Superstars Writing Seminar

Success smells like popcorn. Let me explain.

It’s been a week since I returned to the real world from The 9th Annual Superstars Writing Seminar (SSWS) in Colorado Springs. You’ve read my blog. You’ve seen how many conventions I’ve attended from this one to this one to this one. And a few others I apparently haven’t blogged about because I can’t seem to find them in the archives.

SSWS, the one that I’ve been dying to go to for YEARS, was a completely different experience. They call themselves the Tribe. I suppose I have to say WE call ourselves the Tribe. It feels good. And that’s kinda the point.

Professionals Guiding the Next Generation

Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland along with a few of their friends recognized a gap in writing-themed workshops. Most of them concentrated on the craft of writing instead of the business. To fix the gap, they founded Superstars Writing Seminar.

Notice those names? None of them needed to work the workshop to benefit their career. They did it to help the next generation of writers. They each confessed to successful authors who mentored them while they were starting out in this creative endeavor. Now they’re paying it forward.

Master Classes

How do the instructors accomplish the magic? By gathering professionals from all over the industry to share their insights. The organizers included advocates for self-publishing as well as advocates for traditional publishing which made it easy to see the costs and benefits of each path. Most recommended hybrid publishing where each author does a share of each.

Jonathan Maberry

Most Conventions: Your pitch needs to introduce the main character or two and don’t forget the inciting incidence and the stakes for those characters. Look professional and practice.

All good advice, but not really helpful.

SSWS: Jonathan Maberry took suggestions from the audience for a main character (teenage werewolf named Fred) and a problem (he’s losing his hair). Maberry ad-libbed pitching this pretend story and completely sold me. I was ready to buy the book on the spot. He talked to us in a friendly, excited manner describing Fred’s frustration over trying to grow hair, then giving up and deciding to accept who he was. With his friends, a couple of misfit paranormals, they plan to make senior year the best year yet.

I walked away with such confidence that I rocked my pitch session the next day. I was nervous, but felt much more prepared than I ever had. I was always so worried about using just the write words, that I forgot to use my personality to sell the agent on my story. Best advice I’d ever seen. You have to see it live.

Kevin J. Anderson

Most Conventions: Write every day.

Okay. That’s not exactly helpful.

SSWS: Here’s how you become more productive. Set a schedule and write during that time. Period. If you only have thirty minutes with lunch. Write then. If you can dictate while in the car back and forth to work, do that. Here’s the software and hardware I use. If you have an hour at the kid’s soccer practice, bring a pad and paper and get some words down.

Not only did Kevin J. Anderson offer us detailed steps on how to improve output, he wrote a book all about it. You can find it here.

Brandon Sanderson

Most Conventions: Do these steps just like me and you too will be as successful as I am.

Sure, buddy.

SSWS: Brandon Sanderson scratched his head as he explained that he could tell you exactly what he did to make it to this point in his career, but that doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else. He described it as a wall around the publishing industry and when someone breaks through, the powers-that-be plug the hole so no one else can get through that way.

How humbly brilliant. Sanderson illustrated there is no single path to full time authordom. Just keep trying until you find your hole in the wall, then slip through before the powers-that-be see it first. He did reiterate the same sort of mantra that you hear from all successful people regardless of their field: work hard, meet people already doing what you want to do, educate yourself, and don’t give up.


When was the last time that you attended a convention with some of the top names in the business where you had direct access to their wit and wisdom?

My personal experiences:

  1. Spoke with Mark Leslie Lefebvre, of Kobo fame, at the meet and greet on Thursday night.
  2. Talked to Jonathan Maberry about some of his top secret jobs outside of writing.
  3. Had a personal consultation with Glenn Miller,, about how to increase the following of my author newsletter.
  4. Was wowed while Glenn and Jonathan talked about marshal arts.
  5. Pitched to Dave Butler, acquisitions editor at Wordfire Press.
  6. Practiced said pitch with Mark Coker, Smashwords founder.
  7. Ate lunch with Kevin J. Anderson by personal invite. (Okay, it was a group, not just me, but he DID invite me by name. I think that counts.)
  8. Glenn Miller and Chris Mandeville are doing an experiment and reporting all their findings next year. Three books in one series published in twelve months with little advertising outside of a newsletter and a website. As an author and a publisher, I am anxious to see their results.

Best part? It will be a new group of professionals next year. I can’t wait. It’s inspiring to be treated like a colleague when you’re but a neophyte.


Now that I’ve woven stars in your eyes, let me tell you the best part: the Tribe. The attendees at SSWS are different than any writer group I’ve met.

No one goes to lunch alone. Whether you’ve attended for years or this is your first convention, you never eat alone. I wouldn’t say there isn’t a cliche. It’s just that the cliche is the ENTIRE group of people. When we’d go out for lunch or dinner, multiple restaurants were half full with attendees. I ate with a different group EVERY time.

Most of us flew from all over the country, even a few from outside the US. Volunteer tribe members made sure everyone was picked up from either the Denver or the Colorado Springs airport at no charge. The Denver airport is an hour and a half away. Still, we all got free rides to and from. Snow came in and closed down Colorado Springs runways as we were trying to get out of there. Those same volunteers, who had driven all day and had NO obligation to pick up stranded Tribe members, nevertheless, made sure everyone made it back to the hotel. They were even able to extend the discounted hotel rate for one more night until the group could get home.

All attendees are authors. Some are New York Times Best Sellers. Some are self published phenoms. Some have a book or two out and are still establishing their name. Some haven’t finished their first manuscript. ALL of us are colleagues.

As soon as you register, you’re added to the Facebook group where everyone is supportive and generous and positive. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

The Popcorn Theory

“How does popcorn come into play?” you ask.

Kevin J. Anderson gives a speech about how vital it is to throw your hats into all kinds of arenas: short stories, full length fiction, other people’s universes, stand alones, series. Throw a bunch of kernels onto the heat and SOMETHING will pop.

As he gives this motivational speech of successful business practices, the crew in the back make actual popcorn. The smell of salt and butter and the sound of snapping seeds float through the air as he weaves a tale of how you too can live the dream of being a full time author.

So now, to me, success smells like popcorn.

Ready to go for 2019

The staff and volunteers that make this all happen are already preparing for 2019. You can see the guests who are committed for next year here. The list will only grow.

I’m registering. It’s at its lowest price for the year.

Will you join me? Before you sign up, send me an email (kelly at kellylynncolby dot com) and I’ll give you a code for $100 off. Register here.

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4 Responses

  1. Stephen says:

    This sounds ike it was so much fun and motivating. Maybe Smash and I will attend one day! I can’t even imagine how much you learn from hanging out with so many talented people.

    • Kelly Colby says:

      Y’all have to come. There’s a ton of people who do podcasts too. And if ya’ll keep interviewing authors, there’ll be a huge pool to draw from and a loyal following that will come with being Tribe.

  2. Doug says:

    That sounds awesome!