Writing

It’s The One-Room Schoolhouse’s Fault

Blog Title It's the One-room Schoolhouse's Fault with pick of prairie flowers and a one-room schoolhouse by Denise M. Colby

I have this thing for historical one-room schoolhouses. I don’t know why. They are cute, inviting and have history that is yearning to be told. Ever since I visited the one-room schoolhouse in old town Sacramento during my oldest son’s 4th grade Sacramento trip, I have wanted to write a story about one. 

  • How specific some of the rules were.
  • How students were separated with boys on one side, girls on the other.
  • How each student had to stand at the side of their desk to speak.
  • How lashings were given for the most interesting infringements.
  • How a female teacher had different rules than a male teacher.
  • How for some of these students, it was the only education they would ever receive.
  • How children of all ages were taught in the same room.
  • How one measly stove in the center of the room provided heat.
  • How lunch was carried in a bucket.
Quote from Blog by Denise M. Colby - Maybe it's the influence of Little House on the Prairie, but i find the history of the one-room schoolhouse a little romantic

Maybe it’s the influence of Little House on the Prairie, but I find the history of the one-room schoolhouse a little romantic. And so, when I went on the same trip with my second son two years later, the same curiousness came back, a few characters formed in my head, and a story screamed at me to write it. 

So I did. 

My story is about a town across the river from Sacramento that has a brand new schoolhouse. This schoolhouse seems to want to match-make for its teachers. Their first teacher got married before she set foot in it. The next one, my heroine Olivia, wants to remain a teacher her whole life. But God, the one-room schoolhouse, and Bert the rooster, all have a different plan for her.

It will be interesting to see how long she lasts, and who else might come to teach at this match-making one-room schoolhouse.

Quote from Blog by Denise M. Colby - Who else might come to teach at my match-making one-room schoolhouse

To find out more about the story I’m writing, go to the Going West Series page in the books section of my website. Or if you’d like to see the photos of one-room schoolhouses I’ve posted go here.

Writing

When “The Plan” Does Not Go According to Plan

Blog Title on wooden fence background by Denise M. Colby When the plan does not go according to plan

I think this title says it all! When “The Plan” does not go according to plan. Have you ever felt this way? I have. I’m a planner at heart, so I run into this, A Lot! So here’s my story right now.

I have had many “plans” over the past year for my website, my blog, and my writing and most of it has NOT gone according to plan.

  • I had plans to update my website
  • I had plans to have more blog posts each month
  • I had plans to have my newsletter completed and emailed out to a list of willing readers

Don’t get me wrong. I still have those plans. And that’s the thing. For me, right now, it’s not necessarily the plans I wrote down, but the timing of those plans that changed. And honestly, I’m okay with that. Now. But I wasn’t at the time. I’ve been frustrated with myself for not being able to get them done when I wanted to get them done.

Recently, I have realized that those were “my plans” and in hindsight, I can now see the way things have unfolded may not have been my plan, but very much “God’s Plan” for me.

Recently, I have realized that those were “My Plans”.

Denise M. colby

Several reasons, that I only can see now, include all the other “things” that needed to fall into place before I got to the things on my list. (And also the fact that I had too much on my plate, and my health and my family needed to come first.) For a long time I couldn’t see that. But now…

That’s what hindsight is all about

Something we can learn from.

So, what’s the lesson?

Something I’m still learning (and will continue to do so because it is one of the hardest things for me to do) is to let go and trust God when things don’t go the way I want them to.

Let go and let God be in charge, quote by Denise M. Colby with old wooden fence background

Ironically, this is actually one of the themes in my book I’m working on. We all make plans. And we think we are on the right track with those plans. But we sometimes run into road blocks or challenges that prevent us from making progress or change the outcome of some of those plans.

That’s what my heroine, Olivia, runs into over and over.

She has a lot of stuff happen to her. So much so, she has to let go of her past and reinvent herself and plan out a new future. And she’s doing it all without any help from God. At least, that’s what she believes.

But just like in our own lives, God is behind the scenes orchestrating something so much bigger and beautiful for Olivia. Something she would never be able to do on her own.

