Tag Archives: Northern Colorado Writers

Northern Colorado Writing News

Registration for the 12th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference is January 9, and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s lineup. This time last year, when I took over directorship of NCW, the only thing we had done for the 2016 conference, was a secured venue. About six weeks later, we had most of our faculty set, but I was minus a few brain cells. I was so jazzed about the 2017 conference, that I got to work early on it and once again, we have a stellar conference on our hands. It also allowed me plenty of time to continually annoy Chuck Wendig, until he finally agreed to be a presenter and our keynote speaker. Now, I only annoy him once in a while.

This year, attendees will have more opportunities to get their work in front of literary agents and editors because not only do we have twice as many industry professionals as last year, we’re offering a critique session in addition to pitches. I’m still working on a lot of details, but you can view the SCHEDULE and check out our FAQs page. We would love to have you join us!

Also, there are a few new classes NCW is offering in February. Chuck Barrett, a bestselling, self-publishing extraordinaire, will be spilling all his marketing secrets on February 7. Chuck gave an abbreviated version of this class at last year’s conference to a packed room of attendees. It was one of the highest rated sessions last year.

 

Yours truly will be offering a class on how to publish your family history or memoir on February 12. Publishing options can be confusing and intimidating for writers, so for those who aren’t writers, but want to leave their legacy, or that of a loved one, the process can be daunting. That’s where I plan to blow the cover off this whole writing thing and show it’s not that hard after all. (Well, you know, sort of.)

Rachel Weaver will be teaching Get Your Opening Chapters Submission Ready  (perfect if you’re ready to query or pitch to an agent) on February 26. This is a 3-hour workshop that will help you polish those opening chapters when an agent or editor requests to read more.

 

I’ll be adding a few more classes, so check the site periodically for updates. I also want to let you know about Ultimate Pitchfest, a one-day event in Denver where writers will have the chance to pitch to 24 different literary agents via video chat. This is a great event and had a pretty darn successful inaugural event last year.

Happy writing!

2016 Northern Colorado Writers Conference April 22-23

2016 Conference-Banner

I haven’t done a very good job of keeping this blog updated, but as the new director of Northern Colorado Writers, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in conference planning. Our 11th annual conference is around the corner, but you still have plenty of time to register. You can even register for one day, or just a separate Master Class. Our keynote speaker is bestselling author Grant Blackwood who will also be teaching a workshop—lucky us! And you! This two-day event will boast over 30 workshops taught by award-winning authors and industry experts from all over the country. Grant Blackwood

Plus, who doesn’t want to visit Fort Collins?! It’s the land of beer, bands, bikes, and books! (and quite a few beards, it seems) Come for the inspiration and chance to get your work in front of a literary agent then enjoy a local brew.
FTC beer

And look at this gorgeous program! 90 pages of presenter handouts and other writing information you’ll refer back to again and again.

Writing the Range

In other news, I’ll be at the Denver Woman’s Press Club Networking Event this Saturday, April 9th from 2:00-5:00. This will be a great opportunity for writers to hear from writing organizations along the Front Range and do some networking and mingling. Bring those business cards! You never know who you’re going to connect with. 
Denver Woman's Press Club Networking Event

Happy writing!

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!

You Gonna Edit That?

Grammar Books -- April J. MooreWhen our son was little and we’d eat out, he often saved his French fries for last. The untouched fries would drive my husband bananas. You gonna eat those? He clung to the hope that our son would be too full to finish them once he finally got around to it. More often than not, our son, right before jetting off to the playground, would pass the few cold, remaining fries to his dad. All was right in the world again.

I’m the same way with editing. I like to organize and clean things up, so when it comes to editing, I bask in grammar glory that there are rules about such things. And yes, I know it comes off as annoying to some, but whether you like it or not, these editing shenanigans matter. They can make or break you as a successful writer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always adhere to these rules and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, those mistakes are fixable and over the years, I’ve learned a great deal. I love reading manuscripts and offering content and copy edits. When I catch plot mishaps and dangling modifiers in a piece of writing, all is right my world again.

