Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's the Point?

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Before you write that tweet.  

Before you post that picture.
Before you pin that graphic.

Ask yourself: what’s the point?

Are you a publishing author trying to build an author brand or platform? Then you need to understand the point of every single thing you post online.

Why? Because you are trying to build a readership, and random posts don’t tell readers what they need to do with your post. If you don’t even know why you posted it, then a potential reader doesn’t either.

So, I’m going to tell you why you are posting:
1- To inform

2- To explain

3- To influence

When you inform a reader, you tell them new news so they can participate.
1- Inform them about upcoming events

2- Inform them about book releases

3- Inform them about give-aways, contests, games, and other ways to interact and win

When you explain to a reader, you explain concepts so they understand more about you and your books.
1- Explain to them who your main character is and what makes him/her tick

2- Explain to them why you like kittens or antiquing

3- Explain to them why you write on the particular topic you write about

When you influence a reader, you engage to excite them about you and your books.
1- Influence them to like, comment, or share your information

2- Influence them to read your books and tell their friends to read your books

3- Influence them to get to know you

Does that mean you can’t post cats? Of course not. Post all the cats you like but make sure the reader knows why you are posting cats. Not just because you like them. Tell them why you like them, and make sure you understand how that helps the reader get to know you.

Next month, we’ll talk privacy in social media.

About the Author: Jennifer Lovett Herbranson has marketed books, shows, concerts and more for more than 15 years. She is a huge fan of Twitter, and passionate about helping authors understand marketing. Find more about Jenny at

Monday, April 27, 2015

Make the Most of Post Conference

By Linda Rohrbough

You spent a lot of money and time, and you’ve made a lot of contacts. Hopefully you pitched, learned some stuff you didn’t know and made some friends on your way to your dream of publishing. So now what?

Now it’s time to cultivate those contacts. Not like someone who is trying to “use” those folks, rather as someone who is genuinely interested in them, and as a writing professional.

Nothing says “pro” more than hand-written thank-you notes. Yep, it’s dated. Yep, it’s old-fashioned. And yep, it’s a pain. (I type so much that handwriting is hard work for me.) But it makes an impression. When I’ve gotten handwritten notes after a conference, I’ve been impressed. I keep them and I have quite a few.

But you also need to use social media to stay in front of the person. Friend them on Facebook and like their posts once in a while. If someone sends me a handwritten note, and then I never hear from them again, on Facebook or anyplace else, I forget about them.

I can hear some of you saying, "What do I say?" That’s not hard. If you learned something, talk about it briefly. Maybe there’s something you admired about them. Or you can just say you enjoyed getting to know them. Sincere compliments go a long way.

And let’s not forget the hardworking people who put all of this together. When I speak, I send hand-written notes to the conference organizers thanking them for making my workshop a success. These folks hardly ever get thank you notes. But I can tell you, many of the big names in publishing do that same thing. And I know because I learned it from them. Most of them have been doing it for years, meaning before they became a “name.” In this business, it’s so much about relationships and it’s a very small world. So you want to be known as someone who is easy to work with and someone who can deliver the goods.

Now, just so you know, no one writes a thank you note to you because you sent a thank you note. So it’ll feel like you’re dropping these down a black hole. You’re not. Trust me.

In addition, email works. I don’t do email instead of handwritten notes, but I do use it.

So that’s a start.

The second thing is to get in there and use what you’ve learned. Think about the way the names presented themselves, how they talked about their work. Get the conference recordings and listen to them in your car. Immerse yourself in what you need to know. I do and even in workshops I attended, I found I hear things I missed the first time. And the exposure to the world of publishing helps me day to day as I’m slugging it out in the trenches. The successful writers make this a habit.

Finally, keep writing. Because that’s what it’s all about.

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:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they're quite different from people who must write."


(Nelle) Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 - )
To Kill a Mockingbird 
Go Set a Watchman (July 2015)

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Linda Rohrbough will give some advice on making the most of post-conference.

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson will continue her posts on marketing, giving some "pointers" on what you should keep in mind when you tweet, post or pin.

