Posts Tagged ‘Bowen Gillings’

Improv Writing for Better Writing

Or – How to love not knowing what the hell you’re doing.

By: Bowen Gillings

I am a huge fan of Pikes Peak Writers’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober improvisational writing events that occur on the second Wednesday of each month. Deb Courtney provides a grounding lesson at the outset that sets the theme, if you will, for the evening. Then a series of writing prompts are given out, each designed to be the opening line that drives you the writer forward for the next ten minute span to let you brain steer the train down whatever track opens up first.

When the timer goes off, that train hits the station whether you’re ready for it or not and then you’re off again, chugging down the tracks with a new thread to pull on led by a new prompt and, if you’re brave enough, allowed to take the wheel of you’re creative self all on its own until the clock dings and time is up. Then the whole crazy excursion starts again. Only the boundary of the clock following the final prompt halts your cross-brain zephyr. Then it’s upstairs for a final cocktail and a bit of sharing with your fellow writers.

What is Improv Writing?

Improvisational writing, that is writing based on the directive of a third party and limited by time to force creativity, is a wonderful, powerful, and inspirational tool all writers should make use of. Improv writing is fun, invigorating, and eye-opening. It is from one night at Write Drunk, Edit Sober where I wrote about four paragraphs that I then expanded into a short story which was published in Allegory. That short story provided the opening chapter for my first completed novel manuscript which won at the Zebulon Writing Contest and became a finalist at the Colorado Gold Rush Literary Awards. Without improv writing, I would not be able to call myself a published, award-winning author. Did I mention I love improv writing?

Four Benefits of Improv Writing

Allow me to share with you four benefits of improvisational writing and I think a) if you have never tried it, you will want to, or b) if you’ve dabble in it as a fun release, you’ll grasp it’s true potential to release the great writer in you.

  1. Improv Writing Kills Your Internal Editor

By having a hard time limit, you are forced to drive the story forward. You can’t afford to go back and make your effort pretty, to select a better adjective, to tweak a phrase so that it rolls better of the tongue of the mind. You have to move the story along and that is key to getting through the first draft of any work. Improv writing allows you to ignore the blemishes of what is already on the page and just get the story that is swirling in your mind onto the paper or screen in front of you.

2. You Will Discover Your Voice

Voice is something each of us has. It is what makes us different from the next schmuck with an idea for a novel. Voice is the you in your writing. It is that special something that makes the story yours versus someone else’s tale of a non-binary werewolf looking for love while touring the Dutch tulip fields in 1973. Improv writing brings your voice forward like no other tool I know.

For the longest time, I was convinced that my writing destiny lay in epic fantasy. I loved, lived, and breathed that genre. I set out to write a trilogy set in my own magical world. Yet I struggled to move it forward. I started and fought and sputtered and started again. Then I dove into improv writing and found that, when pressed by the constraints of the medium, my brain never went to fantasy. I wrote contemporary stories dripping with wry humor, offbeat characters, and odd scenarios. My voice emerged of its own accord and it was not in any way the voice I saw as mine until it popped out and said, “Yo, douchebag. What took you so long?”

3. You Can Try Things Out

Let’s say you have a work in progress. You have a character you love or a scene you want to expand. Improv writing is an opportunity to flesh out that character, reimagine that scene, play around with the structured narrative of your current project. Maybe in your story your protagonist would never attack an innocent. But, in the freeing realm of improv, a writing prompt may just let you experience what your character would do or how they would react to doing just that, or sitting by while that happened, or maybe they shoplifted a Snickers. I don’t know, but you get the point. Improv lets you play with aspects of characters and events that you won’t reveal in your story, but will add to your understanding of that character’s depth, that scene’s importance, and what the consequences would be to your fictional world if you changed just a tiny aspect of your work.

4. Exposition Go Bye-Bye

Okay, we have all read or been guilty of writing the hated info dump opening. These are the “here’s how my world works” first five pages that agents and editors stop reading after paragraph one. Improv writing forces you to ditch exposition. There’s no time for backstory and world building on the page when you only have ten minutes to vomit out an opening narrative. This is a good thing! You quickly realize that, no matter the genre, readers don’t need or want a lengthy setup of the world in which the story takes place or the traumatic history of the main character. That info can come later, at the time and place the reader and the character need that knowledge revealed. Your story features complicated social norms? Improv writing forces you to show them to us through interactions with your characters, not by telling the reader how things work before starting us along the path of the story.

Improv writing is like a trip to the gym for your creative muscles. It hits your weak spots. It lets you flex your strengths. It leaves you tired but energized and eager for more. I challenge you to tackle an improv writing event at you earliest opportunity and experience how your writing will metamorphose. Pikes Peak Writers offers improvisational writing every second Wednesday. Check out Write Drunk, Edit Sober on pikespeakwriters.com for details.


