Thursday, April 28, 2011

Going To PPW Conference?

If you're coming to PPW Conference, and you'd like to write for this great PPW Writing From The Peak blog, come see Robin Widmar, the new Managing Editor! We're always looking for great, fun content for writers.

Hope to see you at PPW Conference!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Top Ten Ways To Get The Most Out Of PPW Conference by Chris Mandeville

10. Go to the Newcomers Briefing (there are several to choose from) if you haven’t attended before.

9. Engage. Do the exercises in the workshops, ask questions and take notes. Check with staff members for ways you can help, and pitch in where you see the need. Introduce yourself to people. Practice asking, "What do you write?" and "What do you read?"

8. Remember that agents, editors, and famous authors are people just like you—so try not to be intimidated. Strike up a conversation!

7. Remember that agents, editors, and famous authors are people just like you— so treat them with courtesy and respect. Don't corner them in the bathroom or monopolize their time.

6. Don't skip meals. Not just because your brain needs fuel, but because sharing a meal with fellow writers (not to mention faculty members) is one of the most rewarding parts of the conference.

5. Ask questions. Staff members are easy to find, and no question is too silly/dumb/trivial/embarrassing/naïve.

4. Pace yourself. This applies to food, caffeine, alcohol, exercise, workshops, and even socializing. Allow for down-time when you need it, and you'll get more out of the rest of your time at PPWC.

3. Drink water. It's good for you, it's free, and it's especially important at our elevation. Even locals sometimes forget to drink enough water. Try to drink a glass each session. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated. This can lead to headache, fatigue, or even altitude sickness.

2. Find the bathrooms (see #3).

1. Make yourself at home. PPWC is YOUR conference. If you make yourself at home—both in terms of feeling comfortable and taking initiative—you'll get far more than you give.

Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume IX, Issue 2, March 2010.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Pitching Advice: A Write Brain Report by DeAnna Knippling

How to Be a Pitch-Perfect, Network-Savvy, Send-it-to-me Star
April 2009 Write Brain
Presenters: Pam McCutcheon and Ron Heimbecher
By DeAnna Knippling

Everybody wants to know how to brainwash agents and editors into signing a contract. Unfortunately, brainwashing is both tricky and illegal, so, as professional writers, we have to learn to catch agents’ and editors’ attention without getting arrested (or getting annoying).

Luckily, pitching is both simple and legal, when you know how. Pam McCutcheon and Ron Heimbecher presented pitching do’s and don'ts and provided a list of essential items to know before you pitch. Remember, the goal is to be able to write “solicited material” on your submission, not to hide the agent or editor in your basement until they give in!

• Be professional (arrive early, dress for a job interview, be polite!)
• Be patient. Nobody offers a contract before reading the book.
• Know your story. Why is it right for the agent or editor? Who is your intended audience?
• Know the agent—is the agent looking for your type of book? The Internet knows.
• Know yourself. Be able to rattle off contest wins, publishing credentials (unpaid is okay, but self-publishing isn’t), and reasons you’re the perfect person to write this book.
• Practice! Pitch to anyone who holds still long enough for a log line.
• If asked for pages, say “thank you” and “how do you want them?” Get a business card!

• Don’t pitch an unfinished novel (you must be able to complete any edits within six weeks).
• Don’t read your synopsis—it’s too long!
• Don’t say “my mother loved it” unless Mom's name is Oprah.
• Don’t say “It’s the next Da Vinci Code.” Say, “Readers of The Da Vinci Code will like it.”
• Don’t shove your work at the agent or editor. Send requested pages later, as requested.
• Don’t ask basic questions, like how to format your manuscript. Ask us at PPW.
• Don’t argue—say “thank you” even if the agent or editor doesn’t want it.

If you don’t get a great pitch appointment (or the agent or editor is not right for you), cancel or trade the appointment. Or find the agent or editor in the hallway, during a meal, or at the bar and ask if you may pitch or send pages. Don’t corner anyone--rudeness can only stifle the brilliance of your book.

Know the following information before your pitch appointment:
• Log line: a 25-word description of your book (main character, their overarching goal, and what’s stopping the character from reaching that goal).
• Setting.
• The main character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts.
• The ending (yes, you really should give away the ending if asked).
• Why you wrote the book.
• Questions you want to ask the agent.
• Genre, audience, approximate word count, target market, and how your story is
fresh and new.
• Nonfiction books require more information about the book’s intended market,
including why you're the right person to write the book and your built-in audience.

Remember, with practice, even you can pitch without stuttering, whimpering, or
passing out.

Good luck!

Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume VIII, Issue 3, May,June 2009

Monday, April 25, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Column: Is Self-Publishing Losing Its Stigma? by Linda Rohrbough

Self-publishing is increasingly popular, but is it losing its stigma? These days it’s an uphill climb to make it into print, but that’s always been true. I see more and more people who write a book and just don’t want to put in the time romancing New York publishers. Hence the drive to self-publishing (or vanity publishing), which for some appears to be the only option. But there’s a reason for the stigma.
A Labor of Love
Labor of love is a polite way to say there’s no cheese down that tube. Publishers have said to me over and over they feel the majority of the self-publishing outfits just outright cheat authors, raising their hopes and then taking their money. My publisher, Lou Turner, of High Hill Press, cited a self-published author she knows who will make about $30 altogether on a poorly written book he’s self-published with’s CreateSpace. And there are millions of authors like that out there, which is what vanity press publishers count on.
But it’s more than bad writing. There’s a two-fold problem. It’s very difficult for self-published authors to let people know about their books. And it’s tough to get vanity press books into retail channels.
E-books Help Remove the Distribution Problem
Since traditional publishing is still a consignment business, bookstores will not accept titles they cannot return if the books don’t sell. Plus bookstores and on-line retailers expect deep discounts as high as fifty-five percent. Vanity press authors soon discover getting books into traditional retail channels is very difficult, because vanity presses tend to price books high, they don’t discount (except on large quantities), and they don’t accept returns.
Nancy Berland, who is a publicist to big names like Debbie Macomber, said e-books solve the self-published author’s distribution problem. With e-books readers get to sample a book before they buy, and there’s no such thing as returns.
Big Bucks May Remove the Stigma
In a chat session between Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath published on Konrath’s website, Eisler, a former FBI agent whose novels feature a fictional Japanese assassin, said he recently turned down a half-million dollar advance on a two book deal. Since he’s built a following, Eisler believes he can make more money faster self-publishing.
Joe Konrath said while his other titles sold, he couldn’t get anyone in New York interested in The List when he wrote it twelve years ago. So he took the title to CreateSpace and in two years it’s made number fifteen on Amazon’s best-seller list with 35,000 copies sold.
Best-selling novelist Jim Frey got attention when he announced on his website plans to self-publish his next novel about a gritty, modern-day alcoholic Messiah just before Easter on April 22. No stranger to controversy, Frey authored A Million Little Pieces, a novel he sold as autobiographical, but later confessed that was untrue.
What’s got the publishing industry buzzing is Amanda Hocking, a twenty-six-year-old self-published Kindle book author, who writes young adult vampire paranormal romance. Sales of her thirteen titles, priced just under three dollars, made her a millionaire. She just signed a two-million dollar, four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. Why? She cited editing problems (she’s paid editors, but still had complaints from readers). And better distribution in paper formats, which she feels will net her more income.
So Will the Stigma Go?
Lou Turner thinks the fact that better authors are moving to self-publishing could help remove the vanity press stigma. “But there aren’t enough of them,” she said.
Nancy Berland said there’s likely to be more poor quality e-books. “If the truth be known, writing for a New York publishing house, you better have a thick skin. Unless you've studied writing and have been in a brutal critique group, you don't have any business publishing. The quality of the work, that's what is going to distinguish people.”
I self-published my first book in 1989 and all four divisions of Baker & Taylor picked it up unsolicited for distribution. But I didn’t make more money self-publishing. Most of the authors I know of who started vanity-publishing and are any good, aren’t self-publishing now. So even if the self-publishing stigma goes away, it is still a lot of work to put a book in the hands of a reader. It requires a team, e-book or not, and that’s why publishers aren’t going away any time soon.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with awards for fiction and non-fiction. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She has an iPhone App of her workshop “Pitch Your Book” and her first novel The Prophetess One: At Risk, both coming out in Spring of 2011. Visit her website:

Friday, April 22, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: The Best Of PPW Conference 2010 by Grant McKenzie

For 18 years, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference has provided an exceptional opportunity
for writers from across the nation to hone their craft. This year’s faculty and staff
consistently exceeded attendees' expectations and put together one of the best
conferences to date. As with any event of this magnitude, however, some things stood
out as the best of the best.

