Monday, June 17, 2013

Jumping in With Both Feet - My Experience at PPWC 2013

By Ashley Bazer


I’ve been writing seriously for going on eight years. In that time, though, I’ve lived in small towns with little to no writing opportunities. I’m married to a pastor, so drumming up an extra $1000 for travel/registration for a writers’ conference simply wasn’t an option. What’s a writer to do?

When we moved to Burlington, Colorado five years ago, I was determined to make the 2 ½ hour trek to Colorado Springs once a week to join a critique group. Yeah, that didn’t last very long. But I did have occasions when I’d be in town visiting my mom and I could join the Thursday night writers’ group at the Briargate Barnes & Noble. This is where I first met Bonnie Hagan, although I only got her first name at the time. Once my kids started school, our visits were limited to weekends, so my time at B&N disappeared.

I still wrote. I learned what I could from online resources. And finally, my family decided to move to Colorado Springs. I got a job in February of this year, but we wanted the kids to be able to finish up the school year…so I found myself in the city with some time on my hands. I got in contact with Bonnie via email, still not connecting that Pikes Peak Writers Bonnie was B&N Bonnie. (I can be clueless sometimes!) I knew the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference was coming up, and I was finally ready to participate in some way. A return trip to the B&N writers’ group confirmed Bonnie’s identity as PPW Bonnie!

I volunteered to do whatever was needed at the conference. I also applied for a scholarship, not expecting to be granted one. Within a short amount of time, I received two emails. I had been given a position on the pitch staff. (Had no idea what that meant, but I was willing to try it out!) I was also awarded a scholarship. (Many thanks to those who made that decision! You made a dream become reality!)

Two weeks before the conference, Bonnie called a meeting. I didn’t have to attend, but boy, am I glad I did! I learned more about what I would be doing as part of the pitch staff. I also found out that the conference folks were in serious need of moderators. Again, having just a smidgen of an idea of what that meant, I signed on. I’d had stage experience, and I don’t mind being in front of a crowd. If that was another way I could help, I’d give it a shot.

By the time the conference rolled around, I was moderating five sessions and working pitch staff. Keep in mind, this was my first conference. I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t all that familiar with the layout of the hotel, and I barely knew anyone. Crazy? Perhaps. But those three days at the Marriott are now logged among my favorite memories.

I made sure I downloaded all the information beforehand. This was the former stage manager in me kicking in. I created a binder, highlighted and organized. Schedules, maps, session breakdowns. Best thing I could have done. I had instant access to anything that might have come up. I was even able to help an agent find her way the very first day.

I moderated the first two sessions. Whoo, what a ride! I hoped and prayed the whole time that I did just what was expected. Thankfully, I was paired with folks who were easy to work with…and that gave me a lasting connection with them throughout the conference. I highly recommend moderating. It’s a blast, and it allows you to meet people.

At lunch, I didn’t fuss with the lines. I waited until everyone had shuffled in and still managed to land a seat right next to an agent I’d been wanting to meet. I broke out of my introverted writer persona and forced myself to converse. Totally worth it. This helped to humanize the agent and prepared me for the pitch sessions.

I mentioned above I’d been a stage manager. Handling the pitch sessions was much like running auditions. Nervous writers waiting for their work to be hand-selected by exalted agents. (Admit it, we all feel that way!) By interacting with the agents, I came to realize that they are just like you and me. What an awesome thing! I also imparted to the waiting writers some wisdom given by MB Partlow at the PPW Write Brain that took place just prior to the conference: “They (agents) are just people who might be lucky enough to work with you one day.” (I wrote that down word for word because it meant so much to me!) When it came time for my pitch appointment, I was ready. And it was awesome.

I absolutely loved being part of the staff for PPWC 2013. The sessions I had to myself, I almost didn’t know what to do. So while this was my first conference ever, it certainly won’t be my last. And if PPW will allow me to help again, I will jump at the chance! I invite you to do the same. You won’t regret it.



About the Author: Ashley Hodges Bazer lives in Colorado with her husband and their three children. She earned her BA in theatre (stage management) from Arizona State University, and went on to work for Disney in that capacity. She is a producer for Focus on the Family’s daily radio program. Her debut sci-fi novel, ASYLUM, was published by WestBow Press in August 2012. Learn more about Ashley and her upcoming books at www.ashleybazer.com or check out her blog at www.ashleybazer.com/blog.html.