Friday, August 31, 2007

A New Perspective

by Donna Hatch

Long ago, I decided one of the reasons why I prefer romance is because I need the assurance of a happy ending, which not all books promise. But I also believe people should read a variety of genres. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago when a good friend handed me a book and told me I had to read it and she just knew I’d love it. For a number of reasons, I accepted reluctantly.

The author was a man. Strike one. Most men are very plot-driven and I like books that are character-driven. Now of course there are all kinds of exceptions, but that is my observation of the norm.

It was written exclusively from the man’s point of view and in the first person. Strike two. I like to see both sides of the issue. Also, I have trouble identifying with the hero when his gender is different from me. Men typically see things differently than women (I know, there I go making generalizations again) and I often just shake my head and say “must be a guy thing.” I do like the hero’s POV in a romance, in fact, that’s usually when I “fall in love” with him, but typically I relate better to the heroine.

It was about a farmer in the south who was reluctantly trying his luck as a school teacher. Strike three. I like guys with exotic jobs. Cops. Secret agents. Firemen. Pirates. English Knights. English lords. You get the idea.

This had a modern-day setting. Strike four. Because I write medieval and Regency romances, I usually stick with historical novels and don’t read a lot of modern-day novels any more. Even when I did, I preferred the magic and illusion of the historical novel.

Strike five (I know, I know, in baseball, you only get three, but you get my point, right?) was I’m facing big deadline and I’ve been madly doing edits on my soon to be released book, as well as deeply researching pirates to make my sequel as authentic as possible. So I really didn’t have time to take a side-trip.

I trust my friend, and wanted to be able to give the book back to the next time I saw her. Because she lives a goodly distance away, we don’t see each other often. I also figured it had been a while since I strayed from the genre I write in and it might be good to broaden my horizons, so I picked it up…and got drawn in immediately.

It made me question my own compassion for others. It made me question what my loved ones would remember most after I’m gone. It made me laugh. It almost made me cry. It gave me a new perspective on guys, including my husband. It touched me in a way that I haven’t been touched in a very long time. I believe it will help me write better heroes. And it inspired me to be a better wife, a better mother, a better neighbor, a better friend.

So my advice is to stray outside your favorite genre! You never know what little gem you might find.

Happy Writing

Donna Hatch

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"The subtle thief of youth"

by Anna Laurene Arnett

I tried to enter this on Wednesday, but Google kept telling me the email I gave does not exist, yet they emailed me with it. Figure that out. I’m going to bed. Maybe I can post it tomorrow.

John Milton, in an early sonnet, described time as “the subtle thief of youth.” Yet time always gave generously and often too bountifully when I was young, dragging itself out for one and almost two decades. It took forever to get from one birthday to another, and even longer for Christmas to come again, or school to begin, or school to end, and finding a man I wanted to marry looked like it might take a century.

Then my world began spinning faster and faster, gaining speed with each year, month, week, day, and now with every minute. Even seconds go faster. I remember when it took only two seconds to count, “one chimpanzee, two chimpanzee,” but now, even when I rush, I fall behind two or three seconds out of every ten. I run completely out of day before I finish more than half of the things I’ve planned. If I try to make up for it by staying awake half the night and plugging along, blissfully uninterrupted, I sleep in and miss the upcoming, lovely early morning time.

Time, tide and taxes, they say, wait for no man. And I’m getting caught. Today is the last day I can claim to be only eighty-two, and it’s all but gone. However, I’ve been expecting it long enough in another way I’m surprised that I’ll only be eighty-three when I wake up tomorrow.

Allow me to return to Milton, because parts of it keep clinging to my mind. (I had this memorized in 1972 but Time, the subtle thief of memory, hath stolen . . . .) I’m only going to use the parts that fit me, substituting with impunity. After all, what copyright laws extend back to 1632?

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stol’n on his wing my two and eightieth year.
    My hasting days fly on with full career
    But my procrastination hides the truth
Of sought for goals, of writing high and mighty . . .

At this point, my visiting teacher telephoned that she couldn’t come this month, so we talked for an hour or so. Then a daughter-in-law called to remind me I’d promised to go to the temple with her, her daughter, and her son-in-law. Charles said he’d go, too. So we scurried to get ready.

Finally, I’m back to finishing this blog, but so sleepy that all my thoughts play hide-and-seek on the outskirts of the land of Nod. I’ve been trying to paraphrase about outward appearances that camouflage age. Milton doubts he looks mature enough at 22; I only wonder if I act my age. I like the last six lines as he wrote it, however, and it applies to me at any age.

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev’n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav’n;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task Master’s eye.

Small and Simple Things

By Kari Diane Pike

It all began with the letter “s.” I had a pile of things to do to prepare for a Relief Society Board meeting being held in my home, including preparing a message for the Sisters that would not only inspire and motivate them, but also convey my gratitude to them for all the love and service they give. The Presidency had chosen the theme F.R.O.G. – Fully Rely On God. The scripture quoted in the packet of ideas came from 1 Peter 5:7 and said,

“Casting all your cares upon him; for he careth for you.”

In between dinner preparations and last minute tidying up, I hurried to copy the words onto a handout. The thought came to me that I should look up the scripture before I printed out the final copy. Another thought chased right after it and told me to stop being obsessive-compulsive and just write it down. After all, I was running out of time and everything had to be perfect! Experience has been teaching me which voice I should listen to. I looked up the scripture. It read,

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

The significance of the difference between “cares” and “care” knocked the wind out of me; just because of a small and simple letter “s.” I can cast all my cares and worries upon the Lord but still not see the light of his love. But when I cast my care upon him I can truly come to love and follow our Savior Jesus Christ. By casting my care upon him, I focus on his example and how he thinks and feels; how he would behave and act and serve and love. Casting all my care upon him is infinitely more than casting all my cares upon him. Casting my cares sounds like,

“Here, take my problems and solve them for me.” Casting my care upon him is saying, “I love you. How can I serve you today? How can I thank you for all you have done for me?”

I’m not saying that we shouldn't ask for help in our struggles. Actually, we are commanded to do just that. I think I’m just seeing a difference in the attitude with which it can be done. I came across a quote from Marvin J. Ashton that brought me even greater understanding:

“…The Lord has declared that those who serve him and keep his commandments are called his servants. After they have been tested and tried and are found faithful and true in all things, they are no longer called servants, but friends. His friends are the ones he will take into his kingdom and with whom he will associate in an eternal inheritance.”

A couple of days after this experience, as I walked out of my bedroom, I felt a strong impression to go back to my bedside and kneel once again in prayer. I promptly returned to the room wondering why. I'd already said my prayers. What disaster awaited that I needed to be specially prepared for? As I knelt, I felt a warmth spread through me as though I were being hugged. The fear disappeared as light and love filled my heart.

“Just one moment, please. It’s going to be a busy day and I just wanted to spend another moment with you before you get so busy you can’t hear my voice. Don’t forget to study your scriptures this morning. It’s important.”

The burdens and fatigue I carried earlier lightened and I felt gratitude for the gift of another day to cast my care upon him. And to think, it all began with a small and simple letter “s.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Deep Thinking


By Betsy Love

Getting my act together,

Means putting my priorities in order.

Putting priorities in order means deep thinking.

Deep thinking requires more brain-work than my brain can handle.

Git ‘er done,

Means deciding what to do.

Deciding what to do means deep thinking.

Deep thinking requires more brain-work than my brain can handle.

Multi-tasking

Means working two jobs at once,

Two jobs at once needs deep thinking.

Deep thinking requires more brain-work than my brain can handle.

Writing,

Means creativity

Which needs deep thinking

Deep thinking requires just the brain-work my brain can handle.

