Today, we hear from Roberta Crownover, not only a 2017 scholarship recipient, but a top contender in the 2009 Paul Gilette Writing Contest (now known as the Zebulon).
Scholarship applications for Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018 will be accepted from November 15, 2017 through January 15, 2018. You can find more information here.
If you'd like to donate to our Conference Scholarship fund, you may do so easily via PayPal.
A Kick in the StomachSo, I was hanging things up on my wall the other day, like you do, and I found my framed certificate for Third Place in the Short Story division of the Paul Gillette Writing Contest at PPWC. The year was 2009.
That kicked me in the stomach. 2009 was only a few years ago. The places I've gone since have been so amazing that I can't believe that since that day in October 2008 when my husband said, "Why don't you submit to this contest?" I've covered the distances and built the words and worlds I have.
"Are you nuts?" (This is probably a PG-13 version of my response. No, no probably about it.) "I don't have anything to submit. I've got days before the deadline. I can't do this." I lay my head down on my desk to contemplate my futile attempts at self-expression.
My husband, being a different kind of anal-retentive personality than I, went to the garage and grabbed a banker's box full of paper, which he proceeded to drop on my office floor, spreading dust mites and mold spores throughout.
"What the hell...?" (It's hard to jar oneself out of a good primadonna moment, ya know?) I said while coughing.
"Your writing. From the last twenty-five years." He leaned against the door jamb and smirked. "Every time you asked me to read something, I saved it."
My eyes narrowed. I considered my options. I could kill him or hug him. The best option was to see what he'd scrounged. His sentencing could wait until I discerned whether his gift was worthy. Outwardly scowling, inwardly piqued, I turned my back on him and began to rummage through my past.
Meeting the Person I Once WasIt's a curious thing, meeting the person I once was. The stories I wanted to tell then are lovely reminders of children's birthdays and bedtime stories. There are also angst-ridden bursts of "I need to scream this and don't know how." Sometimes, the two are interwoven. I found myself, more than once, rocking back on my heels and congratulating my former self for not being as stupid as I remembered me being.
2008. Nearly nine years ago.
It still took me a while to get busy.
Writing with IntentWriting with intent is a process of learning and exploring. I'm not sure I knew that when I started college at the ripe old age of forty-five. I surely didn't know that when I actively started writing my fiction later.
Like most of us, I have always wanted to be able to say "I am a writer." Like all of us, I believe that I have worthy stories to tell. And like many of us, I doubt my skills.
This is where the circle's ends meet. 2008.
I showed in the short story category. I attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It was amazing and terrifying. So many people who all had stories to tell.
I'm not a fast learner. It took some time, some years, and a lot of encouragement for me to begin to believe in my stories and my words.
There were some rough landings. When I had to rewrite the first many pages of my novel to reflect my changed understanding of who the characters were and, importantly, who my audience was, I lost hope. For a while. Until some members of the writing tribe came and kicked me in the butt.
Then, to steal a line from "High Hopes," I picked myself off, dusted myself off, and started all over again.
Every time I did so, I learned. I'd find myself treading deep waters and somehow wade to shore.
That somehow was often through the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and the regular events PPW sponsors.
We Writers Are Not AlonePerhaps the most important facet of all this for writers to remember is that we are not alone. We do have a tribe. Our tribe is eclectic and sometimes eccentric. It's not easy to pick us out in a crowd. We might have the tallest high-heels, or be dressed in our jammies. It's possible that we appear to be normal people. We might even think of ourselves as normal. (We writers are allowed our delusions, too, ya know.) But we share our stories.
We share our stories. And, because we want others to remember them, we strive to learn the craft.
2017’s conference was another amazing learning experience. All of the presenters I heard offered me new insight into my work. Listening to Donald Maass opened me up to allow odd moments of discontinuity in my characters’ thinking to permit a different kind of aha for both writer and reader. I’m afraid I’m still better at it in relatively shallow ways, but I’m working on it.
There’s another thing I should mention: I’m more than a little terrified of people not liking my work. But that, too, I’m working on. The tribe is keeping me at it.
And now I have something else to hang on my wall – the best of the best rejection letters. This is getting to be really fun.
Roberta Crownover writes historical fiction and teaches history at a local community college. Roberta can be found online on Twitter.