I'm not sure what led ManitouMike to this impression from the article, but cheerleading writers in a certain clique was certainly not the intent of Author Fest, nor did I see any evidence of such when I attended. The sessions I attended, and the one I presented with Laura DiSilverio on "Getting Serious about Series Writing" were focused on educating aspiring authors on the craft and business of writing, all with the aim of helping those who are new to the process learn what they need to break into that "clique" of published authors that Mike perceives.
At both the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, offered in the spring, and at this conference, I saw published authors reaching out to unpublished writers to answer questions and share what they've learned along the way to help others avoid some of the pitfalls in publishing. I see the Pikes Peak Writers Conference as a more serious one for those who may have a finished manuscript and are ready to enter a writing contest and/or pitch to agents or editors, while Author Fest may be for those who are newer to the process and are wondering what it takes to become a published author. Both are useful to the local writing community.
I'm one of those Colorado authors who is traditionally published in hardcover and reviewed in respected print and online publications, and there were many others like me presenting at Author Fest. Yes, the element of self-publishing was there as well as traditional-publishing, and while I never suggest that someone go into self-publishing with their eyes closed, attending a conference such as this and finding out what the pluses and minuses are is the best way to make an informed decision.
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