It’s hard to believe another Pikes Peak Writers Conference has come and gone. It was, as always, great to hang out with other writers and agents and editors. The weekend started early on Friday, with the carpool leaving my house at about 6:30 in the morning. I had the lingering dream image of bare feet in my head—it often symbolizes walking one’s true path, so I took that as a very good sign. And it’s always good to travel with Janet Fogg and Shirley Wilsey, members of my 20-year-old critique group.
The conference started for me with a session by Bev Sninchak on Paranormal Investigations. I found out that ghosts drain batteries, which explained why batteries at my house failed in great numbers shortly after my mother died. I’m fascinated by the work Bev does, but I’m not sure I could do it, since when I wrote a novel about ghosts I had all sorts of weird happenings in my house.
The lunch speaker, Debra Dixon, offered the most succinct advice on perseverance yet: “You have to be present to win.” As I’ve been learning, if you don’t find ways to enjoy the journey, the dream loses its luster.
In the afternoon, I read the opening of one of my novels in a read and critique session with Natalie Fischer of Bradford Literary. For some reason, my usual ability to read aloud fluently vanishes in this setting, as my nerves kick in and I can’t get a full breath, despite having done this many times at many conferences. But I got through the page and she liked it, so after that I could breathe again.
By the evening, I’d entered the zone of severe sleep deprivation, but so had everyone else at the children’s writers party. Andrea Brown came by, so I was able to tell her that I had mis-heard something she said years ago at PPWC, and I’d gotten an entire novel out of it. It’s good to thank your muses when the occasion arises. As they had last year, the hosts, Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum, provided temporary tattoos. The caduceus-like one called to me, especially since it had a sword in place of the staff, so it evoked the Ace of Swords in the tarot. All good associations of healing and new beginnings. However, not even tattoos could keep the party going past ten, since we were all so tired out from the day’s early start. The best part about that night’s insomnia—the tattoo glowed in the dark.
Saturday started with Natalie Fischer’s incredibly helpful workshop on writing a hook, which she generously posted to her blog. If you’ve been looking for a useful formula, check it out here.
After a couple of agent and editor panels, it was time for lunch. I sat with Denise Little and thanked her for her encouragement from a read and critique I did with her a few years back. It’s great to see familiar faces and be able to say, “You helped me when I needed help.” The lunch speaker, Beth Kendrick, offered her top ten tips for writers, keeping us laughing the whole time. I particularly appreciated her comment that the best part of being a writer is having writer friends. After twenty years in my first critique group, and having made many, many friends along the way, I have to agree. Although those moments of inspiration when everything suddenly becomes clear are also the best thing.
After lunch I went to a panel on marketing e-books, offered by Becky Clark. Becky’s a lot of fun, and her sessions are packed with info, so that was a good combination for the post-lunch slot. She definitely keeps an audience awake!
At the end of the afternoon, I had my pitch appointment. Though I’ve done a lot of these, there’s still a certain nervousness that arises from sitting down with someone you want to impress. Fortunately, Natalie Fischer is very approachable, and once we got to talking about dreamwork, the rest was easy for me. Of course, the table cloth caught on my pant leg when I stood up and threatened the water glass’s stability, but I did avoid dumping ice water on Natalie, so it’s all good.
At the awards banquet, I had the pleasure of cheering on a couple of long-time writer friends—Carrie Seidel, who won first place in Children’s, and Pam Mingle, who placed first in Romance. The evening’s speaker, John Hart, kept us laughing while tossing in the occasional note to get us all choked up. His words of wisdom resonated with me, after my tens of thousands of steps along the writing path: “It’s dangerous to put your foot out the front door. You never know where the path will lead. It could be a really good place.”
Sunday morning I went to two workshops—Karen Albright Lin’s on Nonfiction Proposals, and Becky Clark’s on Turning Research into Revenue. Both were very helpful, and got me to thinking more seriously about writing about dreamwork. The book I’ve been gradually drafting on it is calling…right after I crank through my to-do list.
At the luncheon, I was astonished to win the on-site contest, which had been a scavenger hunt for clues to a larger puzzle, and which I collaborated on with a couple of friends. Since the prize was a huge basket of books, it was easy to share with my friends. Thanks to Dawn Smit of Rainbow Editing for sponsoring the basket! It was great fun to leave feeling lucky.
Next year is Pikes Peak Writers’ twentieth anniversary conference. They’ve already started on a fantastic line-up of presenters, so save the date—April 19-22, 2012. Thanks, PPWC, for another great conference!