Join us to learn and network with fellow writers and industry professionals.
Sessions focus on craft, writing life, business and reality, and our new track – voices.
Workshops are subject to change.
Anchor Your Story with Emotion – Rachel Delaney Craft
Emotion, when done right, is the heartbeat of your story. In this class, we’ll discuss drama versus melodrama, surface and subsurface emotions, and creative ways to show (not tell) how your characters are feeling. Then we’ll dive into emotional anchors—powerful moments, memories, and relics from your own life—and how to mine them for your fiction.
Author Brands: Why, When and How to Develop Your Own Brand – Claire McKinney
The good news is that the internet has made it possible for many people to publish books – it’s also the bad news. With over 750,000 books being published annually, how can any writer break through the noise to be heard and sold? A Key solution is to have an individual brand identity that will make you stand out to your audience and markets. Learn how this strategy can benefit your work and the steps you can take to realize your own brand’s power.
Before You Jump Into Self-Publishing… – Steven Hutson
In the brave new world of publishing, you have more choices than ever before. Are you better off to bypass the “traditional” system? Self-pub offers many empowering advantages, but (apparent) empowerment is not always a good thing if you’re not prepared to treat it like a business.
Big Bada Boom: Writing Realistic Explosions in Fiction – CR Rowenson
Do you love things that go BOOM? Me too! I love it so much that I have two degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and spent nearly five years working with propellants and explosives in a lab. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the background and training I have. That’s why, in this presentation, I will discuss the types of explosions/explosives; explosives vs propellants; basic chemistry and explosive theory; and common mistakes found in films and fiction. What’s the common problem writers have – we all like things that go boom but often know very little about it What challenges do attendees face and how does it hinder them? – without a basic grasp of the subject, parts of your writing may seem amateurish to some – damages suspension of disbelief for readers What special qualifications do I have to run this session – Two degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering – Worked professionally with propellants and explosives for nearly five years What will the session cover – types of explosions (pressure rupture, deflagration, detonations, physical, nuclear, chemical) – Differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary explosives – Differences between propellants and explosives (both in design and in safety) – Basic chemistry and shockwave theory – What makes explosions dangerous (broad pressure fronts, shrapnel, shockwave transitioning through tissue) – Common mistakes in film and fiction – Discuss explosions in fantasy vs scifi – There will always be someone that knows more than you
Block the Block: Tools to Prevent Writer’s Block – Chris Mandeville
This workshop covers a “five-step program” for prepping your life for productive, block-free writing: 1. Freedom to Write 2. Permission to Write 3. Goals, Plans, Carrots, & Sticks 4. Don’t Go it Alone 5. Show Up for Work Each step includes practical instructions, tools, and hands-on planning worksheets to help writers at every skill level bar the doors against writer’s block. This workshop spans a wide range of “life prep” activities–from setting goals with motivating incentives, to negotiating agreements with family members, to organizing your non-writing work and your writing space–all designed to set up writers for productive writing without fear of getting stuck. As a bonus, Mandeville will also arm attendees with her top-five go-to exercises to combat writer’s block should these defenses fail. There’s no need to fear the block any more!
Building Your Story’s Stage: How to Strengthen and Utilize Your Setting – Caitlin Berve
Setting is a vital part of your story. Without it, readers can’t imagine where your characters are or how they are affected by their environment. Some readers return to a book series specifically for the setting. Think of Hogwarts and Harry Potter fans. If you can pick up your story and move it to another location without affecting your plot or character development, you aren’t effectively using your setting. In this workshop, we’ll talk about the 3 main components of setting, how to transform your setting into a character and/or obstacle, and how to weave your setting between action and dialogue.
Casting Your Story: How to Write Diverse Characters – Caitlin Berve
Today’s readers demand all types of characters. They want to see different races, socioeconomic statuses, ableness, sexual orientations, body types, and more. Developing diverse characters outside of your life experience can be challenging, fun, and a bit of a risk. So how do you write believable minority characters who are different from yourself? Find out in this workshop. You’ll leave with tips and exercises you can implement immediately.
