Behold, a New Blog Name!

Dear Friends, never fear! In spite of a new blog name, it is I, Maribeth, a humble Hobbit at your service and your family’s. And if you’re reading this on my actual website as opposed to your inbox, you’re also noticing another Really Big Change.

Scratch that–you’re probably noticing LOTS of changes.

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

I loved the name Trekking Thru Hobbit Holes. In fact, typing it out like that makes my heart ache just a little bit. Trekking Thru Hobbit Holes was so fun and blended my love for fantasy and science fiction so well, it’s been a wrench to give it up.

But as I’m learning more and more about marketing and preparing to step out into the publishing world, I’ve realized that I could be setting myself up for trouble if I kept that name. Middle-Earth Enterprises, the company that owns the rights to The Lord of the Rings, guards their acquisition closely, and more than one small business has gotten in trouble for using the word “Hobbit” in their names/titles. If I start publishing articles and books, and my name and my blog become (slightly) more well-known, I really don’t want to get any nasty letters demanding I change my website’s name.

Hence the new name: A Writer’s Tale! Tolkienites will recognize the subtle, affectionate nod to Bilbo Baggins, beloved author of There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale. You will also notice some new pages, and that my URL has changed to a simple “maribethbarber.com.” This, again, is simply me utilizing some of the things I’m learning about the marketing/publishing world.

Rest assured, however: the blog itself has not and will not change. I’m still the same old Maribeth, happily playing in my sandbox of movies, books, and TV.

In the meantime, what can y’all look forward to on the blog?

  • I just finished re-reading The Silmarillion*. This hauntingly beautiful book is far more deeply theological than I remembered–but then again, I’m more familiar now with Tolkien’s faith and motivations in writing it. I’ll be sharing a review of The Silmarillion next week!
  • I’ve also been watching Chernobyl *, the highly-acclaimed HBO series on the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. I don’t know what to do with my emotions, guys. Thanks to well-written, well-acted characters and the bravery of the workers and scientists who narrowly averted an even worse catastrophe, I’m definitely obsessed. Stay tuned for a review of Chernobyl within the coming weeks, as well.
  • I’m still working on my monthly newsletter, which will (hopefully!) be ready to launch next month–and I’m also finishing up a small digital gift for everyone who signs up for the newsletter!
  • Last but not least, I hope you’re looking forward to my annual New Year’s Tag as much as I am! I always enjoy looking back on the past year and naming the highlights. 2019 has been very exciting, full of new lessons and blessings. It’ll be a very fun New Year’s post, I can promise you that. 
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

With those teasers in place–along with a promise to return to our regular programming next week–I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

[UPDATE] I just realized that, thanks to my new theme/blog settings, your email alerts contained a “Read More” tag this morning. I have since resolved this issue, and you should once again see the blog post in its entirety next week. Thanks for your patience! 

The Art of Writing Conference {with notes!}

“Every writer should make an effort to attend writers’ conferences,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Boy howdy, were they right! 

Caroline (of Cosmos and a Cuppa) and I set out with her husband Daniel and their 15-month-old on Tuesday morning, bound for the Art of Writing Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Before I go any further with this story, allow me to say that Caroline and Daniel are the best, their baby is the cutest travel companion, and that the road trip itself was so much fun! Caroline and I got to discuss our writing and our goals for the future, while Daniel made us laugh and asked challenging questions like, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” (I need people to ask me this question, because I rarely dare to ask it of myself.)

Oh, and we watched Good Mythical Morning while we were stuck in Downtown Nashville traffic. Classic.

I’m proud to say that my first *real* coffee shop experience was in Nashville! And by real, I mean “Not Starbucks.” I did get a pumpkin spice latte, but it was way better and far less sugary than Starbucks’ version–I’m just sayin’.

On Wednesday morning we had coffee with our longtime friends, the Foto Sisters, before exploring the world-famous Gaylord Opryland Resort. By noon, however, we headed to Lipscomb University, where Caroline and I checked in for the Art of Writing Conference (AWC). Associated with the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the AWC is “a focused conference for writers, storytellers, and publishing curators.”

First we heard from Lysa TerKeurst, whose opening session was entitled “Reaching the Hearts of Readers.” Here are a few of my notes from her address:

  • “How can my book enter conversations people are already having?” = the Right Question we should ask ourselves
  • Where my pain meets my reader’s pain = where the journey starts
  • Subconscious Narrative: words that give voice to what the reader thinks but doesn’t know how to verbalize. Evoke the emotions rather than stating them.
  • “Strangle not that soaring place from which the words come” [part of her Writer’s Manifesto, which you can read here.]

Then we hurried upstairs to the Marketing/Publishing House Pros Share Their Secrets Panel, featuring Steve Laube, Michele Misiak, Dave Schroeder, and Anne Bogel. I learned a lot from this panel. My notes:

  • Advice to upcoming novelists: 1) Don’t demand features, 2) Don’t reveal your cover too early, 3) Don’t avoid honest conversations with your publisher, 4) Don’t be afraid to try new things, and 5) Don’t be afraid to ask people to buy your book!
  • Don’t waste your time on social media platforms you don’t like.
  • Your fellow authors are not your competitors–they are your partners and resources.
  • Since there are fewer bookstores now, we have to engage our readers at events, libraries, conferences, etc.
  • Have a newsletter, and keep it SHORT and VALUABLE [currently working on this…*wink*]
After a thirty minute break for networking and coffee, we attended James Rubart‘s “How to Create Unique Stories with Deep Emotional Impact.” This session proved to be our favorite; we deeply appreciated his passion for Story! More notes:
  • Unique stories always start with an idea
  • Look at the world in a different way, a little bit askew
  • Steal like a good artist
  • Be well-read and well-watched
  • Unique stories come from deep places…which means you need to figure out the theme of your life. The stories that resonate with you provide the clue. Look for the theme that occurs in each story you love most.
  • Unique stories come from creative places. Train your brain. Don’t forget how to play.

And last but not least, Anne Bogel‘s seminar on “Using the Enneagram to Create Fictional Characters” was great fun! I didn’t take as many notes from this one simply because I was taking pictures of her slides instead. (You can view the slides here!)

  • Neither you nor your character are a “pure type”
  • Myers-Briggs shows how your brain works. The Enneagram reveals your motivations–why you do what you do.
  • You/your character don’t change types, but you do change your levels of development (Healthy, Average, Unhealthy)

Left: at the Gaylord Opryland Resort! // Right: on our way to the Christy Awards Gala!

I know that I was a bit daunted by the whole thing at first. We didn’t know a soul; we weren’t sure what to expect. But we were immediately drawn in, first by the sight of so many books and then by the friendliness of everyone we met. We even had our first starry-eyed moment right at the beginning, when Ann Bogel herself came right up to our table…and sat down with us. We may have looked calm, but I know I was screaming internally, haha!

I also got to meet the publisher whose guidelines for book proposals I’ve been studying for weeks. I didn’t pitch my book, but I did ask him some questions regarding its future that have been troubling me. He was so kind: he stood there with me for 5-7 minutes, giving me advice and suggestions, telling me story after encouraging story, and challenging me to always obey Christ’s leading, no matter what. That conversation alone was worth the trip.

The evening concluded with the Christy Awards Gala, oft described as the “Oscars of Christian fiction.” By the end, we were both a bit emotional. Christ (and Christ-saturated storytelling!) was the focus from beginning the end. As writers who want to glorify God through the words we weave, we ended the day feeling affirmed, challenged, convicted, and inspired.

Top row: the nominated books I want to read! (Becoming Mrs. Lewis won the Book of the Year Award!) // Bottom picture: MY (free) BOOK HAUL.

I’ll be collaborating with Caroline when she writes about the conference on her own blog, so be sure to either 1) subscribe to her blog, 2) follow me on Twitter, OR 3) follow the official Trekking Thru Hobbit Holes Instagram so you’ll know when it drops! (Or you could do all three, which would be really, really awesome.)

Have you ever attended a writers’ conference? If so, let me know in the comments! If not, 10/10 would recommend 😉


Exciting News, Adventures, and (side)Steps!

First, the News!

As my readers know, I’ve been preparing my book proposal for Operation Lionhearted (the title I finally decided upon!), and it’s about 80% complete. When I got to the section about marketing and promotion, however, I stalled. Me? Marketing myself and my book?! How is one supposed to even do that without coming off as a snake-oil salesman?! Clearly, I needed some help with this publishing thing.

Praise God, I found that help just in time! Mere hours before the window of time for admitting new members closed, I joined Emily P. Freeman’s HopeWriters community at the beginning of October! I haven’t even gotten to the book proposal part yet, but I’ve already learned so many things about blogging, publishing, and the true purpose of marketing/promotion that I never knew before. I’ll be putting some of that knowledge to good use here on Trekking Thru Hobbit Holes in the near future, so watch this space! I have so many awesome things to share with y’all, and I can’t wait to make those official announcements and invitations.

And now, the Adventure!

A week and a half ago I got a call from my friend Caroline, author of the Cosmos and a Cuppa blog. She had won two tickets to the Art of Writing Conference in Nashville, and wanted to know if I was interested in attending it with her! Needless to say, I was so blessed and grateful for the invitation, and we are heading to Nashville tomorrow!

A screenshot of Caroline’s home page. Be sure to check out her blog! She has some EXCELLENT book reviews.

Lysa Terkeurst (whose book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely* had a profound impact on me), will be the keynote speaker, while Anne Bogel of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog will have a workshop about using the Enneagram to develop your characters. I’m personally looking forward to the “Publishing Pros Share Their Marketing Secrets” panel–but I’m also just really excited about exploring Nashville with Caroline, her husband, and their adorable little boy. We’re going to have so much fun together!

And last but not least…the (side)Step!

I had fully intended on doing NaNoWriMo this year. I really had. But as November crept closer and closer I started to wobble under the weight of all the things I already had on my plate. So…thanks to my mom’s counsel and an encouraging/convicting podcast from Lancia Smith (highly recommended for all creatives!), I’ve decided to bow out of NaNoWriMo 2019.

In fact, I’ve decided to put all new novel projects to bed until my book proposal is complete. I just don’t have the time or mental energy for a whole new novel at the moment. I need to focus on Operation Lionhearted, and once I’ve sent it off into the world, then I can work on a new story.

My brain still loves presenting me with images and bits of dialogue. I may even have a fanfic idea to chase on the weekends. But I’m not driving myself to create new fictional content right now…and that is very freeing.

So there’s my News, my Adventure, and my (side)Step! I’ll be sure to tell you all about my time in Nashville in my next post, so stay tuned!

And by the way, Happy Novemberand Happy NaNoWriMo to my writer friends! I may not be participating, but I will be cheering you on from the sidelines.