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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

Um, 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 so many 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.

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