Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wanted: Workshop Proposals for PPW and PPWC 2014!

Have something you're busting to present as a conference workshop, Write Brain, or full- or half-day workshop? Not sure how to propose such a thing?

Well, now you can! Here's a message from MB Partlow, Programming Director for Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014:


We're proud to present our brand new web portal, through which we will accept proposals for Conference workshops and Write Brains, in addition to half-day and full-day workshops. All the info we need about you, your credentials, and your brilliant ideas, in one easy-to-access location.

Plus, you have the ability to go back in and check the status, provide additional information, and make changes or updates.

What are you waiting for? You know you want to!

*To be considered for the 2014 PPWC, please submit by September 30, 2013.
*We even have a couple of slots for half-day workshops for Add-on Thursday, but they're filling up fast!

For monthly Write Brains and longer workshops, you may submit your proposals at any time.

You can visit our website at or go directly to the Proposal Portal.
MB Partlow
Programming Director, Pikes Peak Writers Conference


In addition, if you aren't interested in presenting, but have attended a workshop or heard someone speak who you really enjoyed, you can suggest them. Or, if you have an idea for something you feel we haven't covered recently, even if you have no idea who might present it, feel free to suggest a general topic, as well! Go here to Request a Workshop.

Monday, July 29, 2013

8 Tips for Writing a Memoir

By Kathy Brandt

When my son, Max, and I began work on our memoir, Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness, we knew we wanted to tell the story from each of our individual perspectives. He would write from the inside of his illness, showing readers just what it’s like to be manic, psychotic, and depressed. I would write from the outside, narrating my fear and my determination to find help. But of course, there was more to our story than points of view, much of which we figured out as we wrote. That was fine with me. As a writer, I’ve always felt that one needs to write to figure out what one really means and needs to say. I take comfort in E.M. Forster who asked, “How can I know what I think, until I see what I say?” And rewriting is in my bones. Max’s too. But having said that, we realized along the way that there were tools we could implement to make the process a bit less painful.

Though this was Max’s first book, I’ve published four novels. I know what a story arc is, but I hadn’t thought to apply it as we worked on the memoir. After all, memoirs are non-fiction, a story of what happened, the story of one’s struggle. Why would we use the elements of fiction for non-fiction? I’m sure right now some of you are muttering under your breath, “Stupid Kathy, you should have known that!” Yeah, I should have. If I’d kept the story arc in mind when we started, we would have saved ourselves a lot of fumbling. Though it wouldn’t have made the story any easier to tell, we would have been focused a bit sooner, drafting a story arc early and reworking with each new draft. So my advice to anyone writing a memoir: Remember to consider the story arc.

What is the story arc? It’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. In his book Screenplay, Syd Field calls it the dramatic structure “a linear arrangement of related incidents, episodes, or events leading to a dramatic resolution.” When I write fiction, I eventually diagram the book on a long sheet of paper—a time line with each incident or plot point rising to the final climax and resolution. It becomes a visual road map and a way to identify places I’ve gone wrong. Once we’d written several drafts, Max and I realized we needed to do the same. We diagrammed our road map or story arc and began rewriting.

From the beginning it was clear to us that our story started when Max had his first episode and was diagnosed with Bipolar I. However, our first drafts were narrations of one painful episode after another. Though each episode was different, the narration became wearing and numbing. It was too much. We realized we shouldn’t be including scenes just because they happened. So we cut, using only the episodes that moved the narration forward, revealing something new about our situation, the illness, about Max, about me. So much good material ended up on the cutting room floor. Most writers know how hard it is to ax what you consider perfect prose, a gripping scene, or an event you want to share, but if the narration didn’t add to the forward movement of the story, we took it out.  Those scenes and bits of prose are tucked away in our computers. Perhaps one of them will someday make a great short story.

Finding the right place to end was just as challenging. It was then that we again turned to the story arc, knowing that we needed to find a climax and resolution. So we cut the narration of Max’s last episode. (We know well that we can never really call an episode “last” anyway because bipolar doesn’t go away.) Instead we ended with the episode that was in many ways the worst—a culmination of all the other episodes and Max’s closest brush with death. The resolution followed in the final chapters, the summing of the years of crisis and fear, the coming to terms with the illness, the recognition that Max’s illness is forever, but that recovery is possible.

In many ways, I think we approached the memoir the only way Max and I could. When we began, we were trying to make sense of the years of struggle and confusion. Writing everything out helped. We weren’t at all sure where we were going until we got there. We really didn’t know what we were trying to accomplish, what was ultimately important to us, until we’d been mired in the material for a couple of years. Yes, years. Only then did things start to take shape.

Once we reached some solid ground, we wrote and rewrote, every draft tighter and more vivid than the last—eliminating clich├ęs, generalizations, and abstraction, seeking the real words, the ones that drew a clear picture and told an honest story. We wanted those who read the book to put themselves in our shoes. We wanted them to understand what those with mental illness and their families go through.

By the time we’d come to the end, we knew we’d succeeded in telling the story we wanted to tell and could ultimately answer the questions I list for you to consider as you write your own memoir. But keep in mind: these are only tools to help you along the way as you develop your story. You have to be willing to rethink, reshape, and rewrite. You have to “see what you write before to know what you mean.”

Eight Questions to Consider as You Draft Your Memoir:

  • What is the story/situation? What is the life-changing event in your life?
  • What is the time period?
  • What is the conflict? (with yourself, with another, with a situation)
  • What is the initiating event?
  • What are the specific events and obstacles. At some point, step back and evaluate, include what is important and meaningful to the story (not everything that is meaningful to you.) Each event should be included because it advances story.
  • What is the turning point—final crisis?
  • What is the ending event? What is the resolution?
  • What do you want your readers to take away? (sharing wisdom, helping others going through it, healing, understanding yourself.)
Suggested Reading about Story Arc:
Screenplay, Syd Field (a screen writer explains structure in this short, concise, and clear book that includes diagrams) for writers of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces)
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler (a rendering for writers of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces)
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee (another screen writer’s in- depth book about how to write a story—down to the last sentence.)

About the Author: Kathy Brandt is a published author who taught writing at the University of Colorado for ten years.  After her son, Max, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she became active in mental health issues.  She was on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Colorado Springs (NAMI-CS) for six years, and served as President.  In 2012 she received the NAMI National Award for her outstanding service to the organization.  She is currently the NAMI-CS liaison to the Mental Health Court in Colorado Springs. Kathy has published four novels with the Penguin Group.  She has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric. She lives in the mountains of Colorado.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master - something that at times strangely wills and works for itself." -Emily Bronte, born July 30.

This week on Writing From the Peak...

...Kathy Brandt pays us a visit and gives us "8 Tips on Writing Memoir."

...We give you some information on accepting proposals for workshops, conference, Write Brains, and such.

...We present our August News, Events, & Links

Friday, July 26, 2013

How I Delved Into Online Teaching

By Becky Clark

I was flattered to be asked to teach my time management class ‘The Faster I Go, The Behinder I Get" for the very techie, very cool Delve Writing. They just launched a month or so ago, but they’ve already given their members a couple dozen educational classes and interviews, many of which are FREE for anyone to view.

Delve Writing is an online community to support writers throughout their journey. They have different levels of access, starting at just $10/month. I don’t have any stake in this business, but I can absolutely vouch for the integrity, diligence and enthusiasm of the people who run it, all of whom I count as friends.

But enough about them. Let’s talk about me.

Despite the fact I blog, have websites and publish books electronically, I’m kind of a Luddite. Techie stuff tends to intimidate me. So when Aaron Brown and Chris Mandeville asked me to teach this class, I was, how you say, bumfuzzled. Seriously? Teach an online class? Make a podcast? Um, no.

I’m so glad they wore me down!

It was a terrific experience. Aaron held my hand, walking me through the technology, telling me which button to push — many, many times. (Apparently I’m not so good at the “remembering.”) But he was kind and gentle, always going off-mic to laugh at me.

We had a training session. And then another. And then one more, at my nervous request. Sure, stand me up in front of 400 people, no problem. But make me sit still in front of my computer for an hour? Ay caramba.

At any rate, the big day finally came and I got ready. I banished my husband from the house, I remembered to turn off the ringer on the phone, I shut down my ice maker, and I put on Real Clothes. Well, mostly. Because of the format, I was able to go with Chris’ recommended clothing mullet — business upstairs and party in the basement.

I set up shop at my dining room table in the most ridiculous set-up EVER… 

You’ll see my Purple Professional Podcast footstool holding my computer which had to be about halfway closed so the camera hit me at, ahem, a flattering angle and didn’t broadcast my wine glasses and deviled egg tray in the hutch behind me… two fat Harry Potter books… holding my notes cleverly printed on the top of the page so I didn’t have to look so far down while on camera (even though I did. A lot.)… scattered bunches of print-outs for various contingencies. And my iced tea (swear!) on my orange Splat Stan coaster.

Pay no attention to that girl behind the curtain because this is how it looks for broadcast…

This is just very, very slick technology. Because I needed a couple of slides for the presentation, Aaron plopped them into an easy format to click through, which he did at the appropriate time. My job was to sit still up in my little box in the corner while talking. Throughout the class, the attendees interacted via the chat box you see there. But they didn’t have to. They could sit quietly sipping wine at their computer at home. They could cook dinner while watching/listening. They could comfort a screaming baby. And their clothing mullet could be party in the basement AND upstairs.

You can see in the screen shot that Aaron kindly included the various links to All Things Becky in the chat box, but more importantly, he kept tabs on the chat for me. Not only would it have been impossible to read the scroll while I was presenting, my computer was far enough away (flattering angle, remember?) that I couldn’t possibly read it, even though he showed me how to increase the text size on my screen. I think I had it set at 525 point. During the class the attendees were able to ask their questions and share their ideas, which Aaron passed along to me verbally.

Everything about it was awesome.

If you’re a writer — especially if you’re in an area where it’s difficult to find a good writing community, or that you can’t get to easily — I wholeheartedly recommend what Delve has to offer.

If you’re a speaker, I highly recommend offering your expertise to them. Not only will you gain experience speaking in a new medium, you’ll increase your reach and sell some books.

And if you want to sample the technology — for FREE — and/or get some time management tips and/or see if I was able to sit still for an hour, Delve Writing has graciously allowed me to post the secret link for you. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep the link live (after all, people actually pay me to teach this class!) so if you’re the least bit curious, clickedy-click thelink …. HERE … soon.

You don’t have to watch the entire hour (although I simply can’t imagine why you wouldn’t) and you can’t join in the chat — because it’s not live anymore — but you can see what they were chatting about during the class. FYI, when Aaron pops the timer over my face for the 4 or 5 minute exercises, on the recording it says “15 minutes.” But it’s not; it really is only the 4 or 5. If you’re not doing the exercises, you can slide the bar at the bottom ahead to where the clock comes down.

What are you waiting for? Put on the mullet of your choice, go sit in front of your deviled egg tray and give it a look-see. Let me know what you think!

(Originally posted at Becky Clark Books July 12, 2013.)

About the Writer:  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 and her healthy living website/blog is She is a highly functioning chocoholic.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Odd Quirks of Writers

By Donnell Ann Bell

"Don't explain why it works; explain how you use it."
- Steven Brust

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the writing process, e.g. superstitions and quirks, and I’ve come up with a theory. It might not be scientifically conclusive, but I suspect I’m not far off. Perhaps some curious sort will apply for a grant to determine the outcome. Meanwhile, I’m running with it. I’m convinced each writer’s process is as individual as fingerprints.  

I’m often amazed at writers who say, “My process is x, y, and z. Do it this way.” Often, people give in, only to say, “I tried that – didn’t work for me,” “I write in the mist,” “I outline,” “I’m character-driven,” “Your book won’t be any good if you don’t plot your novel from start to finish.” How many times have we heard statements like these? 

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. And, certainly, the caveman didn’t have a critique partner staring at his wall carving, demanding, “Really? The T-Rex ate him? What was his motivation?” 

Each writer has to find his own way.  Whether you write better in the morning, prefer to work late into the evening, write every day, or on the weekend, it’s your job to find your process, to find what effectively works for you.

In talking to people, I discovered some of their processes are actually quirks.

One author lights a candle, slathers lotion, and puts on music.

Another must have absolute silence.

One writer bakes cookies. (Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy and can’t give out his address.)

And, of course one wiseacre (Mike Befeler) said he can’t write until he turns on his computer.

As for quirks, I think I have one that’s unusual. If I create a character, I have to use him. Whether or not I use the manuscript, if I create a character that has done nothing wrong, save the plot fell apart, I leave him―or her― with the solemn promise he or she can try out for a future role. (Maybe I was a producer in a former life, who knows?)

I did that in my upcoming November release, BETRAYED. I wrote my character Nate Paxton for a role in an unpublished novel, Bad Timing, which took First Place in the Pikes Peak Writers Contest, by the way. I wasn’t enamored by the manuscript, but I was taken with Nate. He’s a vice cop and he’s a great character. So, I asked if he wanted the part in BETRAYED, and surprise, surprise, he did!  

Now the female protagonist in Bad Timing is all bent out of shape and claiming I’m playing favorites. Not to worry, as soon as I find the right storyline, she’s got the lead. 

One thing that is etched in stone, and probably evolved from the caveman, is that WRITERS WRITE. Good luck finding your process, your quirk(s), and creating those magical stories we all love to read.  

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is a two-time Golden Heart® finalist who previously worked for a weekly business newspaper and a parenting magazine. Her debut novel The Past Came Hunting became an Amazon bestseller, reaching as high as #6 on the paid overall list. Her second book, Deadly Recall, brought to you by Bell Bridge Books, reached #1 on Amazon. Learn more about Donnell

Monday, July 22, 2013

PPW Night at Lofty's Canceled Tonight

Due to the closing of Lofty's, tonight's PPW Night has been canceled. We will announce updated information when a new location has been obtained. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and hope to see everyone there next month.

Dammit, Jim, I'm a Writer, Not a Bricklayer!

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

This is the reality of my life. Last month on the PPW blog, I wrote a rousing post on Indie pubbing, giving my stories to the world no matter! It was all so full speed ahead, take no prisoners, damn the torpedoes, or in the words of that lovely workaholic polygamist Dagny Taggert, GET OUT OF MY WAY!
This month, not really feeling it. My current work in progress is too long, too unmarketable, too dripping with tears and complications. All my query letters are going unanswered. I’d rather take a physical beating than email silence from the traditional publishing industry. I’m working with an editor at a small press, but I don’t have a contract yet. Writing feels like a chore, not just a little chore, but like cleaning out the Augean stables. Marketing, even worse. More like when Hercules had to shoulder the world for Atlas to get the apples of the Hesperides. My website is out of date and lonely. I’m off track shopping projects around. Things feel bleak.
I’m so not Hercules at this point. Nor very Atlas Shrugged. I still can mix metaphors, so I got that going for me.

Do I still show up and write and do the marketing stuff? Yes. Do I do it overjoyed and inspired? Hardly. Writing is a vocation, like being a priest or a monk or a nun. It takes stupid amounts of self-discipline. Writing is less divine act of sacred storytelling, more bricklaying. Does the bricklayer lay bricks with joy and inspiration in his\her heart? Some days, probably, other days, it’s just mortar, baby, just one brick at a time.
I was talking with a friend about all this, when it hit me. I’m impatient. I want glory, fame, truckloads of greenback dollar bills, right now. I don’t want to march anymore like a good little writerly soldier. I wanna' fly to Olympus on my very own gold-plated Pegasus. I want Harry Potter amounts of success, and I want it yesterday. I want adoration, damn you.

So I say all that, loudly, in public. People stare, and my friend says, “What would that give you?”
Big pause. Even if I could quit my day job, live the dream, write full-time, would everyday still shine like diamonds, which are forever? No. Would I be able to write all the books I want to write? No. What would change? Maybe I’d get some adoration, but I’d also get packs of critics chewing on my heart.

So I go back to the basics. Writing is its own reward. Writing is hard, but it’s the hard that makes it good. My job is to write stories and get them out into the world. Which means laying one word next to another next to another. Which means sending out the emails to the abyss the traditional publishing industry is becoming, a void where query letters go to die.
It’s so not sexy. It’s so not my dreams of riches and praise. It is what it is. What else should I be doing with my time? Yes, if I didn’t write, I could get caught up on movies, but I’ve been watching a lot of summer movies, and mostly, they are all very explosion-y. Are they worth the precious minutes of my life? Not really.

Writing is worth the time I spend on it. In the end, writing is a gift to the world. Might just be a small gift, but it’s still a gift.

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. Most recently, his work appears in the steampunk anthology The Penny Dread Tales Volume III and in the latest issue of Electric Spec.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

“For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.” -Ernest Hemingway (born July 21), in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

This week on Writing From the Peak...

..."Dammit, Jim, I'm a Writer, Not a Bricklayer," by Aaron Michael Ritchey.

...Donnell Bell discusses "The Odd Quirks of Writers."

...Becky Clark explains "How I Delved Into Online Teaching."

Friday, July 19, 2013

More on Flashbacks: Backstory - Part III

By Karen Albright Lin

In my last two posts I discussed backstory as told through narrative, dialogue and flashback. Then I explored flashbacks more fully: 1) How to use one to add depth to character, story and the writing itself. 2) Reassured that sometimes the benefits of using flashbacks outweigh the sacrifice of immediacy. 3) When they work. 4) Clarifying time sense (present, past and past perfect). 5) Transitions. 6) And important things to consider when choosing when to use them.

Now it’s time to face hard truths. 

  • It comes too early – first chapter flashbacks are discouraged.
  • It’s so long that your real story is likely in the past.
  • You do it too often (irritating) unless you are telling a story like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
  • It seems like only an info-dump (backstory in dialogue is notorious for this).
  • You wait too long to give the flashback (frustrating to reader).
  • You give so much backstory that the novel lacks suspense.
  • You use it to “run away from conflict,” James N. Frey warns in How to Write a Damn Good Novel.
  • It stops or slows the pace of your book (probably your biggest risk).
  • It isn’t tightly linked to the front-story.
  • If it confuses the reader about what exactly the story is. (Cure: set up the rule early as Tim O’Brien did in The Things They Carried.)
  • It interrupts the momentum you’ve built.
  • It happens in an action scene like running from a murderer.
  • You go from one flashback into an even earlier one (this taxes most readers’ brains).
  • A conversation between characters can impart their life stories more elegantly.
  • You provide more information than is necessary.
  • It could be more clearly provided in the form of a prologue, thus keeping it separate from the rest of the story. (There is a risk to this, however. Some agents/editors hate these.)
  • It follows a weak scene (or sequel)
  • It is confusing (better not to do it than to do it poorly). Some authors choose to put them in italics.
  • It is before we know a character pretty well since we won’t care about his past.
  • It is put into the first chapter at a time when the reader hasn’t yet invested in the ride you are taking him on –  let alone what happened previously.
  • Your narrator is omniscient. That generally won’t work since there can’t be as much psychological impact. Deep third person and first person work well.
  • The reader can surmise the same information from the dialogue and action of current story.
  • You don’t orient the reader – time and place and who is present.
  • You fail to use clear ( like dreams), elegant, or subtle techniques like Match Cut to lock in visual motifs.
  • You fail to clearly let the reader know that you are leaving the present.


Ex: “She remembered the day her mother signed her divorce papers. She had crumpled them in her sweaty hands….” Then use past perfect “had” one or two times, then past tense within the longer flashback, and clue the reader when coming back to present by using past perfect tense again before heading back into past tense. “She had vowed never to do what her parents had done. But now wasn’t the time to think about her mother. She needed to plan the wedding and…”

Short flashback:

Past-->past perfect-->past

Longer flashback:

             Past-->past perfect-->past within flashback-->past perfect-->past




  • Use the insight to fill in gaps.
  • Be sure you are clear about what you are trying to accomplish within a given scene.
  • Make careful choices about what to reveal and what to leave out.
  • Make it riveting.
  • Use it to clarify how your world works.
  • Use it following an action-filled strong scene.  Then it can act as a sequel if it isn’t equally riveting as what just came before it.
  • Use when connected to your present action.
  • Use when the reader wants or needs to know more about the past.
  • Keep it short if possible.
  • Dole out pieces of information in bits and pieces, making your readers want to read on to learn more.
  • Avoid leaving characters dangling while you go into the past.  Be sure to connect it to their current story.


Readers are often the most accepting of this technique. 

In contrast, acceptance of Flashbacks by agents and editors is all over the board. 50 years ago it was typical to use flashbacks. Now, they are often resisted because they are believed to crush the impetus of your story chronology, slow the read, and/or they are considered “old news” in your story. 

They must be done very well to be successful in today’s market of immediacy.


  • Be sure your adviser is right and not just blanket-prejudiced against the technique.
  • Check with your critique partners to be sure you agree with the assessment.
  • Revise the chapter to remove the flashback completely.
  • Develop a timeline for the story and consider starting the action earlier.
  •  Delete the first three chapters if you’ve begun too early, and weave the backstory into the novel through dialogue and dramatic narrative.
  • Have the POV character spend less time alone thinking (Too much thinking often leads to unnecessary flashbacks). 
  • Add a character that can help you integrate backstory implying it through dialogue (not on-the-nose dialogue).
  • Use dramatic narrative NOT just a summary of facts.
  • Don’t include it all; the reader doesn’t need to know as much as the writer does. (Historical writing can have too much detail, thanks to loads of research, and fantasy writers need to realize that the world of the story will loom larger in your head than it will on the page.)

I hope you’ve found helpful my posts offering hints about deciding whether to use flashbacks and how to write them if they are called for. Looking back over the three posts, the amount of information and considerations can seem overwhelming. Luckily, those of us who are avid readers (which should be all of us, right?) will find much of this instinctual. If aspects don’t come naturally for you, study how other authors work the magic of flashbacks.

May words come easily and flashbacks be effortless. 

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, 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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

PPW Fiction Contest Name Winner!

And The Winner Is...
The new name for the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest has been chosen and the winning name is: The Zebulon. This name was entered by two people, so the one that entered first has won the prize of a free submission to The Zebulon. That winner is Rob Bowman of Denver, Colorado. Congratulations, Rob!
A second prize winner of a free submission to The Zebulon was also chosen by random drawing from the 147 entries. That winner is Andrea Ruggeri of Towson, Maryland. Congratulations to Andrea, as well!
Now that the writing contest has a name, watch for details about submitting your work of fiction.
Thank you to everyone who entered.
Jeff Schmoyer
Contest Director

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Road to Publication: Backroads vs. Superhighway

By Debbie Maxwell Allen

It's a dream most writers have. Shaking hands with an agent at a conference, showing a sample of your work, and receiving an instant offer of representation followed by rapid publication. Who wouldn't enjoy getting on the fast track, not to mention receiving a check for the years of work already put in?

But I believe a short-cut to publication can actually short-change authors. Why?

High Speed. On a highway, your speed keeps you from absorbing the nuances of the scenery. In the same way, getting published quickly can mean you miss working on important elements of the craft of writing. A delay in publication forces writers to work harder. They join critique groups, read writing books and excellent examples of fiction. This makes for a deeper writer, rather than a quick success who has trouble with subsequent books.

Smooth Pavement. A smooth road means  traveling faster, but if you hit a pothole at that speed, it can be disastrous. On the bumpy back roads to publication, writers get familiar with rejection. Critique groups, contests, and the query process all help to develop the thick skin necessary for future success. Without this rhino skin, authors can be in danger of writer's block, or even depression when they discover that not everyone enjoys their book. Reviewers and readers are not shy about expressing their displeasure in books they've read. As writers, we need to get accustomed to criticism early. Bring on the bumps.

Anonymous Travelers. High speeds keep drivers from interacting with others who share the road. In fact, drivers see other travelers as competition, people just getting in the way. Back road drivers expect the trip to take longer. They have time to wave at those they pass, even offer a hand to someone that needs it. 

If you get published rapidly, you are immediately thrust into a world of rewrites and marketing that precludes much of the time you might like to spend helping other writers. Writers who experience a lengthy path to publication have the luxury of developing deeper relationships, and cheering each other on.

None of us knows how long our journey will last. Some writers have labored for decades, others just a few years. The important things to spend time on are craft, accepting rejection, and befriending one another. Enjoy this part of the journey. All too soon, you'll be looking back wistfully. And telling wonderful stories about the years of waiting.

Are you content on the back roads?

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Free PPW Events This Month

The Outer Limits of Inner Life: Bringing Characters to Life by Looking Within
Speaker: David Corbett
When: Tuesday, July 16, 6:30-8:30 PM (TODAY!)
Location: Online ONLY!! You must RSVP to get the link to the event site.
More Information: Join award-winning author David Corbett, Pikes Peak Writers, and Delve Writing, for this free, exclusively online Write Brain workshop on creating characters with depth. You will learn how to build an intuitive connection with your characters through an informed understanding of your own past, and how to use that bridge to create compelling backstories that bring your tale to life. David will discuss the crucial role of both helplessness and willfulness in exploring character, and how these seemingly contradictory inclinations are crucial in creating complex and engaging characters. He will also explore ways to heighten conflict in your story through a better understanding of the emotional stakes. By the end of the class, you'll walk away with a healthy start on your next bestselling novel and a deeper understanding of your characters and your story. RSVP to
About the Presenter: David Corbett is the award-winning author of four novels: The Devil's RedheadDone for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), Blood of Paradise (nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar), and Do They Know I'm Running? His text on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character, was published by Penguin in January 2013. David's short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Mission and TenthThe Smoking PoetSan Francisco Noir and Best American Mystery Stories (2009 and 2011), and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York TimesNarrativeZyzzyvaThe Writer, andWriter's Digest. He has taught both online and in classroom settings through the UCLA Extension's Writers' Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, and at numerous writing conferences across the US. He lives in northern California. For more information,
Open Critique - FREE 

Third Wednesday of every month (Wednesday, July 17)

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 criticizer 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 to 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 & Deb Courtney

Writer's Night at Lofty's - FREE 

And next Monday, July 22, we have Writer's Night at Lofty's:

6:30-8:30 PM
287 E Fountain Blvd, Suite 100
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Free Wireless Internet!

Join fellow writers for PPW Night at Lofty's in the Historic Lowell School District of downtown Colorado Springs on the fourth Monday of every month.
PPW Night is two full hours of discussion, laughter, and fun with other local members of Pikes Peak Writers.
The direction of the meeting is decided by the participants and can include discussions about query letters, obtaining and working with an agent, writing conferences, or other specific points of the craft.  If nothing else, we talk about books!

Feel free to bring a sample of your work-in-progress to share or discuss with others, if time permits.  NOTE: This is not a formal critique group or editing session.  Bringing your work with you does not guarantee it will be discussed.
If you have any questions, or if there is a specific topic you’d like to get on the agenda, send an e-mail to the host, Deb Courtney, or call her on her cell phone at 719-337-9049.
Meetings are scheduled to start at 6:30 and run until about 8:30.  These are drop-in meetings, so feel free to attend all or just part of them.
Lofty's offers a small selection of coffees, wine, beer and mixed libations, as well as a variety of juices and organic sodas. There is a small menu of mostly sandwich based items. Wi-fi is available.
See you soon!

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Interview With David Corbett - The Art of Character

Today, we welcome David Corbett to Writing From the Peak for an interview on The Art of Character, his non-fiction book on the craft of writing.

An Interview With David Corbett:

Q1: What made you switch gears to write this book after you'd published in fiction?

I taught an online course on character through the UCLA Extension Writers’ program, and that obliged me to write out ten lectures. I tend to be somewhat thorough (read: obsessive) in my lectures, so once I was finished, I thought: Be a damn shame and an awful waste not to use all this stuff. So I talked to my agent, who to be honest was not enthused. Another book on writing? Oh, the ho and the hum. But then she read what I’d provided and saw I had a unique take, both practical and philosophical, and the writing itself was superior to most how-to books. I was trying not merely to instruct but inspire. So we packaged the thing, sent it around, and Penguin agreed to publish it.

Q2: Do you feel character building has been under-represented in books on craft?

The trend in recent books on writing has been on structure, with character seen as a crucial element of that, but character is never the central focus. Robert McKee’s Story, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey—three of the most influential texts out there right now—all touch on character, but in the first two books it’s dealt with primarily in functional terms (how character serves the story), and Vogler’s approach sees character more in terms of archetypes than real people. All pronounce the importance of character but give little real guidance on how to conceive or develop great characters.

The guides I’ve read dealing specifically with character also felt strangely formulaic or uninspired to me. All had decent tips but I felt they missed the crucial element: That there is no way to create great characters without a comprehensive understanding of oneself and the elements of one’s own life that form the foundations of personality. Your material is yourself. Or, as Chekhov put it: “Everything I know about human nature I learned from me.” My book tries to teach how to be a perceptive and responsive student to one’s own human nature, the better to deliver that understanding to one’s characters.

Q3: While writing The Art of Character, did you run into problems unique to writing this sort of book versus fiction?

All creative work is essentially problem solving. That’s as true of fiction as non-fiction—or mathematics. I just needed to figure out what was necessary to deliver the best book on character I could write, and get it down. I teach, so it wasn’t that fundamentally different a process than I was used to.

Q4: What do you think is the best way to learn craft (i.e. books on craft, workshops, personal experience, etc.)?

Classes and textbooks provide you with an inventory of questions to ask as you’re writing: Where should I begin my story? Whose story is it? What creates the conflict? What are the stakes? How can I amplify the stakes and intensify the conflict? How can I sustain suspense and generate surprise? The best answers to those questions lie in the books you love, the books that have inspired you as a writer. Our best teachers are always the writers we admire and hope in some small way to emulate.

Q5: What do you think is the biggest mistake writers make in character building?

They rely on the story idea and don’t plumb the character as a unique being whose wants and yearning and fears and shame all drive the action—make it necessary, not just possible. The archetype approach hasn’t helped this problem. We’re seeing thinly disguised reiterations of cardboard heroes and mentors and such rather than real people whose lives generate the details of the story, not the other way around.

Q6: Was there a resource you found invaluable in honing your craft?

I consider the three books mentioned above invaluable, even if I also consider them limited with respect to character. Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing was also a crucial text for me, as were Stanislavski’s three seminal texts: Creating a Role, Building a Character, and The Actor Prepares. (I learned most of what I know about writing from studying acting and trial and error.) Oakley Hall’s The Art and Craft of Novel Writing was a very important and useful source, and Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream also proved incredibly helpful.

But as I noted above, in the end I’m like everyone else, in that I learned most of what I know about writing from the writers I admire.

Q7: What piece of advice would you offer aspiring authors?

Writing is rewriting. (Eudora Welty) And you can’t revise what you haven’t written.

Q8: What's next for you in your writing?

My latest novel (my fifth), The Wrong Girl, is currently making the editorial rounds in New York. My third novel, Blood of Paradise, just sold in France, and I’m working on a film project with producer Shane Salerno.

David Corbett is the author of four novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book), Blood of Paradise (nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar), and Do They Know I’m Running? David’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Mission and Tenth, The Smoking Poet, San Francisco Noir and Best American Mystery Stories (2009 and 2011). He has taught both online and in classroom settings through the UCLA Extension's Writers' Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, and at numerous writing conferences across the US. He lives in Vallejo, CA. For more information, visit

I'm also excited to tell you that David will be presenting a workshop, free, online, via Pikes Peak Writers tomorrow, July 16. It will be live on July 16, and we'll post it online within a week of that date.This workshop is free, but you must RSVP to to receive the link to the online site of the event. Space is limited!

THE OUTER LIMITS OF INNER LIFE: Bringing Characters to Life by Looking Within.

Join award-winning author David Corbett, Pikes Peak Writers, and Delve Writing, for this free, exclusively online Write Brain workshop on creating characters with depth. You will learn how to build an intuitive connection with your characters through an informed understanding of your own past, and how to use that bridge to create compelling backstories that bring your tale to life. David will discuss the crucial role of both helplessness and willfulness in exploring character, and how these seemingly contradictory inclinations are crucial in creating complex and engaging characters. He will also explore ways to heighten conflict in your story through a better understanding of the emotional stakes. By the end of the class, you'll walk away with a healthy start on your next bestselling novel and a deeper understanding of your characters and your story.

(Note: You can access this recording late the third week of July on the Pikes Peak Writers website. There are two available there now, completely free, from Page Lambert: Manifestation of Yearning: The Flesh & Blood Factor of Good Storytelling and Jennifer Lovett: Twitter and Facebook for Authors.)

This interview was originally posted on The Warrior Muse on June 10, 2013.

About the Author:  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, Shannon Lawrence 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, and her short horror story "The Blue Mist" will be in the March 2014 issue of Nightfall Magazine. 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   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quote of the Week & Week to Come

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination." -Henry David Thoreau (born July 12)

This week on Writing From the Peak...

..."An Interview With David Corbett," the author who will be presenting the July Write Brain this Tuesday.

...Debbie Maxwell Allen discusses "The Road to Publication."

...Karen Albright Lin wraps up her trio of posts on "Backstory."

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Physical Experience of Learning

By Anna Blake

I attended The Query Lab with Sorche Fairbank on Thursday of the PPWC 2013 weekend. Ms. Fairbank introduced herself and warned us that she might get a nosebleed from the dryness. I immediately liked her.

She began by describing her job as a literary agent: promoting authors, endless meetings, project planning; a 24/7 job filled with creativity and drudgery. Then at some point, probably late in the day, maybe at the end of a long week, she makes time to read a stack of a hundred or so query letters. She’s hoping for one that will catch her attention. Even I can do that math.

This is my first query letter. I did online research, and then resisted writing it. After a dozen edits, I fell in love with my book all over again. I must say, my query is brilliant. I can’t wait to read the book. (Writing is an intrinsically arrogant behavior and a writer has to believe that their words are worthy.) But now that I visualize my query in that stack, my confidence starts to slouch a bit.

While I was trying to balance my vast ego with my low self-esteem, Ms. Fairbank launched into the parts of a query letter. There were absolute rules that must be followed, unless breaking the rules in a good way might work. Precise word clarity and razor sharp editing got redefined for quite a few of us. She had a worst of folder with queries that were full of sound and fury, and consequently a bit ridiculous. Some writers actually didn’t use spell check. We all laughed and worried. But there were examples of good queries as well, books that had me at hello.

We took a short break and with a thick stack of our queries and two hours left, the editing began. The reader (Apologies, I don’t remember her name and she did a wonderful job) began reading the first query out loud and then Ms. Fairbank made comments. She’s knowledgeable and perceptive, with a passion for her work. Ms. Fairbank is just plain smart. Her opinion is going to matter to me.

Judgments were quick and impersonal; it was sound critique. My heart ached for the writers whose query got a red pen, but I hoped mine would, too. As more queries were edited, it became clear that writing for an agent is a different thing entirely. It’s a pass/fail test in immediacy; there is no sauntering to the point.

The ugly truth: It’s a challenging thing for a writer to query-ize their manuscript to a couple hundred scintillating words, but if we can’t sell the idea there, it probably won’t happen in 300 or 400 pages either.

Another hour passes and we agree to skip the next break with so many queries yet to read. I’m getting stiff from sitting too long. I could use some coffee and a walk to stretch my legs. I notice the more my backside hurts, the more my compassion for the other writers flattens. Ms. Fairbank is focused, insightful, and consistent. It’s just me that’s buckling under the stack of literary dreams.

I can’t ignore my backside. In my real job, I train horses and riders. Seat awareness is a giant part of riding (barn humor), and I am always trying to find a polite way to encourage riders to put their minds in their hinds, to think and perceive with their backsides. Right now, my butt is affirming the pass/fail importance of a really inspiring query letter.

Is this literally how an agent feels? Is working through a stack of query letters actually a pain in their derriere, as well? That’s a lot for a lone query to conquer. Are they backside sore, searching for the right query in the haystack, like I search my thesaurus for the right word? I love writing, but sometimes it makes my backside hurt, too.

At the last moment, the reader begins my perfect query. I ‘m thrilled and time slows down just like during a car wreck. And… Ms. Fairbank finds plenty in my query that doesn’t work for her. When the chopping and hacking is done, it’s a better query and my confidence is somehow intact. My opinion of Ms. Fairbank stands, she is just plain smart. I’m elated and humbled. And my backside agrees.

Thanks for the great day!

About the Author: My meager bio got a good edit in the query session too. For now, I think I will go with the part Ms. Fairbank liked best: I get four duck eggs a day, if I find them before the dog.