Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fallow Times or Full Out Writer's block?

by Valerie Ipson


Recently, fellow writer friend and author of actual published books, Liz Adair, posted a blog here where she talked about "fallow" times when it comes to her writing. She prefers that term to the feared and dreaded (my adjectives, not hers) "writer's block." I really related to what she said, plus I liked the sweet, restful image that "fallow" created. I told myself I'm just in a fallow time with my writing. I've written to chapter 20 of my novel and now I just need to rest and rejuvenate. ;)

Ha! I think that's manure (which Liz also mentions in her blog post). Liz was talking about when you've finished a work and ideas for the next are percolating. That's the fallow time, not when you are in the midst of a story that's itching to get out, but you won't spend the time necessary with your behind in front of the keyboard. I know I can't blame fallow times OR writer's block for my own rationalization and procrastination.

Liz mentions the law of the harvest and seeds planted (that's where the manure comes in) and I ackowledge that my own lack of seed-sowing at the computer will seriously delay the harvest.

Well, BIAM comes to the rescue. It stands for Book in a Month, and while I won't write an entire book in a month, I have set a daily word count goal that by July's end may bring me very close to the words I long for: THE END.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Perspective

By Stacy Johnson
Perspective is one of my favorite words or concepts. It is my reality check when my day isn't going so well because I'm bogged down with taking care of my children, fulfilling my calling in church, keeping house, etc. I am glad I have a view of the "big picture" in all I do or else I wouldn't be able to get through most days.
In another sense of the word, my daughter recently learned about perspective as she recounted some information she found to me. The conversation went like this:
Katy: Mom, I met the new family down on the corner that lives by Maddie.
Mom: That's nice, do they have children?
Katy: Yeah, but not that many.
Mom: Well, how many do they have?
Katy: Only 5.
I suppose when mom is pregnant with #8, having five in a family seems relatively small. It's all about perspective people.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Turtles

by Cindy R. Williams


A turtle is safe in it's mobile home. Are we turtles? Do we hide our writing?

"I don't want anyone to see my work in progress."

"My story is pretty good just how it is."

"I don't need critiques."

Have you ever heard any of these before? Have you ever said or thought one or more of these yourself?

Those statements are fear, false, and full of pride. Our stories may be great but sometimes we miss connecting with the reader. In our mind we have the whole story and understand everything so assume the reader will too. But are we really showing all that we feel in the written version of the story. A fresh eye, or many fresh eyes are invaluable. We need to stick our head and neck out of the safety of our turtle shells.

Being critiqued, as you know, is a humbling experience. Sometimes we have a tough shell and others times our shell is so soft it hurts to the core. I try to listen with an open mind, jot down comments and review them later when I can remove my shell --- pride --- and be objective. Then I know which comments to address and which ones to toss.

In my writing class, Dr. Goodfellow pounds us with: "How did he feel?" and "Show the story, don't tell the story." I have been studying with her for two and a half years. I work hard at showing, and including what the character feels, yet the red marks continue. I sometimes come home frustrated that my classmates just didn't get it. After I let it sit a day or two then go back to it, I realize that I did not write what I saw and felt in my mind and heart. My classmates cannot read my mind even though they know me, so how is a stranger going to get it?

I believe in myself. I believe I can write and I believe I can improve everyday. I believe in you. If we have the desire to tell a story, we have to be willing to go the distance, and that includes climbing out of our hard, defensive shell. This can be painful, but it is necessary for our stories to be their best and for us to grow.

I think I will reread this after my next critque session.





Friday, June 26, 2009

Silly Cell Phone Stories

by Sarah Albrecht

The other day I stood at the end of the boys’ shoe aisle at Target.

“I need to call Melody,” I told my ten-year-old son, thinking his teenage sister was still by the video games with his twelve-year-old brother. “I need to have her ask your brother if he has old dress shoes that will fit you. Then I’ll know if we need to get you new ones.” I pulled out my cell phone.

"I’m right here, Mom,” my daughter said, poking her head out of the women’s shoe aisle.

"Oh. Heh, heh,” I said, slipping my phone back into my pocket.

Then there was the day a few weeks ago when I arrived at the library to pick up my son. My phone rang as I moved briskly along the walk outside the building.

“Mom, you can come get me,” my son said when I answered.

"I’m out front.”

“So am I.”

I looked up and saw my son sitting about twenty feet away at the same time he saw me.

"Oh. Heh, heh,” we both said, slipping our phones back into our pockets.

"When I called you I heard your phone ring and thought, ‘That sounds like Mom’s phone,’” he told me later. “But I didn’t think it was really you.”

How about you? Have any silly cell phone stories?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Gift of Time

by Stephanie Abney

Today is my only sister’s birthday. It is also my grandson’s birthday. They are decades apart but it has made me think about how birthdays come and birthdays go. What have we done with all the days in between our own birthdays?

Sunday is the birthday of one of my dear friends (Margaret) but with our busy “Day of Rest” in the LDS culture; at least with our differing Sunday block schedules, it is often difficult to get together as an extended family or as a group of friends on a Sunday. And so today, one of Margaret’s daughters has set up a schedule of birthday visits unbeknownst to her. Brittany privately emailed all of her mom’s local friends and asked them to sign up for 30 minute blocks throughout the entire day to stop by and visit Margaret to celebrate her birthday. I’m curious to find out how Brittany made plans to keep her mom home as Margaret works outside of the home. (I’m guessing she made some sort of prearrangement with her mom’s boss) and the friends start coming first thing in the morning so Margaret will be up and ready for the day but she’s never going to make it to work. :)

Margaret and I are both busy moms and grandmas. We seldom find time to just visit anymore. Usually, a quick exchange at church and an occasional phone call have to suffice. However, when one or the other of us is really needed, we are there. When BJ had leukemia, Margaret made sure to stop by as often as she could and when he passed away, she was there helping non-stop, giving comfort, cleaning, even taking cherished pictures the day of the funeral. When her 2-year-old grandson died unexpectedly, we went right over to her house to be with them and offer comfort. We have also been to temple weddings of each others’ children, been over to hear mission calls read and attended Eagle Courts of Honor. We are the kind of friends who know we love each other even when we never seem to be able to get together during a normal week or even month (or two or three).

Today, I am going to have 30 minutes of my friend’s undivided attention. We can catch up on each other’s lives, share memories, tell funny grandchildren stories, laugh, hug, cry… whatever. I have decided that what Brittany has given her mother is the gift of time. Could there possibly be a better gift? And one that can be shared with so many?

I recall reading a book by Linda Eyre when I was a young mom and one year her husband gave her “Wednesdays for a year” for her birthday. He was able to arrange his schedule to be home on Wednesdays and he took full charge of the children and the house all day Wednesday. She was free to write, soak in the tub, leave the house and go visiting, to the movies, to the library, to the temple, whatever her heart desired. It was a remarkable, restorative gift.

I’m thinking Heavenly Father has also given us the gift of time. When we left his presence in the pre-existence, we were given an allotted amount of time to fulfill our earthly mission. We don’t always know exactly what that mission is (as I am sure we have many “missions” and they grow and change as our life and our service does the same) and we certainly don’t know how much time He has given us, but it is a splendid gift. Sadly, I have too many regrets on how I have squandered my time on unimportant things, usually justifying it as needed “downtime.” And we do all need some downtime, but after having recently taken Stephen R. Covey’s course on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” I’ve been reflecting on how I use my time more than usual. I see the need for some course corrections, to be sure. I also try not to be too hard on myself as that can be counterproductive. However, the simplest change here and there, over time, can achieve the grandest results. We are taught “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!”

My hope for myself and all those reading this is that we can make even a few productive changes that will allow us to make better use of and thus have far better results with that most precious gift, the gift of time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Critique-ified

by Marielle Carlisle

I am a believer.

In being critiqued, that is.

I was so nervous at my last chapter meeting. I had brought my baby - my picture book manuscript that I had been working on for some time - in hopes that my grand group of ladies could give me some pointers.

I passed out my manuscript and everyone read quietly to herself. Sitting for five minutes in silence while others search your story for errors can be nerve-racking, for sure.

At last, everyone finished. I braced myself for the onslaught ... bring it on.

But what is this? What a great idea! Why, I never thought of that! Of course that sounds better then what I wrote.

One lady gave me such a good suggestion that I actually got goosebumps. GOOSEBUMPS! I could not wait to get home and rewrite it.

With this positive experience under my belt, I reworked some parts, and then posted it on the ANWA Critique blog. Yikes! Now everyone can look at it and comment.

And comments I got. I was almost giddy with excitement as I read through the feedback. They were wonderfully insightful and helpful. Different angles, different opinions, but all were designed to help me with my story.

I'm hooked. You ladies ROCK!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8

I have watched this show for years enjoying every minute of it. While at times I winced when Kate would be particularly snappy, I merely put it up to caring for twins and sextuplets. Jon always seemed like the perfect patient father and husband. I related to it I think looking back because my original set of parents (they divorced and remarried others) were a lot like that. My mother is a handful, high maintenance as they would say now and yet is a terrific mother. My father seemed to have the patience of Job dealing with my mother's theatrics and us kids. They still seemed to me a perfect team.

Watching the show last night made me sadder than I thought it would. I'm not here to judge either one or whether the show took them down this path, I'm just sad that yet another young couple with children has taken the divorce road. I found myself wanting to say I'm an adult child of divorce, you can't begin to understand the pain this will bear years down the road.

I had held out some hope that the big announcement would be we are ending the show, concentrating on our marriage and being there for our kids OR even hey folks been a ratings game. Sorry to disappoint you but we actually like and love each other.

As I watched Jon struggle to express himself the anger in his voice, I thought of how tough it is when you realize what you are saying is not right and yet it is how you feel. Kate tried to take the high road but her anger and bitterness came through when she blamed Jon and sounded like a victim.

They have made the mistake so many parents make...isn't it better we break up than the kids see us yelling and fighting all the time? As one who walked that path as a child, I can say, actually no. Where there is no abuse, where there are no irreconcilable reasons, staying together for the sake of the kids is a good idea. It could even down the road rekindle the love.

Maybe in our world of throw away marriages and kids, that seems an old fashion notion and somehow wrong, but I still wish my parents were together. Even though I adored both my stepparents, it just wasn't the same.

They don’t need or want advice. Right now the anger, hurt and disappointment is too raw. But if I could just take them a few years into the future, they might see the terrible scars that will come. Because it isn’t a mom and dad that divorce, it’s a family torn asunder.

I can't say I'll be watching the show any longer. I'm not sure I can bear it since my own scars are still there, not raw, not bitter, just there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Will She Say When I See Her?

by Joyce DiPastena

So last Wednesday, our Relief Society had a temple day, and I had to go because I’m Relief Society president. Not that I didn’t want to go…I did! It’s just that I’d had several late nights in a row, and was so very sleepy on Wednesday, and sure enough, my worst fears came true. All started off hopefully enough. I thought I was going to be okay at first. Then my eyes became a little droopy. I’ve fought that before, and furthermore, I consoled my guilt with the fact that even one of the temple workers (bless her!) had clearly nodded off for several minutes. (I was sitting in the second row, so she couldn’t fool me!) But then my eyes started crossing. When they begin to do that, I know I’m in serious trouble. Sleep will not be far behind! Desperately, I reached in the pocket of my temple dress and pulled out a Werther’s hard caramel. Now that’s taken care of my sleepiness in the past. (Although sometimes it takes two Werther’s or more to “take care” of it.) But this time, to my horror, my body was so sleepy, my mouth refused even to suck on the candy. It just lay there like a stone on my tongue. (A nicely flavorful stone, but still…) I knew I was lost. I struggled. I “rested my eyes”. The session went by in a flash (and a bit of a blur). Needless to say, I walked out of the temple that day with my head hung low in guilt and shame.

It was hard afterward not to scold myself with the thought, “You might as well not have even gone to the temple!” But despite my sleepy failures, I know I got something out of the session. Memories of covenants and commitments were somehow refreshed in my mind, in spite of myself. And, I kept insisting, however I might have failed myself, my ancestress, Anna Maria Ulisse had received her endowments that day!

Yet now, several days later, I still find myself wondering: When I meet Anna Maria someday, will she thank me for attending the temple and making it possible for her to receive her endowments? Or will she say to me instead in disappointment, “That was the best day of my existence! I was so excited! And I can’t believe you slept through the whole thing!”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The awesomeness of MAN!

By Shawnette Nielson

Here is a ferocious and enthusiastic shout out to all the MEN out there on this wonderful FATHERS DAY!! Why is my shout out ferocious? Because men are given less and less credit these days and I for one want to shout out loud, ‘Thank you, men, for ALL THAT YOU DO!!!!’

According to today’s media, men are stupid and unnecessary. On sitcoms, cartoons, and most all TV shows men are often the butt of their family’s jokes. They are too often disrespected by wife and children and they are shown to be clumsy and incapable.

But it simply is not true!! Men are awesome and neccessary and I'm not afraid to say so!

Mans great calling in life with reference to the family is to hold the priesthood righteously and to provide. There is so much that goes into that small word ‘provide’. They must daily go out into the world, deal and work with unpleasant people, fight traffic and overtime, leave their families—their wife and children for the most of each day. They toil and work and do such noble things. When they are at work their time IS NOT theirs. They have to deal with crabby people and crappy situations. They have the financial responsibility of their family on their shoulders. They have the responsibilities that come with the priesthood. They are the head of the home and have tremendous responsibilities because of that.

A pamphlet from the first presidency states: “The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father. A father is the presiding authority in his family. Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so..."

Heres to the men, fathers, brothers, and friends in our lives. Let us show true gratitude for all they do!! Let’s love them and appreciate them!! HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Makes a Book "Good"?

When I lived in Minnesota, I belonged to a book club that met at the local Perkin's (like Denny's) every first Thursday. We started at 8:30 pm so we knew the children were in bed and went late into the night. The almost empty restaurant often rang with our laughter, and it wasn't uncommon for other customers to shoot annoyed glances in our direction. One night a couple walked up to our table while we were in a heated discussion. The woman asked if we had read "Plain Song" and said it was her favorite book in the world. We decided it must be kismet and chose to read it the following month.

I got the book from the library and sat down to start it. I wish I could say I put it down, but I read with voyeuristic interest the story of a little boy in a small town and the sad sexual encounters he was forced into. It was horrific, and we met the next month all shaking our heads, wondering how anyone could think that was their favorite book. I'd forgotten about this experience until I read Marsha's recent post, and I had to ask myself again, "What makes a book good?"

Some LDS writers feel that if there is anything close to immoral behavior depicted in a book, then it is not moral. Personally, I disagree. I think that often the depiction of evil can illustrate the depth of a character's redemption and bring a realism to the piece that can give it great power. The problem lies in the fact that the majority of pieces that "cross the line" often do so without having any lofty motivation behind those scenes.

When my mother passed away, I inherited much of her library. One small volume was entitled "On Moral Fiction" by John Gardner. I opened it for the first time this morning and found the definition of what I had felt. Gardner says " true art is moral: it seeks to improve life, not debase it." In contrast he speaks of trivial art which "has no meaning or value except in the shadow of more serious art, the kind of art that beats back the monsters and, if you will, makes the world safe for triviality."

In trying to write fiction that sells it may be tempting to create trivial art, what Gardner called "frothy commercialism." In this venue sexuality is cheapened, and I think wrong- the difference between porn and Rueben's nudes or Michelangelo's David.

Last year I listened to a popular film executive who worked on "Transformers." He talked about the heart of great movies. He emphasized over and over that for a movie to be lasting it must illustrate some "great truth"- love, loyalty, honor, trust, patriotism. He believed that the classics of film have all done this and that is why people are drawn to Star Wars (use the force) and Wizard of Oz (there's no place like home.) Without some powerful epiphany, writing doesn't become true art.

Most of the women in ANWA are far more concerned with true art than "frothy commercialism" which is probably why I'm so drawn to them. I admire the pure quality of their writing. I've got to admit that I personally find it easy to be sucked into "popcorn fiction" (no nutritional value) which, if it's clean, I suppose has it's place. That is, as long as it doesn't twist truth and portray evil as though it was good, which seemed to be Marsha's frustration.

In playing with words, it's imperative that we respect the ideas behind them. Whether we choose to write light romances or heavy historicals, we need to take care that our narrative ultimately elevates the reader. My favorite line from a movie is in "As Good As It Gets." In the film Jack Nicholson plays a depressive who is interested in a single mother. She is ready to leave him when he turns to her and explains that the night she became his friend, he started taking his medication. He says, "You make me want to be a better man." That is exactly what I hope my books do for people and in my opinion is what makes a book "good"- because it encourages me to be a better person by reading it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Power of a Question

by Kari Diane Pike

The power of a question. Who knew? I've always encouraged my children to ask questions (unless I am trying to write my blog and it is already noon). After all, the higher level of thinking is in the asking of questions. This is where I usually get on my soap box about how the system is producing students, but not scholars...and followers who are spoon fed information, rather than leaders who seek out truth...or in other words...ask questions. I will spare you from that and share with you the amazing experience I had this morning that began with asking a question.

I set a goal a couple of weeks ago to open my scripture study with prayer...and a question. It takes time to set a habit and during the last several days I let the pressures of needing to be in certain places at certain times take precedence over in depth scripture study. This morning, I began my scripture study by asking Heavenly Father to let His spirit be with me as I studied and I asked,

"What do you want to tell me today? What lesson do you have waiting for me to learn?"

My book mark opened the pages to Alma 15. Zeezrom laid in his bed with a burning fever, tormented by his knowledge of the great sin he committed; knowing that because of his actions many innocent men, women, and children, including Alma and Amulek, had been persecuted, stoned, and even subjected to a fiery death. When Zeezrom learned that Alma and Amulek not only lived, but were in the land of Sidom where the "castaways" had found refuge, he sent a message asking Alma and Amulek to come to him. Verse 5 tells us that Alma and Amulek "went immediately" to the house of Zeezrom. I love that example! Here a man, who caused them great pain and suffering, requested their presence and they not only went -- they went immediately -- without hesitation or thought of "Let's let him suffer a little more, just to make sure he knows what it feels like." "They went immediately."

When Alma and Amulek arrived at Zeezrom's home, Zeezrom reached out to them and Alma took Zeezrom by the hand. (The significance of that greeting, that touch of the hands, overwhelmed me. We must never underestimate the importance of touch.) At this point Alma asked Zeezrom,

"Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?"

Zeezrom replied, "Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught."

Alma then cried unto the Lord, "O Lord our God, have mercy on this man and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ." Zeezrom then leaped to his feet and began to walk.

There are so many layers to this story: repentance, forgiveness, humility, meekness, love, and the power of faith in the redemption of Jesus Christ.

My love and respect for Alma and Amulek continued to grow as I read further. After they established a church in Sidom and saw to it that everything was properly organized and that the people had a proper understanding of the gospel, Alma took Amulek to his own home in the land of Zarahemla and administered to Amulek in his tribulation "and strengthened him in the Lord." Amulek had served Alma during a time of need and Alma returned that service when Amulek needed comfort and strength. I am touched by the fact that Alma and Amulek diligently served the Lord despite their own personal challenges of losing family, friends, abundant wealth, and even being subjected to physical injury. They truly followed the counsel to "strengthen your brethren in all your conversations, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings." (D&C 108:7)

So what does this mean to me? How do I apply this lesson to my life? I could go on forever, but here is an abbreviated list:

*Seek priesthood blessings - regularly
*Be repentant - know that Christ's redemption applies to everyone!
*Be forgiving
*Be prayerful
*Be obedient
*Be uplifting in all of my conversations - praise God
*Be grateful
*Be compassionate - everyone, even leaders, experiences challenges and gets tired
*Serve diligently - no matter what the circumstances
*Stand firm!

Your list will most likely vary from mine...that is part of the miracle of the scriptures. Your answer will depend on your question and where you are at this time in your life. But it will be the answer you need when you need it. Never underestimate the power of a question.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free Time? What's That?

by Anna Arnett

I loved Cindy's post on color and free time. One hallmark of a good writer in both prose and poetry, or so I've been told, is the ability to encourage readers to think. It may be easier to write, and very tempting, but didactic composition has a tendency toward being too preachy, and is lack of choice is apt to turn readers away. Of course it depends on who's writing, but it still stands. Everybody does not react positively, even, or especially, to prophets. However, the greatest example, Christ himself, taught in parables, multiladen with food for thought. Cindy's blog last week took me into paths I didn't expect to take. I'm not going to re-quote it here. If you found this, you can find hers. She did indicate that black (the title of this blog) was to be avoided, because we all need free time. I agree with the concept.

However, being rebellious, I chose to color myself black, that svelte, slimming, sophisticated color. Why? Because all those lovely things on her free time list have often made their way to my 'to-do' list at some time or other. When I take too long and get too little done, it's not free time I've used, it's time stolen from something else -- often sleep. Nothing is free. We barter for our 'free' time with forfeiture of other joys or goals we might have chosen. I no longer choose some of Cindy's colors. I seldom watch TV any more, nor sip sodas, and I prefer to drink my water un-iced; I hardly ever go to a movie, but I do put a tape or DVD on now and again. I schedule reading scriptures, fiction, non-fiction; writing is definitely on my list; I schedule shopping trips whenever it's necessary; and exercise is usually the last item crossed off on my list. I'll talk forever on the phone, but seldom look up a number and dial a friend, I've never quite finished any one day's to-do list, and napping always takes me by surprise. Now, if you had "knit, crochet, or other handwork" assigned a color I'd take that. Or a color for Sudoku. The real trick is to like what's on the list. Since for some reason or other we've chosen what to do, or what to list, then we surely want to at least have it done. That's reason enough to decide to like our choice and gladly get at it -- unless we can assign, pay, or talk someone else into doing it for us. Since everything on the fun list could be allocated as scheduled time, and since we're all given 24 hours a day with a hint that we're accountable for every moment of them, I ask again: "Free time? What is that?" Can you see my tongue in my cheek?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Truman Madsen's passing

Truman Madsen passed away at the end of May. No one called me. I had to read about it in the Church News.

I just want to say for the record that I made Truman Madsen laugh. It's true. When we lived in Israel my husband and I gave talks one Mother's Day. As we were sitting at the front before our turn to speak I looked out at the crowd gathered for that Jerusalem Branch Sacrament Meeting, and there sat Truman Madsen. THE Truman Madsen. LDS scholar and philosopher extraordinaire. I thought, Seriously, I'm giving a talk with Truman Madsen present? Well, that's what I did, and while I was regaling the audience with all the uproarious humor associated with motherhood (or mumbling something incoherent into the microphone), I glanced over at Brother Truman, and he was laughing. I've never been so satisfied when giving a talk.

Here's just a few amazing quotes from this great man...

"'To be or not to be?' That is not the question... The question is not one of being, but one of becoming. 'To become more or not to become more.' This is the question faced by each intelligence in our universe." (Eternal Man, p.31-32)

"Come to him. He turns no penitant one away. Would you, if you had paid so much in suffering? Would you ever give up?" (The Highest in Us, p.6)

"The privilige of attending the house of God is in effect to have our physical beings brought into harmony with our spirit personalities." (The Temple: Where Heaven Meets Earth, p.9)

"In refusing to forgive another, we, in effect, attempt to deny the blessings of the Atonement to that person." (Quoted in The Forgiving Heart by Roderick J. Linton, Ensign, April 1991)

"If 'pray always' means vocally, none of us can. But if 'pray always' includes the kind of prayer that is wordless and from the heart, we are getting closer. And if it means even more that we are to be in the spirit of prayer regardless of what we may be doing [in effect]--living prayerfully--then all of us can." The Highest in Us, p.82)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Apparently I don't have feelings or I just don't understand

By Stacy Johnson

I am so sick of people saying that I don’t understand or that their life is so much harder than mine is. I don’t think I am one of those that goes around apologizing for all the things I can’t do because there are so many things going on in my life that I just can’t do them all. If I do, someone please let me know. Life is about choices and with every choice there is a consequence either for good or for bad. Every choice I make is made of my own free will. I am not forced to provide each of my children the opportunity to play a sport, learn a musical instrument, do their chores, etc., Nobody forces me to waste time on FaceBook or blogs. I do it by choice. Does it make my life busy and complicated? Yes. Does that mean that other less important things have to be pushed aside? Yes. Does this mean that I expect others to pick up the slack for my family because my life is busy and hard? No.

My point is, that if your life is too hard or too complicated, do something about it. I don’t enjoy listening to you complain about how hard things are or that I need to understand where you are coming from or why I should pick up your slack because of the choices you have made. It is called accountability. I know this is a tough concept for some to grasp, but every time you make a choice to do something, there will be a consequence. If you complain that you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, you might need to start buying your groceries at WalMart instead of the organic food store. If you don’t have enough money to pay your mortgage, consider turning off your cable/satellite television or cell phone. If you don’t have enough time in your day to accomplish important tasks, consider turning off the t.v. or just watching less. If you are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul, consider taking cheaper or no vacations.

I’ve been thinking really hard about this and the only exception I can see are unforeseen tragedies; death, divorce, job loss, etc. I mean really tragic things. These can throw a loop in your life that you aren’t prepared for. This is the time when it is totally appropriate to come to the aid of our families, friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers.

I can also consider depression an exception for a little while. I don’t think I could have said that a few years ago until I experienced it myself. My post partum was slight and I don’t even know that I confessed it to anyone but I suffered deeply and quietly. The difference is, that I figured out what to do about it. You might need to consider drugs although I reserve that for severe cases. Once you notice it, do something about it. Don’t just sit there and suffer. Figure out what makes you feel better and do it. Don’t complain about it.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from the John Cusack movie Say Anything. Lloyd is having a conversation with his sister whose husband has left her and their toddler son. Lloyd lives with his sister while finishing his senior year in high school. She is extremely unhappy with her life. Lloyd says, “How hard is it to make a choice to be happy and then BE happy?” His sister sarcastically replies, “Gee, it’s easy.” I am not saying that it is easy, but it is a choice and with that choice comes a good consequence.

Bad things happen. We all suffer little setbacks occasionally. But, if you are constantly in a state of explaining to people that your life is so hard and trying to get people to understand, you might need to reflect on that for a while and consider what you might be doing different to improve your life. I’m off my soapbox now. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I needed to vent that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sad Disappointment

by Marsha Ward

I recently read a book that disturbed me. Here's the thing. The fact that this book was published by any credible publisher is what threw me for a loop. It was poorly written, had little plot, mis-used words right and left, and the formatting of the print edition was abominable (not the author's fault). Yet, at the time the book was published (and it wasn't the author's first), the author was said to be one of the publisher's best-selling authors.

At first I thought the publisher must be a boutique or hobby publisher, and that may still be the case since they're a small publisher, but today they seem to have a stable of authors in excess of seventy, and publish many titles, both in print and e-book formats, so I doubt it's just one person using multiple names to self-publish.

Beyond the disappointment that I paid good money for this sadly produced book, was my disappointment in the crux of the content: sex after alcohol, outside of marriage. This occurred after the heroine insisted that she wasn't the kind of girl who indulged in "causal" sex (used not once, but several times--where was that highly lauded editor?), and indeed, was a virgin, but fell happily into bed with the drunk hero because she promised she would do so to prevent a scene that might compromise his future.

!!!???

My greatest disappointment, though, is that a person purporting to be LDS would write such trash. Sorry, I won't be sampling the author's subsequent efforts.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Color is Your Soul?

by Cindy R. Williams
The color of your soul can be determined by how you spend your free time.
What color are you?

