Featured Member: Beth Mende Conny

The task of writing about a writer – a “real writer” – who has authored, ghosted or edited over four dozen books and, combined, has more than a million books in print, could be, well, a bit intimidating, but I find Beth Conny so approachable, so encouraging, I press on with my interview. During the 12 months she’s been a member of Cowork Fredrick, I’ve grown fond of her. Today my respect deepens.

I knew Beth was born in New York City and lived there before moving to Upstate New York to attend college at the University of New York-Binghamton. I knew she’d begun writing very early in life. (Beth says she’s been writing since she first learned to form letters on a page.)

bmc-new-pic-bio-2“Writing isn't a profession. It is who I am. I carry a pen and pad wherever I go. I eavesdrop on conversations to steal dialogue. I have more book ideas than can comfortably fit into my brain. I write even when I'm not writing. I drive my family crazy. I drive myself crazy too. Still, I write.”  One might say writing is a bit of an obsession for Beth.  What I didn’t understand until this interview was the depth and breadth to which that obsession has taken her.

Beth received a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religion. After college she worked as a consumer rights advocate before her journeys took her to California. It was there that she reconnected with a friend from college, Joe, the man she would marry three years later. Next was Boulder, where Beth earned a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Her first of two daughters was born while she was in grad school.

Though she had been writing all her life (she began, but never finished, her first book, “Jenny and the Mystery Doll,” in second grade), her move to Boulder marked the “official” launch of her writing career. She worked as a feature writer and columnist for the Silver & Gold Record, the weekly newspaper for faculty and staff of the University of Colorado system. She also taught journalism and public affairs reporting to undergraduates.

Beth wrote her first book – her favorite (I asked) – during this time: Catalyst for Change: Coors and the Pioneering of the Aluminum Can.  Beth interviewed 50 people from the Adolph Coors Company about aluminum can making technology, including company president Bill Coors.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Beth was also a feature writer for Denver Parent, where she launched her syndicated parenting column "Sunshine.” Writing about parenting lead to her first Peter Pauper book of quotes: Family Ties (quotations about family life). Since then, there have been many other quotation collections. I love these little books and, yes, I have purchased a few myself.

Beth is currently writing her first novel, a mystery (save the book she started in second grade). “Writing fiction is harder,” Beth noted. “Non-fiction is about ordering finite facts; you know up front what happens. With fiction, you have to create and hold the story in your head as it unfolds onto paper while being willing to let it lead you. With a mystery you know ‘who dunnit,’ but you have to carefully reveal ‘facts’ (or misdirections) to maintain the suspense until the end.” She will self-publish this book, as she has many of her other books.

Beth attributes her success to being able to write extremely tight prose, to creating smooth transitions, and creating a rhythm, a cadence that compels the reader on. “Editors have told me it’s difficult to edit my work because of these things,” Beth noted with a confidence that seems a bit contrary to her mild manner. “I work very hard to make it that way. I produce clean, ready-to-publish material.”

Writing is great, but what Beth likes most is taking a project from start to finish. As a “development editor” she helps individuals and businesses who want to promote a cause or their company develop their concept and encourages them through the writing process. She then edits their work and oversees all production tasks (including design, desktopping and production). Based on client needs, she will also step in as ghostwriter.

Encouraging others is something Beth does naturally. A visit to WriteDirections.com will reward you with a plethora of how-to writing tips. “What I really like is helping someone’s dream come true. Sometimes a person can’t quite articulate that dream. I can help it take shape and guide them as they make it real.”

Beth also works with clients on website content and layout. She ventured into art with a May 2013 exhibit at Cowork Frederick titled “The Art of Words: Illustrated Writing.” The exhibit combined her collages and quotations. She’s even directed and produced a short movie for a client, Do-si-Do with Autism. Oh, and, she’s also back teaching at Frederick Community College and at Cowork Frederick.

2013-05 Kimba Class 1Speaking of Cowork Frederick, Beth joined our little community in October 2012. I fondly remember her comments about wanting to just find a quiet spot to work. Within months, I saw Beth sitting with others, sharing ideas, helping each other. Next thing I know, she’s attending Kimba Green's Social Media Therapy class. Then teaching a class of her own about writing. Then she signed up for our Artist of the Month series.  She proudly wears her Cowork Frederick T-shirts and frequently tells others of the transformation she’s experienced since joining a coworking community.

“What I like most is having company and being with other creative folks doing interesting things. I’ve learned a lot from them, information I would never get from a class or some incubation program.” She’s made connections at Cowork Frederick, real connections with people who have helped her reach a wider audience online. Tom Semmes is helping her launch her WriteDirections.com blog. Kimba Green is walking her through Facebook and other social media outlets. And Beth is helping them right back. She has helped Tom update the content of his tgscreative.com blog, and helped Kimba tackle a book. She and Kimba are also teaming up to teach an FCC workshop for business startups.

WD_logoLifenicityThese days, Beth spends one-third of her time on her own projects, including books, teaching, WriteDirections.com and Lifenicity.com, a blog of personal writings. The rest of her time is devoted to clients’ books and websites.

Beth’s parents are also writers, so she likes to say she’s carried on the family business. And so it goes. Beth’s daughters also write “very well,” she noted with great pride.

So, what’s on the horizon for this visionary writer? Spending more time developing web content for herself and her clients. “I love the web and the potential it holds. I love the interactive communication, the ease of connecting visuals to words. I also want to proselytize about the importance of words to all we do, to share their passion, their beauty.” And, of course, as always, there will be more books.