Catching my breath
Friends, that title is both metaphor and literally true. I spent five days in Colorado Springs at the amazing Superstars writing seminar, and between the incredible people, ongoing education, and very real altitude, I definitely had more than a few breathtaking moments. Read on for the after action report!
Tuesday - Despite a zero-dark-thirty wake up, I got in too late to join the Garden of the Gods walk (though I did get to catch a glimpse of the gorgeousness on my way out of town), but in plenty of time to get brunch with the ever fabulous Mark Stallings (who kindly fetched me from the airport) and Rob Howell. Good food, good company, and given I'd been up since 3:30 that morning, you know the conversation had to be good for me to stay awake. Also the waitress brought me a sample of a delicious tea/lemonade drink because it matched my hair, so the joy was rampant.
After brunch, I hitched a ride with Rob, supplies were secured, hotel was reached, and then I met up with fabulous folks, learned about my volunteer gig, and got to work alongside the fantabulous Mia Kleve and her wonderful team to kick off Superstars registration. It was a great way to meet people at my first Superstars, and both fellow newbies and alumni were full of excitement in a way that promised a great week.
After registration we met up at Jack Quinn's for food, festivities, and friends (new and old). Marie Whittaker - an amazing writer, fabulous human, and also co-director of Superstars - welcomed and thanked everyone, and there was much cheering. It was a delight, but I'm not going to lie to you, I was in bed by 9pm. A feat not to be replicated again...
Wednesday - Craft Day. I can't rave enough about the quality of these. It was hard choosing which to do, but since I can't yet split myself into duplicates, choices were made. Excellent, excellent choices.
My morning session was on story pacing, with the dynamic Jonathan Maberry. It was such a clear, focused lesson I immediately rewrote the first page of a fantasy novel I'd started, and came out with a much stronger product, as you'll see when we get to Thursday. Aaaand, folks on my mailing list will get to see that before and after in the near future, just saying.
At the break for lunch I invited myself to Kevin Ikenberry's plans, and got sushi and more great conversation as a reward. We had one of those great-group-that-continued-to-grow-through-the-meal, so I can't list everyone, but it was an incredibly wonderful group and also the waitress agreed as she brought us surprise dessert at the end.
Sushi- and sugar-filled, I got back to the hotel for my afternoon session - creating protagonists and antagonists with the one and only Jim Butcher. A ton of insight, some fun side stories, and a big takeaway about being more purposeful in some of the ways I develop my characters. Brilliant. Dinner that night was with the CKP folks, including the Factory Boss himself, my fave Mel Todd, and a bunch of Superstars I got to meet for the first time.
Let me tell you - every single person I met at this seminar was phenomenal. Whether an award winning multi-bestselling mastermind or someone working to finish their first story, everyone was kind, welcoming, and a heckuva lot of fun.
After dinner I hung out with Mel for awhile, she helped me smooth out my newly changed first page, and then I did some more writing before collapsing into sleep. An almost responsible turn-in time (spoiler: no, it wasn't, but it was earlier than the next few!).
Thursday - The official start of the convention. I got up suuuuper early to work registration again, then heard inspiring and educational stuff from Jim Butcher, Jody Lynn Nye, Chris Kennedy, Kevin Ikenberry, Nick Thacker, and Joshua Vogt, and if that wasn't enough I also ate the best grilled cheese of my life when Mel and I ran away midday for lunch.
I met even more awesome folks at the Welcome Mixer (including the fabulous wives of some of the CKPers), but I missed out on the games as my fellow CKPer, Dan Bridgwater, and I had a First Page Party to attend.
Deeply talented writers/brilliant humans Chris Mandeville and Todd Fahnestock offer their time and talents to give critiques on attendees' first pages, and we had pages to be critiqued. The amazingness that resulted! Y'all, the STORIES in that room. Chris and Todd were helpful, kind, insightful, and the writers were fantastic. I want every one of their stories in my eyeballs immediately. I read my first page near the beginning - it got rave reviews, in no small part thanks to Jonathan Maberry's session, whew! - and stayed long into the evening to hear all the rest because they were that good.
After that I hit up BarCon (the hotel bar where many, many of the writers gathered) and chatted until far later than I had any business chatting. Who needs sleep!
Friday - Wait, there's more! Friday I learned more about branding and marketing from Craig Martelle and Dakota Krout, putting together an excellent anthology (timely!) from Chris Kennedy, Shahid Mahmud, Kevin J. Anderson, Sam Knight, Lyn Worthen, Joni Labaqui, and Esther Jones, learned more great stuff from other awesome people, had delicious lunch, and then...
I mean, I don't have good words for the 'and then' - hard to admit, since I'm, you know, a writer. But the 'and then' was a speech from James Owen that made me cry a non-zero number of times, made me laugh even more, and ultimately recentered and reinspired me. I'm not even going to try and replicate here, but I will share one of the quotes I can't shake -
"Never sacrifice what you want the most, for what you want in the moment." Like...
Everything he had to say was perfect, what I needed to hear, and from the heart. Just utterly brilliant.
The day wasn't even over at that point! Next it was the VIP dinner, where I got to sit with the legendary Lisa Mangum (author, editor, genius), and five other fantastic attendees (seriously: table 12 for life!). I didn't take a picture of our group, but some exist, and I'll find them eventually. I asked for Lisa's table because I heard she was great, but more pressingly, that she's a huge Supernatural fan and wrote a BOOK about storytelling through a Supernatural frame and I neeeeeeded to talk to her about it. Which I did! I can't wait to read her book, because good goodness she really is so analytically, instructively, fascinatingly smart - her insight genuinely changed how I felt about the finale.
Also she + our tablemates were hilarious, and fantastic storytellers, and the more books they put into the world the better, and I will promote them endlessly. Such a fun night, followed by an icily sketchy ride home (it snowed while we were gallivanting), thankfully skillfully navigated by Rob without incident. Much, much fun was had at BarCon, more stories told, more shenanigans ensued - I got to chat with the world's coolest, Jay Boyce, and meet at least twenty new-to-me awesome folks. It was so much fun I forgot about things like sleep, and recovery.
Saturday - All good things do, unfortunately, come to an end. Saturday I learned about revenue streams, professional image, bookseller's perspective, being a literary guest at cons, talked more Supernatural with Lisa, ate more good food, had fantastic conversations, crashed a room party, listened to Jonathan Maberry's endlessly entertaining stories, and stayed up way, way too late with absolutely zero regrets.
Sunday - Packing, goodbyes, and Mark Stallings finding time to squire his airport-dropoffs to the Garden of the Gods overlook before we left. The beautiful view made me sadder to leave, but I had a Jeremy and pups to get back to, so that helped.
Superstars was an incredible handful of days that will have an outsized impact on my life. I met such wonderful people, was welcomed into a group of talented rockstars, learned, cried, laughed...and I want to do it all over again tomorrow.
If you're anywhere on the path of authorship, I strongly recommend checking out Superstars. The sessions are invaluable and the networking is...yeah, despite all these words, indescribable. I used all my adjectives and it's still not enthusiastic enough. Come for the learning and the comradery, leave with an action list and a hundred plus new friends.
I can't wait to go back and hope to see you there!