Friday, April 30, 2010
Last week as the taco meat sizzled an odd scent wafted from the frying pan. Cumin? No. Chili powder? No. Onion powder? Sniff, sniff....No. It was a big pan of meat, destined, I hoped, to become leftovers. But what was that smell?
I didn't identify the mystery scent until the pan sat on the kitchen bar between tortillas and beans, ready to serve up buffet style. Sniff, sniff...Ugh! Cinnamon.
Yes, I put cinnamon in the taco meat. My husband was a great sport and plopped a large spoonful into his tortilla. When he took a bite he even declared nothing tasted off. My oldest son, always pragmatic, took a large helping, noting, "If you smother it in salsa, you can't taste it." None of the other kids would touch the meat.
So much for the grand pan destined for leftovers.
I'm not really sure what point I'm moving towards. Let's just say that when a thank you note to one of my daughter's party guests arrived in our mailbox, addressed to us, or when I added baking powder to the flour cannister instead of the brownie batter, I wasn't too surprised.
Maybe it's time to
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I believe the first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months…Any longer and — for me, at least — the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel, like a dispatch from the Romanian Department of Public Affairs, or something broadcast on high-band shortwave duiring a period of severe sunspot activity.
Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.
“A movie should be there in rough cut,” the film editor Paul Hirsch once told me. The same is true of books. I think it’s rare that incoherence or dull storytelling can be solved by something so minor as a second draft.
Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggest cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)...I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”
Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.
My all time favorite similes, by the way, come from the hardboiled-detective fiction of the forties and fifties, and the literary descendants of the dime-dreadful writers. These favorites include “It was darker than a carload of assholes” (George V. Higgins) and “I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief” (Raymond Chandler).
In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Did you know that April was National Poetry Month? Well, surprise!
In my Humanities course one of our assignments was to read and review a book of poems. I found a delightful anthology that I highly recommend for anyone.
It's "A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms." 29 poems are identified and defined, from common (couplet, haiku, limerick) to not-so-common (villanelle, double dactyl, pantoum).
The editor states at the beginning of the book that the purpose of the book was to define the rules of poems, because without rules, where’s the fun in writing? There’s no challenge. But, he adds, rules are meant to be broken, like in "There Once was a Limerick Called Steve." It starts off on the right foot, but by the end its poking fun at itself and the rhyme pattern has completely dissolved.
What makes the book so great are the illustrations. The pictures are whimsical, colorful and bright. In the top corner of each poem, the artist has drawn the rules of the poem in a picture. For example, the limerick corner shows a bouncing ball that has bounced three times on lines 1, 2 and 5, and two times on lines 3 and 4. The haiku corner shows 5 flowers on the top row, 7 flowers in the middle row, and 5 flowers on the bottom row. A villanelle, as we learn from the editor’s notes, is quite a challenge to write, so the pictures show a rather villainous character lurking around while the poem discusses whether there is a villain in your villanelle.
The first thing I thought when I finished reading this book was “I want it, I need it, HOW DO I GET MY HANDS ON IT!?” This collection is wonderful. The poems coupled with the artwork make me want to write a poem. Not a villanelle (not yet anyway), but maybe a haiku. There was one poem that I had heard before, which was the Riddle Poem, so I felt very clever in knowing the answer. I’m a little unsure about double dactyls. Even saying “double dactyl” is a mouthful. I smiled reading “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes,” reflected through “Little Elegy (for a child who skipped rope),” and wished I were a piece of paper in the personal poem “Paper Dreams.”
Here's a couple poems, courtesy of yours truly:
Poem #1: List Poem
When I go
By Marielle Carlisle
Two little monkeys jumping on my bed
Groggy wake-up cuddles
Belly laughs from a tickle attack
Little socks and shirts to sort
Nose prints on a clean window
Hiccups on a warm, breezy day
Peanut butter and jelly breath
Squashed weed bouquets
Sandy pockets and dusty bums
Slide static-hair and teeter-totter tumbles
Soft tears to wipe away
Popsicle kisses smeared on my cheek
Bubbly toes at bath time
Tiny hands squeezing mine
Sleepy drool on my shoulder
Two perfect monkeys dreaming in bed
My heart is packed
when I go
Poem #2: Diamonte
by Marielle Carlisle
bunching, hydrating, filling
fun, smooth, bumpy, serious
scattering, drying, snacking
Poem #3: Limerick
by Marielle Carlisle
There once was a kitty named Tootsie
Who constantly slept at my footsie
She threw-up each day
and got in the way
So kitty has gotten the bootsie
Alright, ladies and gentleman (yes, I know you guys are out there), grab a pen and paper and write some poems!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When you live long enough in a place or pay attention, you begin to spot the warning signs of "something wicked this way comes." I've always loved the phrase and don't get to use it very often.
While my part of Alabama missed out on the terrible tornadoes, you could almost sense the danger in the weather. It starts here with a southernly wind that's filled with electricity (or so the scientists tell us) and ends with a bad storm somewhere...sometimes close, sometimes not so close. When I lived in Kansas, the warning signs for tornadoes was a bit different because there's rarely humidity in the air there.
There are warnings signs in our spiritual lives that can cause storms. Many times we look back and think I saw this coming, I just didn't realize it. And always we are told "if ye are prepared, ye need not fear."
And yes there are warning signs in writing. Ones we need to acknowledge and deal with appropriately. A character that suddenly goes in the wrong direction; a transistional scene that takes on a life of its own and changes the plot; a sudden unwilliness to write (fill in the blank here).
The Lord never gives us a princple that doesn't have eternal and sweeping aspects and angles. So it is with warnings. Pay attention to the change in the air, in the wind, in the book, in your testimony...as Sherlock so cleverly puts it "the game is afoot." It's our responsibility to be prepared to perhaps "go where no man has gone before."
Monday, April 26, 2010
Last Thursday night there were at least three different reasons I wanted to be in Utah. And yet I stayed in Arizona because there were even more reasons I needed to be here. Despite what my brain knew to be the best decision, my heart still ached for the lost experiences I was missing.
I have noticed more and more frequently I am often caught between these two worlds: where I want to be and where I am or need to be. And sometimes I rush to get to one place, but as soon as I get there I feel the stress of the need to get to my next destination.
- When I am at work I want to be at home.
- When I am at home I think of places I want to go on vacation or errands I need to be running.
- While reading a good book I have a hard time not knowing the resolution of the plot, even from the beginning (yes, I cheat and read the last chapter first).
- On my WIP I want to be caught up with the time line I have set for myself, but life's challenges make it hard to get there.
I think the most I can hope for is to make the choices that will bring me the most inner peace. So although I have nothing to share about the LDS Storymakers conference so many of you enjoyed, I have to admit I am at peace with what I was able to accomplish at home. The talent show I was in charge of went beautifully and I was able to sneak in several hours of writing over the weekend. But I will still be perusing all of your blogs to read up on what I missed and start looking forward to the potential of attending next year.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I have found a new author that I love. Her name is M. Catherine Thomas and her book is titled Light in the Wilderness : Explorations in the Spiritual Life. She is a convert and she writes about spiritual ideas. She is an inspiration to me and an example of how to do "it" right.
I would like to share from one of her essays:
Redefining Our Self.
Sooner or later we realize that the time has come to find greater spiritual power, to own our divinity, and to live with greater confidence -- with boldness. By “bold” I don’t mean arrogant or overbearing (see Alma 38:12), but rather, “the ability to take risks, be confident, and courageous.” The Apostle Paul encourages us to the same thing. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may … find grace to help in time
of need” (Hebrews 4).
He exhorts us to have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the
blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10). From Lectures on Faith we learn that we are not only to
“commune with him … but be partakers of his power, and stand in his presence” (Lecture
#2). The Lord shows the way to this power and strength, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts
unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).
This confidence begins in our thoughts, in the way we use our mind. We are highly
potentiated beings who may have excused ourselves for not being who we really are.
A false interpretation of humility and other misunderstandings of Gospel terms can
actually disempower us, make us spiritually passive, and render us ever waiting for
something miraculous to happen. I have lived a good deal of my life obeying,
checklisting, and searching -- and wondering where the real power was. I didn’t seem to
be really getting anywhere. At what point, I wondered, did one connect with the real
power in the Gospel? What was missing? What was I just not getting?
It began to dawn on me that the responsibility for power must already be within me. I
realized that there had to be a disposition to become powerful and a doing-away with the
assumption that powerful is somehow not humble. This mind shift came for me partly through
an all-the-way-down-into-the-bones belief in the Lord’s words and His invitation to come
to Him – regardless of my history or present circumstances.
The problem lay in my unconscious weak definitions of myself. I realized that if we were
to ask the Lord to describe Himself, He would give us a list of powerful
self-definitions, of I AM’s, that He had lived into: Truth, Love, Mercy, Power. We, on
the other hand, have a lot of “I AM’s” in our heads that do not serve us. Listening to
self-definitions that are disempowering and unforgiving of self creates a particular
reality, a shrinking into our fears. How is it we so often get in our own way? How do
we get out of our way? Another thing that occurred to me was to take the Atonement
seriously and see how it covers the sin of not defining oneself powerfully.
