Thursday, June 22, 2017

Learning New Tricks: A Writer's Lifelong Journey

By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

I’ve been writing seriously for about four years. In that time, I’ve learned many new things. I’m not as good at some of them as I hope to be, but I’m still learning. I’ve learned Twitter and Instagram. I’ve learned how to blog and how to make memes and I have learned many other things I never knew.

As I told you in my last blog post, I’m now a grandmother. I have been for thirteen-plus years, so you do the math. Let’s just say, I’m not a spring chicken. But I’m learning new tricks every day.

Some of the techie things the twenty-or-thirty-something-year-old writers do with ease don’t come that readily to some of us of a certain age. But I haven’t let that stop me. I’m learning new things all the time. As fast as technology is changing, we have to change with it or we'll get lost along the way.

Social Media Help
In my last blog It’s Never Too Late For Your Dreams, I spoke of  hiring a social media coach.
Whether you’re new to this writing journey or you’ve been at it a while, and you feel you don’t or can’t grasp some of the new-fangled ideas out there, then, by all means, consider hiring a coach. Now, I believe mine is the best, but there are many people who can teach you what you need to know in today’s writing world. Whether you are eighteen or eighty, there’s always something new on the horizon, a new task we must master.

Today, I’m trying to learn Click To Tweet. I'll be honest, it’s difficult. There are many steps to be learned along the way. Open these windows, go here, do this, highlight this, go there, click this. It’s almost enough to make me want to throw my hands into the air and give up. But I’ve never been a quitter. And neither should you be. I’m determined to add this latest tool to my arsenal of tricks because I believe that I’ve been called to this writing journey by the One Who guides my steps, and has laid the path before me.
                                                                                    Winding Road
Anyone who thinks the path to becoming a published author is easy has never taken the first step. It isn’t easy. It’s a long and twisting path with many side roads. There are some scary drop-off cliffs, numerous curves in the road, unlimited distractions, and always the naysayers. But we hold on for the ride of our lives, knowing that He who brought us to this will get us through the obstacles that stand in our way. We need only put our faith and trust in Him and  keep going, putting one foot in front of the other. That is how a journey is taken, how it leads to that destination for which we’ve hoped and dreamed, and prayed.

Trust The Guide
If you’re a new writer, or if you’ve been at this for a while and some of the tasks you must master seem to be mastering you, let me urge you to find someone to help. Hire a social media coach. Find a high school or college student who needs some extra cash. Mostly, don’t be afraid to try. Take that path knowing that you have the best guide ever walking before you, leading you onward to that destination. If you never try, you will never succeed.

What technologies have hindered your progress on this writing journey? Have you tackled Click to Tweet yet? It’s a doozy, but it’s something you can learn. Share your greatest techie challenges and how you overcame them.

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If you never try, you will never succeed - @DDuPreeWilliams (click to tweet)  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

It's Never Too Late For Your Dreams

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

It’s been a few weeks since I returned home from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. The conference gets better with each passing year. This was my fourth one.

The fact that I even went to that first conference back in 2014 was a miracle. At that time, I didn’t even know there were such things. And why on earth would I think I should attend one? Me, a writer? No way. I was a singer. That’s what I had done all my life. God was supposed to use me and my voice to reach people. Period. And then I got older and my hearing began to fail me. But God was already working in the shadows to give me a second voice.

Called To Write
In the meantime, I felt a pull to write. It wouldn’t leave me. I had quite a collection of poems I had written when my children were younger. Maybe I could pull those out and try my hand at that again. So, I began to write. I wrote silly children’s poems. Now don’t get me wrong. I think children’s literature is very important. Most of my poems just happen to be rather silly in nature. I even wrote a couple of picture books. But could I actually do this and maybe get something published?

That's when I learned about BRMCWC. Me? Attend a writing conference? Clueless, I signed up not knowing what to expect. Armed with my little folder full of poems and my picture books, I entered the lobby of Pritchel to sign in and get the information I needed. There was a big booklet telling about the classes, the faculty, and thankfully, a map. There were some big names in that book, let me tell you. What on earth was I doing here? Out of my element, big time.

My Dear Friend
In the lobby of Pritchel was a lovely young woman. I was old enough to be her mother. But she
BRMCWC 2015, Karen Lynn Nolan and Susan Mytko
approached me and asked what I was going to do, go on the bus or walk to the orientation given by Michelle Cox? I think we decided to ride the bus. We went to that meeting for newbies, and Michelle was so good at putting us all at ease. Maybe this wasn't so bad. Besides, I had my new friend, Susan.

Picture books and children’s writing were being taught by Sally Apokedak and Michelle Medlock Adams. Now, that sounded like something I could get into. I found their classes and, with some effort and help, made my way there. I learned a lot in those classes. I learned a great deal about what I didn’t know. But that’s okay. I wasn’t supposed to know what they know. They were the experts. I was just a beginning writer who only wanted to know if there was anything there with which to work.

I signed up for an appointment with each of those ladies. Armed with my poems and picture books, I bravely walked up and sat down and asked, “Am I even a writer? Should I just go home?” I was too na├»ve to even know how important this first look at my work was. Too ignorant of the process to understand I should be quaking in my shoes. But each of those precious ladies was so encouraging. “Yes,” they said. “You are a writer, one with a strong voice. Don’t stop. You can do this.”  Wow! I’m a writer. That was the first time I said that.

With their class notes and the audio versions and handouts purchased at that conference, I came home and began to learn all I could about the craft of writing. I purchased how to books. I had no idea that so many books existed to help one on this journey. I joined organizations which reached out to help writers of all levels. And I began to write my first novel.

Winning Awards
DiAnn Mills, Debbie, Edie Melson, 2017
I worked on that book for two years. I attended BRMCWC again and again. Then I learned of Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat. I became brave enough to enter the contests there. My cozy mystery won three first place and two second place awards there in 2016. I came home and worked on the changes given to me in two paid critiques. I hired a social media coach. I had the first three chapters of my book professionally edited. At Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference this past May, that cozy mystery won the second place Foundations Award for speculative/mystery/romance. From a handful of little poems to an award-winning mystery, this has been quite a journey.

Now, I didn’t write this to tell you how great I think I am. No, I'm so humbled by these awards, by this call God has placed on my life, by the doors which have been opening to me over the past four years. I have a way to go. God knows what He has in store for my writing. My mystery is no mystery to Him. He knows exactly what is going to happen to it, and I put my faith and trust in Him.

God's Got the Door
This post is to encourage you. I am a grandmother who is fulfilling a dream of writing. It is never too late to pursue a dream, to have a new dream, to find a second voice. Whatever you think you would like to do, give it to God. Ask Him to guide you, to go before you and prepare the way. Do your homework. Listen to the experts. Attend conferences. Enter contests. But first, pray. When you consider your dream, ask God to lead you where He wants you to be, to open doors for you. Let me assure you that I didn’t, couldn’t do this on my own. He’s been right there beside me, every step of the way. And He’s such a gentleman, He’s even held the door.

Have you had a dream bubbling inside of you? What is holding you back? Be brave and share that dream with us so that we may pray for you. God’s got the door.

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It's Never Too Late For Your Dreams - @DDuPreeWilliams (click to tweet)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Proverbs 31 Woman

One Of the Many Suits Mama Made
by Debra DuPree Williams  @DDuPreeWilliams

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about my mother. I told you I’d say a bit more about her. She wouldn’t like that I’m sharing at least one of the photos posted here, but they say so much about who she was.

Mama was a woman of many talents. As discussed earlier, unless it was party food, you really didn’t want her to cook. That one doesn’t go on my list of her talents. But sewing and crafting belong at the top.

When we were little girls, Granny, my mother’s mother, made most of our clothes. I guess that's because Mama always worked and Granny stayed home with us. I suppose I should say with me as my sister, who is seven years older, was already in school. Well, Granny loved all things shiny and noisy. Yes, I said noisy. Those are the only two reasons I can come up with for why every dress she made was made from taffeta and made that swish-swish noise with every movement. Granny passed away when I was eight, and from that point forward, Mama made all of our clothes.                       

Master Seamstress
I don’t remember too many things prior to my high school days, maybe a dress here or there was a
Working on Miss AL Dress for Talent Portion
favorite. Once we get to be high school age, we start having to have those semi-formal and formal dresses. Mama made every single one I ever wore. She even made the dresses I wore for the Miss Alabama competitions. I entered that for the talent scholarships which helped to pay for my education. I remember one year the judges asked me where I had gotten my gowns. I proudly told them my Mama had made them. They were impressed by her talents.

Every southern girl had to be dressed for church. I had so many church dresses it wasn’t funny. And every dress had its own matching or coordinating coat. Since Daddy was in the shoe business, I also had a pair of shoes and a purse to go with every outfit. No, we weren’t wealthy. Since Mama could sew so well, and Daddy got discounts on all the merchandise in the store, I was able to have these things. I guess my biggest disappointment as far as Mama’s sewing goes is that she didn’t make my wedding gown. Sigh.

One Crafty Lady
Pine-Cone Tree
Mama’s talents didn’t stop with making our wardrobes. She could and did make many craft items. When Mama and Daddy moved to Dothan, the store in which Daddy worked had a charity auction at Christmas every year. Mama, with Daddy’s help for the heavy stuff, made beautiful pine cone trees
and wreaths. One year, one of her trees sold for almost a hundred dollars. And this was back in the seventies when a dollar was more or less a dollar.

One of Mama's Paintings
When in her sixties, Mama decided to learn about computers. Nothing heavy-duty, she just wanted to understand them so she took a class. After that, she decided she wanted to learn to paint, so she took painting classes. Several of her paintings have hung in our home for years.

When I think about the Proverbs 31 woman, I always think about my Mama, especially the verses about rising early, making garments, and speaking words of wisdom. Sis and I were blessed to have a hard-working, I-can-do-anything, service-oriented woman as our Mama. She may not have been perfect, but she did her best, and that is all that is required of us. I can say that when I go home to be with Jesus, I hope my children think of me when they read that chapter.

Did you think of your mama when you read Proverbs 31 for the first time? Tell us about that in the space below.