Saturday, April 19, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Gordon Warnock

Gordon Warnock, Agent, Foreword Literary

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an agent? 

There was a moment when I started falling in love with manuscripts and realized that this was something I could make happen

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?


3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

I think Borges would be a hoot.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

Hanging out with R.L. Stine was a bit of a moment, having grown up in the Goosebumps generation.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

I asked, and they said Archer. No idea why.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

About the Agent: Gordon Warnock is a founding partner at Foreword Literary, bringing years of experience as a senior literary agent, marketing director and editor for independent publishers, freelance publishing consultant, and college-level writing tutor. He frequently teaches workshops and gives keynote speeches at conferences and MFA programs nationwide. He is an honors graduate of CSUS with a B.A. in Creative and Professional Writing. Gordon is taking pitches for nonfiction, fiction, and graphic novels for adults, NA, and YA.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Survive PPWC Without Becoming a Zombie - Plus Bonus Tips!

(Below this post on surviving PPWC, you'll find tips from PPW members!)

By Tena Stetler

Good news is that I recently read Colorado is one of the few states most likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. Better news is that it is possible to survive the conference and not become a zombie. First, you want to get as much rest as possible in the weeks leading up to the conference because sleep is a fleeting thing during the conference. There are old friends to catch up with, new friends to connect with, and so many workshops to attend your head will spin.

Second, make sure to pack high protein snacks and drink lots, and I mean lots, of water. If you are from out of town, this is especially important; you’re now residing at over 6,000 feet in elevation. One glass of wine can have quite an effect on you, so suck down that H2O. You can use those frequent bathroom trips to work on your pitch or figure out which workshop to attend next.

Is this your first conference? Take deep breaths and plunge in, but make sure you come up for air and relax from time to time - it can be a bit overwhelming. Download your workshop sheets as early as possible, and review them carefully, so you can plan what you want to attend and check for any conflicts ahead of time. There could be last minute changes, so check the packet you receive at sign in for the up-to-date schedule. If you are pitching, work on that logline and practice talking about your book to everyone that will listen in the weeks prior to the conference. Participating in the Read and Critique? Polish that first page, double-spaced, and have several copies ready (remember to bring them). You won’t remember everything you learn at the conference, but you will remember the friendships you make. Most of all, have a wonderful time, it is a great adventure. One you’ll want to experience year after year.

Remember that editors and agents are all people just like us. They are attending the conference in hopes of finding that new idea and fresh voice that you have perfected in your novel. Don’t let nerves get the best of you. Be creative and use your imagination when conjuring up the agent or editor’s appearance in your mind. But stifle the giggle when you make that pitch or read your page. 

For those of us who have attended a few conferences, help out the newbies. You'll recognize them by the glazed eyes, rapid breathing, and panicked expression. I know you still carry memories of your first conference.

Finally, just soak it all in. Too soon it will be all over and your zombie-like characteristics may emerge Sunday night. Until then, do what you can to keep all your parts attached. Have Fun.   

About the Author: By day, Tena Stetler is an Office and IT Manager for an electrical contractor. When the sun disappears behind the Majestic Rocky Mountains, she can be found at her computer surrounded by vampires, demons, witches, and other paranormal creatures as she writes Paranormal Romance and Cozy Mysteries. She’s also written articles for a variety of magazines about traveling with pets, and raising and training parrots. She shares her life with her husband, two parrots, a dog, and a 40-year-old box turtle. When not sitting behind a computer, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.

Thank you, Tena! Now, we've got some additional bonus tips for attending conferences. We asked members on our Yahoo! Loop for their advice, and this is some of what we got:

For low-landers with little experience in high altitudes, you need to accept that the hotel is at 6400 ft (well over Denver's "mile high" claims) and the humidity is typically low.  As a result, alcohol will pack a double punch because you'll already by partially dehydrated due to the low humidity and the fact that there is less oxygen in the air at altitude.  Drink half as much alcohol as you normally would in a comparable social situation.  When it's time to go to bed, turn on the hot water in the shower for about 10 minutes and leave the bathroom door open.  You'll add some much needed moisture to the room and you'll find it easier to get to sleep.    

