Dec 31, 2009

Looking Forward

by Kari Diane Pike

Thinking about all the events of the past year boggles my mind! I don't know anyone who has escaped 2009 unscathed. I don't mean to sound morbid or despairing, I'm just acknowledging that we have all experienced a challenging year. In fact, I am looking forward to celebrating not only our survival, but our growth.

Feelings of despair sent me to bed early a few nights ago. All throughout the day I gave in to thoughts of "If Only...", "I should have...", "What if I had...", "Why didn't I...". I crawled into bed and opened up the January 2010 Ensign, hoping to read an uplifting story that would relax my mind and allow me to sleep. I barely began to read Elder Holland's article, "The Best Is Yet To Be," when the still small voice reminded me I had not yet said my evening prayers. I figured I would finish reading the article and then I would get out of my warm, comfy bed and say prayers before I went to sleep. I started reading the article again, from the beginning, but I didn't get past the second paragraph before the voice came back, only this time with greater force. Experience has taught me to heed these kind of promptings, although why it mattered when I said my prayers escaped my understanding. I knelt beside the bed with feelings of curiosity mixed with a bit of anticipation and fear. By the time I slipped back under the covers, my heart overflowed with peace and gratitude. I dried my tears and commenced reading Elder Holland's words.

The article begins by referencing Genesis 19:26 where Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt. Lot had been commanded to flee and "Look not behind thee...lest thou be consumed." Elder Holland points out that it wasn't just that Lot's wife looked back, but that we can infer that she looked back "longingly." I searched the references to these scriptures and found a message that hit me between the eyes with such force--a force that didn't create pain, but took my pain away--as I realized I had been doing just that, looking back and blaming myself for "everything." I recognized that Heavenly Father guided and blessed us all along the way. Did I make mistakes? uh...yeah. But I also tried hard to make the right choices--to comply with the Lord's will--and things just turned out differently than I had envisioned.

Luke 14:16-24 tells the parable of the great supper. "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." The master became angry and commanded his servant to go out and invite the poor and the needy to his home. Verse 24 ends with, "For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper."

I find it interesting that those friends invited to the supper felt they had very legitimate reasons for not accepting the invitation. I wonder how many times I have been invited by the Lord to receive blessings at His hand, yet I declined because I kept looking back at what I would be leaving behind, instead of what the Lord wanted to set in front of me. Now, through Elder Holland's teaching, and the sweet power of prayer, I can see the need to look forward and have faith that there are even greater blessings in the future, should I choose to accept the invitation.

I am currently taking a class from BYU on the Proclamation. Here is a thought from the textbook Strengthening our Families : "[We] become more like Him [Father in Heaven] as [we] learn to love as He loves. [We] love--not as [others] become more lovable, but as [we] are increasingly filled with His love." (pg.116) I am grateful for His love--that He loves me enough to have the Spirit bring me to my knees in humble prayer and open my eyes and understanding to the messages sent through His prophets and apostles, both ancient and living.

In the words of a famous writer--God bless us every one!

a very happy and blessed new year to all of you!

Dec 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my 29th wedding anniversary. Having an anniversary in late December has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it's a good time to reflect, while we never go away for our anniversary because our kids are home for Christmas break.

So, in reflection, it's been a good year for our family. Especially when contrasted with last year, when I was dealing with a new job that required at least 60 hours per week dealing with difficult people, teaching early morning seminary, and having an employed husband for three months. Early into my new job,  I missed 6 weeks because I nearly died. Twice.

Looking back can be detrimental, especially if you become stuck in the past. But if you focus on the victories (survival was one last year), it provides strength for all the challenges of the future.

While I hope to never face a year like 2008, it prepared me to better face the blessings of 2009, and look forwards to 2010.

I wish for all of you the same, with a peaceful, happy, and blessed new year.

Dec 28, 2009

It's a Boy!

Stacy Johnson's baby has arrived. Derek William Johnson was born December 26. 9lbs 15 ounces. 21 1/4 inches long. Mom and baby are doing fine. Congratulations from all your ANWA sisters!

Dec 27, 2009

Happy New Year! ?

by Marsha Ward

It's too early to say that, I know, but I thought I'd try. :-)

I can't believe we've been blogging here for three years now. That's pretty neat, and I'd like to shout out a big Thank You to all the blog team members we've had over the span of those years. We're still one member down, but I hope we can fill the vacancy soon.

I'm never sure what to say for my turn. It occurs on Sunday, so I don't want to appear too worldly, but this isn't a religious blog, so I try to be balanced. Sometimes, my posts are very brief. Sometimes they're a bit longer. Today I just want to wish everyone hope and peace of mind in the coming year, success in all you really strive for, and love from family and friends.

I also want to wish America well, as so many are trying to tear it apart from within, as well as outside her gates. Can I just say, "Throw the bums out!"?

Addendum: Welcome to our four new bloggers: Sarah Hinze, Lynn Parsons, Rebecca Irvine (all of whom have already introduced themselves), and Krista Darrach, who will be here next week.

Dec 26, 2009

Things I Learned This Christmas

By Cindy R. Williams

I hope each of you had the wonderful Christmas you hoped and planned for. Ours was lovely --though different. It was a Christmas of finally understanding some things, including what many of my friends have been saying, because this year I walked in some of their high heels, pumps, loafers, boots, sandles, flip flops, slip-ons, keds and slippers.

This was my first year with a child on a mission. My son left on October 14th--and yes, I know exactly how many days he has been gone. The Brazilian Missionaries visas took about 18 weeks from day of application, so they studied in the Provo MTC instead of the MTC in Brazil. They finally flew to Brazil on December 22. I now understand the excitement about "waiting for the Missionary phone call on Christmas." I also understand how much I love this brave young man who will always be my baby boy. Good thing he can't read this or I would get the "Oh, Mom, do you have to call me that" lecture.

One of my daughters got married in the Mesa Temple this past May. This was the first time she wasn't here all night, and up and ready to go in the early morning. I now understand what it is to begin the empty nest sydrome. I say begin, because I'm happy there are still three more at home.

My husband's engineering firm took a nose dive along with the economy. I know I can do hard things and have a sense of humor. You laugh or you cry. I choose to laugh. I now understand what my husband has been saying all these years when he told me we should cut back and enjoy what Christmas is really about. He was right. This Christmas was full of the real Christmas Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Christmas tree did not get decorated until Christmas Eve Day. It's usually twinklefied by Thanksgiving. I now understand that it's okay to not be the first one on the block with all things Christmas.

I didn't finish making my annual to-die-for Christmas Fudge to hand out until two days before Christmas. I now understand it's okay to be a bit slow. It all gets done, and there really is no need to rush --less stressful too.

I sent some Christmas Cards out this year via email. I guess you could say I went green this year. I understand that may be the way of the future, but I really do like a card, a picture and even the update letters, some clever, some hoky. They are really quite heart warming.

I understand that it's okay to give yourself a nap for Christmas. I loved it.

I understnad how lucky I am to have so many good friends as examples and for paving the way.

The thing I understand best is that my Father in Heaven knows my name and loves me. This knowledge brings me peace. I have a Savior who loves me too, and it is wonderful to celebrate his birth, even though I understand he was really born in April. ;o)

Dec 25, 2009

Where Meek Souls Will Receive Him Still

by Sarah Albrecht

This Christmas season, the lyrics to the third verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” have replayed through my mind: “No ear may hear His coming/ But in this world of sin/ Where meek souls will receive him still/ The dear Christ enters in." The words have made me think not just about being a good giver, but a good receiver.

I suppose good receiving is gratitude, but as the carol lyrics indicate, a meek soul must be a prerequisite to good receiving.

If meekness is being “humble in spirit or manner” (, am I a meek soul? Am I humble enough in spirit or manner to recognize and let in the gifts of the Savior and of those around me? Giving enriches the giver, but so does recognizing the good gifts, often unwrapped and intangible, enrich the receiver: gifts of the Spirit, a hug from a child, the effort from a husband to find just the right new computer for the family (there's a story about this one that prompted this post).

Oddly enough, being hurried seems a prime way to temper my humility or meekness of soul because I'm focused on myself and what I need to be doing. Rushing to get my family dinner or to prepare for the holidays--acts of service, in their own way, if kept in proper perspective--can stop me from receiving quiet gifts from those I love most.

The desire to be a good receiver has enriched my contemplation of Christmas this year and is so far my one formulated resolution for the coming year. For me, it's a good place to start.

Merry Christmas!

Dec 23, 2009

Home for the Holidays

by Marielle Carlisle

This is the 7th year that we've lived in AZ. Of the seven years here, we've traveled to be with family four times for the holidays. I usually have to work Christmas or Christmas Eve, which makes it difficult to get time off.

I love my family, and I love spending the holidays with my family. Growing up, from Easter all the way to the New Year was an explosion of cousins and food. It was like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" LDS style.

I remember my first Memorial Day we lived here. I was terribly homesick, and longed to be with my family out in the backyard, BBQ'ing and enjoying the lively conversations. Instead, I had to work. (Are you noticing a trend with my work schedule? It is an evening, weekend, holiday kind of job.) I called home that evening and heard everyone in the background, happy and boisterous. I cried.

Since then it has gotten better. I have my own little family now, with our own little traditions. And now I understand it's better to visit Utah during the summer when the weather here is unpleasant, instead of freezing my buns off in the cold Rocky Mountain winter.

What I miss most during Christmas is singing with my family. Both my parents and 3 of my 4 siblings would gather round the piano to sing carols, with the 4th sibling tickling the ivories. We would even attempt Handel's Messiah, and sing until our voices were hoarse. I miss that.

This last Sunday I was sitting at our piano, plunking out some Christmas songs, when suddenly my 3 year old starts singing along. She didn't know all the words, and was mostly off key, but we were singing together. I was so happy. Really, really happy. The memories that I had been longing for, to sing with family, was being filled with new traditions and voices. I don't worry anymore about singing carols with loved ones.

I loved reading President Eyring's message in the December Ensign titled "Home for the Holidays." It made me think of those rings given out to missionaries before they embark on their missions that read Return with Honor. Not only do missionaries strive to return home after their missions with honor, but to also return to our Heavenly Father with honor. Being home for the holidays means so much more then being family. It means making room for the Savior, and striving to return home to Him once again.

I can't wait to live with my Savior and Heavenly Father again. To live with my family for all eternity. To be home.

May the Spirit of Christ be with you this Christmas.

Dec 22, 2009

Merry Christmas A Few Days Early

by Terri Wagner

If I did this right, it should post in the morning for my turn. However, I don't trust computers so I'll try to check later in the day to see if it did. Unfortunately I'm at the annual OBGYN appt. The one I dread, want to put off and generally hate. When will those Star Trek scanners come online? I've heard Japan has them just troublesome in that the finer details are still not visible onscreen. Ok, maybe next year.

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year a bit early. To thank you all again for brightening my day by posting about life, writing and yourself. It's always the first blog I check every morning. I especially want to thank Marsha for getting us all together and my new online group the ANWA East/West.

Sunday for Gospel Doctrine since I ran out of manual lessons, I had everyone read the BOM Christmas story which leaves me breathless when in despair and disbelief about being put to death, Nephi hears the comforting words that the Savior will come to earth that night and not to worry or fear. And the sign Samuel the Lammanite gave comes to pass. In just five years!

I can't wait for the other Christmas stories to be revealed to us. We know Heavenly Father loves all His children and He wouldn't leave them in the dark. I am grateful to have the BOM to treasure.

Dec 21, 2009

Nice to Meet You

This is my first blog post for ANWA Founder & Friends, so I thought I would introduce myself and share a little about my writing background. Here are my important stats:

Name: Rebecca Spiers Irvine (most close friends and family call me Becky)

Family Situation: Married, three kids, three turtles

Home: Mesa, AZ

Education: MA from BYU

Employment: Market Research Analyst, author/illustrator

Most of my writing skills are steeped in writing questionnaires and analyzing data collected for surveys (i.e., those annoying people who call your home during dinner). I spend my days writing such sentences as, "Three in five residents (60%) of the Southwestern United States mistakenly identify market research calls as telemarketing calls." Over the years I have analyzed data and written reports for numerous nationally known businesses, although a majority of my work now is for one specific Arizona utility.

As an author I have published two non-fiction books, Adventures with the Word of God (a family scripture study aid book) and Family Home Evening Adventures (a book of FHE lessons). To be honest, I did not start out to become an author or publish a book; I was just trying to find a way to more fully engage my children in family scripture study. After some time experimenting with various strategies, and having some success, I decided to see if what I had developed might be worthy of being published. My manuscript was picked up by Horizon, an imprint of Cedar Fort. A year later they also accepted a second manuscript of a similar nature.

I joined ANWA earlier this year in an effort to get support in working on a third manuscript. My new book is much more challenging for me. It is not a set of lessons like my first two books were, although it is still a non-fiction book for the LDS market. My writing skills (as well as my artistic abilities) are being stretched.

I have to admit I often doubt myself as a writer--there are many others out there more talented. But I am diligent and determined to finish what I have started. The challenge of writing well brings too great a blessing to let fall by the wayside.

Feel free to visit my personal blog:

Dec 17, 2009

Checked Your Listening Device Lately?

by Kari Diane Pike

In all the excitement of children and grandchildren arriving in our home last night, I nearly forgot about posting today! Fortunately, five-year-old Wesly said something that made me laugh and ponder...and want to share with all of you...which led to realizing today was my day! You've heard from Wesly before. He's the one that saw the Wise man in the nativity and wanted to know where the foolish man was. Well, Wesly's mom wanted to give him some instructions and she said, "Wesly, did you check your listening devices?" as she snapped her fingers next to each of her ears. She wanted to make certain Wesly was paying attention. Wesly looked at his mom and said, "My batteries are dead." Of course later, he told his mom that he had lots of extra batteries and that his younger brother Travis was welcome to use them any time he needed them.

After I stopped laughing, I started wondering about my own listening devices. When's the last time I checked to see how carefully I listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit? With the New Year quickly approaching, we find ourselves taking inventory and setting goals, but is a once-a-year tune-up really enough? I don't think so. Like the ten virgins, we need to be constantly checking to see if we are prepared not only to experience trials, but to receive the wonderful blessings waiting for us.

One of the treasure troves of blessings I have come to love is my scriptures. But I can only find the treasures there if I check my listening devices first. By opening my study time with prayer, I find that I hear and feel the words more clearly. Today, as I read 3 Nephi, 23 and 24, I felt the words become more real to me than ever before. What is the difference this time? I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like to be in Christ's presence, to hear his voice, to look into his eyes as he spoke. I love the example set for us as Christ commands his disciples to write down the words of Samuel the Lamanite and then in 3 Ne 23:14,

"And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them."

I thought about the meaning of "expounded all the scriptures in one." The reference in the footnotes took me to Luke 24:27,44--where Christ expounds "unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Christ taught and showed how all the scriptures testify of him. Verse 45 says,"Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures."

I love Christ's example of learning, then teaching. In order to learn, however, we must be able to hear the message. And we need patience. Lately, that is the message I keep hearing over and over. Be patient. Be patient. Remember President Hinckley teaching us that? I'll bet I've read my patriarchal blessings hundreds of times and the other day I read the words, "be patient..." I never really noticed them before. I hear them loud and clear now. I wonder what blessings are waiting around the corner. Guess I better check my listening devices so that I don't miss them!

Dec 16, 2009

What's Your Fortune, Cookie?

By Lynn Parsons

As we come to this time of year, thoughts begin to turn towards resolutions. We make our plans to lose weight, accomplish more, and improve our lives. Everyone wonders what will happen in the new year. What is coming?

Mankind has searched for centuries for a reliable predictor of the future. I suggest that you use that combination of food and entertainment, the fortune cookie.

Even the origins of this low-calorie dessert are interesting. Some say that during the 13th or 14th century, Chu Yuan Chang, a patriotic revolutionary disguised as a priest, hid secret notes inside lotus nut paste moon cakes. The occupying Mongols didn’t like these treats, so these secrets led to an uprising and the foundation of the Ming Dynasty.

Others believe they originated in 1914 with Makoto Hagiwara, designer of Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco. He was let go from his gardening position by an anti-Japanese mayor. After his reinstatement, Makoto baked confections with thank you notes inside for his loyal friends.

Another story set in 1918 is that David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company, invented the cookie with inspirational messages from a Presbyterian minister. He gave these to the poor near his store.

This historical controversy grew so great that there was a mock trial held in 1983 to determine the origin. The California Court of Legal Review determined it was San Francisco.

Wherever and whenever they first appeared, fortune cookies are an important part of our culture. It doesn’t matter if you get a wise saying, hackneyed advice, or useless lottery numbers. Reading the fortunes is fun, exciting, and reinforces hope for the future.

Dec 15, 2009

A Heavenly Spark

by Valerie Ipson

Many of the sisters in our midst have endured trials this past year. Some heart-wrenching, some less so. We have sorrowed with you and prayed for you and learned from your steady examples of faith. To you I give this quote from Washington Irving. I read that it is the quote taped to Stephanie Nielson's refrigerator to give her strength through her dark days of recovery. (She is the fellow Arizonan who was badly burned over most of her body in a plane crash over a year ago. Read her inspiring blog here.)

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."

Dec 13, 2009

Waiting for Another Storm

by Marsha Ward

It looks like another big storm will hit the High Country of Arizona this weekend. That could be bad news for me, so I'm going to schedule this blog post early, in case my electricity goes off again.

I'll take the opportunity to welcome a new blogger to our team. Rebecca Irvine will begin posting on Monday, December 21. Rebecca has published a couple of books, but I'll let her tell all that.

I've been working on web pages again this week, hoping to get a few Internet-based things out of the way before the big storm. That means, of course, that I haven't been writing. I'm going to have a couple of pads of paper at hand if I lose power again. I have flashlights and candles ready, so I can write if that happens.

Wish me luck!

Dec 12, 2009

My New Years Resolutions

by Cindy R. Williams

My New Year's Resolutions, illustrated by cats and a dragon.

The look on this red tabby's face and tilt of its' head hit home to how I feel about my New Years Resolutions. That is; curious, ready to take on what ever comes my way, and looking at things from a different angle.

