Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

Congratulations to 2018 Colorado Book Awards Finalists

Colorado Humanities has announced finalists for 2018 Colorado Book Awards, and I’m proud to say that several members of Pikes Peak Writers are on the list.

Well done Chris Goff, Peg Brantley, L.D. Colter, Barb Nickless, Margaret Mizushima, Pat Stoltey and Laura E. Reeve!

 

The only nonprofit Colorado organization dedicated to providing opportunities to explore what it means to be human through our history, literature and culture, Colorado Humanities was founded in 1974. Affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress Center for the Book (as the host of the Colorado Center for the Book), Motheread, Inc. and the Smithsonian, Colorado Humanities partners with communities throughout the state to deliver high-quality, educational programs and resources. You can find out more about this exceptional organization here.


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers BlogGabrielle V. Brown has put words to paper since she could hold a crayon. She is extensively published in technical and academic nonfiction and currently writes humor, short stories and literary fiction. Gabrielle has lived all over the United States and now resides in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Sweet Success Margaret Mizushima’s HUNTING HOUR

Margaret Mizushima’s mystery novel, HUNTING HOUR: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery, was named by RT Reviews a 2017 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee in the Mystery/Thriller/Suspense category. Wonderful news Margaret!!

Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find a missing junior high student dead, but before they can catch the killer, another child disappears—and this time it’s one of Cole Walker’s daughters. Mattie and Robo must lead the hunt to capture a kidnapper before they’re too late. HUNTING HOUR can be found at bookstores and online booksellers.

This novel was published 8-8-2017 by Crooked Lane Books (ISBN 978-1-68331-277-2, hardcover, 279 pages) and is available on Amazon.


Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (2015), an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee; Stalking Ground (2016), a Colorado Book Award and International Book Award finalist, and a Reader’s Favorite gold medal winner; and Hunting Hour (2017), an RT Book Reviews Top Pick. She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Sweet Success Peg Brantley’s TRAFFICKED

Peg Brantley’s thriller/suspense novel, TRAFFICKED (ISBN Ebook: 978-0-9853638-6-4; Paperback: 978-0-9853638-7-1, 368 pages), was released May 23, 2017 by Bark Publishing. It is available in softcover, ebook, and audiobook on Amazon, Audible, Tattered Cover, and Indiebound.

Rich or poor, black or white, girls disappear across this country every day, pulled into the nightmarish world of prostitution and drugs.

Caught up in a cruel system fueled by lust and money, three young women must find the courage within themselves to survive.

Mex Anderson is back, still fighting his own demons, but committed to finding these girls before it’s too late.


With intent to bring credibility to her stories, Peg graduated from the Aurora Citizens’ Police Academy, participated in the Writers’ Police Academy, interviewed crime scene investigators, FBI agents, human trafficking experts, obtained her Concealed Carry, studied arson dogs to Santeria, and hunted down locations that show up in her books. Peg can be contacted at: peg@pegbrantley.com and visit her website at: www.pegbrantley.com

Sweet Success: Matt & Deb Bille Release Raven’s Quest

Thank you to contributing editor, Kathie Scrimgeour (aka KJ Scrim), for ensuring that you, our members, are informed of the accomplishments of fellow PPW members. Kathie can be found of facebook or you can email her.  If you have a success of your own to share, let us know here.


Congratulations to Matt and Deb Bille on the release of their ebook, Raven’s Quest, by Clean Reads. The release of this YA fantasy ebook will be followed in early 2018 with a hard copy and soft copy (291 pages) and is available on Amazon.

In a world where the raven-riding warriors are the sole advantage protecting the city of Haven from barbarians, raven-keeper Lark Ravenlord must break the strictest laws of city and church to survive. Alone in the vast Winterland with a stolen raven, she learns of a new threat that forces her to make the hardest choice of all: whether to risk her life to save her enemies.   

