Nov 30, 2008

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

by Marsha Ward

Coming into the Christmas season, I know there is nothing more important to do in December than rejoice over the greatest event mankind has ever seen: the birth of the Savior of the World. His Birth, Life, Ministry, Sacrifice, and Atonement are eternal blessings in our lives. Everything else is incidental to those events and accomplishments.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy, but he also wants us to be tested and tried through a mortal existence. Many years ago I realized the unique confluence of happiness and adversity when we had a trial returning home from a camping trip. We descended a narrow hillside highway complete with hairpin turns and no shoulders, and I felt that all was not right. We seemed to be weaving all over the road. I knew my husband was a good driver and was sufficiently rested, so the problem wasn't in his driving skills. Something wasn't right with our large vehicle. I think the imprint of my fingers must still be in the armrest to this day.

When we finally reached the valley at the end of the downgrade, one of our tires exploded. My husband carefully guided our truck to the side of the road—to the first shoulder area that we had seen since we began the descent. He and the boys changed the tire after we had a prayer of thanksgiving for our safety.

All of you have heard similar accounts, or experienced similar insights into blessings yourselves.

As I’ve pondered on blessings during November, it has occurred to me that my writer friends are great blessings to me and to the world. As members of American Night Writers Association, we share a common framework of faith. As writers, we share a love of words and the talents to use them.

Our works range from emotionally soothing to informational to fantastically adventurous to comforting to romantically satisfying. We create intriguing new worlds, have our characters climb into wagon seats to cross a continent, and teach parents how to raise their children. We—in our writing—imitate our Savior in bringing “Glad Tidings of Great Joy” into the world.

What a great blessing to share!

Nov 29, 2008

Seasons and Reasons for Thanksgiving.

At Thanksgiving time we have the opportunity to reflect on everything we are grateful for in the past and present. This year I have some new items I am thankful for along with standbys that I will always appreciate.
I am so glad to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am buoyed up by the teachings in my youth from parents, primary, young women, Sunday school teachers, seminary and institute. The knowledge gained then has supported me through trials in my adulthood. My testimony that Jesus Christ is my Savior and loves me comforts me and gives me peace.
I am very thankful for my family. I have two wonderful children who are educated, caring and responsible adults. I have a super daughter-in-law and three beautiful and talented granddaughters.
I am fortunate enough to still have my mother living. This year she has been close by while serving her fourth mission. I have been able to spend more time visiting with her and learning from her excellent example of dedicated service. Her enduring love of my father and the gospel’s reassurance of eternal families bring her hope.
I am very grateful that I am a citizen a country where very divergent views are allowed to be expressed, we are free to live our religion, and basic human rights are respected. This year’s election brought our more political activity than we’ve seen in a long time and gave us all opportunity to examine our values and those of our candidates and of the issues on the ballot.
I appreciate now what at the time I thought was awful. When I sold my home due to illness and inability to make the mortgage payments I was very sad. Now I see that the Lord was looking out for my future needs. I am in a comfortable and affordable home during this time of economic instability. I have a wonderful job that allows me to work from home – using skills I acquired during more than thirty years of nursing – a noble career and profession I love. The people I work with are wonderful, wise and caring. We have great team spirit and the corporation is stable when others are not. I am truly blessed to be able to earn a decent wage and not be dependant on others.
My writing has improved and expanded under tutelage of excellent teachers this year. I feel honored to be able to share with other writers with similar values and goals. The assistance we render one another is invaluable.
My health is improving, slowly but surely, one step at a time. I am delighted to have found caring physicians, and other helpful health practitioners that have assisted my return to productivity. Good health is so important – yet undervalued until it is lost. In spite of the pain and stress I’ve faced on a daily basis I can honestly say it has been a good learning experience. Because of my experiences I have more compassion and understanding for the patients I deal with and other acquaintances.
So as this year closes, I have reason to believe that it has been one of my best. Lots of love and learning has happened. There is a bright future ahead. I gratefully bow my head and humbly praise our Lord and Creator for his magnificent gifts to me and my family in this season of Thanksgiving.

Nov 28, 2008

Family Traditions

by Rebecca Talley

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, we pull out all of our Christmas decorations, put on the Christmas tunes, and decorate our house for Christmas.

We used to trudge through the forest searching for that one, perfect tree—you know, with the light shining down from heaven and a chorus of angels singing. On two different occasions, I had newborns that I carried in a front pack as we hiked through the trees seeking the one that would have the honor of adorning our living room for the season. Year after year, we cut down our own tree despite the snow, rain, or complaints from small children that their legs were going to fall off.

Searching for the tree was usually so exhausting and took so long that some years we had to postpone the decorating until the next day. And, too many times to count, we reminded ourselves during the drive home that we had a tree on top of the vehicle and we should not drive into the garage. Yet, time after time, we’d forget and drive into the garage, wedging the tree between the top of the vehicle and the garage door. That became one of our traditions.

Unfortunately, a beetle infestation combined with several years of drought killed the majority of pinion trees in our area. We then decided we’d—gasp—buy an artificial tree in an effort to leave the live trees intact and allow for new tree growth. We may go back to cutting down our own tree when the forest has had a chance to regenerate itself, but by then it may be too difficult to maneuver our wheelchairs and canes through the forest.

Our family tradition of decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving has become an important part of our family’s memories and the kids look forward to it each year. My son, who recently returned home from his mission, has nicknamed the day, “The Talley Family Christmas Halapalooza.” He’s said many times how much he missed this tradition while he was away in Italy.

Traditions are an important part of our families. Kids look forward to traditions and see them as a constant in their ever-changing lives. No matter what, my kids know that instead of shopping on Black Friday, we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree, sipping hot chocolate, and watching, “Christmas Vacation.”
Of course, other traditions are even more important. Family scripture study, family home evening, and family prayer are all traditions that will not only strengthen our family here and now, they will bind us together for eternity.

When we were first married, we instituted a tradition of reading our scriptures together, reciting an Article of Faith, singing a hymn (usually a Primary song), and then saying our family prayer. It’s become such an integral part of our family that our kids won’t allow us to skip any part of it, even if it means we’re doing it at midnight.

Traditions that are grounded in the gospel will unite our families and draw us closer together. It’s never too late to start a family tradition.