Consider the weak “I AM’s” in the scriptural accounts of Moses in
contrast to the Lord’s: Moses responds to the Lord’s invitation to deliver a
provocative message to Pharoah: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh and bring forth
the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He asks, Who should he say sent him?The Lord
answers cryptically and powerfully, “I AM THAT I AM…. I AM hath sent me unto you.”
(Exodus 3:14). This is a Being who has no weak definitions of Himself. Just the spoken
“I AM” has power.
I want to live with greater confidence and with boldness. Anyone want to join me?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
by Joan Sowards
Ever since I bought my laptop a well over a year ago, the screen has flickered when I start to close the lid. No big deal. It never hurt anything or interfered with my work. Finally, I decided to have the flickering fixed. We were finished with the last edits of Chocolate Roses and I had nothing pressing, so we called for repair. The next morning, Tuesday, FedEx delivered a padded shipping box. I tucked away my beloved Mac in the cushy interior and took it to a designated FedEx pick-up store. Wednesday, I sewed all day—I was in heaven—and Thursday morning by 10:30, a smiling FedEx man hand delivered my repaired laptop.
No more flickering. I love great customer service.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
On April 21, 1978, snow fell on Panguitch, Utah. I remember this little bit of trivia because we arrived in that little town the day before, in my future in-law's big, mustard yellow Suburban. The radiator had cracked and the mechanic promised he could have the repairs done by noon...the next day. Have you ever tried to find enough motel rooms at the last minute, in a tiny town, for 7 single, young adults? My fiance assured me that we would have plenty of time to get to Phoenix and obtain our wedding license so that we could still get married the 22nd. We called our parents and they, too, assured us that as long as we left by noon, we would be fine.
The feathery snowflakes that Friday morning made everything seem magical. I bundled up and faced the new day with a sense of adventure. Hot cocoa warmed my belly, frost tickled my nose, and the eager anticipation of becoming Mrs. Douglas F. Pike radiated in my heart. But it turned
Several volunteer firemen sat around the garage swapping tales when Doug arrived to pick up the Suburban. They teased and bantered, telling Doug that he really didn't want to get married anyway, so he didn't need to hurry. But 3:00pm found us
I have the most resourceful parents ever. When our bedraggled wedding party arrived at the house in Phoenix about 10pm, my Dad asked Doug if he had a twenty and said, "You'll need it." Then he shooed us into his waiting car and drove us down the street to the home of a clerk of the Maricopa County Superior Court. Twenty minutes later, and minus the cash, we returned to my childhood home, wedding license in hand.
Thirty two years ago today, I became Mrs. Douglas F. Pike. It began as an adventure and just gets grander all the time. It hasn't been easy. It has been totally worth it.
It snowed in Highland, Utah today. I wonder what the weather is like in Panguitch.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
How do you do this? It starts with time. Spend time together doing things. Whatever interests your children, go with it. You should also include them in your activities.
When I was finishing up my bachelor's degree, I had to watch a video of "Into the Woods" for a drama class. My teen girls viewed with me. During the movie, we started quoting lines like, "You know what your decision is, which is not to decide!" We use this on a regular basis when one of us has a decision to make. We even sing it.
Another is the tradition of the "bousch" (pronounced boo-sh) blanket. Any comforter, quilt, or afghan that is the perfect weight to make you feel cozy and warm is "bousch". My good friend, who had my girls babysit on a regular basis, let them fall asleep on the sofa under a bousch quilt. She later made bousch quilts for them to take to college. My girls had to try out their quilts and let her know if they achieved bousch status. They pronounced her bousch quilter extraordinaire!
Other parts of our culture are even odder. We all want minions to do our bidding (no one has suceeded so far), love to mock merchandise in the store (hey, you NEED these sparkling orange leggings), have our own vocabulary (puter for computer), and often finish each other's sentences.
So, keep up those strange traditions, like throwing Christmas missles (fabric Christmas trees sewn by my sister-in-law), and work together on memories that last throughout eternity. After all, your best experiences should be with your family.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday my sister asked if I was getting excited for my planned weekend to the LDS Storymakers Conference. "I'm getting nervous" was my reply and I launched into the varied reasons why writers conferences are so different than other seemingly similar venues.
Most conferences you attend, you choose your classes, sit in anonymity in each one scribbling notes on pads of paper, and then go away having gleaned copious amounts of information.
There's a whole other side to a writers conference.
There's the networking, the connections to be made (okay, that's redundant), the "see and be seen" factor (okay, kind of redundant, again). Generally we all have a finished work or work in progress that we want to "be seen," and, of course, we want to "see" all those writers who have crossed the line into the magical world of being called authors.
This is why I am nervous.
I will see authors.
People who have published actual books.
Fortunately, name tags will be employed, but still, if I come face to face with one (of them) don't I need to be able to match the name with their published work so as not to appear totally off the literary/Amazon/DB planet? I should have been cramming the entire last week with flash cards--okay, James Dashner-The Maze Runner-MC:Thomas, Josi Kilpack-Devil's Food Cake-MC:Sadie, Heather Moore-Alma-MC:Alma, Joyce DiPastena-Illuminations of the Heart-MC:Suri...oh, wait I know her! Whew! And bonus, I have actually read her book. [Note to self: Stand near Joyce as much as she'll allow.]
In addition to authors, there will be a myriad of people there who I know only through their blog or through our online writing associations. So, see, I know their names and quite a bit about them, but have never spoken face to face. How do I approach them? "Oh, my gosh, it's you "Queen of the Clan" blogger ...um...um... thanks for that comment you left on my blog last February...um..." Of course, half the bloggers are also authors, so I need to remember their blog and published work.
Again thank goodness for name tags because (and I'm not referring to anyone real or fictional) there's often a "lost in translation" moment when you go from knowing someone just by their little bloggy photo and then meeting them in person.
So that's the "see" aspect of writer's conferences.
Now as far as being seen and your work being seen, that ups the nervousness factor considerably.
There will be editors in attendance.
Actual people who make decisions about whether writers cross the line into the magical world of being called authors.
I daresay I don't need to elaborate, except to say if you come face to face with one (of them) WHAT WILL YOU SAY? It must be something half way intelligent and if it could be half way intelligent about your own manuscript, then all the better. You've gotta have a well-rehearsed pitch--one that is short and non-rambling. [See elanajohnson.blogspot.com today for her post on this very subject.] Even if you don't get to talk to an editor (or don't force yourself upon an editor) a thousand other people will ask you about your novel just in casual conversation.
Must. Be. Prepared.
By now you are beginning to wonder--why subject ourselves to the frenzy that is LDS Storymakers?
Because it's the most fun frenzy ever!
Imagine an entire Grand Ballroom of crazy people who get it.
They get writing and writers.
And anything anyone says about writing, no matter what it is, you have a whole ballroom-sized group of people nodding like bobble-heads in agreement. And because it's sponsored by a group with "LDS" as their first name, you also have a ballroom of people who are kind and so amazingly supportive of each other [and have standards] and can become your friends and critique partners and help you navigate your road to publication.
And if that's not all enough, then there is the choosing of classes, sitting and scribbling notes on pads of paper, and coming away with copious amounts of information.
I love that part.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Only in appreciation, mind you. Her blog about getting ready for the LDStorymakers' writers conference is, unfortunately, a reflection of my own panicked scurrying around to get to the same event.
I'm not as witty as Cindy is, so I'm only going to present the list that I'm working on to get this body out the door sometime this week--at least in time to arrive on Thursday, fresh as a daisy--NOT!
books price cards & bookmarks(just have to cut 'em apart) clean toilet send hymns to Wanda Page reservation pres message laundry| | | | | clothes list intro for Whitneys
do I need the big suitcase?no
- change oil in car
take out garbage ANWA stuff to do ANWA apps?10 copies to take with me! travel sheets itinerary to children get May hymn themeemail sent
- pills: arrange night batches
fix autofillstake in new 'scrip
- audio books for trip? Library
which purse?organizer bag Provo weather report
- Utah road conditions
call CC about Utah
- LDStorymakers' pages (ain't gonna happen!)
Including my cell phone charger!
Edited to add strikethroughs as I complete tasks.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
So back to the upcoming trip to the writers conference. Here's my simplified plan, and I really mean simplified.
1. Make arrangements for my children, and husband to survive. Make sure there's plenty for them to eat and clean clothes to wear while I'm away. Maybe I'll make a list of things they could get done if they really wanted to while I am gone. Maybe not. I can paint the scenario that although I'll be the one partying and swinging on the Marriott's chandeliers, they too will want to party and have a mini-vacation from "Sergeant Nag."
2. Leave the house spick and span. Ummm . . . a mute point since the house is likely to be in major disarray when I get home anyway. Sigh.
