Monday, June 19, 2017

PPWC 2017 in Retrospect by a Scholarship Recipient

By: Mason J. Torall 

I’d never won a scholarship before. Teachers and advisers were always very specific on how to write applications on what to say, and I never won. For the 2017 Pikes Peak Writers Conference I decided that if I didn’t win, that was okay. So I wrote in my own voice in a way that felt natural to me as a writer, and I won. You can imagine my surprise, and my gratitude.

Consisting of three primary days with an optional fourth day prequel, PPWC is packed with over 400 regularly lonesome people who get this rare opportunity to remember that they are not, in fact, alone. Instead, we get to leave the doldrums of our day-to-day lives and submerge alongside kindred creative souls for a few precious moments and take everything we can out of it. It’s all such a whirlwind etched in crystalline clarity in my memory.

The Thursday prequel was my first such course ever and let me tell you, it’s not something to miss. I walked out of that room eight hours wiser and laden with over fifteen pages of notes, and conference hadn’t officially kicked off yet. Dinner on Thursday was spent connecting with old friends and getting introduced to wonderful new ones as we all orbited around the bar and restaurant, and Friday came early.

Now, this was my fifth writing conference and my eighth conference overall, so I’ve done this a few times. With that in mind, I can’t say I’ve ever been around a group of people who not only showed, but who positively radiated welcoming energy. Everyone attends conference with similar umbrellas of interest, from community to ideas, from pitching to networking, to simply observing. It’s all worth it, and you have nothing to fear from your own people.

This conference was also special because it was the first I’ve ever attended without work of
my own to pitch. I’m not ready on my second book, and I was just fine with that. So this time I had the unique pleasure of absolutely no stress over getting my manuscript critically analyzed—as manuscripts should be, mind you. These are professionals and their time deserves your best effort—by an acquiring agent or editor. Many people (including myself) have come to cons before with the hopes of catching your dream agents’ eye and, ideally, business card. Let me say this right now: it absolutely happens. People pitch a book at cons and eventually make it big, but you have to attend. If you don’t come to cons, you’ll never get that opportunity.

As previously stated, these things are packed. The sessions are loaded with more information than you can possibly acquire in three days, and each regular lunch and dinner had a mind-blowing keynote speaker. They were inspirational, hilarious, personal, dark, and dire, and I loved it. The costume dinner on Friday night had the entire main hall roaring with laughter, and legends of the antics of the many, many writers who drink at BarCon (the fun name for everyone hitting the bar later) spreads like wildfire. After all, it’s where all of the introverts finally get a chance to spread our oft-timid wings.

I have to rein myself in here, because I could truly go on for pages and pages about the many wonders of a writing conference—and of Pikes Peak Writer’s brand in particular—but, if none of what I said gets through to you, let this:

I realize these things are expensive, but I wrote a short application asking for help to attend, and I was accepted. Why? Because the people who run it are there to help. They want people to attend who would otherwise be unable! So don’t let money stop you. Don’t have a book ready? Doesn’t matter. You can still learn. Never written a word in your life? Great! Get in! The sessions are mostly an hour long, and they literally have something for anyone who has any interest in books or words in general! I’m serious! And let’s say you show up, you have no idea who anyone is, you have no work, and you haven’t read a book in a decade, here’s my advice to you: Be friendly, be genuine, ask for help, and don’t let it overwhelm you. It is physically impossible to take in the entire con, so you do what you can, and you take that with you. That’s all that matters. Take what you want from these things, and attend without regret, that’s all I ask. I know it’s what I do. 

About the Author: A Colorado native, Mason J. Torall is an eclectic hobbyist. When he isn’t writing or working the odd day job, he tests board games with friends, samples Denver’s booming local fare, and bikes the metro area. A huge advocate for sustainable engineering, he spends much of his free time drafting his own engineering designs and training with technical and artistic software. His first novel, The Dark Element, is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, and he is currently working on the sequel. He lives alone in South Denver, where there is still space to think.