What I Learned at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference

This is how I looked the day after the conference. I had so many new ideas my hair exploded!

me

It is easy to be intimidated by conferences, pitches and critiques. The reason I signed up for the conference was to absorb new ideas and improve my craft. Since I’m only three years in, my sponge-like brain was ready to sop it all up.

From Chuck Wendig, I learned to “not care too much.” By that he means don’t get so wrapped up in one manuscript that you become afraid of rejections and are paralyzed. He is a great example of the opposite. He published his first novel, Blackbirds, only three years ago and cranks out books like some people bake cookies. Okay, not that fast, but he makes it look easy. Although that book crossed too many genres for traditional publishers, he has sold tens of thousands of copies. Long live Miriam Black! He has written books about writing for his beloved Penmonkeys along with a variety of fantasy novels. He blogs on TerribleMinds.com and his books can be found there as well.

Chuck Wendig and me

From Gail Carriger, I learned that writing can be like breathing. It is something we have to do in order to be happy. But sometimes we have to make choices. We can’t do it all. Gail had a career in archeology. Typing all day for work and writing her novel at night became too painful. She chose to write novels since it is her oxygen. She has a slew of humorous fantasy books on the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller lists, so I would say that was a very good choice! The first book of the Parasol Protectorate series called Soulless was published in 2009. She’s at GailCarriger.com and her books are here.

gail carriger

From Jim C. Hines, I learned that we all have an opportunity to include diversity in our books. We can write characters of any race and sexual orientation, and can include strong women protagonists. We can give our readers someone other than white heterosexual males to root for. His first book Goldfish Dreams was published in 2009 and is told from a young woman’s point of view. Go Jim! He has written three fantasy series since then. He can be found JimCHines.com and his books can be found here.

jim c hines

From Hank Phillipa Ryan, an investigative reporter for NBC’s Boston Affiliate, I learned to ask questions like, “Will anyone care? Do I care?” She encouraged us to work even when it’s hard since we’ll always feel a sense of accomplishment. She taught us that it’s never too late to start writing novels. She wrote her first book, Prime Time, after being a reporter for nearly forty years. It won an Agatha Award for best new novelist. Hank is my hero. She can be found at HankPhillipiRyan.com and her books are here.

hank phillipi ryan

The theme I heard all weekend was, “Writer’s write.” Authors don’t get stuck on one book, they continue to stretch and grow and learn about their craft by producing many more. We all have a voice and whether it’s heard by a few or by thousands it is still important to just write it down.

Are you writing a book?

94 thoughts on “What I Learned at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference

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  1. Wow, what a wonderful conference, Susie! (I love alliteration, even though it’s frowned upon!) I can tell you’re all pumped up. That’s what I love about conferences. How cool that you got your pic taken with Chuck Wendig. That photo of you with your hair exploding is hilarious!

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    1. I have no shame Lynn! It was cool to meet the authors!
      They were very approachable, supportive and willing to share what they know about the craft.
      I was exhausted on Monday from sensory and brain overload!!! It took me a while to digest everything I learned. *burp* Sorry, I couldn’t resist!
      I may be coming your way soon!

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    1. Thanks Phil! It really gave me confidence that my story will be read. Hopefully soon… 🙂 I really connected with the people at this conference. You’re right. It was energizing!

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  2. I have now added one of Gail Carriger’s books to my goodreads queue.

    How cool you got to meet Chuck Wendig! I love writers conferences because they do energize you to keep going. I took copious notes at the Madison one earlier this month. Thanks for sharing all the tips you learned with us, Susie. Good motivation to get back to it!

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    1. Chuck is a riot and so very nice!
      I have tons of notes and want to buy the CD for all the classes I missed! What these conferences do for me is fill in the blanks. Even though I’ve always been a storyteller, I just started writing three years ago and had a ton to learn. I’ve got to motivate to get away from my keyboard. 🙂
      Thanks Jess!

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  3. That sounds like a very productive conference Susie and now you’re more inspired than ever. Excellent! As you know, it’s been almost a year since I published my worst seller. I’m still in recovery from that experience.

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  4. I have a book in my head, but not ready to come out yet – ha! I wish there were more conferences like this here, but may just have to go to another State on the West Coast and attend one. Thanks for sharing what you learned 🙂 Happy Hump Day!

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  5. Hi Susie! What a great post! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Wow, what an awesome conference. A Wild Ride indeed! I certainly hope you get that mop under control girl. If you get the wind that we’ve had over the last couple of days, forget about it. lol. So did I read this right? You’ve only been writing for three years? If that’s true, we have something in common. I feel like I’m so behind everyone. I’m still trying to catch up with all the craft stuff. But, I’m not in a race. Best wishes to you! 🙂

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    1. Hey Karen! I can barely hear you over the wind! Whoooosh! It’s been insane for days.
      I used to feel behind, but when you read about the authors in this article, they all had other jobs before becoming an author.
      I finally turned a huge corner with the whole process. It took a while to understand structure. The next book will be CAKE or like baking cookies, right Chuck?
      Thank you!

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  6. Sounds like you had a great time and met some inspiring authors. Where do you get your energy, Susie?

    I’ve got a rough outline, but haven’t the faintest idea of how to actually write a book. I guess the first thing would be to just sit down and start writing, eh?

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    1. Actually there is a formula I just became aware of. I could have bought “Save the Cat” two years ago and it would have saved me a lot of time, pain and agony. It gives the break down and structure all books need.
      Go for it, Peg!!!

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  7. Sounds an awesome conference. Interesting & such a good way to network. We don’t have them here in NZ (well, not ones I get invited to anyway…). Apropos am I writing a book? Absolutely. Three, right this moment, all in various states of publication. I have to finish my effort, as author, to fix the botched proof-edit an upcoming pop-sci book I’ve written suffered & simultaneously make massive inroads into reviewing the proof-edited text of my next tome, also stacked up with the publisher. Another is waiting in the wings (also being proof-edited). I have never quite been this busy in all the years I’ve been writing. Eventually I’ll get to breathe…

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  8. Coincidentally, I’m on my way to a writer’s conference this weekend. I feel exactly the same way you do afterwards – head stuffed to overflowing, full of ideas and enthusiasm. Though, I don’t look nearly as good when my hair blows up! 🙂

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  9. My second stab at literary greatness is stuck in development hell,but I’ll never retreat or surrender, Susie.
    I’m glad you had a blast.
    Lord knows, you’ve earned it….

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