Bowen Gillings

Bowen Gillings is an award-winning author writing to appease the story demons in his head. A former president of Pikes Peak Writers, he currently hosts Open Critique and Writing with a View each month (both on COVID-induced hiatus). He has been featured in Allegory e-zine, Voices and Views and Rocky Mountain Writers podcasts, Ghosts of Downtown, Writing is Art, and the Writing from the Peak blog. He holds a Master of Education in Adult Education and is a travel enthusiast, nature lover, and closeted RPG nerd. He enjoys cooking big meals for family and friends, hiking wooded mountain trails, and seeking Zen through mixed martial arts. Born in Wisconsin, he grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, matriculated in Minnesota, and then bounced around Europe with the Army. He’s lived on both coasts, danced on the Great Wall of China, and driven a Volvo from Alaska to Louisiana before settling in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Check out his website and look for his latest work in the anthology from Pikes Peak Writers due out in 2021.

Interview with Maureen Moretti

By: Bowen Gillings

Writing from the Peak is pleased to present a special interview between Bowen Gillings and Agent Maureen Moretti .

Maureen Moretti
Maureen Moretti

Maureen Moretti began her publishing career as an intern with several prestigious New York City literary agencies before joining P.S. Literary as an associate agent. She holds a B.A. from Saint Mary’s College of California, and attended the Columbia Publishing Course. Maureen is looking for narrative driven non-fiction with a gripping voice and a unique hook, such as unusual or untold biographies, commentary on culture, both mainstream and subversive, and new interpretations of history. She is also actively searching for fiction, romance, upmarket and commercial women’s fiction, select science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and literary fiction. She loves new perspectives on old stories, characters that resonate and stay with you, novels about the zeitgeist, non-fiction that teaches you by accident and loves a happily ever after. 

Bowen Gillings: Have you always wanted to be an agent? Allow me to reword that as, “What motivated you to become an agent?”
Maureen Moretti: I wanted to advocate for authors. Agenting is a mix of skills that range from editorial to advocacy. I wanted to do work I love and ensure that the artists were fairly treated and paid. It allows me to be both creative and technical. I love contracts and I love art. It’s a mix of the two.

BG: What are you reading right now? I would add to that, reading for pleasure or for work or both.
MM: I recently finished THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams which I adored. It subverted so many tropes of the genre. I’m also finally getting around to ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, I’m definitely late to that train! 

BG: What books and authors have most influenced your career?
MM: First and foremost, Nora Roberts. I inhaled her books, I must have read at least 100 of them. 
Rosemary Graham, STALKER GIRL
Tom Rachman, THE IMPERFECTIONISTS
Cherrie Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa edited THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK

BG: Walk us through your process of taking on a writer as a client. How do you determine that you want to represent that writer?
MM: Do I think I could I sell their book? Do we have similar ideas and working styles? Do we have a similar vision for their work and their career? It’s important to me that I’m not forcing a vision of a work and having revisions done that don’t feel right to the writer. Ultimately, I want the book that’s on the shelves to be the best version of the book they imagine. 

BG: What are the top three things a writer should do to make you want to be their agent.
MM:
1. Write a book they love
2. Have a community of writers (e.g. a platform, a critique group, supportive friends etc.)
3. Have a positive attitude and a willingness to put in the work

BG: What story are you longing to read? Describe the type of novel you long for, but have yet to see cross your desk. If that doesn’t exist, describe which novel you have read that is as near perfection as could be, and why.
MM: RED WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston is on my top 10 of the last decade. The absolute joyful abandon, the incorporation of marginalized characters, the real and intense emotions made that book a joy to read. 

 BG:  Describe your perfect reading scenario fantasy. Are you a beach reader? Secluded in a mountain cabin? On a retreat with a book club? What is it?
MM: I live in New York and it’s one of my favorite places in the world, but there’s nothing like a cabin in the woods to read. When everything in the city gets too loud, I like to get a cabin for the weekend and relax with a stack of books. I never travel with fewer than five.


Bowen Gillings

Bowen Gilling’s writing has appeared in Allegory e-zine, was selected for “Ghosts of Downtown,” “Writing is Art,” the “Writing from the Peak” blog, and has placed in the Zebulon Writing Contest. He is a member of Pikes Peak Writers and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and participates in Colorado Tesla Writers and Colorado Writers and Publishers groups.

Farewell as President

Final Prez Says from Bowen Gillings

For the past eighteen months, it has been my honor to serve as the President of the Pikes Peak Writers Board of Directors. That time has seen many great challenges and changes at PPW. These ranged from adding Deb Courtney’s Write Drunk, Edit Sober to our monthly slate of events to establishing the Writing is Art partnership event with Cottonwood Fine Arts Center to honoring the legacies of members Steven Nelson and Ron Cree. I heartily thank my fellow board members and the volunteers of PPW for their support, their efforts, and their commitment to the education and improvement of fellow writers.

My time as your president is now over and I look forward to serving alongside a reinvigorated board under the leadership of President Kameron C. Easler. Please, join me in giving her our full support as we, the members of PPW, strive to grow and improve this outstanding organization.

September 2018 PPW Board MeetingPrez Says Logo

September 20th our Board of Directors met to discuss agenda issues and elect replacements for vacant positions on the Board. As mentioned, Kameron was elected for a two-year term as president. Georgeanne Nelson is the new PPW Secretary. Shannon Lawrence and MB Partlow now serve as co-directors of the Non-Conference Events (NCE) committee. KL Cooper, Becki Davis, Jenny Martin, and Ed Raetz are all on the Board as Members at Large. Laura Hayden, the 2019 Conference Director, vacated her position as Board Liaison and has been elected to serve as a Member at Large as well. The Board is now one of the largest in recent PPW history with fourteen members. This excites me as it means opportunities for new ideas to address the needs of our organization.

With Kameron taking on the role of president, PPW is in need of a Vice President to serve alongside her. If you value PPW and what it does, if you wish to help steer the future course of the organization, then reach out to her or any other board member as soon as you can.

Aside from elections, the September meeting also addressed our ongoing needs with reports from the treasurer, the NCE directors, the conference director, and the web team. Keep checking our website and social media for updates in these areas.

We took a look at and built teams to address the following areas:
• Special Scholarships – led by Georgie Nelson
• Fundraising – led by Damon Smithwick
• Marketing – led by KL Cooper

How You Can Help

If you would like to help PPW in any of these areas, please reach out to the leaders mentioned above. You can find contact email information for each on the website.

We are also in need of volunteers to help in building our 2019 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Vacant positions are listed on PPW’s volunteer page.

Bowen GillingsThank you for continuing to engage with Pikes Peak Writers. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address is now ipp@pikespeakwriters.com.

Best regards,
Bowen Gillings
Immediate Past President
Pikes Peak Writers

PPW Prez Says, 2nd Quarter 2018

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


Prez Says

Report on the June 2018 PPW Board Meeting

Hello! Your Pikes Peak Writers Board of Directors met on June 7th to cover a full agenda and here is what’s fit to print for you, dear reader.

I will lead with one of the last items we discussed: volunteering with PPW and PPWC (conference). If you do not know, Pikes Peak Writers is run entirely by volunteers. That means everything we do, every event you attend, or post you see online is made possible by dedicated individuals generously giving of their time and talent.

We need more volunteers.

Many members have volunteered for a long time—some for a very, very long time—and they are getting tired, which is understandable, inevitable, and expected. We would love to get some new blood in the mix. PPW needs volunteers to help out with functions ranging from social media and marketing to membership management, volunteer coordination, and helping run the organization as members of the Board of Directors. All of our volunteer needs can be found on the website at https://www.pikespeakwriters.com/about/key-volunteers/ and at https://www.pikespeakwriters.com/about/support-ppw/volunteer-opportunities/.

Speaking of the Board, elections are in September. Open positions will be President, Secretary, NCE Director, and Member at Large. Serving on the Board does take some time and dedication. Reach out to any one of us for a sense of what it takes. But, believe me, it is worth it when you see how PPW positively affects the writing community.

Members at Large (MAL) are voting members of the Board who hold no additional Board duties. MALs help out as eyes, ears, and voices contributing to Board decisions. Often MAL is a good start if you’re curious about helping lead this great organization. Up to eight MAL positions may be accepted on the Board this year.

Stacy Jensen has done an outstanding job as our Board Secretary, but is not seeking reelection. Linda Tschappet has gone above and beyond as our Non-Conference Events Director and now is working with Laura Hayden on running the 2019 Conference. So, she’ll be busy. Both ladies have won our Volunteer of the Year Award for their services.

I have enjoyed my 18 months as your president. However, it is time for someone else to take over the reins. I will stay on the Board in the voting position of Immediate Past President until 2020. Also, I am running programming for the 2019 Conference. So, like Linda T., I will be busy.

Nominations for Board positions must be in by the end of August, 2018. While you do have to be a PPW member to run, no prior experience with the Board is necessary for any open position. If you are interested in running, submit a one-page letter detailing your position of interest, your qualifications, and a short bio to president@pikespeakwriters.com or secretary@pikespeakwriters.com. Write “Board Nomination 2018” in the subject line. 