3. Make sure all is ready for Primary, since my flight won't get me back in time. As a humble and tired President, I miss and worry about my favorite little people. Get my Visiting Teaching done so I won't harbor a ton of guilt. I already harbor a semi-truck load of guilt about far too many things.
4. Pack: This means I must bother to shop for a few new things to wear, and I detest shopping. I would rather be home writing any day. But, alas, my fashionable "Mommy Look" consisting of sweats and t-shirts isn't going to cut it. I want to dress at least business casual. I'll actually settle for presentable. Should I take two pairs of slippers just in case the hotel toilet clogs and floods soaking my sllippers. Hey, it's happened before, and I want to be ready and prepared.
5. Remember to bring my cell phone charger. Even though I hate cell phones, I want to call my family. Plus one of them might break a leg or some other appendage while I'm gone, and need my comfort. If you know my family, you know that this isn't much of a stretch for my dare devil offsrping. A few quick examples: one son broke both arms on the same day, but at two different times while snowboarding. My missionary son torqued his finger almost off when trying to jump over another friend while being pulled behind our boat on tubes. Several pins and a zillion stitches later, they saved the finger. Then he broke his collar bone two months before his mission while standing on a garbage can lid and sliding down a snowy hill, in Utah. Since that wasn't enough excitement before his mission, he broke his foot five days to departure to the MTC while playing Church basketball. Truth is better than fiction. No, never mind. Truth is much worse than fiction. So good luck to my sweet husband while I'm gone.
6. Plan and pack and re-pack all my stuff. Then do it again. I'm not like my husband and sons who can come home from work or school on Friday and within five minutes are packed and out the door for a Scout Camp.
7. Arrange to have a friend bring up a case of my "Chase McKay Didn't Get Up Today" books. I donated one for the gift baskets being given away at the conference, and one for AI (Authors Incognito) to give as prizes. I also want to have them on hand for interested parties to purchase, and hope that there will be many interested parties. Maybe I should make a battery operated hat with the book spinning around like a helicopter blade on the top and flashing blue, red and green lights and include canned laughter that sounds off every ten seconds or so to draw attention from hundreds of other authors that most likely have their own books to sell.
8. Pack my cell phone charger and "Bubbles," my super cuddly stuffed whale, that serves as one of my snuggly pillows.
9. Polish and print five pages of my novel and practice, practice, practice my pitch to use when I meet with Lisa Mangum of Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain. Psych myself up that my book is so fabulous that she will jump up, slam her fist on the table and say. "We have to have your book!" I can dream can't I?
10. Polish and print ten copies of the first chapter of . . . wait, first I have to decide which novel or children's story I want to use for the Critique Boot Camp. This will take tons of thought. I mean, "Eleven" is 1/3 complete, but very rough. "Thundertail's Tales" is complete, but has been through several edits and rewrites and is the hands of Beta Readers, so now I'm back to the possibility that it might be better to beat up on "Eleven." "Welcome to the Motherhood" is full of essays on mothering, and I don't think I want to choose just one essay to hash. Then there are the seven children's picture books, some rhyming, some not, in various stages of writing and editing. However, I think it would be wasted time to use those. I have other critique groups helping there. Maybe I will bring the beginnings of my non-fiction book about my Dad and Alzheimer's --or ---never mind, my head is swimming. I'll decide tomorrow.
11. Print a copy of my query letter for my query class so I can query my presenter with queries that will help me write a killer query and reach my goal of impressing my dream agent with my query of all queries.
12. Make table place cards reserving four tables for lunch on Friday for ANWA Members. Liz Adair is making ANWA badges for us to wear, and it will be great fun to sit together for one lunch. I already emailed Jamie Thayler of LDStorymakers and got her okay. No matter how much I tend to tangle and convilute things,this one is easy.
13. Review the conference schedule and map out my daily plan of classes to attend. I'm really not much of a fly by the seat of your pants person. Back in high school I've been known to do things on the spur of the moment, like grabbing hold of car bumpers and foot skiing on the snow, or throwing a snowball at the principal, or staying up on a dare all night watching "Nightmare" dressed as a zombie. Once I walked a fourty foor long fence made out of nothing but metal 2 inch diameter poles that surrounded a very awnery and dangerous bull --again on a dare --but not anymore. I've become quite a stick in the muck, --notice I'm avoiding a common cliche by giving it a new object. I like to be organized and know where I'm going and why. It just saves time, is more efficient and makes total sense, borring as an old housecoat, but effective.
13. Pack my cell phone charger, Bubbles and chocolate. How could I think of going to a writer's conference without chocolate?