Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home

by Susan G. Haws
I have had computer issues today so here it is nearly midnight. I have to say I so look forward to my opportunity to blog here that it helped me keep persisting.
In my continuing saga of moving,I went to the old house today to do some work and noticed how the feel of home had already left the building. Like sloughed off skin or cut hair are no longer part of my body. Even though my figurines and my grandmother's paintings are still at the old house it is just a structure storing my belongings now. Home is where the people are.
Today I also discussed favorite books with a friend. So while I was working at the house I was thinking about how I want that special magic that breathes life into a story in my writing. What part of the story wields the wand? I know mentally that characters drive the story yet today I suddenly saw the plot of the story as a house and the characters as the people making it a home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's a Poetry Kind of Day

by Tamara Passey

It is still Wednesday, isn't it? I've attempted three different blog posts for today, only my internal editor keeps vetoing my efforts. So. While I give myself a break from the delete key and get my overactive editor to pipe down - enjoy this poem I wrote a few years ago.

Poems Not Read
Poems not read are
Waiting, to share what they know
Silent, like a black and white picture show
Patient, for a reader to be smitten
Poems not read are
Better, than poems not written.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Faceless and Nameless

by Terri Wagner

There are characters we love, those who inspire us, those who make us laugh and those who just need to help out the main character(s). And then there are those you have to introduce to help those characters "do their thing."

You know what I mean, the one that helps the funny one be funny; the one that cries with the sorrowful; the one that gives that small hint to set the other off on the right track. The ones we sometimes hardly ever name.

I think of that character often because I find myself wanting to give them more depth than they need. For example, in Galaxy Quest the one fellow keeps insisting he's going to die because he doesn't have a last name; or the extra brides in 27 Dresses who ultimately become the bridemaids.

Do you have those shadow characters? Like a guard in a fantasy novel who sleeps through the rescue, the friend who consoles the hopeless romantic, the friend that hovers around, the kid on the bike that narrowly missing getting creamed by the bad guy in a Mustang...nameless, faceless in most cases.

It also makes me think I'm using them somehow. Like they're real people and I have to worry about their feelings. It's odd.

But then aren't there real people like that in our lives. Here today, gone tomorrow and yet they made some kind of impression on us. Maybe our acknowledgement can be to place them in a work of art so they don't remain quite so faceless. Can you think of characters like that?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding Inspiration

By: Rebecca Irvine

Occasionally I think back on a fun writing exercise my ninth grade English teacher assigned. We were asked to try to write a story in the style of Ernest Hemingway. Initially, I was very much at a loss. I had no idea what to write, no thoughts on plot, and was very unsure how to mirror Hemingway's style. I hemmed and hawed for several days before the assignment was due. The night before I gave up and took one of Hemingway's short stories, and rewrote it.

I remember the story took place on a mountain. I changed it to be in a valley. Calm weather in Hemingway's story became wet weather in my version. The original story was about a young man. Mine was about an old man. Hemingway's young man had lost his legs and could not walk; my character lost his arms and hands and could not drink his beer in the bar. And so on and so on...

The next day I turned that paper in with a heavy heart. I completely felt it was a work of plaigerism and was quite certian a failing grade was coming my way.

I was greatly surprised, though, when the teacher chose to read my story out loud to the class and gave me the highest grade possible.

Of course, I would never try to get a work written in that manner published today. However, sometimes in my writing (especially when I hit a mental block) I will pull out a few of my favorite books and look for a similar scene to inspire me. For example, how a kitchen is described, or what a police officer might say when arresting someone, or even a main character's physical description. Dissecting the works of those who really know how to write often is very helpful to me in my efforts. After finding several similar scenes I am usually very much able to write, in my own words and style, when before I was completely stumped.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Releasing the Writer Within

by Cecily Markland

I signed up for an e-letter about dieting and weight loss and the second letter
I received started with this... FIVE MINUTE FREEDOM EXERCISE: The following
exercise helps you get in touch with the emotional, physical, and spiritual cost
of your eating and weight issues and the freedom you will feel once you you're
your back your power over food.

I couldn't help but wonder if the same type of exercise could be used to free
the writer within and help me get to the "skinny" of who I really am as a
writer! So, I tried it and, like the first day on a diet, I found it to be a
little uncomfortable right at first, but I'm seeing results already! What
follows is my "tweaking" of the Freedom Exercise. Try it...it only takes five
minutes! Then, let me know how it works for you.

Close your eyes and get in touch with your feelings about writing and any
associated issues in your life. What has not writing (or overwriting...or
obsessing about writing) cost you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Have
your unfulfilled dreams about writing impacted your relationship with yourself
and others? Are there specific blocks and fears they have kept you from
following your heart and going after what you've wanted? Write down any insights
in a journal.

Now imagine how your life would be if you felt free, relaxed and fulfilled when
it comes to your writing. Imagine that your failures or lack of experience or
other excuses no longer absorb your mental energy. You no longer feel powerless
or afraid, but talented, balanced, centered, and confident. Imagine, if you were
the writer you desire to be: How would you live? How would you treat yourself
and others? Imagine all of the energy that you used to devote to worrying and
feeling guilty about your writing instead flowing into creative and fulfilling
writing endeavors. Notice how you feel. Take account of any emotions or
sensations that arise. Use this exercise as often as you can, even once a day,
to support the permanent change you're making in your relationship to
writing...and to BEING a writer.

Record any insights in your journal. This exercise demonstrates the benefits
following your passion and helps you see the cost of failing to do so. Ask
yourself, "What is my freedom really worth?"

Now record in your journal the emotional, physical, or spiritual costs you've
experienced along with the benefits of freedom that you imagine you will
experience once you have healed this issue within yourself. How will your life
look and feel?

Now, whatever you do...whether you choose to participate in this activity of
not...take a moment and appreciate yourself for who you are and for all of the
hard work you are doing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Broken Bones and Questions

by Christine Thackeray

On Wednesday at noon I got a call from my sixteen-year-old son that he had broken his arm playing catch at recess. My husband, who was just hired by a local hospital but hasn't started work yet, wanted to come, and we picked Camron up.

My son's arm was definitely broken. It looked fine until a few inches below the wrist when it stair-stepped a few inches north and then looked normal the rest of the way. It almost seemed like an optical illusion, except for the fact that my son was unusually quite.

We called the insurance to ask what to do so it would be covered. He began a litany of questions but I interupted and said "My son's arm is definitely broken with a compound fraction. Just answer yes or no. Can I go to the emergency room and will it be covered?" The man said "Yes, go to the emergency room."

I told my husband to go to the closest hospital, and we did. As we waited for the nurses to call him, my husband remembered that when I hurt my back this summer they took me to a hospital on the other side of town. He called the insurance company from the ER again and asked if we could go to any ER. They said no. They only paid for one hospital. So we left that hospital and rushed the half hour away to go to the other hospital- turns out, that is where my husband was hired the next day. Wierd coincidence of events, huh.

Anyway, what struck me was the fact that it wasn't not asking questions that got me in trouble but not asking enough questions. I've started a new writer's group and it interests me how often as writers we have wonderful plot points but never get specific because we haven't fleshed out the specifics ourselves. It wasn't enough that I asked the critical question, I ask a lot more. I hope that's a lesson I don't forget.

Friday, September 24, 2010

How Do You Write a Smile?

by Joan Sowards

Don't take me too seriously on this one, but I like my characters to be happy and I find it a challenge to write a smile. Yes, I know it’s all right to write he smiled, but sometimes it gets monotonous. In an 80,000-word novel it takes a lot of creative writing to keep your character creatively smiling.

The English language doesn’t have enough substitutes for the word smile. Grin, beam, and smirk is all my thesaurus offers. To avoid each smile from sounding like the last, the writer will sometimes use modifiers such as toothy, wide, lopsided, ridiculous, or that the ends of her mouth turn up. If the character’s eyes light up, her smile smiles differently than two pages ago.

Maybe someone should make a long list of smile descriptions, cut them in slips, put them in a jar and market it to writers. Whenever they need to write a smile, they can draw one out and, kazam! It’s done. (The inventor will probably make more money than from book royalties.)

Another word we English conversers got shorted on is laugh. There isn’t a word for an ordinary, boring huff. If it is an everyday grin—no emotion involved—there’s not a lot to choose from. Everyone laughs. If we don’t blow out our breath in a quiet laugh, we just smile, or there we go grinning again.

The best we can do is chuckle, and if you’re under sixteen you can giggle. If you are a little loony you may twitter and chortle. Boys snicker. Males hoot. Old women snort and cackle (may I never be that old.) And if you just lose it altogether, you are allowed a guffaw or two.

None of these offer what I’m looking for. Got laughs?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Illumination

by Kari Diane Pike

I learned a new word today. "Coruscation: a striking display of brilliance or wit; a sudden gleam or flash of light." Not a word I would use everyday, but the definition of coruscation does a good job of describing my experience a few days ago.

A regional conference was held last week for the Utah County stakes. The messages, as always, resonated with all who listened. Sister Julie Beck and Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and Boyd K. Packer were just three of the speakers to share their wisdom with us that day. Sister Beck said, "You're doing better than you think you are, but perhaps we are not doing as good as we could be. We need the kind of faith that creates miracles." Elder Holland taught us that "God will be with us always and we can succeed." Elder Packer, in reference to Elder Hollands story about the Hole in the Wall Saints, said, "In many ways, our challenges will yet be more difficult."

Through the succeeding days after the conference, I experienced a variety of emotions as I processed those teachings. I felt anxious and overwhelmed by the thought that "things are going to get worse." I felt hope that I am doing better than I think, yet despair in the thinking that I am not doing as well as I could. I failed to recognize Elder Holland's reminder that God is always with us and ever increasing shadows of despair began to darken my perception.

One particularly challenging evening, as I walked into our front room, there was a sudden flash of light and a startling popping noise. At the same time, the neighbors car alarm sounded off. There had been scattered clouds all day, so I assumed what I experienced was a random lightening strike. Imagine my surprise when, sometime later, I walked into the dining room and discovered shards of glass all over the table, chairs and floor. Closer and careful inspection proved the glass to be the remains of a light bulb from the overhead ceiling fan. In the process of cleaning up the mess, I found part of the light bulb melted and burned into the wood of the table. Tiny slivers glittered all over the room.

I couldn't help but think about all the activities that had taken place at the table earlier that day: a Relief Society luncheon, homework, computer work, and family dinner time. I shuddered to think about the possible disasters that might have been: hot needles of glass exploding in people's faces, homework papers catching fire, etc. With sudden clarity, I remembered Elder Holland's promise that God will be with us always.

We are never alone. Angels watch over us constantly. We can have the faith that produces miracles. While it is important to recognize that we are here to experience challenges, Heavenly Father didn't put us here to fail or to be afraid. He wants us to succeed. This morning, I found great assurance in the words of 3 Nephi 22:17: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." We have every reason to be happy and rejoice and be grateful in this mortal existence. Our Savior lives and He loves us.

We had a real thunderstorm yesterday, with brilliant bursts of lightening and earth shaking thunder. As illuminating as that lightening was, however, it paled in comparison to the spiritual coruscation given to me when I needed it most. (I even used my new word!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting into Shape!

By Lynn Parsons

Late last spring, I joined Curves with a friend who works at the same school. We went faithfully through the end of the school year. I continued through the summer....although I didn't see much of my friend.

Well, school started, and I was slammed with work. So many new students, including some who had to be tested immediately. I worked most days from 7 or 7:30 to 5:00.

Then, I raced home to make dinner before starting homework . . . I started a PhD program over the summer as a reaction to my newly-empty nest.

So, the ladies at Curves haven't seen me lately . . . but I still need to exercise. I haven't gained any weight, but I haven't lost any, either.

I don't know if my schedule is going to loosen up anytime soon, so it looks like Curves is out for the moment...plus my son is getting married in December....in Utah....with a reception here in Texas.

I need suggestions! I have a treadmill, Wii Fit, and need some suggestions that will fit my crazy schedule. How do you fit in exercise? How do you hold yourself accountable? How do you stay motivated? I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Thanks in advance for the help!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I see fictional people

by Valerie Ipson

I get into the car to go somewhere and two characters immediately start talking to each other in my head. I don't know how they got in there, but they're there and they're talking, but not to me. They purposefully wait, though, for a quiet moment so I will overhear their conversation.
They're sneaky like that. And it's always the same exact dialogue until I write it down, then they'll move on to a new, but often related topic.

They never really tell me what they're doing, like, I'm going over to so and so's house and tell him off and then he's going to... No. They just talk, chat away, carry on their little conversations and then they want me to figure out the whole story around the conversation.

Sometimes now I show them. When I get into the car I say, "Be quiet. I'm not going to listen to you today. I need to ponder what you're going to do next in the story,"--then I'm the one talking to myself (they will not participate in this part-they're ornery like that), so again talking to myself, I'm like, okay, she could go to so and so's house and tell him off, then that would make him...

No one wants to read a story that's all dialogue and they know it--that's why they need me.

Reminds me of Anne Lamott's book on writing, Bird By Bird, where she writes of characters driving the plot and we are just the typists who get it all down on paper. Good typists listen, she reminds us: “Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You’ll see them influence each other’s lives, you’ll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you’ll see them come to various ends.” She quotes another author, Carolyn Chute, who was discussing rewriting, “Over and over, I feel as if all my characters know who they are and what happens to them… and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

I can see that my characters need to step it up a bit and give me more clues about what they want to be doing. They can't be all talk and no action or I'm going to have to make them start doing the typing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Accidents, Trials and a little bit of Scooby Doo

By Cindy R. Williams

I'm a self imposed Nervous Nelly, Mama Bear and Prevention Addict --especially where my children are concerned. I live my life with this --ahem --weird view, that I can prevent bad things from hitting too close to home.

Well . . . Mama Bear wasn't able to prevent an accident that happened last Saturday night. My sweet ten year old was smacked in the mouth with a batted softball. Not just a kid hit, but hit by an adult with my son only 15 - 20 feet away. My handsome little boy looked like Rocky Balboa in the tenth round.

His two front teeth popped out of their sockets although they remained hanging in his jaw bone. The dentist said if an adult had taken this hit in the kisser; it would have broken the upper pallet and possibly the jaw in several places.

It has been five days, and we are finally beginning to get on top of the pain, thanks to codeine prescribed yesterday by the endodontist. Those two injured front teeth are now bonded together with the surrounding teeth. It looks like he has crude braces on. Though not yet sure if there are some crushed bones in the upper jaw area, two root canals are scheduled in two weeks to allow for the trauma to die down.

For me, the Mom, this is killing me. As I rub his back and we watch Scooby Doo --I know he's ten, but Scooby Doo was his favorite when younger and it's now like comfort food -- oh how I wish it had been me and that he didn't have to go through this. I wish I would have gone with my husband, two sons and son-in-law to Barney Park to hit some balls. I still have this bizarre feeling that I could have somehow used my Mama Bear skills and prevented the accident.

No matter how much of a Nervous Nelly, or a Mama Bear or a Prevention Addict I am, I can't protect my children from the trials of life. We all have to experience the good and the bad and I will have to accept that this is the plan even for my little ones who are not all that little anymore. It's a hard lesson to learn and hard to ease up on my self-proclaimed nicknames for protecting my children. It reaffirms to me how important it is to trust in the Lord, knowing He is aware of each of us and will bless us and PROTECT us. When bad things happen it sometimes seems that we are left to our own devices. But I know this isn't so. When I reflect back on the past trials of my life, 100% of them have taught me what I needed to know and grow. I am so blessed.

Now it's time for some more snuggling, a nice strawberry shake and more adventures with Scooby Doo. Life is good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fresh Eyes

by Tanya Parker Mills

I had a book club appearance last night here in Utah and, since I hadn't done one in a while (after all, my book came out in 2008), I figured it was time to re-read "The Reckoning." After all, since creating that story, I've completed another and am now beginning a third novel. I needed to bone up and get back into my characters' heads.

Interesting experience. I knew my first novel was a bit dark and gruesome because of the unpleasant prison scenes...but when I re-read it last Saturday, it was with fresh eyes. All the research was well behind me, so rather than reading it as a writer, fresh from the context that such research provides, I read it as a reader. It was starker than I had thought. Still powerful, but now I could better understand some of the reviews of critics and friends. Indeed, one of the book club members asked last night if, in the writing process, I had felt depressed and isolated like my main character. I had to answer in the affirmative. (Perhaps that's why it took my husband a whole year to finally pick up my book and read it.)

Anyway, I've moved on now and my second novel is nothing like "The Reckoning." Still, I wonder what it will feel like to read it a few years from now with fresh eyes.

How about you? What kinds of reactions have you had to earlier completed manuscripts or novels when you've allowed time to pass and give you fresh eyes?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Entropy: or, Why Does There Have to be Dust?

By Susan G. Haws

My “to do” list always has regular chores, projects then goals. I find that the getting groceries and making meals and packing spiced with an occasional car door malfunction type of urgent repair take all the energy that was supposed to go to writing and crafts. In my frustration I thought: wasted time and effort plus chaos equals entropy.
I know less than a molecule about the second law of thermodynamics but I am well acquainted with disorder and decreased productive energy. If entropy is the measure of disorder often referred to as chaos or waste then I am the Easter dust Bunny bringing it. Moving doesn’t help, for those of you that caught my lament about beginning moving I am still in the process.
To begin with I am one of those people that feel life should be like a jigsaw puzzle. Once you find a piece it should stay put you shouldn’t have to keep finding the same piece over and over again. You should find the piece with the crab claw shaped right “front foot” press it into place and move to the next until the puzzle is complete then shellac it till it never moves again; or, put it back in its box tape it tight and pass it on to another puzzle lover. But instead life is like Prometheus continually having his liver eaten. Regenerating the organ only to have the torture repeated the next day. I often feel as if I am rolling this boulder up hill only to roll the same rock up the same hill tomorrow, forever. I could swear there was another character from myth punished this way but if so the entropy in my gray matter won’t give it up. Yes, I want to be rescued from drudgery like Prometheus rescued by Heracles/Hercules and we could parallel that with Christ rescuing all of human kind but I don’t want to dig that deep.
I just want to know why there has to be a continual breaking down. Why a degeneration? Why must we do the same tasks laundry, dishes, dusting and weeding regularly? Why is there “red tape” in paper work? What do we learn from mopping that we couldn’t learn by an epic battle with a foe that once put down never returns? After such a battle we could move on to the next Herculean task and the next leaving order in our wake. But instead just as we think we have finished sorting and filing; more junk mail arrives. The coupe de grace is: as I age I find I have less energy to tackle tasks and tasks seem to take longer and be harder than they used to do. Is it middle age? Is it only my battery running down or just the way of the universe? If so, is there is a higher lesson to be learned? I have missed it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Writing Is Safe

by Tamara Passey
Writing is safe and other myths perpetuated by the non-writing public.

Have you heard any of these?
Were there some I missed? 

You do it because you love it, therefore it must be easy for you.
Right. I’m sure Olympic swimmers love to swim, but I wouldn’t call their training “easy.”

Oh, you’re a writer. Then you can write our (fill in the blank) family history, grant proposal, etc.  This has some truth. We can write. But it misses the point that there are many different kinds of writing and writers. I’m sure there are some writers that could tackle the spectrum of writing, maybe write an instruction manual for machine guns and a heart-felt eulogy for a loved one, but most writers have their strengths. An artist may be great at painting with watercolors but that doesn’t mean he’d be able to do a sketch for the police of a purse thief.

Writing must be a great career, it’s so safe!
Well, if you mean safe in the way that the Taliban are not shooting at me, yes. But most writers I know are not play-it-safe kind of people. With most jobs, someone can be judged or evaluated (and consequently criticized) for skill, technique or execution of a task. Writers receive that kind of evaluation, too. But writing is so closely connected to thinking –when you put you’re writing “out there” for anyone and everyone to read – you’re putting a little bit of your self on the line, too.  Need more proof? If you don’t like the plumber that flooded your bathroom while fixing your toilet, you call another plumber. You don’t send the first one a rejection letter.

What is not a myth about writing?
The immense satisfaction of expressing yourself with words.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Refined Sugar Addict

by Terri Wagner

I confess out loud to the world...I am a refined sugar addict. I didn't know I was one until really today. Now don't get me wrong, I knew I loved candy...specifically chocolate candy, but addict???!!!

How did I come to this conclusion you ask? (At least I hope you're wondering.) Hoarders! Let me explain. I decided to dvr (notice how no one says taped anymore) a show about hoarders. I mean I love Clean House so I thought I might be interested in this one. It was NOT the same. The two episodes I watched nearly made me cry. These are people who have given up and are determined to stay surrounded by their filth. By the time they are on this show, it's serious business as in "we'll take your kids" (they did in one of them) or "declare your house a wreck and destroy it." At first I thought it was merely drama in the extreme and how happy they would be with their "new" house like the show with Nicey Nash (although sometimes the decorating isn't well received).

But no. These are people who don't want help, who resist it, and who will most likely go back to being hoarders right away. Their families are in angry and sad and highly frustrated. It's gritty, sad and hit me hard.

Why? Well, my sister moved in to help out with my dad. She and I decided to try a diet plan that had worked for me before. Living in the camper trailer for 7 months "made" me gain quite a few pounds.

It was the second go-around and I was having trouble keeping to it. My niece had her beautiful 8.5 pound daughter Olivia and I had basically skipped the first few days. Bottom line: I was contemplating, hey at my age what's the point?!

As I watched the show and saw the consequences of giving up, I realized I didn't want too. So I faced myself squarely in the mirror and said, you are addicted to refine sugar. I don't know how we are going to do beat this, but we are. You and me and a huge support system from Heavenly Father (and anyone else).

Then after that moment in time, my dad suddenly went off on how he quit smoking after 40 years (he quit many many years ago). I listened thinking ok this is important.

Moral of the story here: Make your motto be that of Galaxy Quest: Never give up, never surrender.

The moment of publication will come...maybe after you're gone who knows, but never give up. What a legacy to leave to your children.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jipped

By: Rebecca Irvine

One of the things I enjoy doing, although it has been a rare occurrence, is speaking. I especially love speaking in sacrament meeting. Yes, I get nervous, but I love the challenge of putting together a well-balanced talk and then delivering it (which is a challenge in itself).

Well, a month ago I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting. I accepted willingly, with a smile on my face, and immediately began my background and research work. I spent a number of mornings looking up scriptures, pondering various conference talks, and then deciding which personal stories I might share. My scripture journal was more well used this past month than it has been for quite a while.

Yesterday was the big day. My stress level was high because I also had to teach Sharing Time in primary and attend ward council before church. As I sat on the stand waiting for my turn I shivered with cold despite having clamy palms. Communication apprehension was running high.

But it was all for nothing.

By the time it was my turn to speak there were only two minutes left in the meeting. You see, the bishopric had scheduled two youth speakers in addition to the three adult speakers (not to mention the choir number). And having been the mom sitting in the audience with the squirming children before, I could not bring myself to force everyone to sit there and listen to my 15 minute talk. That would be just a little selfish, right?

So, I stood up. Scrapped my talk. Spoke for two minutes on my assigned topic. And then sat down.

I think this is a lot like working on a manuscript for years and then getting turned down by a publisher. A great deal of sweat and tears, seemingly for nothing. At least with writing the manuscript can be resubmitted elsewhere. What are the chances I will be asked to speak on the same topic again in church?

I am guessing not good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Metaphors Anyone?

by Joan Sowards

The Gospel Doctrine lesson this week (#34) discusses how Hosea used metaphors. One example is, "The children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea." (Hosea 1:10)

I figure I’m fascinated by metaphors because I have no natural talent for creating one. The more I study, they really don't seem hard. Anyone can learn to write metaphors, but I still struggle.

“Language is fossil poetry which is constantly being worked over for the uses of speech. Our commonest words are worn-out metaphors.”

–James Bradstreet Greenough and George Lyman Kittredge

Here are some common worn-out metaphor phrases:

A stew pigeon

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

A thumbnail sketch

Wet behind the ears

That hits the nail on the head.

Each provide a great visual for our readers, but are overused. Our challenge as writers is to come up with new and fresh metaphors.

The dictionary defines a metaphor as is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable, i.e. “I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression.”

Here is a mind-stretching metaphor exercises: Without stopping to consider the words in the two lists below, (there are two lists, but they refuse to line up) connect each word in the right hand column to a word in the left hand column. (No using a Sharpie on your computer screen!) Then think of what the two connected words have in common and write a metaphor. (In the metaphor above, the two nouns are trapdoor and depression.)

skinny girl water slide

autumn leaves bed skirt ruffles

computer screen wedding bouquet

black and white movie clothesline

old shoes bubble bath

It can be a lot of fun, but it takes some thinking.

If you’d like, leave a metaphor in your comments below--and have fun writing!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Power of Silence

by Kari Diane Pike

If you read my last two posts, you already know that things are just a little bit crazy around here. School, soccer, music lessons, and seven extra temporary residents make for lots of commotion. Add the cockatoo who likes to imitate a pterodactyl and a dog who howls in pain when said bird screams, to strains of piano, violin, and cello arpeggios, and you have a glimpse of life in the Pike house right now.

This morning when I picked up my scriptures and began to read, the words in the very first verse of 3 Nephi 10 captured my mind.

"And after these sayings there was silence in the land for the space of many hours;"

After complete destruction and utter darkness, and howling and weeping, the voice of Christ spoke to the survivors. In their amazement, the people stopped howling and then there was silence for many hours. Wow. Then Christ spoke again. And I began to wonder why. Why the silence for many hours?

I pondered on the other occasions when Christ stood silent. When the Pharisees (John 8:6) brought the adulteress to Christ and accused her, Jesus with his finger wrote on the ground and said nothing "as though he heard them not." "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one...and Jesus was left alone..."

In Mark 14: 61 - Jesus is falsely accused, "But he held his peace, and answered nothing."

Mark 15: 3, 5 - Where Pilate has decreed the death of Jesus and the chief priests question and accuse Jesus, "but he answered nothing."

Luke 23: 8, 9 - Herod questions Jesus hoping to see one of the great miracles about which he had heard, but "[Jesus] answered him nothing."

I marvel at the example that Christ set for us. There is a time and a place to speak out and there is a time to be silent. Jesus does not condemn us. We do that all on our own. The one perfect person who could have defended his actions chose to be silent and let those around him choose their own path.

So why the long silence in the New World? Have you ever noticed how the power of being silent can dissipate anger and contention? The Spirit is quiet, yet can he can pierce your heart. Today, I am going to practice being quiet and feel the energy of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Makes a Friend?

"You find out who you're friends are
Somebody's gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think 'what's in it for me' or 'it's way too far'
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who you're friends are"
("You Find Out Who Your Friends Are" by Tracy Lawrence)

How do you find out who your friends are? We all like to think we are a good friend. But, when push comes to shove, your true friends are those who are "there for you" when you have a problem. 

Last week, I took a friend home after work because her car wouldn't start. She lives half an hour in the opposite direction from my house, but I was happy to help her out, even though it took me nearly an hour to get home. As she got out of the car, she said, "I may need you to pick me up in the morning." The next day we were going to be working in different places, and I would have had to leave my house 45 minutes early in order to pick her up, drop her off, and get to work on time. But I told her to call me and I would see what I could work out. Fortunately, she managed to get a ride the next morning.

Well, the following day, she called me and asked me to do her another favor. She mentioned after she dropped some things off at my school, she had no work to do. So, I asked her to help me out because I'm currently snowed over. I assumed (wrongly) that because I often give her rides to workshops and do her other favors, she would reciprocate. Well, she agreed, then later emailed to say she couldn't make it. No offers to help out any other day, even though her workload is very light this year.

Well, this stung. I was shocked that she wouldn't return the many favors I had done for her. Not sure how I'm going to react when I see her today . . . or the next time she asks for a favor.

Another good friend at work always greets me with "Hello, my friend!" This makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. We help each other out on a regular basis, and feel confident that no matter what else is going on, we are there for each other, both inside and out of work. We take turns driving when going to the same places, celebrate the victories in each other's lives, and regularly go out of our way to help each other out.

After all, that's what friends are for.

Today, take a little time to thank Heavenly Father for the good friends in your life. They're not that easy to find, and each one is a blessing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quips for a Happy Writing Day

by Valerie Ipson


Enjoy...

Love being a writer, hate the paperwork.

I love my job. I get to sit around all day making stuff up.

I write, therefore I am.

I prefer to think of it as prepublished.

Don't be jealous of my sweet writing skills.

My weapon of choice...the mighty pen.

What does not kill me makes a great plot point in my next book.

I am, therefore I write.

The voices in my head are plotting against me.

Deadlines amuse me.

I'm in my own little world. (It's okay, they know me here.)

Writers get the last word.

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.

Blank page, I shall thwart thee.

Haiku are simple
But they often don't make sense
Hippopotamus

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

Writing today...if I don't get these characters out of my head they threatened to trash the place.

And finally...

You're an awesome writer, now get back to work.

[many of these seen on cafepress.com]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

By Stacy Johnson

Maybe it is just the place in my life, but when I hear the word LABOR, all I think of is “I don’t want to ever go through that again.”  It could be that I have eight kids, or that I am almost 40 now, or that the last one, although the epidural was in place, offered no pain relief. 

I appreciated Marsha’s post on the history of the holiday.  I have always thought of this holiday in the terms of those who labored to make our country what it is today.  I am certainly appreciative of what I have and try to not take for granted what they went through.  The Encarta Dictionary for Microsoft Word gives tons of great definitions.  It is a noun, like a group of workers, or a supply of work.  It is also the process of childbirth.  It is a verb, like to work hard or struggle to do something, to move or operate with difficulty.  There is even a side note talking about a labor of love, where something demanding or difficult is done just for pleasure rather than for money.

I think that is where my writing falls.  I hardly make any money compared to the number of things I write, but I do it for my own pleasure mostly.  I write letters (you know, the kind you write with a pen on paper and put it in the mail), I write e-mails, I write lists, I write thank you notes, I write messages to my kids, I write on my blog, I write on my Facebook profile, etc.  The only writing I get paid for is my occasional article in The Beehive newspaper, which again, I love doing.

I guess labor, for me, has tons of meaning.  Today though, in the chaos I call my life, I am going to celebrate the labors of my family.  We are an out of control, sports addicted, church calling dedicated, academically motivated, volunteer oriented group of over achievers who are going to celebrate this holiday at the D’backs game thanks to free tickets from my sister.  I gotta go get ready for my holiday.  Happy Labor Day, however you think about it and celebrate it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day

by Marsha Ward

This weekend's Labor Day holiday used to celebrate the working man and the labor unions.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

But "over the years, it has evolved from a purely labor union celebration into a general 'last fling of summer' festival," it says in wilstar.com's Holidays section. This is especially evident in my neighborhood, which is a summer cabin and camping destination. Rim Country is FULL of folks this weekend!

In a tribute to laboring-in-good-pursuits-of-a-neighborly-and-Christ-like type, I thought I'd put up a little quiz. All of the phrases below containing the word labor are found in the hymn book of the LDS Church. Can you find them all and put them in your comments?

I wish I could offer a prize to the winner, like a massage to take away all the pains of your labor, but hey! I'm in need of one. Instead, you'll get the recognition of all your peers in the comment section, and maybe a mention on my blog. Maybe I'll even send the winner a free mystery book. It's called a mystery book because I don't know yet which book I'll send. I'm just making this up as I go along. [insert smiley face here, or whatever]

Ready? You have until Monday at midnight to find the answers and make a comment.

Get set.


  1. Love's labor has merit alone
  2. while we labor for the right
  3. and labor as saviors of dear ones away
  4. in all labors you're pursuing
  5. and our labor here is done
  6. the blessings of God on our labors we'll seek
  7. while here we labor, choose the better part
  8. where I may labor through life's short day
  9. may we labor in the kingdom
  10. by the patience of hope and the labor of love

GO!

WINNER!
Stacy Johnson was the quickest entrant to list the hymns correctly (although she got one hymn number wrong, heh-heh). Since she was the ONLY commenter to give the list, she is the winner, and will receive her choice of one of three books: THE DEEP END, TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING, or HOW TO STUFF A WILD ZUCCHINI. Thanks for playing along, Stacy and Katy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ANWA Writers Conference 2011

I have the best position ever on the ANWA General Board. What position is that you ask? I'm the ANWA Events Coordinator, which means I work on the yearly ANWA Retreat, and also the wonderful annual ANWA Writers Conference. The ANWA General Board has firmed up the dates for the next ANWA Writers Conference. Note, I said DATES. This conference will be TWO DAYS and begin with sessions on Friday afternoon and evening along with Saturday classes.

So . . . here is what it's all about so far:

When: February 25 & 26, 2011.

Where: The Crowne Plaza Phoenix-Airport Hotel

On-line Registration begins sometime in September. Please keep checking on the ANWA Website to see when registration opens because there will be a set number of opportunities to pitch manuscripts to some of the agents and publishers. First come first served, and once these pitch sessions are full, well . . . they are full.

Presenters so far are:

Best selling author: Chris Stewart, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE Series

Janette Rallison, our very own ANWA celebrity. Janette has sold over 700,000 books nationally including JUST ONE WISH, MY DOUBLE LIFE, MY FAIR GODMOTHER, and REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS.

Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSIONS, and query letter guru.

Award-winning children's author, Conrad J. Storad, DON'T CALL ME PIG (A JAVALINA STORY), and RATTLESNAKE RULES.

Kelly Mortimer, agent and owner of Mortimer Literary Agency.

Angela Morrison, another successful ANWA member and author of YA novels, SING ME TO SLEEP, and TAKEN BY STORM.

Kelly Sonnack, agent from Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Kelly specializes in all types of children's literature, including picture books, middle grade and young adult novels.

Kirk Shaw, editor at Covenant Communications.

Cecily Markland, owner of Inglestone Publishing, and editor of The Beehive Newspaper. Cecily is also a published author and long time member of ANWA.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell, author of BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS: CREATING WITH ENNEAGRAMS. Laurie teaches many on-line courses.

Another new thing at this conference will be an opportunity to "Meet and Greet" the agents, publishers, and guest authors on Friday evening. People attending both Friday and Saturday of the Conference and/or staying the night in the hotel are invited.

Speaking of staying overnight in the Crowne Plaza Phoenix-Airport Hotel, Conference attendees can take advantage of the discounted hotel rate. Why not make it a short day-and-a-half getaway, and share a room with some writing friends? Divide the $99 room fee by four people, and you come in at a cool $25 each (plus tax). What a wonderful escape and some real time for you and your writing!

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section at the end of this blog. Also, keep checking the ANWA website for updates and to register. http://anwa-lds.com/

How exciting that this great event is happening here in the Phoenix area!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Tribute to Marsha

by Tanya Parker Mills

Some women are indeed superwomen. I know it's supposed to be a Mormon myth among Relief Society sisters, but I'm here to tell you today that superwomen really do exist.

I remember when I first met Marsha at the LDStorymakers Conference in April of 2009. Very new and uncomfortable in a gathering where everyone seemed to know each other, I ducked and ran for cover every chance I could get. Even though I was a Whitney finalist that year and had been asked to take part in a self-publishing panel discussion by another superwoman, Annette Lyon (where I met still more superwomen--Joyce DiPastena and Sarah Eden), I felt very out of place and apologetic about even being there. After all, I'd only written one book.

I only attended the Saturday session, during which the panel appeared, and nervously placed my books for sale in the bookstore, not hoping for much. Some time in the afternoon, I took a spot at a table with Marsha for book signings and got my first full measure of the woman. I found her unique and had to kick myself for falling prey to the visual kind of stereotyping we all do. Sure, she wears hats I'd never have the guts to put on. But then, I look lousy in any hat and she can pull it off with flair.

From the beginning, she bent over backwards to teach me. She showed me her nifty little netbook (I now have an Acer...thank you very much, Marsha) and her new book trailer (giving me the guts to make my own months later...thanks again). I don't recall if it was that conference or this last one where she tried to explain the workings of Twitter (but I'm now on it...still need some tutorials there, Marsha).

Anyway, I had no idea what ANWA was when I went to the retreat last October up near Bellingham at the invitation of Liz Adair (also definitely a superwoman), nor did I have an inkling of Marsha's founding role in this organization. I was just happy to see her again and gain new insights (as well as a free download of yWrite5...thanks once more!).

Gradually, the whole story has come out and I'm grateful and amazed. Grateful that she thinks enough of us to build an organization for women who write in the Church. Grateful that she stays up late so many nights to see that it continues and flourishes. Grateful for all the sacrifices she makes on our behalf. And I'm amazed that she can do so much and still make time for her own writing.

I'm even more amazed now that I've seen how much she did, not only for ANWA, but for Storymakers, as well. She was doing all their website, except for the membership pages, I believe. Do you know how big a responsibility that was? So big that now, as the new Publicity Director for that organization, I'm splitting that job up into three parts at least, for three different people. Why? Because all the superwomen I know are taken or otherwise engaged, and I'm no superwoman.

Marsha, thanks for being so awesome. My hat's off to you! (You'll wear it much better, anyway.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Life and Death/Last Goodbye

by Susan G. Haws

Tuesday I went to the funeral of my friend’s mother. It was a good funeral, as funerals go. Funerals get me thinking of other memorial services I have attended: my father’s, grandparents’, aunts’, uncles’, friend’s son. I think of how I should prepare for my mother’s, mine. What do I want for a service for myself? What I want to have achieved. Am I ready to go? Am I ready to go for the right reasons? Am I ready for loved ones to go? I want to be there for my friend. I know how hard it is to lose a parent. The sales lady that helped me when I selected sympathy flowers had lost her young adult son. Death can be a shock, or you can have a few weeks to plan and ready your loved ones as best you can as this dear sister had. But this final goodbye is still painful; a deep cut, slow to heal.

Funeral services are for the living: a chance to share how important the departed person was to our lives. We need to know that their lives have meaning, significance beyond the mundane that we all get caught up in. We need to remember their good deeds, humor, achievements, and idiosyncrasies. Acknowledge we have lost an important person; a chance to reminisce with others that miss our loved one. We use words like lost, missing, gone, passed away, passed over. Our loved ones have gone where our bodies won’t let us go. Yet we know that husk of skin, tissue, and bone that housed their spirits that we are laying to rest was not the sum total of the person. Their personality lives on, somewhere we can’t go.

I wish I could say I had an epiphany and I am transformed to a totally better person but I am not. Yet each time I have the gut wrenching, soul searching experience of attending a memorial service I learn more about me, and the human experience. I have no doubt the departed are in a better place and are appreciative of our efforts to show respect and love.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Scrapbook Page, Sort Of

by Tamara Passey

I tried to scrapbook for a while. I really did. I wasn't terrible at it. I could put together a page and the pictures looked pretty good. But I admit, rather nervously, that I didn't like it as much as thought I would. Or at least as much as some other friends did. So I've resorted to putting pictures in albums with protective covers and think that maybe one day either of my daughters might like to scrapbook - wouldn't that be nice? However, I still like to capture moments and record them if I can. I just have a writer's brain and not a photographer's brain. So my snapshots are poems. Fragments of moments I don't want to forget. Like the one I'm including at the end of this post. It may not mean much to anyone else, but at least I can show my daughter I was paying attention along the way. Are any of you good journalers? Scrapbookers? How much do you document of your children's lives?


Storm Watchers

We sat on the lattice-back patio chair
You and I
To watch a storm
Because in the desert, rain is a spectator sport
Water spattered on the rocks
Tapping rhythms
You sang the alphabet song
Somewhere around H-I-J-K
The thunder clapped directly above our heads
Like you had the fast-moving gray clouds for an audience
Your eyebrows snapped up like rubber bands
“What was that?” Your shock sent up a hand to cover your mouth.
"Thunder.” I explained.
You still scanned the yard and the soggy grass
Looking for a culprit
A gust of wind pushed the rain horizontal
And I knew our moment on the edge of the storm was over.
You clung to me with your four-year-old arms and legs as we scrambled inside.
We stood behind the glass door,
Watched our dusty patio chair get drenched
And laughed.