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PPWC 2024 – Highlights


By Catherine Dilts

Gems I gleaned from workshops I attended at the 2024 Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

It’s impossible to capture all I learned at PPWC 2024 in a few words, but here are some favorite quotes and nuggets of information. There was so much more! 

Najla Mamou – Editor, Wild Rose Press – Common Mistakes in First Chapters
  • “The magic is in the first pages.”
  • The reader doesn’t want to be in the passenger seat. If you’re a passenger, you react. If you’re in the driver’s seat, you can foresee, anticipate, and prepare for the bumps in the road.
  • Key to creating immersive writing is making the reader care about the characters.
  • “Don’t be boring!”
Leticia Gomez – Editorial Director, Kensington/Dafina Books – Show Me the Money
  • “The life of your book depends on you.”
  • A “bankable author” is someone who earns out their advance. The 6 to 7-figure advance is rare. “These days, advances are stingy.” With a small press, advances of any amount are unlikely.
  • It costs $80,000 to $100,000 for a publisher to get a book out there. It’s a group decision to acquire a book, made by an editorial team.
  • Ms. Gomez enjoys being an editorial director because “Publishing makes somebody’s dream come true.” 
Callie Stoker – Editor, author – Scenes that Steal the Scene
  • Just as novels have arcs, every scene in a novel has an arc.
  • In the Beginning, the priority is making the reader connect to the POV character. The middle is where all the stuff happens. And the end sets up future promises: the next goal and action.
  • Layer every scene with setting, action, dialogue, character thoughts, and exposition.

Editor Panel
  • Joe Brosnan: “Write that story that only you can tell.”
  • Terri Bischoff: “More books fail than make it. It’s a pure numbers game.”
  • Najla Mamou: “As much as you have a great product, it has to sell.”
  • Leticia Gomez: “Go with what you feel is your strongest book.”
  • Joe Brosnan: “The unfortunate reality is we need to be profitable.”
  • Terri Bischoff: Having 15 book ideas is great, but finish one.
  • Najla Mamou: Write reviews for other authors on Goodreads and Amazon. Give stars. Be genuine. Be a giver.
  • Leticia Gomez: “You should be looking at this long-term.”

Maria Kelson – Author – Getting from 0 to 1

  • Getting a book from 0 – non-existence, to 1 – existence, means making sacrifices.
  • “A novelist is someone who misses out.” Is this discomfort a price you’re willing to pay?
  • “Less is still not nothing.” Are there ways you can touch this manuscript during times of upheaval? Even fifteen minutes keeps progress moving forward.
  • “Everything changes when you just keep going.”

Amy Green – Author – Avoiding the Mushy Middle

  • “Feel the freedom to be boring in your first draft.”
  • Don’t have the most interesting things happen off-stage. The reader wants to see it happen!
  • End scenes in the right place, with something not resolved.

Bryan Young – Author / producer – Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules of Writing

  • Vonnegut’s How to Write with Style – simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. Be authentic to your own voice. Have the guts to cut. 
  • Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Short Stories – give the reader at least one character they can root for. Every sentence must reveal character or advance action.


PPWC 2024 had the theme Jazz Up Your Writing. The workshops, keynote speeches, and conversations with fellow writers, all contributed to inspire and energize my writing. 

Catherine Dilts has lived in Colorado for decades now, but spent her formative years in Oklahoma. She must have left a little bit of her heart there, because her Rose Creek Mystery series is set in the Ozark foothills in northeastern Oklahoma. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, Catherine also writes for several Annie’s Fiction series. Her short stories regularly appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and in anthologies. Recently retired from a career as an environmental compliance specialist for a global corporation, Catherine now gets to do what she always dreamed of – write fiction full-time. She and her husband enjoy traveling with their adult children and their families, camping, and participating in the occasional crazy long-running adventure. After having thirteen of her short stories, seven of her own novels, and five write-for-hire novels (with three more in the queue waiting for release) published, Catherine still struggles to define success.


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