Tag Archives: NCW Conference

My New Job

Northern Colorado Writers

I’m thrilled to announce that I am the new benevolent overlord of Northern Colorado Writers. Kerrie Flanagan started the organization in 2006 to help support and encourage writers of all levels and genres and I’m looking forward to continuing that mission. 

NCW offers classes, workshops, meetings, retreats, and an annual conference, so I have my work cut out for me. Luckily, I have some great folks behind the curtain who help me run this amazing organization. 

SAVE THE DATE: April 22-23, 2016 marks the 11th annual NCW Conference. We will be bringing in an impressive list of industry professionals, so keep an eye out for that. 

I’ve got a few changes up my sleeve such as lower membership dues and a lower conference fee. There’s also some great classes and workshops in the pipeline. 

Stay tuned!

A Few Things I Learned from the NCW Conference

Another amazing NCW Conference. What a weekend of fantastic presentations and workshops. Here’s a sampling of what I learned:

Publishing Industry changes/trends

  • Consumers are the new publishing gatekeepers. Websites like WattPad, which allow writers to post their work online for readers to critique, is getting the attention of agents of editors, who want to know what readers want. Those in the book industry peruse sites like these to find out what readers are reading and will approach writers with contracts.
  • E-books are having little to no impact on print book sales.
  • Dystopian books (particularly in YA) need to be extremely unique and must stand out from similar books to be considered by an agent.
  • New Adult fiction, aimed at 18-25 year-olds, is gaining lots of momentum.

Children’s book Publishing

  • According to Laura Backes of Children’s Book Insider, children’s book sales (both e-versions and print) are way up; board books are especially hot right now.
  • Editors are seeking middle grade books right now, particularly those geared toward boys.
  • Word counts are changing in kids’ books. Picture books (ages 3-5) are at 500 or less, and for ages 4-8, the word count is 800 or less.
  • Illustrations are doing more of the storytelling these days (thus, the decrease in word count)
  • Turn illustrations into an app; broaden the story’s capabilities.

Creating Compelling Characters from Todd Mitchell

  • Weaknesses in a character are what make them interesting and bring your character into focus.
  • Characters should have both conscious and unconscious desires that may or may not conflict with one another, and plot drives a character’s unconscious desires to the surface.
  • Make your characters do something that you would never do; have them make big mistakes.
  • Be interested by your character, but if you know them too well, they won’t surprise you. If you don’t allow your characters to surprise you, they won’t surprise your readers either.
  • Mitchell offered a great way to get started on developing a character by filling in the blank: He/She is the kind of person who ______________________. For example, my answers were: She’s the kind of person who turns the toilet paper roll around in other people’s bathrooms. He’s the kind of person who makes restaurant servers cry. These are great ways to “find a window into your character.”

Plot from Todd Mitchell

  • Plot must escalate and accelerate. Each scene should increase in tension, making things worse for the main character and show what’s at stake.
  • Focus on internal rather than external problems by challenging your characters in emotional ways. The action in a story works best when it’s the external representation of an internal conflict. 
  • Killing off the main character is often a cheap way to avoid change. Life is more challenging than death.
  • Keep turning up the heat on your characters. Find ways to constantly challenge your characters until they’re exhausted; then see what they do.

Marketing with Jon Bard 

  • Create a “tribe” made up of people with a common passion, concern or viewpoint, and when the time is right, market your book to the “tribe.”
  • The author/reader relationship is a connection, not a transaction.
  • Instead of having links on your blog that direct readers to where they can buy your book (which never really sells books) offer readers something else based on your common interests and passions. Once you’ve established a relationship, then offer links to your book.
  • Do this by creating a Lead Magnet. Offer something, such as an informative video or a free ebook, or top ten list, etc., that is only available to those who offer their email address. 
  • Participate in groups where your “tribe” members reside, then use social media to point people to your Lead Magnet. Reach out to bloggers, podcasters, e-zines, etc. 
  • Stop pushing your books on readers and start pulling them to you. It’s not about you; it’s about your readers and what you can impart on their lives.

Queries & Synopses with literary agent, Kimiko Nakamura

  • Queries: Agents like when it shows you’ve cyber stalked them; just don’t send flowers
  • Queries: Don’t bury the lead, such as title, genre, and word count.
  • Queries: Cliche beginnings can pigeonhole your work; originality counts so stand out.
  • Synopsis: must have clarity of plot and pacing.
  • Synopsis: Knowledge of industry-standard formatting is extremely important. It shows you’re in the know.
  • Synopsis: Agents/editors expect to know the ending; don’t hide anything.

There were several presentations I wish I could have attended, but it’s tough to be in two places at once. Overall, the conference was a huge success. As soon as our conference Creative Team Video is available on YouTube, I’ll post it.

