Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference 2016

Oh my god oh my god oh my god, did I have an amazing weekend.  For anyone who hasn’t attended a writers’ conference before, do it.  If you’re able, do this one.

Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference.  Go look at the website.  Easily one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to and I already cannot wait for next year.

The people were phenomenal, the sessions and panels were a huge education, and the speakers-slash-presenters were amazingly friendly.  Wendy Corsi Straub (@WendyCorsiStaub) said in her keynote speech that this business is a roller coaster, and she wasn’t kidding.  The whole weekend (while phenomenal) was definitely a rolling tide of hills and valleys for me.

Good Things I Learned:

Networking is not a difficult thing to do.  Hang out at the bar, be nice to people, buy an agent a drink if you get the chance.

Pacing is also not a difficult thing to do.   I went to several sessions that talked about story structure, and it’s fairly simple: find a structure that works for you and write out your plot points to fit it.

Characterization? Easy peasy.  Secondary characters need a simple arc and a recognizable trait.  Primary characters need motivation and you gotta watch where that motivation changes throughout the plot.

Setting? Make a lot of maps.  Visit a lot of places.

Querying agents? Do your research, treat them like people, and have a good book.  If you find one who loves your work as much as you do, hold on and don’t let go.

 

Tough Lessons I Learned:

You know what’s really, really hard? Doing all of that stuff with a million other things going on while still earning a living. Oh my god, it sucks. It’s so hard.

We listened to a keynote speech by Jeff-goddamn-Lindsay (ever heard of Dexter?) and he told us all about how no, he still didn’t feel like he’d “made it”, he still had a mortgage to pay. And that no, most of us probably wouldn’t “make it”, but we’d keep writing anyway, because what the hell else are we supposed to do with this internal drive to tell stories?

We can’t not.

And that hit me hard.  Not just Jeff Lindsay’s speech (which was actually incredibly inspirational and literally drove me to tears), but the whole pervasive sense of future.  That even if (read: when) I “make it” there’s still this uphill battle to have your voice be heard.  That even Kevin J. Anderson, with 50+ bestsellers and a personal relationship with his childhood heroes under his belt, cannot always sell an amazing book.

There’s no such thing as “making it”.  I think a lot of us feel like you get an agent, they whisk you away to stardom, and you live happily ever after.  And that’s just not the case.

Which is probably sort of a childish realization, but it made me cry.  Not because my hopes and dreams were crushed– quite the opposite, actually. This weekend it hit me that even knowing all that, even dealing with all that shit, this is my dream anyway.

God damn it, this is what I chose to do.  And I will love every snotty, teary, incoherent crying session I have in a hotel room, because it is part of the journey.

And I love the freaking journey.

 

Highlights:

I met amazing people.  Like, a lot of amazing people.  Jousters.  Forensics experts.  Paralegals.  One actual legitimate witch.  Other freaking writers.  We supported each other emotionally, we gave each other honest criticism, we exchanged cards. We told stories.

An author I was reading with complimented the voice in my writing.

One of the author’s young daughter  gave my friend and I a wonderful elevator pitch– and even let us read her story.

I met amazing people.

An agent asked me to send her a query. She loved my book idea.

Erin and I passed out Iowa Writers’ House information to most of the speakers, and they all sounded incredibly excited to come lead workshops– more information on that to follow if you sign up for the IWH newsletter.

I. Met. Amazing. People.

Here’s to next year, guys.

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