Source: Children Come First

2003 Pikes Peak Writers Conference
By Olgy Gary, April 30, 2003

Wyndham Hotel, Colo. Spgs.
The 11th annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference was held on April 25-27, 2003, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The conference sold out weeks prior to the actual event. There were 420 participants who interacted with faculty composed of acquiring editors, agents and award winning authors. These are the facts. If you were one of the lucky ones to attend you already know them. You also know why Writer's Digest has selected the PPWC as "one of the best conferences in the writing world."

Laura Hayden, PPWC Director
The PPWC is run by volunteers, most of whom are well published authors themselves. The event is infused with a love of the art and craft of writing and is designed to enrich the lives of both published and yet-to-be-published authors. The faculty at this year’s PPWC was stellar, something the PPWC is known for. Acquiring literary agents and editors from well-known agencies and houses were present, interacting with participants during the weekend.

The PPWC was originally sponsored by the Pikes Peak Library District in Colorado Springs and it still is to a degree through the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration. It's also sponsored by the Wyndham Colorado Springs Hotel. In 2002 it organized under the Pikes Peak Writers, a nonprofit organization. The conference comes around once a year, usually at the end of April. Organizers could easily increase the number of participants attending the event but they choose by design to close registration at around 400 (I think this year it was 420). By doing that they maintain a cozy environment. If you want time with an editor or an agent you'll probably get it. You do this either through readings and pitch meetings you schedule ahead of time or by sitting at the table that agent or editor is sitting at during meal times. All you really need is their agreement that you'll be sending them material and they'll look at it. Every single one of them pretty much says yes to that. From then on it's your writing that counts but at least you bypass the slush pile when you do send your manuscript in.

Eileen Dreyer, Keynote Speaker
The PPWC was $215 to attend this year but if you take into account that it is 3 days and that price includes dinner on Friday, breakfast, lunch, dinner on Saturday plus breakfast and lunch on Sunday it's actually fairly well priced. I've always felt I was in a sort of writers’ heaven when I've attended in years past. Everyone there knows what you're struggling with or rejoicing about in relation to your writing. 

One great thing they also run as part of the PPWC is the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest. Several writers who've won this contest in the past have ended up with a publishing contract. It was thrilling to see one of this year’s winners, Denise Vega, go up to receive her award while the MC announced Vega had just sold that very manuscript to Little, Brown. The deadline for next year's contest is November 1, 2003. The contest allows many different categories for entries, from children's writing to historical and contemporary romance, mainstream, etc. Only unpublished writers may enter the contest.

It's hard to say what is the conference’s greatest asset.  Is it its organization? The folks that staff the PPWC are in a league of their own. They're helpful, organized, knowledgeable, very nice folks—not something to be taken for granted for they’ve probably gotten very little sleep getting ready for the event! You come in Friday afternoon and registration is set up and running smoothly by the tell tale sign that no lines are in sight. Participants walk up to the staff manning the registration tables and, within minutes, are on their way equipped with notebook, pen, nametag, schedule, and any other extra information they’ll need during the weekend.

Jeff Kleinman, Literary Agent
Is the conference's greatest asset the squeals of pure joy you hear throughout the day when a participant comes from meeting an agent or editor and has been told to “send it all in!” by them? I must say this is one of the biggest thrills for me as I walk the halls between workshops. You see clusters of friends and strangers slapping each other on the back and grinning from ear to ear, rejoicing in each other's good fortune. I’ve often gone to make a phone call and heard folks rave to loved ones on the other end of the line about their pitch times. Is it any wonder that top acquiring editors are looking at the PPWC more and more as the place to find new as well as established talent?

Joan Johnston, Featured Speaker
Could it be the faculty that is PPWC’s greatest asset? This year alone we had publishing houses well represented with Martha Bushko of Berkley/Jove, Russell Davis of Five Star Publishing, Claire Eddy of Tor, Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton Children's, Don D'Auria of Dorchester Publishing, Lee Nordling of Platinum Studios, and Steve Saffel of Ballantine Publishing. Literary agencies were represented by Mike Farris of The Farris Literary Agency, Jennifer Jackson of The Donald Maas Literary Agency, Jeff Kleinman of Graybill & English, Jill Marr of The Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, Elisabet McHugh of The McHugh Literary Agency, Michael Psaltis of The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency and Jodi Reamer of Writers House.

Kevin Anderson, Author/Speaker
Do you think it is the number of workshops presented throughout the weekend and taught by award winning and best selling authors as well as editors and agents that make the PPWC such an awesome event to attend? Have you heard of Kevin Anderson? Yes. THE Kevin Anderson who’s got millions of books in print? Well, had you attended this year’s PPWC you could have met him. I first met Kevin and his wife Rebecca Moesta two years ago when he was a keynote speaker at the 2001 PPWC. My son (a rabid fan of the Dune series) wouldn’t believe Kevin Anderson was there speaking at the conference. So, although as a bookseller I buy my books through Ingram at wholesale prices, I had to cough up the retail price for Anderson’s new title so he could autograph it and my son could keep it forever enshrined among his collection of Frank Herbert’s Dune titles.

Margaret Coel, Author/Speaker
Anderson was present at this year's PPWC and so were many others whose steps aspiring authors are following. I attended as many workshops as I could and, typing a mile a minute on my trusty little Z88 Cambridge, captured priceless pages and pages of notes that’ll feed my writer’s soul for weeks and months to come. My personal “aha!” moment came on Sunday morning when I crammed into a packed, overflowing into the hallway and standing room only workshop where Margaret Coel was to teach on “Plotting Your Novel.” An hour and six single-spaced typed pages of notes later there were so many lights turned on in my head by this award-winning author of the Wind River mystery novels I was in a daze. Coel had managed to address in her workshop not only the stumbling blocks I’d been experiencing in the middle grade novel I’m working on but, thankfully, the answer to overcoming those snags. So…yep, you guessed it! I made my way to the conference bookstore and paid retail for her book, The Shadow Dancer, just so she could autograph it and I could read it and keep it on my desk as a dose of daily inspiration.

This was my 3rd year attending the PPWC. I know it won’t be my last. My own writing endeavors have been nurtured beyond my wildest dreams by attending PPWC in the past and this year was no different. A key component in my growth as a fiction writer has been the critique group I’ve been a part of for the past two years--A critique group composed of authors near and dear to my heart…who were complete strangers to me two years ago at the 2001 PPWC.
Order tapes from Summit AV
That’s where we met, over lunch one day, and have walked together ever since.

Although not quite the same as being there, most workshop sessions were taped and are available through the mail. Download and print the order form, check which tapes you want and mail it to Summit AV in Colorado Springs. The PDF file has their address and phone number if you have any questions. [ Download PDF file ].

Alicia Rasley, Author/Speaker
What is it that makes the PPWC a must to attend for seasoned as well as newbies in the writing field? Is it how well it’s organized? Is it the faculty? The workshops that are taught? The authors you get to meet? It is this and so much more. It’s the opportunity to see dreams come true, writing careers given a jump-start, friendships made that could last a lifetime. The PPWC is a magical place where for 3 days in April, staff and volunteers bring together in one place some of the best talent the publishing and writing industry has to offer. And those of us lucky enough to register well in advance reap the benefits for a lifetime.

Subscribe to the CCF Bulletin to receive notices on this and other events as they come up. April 23-25, 2004 are the dates for next year's PPWC.
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