Debi Archibald will give you the news and events coming up in May. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sweet Success! Karen Albright Lin

By Kathie Scrimgeour

Karen Albright Lin’s poem, “His Island” (a poem written in honor of the bald spot gracing the head of Karen’s husband), was chosen by Colorado Journey publishers to be in their printed guide, Colorado Journey, which is "the most complete guidebook for finding art and artists, wineries and the incredible destinations that can only be found in Colorado." Learn more at

About the Author: Karen Albright Lin is a freelance editor for best-selling, traditionally and self-published authors. Her clients have hit #1 to #9 in their Amazon categories and stayed there for months. She’s a multi-award winning writer, ghostwriter, produced screenwriter, and multi-published author of essays, poetry and short stories. She’s a regular columnist for newsletters and well-visited blogs. She’s a paid columnist for BTS Book and Book Trailer Reviews. She presents workshops at conferences, retreats and on cruise lines. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Get Back to the Future with a Social Media Dashboard

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite movies. The Delorean, the diner, the music, Marty McFly, all of it. Watching it the other day reminded me of why Social Media Dashboards are so effective for writers in every stage of their careers. I am partial to Hootsuite, so that’s what I’ll talk about today.

1. Flux Capacitor. Well, no one really understands the flux capacitor. It’s sorta the same way with Hootsuite. You don’t need to understand all of it to be able to use if effectively.

a. It’s a dashboard that allows you to post to multiple platforms at a given time.

b. You log in with one of your platforms, so there is no added log in /password requirement.

c. You get five streams for free. For a fee, you can get more, but for beginners, five is plenty.

2. You too can go back in time! Use Hootsuite to manage up to five social media streams.

a. Facebook profiles, groups and author pages (thumbs up!)

b. Twitter (also thumbs up!)

c. Google+ (wouldn’t really bother)

d. Instagram (thumbs up, especially if you’re targeting Middle Grade or YA)

e. LinkedIn (not really a necessity for writers)

3. Donate to YOUR clock tower, which in this case is your social media. Just a quarter a day is all you need. Yes, 15 minutes.

  a. Schedule out posts.

  b. Respond to folks.

  c. Read your stream.

4. Hootsuite is the DeLorean. But you don’t need plutonium to fire it up and make it work. Remember when the doc used everyday stuff from the garbage to power the DeLorean? Everyday stuff (not garbage!) is exactly what people want to see on your social media.

a. Simple – What are you doing today, with whom, why and what did you laugh about? Easy – What great quote, book, movie, show, song or poem spoke to you today?

b. Intuitive – Would your best friend want to know? Then so will your follower.

5. Where you’re going, you won’t need roads! Hootsuite is an essential tool if you’d like to focus more time on your craft and less time on your marketing. Not to say you can’t do any marketing, but this tool will definitely free up your time.

a. Once a week, log in and schedule out all your posts for the week.

b. Once every other day or every three days, log in and respond to followers.

c. Upload it on your phone or tablet for max flexibility.

Use Hootsuite to turn your mad scientist life into something more manageable. You’ll be doing the twist and the bop all the way to the social media bank! What do you do to make your social media posting easier?

About the Author: With a combined 14 years of active and Reserve time as a US Air Force Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Lovett Herbranson has marketed books, shows, concerts and more. She is currently the speechwriter for the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency outside of Washington DC. In her spare time, she is pursuing a career as a fiction writer.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Make Better Use of Secondary Characters

By Karen Albright Lin

The circus is not as much fun if players are missing. The juggler is out sick, the casting director forgot to hire the trapeze artist, or the clown car is empty. It can be the same with your novel. It might need an extra character or two. Even if you have a full complement of secondary characters, they may need to be made more robust or play a bigger role.     

It’s usually not enough to simply add a character. That would be like adding one more dancer to a group of twenty-six background dancers. Make him or her count.

In Harold and Maude, secondary characters make this magnificent movie about death and love into a perfect one. In an early scene, Harold’s blind date beats him at his own staging-suicides-game by simulating hari-kari in his living room. It surprises us and mocks his mother’s matchmaking.

It hurts, but sometimes you need to excise one of your characters. Or meld two together so that one plays both roles. On the other hand, you may add one whose job is to create an additional obstacle. Cinderella could have been told without one of the stepsisters; but combined with the wicked stepmother, they became a seemingly insurmountable force. Three is often a magic number. If you have two people that play a role, consider collapsing them into one or adding another to make a happy triangle.

You could use a secondary character as an audience surrogate like Stingo in Sophie’s Choice. He was an observer and commentator on Sophie’s life, current and past. John Wheelwright tells a current story but also Owen’s story in A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Add a character that is much older or much younger to offer another perspective. In Blind Side, Sandra Bullock’s enthusiastic young son only has one essential scene, yet he added a layer of sweetness that helped make this a tender and profound story. Ben Stiller’s future mother-in-law in Meet the Parents plays the quiet role of foil to her overbearing husband. Technically she could disappear from the plot, but it was nice to see someone was rooting for poor Ben.

And speaking of Meet the Parents, you can throw in an animal to add zing. Perhaps give it a prominent role. Painting a cat’s tail—exposure of the subterfuge—sparked the climax showdown between Ben Stiller and antagonist Robert De Niro.

A historical or imaginary character may come forward in time, affecting your story. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which we find Dorian Gray, The Hulk, Dr. Jekyll, and others, is an extreme case of this modus operandi. Many time travel romances use the technique. Reversing that approach, the Middle Grade Magic Treehouse series and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court took us back in time to meet secondary characters.

An ancillary character is not always a mentor, sidekick, or foil. She can be a plot plant. Mysteries often add extra bad guys who seem to have something to do with the crime but don’t. Red herrings are the stuff of great suspense; the more the merrier.

If you write fantasy, consider giving an aunt an unexpected magic power. In any genre, add an impersonator or a disguised character. Stories about trading places and magic tricks abound. TV personality John Stossel posed as a homeless man to see pedestrians’ responses. He could have observed or done surveys or interviewed panhandlers. But making himself into a character was more entertaining and instructive.

You could add a mentor (Fairy Godmother, Gandalf, Mr. Miyagi) or a rival who is seemingly not important to the plot, then make him key to your resolution (Harry Potter’s Lupin Werewolf and Pettigrew Rat).

These are only a few ways you can add, subtract, enhance, or fashion another purpose for a secondary character. Be sure to give us a sense of who they are in relation to your main characters, even if they don’t get much stage time. Give them as much thought as you do your protagonist and antagonist and you’ll add fun layers to your novel.

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

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I'm just going to write because I cannot help it."
Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Karen Albright Lin discusses making better use of secondary characters.

* Jennifer Lovett Herbranson takes us "Back to the Future" with a social media dashboard.

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares Sweet Success with Karen Lin. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sweet Success! Charlie Hubacek

By Kathie Scrimgeouor

Charlie Hubacek’s historical fiction novel, Into the High Ute Country (ISBN-9781311362278, 978-1508606536, ebook and POD paperback, 200 pages, readers 10 years and up) was released March 16, 2015, by Hart Hills Publishing. This book is available on Smashword, Kindle and Createspace.


John Randolph left Missouri following a long and devastating drought that caused him to lose his farm. He had heard of gold just for the taking in Colorado. On the way, he nearly died traveling over the hot, dry high plains, but he was rescued and taken to a new town in the Rocky Mountain foothills. There he found a new life as a lawman, with new problems and new challenges.

About the Author: Charlie Hubacek has always had an insatiable urge to write since he was eight years old. Following his departure from formal education, he was employed for many years with a number of weekly newspapers in southwest Missouri working in retail advertising, as a feature writer and an operations manager.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Library: A Great Writer's Resource

By Stacy S. Jensen

I hope you have a library card. Every writer should have one.

I wanted to share several ways I use my local library as a writer. Some are obvious, but some may be new to you.

This is a video I made last year for a contest 
the Pikes Peak Library District held called #PPLDRocks. 

In Colorado Springs, I use my local system Pikes Peak Library District. Here are the ways I use the library.
  • Meeting room — Most libraries offer free meeting space for groups. One critique group used to book a room for monthly critique groups. We just had to be sure to close the door to our little room in order not to disturb other patrons. Our new high tech branch Library 21c  even has meeting rooms with a MonoPad, a giant touch tablet. My critique group has used it to Skype in members who moved out of state. Some Pikes Peak Writers events are held at library meeting spaces, too.
  • Software — The library system recently began allowing card holders access to The company offers thousands of instruction videos on software, business and creative skills. You can watch videos on how to build a website with WordPress, how to design a logo, how to create a book cover or how to design a book. I recently found an online course for $147, but watched a similar course on the same topic for free from my library's subscription. You can either log in through the library on your home device or use a library computer to watch videos. You may have to wait for a turn to use through the library's system, but the cost savings can be significant.
  • Digital books — If the library system doesn't have a book I want, I'm open to checking out a digital or audio version. If it's available the Cybershelf, I can download an ebook to my Kindle or download a PDF.
  • Audio Books — I added an OverDrive app to my phone and tablet. I check out audio books via my library card onto my iPad. This allows me to "read" while I'm doing hands-on craft projects.
  • Videos — Need to study story structure via a video or just take a break? The library offers this too via OverDrive and Hoopla. ( I also have the option to borrow videos through OverDrive and videos and music through Hoopla. I also put DVDs on hold. Some of those are to entertain the kiddo.
  • Books — Here's my obvious use, but I'll tell you the library saves me a lot of time and money each week as I research books. At $16 more or less for a picture book, I rely on the library A LOT for my writing research and family entertainment.

For books I:
  • Put them on hold — I search the library catalog from my house and put dozens of titles on hold. I don't have to drive all over the city to pick up books at various branches. The library elves collect them and deliver them to my library. It's a time saver on several levels.
  • Request books — If the library doesn't have a copy of a title I want to read, I can request the book through an interlibrary loan. I haven't had much success with this. So, I typically ask the library to consider purchasing a book. I use Amazon to find the ISBN number and provide a few lines on why I think it would be a good fit for our system.
  •  Find display books — The library staff kindly puts several books on display in every section, so you can judge a book by its full cover. They don't mind that you grab these selections. I check out one on almost every library visit.
The library IS the original app store. You can find anything. 

How do you use your library? Any resources at your library that really help you as a writer?

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 son.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Scientific Classifications of a Critiquer Part II

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Last time I was on the Pikes Peak Writers blog I started the very nineteenth century occupation of codifying the existence of various types of critiquers, critiquers being those people who read your work and feel inclined to offer their sometimes sage, often questionable opinions.

Ah, the prose that is purple and that uses so many wonderful words is such fun to write in a convoluted way.

Today I will continue the classifications of that curious animal, the critiquer.

1) THE IDEA GENIE – This is the guy or gal who gets excited and starts throwing out ideas. They are born storytellers who have seen way too many movies and read way too many books and they just love to brainstorm! They offer a million suggestions: You should make your main character an Inuit android! Or you should add more flying cars because there would be tons of flying cars there. And what about having the main character die halfway through and then come back to life as a zombie Inuit android?!?

a. THE DANGER: The Idea Genie can sometimes muddy the water. I’m pretty good at knowing my story, what has to happen, and where I’m headed. But the Idea Genie might derail me and then I get writer's block and suddenly I’m writing about zombie Inuit androids. Dammit!

b. THE POSITIVE: The more ideas the better! I love the Idea Genie because if I get stuck, or need help, he/she is right there to help me. And if the Idea Genie doesn’t have much to say? Beware! A good story should generate a million other stories.

2) THE CHOREOGRAPHER – They are the feng shui experts of fiction. They can see the room, where your characters are, what they are wearing, and how much nose hair is clogging up their nostrils. The Choreographers' imaginations are vibrant if you, as the writer, are doing your job at all well. If you aren’t, they generally will look at you as if you put a sofa in the bathroom next to the toilet.

a. THE DANGER: At times, they can get so stuck in the details, they can’t see the bigger picture. And, a poor choreographer can suggest you describe every little action in excruciating detail. For example: “Harvey placed his left foot into the car first, gripping the car door with his left hand, while his right hand held onto the lip of the roof, feeling the spongy rubber that would cling to the car door after he pulled it shut.” Versus: “Harvey got into the car.”

b. THE POSITIVE: I love me a good choreographer because I write scenes for the emotion and action and the character and the dialogue. I don’t care where they are in space, and so I need a choreographer to keep me grounded.

