Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Real Secret to Networking: Change your Approach

By: Barbara Nickless

In my first professional job, a mentor told me networking was de rigueur. Get out of your office, he said. Meet people. Trade business cards. Swap information. Do this with the hope that meeting this person will lead to that person and eventually get you wherever it is you want to go.

Nothing wrong with that.

Except, I was terrible at it. Case in point—I would go out of my way to avoid my boss's boss. (Did I say avoid? We're talking treat the guy like he had the plague.) Just so he'd know I wasn't trying to brownnose. For the same reason, I avoided anyone else who might help advance my career.

No brownnosing for me. Nuh uh. No way.

So although I worked hard and helped people out on their own networking journey, I did almost no networking of my own. I connected with people. That was fun. But I found actual networking—connecting with a self-advancing goal in mind—stressful. It made me feel as if I had to size up everyone I met at work events or writers conferences with a What's in it for me? attitude.

Networking did not make me happy. And I like to be happy.

According to the latest research, we are happiest when we give. Volunteering, helping friends and family, and donating to charities provides a sense of belonging, that connection we crave. Turns out that selflessly helping others improves our own prosperity. How? By raising our self-esteem and happiness. Our altruistic joie de vivre then draws others to us.

After my house burned down in a wildfire, Mystery Writers of America offered to send me to one of their day-long MWA Universities. I gratefully accepted their generosity, thrilled to be with fellow writers and away from the rented furniture in my rented home.

One of the speakers that day was Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank is the epitome of gracious connecting. She is warm, caring, curious, empathic. She exemplifies the whole mental flip from networking to connecting that I'm trying to push here. At the MWA University I got the opportunity to meet her. But I didn't get the chance to tell her how much the day meant to me, or how her workshop inspired me to sit down and write a novel.

Writing a novel, as most of you know, is hard. As in, really, really hard. Getting to THE END is the emotional equivalent of summiting Annapurna, a mountain in Nepal with the highest fatality-to-summit ratio in its class. In just one month in 2014, at least 39 people perished on the mountain.

Writing or mountaineering—a lot of people die on the way.
But the writing wasn't nearly as intimidating as the next step. Yes.That step. The one that turns you from victorious mountain climber to exhausted wreck, wondering if you've got the strength to take even one more step.

I'm talking about the Great Agent Hunt. The quest that makes you realize that although you summited Annapurna, you still haven't reached the top of the world. Worse for me, finding an agent would no doubt involve—shield your eyes—networking.

Climbing the real Annapurna suddenly seemed a viable alternative.

But novelists are tough. We do what we have to do. Since I'd written a mystery and planned to write a thriller after that, I accepted a friend's offer to let me bunk with her at Thrillerfest. I packed my bags and flew to New York City and—figuring no networking would be required—attended the terrifying, exhilarating, rewarding and exhausting ordeal known as Pitchfest.

Three-and-a-half hours. More than fifty agents and editors. By the end of it, I was ready to throw myself in front of an agent, stare into her eyes and skip all formalities such as introductions and an actual pitch. My much-practiced proposal went from "Hi, so happy to meet you, I've written a novel … " to, "Yo. You want it or not?"

I staggered out, reeling like a prize fighter who's taken one too many blows. Although my pitches had been successful, I still had a long slog in front of me. You know the drill. Send out the manuscript and wait for maybe yes, maybe nothing, maybe no. No as in never, don't contact me again, stay away from my office, my home, my children, my alma mater, get a job digging ditches.

I headed toward the bank of elevators with no further plan than to go up to my room, throw myself on the bed and sleep. Cocktails to follow.

Then my gaze settled on Hank, also waiting for an elevator. I knew talking to her would be safe. No stress. Nothing intimidating. And I'd been wanting to thank her for her kindness at MWA University, and for her wonderful class. As we chatted, a man came over to say hello to Hank, who brightened and gestured us toward each other. "Author, agent. Agent, author."

The gentleman turned to me with a kind and cheerful smile.

He wasn't one of the agents who'd been in Pitchfest.         

Fresh meat.

"Bob Diforio," he said as we shook hands. "Tell me about your book."

I mustered a smile. But—seriously—I was at that "do you want it or not" stage.

"I'm not sure I can," I said. Honest, but unhelpful.

"Ah, come one," he said. "I'd love to hear about it."

We bid farewell to Hank and walked a few paces away.

Pulling on depths I didn't know I had, I pitched for the tenth time. He asked for the manuscript. And then, bless his heart, sat in the hotel lobby and read the first few chapters. Before the cocktail party that evening, he offered me representation. He spent the evening chatting up my book to editors and introducing me to his other clients. I spent the evening in a happy daze.

All because MWA had reached out to me after the wildfire, then Hank had been friendly and inspiring at the MWA University, and finally I'd found a chance to connect with her and thank her for helping me. Hopefully Hank got a small glow from our reconnection. I know I did. Small as in megawatt laser.

As for the friend who offered to share her room at Thrillerfest? We now also share an agent. I introduced them over cocktails. A perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.

Looking for success and longing for happiness?

Ask not what your fellow writers can do for you. Ask, instead, what you can do for them.

About the Author:  Barbara Nickless is an award-winning author whose short stories and essays have appeared in anthologies in the U.S. and U.K. She is represented by Bob Diforio of the D4EO Literary Agency. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Writer Resources: SBDC, Think About It

By Stacy S. Jensen  

What do you have in your writing toolbox? Pikes Peak Writers is an obvious choice, but there are some non-writing organizations that can help you meet your writing goals.

Most of my writer friends are comfortable saying: I am a writer.

Most are a little fidgety when it comes to saying: I am a small business owner. We are writers and artists ... who let's face it need money to buy chocolate (and other things).

This spring, I stumbled upon a great resource the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center. I signed up for their newsletter months before, but it wasn't until The Digital Marketing Series: Driving leads for Business workshop appeared in my inbox that I had a light bulb moment.
I was staring at a list of skills I wanted to know more about to help in my writing career.

Cory Ostos Arcarese, of CArc Media, taught the workshops at a local Ent Federal Credit Union. The series was sponsored by Colorado SBDC and Ent. Each session cost $10 to reserve a spot. The fee was refunded after you attended the workshop.

I personally attended websites and blogging; Facebook; and LinkedIn sessions. Additional workshops were held on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms and Google+.

The series offered plenty of pertinent tips I can tailor to my needs as a not-yet-published writer and carry through when I cross the published threshold. Cory made a reference to the book Youtility by Jay Baer. This alone offered dozens of ideas for my blog.

I really like being a Facebook user, but didn't pick up on how my user decisions help advertisers reach me until this class. As an author, who wants to spend a small amount on Facebook, the network really allows you to drill down to a specific person — your reader — and to a very specific budget for your advertising campaign. Cory also shared you can schedule posts directly on your Facebook page. Since Facebook likes that better than third party apps, that was a very useful tip.

While I don't have a book to connect with readers, yet, I have already used several items from the sessions to share with friends, writers, and even my church's efforts to better utilize Facebook to promote its upcoming 60th Anniversary.

I also discovered the SBDC offers workshops online. You can watch webinars packed with information on your lunch break or in your pajamas. The website also has a Courses for Creatives page.

In addition to the information presented, the SBDC series gave me an opportunity to meet people outside of my writer tribe. It's fun and scary at the same time to hear people talk about bootstrapping her business. Wait. It's very similar to hearing a fellow writer talk about her latest book.

Sure there may be services you don't care about like writing a business plan, but if you decide you want one the SBDC has the resources to help you.

About the Author: Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and son.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come

“I'm sorry, but I do hate this differentiation between the sexes. 'The modern girl has a thoroughly businesslike attitude to life' That sort of thing. It's not a bit true! Some girls are businesslike and some aren't. Some men are sentimental and muddle-headed, others are clear-headed and logical. There are just different types of brains.”  

~ Agatha Christie, Appointment with Death 

Source: Bing, Pulp & Goodreads

Agatha Christie (September 15, 1890- January 12, 1976)

Not only was she appointed the title of “Dame” by the Queen of England, but according to the Guiness Book of World Records, she is the best-selling author of all time.

This week on Writing from the Peak 

Sept. 28:  Writer Resources, The SBDC: Think about it by Stacy S. Jensen 

Sept. 30: The Real Secret to Networking: Change your approach by Barbara Nickless

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sweet Success! Jane Bigelow

By: Kathie Scrimgeour

Jane Bigelow's short story "The Golden Ruse" was published in Luxor: Gods, Grit and Glory (ISBN 13: 978-1514779378, ISBN 10: 1514779374), on August 15, 2015 by Museum Tours, and edited by Bill Petty.  All the stories involve the city of Luxor, aka Thebes, aka Waset, and always a center of events in Egyptian history.

