Feb 28, 2009

We have to take a stand

I enjoy reading romance books from the 50’s and 60’s because it seems that people were held to a higher standard back then. The girl who DIDN’T sleep around was the heroine. The men were expected to be honorable with regards to their treatment of women. Family and family life was treated with honor. Honesty was revered. Hard work was respected. It went without saying that one should behave in a decorous and respectful way. I believe that in the past it was a lot easier to ‘go with the flow’ and still be GOOD. If you strayed off the ‘path’ usually that meant doing something BAD … and people looked down on you for it. Now, it seems the world has flipped 180°. Good is bad and bad is good.

In today’s society if one ‘goes with the flow’ it seems more likely they would NOT be living gospel standards. In dress, politics, morality, family expectations, viewpoints on gender, religion, and countless other things. I think that we can no longer be silent. We must not. Just as President Hinckley states, we must STAND FOR SOMETHING, and to do so requires courage, faith, and going against the crowd. Being unpopular. Sometimes it means standing alone, even when dealing with friends or family.

Wouldn’t you say this is the reason that these last days are considered the hardest to live in? I think of Mormon and his son Moroni. The Nephites who were almost always outnumbered, yet who stood strong and held tight to their beliefs no matter what befell them. When the Nephites stopped standing up for what they knew was true, they eventually fell. Mormon compiled these records for US for OUR DAY because he saw that we were going to deal with the same thing.

We can no longer stand silently by the wayside. I believe that we have to take a stand even when it is unpopular, looked down upon, or ridiculed. We have to take a stand. We have to know what we believe, why we believe it, and hold our head up high when we are confronted … because we will be confronted sooner or later.

These are not the days for cowardice or compromise. We are here on this earth, at this time, for a reason. And I believe that as we stand up for these truths, we will be ridiculed, but we will also be watched and even followed by some.

Feb 27, 2009

My Writing this Week

By Kristine John

In light of the fact that 6 out of the 9 of us have the flu here in our home, I'm posting my "Christmas newsletter" that I finished this week.
I still need to stuff the envelopes and get them in the mail, but first I'm going to take a nap.
My apologies to Clement C. Moore. :)

‘Twas Two Months After Christmas
'Twas two months after Christmas, and we’re in a new home
Things got a bit hectic as we started to roam;
Our boxes were packed, then transferred with care,
In the hope that they would arrive in our lair;
Then children said goodbye to good friends,
And sorrowed that their time near the forest would end.
And Mama in her craft room, and I at the shed,
Found ways to prepare for the new adventure ahead.
Into our new home we moved with a clatter,
The neighbors came out to see what was the matter.
The month in the rental had NOT flown like a flash,
but now we were in, so we threw a big bash.
The bash was for painting so much of the house,
we seriously thought we would paint our own spouse.
Kids rooms all painted and the goal now: unpack,
we took a quick head count and crawled over a stack.
With our oldest a teenager, and approaching 14,
it was nice to have him help us to clean.
Stephen’s a scout now, and a drummer as well,
He heads up the children (All Johns, you can tell).
"Now! Emily, now! Nathan, now! Thomas and Bekah,
"On! Samuel, on! Isaac, on! John family Mecca;
"To the end of the porch! To the end of the street!
"Now talk away! Chat away! As new friends we meet!"
Emily’s 11, and soon to turn 12,
She’s excited that into Young Women’s she’ll delve.
Nathan turned 9 and is growing so tall;
He’s reading the scriptures and heeding their call.
Thomas is 8 and likes his new scooter;
He’s loving and kind and likes the computer.
At the age of just 6, Rebekah’s so sure
That dancing and singing are the best things for her.
Samuel, at 4, likes to play hard and strong,
But if you turn off the Wii, then that’s just plain wrong.
Isaac is sunshine, and cute as can be,
At 2, he’s working on talking for me.
His eyes — how they twinkle! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks are like roses, his John nose almost scary;
The job that brought us to this part of the land,
Presented itself without us raising a hand.
The drive, while long, keeps food on the table,
We’re so grateful for a job that seems stable.
We’re grateful for perspective and looking ahead,
We realize that we’ll deal with change ‘til we’re dead.
So of all these changes, we wanted to inform,
And make certain you knew where we’ve made our new home.
Our letter prolonged, we’ll not write any longer,
We love you and miss you and our hearts do grow fonder.
So you’ll hear us exclaim, and it’s totally true,
Happy Christmas to all, just two months past due!

Feb 26, 2009

Creating Joy

by Kari Diane Pike

There is a video clip from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's November 2008 conference address titled, "Happiness, Your Heritage" posted on You Tube and e-magazines, and being passed around the world through e-mail.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhLlnq5yY7k&feature=channel_page

I love the words Pres. Uchtdorf spoke: "Everyone can create." Then he asks, "But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fullness of joy. Our birthright--and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth--is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things...Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before--colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter."

For many people today, creating joy seems an impossible task. They ask, "How can anyone feel joy when there is so much turmoil around us?" Pres. Uchtdorf says, "Start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it...continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ. The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit."

A Viewpoint article in the November 15, 2008 Church News states: "Latter-day Saints are taught to approach God regularly through prayer, better understanding and knowing Him and His will. As we do that, we draw close to Him and align our desires and efforts close to His design. As we do, we are able to secure--in large part by prayer--blessings for ourselves and others that God is willing to grant, but which are dependent on our asking in faith." The article then directs us to the Bible Dictionary, pages 752-3, where we read, "Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings."

A couple of days ago, Valerie Ipson suggested using the scriptures to help us unblock our creativity. I appreciated that gentle reminder. Daily prayer, coupled with reading and scripture study invites the Spirit, resulting in a marvelous enlightening of our minds. Furthermore, I have found that as I record those thoughts, my mind is further enlightened and keen, new insights follow. But once you are given this new understanding, what do you do with it? How can learning truths help you create joy?

Pres. Robert D. Hales, in the 2008 November General Conference taught: "True disciples see opportunity in the midst of opposition...We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice--'who are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.' (D&C 123:12)" Pres. Hales goes on to say, "As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord....I testify that with the mantle of His peace upon us, the First Presidency's promise will be fulfilled: 'the opposition which may seem hard to bear will be a blessing to the kingdom of God upon the earth.'"

As writers, we can flood the world with gentle words of encouragement and truth, remembering that "the more [we] rely upon the Spirit, the greater [our] capacity to create...this is [our' opportunity in this life and [our] destiny in the life to come." Aided by fervent prayer and daily scripture study, we can create joy where there seems to be none, and share that joy with all the people around us.

Feb 25, 2009

Experience

by Anna Arnett

To quote Randy Pausch, in THE LAST LECTURE, page 148, "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." In my eighty-four years, I've had very few real trials, but tons of experience. Indeed my experience file seems to be added to daily. Isn't it great?

For months now, my computer has acted up now and then. It's at least four years old and I guess that's to be expected. Though it's way out of waranty, it's still probably fixable. Since one of my past lessons said, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it," I waited for further developments and ignored the molasses action when it occurred. I was concerned, however, over the possibility of losing my hard drive. I tried backing up onto this tiny little thing I plugged in, but wasn't sure what I was doing. As you see, I need more experience.

A couple of days ago, my youngest son Mark came to back-up my iMac and gave me a new program that is quite fantastic. (Lots of things most of you take for granted are 'quite fantastic' to me.) It automatically backs up everything every hour in a way that's immediately accessible. Some day I expect I'll know what it's doing. It's called Mac OS X Leopard and took hours to download, but it seemed to have everything backed up on my external WD Passport. I had that warm feeling of security concerning my 'prize' documents.

After only a couple of days sans e-mail, I opened my mail icon, rather dreading, yet eager to see how much I had received. Nothing! Eventually I found the shell, and my hundred or so saved boxes, but there was absolutely nothing inside. Three or four hundred 'words of the day', family files, great ideas from 'walk the talk' and oh so many ANWA files -- all gone. I could have been devastated, but the process I've worked on took over. I reasoned that I'd read everything except for the last 32 that came Sunday and Monday morning, and I'd glanced at their titles. I could live without past e-mail, but what about the future? No e-mail is not life threatening, but what would it do to my ANWA connections?

(Drum roll) Mark to the rescue. He made an appointment with the Mac store in Chandler Mall for five this evening. I'm meeting him with my Mac, and hopefully, one way or another, the whole problem will be resolved. Mark offered to pick up the computer in an hour or so, but I told him I simply had to blog first. I knew that, at least, was still running because I read some and commented last night. Actually, I think the e-mail is all that isn't working. I'll now have a few hours to check out others.

Chalk it up to experience.

In the same segment of his book, Randy Pausch talked about the "First Penguine Award" which he gave to the team who risked failure by trying something really new that didn't work. He indicated that 'experience' so gained is oft times more valuable than continued success. It even impresses many employers. Sometimes it's the only way we learn what NOT to do. (I wonder what kind of award we could give.)

That's why disliked critiques and deflating rejection slips can be the nasty medicine that cures. As I've learned, it's not what happens that determines my happiness, but how I react to it. I suspect it's all right for me to feel disappointed or elated, but either reaction can be poisonous if I over-react. You know what I mean. I could get either morose or proud, and like poison, I can stand a little, but you know what happens with excess.

Feb 24, 2009

Creativity Block? Turn to the scriptures!

by Valerie Ipson

Last week at our ANWA chapter meeting, the lesson presented focused on how we can help the flow of creativity. Several techniques shared would be difficult for me to blog about without drawing diagrams and offering explanations of breathing and posing, but there was one that I thought simple enough that I implemented it the very next morning. Roylee told us to memorize a scripture a day. Stick it on a sticky note attached to your mirror, carry it around with you, whatever, just refer to it anytime throughout the day--when you are on hold with the doctor's office, waiting in line at the bank, or sitting in traffic. We all have those wasted moments. When you aren't writing in those moments, like we've been told to do, you can memorize!

I memorized two scriptures in the few days since the meeting. They are just short ones taken from my reading for the week, and while they are not the ones commonly quoted in sacrament meeting, they have great meaning. I am grateful that, because they are memorized, their messages are close enough to the top of the heap of "stuff" that fills my brain, that I can pull them out when I need their reminder.

The first: 2nd Nephi 4:16-- "For my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard." There is value in reminding ourselves what we "have seen and heard." What tender mercies have we witnessed, what has the spirit testified to us? These rembrances will help us when we are faced with challenges like what Nephi mentions in my second scripture memorized...

2nd Nephi 5:1-- "Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren." Why did Nephi pray so much? Why was he drawn to the Lord? It was because of the many trials he faced at the hands of his brothers. All would agree that Nephi was a man of great courage and faith. These qualities were forged in the fire of adversity.

So, let's stand up and cheer for adversity! Yay for trials! They draw us to the Lord! (Okay, that was rather a lackluster shout out for adversity from all of you out there in Blogoland, but I think you get the point).

Anyway, take the creativity challenge...memorize a scripture a day or a couple every few days (aging minds need a little more time, maybe). It'll get your brains stimulated and ready to create, plus you'll learn some poignant and powerful truths along the way.

Feb 23, 2009

It's Only Money

By Stacy Johnson

My family spent this last weekend moving my parents out of their home. We built the home 29 years ago this summer. I say “we” because I was 10 at the time and even though my uncle really built it, we all chipped in. I remember sweeping floors, picking up nails, tarring the brick in the basement, etc. I remember the day we moved in because I was got my own room and didn’t have to share with my two sisters anymore. Over the years, I think my parents have paid the house off two or three times. We were blessed to have it during times of need.

