A “mountain” of authors descended on Library 21c a couple of weekends ago and I was lucky to be among the 40 published authors who participated in the annual event. If you’re a professional writer — or aspire to become one — the Pikes Peak Library District’s Mountain of Authors is a phenomenal (and free!) gathering where you can meet local authors, publishers and representatives from writing and editing groups, and learn about writing, publishing and marketing your book from industry experts.
The library seems to top itself year after year, and this event was no exception. Division head librarian Amy Rodda; panel organizers and moderators Shannon Miller and Karin Huxman; program contributor/consultant Doris Baker of Filter Press; and program coordinators Heidi Buljung, Melissa Mitchell, Meagan Huber, and Bryan Matthews pulled out all the stops with five-foot tables for each author to display our books and giveaways like bookmarks, candies, tchotchkes, and other goodies. The complimentary gift bags, lunch, and tasty reception treats for all the authors were the icing on the (cup) cake!
We writers work hard and mostly in isolation, so the pleasure we get from events like this cannot be overstated. Not only do we enjoy this special treatment from the esteemed keepers of the written word, librarians, we also get to meet the people who actually read our books. A lot of readers came by my table to talk about my specialties, guidebooks and ghostwriting. Several even asked me about my Northwest Notes column. I never take for granted that anyone other than my wonderful editor, Hannah Maginot, ever reads what I write here, so when someone tells me how much they enjoyed my column on genealogy (or mountaineering, or waterfalls, or even runaway garbage cans or cast-iron skillets) it’s more flattering than you can imagine.
Two panels and a keynote speech were the educational and entertainment components of the day. The first panel, “Writing an Award-Winning Book,” featured Colorado authors Barbara Nickless (“Blood on the Tracks”), Liz Colter (“A Borrowed Hell”), and Peg Brantley (“Trafficked”). The second panel, “I Wrote a Book; Now What?” was presented by Nelson Literary Agency’s Angie Hodapp, freelance writer/editor Anita Mumm, and Buy the Book Marketing’s Mary Walewski. Getting a book published these days takes a lot more than writing a good book. Unless you’re a known entity in the industry, you have to invest time promoting yourself and your book. The folks on these panels really knew their stuff, and they shared generously with the audience!
The keynote was by New York Times bestseller Sandhya Menon, who gave would-be published authors some excellent advice: hire a good editor (and cover designer). After spending the past seven months wrists-deep in UCSD’s copyediting program, I can tell you that no matter how well you think you can write, there is always much more to learn.
The highlight of my Mountain of Authors day was meeting the other authors. This year, the library grouped the nonfiction writers together so I was in good company alongside Julie Rasmussen, a fellow Mensan and author of “I Didn’t Believe Any of This Hippy Dippy Bullsht Either: A Skeptic’s Awakening to the Spiritual Universe;” Nancy Parker Brummett, author of “Take My Hand Again,” who incidentally used to write a column for The Gazette; John Dwaine McKenna, “Unforsaken,” who is also a columnist for the Tri-Valley Townsman; Stewart M. Green, “Rock Art”, who’s authored dozens of outdoor guidebooks; Sarah Byrn Rickman, who has written eight books about WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) women of World War II; LeAnna DeAngelo, PhD, a licensed psychologist and lecturer whose book “Maestro Satriano” details the life of her great-great uncle, the first musician performer at Red Rocks; and Dr. Francis T. Pilch, a Fulbright Scholar, professor emeritus at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and author of “INVISIBLE: Surviving the Cambodian Genocide: The Memoirs of Mac and Simone Leng.” My only regret was not meeting the Lengs, who were at Pilch’s table for the reception.
I did spend a few minutes with local treasure Alexander Blackburn, a Cambridge Ph.D. and former UCCS professor whose honors include the prestigious Frank Waters Award for Excellence in English. I’ve read Blackburn’s “The Door of the Sad People” and “The Voice of the Children in the Apple Tree,” and I just started “Suddenly a Mortal Splendor.” In today’s celebrity-and-social-media-driven, often talent-starved world of popular fiction, Blackburn is a literary beacon — his writing, masterful. And while I appreciate learning about websites, email lists, podcasts, and Instagram followers (which are almost a requirement for authors these days), I really just want to write better, so I read the best books I can find. Like chess, if you want to improve your writing skills, you have to look to better players than yourself.
If you missed this year’s Mountain of Authors, you can still enjoy other writing events at your local library. There is “literally” something going on in the Pikes Peak Library District every day. I’ll be doing three presentations there in June, so check out their events page and put something fun, free, and educational on your calendar. And while you’re there, check out a book by a local author or two — or three, four … or 40.
Susan Joy Paul is an author, editor and freelance writer. She has lived on Colorado Springs’ northwest side for more than 20 years. Contact Susan with comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.