Tag Archives: personal

What I Wish I Knew About Writing Conferences

Back in 2016, I made a shift. I decided if I was ever going to become a writer, I needed stop buying “how to” writing books, fancy pens, and themed journals and actually write. I know. Revolutionary idea.

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Don’t get me wrong, “writing swag” is great, but at the end of the day, the supplies gave me the illusion of productivity. I needed to write to become a writer.

Now in 2018, with one completed novel under my belt and a net of query letters out to a sea of agents, I decided writing wasn’t enough. I needed to learn more about the craft of writing that books couldn’t teach me.

That’s where the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference came in.

Now, I thought I was pretty prepared for my first conference. I picked out what classes I wanted to go to, signed up for special discussions, and headed out at 5:30 in the morning to be there by the time the doors opened. But here’s what I wish I knew, that I didn’t see anywhere online.

Writing conferences are less about the classes and more about the connections.

Maybe this isn’t true for all people, but it was extremely true in my case. While the classes were amazing, I realized I was woefully unprepared for the amount of networking I was going to be doing.

How do you make the most out of your networking and socializing experience? 

 Get a hotel near the conference center. Mine was 30 minutes away, to save money, and I missed out on so many fun get togethers.

If someone’s planning to do a dinner, go eat with a group.

If you find one group, don’t be afraid to go and hang out with other people, but know you might feel left out if your first group you hit it off with goes and does something else.

Order business cards and keep in touch with people after the conference is over. I’ll talk more about this in my “making friends” portion of this conference series I’m doing, but definitely do this.

Reach out to people before the conference. I met some wonderful writers online through facebook and online contests so when I got there, I already knew who to touch base with. In fact, if I hadn’t had so much fun talking to D.L. Hammons I probably would’ve been lost for the first hour.

And lastly, if you can pitch to agents or editors, DO. I was only going to use my free agent pitch but decided to buy two, and I learned more in those 20 minutes about the pitching/agent process than I did reading any book. Both people I pitched to eased me into the situation and asked me to email them my work. Come to find out, one of them was only accepting work through that conference, so trying to pitch to her online would’ve been impossible (or at the very least rude).

 

These are just a few things I wish I knew about the whole networking deal. I’ll go over what I learned about classes, making friends and the downsides to conferences (there are some, albeit small ones) in other up coming posts, so keep an eye out.

 

Is there something you want to know about writing conferences? This was my first one, so I’m not all knowing but I can definitely give you tips if you’re a newbie! Comment below and let me know.

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You Can Never Go Home

Once a year, from the age of five to seventeen, I escaped the Texas heat and traveled to a magical place. The trees were taller, the air was a sweet mix of cool rain and wet soil, and every night was lit with fireflies.

This magical place was Michigan.

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I know. Not exactly what most people would consider to be a gateway to another world, but as a child, there was magic across the Wolverine State. I used to think there were mermaids in The Great Lakes, fairies in the never ending forests, and when we went up to my grandmother’s cabin, the loons were singing to me and no one else. I loved, and still love, Texas, but there was something about Michigan that made me feel like I was home.

And then I went back as an adult.

As I rode from the airport to my grandmother’s house, I waited for that magical feeling. Even into my late teens, I felt it the second I was on Midwestern soil, but the more I looked around this time, the more I felt like I was seeing through the glamour. The sidewalks were cracked, the roads covered with litter, and worse of all my grandmother’s smiling face, a face that never seemed to age, was worn.

I thought maybe the dread would go away the longer I was there, but it didn’t. The places of my childhood were closed, or replaced with something new. The cabin now could only be visited once a year, and they had gone earlier without me. The magic was gone.

It was like someone ripped away a blanket I had been hiding under. I realized that the feeling of home I longed for in my adulthood was gone, and in that moment, I saw things for how they really were. The map of my childhood had been thrown away, replaced with the reality that those roads had changed and now I was lost.