Unfortunately

Getting my act together, gitten’ ‘er done, and multi-tasking,

Have consumed all my brainpower

So this is all you get this time around!

Dear Family and ANWA friends,

Please excuse the shortness of this post. I’ve been working so hard in my new job at Carson Jr. High, teaching 9th grade English, that I missed last go around. I nearly missed this time. I am so tired from grading papers for two days straight that I almost decided not to post, but I did anyway. Just so you know, I am still writing. I’ve been working in snippets here and there, emailing them from home to school and back again…a sentence here, a sentence there. Labor Day weekend is our one last ditch get away for the summer. I’m taking my laptop and we’re taking a couple of side trips for researching purposes. I’m excited to spend three days writing!

Next time I post, hopefully I will have something more valuable to read.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sleeping Trouble

by Rene Allen

It is blog time again. I have delighted in this week’s postings, finding in them two of my favorite things: truth and humor. Otherwise, the week has been frustrated with family difficulties and preparation for a wedding that will happen in only six days from today. And yes, I’ve had some trouble sleeping.

Yesterday, the Sabbath, 4:00 AM. Outside my window, the sky is ink colored and marked with a silhouette of the horizon that is blank like a construction paper cut-out—outline only with no internal detail.

It is the way each day starts, vague and poorly defined. The day progresses and fills with particulars, with who, what, why, where and how and all those things that become the times and places of our lives, just like this view outside my window where the lacy outlines of trees emerge from the smooth, bulky shapes of earliest dawn. A few minutes more and I will see leaves and branches and the gray streaks of distant clouds.

I amazed to think each day begins with this metaphor of possibility. It is the way things are, that these evolving shapes dimly lit by my present circumstances over time will fill with detail to be seen precisely in the light cast by my own agency and experience.

Saturday of this week, my youngest son is getting married. In many ways, his, and his soon-to-be wife’s futures are also defined like the shape of an early morning horizon. The big pieces are there, but the details have not yet been put into place.

I have considered what I would tell them as they begin life together, as they fill in the structure and color of each shape with their actions and the way they treat each other. Ultimately, these details will become memories. What color will they be? What feelings will be attached to them? Not just events, but rich emotions, too, will be illuminated as they create experiences together.

I would suggest they cultivate kindness and patience, a well-thought answer rather than a fiery reply, and generosity of spirit – the work is ours, not his or hers. I would hope they pray together and that they both honor the priesthood my son bears.

The beauty of their lives together is something they will create. The single most important tool they will use to create this life is agency. It will determine how they love, how they settle disagreements, how they worship their Father in Heaven.

A new day, a new page, a new marriage – each waits to be filled with those details that bring meaning and make memory.

And at the end of the day? In the waning light of a setting sun, my ability to recognize the leaves and flowers and clouds outside my window diminishes until all I can see is that vague juncture between horizon and sky. Yet I know what is there, and recall it in my mind’s eye, and because it is beautiful, I have the hope of another dawn.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'm Home!

by Marsha Ward

Last night I returned home from Provo, Utah, where I attended BYU Education Week. I had a great experience, and here are a few of my observations and highlights:

  • Provo during Education Week surely must have the highest per capita incidence of pregnant women in the world.
  • Women will wear flip flops or sandals instead of sensible shoes for walking over miles of hard concrete if they have a nice pedicure to show off. I didn't have one, so I chose sensible shoes, then bought a pair of NothingZ to wear the last two days. Very cushioning, very light!
  • Seeing/meeting some of my favorite authors at bookstore signings: Rachel Ann Nunes, Michele Paige Holmes, Matthew Buckley, Annette Lyon, Nancy Anderson, Lael J. Littke, Carroll H. Morris, Elodia Strain, and meet Trina Boice, who I profiled here last week.
  • Attending a class given by Janice Kapp Perry and having her refer to a dear relative of mine. I hadn't known that she wrote the first verse of "The Test" to honor him.
  • Learning about Islam at the feet of Daniel C. Peterson. His dry wit is delightful!
  • Getting into a Kevin Hinckley class by the skin of my teeth. Except for the couple behind me, I was the last one admitted.
  • The wonderful trip from Payson, Arizona, and back again. I cemented relationships with dear sisters in my congregation.
  • Learning the fine art of changing your mind at the last minute about attending a class and having the adventure of going into another one. Most of the speakers are new to me, so I wasn't predisposed to have to attend any one class. Next year, I suppose, will be different, now that I have some favorites.
  • Walking a ton of miles. I'm putting my scale on notice that it had better show a significant weight loss when I check it next.
  • Finding out what to bring and what to leave home next year. Bring a couple of hangers, leave home the pillow. Bring mayo, leave the extra blouse. Scissors are always handy. The water is drinkable, so I don't need a bunch of water bottles from home. A half liter bottle will refill more easily from a drinking fountain than a 24-ouncer. Get a map of the Wilkinson Student Center and take it with me each time I go there. Helaman Halls have mini refrigerators in each room, so leave home the huge coolers. Internet is available. A wheeled tote is essential to me. They sell wheeled totes at the bookstore annex! Since we did the bring-your-own-food thing instead of buying a meal ticket, it would have been nice to remember to bring napkins and enough paper towels. Wipes would have been nice for a multitude of uses.
  • Meeting friends from the past, some as far back as the 1960s.
  • Meeting new friends. I kept running into one women, and we finally exchanged email addresses.
  • The musical performances. I've attended "Take the Mountain Down," a wonderful country/bluegrass version of the story of the prodigal son. I also saw "The White Star," a new Doug Stewart play with music by Janice Kapp Perry.
I think I understand now what brings people back to Education Week, year after year, because I've resolved to return again. There's an energy, a spirit here that draws a person in. Whether it is spiritual or emotional, physical or cultural, I can't tell, but I don't think it matters. There is plenty of all of the above draws for everyone who attends. The next Education Week takes place August 18-22, 2008.

Put it on your calendar.

Friday, August 24, 2007

That Time of Year

Valerie J. Steimle

It’s getting to be that time of the year again. Public school is starting up and families are getting ready to go back to school. For some, the thought of going back to school conjures up all sorts of insecurities and bad memories. For others the thought of going back to school gives warm fuzzy feelings of learning and happiness.

I’m more in the order of the first type. “No, you were not one of the top ten popular girls in high school and you never went to prom.” It’s funny that those feelings come out when I think of school and I judge my learning abilities on popularity. But I had feelings of inadequacy and burn out abounded. In high school, I just wasn’t motivated to do well. By the time I was a senior, I did not want to go to school anymore. I eventually graduated and then went on to college.

But what of our children going to school? How can we motivate them to want to learn and be happy at school? That is a good question. How is it that when we were young (elementary years) we were so anxious to learn? We were like sponges. But then, by the time we hit high school learning became a chore. Maybe it was the way we got our information. Maybe it was the environment we had to sit in to really remember what we needed to know.

Whatever the reason, as adults we found some way to retain what we had learned and we are continuing to learn more. Learning should be a continual thing anyway until we are taken back to where we came from. And even then we keep on learning. We never stop. I remember when I was at BYU, President Kimball’s wife Camilla, talked about how she took a night adult class every semester to keep learning. That was amazing to me.

So I keep trying to find motivations for my children to keep learning. Whatever their interests ---that’s what I focus on. Children are really learning all the time anyway so it’s not like they stop learning. They just have a hard time focusing on what the teacher wants them to know. Always reading a book, having intelligent discussions around the dinner table of current events and keeping current of what is going on in school are good ways to help your children want to learn. It helps me to want to keep learning too. And I can just forget about not ever going to the prom. I hear it’s completely over rated anyway.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Great Escape

By Heather Horrocks

After reading through some of the other blogs in the past week or two, I've realized that I'm continuing a theme on escaping from the real world into novels for awhile.

We’ve had some weird things happening in my family the last year and a half and I’ve found myself in need of a ‘great escape.’

For me, that has always been novels. I have always been a voracious reader. Well, except for the first few years after I started writing seriously, when I would feel guilty if I picked up a book because ‘I should be writing instead.’ But then I read Stephen King’s On Writing and loved the part where he said if you’re not reading regularly you shouldn’t be writing. I took this as permission to read again.

I think King said he averages a book a week, so I took a sheet of paper and wrote from 1 to 52 and try to average 52 books a year. I’ll usually read them in a clump and the not read for a few weeks, and then pick them up again. I still have the sheets for the past six or seven years. It’s interesting to go through them occasionally and remember what I’ve read.

It’s the end of August, so nearly three-fourths of the way through the year, but I’ve already read 55 books this year. I’ve been in high escape mode. Like I say, it’s been the year of the ‘great escape.’ I was wanting to escape into anyone else’s world but mine, whether it was a world in someone else’s book or one of my own. Or into movies.

And now I’m slowing the flow of escape reading and stepping back into my worldscape again. Whoa! Look at that craters! I’ve been bombed! (Not really, but doesn’t it feel like that sometimes?)

The conclusion I’ve come to? Life is hard – mine and everyone else’s, too. So I’m hereby pulling up my big-girl pants and getting on with my life. I’ll keep writing, because that satisfies some deep need in me and helps me deal with other things that I can’t control as well.
So now I have to get back to my great novels – first the one I’m writing and, later, the one waiting for me on the nightstand).

Hope you always have a good book on your nightstand – and can read it for enjoyment and not for escape. And, if your life does need escaping from right now, I hope you have some good books on your nightstand to help you through the hard parts of life.

Here’s to all of us pulling up our big-girl pants and dealing with the stuff life deals us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm Afraid to Talk About It...

by Faith St. Clair

Politics…

The mere mention of it frightens me. It frightens me because I’m scared to death that people will be able to tell how little I actually know about it, I’m scared of the immediate flare of emotion that postures whenever the subject arises, and I’m scared that there’s so little patriotism attached to the subject.

We took our girls to Washington, D.C. this summer and I must say that I felt like I was doing a pilgrimage to my roots - the land of our forefathers. I had been there before, but this visit touched me with awe and strengthened my testimony in that this is a great nation, a choice land, the promised land.

I traveled the streets where power and money and influence builds, destroys, aids, protects, and controls whole countries. What I marveled at, however, was the sacrifice, the humility, the vision and the inspiration that built this great nation and dressed it with an armor of truth and right.

In trying to explain the theories of politics to my 10-year-old daughter, it wasn’t policy I was most trying to teach, but passion – not a passion for power, but one of honor.

As we stood before the Lincoln Memorial and read his inaugural speech, as we realized in the Ford theatre the reasons he was assassinated, as we read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, as we honored the war heroes at various memorials and as we spent a reverent morning in the Arlington Cemetery watching the vigilant watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, we felt in our bones the power of patriotism.

We witnessed many inspiring memorials and many deserve mentioning, but I was most struck by the JFK memorial and cried as I read his inaugural speech – the part that burned from my insides out…

“…whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

I am grateful to those who had no fear, who stood for truth and right, who sacrificed (and continue to sacrifice), and who think like Lincoln when he said, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

God Bless America!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Editing Challenges

by Terri Wagner

My LDS sister and I wrote a story last year that made it into a murder short-story book.

This year, we got ambitious and decided to write two stories, each in our own name. The deadline is near, and my story is the only one finished. Why? Because she decided to quit writing on hers and help me on mine, that of course, is now ours. She's brutal, and I get my favorite lines thrown out. Sometimes I protest, but she's a mother of nine; she's tougher than I am.

Editing is hard. I do it as a living, but in the technical world, editing is only about making sure the facts are correct and the premise is technically feasible. In fiction, it's all about what you like.

Do you find it hard to let go of certain phrases you wrote that you love, you get, you think is brilliant, and yet no one else gets it!!! That happens more than I can say.

There's a lot to writing to an eighth-grade level, but there's pure joy in writing to someone who in total sync with you. It's probably why I like the fantasy genre so much. You say elf, and everyone understands what you mean, no real description necessary. Do you find it easier to write that way or do you like taking the time and effort to write descriptively?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Writing Heaven

by Joyce DiPastena

A little over two weeks ago, I was sitting with my sister in a four-day Choral Academy at BYU. Enrolled at the “amateur” level, my goal was to learn some new techniques to improve my ability to lead the ward choir. (As we were repeatedly reminded, it’s not “my ward choir”, it’s “the ward choir”…after all, I’m not the owner of the choir!)

As I said, I was there to learn, and boy did I! More than I can possibly remember, in spite of a notebook full of excellent handouts and my own conscientiously scribbled notes. One of the goals of the professors leading the course was to teach us to lead music “the BYU way.” These professors have analyzed conducting patterns in a whole new way from the patterns most of us are familiar with from the back of our hymnbooks. Although at first their method felt overly analytical and extreme, I soon came to recognize much merit in their techniques. (If only I could remember half of what they were. Fortunately, BYU is coming out with a conducting DVD—“soon”, the professors promise—so I’ll bide my time until I have access to the “refresher course”.)

These professors were quite stalwart in their conviction that “the BYU way” is the best and most efficient method for leading choirs and choruses. Dr. Ron Staheli, who headed the course, did concede that their method was only one of many methods of leading music, and although he thought BYU’s was the best, he admitted that he’d had many lively discussions on the matter with Conductor Craig Jessop, conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In the end, Dr. Staheli said he and Brother Jessop simply “agreed to disagree”, and then he repeated the following statement with which Brother Jessop frequently ended their discussions:

“There are many roads to choral heaven.”

I have reflected on that statement again and again, particularly as I’ve pondered what to write about for today.

If there are many roads to choral heaven, is it not likely that there are many roads to writing heaven, as well?

I remember when I was much younger, the horrible guilt I felt because I simply was not interested in writing LDS-themed novels. I had a testimony. I loved the gospel. I was active in the Church, and was thankful for my pioneer heritage…but the last thing I wanted to write was a novel based in pioneer times. I actually became so distressed, that I once mentioned my conflict to my bishop. To my surprise and relief, he said to me, “Joyce, there are probably many people in the Church who can write about the pioneers. Maybe what you have to offer simply lies in the Middle Ages.” (The time period I’d confessed I WAS interested in writing about.)

Since then, I have still struggled with my “writing road to heaven”, but with some degree of greater peace in my subject matter.

If each of us are like snowflakes (as I’ve sometimes heard it said), no two of us alike, then why should any two of us walk exactly the same writing road? Some of us write beautiful poetry. I can’t make a rhyme to save my life. Some write lyrical melodies. I can “reproduce”, via the piano, what someone else puts on a page, but my personal gift does not include the musical creative process. Some write skits and roadshows. Again, not something within my range of talents! Some are gifted in fantasy, in children’s books, in biographies, in journaling. I haven’t seriously journaled since college, and even then it was more out of duty than love. And yes, some can write beautiful, inspiring stories about the pioneers, or other LDS experiences, that both entertain and uplift the weary soul.

But that does not seem to be my road to walk. Yet if Heavenly Father not only knows me, but knows both my talents and my interests—and if our talents likely emerged in the Pre-Mortal life—might our interests in particular historical eras somehow stretch back that far, as well? Then surely he understands, and even supports me, as I walk my own, unique road to writing heaven.

As much as we, as ANWA Sisters, walk together in our writing, each of us, in the end, must also walk our own road to some degree alone, with only the Spirit at our side.

Which road are you taking to writing heaven?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Introduction to Melisse Lee

By Liz Adair

Today I’d like to introduce you to Melisse Lee, the newest member of our writing group here in Northwest Washington. She’s a Texas transplant of about two years and lives ‘upriver’ from me. You will see from this vignette why we’re so delighted to have her with us. Melisse writes:

Greetings from Birdsview--a small community of homes that borders State Route 20 east of Sedro-Wooley, Washington. As the name suggests, we have an abundance of wildlife. I'm a bird watcher as well as a writer, a gardener, and a genealogist.

Beyond the backyard fence a tangle of blackberry bushes houses a variety of familiar birds. I often watch them from my deck. A shrill "jack, jack, jack" and a flash of blue announce the arrival of a Stellar Jay. Perched on the fence, he bobs his head several times and flips his tail from side to side. His striking dark crest and sapphire blue body make him one of the showiest in the neighborhood. He glides down to scavenge under the rhododendron bush for treasures uncovered by last night's windstorm. When several more jays attempt to join him, he swoops off to light in one of the tall trees beyond, clutching his prize in his sharp black beak.

The jays aren't the only colorful residents. Some of my feathered friends are splashed with raspberry, orange or buttery yellow, although the majority of the birds wear more subtle colors. The chickadees prefer the casual look. Their jaunty black caps and scarves nearly cover their white cheeks. They zip in and out of the trailing vines of the thicket, looking for tasty morsels, or they opt for the feeder instead. The sparrows have the largest family in the community. By sheer numbers they often take over the feeders, pushing and shoving the chickadees and black-headed juncos asides. Although not as stylish as the chickadees, a few of the sparrows add fashionable dark crowns and ties to their costumes.

With her tail cocked high above her head, a tiny brown wren clutches a thorny vine. She is the busybody of the neighborhood. Her beady black eyes dart in every direction as she searches out suspicious noises and watches for family squabbles. I suspect she is also a gossip; I often hear her stuttering song ring out through the garden and thicket.

A spotted towhee floats down from an overhanging limb. She resembles a common robin, but she has a brilliant white breast with only a fringe of robin-red along the edge. In her search for food, she investigates a pile of debris, turning over a moldy leaf with her beak. All the activity has drawn an unwelcome visitor. Only a few yards away, a gray and white tomcat skulks along the fence. He inches along, belly nearly touching the ground. The alert towhee gives an alarm, and the residents of the thicket take to the air, bringing my morning bird watching to a close.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happily Ever After

By Donna Hatch

There's been a lot of discussion about the value of fiction, and Romance in particular. Several months ago, a politician blasted his female opponent, saying she couldn't possibly be a good political leader because she'd published a romance novel. In a country where body-builders and actors are political leaders, I can't believe he'd pick on that. Nevertheless, it sparked a heated debate. Many believe that romance authors are creators of smut and have nothing valuable to contribute to society - it's escapism and unrealistic.

That’s true. I mean, what man ever drowns into your eyes, pulls you against his broad, muscular chest and murmurs in a throaty voice; "Darling, without you my life loses meaning?” Still, women eat it up. Probably because they don’t hear it.

But back to the nay-sayers: The truth is, romance authors are among the most educated and intelligent people on the planet. And romance comes in many forms from erotic to sweet to inspirational. So making a blanket judgment that it’s completely useless and even immoral is not only irresponsible, it’s false.

Still, I couldn't help but ask; am I wasting my time writing romance?

I don’t write Christian Literature, or even Inspirational (although I’ve considered it), I write Regency Romances with a fairly high level of sensuality (but no sex). It contains no bad language or taking the Lord’s name in vain, and the characters either already possess, or eventually adopt the principles of morality. My novels all have fun characters, some intrigue and adventure, and lot of romance.

But am I wasting my talents writing for the secular world? Should I be writing things of a more spiritual nature? Should I reveal the follies of man and challenge people’s complacently, or expose the evils of society, demanding reform?

At the RWA National Conference I attended last month, they keynote speaker was a National Best-selling Romance Author named Lisa Kleypas. She typically writes Regencies, only hers are “hot” unlike mine. Lisa addressed this issue with a personal true story that restored balance to my world and seemed an answer to my searching soul.

Several years ago, through a series of events, Lisa’s town was flooded. They were literally evacuated in the dead of night with only moments to prepare. Along with her friends and neighbors, she and her husband lost everything except each other and their child. All of their worldly possessions were destroyed -photographs, heirlooms and all. I can’t imagine the depth of the loss that must have been.

They managed to find a motel with a vacancy and lived there for several days until more long-term arrangements could be made. Lisa and her mother went to a discount store to buy a few necessities; toiletries, clothes, food, etc. They split up with a list to help cut down on time. When they met at the checkout line, Lisa and her mother each had carefully gathered items from the list, staying within their budget and buying only what they had to have. But they each had one additional item in her cart.

A romance novel.

Their reality at that moment was too intense for the follies of man to be exposed, or to have their beliefs challenged or to have the evils of society exposed, demanding reform.

They needed an escape. A belief that there is hope when all seems dark. That happily ever after is possible.

Many girls don’t have good role models. They come from abusive or broken homes. A romance novel can inspire a such a girl (or woman) to see that women are worthwhile, that women deserve to be strong and independent, and that they should never settle for a man who would mistreat them.

Sabrina Jeffries, another speaker who is a best-selling Regency author, said her mission in life is to teach women that it’s not all about the man getting his needs met and the woman groveling and serving. Women have a right to be valued. Cherished. We have a right to happiness and even sexual fullfillment. I agree. We need to speak up, tell him what we want. (How else is the unobservant lout going to know what we secretly desire and wish he’d instinctively know?)

Women deserve courtesy and consideration. He doesn’t have to be a pirate, or a Scottish lord, or an FBI agent, or a vampire slayer. He doesn’t have to have hair dark as sin or sinewy arms. He just has to see her worth as a woman and cherish her.

And if women have no other examples than a romance novel, they might stand a chance at finding that most basic of human needs right behind food, clothing and shelter: True Love.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Write on Your Heart

By Kari Diane Pike

Marsha recently asked us to think about how to be a reverent writer. Some interesting discussion ensued in my home and among my friends. Last night I received a phone call from my good friend Kathy. As she finished reading Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse the night before, she found herself screaming in frustration because the fourth book isn’t published yet. She called me because after thinking about the Twilight series all day, and its affect on her, she began to wonder about all the youth and young adults reading the books and how the story influences them. Our conversation went something like this:

“Kari, I’m calling you because I’m wondering where you draw the line as an LDS writer. I mean, don’t you think there are some youth out there who are going to take this vampire thing way out of line and get involved in really weird stuff?”

“Hmmm…yes. As a matter of fact, Stephenie mentioned that she has had some fans form some very dark groups based on her stories….but it is the exception.”

“So what do you do?”

“That’s a very good question. I think every writer asks her self that very question every time she sits down to write. I know we discuss it in ANWA regularly.”

The rest of our conversation centered on the things we enjoy about Twilight. The story is compelling and the characters are well developed. We both confessed to falling in love with Edward, despite that fact that we are middle-aged moms and most of our children are older than 17. I love knowing that I can hand my teens a book and know that it is free from graphic language and sex. Yes, there is violence in the book. The story is intense. But I think I felt the tension more because I really cared about the characters. Yes, vampires are a little weird, but so are many of the characters in Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia.

This morning I decided to focus my gospel study on the question of writing and the responsibility that goes with it. The fact that an 2 full columns in the Topical Guide are filled with references for Write, Written, and Writing, told me that it is important.

