In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Website and Blog Location

Starting today, September 20, 2012, In Others' Words is located at My talented and ve-ery patient web guru, Stacey Dyer has developed a fun new site.
All my subscribers should be automatically redirected there. If you weren't, please email at so we can correct the problem.
And if you're new, please join us over at  

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Monday, September 19, 2011

In Others' Words: Home

Photo by John Skiba Photography

"My home is not a place, it is people."
~ Lois McMaster Bujold, American author

I had a definitive definition of home for many years--and it was most definitely a place.
Then I married my husband, who was in the Air Force. 
My idea of home had to change.
Uncle Sam determined where home was -- and I realized location wasn't the determining factor when I thought of home.
The people who were with me, whatever our address was at the time, they represented home.
The stuff we lugged with us?
Not home, either.
My husband, my son, my three daughters: home.
I've also discovered when "home" becomes people, it expands. One of our family mottoes is "There's always room for one more."
And watching my adult children establish their own homes ... ah, bittersweet. I'm cheering them on with tear-filled eyes.

In Your Words: How do you define home?

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Friday, September 16, 2011

In Others' Words: Life

"A new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later." 
~Diana Vreeland, fashion columnist

I like to go shopping for new clothes. I like finding something--a cute top, a fun dress--that makes me feel good when I wear it. I walk a little taller, smile a little wider.
And then I read this quote. Whoa. 
Am I equating life--living--to the clothes in my closet? Or are my clothes merely necessary items so that I can go out and live my life?
Don't get me wrong. I don't think having clothes (fashionable clothes, at that) is to be avoided. It's just understanding the value of a pair of pants. Or a pair of shoes. Or a funky scarf.
Life equals my experiences--now, in the past, and in the future.
Life is not what's hanging in my closet.

In Your Words: So what do you think? Do clothes "get you anywhere?" There is that whole "dress for success" creed. What's the value of new clothes?

photo by justsayozz/

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

In My Words: Balance, Balance, Keep Your Balance

I'm mulling over blog topics last night with my husband. Our conversation went like this:
Me: Maybe I'll post about how writing affects the family.
My husband: That would be a great idea!
OK, then. Glad he had an opinion.
My writing life--my professional life--frustrates my family at times. Not all the time. At least, I don't think so. Of course, I can't ask any of them because they're all in bed while I finish this blog post.
Here's the problem: I work from home.
Yes, there are so many advantages to working from home. That whole no-commute-can-stay-in-my-jammies-thing? Kinda nice on the days that the deadlines gang up on me.
And when everyone else is gone--at school or at work away from home--I can go to my office and get a lot accomplished, writing-wise. And even throw in the occasional load of laundry.
But eventually my family comes home. They are no longer working. And sometimes--oftentimes--I still am. This is when frustration kicks in.
Believe me, I try, try, try to walk away from the computer. (Please notice the multiple "trys.") Just because school is over for my 10-year-old doesn't mean the countdown to my deadline stopped ticking. And when my husband comes home, he leaves work at his office. Yes, he may have a few things to finish up on the computer, but for him work and home are separate entities.
For me? Work and home are one and the same.
And therein lies both my advantage and my frustration.
Problem: How to balance being a stay-at-home mom-work-from-home-woman?
Answer: I don't know. You tell me.
Sorry. Although I will take any suggestions.
For me, it is all about balance. I love the photo I found for this blog post. I'm fascinated by that rock balancing on that other rock. I mean, it just shouldn't be able to do that.
And that's how I feel about my life: I just can't do it.
But I want to. And I will.
What I have to remember is this: Finding balance is not a one-time thing. (This is where that photo fails to capture truth.) In real life, balance is more like walking across a tightrope, with constant adjustments in position required to make it safely across to the other side.
 Some days I manage to balance real life (my family) with my writing life. I meet my deadlines and I'm an available wife, mom and friend. Other days? Not so much. I go to bed with a niggling sense of dissatisfaction.
One thing I know is this: I won't quit. I'll adjust and adjust some more until I get it right for the next day. And the next.

In Your Words: Have you found the balance you need for your life priorities? What helps you be available for both your real life and your writing life?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Others' Words: Words

"I like good strong words that mean something." 
~Louisa May Alcott, author

Well said, Louisa.

That's a goal worth striving for: As a writer, I want to produce good strong words that mean something.
As a woman, I want to speak good strong words that mean something.

Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott, was the first book I remember reading. And re-reading. And yes, re-reading. Her words were strong enough to make me cry. And smile. And fret about Jo and Laurie (and eventually Professor Bhaer). Her writing is vivid enough that I recall scenes even as I type this blog post and I haven't picked the book up in years.  What was Amy thinking when she tried to change the shape of her nose by putting a clothespin on it?!

I wonder how many people recall words I've written?
I wonder how many people recall words I've spoken?
And are the words they're remembering good, strong words? Or did I wound someone? Trip someone up? Maybe disappoint someone? 

Words--strong in a powerful sense. But how is that strength used?

In Your Words: What kind of words do you like? Are you in agreement with Louisa? Are you intent on writing and speaking words with power and meaning? Are you hitting the mark?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Survey Says: Writing Conference Concerns

Friends Teri, Pat, Edie and Melissa (the 2010 Frasier winner). 

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a survey on writers conferences. Specific question: Why do you attend writers conferences?
Today's question for discussion:
What are your major concerns when preparing for a writers conference?
Possible answers:

  • Paying for the conference, the travel, and the lodging
  • Pitching my book to an editor/agent
  • Choosing which workshops to attend--to many to choose from
  • Other
You hear lots of talk about the writerly angst involved with pitching--going eye-to-eye with an editor or agent and hoping your passion for your story outweighs your nervousness. But, despite all that, the 32 respondents to the survey didn't list this as the top anxiety producer. Nope. Most of the writers (62.5% or 20 out of 32 respondents) said they were most concerned about paying for the conference, the travel, and the lodging.
Can you relate?
Of all the reasons writers don't attend a conference, cost is the most common "why not" that I hear. 
Let me give you some specifics. I'm attending the ACFW conference next week. Here's a run down of my costs:
  1. ACFW conference registration (early bird) -- $540
  2. Reservations at the Hyatt -- $600 (4 nights, but this will be divided three ways w/ my roommates. Oh, and all those crazy extra taxes aren't included yet. You know what I'm talking about.)
  3. Airline ticket -- $199.40 (I'm flying Southwest because they don't charge one of those obscene baggage fees. And their flight attendants are so, so entertaining.)
  4. Shuttle reservation from the airport to the Hyatt and back again after the conference -- $34
  5. MBT Pizza Party (a must-attend event!) -- $25
Subtotal: $1398.40

OK, that's a bit of an Ouch! 
Now here's why it's a subtotal: What if I want to go to the Early Bird session? (Add $85, if I registered early.) Or the MBT Pitch Scrimmage, so I'm ready to pitch my book with professionalism and poise and an inspiring hook? ($65)
Paid critique? ($35 I've invested in this kind of feedback.) Purchase the conference CDs? (~$99--and yes,  done this too.) If you drive, add parking. 
Adding in those other costs (and assume I exert extreme control and don't visit the bookstore (yeah, right):
Total: $1682.40

(And yes, I realize there is no clothes budget added in.)

Is a conference worth that kind of change?
I say yes. I am, after all, a writer. A professional writer. Even when I was a beginning professional writer, I had a goal in mind: publication. And attending conferences is an absolute must to achieve that goal. Face to face interaction with both editors and agents, as well as other writers, is vital. 
Let me put it in perspective for you: Last year I attended ACFW. Pitched my novel, Wish You Were Here.
Does attending a writers conference guarantee publication? Unfortunately, no. But that personal interaction with an editor allows you to sell your book with passion and personality. 

In Your Words: Have you had to pass on a writers conference because of the costs? Any tips to manage the expenses?

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Monday, September 12, 2011

In Others' Words: Discovery

"One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do."
~Henry Ford, American industrialist

Fear ruled my life for too many years.
Yes, there were reasons for the fear, but still ... I look back and think what I lost.
Emotional and spiritual freedom.
For too long I thought life was going to always be lived that way. Afraid.
And then I discovered I could choose to live differently.
Then there came a time when I found the courage and the help to face the past and walk into healing and freedom.
It wasn't easy.
I needed others' help.
And I needed faith like never before.
And I had to stop being afraid of the truth ... because sometimes the truth is the hardest thing to face.

In Your Words: Have you surprised yourself? Have you discovered you could do something you were afraid to do? I'd love to hear your story.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

In Others' Words: Music

"Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body."
 ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

I savor listening to music just about any time of the day.If you could hear what I'm singing along to, it might be country. Or praise and worship. Or show tunes. Or instrumental. When it comes to my tastes in music, I like a little bit of this and that.
Music refreshes me.
Music soothes me.
Music energizes me.
Not unlike those times I slip away, shut the door, and take a nice long soak in my tub.
Ahhhh, nothing like it.

In Your Words: What about you? Are you a "music bather?" What kind of music do you like to soak in?

                                                                                                                                       photo by  schnaibel/


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Thursday, September 08, 2011

ACFW Tips: Conference Don'ts

Me & Lisa Jordan with Rachelle Gardner, our wonderful agent.

On Tuesday I gave you a quick list of ACFW Dos:

  1. Be yourself.
  2. Ask questions.
  3. Reach out.
  4. Have fun.
  5. Slow down.
Today I want to share my list of ACFW conference "Don'ts." Go ahead and use them for any conference you might attend: the MBT Storycrafters, Mount Hermon, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (and it's sister conference: Southwest Christian Writers Studio), Writing for the Soul.  Let's get started:
  1. Don't try and do it all. Do yourself, your roommates and everyone else at the conference a favor and realize there is no way you can go without sleep from Thursday through Sunday. You cannot talk to everyone. You cannot take every workshop. You cannot retain all the information thrown at you, no matter how good it is--and it's all good! Pace yourself. (See #2 of the "Do" list.)
  2. Don't put all your hopes and dreams on this conference. Come prepared to pitch. Come prepared to sell your novel with passion because you believe in it like no one else. And then realize that's all you can do: Pitch your story with passion. What happens after that is not under your control. If you don't land a contract or an agent, is the conference a bust? No. You've learned craft. You've connected with other writers. More importantly, if you don't land an agent or you don't win a Genesis, are you a failure? No, no, and no. Remember: God values you because of who you are (His) not for what you do. 
  3. Don't compare your conference experience with someone else's. Go ahead and celebrate another writer's success. Don't wish you were them. You have your life story and they have theirs. Don't stare at what they have and overlook what you have. You may be sitting in the crowd this year, but who knows where you'll be next year. And if you're still sitting with me in the crowd--hey, we're a fun bunch! 
  4. Don't miss the prayer room. There are the appointment rooms. Tense. Tense. Tense. There's the classrooms where we learn, learn, learn. There's the room where we dine. Noisy, noisy, noisy--but in a good way. Sit back and listen to all the "he saids" and "she saids." There's the bookstore. Dreams. Come. True. In all your comings and goings, take time to slip into the prayer room. It's quiet. It's a place to stop. Refocus on Who created you as a writer in the first place. Take a friend and pray together. Or go alone. Being there just may be the highlight of the conference.

In Your Words: Can you think of anything I've forgotten? Any expectations we should leave behind? Any "don'ts" that we should remember as we prepare for ACFW or any other writers conference we hope to attend?

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In Others' Words: Succcess

"If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut."~Albert Einstein, German-born physicist

A (Success)
X (Work)
Y (Play)
Z (Keeping your mouth shut)

Success=Work+Play+Keeping your mouth shut

Know what? Einstein was a smart guy.
Yes, I know he was a physicist. But he had common sense too. Look at that equation for success again. Einstein figures in work and play and being wise enough to know when to hold your tongue.
You have to work hard to achieve forward motion. If you're a writer, that means you have to write. And rewrite. And take critique like a professional. And endure waiting and rejections and the reality that not everyone's going to love your writing. (Gasp!)
And you also have to know when to stop working and relax. Play a little. Here's a question: What do you do for fun? If you can't answer that question, you're working to hard. Me? I like to hang with friends. Window-shop with my girls. (Maybe even for-real-shop.) Hike. Read. Browse through a bookstore. 
So: Success = Work + Play + ?
What was the last part of that equation?
Oh, yeah.
Keeping your mouth shut.
I'll call that discernment.
Knowing when to speak up. Knowing when to be quiet. Avoiding the ol' "foot in mouth" misstep. What's that wise saying?
 "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise ..." (Prov. 17:28)

In Your Words: What do you think of Einstein's equation for success? Would you change it up at all? Are you missing any of his must-haves for success?

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

ACFW Tips: Conference Dos

Having fun at the MBT Pizza Party at the 2010 ACFW conference
I'm making my list, checking it twice.
No, I'm not talking about my Christmas wish list.
I'm prepping for ACFW, which is the talk of the CBA writing world right now.
I'm no conference newbie, not with more than a decade of conference attendance behind me (and a drawer full of name tags to prove it. Not really. I tossed 'em in an organizing frenzy a couple of years ago.)
Over at the MBT Ponderers blog, I posted about what I'm packing for the conference. Hint: I'm not limiting myself to a carry on bag.
There's a lot of chatter on the Internet--Twitter and various writers' blogs--about how to enjoy the conference. How to succeed, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert or somewhere in between. Me? I'm an introvert who doesn't mind taking center stage, so long as I'm promised downtime afterward. Realizing you're likely dashing from blog to blog and taking frantic notes, I'm going to give you my ACFW To Do list:

  1. Be yourself. You're the only you attending the conference. I'd like to meet you when we say hi--not you-pretending-to-be-someone-else. 
  2. Ask questions. Here's a good question to ask when you meet someone new: What do you write? Then sit back and listen to their answer. Don't worry about preparing your answer just in case they ask you about your writing--and they probably will. You've been me-focused for so many weeks pre-conference. Isn't it nice to think about someone else?
  3. Reach out. Odds are there's someone at the conference who's even more overwhelmed than you are. Maybe they are a first-timer. Or maybe they're pitching their novel for the first time. Encourage someone else. Let them practice their pitch with you and then pray with them before they head off for that nerve-wracking 15 minute appointment. 
  4. Have fun. There's fun to be had at the conference. Enjoy the workshops. Enjoy the keynote speakers. Pitch your book.(Yes, this can be fun! Get excited about sharing your idea!) But take time to meet with friends for coffee. Browse the bookstore together or go work out at the exercise room. It's okay to go off-schedule and focus on relationships. 
  5. Slow down. Before you know it, you'll be packing your suitcase for the trip home.Wait! Didn't you just get here? Start each day by asking yourself: What do I want to accomplish today? And then leave room for God to change your plans. End each day by looking back and savoring the unexpected blessings He revealed.

What about you? What's on your conference To Do list? On Thursday I'll share my ACFW conference "To Don't" list.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

In Others' Words: Rest

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes." ~ Ettie Hillesum, author of An Interrupted Life the Diaries 1941-1943 & Letters from Westerbork

Today is Labor Day, which made me think of rest.
And I thought of the busy summer I had: 
  • preparing for my daughter's wedding. Such fun, but work nonetheless. 
  • editing my debut novel, Wish You Were Here. A whole other type of fun and work.
  • keeping my 10-year-old busy-but-not-too-busy. Fun, fun, fun.
  • choosing what to say goodbye to--and stepping down as the editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International
  • managing vertigo. No fun at all.
And through each day, I found myself looking for rest. That moment at the end of the day when I could close my eyes and think, "Done--until tomorrow."
And here's what I've realized: Rest is not something that you push off until the end of the day. Or the end of the busy week or month.
Rest is something you embrace, minute by minute.
That photo? It's me at Bandon, OR. I'm sitting in what a friend named "The Hand of God" tree. 
Works for me.
A good place to rest: in the hand of God.

In Your Words: Where do you find rest?

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Friday, September 02, 2011

In Others' Words: Courage

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else." 
~Erma Bombeck, author & humor columnist

Life requires different types of courage.
Some acts of courage transform a person into a hero.
Some acts of courage transform a person into the embodiment of the phrase, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13 NLT).
And then there is the courage to risk sharing your dreams with someone. Precious things, dreams. Fragile. 
And yet given time and encouragement and belief, dreams become reality.
Many of my writing friends are meeting up at a writers conference in St. Louis later this month. They'll be showing their manuscripts--their dreams--to editors and agents and publishers. 
Each 15 minute appointment is, in its own way, an act of bravery. Who knows? It's not the first step in the dream becoming a reality--but the next step.

In Your Words: Feeling courageous? Who do you share your dreams with? What dream are you cultivating?

photo by superdecor/

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Survey Says: What You're Thinking About Writers Conferences (Part 1)

ACFW 2010: Wokshops, sure! But loads of fun too!

I decided to take a little survey earlier in August. Thirty-two people responded to my seven question survey about writers conferences. Thank you, one and all!

The respondents represent all corners of the USA--and even Bermuda! (Waving at you, Cathy!) Home states include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

The first question asked on the survey was: Why do you attend writers conferences? Possible answers included:

  • To learn more about the writing craft and to improve my writing
  • To pitch my book idea(s) and/or article(s) to editors/agents
  • To network with other writers
  • Other
(Don't you just love the "Other" answer on surveys? I do!)

All 32 participants answered the question. Their top reason for going to writers conferences: To learn more about the writing craft and to improve my writing. (71.9% or 23 respondents)

Coming in at as a ve-ery close secondary reason for going to writers conferences: To network with other writers. (68.8% or 22 respondents) 

Note: Before somebody tells me my math is whacky, you were allowed to mark all the answers that applied. 

My take: I always sign up for a writers conference with every intention of attending workshops and continuing sessions. I almost drool over some of the sessions offered. Consider the upcoming ACFW conference:

The funny thing is, I rarely make it to those sessions. Why? I'm usually caught up networking with other writers. I'm brainstorming elevator pitches. Praying with friends before they head off for their 15 minute appointments. Having coffee (well, tea for me) with friends that were merely smiling faces in avatars on my computer screen. One way I deal with missing workshops: I invest in the conference recordings so I can listen to them back home.

Three respondents said the reasons listed for attending writers conferences--learning, pitching, networking--were equally important. I think that's one of the challenges of a conference: competing values. You can't do it all because, contrary to popular belief, you do have to sleep sometime. 

In Your Words: Why do you attend writers conferences? Do you have a favorite not-to-be-missed conference? Or is there a conference you're hoping to get to soon? Any fun memories of writers conferences past?

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