My #1 Goal is Writing. Here's my plan.

1. Write at least one hour a day, but shoot for three. (I hate guilt, and am tired of being a master guilter. No, make that the Queen of the Master's of Guilt. I can usually squeeze in at least an hour. If not, then I don't have my priorities straight.)

2. Make an agenda of WIP including which is first in line, and attainable deadlines.
3. Get my middle grade novel about a boy and a dragon edited, research agents, send queries to said agents, and give some publishing houses a go.

4. Create my ebook with one of my WIP's.
5. Have the courage to let my work go and put it on the line.

6. Continue to support my fellow writers.
7. Continue to be active and supportive in ANWA.

8. Change my answering machine message to something creative about writing like, "Sorry, work in progress, or creativity is happening, or, we are visiting another reality, so no one is available. You are welcome to leave a message. Calls will be returned in late afternoon if possible the residents of this home return to this realm." Then turn off the ringer until I complete my writing for the day.

9. Leave all email, etc. until after my writing is done.
10. New Years Goals for me must include the old standby to lose a few pounds along the way. I hope to be so involved in my writing world, that I will lose my sweet tooth, hunger, and even fasination with food, and chocolate in general. Who knows. It's a new year afterall, and good things are going to happen. Hummm, hang on, chocolate is a good thing too. I hear dark chocolate is actually good for you. Anyone out there heard a rumor about icecream being good for you too? Even just a hint of a rumor? If so, I will take your word for it ;o). Yummy food is really one of the great Wonders of the World.

Dec 11, 2009

Thoughts on Semester's End

by Sarah Albrecht

It's the end of the semester, and my house is messy, my kids are cooking dinner, and my blog isn't written. Neither are my Christmas cards.

That's okay, though. The house will get cleaned, the kids know a little more about cooking sausages (breakfast for dinner, you know), the blog's getting done now, short, and I just may resort to e-mailing Christmas greetings this year. I like getting things done in a more orderly manner, but sometimes it doesn't work that way. Adaptability doesn't always seem like the fit I want, but it's a lot easier than to struggle with what isn't working.

And I have to say I loved what I've learned in school. It's a Master's in Secondary Ed., just two classes so far, but it's so exciting; as a bonus, everything applies to where I am in my family life right now. With regret I've put my non-school writing projects on hold in exchange for a different type of learning. Adaptability doesn't always seem like the fit I want, but it's a lot easier than to struggle with what isn't working.

Just one more paper to submit, after posting this blog--then I can face holiday preparation. I might not get all the cookies baked, but...we'll adapt.

Dec 9, 2009

Don't Apologize

by Marielle Carlisle

I just received two rejection letters from publishers this week, and was feeling a bit down, when suddenly in my inbox I got my weekly letter from Hope Clark. She provides free emails with quotes and info on the Writing and Publishing world. Her words of inspiration touched me so much that I knew I had to spread them to my ANWA ladies.


Do you catch yourself apologizing for being a writer?
Ever downplayed what you do, where you've published,
what you've written?

"I just write for a few small magazines, nothing big."

"I write a little, nothing special."

That lack of self-respect does nothing for your writing.
It can impact it, frankly. If you tell yourself you're
not much you become just that.

Besides, you've invested in your writing. You've penned
stories, whether they were published or not. Consider
the time spent struggling with flow and active voice,
finding markets or the right character name. There was
that time you spend half the night fixing a scene, or
excused yourself from a social event to stay home and
struggle with your plot.

Did all that go to waste? Never apologize for all the
tears you've cried, time you've spent, or passion you've
poured into your work. Don't apologize for being
dedicated, smart, creative, expressive. Don't apologize
for wanting to be alone with your words.

Be assertive, comfortable, and positive about being a
writer. I'm not a big one to brag about being a writer.
However, I'll tell someone in a heartbeat that I have
to go home and work on the novel. It's more exact, more
sure, more assertive. It commands more respect than
simply saying "I'm a writer" which only leads to more
questions you don't care to answer like "what have you
written" and "where have you published?"

Don't be proud of the writer label. Many people profess
to be a writer who aren't. Be proud of your duties,
your deadlines, your responsibilities as a writer.
Not only will your career choice sound more tangible,
but you'll feel obligated to work.

Hope Clark

Included in her email was this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

"No one can make you feel inferior without your

There, self-pity party over. Thanks Hope.

Dec 8, 2009

How Brutal Can You Be?

by Terri Wagner

Lately, I've noticed several people pleading for brutality when it comes to critiquing. No offense to anyone, but have you determined beforehand just how brutal you want someone to be? One of the destroying facets of my local writers' group in Baldwin County is that people weren't specific on their concept of brutality.

For example, I-don't-like-it doesn't really help and adds to a sense of despair. If you say, well this part seemed a bit confusing to me, and I didn't quite grasp your meaning at this paragraph, you're being brutal but helpful.

Another example is when someone says well I don't like poetry (fill in the blank) so I just won't bother with it. That hurts, because poetry is not just for fellow poets. I couldn't write a poem if I tried, but I love the classics like Sir Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson and my personal American favorite Robert Frost, not to mention Edgar Allen Poe. So even though I can't write poetry, I can certainly give a few helpful pieces of advice.

Now let's all hmmm a chorus from "Turn it Around" from "My Turn on Earth." As a critiquier, don't be hurt if your advice isn't taken. Especially when you know you're not an expert. When I was in this writers' club. I gave advice to a poet who got purple in the face and stuttered something about wanting rhyme and rhythm advice. Fair enough. Not my skill level. Another one was a fantasy writer, I edited her entire 3-book series. It was terrific. I only helped with odd places, odd phrases and odd small plot lines. We worked well together. She was grateful. So was I. I got an advance copy so to speak.

When you want a critique, tell me what you want. It helps. And I promise not to be offended if you don't take my advice. After all, I'm not the writer here.

Dec 7, 2009

Christmas games and trivia

By Joyce DiPastena

Did you know that Good King Wenceslas, of the Christmas carol, is the patron saint of the Czech Republic? That Away In a Manger is the first Christmas carol usually taught to children? That Mozart used the tune to Deck the Halls for a violin and piano duet?

Well, you would if you knew about this cool website, called simply, Christmas Carols. Check it out for some fun Christmas carol trivia to share with your families.

And here’s a fun Christmas quiz you and your family can play, too.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

(If you get an annoying voice telling you you’ve won a Walmart gift card, just ignore it.)

Dec 6, 2009

ANWA Has Been a Great Support to Me

This is the first appearance of a new member of our blog team, charter ANWA member Sarah Hinze.

by Sarah Hinze

I am a charter member of ANWA—in fact, I would like to think that because of one phone call, Marsha was impressed, I will say inspired, to start ANWA. But had it not been me, it would have been someone else because I believe that ANWA is one of Marsha’s callings on this earth.

Our family, consisting of my husband Brent and our seven children (two more daughters were born in Mesa, making that nine) moved here from Washington D.C. 22 years ago. I was being bombarded with strong impressions to write and I needed an LDS female author to talk to. One evening while our family was visiting the Mesa Temple Visitor’s Center, I saw my first Beehive Magazine, our LDS newspaper here in Arizona. On the front cover was a by-line of an author, Marsha Ward. I contacted Marsha and shared my story. She told me that she had felt impressed to start a group for LDS women writers. A few months later we had our first meeting. Of course, need I say—the rest is history!

ANWA was a major positive catalyst for me after that. One evening dear Gayla Wise challenged me to bring an outline of my book to the next meeting. In those days our meetings were somewhat like the old Relief Society meetings with Eliza R. Snow and her friends. We would often go into the wee hours of the evening--the clock was not our guide. We stayed and shared ideas of the heart as the spirit impressed us to do.

I left that meeting literally crying with fear and apprehension, because I knew that I needed to accept that challenge and not just talk about a book that I might write, but to actually write it.

I came back the following month with an outline and, because of the encouragement of the ladies in ANWA, I completed my first book less than a year later. I called it Life Before Life—A Collection of Mothers Stories of their Unborn Children.

After that I was on a roll and have written three more books (others have been republished with new covers and titles), one an unpublished manuscript. I will share parts of that manuscript with you over the next few weeks. I would enjoy your feedback. With the publishing of my new book, The Memory of Angels : Remembering Who We Are and What We Came Here to Do, I hope that I have fulfilled that calling.

My mission as a writer is probably different than yours. My calling has been non-fiction up to this point. Through a collection and analysis of anecdotal evidence, I developed a new area of research-–the pre-birth studies. For a definition of the pre-birth experience and additional information, please check out my website at and my blog, Sarah’s Pearls and Daisies.

In almost 20 years of this work, I have worked with several PH.D. candidates who have used our research (my husband Brent, a PH.D. himself, makes many contributions to my research) in their theses. Many others have taken our research and developed it. So far I have found over 25 other books, several documentaries, and other media forms that have included our work. I had a prompting when I began so many years ago that others would pick up this information and do their own research. This has been a thrill for me because our research and our findings have held strong and been recognized as solid information.

I recently spoke at a division of NAU in Phoenix, the fifth Arizona campus where I have been invited to guest lecture. I give a run down of that meeting on my own blog.

My point is not to pontificate but to encourage you. It takes courage to fulfill our dreams as writers, no matter how unusual they may be, but the benefits can be rewarding and far reaching for good.

Dec 5, 2009

Turning Rejection Around Through Good Editing

By Christine Thackeray

Recently, I was reading an article outlining the 17 most common reasons manuscripts get rejected by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, a list she got from a panel of editors and agents. As I read through all the causes of rejection, it occurred to me that of 13 of the 17 have little to do with the plot or power of the story. They are all a matter of editing.

Let me get specific.

17 Reasons Book Manuscripts are Rejected

1. “The writer uses the phrase ‘fiction novel’ or misuses the English language in some other obvious way.
My experience: So I wrote this incredible story for ABNA and in the end of my first chapter used the word "straddled with the nickname" instead of "saddled with the nickname." My reviews were wonderful over storyline but because of my misuse of language, I was eliminated from the competition. BUMMER!

2. The manuscript is trying to copy another style or follow a trend.
Nothing to do with editing. Sorry.

3. The manuscript is too complicated.
My Experience: I always over-write my stories and then go back and combine and kill off characters. Sometimes that complicated book is only a first draft to a leaner and happier version. My first draft of "Crayon Messages" was over 600 pages. When it came out in print, it was under 200.

4. The book is boring. “If your opening paragraph is someone driving and sleeping, I’ll put it down. Make sure your story starts in the first sentence.”
My Experience: This is completely an editing issue. Many manuscripts don't start until the second or third chapter but the writer needs to write those chapters for herself. It's just you have to be willing to throw them away later. My latest book just lost its first two chapters, and it's a lot better for it.

5. The writer offers no reason to care about the character.
My Experience: Again, this is totally an editing issue. Often as a writer you can't see if you have not explained enough to have the reader relate to a certain character. An editor or critique group can see that more clearly and catch it before you submit.

6. The writer shifts point of view.
My Experience: I stink at this especially when my first version incorporated different rules than subsequent versions. Thank goodness for Terry Deighton who is working with me on my latest POV errors, which are many. She is so sharp. I don't know what I'd do without her.

7. The writer includes too many stock characters- beautiful blonde bombshells, evil billionaires, and hookers with a heart of gold.
Again, editing will catch this and may help you flesh out a stock and make them real or kill them off.

8. The writer offers didactic messages.
And again, an good edit will wake you up when you are laying it on too thick... or being redundant.

9. The writer keeps saying how great the book is. Describe your book, don't brag about it.
Editing's not going to help you with this one.

10. The writing is too flowery. “Show, don’t tell.”
My Experience: Sometimes I think I'm showing when I'm really telling. It's nice to get a second pair of eyes.

11. The manuscript isn't clean and professional.
My Experience: This is were editing may backfire if you think you can send the hard copy your editor used to submit to the publisher. Please, give them a clean, new copy of their own and after the edit is done, check for blank pages between chapters and basic formatting. It's not uncommon for those things to change during the editing process so you do need to do a once over before printing it out.

12. The writer relies on cliches.
Duh, editing helps.

13. The writer incorporates graphic violence, profanity, and explicit sex.
It's important to have someone you trust tell you if it's too much.

14. The writer has an unpleasant tone and attitude.
An editor can't help that much with your attitude. Remember the publisher needs to market you and if they think your a grumpy monkey, they may love your writing but not buy it.

15. The writer’s pacing is off.
I hate how ethereal this concept is but a good editor should tell you where they got bored and where they wanted more.

16. The manuscript is great but the writer is a stalker.
Again, editing's not going to do much here.

17. The manuscript has an improper word count.
When my next VT adventure was rejected, it was for length. I had to cut it in half and that was PAINFUL! Now it's coming out next year. Making sure you stay within word count for novels and especially magazine articles can be almost as big a determiner of rejection as content. If you are off, you won't even get in the running.

So, if you are writing for fun, then simply have fun. But if you have hopes of bringing your work to market, find an editor. I like to have three initial edits- one from a writer who is technically based, one from a writer who is idea based and one from a non-writer who loves to read. After the final revision, it's nice to have one more technical edit.

Remember, you either need to swap, pay or use a fan that would read you anyway. Irene Radford, a prolific writer, has a group of three other writers that she works with at this level and still swaps with.

Nothing feels better than finally printing off the clean final copy, knowing your really done. Someday I dream that when the publisher looks at one of my manuscripts they will come back with zero secondary edits. Wouldn't that be cool?

Dec 3, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

by Kari Diane Pike

One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the traditions. I delight in having an excuse to bake, sample, and share yummy treats, burst into song in the grocery store, read enchanting tales to my children, who now claim to be to old for bedtime stories, and just cozy up with my sweetheart to watch an old classic movie like "It's a Wonderful Life" or "An Affair To Remember." Above all, I have come to cherish the traditions of Christmas because of the message they carry and the reminder we are given about what is most important in our lives.

It has been a tough year for this world in which we live. No one can blame us if we seem a little down and out. Earlier this year I didn't feel particularly excited about the upcoming holidays. In fact, the thought nearly put me into a panic. Thanksgiving came anyway. I'm so glad it did. We drove 13 hours to Phoenix and spent 3 full days with our children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, and friends (48 all together). We ate turkey and all the fixings, played games, shopped, ate more turkey, stood around the piano and sang tunes (thank you for your gifted playing, Trina) and talked and talked and talked. Our son set up his Christmas tree while we were there. As I sat listening to the singing and watching the pattern of the lights on the tree, I felt a longed for peace wrap itself around me and seep deep into my soul. I thought about the angels who sang announcing Christ's birth, and the star that illuminated the heavens. I remembered why Christ came to earth and why we are all here. My family thinks it was the jalapeno chips I ate and the liter of Mountain Dew I drank that kept me awake for the long drive home, but I know it was the joy and anticipation that filled my heart.

The day we arrived home (about 1:30 am), I dug out the Christmas story book and the advent cards we use every year. Each card and story has a scripture attached to it to help us think about the Savior and his mission on earth. I encouraged my husband to call the nieces and nephews attending BYU and invited them over for dinner next Sunday. I opened my recipe books and made a list of ingredients for the caramels and fudge and cookies we will create. Saturday, we will decorate the tree, shop for a few gifts ( I haven't even started that part yet) and prepare for the First Presidency message. Oh...and I can't forget to set up the nativities! Over the years we have accumulated a few. Most of them are small and I can set them up in little corners throughout the house. I love nativities! I love traditions! I love Christmas!

Yesterday, one of our daughters posted a story about setting up their nativity. She said, "Got out the Christmas decorations. Setting up the Nativity, first one I take out is one of the Wise Men. I say, Here is one of the Wise Men, Wes starts digging in the box and says...where is the foolish man?" (In the above picture, Wes is the middle boy holding the baby.) I love being a grandma!

And I love all of you!
Merry Christmas!

Dec 2, 2009

Driven by Distractions

By Lynn Parsons

Many things are changing in my life. After more than 28 years of being a mother, I am about to become an empty nester. I may go back to school. I am a new member of ANWA, and looking forward to my first book publication.

I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life. A combination of divine intervention and choices led me to be a special education teacher for seven years. During that time, I learned about an online parent's group from the father of one of my students. This is where I met my coauthor, Danyelle Ferguson. Our two-year collaboration led to (dis) Abilities in the Gospel: A Guide for Families and Church Leaders, to be published in June by Valor Publishing Group.

This sounds good, doesn't it? Great, in fact! But at a time in my life when I can focus on new adventures, I am deterred by distractions. In my current job as an educational diagnostician, I deal with many interruptions. Phone calls, sudden parent visits, stressed-out teachers, and a variety of other things pull me away from the task at hand. I've learned to pause, make a note, and continue my work.

There are even more distractions in other areas of my life. I'm torn away from preparing my Primary lesson, taking care of my family, book revisions, and marketing plans to deal with the requests of others. I've been asked to sew adult elf costumes, teach knitting classes, and a host of other things. I also have a mounting list of projects I'd like to accomplish. These projects could all be put in the category of "good works", but not at the expense of my religion, family, or life's work.

What to do? What came easily at work is more difficult at home. Many years ago, a wise friend said, "When you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else." I am learning to set my priorities, and taking time to evaluate whether my distractions will detract from the things of true importance.

Dec 1, 2009

Catching Fire

by Valerie Ipson

A good friend is one who loans you their copy of Catching Fire when they find out you are number bajillion in the library hold queue and they know you have been in withdrawals ever since coming to the end of Hunger Games and discovering it's not the end, but only the beginning of a series, and even though you were rather late in jumping on the Hunger Games bandwagon, there was still several months to wait until Book Two would be released. Said friend has not even read Catching Fire herself, but still loaned it to me, probably because I am obsessed, and because she purchased the book, but recklessly decided not to read it till Book Three was released, thus sparing herself the agony (of which I am now experiencing) of waiting so long to find out what happens next.

That is my definition of a friend.

Thanks, Peggy. I owe you.

And in case you're wondering...Book Two is every bit as intense and wonderful as the first. I loved it!