Best Read & Critique: All writers need feedback, whether they want it or not. PPWC
offers ample opportunity, in a variety of formats, for writers to have their opening pages
reviewed by top agents, editors, and other published authors. While all these sessions
provide great feedback, Caryn Wiseman’s session stood out for this year's conference

Caryn, who is an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, gave the writers in her
session a “much more accurate picture of how to build a great first page.” She personalized “detailed feedback that varied for each writer.” “Every word was educating” in this session, and attendees learned “how to start a book and really grab the reader’s attention.” Caryn’s “good insights” and “great feedback” provided “a new perspective” for many writers.

Best Friday Session: The opportunity to pitch to agents and editors is a major draw to
the PPWC. Scheduled pitches are usually on Saturday, so anything on Friday that helps
writers prepare is bound to be a hit. Linda Rohrbough’s “Second Log Line” presentation
was no exception.

Linda gave attendees “Courage!” and “A Plan!” for their upcoming pitches. Her
presentation created “clarity for preparing for pitch sessions.” Many attendees found the
“Second Log Line” presentation “tremendously inspiring” and were “SO glad [they]
came to this one.” PPWC will “definitely bring her back again” for future conferences.

Best Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Kelsie attended PPWC for the first time and decided to
pitch one of her manuscripts. Although nervous going into the pitch session, Kelsie was
on “cloud nine” and had “no memory” of the hour or so after the agent requested her
manuscript. She credits this success to many things. First, she had a lot of pitch coaching,
both in seminar and one-on-one. She specifically credits Linda Rohrbough’s “Second Log
Line” presentation as being significantly helpful. Kelsie also says she tries to stay focused
on a project until it is complete before moving on to a new manuscript. That kind of
dedication is what has led to three completed manuscripts. Finally, Kelsie enters as many
contests as possible. She says the pressure of a deadline gives her the motivation she

Best Saturday Session: PPWC was honored to welcome Donald Maass and Lisa Rector
(Maass) this year. Donald gave the keynote address at Sunday brunch, followed by a 4-
hour workshop based on his book The Fire in Fiction. He also gave a Saturday workshop
on creating tension in every level of your work.

Donald’s Saturday session succeeded in its goal of providing “pointers on how to ratchet
up the dialogue/action on every page to create a real page-turner.” “It was the most
educational and practical of all the lectures,” and was built upon “good audience
participation.” Many attendees thought Donald’s presentation would “strengthen [their]
fiction” and “improve [their] writing.” One attendee even decided to add the material
generated from the workshop lessons to her non-fiction manuscript.

Best Sunday Session: Donald Maass and Lisa Rector make a great team at a conference
like PPWC. Their combined consultation and review donated to the silent auction is just
one of many examples of their teamwork. Although Donald’s Sunday workshop was an
add-on to this year’s conference, Lisa’s Sunday workshop was part of the core conference
package and was widely regarded as the best Sunday session.

Building a story can be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as beginning one. Lisa’s
presentation on “The First Fifty Pages” was “one of the most informative of the
weekend.” Attendees were most impressed with the applicability of the session. Lisa, in
her “very positive & passionate” way, gave her audience “lots of thought-provoking
scenarios to apply to writing” and “ways to improve immediately.

Other Bests from PPWC 2010
Best Queen of the Universe: Laura Hayden
Best Rivalry: Laura Hayden (Bama) & Tim Dorsey (Auburn)
Best Pitch Switcher: Bonnie Hagan
Best Pitch Apprentice: Jen LaPointe
Best Photographer: Jared Hagan
Best Silent Auctioneer: Chris Mandeville
Loudest Silent Auctioneer: Connie McKenzie
Best Pinball Impersonation: Kelsie Baltrush
Best Alter Ego: Trixie
Best Sashay: Todd Fahnestock
Best Improv Story: Corbin Waggoner
Best Mascot: Ruh
Best Boot Sisters: Terrie Wolf & Deb Courtney
Best Meal: Beef AND Chicken @ Saturday Banquet
Best Elevator: 2

Now that the awards have been announced and the conference is done, I think we would
all agree with the writer who reviewed Lisa Rector’s presentation: “Outstanding! Can’t
wait to get back to writing.

Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume IX, Issue 3, May 2010.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Read and Critique With Sandra Bond--A Report From Previous Conference by Debbie Maxwell Allen

Twenty-five writers sat tensed in their chairs, palms sweating, throats clearing. Clutched in each pair of hands: a single page. Each sheet contained just 16 lines, but those lines held power over each writer’s future. As the agent stepped into the room, 25 sets of eyes followed her and shone with questions. “Will she like it? Maybe a little?” “Will all these people snicker at the words I’ve poured from inside me?” A few sly glances gauged the distance to the exit, should the worst happen.

The agent, Sandra Bond, cleared her throat (did she rub her palms on her slacks?) and surprised us all. “I’m much more nervous than all of you,” she said. It hadn’t dawned on us that she was in the hot seat, having only five minutes to listen to and pass judgment on another’s writing.

Whether or not that made us feel better, it did remind us that agents are human. They don’t like rejection any more than the rest of us. Sandra’s vulnerability eased some of the tension in the room. As the writers stood and read from their pages, Sandra gave excellent, specific constructive criticisms, which added up to the equivalent of a wonderful seminar on how to hook a reader. Here are some highlights:

The first sentence is paramount. Start with a graphic, visual scene—action, tension, dark humor. Don’t confuse your reader with the first line, hoping they’ll keep reading to figure it out. They’re more likely to put it down. If your first line or paragraph doesn’t grab the friends you test it out on, try ditching it and begin with your second paragraph. Sandra says this won’t always work, but it’s worth a try.

Show your character’s personality immediately. Whether it’s through humor and sarcasm, or fear and paranoia, let your reader see your character’s quirks and sensitivities. What are the “must haves” or “can’t stands” in their world?

Beware the prologue. While many successful authors use them, Sandra warns that writers must be aware that lots of readers skip them. If your prologue reveals something crucial to the story, weave the information into your novel, or turn the prologue into chapter one.

Use the senses to pull in the reader. Two submissions that seemed to be popular with Sandra, and the group as a whole, employed this idea. One focused on several unusual smells that helped connect us to what the main character liked and didn’t like. Another used sound—a particular sound brings back snatches of memories from the lead character’s life—and makes us want to know what sound stirred up these recollections.

If you’re tackling a memoir... Sandra noted that memoirs are a difficult genre to get into. In order to distinguish yours, accentuate your voice to make it compelling and unique. She told us that a memoir should never begin with, “When I was nine...” Find the voice that will grab your reader.

Attending a Read & Critique session helped me realize that I could not only survive reading aloud in a group, but pick up some great writing tips as well. If you want to learn more, be brave and sign up for a Read & Critique next year!

Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume VIII, Issue 3, May,June 2009

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: How To Get Noticed At A Writers Conference by Becky Clark

It’s a new year, full of delicious conferences to help your writing and publishing career. You have pitches to make, loglines to memorize, schmoozes to dominate, and workshops to hijack. We here in BeckyLand are old pros at writing conferences so here are the ten things you must do, assuming you want to get noticed.

• When you check in at the hotel, holler at the front-desk person, “Don’t you know who I am?? I’m a writer! That’s right. A WRITER. And I must have Egyptian sheets with silk pillowcases, several bowls filled with green M&Ms arranged by a feng shui master, fourteen lightly sharpened pencils, and the home phone number of your supervisor … (pause for effect here and lower your voice)… just in case.” Then grab your room key and motion for someone to follow with your suitcase. (Don’t worry. They will. You’re a writer, for pete’s sake!)

• At the conference registration table, push to the front of the line, reminding people you are a WRITER.

• Go through each page of your registration packet while the line backs up behind you. Ask for clarification of each point. After all, you never know if you’ll see any of the conference staff the rest of the weekend. If anyone asks you to move along, remind them that you are a writer then glare at them until they roll their eyes in deference.

• If there are freebies on the registration table, take them all. Duh. You’re a writer! You deserve extra stuff!

• Do your best to reschedule every pitch appointment you were assigned. Even if you don’t need to. Conference schedulers need to be reminded at every opportunity that you — the writer — are in charge. Everything they do, they do for you. The writer.

• Remember that during workshops when agents and editors request any questions be of a general nature, they’re not talking about your question. As a writer, you need to ask them what they think of your manuscript/plot/premise. Even if the workshop is about writing dialogue.

• During every break, squat to peer under each restroom stall. If you see shoes attached to the feet of an agent or editor, bang on their door and start your pitch, handing your entire manuscript to them under the door. They like this because they’re excellent multi-taskers. You need to show them that you are too by your mad stalking, banging, and pitching skillz.

• If you’re not a good multi-tasker, all is not lost. Simply gather up all the toilet paper in the restroom and barter some for an offer to send your complete manuscript to them. Obviously you can ignore any loser in there who isn’t an editor or agent. They can’t help you in any way, anyway.

• At mealtimes dominate all conversation with anyone at your table who can help your career. Feel free to grab centerpieces from nearby tables to design a lovely fortress around you and your new soulmate. Despite what others might tell you, that’s not at all creepy. They’ll describe your undivided attention as “endearing.”

• When relaxing in the bar after your busy day of being a writer, you deserve a strong drink. Several, in fact. There’s nothing more adorable than writers who slur their way through “You Light Up My Life” — twice — on the karaoke machine, freely confess a lifetime of transgressions to all their new BFFs, and vomit in the ficus tree in the corner.

And that’s all there is to it! Good luck!

Becky Clark is a popular blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, and author of wildly divergent books — for example, An UnCivil War – The Boys Who Were Left Behind (middle-grade historical fiction); Reading Maniac — Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success (a guide for parents of reluctant readers); and The Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook. Her BeckyLand blog can be found at http:/ and her healthy living website/blog is She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Book Ideas by Linda Rohrbough

When you’re an author, people tend to be curious about how you come up with ideas for books. In looking back on my first novel—which is finally being published after a dozen years of work—I realized the idea process was convoluted indeed. Coupled with my early inexperience, it created a book that was a very hard sell.
In 1999, I started work on The Prophetess One: At Risk (the original title was The Prophetess I: Payback). The book was sparked by a horrible tragedy in my husband’s family: his nephew, fifteen-year-old Daniel Rohrbough, was gunned down at Columbine. As the events unfolded, I watched the local news in Dallas, stunned. It seemed so surreal, because I grew up near Columbine.
My husband’s family called us that evening to tell us that Danny was missing, and they asked us to come. We immediately jumped on a plane. I hadn’t seen Danny in awhile, so it was a shock to see him during the viewing at the funeral home. Danny looked just like my husband when we first met (I was fourteen, he was fifteen). I had trouble staying in the room with Danny’s casket.
In the days, months, and even years that followed, several curious, seemingly unrelated events weaved their way together in my mind and heart, eventually leading to what will soon become my first published novel.
First, there was the unexplained, unheralded presence of General Colin Powell at the Columbine memorial service. He did not speak and was not featured in any way. I could not understand his connection with the events at Columbine, when his arena always seemed to be international relations, particularly with the Middle East.
As I studied the news reports in my spare time, a few facts stood out. First, the Columbine shooters bragged theirs would be the first of many such events. And they were right. As more shootings occurred, I followed those news reports, too.
Klebold and Harris were also the first of many school and church shooters with Internet access, who low-level formatted the hard disk drive of their computers. Now I’ve written computer upgrade books, so I know this is no easy task. It indicates serious determination to wipe out all data on a hard disk drive. Yet the Columbine shooters had posted their plans on the web, as did several other shooters. So what was it they were trying to erase?
As I followed the reports and talked with people, I found out that in two cases, the authorities got to the computers and stopped the low-level format before it was complete. One was in a school shooting in Paris; the other was the case of a young man in Florida who flew his dad’s plane into a building. In both cases, e-mails were found that were traced back to Al-Qaeda operatives. Then I remembered the fact that officials investigating Columbine looked unsuccessfully for months for third-party involvement in the year-long planning of the shooting.
As these pieces started to come together, I felt an uneasiness I couldn’t put my finger on, as if there was a spiritual aspect to all of this.
I made frequent driving trips to Denver from Dallas when I lived in Texas. On one trip back to Dallas, I decided on impulse to turn off at a memorial marker on a deserted stretch of 1-25 north of Trinidad. I’d seen this marker before, but this was the first time I decided to stop.
It turned out to be a memorial to the Ludlow Massacre. Now I grew up in Colorado, studied Colorado history, and never heard anything about this. The memorial marks the spot where two women and eleven children—families of miners—were trapped in underground housing and burned to death.
As I stood out on the windy Colorado plains by myself, reading the information, I looked at the date - April 20, 1914. The shootings at Columbine happened on April 20, 1999. Two massacres of children and the people who protected them in the same state on the same day. Even though it was a sunny day, it felt dark and creepy standing there outside the chain link fence that secures the area, wind whipping the grass around my feet. I hurried back to my car to head home. As I did, the last two verses of the Old Testament echoed in my head.
5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
6 And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
Malachi 4: 5-6, New King James Version