Sometimes we have to learn to get out of the way and trust God. We may not know what the future holds but by trusting in Him we can have faith to take things one day at a time and know we are where He wants us to be at that moment.

God's way of going about it is so much better than our own, quote by Denise M. Colby, text over wooden fence background

Sure it’s good to have goals and plans of the things we want to work toward. I think that part is important. But I also think that sometimes God’s way of going about it is so much better than our own.

And we don’t know that until our plans have to change

So here I am, many many many months later finally posting a blog post. And I have plans. Big plans. To write more. To post more. And to share with you more. Words of encouragement to help inspire and give you hope. Words of enrichment to learn new things. And words that we can engage in so that we can support, uplift and show love to one another.

If you are interested in signing up for my nonexistent newsletter to receive in the near future (hopefully) go here to sign up. You will receive a free poem I wrote, titled When God Calls, Go.

And for the novel I’m still editing? It has had several different titles over the past few years all related to plans changing, so I’ll leave you with a few verses from the Bible on the topic:

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Hebrews 10:36 36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 text on background

I am part of a writers blog called A Slice Of Orange. I have been writing blog posts monthly now for over a year. My particular blog posts on the 12th of every month. You can find links to those posts here, or for all my archived posts click here. In my August post, I wrote about real life turning points and how big ones have impacted me this year. The topic dives into the “why” my plans didn’t quite happen the way I planned and a first-hand view as to what plans are emerging now. It’s titled Tracking Real Life Turning Points

Books

Writing Words That Encourage, Enrich, and Engage

Denise M. Colby writes about The Purpose of Words in her blog post Writing Words that Encourage, Enrich, and Engage on denisemcolby.com

A part of this post was first posted on the Sliceoforange.net blog on April 12, 2018 (The Purpose of Words)

I love quotes, phrases, and how words are used to communicate. It’s fitting that at dictionary.com, the verb ‘word’ is defined as: to choose and use particular words in order to say or write something. 

Yes, as writers that is what we do. We have a lot to say and we choose our words for a reason.

I’m always amazed at how people put together their words the way they do. Many times, in my head I find I articulate well. But when I write the words down, they don’t always sound the same way they did in my head. Does anyone else struggle with this? I’m thinking I’m not the only one. Or so I hope. But, I digress.

This post is about words. 

Definitions. Synonyms. Words by themselves. Words strung together. I love words. Go figure that Words of Affirmation is my love language (if you don’t know what that means — check out the book Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Interesting insight into why and how people show love differently) and that I got my BA in Communications.

Words are a curious thing. How you say them, spell them, and use them can change what they mean. We have rules for these words and we take classes our entire school career to learn what those rules are. And yet, there’s still a variety of ways people string words together.

What makes us each use words differently? 

I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon. Diary’s and journals have been around since the beginning of time. But most of those private musings never saw the light of day. However, with the internet explosion and the plethora of blogs out there, not to mention the ease of self-publishing, anyone can express themselves however they want and post it for others to read. 

Some writers use big words that I have to mull over and think about before I can continue on, while others write in a way young kids can follow. Some use clever prose, others are straightforward. Some write very long sentences, while others write less. All. The. Time. I find I enjoy reading it all. 

There are several types of books out there that play with words. 

One book series titled, Short & Sweet, is a compilation of one page poems and stories all written in one syllable words. Each book has had a different theme.

Denise M. Colby's Poem Titled, "When God Calls", is on page 77 In this book, The Short and Sweet of It

I submitted a piece titled “When God Calls” to the third compilation, titled The Short & Sweet of It. When the Right Word is a Short Word. 

The focus of this compilation were things that matter deeply to the authors and my piece is based on the Bible verse Matthew 11:28-30 —“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I wrote a short poem from my heart and I couldn’t be more excited as it’s my first published work. 

The book launched in April 2018, and my piece is on page 77. It’s being sold on Amazonand Barnes and Noble .

Besides one syllable word books, there are more specialized books on words. If you are anything like me, you own more than one dictionary and thesaurus. At used book stores I like to look for unique and different types of dictionaries to use for references. Recently I learned about a new word. You may have heard it before, but it’s new to me. It’s called ‘Etymology’. At first I thought it was about body parts or an animal species. It’s not! 

Etymology: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. 

Isn’t that awesome?!

Apparently, this has been a thing for quite some time. I looked on Amazon and there are numerous books on the subject (some of which are now on my wish list). As I researched further on the internet, I found a website dedicated to the topic, https://www.etymonline.com/

For those of us who write historical, this might give us an entire new source of understanding how or why a character would use a word. My favorite part in the few words I tried out, is the listing of slang words. 

For instance, I looked up the word farm. Besides an overview on the definition it lists two slang phrases:

Fetch the farm: prisoner slang for “get sent to the infirmary” 

Buy the farm: world war II slang for “die in battle”.

Now, if I was writing a World War II piece or a Civil War piece, I might use one of these. But alas, I’m not. But, the next time I’m looking for a something more on a word, I’ll use this as a resource and see where it leads. 

All in all, words are wonderful. 

Especially when we use them to communicate to others. Whether it’s in a private letter, an article, a novel or a blog post, words are put together to read and enjoy.

Just like you read and enjoyed this post, right?

Blessings,

Denise

Writing Journey

Time Flies…

writers journey blog

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted on this blog.  Of course I haven’t been stagnant.  Life keeps moving, or as the phrase suggests…time flies when you’re having fun.  And I have been having fun. Both in my personal and professional life.

I’m still writing…

Slice of Orange Blog

…I’m now writing a monthly blog over at www.sliceoforange.net.   You can see my posts on the 12th of every month.  If you are interested you can sign up to receive the daily posts from a large group of authors.  Here’s my September post: http://www.asliceoforange.net/face-your-fear/

Writers conference southern california…I attended the SoCal Christian Writers Conference in June and met some wonderful people within the industry.  I also picked up new tips and information to help me on my journey, including some blogging lessons.

…I’ve taken two online classes over the past few months, both on editing and revisions, since that is what I am currently working on.  I’ve learned a lot and am now applying those lessons to my manuscript.

…I rewrote the entire beginning of my book.  I’ve learned so much since when I started that it was easier to rewrite it with new words and phrasing rather then continue to change what I had originally.

…I have a title for my first book that I’m completely happy with.  I had been going round and round with a handful of them, but one stuck out I really liked and after asking a few publishers and agents, I’ve decided it’s the one (I’ll have to reveal it in another post).

…I have met a wonderful new author friend who is now my critique partner and together we’ve exchanged a few scenes and gotten to know each other.  I’m really looking forward to working with her.  I’ll have to introduce her in a future post.

…I’ve been revising and editing my first book and adding words to book number two.  I can see my writing has improved tremendously, but it’s not quite where it needs to be.  So I keep working at it.

…I have a logo my middle son designed and created for me.  I need to finalize the last bit of detail before I put it on my website, but it’s been great working on it with him.  I’m super excited to share it with you.

Wow….I really haven’t been stagnant.  It feels good to write out what I’ve been doing.  I can see the progress.  Daily I don’t feel like I’ve done much because sometimes the progress is itty bitty, but all in all I can see the progression in my writing journey.

Looking ahead…

…I’m considering renaming this blog ‘my journal’ since that’s the style I have chosen to write in.  I guess an official “blog” post is more instructive and has a call to action.  Here I share my thoughts, feelings and encouragement as if I’m writing a diary entry. 

Do you like this approach?  I would love to hear your opinion.

…I hope to have revisions done by the end of the year for my first book.  The process is slow, but as I apply things from my new tool box, I can see it taking shape.

And My Family Keeps Me Busy…

With three teenage boys in my house, there is never a dull moment.  This year we have celebrated a high school graduation, an Eagle Scout, lead roles in musicals and plays, choir performances, track meets, dances, backpacking trips, college classes and lots of pizza movie nights (our weekly tradition) and so much more (including my 22nd Anniversary to my amazing hubby).  It seems daily I’m running somewhere, but I wouldn’t change any of it.  I love my family dearly and enjoy watching them get to do what they love and cheering them on.

So there’s the fun I’ve had while my time has flown by.  I encourage you to write out some of the things you’ve accomplished this year so far.  I bet it’s more than you think.

And hopefully I won’t take as long before I post something again.

Blessings,

Denise

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Where Is Your Confidence?

This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians and the following verse made me stop and pause, so I wrote it down on my handy 3×5 index card for future reference:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.     2 Corinthians 3:5

I want to be a writer. Notice I said I want to, not I am. I’ve only been writing things for over twenty years – either marketing copy or fiction stories. No matter which, the reality is I struggle with believing in myself. My takeaway from this verse is God’s telling me if I believe in him, I need to believe in myself.

After getting the kids off to school, I took a walk and the verse rattled around in my head. But for some reason the key word competence turned into the word confidence (I wonder who put that there?). As I mulled around thoughts about confidence, I knew I needed to come home and look up the word in the dictionary.

I love words. Definitions, synonyms – all of it. I also love seeing connections words have with other words.  So here’s what the website http://www.dictionary.com says about

CONFIDENCE: full trust; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

And I love the example they gave in a sentence: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Is my lack of confidence in my abilities as a writer defeating me? I think about my writing and the nudges I have had over the past five years and I know without a doubt God wants me to do this, otherwise doors would’ve closed on me long ago. However I’m not fully doing what he wants me to do because I have not had the confidence to just do it.

I’ve been saying for a while now, I would like to write devotionals. I have this strong innate desire to share hope, encouragement and God’s Word with others. What I haven’t been sure about is the how and what. So I haven’t done it, period.

When I took my walk this am something clicked and I couldn’t wait to get back home because I needed to do this right now. God has confidence in me. He has given me the desire. He’s nudging me to do this. Why have I not done this? Why?

I’m afraid – that’s why. What am I so afraid of? Putting myself out there? Looking like an idiot? Is that confidence then? I know I’m not looking for accolades, not looking for stardom. I just want to write and share my heart. But I’ve been too scared to do that.

Then I saw the Synonyms for confidence – 1. faith, reliance, dependence.

And the Antonym – 1. mistrust.

Wow! In a nutshell, my lack of confidence in myself (lack of faith) and the abilities God has given me (lack of faith, dependence) are holding me back from sharing something he wants me to share. I’m not really trusting God then, am I? If I have faith, I should have confidence in what he’s asking me to do. And I need to depend on Him when I do it.

So here I am today. Writing a devotional and setting up a specific devotional page on my website. Only God knows what will happen. I just need to have the confidence to do it (already the nagging doubts are creeping in). I must rely on God with the rest.

But wait, there’s more. When I grabbed my Bible to write in the verse, I realized I made a mistake (was it really?) and the word was competence not confidence. Oh no! Do I scrap what I just wrote? Does it even relate? See maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all. I paused for a moment then decided to look it up:

COMPETENCE: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified:

And the Synonym: 1. fit, capable, proficient.

No antonym. Interesting. There is no negative/opposite of being competent.  You either are or you are not. I may not be the best writer, but I know I am proficient. So what am I waiting for?

Then I looked at 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

If God has given you skills – you are capable to use them for his glory. You just need to have the confidence through Him to do it. 

What abilities (competence) has God given you?  Where do you put your confidence?  In your own efforts, schedule, skills, voices in your head? Or do you trust God?  Do you have the confidence to put yourself out there with whatever it is?

God has given us all skills. We are all competent in something. Being competent does not need to mean you are the best at something. Being competent means you are proficient. You can get the job done. We let our own voices tell us we are not competent because we think we need to be the best or someone does it better than us and we let it affect our confidence which in turn affects what we do.    

Everyone’s path is different and God has one he wants you to follow. He has given you these skills for a reason. You just have to have confidence in Him that He is with you every step of the way.

God believes in you and I believe in you too!

General, God Inspired Musings, Writing Journey

Finding Strength

Life is hard, crazy and stressful and in those moments when we search for answers, sometimes God connects things in a way that makes me stop in awe.

