the paragraphs into a story that the reader engages with, even if it’s just for a few moments. What I like about writing a column is that there are fewer rules and you can paint outside the lines. I like that a lot.

When it comes to the big picture of writing, Aspen is fortunate to be the home of one of the nation’s greatest nonprofit literary organizations, Aspen Words. Their mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers, and connect people through the power of stories. Write on.

Aspen Words was known originally as the Aspen Writers’ Foundation. It was founded in Aspen in 1976 as a cutting-edge poetry conference and literary magazine. Today, Aspen Words is one of the nation’s leading literary centers and a stage for the world’s most prominent contemporary writers. Their programs employ literature as a tool for provoking thought, broadening perspectives, fostering connections, inspiring creativity and giving voice. In other words, Aspen Words is a launchpad for igniting the minds of writers, no matter their age, experience level or grammatical prowess. They are a great resource for all things writing and their programming offers almost unlimited avenues for growth.

Speaking of programming, I mean, writing of programming, Aspen Words has annual programs that you really need to check out.

Summer Words is one of the top writing conferences and literary festivals in the nation. Winter Words brings the most respected contemporary writers to read and speak right here in Aspen. Writers in Residence are monthlong writing retreats for established and emerging writers. Young Writers is for middle and high school students with an interest in writing. The Aspen Writers’ Network connects local writers with visiting authors, and the Editing Room provides editing services from top professionals in the publishing world. All right here in our old mining town.

One thing you need to know is that if you are interested in Summer Words, make sure you move fast. It all starts on June 21 with featured guest Garrison Keillor. It’s gonna be a writers’ rave.

If you’re interested in Aspen Words, I strongly urge you to visit its website at Its site is very informative and, I might add, written quite well. Or if you want to reach out by phone, then give them a buzz at 970-925-3122. They would love to hear from you, even if it’s not in writing.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia,” is a column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at