Wednesday, January 31, 2007

5 Things About Me

by Joyce DiPastena

Gee, thanks, Jennifer Griffith, for this wonderful opportunity to expose my deep, dark secrets! What was it again you typed at the end of your email, informing me of your "tag"? "Retribution expected"? Yes, I'm sure that was it!

Okay, at least the "things you don't know about me" is easy, because none of you know anything about me, beyond what I typed in my BIO to the ANWACritique!

So here I go, in random order (racking my brains to think of anything the least interesting to write):

1. My first novel (complete with beginning, middle and end) was a mingling of Star Trek and Dark Shadows characters. What can I say? I think I was in Jr High. I also attempted to to combine The Big Valley with The Three Musketeers (The Next Generation), and to rewrite Hamlet with a happy ending (after dumping Ophelia for a much better heroine). Thankfully, those last two never made it past a couple of chapters!

2. When I was about 5 years old, I suffered from TERRIBLE recurring nightmares about a pair of saguaro cacti that came to life (one of which always grew a long mane of shaggy black hair ) and slugged it out with their "arms", until I would wake up in terror and insist on climbing into my parents bed. My very clever mother decided one day to take me through the house, gathering all my nightmares up in a paper bag, summoned the family together to drive to the neighboring town of Kearny (8 miles from Hayden, where we lived at the time), where we dumped all my nightmares out before returning home to Hayden. And I'll swear, I never had another nightmare until we moved to Kearny a few years later! (And even then, I never dreamt the cacti-battle again. The Gila River must have washed them cacti away. Whew!)

3. One of the hardest "revelations" of my life was when, while taking care of my aging (and occasionally quarrelsome) parents, the thought came to me, "Sometimes the child just has to be more adult than the parents." That realization made a world of difference in my coping strategies--and yes, I know that thought didn't just come "out of nowhere". The Spirit truly does speak in a "still, small voice"-- usually one that sounds just like mine! (Though much, much wiser than I would ever be on my own!)

4. I share the same birthday as my favorite Classical/Romantic composer, Peter Iliyich Tchaikovsky, whose music helped me so much during the difficult "transition" following my parents' passing.

5. I hated Sunday School as a child, and insisted on staying home on Sundays with my non-member dad, while my mother and siblings went faithfully each week to Church. Fortunately, the Lord, in his mercy, refused to let me be lost, as could easily have happened, by blessing me with Primary (which was then held on a weekday). As much as I disliked Sunday School, I loved Primary with all my heart, and credit it with planting and nourishing the very first seeds of my testimony. (Along with my mother, of course, who faithfully drove me there each week, sang Primary songs with me in the car and at home, always encouraged me to tell her what I'd learned in class that day, and demonstrated through deed, as well as word, her love for the gospel...and Primary.) When the Church instituted the block Sunday program, how I rejoiced to hear that Primary would supercede the former Jr Sunday School program. I have an unshakable testimony of the power of Primary to help "raise up a child in the way he or she should go", and the life long blessings that can follow.

Post script: Does anyone else remember this graduation song?

We are leaving Primary,
Grateful we will ever be,
For the happy days we've had with you.
We have learned that we should pray
To our Father everyday,
For He cares about the things we do.
If we always try to please Him
In our work and in our play--
We will merit honor shown us
On this graduation day--
We'll be true to you, Our Primary,
And we'll keep the memory
Of the happy days we've with you.

(Now I'm all choked up. )

Long live, and God ever bless, the Primary!

Tag: New member Kristine John, and Donna Hatch (unless, of course, Donna has already done this exercise)

Character Development

by Debbie Reeves

When a story starts to formulate in my mind, the characters speak to me first. Sound odd? Probably not if you’re a writer yourself.

Author Phyllis A. Whitney writes:

"One of the most common faults to be found in the beginning writer’s manuscript is that of poor characterization. Poorly drawn story people have names, they have eyes, hair, feet, hands; they are tall or short, thin or fat, and they talk and go through various motions. But they have about as much resemblance to living human beings as do cookie cutouts. Lacking life, they move the reader to no emotion and leave him uninvolved.”

One of the main characters (usually the heroine) starts to form: a personality, then a face appears and then the conflict. Once I have a vague knowledge of him or her, a story starts to evolve.

One of my first critique partners shared her CHARACTER PROFILE with me. At first, I thought it was a waste of time, but when one of my characters had blue eyes, which later switched to green, I tried her character profile.

By taking the time to fill out the Character Profile, (as you get to know your character), you will save you tons of work later. You may not use all of the information on the sheet, but you will get to know your characters intimately.

Do remember, though, that to create real characters, you need more than a description of them. You must care about them if you want your reader to care what happens to them.

When, Under a Lakota Moon (unpublished) came to me, I found a picture of a strong, Lakota brave which resembled what Lone Wolf looked like in my mind’s eye. I put the picture next to my computer to help bring him to life. By clipping out pictures of people who resemble your characters, you can create interesting descriptions.

If you’re still having problems getting to know your characters, have them keep a diary. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can find out what your character wants to tell you.

Sometimes your character can evolve only to change later. Examine the changes. Do the changes make a better character? Are they taking off in a direction you never thought of previously? Nothing is set in stone at this stage. You can easily change any inconsistencies in the re-write. Just make sure the changes make a better character.

Show, Don’t Tell. Many writers take the easy way out and like to tell how a character feels. This not only cheats the reader, but cheats the writer as well. The writer has a chance for the character to come to life in the reader’s mind. For example, Rosalynn, in Under a Lakota Moon, is afraid Lone Wolf will treat her like her ex-husband, Jeffery. I could say:

Rosalynn feared men because of the way Jeffery had treated her.

OR

Rosalynn felt her stomach tighten and her heart race with fear when Lone Wolf came near.

The second sentence gives the reader a clearer understanding of what Rosalynn is feeling (therefore, who she is). The reader doesn’t have to guess, which may take them out of the story.

Secondary characters can be another useful tool in getting the reader to become compassionate about the main characters. Don’t add them to just fluff up the story. Secondary characters can be friends, family members, deceased, children, and even animals. To me, by adding secondary characters, it brings the feelings of the main characters to life by giving them more dimension.

Here’s the Character Profile:

Nationality:
Age: Shape of face:
Build:.
Eyes:.
Hair:
Height: Weight: Skin tone:
Special physical characteristics:
Most attractive feature, according to him:.
Lives where: Occupation:
Ambition:
Clothing style: Work:
Play or relaxing:
Formal:
Jewelry:
Scent:
Favorites: Color: Food:
Drinks:
Music:
Literature: Drives:
Leisure activities and hobbies:
Bad habits:
Family:
Father’s profession: Mothers:
Relationship with parents:
Brothers or sisters:
Happy or broken home:
Married: Spouse’s name:
Children:
Background and personality:
Religion:
Education:
Career: Happy? Income:
Goals or plans for changes in life:
Unexpected changes and their effects:
Special gifts, talents, knacks, skills:
Good traits
Bad traits:
Philosophy:
Friends: Male:
Female:
Attitude toward money:
Relationships with others:
Present and previous relationships with opposite sex:
Consequences of those relationships:
How does character relate to others:
Who was the most influential person in his life?
How does character view the hero/heroine at first?
How does character view each of the other characters in book? Why?
What is his worst characteristic and why and will reader agree:
Is character an introvert or extrovert and why:
What regrets does character have:
What are character’s vulnerabilities, and does he see them:
What are character’s prejudices, and does he see them:
How does character perceive himself? One sentence.
One word:
What does character want more than anything in this book?

Writer, Deborah Hale, (www.deborahhale.co) has an interesting “Character Flaw/Problem” sheet on her website. (PM me if you want a copy of it for your files). By using this method of character development, I was able to create believable characters with true to life flaws and problems in Wild, Irish Rose (unpublished).

Deborah Hale explains, “Figuring out your character’s problem will take you a long way with your story. It’s the basis for your character arc and internal conflict and quite possibly the Deep Dark moment, too.”

By using Deborah Hale’s Character Flaw/Problem Chart below, I was able to flesh out my main characters, Roisin and Blaise.

CHARACTER: Blaise Cameron

FLAW/PROBLEM: Learning to trust in God. Learning to rely on others and have faith.

CHARACTER TRAIT: Strong willed - used to getting his way.

ROOTS IN PAST: Lost his faith during the Civil War. Even before the war, he wasn’t as close to his family as he would have liked. His father in particular. He felt as if his father was more concerned with making the Cameron name a powerful name in California.

RECENT REINFORCEMENT: Roisin’s faith intrigues him. He starts to wonder what it would be like to be loved and show that emotion.

PREVENTS FORMATION OF LASTING RELATIONSHIP: His pride keeps him from trusting and giving in to his fears. When he finally is able to trust, he must keep his feelings secret to protect those he loves.

NEEDED CHANGE: Blaise needs to take a leap of faith and pray (make things right with God). He needs to trust his growing feelings for Roisin. He needs to learn that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.


To make your characters more believable, they must have believable flaws. As a writer, you need to dig deep into the character’s back-story. You need to know what made them into the people they are today. Once the reader realizes your characters have human flaws and feelings, they can relate more to the story.

Some writers take a more scientific approach to creating believable characters by using astrogical signs. Others use the character’s back-story to create the personalities of their characters. Even in real life, our emotional baggage from our past makes us who we are now.

You need to know how they think about the rest of the characters. If you give your characters strong obsessions and fears, this will cause tension. As the story unfolds those fears, excreta, will change. If not, the story line may deteriorate. Your characters must grow and find new fears and conflict to move the story along.


In a romance novel, the main character flaws (or problems/conflict) must keep them from forming a lasting relationship. In my opinion, that can be either internal or external conflict, or both. By using the Character Flaw Sheet above, you can firmly identify the needed growth or change for the main characters to live happily ever after.


This above all; to thine own self be true.” Shakespeare

Shakespeare said it all in that one line when it comes to character development. You need to ask yourself: are your characters true to themselves? What, you may ask, does that mean? It simply means you can’t be your character. You can’t ask yourself, what would I do. How would I feel? You can’t have your character step out of character. You have to have them be true to themselves. In other words, they must react according to the way you created them. You can’t have this sweet, loving character all of a sudden murder out of spite. It would be out of character, unless that was part of the plot line.

Have you ever watched the T.V. program M.A.S.H.? The actor, Larry Linville, who played Frank Burnes, said he was often asked, “Why is your character so mean and spiteful? Why can’t you make him more caring?” He simply explained that he couldn’t change the character’s personality. In other words, he would have been out of character to play the part any other way.

I hope I haven’t ramble too much on character development. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. I hope that you have learned enough to get you started on your next project. Here are some helpful sites/books to get you started.

www.faithinfiction.blogspot.com (He has a great article on naming your characters).

Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham
How to Write Romances by Phyllis Taylor Pianka
Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant
The Writing Journal
Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lorna's Five Things

by Lorna Hale, Guest Blogger

I just read everyone else’s blogs – I am impressed and excited to learn all the new things about everyone. Marsha, this is such a great idea. Now I just need time to read one more website everyday! :o)

Five things you don’t know about me. Hmmm

One, I am a stamp collector. I started collecting postage stamps when I was a young girl to be like my big brothers Ken and Michael. I have their old stamp book and have added stamps here and there over the years. I recently purchased a “Scott” stamp book with plastic holders so I don’t have to hinge the stamps. (It increases their value if they are not hinged). I specialize in US stamps only – and prior to 1960. Love the hunt for that one special stamp at the bottom of the pile, box or in a thrift store.

Two, I am a Bear Den Leader in my ward. I have been a den leader for over two years and probably will be for another 8 years. My Bishop in a recent interview said there are three “T’s: one was testimony, can’t remember two and three was tenure – “for ten years of service”. I tell you, I about choked on that one! Ten years as a cub leader – YIKES.

Three, I have earned my Wood Badge (another level of training for scouting leaders). I will receive my beads on February 10th. It is the completion of many hours of training and five tickets – kind of like merit badge items. I have been asked to function as a guide for one of the Wood Badges in October of 2007. It is pretty exciting. See, as I said I may never get released!

Four, I was raised in northeastern Indiana in a small town called Auburn. My parents were very fair minded and required girls and boys to cross train in their skills. My brothers all knit, crochet and sew and the girls (Connie Wolfe and I – yes we are sisters) can change tires, build garages and cut down a tree with a chain saw. My mother also butchered about 100 chickens every fall – and we included the entire neighborhood – Tom Sawyer style. We watched in excitement the chopping off of their heads and amazement as they flapped all over the fields without them. We then dipped their carcasses in boiling water and plucking the feathers out – and my personal favorite –we used a blow torch to singe the pen feathers off! I won’t even go into the time we butchered the pig.

Five, I have been married to the same guy for almost 35 years. Robert is an amazing soul with a huge capacity for growth. We have had a rocky marriage that required many excursions climbing the cliffs of life. Unfortunately the excitement is still breathtaking at times, with different family members standing on the edge of cliffs as they learn to traverse their turn on earth. Our marriage is solid now, and we are very happy. I sometimes wonder if I would change those years of struggle, but they have molded me into a woman who relies on the Lord for strength, the scriptures for guidance and my family for love. I am not sure that you learn the intense need for these three things without the trials in your life.

I live in Gilbert, Arizona and I manage to write sometimes. Mostly I spend my time working with my den (it’s like herding cats), working full time as a mortgage lender, part time real estate investor and of course ANWA takes a bit of time now that I am President of my chapter and the whole organization. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My mother always said it was “better to wear out than to rust out”. I certainly don’t sit still long enough to get any rust on me! Connie is getting me excited about genealogy again too. It has always been one of my dearest loves that has been sitting on the sidelines waiting for me to notice it again!

I would like to tag – Cathy Brundage.

Marsha's note: Cathy, please email me your message, and I will post it.

Every Family Needs A Nephi

by Betsy Love

I just got a letter from my missionary son and marveled at his words. This is my miracle child, the one whom Heavenly Father came so close, on several occasions, to taking him home, but left him here to continually bless our lives.

Let me back up a few years, about twenty years. When I got pregnant with Andrew, our family was convinced that I was finally going to have another girl, especially the only daughter who had to deal with three brothers on a daily basis. When an ultrasound revealed that this baby was indeed another boy, my daughter wept tears of bitterness at being added upon by more masculinity in our home. I had prayed for a girl as well and tried to hide my disappointment. When things went from bad to worse with this pregnancy, I changed how I regarded this new precious child. I gave birth to a 2lb 15 oz, 3 months premature son. The doctors told us that we should not expect much from him. He would most likely be brain damaged and suffer a multitude of disabilities. It didn’t matter to us. When I took one look at that tiny person, I loved him with all my heart. He did not do well during the first month of life outside the womb. We kept asking Heavenly Father to please make him better. He had to undergo a scary surgical procedure and we prayed fervently to preserve him. The Lord did, but Andrew still did not get better.

One day as my husband and I were praying over our tiny son, we both realized that perhaps this was our Abrahamic test. Maybe we were praying for the wrong thing. With a lump in our throats and tears in our eyes we went to the hospital and said to him, “Andrew, we love you so very much, and we want you to stay here on earth with us, but if Heavenly Father needs you home, then you have our permission to go home to Him." Within days, if not hours, after our “talk” with Andrew, he began to recover. The amazing thing about this child is that most babies born at his gestation had a medical condition that makes them extremely colicky and cranky. Not our Andrew! He was the perfect baby. I often marveled at how amazing he was. Little did I know just how amazing Andrew would grow to be.

I won’t go into the many other times Andrew came close to dying, for there were many, but suffice it to say that Andrew grew to be a great example for his brothers and sisters. His three older brothers had fallen away from the gospel and had not been worthy to serve missions. I grieved much over the choices of my older sons and worried about the impact that they would have on the rest of the family. I didn’t even ask Andrew if he wanted to serve a mission, why would he, no one else in the family had? I didn’t even encourage him to save for a mission. In spite of this, Andrew never wavered from the gospel. He attended all his meetings, went to seminary and did all the things a young man of God should do. Then one day, during his senior year the subject of a mission came up and he surprised me, “I’m going on a mission.”

“Really?” I asked. But I just knew that something would happen to keep him from going. He attended missionary preparation classes, got ordained to the office of Elder, and he even put in his mission papers. Shortly after doing so, he totaled our car. My heart sank when I got the news, not for the car, but for our son. Yet another miracle took place that day, no one was hurt. Even though the car was a complete loss, the insurance company completely took care of the bill, leaving us with an “extra” bit of money per month to help sustain our son because his mother hadn’t the foresight or faith to encourage him to save. Another miracle happened just before Andrew got ready to leave on his mission. His grandfather took him to dinner and told him that when Andrew was a baby, he promised the Lord, that if Andrew’s life were to be spared, my father would help pay for his mission.

Which brings me back to Andrew’s halfway mark coming up in March. As a family we walked the temple grounds after church one Sunday and marveled that the last time we had done that as a family, Andrew had been with us. We missed his presence that day, but as we stood gazing up at the temple, we knew that Andrew is about his Father’s business, bringing souls unto Christ. I feel blessed everyday for a son like that. We call him “our family Nephi.”

Monday, January 29, 2007

Another Tagger

by Joyce Smith, Guest Blogger

Tag - Playing tag is a game we used to love when my three siblings and I were kids on the farm in Tempe, Arizona. My younger brother and sister were born just prior to our family moving to Mesa from the farm, so they missed out on farm life. Dad farmed 38 acres (which is now all desolate looking industrial land overlooking the dry river bed just east of ASU). We would run from one end of the yard to the other playing tag, occasionally venturing out into the row of pecan trees or into the cow corral (which was NOT a good place to play tag). Mom especially wasn’t fond of our games through the corral, for she’s the one that did our laundry – mind you with an old wringer washing machine and a clothesline.

Writing five things that no one knows about me… hmmm now that’s a difficult request in some respects – but then it could be over in a sentence if we’re talking about things my ANWA writing group knows about me. – I’m shy, ya know.

1. Years ago when we lived in Oregon, I was Secretary in the Stake Young Women’s program for our church. I was privileged to attend girls’ camp with all of the girls aged 12-18 in the area, along with their leaders. Those who don’t know me well wouldn’t realize that I have a funny sense of humor. (I must have inherited that from my dad). This particular day Sue and I were in charge of seeing to the salad being served to the leaders. Donna was one of the main leaders whom everyone in the whole area knew and loved, including me. Donna had a great sense of humor and is one of those women whom everyone loves to be around.

