Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

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

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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.







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.







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)






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









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










Realistic Diversity in Historical Fiction

Readers, today we hear from Jason Henry Evans’ latest installment on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction. This month, Jason addresses diversity in historical fiction, the what, the why and the how.

It is January of 2018 and having diverse characters is still a big deal in historical fiction. But how do you add diverse characters when the market you write in is pretty, well, white? 

I mean, how much diversity was in the English Regency?  How much diversity was in Ancient Rome? Or Tudor England? How much diversity was in the Highlands of Scotland where my Highland Romance takes place? 

Ah, never fear, gentle reader. Never fear. We will go over this. 

But first, let’s check our privilege at the door and understand what diversity really means. 

What Exactly do we Mean by Diversity?

Diversity is not only about race. 

Diversity is about sex. 

Diversity is about orientation. 

Diversity is about gender.

Diversity is about age. 

Diversity is about ableism. 

Diversity is about thought.

If you are a new writer without a formal education in history, sometimes the world can seem pretty vanilla. Sometimes it can seem segregated, too. But with a little research and a little creativity you can peel that veneer off of the tableau you’re looking at and discover a rich and varied world. 

Also – and let me be blunt – you are writing historical fiction. No one is going to get 3 units transferable to the college of their choice by reading your book. You don’t have to be absolutely historically accurate to write a compelling piece of historical fiction. 

Don’t get me wrong – you do have to get the details right. You gotta know your stuff about horses, crops, firearms and swords. You have to know your way around corsets and fabrics and etiquette and politics. But you do NOT have to be perfect. 

How do We Write Diversity in Our Stories?

So, how do we write diversity into our stories?

Maybe you are writing a romance set in the English Regency. You feel diverse characters would add richness to your story and make it pop. But you can’t bring yourself to make one of the supporting characters from Africa or Asia. That’s OK. What if your character were disabled, in some way? A veteran of the war in the colonies who’s now in a wheel chair? Or, perhaps blind? How many romances have disabled characters?  What about a supporting character who is very old, but wise? Someone who can reminisce about the love of their youth and give good advice to the protagonist. 

Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Occur Natural in Times of Great Exchanges

But if you did want someone to stand out because of their ethnicity and background, please remember, the settings of most of our great pieces of historical fiction have been during times of great exchanges. Many take place in cities or on frontiers where cultures meet, clash and trade. It is there you will find the diversity you seek. 

My first novel takes place in 1590s Ireland, in the Queen’s Army. It is a hotbed of war and culture clash. English Anglicans work alongside Irish and Highland Catholics. There are Italian mercenaries and French smugglers. And the Spanish. Boy, are there lots of Spanish. More importantly, able bodied women who work in and with the Queen’s Army. Sometimes, they fight too. 

Don’t Force Historical Characters to Adopt Unrealistic Modern Attitudes

I’ve said this before, but there have always been gay and transgendered people. Why not have a gay or transgendered character in your novel? It would not feel right to me for my characters to adopt modern attitudes about the gay and transgendered. I think that would be going too far. (Although, open minded people always existed.) But wouldn’t it be a lovely subplot to add to your novel if your protagonist discovered one of their friends were gay and have to wrestle with that knowledge? And, as the book moves forward, your character realizes that their friend is their friend and comes to accept them? I would read that book. 

Ethnic Diversity in Historical Fiction – It Comes Naturally

But maybe you really want ethnically diverse characters in your novel. Ok. Then let’s talk about diversity. 

Any story set during the Columbian Exchange is going to have diversity. Native Americans went to Renaissance Europe. (Many, unfortunately, as slaves.) The French, Spanish, Papal and English courts all had ambassadors from the Ottoman Empire. (Turkey.) Those ambassadors brought staffs of servants and slaves from throughout North Africa, the Mideast, and Persia. 

If your story is set later, say the 18th century, the same thing applies. However, now you can add Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and people from Southeast Asia as potential characters into the mix. The closer to our modern period you get, the more diversity becomes apparent. Mexican miners in 19th century Colorado. Black cowboys and buffalo soldiers. Chinese migrant workers who toiled on the railroad and in San Francisco immigrant communities.  

Is your story set in Medieval Europe? Crusaders sometimes came back to Europe with Armenian and Arab Christian wives and servants. Spain before the Reconquesta was a home for Jewish and Islamic scholars and artist for a millennia. People who came from around the Islamic world. As far south as Timbuktu, and as Far East as Jakarta. That is diversity. 

Remember, adding diversity to your story can be as simple as thinking about outside the box about the culture you’re trying to explore. There have always been diverse characters, we just have to illuminate them. 

Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.

Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans

Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer

Read my personal blog at www.jasonhenryevans.com











PPW Prez Says, 4th Quarter 2017

Readers, today we hear from Bowen Gillings, president of Pikes Peak Writers. Look for the Prez Says Column each quarter as Bowen continues to keep Pikes Peak Members informed.

Report on the December 2017 PPW Board Meeting

Happy Holidays! Pikes Peak Writers is about to close the books on another exciting and educational year. My heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing volunteers who have taken time away from their families, friends, and (heaven forbid) their writing to keep PPW going. You make this organization great. I wish for each of you a merry wrap-up to 2017 and a great and Happy New Year.

Your Board of Directors met twice in December. The first meeting covered necessary tasks for upgrading and maintaining our web presence. Our outstanding web team vetted several options for web hosting, membership management and event management software, and website migration. The Board eliminated some choices before our Conference Director ran a few demos with the software. The bottom line is that PPW will soon have a better system for member management, workshop and event submission, Conference and Zebulon registration, and blog functions. Yippee!

The second meeting determined our operational budgets for 2018. Several exciting decisions were made to include allocating more funds for volunteer appreciation, non-conference events, and social media. We approved spending for the new software and web migration. We also approved funds to provide honoraria for presenters at our monthly Write Brain events–something many of us believe has been a long time coming.

On a personal note, I am happy to announce that the Board approved funds to buy books published by PPW member authors. The goal here is two-fold: 1) motivate authors to use our events page so that we can publicize and support their book releases and 2) show PPW’s support of our members by paying for a copy of their new books then giving those books away at PPW events. This proposition is for both traditionally published and independently published member authors.

Next year promises to be our best yet. The Writing is Art event in partnership with Cottonwood Center for the Arts begins its showing in March. If you are interested in contributing to this event, go to the Special Events tab on our website, pikespeakwriters.com, and click on Writing is Art. There is still time to submit before the December 31st deadline.

Our Write Your Heart Out event in February is shaping up. This is our annual free preview of faculty presenting workshops at our 2018 Conference.

The Pikes Peak Writers Conference runs from April 27-29 and looks to continue its tradition of excellence. PPWC keynotes will be Jim Butcher, Laurell Kaye Hamilton, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jonathan Maberry. PPWC boasts outstanding workshops and the return of our attendees’ favorite improvisational writing event, Write Drunk, Edit Sober. Please, drink responsibly, but write recklessly.

If the price of Conference is the only thing keeping you from registering, fear not! Scholarships are available to help defer costs for those who qualify. Check out pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/ for more information.

Thank you for engaging with Pikes Peak Writers. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address is president@pikespeakwriters.com.

Thank you.

Bowen Gillings


Pikes Peak Writers

December’s Events

Pikes Peak Writers is committed to helping writers grow and thrive through education, outreach, and community. To that end, we host these events each month. Click on each link for more information.

Some of our events are for members only, some are open to the public.  Membership is free and its easy to join, just click here.

Please be aware that all events held at the Pikes Peak Library District locations are subject to the PPLD policies. Attendees and PPW staff/faculty are expected to adhere to these policies at all times.



Open Critique

This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of PPW members who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences.

Write Brains

Write Brain Sessions are free mini-workshops on the craft of writing, business of writing, and the writer’s life. Watch for them in Colorado Springs on the third Tuesday of most months. Pikes Peak Writers began offering monthly Write Brain workshops in 2004.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

Come and enjoy some wonderful, guided improv writing prompts and a discussion about what those prompts produce.

Writers’ Night

Writers’ Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.


Conference Scholarships – Meet Your Tribe

Pikes Peak Writers provides a limited number of scholarships to our annual conference, thanks to the generosity of donors. We ask those who receive Scholarships to Pikes Peak Conference to share a bit about their experience attending Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Today, we hear from Roberta Crownover, not only a 2017 scholarship recipient, but a top contender in the 2009 Paul Gilette Writing Contest (now known as the Zebulon).

Scholarship applications for Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018 will be accepted from November 15, 2017 through January 15, 2018.  You can find more information here.

If you’d like to donate to our Conference Scholarship fund, you may do so easily via PayPal.

A Kick in the Stomach

So, I was hanging things up on my wall the other day, like you do, and I found my framed certificate for Third Place in the Short Story division of the Paul Gillette Writing Contest at PPWC. The year was 2009.

That kicked me in the stomach. 2009 was only a few years ago. The places I’ve gone since have been so amazing that I can’t believe that since that day in October 2008 when my husband said, “Why don’t you submit to this contest?” I’ve covered the distances and built the words and worlds I have.

“Are you nuts?” (This is probably a PG-13 version of my response. No, no probably about it.) “I don’t have anything to submit. I’ve got days before the deadline. I can’t do this.” I lay my head down on my desk to contemplate my futile attempts at self-expression.

