Announcing our 2017 Colorado Gold Keynote Speakers!

As embers of 2016 Colorado Gold Conference cool and the ashes are brushed away and collected in the bin, I find it's hard to get back to everyday life. Time with our tribe ignites the flames of creativity and comradeship, reminds us that we are part a larger whole, and—if we're lucky—fuels us until the next time we can gather together.

There is some awesome stuff brewing for next year's conference that I can't share just yet, but in the interest of stoking the flames for next year, it is my distinct pleasure to be able to share the identities of our 2017 Colorado Gold Conference Keynote Speakers.

Please join me in welcoming authors Sherry Thomas and Lori Rader-Day!


Sherry Thomas is a hybrid author who writes historical romance, historical mystery, and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, THE BURNING SKY, book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy, was a finalist for the 2014 RITA® Award for Best Paranormal Romance, the 2014 Pick for Tayshas State Reading List (Texas), has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and been named to the Autumn ’13 Kids’ Indie Next List.thomassherry_coversOn the historical mystery side, her brand-new A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN, releases October 18th, 2016 (available for preorder) and has already received critical acclaim:

“Clever and absorbing. Thomas’s gorgeous prose and expert characterizations shine in this new incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. Readers will wait with baited breath to discover how Thomas will skillfully weave in each aspect of the Sherlockian canon, and devour the pages to learn how the mystery unfolds.” – Anna Lee Huber, National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mysteries

"Gender bending is just the first sign that unusual happenings are afoot in this origin story for a revamped Sherlock Holmes series by bestselling author Thomas...There is also a tantalizing, slow-burn love story between Holmes and a longtime friend befitting Thomas' skills as a romance novelist....The ground has been laid well for future incidents in the professional and intimate life of Charlotte Holmes." —Kirkus

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading romance and science fiction—every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy—for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet…

Be sure to check out Sherry's website and follow her on social media:

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads

Lori Rader-Day is the author of the Anthony Award-winning mystery THE BLACK HOUR  and the Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning mystery LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, both from Seventh Street Books. Her third novel, THE DAY I DIED, will be published by Harper Collins William Morrow on April 11, 2017 (available for preorder).


Her fiction has been previously published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, TimeOut Chicago, Crab Orchard Review, Freight Stories, and in the anthology Dia de los Muertos (Elektrik Milkbath Press), and others. Bestselling author Jodi Picoult chose her story as the grand prize winner of Good Housekeeping’s first fiction contest.

Originally from central Indiana, Lori grew up frequenting the local libraries, reading all the Judy Blume and Lois Duncan she could get her hands on. Then she discovered Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. She may have wandered off the mystery writer path a few times, but everyone knew she would get back there eventually.

Lori studied journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, but eventually gave in to her dream and studied creative writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Now a resident of Chicago for fifteen years, she has a favorite deep dish pizza and is active in the area’s crime writing community. Lori is the president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and a member of Sisters in Crime Chicagoland, and the International Thriller Writers. Chicago is a really great town in which to be a mystery writer.

Be sure to check out Lori's website and follow her on social media:

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads

Hooray! The new year hasn't even turned over on the calendar and already our 2017 Colorado Gold is shaping up to be fantastic! I'm looking forward to sharing more new and exciting updates for conference as our plans solidify. Can you feel the heat of the Colorado Gold crackling in the background? I sure can!



Writing Productivity–How Do You Improve It?

I came away from the Colorado Gold enthused and energized from being around other writers, the only people who truly understand that part of my life. Even the best friends and closest family members don’t really get it, unless they’re also writers. I also came away with the realization that I have to find a way to be more productive. I’m convinced all the great marketing in the world is of no use if you don’t publish frequently and consistently.

Not only have I’ve heard this write-faster, publish-faster refrain on writer blogs and at conferences, but I’ve seen evidence of its truth in my experience maintaining a library fiction collection. I’m currently weeding, culling out books that haven’t checked out in four or more years. The majority of books I weed are either one-book wonders or older books that may have checked out well in the beginning, but now just sit there because the author hasn’t released anything new.

