Saturday, January 31, 2015

Congratulations Are In Order

By MB Partlow

October was Arts Month in the Pikes Peak Region, and Pikes Peak Writers jumped on board with great enthusiasm. In additional to our regular Write Brain, we had an improv night, an open mic night and a Saturday writing workshop for teens.

As a special incentive for Arts Month, we took the names of everyone who attended all of the events (except the teen workshop), threw them into a hat and pulled one lucky winner to receive a FREE Thursday Prequel at the April Writers Conference.

We’d like to congratulate our winner, Damon Smithwick. And here’s what he had to say about PPW and winning the free Prequel.

PPW: It's no surprise you won the free Thursday Prequel in our Arts Month promotion. You seem to be at all of our events. What keeps you coming back?

Damon: It was certainly a pleasant surprise to me that I won a free Prequel. I'm very grateful. What keeps me coming back to PPW events is self-interest. I want to be a successful author. I feel I am getting fantastic information from PPW and from those who host, run, and attend PPW events. I feel very fortunate to have an asset like PPW available in the community I live in. Not only that, but the authors attending these events are amazing. These people are my influences, and I feel good about that.

PPW: What's the best advice you've gotten from a PPW Write Brain?

Damon: I think the best advice from a Write Brain so far is a conglomeration of information given by the ladies who did the Social Media panel: Jennie Marts, Deb Courtney, Sue Mitchell, Ashley Bazer and Jessica McDonald. They were great at educating the attendees on how to market themselves. Particularly for self-publishers. I'd attend that one again if I could, and probably take better notes. Strangely, I'm terrible at notes. These ladies made a topic I'm not fond of at all, marketing, understandable. Most days I just want to write the book. Thanks in part to these ladies I realize that there is so much more to it than that.

PPW: If you could pick any topic, what kind of Write Brain presentation would you like to see?

Damon: I just recently dove into the world of self-publishing, and I'd like to see a Write Brain on that, in depth. Not about marketing, or anybody's individual experience, but about the self-publication process. The nuts and bolts. Particularly about Amazon Kindle and Createspace, because let's face it, that is the 800-pound gorilla in the business. Information on the various options, iTunes and for example, would also be welcome.

PPW: What are you most looking forward to at the PPW Prequel this year?

Damon: As I mentioned, I've embraced self-publishing, so I'm deeply interested in Bree Ervin's class, Edit Your Novel Like a Pro. I think readers of self-published material tend to understand that there will be a few errors, but I think we, as authors, owe it to our readers to provide the best story and most error-free book we can for them. That drive is what makes us professionals, whether we're submitting our material to agents or directly to the public. Any tool that enhances that professionalism is going to be on my learning agenda.

PPW: And finally, what are you looking forward to the most at the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference?

Damon: I'm looking forward to so many things! Seeing the people I met last year. The classes, and conversations in the bar. What I think I'm looking forward to most, however, is the uplift the conference gives me. Last year I was so motivated afterward. I couldn't wait to put all this new knowledge into practice. Sometimes everyday life steals a bit of that drive away from us. Family issues, kids, life in general can be a huge distraction. PPWC worked wonders on restoring my focus last year. The conference reminded me that we're not telling campfire stories. Well, maybe we are, but if so those campfire stories are wrapped in an insatiable desire to share them with the greatest effect on the most people. I have no doubt I will leave PPWC this year tired, maybe dazed, but certainly ready to attack my keyboard with renewed gusto.

For more information about the 23rd annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference and the Thursday Prequel, please visit We’ve got spectacular keynote speakers, insightful agents and editors, and a host of faculty who will help you choose your writing adventure.

MB Partlow's first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She wrote a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent for several years, and freelanced for The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, working her way up from chair stacker at Write Brains to Moderator Coordinator, Contest Coordinator, Director of Programming, and now Conference Director for 2015. A voracious reader across genres, she primarily write urban fantasy, although she ventures into space opera, mystery and magical realism. MB is physically unable to restrain her sense of humor, and her mouth occasionally moves faster than her brain. She blogs at, and can be reached at

Friday, January 30, 2015

Deadlines, Published or Not: Critical Tools for Writers

By Donnell Ann Bell 

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”  ~ Douglas Adams

Amusing quote, and if you’re a writer, no doubt, one you can relate to. It may have even been relevant back in the day when competition was less and publishers had a small stable of authors. They had no choice but to wait. For the author, for the delivery of mail, for the printing press, and the invariable steps publishers went through to make a book ready for market.

Don’t look now, folks, but it’s 2015. Like it or not, due to ease of technology (anyone remember carbon paper?), books are being written—and published—whether they’re good, whether they’re edited, or whether they’re ready for an audience. I can literally string a bunch of sentences together, and if I’m willing to pay, slap a cover on them, self-publish them, and call myself an author.
I choose not to do that, and I hope I can convince you to follow a more polished direction as well. Am I telling you not to self-publish? Not at all. What I am suggesting is that you give yourself a fighting chance: hone your craft, work on your project and while you’re carving that path, give yourself deadlines.

Okay, but deadlines are for people who have a publishing contract, right? Again, not at all. Deadlines are something we writers set to finish a book in the first place. I will write 3,000 words a day. I will have Draft One finished by xx. I will send it out to readers by xx. I will devote xx amount of time to research and xx amount of time to writing. What’s more, I will not – I repeat, I will NOT keep working on the same three chapters over and over again. Setting daily deadlines is instrumental. That is, if you wish to have a successful writing career.

I’m on deadline. I have no time to let anything go whooshing by me. Not in this competitive market. I want readers to buy my books. More importantly, I want them to remember me when the next book comes out. It’s 2015 and the publishing era has exploded. If writing truly is your passion, and you want to call yourself an author (a writer who didn’t quit), set daily and monthly goals. Will you fail on occasion? Of course. But the good news is you’ll pick yourself up. Like anything, goal-setting is about repetition and it is habit forming. What’s more, published or not, it fills you with a huge sense of accomplishment. Write your goals on your calendar. Set affirmations. Send yourself daily reminders, including 'have I completed my word count today'?

The world is filled with distractions. Thanks to the Internet, attention deficit is at an all-time high. As commander of your ship, you are in charge of your destination. With all due respect to Mr. Douglas’s funny quote above, I infinitely prefer . . .

A goal is a dream with a deadline ~ Napoleon Hill

Happy 2015.

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is the author of The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall and Betrayed, all of which have been e-book best sellers. Buried Agendas is her newest release. She is honored that The Past Came Hunting and Betrayed were chosen as part of the Pikes Peak Library book club; further she loves to visit with readers. Along with veteran police officer Wally Lind, Donnell co-owns Crimescenewriters, a Yahoo group putting law enforcement experts together with writers. Like her on Facebook or contact her via her website   

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Because I’m Not About the Pitch, ‘Bout the Pitch—Just Query

By Ashley Hodges Bazer

Have you heard? Pikes Peak Writers Conference has done away with Pitch!

What’s that about? I mean, isn’t that was writers’ conferences are for…meeting with an agent or editor? Rubbing elbows and networking with people in the industry to secure a career in writing? How in the world am I going to get my million dollar advance for my multi-book contract with one of the Big 5 publishers?

Cool your jets, Kemosabe. Just like pink is the new black, Query 1-on-1 is the new Pitch. And let me, your Query 1-on-1 Coordinator, tell you why.          

Instead of spending eight excruciating minutes trying to impress a total stranger with a memorized logline, a summary, and a glowing sales pitch, you’ll now have the opportunity to get instant feedback on your one page query letter. You’ll sit down with one of these knowledgeable agents or editors, slide a single sheet of paper across the table, and learn what stands out in your query letter and what could be made better. There’s still the same chance the agent or editor will request to see more. There’s still the same conversation about your work. But there is now a springboard in place—a solid, well-crafted query directed toward the agent or editor you will meet with. Your logline and summary committed to ink, not waffling on nerves. It’s an opportunity to share a sample of your polished writing with a literary giant.

I’m personally quite excited about this new format. My first pitch in 2013 went fairly well, but last year, I think I tried too hard. Those eight pitching minutes were miserable! I was way too nervous, and I had psyched myself out. I had chosen to meet with an agent, and I was rather confident in my idea. I even went to the speed pitching sessions to sharpen my skills and receive some pointers. I had my logline down cold, but when I stood outside the pitch room with my fellow authors, the jitters showed up. I sat down across from the kind agent and blurted out my logline. Our conversation about my book was over in about two minutes. Yes, thankfully, she wanted to see more. But now we had six minutes to sit and chat.

I will be the first to tell you, I am an introvert. A classic, stereotypical, quintessential introvert. I am much better at writing words than speaking them. (That’s why we write, no?) On top of that, these agents and editors are literary celebrities to a meek, hopeful author. These are people we cyberstalk, trying to determine their likes and preferences. We follow them on Twitter, hanging on their every Tweet. We Google them over and over, looking for that one piece of valuable information that will give us an “in.” We hope they accept our Facebook friend request. How cool would you look to your other author friends by tagging one of the literary elite?

Okay…so maybe it’s just me.

But I believe this fresh idea we lovingly call Query 1-on-1 will prove far more beneficial to those of us who choose to participate than the previous pitching years. I hope you will take advantage of this conference perk. Just sign up for Query 1-on-1 when you register. Tell us your top three choices, and we’ll try to make that happen. Then, the rest is up to you. Research, write, polish, revise, polish again, read aloud, polish one more time, edit down to one single page of genius, and present.

See you on the seventh floor!

About the Author: Ashley Hodges Bazer is the author of the sci-fi series, The Crown's Call. She’s often decked out in bellbottoms and grooving out on the lighted dance floor. Okay, not really, but she does have a thing for the BeeGees. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. After earning her bachelor’s degree in theatrical stage management from Arizona State University, she went on to work for Disneyland in that capacity. A love affair with books led her to work for several different bookstores. Currently a producer for an international daily radio program, she’s learning to balance working, writing, and momming duties. When she’s not writing, she’s crocheting or belting out Broadway show tunes. And she's a real duchess! Learn more about Ashley and her upcoming books at

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nuances in Writing: Showing and Telling

By Linda Rohrbough

Recently I was in a critique group where we all read our work. I liked the story of one author who read and told her if I started her book, I’d keep reading. But I also told her that the work would be stronger if she didn’t combine showing with telling. She had trouble understanding what I meant so I had to explain. 

So let me define what I mean by telling, then what I mean by showing, then what it looks like when both are combined.

Let’s say I have a character who is angry. If I’m telling, I might write something like this:

John angrily told everyone he was done.

A stronger version might use dialog, like this:

“I’m done,” John said angrily.

But notice either way, I just told you John was angry. You can’t tell from what he said that he was angry. Given the context, you might be able to figure it out, but the phrase, “I’m done,” could mean anything from ‘I finished the dishes’ to ‘I am ending a relationship.’

Now, let me “show” using this same statement and character.

John slammed his hand on the table. “I’m done with you.”

Do I need to tell you John is angry? Do I need to tell you John is ending a relationship? Nope. You got it both from my description of the action and from what he said.

Now, let me combine showing and telling.

John slammed his hand on the table. “I’m done with you,” he said angrily.

So now that you’ve seen the three examples, can you see showing is stronger than telling? And can you see that showing alone is the strongest version? There’s an added benefit of making the story move faster, which is the experience you want your reader to have.

I hope this doesn’t seem too obvious, but I see writers do it all the time. When I see it, I assume the writer didn’t trust the reader to follow, so they add telling to be sure the reader is tracking with them - especially if it’s important to the writer that the reader get the emotion involved.

It’s much better to assume the reader is smart and that they get the nuances. It makes for a pleasant experience for the reader. It makes the work stronger and more compelling. And that, in turn, makes you a better writer.

About the Author:  Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time."
(From The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland)
Lewis Carroll
January 27, 1932 - January 14, 1898

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Nuances in Writing: Showing and Telling       Linda Rohrbough

* Query 1-on-1 at PPWC                                         Ashley Bazer

* Deadlines, Published or Not                              Donnell Ann Bell 

Friday, January 23, 2015

3rd Annual Write Your Heart Out

By Jennifer LaPointe

On the fence about going to Pikes Peak Writers Conference, or just looking for some great interesting and educational programming? The 3rd Annual Write Your Heart Out will take place next month on Saturday, February 14, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. This free half-day conference preview will once again feature six local speakers who are faculty for PPWC 2015. This is a popular event with limited seating, so an RSVP is required. Be sure to send your full name and phone number to to grab your seat for this free half-day workshop!

We will have a small bookstore at the event, just like last year, with books available from our WYHO speakers, as well as craft and PPWC 2015 keynote books, and our WYHO speakers will be signing at the event! And, once again, we will offer some great giveaways and specials for those attending WYHO. Even better, this year we're offering a limited number of headshots due to heavy demand at PPWC. These are $50 each, complete with CD of your retouched photos. Every author needs a headshot! We have a limited number of slots available, so headshots will need to be booked in advance via

Not to be outdone, the Marriott, home of both Write Your Heart Out and PPWC, is offering a special Valentine's package for the evening of the event. $214 will get you a junior suite, champagne dinner, and breakfast for two, taxes and gratuity included. Come for the event, stay for the romance!

For some reason recent Non-Conference Events directors have been introverts, so this year we’ve arranged for the ever funny and outgoing Becky Clark to be our master of ceremonies.

Mike Befeler 
Avoid Dejection from Rejection
The world of writing is fraught with rejection and bad reviews. How do we writers keep a stiff upper lip and deal with these negative forms of feedback? How can we turn a negative into a positive? Come learn from Mike who will relate his own experiences and those of famous authors who have all suffered the same types of indignities. Come prepared to chuckle and share some of your own experiences.

Fleur (F.T.) Bradley
How To Plot Your Novel Using Plot Points
So you have a great idea for a novel, or maybe you have a messy rough draft in that writer’s drawer. Find out how to transform your novel manuscript from a wimpy doughboy with a flabby middle into a novel fit for submission. Author F.T. Bradley will show you how to take a logline/concept and characters, and build to a strong outline, while still leaving pantsers plenty of room to color outside the lines.

Kevin Ikenberry
Kindle Worlds: Letting Fan Love Shine
Have you ever watched a movie, television show, or read a book and had that flash of a brilliant story idea only to learn than because of licensing and copyright you’d never be able to sell it? Kindle Worlds is a publication platform where an author can choose a licensed World, write a story, and sell it with full approval. Kindle Worlds bridges the gap between professionally written fan fiction and the media tie-in. In this short program, we’ll discuss what sets Kindle Worlds apart and highlight the unique opportunity it provides authors at every level.

Julie (J.A.) Kazimer
Destination: Author
With one destination in mind, Author, how many roads will it take to become one? The answer is easy. As many as it takes to get you there. So just what are the paths to authorship? Are you on the right path for your career or even your specific book? How do you navigate the publishing industry in an ever twisting landscape? Join me in a discussion of the various paths open to authors, both with and without tolls.

Cara Lopez Lee 
Flash, Not Fiction: Apply Flash Fiction Forms to Nonfiction Why should fiction writers be the only ones who flash? The flash storytelling form has plenty to excite creative nonfiction writers. Author Cara Lopez Lee will share her take on how to pack a truckload of personal experience into a tiny suitcase of a story. There's a lot you can say in just 100 to 1000 words when you focus on what a truly telling detail can do. You may even walk away with a first draft of a story in under 100 words!


Jennie Marts 
Creating an Author Brand and Marketing Your Book
Have you heard you need to build your author brand but aren’t sure how to start? Jennie Marts will give you concrete tools to help you create your own author brand and then use it to promote your most valuable tool…YOU! Learn creative ideas to build your brand and market yourself and your book.

For more information on Write Your Heart Out, visit the WYHO tab at our website.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Say YES and Write

By Stacy S. Jensen

Recently, I've seen several writers question if it's worth writing a story, when there may be a similar title already published or in the process of being published. 

I always vote for write first and think later. Why? Well, publishing is a subjective business. Plus, we get told NO by agents, editors, and our fellow writers enough. We should at least tell ourselves yes and write.

My reality right now —come in close— everything I write may never get published. I don't have an agent. I don't have a manuscript under contract. I write, revise, repeat, and squeeze submit into that process. 

By the time, my toddler graduates from high school, I may have a glorified baby book in the form of picture books detailing the antics of bears training to be park rangers and a boy who locks his mother out of the house. 

I write a lot of vomit drafts. I work to turn drafts into polished manuscripts with the hopes of publication one day. 

A lot of this process is out of my control. So I focus on what I can control, my story — how I birth it, nurture it, and change it. I can't control a hot-new trend of zombie tooth fairy books, an agent's unspoken wish (or hate) list, or the five books already in the publishing pipeline with a similar storyline. 

I wrote about my no rules writing method in 2012. I still do this. 

While I'm guilty of mentioning rules, from time to time during critiques, I cling to advice that just tells me to write. Here are a few examples: 

•I whip out Romelle Broas' interview with debut author Sherri Dusky Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site when I need a reminder. Ringer sent a rhyming, bedtime picture book, unagented, and unsolicited to a major publishing house. She became a New York Times bestseller. 

•Rob Sanders, author of Cowboy Christmas, wrote about his first book — a cowboy book with three adult main characters, set at Christmas. 

•Deborah Underwood, author of The Quiet Book during ReviMo: "If I'd been trying to write only what I thought would be publishable, I might never have developed those ideas." She also offers a great tip at Julie Hedlund's blog: "Write to please yourself, not the market." 

•In Darshana's interview with Salina Yoon, author and illustrator of Penguin and Pinecone, Yoon gave this advice to beginning authors and illustrators: "Make it your goal to CREATE, write, and grow, . . . and not to publish. Keep your eye on the ball … and that ball is to write or illustrate, … and publishing will follow!" 

I believe there's no reason to kill a story based on this subjective business of market trends, agent preferences, and rules. Maybe there are no new stories, but it's fun trying to write one. 

Let others tell you no, but say yes to yourself and write. 

(This post originally appeared on Meg Miller's blog for the Petite ReviMo Challenge, where picture book writers revise their manuscripts, on March 11, 2014.)

About the Author: Stacy S.Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.