 


Matt Bille is a writer living in Colorado Springs.  He is an Air Force veteran whose experiences include flying NASA’s SpaceShuttle simulator and appearing in the Spielberg film 1941. He covers science at Matt’s Sci/Tech blog. He wrote two books on the world’s least-known animals plus The First Space Race, a groundbreaking account of the early Space Age. His first novel, The Dolmen (2014), received great reviews and the next, Apex Predator, is awaiting the right publisher. Deb Bille is also former Air Force and is a nurse/attorney for an insurance firm.  Raven’s Quest is her first book.

Readers can catch up to Matt and Deb via email www.mattwriter.com   or their website MattBille@gmail.com or blog at http://mattbille.blogspot.com

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Seeing the World Beyond – Open Up Your Inner Child’s Creativity, Part 3

Writing from the Peak PPW Logo

Readers, today we are fortunate to have the second of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child.  Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper).  Today, in her final installment,  Liz addresses those questions she brought up last week and shares her tried and true creative tactics.


We need to feed that creative spark that lies within us. Oh yes, it’s always there, no matter how much adulthood and responsibility have tried to snuff it out. And we can feed it and help it grow. How you ask? Well here are some things I do for myself. Some of these have been taught to me by other people, some I got from books, some I just came up with on my own.

One of my new favorite techniques that I’ve been introduced to since joining Pikes Peak Writers is improv writing. Basically, take a prompt, give yourself a space of time (like 10 minutes) and just WRITE. It can be anything. There is no right or wrong. No one ever has to see it. It’s not anything that has to be made into a story, or has to go somewhere, or even has to make sense. It’s just a time to get your brain to think, to flow, to push yourself beyond the normal comfort zone of your writing. To exercise your brain. To maybe explore things you wouldn’t consider exploring in a ‘normal’ setting.

It’s easy. There’s tons of apps and websites that will create random prompts for you. And you don’t have to write on the exact prompt. For example, a lot of them are in first person, but maybe you feel more creative writing in third. So write in third! Just take the basic idea of the prompt and let it ignite the fires in your skull. And remember…NO RULES. Handwrite it if you have to, to break your mind out of the mold. I do. I find when I write on my laptop I get too consumed with making the story ‘pretty’ and I’ve barely gotten more than a few sentences in when the timer goes off. But put a pen and a piece of paper in my hand? I’m off to the races and I don’t really care what it reads like. I’m just writing.

A second tactic I use is to find new inspirations. It’s hard to be inspired sitting in front of a screen or searching Youtube. Whenever I find myself running a little low on the creativity meter, I try to find something to energize me. Like going to an art museum, listening to music, or going to the zoo. I especially love music. Listening to music and feeling the story that it speaks to you. Not the story the artist intends, although that’s usually really great too. I mean the story that the song speaks to you. Do you ever get images when you listen to a song? What are the emotions that you feel listening to it? Does it remind you of any memories? To just listen to the song, to let yourself drift into it. For nothing to exist in that moment but you and the song. To being open to whatever pops into your head as you listen to it.

I also journal a lot. Every morning I get up and write. It can be complete total gibberish, but I write. I write about how I feel. What I did the day before. Things I dreamed. Things I was looking forward to during the day. Old scars that cropped up that make me feel bad. Things I’m questioning. Whatever pops into my head, it goes down into the journal.

Another tactic is to use your creativity, but in a different way. I like to go do pottery. I also am teaching myself how to make things out of leather. Making things and writing are both an act of creation. But sometimes you can ‘run the well dry’ just doing one thing. Sometimes you have to try and explore something new to ‘jumpstart’ the creativity wheel for your writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bent over the potter’s wheel working on a lump of clay when a random thought about my current story pops into my head, or an idea for my blog.

The last tip I have is to just go out into the world and open your mind up to observing and exploring. You can only write what you know and even the most far flung fantasies have to have some basis in reality, whether it’s emotions or how things act/react. We have to have some basis in reality so that our readers can relate. And the only way to understand the world is to observe it, to live it. I couldn’t write a book about climbing a mountain unless I had really done it. Oh, I could. I could pretend. I could read other’s accounts and try to use them. But it’s not the same as actually being there. Actually taking the steps to walk up the mountain. The breeze on your skin. The sun beating down. The smell of the pine trees. The call of the birds. I could not evoke the same emotion, could not describe the environment, the same way I could if I actually got out there, climbed a mountain and experienced it for myself. Saw it with my own eyes. Sensed it with my own senses.

I like people watching. Looking at how people dress, how they stand, what they might say or the gestures they make. I like taking those observations and creating little stories around them. Who they are. Where they come from. What their day might have been like. Where they are going later on. Of course, the stories aren’t true. But it’s an exercise in taking what I see and looking past the reality to the possibility of what might be. I like watching their mannerisms, their style and incorporating that into my characters. To give my characters a depth of reality.

And don’t stop yourself. What do I mean by that? If you get inspired by something, don’t immediately shoot yourself down by saying “oh that won’t make a good story” or “that won’t make it anywhere”. Don’t analyze! Will every inspiration be a story? NO! But by cutting off your inspiration before it has a chance to grow, by shooting it down before it even gets off the ground, trains your brain that it’s wrong. That it has to ‘think right’. Think like an adult. Be rational. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Don’t be daydreaming. Don’t be stuck in the clouds.

Yet that is precisely what we need to do! We need to be children. We need to daydream. We need to see past reality. We need to feed our ability to create. To forget, if even for only an hour, about bills and responsibilities. To let go of all the ‘rules’. To be silly. To be wacky. To push ourselves out of our comfort zones. To look at the world like a child. Where stuffed animals are real and dragons lie in wait around every corner. Where taking a sled down a hill is skiing down the Alps. Where a stick is a mighty sword, worthy of slaying a gigantic beast.

To be inspired by the world around us.

We need to play, without worrying about the ‘adult’ things waiting for us. To not worry about the hours we spend writing. We need to let ourselves get lost in this passion that we love.

The ways I talked about above are just some of the ways I use to inspire my creativity. Use them or find your own. After all, no one is inspired in the same way by the same things. But we do all share one thing. We all have a flame of creativity within us, just waiting to be used. It may be small, buried under all sorts of layers we put down as adults so we don’t act like kids. But it never dies. It’s there, waiting for you to find it and feed it.

It’s time. Release the child inside. Release your creativity. And just watch all the amazing places your mind takes you!

.


pikes peak writers liz jeffries head shot

I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.

Email Liz Jeffries here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Seeing the World Beyond – Open Up Your Inner Child’s Creativity, Part 2

Writing from the Peak PPW Logo

Readers, today we are fortunate to have the second of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child.  Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper). This brief post is designed to get you thinking.  Chew on the questions Liz provides, really give it some thought. And check back next week for the third and final installment.


Ask yourself some questions.

Do you ever write just to write? No goals as in “this has to become a book” or “this has to go to a contest”. Just writing for the sake of writing. Of putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard, and just writing for the insane pleasure of weaving something together.

As you go through your normal day, do you see people or places or things and suddenly get filled with this amazing idea for something to write?

Do you throw the rulebook out the window when you write? Or do you get too wrapped up in what someone reading it may think. Is it the proper grammar? Is it the proper format? Am I allowed to do this? This isn’t normally what I write, is it ok to write different stuff? This doesn’t really fit in a genre, is it ok?

Do you get writer’s block a lot?

Do you not write because you ‘aren’t inspired’?

Do you not write because you feel there’s too much pressure to achieve something or reach a goal?

If you said no to the first three questions or yes to the last three, you may have fallen into the trap I did. That so many of us do. You’ve forgotten how to write like a child.

Dedicated writing has its place, when you are trying to make and finish a book or other piece for publication. We should set aside dedicated time to write and be inspired. Rules, grammar, format and punctuation most certainly have their place. But we cannot get so wrapped up in rules that we chain ourselves up. Where we forget how to just let go and write and have fun.

We need to feed that creative spark that lies within us. Oh yes, it’s always there, no matter how much adulthood and responsibility have tried to snuff it out. And we can feed it and help it grow. How you ask? Well here are some things I do for myself. Some of these have been taught to me by other people, some I got from books, some I just came up with on my own.

In the next installment I’ll share my own techniques for unleashing my inner child and feeding that creative spark.

.


pikes peak writers liz jeffries head shot

I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.

Email Liz Jeffries here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Seeing the World Beyond – Open Up Your Inner Child’s Creativity, Part 1

Writing from the Peak PPW Logo

Readers, today we are fortunate to have the first of three installments in Liz Jeffries’ mini-series on creativity and unleashing your inner child.  Liz reminds us of the joy we find in writing, and how getting back in creative saddle can help overcome personal challenges. Liz shares her tried and true techniques for unleashing the imagination of our childhood and getting the results from mind to keyboard (or paper). Enjoy!


 

Remember as a kid how you would play? A stick suddenly became a sword, your bike your faithful steed beneath you as you raced up to slay the dragon and rescue the beautiful princess. A broken cup and saucer suddenly became High Tea at Buckingham Palace. A trip across the backyard became a daring exploration through the rainforest, filled with crocodiles and jaguars and raging rivers. How you’d play for hours and hours and hours until your parents had to drag you back inside kicking and screaming? You’d spend those hours playing, without a care for the time that was passing. For whether you were ‘playing right’. For what other ‘productive’ things you could have been doing.

When a kid is playing with that stick, it’s no longer a stick. It IS a sword. There is a river. There is a crocodile. It’s not just ‘we’re going to pretend it is because we have nothing better’. It IS that object. And they believe it wholeheartedly, with a faith few adults can come close to. That same imaginative faith applies to stuffed animals and imaginary friends. Ever read Calvin and Hobbes? To Calvin, Hobbes WAS a tiger. Even though he interacted with him as a stuffed animal, in his mind he was flesh and blood and fur.

Kids see beyond reality. Not to what a thing is, but to what it could be. And then they make that possibility real, even if it’s only in their own minds. This is the power of a child’s imagination. Their power of creation.

As writers, especially fiction writers, we need to have that same power of creation. We need to see beyond the reality that lays in the world around us, to the stories and possibilities that lie behind it. That is how we are inspired as writer’s. That’s where, for a lot of us, our stories are born.

Unfortunately, as adults, a lot of us have lost our ability to create.

I have always loved to write, from the first memories that I can still dredge up into my head. Yet I went through a very long stretch of my life where I didn’t write, or at least, didn’t write with any passion or conviction. I struggled for a very long time with undiagnosed chronic anxiety and depression. And while that’s a story for another blog post, I can tell you one of the things I most struggled with. Following the rules so that I pleased other people.

I became so obsessed with following all the ‘rules’, in being a ‘good person’, in being a ‘good adult’ that I lost that part of myself that was a child. I lost my hope. I lost my spirit. I became so stressed out trying to be responsible and level headed and ‘adult’, I gave up on the things that made me a writer. My love of weird stuff. My spontaneity. My hope. My openness to see crazy things in the world around me. My anxiety told me I was worthless as a writer, my depression made me feel hopeless and drained, and I didn’t want to write, and my obsession with the rules meant I was so obsessed with writing ‘correctly’ that I’d take three hours to write one page because it had to be ‘perfect’. Needless to say, over years and years of this my creativity suffered immensely. My love of writing stopped. I had nothing to write because I couldn’t get inspired. I couldn’t create anymore.

When I was a kid I was plenty creative. I remember playing zoo with my brother, and we were the animals. I remember playing African Queen (we’d watched the movie with my mom), using the bathtub for our river boat. I remember playing we were ranchers with the cats as cows (by the way, cats don’t herd well). I remember falling so deep into my fantasy books they seemed almost truer reality than the reality I lived in.

We all have that ability to see things for what they could be. To create and craft new realities, new worlds, new stories from whatever we see around us. We are all born with that. Yet as we grow we let things (like rules, anxiety, responsibilities) convince us that it’s wrong to think like that. And slowly, year by year, that childlike flame of creation that lives in all of us dies a little. Until it’s so small it’s like it’s not even there. And all we can see around is the literally reality of the world.

That loss of creativity impacts our lives. The lives of every human being, not just writers. But especially as writers, because that is what writing is. Creating! Even for the non-fiction people, you need to be inspired to create a book. To find a topic. To research. To write it in such a way, to craft it, to weave your tale that it draws the reader in and makes it real to them. Relevant. And for fiction writers? What do we have to write if we cannot create? We craft and mold everything in our worlds, from the characters to the land to the emotions and words and languages.


pikes peak writers liz jeffries head shot

I have always thought of myself as a writer, writing books while I was still in elementary school. However, as I grew up I started suffering from undiagnosed severe chronic anxiety and depression, and emotional abuse from when I was a child that eventually destroyed my love of writing and art, as well as life. Skip ahead to 2011 when I was challenged by a friend to start living again, and dealing with my issues. I started a blog detailing my adventures learning how to ride a motorcycle and a mountain bike, and my slow understanding of my mental issues, and was amazed at the positive response. Slowly, my love for writing started growing again. Fast forward to 2016 when I hit a dead end with my life in Illinois and needed a new adventure. Within a week of deciding, I packed up all my gear and moved out to Colorado. Since coming to Colorado, my excitement and creativity has blossomed, as well as getting my anxiety and depression under control.

Email Liz Jeffries here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Sweet Success ~ Kevin Ikenberry

Readers, today we share in the success of Pikes Peak Writers Member Kevin Ikenberry, author of The Protocol War Series.  Science fiction thriller Vendetta Protocol is available in paperback and kindle formats, audio is coming soon.  Today we share a brief teaser of Kevin’s latest.


Training as a combat pilot on Mars, Kieran Roark is tantalizingly close to remembering the critical concept he was brought back to lead

Sixty million miles away, the Sleeper Program suffers a failure much worse than it originally appears. The second subject, a troubled young woman, attempts suicide. In the ensuing chaos, Kieran’s original protocol finds a way to manifest herself in a human body. 

As a shadowy foe presses toward Earth once again, the Terran Council orders the Sleeper Program terminated and sentences Kieran to death. The only person capable of saving him isn’t really a person at all.


Kevin Ikenberry is a life-long space geek and retired Army officer.  A former manager of the world-renowned U.S. Space Camp program and a space operations officer, Kevin has a broad background in space science education.  His 2016 debut science fiction novel Sleeper Protocol was a Finalist for the Colorado Book Award and was heralded as “an emotionally powerful debut” by Publisher’s Weekly. Kevin’s novels include Runs In The Family, Peacemaker, and Vendetta Protocol. He is an Active Member of SFWA. Kevin lives in Colorado with his family and can be found online at www.kevinikenberry.com.

Email: kevin@kevinikenberry.com

Where to buy: (all markets – Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes)


 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Meet the Member ~ Margena Adams Holmes

Readers, today Contributing Editor Kathie Scrimgeour introduces us to Margena Adams Holmes in her regular Meet the Member post.  You can reach Kathie here.


Please meet PPW member Margena Adams Holmes. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. She has written for Examiner.com, Kapost, and the now-defunct Yahoo Contributor Network, where she earned the title of Top 500 Contributor for her story on the Black Forest fires in Colorado. She has been an active volunteer with Pikes Peak Writers since 2016 and favors the monthly Write Brain. 

 

KJ: How long have you been writing and what genre do you prefer to write?

MARGENA: I have been writing ever since I can remember! I wrote poems in school, and minored in English in college. But I started getting serious about it and working on novels about 18 years ago. I took a little break for a few years to raise my family and just started writing again about 10 years ago. I prefer writing Science Fiction/Space Opera because I can create anything and have my characters go anywhere because it’s my world. I’m a big Star Wars and Harry Potter fan (Yeah, Gryffindor!), so that influences me a lot. I have written a general fiction novel as well.

KJ: Do you have anything in particular you are working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

MARGENA: Right now, I’m working on the second in what I hope will be a trilogy, titled The Elixir Trade, which I’m editing/rewriting at the moment. The first in the series is called The Elixir War. The elixir was discovered a thousand years ago which gives people certain abilities based on the person’s genetic make-up. The antagonists want it so they can have control over their people and take advantage of others. Prince Jory and the Royal Planet Fleet have their work cut out for them in trying to stop that from happening.

KJ: Have you set any goals for your publication date?

MARGENA: I’m shooting for Spring 2018. I’m hoping to get it to an editor by December.

KJ: Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? If yes, what are they? What do you do to insure you meet these goals?

MARGENA: I set daily goals of 500 words. That may seem low, but I have a day job as well, and a family. Some days I make that goal easily and then some; other days it’s a struggle. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I set my monthly goal for 20,000 words, and I made that with two days to spare! When I’m writing, I pretty much tell everyone to leave me alone! Ha ha! I try to treat it like a job and limit distractions, but sometimes life gets in the way. If the phone is ringing a lot, I bring the phone to my desk, thus ensuring that it WON’T ring anymore! Murphy’s Law and all that.

KJ: You have two books published and one on the way, what important lessons did you learn between writing The End and getting to publication?

MARGENA: I learned to not be hasty. I need to remember to take my time when I edit. I’m using a beta reader for the first time. I never really understood the need for one until I wrote The Elixir Trade. I’m at that stage right now, looking for someone to read it over. I mean, I’ve used my sister to read over my manuscripts, but I need someone who will tell me what’s wrong with it, not “Oh, this is good!”

KJ: With every accepted manuscript there are many rejections, how do you get past the “No’s”?  What best advice, or lessons learned, have you gotten from them?

MARGENA: Some No’s are encouraging. I’ve gotten form rejections. You know, “Thanks for letting us consider your story. While it looks intriguing, we’re inundated right now.” But a couple have been encouraging. I sent an article to a national woman’s magazine a few years ago. I got a rejection, saying that they don’t publish works of writers without national experience, and to let them know when I DID have that experience. I was going to start papering my walls with the rejections! After a while, you just get used to the No’s, but you keep going.  Just because someone rejected the story, doesn’t mean they are rejecting YOU. You keep writing to get better. I was happy when self-publishing became a thing, though.

KJ: Do you face road blocks as you write? What do you do when it is winning over writing?

MARGENA: Yes, I do face road blocks. Head, meet desk. If I’m having trouble with my writing, it’s just not working out, I seek
help in the writer’s groups I’m in, both on Facebook and Pikes Peak Writers. I’ve met quite a few helpful people through both places. I was having trouble with my book cover for Dear Moviegoer. The cover was printing too dark on Create Space. Could not figure it out. I had heard KL Cooper talk at the mini conference and Friended her on FB. She heard of my plight and took pity on me and designed an awesome cover. Other times, taking a break for a day helps with the road blocks, and things then seem a lot clearer.

KJ: Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of the new writer’s experiences (and more experienced writers too!). How have they helped you?

MARGENA: Oh, my gosh! Where to start? When I lived in CA, I went to a couple of writer’s conferences, and just one workshop was so helpful, it was worth the money of the conference. It helps to get a fresh set of eyes on your work at critique groups. I went to the PPWC mini conference this year and took lots of notes. I go to Write Brain every month. I feel I can never learn enough about writing and I always learn something at the conferences, webinars, critiques, etc.

KJ: Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? How do they help?

MARGENA: I do! They are marketing books, because as a self-published author, you have to wear many hats! The Author’s Guide to Selling Books to Non-Bookstores by Kristina Stanley, and Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke have been very helpful with ideas and strategies to getting my books “out there.” I also want to get Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

KJ: Does your reading influence your writing? How?

MARGENA: You must be a reader as well as a writer in order to write your stories. When I sent one of my manuscripts to a publisher when I was first starting out, they suggested that I read more in the genre I wanted to write in. I picked up Sandra Brown’s Fat Tuesday. I had read the required books in school like Hamlet and Grapes of Wrath and the Little House books, but those weren’t my writing genres. I loved how the story flowed and I could “see” the action happening in my mind. Reading her books and books like the Harry Potter series have helped me fine-tune my writing. She has been my biggest influence and I got to meet her last year at a book signing in Castle Rock! Scratch that one off the Bucket List!



photo of margin holmesMargena currently lives in Colorado with her family, where she enjoys hiking, photography, singing, scrapbooking, and couponing. She also loves Star Wars, Star Trek, and going to the Renaissance Festival each year. Although she is in Colorado, she still supports her Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Margena’s Website

Margena’s Email

Margena on Facebook and Twitter

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Meet the Member – Maria Melendez Kelson

Today, Kathie Scrimegour, Meet the Member and Sweet Success editor, shares her recent interview with member Maria Melendez Kelson.   We’re pleased to share successes and highlight our diverse membership.  Kathie can be reached at  sweetsuccess@pikespeakwriters.com.


On Writing In Diverse Genre

KJ Scrim – I read that you are a poet and a mystery writer. Does one help with writing the other? How?

Maria Melendez Kelson – Both poetry writing and mystery writing involve a dance between fulfilling and subverting a reader’s expectations about form and structure.

  • Poetry taught me to look for opportunities to use unexpected phrasing, and to appreciate the potential for patterning in the physical sounds of language.
  • Fiction teaches me to look for opportunities for unexpected emotions or events, and to appreciate the potential for patterning in symbols and motifs.

Each genre adds to my understanding of the other. I wouldn’t go so far as to say one helps, or doesn’t help, the other. Who knows?

Current Work in Progress

KJ – What are you working on right now?

Maria – I’m writing a contemporary mystery set in the redwood country of northern California. The lead character, Boots Montoya, is a multiracial single mother of an adopted teen son. She’s an education reformer with a lot of do-gooder self-righteousness. But when her son is accused of the murder of an undocumented boy, she becomes a liar, a prowler, and a thief in her struggle to find the real killer and exonerate her kid. Clues lead her deeper into the area’s Spanish-speaking immigrant community, out to the wild Pacific coast, and into the ancient forest backcountry of Humboldt County, where she discovers a clandestine camp for teenaged domestic spies. If she fails to find the threads connecting these worlds, it could cost her son his freedom. When the killer learns Boots has come too near the truth, her search for answers becomes a fight for her very life.

Santa Fe Art Residency

KJ – You were recently selected for a writing residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute. What did you have to do to secure this residency, and what does this mean to you as a writer?

Maria – The Santa Fe Art Institute has a theme each year for what they call their “sponsored residencies.” These are residencies for which the cost of housing is underwritten by sponsors, and residents need only pay for food and personal needs while living on-site.

Apogee Journal, a literary magazine I follow, tweeted out the SFAI call for residency applications, where I learned the theme for the upcoming residency year was “Equal Justice.” I thought—isn’t this a concern of many crime writers? It’s a concept that raises driving questions for the characters I’m writing about.

each genre adds to my understanding

The application requested a current work sample and a proposal for work to be done at SFAI. So I sent sample chapters from the work-in-progress, and … *gulp* … a brief outline of a “Book 2” with these characters. This felt like a huge leap of faith, since I’m still revising Book 1.

I submitted the application in February of this year. When I found out in July that I’d been selected for a residency, it meant a panel of strangers that included writers, residency staff, and other artists had seen value in what I am doing. This was a significant affirmation, and a handy little oar for (what feels like) my solitary writing raft. I’m not really going a whole lot faster with one oar, but it’s something to hold onto, and I might be able to beat back a shark with it.

The residency itself, I imagine, will be a big fireworks show of inspiration! I’ll be living at the Art Institute for the month of July 2018, which is a month the brilliant SFAI staff have designated for artists who are parents. I’ll have my family with me, and I’ll be living with seven other residents from multiple disciplines and their families. SFAI provides an apartment and a separate studio workspace. I’m so excited to learn about the other artists’ creative processes, and to see what kinds of unpredictable things come of our time with each other. The only thing I’m tasked with doing, as a resident, is my own writing, but residents are encouraged to interact and collaborate if their muses move them to do so.

For writers who are starting to build a record of publication, or for established writers who could benefit from a concentrated period of time in the company of other working writers or artists, applying for residencies is a great way to validate that your work, and the time needed for your work, are things to be taken seriously.

