Sep 30, 2009

Climb Every Mountain

by Marielle Carlisle

Look mom, no hands!

That about sums up what I feel like this morning.

This last weekend I attended a writing conference, my first ever.

It was great. We learned about the ins and outs of the children's book market and publishing world. I got to hear from editors and agents from all sorts of publishing houses and agencies. It was quite informative. Plus, all the non-solicited publishing houses in attendance will allow us to send in a manuscript within the next 90 days.

I also opted to have my manuscript critiqued.

I was assigned to B.G. Hennessy. She is a fabulous lady, who used to be the art director for Vicking Publishing, but now writes children's picture book. She's been on both ends of the spectrum.

She had some fantastic suggestions for my picture book. You need more enthusiasm, kids don't want to see their moms cry, having a photograph as a picture limits the artisit are just some of the comments, and they were all insightful. She said she did like the premise of my story, which helped me look past all the red marks on my paper.

But now that I'm at home, sitting at my computer, I finally understand the workload that is now before me with the edits.

Is this what you published writers feel like when your editor sends back your stories with all the rewrites? Wow, it's ... wow.

I'll have to completely rewrite the story. There'll be some things I can copy and paste, but most of it will be brand new. I've only got 90 days!

A piece of me just wants to bag the story. Too much work. I've looked at this story HUNDREDS of times. I just want to throw up thinking about it (which the publishers said is a good thing; that means you're really grooming and developing your story).

Spewing chunks aside, I feel this is a crossroads. If I walk away, I'll lose out on an important learning opportunity. I will persist.

I'll make sure to keep the throw up bucket close by.

Sep 29, 2009

Is There A Moment When You Can Say Enough?

My co author and I decided to convert one of our "for fun" stories into a possible series. We changed the names of our characters, built in descriptions and reworked our plots in today's world with cell phones and GPS. We started off rather excited and committed. We ended up discouraged and snipping at one another.

We found that time was not on our side. She's a busy mother of 9, grandmotherhood on the horizon, a difficult situation with an unemployed husband and a very real need to make some money of her own. I have work deadlines, a difficut employee and a dad determined to build a house today if possible.

So reluctantly after getting about 100 pages into the book, we decided it just wasn't going to happen. She didn't want to spend time on a book that might not garner any monetary results. I could never follow her vision of the characters and found myself relegated to cheerleader instead of co author. Neither of us could devote the time we needed to writing at this point.

So why do I feel like a loser? And why do the characters keep nagging at me? And why do I love them as much as the "for fun" characters? Are they trying to tell me something? Did I throw the towel in too soon? Is it a case of reality bites or giving up too easily?

When I am writing for work, you have have a beginning, a middle and an end so you just follow the course until it's done. Fiction is so different. You can start at the end of the story and rewind or start in the middle and do flashbacks. In fact most books of this particular genre start in the middle of the action and show tidbits of the characters and not much of their history.

I'm chasing a rabbit here. My real focus here is when do you say enough. Is it when the voices in your head stop talking? Do you talk back to them? Can you shut them up? Are they worth listening to?

When is enough really enough?

Sep 28, 2009

It’s Time For a Non-Virtual Experience!

by Joyce DiPastena

Last Sunday, as I was getting dressed for an early morning Church meeting, I had cranked up the sound to a BYU Devotional on TV to listen to while I dressed. Now, you must understand that the TV is some distance from my bedroom and bathroom where the bulk of my “getting ready for Church” takes place, so between running water for such things as brushing my teeth and the A/C cycling on and off (yes, even at that hour of the morning, for you non-Arizonans who may be blinking in dismay), I don’t generally catch a lot of words from these early morning devotionals. But I do remember that the speaker last week was a woman, and during one interim of relative silence on my and the house’s part, one comment broke through that caught my attention. Speaking to a college age audience, she was warning them about spending too much time in cyberspace. The comment went something like this (paraphrasing): “I’ve heard many students say that they feel closer to their cyberspace friends than they do to actual people they know on campus.”

What she said in follow-up escaped me, as the A/C cycled on again, but from her tone of voice, I suspected this was not something she particularly approved of.

Her words struck both a chord of guilt and justification in me. I freely admit that I spend a lot of time with “virtual friends” on the internet. Not all of them are completely “virtual” anymore, as many of them are ANWA members whom I have now met at writing conferences and retreats, so I can count many you as “real people”, rather than the “virtual friends” you were to me for so many years. Yet some of you I still have never met, and there are other writers I have connected with in cyberspace that have become good friends, as well. Why have I bonded with you all in cyberspace? Because we share a common interest—writing!—and to be honest, because of where I live, except for that annual conference and writers retreat, I don’t get a chance to associate with other writers outside of cyberspace. And so I admit, on many levels, I feel closer to many of you through cyberspace than I do to non-writer acquaintances within my town or ward.

Keep in mind that I am also single, so I have no husband and children to associate with on a consistent basis. Even my siblings live in different states, reducing our contacts to phone calls and—yes—cyberspace exchanges!

Hence, my “justification” for the time I spend with my “virtual friends”.

When I found myself invited last week to a Stampin’ Up! party with some other women in my ward, my initial reaction was hesitance, even though the party was being sponsored by a former visiting teacher of mine who was coming to town just to instruct us in the art of paper crafting—a very non-virtual friend whom I continue to love very much. But I’m also quite shy (though you might question that self-description if you get me started talking about writing ;-) ) and have never particularly felt comfortable in large social groups. Even though I wanted to see this beloved former visiting teacher of mine, it still was a struggle to convince myself to go. But the words of that BYU Devotional kept coming back to haunt (or more likely, prompt) me. “You need to go have a non-virtual experience, Joyce. You need to go be around some living, breathing people, even if just for a few hours.”

Don’t you hate it when you know you should go do something “because it’ll be good for you”, when you really don’t want to do it? But I couldn’t get that voice out of my head. “You need to go have a non-virtual experience.” And so I pushed myself into my car and drove down to the hostess’s house to learn how to Stamp Up some Christmas cards. If you knew what a complete craft klutz I am, even having been craft-humiliated to the point of tears on more than one occasion, you would understand why this non-virtual experience was a double challenge for me.

But you know what? I went, I was not humiliated (Stampin’ Up! must have been designed especially for craft klutzes like me—it’s like I couldn’t make this stuff look bad even if I tried!), and I had a good time! All the non-virtual women there were warm and welcoming, and one of them even said towards the end, “You need to come and play with us more often, Joyce.” And when she said that, I knew it was true. I need to “go play” with some non-virtual people sometimes, even if they aren’t writers.

This takes nothing away from my love for my writer friends, even if most of them remain “virtual” over most of the year. I’ll still spend time with them, because they nourish me and my writing in a way only other writers can do. But I will also try to remain more open to non-virtual experiences closer to home after this.

Hey! When is that next Stampin’ Up! party scheduled?

Sep 26, 2009

Strengthen the Feeble Knees

By Christine Thackeray

Four years ago my knees went out. After sustained bed rest due to a difficult pregnancy, the surrounding muscles atrophied to the point that my knee caps were totally out of alignment and crunch every time I bend my leg. At the time I went to physical therapy, and they gave me a variety of exercises that encouraged leg bends which made my knees swell and only seemed to exasperate the problem. After a year of consistent work, I stopped trying because my legs were worse.

A few weeks ago my husband was putting on his socks and turned to me out of the blue and said, "Why don't we go to Israel?"

I've always dreamed of going and everything has fallen into place for the trip, except I'm really worried about my knees. After one day at Disneyland this summer I had to have my legs up for two days to bring down the swelling and recover. How can I do ten days in Israel?

So I went back to a different physical therapist. I talked to him about my problems, and he told me that the way to strengthen my knees was to begin with my feet and ankles. Then work on my thighs so that all the supporting muscles were doing what they should. He agreed that any knee work was both ineffective and detrimental.

THANK YOU! This week I've started doing the ankle and feet exercises and even started working on the eliptical without pain our swelling. It is miraculous.

What I kick myself for is that this is a principle I already know. It's part of the concept of "succoring the weary." When we succor or serve people, we don't live their lives for them, but give them the strenghth or help in areas we can to alleviate enough stress that they can cope with what they need to on their own. Like bringing dinner to a new mom or scrubbing the kitchen and bathrooms of someone who has been too depressed to do it themselves or just hanging out with a mom who is struggling with activity. Sometimes supporting people in other areas can have a powerful effect on different but connected challenges in their lives.

It is interesting that the scripture that talks about feeble knees also talks about succoring:

Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.

This concept of indirect support applies to so many things from being somewhere on time to improving our writing to getting our son to plan his eagle project. Wow. So I'm pointing and flexing, lifting each toe separately and working on balance with a big smile on my face. Who knew?

Sep 25, 2009

Looking Forward

By Kristine John

Today begins the weekend before my birthday.
It used to be in years past, as my birthday approached, I would set my expectations internally and yet not communicate them verbally.
Without exception, I would end up disappointed with the things that were or were not done for me because they were different than I wanted.

A few years ago, a wise friend took the time to ask me, "Have you told your family not only WHAT you want, but also, specifically HOW you want your birthday to be?"
Of course I had not communicated specifically to my family...I wanted them to just intuitively KNOW me well enough to read my mind.
(Do you think a completely clean house and no contention for an entire day is too difficult to achieve?)
Obviously that didn't work to well for me, although my family is thoughtful and caring, oftentimes, I ended up slightly frustrated because things weren't the way I envisioned them.
(Nice dinner, a meaningful gift, a little time alone with my sweetheart...somehow in the chaos of a large family some of those things get overlooked.)

The interesting lesson I have learned is that we MUST communicate our needs, in every aspect of our lives.
When we have a vision, a desire, for things to be a specific way, we need to make certain we open our mouths and make a difference.
We are each powerful.
Powerful in creation, powerful in voice, and powerful in action.
We must use that voice, that action and create the things we dream...for if we do not, it is likely that no one else can make the contribution that you have been sent here to make.

So, look forward.
Look forward and choose to make a difference in what your future holds.

Sep 24, 2009

by Kari Diane Pike

In the frenzy of continued unpacking of boxes, out-of-state company, the continued generosity of master gardener neighbors sharing their abundance of peaches, tomatoes, and peppers, and the ongoing harvest from our own fruit and nut trees, I have had little to no time to spend writing or reading and anything else so that I might share and few words with you today. (Was that sentence long and confusing enough??)

However, my daughter (who,with her five children, is temporarily living with us) shared her favorite poem with me the other day. She used her best calligraphy and I know she shared a piece of her heart with it.

by William Henry Channing

To live content with small means.
To seek eloquence rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion.
To be worthy not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich.
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently,
act frankly, to listen to the stars, birds, babes,
and sages with open heart, to bear all
cheerfully, do all bravely, await
occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual,
unhidden and unconscious
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

So now I take a deep breath, give thanks for this abundance of love, friendship, and the knowledge of who I am and why I am here. I'm looking out my bedroom window, watching Papa Quail on the fence post as he keeps guard over Mama Quail and their 8 Baby Quail...well, now seven baby quail. Mr. Hawk just grabbed breakfast!!! Oh my...this was not the ending I had in mind for this post! Sigh...the life cycle just keeps turning! Love you all!

Sep 22, 2009

It makes me want to hurl...

...the book. What did you think I meant?

by Valerie Ipson

I just want to get it out in the open... I hate it when an author brings the couple together finally near the end of the story, but then one of them dies. I'm telling you, this is not what people read romances for. Authors please note: Need! Happy! Ending! I threw one such book across the room. (Apologies to the library for that. Good thing I didn't see the movie--it's hard to throw a theater.)

Yesterday, author of actual books and blogger for Cedar Fort, Jaime Theler, listed 10 pet peeves she has as a reader. (Check them out here, I'm sure you'll agree with her on all counts!)

Anyway, it reminded me of my recent lament after starting a new book and being confronted with awkward writing:

Since becoming a writer, am I ruined as a reader?

I LOOOOOOOVE to read. I've been an avid reader my entire life. See picture of me avidly reading?

But now a writer's eye has joined my reader's eye as I peruse the pages of my latest book selection. I don't just enter the story, I notice how that story is structured and the precise words chosen to tell it.

It's making me crazy! It goes beyond pet peeves to just plain being critical (in a proper, literary, critiquing kind of way, of course.;D). Sure, the sentence may be grammatically correct, but it doesn't sound right, it doesn't flow. Did the author ever read it aloud and really hear it...? These are the kind of comments I make to my husband who is required under our marriage contract to listen patiently to at least two rants per week from his wife (that's in the Utah law books somewhere). He just gets this look that is very easy to read: "So how many books have you published?")

So back to pet peeves...I guess awkward writing that sounds like the author did not read it aloud to hear how it flows is one of my major pet peeves.

What are yours?

And if you don't like this blog post, probably wise to refrain from throwing your computer. Just saying.

Sep 20, 2009

1,000 True Fans

by Marsha Ward

In my perusal of Twitter links, I ran across a reference to 1,000 True Friends, and decided to find out where it came from and what it could mean for me.

I tracked it down to an original post called "1,000 True Fans" on The Technium, written by Kevin Kelly, an "original thinker," blogger, and technology writer. I'm sure he is many other things, as we all are, but let's just call him what I already have, for the sack of brevity.

Kelly asserts that a creator--such as an artist, musician, or author, among others who create works of art--needs to acquire and maintain only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

He defines a True Fan as one who will purchase anything and everything you produce. If your 1,000 True Fans each spend an average of $100 a year on your work, your income will amount to $100,000 a year. Minus your expenses and taxes, that's a living for most folks.


I probably spend $1,000 to $1,500 a year on books. I don't think the average person does that, but I hope some of my readers would spend some of their book money on my novels.

But do I have anywhere near 1,000 True Fans?

Let's see. As I write this I have 559 Facebook friends, 161 Fans on my FB Fan Page, 223 Followers on Twitter, and 69 Friends on Goodreads (although I'm sure a lot of those are duplicates), so, in theory, I'm nearing the 1,000 goal. But here's a question: Are they True Fans by definition? Do they each buy $100 worth of my product each year?

Well, no. Not all the friends I've mentioned above care that I write novels. Some are chums from long-ago school days. Some are extended family members I barely know. Some are friends or relatives of my friends. Besides that, I don't have $100 worth of product to sell to my True Fans, even if they each paid into my wild fantasy of making a living from writing. I have much work to do to create product for fans, and to make alternative and derivitive works available to my True Fans.

Kelly mentions that once you've found your 1,000 True Fans, you need to nurture them. You have to maintain direct contact with them. Technology makes this possible. Tweets and blogs and emails and Facebook help a great deal.

I still have a long way to go to achieve a fandom of 1,000 True Fans, but I hope I'm on my way.

Oh, and did you know WD-40 can be used to untangle jewelry chains?

Sep 19, 2009

Writing World

by Cindy R. Williams

I think I may be going crazy. I enter into my writing world, then forget to leave. I'm not even sure I want to leave anymore, nor where the door is. Anyone hear of how Edgar Allen Poe used Opium to write? No, I don't use Opium but sometimes I feel that I'm just as loopy or way out there and it is ever so hard to come back to the real world.

I'm not very poetic. In fact, I'm pathetic.
But still I try, so laugh or cry.
It's time for bed before I fall over dead. 
My eyes are glazed, and I am amazed
That my fingers can write any more tonight.
I live in my dreams or so it seems.
I see pink roses and ten twizzled toeses.
I'm losing it I fear, but the end is near.
I just keep writing though shadows are biting.
And here I remain no matter how insane.
I have been captured, and my brain has fractured.
I continue to create and think it is great.
I'm a writing slave, but, do I want to be saved?

Am I alone? Anyone else lost in your writing world? Oh, and one last thing, my humble apologies to those of you with the gift of poetry.

Sep 18, 2009

Tiny Tasks

by Sarah Albrecht

Since going back to school in August, homework has crept into almost every crevasse of available time not already slotted for family, and even then it’s always there, hovering just outside the door. In spite of how long I anticipated returning to school, it’s been a big change.

In order to keep some sense of balance, I’ve set myself to doing Tiny Tasks—small morsels of other work or activity—that usually take no more than five minutes and that would otherwise be subsumed by the big HW.

In five minutes, I can:

--clean the powder room
--make two beds
--run the dishwasher or switch a load of laundry
--drop a note in the mail
--make my kindergartener a cup of chocolate milk
--write one hundred words


Sep 17, 2009

Today is "Constitution Day"

by Stephanie Abney

On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine of the some of the bravest men the world has seen signed the
U.S. Constitution and forever changed the course of history. I will be eternally grateful for their courage, foresight and their spiritual wisdom.

After the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Alexander Hamilton said, "For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests."

There is no doubt the Lord had a hand in the establishment of the Constitution in order to create a country and a government that would be the rich soil for the restoration of His gospel.

These great men, and their wives and their children, paid a tremendous price to give us the liberties that we have enjoyed for so many years. It behooves us each to study the Constitution and live accordingly. May we be worthy of our blessings.

God Bless America!!!

Sep 16, 2009

On the Receiving End

by Marielle Carlisle

Today I basked in complete bliss at the Willow Stream Spa at the Princess Resort. This week is SpaWeek (it's like cash-for-clunkers for the spa industry), and since our little family is taking a staycation, I decided to completely pamper myself.

I've mentioned before how I work at the Golden Door Spa, which is a big rival of the Princess. Being a massage therapist, you probably expect me to get at least one massage a month, right? Yeah, no.

I get the customary Mother's Day gift at the local day spa, and the occasional training massage from a co-worker.

It's hard for me to spend money on myself, especially when there's food to buy and bills to pay.

But I feel like such a phony when I recommend getting a massage to my clients, and then they ask me "well, how many massages do you get?" to which I reply "well, funny thing, not many, but it's like how the cobbler's kids have no shoes." And yes, I have said that to my clients.

Today was different! I visited a rival property, and was blown away by the service and amenities. I used the elliptical for 30 minutes, then sat in the waterfall mineral bath, swam in the pool, sat poolside while reading my book, sat in the hot tub, evaporated in the steam room, showered, enjoyed my hour Serenity Massage, showered again, then ate a complimentary cranberry cookie and cup of prickly pear lemonade. It was heaven. I was in such a state of euphoria that even coming home to cranky kids and cat throw-up didn't faze me.

It's not like I forget that a massage feels wonderful, because I know they do. But I just don't remember the peace, the happiness, the calm, the total relaxation as well. Being on the receiving end serves as a reminder that even though being a massage therapist is my 'job' and it's 'work,' it means a whole lot more to the person getting the massage. This kind of reminder pushes me to be a better therapist.

So how can we be on the receiving end of our writing work? By reading a good book? By listening to a good talk?

Whatever it is, let it serve as a reminder that though we are working hard for our money, it means a whole lot more to the people who are reading it.

Sep 15, 2009

What Do You Say When

you don't know what to say? It reminds me of that old Ritz cracker commercial: What do you want when you don't know what you want...something on a crisp Ritz cracker...which is making me hungry here, I was late so I skipped breakfast which is probably ok because I just realized as boss I need to take my birthday employee out to lunch. Let's see, how long was that sentence?

With a big sense of regret, I was released from my RS calling. I have been the second Sunday teacher for years and always enjoyed my time with the sisters. Those of us in small branches know the closeness you can develop. In some cosmic irony my niece was called to the position. Her first lesson was Sunday. And what a lesson it turned out to be.

I guess because I'm older and sound like I know what I'm talking about, I kept the know-it-alls at bay. You know what I mean here. One sister began to sprout some pretty heavy doctrine I'm not even sure actually is doctrine, which only managed to totally confuse our newest convert and upset one of our oldest sisters. Not to mention have me wonder where the heck is she getting this stuff anyway??? And of course there's Sister Nice who wants to make everyone feel better so she tries to wind up the whole thing into a nice round ball of neatness.

I looked at my niece at the small podium and she looked back at me like what happened here. I gave her a wink and she smiled and we laughed about it later. I told her hey at least you got them talking. Just feed them chocolate (the real reason for my popularity) and you'll be ok.

On our way home (her second counselor hubby has to stay after most Sundays), she asked me the question I was dreading. So was sister so-and-so right? What do I say when I don't know what to say?

I opted for honest. I'm not sure but I am sure I don't like it. So I guess I have some research to do. Since then I've discovered what I suspected all along...Heavenly Father gets to make those kinds of decisions and that's OK by me. I don't even want to go there.

So was sister know-it-all wrong, not really. But her delivery was off key and upsetting. And instead of trying to pull back and be more tactful, she opted for full sail ahead and forget about the jet and flotsum created in her wake. Somehow I think the Savior would have put the whole mess in such a way that everyone understood, accepted it and saw the love in it.

I will tell you one thing, it didn't faze my niece at all. She's already studying for her next lesson. Good girl!!! She's gonna be great. But I'm still gonna miss it...a little. I am the Gospel Doctrine teacher now so there's a whole new dimension to my teaching now...the brothers, ha.

Sep 14, 2009

Marguerite Makes a Book

by Joyce DiPastena

Over on my Medieval Research with Joyce blog, I have been discussing some of the source books I used to research the subject of illuminated manuscripts for my medieval romance, Illuminations of the Heart. But there was one book I almost forgot to mention, and I thought some of you might be interested in it, too.

The books I cited on my research blog told me much about the art of medieval illumination. But this JEWEL of a children’s picture book shows, as well as tells. That’s the wonderful thing about using children’s picture books for research. They’re all about showing, as well as telling, which for the visually minded writer, can be a priceless gift.

Marguerite Makes a Book is just such a gift. Written by Bruce Robertson, with illustrations by Kathryn Hewitt, this book was published by the J. Paul Getty Museum to give museum goers, children and adults alike, a greater appreciation of some of the treasures contained in that museum.

Marguerite Makes a Book is a story of a young girl, the daughter of a medieval illuminator named Jacques, who is commissioned to create an illuminated prayer book for a beautiful noblewoman. But Papa Jacques is growing old, his hands now shake, his eyes are growing dim, and furthermore, he is injured in an unexpected accident. His family needs the money this book will bring, but how will the prayer book ever be finished in time?

Enter his daughter, Marguerite, who has grown up learning much of her father’s craft. Determined to save both the family income and her father’s reputation, Marguerite sets out to gather the materials necessary to finish “illuminating” the prayer book. We follow her, in both word and picture, as she travels into town to buy some necessary parchment; gathers feathers from which to make pens; purchases herbs and minerals to make paints, and even some sheets of gold leaf. Armed with all these ingredients, she returns to her father’s workshop and finishes the paintings her father is unable to complete. And we get to watch her along every step, thanks to Ms Hewitt’s beautiful illustrations! There is even a page pull-out section where Marguerite demonstrates how she makes each of the four paint colors she needs for her task: red, yellow, green, and blue (the latter made from that precious lapis lazuli mentioned in one of my Medieval Words of the Day).

The visuals in Marguerite Makes a Book are absolutely gorgeous. Many of the pages are bordered with designs similar to what one might find in an actual illuminated manuscript, with scrolling flowers, nesting birds, and little touches of shimmering gold paint (or an excellent imitation thereof) that gave the “illumination” to the “illuminated manuscript”.

This book should delight any child. But it should also delight any adult who would like to “see” as well as “read” about how books were illuminated in the Middle Ages.

Sep 12, 2009

My Number One... and Number Two, Too.

By Christine Thackeray

When the movie City Slickers came out, I remember Jack Vance as the annoying bad cowboy who said that for each of us just ONE THING really matters. For all of us that ONE THING is different. My brothers were fascinated by the "ONE THING" concept and each had a different idea of what theirs was. (We all took for granted that the big 'one thing' was the church, so we weren't allowed to go religious with it.)

I remember one of my brothers thought it was playing sports, another watching football and the third getting into a good college. Everything else they did was to make time for their 'one thing.'

Well, this week I thought my "ONE THING" was writing. My third son is preparing to go on a mission and agreed to take over the food prep and laundry so I could write this week. I rolled up my sleeves to do it, but nothing came. Finally, I looked around me at my son home sick, my daughter struggling to prep for her ACT and my husband working on his master's program. I found that my "One Thing" this week became number two as I focused on them for the last few days.

It's funny how when the family is all cared for my words often flow, but sometimes my writer's block is caused by latent guilt for other things I need to be doing that I can't ignore. Tomorrow Anna takes her ACT, I've promised Greg the morning and I'm hoping next week I can roll up my sleeves with my happy "One Thing" in auto pilot so I can focus on number two.

Sep 11, 2009


By Kristine John

Beginning in darkness,
stealing into our sky space,
filling nooks and crannies as you make
in the early morning hours
before sunrise.
Drizzling daytime hours away,
washing highways clean.
Funny how you cleanse my soul,
help me see things more clearly.
Differently than I have for a season.
I flatter you, Rain...
For I long to imitate you,
and help others see things
with new eyes.

Sep 10, 2009

Dancing in the Rain

by Kari Diane Pike

"Life is not waiting for the storm to pass...but learning to dance in the rain." - Vivian Green

I noticed something while reading Alma 8:14 - where Alma has labored to teach the people of Ammonihah and the people have reviled him. Alma is described as "being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul." Then a wonderful thing happens. 'It came to pass while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying, 'Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore lift up they head and rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God."

The footnotes directed me to Mosiah 2:2-4. King Benjamin describes how an angel appeared to him and said,"For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto they people, that they may also be filled with joy."

These men had been praying, laboring diligently, and keeping the commandments. The Lord answered their prayers, addressed, their concerns, acknowledged their efforts to live righteously, and gave them comfort. Then the Lord commanded them to share that comfort and joy so that "they may also be filled with joy." That which is freely given must be freely shared so that the gift can continue to grow.

I love the messages of love and peace that our latter-day prophets have been sharing with us in these challenging times. President Eyring's message that "The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of [Heavenly Father's and Jesus Christ's] infinite love." Pres. Eyring further stated that "Even when you feel the truth of that capacity and kindness of the Lord to deliver you in your trials, it may still test your courage and strength to endure." Wow! Just because I feel weak or inadequate, does not mean I have failed. While there may be times when I might wish Heavenly Father didn't love me quite so much, I do realize that the point is to hang in there and keep being who I am - a daughter of God, a being of light and truth - and keep doing what I need to do - keep my covenants.

As I have learned these truths, I have felt the presence of angels attending to my needs and assisting me in my stewardships. In the early hours of one particular Sunday morning, a severe migraine prevented me from getting any sleep. My family had spent the previous day helping another family move and I didn't have the heart to wake my sleeping priesthood bearers. The pain became so severe and unbearable I thought I might even need to go to the E.R. Instead, I knelt by the bed and pleaded with My Heavenly Father for comfort and strength and relief from the pain. When I crawled back into bed and gingerly put my head on the pillow, I was prompted to turn over onto my stomach and turn my head to the left. As I did this, I experienced a sudden relief from the sharp pain. I could still feel a dull pressure in my head, but I fell asleep almost immediately and slept soundly for the next three hours. I easily attended my meetings and saw to my stewardships. This was just one of many of the tender mercies given to me that week. My testimony of prayer and the need to always ask for the Spirit to attend us in our endeavors continues to grow as I share that joy with others.

It's not the lack of challenges that makes us happy. It's not about getting what we want when we want it, or what others can do to make us happy. Happiness is a choice. It's about gratitude - recognizing and acknowledging from whom all blessings flow. It's not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's all about learning to dance in the rain, and we never know when learning that dance will reflect the light of truth for someone else to follow.

Sep 9, 2009

Not Coming from Me

by Kirsten Millsap

I always know when the things I am writing are coming from me or from Heaven...under my own power, the things I write come slowly, and sometimes...painfully. But when the unseen hand of angelic inspiration takes over these typing fingers, it's altogether different...easier.
For instance:

I am in the midst of creating this year's Stake Christmas Concert--a very large endeavor that munches about seven months of my year--and I do everything. Everything! I come up with the theme, select the music (and in this year's case--write music for it) audition the performers, call in favors from a few of my professional singing buddies to take key performances, write the narration, pull together the photos for the power point display, create the videos that run during the show, arrange and attend rehearsals, deal with cantankerous, non-LDS sound and lighting engineers (while keeping them from swearing in the chapel), pull together the advertising, the programs, the ushers and then direct the whole she-bang. This year I'm cutting myself a break; I'm not less hat to wear.

You may ask..."Why doesn't she ask for help? Is she a control freak?" Well...yes and no. I am a control freak, in that I am willing and able to spend ten hour days running errands and sitting in my chair creating the show, and I can trust that I will work myself stupid getting it right. Will others have that same dedication? Not in my experience. This is why I do it all. Thankfully, Heavenly Father has been generous in sending a talented choir director to my rescue, and she is a hard worker with her heart in the right place...I consider myself blessed to work with her. less hat to wear.

But I still wear all the other hats, like the hat salesman in that famous kid's book...the one with the mischevious hat-stealing monkey. The question of who is actually wearing the writing-hat, can be answered easily; if my fingers are stumbling over the keyboard, and my mind drifts to the chocolate I have secreted away in my drawer...well...I am most definately on my own, and quite possibly going in the wrong direction. Like the first year I did the concert: I wanted certain songs in the show, but Heavenly Father had a different idea. And I couldn't write the narrations until I had prayed for guidence and gave my will over to His. I realized I was on the wrong course, and when I made the changes neccessary, the narrations flowed like stumbling, no rewrites...and no chocolate breaks. And one very large hat removed from my weary head.

The pleasure I feel when working this close with the spirit is unmatched; it is indescribable. At no other time, do I feel this close to the Lord...until I get a wild hair, and start running down the wrong ideas again, at which point I get dumped, and get no where. So I pray everyday. Read my scriptures more, try to get to the temple more (which reminds me; I'm due for a session this week) and just generally try to keep myself in the "Shiny-Spirit-Zone".

At least this way I get seven months of being a Molly-MO (minus all the bread making, since I haven't the time). Now if I could just get the other five months to match...Oh! I know!! Maybe I'll put together an Easter program!!!

Nahhhh...probably won't...I'm not really an Easter-Hat kinda girl.

Sep 8, 2009

Page Fright

by Valerie Ipson

Do you ever experience page fright?

If you are a writer you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. How often do we let our fears keep us from writing? Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the dust rising another inch on the furniture if we don't get out the Lemon Pledge Furniture Polish and a dust cloth right now instead of writing. In fact, you shouldn't even be reading this blog...Go! Now! Dust!

On another blog I read about an intriguing book by Ralph Keyes titled The Courage to Write {How Writers Transcend Fear}. It does take courage, doesn't it? Just the putting so much time and effort into a project without knowing if there will be a successful outcome is a risk in and of itself. Then there's the whole opening yourself up for critique and rejection part of it. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart.

The book deals with such topics as overcoming procrastination, dealing with anxiety over what others will think, and, this is a quote from the website, "how writers use obfuscation to soothe writing nerves." (I don't know what obfuscation means, but it sounds kind of like a procedure performed in a doctor's office involving unwarranted growths being removed from the body and not soothing at all.)

One thing Keyes recommends for overcoming fear is "joining a serious writers' group." His words. I had to laugh because after attending last summer's writing retreat one could question our seriousness. Of course, in the sense that he is speaking of, we are serious. Serious about writing and supporting each other in this risk-taking endeavor. I know that if it wasn't for the American Night Writer's Association I might have been content to write newspaper articles, Relief Society programs, and my kids' English essays (KIDDING!), never having the courage to take the plunge into novel-writing.

So stare down that blank page and show him/her whose boss. Turn your fears into positive energy that flows right onto the computer screen.

And I'll go look up obfuscation...

Sep 7, 2009

Football and priorities

By Stacy Johnson
I recently went t my ANWA meeting where I gave a little spiritual thought about making sure we are taking care of priorities in our life. It has been on my mind since I signed up for 11 hours of school thinking I could get away with it because I was pregnant. I really had good intentions of only taking one class next semester since I'll be dealing with a new baby and a toddler, not to mention my other children.
Well, I ended up dropping my math class and I felt just terrible that I wasn't going to be able to do that because well...I just want to be graduated all ready. I was blessed though, at the time I hit that "drop" button on the computer with an overwhelming feeling that it was right and that this class didn't need to be a priority right now. It was causing me undo stress, anxiety and the inability to take care of my children, husband, and home the way I would like to (and the way they would like me to).
What is a priority, is my family. Today proved that to me. I was able to sit and watch my kids play some awesome football. We love all sports, probably more than most families. We are dedicated to allowing our children the opportunity to play sports all year round because we think it is important. We sacrifice much because as you all know, it can be very expensive. My husband and I serve more hours than you can imagine, on the Board of Directors for our football league, in order to get a discount for our children to play.
I left my house bright and early on Saturday morning (6am) to make it to a cross country race in north Scottsdale. Vance is a senior this year and my time left with him is limited. He pulled in 16th place, with a time of 15:55 for three miles. That isn't even the most incredible part, he cut over a minute off his time from last year and he did it in the pouring rain!! I then drove a few more miles north where I was able to enjoy watching my little girls (and their cousin Merrek) be cheerleaders in the pouring rain. It was quite a memory they will have. We looked like wet dogs by the time we left the field.
My other two boys were rained out on Saturday and since today was a holiday, we had makeup games. I'm kinda glad because this way I could be there to watch. It was gorgeous weather today while I watched my 10 year old score a 53 yard touchdown (even though their team lost) and then my 13 year old quarterback, lead his team to a sweet victory of 30-6. Ah, the proud mama. I was glad I was there to witness this...

And to think, I could have stayed home and studied math?!?!?!

Sep 6, 2009

A Nifty Tool for Novelists

by Marsha Ward

Increasingly, software programs are being written specifically for novelists. Everyone has seen the ScriptPro ads on the back of Writer's Digest, and there are several more high-priced and powerful programs out there. They amount to several hundred megabytes in size, too.

I'm here to tell you about a novel writing software program so compact you can run it off a flashdrive. Even with its small size, it's quite powerful, and doesn't drown in the code required to run MSWord, with all it's formatting features.

It's called yWriter5, and the best thing is, it's FREE! Written by a programmer with 20 years experience, it's made with novelists in mind, because the designer/programmer is Australian novelist Simon Haynes. Simon has written a series of novels dealing with a space jock, so the site is There is even a Google Group forum you can join to learn more about how to use the program and other tips. Even though the help menu is scanty, the program isn't difficult to figure out, and there is a PDF QuickStart Guide you can download and print.

Here's the blurb from the Spacejock Software website:

This free novel writing program has evolved over the years into a powerful piece of software, allowing you to break your book into chapters and scenes. Tracking progress is easy with the 'status' flags you can apply to each scene: outline, draft, 1st edit, 2nd edit or done.

Because losing work is the pits, this program will also create autobackups by date and time, as frequently as once a minute if desired. These can be browsed at will, making it easy to revert to an earlier version of your work. Includes a text editor, project overview, daily change log and much more. I've used this program to write three complete novels of 90,000+ words each. I would never have finished them without it.

yWriter5 opens with a New Project Wizard that helps you set up for writing a new novel. Already working on one? You can also import existing files into the program. Don't ask me how, as I haven't done it, but I'm assured that it does work.

Within each scene, you can keep track of characters, locations, and items used, in addition to such details as if the scene you are writing is action or reaction. You can set up project goals for the Outline (if you bother with one), Draft, 1st and 2nd Edits, and the Final Edit. There is even a Story Board that shows who is your POV character for each scene.

One thing I found odd at first, but learned to like is when you ask for a printout of scenes (with descriptions you added included as headers), your browser window pops up. Then it is up to you to choose your printing process. I found out this is one way Simon kept the code so small. You can also export scenes, chapters, or the entire project to RTF files for printing. I plan to export the entire project when I'm finished, then turn it into the necessary Word file for publication.

Although the initial writing input appears in single spaced format, I learned that if you're bugged by it, you can highlight your scene and hit CTRL+2 to force a double spaced output. I haven't tried that yet.

I really like this program for drafting and editing. Did I mention it has a voice reader? I can have my work read out loud (in an electronic voice, it's true) to check for flow.

Simon has also written several other free programs. Check them out!

Sep 5, 2009

The End

by Cindy R. Williams

I did it! I just wrote the two magic words I have been waiting to write for just shy of three, YES THREE YEARS! What two words am I talking about? Thanks for asking. They are, "THE END".

I sat on my love seat in my bedroom with my computer on my lap when I wrote those two incredible words. I looked around my room at the bazillion dragons and fairies smiling down on me.

I leaned back on the sofa in shock wondering what a writer is supposed to do at this monumental juncture in the journey of their first 170,000 word novel.

"Wishing You Were Here" by Chicago was playing on my favorite writing TV music channel. I love Chicago and thought how great it was that I finished with their music playing.

Good things seem to happen that coincide with Chicago.

In fact, I owe my marriage to Chicago. My husband and I met buying tickets to attend their concert at BYU.

Now if you're asking in the back of your mind, "What is she doing writing a 170,000 word novel? Middle Grade fanatasies should only be around 60-70,000 words." Let me explain.

The idea for Thundertail came way back in November of 2007 as a bed time story to my then six year old Chase McKay. Yes, the same Chase McKay that inspired the children's book. I felt it was the right time to learn how to take my stories to the next level and get them written down.

This led to meeting a woman that would change my life, Dr. Pamela Goodfellow. She recently relocated from Seattle, where she taught Creative Writing at the University of Seattle. She also owns Goodfellow Publishing Services. She was offering classes through Gilbert Parks and Recreation. I felt that I could afford this, and one night a week away from the family would not destroy them so I signed up.

Now, almost three years later, I have completed all nine college writing courses and graduated from Dr. Goodfellow's program. My first published book, Chase McKay Didn't Get Up Today, has been named a finalist in the Arizona Glyph Awards. I have several other awards from short stories, essays, and first chapters contest. And now, finally, I have finished Book One of the four book series of Thundertail.

Thundertail was originally going to be three books, but I split the first book in half so instead of 170,000 words, it is now around 80,000 words. Yeah, I know, still a bit long and my editor will probably make me tighten it some. Also,with a few revisions the remaining 90,000 words will become Book Two of the series.

When I finished the last chapter, I realized that it brought the closure needed, loose ends tied up, a hook for the next book and that I really, really was done. I just looked at my computer dumbfounded, then had to mentally nudge myself to type the official words, "The End".

I called my good friend and writing buddy, Melinda, and shared my news. She was delighted and of course this calls for a QT (Quick Trip - soda) or DQ (Dairy Queen - Blizzard) run to celebrate. Then I called my husband. Sorry sweetie, no offense. I think the idea of celebrating with ice cream tempted me.

My sweet husband has been editing for me. He has a great eye for content flow, grammar, punctuation, spelling and typos. Lucky me, I know. Actually, if you knew my husband, you would realize I am one of the luckiest ladies to have ever lived on this or any planet.

When I called my sweetie, I read the last twenty sentences or so to him, then waited to see if he understood what it meant. He let out a huge burst of laughter and said, "You did it! You finished the book!" We laughed and I beamed so bright I am sure he could see it even through the phone.