One more event shaped me and the book. A very long time ago, when I was enormously pregnant with my first child, I met an ill toddler at a baby shower. The same darkness I felt at Columbine, and the same darkness I felt at Ludlow, crept up my spine when I looked into that little girl’s eyes. I found out later that the child was rushed to the hospital, flown to a medical center in another state, and died the next day. The image in her eyes never left me. I wanted to help her. But I felt incredibly helpless, a custodian of a life I didn’t know if I was even qualified to handle.
So these events and others shaped me and helped form the book. And I am a woman with a message that men are indeed important in the lives of children.
But my best-selling writer friends said a book like mine would be a hard sell. And it has been. Like most first novels, it’s multi-genre: Christian speculative fiction. It has paranormal, Christian, suspense, and thriller elements so it doesn’t fit neatly anywhere. A rookie mistake. But everyone who read it (and there have not been many) said this has to be out there. When I finally found Les Stobbe, my agent, three years ago, he became a champion for the book. And now there’s my publisher with a small press in Missouri, who sees it as her mission to publish really good books that make a difference. She decided to take a look at my book after the recommendation of a writing friend and said she couldn’t put it down.
The Prophetess One: At Risk is not set in Colorado. That was too close to home. I wanted it to happen somewhere benign. And I wanted my main character to be a custodian of a life and the most helpless person possible. And I wanted something good to come out of some of these terrible things I’ve seen happen, including Danny’s sacrifice.
The problem is, how do you explain all this to someone who says to you, “Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?”
Ideas are everywhere. I can’t write fast enough. My fiction agent is shopping a new five book series and I’m working on another proposal for a three book series to send to him.
I tell writers during my pitching workshops that there are no new stories out there and no new themes for books. And I see their faces fall. But that fact doesn’t make your book or mine less unique. It’s the particular blend of your experiences as an author that makes your book as individual as your fingerprint. That combination of uniqueness and the “universalness” we all share is what pulls your reader in to the experience and makes your story one worth reading.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with awards for fiction and non-fiction. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She has an iPhone App of her workshop “Pitch Your Book” and her first novel The Prophetess One: At Risk, both coming out in Spring of 2011. Visit her website:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Extended Reduced Rate For PPW Conference

Good news for you procrastinators: PPW has extended the reduced conference rate until April 18!

Nothing says I'm a professional writer like using a conference fee as a tax deduction, so come join us April 29 through May 1... It'll be a blast!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: April Write Brain--A Conference Primer

Ready for Pikes Peak Writers Conference? Got some jitters? A writer’s conference can be intimidating, so let us take the confusion out of conference.  Come join PPWC veteran, Charlie Rush, PPW President, Chris Mandeville, and PPW Conference Director, Bonnie Hagan, for an overview of conference – and how to get the most out of it.  We’ll talk about what you can expect during the three days of Conference, what not to say to a faculty member, and why lining up early for meals can be important. 

If you’re not quite sure what this Read & Critique thing is all about or if that pitch appointment has given you the proverbial butterflies, we’ve got you covered.  PPWC takes pride in the fact that our attendees are among the best prepared in the country when it comes to talking with faculty about their project.  We’ll make sure you know how to go into your pitch appointment with confidence.  Best of all, this Write Brain will take place at the Marriott – ideal for getting your bearings and checking out the lay of the land

If you’re ready to maximize your conference experience, then we’ll see you Tuesday, April 19 at 6:30 PM at the Colorado Springs Marriott. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

