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Celebrate West Elks talent

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Photo by Liza Eller An untitled photograph by student Liza Eller is among 24 images featured in the 2018 Blue Sage "Convergence" anthology. The Blue Sage will host a reading and opening reception this Friday evening.

When great writing meets great photography, the result is "Convergence."

Formerly known as the "Write On" anthology, Convergence is an annual contest sponsored by the Blue Sage Center for the Arts to showcase the talents of local writers and photographers. Images and words reflect the culture, traditions, landscapes and special places of the West Elks.

This year's winners, selected by members of the Blue Sage Literary Committee, are contained in "Convergence: Words & Images from the West Elks 2018" (Blue Sage Press, Paonia). The anthology contains poetry, prose and photographs by 24 local and regional writers and photographers.

Authors will read their work this Friday, June 8, at the Blue Sage, 226 Grand Avenue, Paonia. The reading begins at 7 p.m., and follows a 5 p.m. gallery opening reception of photography selected for the anthology.

Among this year's selections, High Country News copy editor Diane Sylvain's "Totaled" takes a trip to a historic cattle ranch in Wyoming turned animal rescues place to witness the Great American Total Eclipse of 2017.

Barbe Chambliss, who writes about women peacemakers throughout the world, considers the "vastly different meanings" of the words "forget" and "being forgotten" -- as vastly different from "disappearing" and "being disappeared." In "Elfie," Paul Roasberry, who lives "not far from where his great-great grandfather homesteaded in 1880" in Cedaredge, shares a personal story of life, cancer and love.

Seventh-generation farmer/rancher Lane Allen is one of five students whose works were selected for the anthology. His memoir, "Driving with Grandpa," is a rich piece of prose about a road trip to New Mexico with his "early-rising sheepherder" grandfather. "One amazing landmark after another, I marveled to myself, my eyes taking in all the sights," writes Allen. "Grandpa was always telling me stories, making connections, and we had laughed all day."

Allen, who recently graduated from the sixth grade, said he sees his stories as "a great way of thanking my grandparents for everything they do for me, especially the ranches that I get to grow up on." Being selected for the reading makes it even more special, said Allen.

This will be Allen's second Convergence reading. His first, "Haying in the West Elks," also honors his granddad. He decided to enter the contest in fifth grade after performing writing exercises with Paonia Library staff member Laura Lee Yates during Melissa Pizey's English class at Paonia Elementary School. Both encouraged him to enter another memoir this year.

"I love the freedom to tell and explain my life, others' lives, and even the life of a make-believe character," said Allen. "I love having almost no boundaries and being able to use my imagination to make a character's everyday life more interesting."

Plus, said Allen, "I have a great childhood growing up in the North Fork Valley raising cows and sheep on two ranches that have been in my family (both sides) for generations."

Other student entries include photos and poetry by Sofia Gonzalez, Liza Eller and Saffire Black. In a Roald Dahl-esque short story inspired in part by the area's abundance of fruit, student Eli Stratton weaves a tale of revenge against the worst boss ever who lords over the employees of a jam and jelly factory in "The Day the Plum Burst."

Photographer and long-time Blue Sage supporter Celia Roberts is also honored in the anthology. The community lost Roberts to cancer last January. The opening piece, "My Senses," was read by Roberts at the 2016 Blue Sage Harvest of Voices held during Mountain Harvest Festival.

The anthology also includes 24 black and white images by students, amateur and professional photographers, from Jeff Skeels' wildlife images ­-- a striking shot of a red-tailed hawk and a gathering of bucks in velvet -- to Jaquita Watters' piece, "Kyle's Dobro," Theo Wecker's Gary Hall's joyous "Punchline" and Carol Schott's "Infinite." The gallery exhibit will remain open through June 28.

While the gallery opening is free, admission is required for the reading. Tickets are $10, or $15 for the reading and a copy of the book. Books are also sold separately for $12. Tickets can be purchased at the Blue Sage, 226 Grand Avenue, Paonia, or at www.bluesage.org.

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