Tag Archives: ANWA Writers Conference

1st Place Award!

At the American Night Writers Association (ANWA) Conference in September 2017, I received my first 1st place award in ANWA’s BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest. I’ve won 2nd and 3rd places before, but this is my first time winning 1st place. The award was for my submission in the Middle Grade category, Speakeasy Orphanage. My friend, Chanda Simper, won 2nd place in the Middle Grade category.

Here’s my entry:

     “Del, how long do we have to wait?” Danika whispered, squirming a little more into the small space in the armoire where they hid.
     “Shhh.” Del pushed back slowly. “We don’t want Regina to hear us.” Being small for her age usually had its drawbacks. No one ever believed she was twelve, and the nuns at the orphanage gave her children’s clothes to wear. But Adella couldn’t bring herself to regret her size at that moment. Had she been any bigger, she might not have been able to breathe in the tight space. They were so close she could smell the pizza from lunch on her sister’s breath.
      Why’d you have to make her mad again?”
It was a good question, and her little sister deserved a good answer. Adella wished she had one. She just couldn’t help but speak up sometimes. Mom told her God blessed her with a lot of heart, but no height. Dad used to quote Shakespeare about her. “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
     “I’m sorry, Dan. Regina was picking on Charlie.”
     “She’s always picking on someone. She’s twice our—”
     Footsteps sounded down the hall, outside the orphanage laundry room. Danika and Adella froze, barely breathing. The steps turned into the basement room, echoing with another set of paces that followed behind.
     “Where did they go?” Regina’s voice sounded far away when heard from the bottom shelf of the closed armoire, but Adella knew she was only a dozen feet away.
     “Kate said she saw them come down here.” The next voice belonged to Ashley, Regina’s partner-in-crime and almost as big of bully as Regina. “Bet she’s lying again.”
     “Maybe they’re hiding in a dryer? We could turn them all on and give them a ride.”
     “Do it!”
     Danika gasped. Hiding in a dryer had been her idea, but Adella had pulled sheets from the bottom shelf and pushed them into the nearest machine. Adella had never been happier she’d followed that little voice inside her head.
     Dryers began turning on, amidst hysterical laughter, as more footsteps circled the room in opposite directions. Despite her outward bravery, Adella’s palms began to sweat. Those girls had mean streaks as long as the matching red-punch-dyed strips in their hair. When the footsteps stopped in front of the armoire, Adella pushed farther into the corner of the cabinet.
Something clicked and then squeaked behind her. Adella prayed it wasn’t a rat.
     No. The back panel of the cabinet was loose and flapping out at the bottom. With her rear, she pushed harder against the back panel to silence the sound, but the entire panel shifted. Too far. Adella’s eyes widened as she grabbed for her sister’s arm. 
     Together, they rolled backward into darkness.
     Lying on her back, the smell of dust and mildew almost made Adella cough, but she forced herself to hold her breath. A foot above her, a dim strip of light wavered as the secret panel shuddered to a stop.

Can’t wait to write this book!

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Writing Challenge

You shouldn’t need a megaphone to communicate well. I, I.R. Annie IP. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Too often novice authors rely only on miscommunication between characters to create conflict in stories. Harlequin editor, Victoria Curran, reminded 2014 ANWA Conference attendees that our conflicts need to be strong enough so that one good conversation between the characters won’t resolve all their problems. But have you considered that your characters can be role models for others, especially children and youth? Have you thought about putting at least one character in your novel, perhaps a mentor or a sidekick, who is an example of a good communicator? We can teach light and truth one word at a time.  Here are some characteristics of a good communicator:

Good communicators apologize when they make mistakes.

Good communicators resolve conflict without confrontation.

Good communicators speak positively and express gratitude.

Good communicators think before they speak.

Good listeners pay attention.

Good listeners don’t interrupt.

Good listeners don’t make judgmental generalizations.

By making one of your characters a good communicator, then the communication errors of your other characters will be more obvious. If the good communicator is a main character, then it will force you to create a conflict that can’t be simply resolved by the characters sitting down and having an honest conversation. Try good communication in your writing—and if not in your writing, try it in your real life!

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ANWA Conference

Have you registered for ANWA’s Writers Conference? It could change your life. The last few ANWA Conferences have changed mine. In honor of the upcoming learning opportunities, I thought I’d share a few of the classes I attended over the last few years that made such an impression on me.
I only remember one class from my first conference, Marsha Ward’s class on indie publishing. I wandered in there with no intention of being interested in the subject. I really was only there for Marsha. We’d never met, but I’d heard her name enough times over the weekend to be curious. Marsha’s enthusiasm for indie publishing caught my attention, even though I wasn’t interested in it for myself. Back then, I was querying my first novel, Master of Emotion. The process was new and exciting, and I wanted to go the traditional publishing route.
I must have learned more than I remember because I went home and revised my manuscript. The changes improved it and made me want to be published even more.
By the time my second ANWA Conference rolled around, I’d finished my second novel, Once Upon a Tour. I finished the novel about three weeks before conference—just in time to pitch! I learned so much pitching, especially about how hard it is to write a catchy, concise one-sentence summary. The whole process was challenging, but fun. Then, I was still in the proofreading stage with my novel when I sat in on Kelly Mortimer’s class on self-editing. I took her eight page handout home and used it to line-edit my manuscripts. By the time I finished, I had removed 5,000 unnecessary words from each novel. I was shocked and excited by the differences I could see in my writing.
When I finished my third novel, Supreme Chancellor of Stupidity, a few months later, I pulled out my editing handout from conference and cleaned up my manuscript before I had anyone else read it. Word’s Find and Replace commands became my new best friends.
You’d think that serving as ANWA’s Treasurer might have curtailed my class attendance at last year’s ANWA conference, and I’ll admit that I didn’t see every class I wanted. But two sessions helped me in my stage of writing. See, by then I had followed Marsha’s advice and dived into indie publishing, and a month before, I had self-published my first novel as an e-book. To publicize my writing and newly published book, I’d also started a blogspot blog. I was struggling with web issues and with the covers for my second and third novels when Conference jumped in to help. A class on cover design issues and another on online/website promotion answered my questions and inspired me to start a web page at www.dogdenhuff.com . My covers improved as well.
It shocks me how far I’ve come in four years and how critical the ANWA Conferences have been to my success. I now have three indie published novels, available in both e-book and paperback forms. I like my website, and I love my chapter meetings which are filled with funny, talented sisters. ANWA, and especially ANWA Conferences, have truly blessed my life.
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Two-time 2013 ANWA BOB Contest Winner!

DDDDDDDDDDDDDrumroll, please!

American Night Writers Association (ANWA) holds a Beginning of Book (BOB) contest at its annual writers conference, “Time Out for Writers.” At the 2013 conference held February 21-23, 2013, both of my 500 word entries won awards.

My entry in the Children’s Book category, “Daniel’s Mixed-Up Sports,” won 2nd place!

My entry in the Young Adult category, “Michael 23,” tied for 3rd place with my friend, Heather Romito’s entry!

This makes two years in a row where one of my entries has won an BOB award.

Here’s the first 500 words of Michael 23:

Chapter 1 –Michael 22

Cyanosis. Fatigue. Dyspnea. Luna recognized the symptoms.

As she watched, the blue tinge of Michael’s pale lips grew more pronounced, and he clenched his teeth together to control the audible chattering.  Struggling against the weariness which seduced his eyelids to flutter shut, Michael blinked heavily once and then rubbed his eyes closed with his fingertips.  Luna always felt helpless at this moment, all her efforts to comfort him in vain.

“Bring Michael another blanket,” Luna ordered the young nurse who sat waiting across the room.  A tiny shake of the head and a narrowing of her eyes were the nurse’s only display of impatience, as she stood and walked toward the blanket warming machine built into the cabinets of the stark hospital examination room.  The machine door clicked open and then closed, while Luna pulled off the blanket covering both her and Michael with her one free hand.

“Lay the warm blanket next to his skin and then place the cool one back over it,” Luna instructed, and then helped the nurse to adjust the blankets.

With Luna’s movement, Michael’s eyes fluttered quickly open, the deep midnight of his pupils accentuating the purple circles lying under his dark lower lashes.  Even so near death, his face was full of colors—just the wrong colors—not the normal red of his lips, melting chocolate brown of his eyes, or the warm, natural tan of his skin.  The colors of his face were gone, washed with the purples and grays of an over-watered watercolor.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Luna answered the panic she recognized in his eyes.  With the warm blanket wrapped firmly around them, she readjusted her position more securely against him.  Luna leaned her forehead against his as she stroked his too cool cheek with her free hand.

A day’s worth of stubble scratched her hand comfortingly, despite the fact that she had shaved Michael only an hour earlier.  It was oddly comforting that Michael’s hair follicles didn’t realize he was dying either.  She didn’t think Michael understood.  Hopefully, he never would.  It was already too much that she knew.

“Luna,” Michael’s voice rasped, although his eyes never opened this time.

“Yes, Michael?”

“I … like … green.”  Each word was labored and a whisper.

“I know, Michael.  Don’t talk, dear one.  Save your energy.”

A barely perceptible shake of his head and a tightening around his eyes told her he wasn’t finished with his thought.

“What is … more than … like?”  Every phrase required its own labored, shallow breath.

“What is more than like?” Luna repeated.  “Do you mean what word means ‘more than like?’”

The sparse movement of Michael’s head was a nod, yet his eyes were a sealed tomb.  Luna hesitated.  She knew the answer, but the question surprised her.  In the previous five years, she had answered thousands of questions.

Never that one. 

But Michael was dying—why hold back now?

“Love.   Love means ‘more than like.’” Her voice cracked nervously.

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into one of my future novels. Check out my progress on the Michael 23 page.

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