This week we have two articles that take a look at Post-Conference. The first is from Kim Krisco who shares his thoughts on his first conference experience, and the second, by Margena Holmes, explores what’s next. We hope you enjoy this double hitter.
PPWC2021 – What an Experience!
By: Kim Krisco
Caught up in the volunteer spirit that seems to permeate Pikes Peak Writers, I volunteered to write a post-conference retrospective for Writing from the Peak. Given the heap of notes, handouts, and slide downloads piled on my desk, the most obvious topic would seem to be how to organize all the information and teachings I received in the two and one-half days. To be honest, my notetaking became less prolific when I fully realized that all the sessions are recorded, and I would be able to review the presentations I attended and learn from those I was unable to attend for the next thirty days. A perk from this year’s conference that, for me, escalated its value 10X.
PPWC 2021 was my very first conference. What could I possibly offer? A promising topic didn’t take form until I asked myself the questions that everyone asked: What have I come away with? What is the most valuable takeaway? What difference has PPWC 2021 made in my writing life?
Like many of you, I was registered for the 2020 conference and was deeply disappointed when it was canceled. However, I did not fully realize what I missed until this year. It wasn’t only bountiful presentations and workshops, but rather something more important — qualities that necessarily inhabit every writer’s mind, heart, and spirit. PPWC 2021 gave me three exceptional gifts:
- Greater humility
- Recommitment to the writing craft
- A deep appreciation for the Pikes Peak Writers community
Over the years, I have made steady progress honing my writing skills, and my efforts have borne some fruit. But if I am to continue growing and improving, I must fully embrace a student mindset. Absorbing the knowledge and insights of the presenters and noting the marvelous accomplishments of these teachers put me squarely in the classroom. I’m grateful for this because one of the most wonderful things about pursuing a writing career is that the quest is never-ending. We never get there. We can always be better writers. So, notebook out, pen in hand, I come away ready to learn. Nay, “ready” is too ordinary a word, for a greater energy is motivating me.
Being a PPW newbie, I hung out in Zeb’s Lounge before each conference day began, virtually tiptoed into several of the accompanying breakout rooms, attended the volunteer award ceremony, and was at the main stage when the flash fiction contest results was presented. As my well-intentioned voyeurism unfolded, I became aware of a warm and wonderful feeling gestating within. Vague at first, it soon blossomed into a beautiful awareness and appreciation for the relationships I saw manifested among the various members. This lustrous warmth burst through my cold blue zoom screen and touched my heart. This is where some of you might say, “Dah,” because it’s not news to you. Yet, I wonder if you appreciate just how precious it is. This loving and supporting community may well be the most remarkable “benefit” the association offers. What is more, this kind of community does not magically emerge from bylaws, meetings, or educational events. It must be consciously and intentionally woven into every engagement and experience, engendered in each communication, placed at the center of each decision, and developed and nurtured over many years. What a gift this is to all of us. But that’s not all. I came away with one more priceless takeaway.
During each workshop presentation, at some point, I scanned the faces of the participants, whether they be still pics, avatars, or live video shots. I also browsed the ongoing chats — the comments, reactions, and greetings flowing from the participants during each session. Maybe I was searching for a familiar face or just curious. Indeed, the avatars were interesting and amusing, and many of the comments as well. But as the workshop continued, some of the faces became more familiar. In Zeb’s Lounge and during Q & A sessions, these photos and avatars became flesh and blood. Suddenly something stirred in me that made me smile and nod like a bobblehead figurine on the dashboard. I was aware that my chest was puffing up just a little. What was it? Then, during Saturday’s keynote address by Mary Robinette Kowal, it hit me. I was experiencing the most powerful force on earth, human commitment. Every person presenting, conference team member moderating, and every participant attending the conference was motivated by a shared commitment to be the best writer they could be. And indeed, I could feel my own commitment growing more vibrant.
A deep abiding commitment is necessary for any endeavor or accomplishment, but especially so for writers because it is a solitary, and at times even lonely, endeavor. Commitment is the psychic soil from which sprout persistence, patience, power, and perseverance. That’s a marvelous gift to take away.
Thank you, PPWC 2021.
The Conference Is Over—Now What?
By Margena Holmes
This year’s conference was just a little bit different than previous years. Because of COVID-19, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference took place via Zoom meetings (like everything else this past year!), but the workshops were still as great as ever, and I know I came away with a lot more knowledge and information than I did going in.
Now, the conference is over, and the high you were on all weekend is slowly fading away as you resume the daily grind. What do you do now?
If you made pitches and the editors have invited you to send more, make sure you follow-up with them. Don’t wait (unless they’ve told you to)—you want your work to be fresh in their minds, and you’ll have that excitement of the invitation still with you.
Send them a thank you note after the meeting with them, whether they’ve asked to see more or not. They gave their time to you, and if you ever pitch to them again, they may remember you for your courtesy.
Follow-up with any other authors you met, too. You may find that you have a lot more in common than just what you write, and you can be each other’s cheerleader. Many friendships have been started at conferences.
If you took notes (actually, there is no “if” about it), organize them in a way you will use them. If you took notes on a laptop, make sure you clearly mark what they are with the conference name and dates, especially if you go to more than one a year. What the workshop’s subject was and who the presenter was is also helpful.
I’m old-school and take notes in a notebook. I then type them up, print them, and put them in a three-ring binder, so I have them at hand if I need to look up something. I also organize any hand-outs the same way.
Put The Info To Use
I don’t know about you, but after the conference, I am more motivated than ever to write. As I’m listening to each presenter, I get ideas on what to do with my work-in-progress and I’ll jot down my ideas in my notes. Let that excitement and motivation drive you to do what you need to do to make your WIP better, or get started on that very first project. No matter what stage you’re in, make your enthusiasm work in your favor, while everything is fresh in your mind.
If you enjoyed the conference, sign up for the next one! You may get an attendee’s discount if you register right away, and you’ll be set for next year.
I missed the interaction at meals and in the hallways with other conferees this year, but I know next year we’ll be together again and we can give out hugs and smiles that we missed this year. Happy writing!
KIM KRISCO is the author of three Sherlock Holmes novels — The Celtic Phoenix is his most recent release.
Before writing fiction full-time, Kim served as a consultant, trainer, and coach for business and non-profit organizations and published three non-fiction books to support this enterprise.
He and his wife Sararose Ferguson live in south-central Colorado (USA) in a tiny home that they built themselves on the North Fork of the Purgatory River. You can learn more at: www.mysterybookauthor.com.
Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.