I’m a Finalist!

I’m enjoying some good news I received this month. If you follow me on social media or receive newsletters from Oregon Christian Writers, you probably heard I’m a finalist in the Cascade Contest. The winner will be announced at the summer conference on August 22.

2018 Finalist

My entry, currently titled Memoir of a Living Doll, traces the roles dolls played in my growing up. I learned from Chatty Cathy, the pre-owned doll who arrived with marks and scrapes, to see the value of loving imperfect people. This translated later into becoming a foster parent. And Raggedy Ann, who wasn’t crafted for the purpose of merely adorning my bed. She taught me the importance of releasing the ones I love to fulfill their missions in life.

I’m still knitting, pulling out stitches, and reworking my story so I’m sure I’ll discover more surprises along the way. For now, I’m excited my concept and sample pages pleased the preliminary judges. Thank you, Cascade staff, volunteers, and OCW!

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Here’s a scene I’m working on:

It didn’t matter if Chatty Cathy couldn’t speak well. She didn’t have to tell me what happened to her before she came to my house. I wanted only to care for her and be a friend. However, over time Chatty’s fraying string became more resistant to my tugs. I feared it might break with the next pull, stealing her speech forever.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything.” I laid my hand over her chest, feeling the ridges in the grill covering her voice box. “I’ll talk for you.”

I positioned Chatty’s legs and seated her on my hip, the way Mom carries Baby Sister. It had to be uncomfortable, but when I pulled her string again she didn’t complain.

Chatty never complained, but I understood about putting a smile on your face while still carrying hurts inside. And she didn’t always say the phrase I expected. Sometimes I couldn’t say what weighed in my heart, too.

“Te-te-tell me a story.”

“Here’s my brother’s favorite book.” I squeezed her close. “It’s called Go, Dog, Go. Let me tell you about the funny dogs.”

We both needed a good story. (end of excerpt)

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A few months ago one of my critique partners, Wanda Fisher, gave me her Betsy McCall doll to express her love and support. How thankful I am for the encouragement and reminder that Betsy also has a story to tell.

Hopefully, my book will help others tell their stories, too.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Why I Attend Writers Conferences – Hebrews 10:23-25

Here we are with the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference 2017 only a week away. This conference is the biggest event of my writing year, so let me attempt to explain why.

The down side

Conferences are expensive.

They’re time-consuming.

Being in a room full of strangers is taxing.

I may not measure up, my work will be rejected, or I’ll otherwise discover I’m the worst writer ever.

It’s an indulgence. I feel guilty about laying aside other responsibilities to immerse myself in something I enjoy so completely.

Why I go

  1. It’s a refresher course. I gain knowledge that helps me understand current changes in the publishing industry.
  2. It’s energizing on many levels. Encountering writers and industry professionals from all walks of life charges my creative batteries.
  3. It’s worth it. It just is. I haven’t met a writer who doesn’t want to improve. The benefits of rubbing shoulders with less-than and more-than seasoned writers are immeasurable. And I just said I’m not comfortable in crowds?
  4. It’s give and take. It’s amazing how much inspiration I receive as I’m helping other writers on their path.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV).

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

#amwriting #keepwriting #ocwsummerconf2017 #goodforme

Handling Stress and other Bumps in the Road – Psalm 25:1-5

The yearly writing conference I attend is next week, and things haven’t come together as I’d hoped. My budget is stretched because of rising costs, and it looks like I’ll be stuck without a roommate.

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I examine my motives and pray, but it’s still not settled in my mind. Isn’t it too much, Lord? Should I just stay home? Does my husband truly agree on the value of my attendance?

I’m at a point now where I’m struggling in prayer during the night.

Don’t worry, it’s just a bump in the road

We took a road trip from Oregon to my uncle’s home in Kansas when I was a child, and I was amazed at the Midwest’s wide, flat landscape. My uncle had instructed Dad to take a right after the hill to reach our destination. We drove for miles before Dad realized we weren’t going to see any hills, because my uncle’s definition of a hill wasn’t the same as his. Dad joked that he didn’t even feel the Kansan “hills” when he’d driven over them.

In the overall scope of things, my frustrated plans for the conference are just an inconvenience. Next month I probably won’t even remember it was such a big deal.

The up side

Perhaps I’ll be surprised with the miraculous appearance of a roommate as I’m checking in at the hotel. Or maybe this bump is actually a take-off point that will launch me into full flight—or something wonderful like that.

It’s also possible that being alone in a hotel room is what’s best for me. It certainly would help me get quality rest, and that would facilitate the learning, serving, and socializing I intend to do. It might help me think more clearly and listen more closely after lots of good sleep.

I can learn, I suppose, to stifle my frugal nature and give right-of-way to some much desired focus time. Why, the quiet nights could even enhance my writing!

“In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame . . . Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:1-4 NIV).

I’m doing what I can. Now I need to trust God to work out the rest.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

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UPDATE: I have a roommate! God bless her.

How Not to Prepare for a Writers Conference

van load .free. jackmac34 pixabaySome of the most embarrassing moments of my life came as we followed our pastor through airports on our mission trip, carrying and dragging our bags of dumb, unnecessary stuff. Pastor Jon clipped along with his rolling carry-on containing an extra pair of shoes, a change of clothes, his Bible, a jacket, and his shaving kit.

He even had room to spare in that one small bag so he could take a gift home for his wife.

Our luggage consisted of the maximum number of pieces and poundage allowed on a plane, including a large container of hot cocoa powder mix, extra bedding, and far more clothing than I needed.

And our luggage had to be lugged. None of it had wheels. It was crazy!

I learned my lesson

I comforted myself with the promise to give a bunch of our things away before our return flight. Surely I could find someone in India with a hankering for Swiss Miss.

Getting ready for a conference

We packed too much for India because I trusted some questionable advice and didn’t do my homework. Now I plan for trips more carefully.

The most important things on my list for my next conference:

  • Stay on course. I committed myself once again to keeping my focus on following Jesus. Silly me, I’ve been worried about what I hoped to gain instead of doing his will! Instead, I’ll pursue knowing and trusting him, preparing thoughtfully, and working hard to learn all I can.
  • Give and receive. I bring home a treasure chest full of valuable relationships and insights when I follow the “love your neighbor as yourself” rule. I try to stretch the bounds of my comfort level every day by starting conversations with strangers and looking for ways to be helpful. It always pays off.
  • Don’t forget to love your closest neighbor as yourself. It’s not easy on the husband I leave behind. Sure, he may say he’s happy with chili dogs for dinner every night, but it keeps the sparks sparking if I find creative ways to love him during the time I’m gone. For me, this has to be set up before I leave – or it won’t get done!

For the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference this year, I’m taking the essentials and one quirky item, my little box fan. It helps me sleep, and getting good sleep helps me take better notes. It also gives me clearer thinking for the editor, agent, and mentor appointments I  plan to sign up for.

I’m certain I won’t need to take extra bedding.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Don’t Quit – We Can do This

I felt a little guilty when I walked out of the Westmoreland Medical Clinic for the last time. In the parking lot I stifled my spreading grin, and after shutting the car door I unleashed a giggle. I was free!

Until that spring, I had no interest in reading or writing fiction. I wanted to stick with the Bible, the only book I felt I could trust to be true (nonfiction). My work in health records was the perfect outlet for me as I carefully researched and managed medical files. It was all about order and facts.

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But something changed when I left my job. I was now free to pursue something radically different.

I challenged myself to consider how Jesus often used parables – fictional stories to help his hearers understand the concepts he was teaching.

Could I do that?

I wanted to improve how I serve God and others, and broaden my communication skills. That meant I needed to learn to tell a good story, like Jesus, but how do I start?

I called myself a writer. That was hard. It was like admitting I might waste a lot of time arranging words with nothing to show for it. My husband said, “Go for it,” and my family was supportive, so I dove in.

The next step was to put money on it. I bought Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson. The following year I was privileged to tell the author how much I appreciated his book when I encountered him at the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference!

I did it!

I’ve sat through dozens of workshops, taken courses, attended author events, talked with editors and agents at writing conferences, and kept writing. I work with my critique partners so we can improve together.

My first devotionals were contracted last year and my first short story released just this week (see Jesus Talked to Me Today  in the sidebar). I don’t intend to quit. It takes a lot of faith, it’s true, to believe my writing is helping people.

I want to keep getting better

I’m turning another corner this year, though not as dramatic as my leap from medical writing (nonfiction) to stories (fiction). Now I’m learning to tell real stories, keeping them true, with a literary aspect. It’s like telling the truth but making it more captivating, or perhaps more understandable.

Here’s an explanation of what I’m talking about.

“Creative nonfiction merges the boundaries between literary art (fiction, poetry) and research nonfiction (statistical, fact-filled, run of the mill journalism). It is writing composed of the real, or of facts, that employs the same literary devices as fiction such as setting, voice/tone, character development, etc. This makes if (sic) different (more ‘creative’) than standard nonfiction writing.” – from Writing Tips page on the University of Vermont’s website.

Let’s go.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis