Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Big R by Cindi Madsen

We’re not talking about that store where you can buy rope, tools, or cowboy boots. Wait, I don’t have any cowboy boots. It’s not really my look, but if new shoes are involved . . . Where was I again? Oh right. The Big R. Rejection. If you attended conference, you probably came away feeling amazing, like you could do anything. Maybe even got the “send it” from an agent or editor. So what do you do when the amazing feeling wears off and, after applying everything you learned at conference, you still get rejected? You cry into your bucket of ice cream while wearing the boots you decided you did need. Or is that just me?

The thing about rejection is, it’s impossible not to take it personal. Many writers are known as being reclusive. So we put our characters in the spotlight. If readers like them—and there’s no greater feeling—our characters get all the love. But if someone doesn’t like them, our characters aren’t the ones who end up depressed and feeling like they’re not good enough. Nope. That honor goes to the writer. All the rejection, none of the glory. It can sometimes wear you down.

Rejection is part of the business, and it happens to everyone. Even published authors get scathing reviews. Just remember, there are so many different opinions out there. What one agent or editor hates, another might love. Books I think are the best-thing-ever get bad reviews, and books I don’t care for are raved about. So take a day or two, brush yourself off (maybe even work off some of that ice cream) and keep going. Look at your work and see what you can improve. Is your opening strong enough? Get reader and critique feedback. Or maybe it’s time to start on another project and apply all you’ve learned to a new book. The sure way to never get published is to stop trying. So keep going, polishing, learning. Every draft or new manuscript will be stronger. That doesn’t mean it’ll suddenly be easier when another rejection letter comes, but we do this because we love it. Even if it doesn’t always love us back.      

About Cindi Madsen: I'm a writer. I sit at my computer every chance I get, plotting, revising, and falling in love with my characters. Sometimes this makes me a crazy person. Without it, I'd be even crazier. I have way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they're sparkly, colorful, or super tall. I live in Colorado with my husband and three children.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Column: Write It Right: Emotional Mistakes

We all know (or should know) many of the reasons why typos and other blunders make their way into writing: haste, apathy, brain-to-keyboard disconnects, poor grasp on grammar and/or punctuation and/or spelling, and so on. The other day I was reminded of yet another reason: high emotion.

Have you ever gotten so angry or upset that nothing coming out of your mouth was quite right? Bumbled words, twisted clich├ęs – a total sputter fest that may or may not have been quite intelligible to the listener. Now take that heightened emotion and mix it with a good dose of modern technology (think tiny keyboards, a quick finger on the “Post” button, and Twitter). The written sputter fest might look something like this:

- These people flat out stopped sellering on E-bay.
- It was true good to be true.
- We are just ponds in their game and they have endless Queen's and Kings.

These were all from a single response – one response! – to an online article about the “millions” people have earned by selling on eBay. This same person actually posted several responses, all quite passionate about the negative eBay experiences he and his wife had. Clearly he was on a roll by the time he made this post.

In the “good old days” of paper and pen, you had a lot of time for your emotions to cool as you scribbled a note or letter expressing your feelings on whatever topic set you off that particular day. Now we have the Internet. Who wants to step back and take a deep breath? Public ranting is only a click away.

(Originally posted at The World Needs a Proofreader, March 30, 2011)

About the writer: Robin Widmar works to support a horse habit and writes to follow a dream. When she’s not writing about demons, dragons, or firefighting, she discusses the rampant typographical errors threatening to take over the written world at The World Needs a Proofreader (

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Doldrums

Summer is in full swing, and that means writers are juggling writing time with family time, vacations, and fun in the sun. It also means that fewer blog articles are coming in, and the ample cache of articles for Writing from the Peak is dwindling rapidly.

Writing from the Peak is a venue for writers to share their thoughts, experiences, and advice about writing and the writing life. Anyone can contribute. You can be a novice writer or a veteran of the writing wars. Published or unpublished. Literary or genre writer. Fiction or nonfiction. We just want to hear from you! E-mail your submissions to

Robin Widmar
Managing Editor

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Epic Fail at PPWC 2011 by Cathy Dilts

The word “networking” strikes terror to my introvert heart. Schmoozing inevitably leads to foot-in-mouth disease, when I try to act cool, and instead melt into a sticky pool of gibberish.

At this year’s PPWC, I followed director Bonnie Hagan’s advice, and it worked. In the conference brochure, Bonnie recommended “to talk to someone you’ve never met before about your writing project and ask about theirs.”

The second half of that challenge transformed my conference from the usual wallflower disaster. Well, if you ignore that one little fiasco. But we’ll get to that.

The introvert is blessed in this age of the internet. Networking occurs through crafted blog posts, tweeting, two sentence social media conversations, and that old dinosaur, e-mail. Face-to-face, real time human interaction can be successfully avoided by the pathologically shy for extended periods of time. Except at a writers’ conference.

Part of my program of self-improvement as a conference attendee and writer was to step up my volunteer service. Getting behind the scenes does serve personal interests as it opens opportunities to get the inside scoop from agents, editors, and successful writers. The primary goal, however, is to serve the writing community.

I was one of three volunteers assisting Jennifer LaPointe with the pitch sessions. Since I had not requested a formal pitch session, it was a relaxing assignment. I watched others holding their bundle of dreams in sweaty hands, faces pale, palpitating hearts nearly audible, as they waited for their moment with an agent or editor.

I comforted writers with assurances that there was a trash can available, if they thought they were going to throw up. I handed out half sheets for them to record vital information they might forget in the pitch room, like their names. I was the model of helpfulness.

And then a woman approached the desk unlike all the rest. She seemed oddly calm and self-assured.

“May I have your pitch card?” I asked.  “No one gets to pitch without their card.”

She studied me for the briefest moment, then announced,  “I’m here to listen to pitches.”

It occurred to me, a bit late, to glance at her name badge. Andrea Brown, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

The pitch waiting room fell into a hushed silence.

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Brown,” I said. “You obviously won’t be needing a pitch appointment, ha ha.”

She didn’t laugh. A more competent pitch volunteer jumped into action, leading Ms. Brown to the pitch room. The conversation in the room resumed, a comforting, if jittery, hum.

In past years, this might have sent me crawling back inside my introvert’s shell. As the next nervous person approached the pitch desk, I realized I was too busy with volunteer duties to linger on my epic fail.

I listened as others told me about their novels, memoirs, and cookbooks. Instead of focusing myopically on my own goals, I watched how other people approached theirs. In a read and critique session, I forgot about my own precious one page, and really listened as people tried to catch an agent’s attention in 2 ½ minutes or less.

At lunches and dinner, I learned that I’m not the only writer juggling an impossible schedule with career and family obligations. We’re all struggling to fit writing time into our busy lives.

The pitch room incident did not derail my determination to network. If we met at the conference, after my epic fail, you may remember me. I was the lady squinting at your name tag before opening my mouth.
About the writer: Cathy Dilts is an assistant editor for the PPW blog. She writes cozy murder mystery and inspirational fiction, and has recently begun writing short stories because they’re easier to fit in to her busy schedule. Cathy’s publication experience is similar to fishing – getting lots of nibbles on the line, but no bites yet.

In her spare time, she enjoys raised bed gardening, which her husband claims look the perfect size for burying bodies, while reminding her that you can’t get rid of the bones.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Column: Screenwriting: More to Consider Before Turning Your Story Into a Screenplay by Karen Albright Lin

Notice I said story instead of novel.  Most of us could name dozens of bestselling novels that have been adapted.  Three recent ones: Memoirs of a Geisha, My Sister’s Keeper, and The Time Traveler’s Wife

But there are numerous examples of other story forms that have been successfully adapted:  autobiography (Pursuit of Happiness), YA (Holes), novella (Shawshank Redemption), picture book (Where the Wild Things Are), Comic Book (Spider Man), nonfiction (Helter Skelter), short story (Brokeback Mountain), collection of short stories (Trainspotting), play (Death of a Salesman), journalism (All the President’s Men), lecture (An Inconvenient Truth), blog (Julie and Julia), T.V. Script (X Files), TV skit (Blues Brothers), graphic novel (V for Vendetta), video game (Mortal Kombat), poem (Iliad adapted as Troy), earlier film (Oceans Eleven 2001, 1960).

If you obtain the rights to adapt another author’s work, and even if you adapt your own story, be aware that film is collaborative; your script and the way it comes off on the screen will likely be different from your vision of it.  Other writers have a go at it.  Even the directors and actors implement their own visions.  Some say the writer is the lowest woman on the totem pole. 