Red: Catch up on chores or to-do list.
Blue: Call friends or write letters.
Yellow: Do an activity such as swim, play tennis, racquetball, exercise.
Green: Go outside and enjoy nature, garden, visit the desert, the zoo . . .
Purple: Take a nap.
Pink: Go shopping.
Orange: Play with your family.
Gold: Write.
White: Read your scriptures.
Brown: Read a good book
Sky Blue: Go to a movie.
Silver: Play a musical instrument.
Burgundy: Listen to music and sip a soda or ice water.
Rainbow: Bake and share.
Grey: Watch TV (but stay away from "inane" shows, as President Hinckley said.)
Black: Free time? What is that?

We all need to fill our well. Women are that they may have joy. Okay, a bit of a paraphrase I admit, but none the less, quite true. The only color that is not desirable on the list is black. It is important to be accountable for our time, but please don't forget to take time to restore, rejuvenate, fill your well and just plain rest!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Three Hours at Ramsey Canyon

by Sarah Albrecht

It’s my turn to blog and I feel utterly spent with nothing to say. I’d rather write about something completely whimsical, having nothing to do with real life or day-to-day concerns. I don’t know what, though. Maybe something funny.

Well, instead I’m thinking of our recent visit to Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains by Sierra Vista. As my twelve-year-old son put it, it’s like the intersection in a Venn diagram of four ecosystems: Mexico’s Sierra Madres, the Sonoran Desert, the Rocky Mountains, and I can’t remember the last one. Because so many habitats converge in that one place, over two hundred species of birds can be found there throughout the year as well as hundreds of other plant and animal species.

The trail up the canyon along Ramsey Creek was only a half mile long, but we saw birds like the painted redstart and the Arizona woodpecker in the northernmost tip of their habitats, deer pulling leaves from a huge sycamore and gliding in dappled shadows, squirrels and lizards, scrubbing rushes and alligator juniper, an old settler’s cabin, a mountain king snake curled beneath a rock. At first we thought the snake was a poisonous coral variety, but we did the “red and yellow kill a fellow, black and red, you’re not dead” trick with its stripes and realized we were okay. Whew.

It was an amazing afternoon of discovery and a relief to be away from everyday life.

Sometimes I wonder what Thoreau’s year at Walden Pond would have been like, if the same renewal and discovery can be accomplished in smaller doses but more frequently.

The key is to stop and allow the healing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Want to Dance with a Boy!


by Stephanie Abney

Our precious and precocious granddaughter, Taylor (Kaci’s daughter), is a constant source of many funny and delightful experiences and comments. At the tender age of 3 (she turned 4 in April) she attended her first “Ball”… it was the “Colonial Ball” held at my school in February of this year. She even wore her “princess dress.”
On the way to the dance, Taylor made it very clear to us that it was her wish to “dance with a boy.” We told her she could dance with grandpa but no, she wanted to “dance with a boy.” Her mind was made up.

Taylor’s eyes lit up with excitement as we entered the school’s multipurpose room that had been transformed for the night. She was impatient about getting her dance so I found a very fine young man, about 14 years old (we are a K-12 campus) and asked him if he would dance with my granddaughter. He was so sweet. He smiled, squatted down to her level, spoke to her for a moment, took her hand and escorted her to the dance floor. Holding both of her hands, they swayed back and forth in some fashion of a two step and then he turned her around a couple of times. Before the song was over, she walked away and came over to where Jim and I were sitting, “Grandma, I need a smaller boy.”

I found one of my students, a very handsome 7-year-old named William. I introduced him to Taylor, informing him that this was my granddaughter and she wanted to dance. He said, “Ok,” and they were off to the dance floor. Taylor smiled from ear to ear as she danced with her “prince.”
She made many friends that night and had a marvelous time. When the Hokey Pokey began, she watched from the sidelines with us. It looked like too much fun to just stand there so she simply walked away from us, squeezed into an available spot and began to copy the actions of the other dancers.

Taylor may be young, but she is fearless, determined, bright and she intends to get what she’s after. She knew exactly what she wanted before she ever entered the dance. When what I offered her was not what she wanted, she clearly made it known what she needed, “a smaller boy.” She’s no wall-flower and I pray her attitude never changes.

There is much we can all learn from Taylor: Know what you want and have a clear mission statement about it: “I want to dance with a boy.” Don’t quit until you get what you want, even if it means making adjustments (“a smaller boy”).

Don’t stand on the sidelines of life, walk right over to where the action is and dance!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Deleted

by Marielle Carlisle

I just spent 30 minutes typing out a post.

Then I read it and it was so so so bad.

Deleted.

Much better.

Sometimes things just need to be tossed.

Next up on the chopping block: whether to fix our Brother MFC printer, or buy a new one.

It costs $35 for the service center to just FIND the problem, and then $75/hour to fix it.

I could get a new printer for that price.

Whadda ya'll think?

Any printer recommendations?

I do not recommend Brother.

Have a superfantastic day!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Waiting Can be the Hardest Part

As LDS sisters, we are all on the go all the time. We are constantly juggling family, work, marriage, writing, church responsibilities, provident living, preparation for the future, scripture study, FHE, the list can go on and on. And we live in a 24/7 world now. The world doesn't slow down at night any more. We can stay up in the wee hours of the morning connected to the world and to each other. There seems to be a steady drumbeat of hurry, hurry, hurry.

I know I am at a place in my life where my weekends have become more hectic than my work week. I have 4 callings, this Sunday, I'll be teaching twice. It seems I can't get through one moment of life much less find time for writing.

My writing lately has been fairly nonexistent. My co author thinks I've wandered off the reservation and nothing I write seems to fit in. It's not writer's block so much as missing the point of a scene. So after yet another fruitless night, I decided to place in the hands of my Heavenly Father and see what He had to say.

The word "just wait" came to my mind several times since that heartfelt but very tired prayer (sinus infection doesn't help the cause here). Wait, I can't wait, I don't have time, there's too much to do, if I just can't write right now I'll have to postpone the whole thing. There's other stuff I can be doing. Maybe it is a form of writer's block.

But then the still small voice said, "waiting is not putting it on the backburner, waiting is something very different, something very active." In the stillness of an early morning, I think I may be getting this. Just wait until the inspiration, the will, the physical strength and the mental focus.

It's like my approach to yoga. I love the moves, don't have time for the comtemplation. And yet the Lord has answered my prayer...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Revisiting Old Friends

by Joyce DiPastena

I'm running my sister to the airport today, so I'll just leave you with two of my favorite quotes:

"Books worth reading are worth re-reading." (Holbrook Jackson)

"We hold if a book be worth reading once, it is worth reading twice, and if it stands a second reading, it may stand a third." (Gilfillan)

I've just recently finished a third re-reading The Convenient Marriage, by Georgette Heyer. I read it once in high school and once in college. My only question as I read it this time was: "What took me so long to read this book again!" (I had seriously forgotten how good it was!)

How long has it been since you've reread an old favorite? If it's been awhile, do yourself a favor...pull one off the shelf and read it again soon!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Overcoming Rejection


By Christine Thackeray

I don't understand the writer that works on a project for hours and hours without wanting to submit it for publication. I write to share ideas, stories and beauty with others. The more who can enjoy what I've created, the happier I am.

Most writers I've met who hesitate to share their work become reclusive out of fear of rejection. I was raised with four brothers whose humor ranged from the amusingly sarcastic to the viciously sardonic. Through my awkward teenager years, they freed me of that problem initially.

Rejection is part of the acceptance process. I truly believe the only way to overcome a fear of the real pain involved when someone casts your "baby" aside is to get calloused up the same way our bare feet do in the summer. Growing up in New England, we had a gravel driveway. I vividly recall that at the beginning of the summer walking on it was torture equivalent to crossing hot coals. But as the bottoms of our feet endured the pain, healed and then endured it again, we toughened up. One fourth of July I was dashing down the driveway in barefeet when I suddenly remembered how painful it had been to tiptoe across that same surface just a few months before and was amazed.

Jessica Day George is a YA writer who has recently enjoyed great success. I listened to her speak last year about her first acceptance. She said that she received ninety-nine rejections before finally being accepted. She looked at each rejection as being one step closer to that final acceptance. What got me is that she kept trying. In contrast when I finished my first story "Murder in Pleasant Valley", a 600 page black humor piece about a woman found dead in the church kitchen on Enrichment night with a mylar back duct-taped to her head and a donut stuffed in her mouth, I thought it the most clever work ever created. Imagine my devastation when every LDS publisher I could think of had rejected it.

Without even thinking of rewriting it, I gave up. If it wasn't for my sister pulling me into her project which got published, I never would have considered totally revamping the story to something that would sell. Most of my first book is still lying somewhere on the cutting room floor, but from one subplot with a change of POV "Crayon Messages" was born, my first published novel.

As I continue to write, not all of what I do is intended to be published. Some of it is like the etchings in a sketchpad that allow me to explore and practice. Yet if I were only writing "for me," I wouldn't be challenged enough to improve my craft. We all know people who play the piano not very well and would never agree to play in public. Years later there is little improvement. Now think of the hesitant ward pianists you have heard who have solidly improved through their calling.

This was a year of LOTS of rejection for me. I wrote three manuscripts, none of which are under contract. One was requested to be rewritten, the other is being considered and the third is waning in a computer file. As I complete this rewrite, I know that if it's rejected I can't let it get to me. No matter what I'll move on with optimism and hope in my next project. Perhaps if that one's a bestseller, people will suddenly be dying to read other work I've done, and I can brush it off and get it published later. Either way, having a relationship with the professional writing community, even if it is only a pile of rejection letters, pushes me to improve.

George Flaubert said, "It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs." I almost agree but have to add that by reaching to consistently raise the level of our prose and working to be accepted by an unbiased professional editor, we become more than a writer. We become more confident, enduring and skilled... and perhaps may even make it to the status of author.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poetry from the Past

By Kristine John

Sometimes looking ahead
means looking behind.
As I see the patterns emerging
in browns and greens and blues,
in such patterns I realize
all is not heaven or trees...
but some is pure earth--
the kind you must dig to find.
Although not necessarily
beautiful
at first glance--
Looking closer reveals
it is the protector--
the predecessor
of growth.
(*Found in my journal from 1993...about 2 months before I was to get married.)

Poor little orphan projects


By Christine Thackeray


Last year I had my first two books published (well, I co-authored one with my sister.) In contrast, this year I finished three manuscripts and none of them has sold. One is in being considered by Deseret, and the other went to an editor who asked for a rewrite. (They want it half the length.) The third I wrote for a contest and am not sure what is the best road to take with that book.


It's the second ms. that I'd like to talk about. Honestly, this story was so engaging to me when I first wrote it. I thought it was brilliant and the moment that I finally typed the last sentence, the story seemed perfect. But a part of my knew at almost 90,000 words, it was too long.


I sent it in anyway and don't even think the editor read it. She told me that when it was around 60,000 words or less to send it back in. So I cut the subplots, took full, round characters and flattened them to stock, and in the end got down to 61,ooo words. I finished it up and sent it to my pre-readers. This week I got their feedback and two out of three of them said they were dissatisfied with how flat the characters were. They wanted more from them.


Well, there was more! Wonderful Monique told me that she wanted me to changed it and described the original almost word for word. So now it's back to the drawing board. Like Cinderella's ugly stepsisters I'm trying to shove this great story into a tiny glass slipper, and it just won't fit. Ugh. When do you just call it quits? BUT- the publisher wants the story and I believe if I can get it where it should be, they'll buy it.


The saddest part of all is that my brain is calling to my next project. I've ordered all this supplemental material, and I'm ready to roll- but I've got at least another 20 hours to go on my current WIP. I wish I could simply abandon it and move on, but I know I can't let it be orphaned at least not yet.


So back to the drawing board. I'll give it one more try and send it back to my editor. If she turns it down again, then I'll hold onto it and write my next project. Then when it becomes a bestseller, I'll dust this little orphan off and give it another try.


Do others of you have little orphan projects out there?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Goals and Problems

by Anna Arnett

What can I write about when my mind seems blank ... when no theme worth talking about surfaces, no matter how I beg ... when all my thoughts center in just a few things -- take a nap, do the laundry, tidy my rooms, work diligently on my WIP, or just sit and count my heartbeats?  Well, I do have another thought, but its impetus arises from my lower trunk, not my brain, and is acerbated by my prescribed diuretic -- run to the bathroom, and read.  

Yesterday I worked the morning shift at the Mesa temple and felt great.  So good, indeed, that I stopped to get new white knee-highs, filled the gas tank, and wandered, or trudged, down almost every aisle at Costco, where I went only for some cat food, but spent a couple hundred dollars.  By the time I got home I'd reached an exhaustion stage and my heart did its jitterbug thing.  That gave me the thrill of recording and phoning the results to Cardionet.  By the time my heart quieted down, which was fairly soon, I was content to just sit, test my blood-pressure, and stare into space.

Oh, now I'm getting ideas.  Perhaps you'd like a report on my resolutions I'd decided on in my last blog.  I actually got busy and organized the various scenes I'd written over the last two or three years, and even counted words ... or let spell-check do it.  I've drafted in the neighborhood of 100,000 so far.  I've chronic-al-ized  (spell-check doesn't like all this together, but I do) memories clear up to 1956 of my life history, with a thousand words or so of 1961,  telling when my last baby arrived--the one made in Japan.

After more inspiration at a cabin in Forest Lake for a weekend with Pamela Goodfellow's class, I made the great decision to schedule full work-time of at least four, but aiming for eight hours a day until I get my memoirs finished--at least a book's worth.  Forty hours a week ought to hurry the process.  I started charting my work time on Monday, June first, because Sunday was my next opportunity, and it's a day of rest.  Besides a couple of firsts sounded like an excellent choice.  That day I worked on my WIP for four and a half hours.  Tuesday I did five. Wednesday I bombed out, and today my writing has not yet gotten around to my memoirs.  But I have six more hours before bedtime, and who knows how many hours I'll take after that!

Happy writing, and please cheer me on.  As you can tell, I need it.


 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why I Write

by Kari Diane Pike

I witnessed a miracle last week. This miracle happened because someone wrote a book. I still feel giddy, and I'm not even the author. I did, however, introduce the reader to the author...and the book.

I've heard Janette Rallison describe her feelings at book signings...not unlike going stag to the Prom and hoping that someone will ask you to dance...only in this case you're hoping someone will not only buy your book, but ask you to sign it. The day Aprilynne Pike's book, Wings, was released, she was scheduled for her first book signing at Changing Hands Book Store in Tempe, AZ. Wanting the event to be a success, and to give support, I invited as many people as I could, including my dear friend Debbie and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Megan. Debbie didn't have a lot of interest in going, but she knew Megan would get a kick out of being a "groupie," so we piled into my beat-up van and unknowingly opened the doors to new and exciting experiences.

The book signing proved to be a delightful event. The chairs filled quickly and several other people (I must have shared genetic material with at least 75% of them!) stood around the room listening to Aprilynne relate the story of how she came to write Wings and read a few pages of tantalizing text. On the ride home, Debbie said she loved listening to the reading and couldn't wait to find out what happens. Then she shrugged her shoulders and said,

"I'll probably just ask Megan after she reads the book. I'm not much of a reader. When I do try to read, I forget what happens and I spend so much time reading things over and over again, it's just not fun. So, I'll have Megan tell me about it."

A couple of weeks later, Debbie called. She sounded funny, as though she had just awakened from a late afternoon nap.

"Debbie, are you OK?"

"Yeah. I'm just having trouble seeing."

"What? Does your head hurt? Why? Is Johnny there? Do you need help?" The questions poured out of my mouth as panic set in my heart. Debbie has had some health problems in the past and my imagination ran wild.

Laughing, Debbie interrupted my barrage and assured me she felt fine. "I just finished reading Aprilynne's book. I've been reading for two and a half days straight. And I finished it! I couldn't put it down. I remembered everything. I felt like I was right there in the forest with her and I want Laurel to have both of the guys, even though I know that is wrong, but I love both of the guys and...Kari...it is the first time in my entire life I actually read a book. Did you know that I have never, ever read and entire book, ever? Except for little children's books that I read to my kids. I have never read an entire "grown-up" book. I know it sounds silly to say that a book about fairies changed my life, but it did. A huge part of my life has changed now. My family kept walking into the room and asking me what I was doing. I told them I was reading a book. They looked at me funny and said, 'You're reading a book?' They had never seen me read a book before. I'm fifty years old and I read my first book. I didn't know I could read a book. Do you know what a huge thing this is for me? I never knew I could actually read a book."

I cried. I cried for joy because I do know what it means to Debbie. I know Debbie quit school in the seventh grade and is terrified of speaking to teachers and other "authority figures" because she's ashamed of her supposed ignorance. My friend learned something new about herself and I cried because I know what this means not only to Debbie, but to her children and grandchildren. And I laughed. I laughed and I danced because the light that flowed from Debbie...even through the phone lines...tickled my heart. A book about fairies showed my friend what I have known all along; that all it takes is the right words at the right time to create a miracle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This just made my day

submitted by Valerie Ipson for your listening pleasure...