It has been a successful trading voyage for the Middle Kingdom trader Nebnefer. He's about to go home with a shipload of ebony and ivory, and a few twists of gold wire. Why does he feel so uneasy in the great trade city of Abu, then, and why is his old trading contact suddenly so distant? On his way home, he decides to stop for the night in Perhathor instead of pushing for Waset. It was the wrong choice.

Jane M. H. Bigelow writes fantasy, historical fiction, and short nonfiction. She has one novel and several short stories published, including "Healing Pain" in the recently released Gifts of Darkover anthology.  She is currently working on too many projects at once. Jane lives in Denver with her husband and fellow archaeology nut Robert, and two cats.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Writer in Transition

Editor's Note: Pikes Peak Writers has members in every jurisdiction. But after reading Mike's post about his move, you might consider staying put. Enjoy!

By: Mike Befeler

Spoiler alert.  I no longer live in Colorado. The short version—my wife and I have moved to Lakewood, California. The Longer version—read on.
Moving is something I’m not very good at. The reason: I don’t do it very often. In fact we lived in the same house for thirty-eight years before my wife and I made the decision to move from Boulder to California. Many friends asked, “Why would you give up the beautiful mountains to go where there’s a drought?” The simple answer: our daughter was having a baby and we wanted to be there to help with childcare.

We spent several months sorting; donating furniture, clothes and stuff to the Salvation Army; and then checking off the to-do-list of all the things necessary to sell the house, buy a new one and get everything moved. Needless to say, I put writing on hiatus with my new more-than-full-time job.
Given the housing market, before we even put it on the market, we had a buyer who offered a good price, gave us a month leeway after the house was sold to stay in the house to help with the timing of our move to California, and didn’t insist on any items being fixed from the inspection report. In the meantime, we made a whirlwind trip to visit our daughter and bought a house near her. The day we arrived the realtor took us to see houses. Out of all we saw, we liked one. Still, we could only see it from the outside as it had gone on the market that day. The next day we went inside, knew it was our new home and made an offer. The following day there was a higher offer, so we sucked it up, met that, and the house was ours.

Then began the craziness of lining up the movers and coordinating the timing between the sale of the Boulder house and the closing of the California house. After one glitch with the movers, we got everything scheduled. We took off for a two-day drive to California with our cat. The problem—the first night when we stopped in Cedar City, Utah, my hand had swollen and was painful from a puncture wound the result of packing. I ended up in an emergency room diagnosed with a strep infection (cellulitis) and received two doses of intravenous antibiotic that night and one more the next morning before completing the drive. We set up our inflatable bed in our new house as it would be several days before the moving van arrived. Then in the wee hours of the next morning, I awoke with a fever, and my wife drove me to the closest ER. I ended up spending over three days in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics, not the way I anticipated arriving in California.
The previous owners had not completed fixes to a shower, so while I was in the hospital workers arrived to continue the repair. Our cat got into the hole in the shower and disappeared into the crawl space under the house. My wife had to deal with my hospitalization and the cat’s disappearance, so it wasn’t a very good day for her. Finally, the cat came out after dark, so at least one of us had returned.

After being released from the hospital, I had to carry an IV pump with antibiotic for two weeks, then was weaned to oral antibiotics. 
The good news—I made a complete recovery. The bad news—writing stayed on hiatus. I kept my sanity by taking walks, and discovered that although I no longer had the mountain vistas, there were beautiful parks, bike paths and the nearby beaches.

Once my hand was functioning again, we began the paperwork of drivers licenses, car registration and address changes. Then out of the blue one of our insurance companies informed us that they were terminating our prescription drug coverage in three days. After several frantic calls, I found that we needed to convert to a Southern California plan from the Colorado plan. The cost was all of ten cents a month more, but the insurance company, in all its wisdom, chose to send us the incendiary letter rather than merely contacting us to make a change.
In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles wants people to get a new driver’s license within ten days of changing residence. But guess what? When I called the DMV to make an appointment, the first slot was six weeks later. Go figure.

Once I had my California driver’s license, I got my California sales tax license and then applied for a business license in Lakewood so I could sell my books at local events. An example of my stressed out brain at this point, I spent an hour applying for the Lakewood business license before noticing that I was on the Lakewood, CO web site not the Lakewood, CA web site.  
We now have that all taken care of. And what is happening in my writing world? I’ve been networking and connecting. I started playing pickleball once my hand healed and met people who directed me to a writers group and a library where I’ll be participating in a mystery panel early next year. I’ve joined the Los Angeles chapter of Sister in Crime, the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, attended a meeting of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a writers group, participated in two book clubs, given a talk to a book club, held a signing at a local independent bookstore, contacted three other book stores and a library for future signings, and scheduled a talk at a Rotary Club.

