When I first heard of Pikes Peak Writers Conference from a friend I thought it sounded like a pretty neat conference, and I decided that next time I knew enough people who were attending I too would make the trek from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs to attend. Unfortunately, 2018 was the year that a member from my writing group and several people from the local writing community were planning to attend, and I was in a pretty tight financial situation. In 2017 my husband lost his job, and I became the sole income provider of the family. We have a young child with Down Syndrome, who, while being a fantastic kid, can be a little expensive at times. I applied for and was granted, one of the scholarships that PPWC offers. Having my tuition to the conference paid for made saving the money for travel and hotel possible and gave me an opportunity that I would have been sorry to miss.
PPWC set up an easy, low-stress way to mingle with the authors and industry professionals who are guests at the conference.
The panels and workshops I attended at PPWC ’18 were fantastic, but something that PPWC does that no other writing conference I’ve attended does is set up an easy, low-stress way to mingle with the authors and industry professionals who are guests at the conference. Each meal that is provided (there are so many meals, seriously, I’ve never been to a conference that provides so much food!) you’re able to sit where you like, but every table is assigned one of the conference guests. I got to sit by Mary Robinette Kowal at lunch and talk about whiskey and with Gabrielle Piraino at dinner and swap dog pictures. Both people were amazing to sit with, they talked with us and answered questions about the industry. The fact that this is not a time to pitch is a blessing, as it takes that pressure away and gives the opportunity to learn from them on a more personal basis. The only complaint about this setup: the tables are large, the room is noisy, and you either must sit close or strain your ears to hear anything.
Hearing that someone whom I admire has faced similar struggles and found ways to work through or around them is huge.
My highlights of the conference revolved primarily around Mary Robinette Kowal, who is an amazing writer, terrific at delivering a keynote, and an all-around fantastic person. As I mentioned, I was able to sit with her at one meal, and I attended many of the panels or presentations she gave. The one that really hit home for me was on the last day of the conference when she spoke very openly about her struggles with depression, and how she managed to get through a difficult time where all she could manage were three lines a day. This resonated with me for many reasons. I have depression and have faced times where getting out of bed was a big enough hurdle that even the thought of writing was more daunting than I could bear. Hearing that someone whom I admire has faced similar struggles and found ways to work through or around them is huge. Depression, and mental illness has historically been so stigmatized that even with how much better things are than they used to be, people still can find it difficult to admit to being depressed or to having anxiety for fear that people will think less of them. Listening to Mary talk about this made me think far more highly of her than I already did, and I hope to one day be able to inspire writers the way she inspired me.
To anyone on the fence about attending because they don’t recognize names on the program, don’t see any industry professionals they want to pitch to, or are financially challenged, I would encourage you to attend. Apply for a scholarship. Getting to know your fellow writers at the bar, sitting with someone new at lunch, or attending a class by someone you’ve never heard of and learning something new are all things that can and will happen if you give this fantastic conference a chance like I did.
Jenni Wood has loved to read and write fantasy for as long as she can remember. If she doesn’t have a book in hand, she probably has a mug of coffee. Jenni is married, and the mother of a sweet boy, a dog, and three crazy cats. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys sewing, cooking, video games, and gardening. Her short story “Daughter of the Western Winds” was published in Phantaxis magazine.