Critique Groups: When and How to Use Them – Bowen Gillings
Not all critique groups are created equal. A good one can ignite a writer’s passion for the craft, while a bad one can smother creativity and motivation like a wet blanket over a cold fire. This workshop will address what to look for in a critique group, how to make a critique group work for you, at what stages your work should be brought to critique, how to accept and use criticism, how to give it (and how not to), and knowing when it’s time for the group to dissolve.
Dirty Drafting: Staying in the Honeymoon Phase Long Enough to Commit to the Marriage – Emma Nelson
Having a new story idea is like falling in love. We’re eager, excited, and motivated… until it becomes difficult and we’re left wondering if it’s a relationship worth fighting for or one that’s worth fleeing. Many writers often become frustrated and demotivated early in the drafting process, either lacking the confidence to move forward, struggling with perfectionism, or hitting writer’s block after the initial excitement wears off. Dirty drafting, or rapidly getting your ideas and story down in a quick, loose, and messy draft can be very beneficial for writers, both new and seasoned, because it forces us to move on and not dwell on mistakes, be less critical of our writing, be better at planning ahead, and maintain our enthusiasm for the project beyond the honeymoon phase of the first few chapters. Whether it’s for National Novel Writing Month, a kickstart to finish that idea you’ve been tossing around, or to get out of your head and write better books more frequently, we’ll discuss how to draft a novel in ways that are a lot less painful to ensure a book relationship that’s worth the commitment.
Drafting a Completed Novel in Seven Revisions – Kristin Owens
Novel revisions can be overwhelming! Misspellings, over-used terminology, verb tense, dialogue tags, not to mention strengthening scenes and descriptions… it’s a lot to tackle. If you’re stuck on what to when, and how, this session is for you. In seven editorial passes, you’ll have a polished manuscript you’ll be proud of.
Freelancing Do’s and Don’ts – Kristin Owens
Yes! It’s possible to get paid for writing. But like any new business, you need to understand the nuts and bolts to break-in. A seasoned freelancer will share the do’s and don’ts to a career fraught with possible pitfalls. This session will help identify areas you want to write about, show examples of useful forms and spreadsheets, identify potential markets, and why freelancing can be fun. Treat writing as a professional business and customers will want more. Plus, you’re the boss!
Hard Magic, Soft Magic, and Everything In-Between: The Four Universal Types of Magic – C.R. Rowenson
Writing a magic system that is creative, consistent, and interesting is tough. The design of magic systems is often approached like a form of art, one that has few structures to help authors understand and build systems of their own. In this presentation, I will discuss the four types of systems and how popular systems fit the structure. I’ll also help attendees identify which type of magic their story needs and show them how to build any type of system. What’s the common problem writers have – they struggle with building magic systems What challenges do the attendees face and how does it hinder them? – treated mostly as an art with little structure and definition to it – Sanderson talks about Hard/Soft magic, but that structure is incomplete – they struggle to understand what characteristics they want and need from their magic system. Why will attending this session solve this problem for them – it will provide them a better framework to understand magic systems – They should walk away with an understanding of which type of magic they want/need and how to start building it What special qualifications do I have to run this session – I run a blog dedicated to building magic systems – I’m a professional coach helping writers craft and repair their magic systems – I published a workbook on building magic systems What will the session cover – Sanderson’s hard/soft structure and why it’s incomplete – The four types of magic systems: hard, soft, rational, and nebulous – Classifying several popular magic systems – Provide structure to build any magic system – specifics to watch/develop for each of the 4 types – Time for questions What will attendees learn and be able to do afterward – identify what kind of system they want in their current story – know where they are in the creation process – have an idea what next step they should take
High Concept (2 Hours) – Angie Hodapp
If you’ve heard agents and editors beg writers for high-concept stories but you’re not really sure what that means, or if you’ve received rejections that describe your story as “too quiet” and you’re not really sure what that means either, then this workshop is for you. Come find out once and for all what high-concept fiction is all about and why it rises to the top of the slush pile.
How to Give an Effective Reading – Mary Robinette Kowal
One of the things a writer is often called upon to do is to read their work. There are few things that can destroy a good story faster than a bad reading. At the same time, a really good reading can make an audience excited and drive sales. Short of a background in theater, how can authors improve their reading skills?
How to prop up a sagging middle – Tiffany Yates Martin
Is there anything more thrilling for the creative soul than starting a shiny new story? That sexy little minx seduces you effortlessly, promising you a dazzling future, and in the heady flush of new love it feels as if this perfect communion between you will never end. And then comes the middle of the book. But when things get tough, that doesn’t mean the story isn’t worth fighting for. Figuring out the problem and propping up the sag can often add even more depth and dimension. When a manuscript loses its momentum, generally the issue is one of several culprits:
This presentation and workshop will show authors how to spot what may be derailing their story, and ways to get things back on track.
In It For the Long Haul: Tools and Tips for Writing Fiction Series – Kerrie Stephen Flanagan and Carol Van Nata
Fiction readers love series. Writing a series allows authors to create extended story lines, introduce more characters, and go into greater depth with world building. However, all these wonderful features can soon become a magpie’s nest of dangling plots and orphaned characters if not managed effectively. In this session, authors Carol Van Natta and Kerrie Flanagan will provide the tools and strategies to help identify and track all the elements of a series whether it includes three books or fifteen.
Inclusion without Insult – Bowen Gillings
Writing characters whose gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or identity differ from the author’s can be a minefield treacherous to navigate. Author’s have lost representation and publishing deals and have seen their careers evaporate because of backlash over appropriation, misrepresentation, reinforcing stereotypes, or perceived bigotry. So how can we write inclusive stories featuring diverse characters and cultures without getting cancelled? This workshop will help you do just that. This workshop is built on hours of interviews with multiple published authors whose identities and characters run the gamut and have found success.
Latent Themes and How to Market Them – Claire McKinney
We all studied manifest and latent content at school in literature classes. It’s time to refresh these skills for the benefit of your book’s marketing and sales. Prescriptive non-fiction naturally fits an audience looking to learn, but novels and memoirs have more angles than most people consider. with book editors and review sections still disappearing, find those niche audiences and readers who could provide media attention and/or direct sales for your work.
Lessons from NaNoWriMo: how to leverage NaNo skills for success in every-day writing – Chris Mandeville
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is all about writing a complete 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. It’s a terrific month-long sprint that often leads to a “win,” even among those who have never before completed a novel. However it comes at a price: the time commitment and hyper-focus needed to win often results in the neglect of everything else. This workshop shares lessons I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo that I’ve carried over into “normal life” post-NaNo, lessons that can lead to completing a novel in a short time while still leading a balanced life. The primary focus of this workshop is on “life prep.” I provide guidelines, techniques, and exercises to help writers manage their time and non-writing responsibilities so that they are able to write. I address a host of challenges like family demands, day jobs, workspace, personal health and wellbeing, and “writer’s block,” among others. Attendees receive tips, lessons, insights, and suggestions, as well as tools and techniques for trouble-shooting. Attendees leave with clear expectations and guidelines for prepping their lives, plus the tools and resources they need to create a balanced writing/non-writing life.
Let’s Read That Publishing Contract – Steven Hutson
So after years of struggle, you’ve finally landed an offer from a publisher. Great! Should you accept it? Do you even understand it? We will look over a typical contract, line by line. What’s good, what’s bad, and what’s worth fighting for.
Listen Up! The Scoop on Audiobooks – Kerri Stephen Flanagan
Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. With smart phones, speakers like Alexa and bluetooth technology, people are listening to more audio content while cooking, driving, exercising or sitting on the sofa. Now is the perfect time for authors to venture into the world of audiobooks, but there are important things to understand before taking that step. In this workshop, author Kerrie Flanagan will cover the listening and buying habits of audiobook consumers, the variety of options for publishing an audiobook and the components that go into a successful audiobook. Under her pen name, C.G. Harris, she and her coauthor have published 4 audiobooks.
Magazine Writing Made Simple – Kerri Stephen Flanagan
Currently there are over 7,000 magazines in the U.S. and they all need content. This master class, taught by accomplished freelance writer and author of Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing, Kerrie Flanagan, will demystify the idea that writing for magazines is difficult and only attainable for a select group. With the right tools, knowledge and understanding of how the magazine world works, having articles published and getting paid for them, is definitely possible. Through a discussion, lecture, and activities, participants will learn the steps needed to become successful magazine writers and at the end of this class, will leave ready to pitch ideas.
Maintain the Balance: How to Juggle Life, Friends, and Family While Pursuing Your Dream – C.R. Rowenson
The author’s journey is can be a long and difficult path by itself; combine that with monitoring your health, putting food on the table, and maintaining relationships, it can seem downright impossible. But it can be done. It’s all a matter of balance. In this discussion, attendees will learn the importance of a balanced life as well as different ways to focus their efforts, get family and loved ones on their side, and sustain it all while pursuing their dreams as an Author.
Making the Most of Working with an Editor – Tom Hoeler and James Persichetti
Your relationship with your editor is one of the most meaningful partnerships a writer can have. Join two professional editors for a deep dive into what makes for a successful editorial relationship and learn skills for how to find and maintain one. Topics include: Finding the right editor to work with, defining the editorial relationship at the onset, key differences between working with a freelance editor vs one at a publishing house, how to interpret an editorial letter and manuscript feedback, responding to feedback when you disagree, and more.
Marketing Bootcamp – Susan Mitchell
Learn tips and tricks for marketing yourself and your work. From marketing plans and media kits to press releases, advertising, events and social media… learn what you can do to promote yourself effectively and professionally.
Navigating the New World – LB Hayden
No matter if you’re a new writer, new to writers conferences or new to online versions, here’s where to start. Pikes Peak Writers Conference is considered one of the friendliest conferences in the nation. Join us in this interactive session to learn how to get the most out of a writer’s conference and how to bet on yourself through our online sessions.
Nurturing Creativity: finding body and mind balance to cultivate a more productive and fulfilling writing life – Emma Nelson
Creativity comes naturally to us as children, and even as adults we have bursts of it, but as the stress and busyness of life get in the way, we must work harder to cultivate a healthy, happy relationship with our writing and carve out time and mental space to be inspired. As writers, too often we work against our own bodies to sabotage our productivity without even knowing it. In this class, we will discuss specific tips for living a more purposeful writing life by listening to our body’s cycles, minimizing negativity and fatigue, and finding new ways to focus and find mental clarity.
Outline Your Novel With Conflict Streams – Rachel Delaney Craft
Conflict is the engine of story. The best novels have several sources of conflict, continually escalating and interacting with each other from page one through the climax. Learn how to identify the streams of conflict in your novel, optimize each one, and plot them together for a novel that can’t be put down.
Pitch Perfect – Everything you need to know to pitch your story (2 Hours) – Chris Mandeville
Learn how to “pitch” your story articulately and enticingly to editors and agents. Includes an overview of loglines, what questions to ask during a pitch, and what questions to be able to answer. The class includes worksheets to do on your own, plus a “talking points” form you can use to guide you through your own PPWC pitch session with an editor or agent.
PR in a Digital World – Claire McKinney
Workshop not final yet.
Promote Yourself and Your Project Like a Pro – Susan Mitchell
This workshop is all about getting comfortable talking about yourself and your projects. Learn how to present your project log line and your personal log line like a pro! Attendees will also learn how to create a one-sheet to encapsulate their project pitch and bio in a super sell-able format.
Researching and Querying Agents – Kristin Owens
This session is designed for the writer ready to query their finished book who says, “Now what?” If you’re ready to dive into the query trenches, there’s plenty of helpful resources to save time and reduce potential heartbreaks. This workshop will provide the latest and greatest tools, most are free and easily available online. Persistence and staying motivated are not the only factors which make a difference in successfully getting pages in front of agents’ eyes. Sometimes education will enable confidence, which is all you really need.