I’ve heard successful novelists insist the writer’s dream is to sell the script and have it NOT made, get the money but not have the work butchered.  When eating lunch with David Morrell, I was surprised to hear that he wasn’t happy with the hugely successful adaptation of his novel First Blood/Rambo.  His main beef: a character he considered very important to his story was simply dumped for purposes of the movie.  Though it went on to become a Sylvester Stallone vehicle franchise and made Morrell loads of money, it disappointed him.

Don’t let the warnings discourage you from adapting your story, however.  There are still good reasons to do it. 

1)    If your agent can sell your book to Hollywood (ka-chink), having the script ready to go means the agent can more easily negotiate for you to be paid to do the first pass at the script (ka-chink).  Count on other established script writers being brought in to do a rewrite or two or three…
2)    You might be one of the lucky few whose script sells before the book or simultaneously.
3)    As I will preach throughout this series, writing screenplays will improve your other writing.

Next time I’ll discuss methods of turning your story into a screenplay.  In the meantime, 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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Going Gothic with Mario Acevedo by MB Partlow

When I learned he was speaking at the May PPW WriteBrain on “Going Gothic: Writing Dark Fantasy,” I knew I had to attend.

Despite an early fascination with machine guns, Mario Acevedo came into his own with his quirky, sexy, funny series about Felix Gomez, vampire detective. From The Nymphos of Rocky Flats to the most recent book, Werewolf Smackdown, you won’t find a more twisted and amusing foray into urban fantasy.

Lest you think Mario’s life has been all Bloody Marys and margaritas by the pool, you have to know that he has served in war zones, been outsourced and downsized, and suffered the loss of his promising career as a velvet Elvis painting model.

Any encounter with Mario leads to scrambling to write down all the books and authors he mentions. If there’s anything better than a good writer, it’s a good writer who reads. And shares.

Mario began by talking about why people read dark fantasy. “We want to release our repressed animal nature and antisocial emotions through horror and embrace the sense of wonder evoked by fantasy.” But he also warned that we, as writers, have to follow through on the promises we make to our readers. The fantasy element has to draw readers into the fantastic world we’ve created, while the horror element has to scare them. Dark fantasy “combines the fantastic and horror through forces beyond human comprehension.”

As examples, he cited H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu (a true classic), Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (which veers away from his darker works) and Charlie Huston’s Already Dead (it doesn’t get more hardboiled than this guy, vampire or no).

Mario also discussed epic fantasy, like Martin’s Game of Thrones or Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and the contemporary settings of urban fantasy in Stein’s The Becoming, Butcher’s Dresden Files, or even A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. He also included paranormal romance, where the emphasis on romance is driving the plot, and horror, which he defined as “fiction that creates the necessary atmosphere to evoke emotional dread through repugnance and fear.”

While Mario was focused on dark fantasy, I’d have to argue that his advice holds for all genres. He said “We create a setting and a mood that builds empathy with the main character on stage by showing apprehension, maybe fear, and a sense of jeopardy.” Every writer strives to build that empathy, not just writers on the darker side of the street. And if there’s no apprehension, no sense of jeopardy of any sort, then what sort of story do you have? How will you draw your readers in and make them root for your character if life is good, all is well, and everything from the main character’s sense of well-being to the universal karmic balance is just fine?

In dark fantasy, “we introduce vicious characters and supernatural creatures who operate outside the rules.” What makes it fantasy is the use of supernatural creatures. What makes good writing is characters who operate outside the rules. Think of Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Humbert Humbert in Lolita, or even Skeeter in The Help. All three characters were operating outside of the rules their society expected them to follow.

Mario’s list of tips for writing dark fantasy, again, apply across genres. Write from your guts. “Reveal the story through dialog, feelings, internalizations, action, description, exposition and back-story.”

But he saved the best for last. He had us do a writing exercise, creating tension with just two sentences. One of his examples:  I love you. Too bad you have to die. But the best one of the night, which I’ll paraphrase because I didn’t write it down quick enough, was a single sentence: She had lovely eyes, he thought, as he held one up to the light.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another Writer Hooked by Charise Simpson

The 2011 Pikes Peak Writers Conference was an eye opening experience for this recovering information technology executive. After getting over the initial shock of being at a conference with more than five token females, and speaking with people who actually enjoyed conversing, I knew I was in for something new.  I found myself in a place where creativity was the star rather than a bad word or an odd concept.  Bumping elbows with these people called writers was just the creative transfusion I needed.

I regret I didn’t get the chance to go to each and every session and spend more time with the people I met.  But for those speakers whose sessions I did attend, here’s a little more feedback for you.

Debra Dixon, thank you for enticing me to journal and analyze the Goal, Conflict and Motivation of the movies I watch.  It’s like I have a fun, new game.  No one in my family will know how to play it and that will make me feel secretive and smart.  Also, I am synchronized with your oration on goal setting.  I concur with your advice, your propeller-highness.

Karen Albright Lin, thanks for giving me permission to write about my life.  So how’s this for High Concept:  My novel is about an IT chick who goes to a PPWC conference and learns to love writing.  Or is that a log line?  Anyway, my favorite title of the conference is “The Importance of a Penis.”

Linda Rohrbough, I am now much more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Thank you.  Also, do you think Middle Age Career Crisis is a selling genre?

Jodi Anderson, I’m looking forward to using your Scene & Sequel concepts in my own writing and also when I’m micromanaging the creative writing homework of my own juvenile Zombie Monkeys.

Aaron Ritchey, thank you for your hilarity during the napping-window time of day.  I now have a better understanding of the importance of self-pity in the submission / rejection process.  And, I promise to always be gracious to my critique group even if they say they don’t like the way I use the word “the.”

Deb Courtney, like you, I also love to capture the interesting things people say.  However, I will be careful when I’m around you next time, lest you include my geek-speak in your next blog.  Oh yeah, I probably don’t have to worry about that since I’m sure you include only interesting dialogue.  J

Sue Mitchell, I like your attitude.  Dream crushing is a waste of time.  Every morning from now on I will fold into my regular lotus pose, form my hands in the mudra of universal knowledge and chant the following with peaceful intention:  “There is a home for all good writing, there is a home for all good writing.”

Beth Kendrick, I really appreciate your advice on lowering my expectations with regard to housekeeping. I will spend more time writing and less time feeling guilty about my domestic disabilities.  I have an action item for you though.  I think it would help if we could come up with a way to get our mothers and mothers-in-law to lower their expectations of our housekeeping.  We’ve got to give it a try, if not for us, then for our daughters.  

To the Nonfiction Platform panel, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Becky Clark and Ron Cree spar like an old married couple while Karen Albright Lin and Eden Lane mediated.  It was a little like watching “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  Seriously though, it was as informative as it was entertaining.  BTW - Eden, I am so going to buy a pair of vegan character shoes, just like yours.  Don’t worry.  We don’t work together so we don’t have to worry about being twinsies.

Fleur Bradley, I had lots of fun learning more about the Middle Grade genre, especially since I read Mary Downing Hahn with my daughter every night.  I liked your comment about sex and transportation.  I was thinking of writing about an IT geek who rides his bike to work and is too shy for women.  Oh yeah, that’s The 40 Year Old Virgin.  But, we could make it about an adolescent riding his bike through the graveyard to the computer lab where ghosts help him control all the social networking sites on the Internet. It could work, maybe?  I’ll get back to you on that one.

And finally, Becky (Cha-Ching) Clark, thank you for sharing your wisdom on finding fame and fortune through article syndication.  Even if fame and fortune elude me, I’m sure the journey will be the pot of gold. I’m also adding the following to my morning mantra:  “Give people info they need and they will follow you.”

So that was my first PPW conference in a nutshell. Frankly, I found it all so exhilarating that by the Sunday Grab-n-Go lunch I could barely keep myself from reaching for the sky and swaying back and forth while belting out “Kumbaya.”  

To all my new friends at PPW, I’m so glad you had room for one more.  I had a wonderful “inciting incident” of a time.  I think I’ll pull up a chair and stay a while.

Charise is currently indulging in the fun side of writing after spending fifteen years writing functional specifications and user manuals for customized software applications. She has written humorous pieces for local clubs and is also a published cartoonist.  She is currently writing a memoir as well as humorous short stories.  She loves spending time with her husband and two children in their Colorado home,  and on the slopes of Mary Jane.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Column: eBook Signings by Becky Clark

(Originally posted June 3, 2011 at Becky’s blog, I’m Just Sayin)

I have a huge problem. How can the massive legions of my fans get autographed copies of my books if I only write ebooks?

Ok. Fine. I don’t have massive legions of fans. But when I do, this is a problem I won’t have to worry about any longer. (Yes, thankyouverymuch, my rose-colored glasses are always at least half full. Often of sudsy brew.)