I’m also thrilled to announce that Edward Hamlin‘s fiction submission (Grace), for the Top of the Mountain Book Award took first place and Jerry Eckert‘s memoir (Weeping Kings and Wild Boars: Moments of Magic and Sorrow from Forty Years of Trying to Save the World) took home the top prize for nonfiction. I’m very excited to see both of these books in print, which I suspect will be within the next year or so. 

Happy writing!


NCW Podcast: Conference Creative Team

April Jenny Kelly--NCW Podcast

For your listening pleasure, here I am with my fellow NCW Conference Creative Team members (and authors) Jenny Sundstedt and Kelly Baugh, talking about the behind-the-scenes magic of the conference. We had a fun time getting cheeky with our host, NCW Assistant Director, Rich Keller. Have a listen!

Anthology, Conference, and Contest . . .Oh My

So I have just a few reminders for you. . .

baby shoes

First, the Kickstarter for Baby Shoes: A Flash Fiction Anthology will be relaunching this Friday. In the meantime, check out the Facebook Page for it. My piece, “An Affair to Forget,” about a man who sees his imaginary girlfriend deep in conversation with his wife, will be nestled among 99 other authors who are participating, like Linda Needham, Joe Lansdale, Danika Dinsmore, and Walter J. Williams. This will be a great project to support, so I’ll keep you posted on the progress. 

10th Annual NCW Conference March 27-28 2015The Northern Colorado Writers Conference is open for registration. This is the 10th annual conference and as part of the Conference Creative Team, I can tell you, it’s going to be one hell of a party conference. 

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

And that’s a good segue into the 4th annual Top of the Mountain Book Award that we  give out at the conference. You don’t have to be an NCW member (or even a Colorado resident) to enter, and the contest is open to both published and unpublished authors. You also don’t have to attend the conference to enter. Submit the first 20 pages of your fiction or creative nonfiction manuscript, plus a 3-page synopsis by February 1st, and you could win $1000. It’s so easy it’s ridiculous.  

That’s it for now.

Happy writing!

Save the Date: April 26-27 Northern Colorado Writers Conference


I am so excited for this year’s NCW Writers Conference. We’ve been pretty much planning this conference since last summer—it’s gonna be good! (And not just because actor, author, and director, Andrew McCarthy is going to be our keynote speaker) . . . it doesn’t hurt though, does it? The theme, The Art of Writing, is definitely up  my alley and myself and the rest of the Conference Creative Team are hard at work. . . We’ve decoupaged canvases with book pages and have picked famous artists to inspire us. It may not look like much now, but I’m going for an Alphonse Mucha thing here . . .


I’ll unveil this sure-to-be-a-masterpiece 😉 when it’s finished. Or burn it. We’ll see. Anyway, this conference (like the previous ones) are going to be one hell of a good time and I encourage all you writers to register and head on out to Fort Collins, CO April 26-27. Did I mention you’ll receive a copy of Andrew’s book, Longest Way Home? And get an opportunity to have him sign it? Well, you will. Looking forward to seeing you!


Oh, and while I’m at it, I want to remind folks about the Top of the Mountain Book Award that we will be giving out at the conference. You do not have to attend the conference to win, but it’s a great opportunity to swagger your bad-ass writer self on stage and be recognized for your amazing writing talent in front of your peers, agents, and editors. Check out the link above for contest rules. Deadline is March 1. Good luck!

7th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference

There is nothing like a writers conference to get that writing fire lit. Like any type of conference, being surrounded by like-minded people, can get you excited about learning new things, and then implementing them into your work.  This is the third NCW conference I’ve attended, and the second one I’ve helped organize. The conference is located in Fort Collins (where I live), is typically capped at 125-140 participants, and a great deal of thought goes into the details. The presenters are always top notch, and this year, we had a particularly outstanding group of faculty. They were personable, friendly, and eager to talk with participants outside of the workshops. For a good time (in the most professional sense) call Adriana Dominguez of Full Circle Literary, Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency, and Steve Metee of Quill Driver Books if you are a conference organizer.

One of the (many) highlights was our keynote speaker and NCW member, Jim Davidson, co-author of The Ledge. Have you read this book!? It’s fantastic and Jim is such a high energy, dynamic speaker.

Classes included: Writing & Publishing Your Memoir, The Difference Between Selling & Slushing, Dealing with Self-Sabotage, and The ABCs of Writing for Children, just to name a few. There were 28 different workshops and classes in all, as well as an opportunity to pitch to an agent or editor.

It’s hard to believe we’re already discussing our plans for next year’s conference, held in March. This year’s theme was Take the Road Less Traveled. To see yours truly make a fool of herself, you can see “Writer vs. Wild,” a video I co-wrote (and starred in) with my fellow Conference Creative Team member, Jenny Sundstedt I apologize in advance.