There are computer nerds, science nerds, and there are word nerds. That’s me. So I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m now offering editing services. You thought my Grammar Nazi ways were obnoxious already . . .

You see, I just want to get paid for being obnoxious. But helpful and professional, too. Whether it’s a full or partial manuscript, or an essay, or short story, I want to help. Visit my editing services page to learn more about what I can do to help bring your writing project to the next level.

And, on a somewhat unrelated matter, here is the Northern Colorado Writers podcast where Kelly Baugh and I discuss our latest books, our creative influences, and a hot new genre we are very excited about.

Between the Pages This Sunday Night

KRFC Between The Pages -- April J. Moore

 

This Sunday, from 6-7 p.m., Between the Pages, a radio show featuring author readings, news, and music, makes its debut and I get to be a guest! The show is hosted by funnyman, Rich Keller of Wooden Pants Publishing, and I’ll be joined by Northern Colorado Writers Director and founder of Hot Chocolate Press, Kerrie Flanagan. I get to talk about Folsom’s 93 and read from my latest book, Bobbing for Watermelons. Kerrie will fill us in on all the latest industry news and events, so hopefully, you can tune in . . . and given it’s a live show, hopefully, I don’t screw up. But there’s always that chance and you won’t want to miss it. Check out Between the Pages on Facebook and give ’em a Like; they’re good folks. 

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!

NCW Conference Magic is Happening, plus Contest Finalists Announced

Another Northern Colorado Writers Conference is only a few weeks away! This is the fifth conference I’ve been in the Conference Creative Team, and this is the conference’s 10th anniversary, so we’re pulling out all the stops for this one. I get to work with authors Kelly Baugh and Jenny Sundsteadt on the conference’s theme, decorations, and activities. This year, we’ve gotten a little rebellious with the decor (the theme is the Roaring Twenty’s—“The Lawless Decade,” after all) by using . . . glitter, deemed the syphilis of the craft world (thanks, Kelly for informing us of this).
GlitterThat’s all I can show you right now. The Fort Collins Hilton has always been so accommodating when it comes to our grand ideas of previous conference themes, but using glitter is typically frowned upon. We figured if it’s glued down, we’re not disregarding rules completely. It will be worth it, I promise.

We are also working hard on finalizing our annual video that the three of us write and perform in, to be shown opening night. For a sneak peek, you can check out our cheesy trailer:

I’m also thrilled to announce that our 2015 Top of the Mountain Finalists have been announced! So check them out HERE.
There’s still time to register for the conference, but don’t wait too long; attendance is capped at 130 participants. Hope to see you there.

Happy Writing!

Announcement: Upcoming Readings Feb. 24th

Reading by Writers feb 24 2015If you’re in the area, stop by Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins at 7:00 p.m. on February 24th, for an evening of readings. I’ll be joining my fellow Northern Colorado writers who are presenting their poetry, novel excerpts, or essays. I’ll be reading from my upcoming novel, Bobbing for Watermelons that’s due out next month. Tickets are $5 and you’ll also have an opportunity to purchase books, if you feel so inclined. Hope to see you there!

Bobbing for Watermelons by April J. Moore

 

My New Writing Gig

Northern Colorado Writers

The Writing Bug

If you’re not completely sick of me, then I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know that I’ll be a regular contributor to the Northern Colorado Writers blog, The Writing Bug starting January 14th. I’ll be sharing Wednesdays with the talented JC Lynn. I’m excited for this new endeavor and I hope you guys can find the time to stop by and visit me, JC, and the other amazing authors at The Writing Bug. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve already been told that I have to keep my trucker mouth in check while I’m over there.)

And if you’re really not sick of me yet, you can see me with my fellow Conference Creative Team members in a trailer for the 2015 NCW Conference on March 27-28. Have you signed up yet? It’ll be a smashing good time! (Click above, not on the video pic).
NCW Conference Trailer

Some Friday Reminders

Ahhh . . . it’s Friday. I think I just heard a collective sigh of relief. Well, before your brains go into weekend mode, I wanted to post a couple of reminders about two things (you can thank me later).
kickstarterThere’s only 4 days left to take part in this awesome Kickstarter for a flash fiction anthology, Baby Shoes. 100 authors, 100 stories. With the amazing lineup of authors involved, it’s going to be an incredible anthology . . . if we could just reach our goal! Check it out.

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

My other reminder is about the Top of the Mountain Book Award sponsored by the Northern Colorado Writers. You don’t need to be a member of the NCW and the contest is open to both fiction and creative/narrative nonfiction. Check out all the rules HERE. It’s easy! You could win $1000 and recognition at the NCW Writers Conference March 27-18, 2015. 

My last reminder . . . is to breathe. It’s Friday. 

Have a great weekend.

2015 Top of the Mountain Book Award

NCW Top of the Mountain Book Award

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about when I blog again. Yes, it’s been almost a year. (I will be posting regularly from here on out.) I’m talkin’ about the Northern Colorado Writers’ Top of the Mountain Book Award that is open to published and unpublished authors, and for fiction and nonfiction. Deadline is February 1, 2015 but I advise you to get your entries in before the time-sucking phenomenon called “HalloThanksMas” takes over your life. Before you know it, you’ll be tossing your shriveled jack-o-lanterns in the trash and waking from your post Thanksgiving meal nap to the jolly jingles of “Deck the Halls.” And don’t make this a New Years’ resolution because who sticks to those anyway? (If you do, call me; there’s an article in that.) Did I mention, the top prize is $1000? I’m pretty sure last year’s winner put his winnings in a low-risk, high return investment and now writes bestsellers from his Swiss chalet. What I’m saying is, that could be you. Check out the rules. Enter. Good luck.

The Effect of Andrew McCarthy on the Female Brain, by Guest Author Katherine Valdez

Oh, Andrew . . .
My guest author, the talented Katherine Valdez, had an opportunity to chat with actor/director/author Andrew McCarthy earlier this year. I had also met him at the same event, and I think Katherine perfectly captured the essence of what it means to have “brain melt.”

Andrew McCarthy 719

As teenaged girls, we swooned over him and Rob Lowe getting into trouble in “Class,” romancing Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink,” and falling in love with Kim Cattrall in “Mannequin.”

We feel like we know him. We refer to him by his first name. And when we see him in real life, part of our brain melts.

This is the effect of Andrew McCarthy on the female brain, a.k.a Brain Melt. I know it’s real, because it happened to me.

Earlier this year, I attended the Northern Colorado Writers conference, featuring actor/director-turned-bestselling-author Andrew McCarthy as the keynote speaker.

I joked a couple of times with NCW Director Kerrie Flanagan about picking him up at the airport, a challenging task she had selflessly decided to take on despite her hectic schedule. I volunteered to put my heart on the line, too. “If you need help, I’m available,” I emailed, punctuating my offer with a smiley face.

Still, when I attended the volunteer training – a dozen of us answered Kerrie’s request for help as “ambassadors” – I was surprised to see my name printed on the assignment sheet next to the task “Book Signing.”

Kerrie requested one more volunteer for that task, and my friend Dori added her name. We chatted calmly about Meeting a Famous Actor, and pretended the teenybopper part of our brains wasn’t screaming and jumping up and down.

The big day arrived. I spotted him walking through the hotel lobby. In a burst of confidence, I called out his name.

“Andrew!”

He stopped and smiled.

“Hi, I’m Katherine. I’m going to assist you with your book signing tonight.”

“Hi.”

“Your essay ‘Going Back In’ really spoke to me,” I said, referring to his first-person account of a young woman’s death years ago in Wyoming during an outdoors leadership backpacking trip. “I backpacked the Wind River Range once with my husband. I mean, my ex-husband. I’m divorced.” I realized I was babbling. “We saw a lot more people than we wanted to.”

“The Wind sees a lot of people. I’ve spent a lot of time in Lander going on trips,” he said, mentioning the town where backpackers launch their expeditions.

“We hiked in about 12 miles and there were crowds,” I said. “We even saw a Paris Hilton-type girl carrying her little dog.”

He smiled, as though he sympathized with our quest for solitude.

“We went up Fremont Peak and there was only one other person, so it was nice to get away for a while.”

He said something about the mountain, but I can’t remember, because I was too busy thinking I’M TALKING WITH ANDREW MCCARTHY!

“You know Fremont?” I asked him. “You’ve been up it?”

“Yeah.”

“The summit is so exposed, like ‘I don’t want to look down,’ ” I said with an embarrassed laugh.

Aware that I was starting to make a fool of myself, I said in closing, “I hope you have a chance to explore a bit before you leave town.”

He perked up. “What do you recommend?

“A good hike with a view of the whole city is hiking up to the “A” above the football stadium. You go all the way west on Prospect…” I pointed in the wrong direction.

“This way is west?” He pointed in the opposite direction.

“Yes, all the way west on Prospect and there’s a gate and you walk up a hill that leads to the trailhead, and you hike up the ridge to the white “A” painted on the hill above the stadium, and you get a view of the entire city.”

“How long does it take?”

“If you hike at a brisk pace, about a half-hour one way. So, go all the way east on Prospect…”

“East or West?” He smiled.

The painful realization struck me: I was suffering from Brain Melt.

“I’m sorry, West,” I said. I need to stop talking, NOW.

Andrew wore a slight smile on this face during our entire conversation, as though he knows the effect he has on women. No doubt he’s witnessed Brain Melt many times.

The irony is I hate the idea of being star-struck. When I see ordinary people screaming and falling all over themselves in the presence of a celebrity, I think, “C’mon, he’s Just a Normal Person.”

What the heck was I thinking? Of course he’s not Just a Normal Person. He’s a Movie Star. He traveled to India in search of the perfect cup of tea, went diving for black pearls in French Polynesia, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and published articles about these adventures and more. And, of course, he’s the author of a best-selling memoir, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down.

The best possible thing happened next. He turned away from my Advanced Brain Melt deteriorated state to talk with two female writers who waited patiently at his side.

I was so relieved. And just a tiny bit disappointed. But mostly grateful this episode of epic humiliation had come to an end.* Note to Self: Don’t ever talk to a famous person again. Ever.**

Later, Dori and I showed up at the book signing table, only to find that a vivacious redhead had appointed herself Andrew’s assistant, single-handedly corralled everyone into a line, and asked them to open their copies of Andrew’s memoir to the title page, ready for him to sign.

Dori and I swallowed our disappointment, and exchanged amused smiles. Brain Melt had claimed another victim.

—-

Katherine Valdez is the author of “Close Encounters with David Sedaris” and “Little Red Riding Hood Seeks Vengeance.” If you subscribe to her blog and like her author Facebook page, she would be glad to entertain you with more embarrassing, true stories.
__

 Footnotes:

 *With a fist bump to Aisha Tyler, comedian and author of Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation

 **With apologies to Taylor Swift, “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together.”

 

A Writer’s Retreat a.k.a. Naptime

20131110_080637

I just returned from the NCW annual writer’s retreat held at the Shambhala Mountain Center near Red Feather Lakes, CO. Maybe it was the soothing incense wafting about, the 8,000+ feet in altitude, or that the staff and other visitors seemed to peacefully float about with serene expressions on their faces, that I found myself to be rather sleepy on this particular retreat. Despite this, however, I only took one 90-minute snooze, which I chalk up to hours of vigorous writing, part of which, took place outside in the warm mountain air. Although my toasty room, equipped with a comfy bed, may have contributed.

Retreat1This was the first time the retreat had been held at the SMC, but I had visited the center once before. There were some rules to follow . . . one of which, was removing shoes when entering the housing facility. It took me two days, but I finally learned in the end, to strategically plan my outings to ensure the least amount of shoe removal. But up until then, I repeatedly forgot which entrance I left my shoes at. But I survived. The highlight of the center is of course, The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya that stands 108 feet tall and took 13 years to construct. It is considered one of the largest and most significant pieces of sacred Buddhist architecture and said to “promote harmony, prosperity, longevity, good health and peace.” Sounds good to me.

Retreat2All zenful shenanigans aside; I did get a good amount of writing done. Even though I came there with a 20, 653 word manuscript and left with a 20, 875 word manuscript,  I still accomplished quite a bit: an outline (that otherwise did not exist) and I rewrote the first 4 chapters because originally, they sucked. I came away with a much better WIP and I was able to work out some plot issues so that I could move forward with it. Had I not gone on the retreat, I imagine the only writing-related thing I would have accomplished would have been playing Words with Friends and maybe a kick-ass grocery list, complete with clipped coupons . . . while burning incense. I needed this time away to focus on writing and get re-energized with this book I’m working on. Plus, it never hurts to be around other writers, snacks, and wine…just don’t forget your slippers.

20131109_083348A selfie with the Stupa.

2014 Top of the Mountain Book Award

TOM logo

The Top of the Mountain Book Award Contest is officially underway! This book award, given out at the Northern Colorado Writer’s annual conference in the spring, is  open to unpublished and previously published authors. Plus, the award money has been upped to $1,000! You do not need to be a member of the NCW, nor do you have to attend the conference to win (although you should really consider attending this highly-rated writer’s conference). Check out all the rules HERE and good luck!

The Artist and The Writer: A Short Film

I’m still recovering from the 2013 8th Annual Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference and having the opportunity to meet Andrew McCarthy and hear his amazing keynote. (I’ll have more on the conference coming soon). In the meantime, you can enjoy this short film (6.5 mins) that yours truly and a couple of my fellow writers and Conference Creative Team members put together for the big event. Click on this LINK to view it, not the picture. (I’m too cheap to pay for the video upgrade).

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

NorthernColoradoWritersConferencePoster_Small

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 . . .

photo

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!

YPic_APRIL-PC_20121015-092535

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!

How I Retreated and Came Back with a Story to Tell

A couple of times a year, my husband takes a week off to go fly fishing in Montana. The days, sometimes weeks, leading up to these fish n’ beer excursions, he’s a little on the grumpy side because his mind is on the river and typically, there’s a lot to wrap up at work before taking off. Just a couple of weeks ago, he returned from those healing Montana waters, a new man. Little did I realize, that I myself had begun to morph into Oscar the Grouch the days leading up to my writer’s retreat. With a lot on my plate (not all of it appetizing) I haven’t found much time to write, let alone, relax. I had been struggling with starting a new novel, so the retreat called to me, not unlike the way trout call out to my husband.

original image

This was the third consecutive year I’ve gone on the Northern Colorado Writers retreat up at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, and each time, I made great progress on whatever project I had going. This year, I didn’t have anything in particular to work on since I’m in between projects. For the first hour or so, I sat in my room and stared at the wall. Another one of the attendees suggested I try these story cubes . . .

They may be geared toward kids, but they’re worth a shot. I ended up jotting down some short story ideas from them, but resumed my wall-staring for a while. Then, thanks to a few writing prompts from Writer’s Digest, I hooked into a story. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). I hand wrote several pages of ideas, then  plotted out the structure using the Plot Line Skeleton.

Based on the skeleton plot line, I then wrote a three-page outline. Before I left, I had nearly the first two chapters written. Since I’ve already started the book, I’m obviously not participating in NaNoWriMo, but I’m going to certainly write like I am. My goal is to reach the halfway mark by Christmas. So what’s the moral to this story? If you find yourself wanting rip the heads off kittens, please don’t. Take a time out to recharge and regroup. Your friends and family will thank you, and you’ll most likely end up with a new project that you otherwise wouldn’t have come up with.

It also didn’t hurt that we had plenty of wine to help reduce those high stress levels:

Top of the Mountain Book Award

As contest coordinator, I’m thrilled to announce the Northern Colorado Writers are now accepting submissions for the 2nd annual Top of the Mountain Book Award. The contest is open to unpublished works of fiction, creative/narrative nonfiction, and nonfiction. The contest is open until march 1, 2013. Winners receive a $100 and a framed certificate, as well as recognition at the NCW Conference April 26, 2013. Get the submission guidelines HERE and 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.