Friday, September 8, 2017

Taking a Chance on New Writers - Guest Words from Kathleen Donnelly

Kathleen Donnelly...Photo by Piper's Pix
Every now and then a writer is blessed with a gift that provides the inspiration that fuels a dream. In 2015, at Killer Nashville, Paula and I met Kathleen Donnelly, a woman given such a gift by author Lisa Jackson. This year, at Killer Nashville, we heard what transpired after Kathleen won the scholarship. Below, are her words --- an inspiration to us.  .... Debra

Speech for Awards Dinner—Taking a Chance on New Writers by Kathleen Donnelly
There are moments in life you always remember—like a plot twist or a pivot point. For me one of those moments was the phone ringing as I took the dogs out on a cold, drizzly Colorado morning. The number was from Tennessee. I was juggling three dogs so thought I’d see if the caller left a voicemail. That number did leave a message and that person was Jacqueline Stafford calling to say I’d won the Lisa Jackson Scholarship. From that moment on my life changed and went in a new direction.

Attending Killer Nashville in 2015 was a dream come true. At that conference John Gilstrap gave a beautiful speech about dreams and how someone being called a dreamer can be seen as negative, but he saw it as a positive. That speech touched me and gave me more inspiration to push forward. That whole conference inspired me and helped fuel my dream of writing. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if it hadn’t been for Lisa Jackson. Since that time, there are now more scholarships—the Jimmy Loftin scholarship and the Kris E. Calvin scholarship. Thank you doesn’t even seem to cover what these scholarships provide because this is more than just attending a conference; this conference is a stepping stone to our dreams as writers. Writers that might not otherwise have the means get the chance to come and learn from the best in the industry.

The Lisa Jackson scholarship provided inspiration and gave me that nudge to keep going. Persevere. Keep writing. Attending the conference gave me the knowledge, information and connections. I knew I would learn from the best, but what I didn’t know was that I would walk away with a writing family. To nourish a dream you need a community of support and that is what Killer Nashville provided.

Clay Stafford and all the staff at American Blackguard work incredibly hard each year to put together the best conference and once again, they have achieved that goal. Two years ago I realized that there was so much more to this conference. As I watched writers win the Claymore Awards and the Silver Falchion awards, I made it a goal to submit to the Claymore Awards. I took the writing advice from the manuscript critique Baron Birtcher provided, the roundtable feedback helped me realize what was or wasn’t working. I asked questions in classes that only mystery and thriller writers can appreciate about guns and types of bombs. Then I returned home and I worked on my outline. I tweaked it. I wrote. I edited. When I was stuck I looked back at my notes or I thought about the inspiration and confidence this conference gave me. I continued to work and in April I submitted to the Claymores.

Then came another moment I will always remember. Another pivot point. I received the notification that I was one of the Claymore Top 20 finalists. Another dream come true, but this dream was fostered by this conference. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Lisa Jackson providing a scholarship. I wouldn’t be here if Clay, his family and the American Blackguard staff didn’t work so hard to provide these opportunities, and I know I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t have this community of writers that I now think of as a family.
This family is what keeps encouraging me when I think about being a new writer and the odds of someone taking a chance on one of us. When I hear about the odds of making it in the publishing industry, I remind myself that every best-selling author was once a new author. If those authors hadn’t published, there are many great characters we would have never met. Without those great characters I wouldn’t have had someone to help me through obstacles in my life because sometimes, when you have a tough day, you want to read and escape and see how your favorite character is going to get out of a bind.

Reading and writing do change lives and I believe that if we can change one life then that can eventually change our communities, our country, even our world. Two years ago, Lisa Jackson took a chance and gave a Colorado writer a scholarship to come to this conference. Now once again, my life has changed and thank you never seems like enough so I’ll continue to work towards my promise I made two years ago. I will keep writing. I will pursue my dreams and in doing so I’ll support the community around me and give back in any way I can to my fellow writers, my writing family and my fellow dreamers.

Thank you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Passionate about animals and the outdoors, all of Kathleen Donnelly’s interests end up in the written
form one way or another.  Her experiences being a part owner and handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines, a private pro-active drug dog service that works primarily in schools, has been the subject of much of her writing. She is currently working on a book with a female protagonist who's a K-9 handler for the U.S. Forest Service. In 2015, Kathleen was the recipient of the Lisa Jackson scholarship to Killer Nashville. In 2017, her novel was a Claymore Top 20 Finalist. Kathleen lives in Berthoud, CO with her husband and all their four-legged friends. 


  1. So glad I was there to see and meet you.

  2. Kathleen, I know your future holds great things. I look forward to cheering on all your successes!

  3. Glad you let us reprint your remarks. Can't wait for the next step (getting autographed books from you).