Roadmap to Completion: Planning your Novel from Start to Finish – Kendra Merritt
Unfortunately, writing a book is a lot more than just sitting down and putting words on the page. Some of us don’t even know where to start. How do you actually get to the end of a first draft? Some of us get done with that first draft and wonder “now what?” Whether you’re a pantser or a planner, every writer needs to have some idea of how to get from point a to point b. This workshop will focus on the basics of the entire process, from planning and outlining to rewriting and editing. We’ll take a look at each step with all its advantages and pitfalls so you can figure out what works best for you, and you’ll never again have to wonder, “what next?”
Sense in Sensitivity Readers – October Santerelli
Writing inclusive stories is important, and writing about experiences that aren’t your own may seem like a meadow full of landmines — but it doesn’t have to be that complicated! Attending this workshop will help you with the world of sensitivity readers! Learn what a sensitivity reader is and does, identify when to seek their opinion, and get some tips on working with one from an experienced sensitivity reader. Don’t know the difference between a beta reader and a sensitivity reader? We can answer that question, too!
Spoken and Non-verbal Dialog – Mary Robinette Kowal
When people converse, they do so with more than just words. Body language, tone of voice, and societal context all play a role in understanding what a person means. In this workshop, we’ll use in-class exercises to explore how to get the most out of dialog.
Stressing Your Characters – Mary Robinette Kowal
Everyone has multiple facets of their personality. Some of the most difficult decisions a character has to face are internal, such as the tug between work and family. Even if external circumstances are the catalyst, the conflict comes when a character feels like they will fail in some way. In this workshop, we look at how to pry at the parts of your character’s self-identity in order to create gut-wrenching conflicts.
The 10 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make – Tiffany Yates Martin
No matter how experienced you may be, no matter how talented, it’s impossible to gain perfect objectivity about your own work—so it’s no wonder there are certain missteps almost every author may make at one time or another. You can learn to readily spot these common mistakes that may be keeping your story—and your writing—from being as effective and compelling as they can be. Like Waldo, once you see it, you can’t unsee it—so find out how to check your own work for these trouble spots and how you can address them and make sure your story stands out. A practical, accessible workshop that can take your writing to the next level.
The Art of Handselling – Kendra Merritt
Handselling your book at a fair or convention can be a scary prospect. Especially for introverts or new writers. But being able to talk to people about your book concisely, yet compellingly, without overwhelming them is an essential skill, whether you’re trying to sell your novel to customers or other industry professionals. In this workshop you’ll learn how to pinpoint and attract your target audience and we’ll go over some simple techniques that will help you sound competent, confident, and above all will convince readers that they absolutely have to read your book next.
The Business of Being an Author – TL James
Building a platform for any literary/speaking career is essential to once success. The keys to building a successful platform are the 3 building blocks – Foundation, Presence and Launch. Once you establish a solid platform using this building blocks, your literary career will be both scaleable and sustainable.
The Quintessential Query – Steven Hutson
When you submit your work to an agent or publisher, you’ll probably need to send a query; it’s the most important letter that you will ever write. Learn the ten essential elements that will help you get to a “yes.”
The secret to fight scenes – James Persichetti
The secret to a good fight scene: it’s rarely about the action. While quick choreography, impossible odds, and exciting locations all make for an exciting scene, a great fight goes beyond that. The best fights have hidden secondary conflicts and tightly weave together your characters, goals, emotions, and plot to bring your fights to the next level.
Think Like a Teen: Finding Your Young Adult Character’s Voice – Caitlin Berve
What makes a story young adult? You could say a teenage protagonist or coming of age theme, but at its heart, YA is about seeing and experiencing a story through the eyes of a person on the cusp of becoming an adult. That means your characters need to think, act, and sound like teenagers. They need to have a teenage voice. 50% of YA readers are adults, giving a YA author one of the largest audiences. If you want to tap into that market, to be read, you need to learn how to craft your character’s voice. In this workshop will talk about why and how teenagers think the way they do, the best points of view for showing your character’s voice, and word choice.
TV, News and Media, Oh My! – Susan Mitchell
Gain perspective and authenticity when you include News, TV and Media in your fiction. Learn how newscasts work, how stories are cultivated, the difference between a producer and director, what reporters really do and more! We’ll also explore the difference between news and entertainment, reality TV and scripted programming.