~Laura Hayden-- who faces this same problem each year, dealing with the altitude

DRINK WATER!!! Drink at least 3 bottles of water from the time you wake until you go to bed for the first two days you are in Colorado (more if your bladder can handle it). If you drink any alcohol....drink more water.

TAKE IT EASY. Don't plan on a 10 mile hike your first day here, and don't play 18 holes of golf. A friend of mine played 18 holes the first day he was here and spent the next 3 days in bed. A nice easy walk on a flat surface (like cruising around the conference) is great. Breath the mountain is amazing!  

DRINK MORE WATER! Really!  :-)

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of fun!
I can't wait to meet everyone!!

~Kathie Scrimgeour

Drink water for three or four days BEFORE you come.  Then keep it up.  It's all about hemoglobin...

~Jaxine Daniels

Shy people: Arm yourselves with the most wonderful phrase anyone ever invented.  

     "What do YOU write?"

You can even approach people you've never met!

Come with open ears and open mind.  You might hear three different speakers say three different things about anything from how to publish to how to develop your ideas to how to create characters or worlds or sentences.  All of them have something to teach, even if it is only that every writer is different and every career is different.  Somewhere there will be a spark that's just right for you.  Real Writers are constantly learning.

~Carol Berg

Out going people: Don't monologue. Give everyone at your table a chance to talk to that author, agent or editor. Use your outgoing personality to encourage more shy folks to talk about their stories.

~A. Stopani

Make the most of your conference experience by networking.  Don’t simply cling to the familiar.  Make it a goal to get to know your fellow writers as well as the industry professionals.  You’re attending to learn, to make those contacts, so treat it as business.  And have fun.

~Donnell Ann Bell,

Listen, Listen

You’ll be surrounded by people with myriad experiences, most good, a few not so much – but even those will be helpful in the long run.

Say Howdy to everyone you see with a STAFF badge. They are all there for YOU. Pick a couple of panel discussions, and you can get the experience of several panelists, and a number of experienced people in the audience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Look for some of the fun stuff. Weapons workshops, pitch practice, etc.

Did I mention Listen?

Oh yeah, this one can’t be said enough --- HYDRATE! And take in the beautiful country surrounding Colorado Springs.

~Ron Heimbecher

I've been attending and/or teaching at PPWC for 17 years.  I have suggestions.

pillow - if you are picky about the one you use
antihistamine - if sleeping is an issue with all the excitement
lotion - dry air in CO

Drink tons of water - especially if you drink - high altitude has knocked some visitors out.

Take social chances. Push through shyness. Stretch those boundaries. Schmooze outside of pitches and is when much of the action happens. I've gotten 3 different agents whom I didn't formally pitch to by simply talking casually with them.

Buy the recordings if you have to miss some sessions because of an agent appointment or parallel workshop. Then you can listen to them as you take your long walks.

Bring different lengths of work you'll pitch. Typically they won't take anything from you to lug home, but I know at least one author who was asked for a full at the conference and picked up by that agent before conference was over-literally the agent read the work over the conference.

Put on your smile and allow for a day of rest after the conference. You'll need that rest; the energy at PPWC is so intense, relaxation may be hard to come by.

And say hi to Shannon while there!  :) 

~Karen Lin,

:: The first time I attended PPWC, I drove out from Kansas City, alone, knowing no one. We writers tend to be loners anyway, but we're MUCH more comfortable with our own kind--other writers. Remember that you're not alone, that others face the same introvert issues you do, and remind yourself that we're ALL in the same boat! The people you'll meet are "just like you." And this particular conference is the friendliest ever.

