Do you love mysteries? I do.
We are taught to love a good mystery before we can even read. Some of the greatest mysteries ever written are read to children long before they even understand the written word:
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
- Are You My Mother?
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Little Bo Peep
- Three Little Kittens
- The Twelve Dancing Princesses
- The Elves and the Shoemaker
Some of these stories teach children to look for clues. Others teach them to watch the scenes unfold as the main character(s) learn what is happening. All of them walk us through an exciting mystery.
But, wait! Is there a murder in any of those stories?
Let’s move up a few years.
- Nancy Drew
- The Hardy Boys
- Judy Moody
- The Boxcar Children
- Encyclopedia Brown
Still, there is seldom any kind of murder, or even a death.
We don’t really begin to see murder as a “symptom” of a mystery until we reach young adult or adult stories. And then, it’s hard to find a mystery without at least one murder. Why is that? Why is it practically a requirement for a mystery to contain a murder? Is it because we can’t come up with anything more exciting than who killed someone? Where is the creativity in writing, these days? What happened?
If you find some good mysteries for young adult and up—you know, the kind with no murders—please, let me know.
How often do you look forward? How often do you look back? How often do you use the past as a reference for how to change your future?
Do you repeat your mistakes or successes? Have you studied them to understand why they keep happening? Are you planning for them? Or, do they just happen? A lot of people are lucky by skill and others are just lucky. Or not so lucky.
Have you ever used a service that counted your visitors? If so, do you study the information the service collects?
It helps to know where your hits are coming from, such as the physical location and the website. Did you put a link on the website your visitors are coming from? Is there an advertisement? If so, are you getting more or less hits than normal from that site? What did you do about the time the regular number of hits changed? Did you post a new ad? Did you discuss the website with a group?
Where do your visitors land when they first come to your website? Which page do they visit next? Is it your FAQ page, or your contact page? Do most people go to that page next, or is there no common path? Do they randomly bounce around your website?
How long do your visitors stay on each page? Do they stay long enough to read it, or do they land, then click on a link to go to another page? You need to know if they’re interested enough to actually read the content.
If you pay attention to your stats collected from such a service, you can maximize your number of hits and even direct your visitors’ paths around your website. But you have to study those findings to learn what works best for your needs.
Find a good stat counter and learn how to use it to your advantage. Raise your sales and your popularity by making a few tweaks on your website. Add some keywords. Offer valuable information that will bring customers to your site, instead of the competition’s website.
Have you ever had the opportunity to go to a conference in your area of expertise, but you chose to stay home? Why? There are many reasons people don’t attend conferences and conventions. Here are a few.
1. Finances… Not everyone has the money to pay out hundreds of dollars for an event they aren’t even sure will help them. If you look around, you’ll find some events are more affordable than others. Check into them.
2. Fear of looking stupid… Don’t even allow this one to bend your brain. It’s not worth it. Everyone who attends a conference has a first time. Why do we keep going? That’s discussed soon enough. But fear of looking stupid is not an allowable excuse.
3. Fear of being found out… All of us feel a little under-educated in our field in the beginning, and sometimes later on. If you’re afraid you won’t know things others know, don’t worry. Plan on letting everyone else answer any questions at your first conference, unless you are absolutely certain of the answer. Silence while paying close attention to the speaker looks good on anyone.
4. Fear of not knowing anyone… Ask around to see who’s going. If you can’t find anyone you know who’s going, and you don’t like to go alone, bring a friend–even if you have to share a room or pay for part of their expenses.
5. Fear of big places or crowds… This one is a little harder to help you through, but if attend with a friend, it will help you focus more on learning and sharing with your friend and less on feeling swallowed in such a big atmosphere.
6. No time… Make time. Most conferences are worth every penny you pay and every minute you give up. Ask a family member to watch the kids for a couple of days. Find out which events are the best in your industry and region. Make it a point to attend one or two of those a year. If you can manage a trip to one or two of the best known national or international conferences, go.
What will you gain if you attend a conference that you can’t gain through a workshop or discussion with friends in the industry? Why do so many others attend conferences? Why do they keep going, again and again? What makes it worth all that?
1. Vital connections… Even if you don’t speak to them (but you should!), you will learn who makes things happen and has achieved the highest respect in your field. When you have questions or needs, you will feel more comfortable contacting them and asking for advice or references.
2. Surprises… Most likely, you’ll know more than one person at the event, especially if it is local. It doesn’t matter if you’re only acquaintances. If they know it’s your first time at that particular event, they’ll often introduce you to other professionals you need to connect with. You may have new friends when you return home.
3. Special offers… Sometimes, just being at an event gives you an opportunity to take advantage of special offers only given to those who attended the conference.
4. Support… A conference is about helping others achieve their highest goals in the field. It is about learning, sharing, and friendships; being part of a camaraderie in a larger field than the one you have been playing in, so far.
5. KNOWLEDGE… When you leave, you will most likely know much more about some things than you knew before. At the very least, you have gained confidence in your own skills and insight and that’s worth the trip, in itself. And that confidence will show in your everyday work, too.
If you’re a writer, editor, publisher, or even a reader who wants to know more about the field, you should attend a good conference or two each year. If you’re around northeastern Oklahoma, I have listed a few of the area events on my LINKS page. If you want to go to the same conferences I’m attending, you can find them listed on my EVENTS page. Let me know if it’s your first time and I’ll gladly spend a little time helping you adapt to the format and meet others who will help you along.
If you’re into people-watching, try sitting near the sign-up tables at a conference and watch as attendees walk near, but seem to be taking in too much at once. It makes many of us look lost, even if we’ve been there for the past three years. So, don’t be afraid to walk up and look lost with the rest of us. We’ll never know you’re a conference newbie unless you tell us. And since we’ve all been there, we understand how overwhelming it can seem compared to how simple it really is.
See you at the next conference!
I am currently packing to attend the Arkansas Writers’ Conference, in Little Rock, Arkansas, this weekend. Will I see you there? I hope so!
I finally got my workshops listed on the Designing the World with Words website. Click on the link at the top of this page to visit the website. I added a few new workshops for this year, including Writing for Children, Writing Emotion, and Basic Computer and Internet. I had a lot of requests for the last one, so I decided to offer it twice. Those who attend it may request up to five things they’d like to learn and I’ll do my best to make those five things part of the workshop. I’ve tried to keep the prices as low as possible. Click on the link and see for yourself.
It’s almost time for my annual trip to Louisiana. There’s a cemetery meeting and folks who will be gathering for multiple reunions, as well as a story I want to finish writing at a couple of cemeteries. And I hope to spend a little time with some of my very special family members, too. Nobody is getting any younger and I want to make sure they all know how much I love them. I’m also looking forward to meeting some writers in the area. There’s a critique meeting on May 12th, in Minden. If you’re interested, visit Designing the World with Words and scroll toward the bottom, where you’ll find a link to WONLA.
Did I mention we’re raising chickens? Life has been a little crazy these past two months, but much of the reason is our wonderful flock of chicks: Bossy, Greta, Chippy, Scooby, Chloe, Zippy, Fluffy, and Thelma. I seem to be building chicken runs and over the next week, a chicken coop. I never run out of things to do around here. And just when I think I have a few spare minutes to relax, the chickens tear a hole in their box and I have to do some quick mending. I hope the outdoor contraptions are impossible to escape, when I’m finished building them.
I have actually had a couple of chances to write lately, so I’ve entered some writing contests. I hope my stories win some prize money. I am trying to find a few minutes here and there to enter more, soon.
Do you ever enter contests? Have you won a lot of prize money? What’s the best thing you ever won for a story you wrote?
2016 is truly a writer’s year.
If you are a writer, illustrator, editor, publisher, or just curious about the process, you should attend some area conferences and workshops. I have a page on this website (EVENTS) that shows all the events I plan to attend, this year. I also have another page (LINKS) where I post links to many other area events, too. The links to these pages are at the top. (Look up!)
I have a lot of projects coming up. The Adventures of Dayton Barnes will be published very soon. I’m currently planning some workshops for this year. I’m putting together some new sessions I’m very excited to offer. Of course, my workshop site is at http://jespiddlin.com/designingtheworldwithwords . Keep an eye on that website for updates with new workshops as I plan them. Right now, all my workshops are in-person.
The little pop-up tent work space did not give me a permanent enough station to use it whenever I needed. We had too much rain and rushing water, so I had to put it away for a couple of weeks and work indoors. I accomplished very little writing and editing with the grandkids and their parents here. I am not complaining. We all need a place to go once or twice in our lives and I’m thankful to be able to help them through this period. But I had to find a way to work around them. I still have the tent for times when I need to work away from home, but it wasn’t quite what I needed here at home.
I decided to build a small “office” on our concrete slab, out back. We built the walls in our living room, with 7 people wandering back and forth. When the walls were finished, we took it outside and assembled it. The office doesn’t look like much, but it allows me to stay outside in rain, shine, wind, all night, etc. We have had coyotes, a bobcat… lots of critters walk by that building at night, when I’m working. (With the bobcat out and about, I’m glad I’m not sitting in that little pop-up tent.) My office is a tiny 4 ft. x 8 ft. building. My husband and I both use it and love the privacy. The sounds of nature are a great joy, also. In this picture, it’s still being built, but you get the idea. I love my little office and spend a lot of time out there.
In recent weeks/months:
I’ve been promoted to Children’s Corner Imprint Editor at 4RV Publishing. It has been a wonderful move for me, although I’m still adapting. I love my job!
I’ve got my own car to get around town, now. I love having my freedom, again.
Our son and his family have temporarily joined our household. I love having them here, but it does put a little crimp in my work time. I’m still learning to work around everyone and all the activities.
I have acquired a new “writing room.” When the weather permits, this is my private space to work. It is small, but warm and offers windows and a door to let the sun or breeze in, so the claustrophobia monster doesn’t disturb my progress.
Moments ago, I added a new page with links to books I’ve edited, or helped edit, etc. Click on the Edits link, above, to learn more.
See you again, soon!