Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold

Colorado Gold means more than the golden Aspens in autumn. To a Colorado writer, it also means the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference in Denver. Held the weekend after Labor Day, it’s the perfect way to get motivated and rejuvenate one’s writing goals and spend time in the company of other like-minded writers while ushering in the fall season. By like-minded writers, I mean those who think it’s completely normal to research how to poison someone without getting caught, which gun is the best to “do the job” and who think sitting in a chair thinking is some of the hardest, yet most enjoyable, work there is.

Some conference highlights:

The view of the Denver skyline from my hotel room was motivating in and of itself.

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James Scott Bell gave a six-hour intensive workshop titled “Writing a Novel They Can’t Put Down.” I’ve read his books on the craft of writing several times over. Some of them (Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing, both Writer’s Digest Books), I’ve marked up, highlighted, dog-eared, and stuck sticky notes to so many pages, that they look a little worse for wear. But I still refer to them often. Hearing him speak was writer’s gold.

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Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, was a keynote speaker and delivered a powerful speech on the birth of his writing career, how Eragon began as a self-published work, growing into the enormous success it is.

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Kate Moretti, author of four novels and a novella (her first novel, Thought I Knew You, was a New York Times bestseller), gave the packed room of writers hope and inspiration regarding her immediate success that led to a series of what most would consider failure. Yet she persevered, something writers all too often need to force themselves to do, and came out on top. It’s that perseverance that makes a writer a winner no matter how many rejections s/he may get.

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Four classes, “The Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty of Making Prose Pretty” and “Strip-Searching Your Prose,” both presented by Tiffany Yates Martin, and “Beyond Goal+Conflict” and “Expand! Contract! The Dance of the Well-Paced Story,” both presented by Angie Hodapp, were by themselves well worth the cost of the conference. Anytime you have a chance to listen to either of these women speak on the craft of writing, I recommend jumping on it! I promise you’ll come out all the better for it. And the class titled “Pique Those Ears! An Author’s Guide to Audiobooks” by Sue Duff has led to a contract with a narrator. My Melanie Hogan series will soon be audiobooks! 🙂

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Another highlight was sharing this phenomenal experience with good writing friends, especially my sisters from writer’s group Sisters in Crime Colorado. These ladies provide support, advice, encouragement, and shared knowledge, enriching the full writing experience.

Colorado Gold? Yes, Please!

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.                       –Francis Bacon

Remembering 9-11

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The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom. —Rudy Giuliani

Go forth in Love.

Welcoming in September

Happy September!

I’ve always loved the months of September and October. Not because I want summer to end, but because those particular months carry with it evenings fit for hoodies, vibrant colors, the beginning of a new school year, renewed energy, fall decorations including the warm glow of orange lights, and all things pumpkin flavored!

My home office is decorated with a fall theme all year long, and it’s there I hibernate when I need a reprieve from the chaos of life.

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Thursday, September 6th begins a 4-day writing conference, Colorado Gold, which is a writer’s paradise. So much learning, connecting with other writers, and networking, that by the time conference is over, my head is usually so packed with information that I’m ready to once again retreat to my home office and put what I’ve learned to the page.

Mid-September my husband and I are taking a trip to Taos, NM, one of my favorite places to visit. It’s an artsy town where I feel completely at home. Last time we visited there, author Natalie Goldberg made an appearance at the bookstore. Quite the treat!

And finally, at the end of September is a 3-day conference I’m attending for work in beautiful Breckinridge, Colorado, a town at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range.

What about you. Any plans for the beautiful fall months? What is your favorite season of the year and why?

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze.
The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves.
~Ann Drake, 2013

 

Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

Cover Reveal!

Coming in November!

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When beauty salon owner Melanie Hogan joins six of her pals from beauty college for a reunion in Pinewood Village, Minnesota, one of the gang turns up dead the morning after the party. With Melanie’s shears as the murder weapon, she’s the prime suspect in the investigation. As Melanie launches an investigation of her own to clear her name and to eliminate each of her friends as the murderer, she uncovers secrets of the victim that rocks her world.

As Melanie digs into her old friends’ histories, her own past comes back to haunt her. With someone working overtime to set her up as the killer, Melanie enlists the help of her beauty salon cohorts to find the real Shears Slayer before she’s next.

Friday Frippery: Famous Authors’ Rejections

Writer’s Inspiration for a Friday…

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focus photo of yellow paper near trash can “Kobe that crap right in the bin” -some publishers, probably

Thanks to an ever-growing pile of rejections I’ve collected over the past few months, I’ve been pondering the place of the rejection letter in the life of a writer. Am I submitting to the wrong places? Does my work need to be more polished? Is it simply supply and demand?

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Each of those questions could probably have its own lengthy post for an answer. Still, as much as we writers need to be aware of the market, get out the best work we can, and seek publications that will have an interest in our content, we ought to expect rejection. And a lot of it. However, if you’re feeling down about rejection today, know that you’re in great company. Even the giants of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror had their days- check out the list…

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All Things Gratitude

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Gratitude fills my heart, my home, my life. And I’m so grateful for that. But I also realize that it’s all too easy to get busy with living and default, as human beings often do, to feelings other than gratitude, forgetting to be grateful. Especially for the small, simple things in life that make a big difference.

So I’ve created a gratitude jar that sits on my kitchen counter. Right beside it are pre-cut strips of paper and a pen for easy access. No excuses that there isn’t time to find a pen or “I’ll get to it later.” My husband and I frequently fill out a slip as we pass by the jar, and family and friends who visit are encouraged to participate as they wish.

Our plan is to go through each item of gratitude on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for in the past year. And what a way to bring in the new year–with hearts filled with gratitude!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Another item of mention that I’m so excited about is that a non-fiction article I wrote titled Gratitude in All Things has been published in an anthology titled Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and has been released this week. Yay! It can be found here and here


May I suggest making your own gratitude jar? Get creative. Got kids? Have them help! Make it a family activity.

And in the meantime, let me know what you’re grateful for last week, today, in this moment.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward