Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PPWC First-Timer Interview

By Debbie Allen

What are a newcomer's first impressions of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference? Read on to find out.

Rena Willemin came to the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference as a first-timer--she'd never been to a writing conference before. I bumped into her in one of Brandy Vallance's workshops on day 2, and she was just glowing with her experience so far. I sent her a few questions.

Debbie: First, share a little about yourself: how long you've been writing, what genre you gravitate toward. 

Rena: I like to dab in a lot of genres, but I gravitate toward young adult and speculative fiction. I’d summarize my style as contemporary with a splash of science fiction & fantasy.

Debbie: Right up my alley! How did you hear about PPWC? Since you came from out of state, what made you decide on PPWC over other conferences? 

Rena: I really wanted to connect on a deeper level with the writing community and thought that attending a conference would be a good start. I researched dozens of conferences across the U.S., and frankly I was overwhelmed by the sheer number and size of some of them. I knew off the bat I wanted to attend a small to mid-sized conference because I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd. 

In my research, I ran across a tweet about Pikes Peak Writing Conference in which the author was gushing about it being the friendliest conference he’d ever attended. That piqued my interest, so I did a little more research. I visited the PPWC website to see the lineup of sessions, authors, agents, and editors. I saw that several agents on my “to-query” list were going to be doing Query 1-on-1 and Read-and-Critique sessions, so I signed up immediately.

Debbie: Please share some of your overall impressions of the conference: workshops, faculty, other attendees, etc. What were some of your favorite aspects? 

Rena: I was completely in awe of the fantastic ideas from my fellow writers, and the support that everyone showed for each other. My fondest memories at the conference were of chatting with other writers about their novels. I really enjoyed my Query 1-on-1 with Andrea Somberg. For someone who’d never pitched to an agent, the format was perfect because it was very casual. Also, I loved that the tables at lunch and dinner were hosted by faculty members, authors, agents, and editors. I had a chance to chat with Sandy Lu, Seanan McGuire, Liz Pelletier, and Jennifer Udden.

It’s hard to narrow down which workshops I loved the most, but a few of my favorites were:

·         The Loaded Exchange: How To Write Tension Packed Dialogue by Angie Hodapp
·         PACE: Ten Surefire Ways To Keep The Pages Moving by Andrew Gross
·         Unlocking Personification And Metaphor To Deepen Emotion by Brandy Vallance
·         The Big Picture Revision Checklist by Alex Kourvo
·         Read & Critique 1-2-3 with Tricia Narwani, Jennifer Udden, and Andrew Gross

Debbie: You mentioned that you found a great connection with some other writers. Could you describe what happened? 

Rena: In the Query for Claws session, I met some of the crew from PPWC Speculators, a writing group that formed at PPWC2014. They embraced me like one of their own, and offered encouragement and friendship (P.S. I was later officially initiated into the group!).

Debbie: What a great story! What would you share with writers who are considering whether to spend the money for a writing conference? 

Rena: Writers considering attending a conference should definitely do their research. Look for a conference that has sessions that interest you as well as opportunities to network with agents and editors you’d like to meet.

Debbie: That's great advice. Would you tell us a little about your book, and how readers can find it? 

Rena: I have a manuscript currently under consideration with several agents. I also self-published a book END OF FAITH: A NOVEL that’s available at Amazon. END OF FAITH is a post-apocalyptic novel full of what-ifs. Here’s the tagline: Ninety-five percent of the world’s population perishes in the worst pandemic since the Black Plague and Valentina’s about to find out that surviving means enduring the wrath of a prophet determined to bend her to his will.

I’m always looking to connect with other writers. Find me at or on twitter @renawillemin.

Debbie: Rena, thank you so much for taking the time to visit! I'm looking forward to seeing you at next year's conference! 

Debbie drank the Scrivener Kool-aid and never looked back. When not devoting her time to revolutionizing other writers' lives with the wonders of Scrivener, she works as a project manager for Good Catch Publishing and writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at

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