Beating Procrastination

KJ – What do you do when procrastination is winning over writing?

Maria – I’ve gotten better at measuring when I am truly procrastinating and when I am simply living my life. I used to think that ANYTHING I did that wasn’t writing was a way of procrastinating from writing. For this reason, I could feel guilty brushing my teeth, guilty about taking my car in for an oil change. Who can live like that? Now I make a weekly writing schedule at the start of the week, and set the expectation that I’ll be at my desk during those times. When it’s not those times, I consciously let go of guilt or anxiety about whatever it is I might currently be working on. Something that helps me do this is physically putting the work back in a drawer after each session.

When it comes to maintaining focus during a scheduled writing session, I have a couple of tricks: tracking my focused time in 25-minute increments (aka “the Pomodoro method”), leaving the home modem off, and keeping my writing desk generally free of non-writing related stuff.

Conferences, Workshops, Critique Groups

KJ – Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of the new writer’s experiences (and more experienced writers too!). How have they helped you?

Maria – Pikes Peak Writers Conference and SleuthFest (a mystery writers’ conference in Florida) have both been great for how-to sessions and for unparalleled opportunities to network with agents and editors.

Although I’ve only attended one or two events in each case, I should also mention that I’ve learned quite a bit from periodic free or low-cost workshops run through Pikes Peak Writers Write Brains, Pikes Peak Writers Critique Group, Romance Writers of America, and Colorado Sisters in Crime. The volunteer person-power that goes into running these public events year-round is staggering, and every one of these organizations’ board members and volunteers deserve a room of their own with unlimited chocolate, coffee, and craft beer in that great writer’s retreat in the sky.

Sisters in Crime runs a wonderful workshop the day before the annual mystery fiction fan-con (aka “Bouchercon”) that I’ve attend a couple of times. It’s for Sisters and Misters!

learn to love your process, not someone else's.

My local anchor for professional development as a writer has been the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I attended their monthly dinners, where there’s always a generous and free-flowing exchange of information, heartaches, and triumphs. Members range from newbie writers to established bestsellers with 30+ books in print.

Because it’s the largest writers’ conference in North America, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference is a wonderful place to meet other writers of color from around the country for fellowship and mutual support. In fact, writers of many stripes can find their tribe there. There are panels for and about writers with disabilities, writers who’ve lived abroad, veterans who write, etc. As a poet, I’ve presented at AWP a number of times over the years, and two years ago I put together a panel of women of color who write crime novels. The chance to connect these novelists I admire with potential new readers in the audience was a real high, for me.

As far as critique groups go … over the last 20+ years I have lived in Wyoming, South Carolina, California, Indiana, Utah, and (now) Colorado. In four of those six states, I’ve participated in critique groups. Some writers do fine without them, and in the two states I lived where I didn’t have a critique group, I still produced a fair amount of work, but I simply enjoy my own process more when I have regular meetings with peers to provide understanding, challenge, and … deadlines!

Go to Books for Writers

KJ – Do you have any “self-help for writers” books that you use regularly? How do they help? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.

MariaAround the Writer’s Block, by Roseanne Bane, helps with organizing time and understanding the neurological conditions under which creativity can/can’t flourish.

Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson, helps with fictional structure and with seeing a sense of purpose in the highs and lows of the process of writing.

7 Secrets of the Highly Prolific, by Hillary Rettig, helps writers understand and improve their own processes and mindsets.

KJ – What is one (or a few) of the most important lessons you have learned so far?

Maria – Learn to love your process, not someone else’s process. And if learning to love your process is too much to ask, then learn to accept that feeling confident is desirable but not required. Only showing up and working is a must. In the words of an 80s candy bar commercial: “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.”

 


photo of Maria Kelson reading a book

Maria Melendez Kelson is a poet and mystery writer. These very different genres lend a dynamic approach in writing. She has been accepted to a month-long writing residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute beginning in July of 2018.  

Visit Maria Melendez Kelson’s website at: www.mariakelson.com

Email: maria@mariakelson.com 

Twitter @mkelsonauthor

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave