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All in a day's workshop 

Chris Mandeville has devoted the past nine years of her life to serving on Pikes Peak Writers' board of directors, eventually rising to her current rank of president. Although writing was a passion from an early age, her intuition led her in other directions — not once, but twice.

"I have manuscripts from when I was 10 and younger, but I never considered it a viable career option," she says. Instead, she headed into advertising, then teaching. "I only came to writing as an adult sort of through a back door. It was my third career."

Now in her mid-40s, Mandeville has completed a near-future post-apocalyptic novel, the first in a young adult fantasy trilogy, and is working on a nonfiction book about how to break through writer's block — when she's not searching for an agent.

There's no way to help a young Chris realize her calling sooner, but through the organization she now leads and its summer events, tomorrow's authors can get a jump on things today. According to Mandeville, this weekend's Beginning Writer's Workshop will be a complete overview of everything you need to know about crafting a novel.

"We'll cover everything from story planning to character development; to the mechanics of format; the process of submitting on the business side of writing; 'What can an agent do for you?' 'What does an editor do?' 'How can you get one of each?' It'll be a lot of information in about a six-hour workshop."

Whereas the Beginning Writer's Workshop is a one-time, full-day, low-cost overview, Pikes Peak Writers also offers free, two-hour "Write Brain" workshops on the third Tuesday of each month. These events focus on narrower topics, ranging from the craft of writing to the business of writing to aspects of the writing life, and they feature at least one guest speaker.

This month's free session, "Where Are You Going? Story Planning Tools and Techniques," will be graced by multiple guest speakers, including locals Susan Mitchell and Bev Sninchak, allowing the attendees to experiment and choose whose methods work best for them. "It's good to have an arsenal of tools or weapons in the story-planning fight," says Mandeville.

The past month's Write Brain guest was Denver author Mario Acevedo, who taught a workshop on writing in the dark fantasy genre. Acevedo, who thanked a comparable writers' group in Denver on the dedication page of one of his novels, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, calls Pikes Peak Writers "very well organized."

"Other parts of the country, the larger cities don't have that kind of support and networking that we have here," he says. "We're very fortunate."

And while education is important, interactions with others pursuing the same journey may be just as vital when it comes to the writer's life. "I didn't know any writers," says Mandeville. "I didn't have any kind of first-hand information from people about how to be successful and how one might earn a living doing that."

"Writing can be such a lonely and solitary business," she adds. "PPW enables writers to network, share ideas and interact with others who don't think we're crazy when we listen to the voices in our head."

scene@csindy.com

  • Pikes Peak Writers teaches micro for free and macro for $45.

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