The Board also reviewed the 26th Annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference. What a rousing success it was. Anyone who attended knows that PPWC 2018 set a new standard in fun, networking, learning, and general literary awesomeness. 

What many of you don’t know is all the hard work that went into making it such a great event. Kudos to conference director Karen Fox and her amazing staff of volunteers who gave it their all to make sure every attendee had a great weekend. Our thanks as well to keynotes Jonathan Maberry, Mary Robinette Kowal, Laurelle K. Hamilton, and Bob Mayer, and to all the faculty, agents, and editors. I have added being a co-emcee with Mary Robinette Kowal to my bucket list. Those who came to conference know why.

We also discussed how to honor PPW members in memorium. This past year saw the loss of two visibly involved members, Ron Cree and Steve Nelson. Finding ways to honor them without setting further precedent that may hamstring the organization in future was the focus. To that end, the Board decided to return the scholarship fund back to it’s general name of Pikes Peak Writers Conference Scholarship Fund and create two scholarships under it dedicated to Ron and Steve and available to writers who meet certain criteria. More details on these will come shortly. Once finalized, they can be found on the website’s scholarships page.

Many other topics were discussed and, to save space, I will address them in the form of a no-nonsense bullet list:

  • The Board appointed a representative to work with the Webmaster to help streamline our transition to new Internet platforms and tools.
  • A second phase to our Writing is Art partnership with Cottonwood Center for the Arts is under way. March 2018’s showing exceeded expectations. Keep checking the website for new submission guidelines.
  • The Board is looking for someone to take the lead in creating a PPW Anthology. Anyone interested in details can contact president@pikespeakwriters.com.
  • We are dissolving the PPW Yahoo! Group. This legacy item served us well for 16 years, but has become a dinosaur seeing little use save for people promoting their own material. It will be gone by the end of August. Those affected are invited to checkout our Pikes Peak Writers Connect group forum on Facebook.

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

President

Pikes Peak Writers

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

President

Pikes Peak Writers

PPW Prez Says, 3rd Quarter 2017

Readers, today we hear from Bowen Gillings, president of Pikes Peak Writers. This month, Bowen provides a report on Pikes Peak Writers 3rd quarter Board of Directors meeting  Look for the Prez Says Column each quarter as Bowen continues to keep Pikes Peak Members informed and aware.


Report on the September 2017 PPW Board Meeting

Continuing with my goal to keep you, the PPW member, engaged and informed about our terrific organization, I present this latest update on the efforts of your amazing Board of Directors.

The PPW Board met at the end of September to hold our annual elections for various Board positions. You may check out our bylaws (available to the public at https://www.pikespeakwriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/PPW-Bylaws-2015-09-23.pdf) to know the necessary process for becoming a member of our Board. It is not very difficult, but does require candidates to honestly depict their qualifications, goals, and reasons for wanting to be part of the Board.

This election brought in new Members at Large Damon Alan and Gabrielle Brown for two-year terms. Our new Vice President is Kameron Claire. She is a regular attendee at PPW’s monthly improve writing event, Write Drunk, Edit Sober, so come by and meet her. Also, Treasurer Charise Simpson will continue for another two years, as will Member at Large Karen Fox.

When I became your President in March, I replaced our Immediate Past President, J.T. Evans, who had 18 months remaining on his term. At that time I felt it improper for me to step into nearly a full term as President without an open election. The position of President was open to the entire PPW membership in September, yet no one submitted his or her name for consideration. So, the Board voted to keep me in place until the September 2018 elections when the position will again be open for a new candidate to serve a two-year term.

For a full look at your current Board of directors, go to https://www.pikespeakwriters.com/about/board-of-directors/. These are the people you can reach out to with ideas and concerns regarding PPW.

The Board also took a hard look at our web footprint. In late August, an outstanding trio of volunteers joined forces to become our web team. Todd Gleason heads this group as Webmaster and is supported by Jim Beavers and Liz Jeffries. Together these three have worked with our previous Webmaster to take over the managing and maintenance of our website, our membership database, and our submission portals.  Along with Gabrielle Brown, the new managing editor of our blog, they’re also working to streamline blog functionality as well as our news feed. For a tech noob like me, these seem daunting tasks, but these folks charged right in and set to work.

In the next few months you can expect to see some changes to our site. The team is building proposals to make our site more functional and easier to maintain. With a 100% volunteer workforce, simplicity is key for continued success. The Board will be deciding in November which changes to make and which products to use.

That is it for this installment of Prez Says. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address, again is president@pikespeakwriters.com.

Thank you.

Bowen Gillings

President

Pikes Peak Writers