Posts Tagged ‘Margena Holmes’

PPWC2019 – Reflections

Although PPWC2019 fell into the history books almost a month ago, the buzz is still electrifying. Here are just a few things people had to say:

“There’s a reason PPWC is one of the longest-standing and productive writing conferences in the country. The level of talent, professionalism, access to both industry leaders and Mother Nature create the ideal opportunity for writers at all levels to move ahead in craft and career.” ~~Susan Wiggs, New York Times best-selling author

What really stood out at PPWC was the clear affection that attendees felt for each other.  Clearly, many were experienced veterans of the conference, and they were so happy to see each other again.  And still, they were very inclusive of new people.  Plus, present company notwithstanding, I thought the programming and the level of instruction to be phenomenal. ~~John Gilstrap, New York Times bestselling author

I’ve attended the Southern California Writers Conference a couple of times, and while the workshops are on par with PPWC, they don’t include meals into the conference (except for the Saturday night banquet), so I’m very happy PPWC does that! It’s nice to be able to talk with authors and faculty there in an informal setting. They’re pretty normal, in a nerdy sort of way–like us! ~Margena Holmes, Author

PPWC has long been my favorite conference to attend. It was the first writers conference I ever went to–as an attendee in 2007–and it set the bar high for others. I’m always thrilled when I get to come back as faculty and reunite with so many familiar faces, be part of the top-notch presentations you offer (one of the many reasons I adore PPWC), and be around such an enthusiastic, supportive, focused group of writers. This past year, as I always do, I filled my days when I wasn’t presenting attending the presentations of others–I learn so much there every time. And I am inspired and charged up every time I come by the authors I get to work with in my workshops–everyone is so fully engaged, dedicated to their craft, and wonderfully interactive. It’s also one of my favorite places to lead workshops. Coming to PPWC is like coming home, every time. ~Tiffany Yates Martin, Editor/Owner, FoxPrint Editorial

PPWC 2019 was my first time teaching at a writers conference, a longtime goal of mine. I was a little nervous, until I realized just how friendly and enthusiastic all the attendees were. Everyone at PPWC came with an open mind, ready to learn new things and build their writing skills. I was so impressed by the knowledge and curiosity of everyone who attended my classes–I think I learned more from them than they learned from me! ~Rachel Craft, Author

As I sit at home, drinking a hot mug of coffee, I like to reflect on the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met and the knowledge I’ve acquired. I try to process it all and allow it to motivate my writing. By the end of that first cup of Joe, I want to write all the things. I want to finish my manuscript, edit another and submit to every anthology. ~Jason Henry Evans, Author

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and workshops I was able to attend; the faculty was top-notch. And who can leave out the networking benefits of Barcon?  But ultimately, the very best part of PPWC was the friendships I made.  Writing can be such a lonely thing, but I have now gathered my tribe!  ~Kate V. Conway, Author

PPWC2019 met all of my expectations. My favorite quote from the weekend came from John Gilstrap when he said, “Don’t write a book – tell a story.” My favorite class was…ALL of them. So much information filled my notebook with knowledge and my mind with ideas. My favorite thing to do? Volunteer. I have been on the Query team since my first conference in 2012. It is a great way to contribute to this amazing event. These reasons (and many more) are why I return year after year. ~K.J. Scrim, Editor PPW Blog and Author

For the six years I’ve been attending PPWC, I’ve heard how the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, friendliest, and most respected conferences in the country, and while I believed my astute fellow conference volunteers, I am bred from the school of trust but verify. So, this year, when I was approached by many editors/agents, as well as all of the keynotes, I requested details when they told me how happy they were to attend a PPW Conference.

In summary, this is what I was told:
–The variety of material, genre, and skill levels catered to by the workshops, invited guests, and keynotes. A little something for everyone.

–The amount of coordination and organization conducted prior to and during conference by the conference volunteers.  “I can’t believe this is all done by volunteers”.

–The overall vibe of the conference is positive and light. We are able to maintain a joviality throughout the days and nights, something that is rare as time presses on.
~Kameron Claire, PPW President and Author

Let’s Go Camping!

Okay, I know it’s still a little too cold to be camping outside. But this is camping you can do at your computer. I’m talking about Camp NaNoWriMo.

I know you’ve heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Camp NaNoWriMo is the same premise, but a little different vibe. It’s like the younger sibling of NaNo. Camp NaNo takes place twice a year, in April and July, during a less stressful time of year. No major holidays to worry about or Christmas shopping to stress over, and little Sally doesn’t eat the cat’s food for lunch. I personally like Camps better than NaNoWriMo in November. I don’t feel as if I’m in a cave the entire month of writing, and it’s less stressful than NaNoWriMo.

Your Cabin Awaits

Cabin in the woods. Photo © Kathie Scrimgeour
Photo © Kathie Scrimgeour

In NaNoWriMo you have writing buddies, whereas in Camp NaNo you’re put into “cabins” with other writers, up to twenty in each cabin. If you have a group of friends you’d like to “bunk” with, you can create and name your cabin with those friends, or you can find a cabin to be a part of. Either way works. The fun part is encouraging each other, making jokes about your cabin (Okay, who left the smelly sock on the floor? Do we have stuff for the S’mores?”), and tracking your progress as well as each other’s.

The Count is up to You

Camp NaNo allows you to choose your goal by selecting either a word, page, line, minute, or hour count (anywhere from 30 to 1,000,000 words). You keep track online the same way as you would during NaNoWriMo, by inputting your words each night. Don’t feel like you’re going to make your goal? You can adjust your goal by editing your profile. If you have to change your goal, it’s okay. Life happens and the main thing is you’ve started writing, so that’s a major win!

Camp with Friends

If you like a more local feel, there are several places which host writing nights, where you can interact with other Wrimos in the area after being in your cabin all day. You can find them on the website by looking for your city. Municipal Liaisons will keep you informed on the whens and wheres, too. Writing sprint prompts, helpful hints, and more will be sent to your inbox once a day.

You’ll probably want some of the same survival items you had for November’s marathon. Tea or coffee, snacks, music if that’s your writing thang, and a notice to family and friends to only bother you if the house in on fire.

If you’re looking for a retreat to do some writing this year and you don’t want to spend a lot of money renting a cabin in the middle of the woods, Camp NaNoWriMo is the place to be, and you don’t have to pack the sunblock and insect repellant to participate. Happy camping!

Note from editor: Although Camp NaNo is a non-PPW event it is a perfect opportunity to write your novel just in time for #PPWC2019’s Query 1 on 1.

photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

Letter from the Editor – March & April

Dear Readers,

My letter to you this month is coming a few days late. Sorry, but I have a really good reason. Writing from the Peak is jam packed with such an amazing batch of posts that I am having a few problems getting them all scheduled. It is so packed that I am going to skip my letter in April.


We kick off these two months with a two part series from DeAnna Knippling who will guide you through Book Appraisals: Picking Comps. Margena Holmes introduces us to a non-PPW event, Camp NaNo, which takes place during the month of April. Jason Diaz, faculty member for PPWC2019, also has a two part series post on Why diversify our characters? Don’t miss this one.


As we go into April, award winning author and keynote speaker Susan Wiggs shares her writing process in Stuff you need to Know about Writing. Next up is Rebecca Davis, a long time attendee of PPWC, who has her top 5 lists of the Peevie Jeevies of editors and agents.

Mid-month, New York Times best selling author John Gilstrap will get you up to speed on Networking at Conference. Be ready to shake some hands and pass around business cards at PPWC2019.

Wrapping up April, Gabrielle Brown will give you the scoop on What to Expect at Conference followed by Margena Holmes who is in the know about Marketing on a Budget.

Never fear…your favorites are still here. Lit-Quotes will celebrate a few birthday anniversaries, and the wrap up from Writers Night will stop by in March and April.

Whew!! That’s a lot! Be sure to BOOKMARK this blog so you don’t miss anything. Come back often to keep up with all the news from Writing from the Peak.

See You at Conference! ~Kathie~


What’s in store for early May? CONFERENCE!!

The Prequel is May 2nd and PPWC2019 gets in full swing on May 3rd. Take a look at the workshops that are scheduled and the Who’s Who of PPWC2019. Hope to see you there!!



Regular registration runs April 8 – April 28

KJ Scrim, Profile ImageManaging Editor, Kathie “KJ” Scrim, is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her inspiration for blogging, flash fiction, short stories, and the long haul of novel writing comes from her many life experiences. When she’s not writing you can find her somewhere in Colorado walking, hiking, or rock climbing at the local gym.

How to Self-Publish and Keep Your Sanity

Traditional publishing has been inundated with submissions for years, and way back when, your only recourse was to make your manuscript stand out. You had to find that one idea, that one story that was different from anything else to get published.

Not to fear! Self-publishing has made it possible for authors who have a story to tell to get their work published. It’s not that self-published books are bad. Far from it! I’ve read many books that were self- published and have won awards.

If you want your work to stand out among the others, make it the best it can be.

How does one go about doing this self-publishing thing?

An author must wear many hats when they self-publish their book. First, make sure your manuscript is ready. Has it been critiqued? Given to a beta reader? Edited? All those things are a must before you even think about submitting it. If you want your work to stand out among the others, make it the best it can be. Sure, there are some who just want to put their book out there and say they’ve published a book. But if it’s riddled with errors, no one will buy it.

Correct Formatting

You’ll want to make sure that your manuscript is formatted correctly. If you have the budget, you can send your ms. to a formatter. They will take care of the following steps for you, or if you’re handy with the computer, you can do it yourself. If not, KDP and other self-publishing venues have templates for most trim sizes. Be aware that you’ll have to adjust them if you have more than ten chapters, but they have instructions for you to do that.

If your book will be a trim size of 6 x 9 (or whatever size you choose), you will need to format your ms. to that size. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to go through the ms. again, to make sure you don’t have any “widows or orphans” (single words or lines on a page by themselves, or at the beginning of a page or end of a paragraph).

Also, justify both right and left margins to get rid of the “ragged” look of the right edge, giving the page a cleaner look. That seems to be the industry standard.

Bind It

Once all that is done, you’ll have a better idea of your page count for the next step. You have to have an allowance for the binding of the book. In your margin settings, set your inside margins to what is specified with the publisher (it’s a different setting with different page counts, so that is why you need a fairly exact number for that), then mirror the margins, so that the left and right pages will have the correct inside margins once the book is bound.

Do you have a cover for it? Most self-publishing sites have a cover generator that you can play with to make your cover for free. Templates can help to make your vision a reality. You can upload a photo you have (make sure it’s high quality) to their templates, pick your font, and then it will go through a cover review to make sure it follows their rules.

If you’ve got some kind of budget for your cover, hiring someone with Photoshop or computer skills can make your cover a one-of-a-kind creation that will stand out. There are several groups on Facebook that are dedicated just to covers, and you can also find some on Fiverr.

If you’re willing to learn, there are tutorials on YouTube that can show you how to create your own cover. You’ll save some money and you’ll have created something that you can be proud of.

At this point you’ll want to upload your manuscript to the publisher. There are quite a few out there to choose from, but make sure you are not sending your baby to a vanity press. What’s a vanity press? A vanity press is a self-publishing company that will publish your manuscript for a fee, usually into the thousands of dollars. What do you get for that money? Not much. They will design a cover for you that anyone could have put together. It’s usually three colors, and it probably won’t catch the essence of your work. Not to mention if you haven’t edited your work, they won’t, either.

Get It Out There

There are so many reputable ways to get your book out there now, but you’ll need to do your homework and check them all out. Create Space has merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which seems to be the more popular company. IngramSpark will do it for a set-up fee, and they have a wider distribution that just Amazon, including bookstores.

Once you have uploaded your ms. to the publisher, they will have to review it for errors. That usually takes about 24 hours for the review. If you haven’t done your cover, now is a good time to work on it.

You’ll be notified by email when your ms. has finished the review process. If you don’t have any errors, hurray! You did everything right! If you have errors, look at the notes and go through the online reviewer to fix them. Once that’s done, off to the reviewer again. This is the time consuming process.

While it’s being reviewed, you can pick which markets you want your book distributed in. U.S.? Absolutely. UK? Why not? After you pick where it’s distributed, you can set your price. KDP will give you a minimum price you must be at or above to sell your book for, and you can pick which royalties you prefer. You can always go back and change your price and royalties later if you wish.

You get the email and you’ve finally passed the review stage.  Now what? Is it ready to go? Maybe not quite. I would recommend ordering a proof copy if your book will be in print. That way you can make sure the cover colors are how they should be (I had a book that printed darker than what the computer was showing me, and had to have the cover re-done—thanks, KL Cooper!). Reviewing a physical copy is also a good way to spot any other errors that may have been skimmed over on the online reviewer.

Push Publish

You get your actual print copy of your book and things look good. You can now start to hyperventilate as you hit “Publish.” It will feel good and stress you out at the same time. In roughly 3-5 days, your book will be listed on Amazon. Order your author copies to sell or give away, and crack open the champagne. You’re a published author now!

photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

You Finished NaNoWriMo—Now What?

NaNoWriMo has ended, and every writer that participated has come out of hibernation with a 50,000 word novel. Congratulations! You did it! Now what? It’s time to reconnect with the outside world again, see family and friends – and make sure that little Sally hasn’t been eating the cat’s food all month. Celebrate your success with a night out for dinner or a movie. I’m sure you can still see most of the blockbusters that were released in November while you were writing.

Now What?Post NaNoWriMo. Now What?

But, what do you really do now? First of all—relax! That was a lot of writing for a month, but now you have a whole new novel. That is quite the accomplishment! The novel may even make sense, but right now, put it away for a while. After writing all those words, you’re probably sick of seeing the story. It’s okay to have feelings of resentment toward this thing you created, and may even think it sucks and want to chuck it out the window. Before you do something that drastic, let it sit while you breathe. You’ve got the holidays coming up this month, so take the time to visit with the friends and family you neglected while in your writing cave.

Make Preliminary Notes

After letting it sit for a bit, take a look at it again. Read it over with fresh eyes. Wow, did I really write that same sentence on two different pages? Make some preliminary notes on what you want to change, but don’t do your full-on edit just yet. Get a feel for what you wrote, as you may not have had time to do that as you wrote your novel. NaNo gets you writing, but it’s intense writing. Now you have the time to check it out.


Once your preliminary read-through is done, take your time to look it over with a fine-tooth comb. Refer to your notes and read each section carefully. Does it need a little more description here, or less dialogue there? How’s the grammar? This is where you want to make those changes, add some “flavor” to what you wrote. During NaNo, you’re so focused on “getting the story out” that sometimes these bits can be glossed over and missed altogether. Take the time now to add these things in. Hopefully you still have some of your coffee or tea to get you through this process.

When I do NaNo, I know that my writing suffers a bit because I’m focused on word count. A month later, I’m ready to tackle what I’ve written, see what can be salvaged, and start the editing process. I’m super proud of all of you who took part in NaNoWriMo this year, and maybe someday soon I’ll see your brand new book for sale on Amazon!

photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

You’re Doing WHAT in November?

November. Cooler weather, crisp leaves, pumpkin spiced everything, and that crazy time of year called National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo—easier to say, too. It just rolls off the tongue. That time of year when all writers hibernate to write out 50,000 words in 30 days.

Be a Little Crazy

Say what? 50,000 words in 30 days? Are you insane? You’re going to attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days, while shopping for the holidays, preparing for Thanksgiving, working your job, taking care of the family, and not send your kids out to pee in the backyard or pour your toddlers food into the cat bowl? Why yes, yes I am!

You have to be a little crazy to be a writer. Writers talk to themselves, trying to figure out plot points in their story, have conversations with their characters, and you really don’t want to check their search history.You have to be a little crazy to be a writer.

50,000 words in 30 days? How?

Planning. You may be a Pantser, but you really do need to do some planning for this if you wish to keep what little sanity you have as a writer intact. Your daily writing goal works out to be 1,667 words—roughly about four pages a day, single spaced.

When are you most productive? Do you write better in the morning or at night? If you are more creative in the morning, plan to write then, even if you have to get up an hour or two earlier to write before going to work. If you wait until after work to try to write, you’ll find yourself forcing it. Instead of 1,667 words, you have five, and two of those will be Chapter One. On the other hand, if you’re a Night Owl, writing first thing in the morning probably won’t work, even after your third cup of coffee. You’ll be worried about making your daily goal and sit there and stress for the entire morning, banging your head on your keyboard because you can’t find the words to write.

Caffeine. Stock up now on your caffeinated drink of choice. You’ll need it for those long writing marathons (it’s a marathon, not a sprint, as they say). Don’t overdo it, however, or you’ll be jittery and your writingwilllooklikethis or ttttthiiiisss. Buy a new mug for your drink, something special perhaps just for NaNoWriMo with a motivational quote on it. Coffee or tea not your thing? How about hot chocolate or a candy bar? The little bits of caffeine in chocolate may be enough to stimulate your creative juices. Make it dark chocolate for added health benefits.

Snacks. You have to eat sometime, right? Have healthy snacks at the ready to munch on while you’re thinking about how to kill off your bad guy.

Water. Don’t forget to hydrate, or your brain will turn to mush. Seriously, you’ll have a headache by Chapter Five. Plus caffeine is dehydrating. Drink your water!

Take a break! Get up and move around to get the blood flowing to your brain again, as well as to your legs and backside. Exercise, even if it’s just taking a walk around the block will help when you’ve hit that creative wall, and help you keep your sanity while writing those 1,667 words a day.

Turn off or silence your cell phone. Pretend you’re at work (you are) and aren’t allowed to answer your phone. The constant distraction from social media, emails, friends, etc, will certainly drive you crazy while trying to write.

No matter your writing style, keeping your sanity during this exciting month of writing will be beneficial to you and those around you. Otherwise, you have little Sally running to her room, screaming, “Mom’s putting my food in the cat bowl again!” Good luck to all you WriMos out there!

photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

Hitting “Publish”

As a self-published author, I find it’s sometimes a scary thing when you are doing it all on your own. You have to make sure your manuscript is edited, you have to either create your cover or find someone willing to do it within your budget, and then you start the publishing process—all on your own!

You write your heart out, creating characters and worlds, and the self-doubt comes in. Is it good enough? Wow, that bit of writing there is awesome. I’m the greatest writer ever. Cue the Rocky theme. Then you write some more, and re-read it the next day. Wow, that bit sucks. I’m the worst writer ever. Cue Green Day’s Good Riddance.

Critique groups

I have used critique groups in the past for working out passages in my book, and this is usually the first time you’ll put your work “out there” for review, and it can be a bit scary. The members of the group will offer up ways to make your writing better. It may be as simple as changing a word for more impact, or as complicated as moving an entire sentence. As hard as it may be, don’t take it personally what they say about your writing (What? They don’t love my baby like I do?). It’s meant to be constructive and help better your story.

Beta ReadersHit publish and let it grow.

Beta readers are a great addition to your writing team at this point. They will tell you what is wrong with your book, and what is working with your story as well. They are an invaluable tool to making your story better. I have found some to be just as good as an editor—very thorough.
Recently, I published my new book with Create Space (yes, it’s still alive and kicking—for now), and every step of the way, my breathing became more shallow and rapid and my hands started shaking. Is this ready? Like, is my baby, that I’ve nurtured and cared for, written and rewritten, edited until the cows came home, really ready to be put forth into the world?

Online Reviewer

The online reviewer showed that there was one issue, but it seemed that it was already taken care of, since as I reviewed the files, I didn’t see any issues. Wow, that’s a first! I did it right the first time? Awesome.

The Proof Copy

I ordered my proof copy, because even though you can see what’s wrong in the online reviewer, having a physical copy in your hands shows a lot more issue. Whoops! My author picture inside at the end of my book is off-center. Gotta fix it! I look through the book more, making sure it is indeed ready to go. Upload the corrected files…and wait for the review of the files again. This time, no issues are found. Now, is my baby really ready to be put into the cold, cruel world of readership? [Further Reading]

Hit Publish

Well, it may never be 100% ready to go. I think any writer will tell you that they’ve found issues they should have corrected on any of their books. You could spend a lifetime making it ready to go, but for now, you hit “Publish” and let it grow in the world!


photo of margin holmesMargena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade.  Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: