Thursday, February 28, 2013

PPWC 2013 - Robert Liparulo

Robert Liparulo

Robert Liparulo was a journalist before becoming the author of thrillers, both for adults and young adults. His writing has been described as visual, high-octane, brilliant, inventive, and so much more. He spends months researching his novels ahead of time, followed by a month of getting into the character's heads. He is a method writer, needing to get to know the characters from the inside out, to "wear their skin," as he says. This involves interviewing people in the same career as his characters, but not for those tidbits we can all find online. No, he likes to get to know about their personal interests and quirks, what they're like as people, not just in the career they've chosen. 

It also involves testing things out to get a reaction. For instance, becoming a villain, talking in a certain way, scoping out houses, walking like the character, hitting someone out of nowhere to see what they do. He fully immerses himself in his characters to insure he knows them as much as anyone can, so that his characters will react and behave in ways that make sense in the writing, so that they'll be believable...real.

His young adult series is the Dreamhouse Kings, the story of the King family, who move to a small town, into an old house in the woods. Strange things keep happening in the house, something isn't right. Ultimately, the children's mother is taken. To get her back, they must work together, moving through time, and risking untold harm.

His critically acclaimed adult thrillers include Germ, Comes a Horseman, and Deadfall, all of which are currently optioned for films. In addition, he's working with Andrew Davis, director of The Fugitive and The Guardian, on a novel and original screenplay. Other adult thrillers include Deadlock and The 13th Tribe.

You can find Robert Liparulo online in the following places:

About the Author:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Five Things to Remember While Attending PPWC

By Anne Marie

I attended my second Pikes Peak Writers Conference last year. Aside from the fact that there was only one of me and I couldn’t go to all the sessions, I had a fantastic time. The faculty was funny, knowledgeable, and inspiring. The Staff was helpful and kind. My critique partner (Hi, Jen!) attended with me, and we came away with so many ideas on how to improve our novels. We’re more than excited to start revisions! However, Jen’s from sea level, so I thought I’d share my top five things to remember while in Colorado.

  1. Wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time. A person can get burned fairly quickly here. We were sitting outside for lunch and within about 15 minutes both of us were showing signs of sunburn. I really should have taken my own advice.
  2. Bring sunglasses. Again, being so close to the sun with a thin atmosphere, it’s bright. Protect those beautiful eyes!
  3. Drink lots of water. I could go into an awesome science lesson here, but basically, the higher the altitude, the less oxygen, the more dehydrated you’re going to get. The Marriott provides a wide selection of naturally flavored waters (the orange was my favorite). 
  4. Colorado Springs sits at a little over 6,000 feet above sea level. That means you could experience Altitude Sickness. Signs include: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, and weakness. This usually clears up in about 24 hours as your body adjusts to the lower levels of oxygen. Drinking alcohol increases these symptoms. The bar is a great place to mingle but doesn’t require you to buy a drink to hang out there.
  5. Wear layers. Colorado has experienced 70's in January and 30's in June. The conference rooms can be chilly, too. Attendees dress between business casual and jeans Friday. Wear whatever you're comfortable in.
Last year was an amazing experience filled with more knowledge and expertise than my brain could handle in four days. I’ll be back this year. Hope to see you there too!

About the Author:  Anne attended the University of Colorado for a BA in English Literature, where she fell in love with folklore and myths from around the world. She adores languages, great white sharks, and the impossible. Her work usually includes one of those three things. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with Brody Beagle. Her most recent short story, La Dame à La Licorne, was published by Euterpe YA, an imprint of Musa Publsihing. Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Musa Publishing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 PPWC Bios - Kathryn Eastburn

Kathryn Eastburn

Kathryn Eastburn was one of our wonderful speakers this past Saturday at the Write Your Heart Out event. She used to be a journalist, and was the co-founder and editor of the Colorado Springs Independent, as well as a staff writer, for thirteen years until 2006. Her work with the Independent earned her many awards, including two PASS awards; multiple awards from NEWA, such as Best Feature Writing and Best Education Writing; and she received an honorary award from American Women in Radio and Television for outstanding achievement in media.

Her articles were not limited to the Independent; she was published in the Denver Post, Saveur and Texas Highways, as well as many others.

These days, Kathryn has turned more to teaching and writing literary non-fiction and memoir. She teaches at Colorado College and Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and has a weekly personal column, "The Middle Distance," at KRCC-FM 91.5, Colorado Springs, at 1 PM every Saturday. The show is podcast every Friday.

Her two non-fiction books are Simon Says: A True Story of Boys, Guns and Murder and A Sacred Feast: Reflections on Sacred Harp Singing and Dinner on the Ground. She also had a piece featured in Cornbread Nation 5: The Best of Southern Food Writing.

Kathryn will be teaching a workshop in Colorado Springs for the Lighthouse Writers Workshop starting March 21, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 PM. It will be located at the Tim Gill Center for Public-Media, 315 E. Costilla St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903. Seating is limited, so you must RSVP. 

Description of the event from the Lighthouse Writers Workshop website:

8 Week: Reckoning with Memoir

Reckoning with memoir, we must ask and resolve a number of difficult questions. In this class we will consider: How do we tell our true-life stories without intruding unnecessarily in the lives of others? How do we write about those we love, including the difficult ones, with honesty and respect? How do we determine which aspects of our lives to explore in memoir? How do we establish our reliability as narrator of our own lives? How deep are we willing to go? We'll explore these and other reckonings through shared readings, discussion of exemplary works, in-class writing exercises, and focused peer and instructor critiques of student work.

The workshop is $285 for members, $315 for non-members.

You can find Kathryn at her website: and at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April!

About the Writer:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in late February 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Monday, February 25, 2013

A New Place to Write

By Stacy S. Jensen

A writing journal seems like a logical tool for a writer, but I’ve had a mixed relationship with them over the years.

Several blank ones sit in my office. Friends and family gave them “to inspire” me. Instead, writers block arrived.

Anyone else feel intimidated by a pretty, bound book? It’s the ultimate blank page. It feels permanent or so I thought.

I began my memoir manuscript in a leather bound journal 12 years ago. I knew I needed something sturdy to write my thoughts down after my late husband had a catastrophic stroke.

With a new journal, I've found a new
writing place. I still like my cheap spiral
notebooks, too.
I found comfort in the journal as I wrote my thoughts, the details, and the trivial aspects of my life during this period. It stayed with me for 38 days in that recliner; traveled to multiple hospitals and nursing homes; and spanned four years including near death, life, and death. When I began writing the memoir — not straight from the journal, of course — I used the journal entries to verify quotes and fact-check my memory.

I stayed away from journals for almost seven years. I created stories and jotted down ideas on the computer, on an iPhone, and in cheap notebooks. That changed last Christmas.

Now remarried and a mother of a toddler, my husband gave me a beautiful, brown leather journal. With heavy, lined pages inside, it’s ready for doodles and words written by the toddler or me.

Whether it’s due to my age, experience, or just the presence of a little boy, I don’t feel pressure to make the journal perfect. Toddlers have a way of helping one accept that life can be messy.

I’m putting that philosophy to work in my journal this year. I’ve written notes and the beginning of a short story in the journal. I’ve scratched through words and paragraphs I don’t want to use. My son has scribbled on the pages, too. Revisions are unkempt, but I like the look of them here. Both writing and life can be messy, but it’s always fun to see where it goes.

Writing in this journal is both a fun and serious venture for me. When I fill up the pages, I can add more. This journal is a place for me to write and I like that.

Where do you write — a journal, a notebook or the computer? 

About the Author: Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and toddler.
Blog: Twitter: @StacySJensen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Stacy S. Jensen gives us "A New Place to Write."

...Guest poster, Anne Marie, gives us "Five Things to Remember While Attending PPWC."

...I present PPW events, local writing events, contests and publications accepting submissions.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sweet Success! Marti Verlander

Compiled by DeAnna Knippling

Marti Verlander's adult fantasy novel, Elegy: The Black Diamond (ISBN 978-0-9887500-0-5 ebook/978-0-9887500-1-2 softcover, about 106K words), written as Martha Gilstrap, was released January 1, 2013 by Slipaway Trail Publishing. The author's website is The book is available at Amazon, Smashwords, OmniLit, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble.

Betrayal destroys master gemsman Shay Bladen’s perfect life, forcing him to flee from the remains of his home with an heirloom battle-axe created from a single black diamond. Guided by a cryptic note, he seeks answers among the bloodstone pillars in the Crystal Mountains. The note promises the secrets of the axe’s creation and its magic, a lure he can’t resist. A chance meeting with a Sheethe warrior proves his only advantage in the battle against his betrayer and the bloodthirsty assassin who manipulates everyone in his way.

But then Shay discovers he’s not who he thought he was.

Martha Gilstrap's life is filled with stories: the ones she reads, the ones she writes, and the ones she lives. Her family's oral tradition claims descent from the legendary Leif Erickson, whom her mother called "that old pirate." She holds a black belt in RyuTe® Karate and has owned her own dojo, trained on the grounds of an Okinawan, and published an international karate newsletter. She's taught Latin to grade-school children, worn a bite sleeve for a Rottweiler "attack," got thrown by a horse — twice — within five minutes, and spent New Year's Eve on the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email DeAnna Knippling at dknippling [at] gmail [dot] com if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sweet Success! Shannon Baker

Compiled By DeAnna Knippling

Shannon Baker's adult mystery novel, Tainted Mountain (ISBN 978-0738734224; trade paperback and ebook, 306 pages), will be released by Midnight Ink in March 2013. The book will be available at major online booksellers. The author's website is at

A fast-paced mix of eco-terrorists, native spirituality, and murder. A young ski area owner in Flagstaff, AZ is determined to use man-made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, enviros and tribes may use any means to stop it. But the spirits of the mountain just might have the last say.

"Baker’s series debut brings Native American culture and big business together into a clash that can be heard across the mountains. Fans of J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady will see similarities in Nora Abbott." --Library Journal

Shannon Baker can often be found backpacking, skiing, kayaking, cycling, or just playing lizard in the desert. From the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson, landscapes play an important role in her books. 

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email DeAnna Knippling at dknippling [at] gmail [dot] com if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 PPW Conference Bios - Lisa Renee Jones

This is the first post in our new series, 2013 PPW Conference Bios, where we'll be bringing you information on the authors, agents and editors who will be speaking and/or taking pitches this year.

Lisa Renee Jones

Lisa Renee Jones was once known for being the owner of the multi-state staffing agency, LRJ Staffing, her Austin-based business. She received accolades from Austin Business Journal, Dallas Women Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine.

However, in 2003 she sold this business, diving into her writing. Her books cover romance, suspense and even paranormal, and she is now a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, with more than thirty novels and novellas in print.

Most recently, Lisa's Inside Out Trilogy, erotic suspense with a paranormal twist, was not only picked up for international distribution, but will now be a series on STARZ, optioned just this month. Suzanne Todd, of Alice in Wonderland and Austin Powers fame, will produce. The first book in the trilogy, If I Were You, will be released in paperback on March 12, 2013.

If you can't wait for April to meet Lisa, she can be found at our free Saturday Write Your Heart Out conference teaser this Saturday, February 23, from 1-5 at the Colorado Springs Marriott. For more information visit and go to the Events tab. RSVP required.

You can find Lisa online in multiple places, and she loves to hear from her fans!
Amazon Author Page: Lisa Renee Jones

About the Writer:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has a flash fiction piece featured in the anthology Sunday Snaps: The Stories, due out in late February 2013.  She has also discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about reading, writing and photography at

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love Stinks - Write for the Market!

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

I am a Libra.  I see both sides of things.  I’m a scale, but not very balanced.  I generally tip back and forth between extremes.

One part of me says, only write what's popular, Aaron.  Make every character vanilla.  Choose safe paragraphs.  Don’t take chances.  If people want a Hollywood happy ending, give them one.  Don’t be difficult.  Sell out.  Sell out as much as possible, for as much as possible.

The other part of me wears black, smokes cigarettes, and reads Sartre.  It’s my art, dammit.  It’s my story.  It’s my characters, and they are bleak, broken, passive, but they are real.  They bleed.  And it might not all end happily, but there is wisdom in suffering.  Stay true to your vision, Aaron, and damn what anyone else thinks.  Forget your critique group.  What do they know?

So I’m conflicted.  A lot.  I probably make a terrible scale.  That’s it, I’m a failed Libra.

I think the ideal is to write the book of your heart in such a way as to make it marketable.  I’m kind of in love with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!  Part of his process suggests that we should think about our audience and the demographic appeal of our characters and our story.  I’ve failed at that.  Even the stuff I’ve written for the market, I really only considered about what I think is cool.  And, um, I’m not the mass market.  I’m a rebel, Dotty.  I’m different.

So I need to consider my audience, and I need to pry my mind open and keep it open.  I take my work to my critique group to improve it, and if I’m not willing to change a thing, I’m wasting everyone’s time.  Of course, some things people say I can disregard.  Not every piece of criticism is golden.  Some are just plain wrong.

I truly believe Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight because it was the book of her heart, not because she was writing for the market.  And she was very successful.  And I think, though I don’t have any evidence, that Nicholas Sparks wrote The Notebook to appeal to the market.  He was very successful.  So in the end, no one really knows what is going to work and what isn’t.  There are no easy answers.

Write what you love.  Pay attention to the market, but don’t be a slave to it.  And when someone wants you to change your story, listen, but in the end, listen more to that innate genius that is inside us all.

Above all, love the book you are writing now.  Because you are putting your life into those words and pages.  Your very life.  The precious minutes of your existence. 

Probably not something to take lightly.

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer. When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs. His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The 12 Things You Need to Know to Write Fiction

By DeAnna Knippling

I just picked up a copy of The Four Hour Chef, by Tim Ferriss.  Which opened up a box of worms with respect to writing.  The beginning of the book claims to lay down a basis for learning anything--it's a meta-learning primer.  Great!  Except none of the examples he gives are for writing.

The first step is to deconstruct the thing you're trying to learn into the fewest, simplest, smallest number of parts.  The example he gives is learning Japanese kanji, which are the characters that mean words (rather than hiragana or katakana, which are syllables).  It seemed an insurmountable task...until he found out there were only about 2000 specific kanji he needed to learn in order to be considered "proficient."  Which is still a lot, but it's doable.

So I got to thinking: what are the 2000 kanji of writing fiction?

What is the smallest possible unit of fiction writing?  How do you even break FICTION down into smaller, yet still useful, parts (other than the alphabet, obviously)?

After quite a bit of de- and reconstructing, here's what I came up with, which comes down to a) how to write a scene, and b) how to string scenes together.  I challenge you to do the same:  the smallest, simplest number of tools a newbie writer needs in order to write and submit a short story to a professional market.  You don't need to try to cover every possible story.  Just a short story.  Oh, and to make it fun?  Set the instructions up so that the only revision necessary is a manual spelling/grammar check after the first draft is done.

1)      Set up a short story template in proper manuscript format.
2)      Decide what type of story you're writing: using Duotrope or some other market listing, determine the genre/subgenre, the type of setting, the type of story, the type of ending, and the length.  For example, Mystery/cozy mystery, contemporary, amateur detective solves crime, crime is resolved/upbeat ending, 3000-4000 words.  If you're not sure what to pick, go to the highest-paying market in the genre and look at their guidelines and/or read a couple of issues to see what the most common answers are.
3)      Read the Lester Dent master plot formula.   Mentally translate it to fit the requirements of #2.  You don't have to fill in all the blanks before you start.
4)      Determine a particular character, setting, and problem for the opening.  Anything that fits the constraints of #2 will work.  For example, pick three websites you like, and skim the first for a character, the second for a setting, and the third for a problem.
5)      Write from a "he/she" perspective, not from an "I" perspective, and never write anything the character can't sense or think themselves (third person tight POV).  No need to tell the reader "She thought..." "She looked..." etc.
6)      Open every scene by introducing or reminding the reader of the character, setting, and problem (1-3 paragraphs).
7)      Use one scene per plot step.  You can use more than one scene if you break the steps down into sub-steps.  But no more than one plot step or sub-step per scene.
8)      Include all five senses at least every two manuscript pages, but especially at the beginning of every scene opening.   Yes, taste.
9)      In every scene, the character should be worse off than when they started the scene.  If good things happen in the scene, then the reader needs to be aware that things are getting worse elsewhere. 
10)  End each scene with a twist, by increasing danger, by revealing something new about a character or their emotions, by introducing a new plot element (either good or bad).  Or any combination thereof.
11)  Put a break in time between scenes.
12)  End the story by assuring the reader it was worth the character's time to have gone through that whole mess.  This assures the reader it was worth their time, too.

If I were looking at this list the first time, I don't know that I'd work on the steps in this order, either.  Once I knew all the steps, sure, this would be a great order to do them in.  But if I were just starting out, I'd do it like this:

#8.  Pick a setting (#4) and write a description of something in that setting using all five senses.
#5.  Pick a character (#4) and rewrite the description from #8 so it's from the character's perspective.
#9.  Pick a problem (#4) and rewrite the scene from #5 so the character's worse off than when the scene started.  Do this by making the character try to solve the problem and fail.
#6.  Rewrite your scene from #9 so the character, setting, and problem are all hinted at within the first three paragraphs.  If the character thinks about their backstory, then it happens in real time, interrupting the action and making the character gawp around, drooling.
#10. Rewrite your scene from #6 so that the scene ends with a twist or two.
#2.  Decide what genre your problem and character fit in, then look up the top-paying market for that combination and fill in the rest of the blanks for #2.
#3.  Fit in some plot steps based on the Lester Dent outline, as tweaked to fit #2.  Either fill in the whole thing (but be willing to change it) or just fill out the next step.
#11. Break in time before the next scene. Just do it.
#7.  Write the next scene the same way you wrote the first scene, following the plot step or substep you outlined in #3.  If you get to a good twist of one type or another, consider breaking off the scene.
#3.  Keep writing according to the plot formula.  "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." --E.L. Doctorow
#12. After the character solves the main problem at hand, reassure the reader that it was worth it.
#1.  Put everything into a template.

Sadly, this involves a lot of revision; I would only use this order of things as a teaching tool.  It's too much work, and after a few times, you'll be doing most of this automatically anyway.

Obviously, this doesn't cover every possible way to write a story.  And it wouldn't cover every possible short story.  But (aha!) it does cover both plotting and pantsing, so I'm proud of it. 

If I had to guess, the items that would boost your writing the most in the shortest amount of time would be:

#3, picking a solid, time-tested plot formula; originality is overrated by new writers.
#6, opening by nailing down character, setting, and plot right away, without backstory.
#8, including all five senses per two pages (it ends up weeding out a lot of garbage after you do it on a few stories.  No need to overdo it with lengthy descriptions, though).

I'm sure as I go along, this list will change.  I'll learn new tricks, I'll condense old tricks into simpler formats, I'll learn how to explain things better.  A friend of mine has this great rule that helps her write awesome stories, but she can't explain a word of it; she just keeps speaking more...slowly...and....loudly and expecting me to understand.  I know it works, but I have no idea what she's talking about.  I'm sure I have a dozen of those things--things I haven't identified, things I haven't worked out how to communicate.  But here are things that I know, that I know how to explain.

What about you?

About the Writer: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint."
-Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...DeAnna Knippling tells us "The 12 Things You Need to Know to Write Fiction."  What do you think they are?

...Aaron Ritchey explains why "Love Stinks: You Should Write for the Market."  Do you believe him?

...And we have a tale of Sweet Success.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Countdown to Conference: Updates

By Shannon Lawrence

We're getting closer to April and the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, which takes place Friday, April 19 to Sunday, April 21. What some may not realize is that there is also a Thursday portion of the conference that can be added onto the rest of the weekend or taken on its own.

Why go to the Thursday Pre-Conference Programming?

     1.  If there is a reason you can't attend the rest of the conference, you can still take part by attending Thursday.
     2.  It's an easy way to feel out the conference if you're unsure of what it can do for you.
     3.  You're attending the conference already, but want to flesh it out with the Thursday programming.
     4.  You get two intensive three-hour sessions, allowing you to get deep into the topics available.

So what will these sessions involve? Let's look at what's available for this year's Thursday Pre-Conference workshops. There are four directions you can take:

The morning session runs from 9AM to Noon.

Thursday Morning, Track 1
Truth and Consequences: The Pleasures and Perils of Writing Memoir, Personal Essay and Creative Non-Fiction
Presented by Kathryn Eastburn

We'll cover the limitations of memory, recreating scenes, ethical considerations, researching, etc. Learn the concepts behind turning personal experiences into riveting stories with universal themes.

Thursday Morning, Track 2
Pitch Perfect
Presented by Chris Mandeville, Bonnie Hagan, and PPW Staff

In this interactive workshop, you'll learn all the ins and outs of pitching your manuscript, be able to ask questions of seasoned pitchers, get hands-on practice honing your "logline," and see pitching demonstrated live. You'll also have the opportunity to practice your own pitch in a small group and receive immediate feedback from PPW staff.

Thursday Morning, Track 3
Sell Your Book, Not Your Soul - A Sales and Marketing Bootcamp, Featuring a Newly Published Author, an Independent Publisher, and a PR Guru
Presented by Deb Courtney, Sue Mitchell, and Aaron Ritchey

In this multi-layered workshop, we'll start with planning for your success and what to do when you're pre-published. Crafting a marketing plan is as important as putting your plan in motion when your new book hits the stores, whether brick-and-mortar or virtual. Then it's all about keeping "Top of Mind" awareness. Each of our experts will bring their own unique angle to the conversation, from the newbie author, to the savvy publicist, to the small press editor. The workshop will also include interactive mock interviews, examples on how to hand sell, and media story pitches that will make your press kit shine!

Thursday Morning, Track 4
Writing for Today's YA and MG Market
Presented by Kate Testerman

An overview of the current market for YA and MG fiction, touching on top titles, authors, and trends, including aid from literary agent Kate Testerman, specializing in the market on querying.

When the first session ends, a boxed lunch will be provided. There will be a one hour break.

The afternoon session goes from 1PM to 4PM.

Thursday Afternoon, Track 1
Writing and Marketing Historical Fiction
Presented by David Liss

Writing historical fiction has its own set of rewards, and its own dangers.  In this seminar, we will explore the specific traps of this brand of novel, how to avoid them, and how to make historical fiction work for you.  Specific topics will include research methods, effective use of research (or, how not to overwhelm your reader with detail), world-building, how to render plausible historical characters, and how to make your specific area of interest, no matter how arcane, marketable.  Participants will have the opportunity to share and brainstorm specific trouble spots.  If you are considering bringing a historical to the market, you won’t want to miss this practical, craft-based seminar.

Thursday Afternoon, Track 2
The Query Lab
Presented by Sorche Fairbank

Most agencies receive between one and three hundred query letters each week, yet respond positively to a very select few. Do you know the secrets to writing a winning query? Have you ever wondered if there are fonts agents intensely dislike? Is any one day/week/month better to send your query? What commonly gets a letter rejected before it’s read all the way through? Join agent Sorche Fairbank for lessons on the basics of a powerful query, review of a laundry list of query Dos and Don’ts, and open Q&A.  Bring two copies of your single-page query letter to be edited on the spot!