My husband, being a different kind of anal-retentive personality than I, went to the garage and grabbed a banker’s box full of paper, which he proceeded to drop on my office floor, spreading dust mites and mold spores throughout.

“What the hell…?” (It’s hard to jar oneself out of a good primadonna moment, ya know?) I said while coughing.

“Your writing. From the last twenty-five years.” He leaned against the door jamb and smirked. “Every time you asked me to read something, I saved it.”

My eyes narrowed. I considered my options. I could kill him or hug him. The best option was to see what he’d scrounged. His sentencing could wait until I discerned whether his gift was worthy. Outwardly scowling, inwardly piqued, I turned my back on him and began to rummage through my past.

Meeting the Person I Once Was

It’s a curious thing, meeting the person I once was. The stories I wanted to tell then are lovely reminders of children’s birthdays and bedtime stories. There are also angst-ridden bursts of “I need to scream this and don’t know how.” Sometimes, the two are interwoven. I found myself, more than once, rocking back on my heels and congratulating my former self for not being as stupid as I remembered me being.

2008. Nearly nine years ago.

It still took me a while to get busy.

Writing with Intent

Writing with intent is a process of learning and exploring. I’m not sure I knew that when I started college at the ripe old age of forty-five. I surely didn’t know that when I actively started writing my fiction later.

Like most of us, I have always wanted to be able to say “I am a writer.” Like all of us, I believe that I have worthy stories to tell. And like many of us, I doubt my skills.

This is where the circle’s ends meet. 2008.

I showed in the short story category. I attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It was amazing and terrifying. So many people who all had stories to tell.

I’m not a fast learner. It took some time, some years, and a lot of encouragement for me to begin to believe in my stories and my words.

There were some rough landings. When I had to rewrite the first many pages of my novel to reflect my changed understanding of who the characters were and, importantly, who my audience was, I lost hope. For a while. Until some members of the writing tribe came and kicked me in the butt.

Then, to steal a line from “High Hopes,” I picked myself off, dusted myself off, and started all over again.

Every time I did so, I learned. I’d find myself treading deep waters and somehow wade to shore.

That somehow was often through the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and the regular events PPW sponsors.

We Writers Are Not Alone

Perhaps the most important facet of all this for writers to remember is that we are not alone. We do have a tribe. Our tribe is eclectic and sometimes eccentric.  It’s not easy to pick us out in a crowd. We might have the tallest high-heels, or be dressed in our jammies. It’s possible that we appear to be normal people. We might even think of ourselves as normal. (We writers are allowed our delusions, too, ya know.) But we share our stories.

We share our stories. And, because we want others to remember them, we strive to learn the craft.

2017’s conference was another amazing learning experience. All of the presenters I heard offered me new insight into my work. Listening to Donald Maass opened me up to allow odd moments of discontinuity in my characters’ thinking to permit a different kind of aha for both writer and reader. I’m afraid I’m still better at it in relatively shallow ways, but I’m working on it.

There’s another thing I should mention: I’m more than a little terrified of people not liking my work. But that, too, I’m working on. The tribe is keeping me at it.

And now I have something else to hang on my wall – the best of the best rejection letters. This is getting to be really fun.

Roberta Crownover writes historical fiction and teaches history at a local community college.  Roberta can be found online on Twitter.

Sweet Success J.T. Evans’ Novel, Griffin’s Feather

Readers, today we share the news of J.T. Evans’ Griffin’s Feather, an urban fantasy novel that debuted on October 28, 2017.   J.T. is past-president of Pikes Peak Writers and we’re pleased to share his news.   Thank you to contributing editor, Kathie Scrimgeour find her on facebook for ensuring that you, our members, are informed of the accomplishments of fellow PPW members.


Congratulations to J.T. Evans on the recent release of his debut novel, Griffin’s Feather (Wordfire Press, 10-29-17, 214 pgs, ISBN: 978-1614756040). You can purchase his book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/161475604X/

Marcus Barber is a two-thousand-year old immortal, a former Roman Centurion who now works as a bounty hunter for supernatural creatures from the ancient world. When he’s not pounding the pavement as a private investigator for mortal clients, Marcus chases down missing mythological creatures for the Ancients. Now, in the heat of San Antonio, Marcus must search for Nemesis’s missing Griffin while trying to rescue a melting Ice Pixie from an eccentric collector.



J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels, and also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the former president of Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group and Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he develops interactive voice recognition systems at the Day Job, home brews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many tabletop games. From West Texas to Montana, J.T. has landed in the Colorado Springs area.

You can find J.T. on his website on Facebook, and on Twitter.  J.T. can be contacted by email at jt@jtevans.net.