My husband and I chose the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs for several reasons. I grew up in Colorado, and we hope to return there someday. I use the tagline “A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity.” I’ve lived in Vermont for 16 years now. It’s been 23 years since I’ve lived in Colorado, and we’re years away from being able to move back.
Another reason for choosing PPWC was that it is an all-genre conference, not just Romance or Science Fiction. I didn’t have to leave half my work behind; I found interesting sessions that apply to all aspects of my writing. And the people…this was an incredible group! So encouraging and friendly and silly at all the right times.
Overwhelming was the theme of the weekend. OK… actually it was “Writing From the Ashes.” But my theme was overwhelmed.
First of all, I was very conscious of the fact that there were a lot of people there who were fabulous or important in one way or another and I wouldn’t recognize most of them. It’s a big world, and I’m still relatively new to it. I learned so much from so many people, even other writers who, like me, only have a couple of shorts out and are still working on the first published novel.
Secondly, after each and every session I felt like I had learned so very much, and I could have written a long blog post out of each and every one. But after each session was another session and another… more insights and inspiration at every turn.
I took the advice to heart that my first conference should concentrate on learning and networking. I did not pitch. I signed up for a read-and-critque where I read my first page (only 16 lines) out loud and the expert (in this case, agent Hannah Bowman) gave instant feedback. I was amazed at how good she was at giving all of us very real and helpful comments on those 16 lines!
I knew I couldn’t take in everything. I even skipped a couple sessions completely so I could rest and recover in between. I attended sessions on genre, comedy, word-smithing, as well as a few on the business of writing such as the author-agent relationship. There was some disagreement on various topics, most notably the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing debate.
My favorite session was in Rockrimmon on Saturday afternoon with DeAnna Knippling. Rockrimmon was set up as a more informal, interactive session, and by luck there were just a few of us there. I was able to get into some very nitty-gritty details with DeAnna, such as when to use the term “Science Fiction,” when to use “SciFi” and when to use “SF.” I won’t bore you with the details. I’m not sure I understand them myself…
Now that I’m home again, I have a good idea of where I need to go next. That will be another blog post. There will also be a blog post about my biggest regret from the conference. My first day back I didn’t get to think about writing very much since I spent the day with my daughters. Next week is final exams, so my attention needs to be there for a few more days. The good news is that after next week I’ll be done teaching for the semester, and will have more time to write!
And to submit. It’s about damn time.