:: Volunteer. My first break in the "ice" (my personal ice, no one else's) came when I I got up the nerve to talk to Dawn Smit about an idea I had for the annual writing contest, which I'd entered 2-3 times. And as she and I talked, I realized there are other things, some of them little things, that the conference workers could use help with. So I stepped up. I now volunteer every year as a moderator, which I enjoy tremendously. And it feels good to be a contributor in some small way.

:: For meals, sit at tables where you see people--including speakers--that you're interested in talking to. Even if you can't get up the nerve to talk to a famous author directly, there will be people at the table who can and will, and before you know it, you'll just be one of the writers, full of questions, curiosity, and awe!

:: Take lots of notes--and write legibly! Take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and pick their brains. Or buy the conference recordings of the sessions, so you won't lose anything. 

:: Relax. enjoy the events, learn everything you can, and remember that you're with friends. I've become convinced that, at least at PPWC, everyone is a friend of everyone else attending. 

:: Come back next year. And the year after. And the one after that. From my first bumbling, uncertain conference I made friends, and I'll be attending my 8th? 9th? PPWC this month. And I look forward to seeing the friends that I only see once a year, at this event.

~Marti Verlander,

Finally, J.T. Evans, president of PPW, posted some great conference tips at his blog in the following 2 posts:

Got business cards? Know how to avoid Con Crud? Are you aware of the 3-2-1 Rule? No? J.T. mentions these and more in the above posts.

Thanks for visiting! We'll see you at Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014!

Compiled By Shannon Lawrence

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Pete Klismet

Pete Klismet, Author/Expert

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author?

I had so many experiences in 30 years in law enforcement, and had read some books by former law enforcement officers that made me think “I can write as well as he can.” It was a long process, but I finally found the impetus - a case I’d done a profile on almost 30 years ago in which 6 innocent people were convicted, and wouldn’t have been if only they had paid attention to the profile I’d done. My first thought was “This story MUST be told,” and that led to my completion of “FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil.” It’s one of several cases in the book.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I need two things: Privacy and mornings. The creative juices flow for me between about 8 am and 2 pm. My wife has learned to not engage me in conversation when she sees I’m writing.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

He’s not truly a ‘literary figure,’ but Joseph Wambaugh who was a prolific writer of true crime stories and produced such shows as “Police Story,” in the 70’s and 80’s would be my guy. I’m also partial to Ann Rule who does extensive research into her true crime stories.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I’ve only attended two, the Public Safety Writer’s Ass’n, held in Las Vegas every year. Those have given me so many contacts and friends, plus being critical in getting FBI Diary published, so I think I’ll always be a member. I am really excited about this year’s PPW conference, both as a presenter and attendee. I’ve gotten to know some members and will be thrilled to meet others. I think authors have an immediate bond formed. Sorta' like cops!

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

We just did some internet research on this, including a ‘cartoon character personality test,’ and the only thing that fit me was Tweety Bird. I thought it would be some type of a big cuddly bear, but it turns out Tweety was a perfect fit. Surprise.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

What is success? For me, it was finally getting a book published. That was a life-long dream. But, it involved failure along the way, writer’s block and finally a lot of persistence. It’s going to take some time. I wrote my first book about 30 years ago, and it was an egg. I attended a couple of writer’s workshops and found out ‘how’ to write. I was good at writing narrative police reports, but that didn’t translate into books. I had to learn how to make that paradigm shift.

About the Expert/Author: Thirty years ago, a small cadre of FBI agents were hand-picked by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) to receive training in what was then a highly-controversial and ground breaking concept, “Psychological Profiling.”  Pete was fortunate enough to have been chosen to become one of the original FBI ‘profilers.’  Before his retirement from the FBI in 1999, Pete received additional training, was temporarily assigned to work with the BSU in Quantico, Virginia, and put that training and experience to work in assisting state, federal and local law enforcement agencies in investigating violent crimes.  Pete served two tours in Vietnam on submarines.  (Submarines in Vietnam?  It’s the title of a chapter in his newly-released, award-winning book “FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil.”)  After completing college in Denver, Pete served as a police officer in Ventura, California for nearly ten years.  During that time, he earned two Master’s degrees from universities in California, and part of a third. He was named the 1999 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, and retired that year. For the next 13 years, he taught in colleges, and is now retired as a professor emeritus. He and his wife Nancy live in Colorado Springs.  He plans to release ‘a couple more books’ in 2014.

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Sarah Peed

Sarah Peed, Editor, Del Rey Spectra & Hydra

1. What was the defining moment that made you realize you wanted to be an editor?  
When I was in 4th grade, I wrote a novella about a Navy captain, based loosely on my grandfather. It was full of adventure and mystery and, as I recall it, one very inconveniently-timed kitchen fire. I was so proud of it that I took it to my teacher and asked her to edit it for me, thus initiating my first real publishing experience. She and I went back-and-forth on the novella, doing major scene reworks and nitpicky line edits, until we agreed that it was in the best shape it could possibly be. I forced friends and family members to read it, and the praise I received was quite heady. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to work with books, and everything I’ve done since then has been working toward that goal. Becoming an editor is a dream come true.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

I always have to listen to music while I’m editing, but it can’t be anything with words. I listen to a lot of Andy McKee, Cloudkicker, and Vitamin String Quartet while I’m working.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

I’d have to go with Jane Austen. I’ve been rereading her books once a year for a long, long time, and the idea of sitting down to tea with Ms. Austen and discussing her works is just overwhelmingly wonderful to me.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I went to the Del Rey party at San Diego Comic Con last year, and the staff were all dressed as different characters from A Song of Ice and Fire. I ended up sitting next to George R. R. Martin while being served a drink by a Khal Drogo look alike. It was one of the oddest and most hilarious moments at that particular convention.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Wow, I have no idea. Probably Velma from Scooby Doo; I’m a bookworm who loses my glasses constantly.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

You aren’t going to please everyone, and accepting that will make your life easier. Even the most famous authors were rejected by a ton of agents and publishers, and the most fantastic books all have negative reviews. Try not to take it too personally; you will, of course, but after that initial sting wears off, remember that you’ve written a book that you’re happy with and proud of, and that’s what really matters.

About the Editor: Sarah Peed is an Associate Editor with Del Rey Spectra, and the Acquisitions Editor for Hydra, a division of the Random House Publishing Group. She is looking for fast-paced, character-driven science fiction, fantasy, and horror. She tends toward pieces with a strong voice and dry wit, and she blames The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Good Omens for that.”I’m looking for dark fantasy, supernatural horror, urban fantasy, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi.  I’m not looking for YA submissions, graphic novels, short story collections, or erotica. I’d like to see pieces that fall in either the novella range of 15,000-30,000 words, or in the novel range of 60,000-100,000 words, although those limits are flexible.Stories that are more character-driven and have a strong voice are very appealing. I’m also looking for fast-paced pieces with enough action to keep the reader engaged and enthralled. Witty, dry, and/or dark humor is also appreciated!”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sex, Money, and Angst Behind Hugh Howey’s Graphs and Data Spiders

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Okay, the writerly world has been topsy-flippin'-turvy over Hugh Howey and his analysis of the sales, customer satisfactions, and general informations (plural) taken from Amazon's database. Mostly, it concerns the Indie pub revolution and all the different kinds of authors out there. You can google it. I’ll wait. You’ve read it now, right? Well, most of the graphs I don’t understand, so I skip them and read Howey’s thoughts. I’m more of a word person than a graph person. But basically, Indie authors are doing better and taking more market share than ever before.
It’s a lot to take in. I wish I were better at graphs because I like graphs, I really do. So I decided that in my blog post this month on PPW, that I will break down the economic picture and give you graphs that I do understand.
Are you ready? Okay, this is going to get technical very fast.

Mr. Howey has an anonymous data collector which he refers to as his data spider.  I don’t have a data spider collecting the data for my analysis.  I have data aphids. They don’t spin webs, but they do flit about and live very short lives. Like my attention span.
Okay, let’s get to it.