Facing this “inconvenient truth”, that I need to finish books faster, I’ve struggled to find ways to increase my productivity. It seems there are two strategies: to spend more time writing and/or, to write faster.

One way to spend more time writing would be to spend less time on email loops and social media. The downside of this plan is that if I give up on the relationships and contacts I’ve built on-line, I won’t have anyone to help me market when I finally do have a book published.

Another idea I had was to change my writing schedule to give myself more productive time. I’ve always written in the mornings. But that inevitably seems like the best time to work on social media. If I wait until evenings after work, I tend to miss things. But maybe I could write at night. I used to do this, especially once I got deep into a book. So, that’s something to pursue.

Then there’s the idea of writing faster. To do this, it seems like I need to change the way I write. I believe I used to write faster, before I was so conscious of the mistakes I was making. My rough drafts these days are usually not that rough, at least in term of the writing. Although I sometimes leaves holes for names, research terms, or information I don’t want to look up right at the moment, my first drafts are fairly clean and detailed. That’s the reason I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. The idea of super-fast writing and just getting words on paper seems impossible to me. While I don’t carefully craft each sentence, I do try to make sure my sentences vary in structure and length, as well as editing out my known over-used words and other bad habits.

But maybe I’m taking too much time crafting my prose the first time around. Maybe I should let myself write a little sloppier, in the interest of getting through the first draft faster.

You could argue that that self-editing has to be done at some point, so it all comes out in the end. While that is true, because I plot as I write (Stupid, stupid, I know; but plotting never works for me), taking time to craft my prose slows down the development of the story, which makes the whole first draft take longer. So, one of my strategies to get faster might be to stop self-editing as much. Simply get the story down and worry about the details later.

These are my ideas for trying to increase my writing productivity. I’d love to hear from other writers. How about you, what strategies do you use to get yourself to the end of a book quickly?

Of course, as I ask this, I wonder if the truly productive authors maybe don’t take the time to read writing blogs!

Concerning Conferences: A noob’s thoughts on time, worth, and industry

It's our honor to introduce new victim blogger, Josh Dorne, who you might've met at the Colorado Gold.

Take it away, Josh....

Let's pretend, for one second, that I know what I'm talking about. For our current intents and purposes, it doesn't matter. I mean, come on! This is the Internet. But as of this writing I've only just attended my second ever writing conference: Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's, Colorado Gold 2016. So let's just say I've got some learning to do. That being said here's my perspective on writing conferences from the view point of a relative newcomer. At thirty-eight years old, I'm a bit late to the party. But regardless if you're younger, older, or simply just prefer words to things like real-life social interaction, a writer/author should always be moving forward in his or her writing career. Yes. It's a career. Maybe even a life choice...possibly an ill-advised one. But if you're reading this it's probably too late for you, so let's get started.

Is a writing conference worth your time?

Short answer...yes. Or no. Possibly, maybe. In the grand scheme, a weekend (as most conferences tend to last) is not a significant period of time. And if you're new or struggling (like me) in this highly competative industry where thousands of books are self published each day, and the traditionally published duke it out Thunderdome style, this is something you should consider including in your publishing/writing journey. Why? The answer's simple: Networking. A content loaded word that strikes fear into the hearts of men, women,  and whatever gender I might be by the time this posting is done. But something to remember: Everyone you meet at a conference is in a similar boat to you. Not only are conversations extremely easy to start, i.e. "What do you write?" "Are you published?" But the contacts and the people you meet are, in themselves, worth the price of admission. In my first conference alone I met two great people (and many more besides) whom I hope will be in my life and share my publishing/writing journey for many years to come.

Is a writing conference worth the money?

This question is more difficult, as is putting a price on things that are subjective depending on your position in life. Nothing can be promised inside of a conference. An agent connection or book deal cannot be guaranteed, nor should you expect one. The main things you can expect to get out of a conference are three-fold: connections (with other writers, agents, and editors), learning (such as how to write a bestseller, or the 3 Act plot structure), and experience (pitching, querying, and writering). I don't know about you, but before my first conference, not only did I have no idea how to query, but the thought of it sent my hizzie into a complete and total tizzie...because I'm hip, and with it.

So, is a conference worth it or not?

The answer to this is ultimately going to be up to you. Different people will take different things from the same experience. But if like me you're new to writing, new to publishing, or just need a new perspective from which to chase this elusive career choice, then for me the answer is yes. If you're expecting a miracle, or to be discovered and become the next JK Rowling, then it's possible that your expectation might need a slight (or drastic) adjustment. But if you want the opportunity to learn from people directly involved in the industry, speak to successful authors who've gone through what is currently keeping you up nights, and meet some cool people in the exact same boat you're in and possibly make some friends who you'll have for years to come? Then take the plunge and register for a conference near you today! You might only regret it a little bit. And that's nothing if not the dream.

Conference Update: Some Practical Information

RMFWConference_Chalkboard_PracticalInfoMore Questions? Join our
for Conference attendees!

Conference is almost here! Here is some practical information to help you get organized:

Parking: Parking is free at the hotel for conference attendees. Yay!

Airport Shuttle & Train Info: The hotel website had conflicting information, but I have confirmed that the FREE Shuttle to and from the airport is still running through the end of the year. There is also the new Light Rail train, ($9.00) which stops at Central Park Station, 0.7 miles from the hotel. If you call the hotel, they will pick you up at the station. For more details about train times, station stops, and other info, download the info flyer from the RMFW Conference Homepage.

Conference Check-in/Registration: Conference Check-in will be at the bottom of the escalators, accessible from the lobby. If you're attending a Friday morning session (Master Class or a Critique Round Table) check-in opens at 7am. If you're not attending a morning session, check-in opens at 10:30am.

Need Help? Have Questions? “ASK ME”: We have a whole army of conference veterans who know the ropes and are there for you to ask questions. If you see someone with an ASK ME ribbon on their badge… don’t be shy! Also, the Registration Table is HQ for conference. We will have volunteers there just about all the time throughout conference, so this is another place to go if you need assistance.

Wi-Fi: There is NO WIFI in the classrooms for presenters or attendees. If you wish to access the handouts for a class but your device requires wifi, you will need to download them before your class.

At-A-Glance Schedule & Brochure: The AAG is the go-to document when you're looking for the workshop schedule. There are lots of shifts that happen with the AAG over the months leading up to the conference, and the brochure updates lag behind. In the event the brochure elves slip up and there is a discrepancy, the AAG is the true schedule.

Workshop Recordings: All the open workshops/panel programming at conference are recorded. If you’re unable to be in two places at once, or if a class was especially helpful to you and you want to listen to it in the future, purchase a copy during conference at the recording room, next door to Boulder Creek.

What to Wear: Dress comfortably for conference, and wear shoes that make walking easy. You’ll do a lot of walking at conference. Dress in layers to be sure you aren’t too hot or cold as the temperature shifts. Some people do dress up for the Saturday banquet, but you’re going to see everything from jeans to cocktail dresses. Capri pants to suits. Don’t be afraid to dress up, but be equally assured that you can wear whatever makes you comfortable.

Need a Break? Take a Break! You don’t have to attend a session every hour. If you need to take a break, then you’re totally welcome to skip a session, go back to your room, hang in the open areas, or find a quiet place to write.

Have an appointment? Arrive 10-minutes early please! If you have an appointment with Pitch Coaching, Hook Your Book, Mentor Room, One-on-Ones, or Agent/Editor Pitches, please arrive 10-minutes before your appointment. This helps everyone stay on schedule and prevents delays.

Drink Water! CO is very dry, and if you’re not from here, it can come as quite a shock how easy it is to become dehydrated. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. Drink lots of water. And if you're not sure... DRINK WATER!

Leaving Classes In-Session: If you signed up for an appointment, it is likely that you will have to leave a workshop in session in order to attend. If you need to leave a workshop in session, this is perfectly fine and happens throughout conference. Simply gather your things and quietly depart. Once your appointment is over, feel free to return to any workshop in session.

