Writing from the Peak, PPW Blog

The Thriving Writers Toolkit: Insights and Inspiration

January’s Write Brain with Michelle Major and Lana Williams

As a good friend of mine once said, “Sometimes life is one big flea.” Halfway through January, rather than sailing along on a wave of resolute intention, I was struggling to keep my balance. A few weeks before, a loved one’s health crisis combined with the general holiday chaos shattered my plan of finishing the first draft of my current novel by New Year’s Eve. My cherished writing schedule, variables refined over months of trial and error — Earl Grey tea, cool jazz on Pandora, laundry break halfway through — evaporated just like that.

January’s Write Brain helped provide a sorely needed reset for my careworn psyche. Co-presenters Michelle Major and Lana Williams provided a wide variety of strategies to stay focused and in the mindset to produce. More importantly, the two accomplished writers stressed the idea that committing to your dream is an ongoing process. Learning how to enhance your creativity and stay sane along the way is vital to this endeavor.

As Lana and Michelle suggested, try telling yourself that you “get” to write, rather than you “have to write.” Doing so helped me to remember how fortunate I am to have the luxury to indulge in this messy, frustrating, and ultimately joyous creative pursuit at all.

Michelle Major is a best-selling, RITA award-winning author of over twenty sexy and sweet contemporary romances. Visit her website at http://www.michellemajor.com/ for life, love, and happy endings. Lana Williams is a USA Today Bestselling and Amazon All-Star author. Her books are intriguingly described as “Historical romance filled with adventure, mystery and a pinch of paranormal.” Learn more at https://lanawilliams.net/

Robin LabordeThis recap from Write Brain is presented by Robin Laborde, Contributing Editor. Robin is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. She worked as a technical writer for over ten years and has had nonfiction articles published in newspapers and magazines. 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.

Gloria Naylor – Get it Just Right

One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work.

Gloria Naylor (5 Jan 1950 – 28 Sep 2016) saw her debut novel, The Women of Brewster Place, (1982) win critical acclaim and become an Emmy-nominated miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey. Gloria’s work includes several more novels and inclusion in anthologies. She taught at Cornell, George Washington University, and Boston University.

How long does it take you to get that first sentence just right?

Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers BlogGabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.

Silencing Your Inner Critic

Every writer seems to want to shut up the little voice that says, “That thing you’re writing? It’s no good.” Just like we want the magic secret to writing a good story, we want to know the secret switch that turns off every negative thing we ever think about our work.

Like a lot of things in writing, the solution is pretty simple…but not easy.

First, let’s define what’s not a problem. If your inner critic doesn’t keep you from writing what you want to write, it’s not a problem.
Louder, for those in the back: Your inner critic isn’t the problem. Not writing is the problem.

Your inner critic is still part of you, a part that sounds like the parent who never believed in you or the English teacher who hated your writing. That awful voice that’s tearing your work to pieces…

…it’s just you.

To be a good writer, you have to pour yourself into your writing, including the parts you don’t like. Where does a good villain come from? Do happy-go-lucky people write good dark nights of the soul?

A good long-term strategy for writing books embraces your inner critic. You can push yourself through a few books while ignoring that voice. (People push through a lot of things.) But you can’t push yourself through a career.

So how do you get your inner critic to work with you, rather than against you?

Thinking FictionGive your inner critic permission to be heard.

You can’t think your way through fiction. Thinking is part of writing fiction, true, but it isn’t the essence.

Fiction is a simulation, either of this world or of a world of your own creation. You establish the world, characters, and initial problem, and set some guidelines on how the story works.

You know what else is like that? A game.

You can’t play a game by deciding that you already won…and how. We say, “And in the end, this happens and that happens and this is how the reader will feel, and now I will write my book.”

But you have to play the game by playing it: set up the board, the rules, and all the pieces, and…see who wins.

Some writers play that part of the game by outlining first, then writing; others write first, then step back and make sure they didn’t cheat too badly. You can nudge the board a little, but not too much—readers notice.

Set up your story and then trust yourself to work it out. It won’t be easy. But it’s a lot easier than saying, “Everything I write is stupid.”
Different people will find different techniques. It won’t always feel safe—your best techniques might feel almost physically uncomfortable.
But they’ll be the ones that put the words on the page.

Studying Fiction

You can’t both improve as a writer and already be so good that you never need to improve.

Part of your inner critic is right: You’re not as good as you want to be.

But, like all criticism on writing, take it with a grain of salt: your inner critic may not know what is actually wrong. Like a bad critique group, it can start jumping to conclusions.


The rules of fiction don’t matter, if they don’t work for you. What you need to learn is what works for you. And your inner critic can actually help with that.

Study other writers’ works. Chew their gristle in your teeth. Your inner critic may say, “I love that!” and start stealing techniques. It may also say, “I hate that!” and come up with creative ways to avoid whatever “that” is. And if you let your inner critic tear up other writers’ works, it won’t spend so much time on yours.

Don’t just read books about writing, though: the chewing has already been done for you.

Feeling Fiction

At some point, life gets to be too much and you can’t get the words done. It happens. Let’s talk about the gray area where you might or might not get words done, and how to get more words done.

You can do that by allowing your deepest feelings move into your fiction.

In some of us, this will result in darker fiction; in others, paradoxically, it will result in lighter fiction. It varies from story to story. When we open the door between fiction and reality, the results can be unpredictable.

These are the stories that allow us as writers to move forward with our lives, to grieve, to heal, to apologize, to regret, to celebrate, to embrace. Stories are how humans make life make sense. Writing a story can be how you make sense of right here, right now.

But how?

Stop and listen to your inner critic.

“This is stupid” might mean “I can’t pretend anymore that I’m not hurting.”

“I don’t know what to write next” might mean “I don’t know what to do next, either.”

“My character doesn’t want to do what the outline says” might mean “I can’t make myself fit into my own plans either.”

And then respond to how you really feel in your characters’ actions. Just acknowledging what you’re trying to tell yourself can open a magical door that makes everything you write richer.

It comes down to…

What this all comes down to is giving your inner critic permission to be heard. You don’t have to listen uncritically. But please do listen. Your inner critic isn’t there to hurt you, but to warn you that you’re not on the right path. It may not always be accurate, especially if you’ve been ignoring it or if you haven’t done a lot of studying. Your inner critic might be too mad to be fair…and it might be too ignorant to be right.

It can take a while to lower the alarm levels on your inner critic to useful levels. But once you do, your writing will probably feel less like work you have to push through, and more like the enjoyable—and exciting!—game that it really is.


DeAnna KnipplingDeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

Sweet Success for DeAnna Knippling

Congratulations to DeAnna Knippling and the release of the multi-authored Dawn of the Monsters. Other featured authors are: Dean Wesley Smith, Ron Collins, P. D. Cacek, Mark Leslie, Steve Vernon , Annie Reed, Sèphera Girón, Rebecca M. Senese, Marcelle Dubé, and Jamie Ferguson.

DeAnna Knippling, Dawn of MonstersThis volume, DAWN OF THE MONSTERS, features trolls, goblins, creeps, mad scientists, vampires, aliens, Frankenstein, a very nasty ex-girlfriend, a mysterious egg, a bargain you can’t refuse, something dark and mysterious that lives underground, and a disgusting, evil beast straight out of the swamp!

We can’t promise that these tales won’t make you think…but they’ll grab you by your sense of adventure and take you for a ride!

DeAnna KnipplingDeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.


Do you have a Sweet Success you would like to share? Click here to get started, or send an email to: SweetSuccess@pikespeakwriters.com

Sweet Success is coordinated by Managing Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim.

The Benefits of a Crash and Burn

Perhaps you participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with great success. If so, congratulations to you and stop reading. This article is for the broken, the wounded, the sick at heart who crashed and burned miserably in the month of November, despite every good intention to write that novel.

New Beginnings

Now we’re facing the time of new beginnings as we enter the new year. If you are still smarting from a November NaNoWriMo fail, setting 2019 writing goals may be the last thing you want to tackle right now.

I thought I could succeed at NaNoWriMo this year. Fifty thousand words in a month? Piece of cake. I’d done it before. I knew my calendar was tightly scheduled, but if I made a commitment, I would follow through. I’m one of Those People. If I say I’m going to do something, by golly I will walk through fire and flood to ensure I meet my obligation.

Halfway through November, I still had delusions I could make it happen. Three quarters of the way through, I had a decision to make. I threw in the towel. Surrendered. And felt horribly guilty that I had failed myself.

Get out of your ditch

There are dozens of quotes, memes, and greeting card messages about failure making you stronger. That doesn’t help much when you’re crumpled in the ditch after a spectacular crash and burn.

So now that we’ve whined a bit, what are we going to do about it? Quitting is always an option. If you can quit writing, then maybe you weren’t cut out for this brutal profession. My tough-love message is: if ordinary obstacles will prevent you from striving for your dreams, maybe your dreams weren’t so important after all. To be fair, sometimes we face extraordinary stress in life. Family, health, or simply overestimating our own stamina place an insurmountable obstacle in our path to writing success.

Turn it into SUCCESS Turn Goal-Setting Failures into Success

Here are my suggestions for turning writing failure into success.

  1. Know Yourself. You may end up in a writing or critique group with people of differing ambitions and drive. Maybe you take a workshop or read a how-to book full of enthusiasm. We’re not all focused, driven personalities. Don’t adopt an attitude that is not your own if it doesn’t work for you. Are you a procrastinator, needing multiple mini-goals to keep you on track? Or do you readily stick to a schedule and easily meet goals? Do you operate best under pressure, or do deadlines cause you to freeze up? Are you an Emily Dickinson type of writer, not needing much reader affirmation, or are you more on the Andy Weir end of the scale, running your work past readers constantly? Which type of writer are you?
  2. Define Success. Do some soul-searching. Why are you writing? What are you trying to accomplish? Look at past goals that you failed to achieve. Were you too ambitious, considering other time commitments in your life? Or did you set the bar too low? Whether you’re new to writing or a multi-published author, goals need to be adjusted with time and experience. If not hitting goals causes you to lose enthusiasm, maybe you need to set achievable goals to get yourself on track. Other writers need to constantly fall short to drive them to work harder. This goes back to Know Yourself.
  3. Make Concrete Goals. Once you understand your uniquely personal ambition, document your steps to that goal. A vague declaration that you intend to write a novel this year will not help you. Create a spreadsheet, time card, or writing session reminder. Clock in to your writing sessions. Be honest in tracking your goals. For a new writer, your primary goal should be to finish a story or novel. Period. Guess what the primary goal is for a multi-published author? Write that next story or novel. Writing is a constant.

Get Specific

Let’s get specific. Your goal is to write a novel in 2019. The typical novel is 350 pages, or 87,500 words. That breaks down to less than a page a day. Exceedingly doable, you tell yourself. But if you diddle around for eight months, then remember you had a goal, I can almost guarantee you will fail.

Decide whether your goal is per day or per week.
Novel in a year goal:
Pages per day = 0.95 = 239 words
Pages per week = 6.73 = 1,683 words

Some Pitfalls

The pitfall: do not give up on days when you don’t have the time for a full writing session. Obviously there is room for adjustment. You have a long weekend with no obligations. You enjoy a productive writing marathon that results in 5,000 words. My experience is that more often I have multiple miserly 15 minute a day writing sessions. These drive me closer to my goal as effectively as the marathons. Take what you can get.

Another pitfall: writing sessions don’t need to be perfect islands of peace and solitude. Sometimes you snatch a few minutes in the midst of a holiday. Maybe you’re hopping in and out of writerly bliss to cook dinner. You have to wear blinders to block out seeing the chaotic mess your apartment has fallen into, or wear headphones to block out family members watching TV.

In spite of your best intentions and careful planning, you fail. What now? Not setting concrete, measurable goals leaves you will a hollow feeling. You suck, and you don’t even know how badly. If you set goals, and track them with dedication, you can measure exactly how badly you suck. And I can almost guarantee it won’t be as bad as you think.


You have a wonderful record of your efforts. Instead of saying “I failed to write a novel in a year,” you can say “I wrote half a novel this year.” That’s an amazing achievement worth celebrating.

I’m confident that you’ll reach the end of 2019 without that empty feeling. Goal setting will help you achieve your goals. At the very least, goals will take you a step closer to success.

Catherine Dilts Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, has written two novels for the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library, and her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes, while others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. Visit Catherine’s website to learn more.

Sweet Success for Dan Grant

Sweet Success is excited to announce the release of Dan Grant’s newest publication, The Singularity Witness by Mindscape Press.

Singularity Witness by Dan GrantThe Singularity Witness explores an intersection of science and medical research, and what happens when a radical technology ushers in an ominous future. A neurologist and an FBI agent unlock secrets that start with murder, abduction, and inhumane research. 

Dan GrantDan Grant is a licensed professional engineer with degrees from Northern Arizona University: a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and masters’ in college education and English with an emphasis in creative writing. In college he did theater, choir, and wrote teleplays for the university soap opera (One Semester to Live). He has also worked as a technical writer and multimedia content creator.

His engineering endeavors have provided unique opportunities to work with a variety medical and technological applications, and get behind the scenes at military facilities. Those experiences add threads to conspiracies and form a broader storytelling tapestry.

Dan loves intriguing tales, especially suspense and thrillers that weave science, medicine, technology, or history into the fabric of the drama. He is working on his next thriller, Thirteen Across. And Thomas Parker and Kate Morgan will be back in The Singularity Transfer.

Do you have a Sweet Success you would like to share? Click here to get started, or send an email to: SweetSuccess@pikespeakwriters.com

Finding My Tribe – PPWC 2018

I was surprised and excited to be awarded a partial scholarship to PPWC 2018. Even though it was listed as a “half” scholarship, it included all of Thursdays prequel workshops, so it came out to a 75% scholarship. It was so awesome, I just had to come up with the remaining $200. I’ve been practicing the Law of Attraction and the $200 was provided right away.


The conference was so great – my very first class was on magic, taught by Johnny Worthen, an eccentric author who wears bright, original tie-dye t-shirts with shorts. It was like I was attending Hogwarts. I loved it.

I went on from there to attend and learn from so many types of classes and teachers, from the craft of writing to running my new career as a business. I learned about a website platform tailored to authors – PubSite – and am now building my own author platform using this easy website builder.

I knitted at the craft gathering on Thursday night and even got to run a future story by editor Deb Werksman.

Law of Attraction

Using the Law of Attraction I was able to pitch to all three agents I wanted to – PPWC had extra Query 1-on-1 spots to fill and one of the pitches just happened naturally. They were all busts though the feedback I got on my query letter was awesome. I had good success when a friend connected me to a literary director and I got to pitch to her, too.

First Page

I really enjoyed the First Page critique – I connected with Steve Staffel there, who took the whole class out to some couches for a continued discussion after our workshop was over – that was unexpected and special. He gave me wonderful feedback and I reworked my whole first page. For the rest of the weekend, both Steve and Deb spoke to me as we ran into each other – what great connections!

Finding My Tribe

At the end of the conference Deb asked me what was my biggest highlight? “I’ve found my tribe,” I told her. Right from the beginning I was connecting and conversing with authors and writers and editors and we all share this incredible weirdness and creativity – we speak the same language. We dive deep into our own inner worlds and bravely share these crazy experiences with the world. Though we come from all types of backgrounds and viewpoints, there was no judgment from anyone – I felt completely safe being my weird self with all these folks.

I loved connecting with all the writers in all various stages of writing, both published and unpublished, it was a treasure.
I wish we could all get together again before next April. I can’t wait to attend in 2019!

PPWC 2019

Applications are still being accepted for PPWC 2019, “It Takes a Tribe”. You will find more information on the scholarship page of PPW’s website. Deadline to apply for a scholarship is January 11, 2019. Registration is now open for all who will be attending. Find your tribe in 2019!


Jerilyn WinsteadIn her 20’s, Jerilyn Winstead was active in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), then recently got into LARPing (Live Action Role Play). Costumes + adventure! She participates in both Middle Earth-style (elves, hobbits, dwarves, etc.) and in post-apocalyptic (zombies!). One day she dreams of attending the Hogwarts-inspired LARPs. Until  then, follow her adventures on her website.

It’s a New Year…Let’s Set Some Goals

It’s true! 2019 is here! Goal setting is in motion, well, hopefully anyway.

Have you thought about it?

Let’s break it down together. Because, like many of us, I put it off, then before I know it, I’m making my way through January with no direction. It’s a thing! And, you know it.

We’ve all heard of SMART goals:
Specific—clear and concise.
Measurable—tracking your progress.
Achievable—challenging, yet achievable.
Relevant—consistent with all other life goals.
Timely—target deadline.

The things I’ve outlined below are what has worked for me. You will find your jam and what works for you. But, if you don’t have a jam yet, why not give mine a try.

Think of things you want to accomplish and write them down.

This is a list. There are so many schools of thought when it comes to ways to think of things you want to accomplish. Maybe you’re a spreadsheet kind of person. Maybe you have to go out and buy that shiny new notebook just for your goals. That’s me.

We’re talking about writing goals specifically, but other areas of your life come into play when you’re setting these goals, so why not include family, personal, and any other categories that are important to you. That makes you more motivated to complete your writing goals when you know everything else is in alignment.

This seems to be the hardest, for me anyway. I have a million things that I want to accomplish. I have a million and one things that need to be accomplished. YOU? Thought so!

Put these in order of importance, create timelines, and break them down.

Each category has a list, I assume. It’s important to identify what is important to do first. I’m not asking you to create a list that’s over-the-top out of control. It should include two or three things in each list. But you will have ONE main goal for each list.

Figure out your WHY for doing what you’re doing.

That’s one goal.
Your why, you ask? Your why is the reason you want to accomplish your goals. This goes back to step one. Let’s define your why when it comes to establishing your goals; thinking of the things you want to accomplish.

Your WHY is your deep-down personal motivation for what you do. Until you identify this, you won’t be able to figure out the what and how. This is the hardest for me.
This is also what can fuel you to complete your goals.

Find a friend. An accountability partner. Tell them your goals and your whys.

We all have the one person in our life that we tell everything to, whether they want to hear it or not. Find that person. Take them to coffee.

When you tell someone your goals, you feel a sense of commitment. You know it. It’s embarrassing to not finish or complete what you said you’d do.

Schedule regular reviews of your goals.

Good—this would be every six months. Put it in your calendar.
Better—once a quarter. This plays out every three months. Put it in your calendar.
Best—every month. Put it in your calendar.

When you see you are making progress with your goals, you’ll keep going.

Examples of writer goals:
In the next 12 months, I will read 12 books specific to my genre.
(Your Why) Because I want to become more proficient in writing in my genre and reading can help me see how others do it.

In the next 30 days, I will have a concrete plan for writing my novel.
(Your Why) Because writing my novel is my end goal and I must get writing it.

Examples for personal goals:
I will workout every day in the month of January.
(Your Why) Because it makes me a happier person, easier to live with, and I have a more positive attitude toward my writing goals.

Every payday for six months, I will set aside $50 for home projects.
(Your Why) Because I can’t use credit and paying for cash is how I roll.

Let’s wrap this up…

When you take the time to plan out your goals, write them down, figure out your why(s), phone a friend, the schedule reviews, you will have a very productive year.



Deb Buckingham headshotDeb Buckingham is a long time member and Vice President of Pikes Peak Writers. She is a published author of two successful knitting books, Dishcloth Diva and Dishcloth Diva Knits On. She writes for her own blog, and her artistic side is part of her every day. Deb is a creative photographer whose passion is “shooting” creatives in their own studios. She enjoys reading a well written novel.

Notes from PPWC 2018

The first Pikes Peak Writers Conference I attended was in 2012, and I remember feeling very intimidated and out of place that first morning of the conference. Almost everyone I talked to had already reached a major milestone on the road to becoming a professional writer, like completing their book, or finding an agent or a publisher, or discovering how to self-publish. Meanwhile, I still did not know how to respond when people asked me what genre I wrote in. I didn’t know the difference between literary and genre fiction, or what YA stood for.


I was quickly set at ease though by the wonderful, supportive spirit of the conference. The other writers at the conference were all very encouraging of each other, and they sincerely enjoyed watching each other succeed. I was also very impressed with all of the agents and editors, who were extremely open and honest in their feedback in the Read and Critique sessions. This year was my third time attending the conference, and I was very glad to find all of these elements still unchanged. I left the conference this year feeling once again completely invigorated and inspired to keep going. This year, I was also fortunate enough to attend the conference on a full scholarship, which was very exciting.


I took down a lot of notes during the lectures, and here are a few of my favorite pieces of advice from the speakers:

  1.  On character driven stories: Character driven story begins with the main character having some problem of aspect of self. There must be something in the character, two conflicting desires, that they are unable at the start of the story to reconcile or perhaps even acknowledge. They must be somehow incomplete. In addition, character driven stories prevent characters from becoming comfortable with some aspect of themselves—at least not until the end. The climax of the story usually involves the character being forced to finally acknowledge this internal dilemma.
  2.  On structuring a story: In her session “Short Stories: Pacing,” Mary Robinette Kowal talked about the important of “putting things back in sequence” for the sake of coherent, smooth structuring. For example, if the first thing that you introduce in your story is the milieu, end with the milieu as well. End the story with what you began it with, whether it be milieu, character, event, or inquiry.
  3.  On character passivity: Characters, especially your main character needs to be acting, not just reacting. The main character needs to be making choices that move the story along. If you find in looking back at your story, that your character is mainly just reacting, they are probably not a very compelling character.
  4.  On humor: In his session “Using Humor in Fiction,” Rod Miller discussed the different ways to incorporate humor into writing fiction. He explained how metaphor, juxtaposition, exaggeration, and understatement were all very useful tools. In narration, misunderstanding, tension, pay-off, surprise, redundant lists, and repetitive sound can also be very effective.

