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Exhausted, Refreshed . . . INSPIRED!

Published June 30, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

For those of you who think writers’ conferences are dull, professional gatherings . . . Well, you’re doing it wrong!

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I spent last week at the first (of many, I hope!) SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, held at the gorgeous BIOLA University. This campus is absolutely stunning, the food is fantastic—pizza, corn dogs, healthy food, chewy cookies galore, and the most amazing salad bar in history—and there are so many perfectly serene places to plop down and write. That doesn’t even take into account the incredible classes, friendships, writing inspiration, and encouragement I received during the week.

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I found this gorgeous bench area right outside the library where there was, blessedly, a Starbucks. I laid on the bench, staring up at the canopy of leaves above me, and just enjoyed a time of mental story plotting and sweet conversations with God in the most peaceful setting imaginable. Definitely a refreshing afternoon!

 

 

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Nadine has been like a mentor to me for the past few years, but more than that, she is an incredibly dear friend and encourager. You’ve heard me talk about her mad dancing skills and amazing storytelling ability (follow her shenanigans online), but Nadine has also gotten me over some major humps in my writing and life in general with her optimism and support. She is just one of those people who lifts you up, allows you to be yourself, and encourages you in your walk with God.

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The term “insta-friends” is definitely acceptable when referring to these lovely ladies. I met Kara in the bathroom of all places, both of us trying to scrape mascara onto our exhausted eyes, and we were glued at the hip for the rest of the conference. This girl’s mind blows my own, and I am so excited for her future in writing!

Adria joined our group later on, but we immediately adopted her and had to know everything about this super sweet lady and talented agent. I have to admit we all felt intimidated by her because of her status, but we immediately discovered that she is so relatable, fun, kind, and hilarious, and we only wish we’d had more time with her.

Tessa is quite possibly one of the sweetest human beings you will ever meet! She joined us for shenanigans, boba heists, inspiring classes, and she and I had a wonderfully honest conversation about God’s plan for our lives. This woman has a beautiful heart and a mind for the industry, and I’m so blessed I got to know her. 

Fun fact: The last night of the conference, Nadine, Tessa, Adria, and I made plans to one day fly to Ireland for a writers’ retreat, because . . . why not? Although Nadine and I got them to agree only after we did a dance and sang the “Sisters” song from White Christmas. We’re talented like that. 

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My first experience with boba tea was magical!! Stealing Shannon Dittemore’s car (with her permission, of course) for the Great Boba Hunt of 2017 is definitely a favorite memory. Five girls crammed into a car, three blind to the joys of boba that awaited them, all screaming as we sped away from campus with Nadine at the wheel, driving like she stole it. We even had a boba projectile contest in the parking lot, proving that children of all ages can be writers and professionals. ^_~

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This man is anointed (get The Story of with, it will change your life). Being in Allen Arnold’s class about creating with God rather than for Him was so inspiring and reminded me of the nearness I feel when I write with God at the center of the story. He taught about the idea of kintsugi, which is a tradition—and an art form—in Japan where broken objects are not thrown away, but rather repaired with gold, making them more beautiful than before. It was just the perfect analogy of how God takes our brokenness, makes us whole, and sees the damage done as a beautiful reminder of our past and our value to Him. Needless to stay, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room that night.

 

Call me biased, but writers are a fantastic group of creative, fun-loving introverts and extroverts who help to build each other up. The SoCal Conference was a wonderful means for us to get together, grow, and encourage and inspire one another. Although I was physically exhausted by the end of the week, I came away feeling more refreshed and renewed and inspired to write. I hopped on the train coming back down to San Diego, and my mind was flying as I stared out the window, watching the trees and beach fly by. Writing inspiration, a refreshed spirit, and some of the best friends and memories that a girl could hope for. Definitely an amazing adventure!

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The Rose and the Dagger

Published May 10, 2016 by Ashley Townsend

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Oh, Renee, you never cease to amaze me! *happy sigh*

After Renee Ahdieh’s “The Wrath and the Dawn” blew–let’s be honest–EVERYONE away (and also after I met the sweet, hilarious writing genius at Comic-Con 2015), the book fandom world suffered greatly for a year in anticipation of the final installment in the duology. Then came a description and the cover!!! (Shipper hearts exploded everywhere) And, finally, after millions of painful hours spent crying softly with want and need, the book arrived.

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Oh, how the heavens rejoiced!!!

Anyway, you know I’m not one for being the recipient OR giver of spoilers, so I’ll just give you a brief overview of the story through “Teen Wolf” gifs. Now, come, enter our fandom. WARNING! There are no exits. 

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The book begins with Shazi at the camp Tariq brings her to, and it was actually nice to see them interacting again. But as much as I like Tariq, I have been waiting a year for Khazi to reconnect, so OUT OF THE WAY!!! At long last, once Shazi came to Khalid on her magic carpet (trying so hard not to sing the Steppenwolf song right now!), it was like nothing else mattered in the world.

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And there is this one moment where something happens to Shazi (no spoilers!), and Khalid is about to go into full-on zombie mode to avenge her. I believe every fangirl felt this way in that instant:

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But, inevitably, now that we’ve had some great times together, there’s bound to be some drama. Or, like, truckloads of it. I finished the book in two days (if it wasn’t for eating, sleeping, and work, I could have finished sooner!), and I was basically a hot, concerned mess until the last page.

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And when Khalid fights to free himself from his curse, we were all cheering him on.

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The only issue (“issue” even sounds extreme, since its just my preference) that I had with the book was that there sometimes wasn’t enough of Shazi and Khalid together–plenty of pages were dedicated to secondary characters. For example, I like Irsa as a person, I really do, but sometimes having entire chapters dedicated to her (when you just know Khazi it out there somewhere) was a little tedious. Though I always looked forward to Rahim in her scenes! But as much as we love them, raise your hand if you don’t want Irsa to occupy half of Khazi’s story.

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 Although having so many secondary characters at the forefront of the story was sometimes distracting, when one of them–one of my favorite characters–lost his life, I was totally broken up over it and shed several tears. But then I couldn’t see the page and had to dry my tears so I could finish!!!

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And somehow Renee can break your heart and then mend it 1,000 times over. Just. Sigh. One of the most perfect series enders I have read in a long time. Kudos, Renee!

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But I was so entrenched in the story that once I had rushed through to the end and placed the finished story aside, it hit me that it was over. I had just read the epilogue, and the series was over! Excuse me while I die and then proceed to re-read “The Wrath and the Dawn” 40 times.

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Now buy, BUY the book! What are you waiting for? GOOOOOOOO!!!!

 

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