There has been much discussion in my ebook publishing circles about how to do book signings and in-person events for ebook authors.

Sharpie on the Kindle? Burn and sign CDs of the book? Sign postcards of the cover? Channel some WC Fields and snarl, “Get outta here kid, you bother me.” Keep a stack of some other author’s books handy to sign?

Funny story. I was at a large author event and someone handed me a book to sign. But it wasn’t one I had written. I laughed and pointed it out to them. They looked at the other author’s table which had a line, shrugged and told me to go ahead and sign it anyway. “It’s a gift. They’ll never know.”

But I digress … when you don’t have a paper book, how will you define ‘book signing’?

Enter They’ve created a method for virtual book signings. I’m not entirely sure how it all works, because their website is skimpy on the details. I’ve heard about them from several different trusted sources and I understand they made a big splash at BEA recently. You can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on them to see how I can take advantage of what they offer.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just keep signing other people’s books. For now it’s much easier. Besides, they’ll never know.

How will you handle virtual book signings? If someone handed you one of my books to sign, how would you inscribe it?

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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Indy Article About Chris Mandeville and PPW

Check out this great write-up in the Colorado Springs Independent about our very own Chris Mandeville, tomorrow's Beginning Writer's Workshop, and PPW!

PPW Beginning Writer's Workshop - Saturday, 6/11/11

WHAT:  Beginning Writer's Workshop
WHEN:  Saturday, June 11, 2011, 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
WHERE:  Police Station Community Room, 7850 Goddard Street, Colorado Springs, CO
COST:  $45.00
LUNCH:  "On Your Own"

Learn everything you need to know about writing a novel with PPW President Chris Mandeville and Executive Director Jodi Anderson. Come fill your writer's toolbox with techniques, resources and advice!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

PPWC 2011 - Can't Wait for Next Year! by MaryAnna Clemons

I have had two wonderful opportunities to attend the PPWC: once in 1997 and once this year. Both times were wonderful, but I have to admit that while the first year was awesome, it was a bit rough on a new writer. But this year, well, this year rocked.

I think that I needed time to ferment as a writer (and a person). This year I showed up ready to make contacts, network, and create friendships.

What did I learn? First and foremost, I learned I needed a plan of action–and here it is:

I am going to change my website to reflect my new goal of fiction writing. As a freelance journalist, that site was fine to send editors to, but now that I no longer freelance non-fiction articles, I need to jazz it up, add a blog, and get to chasing my goals.

I am going to blog for the Pikes Peak Writers–they said I could. I have it in writing.
  • I will write on a schedule – period. Aaron Ritchey (whom I have never met before the conference weekend and who did not pay me to make this endorsement via money or alcohol) was one of the BEST speakers at the conference. I laughed out loud, and it's hard to get a cynical old mom of three to laugh (just ask my husband).
  • I will be starting a fund of money, quite like a Christmas slush fund, for the 2012 conference, which will include Donald Maass and Jeffery Deaver (among other wondrous folks). I hope to save enough money to stay at the hotel instead of driving from my Eastern Plains residence into town every day. After all, some of the best friends are made after hours.
  • I will start attending the "Write Brains" (gas prices be damned), as well as the nights at Poor Richard's (which I have heard may need to change since the group is getting SO big!). The exhilaration of like-minded souls is too much not to take in.
  • I've already given my Facebook page a political lobotomy. I recall reading a first book in a series of time travel stories and I loved the book so much that I sought out the author on the web. She just happened to have been taped doing a book talk and signing in Arizona, recent to the immigration issues, and was taped giving her pent-up political opinion on the issue. I was so turned off by this that I haven't read or bought another book in her series. Right, wrong, green, blue, we are all human and we all come pre-loaded with our own thoughts on gender, politics, religion, etc., and you just never know who your next customer might be! If you are an author, take politics (unless you write about politics and actually make money off of it) off your list of "to talk about." That is my opinion of course, but it's good advice from myself to myself and I'm going to take it.

Now, for my almost scary story: I was so deeply engrossed in Debra Dixon's "Big Black Moment" workshop that I forgot to run upstairs for my pitch appointment with Andrea Brown!

That's right. I have been so long in my own little mom-world that I forgot to pitch one of the top agents in the field. I ran upstairs and Ms. Brown was getting in the elevator. I had just seconds to jump in with her. Ms. Brown was kind enough to give me a few minutes in the lobby on the leather chair that sunk in so much my knees were under my chin. I gave her my medium length pitch (as my very short pitches didn't seem to be falling on sympathetic ears). She was intrigued enough to read my first page and then she…wait for it…turned the page!

She gave me a solid request for my material and my weekend was complete. In the course of four days, I really stretched my wings (yep, that was stretching). I came out from behind my computer and learned and listened and really felt inspired. For the first time in my life, even given my freelancing and staff writing experience, I could finally picture myself as "one of them" – a full-time fiction writer who has deadlines and stressful nights of sleeplessness worrying that my idea "well" is going to dry up.

I do not want to lose that momentum. Even with my full-time job, my marriage, three kids, a small menagerie, and a dream of being a better barrel racer–I want to write as well. It's not too much to ask out of life - right?

Now, as Jill Marsal stated in the Myth Busting Agents workshop, the hard part is just starting. And that works for me. As Sharyn November so astutely called it, I am pragmatic to the bone–and work is what I know. In fact, I had to force myself to slow down more than once throughout the weekend and be in the moment.

And now, the work begins.

BIO:  MaryAnna Clemons is a lifelong writer, a past journalist freelancer and a 24/7 wife and mom of three. Previous work can be seen at, and her blog is housed at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Youth Writing Club - Tonight 6/7/2011

PPW needs your help spreading the word about our new Summer Youth Writing CLUB. 

The first meeting is TONIGHT - Tuesday, June 7th at 6:30pm.

Do you know a young person 14 or older who writes fiction or is thinking of giving it a try?  If so, please encourage him or her to come to the club meeting tonight.  It's completely free!

At this meeting youth will receive:

--information, advice and resources on fiction writing
--the opportunity to ask any and all writing-related questions
--tips and info to help prepare for the next PPW workshop and Write Brain
--a free Writer's Digest magazine
--home-made chocolate chip cookies
--a TWO-FOR-ONE discount to the full-day workshop on June 11th!

The Youth Club meets on the first Tuesday of each summer month (June, July, August)
at the Police Station Community Room located at 7850 Goddard Street in Colorado Springs, CO.

For more information on all of PPW's summer programs, including the Youth Club, look for links on the PPW home page at

Thank you for helping us spread the word.

Christine Mandeville
PPW President

Monday, June 6, 2011

Column: What It’s Like to Have a First Novel Out There by Linda Rohrbough

I’m learning lots with my first novel hitting the market. It’s very different than having a nonfiction book out. Here’s what I’ve noticed.

Two Surprises

I think this is more about me than my readers, but I am so painfully aware of how much art is a matter of taste. So I’m continually surprised when some people like my book. Like older men, for example. I think it’s a mistake to act too surprised, though.

But the bigger surprise is how long it takes some people to make time for a novel in their busy lives. When I thought about it, I do that, too. It could take me two weeks to two months to cull out the time so I have nothing else going on and can just enjoy a new novel by a favorite author. Some people have simply jumped into the book. Others buy it to savor later. I didn’t expect that.

Reviews Are Hard to Come By

Which leads me to my next point, reviews. I need reviews. Good ones, hopefully. And for some reason I thought people would just go to Amazon and other sites and post them. They did on my nonfiction books. I don’t think I ever asked for a review. But not so with fiction. I now realize I need to ask.

What I want to avoid is the pushy salesperson approach I’ve seen from a number of fiction authors. Back when I did book reviews, I would e-mail an author to tell them I liked an excerpt of their book, and I had a few questions to ask. I’ve had some e-mail me back with a request I post my comments on This is before I had a chance to finish my questions or read the entire book. Or, worse, they started going on with compliments about their work, instead of thanking me for my comment and answering my questions.

So I work to be careful to honor my readers and be sure anyone who asks about the book gets what they need from me, along with a thank you for their kind attention. And then, if it makes sense, I request a review.

Social Media

It seems like some authors feel like they have to be on every loop incessantly talking about their book. And when I read some of the hype out there about social media, that would be my take-away as well. Only in practice, I don’t think that helps.

More recently, I heard about the 80/20 rule, which is offer eighty percent help and only twenty percent talk about your own work. (For you math and science buffs out there, you’ll remember the 80/20 rule is called the Pareto Distribution.) Only I think being desperate about promoting your book is like being desperate about anything else. Remember those people in high school who were desperate for a date? People can smell it. And it acts as a repellent, even if you do 80/20.

