Monday, February 9, 2015

Opportunity : Now Knocking

By MB Partlow

Would you like to volunteer to help out at conference?

Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you had an immediate mental picture of hauling heavy boxes in and out of the bookstore, being stuck in a small room stuffing envelopes until your hands are bloody from paper cuts, or being asked to clean up trash after a room is emptied and everyone else had scampered off to the bar?

Well, I can’t deny that boxes need to be moved, both before and after conference. But the opportunities extend far beyond the strength of your back.

We have something for almost everyone. If you’re shy and don’t like dealing with the public, we’ve got jobs for you. Extroverted and like to meet everyone? We’ve got jobs for you. Can’t sit still or need to stay seated? We can make that work. You’ll find a whole list of volunteer opportunities on the form when you register, and you can check whatever kind of activity floats your boat and makes you happy.

Volunteering at conference has some unexpected benefits. If you’re a workshop moderator, you could get to meet that agent or editor (and let them see how competent and professional you are) before you walk into the room for your Query 1-on-1 session. If you have reason to contact them in the future (hello, query letter), then you can begin your letter by reminding them where you met.

Best of all, the people asking you to volunteer have all been in your shoes. We’ve all walked into a conference either as a newbie, or as someone who wishes she knew more, both about the people and what’s going on. We appreciate that you’re here to attend the workshops, network with professionals, schmooze with your peers. And we don’t want you to miss out on that. So we’re conscious of the honor you do us by volunteering your time, and we try to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

Maybe you’d like to get to know the other members of Pikes Peak Writers. Volunteering is your golden opportunity. As you help Karen stuff the registration packets or help Becki decorate the ballroom or help Bob at the R&C desk on Friday afternoon, you’re getting to know a whole host of people who think putting their time back into this organization is a good idea.

Plus—you get to hang out with writers, a group of people who are almost universally a little bit bonkers and interested in all kinds of strange, esoteric and arcane knowledge. Someone at the conference will know the difference between elves and fairies, someone else will know the mechanical nuances of warp drive, and at least one person is bound to know what the Abominable Snowman eats for Sunday supper.

Why do you want to get to know writers in all these different genres? Their knowledge is going to cross-pollinate with yours, to the benefit of everyone involved. Maybe you’re not writing a romance, but nobody knows relationships better than romance writers. And they’re happy to speculate about love in other species, in case you write speculative fiction. Maybe that mystery writer can give you an idea about increasing the story tension in your plot to keep your readers hooked. That woman who writes vampire fiction could probably tell you half a dozen ways to make your characters suspect someone of being a vampire, even if he’s not. Putting a horror writer together with a humorist is like putting a tiny sprinkle of sea salt on your caramel, bring out the best in both.

It’s crucial that you get to know other writers. This is your tribe. These are the people who understand your writing triumphs and frustrations, the crazy world of publishing, the uncertainty of what step to take next, far better than any of your family members ever will. These are the people who will show up at your book signings. These are the people who will repost your Facebook announcement about your new book. These are the people who will remember that you helped them carry a bunch of boxes into the bookstore at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference way back when, before you both became such roaring successes that you were asked to come back as faculty.

About the Author: MB Partlow's first paid writing gig was for the A&E department of The Independent. She wrote a parenting column for Pikes Peak Parent for several years, and freelanced for The Gazette. She’s a longtime volunteer for PPW, working her way up from chair stacker at Write Brains to Moderator Coordinator, Contest Coordinator, Director of Programming, and now Conference Director for 2015. A voracious reader across genres, she primarily writes urban fantasy, although she ventures into space opera, mystery and magical realism. MB is physically unable to restrain her sense of humor, and her mouth occasionally moves faster than her brain. She blogs at, and can be reached at


  1. I like that there's a job for everyone. If I could go to this conference, I would volunteer and ask for jobs for the sky writers. :)

  2. Last year was the first time I attended PPWC and I volunteered in the pitch room. By helping out I made a ton of new friends that I probably would never had met. I am looking forward to another year at conference and another chance to help out. is the best!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.