3) THE FASHIONISTA – This critiquer reads the trade journals, follows all the trendy publishing blogs, and spends hours reading about the market, about the deals, about what’s hot and what’s not. She knows the fiction fashion trends and the itchy little tastes of industry professionals. Prologue? No. Heavy narrator? No. Long titles? No. Close third-person POV? Yes. First person? Even better. Short titles? Yes. Series? Yes (if handled well). Novellas? Yes.

a. THE DANGER: The publishing fashionista can get so caught up in the shoulds, the musts, and the current fashion trends, that he/she forgets that writing has no rules. Good writing works even if it has a prologue, a heavy narrative voice, and a long title. Also, the Fashionistas can come across as such experts you will kill your book to please them when in the end, no one knows what is going to sell and when fashion trends begin and end.

b. THE POSITIVE: Let the Fashionista do the research for you. Listen to them, take what you like, and then walk politely away. Knowing the market can be helpful, but again, be careful. Books are murdered everyday by people who know exactly what New York is looking for. And when I say New York, I mean the publishing industry experts. While the readers? They don’t care about the trends. They read what they like. And so we come to my favorite critique.

4) PLAIN JANE READER EXTRAORDINAIRE – He/she is a reader first. They love books. They love stories. They get swept along in the action and will cry when it’s sad and laugh when it’s funny. They might not offer much concrete advice on how to fix stuff, but they will have a general idea of what doesn’t work and when. They are not editors. Actually, they are the evil anti-editors. Which for a critiquer might be what you need, especially if they are one voice among many offering suggestions.

a. THE DANGER: If you get too many Plain Janes, you won’t get much help when things don’t work. And the critiques might be really ambiguous, as in, “I didn’t like what happened there, but I don’t know how to fix it.” Or, “I didn’t like your zombie Inuit android character. He just didn’t seem real enough for me.”

b. THE POSITIVE: Are we writing for editors, or are we writing for readers? This is your audience. Their feedback is priceless. When I get a real reader to read my stuff, and they offer suggestions, I listen. I listen closely. Because unlike other critiquers, they don’t have an agenda. It’s not about their ego or my ego, it’s about the story and the impact it has on another human mind, willing to give up her minutes to read my work. And when my stuff works? The Plain Jane reader gets so excited. It is such a VICTORY!

5) THE PROFESSIONAL EDITOR GENIUS WUNDERKIND – Don’t confuse Harry Hater or the Fashionista with the Professional Editor Genius Wunderkind They might look and sound similar. However, the Genius Wunderkind is the person who has that unique genius to find exactly what doesn’t work in your book and then points to possible solutions. In essence, they are the ultimate critiquer. They could edit professionally. Generally, I’ve found them to be humble and unassuming, and good, so good, that when they give you their critique your hair will stand on edge, and you won’t dread the re-write. You will look forward to incorporating their edits because they have dynamited the fluff and you can get to the juicy stuff.

a. THE DANGER: The Genius Wunderkind can do a million things right, but they will have their faults. If you listen to everything they say, you may wind up with a book that doesn’t work. Why? Because their job is to offer suggestions, but they might offer bad advice. Why? Dang, but we’re all so human and imperfect. For example, the Genius might be a master at plot, but will fall short when it comes to character. So listen to them closely about plot, but with character, be more wary.

b. THE POSITIVE: Duh. Free professional editing. A better book. The excitement of a better draft. And did I mention free professional editing?

Stay tuned for Part III! Next time, I will reveal what kind of critiquer I am and how I've worked with the different classifications over the years.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, will hit the streets May 7, 2015. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"I am not interested in the ephemeral — such subjects as the adulteries of dentists. I am interested in those things that repeat and repeat and repeat in the lives of the millions."
Thornton Wilder (April 17, 1897 - December 7, 1975)
Our Town
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Winner, Pulitzer Prize for Literature

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Aaron Michael Ritchey continues his series on the different types of critiquers

* Stacy Jensen expounds on all the resources offered at public libraries

* Kathie Scrimgeour shares Sweet Success with N.K. Travers

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sweet Success: N.K. Trever

By Kathie Scrimgeour

N.K. Trever’s young adult cyber-thriller, Duplicity, (ISBN: 978-1250059147, hardcover/ebook/audiobook, 256 pages), was released March 17, 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books (Macmillan). Duplicity is available at

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

About the Author: As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. TRAVER decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said "no one could make a living" with an English degree. It wasn't too many years later Traver realized it didn't matter what the job paid--nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped. Duplicity is Traver's first novel.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

PPW Conference Tips

By Jax Hunter

Hello, Campers. The time is almost here for the 2015 conference. If you haven’t already registered, do it today. It is worth the time and money. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be flying clear across the country to come.

For some of you, this will be your first conference. For others, your nth. Either way, here are some tips to make the most of your conference... in no particular order.

1. Be sociable - no wallflowers allowed. This might be harder than it looks on the surface. Writing, by its very nature, is a solitary experience. We writers tend to be those who stand on the periphery taking notes, watching the story unfold. So, for these three days, work hard to get out of your shell and make new friends. If you’re attending with a friend, don’t hang out exclusively with your friend. You can do that anytime. This is the time to network with new people and rekindle relationships with folks you don’t see but once a year.

2. This tip goes hand in hand with the first: Approach. I haven’t yet met a single author at a PPW conference (well, maybe one) that was unapproachable. Most authors love to talk shop with anyone who will listen. Agents and editors are, for the most part, the same way. CAUTION - schmoozing with an agent or editor is not the time (unless THEY ask) for you to sell your book. Be yourself, have your 25-word synopsis ready on your tongue (see #3) and don’t pressure yourself to sell.

3. Write and memorize your 25-word synopsis for the piece you’re working on or wanting to pitch. You may have the opportunity to rattle it off to an editor or agent. But certainly, you’ll have the opportunity to use it with other authors when they ask, “What are you writing?” If you need more information on writing a 25-word synopsis (a.k.a. logline), here’s a link to my article on the subject:

4. Bring plenty of business cards. If you don’t have printed business cards, make them. The pertinent information is your name, your email and your website if you have one. If you have questions for a workshop presenter, and don’t have time to ask it in person, jot it down on the back of your card and hand it off.

5. Speaking of questions, it’s not too early to start listing questions you have that you’d like answered.

6. Write down your goals ahead of time. Goals for learning, goals for meeting, goals for helping. Spend some time with the brochure and select workshops specific to your listed goals, if you can. For example, if you feel you’re weak in the area of plotting, target your learning to this area. Make sure, though, that you take at least one workshop that is something new or off-target. And, remember, most workshops are recorded. Make use of the CDs.

7. If you have an editor/agent appointment, try to attend that person’s workshop or panel ahead of time. That will give you a feel for the person and answer some of your questions. That way, you don’t waste your precious appointment time with questions you could have answered elsewhere. As a matter of fact, Google that person before you even go to the conference. Find out everything you can about them and read every interview you can find. Preparation is confidence’s twin!

8. If you’ve even started a piece of fiction, you’re a writer. Don’t discount that fact - EVER. Be that writer. Be a professional. Start thinking of yourself in those terms and you will begin to act like it.

9. Remember, it’s not just during workshops that you can learn. Sit for a moment with someone you admire. Ask questions. Be prepared with a business card to jot down your question so that the other person can get back to you after the conference with an answer.

10. Stash a few small thank-you notes in your bag. There’s nothing better than getting a thank-you (written, not just verbal) from someone at a conference. 'That was a great workshop, I learned XYZ about character building. Thanks.' Or, 'Your speech at lunch yesterday was very inspiring. Thank you.' Make sure you put your name and email address on these notes. You may just strike up a friendship. (Note: the key to great thank-you notes is to include three points of cognition, which personalizes the thank-you and lets the receiver know the note is not just a form letter. These three points are specific to the recipient). For example: 'Hank, I enjoyed your Friday workshop on finding an agent so much, particularly the bit about cover letters.'

Follow up afterwards. Send that manuscript. You’d be surprised how many authors don’t do this - duh. Return the emails you promised. Send after conference thank-you notes. You can even ask questions by email weeks later.

11. Most of all, have fun. Don’t be afraid to miss a session and just sit in the lobby chatting. While many authors have been successful selling a manuscript at conference, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to sell that you miss having fun and learning.

Well, that’s it for this month. I invite each of you to say hello when you see me at conference.

In the meantime, BiC-HoK.

Jax and

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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

April Letter from the Editor

By Debi Archibald

I am writing this on Good Friday so we are exactly three weeks away from PPWC15. This will be my third conference and I find myself reflecting on how differently I feel about Conference, writers'
groups and writing in general than I did in Spring 2013 when I joined PPW. I had just walked away from a management career that required a grueling travel schedule. One of the promises I made to myself was that I would make use of the time I now had to return to a long-neglected love of writing. But the world of publication, promotion and "real" writers seemed very other-wordly and looking back, I can see I participated in PPWC13 with that mindset.      

Now two years later I have completed two novels, been privileged to edit the Writing from the Peak blog and attended dozens of workshops. Two concepts that continue to bubble up as a result of this engagement are demystification and accessibility. PPW has drawn back the curtain and revealed that the world of published authors is populated by people who are just like me. And the group has given me access to an insiders pass for information regarding craft, editing, trends, and the workings of the industry.

I share this not because my journey is unique or fascinating. As writers we all want to think we are special but I suspect there are many others out there who feel safer in the periphery just as I did that first year. So let me encourage you not to waste the opportunity of this upcoming conference as well as all the other PPW events through the year. Take risks, make friends and realize this world really does belong to you as much as anyone else. There is no Wizard behind the curtain; just the door to the wonderful, nerve-wracking world of words.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

"You always need that spark of imagination. Sometimes I'm midway through a book before it happens. However, I don't wait for the muse to descend, I sit down every day and I work when I'm not delivering lambs on the farm."
Barbara Kingsolver (April 8, 1955 - )
The Poisonwood Bible
The Bean Trees
Pigs in Heaven
Flight Behavior
Nominee: PEN/Faulkner Award and Pulitzer Prize 

Happy Easter, Writers!

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* Letter from the Editor                          Debi Archibald

* Ten Tips for Conference                       Jax Hunter

* Sweet Success: N.K. Travers                Kathie Scrimgeour

Friday, April 3, 2015

PPW April News and Events

By Debi Archibald 

April is Conference month but don't think that is all PPW has to offer. Make the most of your conference experience by taking advantage of the other events. Some are tied in with Conference and all offer the opportunity to talk to your fellow writers.

April Open Critique was on April 1 this month but mark your calendar for next month:
May 6, 2015 (Wednesday)
6:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs, CO  
Get the first 8 pages of your manuscript critiqued. First 8 to RSVP to
Guest critiquer TBA.

2015 Mountain of Authors
April 4, 2015 (Saturday)
12:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Location: Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Dr., Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This free event is an annual community program that provides an opportunity for the public and local authors to meet and listen to notable Colorado authors, and for aspiring writers to learn more about the craft of writing. No registration is required.

April Write Brain
April 14, 2015 (Tuesday)  NOTE: This is the second Tuesday. 
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The Marriott Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado       NOTE the location change.
Conference Prep 101: How to Talk About Your Writing to ANYONE!
Presenters:  MB Partlow and Jason Henry

2015 PPW Conference

 Friday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26, 2015 (With a Thursday Prequel)
 Colorado Springs Marriott, 5580 Tech Center Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919. 
 Phone: (719) 260-1800.

PPW Writer's Night at the Ritz
April 27, 2015 (Monday)
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Elbo Room at the Ritz, 15 South Tejon, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Join fellow writers on the 4th Monday of each month for writerly discussion, laughter, and socializing. The direction of the discussion is decided by the participants.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Emerging Author Seeks Advice...

Deb McLeod Emerging Author Seeks Advice blog
By Deb McLeod

Recently I got an email from an emerging author seeking advice. She asked me:
"What do you do when your head and your parents tell you to take the safe road into a job but your heart and your sister who reads everything you write, and your teachers, tell you to pursue writing as a career?"
She’s young, about to graduate in a few weeks. She’s writing a story and her sister thinks it’s good. She’s convinced she can make it as author. At a crossroads, she asks me for advice. Should she write, or should she become a practical young adult? Last time she pursued writing, it caused a rift with her parents.

Is this one of the oldest coming of age questions? What does it take to dedicate yourself to your art? What if you’re one of the ones who doesn't make it? Should you try or should you give it up and join the ranks of the gainfully employed and the owner of a healthy retirement plan?

Though I can’t possibly answer this question for someone else, I used to say to potential clients who were on the fence: if you hate sitting down to write more than you love having written, then walk away.

If you can NOT write, then that’s what you should do. Writing is time consuming, brain consuming and if you don’t have a healthy stipend, you’re going to end up doing both: making money and stealing moments to write. If you can walk away and writing doesn't eat at you, then take the road more traveled. It’s easier.

I tried to do both. As a late bloomer, I lived the dichotomy of wants and shoulds. I held jobs just to make money. I forced myself to work and tried to summon the energy to write before, after, even during. I wrote in the middle of the night when my daughter was small; it was the only time I had for myself. I dictated into a tape recorder on my hour-long commutes each day where I worked a 60+ hour a week job. Then I typed and edited transcripts on the weekends.

Deb McLeod Emerging Author Seeks AdviceI am happiest when I’m writing.

I have student loans – both mine and my daughter’s. I've only amassed a small 401k. Because being flush never meant getting ahead. Being flush meant getting time off to write.

There is the book I’m about to finish – an accomplishment I've worked hard for. There are all my like-minded friends. All the groups I’m a part of. The annual conferences I attend. The teachers who've shared with me. The encouragement. The discouragement. The downright petty. The competition, the frustration, the insecurity.

I have also felt the absolute silence at a reading when the audience is lost in my story.

I am at peace when I’m writing.

When I’m sad, I turn to a writing project. When I’m happy, I turn to a writing project. When I get something accepted I’m in bliss. When I leave critique, I want to quit.

I’m most passionate when I’m writing.

When I had to work and couldn't write, I wasn't very pleasant. My daughter learned there were times I wasn't available, by my own choice, not by necessity. My neighbors would say that injured her. My artist friends would say it taught her reality.

My husband is aware of the part of me that’s always writing. That I’m often a little aloof. A little removed while I’m mulching a story.

I can talk endlessly about writing and craft and books and process. But I’m stymied at a Tupperware party, bored with volunteer positions at my daughter’s school, disgusted with politics at work and I have nothing in common with my neighbors.

I’m happiest when I’m writing.

My father wanted to be a musician. He was a chemist. And he died at age 45. My mother, brought up by immigrant grandparents had her knuckles rapped by the English teacher when she didn't pronounce her words properly. She summoned the courage to ask that teacher if she thought my mother might someday write. The teacher laughed at the thought. So my mother put the idea away. Yet she was the most voracious reader I ever met, reading at least one book a day. Her legacy to me was her library.

What I really want to tell this girl is to jump now, when she’s young. To do nothing else until she fulfills her dream. Because now that my daughter is old enough and I’m established enough to make a living as a writing coach, I am free to write and I've never been happier.

What I really want to tell her is that the choice is personal, the potential for success not guaranteed. Babies come as do mortgages. And saying no to those things is just as bad as saying no to writing. So, marry well. Or win the lottery. Establish your career if you can before you have kids and life sweeps you up and away. It’s a good life either way.

But, truth be told, I’m happiest when I’m writing.

What would you tell her?

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fourteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, see