But the really important part of our move—our healthy, handsome and happy grandson was born in July. We live two miles from our daughter and her family and are seeing the little one on almost a daily basis. This makes all the hassle and problems worth it.
Thus begins a new chapter of a writer in transition.

Mike Befeler turned his attention to writing after a 39-year career in the computer industry. He now resides in Lakewood, CA, with his wife Wendy. His published novels in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series include: RETIREMENT HOMES ARE MURDER (2007); LIVING WITH YOUR KIDS IS MURDER (2009), a finalist for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2009; SENIOR MOMENTS ARE MURDER (2011); CRUISING IN YOUR EIGHTIES IS MURDER (2012), a finalist for The Lefty Award for best humorous mystery of 2012; CARE HOMES ARE MURDER (2013); and NURSING HOMES ARE MURDER (2014). In April, 2013, Mike’s first paranormal mystery, THE V V AGENCY, was published, followed by THE BACK WING, a paranormal geezer-lit mystery. His most recent novel is MYSTERY OF THE DINNER PLAYHOUSE. Mike is past president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He also is the author of a biography, FOR LIBERTY: A WORLD WAR II SOLDIER’S INSPIRING LIFE STORY OF COURAGE, SACRIFICE, SURVIVAL AND RESILIENCE. Due out in October is Mike’s first historical mystery, MURDER ON THE SWITZERLAND TRAIL.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Anthropological Approach to World Building

By: Darby Karchut

Which book was it? The book that first captured you with its world building? The book that made you look up and look around. Hoping for a glimpse of the Misty Mountains or the walls of Hogwarts. Listening for the crack of dragon wings, or the ring of a sword being drawn.

For me, it was J.R.R. Tolkien and his creation of Middle-earth. Certainly, other authors helped forge who I am, both as writer and reader: Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, and later, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series. Most recently, I’ve added Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series to my list. Fine company, to be sure, and I learn something new every time I read these books.

How can I hope to match these authors and their skill in crafting such universes? One of the best ways I’ve found to approach world building in my books is to think like a cultural anthropologist.

So, here is an Anthropology 101, Introduction to Culture mini-lesson:  

*Ahem. Clicks on powerpoint*

Every culture has eight essential components or elements. No exceptions. If a group does not have all eight elements, then it is probably a social group, not a culture (as an anthropologist would define it.)

The Eight Elements of Culture
(in no particular order)




      Daily Life (Food, Clothing, Shelter, Technology)

      Social Groups

      Arts & Crafts



Depending on what the story needs, authors may focus on some elements more than others. That’s fine, as long as you give a nod to all of them.


      Answers the basic meaning about life

      Can be formal and elaborate, or informal and peripheral to your culture

      Can include science


      One of the strongest unifying forces of a culture

      Variation of a language is called a dialect (local form of a language that may have a distinct vocabulary and pronunciation)

      Idioms, sayings, and cuss words are a great way to enrich your world


      Actual as well as myths

      Shapes how a culture views itself and the world, especially stories about a people’s challenges and successes. Helps people develop cultural pride and unity

      Cultural holidays mark important events and enable people to celebrate their heritage


      Food, clothing, shelter

      Think about special foods or drinks your characters enjoy or ones they avoid

      Clothes and weapons or tools can really “mark” a culture

      Housing, including the building, furniture, gardens, technology


      People can belong to more than one social group based on age, gender, interests, and more

      The family is the most important social group

      Your characters should act differently in different social groups

      Ethnic group: a group that shares a language, history, or religion, and sometimes, physical traits


      Expresses what your characters think is beautiful and meaningful

      Can also tells stories about important figures and events in the culture


      visual arts (both two dimensional and three dimensional)


      performing arts



      Your characters need rules in order to live together without conflict

      Limited Governments (restricts the power of its leaders)

- Examples:  democracy, representative democracy, constitutional monarchy

      Unlimited Governments: (leaders are all-powerful)

- Examples: dictatorship, absolute monarchy, theocracy


      A system that determines what goods and services are produced, how to produce them, and who will receive them

      Four main types of economic systems:

     Traditional: barter and trade

     Market: capitalism

     Command: communism (written with a small c means an economic system; written with a capital C means a form of government)

     Mix: a blend of several. Many developed countries have this. For example, China has a command economy, but allows some features of a market economy

By embedding these eight elements of culture in your world building (even if your characters are non-human), you create a depth that the reader will consciously or subconsciously pick up on. And, by making each element logical to your creation, it makes your world more “real”.

