I had a great time at Author Fest of the Rockies this past weekend. I attended the conference in the role of moderator and general helper around the place, and had the great joy of attending quite a few great sessions in which I learned quite a bit.

The first session of the conference was Patrick Hester‘s podcasting session. He had great advice for what software, hardware, processes, microphones, etc. to use to produce a quality podcast regardless of the content. He also discussed various distribution methods for the resulting mp3 files that come out of a podcast to keep from blowing out your web site’s bandwidth. Patrick is one of the premier podcasters out there, and really knows how to share his expertise in this area.

The next session I moderated was also by Patrick, in which he covered social media and self-marketing. I already knew most of this content from a session he taught at the CSFWG‘s retreat from this summer. However, he used slightly different phrasing this time around and really drove home some new concepts or reinforced ones I already had in my head. My takeaway from this session is that I need to blog more, tweet more and just put myself out there more.

After this came the session with DeAnna Knippling about scary books, what to look for in them, how to write them, and how to find them for a younger audience. I didn’t know what to expect out of this session, but DeAnna really knows her stuff. I was quite impressed with the depth and breadth of her knowledge.

I also had the honor of moderating a session by Mario Acevedo and Warren Hammond which covered the concepts behind scene and sequel. They also covered when and where in a story to add a chapter break, how to increase tension in a story using the S&S concepts and a few other more subtle areas. It was a great session and they were great speakers. I kept my eye on the crowd, and they were thoroughly engaged and scribbling notes so quickly I was worried their notebooks might catch on fire!

The last session I moderated was with Anita Mumm from the Nelson Literary Agency. She covered the topic of how to write query letters. She went through the basic structure of the query letter, what agents/editors expect to see, what they don’t want to see, and gave us some examples. The examples were of what not to do as well as how to write a query letter properly. I’d been to a few sessions similar to this in the past at other events, but Anita (like Patrick) reinforced some knowledge and gave me a few tips on how to polish up my query letter.

Somewhere in the rush of things, I stepped into the main lunch area with the intent to sit and relax for a few moments. I found that I had I landed in Chris Mandeville’s session about NaNoWriMo and the Hero’s Journey. I’ll admit that I was a little brain-tired, and just wanted to relax, but Chris pulled me right into the session and I found it quite engaging. I have different plans for this November other than NaNoWriMo, but that’s another blog post that I’ll be doing later. Chris did a wonderful job with presenting ideas about how to avoid getting bogged down in characters, plot, story, life and interruptions. I think the best part was the contract that she handed out. It’s a contract with yourself and no one else that states you will do everything in your power to accomplish whatever personal goals you have set for yourself.

After the Friday sessions, we ran down the streets of Manitou Springs to Kinfolks and participated in the open mic night. The readings were wonderful! Some where hilarious. Some were serious. Some were heartfelt. Some jerked tears. All were entertaining. I even jumped up on the stage, and read the first four lines of the third book in my trilogy. I had just written them on my phone, so I’d have something to read for the crowd. It was quick and simple, but there were a few folks in the audience who had read some of my stuff. I saw the smiles on their faces as I introduced a few familiar characters that my readers have enjoyed.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great keynotes. They were all funny, educational, entertaining, and, most of all, inspiring to an aspiring author like me. I had a great time listening to each of the keynotes. The staff of Author Fest did a wonderful job lining up the keynotes. They are all to be congratulated on their monumental efforts. The one keynote that really stuck with me the most was Stephen Graham Jones‘s answer to “Why do you write?” Fortunately, someone found a link to the speech and sent it out.

All-in-all, we had a good time. I can’t wait to do it again next year!