I guess everyone goes through this in their late twenties. You begin to realize that the way you saw things when you were younger, while maybe not a lie, was a beautiful retelling of the truth. You become more aware of the family politics, of why people are the way they are, and you realize your heroes and idols are just as flawed as you are.

Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I was a child who saw things that weren’t there, and now I’m finally having to face reality? But one thing I know is that sometimes you can never go home. You have to build it elsewhere, and hopefully the foundations are stronger. Your walls need to be made out of stone instead of gingerbread, and the next time someone or something tries to knock it down, they’ll stand firm.

Or maybe that’s all life really is? One knocking down after another, and learning how to grow from it? Home is, after all, just a construct we build to make ourselves feel safe. Once that’s gone, and the net is pulled away, maybe that’s when we can really start living?

5 Horror Shorts for You

The other night, I fell down the dark, black hole that is Youtube short films, and found some great horror flicks. Some are unsettling, some are just horror-comedy, and some are just plain scary. Here are the five I enjoyed most, and wanted to share with others.

Enjoy!

Viewer Discretion is advised.

Continue reading 5 Horror Shorts for You

Write Fight Club Reflections

When I first started writing, I wasn’t scared to submit to contests more than I was to submit to agents.

Agents are less intimidating to me. While people consider them the gateway to getting published, I always saw agents as people who are looking to create a business partnership. Submitting to contests, however, was someone actively judging my work. And not just judging. In my imagination, the organizers were gods, scrutinizing every word, looking down on my poor unfortunate writing and laughing as they sang a song about how stupid I was to even consider submitting.

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Then I found Write Club, and my thoughts on the subject changed.

What is Write Club?

As a quick explanation, Write Club was started by D.L. Hammons, loosely based off the movie Fight Club. You anonymously submit a 500 word story with a pen name into a slush pile. From the slush pile, it gets narrowed down to 30 writers, and then other people online vote for their favorites in 15 bouts. Over time it’s narrowed down to finalists, and the winner’s announced at the DFW Writer’s Conference.

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This is a very bare bones definition of Write Club, and if you want a better idea of it, check out the link above.

Why did this contest change my mind about submitting to contests?

The idea that no one would be able to associate my writing to me took some of the stress out of it. I always saw contests as being judged as a good or bad writer. Instead it turned into “this work isn’t as enjoyable to me”. If someone didn’t like my work I didn’t think it would reflect on my abilities, it was just a matter of taste.

Then when I saw the entries, I realized it really WAS a matter of taste. I would read a piece and think, “This person is clearly the winner!” but then I’d see other people voting for the other person. I was baffled at what they saw in the other piece, but that was just the nature of the game.

And that’s when I realized that ALL forms of submissions were a matter of taste. There are some books I can’t stand that get published and hit top of the sales charts, and there are some books I love that never get noticed.

Write Club cured me of my submitting to contests fear, and I have to admit, I’m already editing my piece for next year’s contest.

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Host, D.L. Hammons, with a few participants /raffle winners at the 2018 DFW Writer’s Conference. (From Left to Right, with Twitter screen name) Mike Hilton (@5hourninja), Wanda Woodworth (@wandawoof), D.L. Hammons (@DL_H), Dannie Olguin (@DannieMOlguin), and myself (@aemcauley)

Would you like to join in Write Club?

Submissions are open March 12th until April 1st or just check out DL Hammons’ page and follow his blog.

Writing Conference Reflection Month – July Schedule

It’s been three days since I went to the Dallas-Fort Worth Writing Conference, and the more time that passes, the more I look back and go “Wow, did I really just spend 48 hours surrounded by other writers?”. It went by way too fast.

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To make up for missing the time I spent with my fellow writers, I decided to turn July into a “Writing Conference Reflection” month. Since this was my first conference, I’m going to talk about what I learned, what I wish I knew, and what I’ll be doing differently for my next conference.

I’ll be making posts every Monday, but will also be adding up one on Friday for suggested topics, if I find the time.

 

Here are some things I’ll be posting about. If you have anything you’d like me to talk about, feel free to ask me to add it!

  • Talking to Agents
  • Making New Friends (suggested by JoAnne Turner)
  • Your First Pitch
  • What Classes Should You Take
  • Importance of Self Care

 

Look for these topics and more this July!

Best Creative Advice I’ve Ever Received

At the time I’m writing this, it’s almost one in the morning and I can’t sleep.

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I can hear the sound of the AC unit on the outside of my office wall and the mumbling of my husband’s audio book he fell asleep listening to. There’s a faint smell of pencil shavings and dusty feathers, and even though I’m wrapped in a blanket to fight the chill, my toes are still frozen.

I’ve been sitting like this for close to an hour now, sketching while listening to the white noise of my house, unable to get the voice of an old coworker out of my head as I erase the same part of a drawing I’ve already done fifteen times.

“Don’t be scared to erase your mistakes. If you erase it and try again, you’re learning how to get it right. Even if it looks worse the second time, you at least tried something new, and found out it didn’t work.”

The man who told me this was one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met. I haven’t seen him in years, but I think about this advice all the time, and not just for drawing but for life in general.

So many times we go through out our day to day, struggling to get things right. We try to write the perfect book, draw the perfect picture, or just try to be someone we’re not for the world around us. We feel kicked and beaten, and often times having to try something again can feel like you’re failing, when this isn’t the case at all.

Every time you stand back up and submit that manuscript, or keep creating, you’re making yourself stronger. You’re learning something. Even if it’s wrong, you’re still becoming better for it.

So, keep on trying. Even if you mess it up over and over again, you’re learning something each time you do. I hope it helps you with whatever you have going on in your life as much as this advice has helped me.

 

What was the best advice you’ve ever been given, either about creating or just about life in general?

Write Club Update

Well submissions are closed.

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I only got one in, mostly due to my own poor time management around the holidays, but I’m a little hopeful. Not entirely optimistic, but hopeful. Of course I’m still glad I did this. It’s already encouraged me to start submitting my writing to smaller contests, and I’ve gotten back into actively writing, as opposed to passively jotting down a few lines every day.

I can’t say that this year had a good start for me, creative wise. If I’m being more accurate, it really hasn’t been great since my move back at the end of October. But looking at my personal timeline, I will say every time I change states, I always get thrown out of sorts for three to six months. With this being the beginning of April, I’m right at that cut off, and can already tell my stamina is back up to create again.

I guess that’s one bad thing about constantly having to move no one really warns you about. Sure, you get to see new places, meet new people, and have different experiences, but at the end of the day, I’m still an introvert at heart. My personal time and space is very important, and when I have to uproot what feels comfortable, it’s hard to get that back right away. This isn’t a complaint so much as an observation. I’m grateful to have the life I do, and I know I’m extremely lucky, but it still takes some time to get back to normal after a big change.

Write Club helped me a lot, however. I feel a little more confident, and the thrill I got from even participating in the contest this far lit a fire under me. Even if I don’t make it to the top 30, I’m still happy with the experience.

 

As you might’ve been able to tell, this was a little bit more of a conversational post than normal. I know it’s a tad bit rambling, but I felt more casual tonight. Thanks for sticking through for this long though! If you liked this style more, let me know. I’ll gladly do more updates like this if it’s preferred.

 

Hope you all are having a good start to April. Keep writing lovelies ❤

Biting the Bullet Journal

I was definitely late jumping onto the bullet journal trend.

I was never good at journaling, and even as a kid, I’d start one, give up and then go out and buy another only to have the process repeat itself.

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When I finally sat down and bought some pens, washi tape, way too many stickers and pretty paper to count, and a journal, I thought that bullet journaling would turn me into the type of person I always wanted to be. Someone who wrote down their thoughts and dreams and treasured those memories close to their heart.

Unfortunately, that’s just not me. So I decided to do something else. I was going to bullet journal for my writing life.

Since I’m a perfectionist, I definitely wanted to make sure I was doing this right, but the problem was, there wasn’t a lot of “how to’s” out there. I was going to have to come up with my own bullet journal ideas.