Thus endeth the lesson.

About the Author: Darby Karchut is a best-selling author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. She's been known to run in blizzards and bike in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy writing urban fantasy for tweens, teens, and adults, and she is now dipping the toe of her running shoe into contemporary fiction. Her debut YA novel, GRIFFIN RISING, was recently optioned for film. Darby’s other books include THE HOUND AT THE GATE, THE STAG LORD, and coming in December, UNHOLY BLUE. Visit her at

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Quote of the week and the week to come

"If you want to find out what a writer or a cartoonist really feels, look at his work. That's enough." ~ Shel Silverstein   (Sept 25, 1930 - May 10, 1999)

Source: Bing

This week on Writing from the Peak:

Sept. 21:  The Anthropological Approach to World Building, Darby Karchut

Sept. 23:  Transitions, Mike Befeler

Sept. 25:  Sweet Success! Jane Bigelow


Friday, September 18, 2015

Sweet Success! D.B. Humel

By Kathie Scrimgeour
D.B Humel’s cozy mystery, Meg and the Mysterious Voices (ISBN: 978-0-042011-00-7, e-book, 162 pages) was released on July 19, 2015 by Viva Publishers. The novel is available on Amazon or email the author at
 Meg Jamison, a widow in her mid-fifties, a bit overweight and trying to paint colorful images for an upcoming art show, is frustrated with her new hearing aid earrings. They just won’t work right. But when her youngest motorcycling son gets pulled into running drugs the hearing aid earrings turn out to be invaluable.
Tracking down a killer, while fending off pesky calls from an overbearing sister-in-law and learning how to deal with a younger would-be lover, Meg manages to balance all the bouncing balls and help everyone, including herself, in this lighthearted cozy mystery.
Sue Viders (aka:D.B. Humel) is the author of more than 25 books, articles and columns on marketing for artists and how-to books for writers. Her best known book for writers is Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes and it’s spin-off card game Deal a Story.
Her latest educational projects for writers are the Whole Writer’s Series, a set of guides and workbooks for both the nonfiction and fiction writer and Let’s Write a Story a set of Sue’s lectures, taken from her numerous online writing classes and seminars.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ten of the Worst Reasons to Write

By:  Karen Albright Lin

It is fun to undertake most endeavors with lofty intentions and enthusiastic dreams. But when it comes to writing, it’s wise to temper the fantasy with a dose of reality. Impractical expectations, misguided objectives, and false hopes can prevent you from getting off to a good start in one hell of a tough industry. Over many years of writing, publishing, and helping my editing clients do the same, I’ve seen writers with assumptions and motivations that hinder rather than help. I’ve been guilty of a few of these myself. Worst reasons to write:

(c) bluebay14/

1)      Stephen King became a famous millionaire, I can too.

Go for it.  It’s fun to have a dream, admirable to bite off a challenge aiming for the gold.  Nobody earns an Olympic medal of any color without trying. But a statistical reality check suggests that you may awaken from that dream someday, use it as grist for the mill, and still not become a household name or rich off your words.

2)      There are so many bad books out there and I could do better. 

Certainly possible. But writing shouldn’t be like a bad excuse, “everybody else is doing it.”  Writing isn’t following the lemmings over a cliff; writing is finding a better route and sharing it with others willing to take that adventure with you.

3)      I’m an introvert and suited to the writing life.

Marketing is largely in the authors’ hands now. If we can’t reach out, network, and be our own loud advocates, we may be doomed to fail even if we have a remarkable product. If you are a screenwriter, are you willing to have a presence in L.A.? If you write nonfiction, are you willing to be part of the social networking community? Blog on your topic? We are salesmen as well as writers. I wonder whether J.D. Salinger could have been a media-averse recluse in today’s world and still have had his book become listed in class curriculums.

4)      My mother and aunt loved my fourth-grade poetry.

That’s nice.  But are they typical readers? Industry experts? Objective?

5)      I have a great idea.

Ideas are everywhere, most of them reruns. Success is in the execution. Underworld and Westside Story are Romeo and Juliet. The great ideas are recycled, but it is how they are reconstituted that makes them successful. Uniqueness can be overrated. But there’s no harm in trying. Titanic II? May sound ridiculous, but someone out there could pull it off. It may be you. It’s all in how you approach it. But having the brilliant idea isn’t enough. 

6)      If my neighbor can do it, anyone can.