Thursday Afternoon, Track 3
The Four P's of Nonfiction
Presented by Matthew Frederick
This workshop will help you assess the status of your nonfiction work and identify the next steps you need to take to improve your chances of publication. You will read aloud a brief statement or description of your work—a pitch, synopsis, first page, or similarly informative piece of 250 words or less. The instructor and class participants will assess your project in terms of the Four P’s: Platform (can you convince a publisher you have the expertise, reach, or name recognition to attract an audience of readers?); Prose (are your writing and narrative skills suited to your project?); Proposal (what is this peculiar document required by agents and publishers for nonfiction projects, and what makes it most effective?); and Purpose (is the concept or format you have chosen for your book appropriate to the needs of readers as well as your own goals?). From there, the instructor will guide you as you work on your weaker area(s). Bring to the session the first chapter of your manuscript, a chapter outline, and any related documents you have been working on (query, proposal, etc.).

Thursday Afternoon, Track 4
Lie Like You Mean It
Presented by Stephen Graham Jones
What makes a story 'real?' Why can we always distinguish a verifiable story from one somebody's making up as they go? Or, can we? In here we'll talk about crossing that line so much that it smears, and we can't tell which is what, so that, hopefully, all that finally matters is the power of the story.

The cost of the Pre-Conference Programming, found on Thursday, is $85 if added onto your conference registration, or $135 if you attend Thursday only. Lunch is included in the price.

Whether you're attending the rest of conference or not, you'll find the Thursday Pre-Conference Programming to be an immersive and intensive experience, and one well worth having. You can choose any combination of morning and afternoon track, so you get in-depth experience with two topics.

See you in April!

P.S. Wondering who the speakers, writers, editors and agents at PPWC are? Check back each week for profiles on our conference speakers, here on Writing From the Peak!

About the Writer:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist. She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies. After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it. Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel and started on an Urban Fantasy for adults. Her flash piece "The Family Ruins" will be in the upcoming Sunday Snaps: The Stories. She has also recently discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children. She blogs about writing at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

PPW Open Critique - February

February 20th

Open Critique - FREE

Third Wednesday of every month

6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 East Colorado Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO

This FREE program provides a critique experience for a small number of writers who seek feedback on manuscript pages and who want to learn how to have positive critique group experiences.

PPW's Open Critique program is facilitated by Mary Karen Meredith, with regular critique guest Deb Courtney, host of PPW's "Writers' Night" monthly gatherings. During Open Critique, Deb and Mary Karen, or another experienced critiquer will provide comments, criticism and suggestions on participants' manuscript pages, as well as model positive behaviors, techniques and procedures for critiquing.

It is our hope that participants will not only receive valuable feedback on their writing, but will also learn how to create great critique groups of their own, or learn how to improve existing critique groups.

Each month Open Critique will accommodate up to eight participants with a maximum of eight manuscript pages (double spaced, one side) per person. Bring at least 8 copies. To request a slot to participate, email your request Slots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and are only considered for the month in which they are received. Participants will receive confirmation and instructions via email.

PPW reserves the right to give priority to new participants over those who have attended multiple times.
Thank you!

Hope to see you there!

Mary Karen Meredith

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Priorities vs. Time Management

By Linda Rohrbough

Ever hear this? “I’d love to write, but I just can’t find the time.”

I hear it all the time, from people in all walks of life, from specialized surgeons to the barista at Starbucks. For a very long time, I thought writing productivity was about time management.

I struggle with guilt that niggles at the edge of my consciousness when I’m not writing more. People tell me I’ve been pretty prolific. I can concede that. But I have the idea I could do better, lots better, if I could be more proficient at time management.

Now I’m finding out that’s not true. When I mentioned my time management struggles to one of my friends, Jo Mangum, who is a national speaker and productivity coach, she said, “It’s never about time management. It’s all about priorities.”

That struck me. Priorities.

Like a writer, the first thing I did was ask what does that mean? Here’s a definition thanks to Merriam-Webster online: “Priority – 3. something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.”

There are always plenty of competing alternatives. So then I asked myself, what do I put first? I realized I wasn’t conscious about choosing what I put first. I kept coming back to the rocks in the jar analogy. I’m sure you’ve heard this. You take a jar and fill it first with rocks. Then you pour in sand. Then you pour in water. At each stage it looks like the jar is full, but more can go in if the new material is made up of smaller components. But this only works if you put the big rocks in first. If you put the sand or water in first, then you won’t have room for the big rocks. By now, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. The jar is my day and one of my big rocks is writing.

So rather than manage my time (and go on a guilt trip as I watch it slip away) I decided to manage my priorities. Does that mean I don’t look at time? Not at all. But I am conscious to plan for the writing first.

The other side of the priority game for me is to stop multitasking. I watch people who are doing well and I noticed they don’t multitask. They focus on one thing at a time. I used to pride myself on multitasking, a skill I developed when I was raising kids. (I think you have to multitask when you have kids.) But the concept of concentrating on one thing, blocking out everything else, was rather refreshing. And now that my kids are grown, I can choose to focus on one thing more often.

Also, I recently had some serious health issues that put me down for several months. Between August and October of last year, I spent more time in a hospital than at home. I’d hoped I could still be productive, but after the second of five surgeries, I gave that up. Now that I’m back to work, one of my discoveries was how many things I was doing that didn’t need to be done. However, plenty got neglected and I figured out pretty fast what really needs doing.

Do I get to spend long blocks of time writing, now that I’ve shifted my thinking to priority mode? Not really. I’m still playing catch up from my hospital time. However, writing for me now is a lot like building a brick wall. Bit by bit, piece by piece, it comes together. The difference now is I put in the pieces early in my day, not last. I think the work is better for it because it has time to cure and I’m fresher when I go at it. When I thought about it, I realized my more successful writing friends work that way. When we traveled together, I found them up writing in the morning, often in their pj’s. Once they’d been in contact with their work, they were relaxed and we spent the rest of the day having fun.

Frankly, I’ve been more productive since I’ve adopted the priority mindset. I like that. For me, so much in life is about adjusting my thinking first, and then the “mechanics” seem to fall into place. I think it’s working for me to stop my focus on time management, because I put in the time when I focus on priorities. So I thought I’d share this concept with you. Give the priority mindset a try and see how it works for you.

About the Author: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for her 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." The Prophetess One: At Risk has garnered three national awards: the 2012 International Book Award, the 2011 Global eBook Award, and the 2011 Millennium Star Publishing Award. An iPhone App of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Story Tips #5 - The Ticking Clock

By Jax Hunter

Welcome to the fifth, and final, installment of Story Tips From the Big Screen.  This monthly column explores screen writing techniques that will help fiction writers tell a better story. 

***     ***     ***     ***

The ticking clock. . .

As authors, we are always looking for ways to crank up the dramatic tension within our stories.  One of the best ways to do this is with what is known as a time lock. 

Time locks set a deadline for the hero to get what he wants and inject urgency into the story.  They force your hero into situations that could otherwise wait.  They throw obstacles into his path that either limit his time or limit his options.  (Some sources differentiate between time locks and option locks - see Dramatica software for details.)

Dramatica sources tells us that if the primary obstacles thrown in front of your protagonist are delays, then what you’re looking at is a time lock.  If the obstacles are missing parts, the option lock is in effect.

Some stories set the initial stage with a time element.  The FOX TV show 24 sets the ticking clock in place right away, and that element hangs over the heads of the characters all the way through.   The finale of Friends set in place the departure of Rachel to Paris and the clock ticked away as Ross tried to tell her how he felt.  Small delays, followed by bigger and bigger delays, kept him from getting to her until it was too late - or so we thought for a minute.

Other examples of this would include the movie High Noon, where the bad guys are due to show up on the noon train; Armageddon, where doom is coming to earth in the form of an approaching asteroid; and Casablanca, in which the plane will be leaving with or without Ilsa on it.

Other stories use a ticking bomb (so to speak) to crank up the tension in the middle or closer to the climax.  Think of Speed in which the ticking clock was the gas gauge moving toward “E”.  Romeo and Juliet are in no hurry to work out their problems and could have gone on ad infinitum until Juliet’s parents set the wedding date for Juliet and Paris.  Sleepless in Seattle’s final push involves getting to the top of the Empire State Building before it’s too late.  And in Monsters, Inc. Mike Wazowski (all one word at my house) is given thirty minutes to return Boo to her bedroom before the door closes forever and all is lost.

Of course, not all stories can make use of a time lock.  But if you start paying attention to both the books you read and the movies you see, you’ll find that the time lock element can be very subtle.  It is simply a tool for raising the tension in a story.  Give it a try and have fun with it.

Until next month, BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard) 

Cheers, Jax (

(This series first ran in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers newsletter in 2004.)

About the Author: Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"Writing comes more easily if you have something to say." -Sholem Asch

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Jax Hunter gives us her final piece in the Story Tips series, with "The Ticking Clock."

...Linda Rohrbough gives us advice on Priorities vs. Time Management, and how to find the time to write.

...And Bonnie Hagan gives us our Countdown to Conference.

Friday, February 8, 2013

PPWC Scholarships - A Helping Hand

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

Photo courtesy of Jared Hagan, PPW photographer
The Pikes Peak Writers Conference is one of the best conferences in the country. With best-selling authors, top agents, and editors, the weekend of April 18-21st is already marked off on the calendars of hundreds of writers.

But what if you're a starving writer? A writer trying to make ends meet with a day job (or two), while adding to your book in stolen moments? The conference price tag (though it's a great deal compared with other conferences) can seem daunting.

Thankfully, Pikes Peak Writers has a scholarship fund. Volunteers work tirelessly all year to raise money so writers like you can attend.

I, myself, am a scholarship recipient. When I applied, I didn't expect to receive a scholarship. I was surprised to be selected, since I knew I had a lot to learn about writing.

Immediate Past PPW President Chris Mandeville, a member of the scholarship committee, emphasizes that the committee isn't only looking for great writers. They're watching for writers with goals, dreams, and who exhibit potential--not perfection.

The application is easy. It's just an email letter along with a short writing sample. Head over to the Pikes Peak Writers site.  Click on the 'scholarship' tab for the details. Scholarships may be full or partial. Applications are accepted until February 15, 2013, so you have two more weeks to get yours in.

Attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference has had a huge impact on my writing career. I've learned so much through the workshops. I've met authors whose work I love, and agents and editors I respect. Even more, I've made friends with other writers on the same journey as I am, people who encourage me and help make my writing the best it can be.

The conference this year is shaping up to be another amazing experience. Will you be there?

About the Author:  Debbie Maxwell Allen writes young adult historical fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. She blogs about free resources for writers at Writing While the Rice Boils.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tell it Slant

By Deb McLeod

"Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant."—Emily Dickinson.
 Many of my private clients are writing memoir. All of them have heard of James Frey and Greg Mortenson and many of them have expressed concern as they try to claim their story. They are so intent on getting it right, they’re draining the juice right out of it.

I used to spend time soothing fears by talking about emotional truth. The truer truth of a life or a story. Sure, you have to gather the facts. Sure, you have to pay homage to the dialogue as best you can. But no one lives a life with a camcorder permanently on record.

The trouble comes because there’s a line between truth and fiction that isn’t defined, yet should not be crossed if you’re writing memoir. I say cross it for the story if you need to, just acknowledge that fact.

I think that’s really what people want in a memoir. That the facts are as we remember them and there’s a simple acknowledgment by the author that the story is one that is true to the best of the author’s memory. If characters have been blended into one or changed, the author merely needs to tell us that.

I advise my clients to put that acknowledgement in a preface if they must or to be more artful and actually write the truth, perhaps as something like this:

I grew up between Niagara Falls and Buffalo in western New York State. Everyone’s heard of the snow in Buffalo, like they’ve heard of the rain in Portland. There was snow, but more than that, there were ceaseless clouds, every day. Overcast gray. Gunmetal, ash, dusky, mousy, oyster-colored, lead and smoky stone that hid the sun and sat low on my forehead every single day of every single year I lived there.

Now I live in big sky territory and life here couldn’t be more different. A few years ago I was back east, back home. But the sky was blue. The same blue it is here in Denver. Not big blue, there are too many trees and buildings for that, but clear and blue and sunny. Was it really that endlessly dark when I was young? Or does it merely say something about me that that’s what I remember?

Now I’m free to talk about the endless gloom of suburban childhood with working parents and the absence of a creative outlet. Of depression, perhaps, and few friends. All contained within the phrase that the clouds sat low on my forehead, every single day.

What about this for an example of my blending friends into one?
Of all the friends I had, Laurie is the only one that stands out. There was Peggy and Wendy and other Lori and Patty McDee. Earlier than that, there was Linda and Patsy, Sandy and Suzanne. But they were the same girl, really. The second girl. The one I’d play with if Laurie wasn’t home. Let's call those second girls Missy and leave it at that. Missy was those girls that filled in the time, who played Barbie with me or jax or hopscotch, or later, who sang songs with me as we smoked leaning against the deadend sign on the next street over. 
Now I'm free to have Missy as a character and my reader knows what I mean. 

I really wanted to illustrate this point to my clients so I came up with an exercise for my writing circles about truth in memoir. I accumulated the facts about an incident that happened as I was leaving the library.

I made a list of those facts:

  • Saw a five year old girl alone in the car parked next to mine in the parking lot.
  • Talked to the librarian who called the head librarian who was going to call the police but wanted to see for herself.
  • The mother went out of the library in front of us and went to her car.
  • Knocked on the window to say hi, then folded clothes from a box in the trunk before she got into the car or opened the door or let the girl out. 
  • The librarian said: “That’s it, then” and left me on the sidewalk.
  • The mother stared at me as I drove out of the parking lot.
  • I dreamt about the little girl.

I wanted to show my memoir clients how I could write this scene three different ways with three different slants: all true, all different, all acceptable. You can read the three accounts here if you wish. I wanted them to compare the three and talk about the results.

So I wrote:
  • A straight scene with just the facts, ma’am. Dull and flat, we all agreed. Kind of what they were turning into me for homework. ;-)
  • One with a voice – I tried to be funny about a situation that wasn’t funny. This worked better simply because it had a voice.
  • One that was the truest of them all. Interesting to note that this version contained the least amount of the “facts” and was more about me than any of them. We all agreed that this one was the best.

I think that’s what a memoir captures. The emotional truth of a segment of the memoirist’s life. The universal truth the reader can identify with.

So don’t worry about tape recorder true. Decide what your slant is and write it from there. If you have to, tell us you changed things or better yet, just work it into the narrative. 

About the Writer: Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach and founder of The Writing Ranch. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.