To say that we are sad at the thought of them not living there anymore is an understatement, we are devastated. Without going into details, let’s just say another one bites the dust of the economy and move on. On the flip side, the house was turning into the money pit and with my dad’s declining health, it was just draining them. The move to a smaller house will be a cleansing, a purge, a do-over if you will. I will go and finish emptying my mom’s closet and a few things left in the kitchen this morning. We will vacuum the floors and mop the kitchen. Mom just wouldn’t feel leaving good about leaving a mess, she has too much integrity for that. We will leave behind the stone fireplace and hearth that we used to warm ourselves for our early morning family scripture study. We leave behind the swimming pool where we spent our summers cooling off and enjoying each other’s company. We will leave behind the custom built home that boasted a giant food storage closet and mom’s personal sewing/craft office. We will leave behind the slab of cement where we parked our boat, our camper, our trailer. We will leave behind just a house.

The things we will take with us are more precious than those. We will take the memories. We will remember raiding the freezer for ice cream after the Saturday night dances. We will remember the love we felt when each of us girls married and our ward family and friends threw us wedding showers and then subsequent baby showers. We will remember sharing rooms when we moved back home between college semesters cause our sisters took over our room in our absence. We will remember the massive porch where we ate homemade tuti fruti ice cream on summer holidays with our cousins and grandparents. We will remember sitting on the kitchen counters and telling funny stories until much later than we should of because it wasn’t a school night and we just loved being together. We will remember the outpouring of love our ward family showed us during more than one medical crisis. We will remember that from that house, mom and dad graduated 6 kids from high school and 3 from college. They sent out 4 missionaries and welcomed 16 grandchildren. We will remember that we were loved and blessed.
As we carry that last box to the car and turn to lock the door, we will remember that the house isn’t the memory, it is the family. Then I will remind us, “It’s only money,” and get in the car and drive away.

Feb 22, 2009

Sorry!

I'm sorry that I missed my turn. Last week was a very busy week, yet I somehow thought I would have time to blog during the day, even though I was traveling. For that reason, I didn't plan ahead with a pre-posted blog. Obviously, things didn't work out the way I envisioned.

~Marsha Ward

Feb 21, 2009

When Are We Finished Writing Our Project?

by Cindy R. Williams

The honest answer, coming from me right now is, "I don't know."
I think I am finally getting close. I started my middle grade novel, "Thundertail's Tale: The Legend" the first of a trilogy, two years ago when I began creative writing classes with Dr. Pamela Goodfellow. I needed guidance on how to get my bedtime stories on paper---stories that have flowed out of me for years like a fantasy series that I have shared with my children.

I avoided English in college, other than the required general classes, not realizing that they would have been invaluable someday. So now is someday, and I study, read, go to writer's seminars, conferences and classes. One of the best tools I have is ANWA. The ladies in my chapter are great, supportive and for the most part give me honest evaluations. I learn from each of them, and their talents. ANWA is a win/win situation. We each give and we each receive.

So back to when are we finished with our writing project? The obvious answer would be, "When it is done." Okay, I'll buy that, but---I still don't know. I am, however very good with making plans, so here goes.

I think I will be done with "Thundertail's Tale: The Legend" after I finish plugging in the last scenes and go back through each and every chapter again, looking for typos, grammar, continuity, storyline, and character arcs. My next step is to print it out and have my very own greatest supporters and toughest critics, my children, and husband, read it. Then I will send it to an editor, and go back through it again with a fine tooth comb. I hope I can then leave it alone and say, "I am done."

The only thing left will be to submit it to agents or publishers? Or will it? If there is any interest in it, I most likely will have to edit it all over again, then if it is published, how about marketing, but that is another topic for another day.

So---I am back again to when will it be done? I really don't know. Those of you that have published novels, please share---Does it really ever end?

Feb 20, 2009

Nascent vs. Nipped

By Sarah Albrecht

I am a nascent writer, learning about the brave new world of publishers, agents, networking, writers’ organizations, queries, blogging and websites, not to mention character arcs, voice, action and reaction. I like that word, nascent, because it implies emergence in the face of feeling like a temporary bloom (also known as being nipped in the bud, to coin a phrase).

Here’s a story that illustrates a bit of what I’ve experienced in this phase.

Four years ago when I stepped out of the real estate agent’s car at the home we later bought, a dry, expiring “caw” greeted me from a eucalyptus branch high above. I learned that “caw” belonged to a Harris hawk, one of the family-in-residence in another tall, spindly eucalyptus across the street. Harris hawks are large and dark brown with a white band across the tail and live and hunt as family units, like wolves. They are relatively uncommon, so after moving into the home, we found ourselves in the midst of volunteers monitoring the birds; one grad student looking for a juvenile with a transmitter in its tail had a penchant for saying “anyhoo.”

Two summers after we moved in, the parents moved to the tall pine in our back yard and we watched them carry unreasonably large twigs, still loaded with pinecone clumps, to the nesting site. Once the chicks hatched, each morning at the crack of dawn they started squeaking for food. For weeks they squeaked, but we didn't realize something was wrong until we found one lifeless under the tree. Soon we found a sibling hopping listlessly around the yard, and I took the humane society box left from our cat, plopped it over the bird, and drove it to a nearby wildlife hospital.

The bird wasn’t sick, the vet told us, but starving. Something probably had happened to one of the parents—electrocution, maybe, or possibly even an illegal trapper who would sell the bird to falconers. The story doesn’t have a bright ending; the chick died and we never found out what happened to the parents. Nevertheless, watching the hawks had been a privilege.

And I felt like there had to be a story in there somewhere: a magazine article for kids, a picture book, a middle grade novel where the lead foils the dastardly hawk trapper and saves the chicks.
I had lots of questions about how to proceed. A magazine article? Many magazines want photos. Where could I get pictures? We tried taking a few, but they were too amateur, and then the birds left. Who could I interview? The vet at the wildlife hospital would be a great start, or the “anyhoo” grad student, but can a writer with no credentials secure interviews? Could I try? Or maybe fiction would be best. Once I get past my current project…

Everything I’ve heard about success in writing points to persistence, so despite the uncertainties I’m counting on the positive in “nascent” to beat out “nipped in the bud.”

One of these days, those lost hawks will be found perched in a bookstore.

Feb 18, 2009

Odd one out

by Marielle Carlisle

Since my two year has started watching Sesame Street, I’ve been reminiscing back to my Sesame Street watching days, and one bit in particular that I remember is the ‘one of these things is not like the other’ game. There would be four people dancing, or doing something crazy, and three would be dressed in the same color with the other person being different.


Now that I’ve started dabbling in writing, I often feel like the one who doesn’t belong.


I’m really interested in writing a children’s picture book, and am motivated to get one published.

But let’s look at my qualifications:


Um, there are none.


I have a college degree … in Exercise Science. I specifically chose that major because it only required one writing class (and I love learning about the human body, obviously).


I’m a massage therapist. My job requires zero paper work. The only time I actually write things on paper during the week is when I’m making up the grocery list.


One thing I do is type out my journal every Sunday. It has made me a whiz on the keyboard.


Let’s see … what else … I read lots of picture books to the kids. Rough estimate: hundreds.


That about sums it up.


I’ve prayed and pondered about writing, and I’ve really felt that this is something I want and should do, but I just keep waiting for someone to jump out and say “Oh right, you’re not supposed to be here.”


I definitely need to take some writing classes. Any suggestions?

PS I'm just finishing this book

And it is awesome! It's like Jane Austen meets Jane Eyre meets fantasy!

Feb 17, 2009

Why is Evil So Seductive Even in Writing?

In reading over the last few posts it occurs to me that what we are really talking about is direct communication. When a character needs to convey something, we try to "show" it instead of "telling" it. A very fine line indeed. I often chuckle to myself when I read my fantasy novels because like the old movies, the bad guys usually wear black, scowl a lot and wreak havoc.

The good guys are generally portrayed as flawed but ultimately courageous, kind, strong and likeable. People often think it's easier to create good guys, but it's actually easier to create bad guys.

For whatever the reason, lately, Hollywood has produced a number of movies based on comic book characters. Inevitably the bad guys are praised, given awards and multifaceted personalities (i.e., Heath Ledger as the Joker) while the heroes are dismissed as one dimensional characters who ultimately kills the bad guy. The only one I've seen that changed this paradigm was “Iron Man.” There the hero was the flawed but ultimately the good guy. Maybe that's why I liked it best.

Why is that? Shouldn't our good guys be the ones holding the storyline while the bad guys are just there to help our very human good guy attain his/her potential? I find it much harder to like the good guys given this one dimensionality. I mean everyone knows who Luke Skywalker is (my perfect hero) but everyone really likes Darth Vader.

As writers with a higher calling shouldn’t we work on making our good guys more real and more likable than the bad ones?

Feb 16, 2009

How to Approach a Bad Review

by Joyce DiPastena

What do you do when you get a bad—or at least, a “below average”—review of your book on a site like GoodReads.com? I’m talking 2 stars. (So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to not earn fewer stars than that!)

Your first instinct is to be hurt, to feel like you must be a miserable writer, etc. But read those reviews closely. Some key phrases to look for: “Not being a fan of the romance [or fantasy or mystery] genre…”; “My enjoyment wanes when the romance [or fantasy or mystery] is the focal point of the plot..."

What do phrases like this really tell us? Not that our writing or novels are “bad”. Such phrases simply tell us that this particular reader does not fall into our “target audience” for our book. Who does fall into our “target audience”? Look again at GoodReads or Amazon or Shelfari, or any other reviewing sites for books, and focus, not on the two and three stars, but on the four and five stars, especially those who take the time to write a short review to tell us how much they enjoyed our romance (or fantasy or mystery). These are the people we are writing for, not the “non-fans” of our particular genre. And don’t forget those wonderful unsolicited emails we occasionally receive from perfect strangers, telling us how much they liked our book and demanding to know when we’re going to write another one.

If we try to satisfy everyone, fans and non-fans of our genres alike, we are only setting ourselves up to fail both. So keep that important question: “Who’s my target audience?” upfront and center in your mind. Write for those readers. They’ll thank you for it. And the rest simply doesn’t matter.

Feb 15, 2009

Love

by Shawnette Nielson

What is love? Is it a magnetic draw to another individual, as portrayed by so many movies? Is it an overwhelming physical connection that you almost can’t control (even when you don’t like the person), as written in so many books these days? Is it direction given by God, as is portrayed in many religious novels? Is it a chemical connection? Emotional connection? How do you know you are in love? And when the excitement of a new relationship starts to fizzle, does it mean that you are no longer in love?

Love is confusing when you look at the examples given to us by the world. I think it would be easy to flit from one relationship to another, looking for something that fit the mold shown to us in so many books, movies, and TV programs, all the while missing the true blessings that can come from a meaningful relationship. When dating my husband, I had to stop and figure out what love was so that I could tell if I was in it or not. In the process of contemplating these questions I began to look at the Lord’s example of love … ‘greater love hath no man than this … ‘

I believe that true love can be explosive at times, true love is guided by the hand of God, and sometimes you are drawn to someone even when parts of you can’t stand them! But there is more to it than that. There is sacrifice. Forgiveness. Understanding. There is the soft comfort of long term commitment that comes when two people dedicate themselves to the success of a relationship, no matter how hard it gets at times. It is the growing knowledge of another individual’s personality, and quirks, likes, and dislikes. There is the success that comes from working at a relationship and slowly seeing it grow stronger.

It boggles my mind at times (particularly when in a fight with my husband), that the Lord would make two individuals who are essentially so different from each other, and require them to marry and mesh their lives in every aspect. There is nothing harder in the world, I think, than creating a successful relationship with someone of the opposite sex. I also think there is nothing more rewarding, though.

So on this Valentine’s weekend I dedicate my blog entry to this heart wrenching, tear jerking, frustrating yet rewarding, and fulfilling thing called love. Of course things aren’t ever black and white, and President Lorenzo Snow gives comforting council to faithful brothers and sisters who don’t get the opportunity of love in this life. “There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive.”

Here's to Valentine's Day!



Feb 14, 2009

Power Verbs

By Christine Thackeray

Thank you Kristine John for those words on PURGING. I've been trying to edit out over 25000 words out of my latest manuscript, and it's been painful! On that journey I've had many interesting conversations with my critique group. Yesterday I was talking to Julia Wagner who read me one of her paragraphs where she used the two phrases to replace the word looked -

She flicked her eyes back to the...

She brushed her gaze across the intricate carvings

Julia is queen of power verbs. She rarely just looks, walks or smiles which are common actions in my stories. I also have my characters nod and roll their eyes way too much.

Lately I've been on the prowl for good verbs that wake the reader up without throwing them out of the story. On the news this morning I heard them say that someone chose to "buck" the norm and "stemmed" the common trend- great verbs!

So I went back and chose some of my drab sentences-

“I know.” He walked back to their room frustrated.

Cath looked at him in shock.

Lindsay rolled her eyes and scowled.

The search for replacements has yielded sorry results. Here's my crack at using better verbage while maintaining the meaning.

"I know." He stomped back to their room and slammed the door.

Cath gaped at him as though he had three heads.

Lindsay tightened her lips until they were nothing but little slits across her face.

Okay, 'stomped, gaped and tightened'- not that great. I'd love to see some of you try. Hey, you brilliant word-smiths out there, how would you say those sentences better?

Feb 13, 2009

Purging

By Kristine John

I made the decision early on in the moving process that I would carefully purge everything that we were moving.
I further vowed that not only would I purge as I packed, but also I would purge as I unpacked.

I've now been in my home for two weeks (hallelujah!), and there are still a myriad of boxes to be unpacked.
Yesterday, as I was moving the boxes in my bedroom for the 3rd time (once to organize them after the movers, once for painting, and again to the outer walls so we could walk easily into the room), I had the thought, "Why don't I rip all of these boxes open, dump everything into a pile and just be done "unpacking"?"
The thought was tempting.
It would be a great feeling to have every box unpacked.
However, I know that I would shuffle portions of that huge pile off into recessed corners, closet tops and hidden areas of my home, and I don't want to live in disorder again.

I have without hesitating, thrown away (or marked for give-away) 2 trash bags (and sometimes more) from each room that I have unpacked.
It feels so good to keep only what I love and what is special to me and my family.
It has already been a positive enough experience, that despite the fleeting thoughts, I am still committed to unpacking in a way that is orderly and measured, in a way that will result in the end result that I truly desire.

I thought of how this relates to writing, and quickly saw a number of parallels.
1) Purging from our drafts is critical. Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to see what needs to be thrown out, but final copy is always better when some of the excess has been purged.
2) Sometimes, in a desire to be finished, we dump unwanted things into our writing and commit to look at it later, leaving us slogging through junk in the end.
3) By keeping the end goal in mind, we can make it through the frustrating and difficult times and maintain the level of writing we want.

Writing is a process.
We all know that.
Keep that in mind as you focus on your next work in progress, and embrace the parts of the process that ultimately bring you to your desired result.

Feb 12, 2009

Miraculous Events

by Kari Pike

The phone rang. The clock blinked 1:15am. I fumbled the phone, trying to find the power button in the dark. I managed a froggy hello and listened as an excited father announced that his wife was in labor and they decided to go to the hospital. They would call me as soon as they got settled in labor and delivery. I mumbled a congratulations and fell back to my warm, soft pillow. Should I get up? Her last labor lasted almost thirty hours. I decided to rest a bit longer, knowing my doula bag lay packed and ready in the closet. Forty minutes later, the ring of the phone jerked me back awake.

"Kari! She's dilated to 8...and her water just broke! You better head over here right away!" I threw my clothes on, grabbed my bag and hustled to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I ran into the delivery room just in time to hear the first cries of new life. I watched the joy and wonder on the faces of these new parents...even though they had been through this experience before. I felt humble and grateful for the invitation to be a witness to this miraculous event.

Thirty hours later, the phone rang again. "Congratulations, Grandma! You have a new grandson!" Ezra Kreed Anderson came into the world a perfect 7# 10 oz and nearly 20 inches long. I packed and cleaned and stomped out fires until at last I found myself in a little thirty seater prop plane, soaring through the big skies of Colorado and Wyoming. The 6 passengers and the flight attendant laughed and joked about the thrill of flying in the "Vomit Comet." The biggest thrill for me was pulling up to the little airport terminal in Laramie and spying my grandchildren with their hands and faces plastered against the glass of the big picture window overlooking the airstrip.

"Those are my grandkids!" I proudly announced to the other passengers. When I walked into the terminal, the grans welcomed me with multiple hugs and shouts and smiles. Holding little Ezra brought flashbacks of holding my own newborn babies; the sweet scent, the soft skin and hair, the warmth of his tiny little body snuggled into my shoulder. It never gets old, this welcoming new life into the world. I never knew you could love another child as much as the ones you gave birth too. It is and always will be a miracle.

Feb 11, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name . . .

by Anna Arnett

There's been quite a flurry on our E-mail social line about ANWA growing so much we now have multiple first names. There's even another Anna in my chapter. I marvel at the creative flow. In the past I've signed Anna of Gilbert, to give a small clue about where I lived, even though I don't actually live in Gilbert. I live in Chandler (and so does Anna W.) Gilbert is across two of our fences, and schools, ward, stake,loyalties, etc. are in Gilbert. (I don't know why I'm going into all this, when I'll probably just delete it.)

For ANWA emails, I almost immediately chose Lolly as my sign-in name. But a lingering cloud still hangs over Lolly. By now it's pretty wispy, but at one time it almost completely obliterated the word, and me.

My parents always intended calling me "Laurene," but slipped "Anna" in front to honor my Danish grandmother. I only heard Anna when I was bad and my mother gave me the whole works; "Anna Laurene Liljenquist, get over here RIGHT NOW!"

(In fourth grade I signed "Anna Laurene" to one English paper, and the teacher misunderstood. When calling on me she'd repeat "Anna" several times before the girl next to me whispered, "Isn't that you?")

Since I was the tail-end of our family, everybody petted me and used endearing names. I was also a chubby child (a condition I never outgrew) and 'Lolly' seems rather soft and squishy. Whatever the reason, Lolly won out as their favorite. All my friends called me Lolly, too.

This was okay with me, until the bombshell hit. The summer between my elementary and high school status, I discovered my Uncle Oz (short for Oswell) and his hulking, lumbering (in my sight because they paid little attention to their youngest cousin) boys said lolly for a cow's teat. I just looked up teat in my trusty Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary to be sure of the spelling since we always said, "tit". I love the definition: "the protuberance on the breast or udder of most female mammals, through which the milk is drawn; a nipple; pap; dug." (I wonder what my reaction would have been had I known about 'pap'.)

Anyway, after this horrible revelation, I absolutely repudiated my nickname. Every time some unenlightened soul called me Lolly, I immediately added, "Pop. I'm Lollypop." Somehow it soothed my soul. My friends, all twenty-four of them in my freshman class and the sixteen in the other, seemed to agree on one thing; Lollypop is too long for a nickname. Since I refused Lolly, they shortened it to Pop. Therefore, in this little two-room, two-teacher Archer High School, one of the youngest (and I'd like to add sweetest, most feminine, even if it doesn't fit) girls was called Pop.

I got away from nicknames by the time we moved on to Madison High School in Rexburg, and of course I never stooped so low while a working girl, college student, wife or mother. I only had to explain it to my husband when somebody, like my brother-in-law in Idaho, called me Lolly. The sting had lost its bite by then, but I had no desire to resurrect the nickname.

Until we served a temple mission in Australia. On a double-decker bus heading for Adelaide during one of our breaks, the bus driver gave us a choice of two movies he could show. The answers were far from unanimous. "Tell you what we'll do. Take a vote. Every lolly you bring me will count as one vote for your choice."

We American minority looked at each other. "What's a lolly?"

"Any sweet will do. Candy, gum, cookies. I'll take them all."

Suddenly, Lolly took on a new, absolutely delightful meaning. I would like to say I embraced it wholeheartedly, but I'd been years without a nickname, and I could continue that way. Yet, when I attacked it to my first given name, I like the sound. Sometimes I write Anna Lolly, sometimes Annalolly, and sometimes I imitate e.e.cummings and choose the lazier way of annalolly. I think I'll choose the latter.

Little by little, Charles started using Lolly, and during the last year or two of his life that's what he called me.

It is a nice name.

Feb 10, 2009

To Tell the Truth

by Valerie Ipson

The further I get into writing my first novel, the more I begin to look at other published works differently. In the past if I read a book that was bad (not bad, in that sense, but bad, as in poorly-witten) it would make me hopeful and I would think, "Well, this got published, what I write can, too." I know...it's all subjective, we all have our opinions about different books, BUT you know the novels I'm talking about--ones who have correct spelling and grammar, but every other sentence jars you out of the story because of the way the author has worded it. I read a few of those last year and instead of feeling hopeful for my publishing chances, it made me sad. No one told them the truth? Not even an editor or publisher, not even their friend or sister-in-law who read the story? I can forgive the latter two, it's a delicate business critiquing for a friend, but the former? Isn't this their job to produce a quality title?

Authors and writers out there, am I wrong here? Don't we want the truth? Sure, make it a sugar-coated, hedged-with-compassion truth, but give us the truth.

Feb 9, 2009

I can’t get things out of my head lately!

By Stacy Johnson

I participated in a wonderful exercise in my “Writing A Personal History” class at school. The freewrite began with these instructions:

Just write the word On at the top of a piece of paper, then add an abstract noun, then just write.
Don’t edit, don’t backspace, don’t think about things, just write.

So I did. I chose On Feeling Youthful – I just wrote and wrote about what that meant to me.

What a fun exercise! I learned so much about my true feelings and maybe better understand why I’m so involved with my kids sports, exercise, and hanging with my teenage kids. I want to feel youthful and it gets worse, the older I get.

Now, I can’t get the exercise out of my head. There are so many things to write about. This is a great exercise to try yourself. Write 300 words, write for 10 minutes, set your limit however you’d like. Now write.

I’ve come up with some things that I want to write about in the future. I can’t get this out of my head now, everytime I run into a situation, I want to sit down and write about it. Here’s how it goes:

I was at church yesterday and as I listened to the background noise from all the children around me, I wanted to go home and write On Reverence. Then, after the dinner that my husband and I so generously prepared before we left for church (so that it would be ready when we got home), my kids went upstairs and turned on the t.v. without cleaning up the kitchen. That made me want to write On Responsibility. This morning, after the kids left for school, and I had the house to myself, I got on facebook. Now, I want to write On Time Wasting :)


This has surely taken my mind off of the concern that sadly (and embarrassingly), keeps me up at night and that is this: I don't know what I'll wear on the Regis and Kelly show when they pick my little Anny as their 2009 Most Beautiful Baby. (jk, but not really:) I think my next topic will be On Reality. hee hee

Feb 8, 2009

Sunday Weirdness

by Marsha Ward

A funny thing happened to me on the way to posting this blog. I got up extra early this morning, intending to complete work on the talk I was to give in church. The way things worked out, though, I didn't get to give my talk. Instead, we had a snow day for church.

It was weird. I knew snow was expected, but I have tons of Venetian blinds that are closed at night, so if I don't make an effort, I don't see outside. I was working on my talk when a sister called to tell me church was canceled on account of snow. I went to look out the door, and sure enough, we had about four inches here in the park.

Our branch covers a wide rural area strung along a state highway, and when the highway hasn't been plowed yet, it's too dangerous to drive to church without chains/4-WD. We've gotten at least one snow day a year for the past two years. The Sunday School teacher jokes about it to visitors when we get behind in the lessons due to our snow days.

I got on the computer ready to string together some words for my blog post, when the power went off. The outage lasted for about five hours, so I couldn't even share why I couldn't post with you.

My scheduled talk was on service, but I'll tuck it away for another occasion. I'm so very glad for the service Arizona Public Service linesmen and other workers do--rain, snow, or shine--when the electrical power goes out.

Ironically, while I was forced off the computer, I read the local paper. The area manager for APS just retired. I don't suppose the incidents were related?

Nah! :-)

Feb 7, 2009

The Wall

by Cindy R. Williams

I hit a wall this last week. Not with my car, but with my writing. Not because I have writers block, but because I lost my resource to write on. My wonderful lap top self-destructed right before my very eyes. My stomach rose to meet my heart. I have two years of Thundertail's Tale on there along with every project I have ever started. Notice, I say started, and if you are like me, you have MANY projects started that are still waiting to find their home.

I am really quite lucky though, because my email was the first to go, and when I called my Internet service people, those disembodied voices at the other end of the telephone, I found out it was my computer that had the glitch. This led to a call to my IT specialist, David. He just happened to be a few miles away finishing up a job and came right over. He did whatever it is these geniuses do, and found the diagnostic whosits, and like I said, we watched my lap top in its very own nuclear fallout zone.

David, the techno guru, immediately grabbed the chord to my desk top computer's memory, and copied all my stories and pictures before the computer exploded. (Okay, I am being a bit melodramatic here, but it did fizzle a bit.) I guess I am one of the lucky ones, because David, the computer magic man, was able to copy them all, and I do have them now on my big family computer in our home office/hobby room/guest suite.

However, like I said at the beginning, I have hit a wall because I can no longer curl up on my cozy love seat with my beloved lap top on my legs in my writing corner of my bedroom surrounded by my many dragons, castles, fairies, fat belly boohahs, and goblins. These are my inspiration. I look at them, and can imagine them flying, soaring, talking, laughing and living in Dellrimple, New Dragonland. My daughter's fiance is visiting and staying in the front half of our office/hobby room/guest suite on the day bed, so I can no longer write in the wee hours of the night. This new wall looms large.

So, just like my characters when they hit a snag, a problem, a crisis, a wall, I am now brainstorming about how to go through, over, under or around this wall. I know this too, shall pass so I smile as I write this and am looking forward to whatever my new creative solution will be. I will not give up! I just wish I had the answer right now. I think I will go have some chocolate.

Feb 6, 2009

Childhood Truths

by Sarah Albrecht

At one of our chapter meetings a few months ago, Rene Allen read an intriguing idea from the draft of her memoir: the truths we learn as children, whether they are indeed “true” or not, stay with us into adulthood and affect our actions and views of the world.

In first grade, I learned a series of truths, the good kind, when my teacher's son joined the musical touring group Up With People (which had a headquarters in my hometown of Tucson). I had already been exposed to some of those ideas at home or at church, but singular experience tends to crystallize amorphous thought.

For me, that singular experience began when Mrs. Gooder, my teacher, involved her whole class and their families in Up With People. The class visited her home and listened to her son play the drums. Our family hosted Eddie Joyner, a twenty-year-old pianist from Georgia, in our home. We bought Up With People’s 1977 album. We went to their concert. That year and in the years to follow, I pored over lyrics in the album and memorized as many as possible. When I came to a song with Spanish lyrics, I pored over the Spanish and the English until the second gave reason to the first.

I came out on the other side of Up With People with truths that would shape the rest of my life: Music has great power, over groups and individuals. Playing the piano well is really cool. Not understanding Spanish drove me crazy, so I’d better learn it. Mastery takes a lot of practice.

And from the lyrics: Other countries—Mexico, in this case--have families that love each other and want good lives, too. You can play in any key and it comes out the same in the fourth grade band. War takes away childhood. Seen from the moon, the earth doesn’t have any borders. Our perceptions can influence reality (I think this is Rene’s truth stemming from perception). People are the best kind of folks we know.

I’m posting this early, scheduling it for my Friday, because I’ll be in Mexico with my husband when it runs. While I'm there, I’ll dust off my Spanish and walk down high-curbed streets knowing that behind closed doors I could find families that love each other.

And that’s the truth.

Feb 5, 2009

A Brief Follow Up on Sun Wei's Visit

by Stephanie Abney

If you read my last post you know we hosted a Chinese high school teacher in our home recently. It was such fun. After staying here for ten days, Sun Wei and her students went on to L.A., Boston, and N.Y. and should be heading home the end of the week. She said she didn't even want to visit those cities that she wanted to stay with us and enjoy "typical American Life" as she "liked it very much."

Before she left, she attended all 3 hours of church with us and we took her to the visitor's center where she saw the Christus and the words were in Chinese for her and I called ahead and reserved a theater where they showed "The Restoration" in Chinese with (English subtitles).
Afterwards I gave her a Chinese Book of Mormon. I know not much can happen when she gets back to her country but at least I exposed her to the gospel. And from her comments throughout the time she spent with us there is no doubt she felt the spirit.

Sun Wei is so adorable (27 years old). She and all of her students are only children as that is the law in China. She loved all the family things we did. I think the reason she wanted to stay was because she felt the spirit in our home. Over half of the students who came were also placed in LDS homes. It was great experience.

Last night we had the missionaries over for dinner. I told them all about Sun Wei (whom they had met while she was here as they frequent our house). Then Jim said he told about all I had done in his High Council meeting the night before because they were discussing missionary work. One of the high councilmen, who used to be our bishop, said, "When I was a bishop, Stephanie Abney was the best missionary we ever had." I look at my life now and wonder where that woman went. Guess I need to work on that!!!

At any rate, I pray you all have a wonderful day... I'm off to teach the young ones... wish I was at liberty to write about that, but I'm not. Suffice it to say, most people have no idea what some very little children face on a daily basis. It's a wonder they even get out of bed. My hat's off to them. I pray that I am a bright spot in their day and can encourage them to be all they can be.

"Go forth and be BOLD!!"

Feb 4, 2009

Torn

by Marielle Carlisle

I’ve got a dilemma.

My favorite thing to do is read, and that is an understatement. I am CONSTANTLY reading. I’ve been this way since, well, forever. And I don’t read books that make me smarter. Strictly fiction, preferably JUV fantasy. It’s so satisfying to read a good book at the end of another crazy day filled with chasing around a two year old and carrying a 7 month old.

So what’s my problem?

My exploration into this realm of writing is new for me. I’ve only recently tried writing children’s stories, and found I truly enjoy it. But the only time I can write is at the end of my crazy days filled with chasing around a two year old and carrying a 7 month old.

The kids are in bed by 7:30. I have until 10pm to fall asleep if I want to be a caring, loving, patient mother the next day, considering the baby has yet to sleep completely through the night AND he wakes up around 5:30 am FOR THE DAY.

Something has to give.

My time is precious.

I want to read! I love reading! Right now I’m reading this:


And it has me on the edge of my seat!

But I want to write!

What do I do?

Do I read a little, then write, or write first and then read?

Or do I forgo my sleep, and stay up late?

In my heart, I know I must put the book aside and write.

And that breaks my heart.

Feb 3, 2009

RL Sometimes Messes You Up

by Terri Wagner

I won't post anything major here. I just wanted to check in and let my ANWA sisters know I am still alive here in Elberta, ha. I was supposed to post yesterday but some difficult real life issues got in the way. I'm so glad to have this "escape" to be able to converse with people who love not only to write the written word but to read it also. Things are not back on track, but hopefully they will be soon. So do ALL newlyweds have major problems?

(time edited to put on Tuesday)

Feb 2, 2009

Smushing

by Joyce DiPastena

Some days when I write, I feel like I’m back to finger painting in kindergarten. Sticking my hands in a bowl of paint—or in this case, words, and aimlessly smushing them around on the page. The whole process just feels downright messy. No matter how I try, I can’t manage to stay within the lines or draw forth any sense or shape from my efforts.

Other days, I pick up a wide bristled brush and succeed in painting a few broad strokes to a scene. On these days, a form begins to emerge, blurry around the edges, lacking anything remotely resembling style or elegance, but if the lines are smudged, at least on such days as this, there are lines.

On a really good day, a fine bristled brush appears in my hand. I dip the delicate, tapered tip into my bowl of words and dart clear, sharp images onto the page. This is better than staying within the lines. This is creating the lines…the fine threads of a woman’s hair, the scrolling pattern etched into the hearthstones of the fireplace, the shattering discovery of the true reason one’s fiancĂ© inexplicably abandoned one at the church door. This is a scene so keenly focused in my mind, that every dart of my brush’s point leaves in its wake a finely honed detail.

Last week was a messy, smushing kind of week for me. The kind of week that makes me question whether I still have a single drop of writing talent left in my veins. I find myself facing a new week with considerable trepidation. Will it be another finger painting week, a broad stroke week, or a focused, detailed week? I’d be encouraged just to have some combination of the three. Because as fun as finger painting might have been in kindergarten, I’ll never translate the story in my head by smushing words around forever.

Feb 1, 2009

Pride vs. Communication

by Shawnette Nielson

Stephen Covey said, “When we listen with the intent to understand others, rather than with the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship building. Opportunities to then speak openly and to be understood come much more naturally and easily. Seeking to understand takes consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effectiveness lies in balancing the two.”

I think it takes a lot of courage to listen with the intent to understand because to do so requires you to possibly be wrong. One of my major faults is my pride and it is really hard for me to admit when I am wrong. Or even think of the possibility of it. Just ask my husband.

When I am discussing something that I feel passionately about, too often I am just trying to make a point, and not trying to understand because I am always so positive that I am right. BUT … I realize that true connection and understanding only comes when there is a true flow of communication between people, and not just words.

When I do actually let go of my pride and truly listen, an amazing thing happens - a relationship builds and grows. A level of openness develops and with it, trust comes also. It is a beautiful thing and something that I appreciate any time that it is achieved … it is just dang hard for me to do at times. Isn’t that funny? It is hard for me to communicate when it is super easy for me to talk.

Oh well, life is funny like that. I believe since being married I have gotten a lot better at letting go of a lot of my prideful notions and easier for me to listen. Life is great, isn’t it! Hard. Frustrating. Challenging. But wonderful.