Really? You so sure about that? How many people start a book and never finish? How many have an idea and never type one word of it? If your neighbor has a finished product (good or bad) she at least has a shot at success. You can too, but only if you stop comparing yourself to others and plaster your butt to that chair.

7)      I’ll feel better about myself if I become a famous writer.

Hmmm. I suppose it could be true. But success can also lead to confirmed fears about our weaknesses when the public wants more and we get creative constipation, or worse, insecurities about whether our breakout novel was a fluke. We don’t suddenly become healthier, happier people when our books sell in the thousands. There is likely no author gene that we can suddenly prove we had all along. If anything, an emotional basket-case gene is twisted up next to the creativity gene.

8)      I have the software, I can be a writer.

It is useful to own software like Final Draft, Scrivener, or voice recognition software, but no program, no laptop, no note cards, paper or pen can make you into a writer.  Those are only tools of the trade.  Owning an anvil and fire pit don’t make you a blacksmith.  Years of apprenticeship are required. The tools of the trade are only a miniscule part of success. 

9)      I read voraciously, I should be able to write.

Not necessarily. It is the easy reads that are the hardest to pull off.  Like a back flip on the balance beam, we usually notice its difficulty when something goes wrong. Well-executed, it looks easy. Writing a great piece--whether it be an article or picture book or novel--is much more challenging than it looks to most readers. But please don’t confuse this with the notion that a writer is not a reader. Just the opposite. Great writers are insatiable readers. There is something to be said for osmosis, if one has the training to recognize brilliance.

10)  I’m deep and complicated. I should share the stuff in my head.

Maybe readers could benefit from your insight. Maybe your revelations could change the world.  But genius often doesn’t understand its audience. Cleverness can come off as grandiosity. You may have super-complex gears turning in that brain of yours, but the best writing complicates the struggles of your characters but simplifies an idea.

Taking those first few baby steps will be far easier if we are realistic about why we write.

About the Writer: Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Monday, September 14, 2015

The 2016 Zebulon Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest is open!

By: Dawn Smit

The Zebulon Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest, sponsored by the Pikes Peak Writers, is open for submissions.

Writers have from now until Sunday, November 1, to submit a query letter, a 500-word synopsis and the first 2,500 words of the manuscript along with their entry fee. But why enter our contest when there are so many to choose from? Here are five good reasons:

The Zebulon is open to all writers.

Are you published? Unpublished? Welcome, and welcome. Submit the latest fiction piece you’re sending out to agents, or your current work in process, or even the first part of that manuscript you need a bit of motivation to finish. Or all of the above. As long as the manuscript (or any series the manuscript is part of) is unpublished and hasn’t placed first in our contest before, we’d love to see it.

Nervous about marketing? The Zebulon helps you dip a toe in the water.

Whether you have your heart set on being traditionally published or you’re indie all the way (or you’re somewhere in between), you will need to learn the basics of marketing in the publishing industry. That query letter is just a formalized—and brief—marketing plan showing the editor or agent that you know your platform (if any), your genre, your market, and your story’s theme and/or intriguing plot points. What happens when your book shows up on Amazon and other book sites? You use your platform to announce your book, you or your publisher add tags to let people know your genre and target market, and your book’s blurb conveys the theme and/or intriguing plot points.

Want feedback?

Back in 2001 when I entered the Paul Gillette (the Zebulon’s previous incarnation), I paid extra to receive a critique. What a benefit that was! The contest still offers critiques—in fact, you can get two—and it is a great way to get overall feedback on your submission This is on top of the scoresheet comments, which you receive as part of the scoring. As the contest coordinator for the Paul Gillette for six years, I can happily say that the Zebulon’s scoresheets give even better feedback now.

Our VIP judges are industry professionals.

This year, as many as 18 entries will wend their way to the desks of the editors and agents who have volunteered as our final-round judges. These VIPs will rank the three entries in their categories and possibly even make comments—or ask for the entire manuscript. Have we had winners find representation this way? Why yes, we have.

Free conference!

First-place winners in each category can go for free to the 2016 Pikes Peak Writers Conference; this year’s theme is “Dare to Dream,” and we have a great lineup of speakers and workshops. That’s a prize worth nearly $400. Winners also (along with the other finalists) go to the front of the line for editor and agent appointments. This is a great opportunity to network and learn.

You can find the rules and FAQs at: 

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About the Author: Dawn Smit is a freelance editor and proofreader and the creator of Rainbow Editing®, a technique that writers can use to teach their computers to help them self edit. She was the contest director for the Paul Gillette Writing Contest from 2005 to 2010 and has returned for an encore.