Kaua`i Writers’ Conference – A Retrospect

This past week-end, I was thrilled to be attending my first writers’ conference!  I’ve been to many conferences, but never one devoted to writing, my craft of choice since I was a child penning my first poem.  I looked forward to three full days of talks from authors, agents, and editors.  Not knowing what to expect, I just wanted to learn from these people who had somehow successfully navigated the process of writing and publishing their work.  I wanted to know everything.

Because I live on Kaua`i, it’s difficult to find anything more beautiful than being on the beach here.  Unless you want to take in the gigantic rugged mountains, or the lush valleys.  But, it really doesn’t matter to me where a conference might be held as long as the presentations are relevant.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the beach is a close view from the conference room and the tropical breezes are wafting through the open air dining room at lunch. It’s what people expect in Hawai`i.

I can’t say enough about the organizers and hotel staff.  From start to finish, the service was seamless, and the presentations were definitely relevant.  I am amazed at the amount of information I absorbed.  I had an excellent first experience.  I never imagined I would have all my questions answered or that so many others had the same questions that I had!  Writing is a solitary business up until the time you set out to publish, so we forget there are others out there creating their own works of art.  That in itself makes attending a writers’ conference worthwhile.  But having first class presenters talking about everything you ever wanted to know but didn’t know HOW to ask, well, all I can say is, “Priceless.”  Yes, that may be cliché, but it is certainly true.

While much of the information is still percolating, I have to say that I took so much more away from the conference than I could have anticipated.  I am inspired to continue my journey writing my first novel.  Thanking everyone involved for such a lovely and educational three days is a must, and I do!  I look forward to next year’s conference and hope that I will have something to share then.

Mahalo nui loa!

AH

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Grammar-ease: When to Capitalize a Season

I know many writers think the publisher’s editors will correct all the bad grammar in our writing; but the truth is, they really don’t have time for it. They are busy trying to make you book read and flow well so that it will sell.  They  shouldn’t be bombarded with poor grammar.  Having just been to a writer’s conference with agents, editors and authors, one thing is clear: editing your own work before you get to the agent is crucial.

Then there’s the question of self-publishing. If you don’t have a good grasp of grammar, you are doomed.  Taking personal responsibility for your writing includes at least attempting to spell-check and grammar-check your work!  So, sit back and take a moment to read this wonderful post from Lisa J. Jackson (Live to Write – Write to Live). It will do you a world of good!

Live to Write - Write to Live

So, here in New Hampshire, we had one of the coldest winters (or is it Winters) on record, weeks of single-digit and below zero temps.

Then we had April, definitely labeled spring (or is it Spring) on the calendar. It was filled with temps averaging in the 40s.

daffodils_april_10_03_editedNow it’s May 4th and temps are in the 80s.

To say we had a short spring (or is it Spring) is crazy, but, honestly, 80 degrees after weeks in the 40s? I’d say summer (or is it Summer) is here! It’s definitely shorts and t-shirt weather!

To the topic of this post — it’s a common question: Do you capitalize the seasons when writing about spring, summer, winter, or fall?

The short and simple answer is: no.

You only capitalize the season of spring, summer, winter, or fall when it’s part of a title…

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Conundrum: A While vs Awhile

While writing today, I came across a conundrum of word usage.  What’s the difference between “a while” and “awhile”? This type of issue rarely happens to me, since I was an English teacher in a previous life, but I just couldn’t get it, so I looked it up.  QuestionGirl

Here’s what I found on Dictionary.com:

The noun phrase a while can and often does follow a preposition, such as for or in: “He said he would be home in a while.” The adverb awhile cannot follow a preposition, a rule that makes sense if you revisit the definition of the term and drop it into a sentence such as the one above: “He said he would be home in for a short time or period.” However, if we omit the preposition and rewrite it as “He said he would be home awhile,” the sentence works with a slightly altered meaning.

So, when you have that burning need to know the correct usage of a word, look it up.  I went right on writing, satisfied that I was using the proper version!

Write More!

AH

Changing My Blog’s Platform

Over the past year or so, I began using my blog as a sounding board, but it seems to me that I am just exploring my feelings and I can do that in my personal diary.  So I am changing my blog’s platform to discuss things I am learning about writing a novel.  Much of this will be personal learning, but I think a readership of other artistic people may find their own challenges addressed.

It is already the end of April and I am still stalled, but I have resolved to use this as a learning experience and devote most of my free time to writing.  After some major reality checking about why it is taking me such a dreadfully long time to write this novel, I have learned a few things.  First, I need to learn to say, “I’m working, please do not disturb me.”  Or simply, “No.”  I am semi-retired, after all, and I intended to finish my book last year.  Second, I need to learn to push through those disturbances and go back to my writing.  Third, I have not been thinking of my writing as a job.

My challenge is all the little unnecessary disturbances begin to feel like sabotage.  If I don’t stick to my guns and insist on the time to write, the situation will never change.  It’s the equivalent of doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results.  There’s a reason for that statement.  It’s absolutely true!  So, while the interruptions are a challenge, I know my story, I know what’s supposed to happen, so I should not let the interruptions get to me.  When left to my own time, I will write.

As to the last revelation, Thinking of my writing as a job is crucial to my success.  If I don’t feel like this is a real job, then it becomes a little hobby I can put away in the closet while I focus on more important things.  Not anymore!  I write.  I am a writer.  This is my profession, my job.  All too often we look at an activity as being a job only when we get paid.  Well, if I don’t write, I don’t get paid.  Simple.

These are my lessons for this week.  I’m sure I will discover more as I move through the process to the finish line.  Then it will be time to start on the next one. Next week, I attend a writer’s conference.  I’m sure I’ll have more pearls of wisdom and revelations after that.  I am looking forward to it.

Happy writing!

A.H.

Practice Writing

Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be writing this novel forever.  I am at a standstill, again.  I really need to figure out how to get my action going.  So, rather than sit in front of the blank outline this morning I decided to write a blog post.  Just to see if I can get those creative juices flowing again.

I saw a title of a book on a webpage.  The title was “The Practice of Writing” (by David Lodge).  While I have not read the book, its title got me thinking.  Like anything else we do well, we do so from practice.  Then again, there is the noun form of practice, such as meditation or yoga or spiritual practice.  In either case, practice is what you do to hone your skill and your connection to the activity.

When I get up in the early hours before dawn, my intention is to work on my novel.  I never really looked at is as a “practice” before.  When I saw the book title, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe deep inside, I’m not taking this as seriously as I take, say, my morning meditation practice.  While I really don’t think of writing as a hobby — after all I’ve done is professionally for more than 20 years — I never thought of my fiction writing as a practice or even a job, for that matter.  You know, it’s just something I love to do — no matter how frustrating it can be.

So, if I change my thinking and consider writing as a practice rather than just something I do because I love it, maybe I’ll break through that little barrier that keep me from taking my novel to the next level.

Happy Writing in 2015!

-AH

New Year, Refocus

I read a lot of posts about the new year upon us and new resolutions.  For me, 2015 brings a time of reflection and refocus.  I mean, so often we make the same resolutions every year, only to see them dashed by the first week of January.

This year, I am reflecting on the goals I had for last year and refocusing to improve results.  All the wishes in the world won’t make your goals come true.  So I am in for some hard work.

Truth be told, the hard work is the easy part.  After all, I LOVE to write.  It’s what I do.  It’s the time I get to spend on writing that is so difficult to come by.

Last year, I resolved to get up very early (before dawn) and write.  This worked out well for a long period of time and I got a lot of writing done.  I was starting to get up on my own, without the benefit of an alarm clock.  It seemed the characters wanted to tell me their parts of the story!  Unfortunately, after several weeks, this time no was not always my own and the wonderful man to who  am married and share my life with sometimes forgets that interrupting my train of thought when I am writing is a big NO-NO!!!  So, I became less productive.  Then I caught a cold and stopped getting up early.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to be more fierce in my demand for writing time.  Like right now, I am cooking breakfast while writing this post. Yes, I will still get up before dawn to write and, yes, I will still be interrupted on occasion; but maybe, just maybe, the fierceness will overcome the interruptions and I’ll get this darned book finished!

Happy New Year ad happy writing, everyone!!