Jun 30, 2010

A "Real" Vacation

I've been thinking about vacations, and not only because it's that time of year. For many years, a combination of having four children, frequent layoffs, and family distance kept us at home over the summer.

During the 20 years I spent as a stay-at-home mom, money was tight, so trips were few and far between. I tried to keep the kids busy with activities, so summertime was fun, just at home in Texas.

Shortly after I began working, my husband was laid off. I took a job teaching summer school, eliminating most of my summer. I was able to fill the afternoons with fun, but between entertaining the children and cleaning, there was no relaxation time.

Never feeling financially secure, I kept working in the summer or taking classes to advance my career. This is probably the first summer when I haven't taken an extra job. We went to Philadelphia last week for my father-in-law's birthday. He turned 90! There was a great party, and he was so pleased to see us.

Although I'm currently at home, starting PhD classes, looking for a publisher, and trying to reorganize my house. I feel more relaxed than I have in a long time. The race to get things done doesn't seem so important anymore.

Another vacation , a family reunion with all my children and grandchildren, is coming up. Can't wait! I hope you can get into vacation mode. Soon!

Jun 29, 2010

I need therapy

by Valerie Ipson

(image found at www.bible.ca/marriage/psychiatry-couch.gif)

Let me clarify... I need novel therapy. I need story structure therapy. I need help!

I can't figure out what my story is about. Like down deep.

When people ask I usually reply its about a girl who wants to change her school and get rid of bullying.

Sometimes I say it's about a girl overcoming tragedy and realizing it doesn't have to define her life.

Other times I say other stuff that is rambly and incoherent. (Okay, most times.)

Inside my own head I don't have a defined theme to my novel. This is a problem.

At a semi-recent critique session I gave my first answer about the bullying, but was met with blank stares, so I quickly added "Her boyfriend was killed in an accident because of bullying." Click, click, click all the light bulbs went on above my critique buddies' heads. Suddenly there was a motivation attached to the story of a girl who wants to rid her school of bullying. The satisfaction was fleeting for me, though, because my MC doesn't really know in the beginning what caused the accident. It can't be her motivation. Sadly, I was still without a viable story theme.

I needed help, so...

When I had a little manuscript crisis, I went to lie/lay (??) on Writer Friend Tamara's book psychiatrist's couch (sat on a chair at her dining room table). She got me digging. Digging deep past/passed (??) the layers of surface story to its very core. She asked me about plot points and themes...it was grueling. But I discovered my story is about a girl and forgiveness.

It was a startling revelation. It changed how I look at my story. I still struggle with structure, but I try to always go back to that one truth about my story. Forgiveness.

And to those of you who have received different answers when you've asked what my story is about or you have read parts of my story and now you're saying "Forgiveness? What the, huh?" Just bear with me.

Book therapy. I recommend it.

Jun 28, 2010

Childhood Memories

By Stacy Johnson

My parents are gearing up for their 40th wedding anniversary next month.  We wanted to throw a great big party because we just aren't sure if my dad will be here a year from now, let alone 10 years, but it is not what they want.  All they want is a dinner out with just the adult children.  So, we will give in to their wishes and go out to dinner on Saturday night and throw a small scale family party on Sunday night instead.  

In preparation for the slide show I am creating for the family party, I have been going throw picture after picture and it is taking forever because of all the memories, so I thought I would share one.  The memory isn't actually of my parents, but it takes place in my childhood home with my best friend...

Performance Spaces

I loved to sing and dance and play pretend as a kid.  Didn’t everyone?  We had a great stereo in the living room so my dad could listen to his classical music at the end of a long day.  My mom could turn on Glen Campbell and other country favorites while she cleaned house.  Elvis was my favorite, but there were others.  Mom would carefully place the needle at the beginning of the first song as the album began its first revolution.  The rectangular shaped living room was perfect for putting on a show, except the couch would face the wrong way if I was using the fireplace as my stage.  I became Karen Carpenter, Barry Manilow, Elvis and the Bee Gees, all rolled into one.  While I loved singing in the living room, there were times when we had to be quiet.  Our house was so small, the slightest noise would wake the baby and heaven’s knows we wouldn’t want to do that.
            One evening, as a surprise, my mom dressed my sister and me in our church clothes; white socks with lace around the edges, black patent leather shoes, matching homemade dresses , and she curled our hair.  They took us to see a play called Star Child.  I marveled at the huge auditorium and all the people there to see the production.  I’m positive I sat there quietly and enjoyed the entire performance because there was so much singing and dancing, how could I have done otherwise?  Knowing my love of music and the enjoyment that watching the show brought me, my parents purchased the soundtrack.  My very own cassette!!  I was beside myself with joy and I treasured the gift even as we listened to it in the car the whole way home.  I began to memorize the words.   Tomorrow, I would go to the perfect place to perform and perform, I would…in the carport.
            The very next day, I swept it out and rearranged the boxes of extra carport things against the wall so that the red brick half wall could be my stage.  The pillars would be the boundaries of my stage and I would be able to look out at my audience seated on the old couch against the opposite wall and they would have a great view of me. 
            Later that morning, Mark came over.  Mark was my best friend in the whole world.  It didn’t matter that he was a year older… and a boy. He even let me ride his red dirt bike while following behind me on my white banana seat girl bike with the basket on front, but I digress.  I showed Mark my cassette and asked him if he wanted to put on the play with me?  I’m not sure how enthusiastic his answer was, but he participated nonetheless. 
            I got the old portable cassette player out and plugged it into the wall.  I pulled out my play microphone, (it might have been a hairbrush for all I know).  I pulled myself up onto the skinny half wall and belted out, “Man eating crocodile we’re after your lunch, here we come, the hunt’s begun, we’re after our prey…”  I would come to understand years later, that the song was about women on a man hunt.  It was innocent enough, a bunch of woman in search of husbands.  Poor Mark, he was my hunt.  He pretended to be an animal and I would use a rope and tie it around his neck and pull him back to my “stage” by the end of the song.  We must have worn that cassette out, singing and acting out the songs that day.
            A few days later, I asked Mark if he wanted to come over and do the play some more, he replied, “I already told Johnny that I’d go ride dirt bikes with him and then we’re going to his house to shoot the BB gun.”  I think I might have bruised his manhood because he never sang with me again.

Jun 27, 2010

Loopy English and Blog Team Changes

by Marsha Ward

I'm sure the person who wrote conquer for concur must have been very tired at the time. The stress isn't even on the same syllable.

Conquer: vt. 1 to get control of as by winning a war 2 to overcome; defeat ---vi. to win

Concur: vi. 1 to occur at the same time 2 to act together 3 to agree (with)

We are saying goodbye to two of our blog team members: Sarah Hinze and Marielle Carlisle. Thank you for your posts, ladies.

Please welcome our new bloggers: Tamara Passey and Cecily Markland. Actually, Cecily is a returning blogger, as she worked on the team in our early days. We're happy to have you with us, Tamara and Cecily.

Jun 26, 2010

To Spin a Website

By Cindy R. Williams

Test your knowledge of the need to spin a writer's website.

1. What is the purpose of a website when you are a writer who desires to become published?
a. To post pictures and stories about my family.
b. To pre-view my book I plan on publishing.
c. To tell the world about the book I have published and where they can purchase it.
d. To sell my book.
e. As a place readers can learn more about me.
ANSWER: All except a. Your website must certainly have personality, but it IS NOT the place to share about how little Sammi took his first step today. Save that for your personal blog for close friends and family.

2. When does a writer need a website?
a. Writers don't need websites. They are a waste of time.
b When I first begin to take myself seriously as a writer and am ready to say, "I am here world."
c. Not until I have sold over 3,000 copies of my book.
d. When I have several books published, or maybe as many as Janette Rallison.
e. Not until I have saved up at least $2,500 to pay for this guy that does fabulous websites.
ANSWER: b. When you decide you are really going to be a writer, not just a wanna be, it's time. You don't have to wait until your book is published. You can begin to tell about your WIP and the process of writing it. What a fun journey to share with others. You will build a following and have people virtually lined up to purchase your book.

3. How does a website help both published and unpublished writers?
a. It is a tool to help create your brand or mark.
b. It is a tool to help build your platform.
c. Agents and publishers may check it out to see how serious you are or to learn more about you when they received your query.
d It provides a place for a writer to showcase his/her work.
e. It creates a buzz around your name.
ANSWER: All of the above.

4. How do you create a website?
a. You hire a guy in your ward and pay him $2,500.
b. You hire a guy a friend used and pay him $2,500.
c. You hire a professional website creating service for hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars.
d. You get your friend. After all, she put together one for her missionary son.
e. You don't need to create a website. When you become published, the publishers will do it for you.
f. You do it yourself
ANSWER: All of the above. Sure you can hire others and pay big fees and yes you can have your friends help you or do it for you. Yes, some publishers may set up a simple website for you, but authors serious about their writing are expected to have a website up long before they get to this point. My favorite answer is "f" do it yourself. See more about below. (Now having said this, I am guilty of having my primary website built by a professional who happened to be a guy a friend used and also in my ward. He was VERY expensive, but I am absolutely delighted with the look and all the bells and whistles. I'm not so delighted at how hard it is to update. If you would like to check it out for ideas, it's listed below.
5. Can I build my website myself?
ANSWER: One easy way is to set up a site on "Microsoft Office Live." I have created a number of sites for myself and for my husband's civil engineering firm. I now have five websites. It is free, and the site walks you through it step by step. It is much like painting by numbers. If I can do it so can you. You also can go to "GoDaddy.com" and purchase a name for around $12.99 for a year. You will have to renew it yearly or you can purchase it for additional years for more money. You can then use GoDaddy to host your site for as little as $5.99 a month.

Another great idea that others are now doing is to use a free blog site as your website. Blogs sites are changing and now allow you to do many things a website does. Two FREE blog hosting sites I use are Blogspot.com and Wordpress.com. Once you log on, just follow the instructions. Yes, there is a learning curve, but give yourself some time to play with your new blog and soon you will be up and running.

There are many online websites that offer free backgrounds and templates so you can customize your own web or blog site. Once again, IT IS NOT THAT HARD. I have 112 blogs now. Only three are used regularly, and I also blog here on the ANWA Founder & Friends. I use my other blogs for different things. I have one that I update now and again about my son on his mission. I have several I use for my Harp. I have others I will use later when more of my books are published. I also have a blog attached to my primary website , http://www.cindydreamdragon.blogspot.com/) It makes it easier to post updates, Blogs are more fluid than websites, and much easier to update.

7. Can your blog site also be your website?
ANSWER: Yes. See above.

8. How much time does it take to maintain a website or a blog site?
ANSWER: That is totally up to you. You can spend several hours a day, or you can limit yourself to once a week for a half hour to an hour. I usually spend about two hours a week on my Writers Mirror Blog. I post writer interviews and book reviews. It is a ton of fun. Really! Right now I am participating in Joyce DiPastena's 2nd Annual Summer Treasure Hunt, and have it posted on my three main blogs. I go in daily and update that day's winner. It takes me all of five minutes. It ends the second week of July, so then I will go back to interviews and book reviews. I do a new one each week and am booked through September. It really is quite manageable and I give a leg up to my fellow writers.
9. What are some of your sites we can use as examples of different styles and templates that we can get some ideas from.

Cindy R. Williams http://www.cindyrwilliams.com/ My primary website, designed by a professional for toooo much money for all the hassles I have with it.

Dragon Dreamer is my blog that is connected to my primary website. You can access it from my website or directly by http://www.cindydragondreamer.blogspot.com/

Crazy Ladies Blog Here http://www.crazyladiesbloghere.blogspot.com/ I created this when I taught a "How to Create a Blog" class for some ANWA ladies. It's one of my favorite blogs.

Blogs and Blurbs http://www.blogsandblurbs.blogspot.com/

Writers Mirror http://www.writersmirror.blogspot.com This is the site for writer interviews and book reviews. If you would like to be interviewed or have a book you want reviewed, email me. I am booking October on right now. I love to interview writers that are both published and non-published. Everyone has an interesting story.

Write a Story Together http://www.writeastorytogether.blogspot.com/

Crazy Busy http://crazy-busy.blogspot.com/

Scoozies http://www.scoozies.blogspot.com/

Fairies and Dragons http://www.cindydragon.blogspot.com/

Cindy Williams Blog http://www.cindyrwilliams.blogspot.com/

Write All Right http://www.writeallright.blogspot.com/ shows you a totally beginner blog site. No bells and whistles. Nothing has been added or adjusted to the original creation.

Janette Rallison is one of my favorite authors. Here are her blog and websites:
http://www.janetterallison.com/ Janette's website is excellent. It is clean and professional

I have almost a hundred more, but you get the drift. GOOD LUCK ON SPINNING YOUR OWN WEBSITE!

Jun 25, 2010

Too Old to Write?

By Tanya Parker Mills

Perhaps it's the fact that I've been trying to get through my dad's latest manuscript. He's 87 now and, if anything, writing more than ever...the trouble is, he's in such a hurry to get his ideas out and on the hard drive, that he doesn't care much for rewriting and revision. It's as if he's trying to get it all out before he passes away. Do we become less careful with our writing the older we get?

Or perhaps it's because I've been visiting with my mother-in-law in her assisted living center. We're on a short vacation trip to Utah to see her and my daughter and other family on my husband's side. Being around a lot of men and women near the end of their lives can certainly refocus your perspective on life...and on writing.

Mostly, I think it was that disturbing article in The New York Times back on June 9th by San Tanenhaus. It was actually an editorial response to the recent New Yorker issue featuring their list of 20 promising writers. They call it "20 Under 40," meaning the writers are all young. Tanenhaus seemed to agree with their underlying premise:

Fiction writers "often compose their best and most lasting work when they are young."

Imagine how depressed I was after reading that? Did I come too late to the game? Did I sacrifice too much by focusing on my kids in my 30's and 40's? I have some answers to all these questions and intend to pursue this topic in more detail on my own website and blog, but I will say this much:

The jury's definitely still out. Some believe writers do their best work young. Others believe there is no time limit. And a third group says it depends on what kind of a writer you are. Conceptual writers, like Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated), are at their peak when young. A conceptual writer is the type that starts with a clear idea of where he or she wants to go and then executes it. Experimental writers, on the other hand, like Mark Twain, bloom later. They're the type that tend to work experimentally. "Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.

Consider Mark Twain's process. According to literary critic Franklin Rogers:

His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.

Since it took Twain almost 10 years to get Huckleberry Finn right (and he published it after the age of 40), I figure that I lean more in his direction. I take my time with my stories. Probably too much time.

Perhaps I should take a lesson from my father and start pumping them out faster.

Jun 24, 2010

Do Something Selfish

By Susan G. Haws

Do something just for yourself today. Something that will make you feel rejuvenated. This may sound like heresy but look for a guilty pleasure and give in to temptation. Most of the people I know have a lot of demands on their time and their spirit: responsibilities with work, church, or community and nurturing roles with children, grandchildren, aging parents, or siblings; all needing help. After a while our reserves are scraping bottom and the need appears bottomless; like holding an empty water pitcher at a Fourth of July party. If you don’t refill you have nothing to give.

The airlines have it right. In their preflight safety spiel they always say that in case of an emergency put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on those needing assistance. If you don’t take care of yourself you can’t serve your loved ones. So, even though the schedule is tight take at least five minutes or an hour to refresh. Go for a walk, meditate, read, write, eat an ice cream, listen to music, browse the internet… the list is endless. Most women are selfless and need to be reminded to take time to take care of themselves. Get going, and don’t come back till you are full of good things to share.

Jun 23, 2010

Wherefore art thou, oh newsletter?

by Marielle Carlisle

It's been three months now. Almost four.


Dear Newsletter Committee,

Pretty please with whipped cream and cherries on top mail the monthly ANWA newsletter. Or just one cherry on top. I'm not picky.

Thank you,

Marielle Carlisle

(I seem to write a lot of letters on this blog)

Let me tell ya'll why I like the newsletter:

See, I really look forward to reading it. I'm the Secretary in my chapter, and I believe myself to be hee-lar-e-ous when I write my clever (or so I think) monthly chapter minutes. And then finally reading it in the newsletter? It's like I've been sprinkled with fairy dust ... magic.

It doesn't matter if no one else thinks I'm funny. My name is in lights (or print, whatever) and it's my time to shine (or at least whisper, softly, from the paper).

Those monthly writing challenges and contests are great! I want to be challenged. The writing tips ... so insightful! The random stories and submissions ... good fun! It's like a letter from an old friend. An old friend that I just barely met because I only joined about a year and a half ago.

Perhaps this is an 'absences makes the heart grow fonder' sort of thing. At this point I'll take anything! A torn off corner of a napkin, a gum wrapper, a cardboard insert.

For a newsletter by any other name, would still smell as sweet.

Jun 22, 2010

Even Rock & Roll Can Give Good Advice

by Terri Wagner

I'm a huge rock-n-roll fan. Love the hairband groups from the 80s and watched MTV every chance I got in the beginning when it was just vids. That hasn't really changed too much. I like some of Lady Gaga understanding of course that doesn't mean I accept her antics. Much like I liked early Madonna but let's not go there, ha!

This morning I was thinking of my last Gospel Doctrine lesson which basically took a postcard view of Saul & David. At this time, Saul had fallen and David had been anointed but would not be king for many years to come. The lesson emphasized that both men started out as choice young men, attractive, humble, good, patriotic young men who would grow to lose much of what they had gained.

As I spoke about Samuel anointing David, I likened it to our patriarchal blessings. We get "blessed" for future events. All that is very exciting to contemplate when you are young and like most young women I focused on certain parts, not the parts as it turned out I should have.

Now I'm at a place where I feel like hmmm so that's what that warning meant...aha that's the road I'm walking down...opps missed that blessing darn it. In other words, I'm in a re-evaluating place. And frankly my writing has taken a backseat.

What does this have to do with rock-n-roll, well this morning I was listening to Bon Jovi who has managed to stay relevant to a whole new rock-n-roll generation singing "Livin on a Prayer" wherein he tells us "You live for the fight when that's all that you've got." Powerful words.

We know that in the end Saul & David lost much ground. However, Saul went down grumbling and giving in to the "evil spirit" taking his son Jonathan down with him. David lost much including some sons but fought his way repenting to the very end. What happens next is up to our Heavenly Father and I'm the last person who's gonna judge and say blah blah blah.

I just felt momentarily inspired. That sometimes you just live for the fight because soemtimes in a postcard moment that's all that you've got.

Jun 21, 2010

Parent Letters

By Rebecca (and Steve) Irvine

My son's scoutmaster called last week and asked that we (as parents) write a letter that could be given to my son during scout camp this week. Last year I wrote a letter to him for a similar purpose, so I decided to have my husband be the author of this year's note. Following is what he wrote (including any and all typos); I think it is one my son will love! Enjoy!

Dear Monkey (son's name here).

Commentary and review portion of the letter
You’re a good monkey. We’re very proud of you. You’re a responsible kid and we think you’ll probably grow up just fine.
You’ve been a good student and it will serve you well to continue to apply yourself to education.We think of you as a great blessing in our lives.

Parent Counsel portion of the letter
The scriptures are a great work that have valuable information regarding the ways you should manage your life. Beyond the scriptures there is prayer and the guidance of the holy ghost.
Here’s some practical advice that I think is valuable and worth knowing and remembering. It comes from interviews with Appalachian mountain people who live a more simple life and closer to nature. I don’t remember it exactly, but it says approximately this:
Don’t do nothing that you wouldn’t do in front of your ma and pa and you’ll be in the good old place when you get called back yonder.

Jedi squirrel portion of the letter

Mini 14 portion of the letter

Love, Dad

Jun 20, 2010

Great Fathers

By Christine Thackeray

I was supposed to write yesterday and missed so I'm stealing today but being Father's day there were some things I wanted so badly to say about Father's.

My father had twelve children which must have been a great challenge, but when I think of some of our conversations through my stubborn college years, it amazes me how well he excelled with a very difficult girl.

My father was a man of such honor, discipline and righteousness that sometimes he intimidated me, sometimes it angered me that he didn't seem to have the same trials of temptation as the rest of us. His heart was so pure. But I always knew he loved me. His love was unconditional and his advice was inspired.

My father passed away a few years ago so father's day now is focused on the man who is the father of my children. He also has that pure heart. He craves righteousness and loves his children so completely, it touches me.

He also listens to the Spirit and immediately obeys. I'll always remember the say we were headed on a date annd he slammed onthe brakes in the middle of the road, turned around and ran to our backyard to disemble the trampoline. He got back in the car and we continue to the movie a little later. I asked him why he had done it and he said he saw our large teenage son jumping when our toddler walked under the trampoline. He said he knew was from the spirit and he didn't have to be told twice.

Yesterday he was taking a little neighbor boy that we LOVE to a school activity. He's not a member of the church. As they were walking side by side surrounded by the other kids, he turned to this little boy and said, "Luke, it's time we have the talk." Luke, a small, very sweet thirteen year old looked up with fear in his eyes, 'What talk." Greg told him that he didn't want to see him getting tattoes or piercings. Those things made God sad because he likes our bodies just the way they are. Later Greg said, "It's wierd because I wasn't even really thinking about it but it just came out."

I looked at my husband shocked. "You know," I said, "his older brothers are covered with tattoes and have gages in their ears." Greg said Luke had replied that he didn't want to be that way and was going to try and be good.

I'm just grateful for a great Father and a great Father of my children. Just as women can reach beyond their families and mother's those that need the umbrella of our home, it's nice to see righteous priesthood holders do the same.

Fathers are so important. I have five sons and there comes a point where it takes a man to tame a boy and if you don't have one, certain lessons are hard to teach. I hope each of us celebrate the great fathers in our lives and encourage our husbands to father those within their reach.

Jun 18, 2010

Characters and Sparkle

by Joan Sowards

I’m writing a novel. Surprised? I love the theme, plot, and characters, but as I first worked on it, getting the story out of my head and onto the page, it lacked sparkle. I outlined, rough drafted and weaved the characters’ subplots in and out, and still didn’t see any sparks or feel the magic that I knew the story possessed.

Maybe the novel idea just wasn't good after all. Or did it only need perking with a few paranormal elements and more chocolate?

Then, as I developed my characters further, the story came to life. Each blossomed in their own personality, quirks, likes and dislikes, interests—and with them came the sparkle.

I discovered it isn’t chocolate or a ghost in the basement that makes a story shine. It is all about making characters real. Each character--main and supporting--need their own unique personality.

And, of course, a little bit of chocolate along the way helps.

Jun 16, 2010

All Things Spiritual

By Kari Diane Pike

Warning: Reading the first paragraph may cause brain strain...I'm just sayin'.

American Psychologist, February 1995
"Motor Development: A New Synthesis" by Esther Thelen
"Developmental change, then, can be seen in dynamic terms as a series of states of stability, instability, and phase shifts in the attractor landscape, reflecting the probability that a pattern will emerge under particular constraints. From dynamic principles, one can predict that change is heralded by the loss of stability...Once new configurations are possible and discovered, they must also be progressively tuned to become efficient, accurate, and smooth...Theory predicts that times of instability are essential to give the system flexibility to select adaptive activities...The notion of exploration and selection may be a key developmental process at both behavioral and neural levels."

Say what?!

The quote came from an assigned reading for the psychology class in which I am currently enrolled: Infant Development in the Family. It took me two days to digest the fourteen page article. Day one saw me alternating between pencil-tapping, eraser-chewing fidgeting and head- bobbing, eye-rolling dozing. The article appeared to be snore-boring, taxing my poor brain with academic language that didn't even exist in the Oxford dictionary on my desk. (Thank goodness for the Google dictionary!) My perception changed dramatically the second day when I stumbled over the above words.

As I struggled to understand the concepts being taught, Doctrine and Covenants 29:31-34 kept coming into my mind. "For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal--First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work...Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, you father, who I created."

Aha! I could see a pattern! Thelen was explaining in her article that in order for infants to develop, they have to experience certain periods of "instability", or in other words, stress, to create the flexibility needed for the system to "select adaptive activities." The nervous system needs challenges and choices in order to select and strengthen healthy neural connections. Later in the article Thelen states that "the new views of motor development emphasize strongly the roles of exploration and selection in finding new solutions to new task demands." (Choice and accountability on a microscopic level!) Is that cool or what! How many times have we heard about the importance of agency to our lives...both mortal and immortal? How many times have we been taught that challenges serve a purpose in our spiritual growth? To think of these patterns occurring over and over on so many levels is mind boggling.

I also enjoyed those words, "progressively tuned." Isn't that what we want to accomplish in our spiritual lives...become progressively tuned in to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? It all fits with the old adage, "If you don't use it, you lose it." The textbook pointed out that "much of what infants learn about objects, people, and their own abilities appears to be acquired during a state of quiet alert." Infants don't take in much information when they are in an active state of crying. That makes perfect sense when you understand that we hear and the learn the most from the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we are still and paying attention. This gives me a new perspective of the phrase "be as a little child."

Every part of us is connected; the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional. If one part of us is out of balance, the other parts also experience stress. What I have come to appreciate even more is how an understanding of a simple gospel principle, given through the influence of the Holy Ghost, can give us insight to the seeming complexity of our creation and purpose in this life.

How does this apply to my writing? 1) Keep learning. 2) Keep it simple. 3)Take time to be still and 4) listen to the Spirit...if I am in tune, I can write it.

Time for a Change

Looks like this summer will be a time of great changes for me and my family. The biggest change is that my youngest child, Cassie, leaves for BYU tomorrow. While I am proud and excited for her, it feels like I'm being laid off from a job after 28 years. While my children still need me, it will be in a different way. Just this week, my older daughter texted me that she had lost her flash drive filled with engineering homework. She found it, then hurried off to back it up on her laptop and a new additional flash drive. My three-year-old grandson also recently had a speech evaluation, so I had his mom email me the report so I could evaluate it (I'm an educational diagnostician, so I do this all the time). Younger son also wanted some recipes to make for his dinner group at BYU.

But I will miss the association. Here's a picture with Cassie at a recent minor-league baseball game. Right now my older son (father of the two grandchildren) is in upstate New York interviewing for a job (he graduates in August). He also has an interview scheduled next week in New Jersey. Tami (older daughter) has several weeks off this summer from BYU-Idaho, but will be working for an engineering firm in Idaho. They have also offered her a job after graduation. John (younger son), graduates in December, and is applying for jobs all over.

We are blessed to have a family reunion in Provo in a couple of weeks. I rented a house, originally to have everyone together for my book launch, but that was pushed back indefinitely. So, we will have a wonderful family vacation instead.

What lies ahead? As I consider the challenges, I try to remember the recent words of a wise friend, "It will all  be OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end."

Jun 15, 2010

ANWA Founder & Friends Blog...

by Valerie Ipson

...wherein the founder of American Night Writers Association goes all pink and tres chic-y on us. [That's my idea for the new subtitle of this blog.]

My plan tonight was to hurry in and hurry out since my day to blog is just about up. (It's 11:30 PM but I didn't want to miss my turn ---AGAIN--- I think I was pretty much MIA in May.) But now (after taking a moment to make sure I was in the right place) I'm taking my time, checking it out, enjoying the new digs. I must say I was very happily surprised when I logged on to find the fun new decor.

Very refreshing, Marsha!

So now I have a question...does this count as a blog post? Do I have to go ahead and blog about what I had in mind or can this count?

I'd really just like to go to bed.

It's been a very long day.

Sometimes even Night Writers need some sleep.


Thank you.

Jun 13, 2010

Mea Culpa and Homonyms

by Marsha Ward

In my last post, I hooted and howled and poked fun at a hapless writer who misused a term that we used to call homonyms*, e.g.: pre-Madonna vs. prima donna. I'll admit that the situation gave me way too much delight and enjoyment at the expense of another human being, and I apologize.

* I think they've morphed into homophones now. English is confusing.

However, my fascination with the foibles of the English language and the misuses I've found thereof, leads me to continue my little adventure into exploring English. I've found an interesting website about homonyms from a man named Alan Cooper here, and his list here, and if you really want to blow your mind, an exhaustive explanation of the whole linguistic family of homonyms (he has many brothers and sisters!) here. There's even a pretty, if inexplicable, graphic.

When you access Alan's first page, be sure to keep scrolling down for new wonders, including a great poem at the end that you might recognize as something you've come across before. This one has the author's name appended.

Now I have to bring up the latest misuse I've come across: stent/stint.

According to my Webster's New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition, stent is a noun, meaning a surgical device used to hold tissue in place, as inside a blood vessel to keep the vessel open. It was named after the British dentist C.R. Stent, about whom I know nothing.

comes from the Old English word styntan, meaning to blunt. It may be used as a transitive (vt.) or intransitive (vi.) verb, or a noun. vt.:to restrict to a certain quantity, often small; vi.: to be sparing in giving or using; n.: 1. restriction, limit; 2. an assigned task or period of work.

Try not to confuse the two words. See me winking? I love you all.

And now, enjoy our new look!

Jun 12, 2010

Query Letters

By Cindy R. Williams

Writing a query letter is much like becoming the Little Engine that Could. You have to see your story through clear eyes, forget the details and all the nuances and be able to create a pitch that entices an agent, editor or publisher to want to sign you. It takes a lot of "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," to make this happen.

I’ve been researching queries for several months. Querytracker.net has some great links to help. Travel around many authors blogs and you will find tons of advice. The only sure thing is that there are many ways to write a query.

Here are a few tricks that you may find helpful:

1. Whether you are looking for an agent, an editor or a publisher, take time to do your research and make a list of those you believe would be a good fit for you. Before you write your query, research their websites and find out exactly what they are looking for. This is not a process for the weak at heart. You must do your homework. Once you have the name and what they’re looking for, then write your query to fit. You may have to write a new query for each submission. At a minimum, you will have to tweak your query so that it’s specific.  NOTE: Querytracker.net is a great place to look for agents. Writer’s Market is available online and also at most book stores and is where J.K. Rowling found her leads. It also lists gazillions of publishers –or pretty close to.
2. Create a pitch with less than 25 words.
3. Create a one sentence pitch.
4. Never ask a question. An example; “Do you believe there are aliens at the library?” If you ask a question, you give the agent/publisher an open door to say “No,” and toss your query then and there.
5. Keep it open-ended, don’t give the entire plot. Many agents I have read about lately say to read blurbs on the back of books. These are meant to entice people to buy the book, and you want your query to do the same.
6. Agents, editors and publishers like to know if you have a track record –meaning “Are you published?” If so, mention it. If not, then just include items about yourself that are relevant to what you are querying. Don’t go on about how you are a nurse when your book is about making ice cream.
7. Have people outside your normal critique group read your query and tell you what they think. Would they want to know more? Does the pitch catch them? Fresh eyes of “normal” readers can give you a real sense of what is good about your query and what is missing.

Be the Little Engine that Could. Keep telling yourself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” You will not only climb that mountain, but you will be one of the 2% or so that never gives up. If you never get up, there will come a day that you will be gliding down the other side of that mountain with a book contract and then your book in your hands. Now that’s something to smile about.

Jun 11, 2010

Our Legacy as Writers

by Tanya Parker Mills

Today is my son's last day at school before summer break, and it made me think of how we'll be spending the summer. When he and his sister were younger, I would frequently design my own summer course of study for the both of them to make certain they were continuing to learn for at least a few hours each weekday. Now, his sister is off at college (yes, she's staying in classes through the summer) and I have only two things I want to teach him over the next three months: how to make his own grilled cheese sandwiches...and how to write fiction.

The culinary lesson is really a life-skill for a sixteen-year-old "Aspie" who subsists mainly on grilled cheese sandwiches--morning, noon, and night. It's a step forward in helping him to be independent. You might think it will be a simple process, but you've never seen my grilled cheese sandwiches and the very particular process followed to produce them (not by my choice, but his). I could easily see this summer course being extended over the next few summers. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 101 will consist of the placement and buttering of the bread and, if we're lucky, the addition of the cheese slices. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 102 (only after he has successfully completed course 101 to his satisfaction) will hopefully cover the grilling, flipping, and cutting of the sandwiches (in a very geometric fashion). Wish us both patience and luck, please.

The writing lessons are a whole different matter but, perhaps, no less a life skill. And I had never conceived of providing them until a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I had been casting around over the last few years for some ideas of future career possibilities for our son. He has shown no particular love for any subject in school besides Mythology. While he does well enough academically, he really dislikes school (except for being able to hang out with his friends) and can't wait to graduate. He spends all of his free time at home searching Wikipedia or YouTube for favorite topics, or playing video games (at least they're not the violent kind), or watching favorite old movies on DVD, or reading (YAY!).

But two weeks ago, Jason let slip that he and a small group of friends at school had begun writing stories and sharing them. I have to admit I was bowled over. While he's always been strong in Language Arts, getting him to write any of his essays or stories was like pulling teeth (and dental work and Asperger's don't really go hand in hand, anyway). This year, however, I did notice a change. He finally seemed to be getting the hang of writing a decent paper--putting his thoughts on paper in a logical way that flowed well. Still, an essay and a short story are two very different beasts. So, I'll start him off slowly and give him a writing prompt or a writing exercise each week and see what he makes of it.

It will be interesting to see which course he masters best: Grilled Cheese 101 or Creative Writing 101.

His newly-expressed interest in writing got me to thinking. In my own family, it all began with my father. He has self-published a handful of novels now, but watching him begin to work at writing when we were living in Beirut (he was in his late 40's at the time) definitely had an impact on me. It sowed the seed in me as a teenager and now I'm writing. Since my first novel got published, I've also heard that one of my nieces is thinking about giving it a try (along with her mother, my sister). And now, perhaps, my son.

We may never get traditionally published or, if we do, we may never gain the level of skill we'd like, but we are sowing seeds through all our efforts. As mothers in Zion, we may not be the Miltons and Shakespeares spoken of by Orson F. Whitney, but our children or grandchildren might.

As long as we show them the path.

Jun 10, 2010


by Susan G. Haws

We ask children: What do you want to be when you grow up? The answers at five: ballerina or astronaut, become dentist, pilot, or engineer by high school graduation. Even though our dreams change as we mature, we still dream.

What could be more encouraging to our own aspirations than to cheer on the next big entertainer or star chef? TV talent contests are popular shows not only for singers, and dancers, but also for, cooks, models, and interior designers. So whether your goal is to lose weight, or make people laugh there is a show to help you achieve your ambition.

Susan Boyle became a worldwide sensation not only because of her beautiful voice but also, because her duck-to-swan true story gave everyone hope. Even those of us over 40 that have started crossing childhood dreams off our mental lists.

So what does American Idol have to do with writing? The performer leaves his/her heart on the stage with music. As writers we type our souls on the page. Readers must identify with the dreams, insecurities and obstacles of our characters. It all comes down to dreams. Our characters’, the reader’s , the writer’s and the wishes for everyone to have a happy ending.

Jun 9, 2010

(I can't think of a title ... fill in your own)

by Marielle Carlisle

I've recovered since the last time I posted, and have learned that our water bill will be less then half as much as I thought it would be. Whew. I'm in my swimsuit again, though. When you go swimming/splash-pading all morning, it's hard to motivate yourself out of the sun-induced coma that hits around this time of day.

I had a big day yesterday. It was ... my birthday.

I like birthdays. The last couple for me have been fun, nothing special. It's always "yeah, 28, that's alright," or "29, random number, I can handle that."

But 30? I FEEL different.

I feel old. And before I hear from all you's older then me (believe me, I've heard it), let me explain.

It's not that I feel old, it's just that I don't feel young anymore. I know I'm still youngish (people my age are still playing professional sports, barely), but I'm not YOUNG.

I have a completely different number at the beginning of my age. So long 2, it's been a slice.

From now when I fill out surveys or whatever, I'm in an entirely different age bracket! At least this year when I run the turkey trot I won't get blown away by the young 20's crowd. I'm gonna rock that 30's bracket!

I must've blinked, cause I swear I just graduated from high school. That's how I feel inside. This 30 number doesn't feel right.

I remember the summer between my freshmen and sophmore year of college, I worked at a paint-your-own-pottery store. During my first week of work the owner of the store celebrated her 30th birthday. She was so professional and confident and mature, and it boggles my mind that I'm now her age. I'm now 'supposed' to be put together and beautiful and everything my boss was back then. I can't believe I thought 30 was old when I was 19.

At least after this year, 31 and 32 should be a breeze.

Jun 8, 2010

Redefining Characters

by Terri Wagner

I went to see the new Robin Hood and was disappointed. I didn't expect to be...I mean how can you mess up Robin Hood? I was fairly shocked when Kevin Costner gave his Robin Hood a decidedly American accent, and still liked it a lot. My favorite Robin Hood was Michael Praed in the Showtime series back in the early 1980s. Probably the only one I truly hated was Sean Connerly's.

Why didn't I like the Russell Crowe version? Because they redefined the character. I won't spoil it for you, but the historical background isn't kept intact. That said, the grittiness is left in. Life in 1199 was tough. I can't imagine how they did it. It made me ever grateful I got to live now. Wouldn't trade the time I live in unless maybe I could be about 20 years older or 20 years younger (another post for another time).

Sometimes in writing we redefine in order to appear new and innovative. Maybe we should reconsider redefining and our purpose for doing it. Because in truth Russell Crowe (whom I think is more like a scruffy looking nerf herder and that's not my type) did a fantastic believable job. They redefined Mariam a bit for the 2010s but still in keeping with what was an amazing woman in a difficult time for women (if you believe as I do that somebody named Robin Hood existed).

I guess what I'm trying to say here in a nutshell is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Especially when you are dealing with historical people (King Richard, King John) and/or mythical legends.

Am I alone here?

Jun 7, 2010


By: Rebecca Irvine

One of the things I find most interesting about writing is its translation. Translating or adapting a work to another language, another medium, an abridged version, or even to a more modern day time period requires much thought and effort. How does a translator convey the same intents, moods, and style--and yet make it as enjoyable and entertaining as the original work? So many factors have to be taken into consideration to be able to convey such meaning.

As a graduate student I had the great enjoyment to take a film literacy class, which focused primarily on the translation of written works into film. During this class I had the pleasure of writing one paper on the translation of George Orwell's work 1984 to film in the form of a commercial for Apple. I found the translation incredible--Orwell's original work shines through, and yet the commercial stands firmly as a work of its own.

Here is a summary of the commercial's award-winning history:

"In the third quarter of the 1984 Super Bowl, a strange and disorienting advertisement appeared on the TV screens of the millions of viewers tuned in to the yearly ritual. The ad opens on a gray network of futuristic tubes connecting blank, ominous buildings. Inside the tubes, we see cowed subjects marching towards a cavernous auditorium, where they bow before a Big Brother figure pontificating from a giant TV screen. But one lone woman remains unbroken. Chased by storm troopers, she runs up to the screen, hurls a hammer with a heroic grunt, and shatters the TV image. As the screen explodes, bathing the stunned audience in the light of freedom, a voice-over announces, 'On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.''

"This commercial, designed by the advertising agency Chiat/Day to introduce Apple's Macintosh computer and directed by Ridley Scott fresh off his science fiction classic Blade Runner, has never run again since that Super Bowl spot. But few commercials have ever been more influential. Advertising Age named it the 1980s' Commercial of the Decade. You can still see its echoes today in futuristic ads for technology and telecommunications multinationals such as AT&T, MCI, and Intel" (Source)

As a writing exercise, try to translate your favorite book into a new work--how would you change the location, the characters, the time period, the culture? And how can you do so but still reflect the original work in your translation?

Jun 4, 2010

A Little Slump

By Christine Thackeray

Why do slumps come along when I have so much to do? I'm in the middle of two projects, both thrilling, and I should start seriously marketing my new book. Instead I spent the last two days in bed with a bad back, and my brain fuzzy on drugs. I tried writing and it was HORRIBLE, trust me.

I'm feeling better today but can tell my muscles are still tender, and I'll be back in bed if I overdo it. I think what I need to realize most is that the ability to write is a tremendous gift. For me, the basics of my life need to be taken care of, I need to be in relatively good health and feel joy to write. It's a gift of plenty, given to me by a wonderful family that allows me that extra time, and by good health and a clear mind given from the Lord. I need to remember to be grateful for this snippet of time when I get to create because like the years of "babying," it may be fleeting.

My mother loved to write but after her car accident, it became difficult. Then when she had her heart attack and struggled for years with congestive heart failure, she didn't have the strength to do it. I can't wait to get back to writing on Monday morning. Tomorrow I'll be helping my husband with a research paper and catching up on the wash I didn't do while laying in bed, but Monday my sleeves will be rolled up and I'll create!

Rest, Rest for the Writer

by Joan Sowards

All night I tossed and turned in bed,
I couldn't rest my tired head,
For characters and twisted plots
Kept mulling in my midnight thoughts.

I cried, “Come on now, go away.
Can’t this wait until the day?
I have so many things to do
Tomorrow, when the day is new.”

"But did they go away?" you ask.
Not on your life. They stayed to bask
In glory of their veto power
And robbed me of my sleeping hour.

And at the window in the night
A glow—The motion sensor light?
I squeezed my drowsy eyelids tighter,
All the while the light grew brighter.

Oh, grief! It was the light of dawn
And Earth had kept the course she’s on
In spite the loss of precious sleep.
(Results that make this writer weep.)

Oh!—the hours I wasted fighting,
Could've been spent happily writing!

Jun 3, 2010

Act Like a Kid Again.

by Kari Diane Pike

I'm afraid I haven't been devoting much time to the writing craft this week. I mowed our half acre of lawn, went for walks with our 22-month-old granddaughter, became reacquainted with zany Dr. Seuss and introduced to the quirky kid songs of Eric Herman. Did you know that a pirate without a treasure is like a monkey without a spatula?? In yoga class we did the laughing baby pose and played with our toes. Last night we built a fire and ate s'mores until we felt sick. I am grateful for the restorative effects of getting in touch with the inner child in me. Hopefully, I will rediscover the creative part of that inner child.

Our missionary son shared a thought from his zone conference upon which I have been pondering for over a week. The question posed was, "Are you willing to do anything for the cause of Christ or are you willing to do everything?" Doing anything refers to your willingness to do anything you are asked to do. Doing everything refers to the idea that you are willing to take the initiative and not wait to be given an assignment. You see that something needs to be done...and you do it.

I've been thinking about how that applies to writing. What does it mean to you? While you ponder on that, play with your toes. Your inner child is wiser than you think!

Jun 2, 2010

Is the Nest Ever Empty?

by Lynn Parsons

Sunday my youngest child graduated from high school. Here she is with her diploma.

After three graduations as a parent, and six as a teacher, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I had a slight twinge because I remembered how fun it was to sit with the graduates. They were so excited. They were dying to do pranks, and I suggested harmless ones, like having one pants leg in the cowboy boots, and one out. This is Texas, after all!

Last year a group of students sitting near me decided that during the last line of the alma mater (I will soar, I will soar, I will soar), they would sing "dinosaur, dinosaur, dinosaur." I thought I would fall over laughing.

So, I suggested this to a group of eager students before the ceremony. No one could tell they were doing this in a class of 410, but they felt like rebels.

So, the ceremony proceeded in the expected manner. Speeches, songs, more speeches, diplomas. I snapped photos like there was no tomorrow. I waited to listen for stray dinosaurs.

The class president stood at the podium and had the graduates turn their rings to the outside, then move their tassels from left to right. The tears rose in my eyes. My baby was leaving, as her brothers and sister had done. It felt like I was being laid off from a job I had for 28 years.

But real life intervened, and brought me back. My older daughter texted for advice, daughter-in-law called to tell me what great parents she thought my husband and I were, and younger son asked for words of wisdom about his girlfriend.

Turns out this job never stops. And that's a good thing.