This first graph is an easy one. It shows which kind of writers get published, and I lump both traditionally and independently published together.

I know. The graph is startling. Writers who don’t write have published 0 books. 100% of the books written are written by writers who write. I was shocked. I asked the data aphids to check the statistics again, but most of them died before they could.
Let’s look at the money and sex behind the numbers. I mean, most people are obsessed with either sex or money, finances or romances.  That’s what drives most people.  We’ll do money first, then sex.

Now, you can’t just have one graph about money, you have to have two. So here’s the next one, which is a pie graph, but that’s because I like pie:

The graphs above aren’t a big surprise.  I want a whole mess of money for writing books, really, more money that can fit on this grid.  But a hundred million dollars is about right, just so I can be comfortable. Then there is the money that others are making, like J.A. Konrath, Hugh Howey, Stephen King, those kinds of people. Not sure they are making 200 million dollars, and I was going to check with my aphids, but I couldn't catch them. Anyway, the important thing is how much money I'm making. Rats! My slice of pie isn’t even a point on the Weight Watchers system! Not even on the new Points Plus system! It’s slim.
Okay, that’s the money part. What about the romance part?

As far as I can tell, I’ve split the market after my big haircut. Some women think I look younger and sexier and some pine for my lovely locks now long gone. Only a few women want me for the books I write, but then there’s my wife, who loves and adores me. I won’t do a graph on the fact that my wife is often frustrated with me and doesn't always adore me, but you get the picture.
I’ve been writing, I’ve made some money, and I have met women who wanted me, and I’ve had some successes to be sure. But I’m not where I want to be, as the next graph explains.

I’ve written sixteen manuscripts. I’ve published two. But there are a ton of other books I want to write and publish, so I’ve not even scratched the surface.
Now, what are my options for the hundred or so books I still want to write? Well, I have a graph for that.

So my options are split. I can Indie Pub, I can go with a small press, I can go for the traditional book contract, or I can sell my soul to the devil in return for a lifetime of success and awards and an eternity of burning in hell. Hey, it’s an option. I’ve read my Goethe.
Let me be clear. This graph is controversial. I don’t mean to say that I only have to choose between one of these four options, no, as Catherine Ryan Hyde’s agent Laura Rennert pointed out in a recent blog post, we live in a time where authors can decide, book by book, what they want to do. One book I might Indie Pub (I have one of those in the works), one book I want to get out into the world through a small press (I have a bunch of those), and I have a book that might appeal to the mass market, which in turn would appeal to the big publishing houses (I have one of those). Lastly, writing any book in a sense is a Faustian deal, but we’ll talk about that in the next graph. It’s all about the benefits of writing books and getting them published:

Yes, the best benefit of publishing books is that real readers are reading my work. Real readers.  Real people. Some like it. Some don’t. Some are touched by it. Some aren’t. Some cry and write me letters and get really excited because I moved them with my story.
It’s real. It’s not a fantasy. It’s real. Yes, it’s not perfect, it’s not what I had in mind when I started out, it’s gritty, imperfect, flawed, but it’s real.
And getting to be an author? I get to do all these hard, terrifying, soul-breaking things that bring me joy, meaning, and a rich, full life. It’s a hard life, but a good one. Not for sissies, definitely. Writing and publishing books is not for sissies.

Let’s do one final graph, and this is an important one. It’s as important as the first graph in this little blog post:

Yes, that’s right. If you get your book published, either traditionally, through a small press, or independently, you will have more readers. Some people will read your unpublished book, but not many. Not many.
In summary, since if you have graphs, you have to have a summary. I write books, I publish books, by any means necessary, and what I want is a lot of stupid, selfish desire, a lot of fantasies that have nothing to do with reality. I’m at my best as a writer, as an author, as a human frickin’ being when I let go of all the bullshit I think I want, and just do the next, right thing that will benefit the world. Writing books benefits the world, whether I get the huge contract including Learjet, or if I Indie Pub and become famous, or if I Indie Pub and three people read my book.  It benefits the world. And remember that first graph? If you don’t write books, you will not get published, not by anyone.
My aphids are all dead, so I’ll end here.
Writers write. Authors get published. Some make money. Others don’t. But every book adds to the world. The end and amen.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey grew up as a garbage can for stories including way too much Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Stephen King. His debut novel, The Never Prayer, was published by Crescent Moon Press in 2012.  More recently, he has two new stories in the second and third issue of a new magazine, Fictionvale. Aaron’s next novel is a happy, little suicide book for young adults and anyone just this side of hopeless.  Long Live the Suicide King is available now!  Aaron lives in Colorado with his moviestar wife and two rockstar daughters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PPWC 2014 Q&A - DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling, Author/Editor/Designer
Photo copyright 2010 Elya Martino

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author/editor/designer?

Author: It was while I was standing on the surface of the planet Caltrox III, living in the blissful freedom of that terraformed paradise, that I realized that not everybody had the same scope of imagination I did, and I should share it. No, wait, it was right after I cut my thigh- length hair and decided not to be the country western singer Crystal Gayle when I grew up and thus had to do something else.

Editor: You know how you read a book and realize you could write better than that? I became an editor when I realized I could edit better than that. Also, that corporate America will give you a raise if you'll fix their typos.

Designer: Someone told me she'd spent over $5000 to get her book published and was still paying royalties to them. I was like, "No matter how bad I am, that's one fewer person who's getting screwed out of five grand."

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

Generally, I would have to say I cannot work without my brains. Alas, I often can't find them. And so I have been picking off the retired people on my block and taking bits of theirs. I'm not so much a zombie as I am a vampire for brains, you know? The neighbor across the way eventually had to go to the nursing home, which made me feel bad, but that meant her incredibly annoying dog had to go away to her family, which made me feel good. Now the neighbors who live there are a) pretty young, and b) overenthusiastic about shoveling their walk, raking leaves, etc., which makes me worry that I'm going to get spotted sometime soon.

I also like tea.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

Lewis Carroll--Charles Dodgson. "What were in those missing diary pages?!?" And "That Alice, was she a brat or what?"

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

One time Stephen Brust tried to pull a coin trick on me, but I caught him doing it. At PPWC, I always have a fun, relatively normal time. It's the people who are picking up the authors/editors/agents from the airport who have the truly great stories. Mine are like, "One time I peed in the next stall over from Carol Berg!" I'm a fangirl.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

I asked them. My husband says "Daffy Duck." My daughter says, "Twilight Sparkle." I guess we know who's getting the brownie points today. I wish somebody would pick something like "third cage dancer to the right from Samurai Jack," but they probably won't.

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

It's not a road in the sense of you getting onto it in one place and getting off it someplace else. It's more of a road in the sense of the @#$%^& map is outdated, the GPS tries to drive you into a lake, the names of the towns are in worn-out white lettering on half-covered signs during a blizzard, you're hungry and have been driving since 4 a.m. and it's now after midnight, and not only do you keep pulling off the road to take care of emergencies, all your friends, family, and grade school teachers that you're driving around in this Pinto all have world's weakest bladders and need to get out and pee. That is, it's always going to take you longer than you think, and you probably won't get to the town you thought you were going to get to by the end of the day. Also, there's a convention of other writers in town and the rooms are all booked. Get it? Booked...

About the Author/Editor/Designer: DeAnna 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. She has been officially constrained from drinking Ovaltine per her doctor’s orders since a tragic incident involving a monopoly game, a blender, a cemetery, and a school play at age eight. 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. If she told you which movie was based on her life, she’d have to kill you. Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Colorado Springs, 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,, and her website is

PPWC 2014 Q&A - Karen Albright Lin

Karen Albright Lin, Author

1. What was the defining moment that made your realize you wanted to be an author? 

I had success publishing short pieces and poetry beginning in H.S., encouraged by my creative writing teacher. I decided to branch out and become a freelance editor after editing university lit mags, facilitating critique groups, and realizing I loved helping authors midwife their books.

2. What is the one thing you cannot work without? What is your creative vice?

Typically I need iced tea with extra lemon, a pen and paper for rough drafts, and a place where I’m surrounded by people – usually restaurants over lunch.

3. If you could 'revive' any literary figure from the past for a one hour conversation, who would you choose?

Mark Twain, love his humor and his intellect.

4. What is one of your more notable or unusual conference or convention experiences?

I have had so many. I met virtually every agent, producer, Hollywood agent, and entertainment attorney I signed with at a conference, most, in fact at PPWC. Career changing: having Ken Berk hear my pitch in a PPWC pitch workshop and ask me to see him after the workshop only to have him tell me that he wanted me to write my story as a screenplay, that he’d then help me sell it. I learned the craft, he died within a year--very young, but I went on to write many award-winning screenplays, get writer-for-hire screenwriting gigs, consult on others’, and get hired as a script doctor. I never intended to write screenplays until I was encouraged by both Ken and Jan Jones, a writer/filmmaker I met at PPWC.

5. If we asked your friends and family to compare you to a cartoon character, which would they choose, and why?

Mama Berenstain Bear. Perfectionist, reasonable, helicopter mom, housewife, advisor, love to teach

6. What is one thing would you like aspiring authors to know about the road to success?

It takes patience, determination, rhino skin, and the willingness to survive a long apprenticeship.

About the Author: Karen Albright Lin coaches and edits for clients in all genres of novels, screenplays and nonfiction.  She edited the memoir, Walks on the Marginsby Kathleen Brandt and Max Maddox.  Client, Suzanne Handler, published her memoir about a precedent setting mercy-killing case, The Secrets They Kept,ranked # 1 on Amazon within three weeks and has remained on the Amazon top 10 list in three categories for months. Chris Howard, YA author/client was published by Scholastic. YA/children’s client, Ying Chang Compestine, won over three dozen awards for her Holt published books, one based on her life during China’s cultural revolution. Karen is a celebrity memoir ghostwriter, has published and been awarded for her personal essays.  She also writes novels, short stories, and screenplays inspired by her life; many have garnered awards and landed her several top agents.  She teaches Writing Your Life at conferences, retreats, and on cruise lines.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Writer's Block? Get a Creative Hobby!

By John K. Patterson

Writing is an act of creation. Letters and punctuation are weaved together to make worlds and people that weren't there before. We humans find joy in creating something. That's part of why writer's block is such a painful, frustrating thing.

Most of the time, we are told that the only cure for writer's block is to force ourselves to write something, even if it's gibberish. It always seemed to me like this would just drag out the editing process. That's what happened with my writing. The harder I forced myself to write past writer's block, the worse it seemed to get, and the less I enjoyed it. Inspiration and ideas fled from my presence, then stuck signs saying "Leper Colony" around me in a ten mile radius.

But then something changed. In September of last year, I started to paint. Those ideas have begun to return. I'm still not back up to my former speed, but there's definite signs of change. Positive change.

Copyright John K. Patterson

Thus began a long climb back up the mountainside. And if you're wondering: yes, I painted this.

If the encouragement to "write yourself into the ground" is leaving you six feet under, I'd like to suggest an alternative. Another cure for writer's block may lie in picking up a different creative hobby. What sort of hobby is totally up to you, as long as it requires some strategy and improvisation (creativity) from you. Photography, chess, playing the harmonica, embroidery, sketching, painting, swing dancing, clay sculpture, you name it.

It sounds counter-intuitive, since you're still not writing. However, what really counts isn't necessarily the number of hours you spend slaving away over a hot keyboard, but the quality of your work. Most writers tend to write better (and shrink their editing time) when they're enthusiastic about their writing.

