Blogging,  Writers Conference,  Writing

Dangle Your Modifiers In Someone Else’s Fairytale, Por Favor

Once upon a time there was a lovely faculty member, and she was the fairest smarty pants in all the camp.

“Kill the adverbs and avoid split infinitives.”

Totally nodding my head in agreement, wise instructor lady. Love your class so far, but if you call on me I might have to break up with you and slip out the double doors. 

Your basic writers conference gives you tools to become a better writer. Tips to hook your reader. Insights to hone your craft.

But when you attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, you get a whole lot more than basic. And when one of your instructors is the Senior Acquisitions Editor from David C. Cook, you are clearly not in English 101.

Her adverb infinitives were plenty for this rookie writer. But when overachievers in the class started showing off their grammar skills, we who just want to write glazed over and slumped down. Or maybe it was just me.

Feel free to learn and regurgitate these if you want to thoroughly kiss up to impress an editor or jeopardize your relationship with your neighbor:

  • Independent and relative clauses
  • Third conditional sentences
  • Imperfect past participle
  • Dangling modifiers
  • Quantifiers of relative quantity

Ummm… what? Totally impressed, old guy in the front. But I don’t need a play-by-play of your dramatic narrative nonfiction and how you used quantum physics in your life to manifest what you wanted while using the above list.

Spacing out now….

Practicing artistic license? Maybe.

Of course it would be lovely if I actually knew what each of those scary-looking terms meant and how to use them as I write, but alas, I do not. Craving an adjective? I gotcha covered. Need a verb? I’m your girl. Beyond that—not so much.

I did well in all my English classes; why didn’t these rules stick? My normal writing routine includes hitting “Control N,” staring at a blank screen, and clickety-clacking my way through new ideas without thinking about participles. I’m a simple girl who just writes. After a few classes I wonder if I’m doing it wrong.

What’s “it,” Carrie? Don’t write like that—you know better. 

Do I?

I’ve got an idea, future editor of my future book. How ‘bout I write the stories and you let me know if I ever breech the English 909 rules. This will be our relationship.

When we moved on from the über overwhelming parts of the classes to the basic, helpful, practical parts, I woke up and sponged.

“Less is always more and often better.”


“Avoid clichés like the plague.”

Ooo… that’s as refreshing as water in the desert.

“You can use two lines of song lyrics without permission.”

I can? Love it.

“Show, don’t tell.”

I’m trying. I mean, I tried. Err… I will try!

“Write your introduction last.”

Okay. That’s awkwardly backward for Type-As, but okay.

“Don’t use words like “awkwardly.”

You’re losing me.

“Practice B.I.C. (Butt In Chair)”

Woohoo—I’m doing this right now!

“Have you thanked Jesus for unanswered prayer?”

Uhh—not doing this. But I could!

And on I went, typing with focus, ignoring my insecurities and feeling ready to attack my new challenges. After five days of this, however, my soaked sponge clocked out and I continued on autopilot.

Don’t curl up in the back, just take copious notes and absorb when you get home. 

In the midst of grammar chaos, I managed to snag a few gems from our fantastic instructors and speakers. Don’t have to be a writer to love these….

Favorite Conference Quotes

“Show up and serve.”  ~ Kathi Lipp

“Develop a heart of integrity. Don’t allow jealousy to fester. Remain humble. Surround yourself with friends who hold you accountable.”  ~ Carol Kent

“Our failures only matter when we allow them to prevent God from embracing us.” ~Mick Silva

“There is still room for your voice.” ~ Alice Crider

“There will always be trolls; develop thick skin now. Is this your call from God? Then get back up and move on.”  ~ Bill Giovannetti

“When God is about to bring up a new thing, Satan is usually about to bring up an old thing.”  ~ Susie Larson

In addition to the wise writers and editors, I met a multitude of conferees who surprised me with their stories and encouraged me through mine. They were from Hawaii, New Jersey, and everywhere in between. They wrote about sexual abuse, politics, alcohol addiction and psychotherapy.

We exchanged business cards like cute little author nerds and promised to connect in cyberspace. Not in the midst of the 14-hour days though—once we all got home and decompressed from the lack of sleep and full-throttle writing hangovers.

I learned more. I thinks I do feel smarter also. Maybe not compared to those of you who know what modifiers are and why you shouldn’t dangle them, but smarter than two weeks ago. And I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing. I have Mount Hermon and the 2016 faculty to thank. And my fabulous friend who loaned me her laptop when mine died.

Will I return next year? Heck yeah!

I mean, yes. Lord willing, yes I will.

And they all wrote happily, forever, with laughter.

The End.

From the six above, what’s your favorite quote?

Have you ever been to a writers conference?

Afternoon welcome mixer where newbies sweat and returners eat.

Opening mixer

Late-night networking with new and old friends. Totally worth burning eyes.

Central lounge friends

When your dad leads the Palm Sunday service, you feel a tug to sit close.

Dad playing

And when you’re friends with the worship leader, you feel a tug to teach her a new song.

Elizabeth Hunnicutt is the real deal playing a mean guitar, people. Plus she’s dang darling.

Baja, Maui, Phoenix. #bloggers

Carrie, Leslie, Laurie

Taking a mid-conference break to look at something besides a screen and a verb.

Boots over creek

Don’t even get me started on this rock star. Kathi Lipp gets my sass, throws brilliant snark, and makes me want to do a decluttering experiment. And then write a blog about it. Heyyy….

Kathi & Carrie

The sweet author who encouraged me to write for Clubhouse, and the senior editor who published my first story. After two years of emails, the three of us were finally together.

Christine, Jesse, Carrie

And look who I found at the San Jose Airport! Fellow author and friend, Marci Seither.

Marci & Carrie

When you’re this tired from a week of firehose learning, you grab other people’s trash cans and make them feel awkward. Because you can. #cooljanitorguy

Pushing trash

Secure your belt first, before assisting your new favorite friend, and breathe naturally.

Clutter free

Home. Family. Connections. Sleep. Blog.

Business cards

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  • Tina Jacobson

    My favorite was…
    “Our failures only matter when we allow them to prevent God from embracing us.” ~Mick Silva

    I feel like a failure almost every day but to remember that God is there to embrace me will encourage me to relax into His arms and feel comfort instead of failure.

    I’ve never written but I love to read. These are great Carrie please keep them coming.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Yes, Mick Silva’s quote was a keeper. Thanks for reading, Tina. Thanks for the encouragement too!

  • Judy Gordon Morrow

    I loved this and your Easter post, Carrie. I’ve been a copyeditor/proofreader for our local newspapers and for publishers, and I still don’t know all those rules! But, because of those jobs, I’ve learned a lot of other obscure stuff. 🙂
    It was so fun to see you again at Mount Hermon, but I wish we’d had more time to enjoy a real conversation. I also read your intro, and I loved that too. You shine in these writings, Carrie, and I enjoyed getting to know you–and your parents–even better through them.
    I was glad to learn that you plan on coming back to the conference next year. I may need to schedule an appointment with you, just so we can talk. In the meantime, I’ll stay up with you on your blog; I just signed up.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Best encouragement I’ve heard all day. Muchas gracias, Judy! It was fun to see you, too, but I think you’re right–an appointment would set some time in ink. Those days are so crazy busy! Thanks so much for signing up; I appreciate the support.

  • Andrea

    Alice Crider’s. I felt a little lost in the sea of non-fiction writers and bloggers. I took a class once where the teacher said to just write and don’t worry about perfect grammar…guess that’s not totally true.

    Got one more for you:

    We have a responsibility to write well. ~ Tim Shoemaker

  • Robin Ruschman

    Terrific! Very encouraging for those of us that dream of writing but never quite get there. Please keep it up!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Gracias, Robin! Go ahead and start writing if that’s one of your dreams. I know of a great writers conference if you need a recommendation. Ha ha.

  • Angela Breidenbach

    What a fun blog post, Carrie! I have to be honest…I can’t remember half of the grammar rules. I just write, then fix it later. I took a class two years in a row because it was all so over my head when I first started writing. Now, after reading your blog post, I have to go back an review that lecture packet and my notes. Oy!

    I’m so glad I had the chance to get to know you more. You’re adorable.

  • Simon

    Thanks for the post and pics, Carrie! I sure miss MH!!! As for all the grammar stuff, keep in mind that most readers are on a grade 8 level. It’s only us persnickety, rule totin’ legalistic editors who care about obscure style guide rules :). And with all the style guides out there, not to mention publisher style guides, I sometimes think we are like the Pharisees of old; we argue over the letter of the law and forget the reason for the written word! Just keep writing in your own unique an fun way and watch where God leads you! Now I’m sure someone out there is picking apart my grammar and punctuation for this note, lol.

  • Nicole

    “When God is about to bring up a new thing, Satan is usually about to bring up an old thing.”. Gonna noodle that one all day. Maybe all year.

    I could never be an author. Your late night smiles would cost me more coffee than I could possibly drink in a day. ????

    • Carrie Talbott

      Gonna noodle that one all day? Now you’ve got ME thinking! Maybe it’s because we keep going to Charlie Hong Kong’s together. Ha! Thanks, Nicole–you’re awesome.

  • Leslie

    I’m so glad I didn’t go to the pre-conference!!! All that grammar jargon would have sent me over a writers cliff.
    I missed Susie Larson but that quote is my favorite. “When God is about to do a new thing, Satan is about to bring up an old thing.” Totally happened this week. And now I know why. Thank you for writing this!! Love, love, love!!! And now I’m off to Google “Third Conditional sentences”.

    Adios Muchacha!!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Well aren’t you an early Saturday riser! 🙂 Thanks for the comments, Leslie; nice to hear I’m not the only one. Ha ha. Miss you!