Tag Archive for: Kathleen Donnelly

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
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. 

“What Writing Means to Me” By Kathleen Donnelly

I had the privilege of meeting Kathleen this year at Killer Nashville and was in the audience when she gave this inspiring speech as she accepted the Lisa Jackson scholarship, which allowed her to attend the conference. After hearing her speak with such eloquence about the gift of writing, I asked if I could share her message with you as my December post. Through her words, Kathleen has reminded me of all the wonderful possibilities writing brings to this world. Already, she is a great writer. I look forward to holding her bestseller in my hands as I wait in line for her signature. Thank you, Kathleen, for this gift you have given to us. Happy Holidays!–Paula Gail Benson

My name is
Kathleen Mayger—or you can call me my pen name Kathleen Donnelly. Like most of
you, I’ve written my whole life about many different topics, but deep down my
passion is thrillers. I’m lucky to have a great day job with a company called
Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a drug dog company for schools. I enjoy
helping to keep schools safe with friendly canines.
When I first
learned about the Lisa Jackson scholarship, I knew I had to apply. Not only was
the conference amazing, but Lisa Jackson is one of my favorite authors and an
inspiration. A few years ago, a friend and I met at a coffee shop to talk about
the best subject ever—books. I had heard of Lisa Jackson, but never read one of
her books. My friend told me to get one and read it. I followed her advice and
bought the book, “Afraid to Die.” I couldn’t quit reading and I didn’t get any
sleep for the next few days.
Whenever I love a
book I go visit the author website. I like to learn more about the author and
their journey. Lisa’s personal story was inspiring and she gave me hope and motivation
to continue writing. But she also has a webpage for her causes and they are all
amazing and great organizations. And that is where she became more than a
best-selling author for me. So to win this scholarship was truly humbling and
an honor. If you haven’t visited Lisa’s website, I encourage everyone to do so
and see what she does to make a difference.
Writing means so
much to me. To all of us or we wouldn’t be here this weekend. But I feel the
gift of writing is something that should be shared, and never forgotten. I get
up every morning at 5am because I love to write. I love immersing myself in a
world, figuring out how to put my characters in tough situations and then find
a way to get them out. I could go on and on about how that one to two hours
every morning is the best part of my day, but then I go to work and sometimes
it’s in our daily lives that we can be reminded of what writing means not just
to us, but to the communities around us.
Last year around
Christmas, I was cleaning out a closet and found some of my favorite books I
read while growing up. I didn’t know at first what to do with them. I decided
to donate them to a middle school I work with my drug dogs. I thought that school
could benefit from a few more books in their library. When I took the books in,
the librarian was so excited. I found out that she had a group of kids that she
already knew would not have Christmas presents. She believed every kid should
have a present over Christmas break and there was nothing better than a book.
She not only bought books for the kids out of her own money, but when I brought
in my box, she said, “Perfect. Now they each can have two presents.” I heard
later that the kids were ecstatic not only to have their very own presents, but
that the present was a book they could read over break. That was a reminder to
me that writing and books are a gift.
So when I get
hung up in the morning writing, thinking about passives, adverbs or this plot
hole that I can’t seem to figure out, I remind myself that writing is a gift.
Reading is a gift and I move forward. Because when I think about what writing
means to me, I have to think past me and what writing means in the bigger
picture. Remember that our writing does impact others whether it’s a kid who’s
only present for Christmas is a book or an aspiring author who reads a book and
says, “I want to write like that.” Books and writing give us the freedom to go
anywhere. Last Christmas the kids who received those books traveled the world
without leaving their homes. I hope that one of them will think to themselves,
“I want to write.” I hope that one of them will realize the opportunity given
to a writer by having the freedom to open their imaginations.
I encourage
everyone, this amazing group of writers, to think about what writing means to
you and then how you can impact your own community at home. Realize that your
books and your writing do make an impression, that the hard work is appreciated.
Also realize that if we can touch one life and change it, then our writing is a
best seller. If we can motivate others to make a change in our community, then
we can realize what writing means to all of us.
I can tell you that Lisa
Jackson, Clay Stafford and everyone with American Blackguard changed one life
right here. They have reminded me of my goals as an author, but also the bigger
picture. They have given me a gift and I promise to pass it on. I will remember
this conference forever and as I type away in the early morning hours, I will
not forget what writing truly means to me.

Kathleen Donnelly

Passionate about
animals and the outdoors, all of Kathleen’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. Check out the website at:

She is currently working on a book with a female protagonist who’s a
K-9 handler for the National Forest Service. Kathleen lives in Johnstown, CO
with her husband and all their four-legged friends.