So here are six reasons why picking up another creative hobby may help blocked writers get back on track.

1. Sometimes your brain just needs a break from writing, but still craves the joy of creating something. Take care of your brain and feed that craving.

2. It gives a chance for unexpected ideas to pop up. You never know when an unusual idea might whack you upside the head. For instance, you could make a pencil sketch of a red-tailed hawk in your backyard, and get the idea that your mystery's murderer is a falconer who kills her victims by tipping the bird's talons with poison and training it to attack them. Whatever works, right?

3. You are focusing your thoughts and actions toward something constructive, rather than going on a Netflix binge and beating yourself up for not finishing your novel. I've been there (sometimes I still am), and it's not pretty.

4. Your chosen hobby will likely give you something that takes less time to finish than a novel or short story. This means you can get a sense of gratification for finishing something sooner. Which, of course, motivates you. My own hobby of painting gives me a finished work in a few hours, and helps my novels and stories seem more manageable.

5. In a mental sense, it will make you more versatile. When you sit down to write, you'll be more agile in picking apart your story to see what works and what needs fixing.

6. Finally, this is a great opportunity for research. Do you have a character who likes to make stained glass? Take a class and learn the process. Is he a blacksmith? Time to head to the forge. If he likes to build model airplanes, head to the arts and crafts store and pick up a P-51 model kit. You and your characters can learn your hobbies together, in a sense.

Remember, this is merely a suggestion, and I welcome any feedback. It may not work for every blocked writer. But it seemed to help me with my storytelling. If you already have a creative hobby and you're still blocked, try a different hobby for a while and see if your writer's block starts to disappear. 

May you find success and joy in all of your creative endeavors!

Post Note from Writing From the Peak: John K. Patterson was featured in the April 2014 New Falcon Herald concerning his meshing of writing and art. You can read it HERE.

About the Author: John K. Patterson is an artist and sci-fi/fantasy author. His short stories "Escaping," "Refugee," and "Salt Flats" are available on Amazon Kindle, and he is writing a four-book epic fantasy series called The Wolfglen Legacy. Since 2007, he has volunteered for the Pikes Peak Library District as leader of the Scribes and Bards writers workshop. His addictions include painting, dinosaurs, nature, and coffee. More of his writing and art can be found at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In Memoriam & Week to Come

Instead of the usual author quote for this week, we'd like to honor Amanda Bylsma, a Pikes Peak Writers volunteer who passed away unexpectedly earlier this week.

People often remarked on Amanda's smile. Big and friendly, it lit up a room. She came across as quiet initially, but once you got to know her she had a great sense of humor and proved easy to talk to. Trustworthy, organized, and hard-working, she ran the Pitch Room like a well-oiled machine. If anyone needed a hand, she was a go-to person for assistance, calm, level-headed, and always ready to lend a hand.

Amanda will be sorely missed at PPWC 2014. While her position as Pitch Coordinator has been filled by past Pitch Coordinator, Bonnie Hagan, ensuring a seamless transition, Amanda's absence will leave a hole that cannot be filled. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this time.

Personally, I'll miss talking to her. She wasn't just a volunteer, but a friend, and my heart is heavy at her loss. Our loss.

~Shannon Lawrence
Managing Editor, Writing From the Peak

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...John K. Patterson urges recommends creative hobbies as a cure for writer's block

...Aaron Michael Ritchey discusses "The Sex, Money, and Angst Behind Hugh Howey's Graphs and Data Spiders," with graphs of his own

...We bring you conference tips to insure a successful conference or convention

...Q&As with Karen Albright Lin, DeAnna Knippling, Sarah Peed, Pete Klismet, and Gordon Warnock

We hope to see you at our Write Brain this week, which will feature conference tips & tricks, followed by pitch practice. This Tuesday, April 15, 6:30 to 8:30 PM, at the Colorado Springs Marriott, home of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. For more information, see the Events tab of this blog or our website,