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 tag “Writers Resources”

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

A Writer’s Gotta Do What a Writer’s Gotta Do (2013-08-16 Daily)

Note: Amanda M. Thrasher of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press invited me to be a guest blogger today on her site http://www.amandamthrasher.com/blog/.  The following is the content.  Enjoy!  Dave

A WRITER’S GOTTA DO WHAT A WRITER’S GOTTA DO

Once upon a time . . .

Every great story starts with some sort of “Once upon a time,” or “In the beginning,” or “It was a dark and stormy night.”  Every “Once upon a time” swings wide the door of potential and ushers in either the satisfaction of expectations, the disappointment of a crappy plot, or what we all hope for when we crack open the cover of a brand-new book and lay our eyes on the first page: something astonishing, surprising, life-changing.  You know what I’m talking about, why we writers plant our bottoms in the worn-out chair day-in and day-out: that one story, that one authentic suspension of belief, that one well-spun truth which grabs hold of your “ah ha,” spins you around, and sets you off down a new path with a firm pat on the butt and a whisper of support.

That’s why I write.

I remember my first time . . . it was 1979 or so, ninth grade English.  Mrs. Doris Carr gave us an assignment to create an essay on a topic of our choice, as long as it fulfilled the requirements of proper essay format: introduction, at least three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion tying a bow around the whole thing.  At the time I was big-time into reading such deep, thought-provoking magazines like “Mad” and “Cracked,” and erudite books like Mad’s Don Martin Carries On! ordered from the school’s book sale program.  My buddy, Steve Green, and I had put together a hand-made comic book about a super-hero airplane and its bumbling balloon-people crew.  I read the Johnson Smith gag catalog on the toilet until my legs turned into two tingling stumps.  I was a goofy teenager rolling around in the hayfields of my imagination.  I loved it!

I took on that essay assignment with relish (and a bit of mustard and diced onions) and whipped out a story about the struggles and triumphs of a ninth-grader at Maine-Endwell Senior High School in the late 70’s.  I turned it in, waited the requisite two or three days, and got back the paper with red ink splashed across the top.  I can’t remember the grade, but to this day I still remember the actual comment Mrs. Carr wrote: “You are the Erma Bombeck of the adolescent generation.”  I think she even drew a smiley face next to her comment.  That was the defining moment, the pivot point, the impetus accelerating me to where I am today.

I love doing this stuff–I used to feel guilty about having so much fun at “work,” but I’ve thrown off those old shackles and am enjoying dancing cheek-to-cheek with metaphors, imagery, and fleets of fancy; I look forward to getting up in the morning to do my quiet time, then write.  In fact, I’ve awakened from a dead sleep at three in the morning, grabbed my notebook, and sat on the tub step for an hour writing down the wild story idea or inspiring truth God plopped into my head.  The urge to write is stronger than the desire to remain curled up in my nice snuggly warm bed drooling on my pillow, especially when God says “Fetch!”  And fetch I do.  The breakfast of creativity at single-digit AM is satiating.

Writers gotta do what they gotta do.  Like Border Collies gotta herd, and armadillos gotta get run over crossing the freeway, writers gotta turn their experiences and imagination into stories, lessons, literature (or at the very least, blog posts).  Writers have to take what the world dishes out, chew on it mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and spit it out on paper or the computer screen for all the world to see.  We can’t hold it in and we can’t hold it back–like going through labor: this stuff will eventually come out when it’s due, ready or not.  Oh, it may be ugly, it may stink, it may not make any sense, but every so often what comes out is beautiful, funny, rich, touching.  And if our labor of love results in one changed life, one “ah ha,” one redirection, one decision to make the world better in some small way, we’ve done our job.  Just one more smiley face on the cover sheet of life.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to reign in some unruly adverbs stampeding all over the page.  A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do.  Hope I drew a smiley face on your day.

8/16/2013

Copyright 2013 (c) David C. Hughes

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