Meals: Your conference registration includes several meals, but not all:

  • Fri Lunch - ON YOUR OWN
  • Fri Dinner - Buffet style, Included
  • Sat Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sat Lunch - ON YOUR OWN
  • Sat Dinner - Awards Banquet - Included
  • Sun Breakfast - Continental style, Included (7-8a)
  • Sun Lunch - Buffet style, Included

More Questions? Join our
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Why I Entered the Colorado Gold Contest

I was thrilled to hear this week that I was a finalist in the Colorado Gold Writer’s contest, but why should you care? Well, if you are a multi-published author, you probably don’t, and shouldn’t. But if you’re a writer struggling to get your work in front of agents and/or editors, maybe you should.typewriter winner

Colorado Gold, and other contests like it, is a GREAT way for you to get your work exposed to acquiring editors and agents. They are also really good at making you hone your craft. And teach you to be careful with submission guidelines (I lost 2 of 5 points for submitting a DOCx file instead of DOC).

The score sheets and comments on the manuscript are really helpful for seeing if there is a consensus that something may need to be tweaked, and they make you look closer at your writing. I always have to read them, rant just a little, then re-read and determine which comments I have to (sometimes grudgingly) agree with.

I’ve entered several contests over the years, with my scores starting below 50 (out of 100) and gradually, as I improved my craft, rising until I’ve finaled in the last four I entered, with three different manuscripts. So far, always a bridesmaid, never a bride – but I have high hopes for Gold.

I’ve learned that not all judges are great, and some are truly fantastic. One judge became a mentor for me, reviewed my edited submission, and gave me a blurb for my novel (which, alas, hasn’t sold enough to prevent me from qualifying for Gold!). I’ve also learned to thank my judges, if I’m given a method for doing so, and to NEVER dis a judge. Reading is subjective. I can’t always explain why I love or hate a book, scene, or character, while others rave about them. Judges are human, and have likes and dislikes; one judge may give you very low scores, while two others are much higher. Those same judges might be sitting next to you at a conference or workshop. They won’t know whose pages they judged, but if you’re sitting there telling them about your story and how bad the judge was, trust me, they’ll remember. Likewise, if you talk about how much you learned about your writing from the judge’s scores and comments, they might just be willing to open a door that helps your career along.

My biggest challenge now is to make sure I put as much effort into the other 350 pages as I did those first 10 the judges saw. I’ve heard a lot of stories about editors and agents who can tell, to the word, how far into the manuscript the writer had polished for submitting to contests and critiques and then didn’t bother with the rest.

winner imageIf you didn’t submit, and you do qualify for the contest, consider it, or others, in the future. For the small price of admission you get new sets of eyes on your work, and get a feel for how you fit within your genre in relation to other writers. If you, like me, notice your scores are rising, it’s a great feeling to know that you are improving as a writer – plus the plaques look really pretty on the wall.

So, as always, I urge us all to Write On!

In Love with Colorado Gold

I just realized that the Colorado Gold conference is less than a month away, and I did a little happy dance right in the middle of my kitchen.

This is, unreservedly, my favorite conference, the only no brainer when I sit down to plan my conference going schedule for the year. Okay, who am I kidding? I never really sit down and plan a year worth of everything. But it's true that I don't have to even think about whether I'll be heading to Colorado in September.

What makes this conference so special?

I'm glad you asked.

Part of the awesome is the great workshops, the pitch appointments, the pitch coaching, the fabulous keynote speakers, and the always top notch organization and programming. And these are all wonderful reasons to attend. But what really sets Colorado Gold apart is the group of writers who come here.

This is the warmest, friendliest, most accessible conference I have ever been to. From the very first day of my very first time, I felt welcome, comfortable, and like I belonged. If you, like me, always feel a bit out of sync with the rest of the world, then you know how incredibly wonderful it is to find somebody you click with. And when you find a whole group of people who get you?


It seems I'm not the only one who feels this way. I asked my writer friends on Facebook who are Colorado Gold regulars what they love about this conference, and here's what some of them had to say:

What Colorado Gold Writers Have to Say
What Colorado Gold Writers Have to Say

Colorado Gold is the perfect size: big enough to invite quality teachers and speakers, and small enough to prevent first timers from getting lost. There are hosted tables at the group dinners, which facilitate making connections and new friends. Usually there's a hospitality room set aside where we can hang out and have a few drinks in the evening. And yes, there is always the bar.

So if you've never been, consider making this your con this year. It's not too late to register. When you get there, be sure to find me and say hi.

Schmooze Cruise

icann_photoIf there’s anything scarier than public speaking, it’s private speaking. Not the quiet conversations you have with friends but the prospect of being thrown into a room of strangers and having to get out with any shred of dignity intact. Some people have no trouble making new friends, but introverted and anti-social writers seem to have a harder time than average. The normal strategies of hiding behind a potted plant all evening or orbiting the room clutching a beverage like a life-ring while refusing to make eye contact may leave you feeling like you survived but somehow missed out on opportunities.

With the Colorado Gold Conference right around the corner, now is the time to address the burning question.

How do people do that schmooze thing without feeling icky?

It takes a just bit of mental jujitsu.

First, you have to understand that everybody in the room is there for the same reason. You’re there because you’re passionate enough about the subject matter to have found the time and resources to attend. Just by being there, you’ve got common ground with every other attendee.

Second, you need to check your excuses at the door. Even introverts can get satisfaction from sharing ideas they’re passionate about. The “I’ve got nothing to talk about” excuse and the “Who’d want to talk to me?” excuse  and the "They're all famous!" excuse all need to be left at the door.

Third, the hardest room is the first one. Not everybody in the room is a first timer, but everybody in that room was a first timer once. Most of them remember it. Newcomers are always welcome. Remember that when it's your second room. If nothing else, you'll have someone to talk to.

A few simple ideas can help even the shyest individual over the threshold.

Have a goal or two.
I believe too many people struggle because they have goals that place too much emphasis on measurable return on investment. They want to pitch their stories to three agents or get an acquisition editor to request a manuscript. While those are certainly valid goals, for somebody trying to learn the art of the schmooze these goals put Olympic-sized pressure on Wading Pool skills.

My goals for every convention I attend — writer oriented, fan oriented, whatever — are always the same. Meet three interesting people and take home one actionable idea. I don’t limit myself to what I think “interesting” means or what kind of action I want to take. Sometimes I meet interesting people in the lobby or sitting beside me in the audience at a panel. Sometimes the ideas are time management or dealing with stress. Occasionally I learn about new tools, gain insight into new techniques, or find writers I want to learn more about. I can’t achieve any of those goals unless I get out there and meet people.

Listen more than you talk.
You'll often find yourself forced into potentially awkward situations at organized dinners. Simple courtesy can ease the conversation into starting on its own. Take a seat, smile at the person on your left/right, offer your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Nathan.” If nothing else, they'll look at you funny unless you use your own name. Typically, that triggers a response around the table. This also works at meet-and-greet events, BarCons, session audiences, and other situations where you’re in a room full of strangers all wearing the same badges. If the conversation lags, you can always ask “Who came the farthest to get here?” Chances are nobody will know so you’ll have to compare notes. After that the conversations generally sort themselves out.

The thing about listening is that you always have something to do. If you’re focused on listening, you’re not thinking about what to do with your hands or whether your hair is sticking out at an odd angle. You’re thinking about what the other person is saying and maybe asking questions about it. Listening has the added advantage of making you seem smart, even when you don’t think you are. Do it regularly, and the odds are good that you’ll become smarter, too.

Wallflowers Unite
There will always be somebody who’s off to the side, out of the path, and standing alone. The art of the schmooze is making sure you’re not that person. Find the wallflower or the person standing or sitting alone and introduce yourself. You’ll each find you have a lot in common and both of you will be able to practice the art.

