Feb 28, 2011

What Form Would Your Boggart Take?

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

It was a dark and windy night. My husband was out of town on business, and I'd been having quite a time trying to get the three youngest kids to stay in bed.

"We hear noises in the other room," Brian whimpered.

"It's probably the cats or the hamsters," I tried to reassure him.

"No, REAL noises!" Elijah said, his brown eyes round with fright.

"The hamsters are awake at night, or it could be the wind blowing a branch against the window."

"But it's snapping noises."

I sighed and tried again. "The hamsters make a lot of noise on their wheel."

"LOUD snapping noises!" Anya insisted.

I threw my hands up in exasperation as I turned to find my pajamas. "Fine! It's the zombies!"

Instant silence. I looked over to see three pairs of little wide eyes staring at me. Giving up, I told them to bring in their pillows and blankets; we were going to hide from zombies in my bed. Three delighted little kids grabbed their things, and within minutes were sleeping soundly in the master bedroom.

But I stayed wide awake for an hour or two longer, jumping at every sound, inside or out. Every scrape on the window became ragged zombie fingernails trying to find a weakness in the glass. Each creak the house made as it settled meant the undead had found their way in, and were now sneaking down the hall to find me and feast on my brains.

I'll admit it: I deserved the instant karma.

In the Harry Potter books, a boggart is a Dark creature who lives in enclosed spaces, and takes on the form of whatever a person fears most. (In traditional folklore, boggarts take on more varied roles, but are generally mischievous creatures who like to scare people.)

I'm convinced if a boggart were to make its home in my closet, and if I were the unlucky person to open the closet door and release it, a zombie would come staggering out to scare me to death. Currently, they're my boogeyman of choice if I want to be scared silly by a creepy late-night movie or book. Despite having seen only three or four zombie movies in my life (I'm a scary movie wimp, plus very squeamish about gore), they get to me every time. I love them in books. Lately, I've been reading books that are a little creepier than I'd usually choose, because, being a fantasy author, I want to learn how to make my creepy villains as frightening as possible.

Of course, good frights don't extend to just the supernatural. My 17-year-old has a very different phobia. Lia's boggart would take the form of a giant, thrashing shark, or maybe some unnamed but very toothy deep-sea monstrosity. She used to get nervous just looking at pictures of sharks. It isn't so much sharks she's afraid of, but unknown creatures swimming under her if she's in a murky body of water and can't touch the bottom.

Last summer, we went swimming in the Boise River. While my mom and I sat on the beach, Lia took my niece down the current on an innertube. When they got to the bridge, I noticed a truck from the Fish & Game Department parked near the railing. A ranger was dumping buckets of something over the bridge into the water--just as Lia and her cousin drifted past.

I said to my mom, "It would be really funny if it's fish he's dumping over the side. Lia would freak out."

Sure enough, a few minutes later Lia and my niece walked back up the trail to our site, and Lia was screaming, "Fish! They were pouring buckets of FISH into the water all around my head! I almost died!"

I laughed then, but now I realize Lia has it easy. All she has to do is keep out of deep water and she'll avoid her phobia. But zombies walk on the ground. They won't relent until they claw their way into your house. They don't care if it's day or night, although they're a lot creepier to me at night. And right now, I'm writing this post in near-total darkness.

I'm just glad it's not a windy night.

What about you? If a boggart came out of your closet, what would you see? Are you immune to the fear that late-night scary books and movies can cause; do you avoid the horror genre altogether; or, like me, do you enjoy the occasional fright? Even if you might regret it at bedtime?

Feb 27, 2011

Playing Favorites

By Wendy A. Jones


The way words sound has always fascinated me. When I was in fourth grade, I had the chance to be in a special class for part of the day, where we did special 'smart kids' things. One assignment in particular sticks in my brain. We were supposed to come up with a product, with packaging and special features, and then produce a mock-up and a marketing scheme so we could film a commercial.

Let me tell you something--I was pretty well-versed in making commercials at that point in my existence. One of my favorite pastimes was to set up the video camera on a tripod in my room and sell everything from Vaseline to Sweet Valley Twins books to an unseen audience. Sometimes my friends would help, and sometimes it was just me. They are painfully hilarious to watch.

So I had no qualms whatsoever about pushing a product on VHS. My product was called "Onomatopoeia" gum, and its main selling point was the fact that it was invisible and hence a body could chew it in school without your teacher finding out. (Ah, to think on the good ol' days when chewing gum in class was the height of mischief.)

One thing I find interesting in hindsight is the product name. Obviously it was something I'd recently learned about at school, and, equally as obvious, it had nothing to do with my product. I'd chosen it solely because of the way it sounded.

Since then, I've thought a lot on different words. Some sound pleasant on the lips--like lithe and frost and joy. Others make me shudder and I try hard to keep them behind my teeth--lewd and moist and adultery. Mastication. Yuck.

Recently, I've found myself loving words like savvy and pizazz and vacuum and octupii. There's something cool about those not-often-used double letters. And anything ending in two i's. (Cactii. See?)

In high school, I was a Franklin Planner girl. I took that black leather book everywhere. At the back, on one of the blank pages I wrote WORDS. Every time I heard a great word--or one that made me laugh--I'd put it on my list. I dug out the shoe box with the list on it to look over before writing this blog post. Guess what--I still like most of the words there.

Here are a few winners:

What about you? Have any favorite or unfavorite words you want to share?

Feb 26, 2011

Writing Conferences

by Bonnie Harris

With the ANWA writing conference this weekend, I thought this would be an appropriate topic.

This past month I had a friend ask me what I planned on getting out of the ANWA writing conference. The question caught me off guard. Why does anyone go to writing conferences? I thought the answer was simple, but she said she was conferenced out and it got me thinking. Why do I go to writing conferences? The question isn't as easily answered as I thought.

My first inclination is to say, "I'm going to learn how to write and network." Both of those reasons are valid and true. However, I've been to enough conferences now that I've begun to see patterns. The same concepts are being taught and re-taught by different and sometimes the same people. Classes on plot, structure, character development, what the industry is looking for, query letters and so on. So why do we go to conferences if it's just the same things being rehashed every time?

I was talking to my sister-in-law about this and she said it's a lot like the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are continually being taught the same principles. It's true. How many general conferences have talked about being prepared or listening and recognizing the spirit? Just about all of the ones I remember. Her statement did flush out a memory though that ties all of this together.

When I was at the University of Utah, we often had apostles come and do firesides. It was a wonderful treat. This particular fireside was supposed to be on dating (the dreaded subject of any university full of single adults). Elder M. Russell Ballard was the speaker and he began his talk in a different way. He said the firesides might all seem like the same thing and that's because they are. We might wonder why the first presidency and apostles talk about the same principles over and over and over. "Let me tell you why . . ." he said. He went on to explain that there are so many things they would love to teach us and share with us, but they can't. (I could almost hear a collective gasp from the audience). They can't teach us new things until we are doing the "old" ones, hence why we seem to get the same things taught to us time and time again. We just aren't getting it and until we do, we won't be able to learn all the things the apostles would love to share with us.

This hit home for me, at the time, and I made it a goal to do better at the basics. I think of writing conferences now and how the same things are said again and again. Agent and publishing blogs express how many people don't follow the basics or would like people to do such and such. Well, look up the such and such and it is exactly what is being repeated at all of the conferences.

So back to the original question. Why are you attending writing conferences? I think my answer still includes learning to write and networking, but I'm going to expound on it and say I'm going to listen to the reiterations and figure out what I missed the first time. There must be a reason for everything being the same. I must not be getting something, so now my task is to figure out what that something is . . . and have some fun in the process. Happy Writing! :)

Feb 25, 2011

How To Completely Psych Yourself Out

I entered my one paragraph pitch in a contest a couple of weeks ago. I didn't make the finals. But not ONE of the ones I picked made the finals. I met a new friend there and her pitch was my favorite - it didn't make it either. I read her book and it was fabulous. Like depth of story and incredible writing Fabulous. When it gets published, I will recommend it to everyone I know. It was that good. And out of only 100 entries, hers didn't make it to the final ten.

What's more, I didn't love any of the ones that did win. It had nothing to do with the writing, they simply weren't my thing. So, go figure. It really is a matter of taste!!

I think that when we're putting ourselves out there by sending queries - and attending conferences and making pitches - that it really all is a matter of taste. Well, and timing.

But in the end, it all comes down to us making ourselves crazy over something that we really have very little control over. All we can do is to write our stories in the best way we know how. Send it to the agents we think have the best chance of liking our work. And wait. And wait. And then wait some more.

On the flipside - I was at an agent's blog and she was asking how to best phrase a form rejection.

From my end, my favorite was "Thanks Jolene, but this isn't for me."

Keep it simple.

So, I guess my advice is - for those who are there and those will be in my shoes soon - don't go crazy.

Enjoy the process.

Writing is fun.

Hope all you conference goers are having a blast!
I'm reveling in my newly signed contract with Cedar Fort :^D
And I can't wait to hear all the happy news and fun blogs of those of you who are attending!

Feb 24, 2011

Infinite Loop or Progressive Path - The Choice is Ours

by Kari Diane Pike

Our thirteen-year-old son, Levi, has been working on a project on the computer. He discovered some free lectures on an MIT website that teach how to use the programming language Python. One particular lecture assigns the student to create a program using Python that will generate the first one thousand prime numbers. Levi plunged head first into the assignment, despite the fact that he had yet to learn about sine and cosine, and logarithms. He had every confidence that one of his parents (his Dad, obviously) could answer his questions and fill in the gaps where his knowledge lacked. Sometimes Dad would make suggestions with which Levi didn't agree and he would choose a different approach to the program. The computer, of course, only does what it is told. More than once, Levi discovered he was caught in an infinite loop -- where the computer would get stuck running forever and never be able to reach an answer. He had to shut the program down and start over. After many attempts -- and several days of "debugging," Levi wrote a successful program. He literally jumped out of his chair and shouted a great big "Hurrah!"

Later that night, Dad made a comment to me about how nice it was to have the computer tell Levi when he made a mistake. Dad could show Levi his choices but once made, the consequences of those choices fell in Levi's lap. He couldn't argue with the computer. In order to successfully reach his goal, Levi had to take responsibility for his choices and take the steps needed to make corrections. In this process, he learned a great deal about math, programming and using the programming language. If Dad had forced Levi to do things without giving him choices, Levi would not have learned nearly as much.

I couldn't help but recognize the analogy in this experience. Heavenly Father created this earth so that we could have the opportunity to learn and become more like Him. Through our inherent agency, we choose our individual paths. Each twist and turn, each direction we choose to follow, creates a pattern. Sometimes we create patterns of progression, and sometimes we find ourselves stuck in crazy, destructive infinite loops that lead us no where. In order to get out of that pattern we have to stop where we are and hold ourselves accountable and check the program we have been creating. We are the only ones that can make the change. Oftentimes, we may feel the need to place blame on someone else. Indeed, there are times when we experience challenges due to other people's choices, but careful attention to the goal we wish to obtain will help us "debug" and continue on. Just as Levi had to ask for help from his dad, we can prayerfully ask our Father in Heaven to help us create a pattern of love and joy. Where our knowledge and abilities lack, through the Atonement, the Savior steps in to make up the difference.

I recognize these lessons in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Mosiah 20 and 21 tells about the people of wicked King Noah. They rejected and burned a prophet of the Lord (Abinidi) and tried to destroy Alma and his followers. Abinidi prophesied that King Noah would suffer a similar death and that the people, unless they repented and changed their ways, would suffer great hardships. King Noah did indeed suffer death by fire and his people were conquered and driven as slaves by the Lamanites. Mosiah 21: 4 says "Yea all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled." It wasn't until the people, now ruled by King Limhi, humbled themselves and submitted themselves to that yoke of bondage -- and cried mightily to God -- that the Lord began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites. He didn't free the people from their bondage right away. They had more to learn. The Lord let the people choose their path. They continued to work and pray. By degrees, they become more prosperous and unified. They learned to serve each other and care for the widowed and the poor. They watched and they prayed some more and entered a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. They studied how they could deliver themselves out of bondage. By changing their way of thinking they came up with a plan that broke them out of that infinite loop of slavery and despair and made their escape possible without the fighting and killing they had relied on before. They lived their lives after the manner of happiness and created the joy and peace they were seeking.

We can do the same thing with our lives. We have the scriptures and modern prophets to teach us and explain our choices. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us and is anxious to help us, if we will but ask. We have a Savior who selflessly gave everything he had to make our salvation possible. We have all the tools we need to create lives of happiness and joy. How we choose to use those tools is up to us. We decide if we will one day be able to stand up and shout a big "Hoorah!"

Feb 23, 2011

It's Time To Off The Parents

by Melinda Carroll

I'm currently writing a middle-grade novel.  One obstacle in writing for children-- and for young adults-- is figuring out a way to get rid of the parents.  Why?  Because when it comes to saving the world, parents just get in the way.

No conscientious adult would knowingly allow a child to date a vampire, or go on a quest against the gods to find a bolt of lightening, or have a direct face-off against the world's vilest wizard.   They just wouldn't.  Somewhere along the way, a parent would say, "Hold up.  That's too dangerous.  I really don't think you should walk down into that dark cave by yourself to chat with that evil monster who just wants to kill you."

So you have to get rid of the parents.

The challenge is how to do this realistically and creatively.  I've only come up with a few ways to make this happen-- and none of them are that creative.  But I'm going to share them with you anyway:

First, you can kill them off.    Car accidents are always useful for this kind of thing.  Even better, you can  have them killed by the villain (that allows you the added bonus of giving the hero motive to go after said villain).   Killed in a plane crash, eaten by a monster, destroyed in some natural disaster--  really the options are endless (personally, mine get blown up in a grain silo explosion).

The biggest obstacle with this choice is that it is so overdone.  Show me a child-hero and I can almost always show you an orphan.

A second option is to remove the parent from the scene of action.   Send them on a vacation, or off to work, or into the hospital.  It works even better if you get rid of the adult right at the moment they're needed most.  For example, an evil wizard is about to attack the school just as the headmaster is forced to give up his position (sound familiar?)  You can also move the child.  Send them on vacation or away to school.

The problem with this choice is that usually when a responsible parent goes away, they leave a another responsible adult in their place.  If they don't, you have to provide a valid reason why.  Which means you're pretty much right back to where you started.

This leads to the third option.  Give the parent (or other adult) a huge character flaw.  They can be crazy, complete idiots, or even evil.   This way, they are either oblivious to the danger of sending their child into that creepy cave all alone, or they're aware of it but have no qualms about sending them anyway.

The biggest problem with this choice is realism.  Seriously, wouldn't a loving parent at least have some idea that their child is dating a vampire?   And if crazy or evil is your method of choice, it's very difficult to portray a totally dysfunctional parent raising a totally well-adjusted child.  There's got to be some kind of fall-out.  Good authors can sometimes use this dysfunction as the very thing that makes the child a hero-- but it's tricky to do.

So what are some other options?  Does anyone out there have a brilliant way to get rid of the parents without killing them, sending them away, or making them crazy and evil?  But be warned, if you share it, I just might use it!

Feb 22, 2011

Weather Patterns

By Leesa Ostrander
I reflect on the strange weather patterns this year. Is it La Nina or El Nino? Either way I think the weather has derailed from normal. What does this mean in terms of writing?
It means to me, that I need a deeper understanding of what lies ahead. I will not go into my philosophical soap box, yet I want to discuss what this means in terms of my writing.
I feel that on my La Nina days I am dry and short on words. I ache for the counterpart El Nino to show up at my door. After a long dry spell and two Round Tuit Conference weekends, El Nino still did not arrive.
I took the signal that in these uncertain times, I need to step out and go to a bookstore.
I browsed and looked, read and felt dozen or more books. I wanted a swish of wind, a certain moment, an “ah-ha, this is the book.” It did not come and the man in the chair beside me began to talk to me. At this moment, I do not know what he said; it did not matter because the book in my hand is the lucky winner to bring in the rain.
The book I purchased is a book on daily writing practice and honing your muse, or I call it mojo.
It has many interesting topics and some days I am lost in the sound of my pen on the paper to realize the words make a story or thoughts that would still be filed in my brain somewhere. I can re-read a section and see a different perspective from the same words I read the day before. This book gives guidance and thoughts of where to take a drought in writing.
I am consumed by trying to find my mojo, and neglected to use the real source of inspiration. We have books and stories that burst of truth. These stories can direct, guide and give a different meaning each time I read them.
I asked myself, why did I spend so much time browsing titles, when I had the title in front of me. The Scriptures give my creativity a place to run. They can bring El Nino and so much more. I have sought a character reference and plots in the words in Moses, Matthew and Nephi. It may have nothing to do
with these valiant men; it has to do with my time to allow a talent to grow.
Although, I do love the writing practice book… it is not my source of inspiration, today.
I ask you, where do you go to bring the rain and let your story flow? I am curious where others find the mojo?

Feb 21, 2011

Conference, Anyone?

By Tracy Astle

Soooo, whatcha doing this weekend?

Gonna be in Arizona? Gonna be chatting up an agent? Gonna be meeting ANWA friends in person for the first time? Gonna be seeing old friends?

Ooo, I wish I was describing my weekend, but alas, when you work in an accounting office, time off the week before a tax deadline isn't really an option. *big sigh*

I've only been to one conference, sponsored by SCBWI last October in Nevada, and I was so jazzed to go I could hardly stand it. I went to that conference alone, but looking forward to meeting one of my ANWA sisters, Kristin Pryzbyla, there. She's still the only ANWA member I've had the chance to meet face to face. The conference was great, but I can't even imagine how much more exciting it would be to attend an ANWA conference - great speakers, pitching agents, and best of all, the chance to meet so many friends I only know online. (Shout out to the PMWriters online chapter!)

Anyway, conference related talk has been flying all around our ANWA groups recently, so I thought I'd throw a few questions out for you.
     For first timers -
               1) How are you feeling about going to your first conference?
               2) What are you most excited/worried about?
               3) What are you hoping to gain from going?
     For repeat attenders -
               1) How are subsequent conferences different from first ones?
               2) What's the best part of conferences for you? (Okay, you can pick more than one if you must.)
               3) Any sage advice for the fresh faced first timers?

I wish you all a wonderful time with much success and knowledge gained. And when you're at the conference (with a little liberty taken with the words of Andrew Lloyd Weber) -
               Think of me, think of me working silent and resigned.
               Think of me trying to hard to put it from my mind.
               And on that day, that not so distant day when you are far away and free,
               If you happen to remember, spare a thought for me.
...and write good conference related posts on your blogs. : )


Feb 20, 2011

Another English Lesson

by Marsha Ward

I recently heard someone refer to the need to wet someone's appetite for a book manuscript. That's when I knew I had my topic for today's blog post.

What the person meant to write was "whet." The word comes from the Old English hwettan, meaning "to sharpen, encourage." We use it today in at least two contexts: to sharpen knives or other bladed implements, and to stimulate, enhance, or increase; such as desire, appetite or curiosity.

Seeing "wet" applied to appetite for anything makes me think the opposite: to dampen down or diminish, and that's not what you want to do when you present a book manuscript to an agent or editor. You want to whet that appetite for your work.