I have authors all the time approach me for help because they are in a hurry to get their book into print as they need the money. You’d be better off financially being the greeter at Wal-Mart. Debbie Macomber likes to jokingly say she became an overnight success in about twenty years. Only now that I’m on this side of the table, I get the temptation to push. But I’m resisting.

Promotion Every Day

One thing I didn’t expect is I work every day on promotion, both big and small. Just yesterday my web guy reminded me I forgot to ship him and his wife a book. And they’ve already decided who gets to read it first (his wife). Today my publicist sent me a request from a reviewer looking for books like mine for a national magazine. She watches the PR Newswire and free services such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and forwards things she sees on to me. Requests from reviewers must be addressed quickly as they expire, so I dropped working on this article to answer.

I also notice there’s a lot of opportunity for promotion via blogs, especially for fiction books. I did a few blogs with my nonfiction work, but nothing like what’s opened up now. I was talking to a writer friend and we decided you could spend so much time doing blogs that you don’t have time to write. Another writer friend told me she tries to batch as many blogs as she can on a single day. She feels it benefits her to do that because the web spiders rank names higher that have more mentions at the same time.

How Long For a Foothold?

Bottom line is I think a first novel takes more time to catch on in the marketplace than a nonfiction book. But I think a novel can have a greater impact. I now remember stories of successful authors, like Frank Peretti, whose first book took a couple of years to really get a foothold. And some authors only succeed after they kept cranking books, inching up until they finally broke through. The only thing I know that works for sure is gentle persistence - the same persistence that it took to get published to begin with.

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. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." An iPhone App of her popular three-step formula workshop for writers, “Pitch Your Book,” is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

PPW Beginning Writer's Workshop - June 11, 2011

WHAT:  Beginning Writer's Workshop
WHEN:  June 11, 2011, 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
WHERE:  Police Station Community Room, 7850 Goddard Street, Colorado Springs, CO
COST:  $45.00
LUNCH:  "On Your Own"

Learn everything you need to know about writing a novel with PPW President Chris Mandeville and Executive Director Jodi Anderson. Come fill your writer's toolbox with techniques, resources and advice!

PPW's Youth Summer Writing Club - June 7, 2011

Join us the first Tuesday in June, July, and August from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. for information, resources and support for youth ages 14+ who want to write fiction.

Supervision and support provided by PPW President Chris Mandeville.

For more information:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

Editor's Note: This was forwarded to me by one of PPW's NaNoWriMo participants. It might be of interest to those of you who can't make November work, or who wanted to give NaNoWriMo a spin but missed out. 

Greetings, Wrimos!
If you're holding hot coffee, I'd recommend you put it down. If you're standing, please sit.
I have potentially explosive news: we're launching Camp NaNoWriMo this summer! As in, mere months from this very moment!
Some of you may be wondering, "What is this camp you speak of? Will there be mosquitoes?"
This camp-themed version of National Novel Writing Month enables participants to write a novel in a month other than November. You bring the words and we'll meet you there with the encouragement, tracking tools, and a tent!
For everyone who has ever wanted to do NaNo multiple times a year—or for those who simply can't make a November novel work—welcome to Camp NaNoWriMo! The plot bunnies will frolic, the sun will warm your half-baked plot, and yes... there will probably be mosquitoes.
To pay for all these building materials, we're holding a summer fundraising drive starting May 25. More awesome goodies at more levels than ever before! (Two words: bumper sticker. For the first time in NaNo history!)
Stay tuned for more camp news and details about the upcoming fundraiser. In the meantime, I've still got some canoes to hollow out.
Chop chop!
For more information on Camp NaNoWriMo, visit the NaNoWriMo web site. There's also writing resources, news, and other fun stuff, so check it out! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding Greatness at Pikes Peak by Bree Ervin

(This was originally posted by Bree Ervin on May 6, 2011 at her blog ThinkBannedThoughts).

As some of you know, I just got back from the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference in Colorado Springs, CO.

It was my first time going to this particular conference and I was blown away.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous at first. It didn’t seem well-organized, the information I wanted about the schedule and pitch appointments and all those little extras wasn’t showing up when I wanted it to. And I was in a bind because I didn’t want to bring every possible manuscript for every possible outcome, I just wanted to pack the right stuff for the right workshops.

But, at last everything I needed arrived, I madly printed everything out that needed printing, got in my car and away I drove.

Once I was there, my perception of the conference did a complete 180.

Everyone from staff to faculty to attendees was amazingly friendly and helpful. They really aren’t kidding when they say they are the friendliest conference in the West.  Friends are great, but I really went down there to learn a few things, and learn I did.

I lucked out this year – there was a HUGE focus on writing for children from picture books all the way to YA (Young Adult). This doesn’t always happen at these writing conferences. A lot of times it’s all grown up talk.

A few of the workshops and lectures that I participated in that really stood out –

Thursday morning’s Pitch Perfect session with Bonnie Hagan and Chris Mandeville – I was pretty confident in my log line and pitch, this really cinched it. Plus I got to help an amazing woman out with her log line (think 25 word elevator pitch) and found out later that she used it and got asked to submit to a great agent because of it! (Fingers crossed for her as she tries to make the leap from children’s picture books to adult novels!)

Thursday afternoon I attended The Heroine’s Journey with Barbara Samuel – OH MY GOD!!! The biggest Ah-ha! moment ever as I tried to fit my picture book into the journey and suddenly realized why I kept getting stuck in this one corner. I kept putting my heroine in one place when she clearly needed to be in another.

Friday I jumped into Self Editing with Karen Albright Lin who taught me to start with the high level conceptual editing and work my way down to the nitty-gritty, something I do with clients, but often forget to do when I’m reading my own stuff back. Those damn typos really mess up my mojo.

Conversational Shoplifter with Deb Courtney blew my mind. The workshopping at the end really helped me see how dialogue can work to make your book that much stronger in the show don’t tell arena! It helped that I got to read a passage of dialogue from my YA in progress and get instant feedback from a pro, as well as the other participants. Invaluable.

Elizabeth Hand taught us about the importance of creating unsympathetic characters and I cannot wait to read her books. (We also had dinner together one night. I cannot speak highly enough of this woman.)

I had my critique session Friday afternoon. I learned at least as much listening to the other participants get critiqued as I did from my own. I can’t wait to take their suggestions and put them to work to make that first page really stand out.

Saturday was all about words, and learning how to use them to the greatest effect. I spent the day stalking Carol Berg, an amazing fantasy author (Her book Spirit Lens is due to be reviewed here as soon as I catch my breath.) She taught me about voice and also about words, words, words. (I also had dinner with her one night and we stayed up WAY too late talking about all manner of things. A truly amazing woman!)

Just as helpful was a class on building better beginnings with Chris Mandeville and Todd Fahnestock. Everything they taught me applies to the whole book and the examples they used really helped clarify their point. Use the right words, the precise words, the exact words that really mean what it is you meant to say. “Lead the reader to the assumption you want him/her to make,” i.e., don’t paint the whole picture – let them color it in by guiding them toward the right colors.

Sunday Morgan Leigh blew my mind.  Literally. I had other places to be for the second half of her class, but I was glued to my seat. I can’t remember her exact title and my notes are currently out of reach, but it was something along the lines of a physical sociologist. Basically, she studies how shared gestures and body language are created by and are affected by culture and society. I could have sat there all day. Really.

Finally I wrapped up with the ten rules of middle grade fiction with author Fleur Bradley. I don’t write Middle Grade, yet. But I plan to. In fact I have two MG novels started and was planning on having them finished this year and then this YA came out of no where and took over my brain, my sleep, even my eating patterns. I’m book whipped.

I left the conference too tired to stand. A friend put it nicely when he told me I looked wilted.

Wilted, but inspired. On fire.

I missed out on about 20 sessions that I would have loved to attend. Thankfully I made really good friends who took really good notes for me.

I feel like I just attended a master’s level course in writing and publishing, all in one weekend. On that note, I think I might need to get some more sleep so I can finish processing it all.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a great, professional, beginner friendly writer’s conference – Pikes Peak is a perfect place to start your journey.
See you there next year for their 20th anniversary gala event!

BIO:  Bree Ervin is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute and has worked as a freelance writer and editor for ten years.  Bree has worked in author care serving as a book doctor, manuscript editor, author assistant and media escort. She is now embarking on her own quest to become a published children's book author and is currently shopping her first picture book - Princess Woe Is Me - to agents.