2 Nephi 25:23 teaches us to “…labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God;” Does that mean we write only about happy things? I don’t think so. The scriptures are full of violent, horrible events. But the stories are told with a purpose…to teach and to testify.

3 Nephi 27:25, 26 says, “For behold, out of the books which have been written, and which shall be written, shall this people be judged, for by them shall their works be known unto men. And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged.”

Another reference sent me to the Bible dictionary. Here is part of what it says:

“…Adam and the early patriarchs had a perfect language that was both spoken and written…This was an important intellectual ability of the people of God, and was given by inspiration. However, among nonbelievers it appears that there was an intellectual retrogression, so that many peoples subsequently have been without the blessings of a highly cultured spoken and written language. There has been a gradual renaissance in literary things, but nothing yet has equaled the pure and undefiled language of Adam. The promise is, however, that perfection in language and writing will return in the future with the full establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth.”

We’ve been counseled to always teach with the Spirit. Isn’t teaching what we are doing when we write? What does “pure and undefiled” mean? I now know that whatever I write, I must study, ponder, pray and write the words with the Spirit on my heart before I write the words with ink on paper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Eve and the Modern Woman

by Anna Arnett

I belong to a book club in El Dorado ward. We’ve only been at it for a few months, but covered quite a broad variety: Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice", Nancy Young’s "These Is My Words", Alexander McCall Smith’s "The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency", M. M. Kaye’s "The Far Pavilions", and now Beverly Campbell’s "Eve and the Choice Made in Eden", the first that's non-fiction. Each one very different, but highly enjoyable. I'd recommend them to all.

We meet again tomorrow evening, and I’m so far only slightly over half way through, but this month’s choice is very thought provoking. Sister Campbell started off to write a book about current challenges for women. She ended up writing only about Eve, the Mother of All Living. When we understand Eve, she decided, everything else falls into place. If we really know Eve, we see women for their amazing value, gallantly fulfilling the measure of their creation.

Perhaps it really is the misconceptions about Eve that have excused men in many cultures who negate the value of women. It was, after all, Eve who brought all the sorrow and troubles to man. She thought only of herself, it is claimed, and ruined it for everyone else. And her daughters are no better. In many cultures, girl babies are considered worthless, while a son is prized. Women and girls are often considered merely chatel.

But Eve was not the villain. We know her as the most valiant of women, who grasped the vision of mortality--of childbearing--of unlimited agency--of the atonement to come. She dared, but Adam also saw and agreed. She left an amazing legacy to her daughtrs--us!

For the most part, I found myself merely nodding. That’s the way I’ve always pictured it. There are, so far, a few details I’d not considered, but the main picture is about what I’d accepted from my earliest feelings and later ponderings.

My parents did things together. My dad honored and esteemed my mother, just as she did him. My husband’s parents, likewise, were equal partners, and I married a man who has always treated me with consideration and sometimes, I think, even a little awe. He’s wonderful.

I also realize that all families—even those who have been enlightened—do not place women equally with men. Sometimes we’re put on pedestals far higher, but far too often men dominate—or at least try to--with from sad to disastrous results.

Back in the seventies, when women’s rights were hotly debated, I pondered a lot about it. I was still taking evening classes, and discussed it with classmates. All those I personally talked with who were avidly pushing women’ rights had been abused or molested by a man. I could hardly blame them. I have no idea how I would act if I had to walk in the shoes and accept the abuse I often hear about, but have never experienced. So, amid my pondering, I wrote a poem I call “Just a Woman. I feel like sharing it now.

JUST A WOMAN

"I'm just a woman," cried a lonely one,
"Can I compete with men in this world of strife?
What have I to offer? How can I obtain the height
My soul longs for when frustration fills my life?”
To her the spirit whispereth, "My daughter, lift your head,
For you are very precious unto me.
The rosebush was not meant to be a tree—nor you a man—
But each has a special place, now and throughout eternity.”
To be a woman is a special gift,
For women have a softening effect on men.
'Tis they inspire culture, bring refinement to the land,
And help make the earth a garden once again.

'Twas just a woman who in Eden's bliss,
Still hungered after knowledge and a better life.
So when the tempter promised her there was no other way,
She partook the fruit, thus introducing strife.
Was Eve forever afterward regretful of her choice?
No! She rejoiced in overcoming trials.
And ever since, her gallant daughters, filled with courage strong,
Pass through sorrows armed with fortitude—and Mona Lisa smiles!
When God made women, 'twas a special gift.
Though sometimes they seem frivolous, bejeweled and curled,
Yet they‘re the wives and mothers upon whom mankind depends,
For those who rear the children lead the world.

'Twas just a woman who in Bethlehem,
Once held a tiny baby to her loving breast;
While angels sang with glory, shepherds bowed, and Magi came,
And through Mary's Son the whole wide world was blessed.
Was Mary's life made easy after having given birth?
Was rearing Christ the Lord a simple chore?
Were Mary's thoughts and attitudes reflected in her Son?
Did she feel a deep responsibility through trials sore?
To be a mother is a special gift.
It’s challenging, and frightening, delightful, too,
Especially in a partnership where love and trust abound,
And I’m glad that I’m a woman—aren’t you?

~Anna Laurene Arnett

Monday, August 13, 2007

4:20 AM: A Meditation on Writing

by Rene Allen

It’s 4:20 A.M and all I see in the window of this room where I write is a faint reflection of book-filled shelves and an open doorway. Darkness outside foils the dim light cast by a single lamp so there is meager penetration of the night. Yet, in an hour’s time the sky will change from black to dove gray, then the palest yellow and finally blue. Through this same window will be a familiar vista of cerulean sky, a eucalyptus tree exuberant in new growth from the monsoons, and festive Mexican Birds of Paradise richly blooming in orange, red and yellow.

But I am on the inside where there is light. I am contained in this room that through the years has been like a sanctuary. Almost in this early hour surrounded by darkness, do I feel like an oyster snug in her shell with the vastness of an ocean outside her bivalve door. This room where I write is a place of safety, of transition and change, a place of peace. It is where time slows to a trickle and thoughts meander with the insouciance of a meadow creek. Night becomes a kind of protection, like a shell or blanket and I on the inside, am illuminated and thoughtful.

Yet, were a person to stand only a hundred yards away outside in the dark, the dim light visible through the window might become for him both beacon and destination. There is this paradox about light and dark, that when it surrounds you, you are blind to the darkness. In the dark, however, even a small light shines with such brilliance it offers hope, focus and direction.

It is this way with writing, that at the beginning when the page stares blankly and you madly sift through and reject all sorts of possibilities, you are in the dark about what lies ahead except for a tiny flare of truth, a thought or mental picture or idea that becomes a magical, alluring bead of light bringing direction and a sense of destination.

Likewise it is fortuitous for a writer who is writing to be blinded, figuratively, to daytime distractions, the pulls and pushes of getting places and arranging schedules and looking out for family. She requires an interior place where she can go with a window through which she views the external, a door to open and close, and the lovely hush of her own exquisite thoughts.

Ah, now, the inevitable has happened. To the east, there is a sunrise. Through my window, I see tinges of light pushing at the darkness and making it go away. Soon, I will see a single white-wing dove on a solitary eucalyptus branch and perhaps, this afternoon those magnificent cumulus clouds that congeal over the mountains and bring rain. In a few minutes, sunlight will pour into this room and I will turn off the lamp.

It is these cycles of light and dark, of inside and out, of blind and visionary that fuel the writer’s soul.

Well, there it is, the sun is fully up now and I offer you this enlightenment—a meditation on writing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Should be a Reverent Writer

by Marsha Ward

I'm giving the Relief Society lesson today, filling in for the teacher, whose mother died this week. The title is "We Should be a Reverent People." As I pondered this subject, preparing to introduce it to the sisters in my branch, I wondered what kind of example I set?

Personally, I hope I'm doing okay. Professionally, I have some questions about how to remain reverent and still write my characters so that they are true-to-life.
  • When I'm writing about a profane and no-good character, do I use his language?
  • Can he refer to other characters in coarse terms?
  • Do I allow him to swear and take the Lord's name in vain?
  • How many times can a character under duress cry out to God before it becomes a vain repetition?
  • Is even considering using the name of God in a novel an indication that I've sunk into an irredeemable pit?
I still don't have good answers. I hope you'll help me with your comments.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Random Thoughts, Random Humor

Valerie J. Steimle

My family (husband and children) have always appreciated random humor. We laugh the hardest when a movie we are watching has completely random scenes. For example, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe is completely random. Some of the ideas and storyline are so unrelated to each other it’s funny. The writings of Jack Handy are very random and very funny. Sometimes I think it would be funny if I had a button to push like the Staples Office Store "That was Easy" button so when I hear random things I can push the button and it would say: "That was random."

I was in a funny mood last week and asked my children for random thoughts and this is what they came up with:

1. I think penguins should do people's laundry. That way if it gets messed up, you can't be mad. I mean come on, it's a penguin.

2. And it would be great if when you were upset, a magic waiter/waitress showed up with a sirloin stake and offered it in French with a French accent. Then you would eat it with gusto while you listened to the waiter/waitress speaking to you in French.

3. Sometimes when I sit outside on the front porch, I think to myself, What can I do to make life more fun?” This time when I did that, I saw a cow crossing the road and I grabbed some grass from my lawn and tried to feed it to the cow. Then I jumped on top to ride it and it ran away.

Now that was random.

If you’ve ever played the “story writing game” with a group of friends, you know what random is. The idea is to start with the first line of a story written on a paper. Then the next person adds a line to the story, folds the paper down and passes it on. That person sees the last line and adds his own line, folds it down and passes it on until the whole group has the chance to write a line to the story. The stories come out so funny because the lines are random and some how make the story funny. Here is an example from a singles' party I went to:

There once was a dwarf, who lived at the beach,
who loved to build toy houses for his dog.
His calico cat was jealous and pondered,
Gee, that was sad seeing tears,
rolling down their faces, messing up their makeup.
“We look like drunken mines” she thought.
“I had better put on my grease paint before the authorities come.”
And she disguised herself as ghost.

Now that story was really random because the people passing the paper around only saw the last line and then started writing. They had no idea what was written before. And when in the right mood, they can be very funny.

So random writing is good if you have the right combination on paper and right kind of people reading it. It's not so good if you don't understand what random is and your sense of humor is different. That was random.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Writing A Book-In-A-Week? Are You Insane?!?

by Heather Horrocks

I’m in the middle of a BIAW (book-in-a-week) challenge and am now stopping to write this blog. I’m not going to count my blog word count, because it’s not part of my latest book. (Darnit.)

I love BIAW challenges as they are a time to put aside the editor and just let my creator run free. Of course, I’m writing from a detailed outline that my creator had a few days to work on and then my editor fixed for several weeks. So now it’s time for my creative side to play on the pages again and not let my internal editor (the witch!) anywhere near the computer.

In my second BIAW, I actually wrote an entire novel in four days. I finished another novel in the first two days, and then wanted to sit back and say, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ But I had another novel completely plotted (though it was before my detailed outline days) and thought, ‘What the heck. I’ll give it a whirl.’

It was the most exhilarating week of my life! I was working full time and so my writing day began after dinner, usually after the kids were in bed, and continued well into the night. (I can’t do that any more. Now I have to work during the day because my body actually demands that I sleep at night these days, if you can believe that. Lucky for me, I no longer have the day job to juggle so I can actually do it.)

I ran up against my Impossibility Barrier that week. I’d written 40 pages a day for the first two days, finishing up the first book, and decided I could write 40 pages a day for the next four days and I would aim to finish the second book, which is now titled Opening Night Jitters at the WhoDunHim Inn. So I wrote 40 pages of what was then known as Snowed Inn the third day. The fourth day, I wrote about 20 pages and realized that all of my characters were wooden and stilted and cardboard carry-ons. The dialogue sucked big time. Everything was wrong. (What was wrong was that I’d let my editor take a look at the pages, I realize now.) And it was true. I still didn’t really know the characters as this was the first book in a new series.

And so, as my older son was watching the movie Dune in the other half of the family room (where my computer resides), I started glancing over more and more. Finally, after only 20 pages, I walked over to the couch and watched the movie to the end. It was now about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.

And I am so thankful that, when the movie ended, there was some part of me that said, very calmly, ‘You can watch all the movies you want tonight, but you are not going to bed until you’ve written your 40 pages!

So I walked back over to the computer, nearly brain dead from sleep deprivation, and wrote my 40 pages. The dialogue still sucked, the characters still needed to have their one-dimensional cardboard selves carried on and off stage. But when I went to bed (at an obscene hour of the night, especially considering I had to get up early the next day and go to work), I had the 40 pages for the day.

And, amazingly enough, when I started writing the next night, all of a sudden the dialogue wasn’t stilted. It was actually pretty good. And the characters seemed to flesh out and become three-dimensional as I wrote. By the time I wrote 40 pages that night and 40 the next, the book was finished. (Well, at least the drecky first draft of the book was finished.)

I highly recommend that all writers attempt to write a book in a week. It’s an incredibly freeing experience.

My sister, September, has actually walked on hot coals several times (without burning her feet, I might add). And she told me that the first time she did it, and didn’t burn her feet, she realized that something she had thought was impossible was actually possible. And, if that impossible thing was possible, then what else that she considered impossible was possible.

That’s how pushing through to the end of that book in four days felt – like I’d done what I previously considered impossible.

Now I routinely write the drecky first draft in two weeks (a BI2W : ). It is possible.
Now . . . what other things I think are impossible are really possible? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.

Oh, and one funny aside. My sister September told a friend that I was doing a book-in-a-week challenge. He shot her a funny look and said, "What’s so special about that? I read a book in a week all the time." He was more impressed when he learned that I was writing a book in a week.

It took me six months to revise the book (now it takes two or three).

Next time you hit your Impossibility Barrier, push on through. The view from the other side is liberating and amazing.

You can do anything! Remember the scripture: I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Even if it seems impossible.

And this doesn’t just apply to writing.

(And if this blog is a drecky first draft instead of the more-polished version I usually give, it’s because I’m in the middle of a BIAW and I happen to be writing dreck, and doing that as fast as I can – and I want to get back to scene #29!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Let Her Know You Care

With apologies to Joyce for not posting this yesterday due to a thunderstorm (my computer goes off to save it from frying) and to Terri for pushing her post down. When you read 'tomorrow,' think 'today.' Thanks. ~Marsha

by Joyce DiPastena

Tomorrow is a special day. Two years ago, my sister and I were sealed in the temple to my parents. My mother grew up a faithful LDS member, and raised all her children in the Church. My father, however, remained Catholic to the end of his life. Yes, he listened to the missionary lessons. He even attended Sunday School briefly with my mother before I was born. He didn’t smoke. I can count on my fingers the number of times I saw him drink (never more than one beer at a time). Occasionally he indulged in a cup of coffee, but it was not something we grew up regularly with in our house. My mother “broke him” early of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and she wouldn’t let him swear, either. He was a good man, and worked hard to provide for his family. But he never fully accepted the gospel in this life.

He died in 2002, following my mother who had passed away two years before. In 2005, I flew to Salt Lake City to visit my sister. Together, we drove down to the temple at St George. And there, after waiting 47 years (my sister a little longer), she and I were sealed to our parents, with my aunt (mother’s sister) standing proxy for my mom. An unforgettable day! A day I had wept and longed for. At last, we, too, were encircled by the Lord’s promises. We, too, were an eternal family.

Yes, tomorrow is a special day. No, it is not the anniversary of our sealing to our parents. That happened in June 2005. Tomorrow, September 7th, is Sisters Day! And on the same day that I was sealed to my parents as their daughter, I became sealed to my sister, too.

Being sisters wasn’t always smooth sailing. As the “little sister”, I think I was in high school before I realized I wasn’t absolutely obligated to obey every time she or my brother commanded me to change the TV channel (before remote control) or fetch them a Kleenex. And there was that blowup about changing a light bulb in the dorm room my sister and I shared my first semester at the University of Arizona. (Suffice it to say, the first line of Proverb 15:1 doesn’t work with everyone.)

But when our high school band went on a trip to Disneyland, she spent the entire day with me there. A big, important high school senior, unashamed to be seen with her freshman sister! That meant the world to me. As did all the other times she included me, when she could easily have told me to quit bugging her and her friends…but she didn’t.

Today, she is more than my best friend. She is truly my Forever Sister. How grateful I am for a priesthood power that gives me an opportunity, not only to keep my parents for eternity, but to continue to enjoy my sister’s love and companionship, as well.

Yes, tomorrow is a special day. Even as Marsha is kind enough to post this for me, I am in Salt Lake City, once again visiting my sister. Appropriately enough, this year we will be sharing Sister’s Day together. Perhaps we will go see the new Harry Potter movie. Or maybe I’ll introduce her to the Ikea in Draper, Utah. Maybe she’ll help me buy some new shoes. Or we may go back to the Rodizio Grill and enjoy some more of those mouth watering skewers bearing sirloin steak and glazed pineapple.

Do you have a sister? If so, let her know you love her this Sisters Day!

Doctrine Vs Practice

The correct way to do something versus the artistic way to do something comes up a lot even in the trade publication I work for (see you aren’t supposed to end your sentences this way). And it often causes a great deal of grief. I realize fussing over journalistic speak and proper English speak is not going to affect (or is that effect) the fate of the free world, but it can cause bad feelings between coworkers. So someone with the proper authority (usually the publisher) has to decide the way it goes.

I thought of this when I had a funny missionary moment recently at a single’s (or is that singles’) event. I took a nonmember friend to a game night. One of the games was a funny version of musical chairs. Using temple garments was hysterical to me because although my friend had a vague idea of what that was, she really had no concept of what it meant, nor of course did she have any. I think on a personal note I wouldn’t have used that in the game anyway. But I digress (as writers so often do). At some point in the evening, we split up into groups by numbering off. We got a duo of iron rodders (hope you get the reference). Ultimately, they made the game miserable by following the rules to the extent that it really wasn’t any fun. Even funnier to me was at the end as we were walking out, she asked why we had a picture with two gods in it. I was a bit puzzled until she showed me the first vision. I reminded her that we believe Jesus and Heavenly Father to be separate personages. She looked at me and blurted out "But clones?" I had to laugh. I said well that's how that artist protrays them. I don't actually know since I haven't had the privilege of "seeing" either one of them.

Which brings me (I hope) to my point today. Balance! We see so little of that today. Some things are doctrine in the writing world and in each specific genre. Like subject/verb agreement, but much is left to practice. I’m reading Jesus the Christ (again) since we are studying the New Testament. The way he wrote (well, that’s discluding [see I made up a word] the words he uses I have to reference in the dictionary) is too flowery for me. He uses six words, whereas today we might use two. But Talmadge’s doctrine is on target, his practice is decidedly different from today’s.

Which is more important? On surface, one would immediately say doctrine. And that would be a true statement sort of. Because what do you determine to be doctrine? And who decides that? Something to consider in our writing.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Liz's Moaning Meme

Donna tagged me for the Moaning Meme Game. This was a difficult assignment. It’s very hard to hear one’s own moans; they’re like white noise, so constant that they’re a part of the landscape—Liz Adair

The Moaning Meme

5 People who will be annoyed you tagged them:


Karen Beals

Connie Wolfe

Becky Rohner

Joan Sowards

Melinda Sanchez



4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth.
1.Credit card offers that come in the mail

2.Pornography

3.Hamburgers without mustard.

4. Clear plastic packaging—the kind they should use at Ft. Knox because it’s impossible to open without drilling and blasting

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently.
1.Using ‘s to denote plural

2.Emergency room people not making eye contact

3.Having the idea that pots of money gives them more worth than someone of more modest means

2 things you find yourself moaning about.
1.My fat cells.

2. How I can’t do the 3 jillion things I used to every day. I’m down to about 1.5 jillion.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself.
1. I lump trivial in with serious

Rules:
Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it's all about!
Be as honest as possible, This is about letting people get to know the real you!
Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
Post these rules at the end of every meme!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Classes and Soirees

by Donna Hatch

I just got back from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference in Dallas. I had a fabulous time. The classes were great, my editor appointment was productive (she asked for the manuscript of my fantasy) and I met some of the nicest people ever. I laughed, I cried, and I came home with a renewed sense of purpose in my writing. I even think I understand the male mind a little better now. And hey, 5 days without having to cook, clean, do laundry or dishes or break up quarrels between children, hasn't been too shabby, either. And that's the first time in years that I've worn a formal gown.

One of the highlights of the RWA conference was the Beau Monde Conference which is an online chapter of RWA specifically for writers of the Georgian and Regency Era. It was held at the same place a day before the other conference began. All the classes were specifically about those time periods such as clothing, servants, etc and were all very helpful. Even though I’ve spent the better part of two years researching the Regency time, I still have much to learn.

My favorite part of the Beau Monde Conference was the soiree, which is a party often including dancing. If you read Regencies, you’ll come across that word frequently. Many of us came in Regency costume and there were some beautiful gowns.

A dance master was there, teaching us about English Regency Country dances. If you’ve ever danced the Virginia Reel, you’ll have an idea of how they are done. I’d expected to just be dancing with the other women, but two came dressed as men in traditional costumes, but the dance master (actually it was a female, so I guess she’d be a dance mistress?) brought with her 10 or 12 men from a local English Country Dancing club. Who’d have thought there’d be such a thing? The men already knew the dances and were very good about making sure everyone who wanted to dance had a chance.

I felt like a princess in my long gown with a train and my hair all done up. As soon as I get my website up and going, I’ll post a picture of it.

The last dance of the night was a waltz. I love to waltz!

I turned to my friend and said, “If I stand by the dance floor and looked pathetic, do you think someone would dance with me?”

She said “Probably. Let’s go. I’ll go with you.”

So I jumped up from my chocolate (yes, I’d rather dance than eat chocolate, go figure), put on my long gloves and went to stand by the dance floor. But it looked like all the men were already on the floor with a partner. On the far side on the floor, one of the men sat at a table eating dessert, so I figured I wasn’t going to waltz after all.

Then my friend nudged me and said, “He’s getting up from the table. He’s coming this way. Ooh, he’s heading right for you!”

It was all very high school. And why she thought he was coming for me when she stood right next to me and could easily have been his intended partner, I’ll never know. But she was right. He did indeed ask me to dance.

It was a little strange to waltz with someone other than my husband, but it was really fun. The men were all very gracious and made it great for all of us. I don’t in any way mean to diminish the amount of knowledge I gained in the RWA classes. I’ll talk more about some of the classes I took in later posts.

Coming back to reality was hard, but it's good to be with my family. I came home to an individually hand-colored welcome banner on the garage door and a lattice of paper streamers and balloons in the entry way.

I feel so fortunate to live in a time when such wonderful information is accessible, and there are so many supportive authors wiling to share their experience and knowledge.

Now I need to get back to my revisions on The Stranger She Married and send them on to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. We're talking about making this a four book deal, so we're tweaking the story just a bit. Off to work!

TTFN

~
Donna
Believe in Happy Endings

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Time: A Precious Commodity

By Kari Diane Pike

It’s one of those “I need a vacation from my vacation” days, but I still have a house full of company and many more things I want to do with my children and grandchildren before they all return home or go back to school. Time has become a precious commodity and I have enjoyed spending every minute of it!

I spent some time trying to communicate with my aging father-in-law. He is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Most of the time he just wanders about, as if he’s looking for something, but isn’t sure what it is he’s looking for. His speech is usually unintelligible, and he hasn’t eaten solid foods for a couple of weeks now. The doctor has issued orders for Hospice to step in and assist my mother-in-law in caring for her beloved companion. Yet, even as bad as he is, he has moments when he can remember. Mom found him standing in front of their pictures on the wall; a much younger couple with a tribe of young children around them.

He pointed at the picture, tears coursing down his cheeks, and clearly said,

“I miss her.”

Mom just hugged him and said, “She’s still here. She’s just old and gray.”

I spent time with my children and grandchildren on the beach. There were nearly sixty people at the reunion and 22 of them belonged to me! When our four-year-old granddaughter wandered off, I wanted to stop time in its tracks. I wanted everything and everyone in the entire world to freeze instantly so that we could find Audrey and know that she was safe. My heart was filled with fear and panic as I frantically searched up and down the beach for her blonde braided pigtails looped like “Websie ears” and her little blue swimsuit with purple butterflies. I quickly realized that panic and fear not only prevented me from seeing with my physical eyes, but my spiritual eyes and ears could not function well either. Finally, the Spirit pressed hard enough that I felt my mind fill with the knowledge that it was time to stop being afraid and start listening to the direction that was waiting for me. I prayed for forgiveness and that much needed direction.

The next thought to come to my mind was to go to the Life Guard Station. I took a step forward then thought, “No, it’s only been a couple of minutes. I don’t need to bother the life guards yet.” But when I turned to walk in the opposite direction I again had the thought to go to the Life Guard Station. The third time the thought came to me, I started running in the direction of the station. My six and a half foot son joined me. I told him where I was going. He nodded and looked towards the tower. Then he smiled and pointed at a little girl curled up in the director’s chair normally occupied by the life guard.

“Is that her?”

My feet flew across the deep, soft sand. When we reached the tower, I grabbed Audrey up and hugged her to me tightly, burying my face in the sandy fold of her neck, taking in the sunscreen scent of her skin and letting the salt of my tears mix with the salty residue of the beach. The warmth of her skin melted the last icy shards of fear left in my heart. I sent humble prayers of gratitude for the watchful care and patience we received.

I spent time doing things I have never done before. Instead of wading in the ocean, I gave up my fear and walked neck deep into the water. I swam in the surf, letting the waves wash over me. I even learned how to boogie board! What a rush to feel the power of the water lift and push you to shore. I didn’t get on the surf board yet, but there’s always next year!

I spent time making memories. At the San Diego Zoo, I ate insects with my grandkids. I even have pictures to prove it. We placed the little critters on our tongues and before we chewed, we stuck them out for the entire world to see. The bugs reminded me of the outside of a soggy sunflower seed. Not very sweet, but memorable indeed.

Now I choose to step further outside my comfort zone. I am ready to release the fear of not being good enough and put more of myself into my writing and teaching. Time is the stuff life is made of and I intend to make the most of it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Havasupai, part of the Grand Canyon

For those who worried about me hiking ‘The Grand Canyon,” I did as my kids planned, and I survived. Actually, I came home feeling exhilarated, invigorated, and much younger. Of course. that high didn’t last forever. All the stress of having a fantastic time on three separate ‘vacations’ all in July (with a week to spare on each end) seemed to bequeath me a nose that yesterday and today drips with the annoyingly consistent frequency of a faucet leaking into a stoppered sink. But this, too, will pass so don’t worry. It gives me the joy of having something to complain about.

After I lay in bed at the ANWA retreat, talked with Joan, my second cousin three times removed, until well after three o'clock Saturday morning, slept until six, took a short hike with Liz Adair, joined in a long conference with the very oldest woman at the retreat, taught a class and finally critiqued all the way home with Lorna, Liz and Kay, I was almost tired and sleepy enough to want to back out on the Havasupai hike, but my kids wouldn’t hear of it. (Wow! Would you like to count words and diagram that sentence?)

“Mom, we’re only doing this for you. You’ve got to come!” they said. So I did.

Three of us ladies went down to Supai Village by helicopter. Sixteen more of my family (in age between six and pushing sixty) hiked it. It took us ten minutes, while they hiked maybe five hours. Though I stayed in an air conditioned lodge about like the hotel room we had in Colorado City, the rest hiked on down to the camp grounds and endured a gentle but steady three hour rain on many of them who slept ‘under the stars’ rather than to have added a tent to their back pack.

I found Supai to be a village full of
friendly people, friendly dogs, and tired mules and horses. Havasupai Canyon feeds into the Grand Canyon of the Colorado farther downstream from the National Park. This canyon is part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation that also includes Peach Springs. The cliffs are high and interesting, with lots of color, but neither as wide or as colorful as those in the Park.

The village fascinated me. There are maybe two or three four-wheelers, and at least one front-loading tractor, but mostly everybody walks a slow, ‘Havasupai Shuffle.’ In the village there is a medical clinic, a school, and a ‘head start’ school with a playground that’s off limits during the summer. The one restaurant had lots of tables, inside and out, and featured fry bread and other fast-food items. The two stores sold mostly convenience foods, including ice cream and cold drinks. There’s a small museum, a civic center and a couple of churches, but that’s all the public buildings I identified.

The pathways are deeply sandy, and the children are fascinating. Mostly shy, both young and old warm up to smiles and greetings.

Sannette (about seven years younger than I) hiked the two miles plus down to the camp ground on Tuesday. The sky was overcast and a cool breeze kept the heat from bothering us. I hiked considerably slower than Sannette, who is not only my son’s mother-in-law, but my second cousin two or three times removed. It undoubtedly must have annoyed her to have to wait for me, but she was kind.

We swam for perhaps half an hour in the cold water beneath beautiful Havasu Falls, and I loved posing for the dozens of pictures my amazed family took. None of them expected me to do nearly as well as I did.

We hiked on down to the campground for lunch (all of which they had back-packed down). My kids point blank refused to let me consider going on to Mooney Falls, so after resting in a hammock (Wayne taught me how to lie down without falling out, but I still didn’t dare doze off) we got ready to start back.

It might have been the irritation of having to wait so often for me, or maybe because she likes horses, but Sannette rode horseback to the village that afternoon. I elected to hike, and I believe I hiked back a bit faster than I went down. Just my oldest son accompanied me back, and he held my hand most of the way; a poignant reminder of when I held his most of his preschool years.

I did not wear a pedometer, but I estimate I hiked somewhere between five and six miles on Tuesday, and strolled a mile or two on each of the other days. I would like to have done better. Maybe next time I will.

Coming out of Havasupai on Thursday, I rode in the front seat of the helicopter, which is immensely better than behind. The view is almost unimpeded, and I felt rather like an eagle soaring above the canyon walls. That could get addictive.

I got home on Thursday evening, in plenty of time to rest up for the baptism Saturday morning of the great-grandson who, like a real trooper, had joined his grandparents for the grand canyon hike. Pretty neat.

I think next time I'll try the Bright Angel Trail.