Now that you understand the difference, let's wander off into the first meaning for whet, because I have a childhood memory to share. My father had a whetstone, a fine-grained stone about 6 or 7 inches long by 2 inches wide and an inch thick, that he used to sharpen and hone the blades of knives, principally his pocketknife. Those were the days when a man wasn't a man unless he carried a pocketknife in his, well, pocket, and my Daddy was no exception. Sometimes, if he was away from home, he used spit on the surface of the stone before he honed the blade of his knife to a sharpness that could slice through a tomato without denting the skin. If he was home, he used a bit of machine oil. In fact, when I handled the whetstone, I recall it had a slight oily film on the surface.

Sometimes Daddy used the whetstone to sharpen a camp axe, but mostly it was his knife that I remember him stroking repeatedly over the surface, back and forth, one side and then the other. He would test the sharpness of the blade on his thumb as he progressed with the task, until he was satisfied at the keenness of the edge. Only then did he attempt to use his knife on the job.

We have to do the same thing with our writing: perform the mundane, almost hypnotic task of coaxing out words, testing the sound and the keenness of them as we go, until at last, they are perfect. Only then will they do the job they are designed for: entertaining or educating others.

Feb 19, 2011

*Where Do You Write?

By Cindy R. Williams

I am taking a random straw poll here about where writers write. Please leave a comment at the end and tell me and the ANWA Founder & Friends blog readers where you do most of your writing.
       Jon Lewis, co author of the Grey Griffin Series, was a presenter at a past ANWA Writers Conference. He told us that he goes to a local cafe full of loud music to write every day. He said if he stays home to write, he tends to spend the day playing with his cute kids.
      My good friend Melinda and I attended LDStorymakers Writers Conference last year. While we were away, her sweet, handy and talented husband built her a writing area in their master bedroom. Get this; he attached a counter top about six feet in length to a wall. Next he added drawers on one end. Here's my favorite part about the writing area, he hand-painted weathered bricks and vines to make an archway over the new desk. Melinda now has a little corner in Italy to write. Cool right?
      Another friend drives to the local library several times a week to write.
       I have a small Queen Ann desk and yummy, comfy, leather desk chair in my bedroom where my lap top is set up. I usually turn the chair so I can prop my feet on top of my bed, and place my lap top on my wooden lap table to write. If it's a cold and blustery day, I wiggle my feet under the edge of the covers to stay warm. My writing corner walls are covered with dragon and fairy pictures. I have at least 30 fairies hiding around my room and peeking out from behind flowers, fancy old netted hats, stuffed animals, hat boxes, pom poms,  "I Can Bring the Light of the Gospel into My Home," cross stitched pillow, and other warm fuzzy keepsakes up on the plant shelves. I have pretty much created a magical writing environment where I've surrounded myself with my fantasy world. (Yes, I have a very supportive and tolerant husband.) I have found if I try to write in other rooms of the house there are way too many interruptions, and they cramp my style and imagination.


Feb 18, 2011

Humor Helps

by Tanya Parker Mills

I thought I'd share a recent querying experience to show how vital it is to keep your sense of humor handy when trying to get an agent. I've been shopping my next manuscript around since last summer and have had some good responses, but no takers (as in "offers of representation") as yet.

I'd queried Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, as well as some 30 other agents, and received a request to see the full manuscript back on July 6, 2010. So I sent it off and waited...and waited...and waited some more. Finally, by November 9th, I figured it was time to check in to see where she was on my manuscript (particularly since, by then, another agent had also requested the full and 4-5 others had partials). She never responded to my quick emailed check in.

(Note: Another thing to keep in mind when querying is that details matter! In my checkin, the only detail I provided was the title of my manuscript...not the date of my original query, not even the genre.)

So, I waited some more and then began to read comments by others on QueryTracker.com who had queried Jessica that they had gotten her agency's auto-response once they submitted their material. HELLO! I realized I never got that. Finally, I attempted a second check-in (this time detailed):

Date: Sun, Feb 6, 2011 at 12:38 PM

Subject: Checking on Requested Full of "Laps"

To: Jessica Sinsheimer

Dear Jessica,

I've learned lately that you generally send out an auto-response when a

requested full submission has been received. Since I never received an

auto-response when I first sent my full submission of "Laps" to you last

summer, and then never heard back when I tried to check in before the

holidays, I'm not sure you ever received my full manuscript as you requested

on July 6, 2010.

Could you let me know if you already have it? I only want to be assured that

it reached you.

All best,

Tanya Parker Mills

She responded the very next day, confirming that she'd never received it and asking me to re-send to a specific address (which happened to be off by one letter from the email address that had been listed last summer when I first sent). So, heart in hand, I hurried to get everything together (secretly glad that I'd made some revisions in the manuscript since then based on comments of fellow writers) and emailed it off the next day.

Not only did I get the desired auto-response from the agency, but I received a personal short reply from Jessica:

Thank you, Tanya. This has arrived safely.

You might think everything was fine, right? Well, I happened to glance below to the copy of the query I'd sent and about had heart failure then and there. This is the beginning of the query I'd sent Jessica:

Jennifer de la Fuente

Fountain Literary

1106 Second Street #346

Encinitas, CA 92024

Dear Ms. de la Fuente,

What was I to do? Had she really not noticed? No way. She must have sent that short response to rub it in. I'd ruined any chance with her. I thought for a minute and then replied with this:

Okay Jessica,

I'm sick to my stomach because now you'll no doubt feature me on your blog under the heading "How Not To Resubmit a Requested Full When The First Try Failed." I guess I was so excited that I accidentally copied from the email right below yours in my file. I'm slowly slinking away now. It'll either be chocolate or ...who am I kidding? It'll have to be chocolate.

So sorry,


Less than 15 minutes later (after going to the kitchen and eating 4 Hershey's Miniatures in quick, sorrowful succession), I saw two emails from her. I opened the first:

Not at all! You haven't done anything wrong. It's perfectly acceptable

to copy a query in the body of the email; in fact, it helps.

Please don't worry. All is well.

All best,


Then I opened the second:

Oh! I see what you mean. No biggie.

All best wishes,


Big sigh of relief!!! My response:

Thanks for being understanding. I was about to eat my 5th Hershey's Miniature. You're the best!


A week later, I received her kind rejection:

Dear Tanya,

Thank you for sharing your work with me--and for your patience in

waiting to hear back. You've been a delightful correspondent (and I

certainly wouldn't blame you for the Hershey's miniatures; they're by

far my favorite when it comes to the "things one might get while

trick-or-treating" category!).

I pushed this to the top of my pile because, of course, you've been

waiting so long already. That, and this is a really great query, which

certainly piqued my interest.

You write well, and I enjoyed reading this—but I'm afraid I just

didn't fall in love with this in the way that I'd hoped.

Still, I do hope you will continue writing and sending out your work.

If you haven't done so already, you may wish to look at The Jeff

Herman Guide to Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents - there, you

should be able to find someone who's a better fit for your work.

Again, Tanya, thank you for sharing this with me, and for being so

pleasant throughout this process.

Very best of luck to you, with this and future projects--and do let me

know how everything goes.

All best wishes,

Jessica Sinsheimer

Associate Agent

Because I've read her blog a good bit, as well as the blogs of other agents, I knew I couldn't leave it there. After all, agents send out a lot of rejections, and it's not always easy for them. So I sent one last email:

Dear Jessica,

Thanks for your encouragement. You're a wonderful agent and I would have loved for this to click with you, but I realize the story has to grab hold of you in a way in order to be passionate about finding a home for it. So, thanks for your honesty.

I'll keep pressing on (with or without Hershey's miniatures), and I'll let you know when it does find a home. In the meantime, I'll still enjoy your blog.

All best wishes,

Tanya Parker Mills

Needless to say, she appreciated it. So, along with a good use of humor and details in the querying process, never forget to be thoughtful and kind. This is not the kind of business where you can afford to burn bridges. On the contrary, we need to be building bridges as writers.

Feb 17, 2011

Run your Race

by Susan G. Haws

I don't know much about horse racing  but I recognize the beauty of a horse and the strength of a story.  I re-watched the Disney movie about the horse Secretariat and his owner and champion Penny Chenery Tweedy recently.  I can't help but be inspired by the example of this woman that had so many obstacles and so little support and yet found the ways and means to defeat the old boy's network at their own game and win the respect she deserved in her family and in the world.  She knew what she had to do and she did it even when it was safer and easier to quit.  In the movie she explains to her husband and brother that you must live your life full out taking the risks and being willing to live with the consequences no matter how high the price.  The trainer and the jockey  both had demons of their own to exorcise.  But Penny Chenery Tweedy recognized the will to win and the skills to get there in both of them  as well as the gifts of speed, endurance and heart in her horse. 
There were other fast horses and one in particular that challenged the big red stallion.  The competition is no less able that comes in second to the greatest horse that ever lived to this time.  In a different year number two would be number one.  But the strong competition highlights the excellence in the champion.
I love the scene just before the Belmont race when Penny tells Big Red, Secretariat, that she has run her race and now he will run his.
We each have our own races and our own obstacles and sometimes we are the also rans that have our own accomplishments despite not being the champion and sometimes we are the champion.  But we must run our races full out holding nothing back taking the risks and being willing to deal with the consequences. 

Feb 16, 2011

Adventures in America

by Kami Cornwall

Hey! It's my turn! Let me tell you about something that I've been very excited about.

22 years ago I was given a little piece of paper with the name, "Christina Nienstedt" in my German class. It was my first pen-pal and my assignment was to work on writing in German. I soon found out that "Chrissi" knew English really well and so... my German fell by the wayside.

We wrote off and on for a few years and then the wonderful invention of e-mail came into play and we were writing much more often. Chrissi moved from Berlin to Hanover and vacationed around Europe, often sending me pictures of famous monuments. She married Peter and has been trying for 8 years to have a baby...with no luck.

Chrissi and Peter love all things Americana. They view America through the eyes of the T.V. shows played there like E.R., the Simpsons, Twin Peaks, and CSI. (She asked me recently if I decorate my home the way the Griswolds did in the movie.) Last year they vacationed in Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove down route 66, making their way through California and Utah. They experienced a county fair in some small town and loved it.

Last night I got an e-mail from Chrissi that said, "I had a new American experience." They're back in Las Vegas today.) She had severe abdominal cramps and had to call 911. She was surprised how fast the ambulance got there and was rushed to the E.R. She said it was "just like being on the t.v. show" and as it turns out...she's pregnant! The pain was from an ovarian cyst which had burst but the good news is that she's going to be okay. I am so relieved!

The other good news is that they are planning to come visit me here in Washington this summer. This decision came about because she found my blog one day, read all of the entries, and sent me an e-mail saying, "I can't believe how much we have in common! Why haven't we been writing more often?" The power of the written word, my friends. Because of my blog, my pen-pal of 22 years is going to come face-to-face with me for the first time! I'll get to be the person who takes her to Snoqualmie where Twin Peaks was filmed, and maybe she'll even catch our annual Lentil Festival here in Pullman. I can't wait!

Feb 15, 2011

Am I a Prude? Gasp!

by Terri Wagner

Recently, some LDS friends have strongly suggested that I watch "The Big Bang Theory." It's a TV show that depicts some very geeky people along some very strange people and some of what I suppose are considered to be "real" people. It's a spoof within a spoof. I love the characters. I feel a connection because in my younger years I roomed or were friends with people who were brilliant but lacked much in the social skills. I got my fair share of geeky (we didn't call it geeky back then) guys who swore they were to be my eternal companion. So I get it. BUT I'm finding it very hard to overlook the constant sexual situations. I mean it's in your face, unapologetic and for me personally not quite that funny. So is this a case of I love it but....? Do I keep watching?

Then I learned about "Fan Boys." A loosely based on true events story of some very Star Warish fans who cross the country to Skywalker Ranch before the pre-quels in the hope of convincing George Lucas to let them in on the future movies. One of the young men was dying of cancer. Along the way, they tangle with some Star Trek fans. Ok this is definitely my geeky side coming out. On a scale for me SW first, ST second but I do like them all even the odd Deep Space Nine.

Again though I love it, my head is spinning (I'm only half way through). It's vulgar and classless and tasteless and somehow not funny. More like teenage boys potty humor.

So what's the deal? Has the world gone mad? Have I gotten too prudish in my older age? Do I need to lighten up?

What say you?

Feb 14, 2011

It's Always Nice to Have One Fan

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

As writers, we all know the importance of having critiquers and cheerleaders--people who can provide unbiased opinions and advice for our works in progress, and cheer us on when we're at a rough patch.

I'd like to add another type of reader that I rather enjoy having around: the Crazed Fan.

Perhaps I should change that definition to "the Sane Yet Still Decidedly Fanatic Reader." Not the type of fan who is going to get in a heated argument with someone over the finer points of what happened in a book vs. how they changed it in the movie; or key your car because you said you were on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward. (I'm Team Neville Longbottom myself; please don't slash my tires!)

I was just texting a friend tonight, when she told me she was reading The Moongate over again, because it had been a couple of years since she'd read it last. We met when we were both servers at Denny's; The Deathly Hallows had just come out when I started working there, and we both discovered we shared a great enthusiasm for the same genre of books. At the time, I wasn't even halfway through with the first draft of The Moongate, but somehow she ended up reading it.

I credit my husband for forcing me to find the courage to start writing a novel, by getting me a laptop for Christmas. I credit all my writers' group friends, online and in person, for helping me through the many edits and query letter revisions that followed. I credit my teenage daughter Lia for being a huge cheerleader and reassuring me that I don't suck (and for bearing the brunt of my many rejection letter frustrations and tears). But it's because of Megan, my friend from Denny's, that I didn't give up during a period when I had next to no free time to write, and content myself with saying, "I'll finish it someday when the kids are older and I don't have to work anymore."

Because Megan scared me. We worked together on weekends, and I'd rush to finish writing the next chapter before Friday or face her wrath. If I had only one new chapter for her, she'd gripe to me all night that I didn't give her enough. If I had nothing, she wouldn't speak to me. One time, she woke me up in the middle of the night with an angry text complaining that I'd left her hanging with a huge cliffhanger chapter end (I'll admit I did that on purpose).

After so many weeks of frenetically writing to appease Megan's need for more chapters, I suddenly found myself writing, "The End." I'd never thought I'd reach that point, and I honestly believe it was because of her that I finished it as quickly as I did. This, of course, led to a few chapters near the end that were messy because of my haste, but I've since gone back and fixed their problems.

One time, Megan told me she was my biggest fan. I don't know if I'll ever hear that from anyone again, but I'll always remember how good it felt. Although I asked many times for her honest opinion on whether there was anything wrong with the plot, she never offered any advice. (That's not to say the first draft didn't have TONS of problems!) She loved what I gave her, and I ate up her praise like it was chocolate.

It's invaluable to have friends who aren't afraid to be blunt, often painfully so, when they're reading through your work. It's just as vital to find critiquers who are good at finding the inevitable problems. It helps to know someone who won't let you wallow in your misery and put yourself down when the rejections and bad criticism come rolling in--even if they're not avid readers; anyone with the knack for building someone up will do. My husband is great at reminding me I have talent, even if he hasn't yet read the huge revision I did to The Moongate's ending. Those three types of readers are the best kinds of support to motivate a writer to continue honing her craft.

But if you can find someone who shares a passion for your favorite genre, and get them to love what you write, that can also make a big difference. It didn't matter to me that I wasn't getting a critique from Megan; the real feedback was in knowing that I was writing something that someone unrelated to me enjoyed as much as Harry Potter--and it was very gratifying to find out I was appealing to my target audience.

I promised Megan that tonight I'd email her what I have of the sequel, Blood Moon. Right now I'm at the beginning of a chapter where a pivotal event I planned years ago finally goes down. I can't wait for her to see it. I wonder if I should put my phone on silent, just in case she sends me another angry text in the middle of the night? Because this one ends in a huge cliffhanger too.


Feb 13, 2011

By Way of Introduction

By Wendy A. Jones

When I started writing for this blog, I didn't really introduce myself.

That was on purpose.

Almost two years ago, I took down all the information on my "About" tab on my personal blog.

When someone suggested we post a picture and short bios for our online writing group, I thought, "Great!" Then I only uploaded a picture.

It's not that I don't like talking about myself. I used to have no problem listing vital stats and interests. So what gives? Why the sudden modesty?

Two words: identity crisis.

My husband left almost two years ago.

Aside from the general heartache and inner brokenness his actions caused, it left me wondering: "If I'm not a loving and beloved wife, what am I?"

Answering that question has been difficult. Truly a crisis.

Even now, I'm not to the point where I can be blase about the failure of my marriage and my status as a separated-almost-divorced woman.

However, in my life it has always been the times of crisis that have given me the most growth. I am an avid journal-keeper, and I happened to thumb through an old journal this week. I remembered the days I wrote about, remembered the feelings I had when I wrote the entries, and in that remembering I realized something: I am healing.

The pain is still there. I hope and pray that it will someday go away fully, but remembering the first six months showed me how far I've come. How blessed I am for the power of the atonement and the priesthood in my life. How much growth I've experienced.

I think I'm ready to introduce myself.

My name is Wendy A. Jones. I am a daughter of God and I know that He has a plan for my life. I am the mother of four amazing children, a boy on each end and two girls sandwiched in between. I love to read books and write and draw and take photographs and sew. I play the bassoon and I love to sing. I have amazing friends and a wonderful extended family. I like laughing and I do it a lot. I enjoy cooking, but not cleaning up the mess from cooking.

It's nice to meet you.

Feb 12, 2011

To Shower or not to shower?

by Bonnie Harris

First of all thank you to all for the advice. I'm going to have to check that book out and put it in my "To read" stack. :) Also, I have to apologize if I missed a post. I got all confuzzled on what was happening, but I've gotten all straightened out . . . hopefully.

I think I'm beginning to see why some authors don't shower. Last year I went to a League of Utah Writers Conference where Anita Stansfield was one of the keynote speakers. She talked about how she made time for writing and the things she gave up along the way. One of the things she said was there were many days she didn't shower. What?!? A day with no shower? How could someone live like that? I love my showers and look forward to them. They make me feel human and frankly wake me up when I can't seem to open my eyes in the morning.

Well, I believe I understand where she was coming from now. I set a goal to write for a half an hour a day. Doable don't you think? That's what I thought. Everything in me said that wouldn't be a problem, after all babies sleep a lot and I've heard more than once that "nap time is writing time." So there would be no problem with squeezing a half an hour in a day . . . right?

Ha! Those people who said babies sleep all the time . . . they lied! I'm lucky if I get the chance to scarf down food and/or take a shower before he wakes up again. So now I find myself debating, what's more important? I really want to write and I feel like I haven't accomplished much if I don't write, but to give up a shower? I don't know.

I'm finding my mind whirling with ideas and revisions but I haven't been able to get them in the computer yet. So here's what I've decided. It comes down to do I take a shower or write for the twenty minutes it takes to get in, out and dressed. The conclusion . . . I haven't decided yet.

In the meantime I'm trying to apply some of the other principles Anita Stansfield talked about. One mostly. She said that she asked her husband, "If there were only three things I could get done around the house, what would they be?" And those were the only three things she did. Her kids never went without what they needed but she taught them that writing was important to her and was able to get them to help and support her in that. (I guess I shouldn't expect that much from a nine-week-old.) So I'm working on those three things so my husband doesn't feel neglected (like a lot of our pets do at the moment).

So I'm looking on the bright side until I make that all important decision of whether or not to give up the shower and enjoying the few moments I do get to write. It's working so far, even though I'd love to be doing more. Balancing life, isn't it fun!

Feb 11, 2011

In the Query Trenches

As writers, we've either been there, going to be there, or we're there right now.

I'm there right now and thank goodness I'm not doing it alone.

I have no writers that I meet with face to face. I'm in Wasilla, Alaska. It's not a big town. But I have this amazing online community who's been so supportive in sharing both the ups and downs of the query process.

A good friend just signed with an agent around Christmastime - after getting stacks and stacks of rejections. Suddenly she had four offers, from four good agents.

Another friend is querying right now. With me. We compare notes every few days and both hit the refresh button too many times when we check our email... just in case.

As we continue to stack rejections, we're also reveling in the small victory of a few agents asking for partials... and fulls.

Will it be better or worse getting rejected at this point?

I don't know.

Is there a way to set it aside and worry less?
I'm sure there is.

This is one of those times when you have to be careful about what you pray for. Praying for patience may just bring me even more opportunities to use the small amounts of patience that I do possess.

I do know (like everything else in life) it's about finding perspective.
Does it matter?
How important is it really to have a book on a shelf?
How much is my stress really helping me?

I'll let you know when I figure it out.

I promise to commiserate with you when you're in my position and then celebrate with you when you hit your goal - whatever your writing goal might be.

Feb 10, 2011

A Penny For Your Thoughts

by Kari Diane Pike

If this were an infomercial, I would tell you all about an amazing product that has changed my life and how you can experience similar amazing results by sending me lots of money so I can tell you how I did it. Then I would tell you that all you have to do is send the same message to a million other people and have them send you lots of money and your problems will be solved. Except, the next infomercial will tell you about a different product that is ten times better than the one before. Forget what the first expert said. Times change. Just send in lots of money and we will tell you how to tell other people so that they will send you lots of money. Problem solved!

Bishop Richard C. Edgley recently spoke about the constant bombardment of confusing messages we experience in the world today and the fact that while this may be the reality of our world, "we can still choose how we react to it."

I used to think how wonderful and simple it would be to just wake up every morning to find a little note on my pillow from Heavenly Father outlining the things he wanted me to do that day. I would do those things, and every thing would be heavenly. Then the realization hit me. That was what Satan wanted to do. He wanted to tell us what to do and leave no room for choice. Without choice there would be no growth or learning. There would be no progression and true understanding of right and wrong. We would be lost forever.

A few weeks ago, I made some changes in the way I treat my body. I chose to eat to live, rather live to eat. I walked away from fad diets and expensive diet aids and returned to basic, whole foods. I studied the Word of Wisdom. I prayed. I chose to do this because I wanted to change the way I felt physically. I was tired of feeling ill all the time and the pain was great enough to motivate me to change. I had no idea how much this would help me gain spiritual and emotional strength as well. I have come to a much greater understanding of the connection between our spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual selves. In just 18 days I feel better physically, I think more clearly, I am more sensitive to promptings of the Spirit, and I feel joyful!

If someone had tried to force me to walk away from sugar and cheese puffs and (I really hate to say this on a writer's blog, since this is one of a writer's major food groups) yes, chocolate, I would have laughed in their face. Or at least behind their back. I would not have learned anything. I would have continued in my old ways, or, if I had done it under duress, I would be so emotionally bonkers, I would negate any benefits whatsoever. Did any of that make any sense? (other than the fact that my punctuation is horrendous?)

Exercising our faith and choosing balance gives us the strength to carry on through adversity with peace of mind. Balance allows us to find joy in the journey. Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you are right where the Lord needs you to be, doing right what the Lord needs you to be doing at that moment? How would you describe that feeling? And just think. It didn't even cost you a penny.

Feb 9, 2011

You Know You're A Heroine In A Romance Novel If...

By Melinda Carroll

We all have times when it's hard to see ourselves clearly or analyze a situation in our lives with clarity and objectivity.  Heroines in romance novels seem particularly lacking in the self-awareness department.  So, in case any of you out there are wondering if you're a heroine out of a Romance novel, I've come up with some signs that might help you figure it out:
1. The first time you meet your love interest, you instantly hate him, and he feels the same way about you.
2.  Despite your hatred, you can't help but acknowledge that he has a devilish smile and smoldering eyes.  And for some reason that is completely beyond you, every time he touches you or even steps near you it sends chills up your spine. Although you still hate him.
3.  Your love interest is virtually bereft of morals.  A rogue.  But for some reason he can't explain, he feels protective of you and flies into a rage if your safety, reputation, or feelings are at risk (that is, unless he's the one that's putting them at risk).  Although he still hates you.
4. Despite your obvious distaste for each other, fate continually throws you together in strange ways- like in a barn during a freak and totally unexpected thunderstorm, locked into a room together without a key, or lost in the woods and separated from anyone else.  Sometimes, all three of these.
5. You see your love interest in a compromising situation and instantly jump to the worst conclusion.  You also refuse to question him about it because, as far as you're concerned, having a frank and honest conversation is the worst way to work out a problem.
6.  In a completely shocking and totally sudden burst of insight, you realize that you have been in love with him from the moment you first met and that he is also in love with you.
7.  You two live happily ever after.
1. The first time you see your love interested (and usually before either of you has uttered a word), you fall madly, deeply in love.  The kind of love that makes you willing to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
2.  You wake up in the middle of the night to find your love interest has broken into your house and is staring at you from the corner of the room.  And you think it's sweet.
3.  Your love interest has an enemy who is intent on destroying him by hurting you (either that, or his enemy is in love with you.  Either option works.)
3.  Within a few weeks (or days) of meeting, you will have to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
4.  Your love interest will also be willing to sacrifice his life, and somehow that cancels out both your sacrifices and you get to keep everything.
5.  You two live happily ever after.

And in case you were wondering if you were in a Paranormal Romance, all of the above apply, with a few extras:
1.  Your love interest wants to eat you, drink your blood, or sacrifice you to some unknown power (particularly if you are fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen-years-old.  You might think you are in a horror novel, but you're confused- you're actually in a YA Paranormal Romance).
2.  Despite the fact that you've never entertained the idea of anything supernatural before, you take the fact that your boyfriend has supernatural abilities at face value without questioning it, nor does it make you question if any other kinds of supernatural creatures exist.  That would just be silly.

And if you thought you might be in a Romantic Comedy:
1. At some point within the first few days of meeting your love interest, you utterly and completely humiliate yourself in front of him.
2.  You lose your job, a family member, your home, or your best friend.  But you can laugh at it.

I hope this helped you.  It certainly helped me.  Imagine my surprise, after compiling this list, when I discovered that I'm not a romance heroine.  I'm actually more of a side character in a middle grade novel.  Go figure.

Feb 8, 2011

Time Zones

By Leesa Ostrander
I was recently in a meeting for pre-school mothers. The speaker spoke of many ways to encourage a happy marriage. The bulleted point I want to write on is – time zones.
He referred to time zones as where we are in our personal space and capacity to share with another.
The three zones are: private, parallel, and interactive.
Private being the time I need to myself – alone.
Parallel is the time I want to be with someone, doing as they are doing and not necessarily conversing.
Interactive is the time we are together conversing, transactional conversation and meaningful bonding.

I looked at this from the point of writing my character. As I interview my character I wondered if she wanted me in her “private” time. I realized that this was information that the reader did not need to know yet. I moved on to how she interacted with her daughter. This scene is parallel. They are busy getting ready and it is still important in the story. Lastly, the interactive scene was what drew me in. This scene created a bridge from me to the story. I was part of the movement and bonded with the character.
My question is what time zone is your character in? Are they ready for the bonding? Is the reader ready?
I am new at writing and think that of the stories I enjoy, I like the stories with all time zones, appropriate to the scene.

Feb 7, 2011

A Little Orange Cat

By Tracy Astle

We don't have any cats at our house. Several family members are allergic to them. That didn't stop a cute little orange striped one from trying to convince me it belongs with us.

I came home from visiting teaching one night last week and literally tripped over the adorable little thing. I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that the first I became aware of it was when I whacked my lower shin on it. I looked down to see what I had hit and found a sweet, whiskered face staring up at me, looking very much like it expected to be invited in. I informed my guest that I didn't think it really wanted to come in since inside the house lived a large dog who would very much like a to eat a kitty such as itself.

A look of concern came to it's face as it considered for a moment what to do. Choosing wisely, it scampered away across the front lawn just before I opened the door and went into the house.

I greeted my 20 year old son inside and told him about the cute little cat. (We have LOTS of stray cats that seem to think our front yard is a cool place to hang out. It's like a kitty night club or something. Most of them won't let you get within ten feet of them, though.) This seemed just another cat story to add to our long list of cat stories. As I talked to my son, I caught sight of the Valentine's window clings waiting to replace the snowflake clings presently on our front storm door and decided to switch them out right then.

Much to my surprise, when I opened the front door, the glass door still closed, the little ginger critter sat about two inches from the glass, seated as prettily as can be, staring up at me again - like it knew I would return for it. I quickly grabbed the handle of the glass door since my dog can easily push it open, especially when he goes cat-crazy. One glance at a cat outside the door can turn my normally calm dog into Cujo. Only this time my dog, who was right at my heels, didn't let out one bark or even one little hint of a growl. Weird.

Apparently, we had a new friend.

Hearing the small commotion, my son came and joined the party. He agreed with me about how high a cute factor this cat possesed, which factor only increased when I removed the first snowflake cling from the door and the cat jumped at it, ready to play.

The game was on.

My son and I entertained the kitty by tickling our fingers along the inside of the glass as (s)he pawed and bounced happily on the other side. This was one ridiculously adorable cat. If I didn't know what it would lead to I would have invited this one in to play...given it a little treat...cuddled and petted it until it purred. Somehow, I didn't think it would be much of a challenge to coax a purr from this little one. If ever I was tempted to keep a cat...

After a few minutes of fun we said goodbye and closed the door.

But that's not the end of the story.

The next morning when I opened the garage door to go to my car the persistent little thing laid curled under my car, again looking like it was waiting just for me. It took me a little extra time that morning to make sure (s)he didn't sneak into the garage before the door closed all the way. I had to be even firmer in my desire than (s)he was in hers/his.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this cat reminded me of lots of other good things that come into our lives, but that it's best to say 'no' to. Sometimes these activites/favors/invitations/whatever are really tempting, and really cute, too. It would have been lots of fun to have that cat. I'm sure of it. And maybe one cat as small as this one wouldn't have been too much of a problem for my family members with allergies. Even our dog, Jag, seemed unnaturally okay with it.

But, it would have been a mistake to take it in.

Since we're all about writing here, I want to know how you decide when to say 'no' to other good things so you can say 'yes' to writing and other things that are better than whatever may be enticing us at the moment.

So tell me - What's your secret to 'no' when it's needed? Lots of people have a hard time with that word.

Feb 6, 2011

Talkin' about Tact

by Marsha Ward

Let us go back to my series on the complexities of English, and how using it carelessly can leave us with egg on our faces, shall we?

I often see instances in written English where mistakes are made with our peculiar sayings, phrases that have been handed down from ages past; or in stringing words together that make no sense; or in using nearly the right word, but missing the mark. I'll revisit the pair in tact and intact, for an example of the second type of boo-boo. I merely brushed against it previously. Here's a more in depth look.

Tact is that delicate perception of the right thing to do or say without offending. I notice when it is used with the preposition in to form the odd phrase in tact instead of using the perfectly good adjective intact, meaning "unimpaired or uninjured, kept or left whole."

You might say I'm lacking in tact to even mention it, but I'd like my fellow travelers in the English-speaking world to keep the language intact, and use it carefully as we pass it down to the young.

I thought I'd mentioned the misuse of in lieu of before, but it seems I didn't. I've seen it misused for in view of. The first really means "instead of" or "in the place of." I chose to eat soup in lieu of salad.

In view of means "on account of;" "in consideration of."

In view of the shortage of time, each person may only speak for three minutes.

I recently saw in lieu of used instead of in light of. In lieu of just won't do in its place. In light of is similar to "due to," meaning (oddly enough) "in view of," or "because of."

In light of the flood damage discovered in the church building on Saturday, Sunday services will not be held at the chapel for about a month. One could easily use the phrase "due to" or "in view of" and maintain the same meaning.

Let's look at cases where the wrong word that sounds exactly like the one we want to use confuses us. Take chock and chalk, or stock and stalk, for instance (or do and due).

Chock has a couple of meanings. As a noun, it means a wedge or block placed under a wheel to keep it in place. You see this in movies about airplanes. You know, they have to pull the chocks out from the wheels before they take off to save the day. As an intransitive verb, it means the action of putting the chocks in place; to wedge fast. As an adverb, chock means as close or tight as can be. We often see it used as an adjective: chock-full.

Chalk is soft, whitish limestone. It's also that substance or similar used for writing on a blackboard, or green board (see that in old movies or TV, folks, especially if you grew up with white boards and washable markers); a piece of chalk. Adjective: made with chalk; verb: to mark or rub with chalk. When combined with "up," it means to score, get, or achieve: chalk up.

Okay, here's your assignment. Tell us the differences between stock and stalk. Use examples. Thank you.