Musings from the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference

I attended my first-ever writing conference last weekend in Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.  While admittedly my attendance was initially motivated by winning 1st place for Ragnarök Willie in the Pikes Peak Writers Zebulon Fiction Award contest, I came away with a lot more than just that (really nice) certificate.

PP

Firsts for me:

  • First writing conference.  As mentioned above, this was my first ever writing confab.
  • First time to hang out with literally hundreds of talented writers at once
  • First time someone ever told me “There are five key scenes in every novel,” see below
  • First time to read an excerpt aloud in front of a literary agent and a whole bunch of talented writers–amazing
  • First time to meet a literary agent (one of several)
  • First time to query an agent face to face–not so amazing
  • First place in that writing contest…
2015 Zebulon Award. Photo courtesy Jared Hagan

2015 Zebulon Award. Photo courtesy Jared Hagan

New stuff I learned (or relearned)

  • Lots of people have pen names, but if you meet them face to face, you use their real name.  I was a little worried about this as my name tag read  C.R. Hodges, but it was okay just to say, “Hi, I’m Chuck.” Turns out that R.L. Stine, the keynote speaker is just Bob, and Andrew Gross is just Andy.
  • At a writing conference, literary agents are always surrounded by a really large gaggle of aspiring writers.  It’s tough to heard with all the geese-a-squawking
  • But  agents are people too, and deserve a little breathing room
  • Turns out pretty much every novel has five major scenes (I did not know this, but it makes huge sense):
    • Hook
    • Point of no return
    • Reversal
    • Darkest hour
    • Climax
  • It is true that exclamation points and rhetorical questions are frowned upon
  • Every agent likes things different
  • Writing awards like the Zebulon seem to impress other writers but do not seem to impress agents or editors
  • Even shy writers can easily break the ice with other writers–“so what do you write?”
  • This is not necessarily true talking to agents…

geese c

Stuff I gotta work on

  • Querying better–there is a fine art to this that I still don’t get
  • Plotting rather than pantsing
  • Getting in closer with my characters
  • Pushing to the front of the gaggle of geese when an agent is sighted (probably will never learn this)

Back to writing.  Lots to do.

CR Hodges

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