Friday, August 9, 2013

Sagging Middles, Control Tops, & PPWC 2013

By Jennie Marts


For the most part, writing is a solitary occupation. Although most of us have jobs, family, and /or friends, we still choose to hole ourselves away and spin imaginary tales of heroism and happily ever after. There are some who understand the grueling desperation of word count and edits, but most see that ‘fun writing thing’ as a cute hobby that they have either “always wanted to do” or are “going to get around to trying one of these days” because they’ve “always wanted to write a book, but just haven’t gotten around to it.”

So not everyone understands the excitement of that last weekend in April when we get to tuck ourselves away at the Marriott up on the hill and surround ourselves with other writers. The fun of being with other people who know the strange lingo of your life. The magic of walking down the halls and hearing snippets of conversation about the hero’s journey or the black moment. Who know what query letters are and that a sagging middle is not just describing your forty-year old abdomen that has seen too many Cheetos and not enough sit-ups.

One of the great things about the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is the diversity of the writers. You can be sitting at the bar between people of all walks of life who spin tales of romance, fantasy, cowboys and demons, or a story of a prince with Down’s Syndrome. You can be in the restaurant and have a famous editor plunk down next to you and ask, “How’s the cheesecake here?” You can be sitting in a workshop between an author who just signed a six-figure deal and a writer who raises their hand to ask, “What’s a log line?” And you just smile and think, "someday that will be me" and "oh yeah, that used to be me."

What a great four days to spend conversing and learning and networking. To have time carved out of our busy lives to hone our craft and learn what’s happening in the industry from the folks who are knee-deep in it is invaluable. It’s a terrible catch-22 when the majority of your knowledge comes from the very place that you vow not to get on in the morning until you have written 1000 words. The internet is a valuable tool. Where else can you take two minutes and find a good poison that will kill quickly without leaving a trace, or do a quick search for hot cowboy names? But the very thing that helps us is also a giant time suck, with too many hours spent catching up with friends, pinning new boards, and trying to clear the jelly on Candy Crush in just one more game.

Being able to sit down and talk to the people who are in the trenches with you is such a gift. To understand that writing is something in our soul, that it’s not a hobby that we dabble at, but a creative part of our being that we MUST do. To be able to say, “I’m stuck on this scene, I’m waiting for my characters to tell me what’s gonna happen next,” and have people nod and understand instead of discreetly scoot to another table.

This was my fourth year at the PPWC and I spent it hanging out with a great friend I met the first year I attended. Over the years, I have made not only contacts, but friends. People I stay in contact with through email or Facebook, whose smiles I look forward to seeing each year as we congregate in the shadow of Pikes Peak.

I love the creative aspect of the conference, as well. Walking through the lobby, seeing writers bent over a notepad, scribbling down a new idea or typing furiously on their laptops, or even staring out the window at the view of the mountains, dreaming up a yet unwritten story.

I love the magical air of possibility that surrounds the conference. Not only while you are there, but for weeks leading up to it. Wondering how your pitch will go or if you will be brave enough to read your own first page. Hoping that your number one choice of editors will sit next to you in the bar and you will be witty and charming and clever and not spill your drink on them. Knowing that anything can happen is exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Being in the presence of other authors is inspiring in itself. Listening to the speakers, the ones who have ‘made it’, who got to quit their day job and write for a living, tell their stories of encouragement. To eavesdrop on their lives and hear them tell tales of tears, rejection letters, working two jobs and writing while hoping the university doesn’t find out they're doing so on their endowment. And yet, they still wrote. They still had stories to tell. They still murdered their darlings and sent out queries and opened emails from editors with desperate hope in their hearts. And we hang on their every word. We have read their books and rush to buy another in the bookstore to have them sign. We casually sit next to them and ask if this is their first time in Colorado, when inside we are jumping up and down that we are talking to this amazing author. And I believe that the authors enjoy being able to inspire us, to encourage us, and to hear us say how we love their books. And to enjoy being with other writers who can now see them just as ordinary people who have ordinary lives and are worried about word count, and where will they will get that next idea, and how many emails are piling up while they are enjoying looking at the mountains, and regretting the decision to wear those control tops that are now cutting across their sagging middles.

All the pieces of the conference converge into one long weekend of creative engagement. But I can’t imagine missing a minute of it. From the innovative workshops to the terrifying pitch appointments. To three days of filling your head and your notebook with ideas and thoughts and new things to try (no, I haven’t checked out Hootsuite yet, but it’s on my list!). To a handful of cards and random sheets of paper with emails scribbled across them and promises to keep in touch. To a new set of friends who I now chat with on Facebook, occasionally tweet with, and have set coffee dates with. Thanks so much to the folks who put this amazing weekend together. It is a whirlwind ride, but worth every penny of the price of admission.  


About the Author: Jennie Marts writes Romance, Mystery and Humorous Women's Fiction. She loves to make readers laugh as she weaves stories about love, friendship and intrigue. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, a parakeet and a golden retriever puppy. She enjoys being a member of (RWA) Romance Writers of America, the Pikes Peak Chapter of RWA, and Pikes Peak Writers. Jennie spends her spare time playing volleyball and reading and believes you can’t have too many books, shoes or friends. You can find her at www.jenniemarts.com or on Facebook. Her debut novel, Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Body, released in December, 2012 and is available on Amazon.