I am mainly interested in YA fiction, character development, and writing to theme, and I was happy to find many relevant lectures on those topics. There were also lectures on topics such as writers block and creative nonfiction and the depiction of women in the fantasy genre. There is truly something for everyone at this conference!

PPWC 2019

Applications are still being accepted for PPWC 2019, “It Takes a Tribe”. You will find more information on the scholarship page of PPW’s website. Deadline to apply for a scholarship is January 11, 2019. Registration is now open for all who will be attending. Find your tribe in 2019!

Mary Carmack

Mary Carmack is a teacher living in Colorado Springs, currently working on a literary young adult novel.

Amy Spring – Scholarship Winner PPWC2018

Amy Spring was awarded a scholarship for PPWC2018. She shares her conference experiences and excitement about being awarded a scholarship. Apply for PPWC2109 by January 11, 2019 and you too could share your story.


I was thrilled to be awarded a scholarship to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018. My friend KL Cooper suggested (loudly, on my FaceBook timeline, for everyone to see!) that I should apply, and that evening I felt timid and overwhelmed. I went to bed thinking, “There are so many more deserving, who am I to ask for this?”

The following morning, I came to my senses and had my application in before drinking my morning tea. I am so glad I did, because I was awarded a full scholarship, and promptly promised the Powers That Be that I would be fearless at the conference and do my best.

Making Connections

Years ago I attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference, and was so stunned by the opportunity that I tried to go to everything, and wanted to learn everything. This year, as I have written two unpublished novels, I decided that my goal would be making connections, and meeting as many people as I could. I had both a Query One-on-One appointment with Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks scheduled, and well as a Read and Critique X (R&CX) appointment with acquiring editor Maximilian Ximenez.

Be Fearless

The PPWC offers access to so many wonderful people, and I did, indeed, try to be fearless. Author and Keynote Speaker Bob Mayer said, in the first of the three of his sessions I attended, “If you see me in the hallway, please stop me and talk to me, I’ll help you all I can.” He was true to his word, as the following morning, I saw him and stopped him, and he was gracious enough to not only help me clean up my 16 opening lines that I had to read aloud in my R&CX appointment, but critiqued my queries for my Query 1 on 1. How kind was that?

One thing I understood this time around is that the people that come to teach sessions aren’t there for themselves. They are there to help and encourage all of our writing family in any way they can. They do this generously, purposefully, exhaustively-meaning, by the end of the weekend, it is obvious, by the dark circles under their eyes, that they have given 100% to us every waking hour of this long weekend.

Read & Critique

My R&CX appointment was fun, though I was awarded an appointment with Mr. Ximinez, whose expertise is in genres far different from my own. I was offered a chance to change that appointment, but I decided to go and read anyway. He was helpful and kind about my reading something he would never acquire, but I soon realized my purpose for being there-a young boy read his 16 lines and had this major player’s attention, but was too shy to ask follow-up questions, so I asked them for him. (Ok, I’m 55, and sometimes, occasionally, age does matter!) I facilitated a meeting between the two, and later, both men thanked me. Score!

Query 1 on 1

The best part for me, though, was forming a connection with Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks. I took three of her sessions, sat at her lunch table one day, and boldly took both of my queries to my Query 1 on 1 appointment with her. She and her red pen passed on my second book, but said, “Send it!” on my first book’s query! I walked away from that meeting knowing I had done my best, and had been gifted with the reason I was meant to be there. I was, and am, eternally grateful to the Pikes Peak Writers for this experience.

As it turns out, I write general fiction, and Deb acquires romance, but she thought enough of my first book’s manuscript that she sent it to her fiction editor colleagues, who politely declined, though they encouraged me to continue. Deb said she’ll consider any romance I write. And, she worked with me extensively to prepare. She, and everyone else I met, and who has supported me through this experience are precious gems, in my book!