Here’s what I’ve got so far –

  • Flightless Themed – This journal is for nothing but building the world of my series. It has everything from my alternate Earth timeline, important terms, and species information, along with any possible plot points that could shape future novels.
  • Character Bank – I’m the most excited about this one. Because I love coming up with characters, I have this character pool to skim from whenever I need to add a new person to a novel. I’ve posted a picture up on both my Instagram, and Twitter, if you’d like to see more.
  • General Writing Journal – This one is based off of the multiple writing journals I’ve seen out there, with a little bit of a reading twist to it. I keep what books I’ve been reading, or book challenges, as well as how many words I’ve written, inspirational quotes, and general ideas for future works. Here’s a picture of my March page.

I do have one more that’s more of a daily agenda, and money journal, but I won’t bore you with that.

Are you doing any bullet journals? Share below! I’d love to see them.

Earliest Childhood Memory

Wow! I fell way behind on my own challenge. Since my last post, I started a new novel, and it took hold like wildfire. I decided to stick with that, just to get the first couple chapters done, and it left little time for working on my blog.

Now day 14, I’m just now coming back on a day that’s probably one of my favorites.

This one really shouldn’t be a favorite. A lot of my childhood memories were of me falling off something, or tripping over something, and winding up pretty hurt because of it. You’d think after years of adulting, and countless dance classes, I’d have stopped this nasty habit of falling, but it still hasn’t gone away.

My earliest memory goes like most of my memories of my childhood. I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, in this case, climbing a huge rock, and then falling into a cactus bed.

In retrospect, the rock wasn’t probably as big as I remember, but because I was so small, it seemed like a mountain. This means the single cactus I fell into looked like a bush of spikes straight out of a nightmare.

My biological father was with me at the time, and I can remember screaming as he took me to the nearest gas station where he borrowed their first aid kit and pulled needle after needle out of my arms and legs. I vaguely remember being surrounded by men, each one trying to get me to stop crying, giving me an ice cream out of the freezer I was sitting on, and helping my dad hold my arm when I kept trying to pull away.

Why do I like this memory so much? It was pretty traumatic at the time, but it’s always stuck with me as something that taught me a valuable lesson.

One, when you’re experiencing something negative, things look bigger and badder than they really are. But as time passes you begin to realize it wasn’t as bad as you originally thought.

Two, you’re going to fall down, and sometimes it’s going to hurt, but rely on others to help you back on your feet. I didn’t have a choice as a child, I had to get help from strangers, but as an adult, I try to remember that the kindness of others can sometimes help more than you realize.

And lastly, if you do fall, and you will, always get back up and try again. Learn from that mistake, and do better next time. A tumble from a rock didn’t stop me from getting up the next day and climbing something else. It didn’t stop me from trying things to push myself a little harder. Again, I was a kid, but it’s still something I apply as an adult.

 

What was your earliest childhood memory and what did you learn from it?

Check out Tanja’s Day 14 here.

Want more January blogging challenges? Check out Tanja RamirezLily Couldridge, and Alexandra Burt‘s pages. They’re all taking part as well. It’s not too late for you to do the same! Just link me to whatever social media you’re posting your challenge on, and I’ll give you a shout out.

Favorite Childhood Books

My mom was big on teaching me and my siblings how to read from a young age. I learned the escapism books provided, and reading these stories gave me the drive to want to write my own.

 

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Song of the Lioness – Tamora Pierce

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The Giver Quartet – Lois Lowry

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Full Tilt – Neil Shusterman
Check my post about how much this author has influenced my life.

 

 

 

 

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Doctor Franklin’s Island – Ann Halam

 

 

 

 

 

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Inkheart Trilogy – Cornelia Funke

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The Guardians of Time – Marianne Curley

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The Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

What books shaped your writing experience?

 

Want more January blogging challenges? Check out Tanja RamirezLily Couldridge, and Alexandra Burt‘s pages. They’re all taking part as well. It’s not too late for you to do the same! Just link me to whatever social media you’re posting your challenge on, and I’ll give you a shout out.