Before needing to take care of the lunch that day, Sue and I decided to go for a walk. While walking we encountered a fun surprise in the wet grass. Light bulb moment - I told Sue that we should give this special surprise to Donna at lunch, so I carefully put it in my pocket, not wanting to ruin it. We eagerly went back to the lodge and started preparations for lunch. Fixing a fine green salad for Donna in a “to go” box, I carefully stuck the surprise in the yummy green lettuce among the tomatoes and other condiments. With everyone at the table being served I announced that since Donna was such a great sport and had been a terrific leader we had made a special salad just for her. Donna sat there beaming when I placed the boxed salad on the table before her. She opened it and the cute little green frog jumped onto the table then into her lap as though it had practiced the script and knew it perfectly! Donna screamed and hopped up. Someone caught the little frog and relegated him to the green grass outside where he belonged. This remembrance still brings a smile to my face.

2. I’m one of those people who weird things happen to. I’ve decided that’s one of my talents, because there aren’t many people who have the same cool and some not-so-cool things happen to them - well maybe a few, my daughters are starting to have this curse. You know, the one that always gets the bent fork, the bone in the boneless meat, the nut shell in the candy. One time my son told me the easy way to blow up an air mattress was to stick an empty paper towel tube on the end of the vacuum exhaust and stick the other end to the air mattress – he showed me how, then walked away. Within seconds I was screaming in pain and hanging onto my big toe. He came running over and asked to see (he later became a paramedic). When he finally convinced me to turn loose of my toe, we discovered that my toenail had been mangled by the vacuum when it had sucked my unsuspecting toe into its beater bar. Blood started running everywhere. Everyone sat around laughing at me – Sheesh what sympathy I get! Now I ask this, how many people can vacuum their toe up when not even vacuuming?

3. I hate filling out those talent surveys. I feel like people look at it and say, “Yeah right… no one could know how to do that much stuff.” This has especially been brought forth since we moved here. At church I’m one of the “ancient” women (my friends from High School, which I still run around with, lovingly call us “old bats”). I sit among “women” – some even younger than a couple of my grandkids! They, of course, have not had the years of experience that I have nor have they had to learn a bunch of stuff out of pure necessity – but still...

4. I love to read. I currently own huge bookcases my husband built me that are full of over 820 books -probably close to a thousand now. Is it any wonder I decided to try my hand at writing? I’m currently writing two novels, and six children’s books. I have a notebook full of poems I’ve written over the years, three of which have been published, because that’s all I’ve ever submitted. And I’ve written a play that was put on by people at church when we lived in Oregon. We’ve lived from Alaska to Spain and back again, having many treasured experiences along the way.

5. I asked my husband what was a little known fact about me that I could add. Do you know what he said? He said, “That you’re gorgeous.” I laughed and said, “Little known, huh?” Boy, that one is food for thought. But this compliment comes from almost forty three years of marriage, fun, tears, and laughter together - such a romantic!

In my years of life’s experiences I’ve learned a few things. One of the most recent of which is that you should NEVER try on bathing suits on your birthday UNLESS you are a size eight or smaller – which I most certainly am not!

I tag Rachel Trim.

This is Who I Am

by Rene Allen

As this is my third blog, I should probably tell you something more about myself. I've noticed some of our authors share their horoscope information. Even though I don't put much stock in astrology, I'm a Gemini which actually may explain some of my more interesting qualities: for example, being of two minds, able to see both sides and taking forever to make a decision, and going two directions at the same time. But since I saw my horoscope and it said your day is going to be so bad you might as well stay in bed, I've thought about getting a new birthday. Can you change dates on your birth certificate the way you change names?

Now, I already have one official birth certificate change. Apparently, my mother gave me a name that was her OB doctor's favorite but one my father just couldn't give me when it came time to be named and blessed in church. So, there it is, I'm two weeks old and already have an official birth certificate change. FYI, that first name was Elye, but my father had a cousin named Elye and her friends always called her Elye Elephant. He didn't want that for me. So, I'm named Rene (with a long e sound, not Rene') Elizabeth and have plenty of opportunities to explain that this name is not short for Irene, that it is not Rene', and that the only person my father knew with this name was his college roommate's girlfriend.

I'm fifth generation Arizona on both sides. My great-great grandfather surveyed the city of Mesa and was the first postmaster. That was the Shill/MacDonald side. Today, my parents live on land my Grandfather Shill was born and raised on in Lehi: down the hill from the Mesa cemetery.

On the other side, great-great grandfather Edmund Lovell Ellsworth led the first handcart company to the Salt Lake Valley. He didn't spend much time in Mesa, settling in the Show Low area instead. He may have had some name problems himself since three of his four wives were named Mary Ann.

I grew up with some unusual ideas about myself and marriage so figuring out when I was 13, I would never marry, I decided to go to medical school instead. I finally finished that project in 1981 as a board certified Ob-Gyn, but also as Mrs. Dwight Allen, and mother of three sons. Eventually we had a fourth. Coming as no surprise, that Gemini spirit was at work again. All day I took care of women and at night it was boys and men.

Now about writing . . . My mother told me I was a real pain to have around until I learned to read. I probably talked too much and had too many opinions--which describes me today as well, though I hope I'm not such a pain. She sent me to summer school every summer with swim lessons, ceramics, sewing, Spanish and finally, literature and writing with Evelyn Denton. ZING! It was a match!

In sixth grade I wrote long love stories that I read to my friends underneath a tree on the Lehi School playground during lunch hour. In eighth grade my final project in Social Studies was a hopelessly trite and boring play about the Oregon Trail. But yes, I received an A because the teacher was impressed with my tenacity if not my historical accuracy.

In high school, I took Journalism and wrote Rabbit Ramblings for the Mesa Tribune for two years. I won fifty dollars in a New Era writing contest for a short story, "The Capture of Gid," and placed in an advertising essay contest for which I received a savings bond but lost before it matured. In college at ASU, I did the LDSSA newsletter for a semester before returning to what I call submersion in my pre-med studies.

You'd think I should have seen the handwriting on the wall, the newspaper and in my essays and chosen to go into Journalism or English. Maybe I should have, but these decisions we make about ourselves when we are children are powerful. So, I practiced medicine for 17 years, then, quit ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, retired.

Fortunately, the chronic fatigue is behind me. I can think clearly again, and have energy. My life is good. And, I've found something I never understood until I retired and that is contentment.

There is a window over the desk where I write. From it I see sunsets, the passing seasons, and, whenever I'm troubled and writing in the early morning hours, the pale and cold light of the moon. Writing has been therapy. It has provided access to deep and painful secrets. It is also a sublime act of creation: to put words together in a powerful and moving way, to stir the finer impulses of your own soul and possibly another's, to describe something so that without eyes you can see and having no ears, hear . . .

There is a lovely story about a young man in a literature class. The teacher was an old, white-haired gentleman who had the reputation of being a stern disciplinarian. The subject was poetry and the assignment was for each student to write a poem.

The following day came. One by one, the teacher called on his students to read their poems. Finally he came to the young man. The boy stood, sputtered, and turned red-faced with embarassment as he tried to read his poem. Finally, in despair, he looked at the teacher and said "I can't do this. I'm not a poet. I'll never be a poet. I can't."

A great silence filled the room. All eyes were on the teacher who slowly stood, his lips pursed in a tight grimace. He stared at the youth. At last, he spoke. "Don't ever say that," he said. 'You are not finished yet. You are not yet who you will be."

Perhaps this most of all sums up my introduction. This may be who I am now, but like the young man in the story, I'm not quite finished yet, either.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good Friends

by Marsha Ward

I'm emotionally wrung out by some things that have happened this weekend, so this will be very short and sweet. You all are probably working on blog-reading overload, anyway.

I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for good friends who have been raised to my need, for their unstinting offer of help, and for their love and concern for me. I am truly blessed.

Thanks to all my friends who post on this blog, and all my friends everywhere who care for me. Sometimes life is just so hard, and you all make it easier.

Added by Marsha:

I've been gone to Phoenix most of this weekend, with my computer being worked on, so I didn't read Michelle's post before putting up my own. I sound like an echo, but I think it can't be said enough: we each act as God's hands and/or angels in various situations, and I've had the experience of receiving God's help though a sweet couple today. I'm very grateful.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friends

by Michelle Meltzer

I was going through some of the pieces I had written way back when I was a mere child (She says with a chuckle and tongue in cheek) 28 years ago and came across this one. It brought an immediate smile to my face and got my mind to churning. I thought I would like to share it.

A Friend

A friend know that the greatest gift
He can give another is a deeper understanding
Of the world they live in and of life
As only a good friend can

Along with that understanding he helps increase
Your ability to love and believe in yourself and others

A friend knows you as you are and understands where you’ve been
Because he’s been there too
He accepts you unconditionally and helps you accept yourself

A friend is the one person who is always there
With a push when you’ve stopped
Because an obstacle seems to high to climb

A friend is the one person who is always there
With a strong yet gentle hand when you’re frightened

A friend is the one person who is always there
With a seemingly never-ending smile
When you’re sad and depressed and feel the sun will never shine

A friend is the one person who is always there
With a song, sometimes out of tune
When you’re happy and glad and think
Nothing could possibly go wrong as long as he’s there

A friend is one person who does everything
He can for you, out of love for you
He is willing to do anything to make you happy

A friend is the one person who always tells you
“Be yourself” because he knows that’s what you’re good at

A friend is the one person who loves you
Enough to let you be you
He let’s you alone to work things out for yourself
But let’s you know he’s always there if you should need him

A friend is the one person who knows
Where you’re going even before you do
And offers to guide you there

But above everything else
The most special and cherished thing about a friend
Is when he says, “I’ll be your friend no matter what”
AND MEANS IT
(copyright 1979-Michelle Cole)

Now this piece makes you think of a best friend, a life-long friend doesn’t it? It does for me. Someone perhaps I had grown up and shared everything with; someone who I had kept in touch with over the years and stayed close to.

That might have been the case had I grown up in one place and been able to cultivate a best friend such as that. My father worked for the government for a lot of my younger years which meant a lot of moving around then working for the railroad wasn’t much better in the moving around department and finally his hobby of buying houses, fixing them up and selling them kept us moving in and out of neighborhoods when the other jobs didn’t have us going out of state or the country. Have I confused anyone yet? LOL I get that way even now just talking about it. I laugh about it now. It wasn’t so funny back then.

I went to a different school every year until junior high. I actually got to spend two years in one place and make more than just transient friends. I then went on to go to three different high schools before graduating. I went to junior college and my parents moved away on their own.

I brought my moving around while growing up because as I was thinking about this piece and my life to date I realized something. Through out all the problems, trials, illnesses and troubles I’ve faced there have been people who have come into my life and been this type of friend to me when I most needed them. Many I have lost contact with and perhaps not meant to be life-long friends, but rather answers to prayer. Angels sent by God to cross my path and let me know that I wasn’t alone and that I was loved.

Each one of us deserves a friend like this to come along when we most need them and most of us do though sometimes we may not recognize them as such until we look back in hindsight as I have done here today.

I am so grateful for the friends that I have in my life and those who have crossed my path during this life’s journey. Without them and family (no matter difficult or imperfect they may be as well) enduring this life (let alone to the end) would be near impossible for me. For that reason alone I thank my Heaven Father every day for both.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Who I Am, But What You Don’t Know—Five things not necessarily in order

by Joan Sowards, Guest Blogger

1. I am a songwriter, but what you don’t know is, as a girl of about twelve years old, my friend and I were into Wanda Palmer music—big time. We loved playing and singing her songs. I was in awe that someone (not just someone, but someone I knew) could create songs. One day while leisurely walking home from my friend’s house, I looked up into the tall trees lining Westwood Avenue—probably humming “Consider the Lilies”—and a little voice said, “Joan, one of the greatest gifts God can give is the ability to write songs.” It wasn’t until years later that I realized the Spirit was preparing me. I am not a great composer, but I offer freely what I write at http://www.joansowards.com/

2. I am a wife and mother, but what you don’t know is that I got married at age 27 to a man I had known for years. It just took me that long to open my eyes and realize he was the one I should marry. I was looking for a tall, dark tenor. Well, it turns out that my tenor is a short, balding blond who can’t read music. I love him dearly.

3. I am a fiction writer, but what you don’t know is that I didn’t grow up knowing that, as did a lot of you. Even though I wrote poetry and lyrics, and enjoyed making up stories, I never attached the title of writer to it. I now know that writing is one of my favorite pastimes, and have written four novels. Haunts Haven is available as an ebook under my pseudonym at http://kerryblair.com/curiosity.php My first novel Bridges of the Heart was written because I was shoulder-deep into family history. One of my “end lines” was illegitimate and I longed to know the story of his beginnings. Through research, I found the name of a woman I believed to be his paternal grandmother and wondered what she would say in an interview. I began writing down what I imagined she said, and the story evolved from there.

4. I am a family historian, but what you don’t know is that I spent seven years consumed by it. I’d run to the Family History Center every spare minute I could find, stay up until wee hours of the night working, and even took a trip back east to visit the homeland. It is surprising that I also took care of babies and had dinner on the table every night during these years. After my trip back east, I came home thinking I was done with that line, with being consumed, and ready to move on to other things in life. But there was a presence in my home that I could not shake. It was like unseen people were following me around, talking to me all at once. I knew they were spirits from another line related to the one I had just “finished.” They cried continuously to me while I cooked, showered, played the piano, or just breathed, that they wanted their work done. Frazzled after three days of this, I went to my room, got into bed and threw the covers over my head. “Leave me alone!” I cried. “I promise to do your work!” The room suddenly became quiet. I kept my promise and have thoroughly researched and done the work for that line.

5. I am a daughter of God. You all are, I know, but I wanted to add it because it continues to amaze me. He has sustained me through the hardest times of life: the heartaches of youth, loosing boyfriends and best friends, leaving home, my parents’ divorce, my mother and mother-in-law’s passings—times that are well known to all of us. He will sustain all his children if we let him.

I want to serve him well through my family, songs and writing.

-Joan Sowards

Thursday, January 25, 2007

5 Things

by Jennifer Griffith, Guest Blogger

This was a tough exercise. As I looked back over my life, it’s like a big blank, punctuated only by embarrassing moments. Darn! Nevertheless . . .

1) Disappointment Acres, my dad’s dairy farm in Idaho, is the name of my girlhood home. The brand is a backwards dollar sign. Like all farm kids, I had my chores, which mostly ranged to the unglamorous: whacking mice while I shoveled grain in the barn’s loft, and high-pressure spraying manure out of the milking parlor each morning. Still, I get nostalgic remembering the triumph of teaching a calf to drink from a bottle, or the smell of alfalfa while moving sprinkler pipe on a cool summer morning.

2) I once killed the prize houseplant of a U.S. Senator. For 10 wretched weeks I ineptly manned the front desk of Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s Washington, D.C., office. I did more things wrong than I can catalog, and my face burns red with shame at my lameness in every aspect of my employment there, but by far my worst legacy was the day I got bored and decided to dust EACH and EVERY leaf of the boss’s gigantic, blue ribbon Ficus. With Windex. All the other employees tried to gently urge me to “Let the Senator tend his own plant,” but no. I insisted I’d been the plant girl at Fred Meyer in college and I knew what I was doing. It shriveled, and I got a job in another office, and I’ll only be vaguely recalled as that chick who killed Larry’s plant.

3) At 33, I had the thrilling experience of a “version.” When my fourth baby was being born in Tucson, a last minute sonogram showed she was coming breach. They gave me the option of either trying to turn her or receiving an emergency C section. I went for the turn. A specialist came and pushed my Catherine’s head through my tummy while a nurse pushed her little bottom, and after a zillion silent prayers and a queasy-good while, she flipped. Hoorah! Thinking about it makes me want to throw up even now.

4) Despite the fact that I don’t have a risk-taking bone in my body, for one freak year, I went absolutely berserk. When I was 23 and just home from my mission to Japan, I went rock climbing in Moab, skied (and tore out my knee on the bunny slope), rappelled down a cliff (and got my hair dangerously caught in a carabiner), dug and slept in a snow cave (fighting claustrophobia for the entire miserable night), rode my mountain bike across the 13 mile causeway to Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake—alone (and had to hitchhike home), and even bungee jumped (sort of—it was a ride at Lagoon). Who was that woman?

5) My GPA from college was .049 points too low for Summa Cum Laude at Utah State. It really, really, really irked me at the time. However, I’m now considering making myself a t-shirt with this number on the front: “3.9451,” and on the back the words: “Nobody Cares. Not Even Me.”

It’s funny how things change, and time goes by, and we forget, and things don’t matter, whether they felt mundane or exciting or important or scary or embarrassing at the moment. Time seems to dilute them all into a sea of life experiences. But now looking back, my life appears much more punctuated with moments of joy than embarrassment, and I see how good the Lord is to me.

Tag: Joyce DiPastena

A Yankee Girl in Southern Dixie Land

Valerie J. Steimle

After growing up in the northeast for 20 years, I found myself settled in Southern Alabama. Not a place I would have picked after living in the west for 15 years with my husband, but we moved here and stayed. Since my husband has passed away, I thought about writing of my earlier memories for my children so they will know what it was like for me growing up in a different world. My children have such a different lifestyle from what I was used to so long ago up north. They have no idea what it was like for me to live in Brooklyn and New Jersey during the 60’s and 70’s. So here are my thoughts to my upbringing up north:

Being born in Brooklyn, New York isn’t such a bad thing. Not such a bad thing if you are raised in New Jersey. New Jersey seems to take the rap for being the arm pit of the nation. It’s not really. It just houses the overflow from New York City. Like many New Yorkers, my parents left to move away from the city to raise a family in ‘62.

Brooklyn was still home to me. I spent many weekends there and played in the park as well as taking walks down its streets. In one of our walks to the park with my grandmother, I saw my first dead person sitting on a chair on the sidewalk. This is nothing to brag about, but I was only 7 at the time and it had a profound effect on me.

Both my parents were born and raised in New York City. My father’s father and mother were from Russia. They came over as teenagers, not knowing a word of English but they learned. They embraced their new country and learned all they could to live here while working and paying their taxes. My Grandfather became very wealthy from his ladies’ hat making business. The only language my father knew until he was five years old was Yiddish. He then started his education by attending kindergarten and learned English along with the other classmates in the same situation.

Almost all the family settled in the Brooklyn area and visited each other all the time. My Grandma Martha (father’s mother) would take me with her on her visits to the other family members. When they didn’t want me to understand what they were talking about, they would speak Yiddish to each other. They all spoke with European accents but I was used to hearing it, so I understood what they said. They cooked differently, they ate differently—no drink during mealtime—they dressed differently and they lived differently. All of which would be so foreign to my children’s nature now if they were to go back during that time. But I was used to it then, because that is all I knew.

By the time I got to high school in the 70’s there were distinct differences between myself and my peers. I wasn’t allowed to wear blue jeans to school. No denim whatsoever. Only dress pants and dresses. I stuck out like a sore thumb but that was the house rule. I didn’t actually own a pair of jeans until I hit college. The music my family listened to was the big band stuff and Frank Sinatra. My father liked classical too. So that is what I heard. When I wanted to buy my first Beatle’s album, it was voted down by my parents. And never mind watching them on The Ed Sullivan Show, as soon as they came on, the channel was changed.

Yearly family gatherings with the whole family—uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents were spent at restaurants popular for that day. There were several hundred family members that came and we had a good time together. As a teenager, I was embarrassed by the family’s behavior but now I wouldn’t care. Dancing the “Hora” at bar mitzvahs, carrying on the way they did; they all loved each other and it showed. Those days are gone now as well as most of those aunts and uncles I grew up with. Only a few cousins remain but I learned something important from all of that. I learned that the family was important whether you were from the north or from the south. Blood is always thicker than water as they say and taking care of each other is the right thing to do. So the next time I hear Hava Nageeta (song for the Hora), I’ll get up and dance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tag, I'm it!

by Betsy Love

Wow, five things you don't know about me? I feel like so many of you know me so well, (cough, cough Theresa, Marsha, Stephanie, cough, cough) and a few others.

Here goes nothing...or something...

1. Since moving to Show Low my closest friends are all much, much younger than me...such as my fellow ANWA sister Susan Lofgreen, my student aide Danielle Hall, and this cutie-patootie young man who comes in to entertain me after school while I'm trying to grade papers.

2. I've discovered I really do like the snow. I can't believe how incredibly beautiful everything looks covered in white. It often makes me wonder if I loved heaven...all covered in white. I love the way it crunches under my feet. I love the way it swirls around my car while driving. It's like looking down an eternal chrysanthemum. What I don't like about the snow is how stinking cold it is! I don't like scraping it off my windshield. I don't like having to warm up my car. I've also discovered that PT Cruisers DO NOT like the snow and cold at all. The car won't start, the hatchback won't stay open, and the poor thing slides all over the icy roads. It's too bad snow couldn't be warmer. (I know that's a silly thought).

3. I dearly wish I had a sense of humor like Janette Rallison. I envy her wit in her writing. When I grow up I want to be just like Janette!

4. When I was young girl, maybe nine or ten, my brother and I were going to build an entire carnival in the backyard, complete with a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and airplane ride. We were going to sell tickets and make a fortune. What we discovered was that cardboard does not hold up well careening down a makeshift wood ramp. Alas we settled for bean-bag toss, paint your face, and knock the bottles over (we broke a few of those, too).

5. When my father adopted me at the age of fourteen my mother told me I could change my name to anything I wanted. For days I glamorized my name, Rachelle Cynthia, or Cassandra Hepseba, again, I ended up only adding a middle name. But Anne spelled with an e is much more elegant than just plain Ann. I can certain sympathize with Anne Shirley wanting to be called Cordelia. That name was taken, too, my grandmother's name...and who wants to be named after their really ancient grandma.

So If you happen to know any of this about me, just say, "Oh, well. She's almost as witty as Janette."

I tag --Susan Lofgreen, Lynice Stakebake, Theresa Sneed, and Joan Sowards.

Is Your Label Sticky?

by Faith St. Clair

I'm easily affected by the things I see and read and hear and oft times I think (perhaps a bit too much) about what they mean to me in my life.

So here I go...thinking again....

There’s a hit Broadway show that’s running right now called, “Wicked”. It’s not as bad as what you might think – it’s a prequel to the "Wizard of Oz" and is the story of how the Wicked Witch becomes wicked. In any case, there’s a song in the play where the Wizard is explaining that before he got to Oz, he was a dime-a-dozen hick. When he got to Oz, however, they thought he was wonderful. When asked if he lied about who/what he really was, he said, "no." He simply became the label they wanted him to be – "wonderful". Here are some of the words of the song... – “Where I come from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true – we call it…history. A man’s called a traitor or liberator; a rich man’s a thief or philanthropist. Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist. There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities – so we act as though they don’t exist! The called me wonderful – so I am wonderful…”

It’s all in the label that is able to persist

On a very different, but parallel note, there’s a book that our family read last summer that’s called, "The Tipping Point." The book is shelved in the business section and discusses the phenomenon of how epidemics occur. The tipping point is the point where the scale tips and everything changes – causing an epidemic. It says that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of things, is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.

The author, Malcolm Galdwell, attributes these epidemics to three causes - the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context. It’s the stickiness factor I want to touch on. Stickiness means that a message makes an impact. You can’t get it out of your head. It sticks in your memory.

It sticks

Here is the where I cross the bridge...

What of gospel principles that we are taught? What of the ten commandments? What of keeping the Sabbath day holy, what of honoring our parents, what of not coveting thy neighbor? What of paying our tithing, what of going to all of our church meetings? What of reading our scriptures? What of praying? What of sustaining the prophet, of gambling, of tattooing or piercings? What of temple attendance? What of being honest, true, chaste?

On an individual basis, I had to ask myself, what labels persist with these principles? What about you? Would you call them obligations? Would you call them duty? Would you call them choices? Would you call them restrictions? Would you call them good advice? Would you call them old fashioned? Would you call the commandments (which include modern day revelation from a living prophet), burdens? Guilt trips? Something you don’t need to worry about?

I'm thinking perhaps we should label them as desires.

Are there some of those principles that have stuck with you? And if there have – why? And if a good portion of them haven't - why?

Going back over the bridge - to the song - "There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities – so we act as though they don’t exist!" If we have a testimony of Christ – then the above (no pun intended) commandments exist. They are not ambiguous. They are called commandments - so they are commandments. Are we at ease with them?

Here I linger on the bridge and think....

The only way we’ll label them as a desire and have them stick as our foundation in all that we do, say, think, plan, act, write, and spend time on, is if we look to Christ for the message. Then...

The Commandments should stick as our foundation and be labeled our desire.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Playing Tag Again

by Tina Scott, Guest Blogger

Five of my deepest, darkest secrets, hmmm; I’ve pondered my response to the ‘five’ for several days now and I’m still at a loss.

1. I’m an Arizona native (not native American). I grew up a couple of blocks from the Temple and I used to frequent the grounds as a child. That is one of my fond childhood memories. It was a privilege and an honor that not too many have gotten to experience.

2. As a teenager, I started developing a talent for sewing. I started making pantsuits, and dresses. The problem was, after a while I’d get bored with the whole thing and I’d ask my mom to finish putting my project together. One summer I decided to sew my own swimming suit, and this time I finished the project myself. Our stake often had young adult swim parties at the old Falcon Field swimming pool north of Mesa. My swim suit was finished just in time, so I got to wear it. I don’t know how many people remember ‘baby-doll’ swimsuits, but they were similar to today’s ‘tankini’ except the top was a little longer and not snug fitting. I was pretty proud of my swim suit until I jumped off the high dive and my top fell apart. Devastated, I clung to the edge of the pool trying to get the attention of my friend. I was sure everyone had seen me. But, irregardless, it wasn’t much of a show.

3. I’m invisible. I suspected it years ago, and it’s been confirmed over and over again. The first time I suspected that this phenomenon of mine extended beyond the circle of my children was at my aunt's funeral when my uncle and all of my cousins referred to me as ‘Randy’s wife.’ My husband is a fairly dynamic person, and anyone who meets him remembers him. He’s a great guy, and a perfect husband – the fact that he sees me when others don’t is one thing that has endeared him to me for all these years.

4. I was seventeen before I went on my first date. (I should have realized I was invisible even as a child – but it never occurred to me then.) I was eighteen before I looked like I might possibly be old enough to date. Adults at the time would tell me I’d be thankful for my youthful looks one day. I hated them for saying that, but thirty five years later I can declare it’s true. I am grateful for all of the adult years I spent looking younger than I was. Unfortunately, I think I’ve caught up with myself.

5. I wish I had some fun little tidbit about myself - I know – I’m the baby of the family. As the baby of the family, my mom and dad always insisted I go to wedding receptions with them. I hated going and felt like a tag-along – I’ve continued my aversion to wedding receptions all these years. At these receptions, my parents always introduced me as ‘their baby’. This aggravated me so much that I finally confronted them about the problem. (I felt that as a teenager, they should be able to introduce me by name, and leave out my station in the family.) My dad totally understood and he never introduced me as their ‘baby’ again. Instead, he referred to me as ‘the youngest child left at home.’

Tag, you're it: Jennifer Griffith and Valerie Ipson.

Marsha's note: Jennifer and Valerie, please send me your blog entries to post here, if you don't have your own blogs.

Playing Tag

by Terry Deighton, Guest Blogger

I don't think I know five things about me that are interesting enough to write about, let alone five things that no one knows. I will be brief and fairly honest, so at least it will not be painfully dull to read.

1. I was born in Yoder, Kansas. Not many people know this, but since I don't remember the place and have never heard anything remarkable about it, I don't suppose anyone much cares. The only interesting part of the whole thing is the fact that my folks were in Kansas, in the very middle of the vast USA, because my dad was stationed at the navy base in Hutchinson. Spend just about ten seconds wondering why there is a navy base in Kansas, and you will have spent too long on this item.

2. I am really shy. Most people don't believe me because I can't resist giving my opinion, so people think I am out-going. In truth, I am scared to death half the time. I do anything I can think of to make my kids call the pizza place with an order because I hate to talk to people I don't know.

3. I nailed the ridge cap on our new roof when we added on to the house sixteen years ago. I am afraid of heights, too, so it was terrifying. My husband cajoled me up there and told me to straddle the top, so I would feel more secure. I made it by not looking down.

4. My daughter said that she was asked what her spiritual gift is in Young Womens on Sunday. She said that she can look calm even if she isn't. I told her I thought I had the same gift. The problem is, when you look confident, people actually think you know something. I am always looked to for advice or leadership, and, truth be known, I have no idea, either, what we should do or how to manage something. I have learned to think fast on my feet. I wouldn't want everyone to find out it's all a front!

5. Things I always wanted to do that I haven't done yet: go to Europe, get a book published, accomplish some real genealogy research, have grandchildren, and conquer my temper.

Terry has tagged Ann Acton, Betsy Love, Mya Fullmer, Debbie Reeves, and Heather Horrocks. Ladies, if you don't have your own blog, please contact Marsha for instructions.

More Technical Stuff

by Terri Wagner

The cold seeped into his collar and ran down his back. The sodden overcoat he had stolen from the dead corpse on the side of the road had proven useless. Just his luck, steal a rotted coat from a rotted body. Still it was something.

He saw the light in the distance. It was beckoning, promising warmth and maybe something to drink. He felt in the coat pockets. His reddened, cold hands felt the cold reassuring touch of coinage. So the corpse had been a man of means. His thoughts briefly centered on the poor soul. Must have been the victim of a robbery. He couldn't remember seeing any obvious marks but then he hadn't tried hard. Just buried what was left and took the coat. The boots were too small. He had given them to the kid. The one he left behind in the stable. He'd be warm until Oxmoor returned, hopefully, with some food. He wasn't sure. First, he had to buy a drink. A very nice warm frothy drink.

He headed steadily toward the tavern in the foul weather. His home was in the southern lands, where it never sleeted or snowed. And he missed his mother, sometimes his father. But they were long gone, the famine of 10 years ago took them away.

He closed his mind to the memories, especially of Ceclia, his wife, his companion, the mother of his kid. All he had left was the kid, his son, a good kid. Needed a home, a mother, a safe place.

Well, Oxmoor straightened his shoulders, with a little luck, he would find what he was looking for soon. Tonight, he would just go into the tavern, sit in the back and have a drink. It was good to be able to pay for one. Usually, he had to beg and whine and clean out the stables for a small meal he always shared with his son.

The rain fell harder. Oxmoor sighed. His luck had been all bad since the famine, sometimes he thought it would never change.

He opened the door of the tavern and breathed in civilization, companionship, warmth. It smelled good. He shook off the forlorn coat and tucked it under his arm. No sense in letting anyone see it, they might recognize it. He didn't need attention.

He spotted a stool in the back near the fire and slipped into it. His back was against the wall, he was close to the door, a necessity when you were in an unknown village. The barmaid, a tired and pretty little thing, came over. He made a gesture indicating a drink only. He'd just drink one and then buy some food, bring some to Kallia, his son. Finally, the drink arrived. He took one small sip and savored the warm, frothy mixture. His whole body seem to unwind. He glanced about the building with interest.

Now, a technical writer would just say, it was a dark and stormy night.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cecily Markland's Five

As one of Liz Adair's tagee's in a fun game in which Liz was tagged by Marsha Ward, I'm now "it," and am supposed to reveal five facts most people don't know about me. It's a little humorous to me that Liz would pass this assignment my way. As a journalist and a writer for two different newsletters, I am constantly interviewing and writing about others and all the fun things that make them them. Yet, it's always been something like getting a pregnant woman to pole vault to get me to write about myself. I mean, how ridiculous is this: I joined a singles dating site on the Internet more than a year ago...and, to this day, guess what I've written in the profile. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. So, Liz's tag feels more like a major push out of my comfort zone. So, let's see...where do I start?

1. My dad raised turkeys. By that I don't mean he had a herd of inept, uncouth children. He literally raised turkeys on a ranch in California. Yet, raised was hardly the operative word here. It seemed everything from rain to heat to badgers and everything in between kept dad from actually raising many turkeys at all. Sure, there were the herds that actually made it from poults to adults, and those turkeys were stuffed (literally) into small cages on huge semi-truck trailers and hauled off to market. Still, more often it seemed, there were herds like the 18,000 Whites who panicked in the rain on Sunday evening, piled up against the fences and smothered each other. Or, the 22,000 Bronze birds that, during one unusually hot day, all tried to gather in the same shade of one of two eucalyptus trees and cooked each other to death. It was a hard, smelly and uncertain way to make a living. Yet, while dad battled to grow gobblers, he didn't have to fight to find lessons in life for the little girl who tagged along behind him, watching his patience, his perseverance and his purposeful happiness even while he dug ditches to bury rotting birds. There amid flying feathers and piles of turkey droppings, my admiration for my dad grew by pounds. There, where the birds seemed to be in constant peril, I always felt safe, and free, and happy, and glad to have a turkey farmer for a dad.

2. Growing up in California, one of my fondest memories was going to the beach with my Aunt Peggy. It was always an adventure as seven or eight of us cousins played and swam in the ocean, had a picnic lunch and explored the tide pools looking for whatever creatures we could find. Yet, as I matured to the ripe old age of 12 or 13, I put those "childish" activities aside and focused, instead, on the new toy that would not only prove our maturity, but, if my oldest cousin, Karen, and I were lucky, would also capture the attention of the group of boys we had noticed earlier. You see, that was the year of the surfboard. Peggy had found two used surfboards which she gladly hauled to the beach along with all the other gear. Of course, Karen and I were determined to appear "cool" and to look like we knew what we were doing with our newfound "boy magnets." I chose the green one, paddled out, waited for the wave and...missed. No problem, I waited again, timed my paddling for shore just right and felt the wave catch the board and begin to carry me toward the shore. Less than two seconds later, my coolness sank right to the bottom of the ocean...right along with the green surfboard and any hopes I had of using it to attract anything or anyone. It took two of us, looking like fools, to drag it out so we could see that the fiberglass along the edge was split apart and the surfboard was full of water. So much for hanging 10 and all that nonsense!

3. I suppose a sank surfboard doesn't seem so bad, however, when compared to third thing I'll share. Shortly after I got my driver's license, I took my sister with me to visit a friend. We visited way too long and, in a hurry to get home before curfew, I cut across a parking lot, speeding along in my VW like there was no tomorrow...and like there was no sidewalk directly in front of me. That's right, it was one of those new-fangled parking lots with a main thoroughfare, with a sidewalk on either side that led from the street directly north to the front of the store. I was traveling directly west. VW met sidewalk. VW bounced up, bounced down, bounced up again and over the other sidewalk. Four bent rims and four flat tires later, I brought the VW to a halt. Now what? In front of the store was a pay phone so I called home, but as soon as my mom picked up the phone, I started to cry, handed my sister the phone and said, "Here, Becky, you tell her!" Mom and dad came down to check things out, but one spare was no match for four flat tires. My VW was never the same...and, neither were my driving privileges for sometime thereafter!

4. When I was in high school, my English teacher heard about a contest sponsored by Pepsi. Participants were to write an essay titled, "Why I've Got a Lot to Live," and one winner from each state would receive a $1000 scholarship and a trip to Washington, D.C. and the school would also receive $1000. I won from my school, went on to the state competition and won there too! It was so much fun and such an education for me to see the nation's capital and to meet the winners from each of the different states. I've thought about that since and have often counted the many reasons "Why I've Got a Lot to Live!"

5. After high school, I attended BYU and joined the Army Sponsors (a sister club to the Army ROTC). We did a number of service projects and we marched in a drill team, competing with other schools, including ASU. It was great fun to practice working together, to learn how to discipline ourselves, and to experience the thrill of competition!

Hmmmm....I'm not sure that any of the above should be added to my singles profile, but it really wasn't too bad to write about some of my adventures and faux pas...it was actually a little cathartic. I needed to heal from that flat-tire foolishness. Thanks, Liz!

Late, but still a good scout

by Anna Arnett

I would have posted this Sunday, if I had not forgotten how. Ah, woe is me!

How could I have forgotten that yesterday was my day to blog? This morning, as I was getting ready for church, I finally remembered. Could the tumble that sprained my wrist have affected my brain as well? I’ve been amazed how much control a sore right wrist can take over all the rest of me. Though the arm is much better and (if I’m careful) I can finally type with two hands again, my speed on absolutely everything is still obviously slow.

Yesterday evening I hitched a ride (Charles couldn’t go and I still don’t drive) to a Scout leader’s award banquet. Our oldest son, Wayne, was awarded the Silver Beaver, highest award given at the council level. I loved all the patriotism in the scout ceremony, the love and encouragement given to all scout leaders. The master of ceremonies said he recently found a 1923 issue of the Scout Handbook. Way back then (the year before I was born) they claimed 97% of the countries in the world had already joined the scouting movement. Imagine that!

I’ve been reminiscing about my own involvement in the scouting movement. It began when I was nine and my brother Don, became a scout. Since he and I were the only siblings still at home, Don was my roll model for lots of activity. Because he did, I memorized ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee.’ I devoured his scout handbook along with James Fennimore Cooper. I could recite the scout motto, oath, and law, and sing most of the scout songs. I especially remember the last of about a dozen verses of My Darling Clementine that went,

Now you scouts should learn the moral
Of this little tale of mine.
Artificial respiration
Would have saved my Clementine.

Don surprised me by coaxing plastic craft strip into a three inch wide consecutive flat braid that could slide over my hand and snug up beautifully on my wrist. Nobody I knew had anything like it, yet I could boast three or four, each of a different color.

Don built lean-to shelters against the cottonwoods in our un-cleared timbers, and imitated a Tarzan vine with a rope we could grab and swing way out from a perch up in the tree and splash down into the irrigation canal, or hang on until safely back over the bank.

No wonder I felt pleased when our son became an avid scout. We were living on base in Japan when he turned twelve, and found an excellent scout leader. Wayne was so eager we didn’t have to push him. When he needed a five-mile hike, he planned it with several others, but it fell through. He was so disappointed, I volunteered to hike with him. We drove the car to measure a five-mile on base hike looping from our house. We would hike on pavement, gravel, and grass, and help would never be out of sight. We wouldn’t even have to carry water. Wayne kept saying none of his friends had a mother who would volunteer to hike, which gave my ego a special boost.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of our hike, and congratulated myself on my good shape after having my seventh baby, climbing Mt Fuji, and recovering from surgery. The weather was great, and I felt like singing. Then, as the second half took us across a park I wanted to quit. Wayne kept going so my pride told me I had to keep up. Torture attacked my legs and I began to envy all those other mothers who wouldn’t volunteer. I longed for a good friend to give me a ride home. Wayne would simply have to finish without me. No such luck. Instead, I did make it every miserable step home. Hooray for a Japanese maid so I could collapse.

Now, history just might repeat itself. Wayne is pushing me to make that Grand Canyon hike next July—this year! My plans were to just talk about it for a couple more summers. I still don’t guarantee to accomplish this hike, but planning and anticipation will be a blast.

After all, even with age and forgetfulness, I consider myself a ‘good scout’.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Midwife to a Burro and Four Other Things

by Liz Adair

Marsha Ward tagged me in internet tag, and as "it" I have to write five things no one (or at least very few) know about me. I, in turn, get to tag five others. Marsha said I could tag ANWA sisters who are not regular bloggers on this blog, and they could post here any time--even if it's someone else's day. It will be a bonus posting on that day.

So, check the end of this posting to see if I have tagged you.

Five things most people don't know about me. Hmmmm. Let's see.

1. I once played midwife to a burro.

This was after my Mother Earth decade. We were rid of the cows and chickens, though we still kept pigs and fed them bakery scraps. Derrill and I were keen backpackers, but arthritis was setting in, so we decided to get some burros to carry the gear. I found a fellow who would sell me a jenny for fifty dollars and ten home-made pies, and I had him deliver the burro on Derrill's birthday.

Well, nobody can have just one burro. We ended up with three jennies and a jack--a gelding, supposedly. We found, in the course of things, that the gestational period of a burro is a year. A little more than a year after we bought our gelded jack, we had our first baby burro. Talk about enchanting! There is nothing cuter. They are all limpid eyes and soft, fuzzy ears.

It was during this time that my mother was dying of Hodgkin's Disease. She was hanging on for two things: the return of my daughter from her mission in Bolivia, and the birth of the first burro. She was able to see both of them, but two weeks after Terry got home, my mother passed away.

The death was not unexpected--in fact my mother and I had spoken of it quite openly. Intellectually, I was ready for my mother to die. What I wasn't ready for was the emotional toll, the emptiness, the frustration of not having her there when she always had been before, the finalty of the situation.

Two weeks after the funeral, as I was alone on our little farm, I looked out the window and saw, at the bottom of the pasture, a little knot of burros gathered together. They stood unmoving for the longest time, and I began to feel uneasy. I got the field glasses and looked again, and I could see that Molly was in labor. Each time her back arched with a contraction, two little hooves protruded from under her tail. This had been going on long enough that I knew she wasn't going to be able to manage this herself. I got on the phone and tried to call Derrill. Then I tried to call the vet. Nobody answered, so I headed out to the pasture.

We had had to pull several calves during the Mother Earth era, so I knew the process. I grabbed the legs and hauled on them during the contractions, but I made no headway. I stuck my hand up in the birth canal and found that the nose had caught on a bony place, and the head was tipping back. I hooked a finger around it and pulled it down, and with the next contraction I pulled on the legs again. Success. The little body moved a few inches. The next contraction gave us a bigger gain, and by the third contraction, the body was hanging half out.

Finally, a little burro lay lifeless on the grass. I stared at it, gut-shot with another loss, when one thick-lashed eye opened and then another. The head raise, she looked around, and then she tried to stand. Her knees wouldn't lock at first, so she skated around like a water bug, as she looked for the udder.

What a high! I stood a ways away, watched, and grinned. It was weeks before the smile left my face. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm still smiling. But, something else happened that morning. I realized that this was a gift to me. It was like the Lord was showing me the lesson of the continuum of life. I had eased my mother out of this world, and now, I was easing a new life in. I have been ever grateful for that gift.

2. I wrote the book and lyrics for a three-act musical play entitled The Stuff of Life. It must have been around 1982, when an LDS entity ran a contest asking for submissions. My friend Mary Safsten and I decided to collaborate on a play. Well, the powers that be cancelled the contest, but we forged on, finished the play, and pitched the stake presidency about putting it on.

They said yes, but only if Mary would direct. She said yes, but only if I would produce. So, we did.

It wasn't half bad. Mary is a very talented lady, and the music was wonderful. She's aso a great director. The play was too long, but when someone in a Pittsburg stake asked to put it on, I shortened it, and I think it turned out well.

3. I beat my brother in Scrabble by 200 points. My brother, Ron Shook, has his doctorate in linguistics. He knows all the two-letter words and can define each. We don't bother using a Scrabble dictionary when we play with him, because he knows all the words. Whenever he comes to visit, we play at least eight Scrabble games a day.

I should have known something was wrong when my score was 200 points higher than his. Afterward, on his way home to Utah from Washington, he passed out, fell, and cut his head open. When he came to, he patched himself up, drove on home, and went to the doctor. It turned out that his carotid artery was 90% blocked. They did a roto-rooting procedure, and he's fine now. Thing are back to normal in Scrabble, and when the planets are all aligned just right, I may manage to beat him, but never by more than a few points. The last game I played with him, he got three consecutive seven-letter words.

4. I lived in Alaska when it was still a territory. My family drove up the Alcan highway in 1951, when it was still a gravel road. My father had been transferred to a hydro-electric project they were building on the highway between Palmer and Anchorage. I was nine years old, and I attended school at Palmer for five years.

Those were magical years, and my memories of long, chilly bus rides to school; of indigo nights with the snow shimmering in the moonlight; of ripling, colored bands of light dancing across the sky; of a moose sleeping under my bedroom window--all these and a myriad more are as vivid today as when I was young. We left Alaska when I was fourteen, and I always begged my dad to return. His answer was to remind me that I didn't have to go out and start machinery at forty below. He finished his career in Arizona and Afghanistan.

5. I was 65 before I learned what the (dubiously) funny part behind the line, "Pull my finger" was. That was just last week. My daughter Terry has an interior wall that they left unpainted because they planned to cover it with rock. They are now beginning that process and told the little kids they could scribble on the wall, because it will soon be covered. Addy, my fourteen-year-old granddaughter, an artistic child with a wicked sense of humor, did a large-as-life caricature of the Sistine Chapel painting, where God reaches out over the expanse of the sky to touch Adam's finger. In her picture, she put that one-liner in a little word bubble over Adam's head. I finally asked my husband why everyone laughs whenever some comic says it. I think I need to have a talk with my granddaughter.

Those are my five things. Now, these are the people that I tag: Joy Smith, Tina Scott, Anna Arnett, Cecily Markland, Terry Deighton.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Writing Journey

by Donna Hatch

I finished my latest manuscript, a romance with fantasy elements in a medieval setting. Think Lord of the Rings but bring the romance between Aragorn and Arwen forward and push the rest back. This manuscript, Queen in Exile, represents many years, on and off, between babies, moves, jobs, church callings, and life in general. I write because I must, and normally never showed my writing to others except my very sweet, supportive sister-in-law, who, in her kind and very biased opinion, said it was wonderful. Good for my ego, but not necessarily true. But about a year ago, I decided to see if anyone else thought my fantasy novel was as wonderful as I did. Perhaps my late night obsession could result in a marketable skill. My husband would certainly understand more why I write if I could produce something tangible for all my efforts.

So, I joined a writer’s group and won a scholarship to a writer’s conference in San Diego where I learned more than I ever imagined. I went home, made some adjustments with the help of a critique partner, and pronounced my baby perfect.

With my husband’s encouragement, I wrote some query letters and sent them and the first few pages of my manuscript to several publishers I was just sure would love it. They all replied with very polite rejections. Form rejections. No personal notes, no reasons why, just “no thank you,” or “it doesn’t fit our needs at this time” blah, blah, blah.

That’s okay, I had heard that most writers don’t sell a book unless they have enough rejections to wallpaper a room, so, undaunted, I kept at it, sending it to agents as well as editors once I discovered that many publishers won’t accept un-agented submissions. Their replies were the same. One agent actually sent me a personal note telling me she had a VERY hard time (her words, not mine) deciding whether or not to accept me as a client, but, of course, in the end, felt she could not represent me.

This was my baby and I loved it, so why didn’t everyone else? After a while, I began wondering if perhaps there was something about my work that might need fixing. I heard recently that even a baby sometimes needs changing. And some babies are too ugly to win any contests no matter how much we love them. So I decided to show my baby to some contest judges to get their opinion. I carefully chose contests that were reputed to give great written critiques, rather than just a score. Then I sent the first few pages, based on the number required by each contest, to two contests at the same time. It was like handing over my child to let someone else discipline. I waited with much trepidation, fearing it would come back black and blue.

Guess what? They didn’t say my baby was ugly, but they said it needed a change. Or two. Or a bunch. With varying degrees of tact, the impartial judges proceeded to tell me what was wrong with my baby. It was hard. It hurt. And some of the judges were downright cruel. However, most were incredibly helpful, and a few even wrote me personal notes. After a good cry, a good dose of chocolate and a little time, I re-read the comments, rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I knew my baby was beautiful, I just needed to change it and wash off the mud to reveal the beauty I knew lay underneath.

Of course, everyone’s opinion is subjective and some of the judges things that directly contradicted each other. What I looked for were the common things that showed up in many of the judges’ comments.

I fixed what I felt needed fixing and sent it out again to three more contests. Meanwhile, I wrote a Regency and sent it in to two of the same contests as the fantasy. This time around I scored higher. One contest came back and my fantasy had been chosen as a finalist. Yeay!! The second one came back and while I did not final, I did score fairly well. The third one came back and BOTH OF THEM HAD FINALED! Double yeay!!

Then, last week the results of one of the contests I finaled in came back. My manuscript not only won in its category of paranormal/fantasty/sci fi, but it also won the contest over all. Triple yeay!!! As the winner of this contest, I get a critique by a big time New York Agent. Also, the final judge, who is an editor of a large publishing house, requested the complete manuscript. It is my hope that one or both of them will like my work enough to offer me a contract, but I am not naïve enough to think it will be this easy.

It is too soon to hear the results of the other contest that I finaled in, but I’ll broadcast it all over the country if I final in that one, too.

As a writer, it is incredibly validating to find out that someone likes the baby I have lovingly created. I do not write because I want to sell books. I write because I must. Because I am. And if someone else receives enjoyment from my works, then we both benefit.

In the immortal words of Tigger, TTFN, Ta-ta for now!


Donna Hatch

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Mother-in-law Book

By Kari Pike

The first phone call came about 10:30 pm. Our daughter Kati, in the early stages of labor, just wanted to check in and let me know that her contractions were getting stronger and closer together. She wanted to labor at home as long as possible, but felt a little unsure about how long she should wait. Despite having contractions only 5 minutes apart, I could tell by her cheerful voice and ability to focus on our conversation, that she could comfortably labor at home a while longer. The second phone call came at half past midnight. Kati’s contractions remained very manageable, but they were every 3-4 minutes and had been that way for over an hour. Everyone agreed that it was time to have a baby!

I met Kati, her husband Chris, and Kati’s mother-in-law Kathy, at a local hospital. While Kati got down to the business of birthing her baby (she was dilated to 9 cm when she arrived), we visited and laughed together, eagerly anticipating the moment this baby boy would make his world debut. We didn’t have to wait very long. Wesly took his first breath less than an hour and a half later. We “oohed” and “ahhed” and while taking pictures for our grandma brag books, Kathy and I shared stories of our own birth experiences. Our bond as “sister grandmas” grew.

A couple of days later, Kathy and I spent the evening with Kati and Chris, helping with household duties and showing the new parents how to bathe and care for the baby. We took turns snuggling Wesly and voted on who he looked most like. Then Kathy related an experience she had at the hospital the morning Wesly was born. She had gone to the cafeteria for a moment and, on her way back to Kati’s room, passed the nurse’s station. A couple of the nurses were talking about Kati, her quick, unmedicated birth, and how she had her mother and her mother-in-law there at the same time. The nurses were amazed at how everyone looked so happy, with no issues or anything. They seemed surprised to see the moms acting like they actually liked each other! We found Kathy’s description of the nurses and their perception of our experience not only amusing, but difficult to believe. After all, who would take “issues” into a labor and delivery room? I told Kathy that we should write a book. We could call it The Mother-in-Law Book – How to Get Along. We could even send it to Oprah, and of course she would have us on her show! We laughed and, recognizing we were all suffering from sleep deprivation, said our goodbyes and drove home.

Now that I think about it, while I joked about writing that book, perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea. The more people I share this story with, the more horror stories I hear about in-laws…not just in daily life, but yes, even in the delivery room. My own experiences with in-laws (parents and siblings) have been positive and fulfilling. That doesn’t mean I’ve gone without challenges. One brother-in-law suffers from serious mental illness and there have been moments of misunderstanding with other members of the family. But overall, we get along. We accept each other for who we are and love each other because of our differences. If writing about these experiences could help someone else heal a relationship, and as a result bring them peace and joy, then I want to write that book. In fact, I feel it a responsibility to write that book!

I think I’ll go call my mother-in-law!


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Writing Romance ~ That's Amore

By Debbie Reeves

What is Romance?

According to Wikipedia - The Free Encyclodeia, “Romantic love is a form of love that is often regarded as different from mere needs driven by sexual love, or lust. Romantic love generally involves a mix of emotional and sexual desire, as opposed to Platonic Love. There is often, initially, more emphasis on the emotions than on physical pleasure.”

According to RWA (Romance Writers of America), the sales of romances are quite impressive. In 2004-05, sales reached $1.2 billion! 54.9% of all paperback sales were romances.

Just who reads romance novels anyway? Well, according to RWA, stats are:

64.6% Americans read at least one romance per year.
22% are male
50% are married
19% are ages 35-44 years old
27% are college graduates
44% buy new titles
31% rate inspirationals most enjoyed

Romance sub-genres include:

Contemporary
Fantasy
Romantic Suspense
Time Travel
Historical
Paranormal
Regency
Chick Lit (Mommy Lit, etc)
Inspirational

Were did romances spring from?
_______________________________________________________
History of the Romance Novel
By: Andi Ward and June Dexler

“The earliest English novels in this genre appeared in the 19th century. Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Brontë, and Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Brontë are highly-regarded as classic romantic novels.

Romance novels can also trace their roots back to gothic novels, if not to the idea of the "roman" itself through the romance (genre), a heroic prose and narrative form of medieval/Renaissance Europe.

Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novels influenced writers ranging from Jane Austen (who parodied it in her Northhanger Abbey), Charles Dickens and the Brontes…

http://www.fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue%2012/Gerroml.htm
Plotting the Romance Novel by Andi Ward & June Drexler
© 2002, Andi Ward & June Drexler
__________________________________________________________________

What makes a romance a romance?” Deborah Hale (historical romance writer for Harlequin), gives this equation:

(H + h x A)+ C + HEA = R

In “romance writer’s terms” it means:

(Hero + heroine X Attraction) + Conflict + Happily Ever After = Romance

(HEA is an abbreviation of "[and they lived] happily ever after, the phrase which traditionally ends fairy tales. It refers to the happy ending that all romance novels must have.)

For a novel to be considered a true romance, it must have two basic elements.

1. A central love story: the central plot and conflict must be focused around two people falling in love. There must be some kind of struggle (internal/external) to justify love.

2. HEA Ending: Everything must be solved and have an emotionally, satisfying, optimistic end with either marriage or thoughts of marriage.

Without these two elements the novel would be considered Women’s Fiction, not a romance.

Oddly enough, most people think a romance is just a story of sex and more sex. Actually, a true romance doesn’t have to have any sex in the story. A romance novel focuses on the romance-love between two people. They don’t have to be physically together. The main aim (plot) needs to tell the tale of an unfolding romance.

Once the two basic elements are unfilled, a romance can contain various settings, plots, sub-plots, and time periods to make a fulfilling, satisfying read.

So, if the romance genre intrigues you, do your homework. Read all the romances you can to get a feel for them. You need to be familiar with the romance genre before attempting to write one.

Visit publishers websites and ask for their ‘tip sheets’. Romance writing has very strict guidelines.

Visit published writers websites for useful information.

Take some creative writing classes. None in your area? Take them online.

Check your local library for books on writing. When you find one with great information, you may want to buy a copy for your library.

Here’s a couple of sites/books to get you started:

http://www.stephiesmith.com/resources.html
http://www.allaboutromances.com/
On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
12-Point Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction

See you in the trenches!