Nov 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Perspective

by Stephanie Abney

The task of writing a blog for Thanksgiving Day is rather daunting. There is so much to be thankful for, even in these difficult times. I’ve seen countless people step up to help those who have been hard hit by the financial downslide our country is experiencing and it touches my heart. In my own life the Lord has so richly blessed me with a wonderful heritage, a loving husband and sweet, dear children and grandchildren and His eternal plan of happiness. There are the blessings of friends, a great ward and a close and comfortable neighborhood. My husband and I both have good and meaningful jobs. The list goes on and on so I thought I would share a couple of things that have happened lately that I am grateful for.

Last Sunday our RS president gave a wonderful lesson and shared some Thanksgiving traditions in their family. One was a featherless (magnetic) turkey that hung on their fridge and the colorful (magnetic) feathers that they added as each one expressed something they were thankful for. Then she put the turkey up on the white board and said the sisters could come up and say something they were thankful for and she would add a feather to the turkey. We got many of the typical (albeit marvelous) blessings that people say about family, friends, home, church, etc. and I threw in my gratitude for the electronic advancements of the computer and Internet which allows me to keep in touch instantly with dear friends and family members via email and blogs.

Then a sweet sister came up. I have known and loved her mother for nearly 30 years (quite the mentor ~ fabulous scripturian with such insight) and this daughter has been the source of considerable heartache for her over the years although I never knew any details. Then one day, about a year ago, the daughter started coming to church with her mom and even coming when her mom (who is getting on in years) couldn’t make it. She has the same clear understanding of the scriptures as her mother and I always enjoy her comments. I’ve tried to speak to her each week and tell her how nice it is to see her. She stood at the front of the room and in tears said how thankful she was for forgiveness and the atonement allowing someone like her to come back to church after 25 years and feel so welcome. That pretty much says it all… what greater gift could we have gotten from our Father, than the opportunity to come back into His presence even if we have gotten off the path from time to time. I’m also thankful for this sweet blessing.

The other thing that I keep remembering is the gift of “perspective.” I was going to use this experience for its own blog but I think it goes here quite nicely. It is so easy to see why only the Lord can judge because only He has the proper and complete perspective of what is REALLY going on in someone’s life. Case in point: I went to the Desert Rose RWA writer’s conference a couple of Saturdays ago and in the second break-out group I attended I could hear this very annoying tapping coming from the row behind me. I quickly glanced over my shoulder and spotted the woman tapping. When I saw the source of the noise, my feelings about it changed instantly. In fact, as the class went on and I heard the tapping, it made me smile and brought me such a peaceful, comforting feeling. There were two women on the front row, directly in front of her (but she was several rows behind them) and when they tried to turn around to see the source of this annoying tapping, they could not see her at all. I watched them as they whispered back and forth to each other, wondering how anyone could be so rude and they were so distracted by it that I doubt if they got much out of the session.

Why did the tapping cease to bother me? Because when I looked over my shoulder I saw that the woman was blind and she had a brail slate and stylus and was taking notes. That tiny revelation changed my feelings about the noise instantly. I was very thankful that I was able to see her and I truly found the sound of this sweet blind daughter of God taking notes along with the rest of us to be very touching.

I think perspective is a blessing that we should remember throughout our lives. We have no idea why someone does what they do, what brought them to that point or what their life experiences have been giving them their particular perspective and motivation so how can we ever completely understand their actions? What we can do, is completely love them as the Lord loves us. So, I leave you my dear friends with the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless Us, Every One!” AND HE DOES!!!!!

Nov 25, 2008

Plagiarism Raises Its Ugly Head

by Terri Wagner

Working off original material and editing it to fit our magazine’s style often puts us in an uncomfortable position regarding authorship. For the most part, in our column sections, we simply rework the material and have no bylines. In our feature articles, it’s more difficult to decide when to have a staff byline.

For example, if someone sends us material that is loosely organized with photos and no byline, do we just write it up with no byline? On the other hand, if one of our staff writers took the time to organize, gather additional material, piece together a coherent story, isn’t it then their story and worthy of a byline?

We face these dilemmas daily. Recently, one of our staff people was assigned a story and put it together using his byline. The proofreader let it go by. The publisher didn’t notice it, but the editor read the story and began to question the writing. It seems the staff writer lifted complete sentences from the technical part of the original material which featured a byline and bio in an obscure place. So the staff writer missed this important information, the proofer missed this critical material and the editor spotted it right away.

He used the ugly word plagiarism, not an intentional use, but definitely a use. In fiction, it’s harder because after all, there is little new under the sun; but in technical circles, it can actually be more difficult. If you change the wording a bit, you may change the meaning.

For example, “He stepped into a bare lift” is much different from “Stepping into the area, made you feel you were stepping into a bare lift.” Fortunately, this was caught early by the editor and hasn’t been published.

Still, plagiarism is an ugly, scary word for a writer.

Nov 24, 2008

Christmas Story Contest

passed on by Joyce DiPastena

Christmas Graphics

Does everyone know about the 2008 Christmas Story Contest currently in swing on the LDS Publisher blog? Short Christmas stories in any genre are being accepted in four categories:

Readers Choice (Published authors)
Readers Choice (Unpublished authors)
Publisher’s Choice (Published authors)
Publisher’s Choice (Unpublished authors)

Word length is 2000 words or less, and submissions must be sent to LDS Publisher by December 13, with voting to take place between December 14-20.

This a great opportunity to stretch our writing wings, especially for those of us who are either a little rusty in that area, those who are particularly challenged in writing short forms, and/or those who feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting a large project during this busy holiday season, but might find themselves motivated to try something “small”. (Or, like me, who meet all three criteria!) I think it would be great if ANWA was well represented by the number of submissions from our sisters. We have so much talent in our ranks! I encourage everyone to spread the word among ANWA and encourage each other to submit at least one entry. Even I am going to try, and I never enter short story contests!

The prizes are modest…think “books”…but that’s not what this contest is all about, at least for me. It’s about the experience and the challenge and the satisfaction of being able to say, “I wrote something and I submitted it, even if it was small.”

I do hope many of you will join me! You can read more details on the contest by clicking here.

Nov 23, 2008

The Law of the Cyberharvest

by Liz Adair

I have a friend who won’t cook with or eat any meat that has bones in it. To her, meat comes skinless and boneless in a Styrofoam tray, covered in plastic wrap, and she’s not interested in knowing about the journey from the feed lot to her table.

Our family, by contrast, has been intimately involved in that journey. We had a small farm—one that could be described as a hobby farm, but it wasn’t a hobby, since it provided most of our sustenance for a lot of years. We had a milk cow and raised our own chickens, beef, and pork. We had a huge garden and put up hay for the animals every summer. In doing all of that, we learned the law of the harvest.

I’ve often thought that that was the reason President Kimball asked people to plant gardens. Some people thought it was a prophetic pronouncement to help us escape the blight of preservatives. Others thought it was to prepare us for a catastrophe. But I thought it was the way to teach us hands-on about as you sow, so shall you reap and for everything there is a season: a time to sow, a time to reap.

There are a couple other lessons you learn as you live close to the earth. One is that it takes faith to plant a crop. Think about it. You’ve got this dried-up, dead looking thing that you’re going to put in a pile of dirt and then wait for a week or so before you have any evidence that anything is going to happen. It really is an object lesson in faith preceding the miracle. I never got over the wonder of seeing that straight row of green shoots pushing up out of the ground.

The other lesson is that you have to endure. You have to tend the crops. You have to feed and water the stock if you want them to thrive. You can’t harvest what you haven’t taken care of.
In the Savior’s parables, he wrote about husbandmen tending vineyards. Sometimes that’s hard for us to relate to. We’ve become such an instant-gratification society; we’re used to things happening right now. You want grape juice? You open a bottle of Welch’s. You don’t have to go to your neighbor’s vine, take a cutting, root the cutting, stick it in the ground and wait for a couple of years before it’s big enough to bear enough grapes to squeeze out a glass or two of juice.

That’s what I think about blogging. It’s easy and exciting to begin, especially if the goal is to do something good, to make a difference. But, if you have few visitors reading your blog, it’s just as easy to get discouraged and feel like you’re not accomplishing what you set out to do.

I think the law of the harvest applies to blogging, too. You’ve got to have faith. You’ve got to plant those seeds, mind the crops, keep at it, and trust that those who will profit from your blog will be led to it.

I blogged a long time ago about the missionary who taught the gospel to my Uncle Curtis and how this missionary’s efforts brought the gospel to my family and to people in Germany, Hong Kong, Bolivia and the Southern United States. He was seventy years old before he found out that his labors produced any fruit.

Something like that may happen to us, too. I think we need to blog in faith and not spell out our expectations of the good that can come or the time frame within which it will happen. Since things on the internet are there forever, it could well happen that those seeds we plant in cyberspace in faith today could, as the hymn says, ‘grow and flourish when the sower’s hand is cold.’ Or, it could happen tomorrow.

But, it won't happen at all if we haven't planted the cyberseeds.

Nov 22, 2008

The Oxford Comma

By Christine Thackeray

Okay, I totally know I'm obsessed with writing right now. Let's accept it and move on. Next week I've got ten people coming to my house for Thanksgiving, and I haven't scrubbed a toilet in weeks. I could tell it was really bad yesterday, when I went to the temple and everytime I closed my eyes, I saw words. I was literally reading my dreams.

The reason for this obsession is that a wonderful friend of mine, Wendy Jones, did an incredible line edit job on my last manuscript. As a result, I went back through the entire thing, deleting two whole chapters and reviewing every comma.

There were some grammatical errors that simply are against my nature. I don't want to put a period after action, when it leads to dialogue, because they seem connected in my mind. As a result, although I know the rule- I don't often follow it and have to edit out my stubbornness.

But there was one error that I did not agree with. It is the dreaded Oxford Comma. I was educated on the east coast, and I remember clearly my grammar teacher in eighth grade. He was a stickler and publicly freaked out everytime he saw the smallest error in our writing. One thing he was adamant about was NOT putting a comma before the conjunction at the end of a series. He said something to the effect, "the state of the comma/conjunction is reserved to separate full sentences. If they are only phrases, they don't deserve a comma!"

Well, when Wendy editted my manuscript, she stuck comma's in all my series. Example: A collection of brushes, applicators (,) and small containers glistened in the bathroom.

At first I thought she was wrong, because of my grammar teacher, but then right before I wrote this blog, I did some research. Apparently, this pesky comma has its own name- THE OXFORD COMMA, and I'm not the only one that has disagreed about it. The Chicago Manual agreed with Wendy- sort of. It strongly recommends using the Oxford Comma. Still, the style guides for The NY Times and Associated Press absolutely disagree that it is necessarly, and in the Cambridge University Press it is positively discouraged. Also, most writing from the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and Australia don't touch this pesky punctuation point. Isn't it interesting that the Oxford comma is never used in Oxford?

Still, the question remains, do I use it? The answers hit me the other night when my sixteen year old daughter was talking about accents. She believed that the English had an accent and we didn't. I said that we both had accents- there's is English and ours is American. You see, I'm not really writing in English at all but in American- and so, Wendy, you win.

Nov 21, 2008


By Kristine John

Throughout my married life, I have spent a considerable amount time feeling as if our family was financially poor.
There never seems to be quite enough money to provide for all that I feel that we need.

Two years ago, for the first time in our marriage, we started budgeting.
We reached a point that was embarrassing to be asking our parents for help when we had overextended ourselves financially, and we finally realized that it was within our control to fix this problem.
We have effectively paid off about half of our consumer debt within the past 2 years, and feel that we have a much better grasp on our finances and how to move forward rather than bury ourselves in needless spending.

Budgeting has helped us a great deal, not only financially, but spiritually as well.
I hadn't ever considered that buying outside of our means was a dishonest act...but ultimately it is, as we tell ourselves that soon we will have enough to afford not only all that we have, but also a little bit more.

It felt liberating, spiritually to say, "That's not in the budget." and have people respect that answer.
It was embarrassing to me at first to admit we didn't have money for things, but now my mindset and heart have changed enough that I'm not embarrassed anymore.
It is a huge blessing to see that as we are wise stewards, the Lord will help us in ways we were not prepared to see previously.

This week I visited a home where there was true need.
The cupboards were literally bare, the home little more than a shack.

I came away with a gift.
A gift that many others have received before me, but somehow I had neglected to receive in the past.
The gift of a paradigm shift.
A shift to the understanding that we never have been truly poor.
We have always been able to provide for our needs, as well as many of our wants.
Our lack of financial understanding has affected our lives, but we have never really been in need of the comforts of the earth.

At this season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all that I have.
It is far more than I ever understood it to be.

May each of us have our eyes opened to the blessings that surround us daily.
May we generously give to those around us, whether it be in time, talent, or money, and may we be able to impart our understanding of our blessings to those whom we love.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nov 20, 2008


by Anna Arnett

I won't be blogging again before we celebrate Thanksgiving, but for all of us, every day is (or should be) a day of giving thanks. Even with our struggles, temptations, hard times, broken promises, depressed feelings, and all the gamut of problems that seem to be created just to crowd into our lives, we still have even more good things to be thankful for. Let me skim over a few.

The blessing of knowing we are actually children of our Heavenly Father, that we lived before our earthly birth, and that we'll continue to live after death, is our prized possession.

Of knowing the plan of salvation given us by our Savior, Jesus Christ, and extended to all.

Of being able to think, talk, write, comprehend, and the blessing of language -- words with which to share our feelings, and our talents with others.

The blessing of humor -- of love -- of a beautiful earth with all its variety of color, texture, flora, fauna -- of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc.

I'm thankful for being born at this particular stage in the scheme of things. To be born in a time of ease and relative prosperity, to have experienced the great depression, a second world war, the explosion of technology and of the spread of the gospel.

For cars to drive, computers to speed up composition and editing, planes to get us around the world in countable hours, rather than months, for cell phones and emails, for instant almost anything, including pictures. For speed when we want it.

I'm thankful for leisure, for comfort -- a good bed, a roof overhead, for heat and air conditioning, for vacuums, minute meal preparation, running water, indoor bathrooms, automatic heat, comfortable beds, television and DVD's, iPods, instant cameras, a plethora of books.

Last, but perhaps among the best of all, I'm grateful for my membership in ANWA, for the joy, purpose, and enrichment I receive, and hopefully share.

In the midst of this writing (which I thought I had lost, but stumbled on how to find it again) I re-read three or four of the blogs I'd posted earlier this year in January, February, and March. I know I was committed to these blogs, and I'm so glad I wrote them when they were fresh and new, rather than having to try to resurrect feelings of years ago -- like I'm doing with my current WIP, where I'm struggling to remember just how my life and feelings were back in the late 1950's. Many, if not most of you weren't even born then. Details vanish. But I'm happily grateful for the things I do remember.

Life is still wonderful. I expect it to stay pretty well that good, even if times get really rough. Life is a gift to treasure, and I still believe if we look for something good we'll always find it. (Remind me of this when I grumble.)

Nov 18, 2008

There's Room

by Valerie Ipson

Saturday, I attended a writer's workshop held at a local library and sponsored by the Desert Rose Chapter of Romance Writers of America ( It was an enjoyable day spent with a couple of friends from my Skyline Scribblers chapter, lunch at The Sugar Bowl, and feeling connected to a community of writers. Fortunately, there were only minor moments where I was reminded that "we aren't at ANWA anymore," if you know what I mean. The classes covered general topics, not those specific to romance writers, so, no, we didn't get tips for writing sizzling love scenes. The best part about it was that it was FREE, plus it provided the opportunity to learn from Connie Flynn which is always a good thing.

Published authors presented classes and led panel discussions. Truth be told, except for Connie who I have participated in workshops with, I have not heard of a single one of these authors or their books. And yet, one of them has published upwards of 90 novels, many others less than that, but still high numbers. This was astounding to me and changed my perspective on publishing. I may not be buying these author's books, but someone is--enough someones that their publishers keep buying their manuscripts. Overall, the feeling I came away with is that there is room for each of us. We will not all publish a bestseller and become a household name, but there is a niche for us somewhere.

So let's all join in singing There's a place for us, somewhere a "niche" for us...isn't that from West Side Story. I've been listening to Il Divo sing that and it's AMAZING!

Nov 17, 2008

Life, Writing and Then Some . . .

by Rene Allen

Almost ninety days have passed since the plane crash in southern Utah that took the lives of ten people, including those of my brother Lansing, and nephew, Dallin. I still cry now and then, particularly every Sunday on the way to church and on the way home. Why is that?

This morning I filled out an online health survey for our medical insurance. There were a lot of questions about stress including losses. Well, there have been five deaths in my family and my husband’s since April, not to mention a whole lot of other things that are extraordinary and hopefully, self-limited. When I finished the survey, there was a canned note that I need to manage my stress better. There was no place for replies although I thought of a few and was really stressed that I couldn't respond.

There is evidence that stress is a killer. Heart attacks happen when those worried coronaries spasm shut during stress. People are distracted when they’re stressed and have accidents. Affect changes. Anxiety and depression pal around with stress.

Hans Selye, a scientist from the 60’s wrote a book called the Stress of Life. He postulates that we are given a finite amount of energy to plow through this life and that some stress is actually good for us. Think about resistance training and body building – there the goal is to stress the muscles enough that there is some damage, and in repairing the damage the muscles bulk up and hypertrophy and become stronger.

Then there is the kind that isn’t so good. He discovered that the kind of stress that goes along with worry – with taking away choice and your ability to take care of yourself depletes a lot of that life energy.

So back to managing stress—here’s what I tell myself:
Rene, you’ve got to move your body. Sweat. Breathe. Propel yourself. Moving reminds you of your own power. Getting from here to there yourself is good for you.

Second: Food, beyond what you need for a day’s requirements, isn’t going to fix anything. It isn’t a drug. Stick with your plan. You’ll feel better at the end of the day.

Third: Don’t minimize what’s happening in your life. You miss your brother. These are scary times. We are in new territory as a government. On the other hand, remind yourself that every single day in your lifetime, the sun has come up in the morning and gone down at night. Not everything is changing.

Fourth: Keep the big picture – the one where Heavenly Father knows what’s going on and has made promises to His children who are obedient.

Fifth: Reciting the Serenity Prayer now and then is a good idea;
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Sixth: Keep writing. You can’t go wrong there, ever.

Nov 16, 2008

Naming Characters

by Marsha Ward

For a while now, I've been interviewing authors over on my blog, Writer in the Pines. Lately I've been thinking about the questions I ask them, and wondering if I would be able to answer them quickly.

For example, I ask how the authors find character names. How would I answer that? I'm really not sure. How do I find them? Sometimes, I think they find me. It's been a year since I've looked for names for characters, but I do know that sometimes the first one I latch onto isn't right. Then I have to ponder and make lists and eliminate names with same initials as other characters or names that are too similar to the others' and roll a name around in my mouth, and even ask the character if the new name is right before I use it.

Let me illuminate that process. When I was rewriting Trail of Storms to include new characters, I called one man "Hank." However, I soon realized that I already had twins named Hannah and Hepzibah, and another H name just wouldn't fly. It took me a while, and a long list, but I finally settled on "Ned," which suits him better and doesn't begin with H.

Some of my friends know that the main character of Trail of Storms is Jessica Bingham, who was cited briefly in my previous novels. As I began to tell Jessica's story, she insisted that she liked to be called "Jessie." Once I learned that, it was as though I couldn't even type "Jessica" correctly anymore. After she came to me and kept me awake for hours one night, I gave in and did a global search and replace in the manuscript, expunging all the Jessica's except the first few. (I had to tie the two versions of the name together, didn't I? After all, the last word in Ride to Raton is "Jessica.") Therefore, I called her Jessica until one of her sisters addressed her as Jessie. From then on, she was referred to as Jessie, and she didn't haunt me anymore.

Sometimes I wonder about characters. They become so real to us authors, their "creators." They seem to live and breathe in our imaginations. Could they be real in some other dimension, or some past time? Are we really recounting stories that actually happened somewhere in the vast Universe? Or are we practicing creation for some future time?

What do you think?

Nov 15, 2008

Hate, Envy, Strife, and Persecution

by Margaret Turley

Unfortunately the ugly side of humanity has reared its stubborn head again. The election is over, propositions and laws passed and officials have been chosen. Some choose to gracefully accept the will of the majority, while others decide that things didn’t turn out as they wanted so it’s time to lash out against the perpetrators of “injustice.” Name calling, character bashing and slander abound but don’t appease the thirst for revenge. Violence ensues against innocent bystanders, elderly stalwarts, and blameless youth.

Do we cower in our homes, pull the shades and lock the doors hoping evil will not find a way to slither through the cracks? Or do we take a stand, bolster our courage and brave the onslaught?
I say we must judge all in the manner in which we wish to be judged and forgive like Christ forgave everyone. We face challenges as great as Noah, Lehi and Nephi, and the early pioneers. The only hope is to Love with charitable hearts, as Jesus would have us do. Reach out to our brothers, sisters, family and friends. Then envelop the “enemy” in Christian service.

I pray that I might be an example of using kind, understanding words, and acting with kind graciousness towards one and all so that I may stand blameless before God on judgment day.

Nov 14, 2008

Keeping the Commandments Brings Happiness

by Rebecca Talley

When I was a child, I didn’t have the gospel. I found it after my parents both passed away and I went to live with my grandparents. Even then, we didn’t read scriptures, have family home evening, or pray except to bless the food. I did not have the blessings of the priesthood in my home.

I had a choice to make as I became an adult. I could continue to live as I’d been taught or choose to fully embrace the gospel. I chose the latter. Though my testimony was like the tiniest of mustard seeds, I had to desire to learn more and live better.

As I’ve lived my life, I’ve come to learn the fundamental truth that true happiness comes from keeping the commandments. We’ve all been endowed with the ability to make our own choices, right or wrong. We can choose to follow the Savior or not. We can choose to go to church, read our scriptures, and say our prayers. We can choose if we want to follow the Word of Wisdom or the Law of Chastity. We can decide for ourselves if we want to attend the temple or not. No one compels us to do any of this; it is up to us to each make our own individual choices.

I’ve lived without the gospel and I’ve lived with it. I’ve broken commandments and I’ve kept commandments. I’ve lived without the priesthood and with it. I’ve seen the effects of living without the gospel and the effects of living with it. I choose to live with it because I know it’s what brings peace and joy.

I’ve chosen my life on purpose. I didn’t fall into Mormonism by accident nor do I feel obligated to live its teachings. I, with full knowledge and purpose, choose to live this way. I wish I did it better. I wish I were a better example of a disciple of Christ. I wish I didn’t make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or offend people. I wish I constantly had the Spirit with me 24 hours a day. But, this I know, when I break the commandments, I am unhappy and when I keep them I am happy.

I can’t prove that God exists. I can’t prove that keeping the commandments makes people happy, I can only see the effects of doing so. To me it’s like the principle of gravity. I can’t see gravity or hold it in my hands. I can only see the effects of it on objects. I can clearly see that a car doesn’t float up into the sky because gravity holds it to earth. When I let go of a plate, it doesn’t stay suspended in the air, it drops to the ground. Again, it’s the effect of gravity.

The effect of keeping the commandments, or rather the desire to keep the commandments, is happiness. It is not freedom from trial and tribulation. Commitment to keeping the commandments does not prevent us from experiencing heartache, but even during dark times, we can have the peace and happiness that comes from keeping the commandments. We can still find joy even when we are dealing with tragedy. We can still feel the love and comfort of the Savior as we traverse the tumultuous waves of life and know that as we put our faith and trust in Him and keep His commandments, He will be there to steady us.

I have no doubt that keeping the commandments brings happiness.

Nov 13, 2008

Eight Years and Still Growing

by Stephanie Abney

Growing Pains ~ interesting concept. Growth is inevitable, but not always easy. I looked in the scriptures and the people grew in strength and wisdom as well as in iniquity… kind of depended where their heart was.

I have a wonderful reminder of the constancy, hope and joy of growth on my kitchen table. Last Saturday was the eight anniversary of the passing of our sweet BJ from this life to the next. The tables at his funeral luncheon had little potted flowers on them and one of my dear friends, Kathy Thompson, took some home and planted them. Like me, Kathy doesn’t have much luck in growing plants, but these little flowers have continued to flourish. She calls them “BJ’s flowers.” They were planted in November and blossom each year in time for her to bring me a bouquet of them on November 8th. It’s a tradition I have cherished and appreciated.

Loving all kinds of flowers, but knowing only the names of a few, I had no idea the name of this flower. Last night we had our ANWA chapter meeting at my home and Ceil commented on the beautiful “Black-eyed Susans” I had on my table. Oh, wow, now I know… so this morning I looked them up on the Internet and sure enough, that is exactly what my little plant looks like.

Here’s the interesting part (and it’s pretty cool ~ just a reminder that Heavenly Father knows his children and does the most amazing things to show it) ~ these plants are supposed to bloom from June to August each year and yet BJ’s flowers bloom in November (of course, here in Arizona, November can still be rather warm). Then, the research nut that I am, I kept looking and you won’t believe what I found out about the ‘healing” properties of BJ’s flowers:

The Black-Eyed Susan helps to bring painful memories to light allowing inner healing to begin. In “flower essence therapy” this flower assists individuals in shedding deep burdens that are weighing them down emotionally.

Well, this is about all I can share right now as I have to leave for school soon ~ but later (which probably means a couple of days later) ~ sorry ~ because of a fundraising function at school on Friday which has us all so busy… I will come back and write more and try to upload a photo of “BJ’s flowers” for you. Hopefully, you'll check back later. So, for now, I hope you can get the gist of all I wanted to share in how his plant continues to bloom each year and how a dear friend thought of doing that for us and what a sweet reminder it is of a very special young man who has changed our lives forever.

Have a blessed day!!

Nov 11, 2008

Veterans Day

by Terri Wagner

Like anyone who has a veteran in their family, I find myself struggling to find the words to express my gratitude. I mean thank you seems so inadequate when you are talking to someone who is willing to pick up a gun and stand between you and danger.

And yet, thank you seems to be what they want to hear the most. So I try to say it every day through prayer, through online sites, through organizations, through silent though deep support and through my actions to cherish the freedom for which they fight and some times die.

When I get too angry with too-wrapped-up-in-my-own-life-to-notice public for not being more sensitive, I think on Rudyard Kipling who wrote Tommy. Says it all doesn't it?

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here.
"The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?
"But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,

There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!
"But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Nov 10, 2008

Everyone Needs a Place to Belong

by Joyce DiPastena

I remember when I first joined ANWA sometime back in the 20th Century, how excited I was at finding a group of like-hearted LDS writers. Finally! I’d found someplace I felt I belonged, at least a little bit, among other women who loved to write but who weren’t eager to write in the “ways of the world”. With the cutting edge of internet technology being almost primitive by today’s standards (especially for people like me, living in rural areas), my one true link to ANWA was the newsletter, Of Good Report. Every month, the first pages I would flip to were the Chapter Minutes. I loved reading about what the other women were writing, even though I’d never met a one of them. As I read about these women month after month, their names and writing projects became familiar to me. None of them (except, perhaps, for Marsha Ward) had a clue in the world that I even existed, but I knew about them. In fact, I came to feel like I knew them, at least in a tiny sense. And it didn’t take many months for me to find myself wishing I could associate with them, longing to belong to an ANWA Chapter filled with these wonderful women I “knew”.

The century turned, computers, modems and internet access improved. Along came ANWASocial and ANWACritique. It took me awhile to join these groups, but once I did, I was warmly welcomed. Women I had read about for a number of years, began to become “real people”, and I began to belong in a whole new way. I found warm and willing sisters to critique my manuscripts, and occasionally, I was even able to return the favor. I learned more than just what writing projects they were working on themselves. I learned about their hopes, their triumphs, their struggles, their griefs. And unlike my experience with the newsletter, these women began to know me, too. When I attended last spring’s ANWA Conference and last summer’s Arizona Retreat and finally had an opportunity to interact with many of these delightful sisters “in real life”, I took yet another wonderful step in belonging.

Still, I continued to long for the blessing of participating in an ANWA chapter. A little over a month ago, thanks once again to the brilliance and inspiration of ANWA’s founder, Marsha Ward, ANWA initiated its first internet chapter, and I joyfully jumped in with both feet. CyberScrybers held its first online chapter meeting last Thursday night. We prayed together online. (Who knew that a typed prayer could feel just as reverent and sacred as one spoken aloud? But that’s exactly how it felt.) We shared news about writing achievements in our lives. We critiqued chapter members’ manuscripts. We did everything that other chapters do, except have refreshments. (I’m still trying to figure out how to conquer that one small, but very important, flaw!)

They say that all good things come to those who wait. From the excitement charging through the atmosphere of the ANWA chat room on Thursday night, I’m not the only one who has been waiting and longing for this final, ultimate way of belonging within ANWA. Thank you to a loving Heavenly Father, who revealed a miraculous technology that enabled LDS writers from all over the United States to be able to come together through time and space to rejoice in one another’s sisterhood. And thank you to ANWA’s inspired founder who continues to be so uniquely in tune with the Spirit in advancing the blessings of ANWA to sisters far, as well as near.

Nov 9, 2008

A Shameless Plug for the Whitney Awards Auction

By Liz Adair

Last year, one of our ANWA sisters was a finalist in the running for a Whitney Award. Joyce DiPastena didn’t win a Whitney, but having been nominated and selected as a finalist certainly propelled her first novel to the (well diserved) notice of LDS readers of fiction.

When you heard about Joyce’s nomination, did you scratch your head and say, “What’s a Whitney Award? Never heard of the thing!”? That would have been most appropriate, because last year was the first year the Whitneys had been in existence.

These awards are sponsored by LDStorymakers, a writers’ guild for LDS writers. The intent is to honor excellence in LDS fiction, in both general and LDS markets.

The name Whitney was given to the award because of a quote by Orson F. Whitney:
We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares
of our own.God's ammunition is not
exhausted. His brightest spirits are held
in reserve for the latter times. In God's name
and by his help we will build up a literature
whose top shall touch heaven….

Awards are given in these categories:

  • Romance/Women’s Fiction
  • Suspense/Mystery
  • Speculative Fiction
  • Youth Fiction
  • Historical
  • General Fiction
  • Best Novel of the Year
  • Best Novel by a New Author

LDStorymakers is preparing for the 2009 Whitney Awards and is sponsoring an on-line auction as a fundraiser.

Click here to go to the WhitneyAuction Web Site.

This Auction will run for the month of November. You are invited to check the web site often, as new items are added every day. Think Christmas as you peruse the offerings. All items, including shipping, have been donated.

Also, be thinking about the books you have read that were published in 2008 that you would like to see honored by a Whitney, because anyone can nominate a book for consideration. Check out the process on the Whitney Award Web Site.

Nov 8, 2008

Different Ways to Outline A Story

By Christine Thackeray

As many of you know November is NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. For ANWA members they can also participate in the less daunting task of BIAM- Book In A Month. So across the country thousands of writers are sitting at their computers trying to tap out a story and will probably get to the halfway point and become so hopelessly lost that they will find themselves searching for someway to organize the great idea that started them off but has gotten booked down somewhere at about page 125.

I know this because I myself have done it and still do. I've just finished my second complete novel (which I hope to submit in the next week or so) and am working on plotting the next two. One I'm over 100 pages into but need to have a better method as I'm being drowned in the many subplots and characters.

From reading endless articles and asking around I've found four methods for planning and tracking the creation of a novel that people I know use and I'd be happy to hear more-

1. THE SIMPLE OUTLINE- This is the same as a synopsis. You usually go chapter by chapter and just write the general gist of each plot point. Liz says she outlines her stories, prints it out and then adds to it as the novel progresses. You should leave a lot of white space in your original for changes. Liz says hers was completely scribbled over by the end. I did this with Crayon Messages but Lipstick Wars was too complex for this to be of use.

2. THE CALENDAR- Traci Abrams was the first person who told me that she uses a calendar to plot her LDS thriller/action/mysteries. Valerie Ipson also said she began using a calendar and it really has helped her to keep track of things. If your book takes place in a short amount of time, a few weeks or over the course of a year, this can be very helpful so that you keep accurate dates.

3. THE SPREADSHEET- With my latest story I've begun using a table that numbers the chapters and the chapter length (which I've struggled to keep even sort of consistent.) Then I have a cell that covers a brief description of the entire chapter and have a column for each character and what happens to them in that chapter. This has been great because I have such a large cast, I can then review each individual character arc throughout the story and make sure my presentation is balanced.

4. Post-It Notes- This method is the most fluid and I might really try it for Herod. You write each plot point on a Post-it and put it on your wall. It allows you the flexibility to shuffle them and work out you plotting and then you can stick then in order on paper if you choose or I suppose just throw them away when you're done.

Each of these are just tools and some stories might be slowed down by ripping them apart in this way. But for complex plots, it may pull you through so that you can finally make it to that wonderful two word finish line-- THE END.

Nov 7, 2008

Birth Story

by Kristine John

**I am sure many of you have written similar stories if you have children. This is story #1. I never thought I would have 7 to tell!**

(Written 8-22-1995)
Late last Monday night (8-14-1995), and early Tuesday morning, I kept being woken up by contractions. Finally, about 4:40am, I woke Pat up and asked him to rub my lower back because it was hurting so badly. He was a little reluctant…mostly because he thought he’d be leaving for work in an hour. I finally rewoke him up about 10 minutes later and asked him to start timing my contractions because I couldn’t go back to sleep. We started timing them, and were surprised to find they were between 2 and 3 minutes apart, and lasting for 30 to 45 seconds. After about 1 ½ hours, we called the doctor-Dr. John D. Holmes-, and he said to call him back in another hour. I decided to go and take a bath to help relax my back, and that threw my contractions totally out of synch. We called Dr. Holmes back and told him that the contractions had become really erratic and his conclusion was that I was having false labor. (Pat and I had gone for a walk around the (Mesa) Temple after the bath to try and get the contractions to be regular again, and it hadn’t helped). After we called the doctor, we both decided another hour or so of sleep would be good and then Pat could leave for a ½ day of work. During our nap, I kept waking up—in pain—from contractions. Finally, about 9:30am, when I was having to hold back tears and really breathe through the contractions, I called the doctor’s office and explained how I was feeling. I was told to come in for a check-up, which Pat and I left for immediately.

Dr. Holmes checked me and told Pat and I that I was dialated to 3 cm and effaced 80% and that we needed to go to the hospital and check in. We went to Mesa Lutheran Hospital and checked in. We were assigned to room #625, and from there we called Mom and Becca Lunt (who had planned on leaving for Thatcher to move Becca into her dorm on Tuesday) who were at our house, and Susan Ludwig (a very dear friend) who was at Johnson school. All of them showed up within an hour and stayed until Stephen was born. (Boy, we were naïve…thinking my first baby would show up fast!!)

The day progressed quickly. I chose to take some Stadol, a painkiller, and although it helped some, I decided to get an epidural as well. The interesting thing was that at one point I felt very strongly that if I wanted an epidural, I needed to ask for it then. I did ask, and then waited 45 minutes to an hour for the doctor to come and take care of it. They also had to try 3 times before it was properly inserted.

After the initial insertion of the epidural, I rested for about 20 or 30 minutes, and then, the medication wasn’t having any effect any more. At this point, I was dialated to 7 cm and going through transitional labor. In other words, my contractions were extraordinarily strong, and I had little or no painkiller in my system. Mom Lunt, Becca, and Susan had left just before the pain got intense, (This is the point where my mom started talking about the palm trees swaying in the wind and I very tersely said, “Mom, BE QUIET!) and Mom John and Coleen John (my sister-in-law) had just showed up. Mom John, Coleen and Pat were there to help me through this part of my labor. (Mom John really did make the comment about the pain just getting worse, and if I could have said anything other than “MOM!” at that point, I would have told her to shut up…and that is not like me…but hey, transitional labor brings out the best in all of us, right?)

At about 7pm, Dr Holmes came into the room and checked me and said I could start pushing. From then until 8:47pm, I was working with everyone to help Stephen be born. I could feel a little bit of movement, and the others in the room kept me posted as to what was happening from their perspective. Finally, (at the very end), Dr. Holmes came rushing in and gave me an episiotomy, and four pushes later, our first son, Stephen Joseph John was born. Dr. Holmes put him on my chest, and when I spoke to Stephen, he looked right into my face and stopped crying. Pat cut the umbilical cord, and we were able to just hold and love Stephen his first minutes of life. (The funny thing was that even 3 or 4 minutes after he was born, no one had checked to see if he was a boy! Finally, one of the nurses asked, and of course it was Stephen, but it was somewhat comical.)

The labor and delivery were things I would have done again the very next hour for a joy and reward as special as my little son. I have no serious complaints—just the rejoicings of my heart and of having a healthy child.

Nov 5, 2008

Election day aftermath

by Anna Arnett

My headlights picked up Forest, our poll inspector, grinning as he tugged a sign into place.

"Good morning, Anna. There's already a crowd assembling. Some were here before I came at 4:45."

And there they were. I gathered my day's supplies -- food for three meals, goodies to share, my knitting and a book (just in case). My watch let me know it was only 5:15, yet in the darkness I estimated at least a couple dozen adults, some sitting along the low planter fence, others
chatting comfortably. A youngish man near the door cheerfully opened it for me, but knew better than try to come in. After all, the polls would not be opened for another forty-five minutes.

We kept busy with last-minute details, and I felt my throat tighten as I raised my arm to the square and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and carry out my duties at the polls, then signed my name in affirmation. What a privilege. I may fret and stew over the way campaigns are run, and over various faults in all of us who serve, but, oh how grateful I am for our God-given constitution.

For the first three and a half hours from the time I opened the door and fulfilled the first half of my only specific duty as a marshall, that of announcing those superfluous words that the polls were now open, voters kept steadily coming in.

Forest, bless his heart, took measures. "Anna, would you take an extra poll list and stand a ways down the line and find each one's line number? I think it would speed it up a little." So I did.

Ours was a small polling district with only about a couple thousand registered voters, so we had only six workers--just two clerks to identify, get signatures, make a written poll list. These two women worked smoothly and efficiently, but agreed that looking for a number rather than a name speeded things up considerably. Besides, for me it was fun. I could also redirect the ones who were at the wrong polling place, etc. I hardly felt tired the first three hours, but then I suddenly felt a great ache through my back and shoulders, and the bottoms of my feet started stinging. Yet every time somebody walked through the door, another was right behind. So, I kept on. Half an hour later I rejoiced to see an empty door. My task was done -- at least for a while.

From then on until closing, there was not one second that there was not at least one voter voting, and not over a minute between voters coming in, until well after five. Then, to our surprise, the space between lengthened, and only a few came during the last half hour. I seemed to be talking to myself when I walked outside to announce the polls would close in half a hour--five minites--one minute--and again that the polls were closed.

In short order we worked together to count up, pack up, straighten up, etc. I was the first to leave, because Forest assigned me to take the 'pink bubble pack' containing the print-out tape to the gathering place at the Chandler Municipal Court. Forest would bring the almost full containers of provisional and early ballots (including mine) and other important data later. The bulky paraphanalia would be picked up the next day.

So here you have a listing of what it's like for this one woman to work at this one poll. I came home wishing for a massage therapist, but happy and grateful for the privilege of serving. I'd do it for free, but my name still went on the payroll. I'd never do it for a living, but it's real living when I'm doing it.

I'm still tired and achey today, and my body seems to demand a vacation, but that's all right. I've puttered around and procrastinated, and finally pushed myself to the computer.

The election is over, the numbers are in, the majority of voters decided, and we get to live with the results. We have checks and balances, and a great constitution. We always have hope as long as we choose as individuals, communities, counties, states, and as a nation to commit ourselves to do our best. Each one of us touches somebody else, and the higher and brighter our example, the farther that influence reaches. We need not worry over what another does (though we seek and find their strengths). We don't even have to agonize about being innovative. We simply need to keep our actions and words--spoken and written--uplifting. (Well, sometimes I suppose that IS innovative.)

Does all this sound like platitudes? Not to me. There are basic truths we simply HAVE to come back to, to rely on, and to keep. I'm grateful to be an American, and with all you I repeat the words Irving Berlin wrote and we all sing--and pray; "God Bless America."

Nov 4, 2008

Character Tags

by Valerie Ipson

Today is election day, so of course, I have decided to blog about character tags. (Seriously, we all know we need to get out and vote—and if you haven’t done so, leave this blog immediately…go do it…right now. When you’ve done your duty, come back, enjoy the blog, shower me with flattering comments, and, if you’re up for it, tune in to election results tonight. Oh, and VOTE YES on Prop 102!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to identify characters for the (future) readers of my novel. That’s what I mean by tags (not the other way writers use the term tags--as the way to identify who “said” what). It’s like when my dad remarried and the new “Nana” to my children had trouble keeping Kara’s and Kristen’s names straight. With the girls being close in age and both with a K, she kept getting them mixed up. Four-year-old Kristen devised a fool-proof way. She said to Nana, “Just remember, I’m the cute one and Kara likes to draw.”

I hope Kara kept a pencil and paper handy, so her Nana could have that visual clue to her identity! That’s what we need to do for our readers—give visual clues and character traits to help keep characters straight. Of course, most important is their name. What clues does it give about the type of person they are? Another is giving them a physical action or habit. Do they bite their nails or toss their lovely head of curls, like all the time. One author (Jack-something, sorry I can’t remember!) says we should exaggerate character traits. For example, if the character is a neat freak we show 28 different instances of when he/she exhibits neat-freakish behavior. If he/she is a giver, thinking always of others, give at least 28 different examples throughout the story showing this quality. I made up the 28 part. You do it as much as necessary to get the point across, because unlike real life where many of us are mediocre at being givers and at being neat, sometimes fictional characters need to be a bit over the top for readers to really care about them. (Secretly, don’t we love the over-the top characters in real life, too!)

Nov 2, 2008

I Stand for Marriage and Family: the fundamental unit of society

by Marsha Ward

Here's an image that says it all, as far as I am concerned. I was reminded today that both I and anyone with an opposing viewpoint have a Constitutional Right of Free Speech. Here's my expression of it:

Prop 102 simply secures the definition of marriage through an Arizona constitutional amendment. "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state." 20 simple and clear words that define marriage.

One Man. One Woman. Prop 102. That's Marriage.

Nov 1, 2008

Family Values

by Margaret Turley

I am spending time with my son and his family in Illinois this week. Once again I am brought to ponder upon the responsibilities of parents to their children. It warms my heart to see that they have scheduled time and left it blank of any other activity or personal need every evening for their children. As I observe them reading scriptures, playing, telling stories and singing songs together my heart aches for all the children in the world that don’t enjoy this warm loving environment of Father and Mother teaching, guiding, and loving them to know the right way to follow.

Does this mean that their life is any less hectic than other young families that they are able to do this? No. Their three daughters are all below the age of school. They still have moments of sibling rivalry, times that they need to go to the doctor, dentist or other appointments, Church responsibilities and a career. But each child has individual time with each parent on a daily basis.
So when do all the other things get done, like journaling, personal scripture reading and prayer? They are done before the children get up or after the children are in bed. Where there is a will there is a way. For instance my son brought his daughter on a tour of the University Research Dairy he arranged for the foreign exchange students, in fact, some of the married students brought their children along. They certainly weren’t LDS, but families of all faiths can share strong values. Later that evening the whole family visited his office at the University where they could see their pictures framed on his desk, knowing that Daddy thinks of them throughout the day. Even some of the artwork displayed was of their design and making.

Do Kevin and Laura know what is going on in the world and keep up with current events when they don’t watch the evening news, spend breakfast glued to a newspaper and so forth? Yes. In fact I observed very intelligent discussions on what the issues are, the different candidates, and who would best represent their family and community’s needs.

Do they not spend time in service to others? Yes they do. In fact I accompanied my son while he visited the sick and blessed them and played his viola for them. I watched the children while they both attended a funeral to sing and bring food, and dedicate the grave. My son is in the Bishopric. My daughter-in-law is the choir director.

They have neighbors in their complex they actively friendship and seek to share the gospel with others by their example and with small deeds of kindness.

On Sunday the choir performed a beautiful number with Kevin playing the obbligato on his viola. Later there was choir practice. Their ward is made up of many young married families with so many children it takes three nurseries during church time. At choir all the parents brought their children and they took turns watching over them in the back of the room where they played quietly and got to listen to their parents sing. What a nice opportunity for both parents and children.

I am glad to see that the institution of family is well and alive in this generation and see hope rising up strong in my granddaughters who have experienced love and been taught the gospel principals as the Lord would want them to. I pray that we will keep these values in mind when we vote on Tuesday and as we go on living in this world of many temptations.