Monday, May 5, 2014

Conference Recap

Now that I am sufficiently recovered from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (well, that's a lie, but close enough), I figured I'd do a quick recap.

Courtesy of OCAL,
Work for conference started months before the actual event, but we really buckled down in the month leading up to it. April was supercrazyfrantic month. We had a precursor to the conference in the form of one of our monthly free events, Write Brains, where the higher ups of conference gave tips and information, then took questions. We had a ton of first-time attendees, and we had pitch practice afterward, which seemed to have gone well. My job was to put it together, get the pitch volunteers, get the word out, introduce our speakers, time and moderate, and then run around making sure everyone was alright and had water during the practice pitching.

That was a little over a week before conference. At the same time, I was prepping signs for conference (session signs outside doors, directional signs, name plates for various places, etc., etc., etc.) Not a hard job, but one that consumes quite a bit of time. I was also searching for a new blog editor for the PPW blog and compiling information for her. Finally, my job as Non-Conference Events Director was ongoing, as I searched out future speakers, put together upcoming events, etc.

So I was busy!

Conference officially started for me on Wednesday. At least, that was the first day I was in the venue (The Colorado Springs Marriott), working. We stuffed registration packets, moved stuff over from our storage room (office supplies, microphones, a sound system, goods for the green room, books and registers for the bookstore, and lots, lots more). Those of us on the Board of Directors were pulled for an hour for a special meeting with Marriott staff (it involved peanut butter chocolate cake, so I was happy to attend, let me tell you!) After all that, I ran around putting up the signs we'd need when we opened the next morning.

Thursday morning dawned, and I raced to the Marriott a little later than I'd intended since I chose to take a shower rather than skip it. Blurg, mornings! I ran into the hotel holding my shoes, managed to lose the hair clips I was holding (never found them), and shot around the lobby doing stuff I needed to do before I needed to start moderating the CSI session.

Courtesy of dnt designs,
The CSI session was awesome. In the morning, we had experts, including EMTs, a coroner, a homicide detective, and an entomologist/forensic specialist. We staged a fake crime scene, and they walked through how they would handle it in real life. After the break, we focused more on the mind of the criminal, with an FBI agent, a sociologist, a psychologist, and one of the first FBI profilers. Different from the first half, but still interesting.

When that was done, I went home to get my stuff packed up since I was staying at the hotel over the weekend. I had dinner with friends then went to the airport to pick up Sarah Peed and Terri Bischoff, both editors. Happily, I found them both (I'm always worried I've missed them until that moment I finally locate them). After grabbing their luggage, we headed out to the car and got settled. We have to give a spiel when we pick folks up, letting them know about high altitude effects and the fact that they need to drink a ton of water, so I gave them each a bottled water. On the drive back, we merged onto a highway after an ambulance went by and were driving along, the ambulance flying on ahead of us, when I came upon a set of tail lights that seemed to be getting closer and closer. At the last minute, I realized this car was stopped in the middle of the lane (it was night time, so vision was limited). I yelled "Holy shit!" and slammed the brakes on. (Whoops) The car had stopped in the middle of the right hand lane because the ambulance was passing it, but it was still stopped after the ambulance had passed, did not have brake lights, and didn't use a blinker and/or move over to the side of the road. In short, there was a giant moron in front of me that almost got us all killed.

So that was fun.

They were both super nice about it, and said they hadn't been able to see it was stopped either, due to the lack of tail lights. I delivered them safely to the hotel, got them signed in at the front desk, then with PPW, and ran out to go put up the next day's signs and take down the Thursday signs.

Friday, I "slept in" until about 9 (though I woke up before that...choosing to keep my eyes shut and just doze until the alarm went off). My first job of the day was being the reader in something called R&C 123. This is a Read & Critique where a panel consisting of an editor, an agent, and an author read the first page of 10 people's manuscripts and critique it. The panel that session were Hank Phillipi Ryan, Gordon Warnock, and Terese Ramin. I read the first pages aloud so everyone in the audience could hear them (and so the panel members had some time to go over them before commenting), then listened as the panel did their critiques. It was a great session, one I like to attend at least one of each year (so volunteering to help in that session is a no brainer).

I then got a lunch break and went straight from there to moderate "Get it Edited," presented by Tiffany Yates Martin. She has a company (Fox Editing, I believe) that provides editing services, and she went over what to look for in editors you're hiring. She had great tips, such as what to look for and what to ask. As moderator, I didn't get to take notes, really (I briefly tried), but since I was working I needed to pay attention to other things. However, I absorbed some good info. For instance, you should always be very clear on all terms in advance, and always opt to have an agreement in writing. Specify your terms in that agreement. What type of editing do you need (line edits, copy edits, or developmental/substantive)? How long will they take to get it back to you? What will it cost/how do they charge? She pointed out that they should be telling you WHAT needs work or needs to be changed, but not necessarily telling you HOW to change it. She recommended the book "How to Grow a Novel," by Sol Stein (or something along those lines).

After that, I moderated an R&C Author, which is a Read & Critique session with an author. This one is more private than the 123, and you get 2 pages critiqued instead of just the first. You read it yourself then the author gives feedback. I was basically there to keep it flowing between critiques and to be the timer. Kris Neri was the author in this case, and she gave fantastic feedback in a very supportive manner. I always enjoy these sessions, as well. Every critique in any critique session teaches me something about my own writing.

My final session before dinner was another R&C 123, but this time I had submitted a piece and I wasn't working, just listening from the audience. Unfortunately, mine was the third to last one to be critiqued, so I was in there for awhile (I'd been hoping to be earlier in the stack so I could run up and get dressed early enough to get to the ballroom on time to help set up for dinner). The panel this time consisted of Gail Carriger, Kristen Nelson, and Sarah Peed (who, if you'll recall, was one of the women I nearly killed after picking them up from the airport).

I got overall positive comments, which was great! This is anonymous, so they had no idea who the story belonged to. The first thing Sarah Peed said was, "I love it. I love that it starts with action and keeps the pace going." I will keep that in my pocket. The story I submitted was the one I'm still working on writing, but I figured I'd see if it stood a chance. Apparently, it does. Gail and Kristen had a couple comments, but not much, and then it moved onto the next person.

Once finished, I rushed upstairs to get dressed. Dinner that night had a steampunk costume theme, so I had a lot to do to get ready. I did end up a bit late for setup, but I was able to help for a bit, and settled in at Hank Phillipi Ryan's table (I sat with Mark Lefebvre, of Kobo, at lunch). You see, at PPWC the various faculty host tables (not uncommon at writer's conferences that provide meals). So you can sit with authors, agents, and editors of your choice. Mark was nice, also funny, and we discussed self-publishing short stories after they'd been published elsewhere and the rights for the other entity had expired. It was an interesting discussion, and one I've thought about before.

Hank Phillipi Ryan was also incredibly nice. She convinced me to go up for the costume contest. In fact, her final words before I went up were, "Take those dishwasher hoses up there and make your husband proud!" My hubby had created some goodies and decorated my costume. If I'd done all the work, I wouldn't have gone up at all. I'm not a fan of being up in front of people unless I'm working. I did go up, though, and I was a semi-finalist, though I did not win. Here are a couple pics, if you want to check out my costume (each of these folks blogs, too, and I've noted their blog in the captions)
With Evangeline Denmark, who blogs at

With Stacy S. Jensen, who blogs at

You can't see it because of my flash, but the tubes going up over my shoulders are lit up in blue, and there are blinking lights on the console in the front.

I posted a bunch more pictures on my Facebook. I don't have it on here, but you can always find me at (I do have The Warrior Muse's Facebook page on here in the right hand column, though.)

Gail Carriger spoke that evening as the keynote. She talked about how she was going to school to be an archaeologist when her big break in writing came, and how she was forced to choose between the two. She hit it big pretty fast, and has been going forward at blinding speed ever since. The lunch speech was our conference director saying hellos and opening everything up. We also had a lovely speech from Bonnie, past conference director, to honor some PPW members we lost this year. Among them was a friend, whose funeral I attended this past Saturday. PPW meant so much to her that her family held the service until the weekend after conference so that her writing friends could attend. Her packed bag was there to represent PPW, which was hard to see, but I'm glad it was a place of happiness for her.

This has run incredibly long (SORRY!), so I will continue onto Saturday and Sunday next week. Friday night simply consisted of what we refer to as BarCon, which is where all the writers retire to the bar and hang out. Much fun was had, though I ran up and changed my costume before coming back down to hang out. And I also took a break from BarCon to go put up the next day's signs. I may or may not have stayed up way too late with a couple friends, well after BarCon shut down for the night. Whoops.

Are you familiar with steampunk? Have you ever dressed up for a steampunk event? What costume would you go with? 

May you find your Muse.


  1. I don't really know much about steampunk but your costume is fun! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I haven't been to a conference yet but one of these days I hope I make it.

  2. Goodness. Just reading about your adventures and all that work makes me tired. Sounds like a wonderful conference!

    Mary Montague Sikes

  3. I've seen some great steampunk costumes but never tried one myself. Your conference sounds wonderful. Delivering my son to Colorado Springs next week as he takes up his position as Asst. Tournament director at the Broadmoor. Your writing group is amazing.

  4. Sounds like a good conference! The CSI session sounds meaty.

    I've never been into Steampunk - it evokes an era I have no fondness for, and the aesthetic doesn't appeal. But it is a fashion several of my friends dig, and I always like seeing them happy.

  5. Sounds like a wicked lot of fun, especially the CSI session. I'll bet that was really interesting. I can't wait to go to a conference - one of these days!

  6. Julie, I really don't know much about steampunk, either! I hope you do make it to a conference. Have you considered proposing workshops at one? As a published author, it's a good way to at least get a discount.

    Mary, it makes me tired again just thinking about it!

    Susan, did I already miss you? Hope your trip was good!

    John, the CSI session was great! Yeah, steampunk is not my thing, but it was fun to dress up in for one night.

    Marcy, it was a great time! Lot of work, but fun all the same.