PPW Conference Countdown: Managing Creative Projects by Deb Courtney

We all know prolific writers who crank out 5k words in a sitting, or who effortlessly hit 50K words during NaNoWriMo, or, worse still, draft a manuscript a year.  We know them, and they all know who they are.  This article is not for them.  It’s for the rest of us who can’t for the life of us figure out how they manage said feats. 
Those prolific writers don’t have access to some magic formula which eludes the rest of us, nor are they simply better people.  What they do have is an inborn or learned skill that allows them to manage projects in a more efficient manner than the rest of us, and the ability to meet their goals through self-discipline.  While I can’t help you with the latter (sorry, that’s up to you), I can assist with the former, by teaching you principles from a business discipline called Project Management.
It is much as it sounds – a process by which projects get managed, from idea to completion, and it can be applied across all sorts of different types of projects, from making cupcakes, to launching major software development initiatives for multinational corporations.
And also to creative endeavors.
Out of more than 20 years experience managing a variety of project types, I can say there are three deceptively simple areas in any project which, if not handled correctly, can set projects up to not meet their goals.  For Creative Projects, I like to think in terms of not meeting goals rather than in terms of failure, because failure sounds so definite and final.  I call these areas ‘deceptively simple’ because they sound simple, but are actually multi-faceted and pretty complex. 
For creative projects, unlike for major software launches, the creative person always has the option to re-tool and adjust their approach (unless you are under an external deadline which is another issue altogether).
The first of the three areas are related to Timeline.
Problem:  Setting  Long or Unrealistic Timelines
Projects have completion dates.  This is what sets them apart from our normal daily routine.  Projects have a finite duration, and an end goal.  We cause problems for ourselves in several ways in this area, by:
a)      Setting no completion goal whatsoever.  If you start a novel and plan to finish it when you get around to it, don’t be surprised when you are staring at page 60 of your manuscript 5 years later. 
Solution:  Set a completion goal date.
b)      Setting arbitrary completion dates for a creative project without any understanding of the  actual level of effort. How much do you plan to write – 80,000 words?  100,000 words? How long are typical, marketable manuscripts in your genre?
Solution:  have a goal for length.  You can change it later if you need to, but know in general terms how long projects like yours usually are.
c)      Not understanding how long it will take in actual effort to accomplish a goal.  For instance, writing at a rate of 1000 words an hour you need 80 hours to write 80,000 words.  But you can’t count on having 80 continuous hours – otherwise we’d all have already mastered the art of writing a novel in two weeks.
Also you can’t assume that your productivity remains at 1000 words an hour by the second or third continuous hour of writing  
Solution:  Figure out how much you can write in a given chunk of time.  This allows you to relate the word count goal to a specific level of effort on your part in real time.
d)     Poorly estimating the amount of time you actually have to dedicate to your project.  This will almost always be different than the time you imagine you will have or the time you would like to have. In high tech, project managers expect about 5 hours a day of actual programming from developers even though they are at work for 8.  It RARELY happens that you can spend all the time you have available on the major task you want to complete; other things almost always interrupt. 
Solution: Set a minimum realistic goal for each writing session based on how much of your available time you will likely ACTUALLY spend writing.  ASSUME INTERRUPTIONS WILL HAPPEN
e)      Having no end goal (beyond Write Novel.)  By this I mean that many people start out with a vague idea for a book and when asked to articulate it can’t get much beyond “I want to write a novel about a person in these circumstances that ends up this way”. 
While I am not a fan of outlining your novel in massive detail personally, this falls under the category of Poor or No Requirements; (which will be addressed in Part 2 of this series).  It’s hard to finish something by a specific date if you aren’t really certain what in fact you want to have at the end of the allotted timeframe. 
Solution:  Set an end goal with some specifics, like an 88,000 word YA urban fantasy novel in which your incredibly awesome teen zombie has overcome a variety of obstacles and changed the world’s view of zombies, and is on the cusp of winning voting rights for all zombies in the United States.
If you have specific questions, feel free to email them to me at, or catch me at Pikes Peak Writers Conference, where I will be leading a session on Project Management for Writers.

Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sweet Success: Beth Groundwater

Beth Groundwater's short mystery story, "Fatal Fish Flop," will be published in Fish Tales, The Guppy Anthology (ISBN: 978-1-4344-3080-9) in April 2011 by Wildside Press.  Fish Tales, The Guppy Anthology, casts a wide net across the mystery genre, delivering thrills, chills, and gills. This water-themed collection features locked room puzzles, police procedurals, cozy characters, and hardboiled detectives. With a pool of motivations ranging from greed and revenge to loyalty and justice, these stories will lure you with killer hooks and fishy characters.

Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, nominated for the 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award, and To Hell in a Handbasket, released in May, 2009). She also writes the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. Visit her website at and her blog at
Congrats, Beth!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Column: The Importance of Being Earnest... Hemingway by Cindi Madsen

I like Ernest Hemingway, but I’ve never devoured one of his books. The Old Man and the Sea isn’t a very big book, but it took me a couple weeks to read. Probably because I read it about the same time the last Harry Potter book came out—I finished that 700 page bad boy in a day and a half. I tend to like books with a lot of romance, humor, and big action. But sometimes genre writing is looked down on, as if writing a book that makes people fall in love or laugh doesn’t require skills or brains. Writing is hard work, regardless of genre.

So, I’m going to go ahead and make a confession. I’m a…a… Okay, deep breath. I’m a romance writer. I used to cover it up, claiming suspense or comedy, but the truth is, all my books have a strong romantic element. Finally, I’m able to admit it. Of course now that I’m admitting to it, I’ve had people look at me, face all scrunched up, and ask, like they’re sure they heard me wrong, “Romance? Like fluff or bodice-ripping?”

Well, neither. My characters have real problems, and along the way they fall in love. I certainly wouldn’t call it fluff, but I’m all about a happy ending. That’s just me. And if that’s who you are, too, or if you write the bodice-ripping, deep thought provoking, literary, historical, or Christian fiction, I say be true to yourself and go for it. If you want to be the next Hemingway, Austen, Steinbeck, more power to you. Because at the end of the day, it’s about writing what you want to write—what you love. Even if family, friends, and your mom give you “that look” when they find out what you’re writing. Or even more terror-inducing, if they actually read it. If you don’t love what you’re writing, it’ll show. Plus, it ends up feeling like homework. I’m learning to write for me, and hope that other people will love it, too. So whatever you write, hold your head high, be true to who you are, and find the joy of being earnest.

Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to by a new pair. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children, and is a member of PPW and PPRW. You can check out her blog at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Column: Getting Your Script Into The Right Hands by Karen Albright Lin

Besides pitching to filmmakers seeking scripts through lead services, exciting others with your story at festivals, finaling in contests, and joining local groups like CASA (Colorado Actors and Screenwrites Assembly), you can seek out the help of an agent, manager, or an entertainment attorney.
A Hollywood agent helps find someone to purchase your film.  One who is a Writers Guild Signatory charges 10%, no reading fee, and has a 90 day termination clause.  Hollywood directories will tell you who’s who and give contact information.  Consider attending film festivals.  I pitched to a Hollywood agent at one.  He represented me for about a year.  During that time he brought a romantic comedy (written with Christian Lyons) to Barry Sonnenfeld (MIB), a sci-fi farce (written with Janet Fogg) to James Cameron (Titanic), and a supernatural thriller (written with Janet Fogg) to Sony, HBO and Showtime.
Christian and I were told our script was considered in the final three, but Fun With Dick and Jane (Jim Carrey and Téa  Leoni) won out over ours—a great movie, so I can’t complain too much.
Managers are not WG Signatories.  They typically charge 15%.  Their role is to nurture your career.  They may also help make connections.  They can’t sell your work without an attorney.   By CA law, if a manager ends up producing your movie, she can’t charge you the 15% fee.  It can create a conflict of interst if your manager is also producer on the project; she is trying to limit budget and that includes the purchase price of the screenplay. 
Also producers bring scripts to actors or directors.
An entertainment attorney can play several roles.  Protecting your interests should be paramount.  An attorney I signed with when producer Ken Berk took my story under his belt years ago also helped market work as part of his practice, sometimes even books to N.Y.
If you get yourself out there and expose your talent to people who can help you market it, you may well break in with a spec script as your advertisement. 
         Another way to break in is to write an adaptation of another work.  Your own or someone

 else’s.  I’ll discuss adaptation in the next few posts.  Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your

directions brief.  Don’t step on the director.  Avoid dusk and dawn.  

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll) each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at