Most of the time, writing is a
solitary act. But if you’re in it for the long haul, it quickly becomes
apparent that not only will other people have to be involved at some point, you
need other people to stay motivated
and succeed. Attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is a terrific way to start
finding those people – your tribe.
If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, being
around a few hundred or so other aspiring authors can be a little overwhelming,
even anxiety-provoking, until you realize the amazingly wonderful fact that these
folks are following the same mysterious calling as you. Eating lunch with an
agent or an editor is one of the best ways to understand that these inscrutable
entities are, in fact, human beings who truly want you to succeed. Because,
after all, why would someone get into the publishing industry unless they, you
know, LOVED BOOKS?? It’s their business
to find good work.
PPWC Conference Director Laura Hayden and Programming Director Bowen Gilling joined conference mavens Patrick Hester, Stacy S. Jensen, and Shannon Lawrence to provide insider tips and insights during Write Brain on Wednesday. They even suggested icebreaking strategies for first-time attendees. (Hint: asking another writer “What are you working on?” is a great way to kick off a long conversation.)
Bowen had some particularly helpful advice for
those new to the conference experience. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment
with a statement like, “My attendance will be a failure unless X happens,”
where X equals a 3-book deal or the like. Instead, stay open to the unexpected
networking opportunities and discussions that spring up naturally. Keep
looking. You’ll find your tribe.
Deadline to register for PPWC2019 is April 28, 2019. Conference is, May 3 through 5, 2019. Can’t make it for the whole weekend? The conference prequel on May 2nd is a one-day event with eight different workshops to choose from.
This recap from Write Brain is presented by Contributing Editor Robin Laborde. Robin is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. While she is currently writing a speculative fiction novel set in the near future, she dreams of flying to the moon in a spaceship made from butterfly wings.
Jere Ellison received a scholarship to attend PPWC2018. He shares his experience at the conference and the events leading him to apply for a scholarship.
I’ve been to a number of conferences in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado over the years. They all tend to have a distinct flavor and feel, and it’s always interesting for me to see what makes each conference stand apart from the others.
For PPW’s conference this past year, that stand-out moment for me rested in the Genre Round-tables. This was a format I’d never seen before, but one which really struck me as something every conference ought to make available.
As those who regularly attend conferences know, most of the time you end up sitting in a room listening to a presenter talk about something they’ve had prepared ahead of time. Even in the best of presenters, there can sometimes be a rote tone to it all, and when you’re at a conference running on nothing but caffeine, adrenaline, and a few hours of restless sleep, it gets hard to always pay the best attention you can to said presenters.
Or maybe that’s just me…
Whatever the case, the genre round-tables were a great way to break that mold in a constructive way that left me feeling not only energized and excited to get to edits on my own work, but also feeling better-connected to fellow attendees.
If you’re not familiar, the genre roundtables are just what they sound like: a bunch of people sitting around a table and discussing topics and struggles pertaining to their genre. With less of a “lecture-y” feel and more of the Socratic method, the time I spent in that room was some of the best I spent that weekend.
Productive, communicative, organic. Those are three plusses to me.
Now, I realize this setup could be intimidating to some who may be a little more introverted. There are those out there for whom the idea of sitting around a table, talking with strangers about their work might be intimidating.
Don’t let it be!
I have minors in Theatre and Communication. I like talking. But these round-tables aren’t just for people like me. There were plenty of people in there who never said a word, but who were vigorously taking notes. That’s what I liked about the round-table format: it was conversation if you wanted that, or yet lecture format if that’s what you’re looking for, instead.
The other benefit to that setup is it allows for you to meet and strike up conversations with people more easily than you might otherwise be able to. Not only do you know that everyone you see in the room is interested in the same genre as you, but with the focus of the time being spent on conversation, you can easily pick back up with other people after you leave.
It’s one thing to go up to someone afterwards and ask what they thought about something some other person said in a presentation. It’s a whole other level of networking when you can follow-up with someone later and ask them specifically to elaborate on a point they may have made during the group discussion.
All-in-all, I hope the round-tables continue to be a mainstay of the PPW Conference. And I’d recommend any other conference leaders who see this to consider doing the same with theirs.
The only other thing I want to touch on is the importance the scholarship provided by PPW made in my ability to attend this past year. I’ll do that through an anecdote.
One evening, waiting for dinner, I stepped outside on the lobby patio just to get some fresh air. While I was out there, a few women were standing around talking. If I’m remembering correctly, they were a group of friends who travel around the US to different conferences together. It’s just their thing.
I don’t remember if they were from Vegas, about to go to Vegas, or had just come back from Vegas. Whatever the case, they pulled me right into their conversation like it was nothing, and we all sat around and chatted until it was time to eat.
I’ll come back to them in a second.
You see, if not for the scholarship I was awarded to go to this conference, there’s no way my wife and I could have justified the travel, fees, and lodging expenses, what with coming all the way from Texas.
Because of that scholarship, however, I was able to attend, and because I attended, I made a slew of connections with other writers. Including those ladies, whose paths I kept crossing all weekend.
That’s what the scholarship provided for me: Other writers.
We’re a unique group, and it can sometimes be hard doing what we do.
This conference, made possible by my scholarship, provided more of that comradery we all need to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in this.
Anyways, I hope things went well for the ladies I met that evening, and I want to wish them the best with their future writing. Because that’s really what these conferences should be about: finding fellow writers, getting to know them, and sending each other the best wishes we possibly can.
And if that’s what you’re looking for, this is where you need to be.
Jere Ellison has completed six manuscripts in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, with audience ages ranging from fifth graders to adults. He has his Master’s degree in English, and has spent years in the classroom as both tutor and professor, working mostly with “at-risk” students. He also spent a few years professionally editing for a New York Times best-selling author of more than forty novels. Currently, he house-husbands for his Wildlife Biologist wife in Texas, making sure all the house work is done so that evenings together can be filled with nothing but games, Hulu, and general relaxation.
When I first heard of Pikes Peak Writers Conference from a friend I thought it sounded like a pretty neat conference, and I decided that next time I knew enough people who were attending I too would make the trek from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs to attend. Unfortunately, 2018 was the year that a member from my writing group and several people from the local writing community were planning to attend, and I was in a pretty tight financial situation. In 2017 my husband lost his job, and I became the sole income provider of the family. We have a young child with Down Syndrome, who, while being a fantastic kid, can be a little expensive at times. I applied for and was granted, one of the scholarships that PPWC offers. Having my tuition to the conference paid for made saving the money for travel and hotel possible and gave me an opportunity that I would have been sorry to miss.
PPWC set up an easy, low-stress way to mingle with the authors and industry professionals who are guests at the conference.
The panels and workshops I attended at PPWC ’18 were fantastic, but something that PPWC does that no other writing conference I’ve attended does is set up an easy, low-stress way to mingle with the authors and industry professionals who are guests at the conference. Each meal that is provided (there are so many meals, seriously, I’ve never been to a conference that provides so much food!) you’re able to sit where you like, but every table is assigned one of the conference guests. I got to sit by Mary Robinette Kowal at lunch and talk about whiskey and with Gabrielle Piraino at dinner and swap dog pictures. Both people were amazing to sit with, they talked with us and answered questions about the industry. The fact that this is not a time to pitch is a blessing, as it takes that pressure away and gives the opportunity to learn from them on a more personal basis. The only complaint about this setup: the tables are large, the room is noisy, and you either must sit close or strain your ears to hear anything.
Hearing that someone whom I admire has faced similar struggles and found ways to work through or around them is huge.
My highlights of the conference revolved primarily around Mary Robinette Kowal, who is an amazing writer, terrific at delivering a keynote, and an all-around fantastic person. As I mentioned, I was able to sit with her at one meal, and I attended many of the panels or presentations she gave. The one that really hit home for me was on the last day of the conference when she spoke very openly about her struggles with depression, and how she managed to get through a difficult time where all she could manage were three lines a day. This resonated with me for many reasons. I have depression and have faced times where getting out of bed was a big enough hurdle that even the thought of writing was more daunting than I could bear. Hearing that someone whom I admire has faced similar struggles and found ways to work through or around them is huge. Depression, and mental illness has historically been so stigmatized that even with how much better things are than they used to be, people still can find it difficult to admit to being depressed or to having anxiety for fear that people will think less of them. Listening to Mary talk about this made me think far more highly of her than I already did, and I hope to one day be able to inspire writers the way she inspired me.
To anyone on the fence about attending because they don’t recognize names on the program, don’t see any industry professionals they want to pitch to, or are financially challenged, I would encourage you to attend. Apply for a scholarship. Getting to know your fellow writers at the bar, sitting with someone new at lunch, or attending a class by someone you’ve never heard of and learning something new are all things that can and will happen if you give this fantastic conference a chance like I did.
Jenni Wood has loved to read and write fantasy for as long as she can remember. If she doesn’t have a book in hand, she probably has a mug of coffee. Jenni is married, and the mother of a sweet boy, a dog, and three crazy cats. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys sewing, cooking, video games, and gardening. Her short story “Daughter of the Western Winds” was published in Phantaxismagazine.
Scholarship recipient, Alice Andersen, shares her experiences from 2018 PPWC, Don’t Quit!
When I attended PPWC 2018, it was my second writing conference experience. For me, the conference was like entering a candy store. Each session offered tempting choices between craft, publishing, marketing, roundtables, and panel discussions. Sadly, it was impossible to have it all. Yikes! How could I choose one over another when I had so much to learn?
Because I had a complete but unpublished manuscript, my focus was not only on the craft sessions, but on that dreaded thing called networking. For me, Networking could be the title of a Stephen King horror film. I did my best though and found that among writers, conversations practically start themselves. I came away with several entertaining stories and a stack of business cards for keeping in touch. Not bad for an introvert.
And to my delight, I found that when I skipped a session to work as a volunteer, there were even more chances to speak with writers and compare notes. In addition, the keynote speakers, Laurell K Hamilton, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jonathan Mayberry, and Bob Mayer, shared enough of themselves to not only provide inspiration, but add to a sense of community and belonging.
Read & Critique
The Read & Critique was new to me. What a nerve-wracking opportunity, to read a page of my writing to a room full of people. I was unhappy with the first page of my finished manuscript and debated whether or not to read something less than my best. The answer was easy. Not a chance! I read my favorite opening from an unfinished work instead. I have to say the agent in charge, Gabrielle Piraino, was harsh and honest and filled with great ideas on ways to improve the page. I gave her my best and she told me how to make it better. Yes, it was painful to have my work shredded, but her ideas made for a better opening and I needed to hear them.
Saturday was query day and a chance to share good, bad, and ugly ideas with an agent. Suffice it to say, I had all three. Query appointments should include a lie detector test so we know what those agents really think. If not a lie detector, maybe a choice of two buttons for them to push; one that emits diabolical laughter and another that shoots out confetti.
And not to deflect, but was that an over-used semi-colon in the above paragraph? After meeting a few editors at the conference, I know just who to ask.
Layering and Editing
My surprising top take-away came from the final two sessions on Sunday. Faced with info overload, I expected to be a little tuned out on that last day. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed a session on layering. Callie Stoker’s presentation, along with her colorful method and hands on demonstration about editing, was just what I needed to make my own work shine.
With so many useful presentations at PPWC, I’ll be studying my notes for weeks to come. The awesome presenters, the hard-working volunteers, and the keynote speakers all gave me the knowledge and the inspiration I need to keep on writing. For now though, I have to visit Amazon. There are books to buy, authors I’m hyped to read, and many more choices and ideas brought home from the conference to focus on. Thanks to the PPWC crew for a great conference experience!
If you, or someone you know, would like to apply for one of PPW’s scholarships pleasestart hereto learn more and to fill out your application. Deadline to apply is January 11, 2019.
Alice Andersen discovered a renewed love for writing after moving to the Western Slope of Colorado. She returned to school to earn a literature degree from Colorado Mesa University, after which she completed her first detective novel. She is currently at work on the second. She dabbles in speculative fiction and fantasy, and has several short stories published. As a military spouse, Alice has lived in numerous locations but she grew up on the Gulf Coast and remains a Texan at heart.
Pikes Peak Writers just unveiled their brand new workshop proposal portal, and we are open for business, looking for your proposals!
What are we looking for? One-hour workshops for our annual Conference, two-hour proposals for our monthly Write Brains, and half-day workshop proposals for the occasional longer events we do.
On what topics?
Anything that will help writers improve their craft, from writing better dialogue to thickening the plot. The business of writing, including (shiver) marketing, the bane of our existance, and info from proven successes in the world of independent publishing. We also welcome genre-specific proposals, and love workshops that take the tenets of one genre to make another genre really pop. We like Reality Track/How To topics, which are real life experiences of interest to writers. (In the past, we’ve had a SWAT team, a food writer, a firefighter, a coroner, numerous law enforcement from local to national, and more.) Then there’s the Writer’s Life, which could include time management, motivation, and inspiration to keep on writing when life throws the inevitable roadblock in your way.
Here’s a tip:
It’s better to propose a few workshops for us to choose from than just one lonely proposal. It gives us a better idea of the range of your mad skills, and makes you a more attractive candidate. Want more insider tips? We’ve got a great FAQ on our website. And if you don’t want to present a workshop, but would like to request that a particular topic be covered? We’ve got you covered! Just click here.
Our new portal is based in Submittable, so you will have to make a Submittable account when you begin, It’s quick, painless and free!
We accept Write Brain proposals all year long. But if you want to be considered for the 2019 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, you must submit your workshop proposals by September 30, 2018.
Propose early and propose often!
MB Partlow is a long-time volunteer with Pikes Peak Writers, who has worked extensively on the annual conference and on the board. She writes in the spec fic world, reads voraciously across genres, and is only fully happy when she’s made someone laugh or is laughing herself.