After I hung up, I jumped up and down and ran around the upstairs of my house doing the "I finished the book" jig. I didn't know how to do this jig before now. It is something that comes from deep inside and just flows out every muscle. I'm sure I looked quite goofy, probably like someone who snorts jello, but I don't mind. No one was home but the cats, dogs, fish, and the hamster and what do they care? In fact I am feeling another jig coming on. So this is "The End" of this blog. Oh . . . this feels so good! I can't believe I am saying this, but this is even better than chocolate!!!!!!!!

Also posted on ANWA Founder and Friends and Dragons Dreamer

Sep 4, 2009

Crossing into Fall

Even though I’m not trained in writing poetry, there have been times in my life when that’s all I wanted to write. The intense poetry writing times have usually occurred during periods of upheaval--when writing time was scarce and when I needed the distillation of simple truth from chaos that poetry provides.

The little poem below, unschooled, I’m sorry, came from one of those periods of upheaval a few years ago. I always think of it this time of year when summer is poised on the edge of fall, when change is coming and thoughts turn to meeting it.

Crossing into Fall

Hold my hand
And let’s cross into fall.
One step past the line’s
Not too different at all.

This still land
Where seasons twine
And stall,
Summer and fall
Isn’t orange or green,

But clear blue haze

Warmth on closed eyes—

Hold my hand
In this still land.

Sep 3, 2009

Why Do I Do What I Do When I Know What I Know??

by Stephanie Abney

This has nothing to do with writing... except that is has everything to do with life and then, you can see how it does apply to our writing ... or lack of writing... hmmm. What do you think?

Yesterday our class went on a marvelous field trip to the Halle Heart Center Children's Museum in Tempe, AZ. It was truly excellent. For two hours we went from station to station and learned all kinds of things (most I already knew, of course... but I learned a few new things myself). The students learned all kinds of new things.

For instance, did you know that a Blue Whale's heart is the size of a VW Bug and that it weighs up to 2,000 pounds?!?

Then there was the visit to the "supermarket" where shopping carts held pretend food boxes, etc. and the kids had to read the labels to choose a good meal... and then the "fast food" stop where we sat at tables (WITHOUT anything to eat) and the guide showed us these disgusting little vials of fat for each of the fast food items. Yummy... ick!

And so went the day. I couldn't help but think I need to do better. Calling myself "fluffy" may get a chuckle or two, but it doesn't add to my lifespan or my energy.

Even so, I was thinking the whole time how good a Hershey's bar would taste about then... go figure.

Sep 2, 2009

Comments, anyone?

by Marielle Carlisle

Every time I post on this blog, I check back about 20 times that day to see if anyone has commented on my post.

I'm almost giddy with anticipation. Did someone think I was funny? Does anyone agree with my ideas? Am I such a brilliant writer that the masses flock to view whatever words of wisdom I have divulged?

Most times I get the customary 3 or 4 comments. One time I got 9, which is my personal best.

And my worst? 1. It was supposed to be 0, but sweet Terri Wagner commented on it 5 days after I had put it up. I think I got a sympathy comment. Bless you Terri.

I thought it would be interesting to see which post had the highest number of comments on it. The winner:

Joyce Di Pastena with a whooping 19 comments for Dante and the Book of Mormon!

There were actually two posts that had 0 comments (here and here). They technically weren't posts but more like informative updates, so I'm not counting them. Of the 874 posts on this blog, not a single one has been un-commented. I think that's awesome.

Is it bad to care about what other people think? Should I just post whatever I've got to say and then be on with my merry life?

When I don't get a lot of comments, I think "is it me? Am I having an off day?" Perhaps what I have to say isn't very comment-able.

When the tables are turned, I guess I'm not contributing as much as I should. I love reading the daily updates, but most times I 'read and proceed,' not 'peruse and muse.'

Sometimes I feel like what I have to say has already been said, or will eventually be said. But since I'm beyond thrilled when people comment on what I've written, me thinks I should start sharing my thoughts on other people's posts.

Let the commenting commence!

(And yes, I will be checking back 20 times today to see what comments people leave about my comments post)

Sep 1, 2009

Character Communication

Have you ever had a character that just refused to be boxed in? As writers we tend to think of characters as "real" entities. And sometimes I have trouble "reading" my very own made up person. When exactly it is that they take on a life of themselves I don't know, but I clearly know when the character is nudging me in a different direction. And sometimes that is annoying. But at least I know what direction the character wants to go.

What about those pesky characters that can't seem to decide themselves what way they want to go. First, they want to play nice, then they don't; second, they'll be sweet, then they aren't; at times, they seem pilable and kind, other times hard and brittle. Do you know what I mean?

One of my characters in my never-feel-it-will-ever-get-finished novel is actually a sidekick. He is not exactly one dimensional but is the sidekick (boyfriend-turned-husband) to the real sidekick. Why does he take up so much time then? Why does he insist on being in nearly every scene with a comment or two that takes me off into an area I didn't intend???? He's driving me crazy.

I can't write him out. It's one of those minor characters that keep the balance in the story. He's supposed to be the levelheaded fellow that everyone depends on to keep them grounded. Somehow his purpose has grown in ways I didn't foresee.

And even more oddly he isn't becoming a main character, but has carved out a very peculiar niche for himself. Since he is also the "hunk" in the story, I thought writing him would be easy. Just throw him in there and about for the sidekick's grounding romantic interest. BUT he won't stay there.

Suddenly he's the one that keeps saying no, don't do that, not good, sure why not, let's go there, let's don't go there...becoming the antagonist for the main character whose romantic interest is the other guy. And he's all wrong for her believe me. He's definitely the sidekick's hearttrob.

What's up with this? Where is he going with this?