The last two years I have chosen a word to focus on.  Hope was my first word in 2015 and Believe was my word in 2016.  For this year I have chosen – STRENGTH – and in searching up verses I am amazed to see how many fit where I am. In my walk with God.  My daily struggles of life.  My writing career.  Everything.

I know I need strength as I begin showing my work to agents, publishers, critique partners, you name it.  I need to be able to take criticism and suggestions and have strength to really hear the recommendations to make me a better writer.  I also want to lean on God’s strength in all aspects of my life.  As I get older, I realize that I can’t do life without him.

There are so many I want to highlight so for me to pick just one is really challenging.  So throughout the year, I will share different ones on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here’s one though, I want to share:

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

I love this last one personally.  Many days I feel weary dealing with everyday life.  And I know I’m not alone. I hope that these verses can offer you some comfort as they do to me.

So now that I firmly have my word set for the year, I look forward to seeing how God will use this word to encourage me, bolster me, show me things.  And He will.  Not even a week after I selected STRENGTH, imagine my surprise when my Bible Study book I ordered – Priscella Shearer’s Gideon – came in and the cover had these words: your weakness. Gods strength. Oh how God knows things before we do.  The fact that I’ll be spending six weeks studying God’s strength?  I’m so excited.

I would encourage you to consider selecting a word to focus on.  Write down 3 or 4 that pop in your mind and then look up verses to them.  As you ponder each one, God will let you know what the right one would be.  And I hope that it gives you infinite encouragement in all aspects of your life, just as mine have done for me.

Blessings, Denise

Writing Journey

So Long 2016, Hello 2017

Another year, another beginning.  I love to be able to reflect on the previous year and see all that occurred over the last 12 months.  Parts were bumpy and other parts inspiring.  In my writing I had many ups and downs, wondering if the fruit of all my labor would really be anything worthwhile.  When I chose the word BELIEVE for my word of the year in 2016, I had no idea how applicable it would be. 

I found the word everywhere.  At the gym.  In a quote on the wall at the doctors.  On a t-shirt.  On a charm holder which I had to buy and now holds my keys within my purse.  Every time I saw it, I was reminded of two things.  I believe in God and His Word.  To keep believing in my writing.

This was my second year to enter the Orange Rose Contest from my local chapter of RWA.  The first year I received such valuable feedback that I wanted to enter again to see if the changes I made would be received any better.  I was so surprised when it was announced that I won 1st place in my category!  First place!  Me!  And it was then that my word took on a completely different meaning – someone else believed in my writing too. 

That gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep editing, keep rewriting and moving to the next step. 

As 2016 turned into 2017, I had some new goals for the year.  Never thought I would accomplish them all in January, but I did. 

In the RWA world, turning PRO is one of the steps in getting closer to being a published author.  You have to upload your entire manuscript for proof of your writing and then they review it and approve it.  When I completed my first round of full edits, I sent it in and was so excited when I got the email telling me ‘it passed’.  I also decided to enter the national contest for unpublished authors – the Golden Heart.  Even if I do not final, actually sending it in was a huge milestone for me and already helps me push ahead for more this year.

I have a new word for 2017 and I will write about that in a different blog post.  But let’s just say I am super on fire for what can happen in 2017.  Stay tuned as I will hopefully have more news to share throughout the year.

Blessings, Denise

General, Writing Journey

I did it!

I created my website.  I’m so excited to be working on this next step in the journey.  I’ve thought about it for a long time.  The conversations in my head went something like this:

I need to create my author blog – but what would I write about? and who would want to read it?

I know, I know.  Being an author I should want people to read everything I write.  But I find myself completely guarded.  I don’t want to make a mistake.  Offend someone.  What if what I write about isn’t any good.

And as I wrote a few sample posts from my heart, I found that I wasn’t writing opinion or an article.  I was writing what was in my heart.  And the light bulb went on.  So even if nobody wants to read it, I have a place to write what God is placing on my heart.  My feelings, fears, thoughts.  So here I am.

Of course now I have a new question?  Now what do I do?

Blessings, Denise