David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

LexiCon 2014: The Future in Retrospect (2014-07-15 Daily)

Who wants to become a writer?  And why?  Because it’s the answer to everything.

—Enid Bagnold

 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health website, “personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions in which a person has a long-term pattern of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that is very different from his or her culture’s expectations.”[i]  Hmm, seems the U.S. National Library of Medicine had writers in mind when they developed that definition.  Not to say we’re suffering from a mental disorder; on the contrary, I’m not suffering, I enjoy it!  Especially when I’m in the company of fifty other writers with my hands wrapped around a chilled glass of pinot grigio and the conversation is wrapped around hilarious experiences.  What’s that kids’ song by Butterfly Boucher?

 

I’m different, different, different

Nobody is like me

Different, different, different

And that’s okay with me

Yeah, that’s okay with me[ii]

 

Yep, I’m just stepping right along to the music I hear!

By definition, and by necessity, writers live immersed in the moment, watching, absorbing, collecting, seeking.  The twinkling is our timeline, the world our experiment, our imagination the tool that metamorphosizes hyper awareness into something . . . breathtaking.  We live in the moment, yes, but we create—we thrive!—in retrospection, especially when our reflection is reinforced with timely affirmations, God’s little kisses on the cheek.  Where the moment provides junk car parts, retrospection produces a bizarre and mesmerizing recycled metal dinosaur.  Affirmations are the spot welds binding it all together.  And so it was this weekend as I attended LexiCon 2014, in Denton, Texas, a small but intense writers’ conference organized and hosted by Mitch Haynes, author of Hollywood Agent Provocateur.

LexiCon is the first writers’ workshop I’ve attended since I immersed myself in the, uh, curious world of ArmadilloCon in Austin twenty-odd years ago.  Back then I focused on building my skills as a writer, listening to published authors, and swapping tales with fellow horror writers.  I even had the opportunity to pitch my novel, On the Inside, to an acquisitions editor, and to ride the elevator with Klingons and crewmembers of the Starship Enterprise.  It was kind of spacy . . . .

But this year’s LexiCon presented an experience far different from past workshops I’ve attended: this one was intimate.  We, as writers, cared.  The conference provided the opportunity to learn more about blogging, social media, web presence, marketing, goal setting, and the inner workings of indie presses.  I even heard the term “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) for the first time ever.  I had no idea . . . .  The presenters helped reveal weaknesses in how I blog, opened my eyes to the necessity of facing my unease about public speaking, and showed me how grossly out of tune I am with social media.  We encouraged each other, we encouraged Mitch, we encouraged the bartenders to keep us topped off in the evening.  Lexicon provided plenty of opportunities to restock the experience cabinet!  But the conference went one step further: it reasserted my direction as a writer.

Over the past 34 years I’ve written everything from comic books to poetry, a monthly column to semiweekly essays.  I wrote countless short horror stories and a 510-page novel.  But three years ago God set my feet solidly on the path of His will, shined crepuscular rays of hope over the mountain of challenge, and gave me a pat on the butt to get me moving in the right direction.  What those three days at LexiCon did was reinforce that direction by providing answers to questions I’d been knocking around.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Harry Hall’s talk on promoting my book from the stage (or in my case, the pulpit), something I’ve been contemplating as The Epiphany of Joy rolls toward publication, and The Epiphany of Trust begins to solidify.  His lively discussion convinced me to suck it up and get back on the horse of public speaking.  Giddy up!  Vivian Zabel’s presentation on writing children’s books helped answer a question about the organization of my book, On My Daddy’s Lap, by convincing me to split the content into two books, one fun and lighthearted, the other fun and Grimm-like.  Now I just have to write ten more stories!  And it just got better.

On Saturday morning I sent my wife, Mary, to sit in on Julie Hall’s discussion about building custom websites while I attended Bill Wetterman’s talk on the joy of researching a novel, a seeming oxymoron.  Mary and I met up again at a panel discussion where she introduced me to Jan Sikes, author of The Convict and the Rose and Flowers and Stone, who explained how I could add a widget to my WordPress site pointing to my books on Amazon.  She chatted about her websites and endeavors while I shared about my books, especially The Epiphany of Joy.  I also told her about The Epiphany of Trust, now in its infancy, and suddenly her expression changed, as if she herself had experienced an epiphany.  “I just had a vision,” she said.  “I see someone falling backward into a group of people like in a trust-building exercise.”  Holy mackerel!  Just the day before, I’d had a clear vision of a man falling backward, in silhouette against a crisp dark blue sky, into the uplifted arms of his fellow teammates while on a team building retreat.  Whew!  Talk about prophetic confirmation!  So guess what the cover of The Epiphany of Trust is going to look like?

Then the neatest thing of all happened.  As I headed into the conference room to attend the last two panel discussions, Mary handed me five one-dollar bills to buy raffle tickets as a contribution toward next year’s LexiCon.  She wanted to win a bottle of wine.  After the final panel discussion concluded, Mitch Haynes and author Jeanne Guzman began drawing tickets.  After most of the raffle prizes had been doled out, Jeanne called one of Mary’s numbers and she won . . . a bottle of red wine!  Then Mitch picked up a card from the table, glanced at it, then asked Jeanne to draw for it.  “350526,” Jeanne called.

“That’s my number!” Mary squealed.  Mitch handed her the card, which entitled the holder to $150 worth of printing from Book Partners, a printer and distributor in North Manchester, Indiana.  I smiled at Tim Malott, Manager of Business Development at Book Partners, and mouthed a sincere “thank you” across the room to him.  I’d planned to work with Tim through Amanda Thrasher, co-owner of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, my publisher, to develop a limited-run special edition of The Epiphany of Joy, and this generous coupon confirmed that vision.  Later, as Mary and I left the conference room to head to the car, Jan Sikes met us in the lobby and smiled.  “God’s shining on you!” she declared.  Every step of the way.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” Anaïs Nin wrote.  It’s in retrospect that we savor those moments, and it’s with fondness, excitement, and renewed vigor that I look back on LexiCon 2014 and how this small but powerful conference helped refocus my direction and reaffirm why I do what I do.  “It’s the streaming reason for living,” wrote Enid Bagnold.  “To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”[iii]  Because, to me, the written word truly is the answer to everything.

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

 

[i] “Personality disorders.” PubMed Health. 10 November 2012. A.D.A.M.  15 July 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001935/

[ii] Butterfly Boucher.  “I’m Different.” Lyric Wikia. n.d. Wikia.  15 July 2014.  http://lyrics.wikia.com/Butterfly_Boucher:I’m_Different

[iii] Petit, Zachary.  “72 of the Best Quotes about Writing.” Writer’s Digest. 22 June 2012. F+W.  15 July 2014.  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/72-of-the-best-quotes-about-writing

Advertisement

Contrary to Popular Belief (2014-07-08 Daily)

 

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

—Eccelesiastes 2:24-25 NIV®

 

While serving pulled pork butt sliders, jalapeno slaw, and corn bacon at a recent church men’s dinner, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while walked over to my table and struck up a conversation.  We stood in the parking lot in the warm sun and talked about manly stuff, you know, engines and guns and how my team’s barbecued pork butt compared to the other twelve contestants at the cook-off.  He told me about growing up with his grandmother’s baking and how, over the past few decades, he’d become quite a connoisseur of Texas sheet cake (ours didn’t contain enough pecans, but he voted for it anyway).  He chatted about his family, and he filled me in on how well his work had been going, how he’d been putting in twelve to fourteen hour days in the field in the 90 degree heat, how exhausting yet thrilling it had been as his business exploded.  Then he leaned in and asked me a peculiar question: “You don’t work anymore, do you?”  The question smacked me back on my heels.  Really?  I thought.  Really?!

“I’m a full-time writer and a full-time editor,” I retorted, somewhat emphatically.  “And I do electronic design work on the side.”  I figured mentioning the concrete reality of printed wiring boards, op-amps, and custom-wound magnetics would anchor his understanding of what I do for a living to something a bit more tangible than a 50,000 word manuscript, a notebook full of story ideas, or what I planned to post the next day on my blog page.  In other words, I compensated.  You see, most folks just don’t get the writing part, let alone the editing.

Days passed and his comment continued to itch at me like a chigger bite under my waistband.  It seems many people believe that writers don’t actually do any work.  But just because my tools are creativity and inspiration, and my medium isn’t dirt but symbols strung together on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.  Contrary to popular belief, I do work!  Hard!  My butt is tethered to this chair in front of this computer every day.  To the world at large, however, writing doesn’t compute as a legitimate business.  To many, writing is spurious, ethereal, magic stuff.  And it is.  But it isn’t.  So I find myself having to justify my vocation, even to myself at times.  After all, it’s not everyone who gets to work and play at the same time for a living!  It is labor.  And like all labor, it, too, originated with Eve in the Garden.

“To Adam [God] said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:17 NIV®).  We scribes cultivate the written word with our computers, our pens, our pencils, and our experiences.  Sometimes it is painful, but there’s nothing I’d rather toil at.  Writers absorb life moment-by-moment, garnering the raw material through our senses, processing our experiences through the filters of life’s awareness, mixing them with insights and connections and juxtapositions, and giving birth after much labor to an essay, an anecdote, a story, a novel, a tome . . . .  Our toil produces life of the best kind!

“A man may work from dusk to dawn, but a woman’s work is never done,” goes the old saying.  Watching with amazement what my beautiful wife, Mary, does for our family, I can wholeheartedly testify to the absolute veracity of that idiom.  Mothers have the hardest, most rewarding, most demanding, most exhilarating labor on earth, and I salute each and every one of you from the depths of my being.  But as an artist painting with words, when I dare substitute the term “writer” for “woman” in that old saying, I create another truism.  Because we as writers—both men and women—work all the time.  Nothing will force a writer to pay attention and really listen and observe and absorb than knowing each and every incident, event, and experience is a potential story.

My daughter, Hannah, is a Level 3 competitive gymnast.  At six years old she’s as toned and fit as any athlete.  One day she pointed to her stomach and said to one of the neighbor boys, “I have a six pack!”

“No you don’t!” he exclaimed.

“Yes I do!” Hannah shot back.

“No you don’t!” the boy replied.  “You have to work out for a long time to get a six pack!”

“I have been working out—for six years!” Hannah declared.  And she has been.  But as a gymnast the girl never stops moving.  She drives Mary and I from the fairway of reasonableness to the putting green of grumpiness by her constant fidgeting, climbing, cartwheeling, tumbling, and rolling; our home features a non-stop gymnastics expo right in our very own living room.  In our house a chair doubles as a parallel bar, the kitchen counter provides a convenient chin-up rod, and the Pergo converts into a spring-floor when she slides the furniture to one side.  Even after she falls asleep Hannah will pull her legs into a split or raise her hands over her head in a dream salute to the judges after accomplishing a successful cast followed by a flawless back hip circle underswing dismount.  She may wake up with her head at the foot of the bed as she kicks, punches, fidgets, and rolls around in her sleep.  As a writer, I can relate.

The other morning I woke up at 3:00 with a thought that wouldn’t leave me alone.  I rolled out of bed in the pre-dawn gloom, shuffled into the bathroom, turned on the closet light, and jotted it in one of the yellow lined pads I’ve got strewn all over the house.  It wasn’t as pretty as a back hip circle underswing dismount, and it may become a future insight, blog post subject, or cool quote, but that morning it was just an irritant jabbing my addled brain until I relented and wrote it down.  And like Hannah’s gymnastics, even dreams can become potential stories, so I can literally say, along with Hannah, that I work 24/7.  Just look at the bags under my eyes and you’ll understand . . . .

My mind never slows down, hardly resting as it pulls in data, crunches it, and spits out ideas.  When I’m done with my writing stint for the day, how do I relax?  I read.  Yep, I curl up with a book on the couch or in bed and suck in the words another writer birthed.  We writers feed each other, and nothing is more satisfying than knowing others will read our efforts, nod their heads in agreement, smile with knowing, or frown with dissention.  That’s why we work so hard at this.  It’s all for you.

So, yes, I am a full-time writer and a full-time editor.  And I do a little bit of electronic design work on the side just so I can write about it in some future sci-fi novel that’s yet to materialize in my fidgety brain.  As the Preacher said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in my toil.  And that, my friends, is contrary to popular belief.

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: