Did You Know? – Ultimo & Instant

Did You Know Chalk Board w Rustic Wood Frame & Daisy

As a historical researcher, I still occasionally come across a word which I don’t recognize, but in the beginning, there were two words I saw repeatedly in the newspapers which absolutely drove me bonkers. I could not, just from the context, figure out exactly what they meant. I could guess. But guessing in this business isn’t ideal and hardly satisfying.

The two words were “instant” and “ultimo.” Now, of course, I was familiar with the word “instant” as we commonly use it today. However, the way it was being used in the articles didn’t appear to have anything to do with speed or immediacy.

For example, an article might say: “Mrs. Fancypants departed for town at precisely ten minutes past noon on the 6th ultimo and arrived in town at 3pm on the 18th instant.”

Say what now?

I asked the librarian in charge of the archives, but even she didn’t know what those words meant in that context.

However, a quick Google search easily solved my confusion.

It turns out that, when used this way, “ultimo” means “of last month” and “instant” means “of the current month.”

So the example sentence above could be rewritten as: “Mrs. Fancypants departed for town at precisely ten minutes past noon on the 6th of last month and arrived in town on the at 3pm the 18th of the current month.”

So there you go.

The next time you’re digging through old newspapers, you’ll know exactly what the reporter is trying to convey.

#nowyouknow

Let’s chat!

Have you ever come across old-fashioned words you didn’t recognize or didn’t understand the way they were being used?

TWEETABLE:

Ultimo & Instant – These words may not mean what you think they do. 

How to Ignore Critique

How to Ignore Critique

The timer buzzed but Susan completed her final note before setting down her pen.

The critique group leader looked up and surveyed the five people surrounding her dining room table. “Who’d like to go first?”

Susan held up her pen. “I’ll go.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Susan glanced down at her notes on Harold-the-newcomer’s first submission to the group.

“First of all, ” She looked up at Harold. “I like the tension you’ve established in this scene. I can really feel the conflict between these two characters. So, good job.”

Harold nodded and grinned. “Thank you.”

“Near the bottom of the first page, in the sixth paragraph.” Susan tapped her finger on the paper. “See where it says, ‘He felt the sun beating down on his back’? Do you think you could rewrite that to eliminate the word ‘felt’? If you can, I think it might help your readers experience a deeper point of view.”

Harold’s brows pinched together. He said nothing as he dropped his gaze to his own copy of the story.

After an awkward pause, Susan turned the page and found her next note. “Here in the middle of the second page, you do a good job describing how the trash is all cleaned up today, but then you point out that it was spilled across the yard yesterday. The reader already knows this, though, because you wrote about the spilled trash just two scenes prior to this one, right? I think you can get away with just the description of how clean it is today and leave out the rest. The reader will pick up on the significance of the change.”

She looked around. Others were nodding.

Harold’s lips pinched and he didn’t look up.

Susan stifled a sigh as she skimmed through the rest of her notes. “Regarding the last line on the second page. With the way you structured this sentence, I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say, ‘Those things didn’t matter anymore.’ Perhaps, if you-”

Harold jumped to his feet. “I don’t know what there is not to get. My other group got it just fine.” He snatched back the copies of his story from those around the table. “They thought it was great. You must not have read it carefully.” He jerked Susan’s copy from her hands and jammed the papers into his backpack. “Maybe if you didn’t use this stupid timer,” He knocked over the wind-up timer.  “You could appreciate great writing when you saw it.”

Everyone gasped.

Harold stormed out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.


 

Don’t be a Harold. Just don’t.

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. If someone has taken time out of their day to read your work and provide feedback, the least you can do is listen calmly and with an open mind.

But what should you do when the person critiquing you is wrong? 

Well, first of all, stop and consider that they might be right. Seriously. We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes what that person is saying doesn’t make sense to you, not because they are wrong, but because they haven’t explained it in a way that you can understand. Ask follow-up, clarifying questions. Make sure you thoroughly understand what they are trying to say. Then, if you have thought it over rationally, and still don’t think they are correct in their assessment or suggestion … shut up. Just smile and thank them for their time and effort in critiquing your work. Then walk away and put their notes in a file somewhere.

Don’t delete or throw the critique out right away. 

Why? In my experience, even those critiques you initially assess as incorrect can sometimes prove to have a grain of truth six months down the line when you learn something new; or you can suddenly encounter a second person saying the same thing as the first person, but they are explaining it in a way that changes your perspective on it. Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention. Maybe they are both wrong. Maybe not. Either way, it will be much easier to reassess things if you can look at both critiques side by side.

So when should you throw out critiques?

If the critique is something objectively wrong such as telling you that you can’t capitalize the word “son” even when using it as a proper noun, unless you are referring to Jesus . . . double check your preferred style manual, then throw it out. Grammar is grammar (for the most part).

If the critique is subjective, – such as how much you describe something – you should first consider everything you have learned about the writing craft and the conventions of your genre. Then consider whether you are hearing it from two or more sources or if it is a solitary opinion. Then, if you, as the author, still want it to stay the way it is … that’s why you are the author.

The thing a lot of new writers forget is that when everything is said and done, writing is an art form. Art is subjective. Trust me. I have received directly opposing critiques from equally reputable sources. They can’t both be right.

When it comes down to it, it’s your name on that title page, not theirs. Until and unless you sign a contract granting someone else control of your art, it is up to you to decide what best represents your intentions as the artist. Own that.

Don’t be a Harold.

Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. 

Have Confidence

P.S. I’ve come a long way in my thinking on this issue. Take a peek back at my first reaction to the revelation that I am an artist.

Let’s Chat!

Have you met a ‘Harold’? How do you handle critiques (writing-related or not) that you don’t agree with?

TWEETABLES

Don’t be a Harold. Do have the confidence to (respectfully) ignore a critique that changes your art into theirs. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Having two or more people provide you with the same or similar critical note means it is time to sit up and pay attention.  (CLICK TO TWEET)

You should never dismiss constructive critique out-of-hand. It’s even worse to take it as a personal offense. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Don’t be a Harold. (CLICK TO TWEET)

I May Kill You

Blog Post - I may kill you

Like today’s title? Well, it’s true. I may kill you. Or at least part of you. In the very least, if I know you well enough to know your flaws, there is a very good chance I may steal them, magnify them, mix them in with someone else’s struggles, and make you part of my next antagonist (or any character, really, since they all have flaws). Whom I may or may not kill off in my next book. Consider yourself warned.

If you think that truth is frightening, you should probably stop reading now, because the even scarier truth is that all of my villains contain at least a small part of me. In order to write any character well, I have to be able to relate to them on some level. I have to understand their psyche, what motivates them, and why they feel and do what they do. This means that some part of who I am now or who I once was at some point in my life is very likely to be reflected in some part of each of my characters . . . including the philanderers, thieves, con-artists, and murderers.

So… who still wants to be my friend?

Please do not annoy the writer Mug photo
Today’s blog post was inspired by this photo of Elena Dillon’s mug which she shared on Twitter. (used here with permission) Elena writes teenage romance full of sass, suspense and swoon. For those interested: there is infrequent mild cursing in a couple of her books, but they are otherwise clean. Elena is a Christian and says her books have a faith basis but don’t meet CBA standards. You can learn more about Elena and her books HERE.

 

Tips To Maximize Your Time at a Writers’ Conference – Part 1

Tips to Maximize Your Time at a Writers Conference

If you are planning to attend a writers’ conference, chances are you’re facing a schedule which does not allow you to attend every single class offered. Of course, you’ve spent a lot of money to attend and you want to make the most of this opportunity. So how do you decide which classes to sit in on and which to skip?

Tip #1:

Know where you are.

Are you just beginning your writing journey? Do you have an idea, some notes, and maybe a few pages typed up, but that’s it? If the answer is yes, recognize that you’re a newbie and own it. There is nothing wrong with being a newbie. We all were at some point. As a newbie, you’ll want to look for classes designed for beginners.

If you’re a bit further along in your journey and have a couple complete drafts under your belt, but haven’t yet delved into the world of editors, agents, query letter, book proposals, and the like, I’d say you’re somewhere in the middle experience wise. Avoid classes that repeat basics you’ve already covered and look for classes to round out what you don’t know.

If you’ve already published one or more books or at least completed multiple drafts, gone through your manuscript with an editor’s fine tooth comb and written your book proposal, a few query letters, and have a one sheet ready to go, you’re looking for the advanced classes. You’ll want to look for classes which will update you on the market’s latest changes and classes that will review subjects you know but can always learn more about.

Tip #2

Set your goals.

This is really something you should do before registering when you are deciding which conference to attend, but if you haven’t already, set your goals for the conference you have registered for. Complete this sentence:  “When I leave this conference I . . . ”

Much of your answer will reflect how well you know where you are. (See Tip #1.) Some example answers may be:

  • When I leave this conference I will know more about structuring my plot and creating my characters.
  • When I leave this conference I will know more about building my author’s platform and maximizing my writing time.
  • When I leave this conference I will have at least three new contacts I can grow in the future.

Tip #3

Do your homework.

Aside from reading the class descriptions (which can often be a bit vague), be sure you read up about the instructors themselves. Who they are and what their area of expertise is will often influence the angle or approach they take to addressing the stated topic.

For example, a class covering book proposals which is being taught by someone who works exclusively in the non-fiction realm may or may not be helpful to someone wanting to know how to write a book proposal for a work of fiction. Sometimes instructors branch out from their area of expertise in order to help a wider audience, but not always. If you knew this about this instructor, you may be able to find someone to ask in advance of the class whether or not fiction book proposals would be covered. If you hadn’t done your homework on the instructor, though, and the description said only, “Learn to write a strong book proposal” or something similarly generic, you wouldn’t know what to ask.

Tip #4

Do your research.

Yes, this is different. This is taking your homework one step further and googling the instructors. Why? Consider this scenario:

You have to choose between the following two classes:

  1. 5 Things You Should NEVER Say to an Editor
  2. 10 Fatal Flaws of Fiction

Wow. Those both sound like important things to know, right? I mean, no one wants to be the person whose fiction contains a fatal flaw and then says something accidentally offensive to an editor. So how do you choose?

Here’s the thing. Most of your instructors are working writers themselves. They are busy. They don’t always have time to come up with completely new material and will sometimes rehash something they’ve blogged about, written an article about, or spoken about before. This means that often, though not always, it is possible to find at least some of the content for the class you are considering by doing a thorough Google search.

Take the title of your class combined with the instructor’s name and get searching. If nothing comes up with your first try, see if you can remove some details from the name of the class. So “10 Fatal Flaws of Fiction” could be searched as “Fatal Flaws of Fiction.” You can also think of different ways to title the same idea: “Common Fiction Mistakes.”Play around with it and see if you can find something the instructor has shared which might give you an idea of the direction they will probably take the class.

Part 2

Now that you have some tips to help you decide which classes to take, come back next week to read my tips for maximizing the rest of your time at a writers’ conference.

Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any tips to share for maximizing your time at a writers’ conference? Let me know in the comments below!

An Experience I’ll Never Forget – Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017

asheville-christian-writers-conference-2017

This was my first time attending the Asheville Christian Writers Conference.  My first time attending any conference which was so far away I couldn’t drive to and from home each day. In fact, living in California, I had to fly myself to North Carolina just to attend this conference. I had to pay for the rental car which I drove over 100 miles each way from the airport to the hotel room which I also had to pay for. This was no small trip where my pocketbook was concerned and I was gone several days in a row, leaving my hardworking, crazy-busy husband to take care of our three boys alone. So was it worth it?

Well, let me tell you about it.

The people

One of the best things about attending a writers conference is the people you meet. I met so many wonderful people at this conference that it would take far too long to list them all. So I will limit myself to sharing just three of the many special connections I made.

em_photo-1Edie Melson taught the very first Early Bird Class for this conference on the “Hows and Whys of Social Media” and from that moment I knew I was in the right place. Not only did I learn a lot just in the short time she spoke, but her warmth and generosity came through in her words and the way she presented herself. Over the next few days I had several opportunities to speak with Edie both one-on-one and in groups. I can tell she is a woman who knows her stuff and has a passion for helping others. I am blessed to have gotten to know her.

ruth-and-i-at-acwc-2017Ruth Steel is someone I met in the halls. We made eye contact, smiled, and after exchanging names and shaking hands, I opened with the typical writers’ conference question, “So, what do you write?” (Original, I know.) When she replied that she was working on a historical fiction novel for the Young Adult audience, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. We enjoyed many conversations over the next few days and exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch and continue to cheer each other on in our writing endeavors.

Melanie and I met in the shuttle at check-in on the very first day. There was something about her smile and her readiness to chat with anyone that told me I was going to like this lady. Turns out I was right. I think there was something about our personalities that we just clicked. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a particular something she let slip in one of our earliest conversations that made me instantly decide she was my new best friend.

You see, when she found out that I write historical Christian romance, she responded, “Oh! I have a friend who writes that. In fact, her book just came out.” I was like, “Really? Would you mind giving her my contact info? I’m always wanting to get to know other people in my genre.” And she says,”Sure.” And then she says this: “I forget the title of her book, hold on….Her name is Sondra umm…” and she trails off as she starts looking in her bag for something and I’m like, “Kraak? Sondra Kraak?” And she says, “Yes.”!!!

I’m not gonna lie. I had a serious fangirl moment, but I tried to play it cool. (Not too sure I succeeded. Don’t call me out Melanie!) I could not believe I had the chance to maybe get to know Sondra. I loved her debut novel so much that I pre-ordered her second one which I also loved! I know. I’m using a lot of exclamation marks. I can’t help it. Sondra Kraak!!! Okay, I think my cool cover may be completely blown now. Deep breath. Exhale.

Seriously though, Melanie is a wonderful friend and writer in her own right and I am truly blessed to have had the chance to meet her and learn part of her story. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.

The Classes & Keynote Speeches

To be honest, I have never missed so many of the classes at a conference as I did at this one! I am so relieved that I have all the handouts and audio recordings of the lessons to review later. (I missed so much because I was so busy attending appointments to speak with all the wise and wonderful faculty who had attended the conference.)

 

linda-gilden-at-acwc-2017
Linda Gilden gave a very inspiring Keynote Speech

That said, the classes I did get to attend were pure gold. Again, that first class Edie Melson taught comes to mind. She reminded us to view social media as a place where we get to connect with other writers and readers who share our passion for the written word and not just a place to talk about me, my book, and I. She also gave great suggestions on how to make sure we are making the best use of these opportunities, advised us on avoiding common mistakes, and shared great tips for making the best use of our time.

 

I have to tell you, if you have not heard Vonda Skelton speak, you are missing out! Her keynote speech had me almost bent double in my seat and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. This lady knows how to tell a story. Have you ever met someone who’s a bit petite, but when she speaks her spark and spirit fill the room? That’s Vonda. Of course, not only did I laugh until my face hurt, but I gleaned a lot of wisdom and encouragement from her words.  Her first book was rejected 63 times before it was accepted. Stop and imagine that for a moment. That is hard. She is one tough cookie. Sending your manuscript out time and time again in the face of so much rejection takes a special kind of determination, but she didn’t give up. Today Vonda is a highly successful writer and speaker, well respected and well loved.

The Experience

Becoming a professional writer is a different experience than entering many other careers. There are many paths to choose from and many steps to take before you reach success, and success can look very different for each writer. Being a professional writer involves so much more than waking up one day and writing down a few words, or even completing a story/article/whatever kind of writing someone does. While that is a start, it is only the start.

Part of the path I have chosen involves making connections with others in my industry, submitting my work for others to judge, and approaching literary agents to discover whether they believe in my novel enough to help me find the right publisher for it. Attending this conference provided the opportunity for me to accomplish all of that.

Does this mean I’m done and can check those things off my list? Of course not. The thing about this career is there will always be another book to put out there, another risk to take, another connection to make. It’s terrifying, I won’t lie. But it can also be very life affirming.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I was blessed to tie for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at this conference. The encouragement in that award alone is priceless, but even before I learned of this accomplishment, I was being lifted and encouraged by so many other people whom I spoke with during the conference. Whether the words came from faculty or fellow attendees, those words of support and encouragement were like water in the desert for this writer.

So, was it worth it? In a word:  Absolutely!

Do you enjoy conferences? Has anyone come into your life at just the right time to offer encouragement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Find out whose keynote speech had @KathleenDenly wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. (Click to Tweet)

Is the Asheville Christian Writers Conference worth attending? – @KathleenDenly (Click to Tweet)

My Novel Ties For 2nd Place!

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2/19/2017

So I am sitting here with my fingers hovering over the keys trying to figure out what to type without sounding totally gushy and completely unsophisticated, but … I can’t help it!

My historical Christian romance novel, Waltz With Me, tied for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference!

You guys, I am just so overwhelmed with joyful emotions! I am excited and giddy and happy and humbled and blessed and shocked and . . .

I just want to squeal with joy! Aaaaah! I just won a contest! Okay, so technically I tied for Second Place, but it feels like winning.

How awesome is it that out of all the people who entered they loved my story that much? I am so blessed! (Thank you, judges!)

Of course, I have already tweeted and posted on Facebook about my win, but I knew I wanted to post here as well because as I am thinking about this accomplishment, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who have helped me get here. So I want to take this opportunity to thank them. (I know, I know, it’s not like I won an Oscar or something, but I just have to say thank you, so bear with me here.)

First, I have to thank my mom for believing in my talent even before I knew I was a writer.

I also want to thank Lexi Miller, Betty Hofman, Samantha Lurey, and Betsy Hamblin even though I wasn’t working on this manuscript at the time we were meeting, your encouragement kept me going and your critiques made me a better writer.

Of course, I have to thank the members of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Poway and Santee Critique Groups for sharing their wisdom and encouraging me as I worked through the many revisions of this novel. And I must add a special thanks to Kathryn Hughes, my fellow historical romance author, for your invaluable feedback and encouragement, and to Tiffany Hanson, who doesn’t write in my genre, but whose keen insight and fellowship has helped to lift me up as a writer.

I want to thank my friend, Brett Burner, whose wisdom and encouragement helped me believe in myself at a time when I was truly struggling.

My Beta Readers. How can I thank you enough? Each one of you took time out of your busy lives to read my full-length manuscript and provide priceless feedback on the things you liked and the things that needed changing. It truly means the world to me to have your support.

Lastly, but most importantly, I need to thank my husband, Luke, without whose support, self-sacrifice, and undying belief in me, I would not be able to do what I do. From watching our kids so that I can get away to write, to physically acting out scenes with me so that I can figure out how best to describe them, you are my rock and I love you.

(No, I’m not forgetting God, but I’m pretty sure He doesn’t read my blog, so I’ve already thanked Him in prayer. Many times.)

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Okay. So that sounded way too much like one of those Oscar speeches, and I realize it’s not like I have a book deal (yet) or that I even won first place, but this is still a very big deal for me, and a very great honor. This is the first book contest I’ve ever entered and when you have worked so hard and for so long on something, it is so, so good to have someone who doesn’t even know you say, “Yes. What you have done is good. We like it.” And so many people have stood by me and helped me get this far that I felt compelled to thank them.

This is nowhere near a complete list. If I wrote out the complete list, no one would read the whole thing, and although there’s no one next to me as I type, waiting to play the music that lets me know it’s time to stop talking (or typing), I am hoping this wasn’t too dreadfully long.

So to everyone who has encouraged and supported me, from the bottom of my heart,

THANK YOU!!!

Do you have someone in your life that has supported and encouraged you through the tough times? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Have someone that encourages and supports you? Thank them today! #grateful #ChristFic

Waltz With Me by @KathleenDenly ties for 2nd Place in Badge of Honor Contest! #christfic

The Fog of Fear

Fog of Fear

I sat frozen with my fingers over the keys for several minutes before forcing myself to type this.  Where to start….

I came home from my first writer’s conference inspired and determined and just a touch terrified. I threw myself into developing my career over the next few weeks. Every spare moment was dedicated to some aspect of moving my career forward. One can only work that relentlessly for so long, however, and eventually the inevitable happened:   burnout. I didn’t think it was such a big deal. In fact, the timing was perfect. It was the Christmas season and everyone was taking a break. Why shouldn’t I?

What I didn’t realize was that the touch of terror which had followed me home from that conference had been silently growing in my mind until it began to mire my thoughts in a deeper and deeper fog of fear. My creativity was suffocating. In attempting to clear the fog, I experienced an epiphany:  I was an artist. Say what? Some of you may find this unbelievably, stupidly, obvious and can’t understand how this was an epiphany. Yet it was for me.

I had always thought of myself as a writer. I had always thought of writers as having rules. There are grammar rules and spelling rules and genre rules and word count rules, etc etc etc. Where there are rules, there are clear rights and wrongs. So I never thought of myself as a true artist because true artists didn’t have rules. Not really.

The value of the product of a true artist’s efforts was completely subjective. One group of people might think an artist’s work was amazing while another might think it was utter rubbish, and there would be no objective way of proving that either group was incorrect. This was just how the world worked for true artists – for painters, sculptors, composers, innovative/freestyle dancers, etc. Not for writers.

Or so I thought.

Writers aren’t artists. Artistic? Absolutely. Artists? Not really. Because we have rules. So as long as we follow the rules, our product must be deemed good. Right?

Wow. The number of flaws in that subconscious belief I’ve carried around all these years is staggering! I mean, the irony… The very first writing rule I ever remember being taught came from my third-grade teacher who told me, “Listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, rewrite it. Try again.” Listen to my gut. Right. Because that is completely objective. Ummm no. No, it’s not. Everyone has a different “gut instinct.” If they didn’t, everyone’s writing would sound exactly like everyone else’s.  Clearly, that isn’t the case.

With the realization that I was a true artist and therefore my work was subject to the variant opinions of anyone and everyone who read it, came the realization that there was nothing I could do to absolutely guarantee myself success. And the fog grew.

Your Turn!

Have you ever experienced something like this? How did you handle it?