Breaking In
What about when you’re trying to join a conversation that’s already going on? A lot of people feel like they might be intruding if the conversation is already in full swing. Sometimes you might be, but more typically, there’s always room for one more smiling face. Stepping into the gap—often literally—with a smile and a nod usually works. If the conversation doesn’t stop, chances are you’re just as welcome as anybody else. This is a great opportunity for you to practice listening. Asking a pertinent question at the next pause in the festivities works very well to cement your place in the conversation.

Semper Paratus
Awkward silence is awkward, but a little preparation can push awkwardness to the backseat. Questions like “So, what are you reading these days?” or “How are you dealing with social media?” often yield interesting responses. A bit of noodling time with your favorite professional online sources can add currency to your conversation as well. Finally, when awkward just won’t leave, have an exit line of your own ready. A simple “Nice to meet you. I need to circulate a little. Enjoy the convention” lets you wander off without feeling like you’ve stepped on anybody’s puppy. You can change it up with “I need another drink” or “I need to find my partner.” Even “I need to find the little writer’s room” can give you the exit you need without falling into TMI.

Have fun.
That probably sounds a bit like “Hey, they’ll only hang you once. Enjoy the gallows.” This is one place where you actually can “fake it til you make it.” Smile at people. Meet their eyes and nod. Extend a hand and introduce yourself. Before you know it, that person you met in the first session on the first day will show up and you can compare notes. Or the person you had breakfast with will invite you to eat dinner with them. Take a few selfies with other attendees. Ask for cards from interesting people. By the time you have to leave, you’ll find you’ve actually had more fun than you thought.

After all, these people all cared enough to arrange their lives to be in that space with you, even when they didn’t know you’d be there. The least you can do is make it worth their while.

Image credit: ICANN Photos 1361
Licensed under Creative Commons-BY-SA 2.0

W is for Writer

“What’s a writer like you doing in a place like this?” The white rabbit asked.

“Somebody told me this is the road that leads to publication.”

“Really? How long have you been on it?”

“Couple of lifetimes.”

“Oh dear.  Any luck yet?” Said the rabbit, his eyes gleaming with curiosity.

“Not so far. And once I find the son-of-a-bitch that talked me into to this, I’m gonna…”

“Whoops! Gotta go. I see my agent is calling me. Looks like we’ve got an offer. It’s been nice talking to you.”

And with that the Rabbit of Publication disappeared down the rabbit hole.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?  A writer lost in the magical world of thinking, “If I only do this, say that, write this, follow this road, I’ll be published.”  And now the traveler having been on this road for a couple of lifetimes is weary, cynical and angry.  But reading between the lines, we also see the traveler is still on the road. They didn’t say they were getting off it.

Such has been my path to fictional publication. It seems to elude me, tease me. It builds up my hopes only to smack them down again.

Three years ago I attended my first writer’s conference. Colorado Gold they called it.

I stepped onto the golden road as a newbie. My newbie nametag was so shiny and bright it could be seen blazing in the hallways. Filled with the encouragement of my mentor and friend, I knew I was in my right place. This was the place where books, stories, novels and legends were created. I was simply happy to be there.

Everyone was so nice to me. People came out of the woodwork to greet me, show me around, answer my questions. I was home. And I was armed with an idea, and several thousand words on the page of which I was going to pitch to agent. Not only was it my first conference, it was my first pitch too. I just knew I was going to be wildly successful. Sound familiar? Ah the bliss of naiveté!

The pitch was successful. To a point. The word count was too short. Tighten it up, extend it and get back to me. Sure. No problem. I can do that!

Three years later I’m still searching for that elusive “Yes, we would love to publish your novel.” I’ve cried, torn up my office, thrown things and tried to convince myself this is dumbest, stupidest quest we’ve ever set our feet upon.

But something else has happened too. I’ve continued to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. My world of friends and knowledge has expanded exponentially. I’ve continued to have success as a non-fiction writer. And I’ve learned tools and skills to help me keep going.

For those things alone the journey has been worth it. I’m in for the long haul, as long as I can stop chasing white rabbits.



Najah Lightfoot is a contributing author for Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing. Her non-fiction articles appear in their Magical Almanac, Witches’ Companion and Spell-A-Day series.

When she is not busy crafting articles for Llewellyn, she is busy polishing her fictional stories and manuscripts, hoping they will someday find their forever home. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and lives in Denver, Colorado.

After the Glow of Conference Fades … by Sharon Mignerey

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” ~Zig Zigler

Sharon MignereyIt’s been weeks since the Colorado Gold Conference. You know how it is immediately after conference … you’re enthused, recharged, ready to move on with The Plan and move toward success (or possibly, continued success). Or … you’re comparing yourself to John or Jane Writer, who has achieved the latest accolades, who writes the most compelling characters and the best plot twists ever, who has a starred review in PW, not to mention a six-figure contract. Ahhh. To be the current darling of publishing and the Awards circuits. Wouldn’t that be something?

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way a month or so after conference. When the job that pays bills sucks up all my time and energy, my motivation begins to slip. That vow to write six pages a day slips to six pages a week … or a month. Those solutions that were so clear for how to solve a plot or character problem when I was with my writer friends (translation – MY herd of other little sea horses [thank you, Susan Spann!]) begins to fade. Instead of remembering that an editor asked to see a full manuscript, I’m focused on the nit-picky and negative things that other person in my reading workshop said about my work … and I’m tempted by chocolate instead of writing. What is a writer to do?

The short answer is this: build a system of accountability and tribe building that works for you. In short, find your herd of sea horses and the part of the reef that best suits your particular style of writing.

  • Get together with a small group of writers on some regular schedule. Thanks to the internet, you can have contact even if it’s not a face-to-face critique group. You can use plain old email, not to mention Skype or Face Time. Granted, it may not be quite the same as being in the same room, but it’s close … and you can do it in PJs! In short, you don’t have to be in Denver to find your herd of like-minded writers.
  • If critique works for you, find critique partners. If your need is to set aside a certain time every day or week and write with others, then find partners who are willing to do that with you. If being accountable to someone that you’ve met your writing goals this week, find partners for that.
  • If an editor or agent has asked to see your work, send it! An editor once told me that fewer than 20% of the writers she asked material from sent it. Can you imagine that? Are you one of the 20% or the 80%? To my way of thinking, the odds of the editor liking my project just went up.

If work needs to be done on the project before you can send it, set a date for when you’re doing to send it, then parse the tasks between now and that date into manageable pieces, and get to work. I think setting a date is similar to giving a sick sea horse a name—there’s power in the commitment represented. The date … and the name … make things real. If you’re married, you made the commitment, set a date, and went to work to make it happen. The same thing applies here.

I grew up with the mantra instilled in me that “anything work doing is worth doing well.” What is easy to forget is this: before doing something well, I’m probably going to do it badly. This is where having a support system for my writer’s life becomes even more important—my herd of other writers who hang around in the part of the reef that I call home. Who are there to applaud my successes (growth in skills, finaling in contests, making a sale), chase away the predators (worry and rejection), and help me see where the best food can be found (story craft and submission markets).

RMFW has a wonderful discussion group (if you don’t belong, send a request ( and ask to join), where you can put out the call to find others of like mind … or respond to others who have put out a call that appeals to you. I promise, a big reef though RMFW may be, your part of the reef is also home to a group of writers who want to be part of your herd.

Happy writing, everyone!

… Sharon Mignerey

p.s. If you’re wondering about the references to sea horses, order the CD for Susan Spann’s wonderful Writer-of-the-Year talk by calling Joyco Multimedia at 720-541-7905.


Sharon Mignerey has been a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers since 1984 and says her successes would not have come without the support of her friends and fellow writers in the group. She’s the author of eleven books, and she’s currently polishing two submissions that have been requested by editors she met at the most recent Colorado Gold Conference.

Kay Bergstrom and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Kay BergstromI joined RMFW before it was for Fiction Writers. The original group was affiliated with national RWA (Romance Writers of America), there were a handful of members and the only published author was Maggie Osborne. Yada, yada, yada, I sold my first book, Tongue-Tied, to Harlequin Temptation and realized exactly how much help I needed.

Hence, the critique groups. Jasmine Cresswell had just moved to Denver and joined our little RWA group, and we started doing critique in people’s homes. I loooooove critique, especially in the RMFW style. The idea is to give a couple of nice strokes in the beginning (good kitty!), then the actual criticism (kitty sucks!) and a happy ending (still a good kitty!). I still remember the day when Jasmine said the writing was elegant...not my writing, but I was happy for the other person.

We moved critique to Capitol Hill Community Center. It grew. Many other genres of writers were appearing, which made it a little creepy to read sex scenes. I do, however, believe that it’s helpful to have men do critique on romance. (Really? You think about sex that often? Really?) And we decided that these thoughtful, gentle, fiction-writing men (and women) shouldn’t have to become members of the national Romance Writers of America. We disaffiliated and split into two groups.

Colorado Romance Writers and Heart of Denver Romance Writers are terrific resources for romance writers and others as well. I’ve found that romance writers are incredibly generous in sharing their time and expertise. Because RMFW came from the romance genre, I think the tone of the organization is unique. RMFW is more welcoming to all genres—from erotica to literary. Very seldom have I heard an RMFW member bad-mouth the romance genre. On those rare occasions when remarks are made about trash, pulp and/or smut, the snotty pseudo-intellectual who spewed such venom is generally corrected in such a way that they never denigrate the Big R again.

As for Colorado Gold? It’s the best opportunity to stick my head out of the rabbit hole and find out what’s going on in the world of publishing. Hell, yes, I was there. I love to meet new people.

My New Venture

Partly because I enjoy playing with plots and partly because it’s easier than robbing a bank, I’m getting ready to start a plotting and editing service. I’m still figuring out the important stuff, like how much to charge and how to do it.

I’m still figuring this out and would love any sort of feedback.

Right now, my thought is to offer three services: Developmental Editing: tangling my fingers in the plotting of your fiction manuscript when you’re getting started or when you have a synopsis or if you’ve started and gotten stuck. (This is the fun part I would really enjoy). Page Editing: reading with a wider scope, if needed suggesting major changes, cutting scenes, a more hands on approach. Copy Editing: sticking with the script and making mostly stylistic and choreography changes.

Still getting my act together (finishing a book under contract), but I have set up a new e-mail for this: kaybedits (at) goodle (dot) com and I’m hoping I’ll have my Facebook page operational very soon.

I am trying to think of what to call this endeavor. For now, it’s Plots&Edits, mostly because “plots” is a fun word to say. Plots, plots, you’re such a big, old plots.

Same Old, Same Old

In addition to the New Venture, I will continue writing (for as long as they’ll have me) for Harlequin Intrigue. Though I’ve written other types of romance and even did a couple of straight suspense books, I keep coming back to Intrigue. These books are just about everything I want: They’re fast-paced, not too long (55,000 words) and they pay real money.

I like writing Short and Fast (my nickname in high school) because I can pretty much keep the whole story in my head. I would need to do brain push-ups to do longer books.

My worst habit in writing is procrastination. Putting things off until the last minute isn’t cute, and I MUST stop doing it. In the spirit of “do as I say not as I do,” my advice to all writers is write every day and don’t fall behind.

My practical writing advice: Practice Deep Viewpoint.

I didn’t start out wanting to be a writer. I was going to be an actress. I studied the Stanislavski Method and read An Actor Prepares, which could easily be re-titled A Writer Prepares. The idea is to lose yourself entirely in your viewpoint character so that you can really tell their story. If it helps, surround yourself with objects they would have, eat the food they like, etc. Use caution in writing villain viewpoint, i.e., it’s not necessary to use real blood. The main idea: Take yourself (the author) out of the picture, and focus on the character.

Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art. –Constantin Stanislavski.


For those of you who don't know Kay, she writes the romance novels under the name of Cassie Miles. Her books can be found on the Harlequin Intrigue website as well as bookstores and online booksellers. Find her on Facebook and Goodreads.