Verbs, Verbs, Verbs! – Angie Hodapp
Want to punch up dull prose, tighten flabby sentences, and transform passive voice into active? Verbs are the key! We’ll spend the first 15 minutes reviewing the verb basics that are most germane to creative writers (tense, gerunds, and participles). Then I’ll give you six verb-focused tips for revising listless sentences, and we’ll do a little practice as a group. Finally, we’ll review a narrative analysis of several bestselling authors’ work to see how the pros use verbs to craft “unputdownable” prose.
Walking on Eggshells: Writing Disability without Offending the Disabled – Kendra Merritt
Your main character lost his arm? Your love interest can’t walk. You have all your research and experience lined up but now you actually have to write your characters. Without offending anyone. The trick to keeping the reader in the three-hundred-pound wheelchair on your side is to make sure your disabled characters are as engaging and three-dimensional as every other character. Easy, right? It can be as long as you’re paying attention to the right things. We’ll cover techniques for ensuring that your characters are people first, including why they’re important, what language to use, and the stereotypes to avoid.
Wrangling Westerns into Fresh Stories – Emma Nelson
The tropes and conventions of Westerns have remained fairly consistent since their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though they’ve seen many spikes in popularity over the years, especially with genre mashups in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Firefly, anyone?), the elements of the solitary hero/heroine, vigilante justice, arid landscape, and a trusty steed remain largely intact. Now more than ever, Western tropes are ripe for a reawakening because of the timeless relevance in which an outsider is drawn to new frontiers and answers the call to fight for an underdog cause. In our era of discussions about race and displacement, shifting ideals of masculinity, isolation, and new frontiers, Westerns lend themselves to continued nostalgia and reinvention in contemporary popular culture. This class will discuss why Westerns have lasting appeal and how to incorporate their elements into your own writing to create fresh and captivating new stories.
Write Towards the Ending – James Persichetti
The ending should represent everything you want the book to be, a culmination of the struggles and decisions your character has made, to deliver a final knockout punch. Whether you plot out every scene or set pen to paper to see where it leads, every story should build towards a satisfying ending that is (ideally) both unexpected and inevitable. This workshop is all about writing the most impactful ending that will leave your readers feeling like the hours they put into your book were worthwhile.
Writing a character outside your lived experience—A Little Bit of Grace – Tiffany Yates Martin & October Santerelli
This is intended for the new Voices track. One of the central characters of my fifth novel, A Little Bit of Grace (under my pen name, Phoebe Fox, released from Berkley/Penguin) is a woman with a very distinct and specific life experience regarding sexuality/orientation that was far outside my own, and a major challenge and goal for me was to present her character and her story as honestly, accurately, and respectfully as I could. I reached out to a number of LGBTQ+ organizations, and did extensive research, but what really brought the character to life was finding a woman with an extremely similar lived experience who generously opened up to me in hours of conversations, as well as offering to read early drafts for me and weigh in on whether I got things right. In addition my publisher solicited several sensitivity readers with LGBTQ+ backgrounds—and even the head of my marketing team had a strong family connection to the situation I paint in the story. I’d love to participate in a panel or discussion about this topic—I was highly aware of the need to be thorough, respectful, and informed.
Writing Different Genders – October Santerelli
Do you identify as male and want to write a believable female character? Do you identify as female and want to write a believable male character? Do you identify as a binary gender and want to be able to write neither gender at all? This workshop aims to explore both genders and non-binary presentations of gender in the realm of writing. Societal and cultural expectations (even in fantasy or sci-fi realms), how clothing aids in gender presentation, writing different body types for either gender, pronoun usage and adjective identifiers, the difference between sexuality and gender, and more! All of these to be explored with someone who has been both genders.
Writing Mental Illness – Rachel Delaney Craft
Mental illness is a part of our reality, and it should be a part of our fiction too. In this class, we’ll discuss the importance of representing mental illness in literature—and the dangers of misrepresenting it. We’ll explore how published authors have portrayed tough topics like depression, suicide, and eating disorders, and we’ll learn how to write about these issues with accuracy and sensitivity.