May 31, 2011

Art of Communicating - Not Assuming

By Leesa Ostrander

Human communication is the process of sharing messages, both verbal and nonverbal. A few basics about communication from a studious standpoint are: communication needs to make sense, share  xperience, create meaning, and is about the messages sent.

The practice and refining of communication is the art and the skill of being a great communicator. Not everyone is a great communicator. Some people are great at writing, others at controlling anger, and some speaking what they don’t mean.

I am still practicing, all of them.

My current lesson in communicating is not assuming. I assume when I say something it is heard and the other person will react.

The other day my babysitter called and asked what time to come over, she had received a text from my husband that we needed her at 7 pm. I told her 7pm would be good since his flight came in at 7:30 pm. At 6:45 pm she called and asked what time I needed her.

Well, deep pause, 7:00 pm is still a good time.

She was frustrated and said I told her 7:30 pm and now she was going to miss a bar-b-que.

She arrived at 7:00 and said “You’re not ready.”

My response was, “No, but I still need you here.”

The overall evaluation of the situation can be read in a book long saga of where this communication broke down. I did not hear what she was asking in the first phone call, she may have wanted a different response in the second phone call and our third contact had a built in barrier where we were not effective.

This example shows how a small misunderstanding causes frustration and breakdown in the intended message sent. This is also true in writing.

When writing a story, poem, email or note to your child’s teacher the message being sent on the paper still needs to have the basics of communicating. In a story if it is missing one element the reader will become confused and frustrated at not understanding and not knowing necessarily what is missing. If in a query letter the reader will dismiss the letter and move on.

A lesson for the week is improving the art of communication and not assuming that what is said and being received is the same thing. It is more about reading the symbols/words and making sure it is what you want to be understood.

May 30, 2011

Blessed Bumps in the Road

By Tracy Astle

Just a brief post today. I just got out of the hospital. I'm home recuperating from surgery and find myself contemplating mixed blessings.

At first glance the medical problems I've had of late, culminating with this surgery, may seem like a challenge to be overcome - and they can be rightfully viewed as such. But they can also been seen as a huge blessing. First of all, the thought of enjoying renewed health and strength is wonderful. Secondly, I plan on using my six weeks off work to write a rough draft of my second novel. Without the forced down time from this surgery there's no way I would have time to get a draft done so quickly. So, yay.

I am wondering what bumps you may have encountered in your road that ending up being blessings in other areas of your life. Any silver linings of your life's clouds you'd like to share?

May 29, 2011

Sprint or Marathon?

by Marsha Ward

Yesterday I had a great time at our church's Memorial Day Barbecue. It was a reminder that, from time to time, writers need to come up for air and socialize a bit. Not too often, mind you, or you'll never get back in the writing groove, but occasionally.

When I got home, I did a bit of "other work,"* then decided it was time to finish off the scene I began a couple of days ago.

I recently created a Facebook Group specifically for writers: those who want a companion egging them on during a sprint (short) writing burst, or a fellow-writer to help with the endurance trial of a marathon (long) writing session.

I'll admit that the idea of a place to call on other writers for fellowship during writing isn't original with me. I borrowed it from Tristi Pinkston and Karen Hoover. They have a much fancier place, but I like simple and functional. With the new functionality of Facebook Groups, I chose that venue.

If you want to join us, here's the Facebook URL to click on:

An admin will approve you to join.

*non-writing work

May 28, 2011

*Inquiring After Truth

                                                           by Cindy R. Williams

While Mother's Day shopping at Deseret Book, I came across THROUGH HIS EYES - Rethinking What You Believe about Yourself by Virginia H. Pearce. The cover is a lovely pastel blue with a pearl in an oyster shell. I picked it up and read the inside cover and new it was for me.

The blurb began with, "As anyone who has ever cleaned out a closet or a basement can attest, clutter is a reality of life. And it's not just a physical reality. Our minds can become cluttered too, filled with beliefs about everything from our relationship with God to our feelings about our bodies to our housekeeping methods."

I bought the book and upon returning home, handed it to my husband saying, "Here's my Mother's Day present." He smiled and was thrilled that he had finally gotten me something that I really wanted.

I am reading it slowly so that I can ponder the messages and make the much needed changes. The author, Sister Pearce, is the daughter of President Gordan B. Hinckley. If you have ever heard the man speak or read his words -which I am assuming most of you reading this blog have - you know that he always made you aware of your great eternal worth and that there is hope. Sister Peace has the same ability.

Sister Pearce lays the book out in an easy-to-read clean and concise manner. She teaches us the steps to be successful at discarding the lies and half-truths that may be hindering our progress.

I hope to be more of what I am supposed to be here on this earth as I work through this inspiring book. If you decide to check it out, let me know. I would love to hear other inspired stories.

May 27, 2011

Feeding the Lake

by Tanya Parker Mills

I've been reading a marvelous book by Madeleine L'Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time and other classics). Entitled Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, the book reads like scripture for writers. I don't mean that it is scripture...only that I get the same feeling reading it that I do when reading the standard works. In any case, I highly recommend it.

I'll share one bit in which she quotes Jean Rhys's comment to an interviewer in the Paris Review:

"Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."

She goes on to write,

"If the work comes to the artist and says, 'Here I am, serve me,' then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist's talent is not what it is about...The great artists, the rivers and tributaries, collaborate with the work, but for most of us, it is our greatest privilege to be its servant."

I am happy to be feeding the lake with all of you.

May 26, 2011

OOPS or Double Check Your Author

By Susan G. Haws

Recently I learned of an award winning science fiction/fantasy author that I had not read before and was excited to read some of her work. I didn’t remember her name but remembered the title of her award winning short story. Since I was already on an online book store I decided to see if that title was available for sale. It was on sale for 99 cents. It was a short story with the right title and a female author‘s name, so I just figured it was the one I was looking for, and bought it.

I was so excited to enjoy an outstanding short story from a master writer. But no. I should have paid more attention or checked the author. This was definitely not sci-fi/fantasy.

While I am a bit more liberal than many, this was the sort of tale I was embarrassed to have on my hard drive and not my cup of tea if I were to put something explicit on my computer. The moral to me is double check authors and titles before you buy.

Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?

May 25, 2011

Funny Girl

"Do you ever feel inadequate?" my co-star, Darci asked me back-stage a few months ago.

"Sure," I whispered back as I shrugged. "You'll do great. Don't worry about it."

"No, I mean," she continued, "like as a woman in the church and in life and everything. Like everyone else is so much better at it all and you just don't measure up?"

I have to admit, I've never really felt exactly that way but I could understand on some level how she felt so I replied, "Sure. Everyone does. Oh, that's your queue!" I nudged her out on stage.

More recently I found myself surrounded by a gaggle of women called together to throw a baby shower. We were waiting for a few more to show up but the room was quickly becoming crowded. The weird thing? You could have heard a pin drop. Nobody was talking. It dawned on me that there was not an extrovert among us. Time to use my talents. I began asking people questions in true Oprah style. I cracked some jokes, offered to help out with the food, and generally sprang to life. Soon the room began buzzing and I could relax.

As I relayed to my husband later that night how I often feel like the "life of the party" among certain groups of women (not a role I normally find myself in) he reminded me that we all have different roles in certain circles. My thoughts went back to Darci's question. Do I ever feel inadequate? Maybe not inadequate, but often I feel like I'm the "funny girl" and that I need to be "on" for the sake of others.

If I were to put myself into a place like in Pride and Prejudice I think the people might find me to be too jovial, boisterous, or outgoing for their taste. I am uncomfortable at the "quiet tea party" and prefer the room full of various conversations going on at once. Sometimes that makes me feel like I don't "fit in" or rather that I fit into a different group. I'm failing to find that group among the women in my ward. I think I need to throw a luncheon and keep inviting different women until I no longer find myself needing to be "on" all the time.

Do you relate to finding yourself fulfilling a certain "role" that you didn't really know was yours except in certain company?

May 24, 2011

Scary Times

by Terri Wagner

For months now I've been hearing the horror stories of people laid off and feeling so terrible for them. I would quickly say a prayer and then double my efforts to make sure I was ok.

Then it happened to me! Totally blindsided me. I had been with the company for almost 17 years. I had moved from part time sales rep to editorial manager. And the money was pretty good for this area. I distinctly remember just five weeks ago crossing Mobile Bay thinking wow, pretty commute, love my job, life is good, I think I'll stay until I can retire.

Then five short weeks later I get so sorry you make too much money, we have to cut back, here's some severance pay, and oh by the way leave now. I was so shook up I left some personal files on my computer and had a camera at home.

That was Monday, yesterday, why does it feel like a million years ago. The only up side to all of this is my FB friends, you've all stepped up to the plate, said a prayer for me, made me feel better.

As for me well there are the ok let's close this door and find the open window moments, the shattered what on earth do I do moments and the hey it could be so much worse moments.

I'll keep you posted. And please continue your prayers and your thoughts. It helps. Believe me it does.

May 23, 2011

Humor is mankind's greatest blessing. - Mark Twain

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I'm convinced God has a sense of humor, and every once in a while He likes to look down upon this beautiful Earth and say, "I think I'll mess with the Przybylas today."

One such event (or series of events) happened a couple months ago, when my youngest, Anya, and I were visiting my mom out of state. A few days into our visit, my oldest daughter Lia texted me to say that the cats had caught three mice that day. Not just one, as would happen a couple times a year. I was impressed, told her to put her hand inside a plastic bag to dispose of them, and to sanitize. Then I figured that was the end of the problem.

Lia texted the next day, telling me she'd found two additional rodent bodies. I raised an eyebrow but wasn't too alarmed, until again, the day after brought news of another mouse killing. From then on, each day until the time we returned home, the cats dispatched at least one mouse, proudly leaving their grisly trophies for one of the kids to find and freak out over. Every time I got a text, I assured them the cats were excellent mousers (obviously), and it shouldn't be too much longer before they took care of the infestation.

It was twilight when we got home, and as I walked up to the front door, I noticed my cat Oreo standing next to the porch. I squealed at him how much I missed him, and how I'd heard he'd been such a good mouser all week. Now Oreo is supposed to be an inside cat, and will usually scamper away if anyone tries to capture him after he achieves the freedom of the outdoors. I should have been suspicious when he didn't move as I approached, but I'd figured he must have really missed me too, and was waiting to greet me.

I picked Oreo up, leaned in to give him a big smooch, and stopped just short of his nose when I noticed his whiskers looked larger than usual--and were wiggling frantically. Squinting in the dusky light, I realized Oreo had a fat mouse in his jaws--the reason he'd been crouching so still when I'd approached. Forgetting to be indignant that his stillness had nothing to do with his joy at my returning home, I dropped the cat and ran screaming into the house.

I'm not the kind of woman you see in those cartoons, who jumps up on a chair at the sight of a mouse, hops from foot to foot, swings a broom, and hysterically screams for the hubby to "GET IT GET IT GET IT!!" I think pet rodents are adorable. I've kissed snails. I've even held still as a garter snake sank its needle-sharp teeth into my thumb. But wild mice carry disease, and probably bite when threatened. There's no chair jumping anytime I encounter a wild mouse, but there's always lots of screaming.

My 12-year-old Emily brought home a new friend the day after I'd returned home. When I walked into the living room to say hi, Emily's cat Crybaby (aka Fatty) streaked between my legs, intent on another escaping mouse. I shrieked as the cat clamped his teeth over the poor thing (I don't want them in my house, but I still feel pity when the cats' instincts take over), then I snatched Fatty up, intending to toss him outside and let him finish the job there. Fatty immediately dropped the mouse, which did a 180 and dashed between my feet again, followed by the cat. A good deal more screaming ensued, although I found the nerve to pick Fatty up again when he'd re-caught the mouse.

And then...he dropped the mouse. It ran between my legs. This cycle repeated itself twice more, with my screaming becoming ever more hysterical. If a chair had somehow found itself under my feet by then, I would have been hopping on top of it. I screamed "GET IT GET IT GET IT!!" at Fatty. I think one of the kids even threw a broom at me so I could swing it.

Finally, the cat caught the mouse, I caught the cat, someone opened the front door, and the cat sailed out onto the porch with the hapless mouse clamped tight in his jaws. I'm surprised Emily's friend wanted to visit again. For some reason, all the kids' friends think we're fun.

Over the following week, just like the week before, Crybaby and Oreo took care of at least one mouse a day. Lia's cat Yoda, the useless lump, would just watch from a high vantage point. I suspect he'd be a chair-screamer if you got a mouse too close to him. By this time, I was near tears with every tiny, mangled body I'd almost step on first thing in the morning. My husband and I considered getting traps or calling Orkin, but we didn't want the cats, who were finally earning their keep, to catch any poisoned mice. We were at a loss.

The final straw was when, on the third or fourth day of such insanity, we got a call from our neighbor across the street. I love her, she's a nice lady, but she's the type who will call to tell me one of the other neighbors has parked his car the wrong way on the street, or one of my kids isn't wearing a sweater when it's 65 outside. "I don't mean to alarm you," she said, "but I just looked out the window and saw three mice running across the street to my house from your front lawn."

That's when I cracked. "Thank you, Heavenly Father," I cried to the heavens, "This is a really funny joke, but can we please stop now?"

We were going to call the exterminator on Saturday, but that phone call was the last we saw of the Great Mouse Invasion of 2011. Over the next couple of months, the cats caught just two more mice. I've been extra vigilant for signs of another infestation, and have kept my jumping chair and broom handy.

It's been said that children laugh about 400 times a day, but the average adult laughs only 15 times. I can attest to the fact that we laugh a lot more in my family. I'm not only grateful for the gift of laughter, but for my ability to see what's hilarious in even the most ridiculously trying of situations. I'm even thankful for those times when God throws a joke at me, with the challenge to either fall completely apart or see the hilarity in it (even if I sometimes only get the joke long after the punchline has been delivered).

Yes, I believe that even He laughs too.


May 22, 2011

The Perfect Test

By Wendy A. Jones

I am good at taking tests.

That isn't bragging, it's a statement of fact.

By the time I was in sixth grade, I had figured out how tests were written and how they connected with the material taught in class. I knew what things to study (and what things to skip over) to get high marks on almost any test.

The only exception I remember was my junior year in college. I had a business ethics course with a professor who lectured the entire two hours of every class. I took notes on what he was saying according to my past history of test-taking. He also wrote our text, which was less of a textbook and more of a collection of essays he compiled. We had two tests that semester, a mid-term and a final.

When I opened my mid-term and looked over the questions, I almost started laughing. But not because anything was funny.

It was like the test was written in a foreign language.

I had no clue.

And, seeing how I was a junior in college at this point, it was not only frightening but completely surprising.

I had this test stuff figured out. Who did my professor think he was, changing "the rules" like that?

In hindsight I can see he wanted to truly test our knowledge. It wasn't fact regurgitation, it was principle application. At the time, though, it stressed me out. What if I lose my scholarship over this?

That mid-term changed a lot of things for me: how I took notes in that class; how I studied the notes; how I listened. The final, though less surprising, was no less frightening.

I realized I was not the test-taking machine I thought I was.

In Alma 34:32 it says, "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors."

We hear often that this life is a test. I only recently started looking at that a little deeper. If this "preparatory state" (Alma 12:26) was indeed designed by God--and I believe it was--and if God is indeed a perfect being--and I believe He is--then doesn't it follow that God has designed the perfect test?

There have been times in my not-so-distant past when I wanted someone else's test.

It wasn't until coming across these scriptures in a quiet time that I realized something: God designed my test for me. He knows what it will take to turn me into what I want to become.

(And I doubt a regurgitation of facts will be on the final.)

I don't always agree with Him and His methods. Lots of times I don't like it.

I find myself asking, "Why?" and "Isn't there any other way for me to learn this particular lesson? To rub off this rough spot?" or even, "Does it have to hurt this much?"

That's when I remember it's a test. As new trials come, I find myself changing my study methods: what I focus on; how I take notes; how I listen.

I've learned God is always right. I have to trust Him and realize, especially on those days when I want to 'trade', that someone else's test won't get me where I want to go.

May 21, 2011


By Bonnie Harris

Ok, I admit it. I'm a Dancing With The Stars junky. I love watching people who excel in one area of life, taking on the challenge of a completely different thing. The growth that happens emotional, physical and in so many other ways is incredible. Often times the stars are quoted saying things like, "I never knew dancing would be so hard." "I wasn't prepared for the challenge and difficulty the training would be." How many times have we found ourselves saying, "If you only did what I did, then you'd understand." or "You have no idea how hard my job is." It's interesting to see what happens once someone does take on the challenge of learning something new.

This last week, one of the stars, Kym Johnson, was seriously injured. I cringe even thinking about it. Thankfully she's alright and was able to dance and incredible Tango routine, that earned perfect marks, with her partner MVP Pro Football Player Hines Ward. What I found so compelling about the whole situation was the response from Kym and from Hines.

Kym's first response was how they didn't have time for the injury. There was too much to do. Hines on the other hand said he wasn't even thinking about the competition, he just prayed she'd be OK. Isn't it interesting how drastically different their initial responses were. It made me think of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum when they were shot at Carthledge Jail. Hyrum said, I've been shot and Joseph called out to his Father in heaven. Two completely different responses.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not being judgmental in way. It just got me thinking about different perspectives and made me wonder how well do I know my characters. If my characters were in similar situations, what would their perspectives be? Would they be the ones worrying about practices or about the persons recovery. What would the first words out of their mouth be?

Then it snowballed and I put myself in the perspective shoes. How would I react? What would I say? I've often found that I say something like, I would like to think I'd react this way, but I really don't know. So, how well do I know myself then? It's given me food for thought.

In a nutshell, I hope we can all get to know our characters (and ourselves) well enough to be able to put them in a trying situation and know exactly what they would say and how they would react.

Here's a video of the fall and the inspiring end results. You can also see it on It's the fourth tab in. (Side note: They earned a standing ovation from the audience and the judges which is unusual. All of the judges spoke highly of them. Hines couldn't control the tears and one of the judges was choked up. She said that Hines went above and beyond what is expected of the dancers in the matter of partnering Kym. If you'd like to hear their comments, they are on the link.)

May 20, 2011

Letting Projects Go

Have you ever been writing and realized that you didn’t like a character?

I started a character that wasn’t at all like me. I thought it would be good to stretch myself and write a girl who is very shy and introverted and I don’t like her. The story is supposed to be her story, but I don't care enough about her to finish what I started. Right now I want to write it all from the boy because he’s an awesome character. I’m just curious if any else has written something and then realized that they just don’t like their person?

I’ve actually scrapped this project and used some of her stuff for another character instead.

But the boy? He’s SO going to be my next story.

It will never cease to amaze me at how alive my characters are.

Have you had similar experiences? Or used parts of one project for another?

May 19, 2011

Super Grandma!

by Kari Diane Pike

I did not attend LDStorymakers or the ANWA writing conference this year, so I don't have any amazing new writing thoughts to share. Between working (I write descriptions and keywords for an online video library), school (I am still chipping away at that Bachelor's Degree), being a wife, mother, and grandmother...and three church callings, improving my writing skills has been taking a back seat. Or at least I thought so, until I started reading some of my journal entries and reviewed the many entries I have posted on this blog. I have grown as a writer, and every page I add to my journal or to this blog (or even to my research papers) brings me one page closer to where I want to be as a writer.

I posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago something along the lines of "They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. When I finish this research paper I will be the world's newest super hero." And you know what? The day I finished that paper and prepared to send it to the three reviewers required by my professor, I did feel like a super hero. At least until I opened my syllabus to review what last few items I needed to do before I submitted the paper to my professor and moved on to take the final exam. Everything was fine until I came upon the word addendum. I am required to add an addendum to the end of my paper with the following items:
* a copy of all three reviews
* my summary of those reviews
* my thoughts on how I think the suggestions made in the reviews can help my paper
* a summary of the changes I chose to make in my paper based on those suggestions
* my thoughts on what I learned from the experience of writing the paper and the review
process and how I am going to apply this enlightenment to my life in the future. other words, I have to write another paper! I felt all that super power rapidly drain out of the giant hole in my ego.

As our family knelt for prayers that night, I whined and complained to my supposedly empathetic teens. Dear Daughter laughed and said, "Mom, you just got your super powers today, and you already found your kryptonite!"

That's okay though. Today, I am in Tucson playing with my two-year-old granddaughter and her new baby brother. As far as she is concerned, all I need to know how to do is operate the DVD player and bake blueberry muffins. oh...and be a princess warrior. Well, the blueberry muffins disappeared in a day, and I did better than turn on the DVD player. I had a secret password that opened the world of Netflix! A grandma who can magically find a granddaughter's favorite episodes of Blue's Clues AND Super Why has to be a super hero!

My books are going to get written. I add a page to the story every day. I have hope that one day, they will even get published. But if nothing else, my words will be there for my grandchildren to read and maybe those words will help them realize that they are super heroes too.

May 18, 2011

A Big Plug for Writing Conferences

by Melinda Carroll

Last week I attended the LDS Storymakers Conference up in Salt Lake.  It was awesome.  I got into writing fiction about three years ago.  Over that following year, I wrote my first manuscript and then didn't know what to do.  I asked for advice from a friend who'd just recently gotten published (a childhood friend, and at the time the only person I knew personally who'd ever published anything).  The advice she gave me:  get a critique group and go to a writing conference.
So I did.  Over the last two years I have been to seven conferences-- each one hosted by a different group or organization.  All of them were in either Arizona or Utah, and I didn't even hit all the ones that were offered.  There's TONS of them.
So what has come from all these conferences?  I found my critique group (ANWA) and through that a smaller writing group that I meet with weekly (women who are truly my kindred spirits).  I've pitched to agents and compiled a list of other agents.  I've made many new friends.  I've learned a ton about writing and about the industry.  I've learned how to write a pitch, a query, and a synopsis.  And many, many, other things.
I love writing conferences!
So if you are writing, or interested in writing, and you're wondering what to do next-- get yourself to a conference.  You will be amazed how much you can learn and about the wonderful people you can meet.

May 17, 2011

National Small Business Week

By Leesa Ostrander

It is National Small Business Week this week May 16-20, 2011. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), states more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business and account for 60 to 80 percent of new jobs in the country.

The business of writing not only accounts for writers as business owners, it covers the other individuals along the way that have a part in sharing the business transactions.

There are many wonderful movies, plays and other entertainment that come from one writer, one writer that chose to make a business decision.

Lastly, readers benefit from the business, by having options of what to buy, styles of writing to choose from and conversation topics.

With this, I say we celebrate National Small Business Week and contribute to helping our economy. By writing, paying an editor, submitting to contests, agents, newsprint, blog sites and other media we are helping to employ someone.

May 15, 2011

Round 2

By Tracy Astle

During my first pregnancy I heard all manner of labor and delivery stories. It what moms do, right? Talk about pregnancy, labor and delivery? In spite of all I heard I was determined to deal well with whatever came my way. I was excited for this new experience. I had the utmost confidence in myself and my ability to handle this supreme physical and emotional challenge. (Cue Wonder Woman theme song here and picture me standing, hands on hips, chest held high, in my best super hero pose.)

By the time labor actually began I was comitted to let nature take its course, to let my body do its job without even the assistance of drugs. It's what I was designed to do, after all. It's how I was made.

I'm sure you're probably wondering what happened that made me eat my words. But I was fortunate. Things went beautifully. Only about ten hours of labor, no drugs, as uneventuful as a labor and delivery can be consideriing the wonder of it all.

I had done it. I marvelled at the splendor of my amazing mind and body. This was the most incredible thing I had every been priviledged to experience. Oh, it was hard of course, the hardest physical thing I had ever done. But I did it and I loved it.

Then came my second pregnancy. Now whole labor and delivery thing was very real to me, not just some great challenge to be conquered. And a strange thing happened. I was scared. I didn't know if I could do it. I had several lengthy conversations with myself about how I had proof that, indeed, I could do it. I had done it once before, hadn't I? So why was I feeling so insecure in my abilities? I knew I was being silly, but I couldn't seem to help myself. I did get myself straightened around before my second son was born and it all went very well again.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Well, after a lifetime of writing in many other forms I decided to write a novel. A new and daunting challenge to be sure, but I was determined to handle whatever obstacles came up during the writing process. I was excited for this new experience. I had the utmost confidence in myself and my ability to handle this challenge. With singular focus I learned and learned and learned and wrote and wrote and wrote.

And I did it. I finished my first novel. I even like what I wrote.

Now it's time to start on my second novel and guess what? I'm scared. What if that first one was a fluke? What if I can't really do this? I'm not even sure I know how to start writing the next one. (This insecurity is especially ridiculous since my second book is a continuation of my first one. I know where I am and where I want to go in the story.) I find myself having almost the same conversations with myself as I did between my first and second children. Never thought I'd find myself here again, but I guess I know the terrain this time around. I know what I need to do - feel the fear and do it anyway.

Tell me I'm not the only one who has ever felt this way. I'd really rather not be crazy or silly or just a plain ol' wimp. Those of you who have more than one novel under your belt, I'd love to hear your words of wisdom here.

Oh No! I Can't Restrain the Curmudgeon!

by Marsha Ward

The Old Curmudgeon broke down the door when he came across two egregious misuses of the English language during the past two weeks. Sorry, I couldn't keep him under wraps. You'll soon understand why.

Someone wrote that some kind of event was "under the hospice" of some entity or other. Oh dear. I'm afraid I cringed as much as the Curmudgeon did. 

A hospice is either a shelter for travelers or a homelike facility for the care of terminal patients. It may also extend to hospice services that come into the home of a terminally-ill patient to give support to the family. This is the kind of hospice I am most familiar with, due to the Year of Hell our family went through in 1997-98. A hospice is not likely to sponsor an event, although it could happen. The words would not be used in that way, though.

"Under the auspices of" is clearly what the writer meant to use. While auspice can mean a favorable omen or sign, in this instance, the plural form means patronage or sponsorship.

I laughed when I read the second misuse, but it got the Curmudgeon's back up, and he broke free and went on a rant. The writer was talking about unsolicited submissions, and wrote about the old days when a submission "over the transit" was, if not entirely acceptable, at least possible.

Before I tell you all the ways that is wrong, I have to give you a little background.

In the days before central air conditioning, office doors opening to a corridor had a small window above them that could be opened or closed, depending on the heat of the day. It was hinged along the top or bottom, and one used a long pole to open the latch and pull open the window, allowing for the free flow of air between the office and the hallway. This opening was often referred to as the transom, although the term actually meant the crossbar under the extra window.

The phrase "over the transom" meant that a desperate writer snuck into the building at night and tossed the envelope in which his manuscript was encased through the opening above the locked door, into the office of a publisher. Thus, the term came to mean "unsolicited submission".

You can see the problem that annoyed the Curmudgeon. Transit and transom are not the same word. Transit can mean "passage through or across," "a carrying through or across, a conveyance," "a system of urban public transportation," or (my favorite) "a surveying instrument used for measuring horizontal angles." My dad had an excellent transit for his surveying work, so I'm very familiar with that word and meaning.

The word transom also applies to a lintel, a crossbeam of a cross or gallows, and a structural part of the stern of a boat.

Now that you are in the know, go forth and use the words auspices and transom as much as you can!

May 14, 2011


by Cindy R. Williams

I had the opportunity to attend LDStorymakers Writers Conference last Friday and Saturday. I learned lots, of course, but, one thing hit home big time, How To Market Your Book. Most of us know that even if you publish with a big house, the more you do to promote your book the better.

Sheralyn Pratt, a marketing guru, taught Creating Your Marketing Web. She projected images of spiders' webs with the lead lines from the center to the outside as things to do.

Picture each of the following tools written around the spokes of the spider web:

Blogging about your book.
Website - This is your official site of all things _________ (fill in your name).
Facebook - Make sure your Facebook site points to your website. You also can do a "like" page about you and your book.
Twitter - peer to peer marketing. Don't just send a mass email saying "Hey everybody, buy my book." Instead, link up to other authors and people interested in the topic of your book.
Book Signings
Book Reviews in the newspaper and on book review blogging sites
Speaking and teaching engagements

Pratt went on to tell us about three book campaigns she ran. I was stunned as she told us how one of the books went from selling 20- 30 books a week to 500 plus.

Luck has nothing to do with it. It's all hard work. On one campaign, she gave the author marching orders to do five things toward marketing her own book each day. They can be big things such as doing a radio interview or small things like posting a few sentence on your blog or Facebook. The point is to do something every day and you will create a buzz for your book.

I will post more information from the writers conference on my next blogs.  I post every other Saturday.

See you then.

May 13, 2011

Too Uptight to Write

by Tanya Parker Mills

You know that feeling you get when you're back from a terrific writer's conference, bursting with new ideas, suggestions, and directions to pursue and, on top of that, have just mailed off the query to the agent you pitched at the conference and you aren't sure if you shouldn't tweak your manuscript one more time in case she wants it...AND your only daughter is about to go on a special date (of course, they're all special when you think she's with the right guy) with a young man who seems to be getting rather serious? You know that feeling?

Yes, I'm pretty uptight today. I'd like to dive into my next story but which one should it be? The one I'd started planning set in Beirut about a dysfunctional American expat family that finally begins to come together as the city begins to fall apart in civil war in the mid-1970's? (If you were at the conference in Becca Stumpf's presentation, that would make it historical fiction, I think...I'm really getting old!) Or the definitely historical truth-based piece about a young woman in 17th century Milan, Italy who ends up in a convent and becoming a well-known composer (though I'm planning on adding a decidedly fictional romance into the mix)? Or one of the three speculative fiction ideas that recently hit me--one an historical speculative involving Shakespeare, and the two others dystopian (one of which involves a colony of artists, writers, and actors)?

Help! I'd like your votes. Which pulls at you the most, if any? I need to do something to keep my mind off the agent and my daughter's situation.

May 12, 2011

Thinking outside the box

by Susan G. Haws

Thinking outside the parameters of tradition is creativity in action.  Just in my lifetime technology such as cell phones, Skype, and watching movies on multi functional phones have gone from science fiction to everyday fact.  As a child I watched video conferencing phone calls on The Jetsons cartoon and pocket size communicators on Star Trek . That was way back when phones had cords connecting them to the wall; and TV was a handful of local channels with shows you had to watch in real time.  The new video games were a bouncing dot and opposing lines with which to hit it.  We have come quite a distance technologically in my life thus far.   My grandparents were born in the days of the  horse and buggy, they passed away in the days of the  space shuttle.  I think if we were to graph the technological advances since the beginning of time till now the line would look like a rocket heading for space.
What one person can imagine another can invent.  I love the i words:  imagination, innovation, invention.  I can't wait for non invasive scanning to move from diagnosing to curing in medicine.  I am equally wishing for the ability to teleport instantly from place to place. Can you say "beam me up Scotty?"  It would sure make traveling to see family, business travel, vacation travel easier. 
With all the disasters and turmoil in the world I worry we humans will destroy ourselves or usher in the Second Coming before we make my science fiction wishes reality.  Where do you see future? More like a Star Trek story or more like a post Apocalyptic reversion to less technological tools? What sorts of technology do you  wish for most?

May 11, 2011

Random thoughts

by Kami Cornwall

I haven't been able to focus my thoughts lately with so many things going on so instead of choosing one topic I have chosen to share all of my random thoughts with you today. You're welcome.

1. Planning a trip to Disneyland is harder than I thought! There are so many choices and "packages" to choose. I don't want to get ripped off. Well, yeah...I realize what I'm saying. It's Disneyland.

2. Auditioning for a play is SO much funner when I'm the director. Maybe it's because I like telling people what to do, maybe it's because I'm not the one standing in front of everyone to be judged. Whatever the reason, the last few days have been so fun! I have to stop myself from saying, "You're going to Hollywood!"

3. Spring has finally peeked through the clouds here in the rainy northwest and though I am not fooling myself into thinking the rain is over by any means, I am really enjoying the sun for the first time in years. (Have you seen how white I am? The sun has long been my enemy.)

4. My son gave me a Hershey's kiss on Mother's day and I was reluctant to eat it. Not because I am trying to be "good" but because Lindor has spoiled me and now I no longer crave Hershey's chocolate. I've become a chocolate snob! Help me! Is this a condition that lasts long?

5. A friend of mine begged me to watch "Mad Men." I did. 3 episodes anyway. I don't know how to tell her that I didn't like it. It left me confused (not guessing in a good way), and angry with one of the main characters who cheats on his wife without thinking twice. I am guessing that I am supposed to be fascinated with the "1950-60's" lifestyle and mindset that the people had, but I think they got it wrong in a lot of ways. I have to tell my friend somehow that I didn't like her favorite show and don't plan to watch more. Hmmm.....

6. Some friends of mine encouraged me to tell my German friend to bring "Kinder eggs" back with her but she informed me (I had to look it up to believe her) that they have been banned by homeland security.
Because CLEARLY...a chocolate egg with a toy inside poses a serious threat. You will be fined $300 per incident. Is this the same group of people who phased out the "toy inside" the cereal box?

That is all.

May 10, 2011

70s Lingo

by Terri Wagner

How important is lingo in a book? I remember about a million years (or so it seems) when some "enlightened" professor of English decided all of us needed to read ghetto lingo. I couldn't understand much past the first line. When rap became popular I changed from rock to well anything else because I didn't get the lingo. I had no idea if it was "dirty" or not. I just plain couldn't understand it.

I've read books where the main characters are from another country. However, the author isn't. So I wonder then how much of that lingo is correct. Or when we write about our founding fathers and don't substitute "f" for "s."

What brought all that up? Well, I follow a Starsky and Hutch site out of England. And half the time I don't get what "they" are saying. Which can be hysterical because I just ask. I think I'm the token American on the site.

So yesterday, on that site, I mentioned a bit of 70s lingo since the show itself was n the 70s. The response was hysterical. How many of you guys remember things like "far out," "oh man," "cool" when it was just "cool" and not "kewel." I'm reminded of the song by Tim McGraw, back when a Coke was a Coke, etc.

How do you all feel about lingo? See that's a southerner way of talking. Does it enhance a book or just irritate the reader who's completely unfamiliar with the wording?

May 9, 2011

It's All About Popular

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

The other day the author of a blog I follow made the exciting announcement that she has a new book deal with Touchstone. Her blog is hysterical; she writes about life events and illustrates them, and her book will feature more of the same. It's the wacky drawings that bring her blog to life and make it so popular (over 52,000 followers, and 500 comments within the first half hour of her posting).

I couldn't help but suffer a stab of envy at this news. It reminded me of the scene in Julie and Julia, after food blogger Julie had been interviewed by--who was it, the New York Times? She found her answering machine filled with messages from agents and editors offering representation or a book deal. I sat there and ground my teeth during that scene, while my husband cracked up.

Sing it with me: Popular, it's all about popular! (My mom is taking us to see Wicked on Friday! That's a song from the show and it's stuck in my head right now, hee hee.)

Interesting how a bit of popularity makes you look more marketable to the publishing world, but who can blame them? With the staggering number of followers she's accumulated, the odds are good that her book will sell. I might even buy it, seriously. Her blog is funny enough that I look forward to every new post. (For those who are wondering, it's Hyperbole and a Half. Read her post about the Alot monster!)

It's all enough to make me want to start illustrating my blog posts, except obviously it's been done. And I don't have the hand for comic-strip type drawing. It's alright, though; I'm happy for her success, but it also thrills me that my own little blog has 24 followers. 24! Some of these people I don't even know! Every time I get a comment, I do a little dance. So remember that, friends, imagine me dancing in an extremely dorky fashion and then post a comment! It works for this blog, too.

After thinking about it, I realized I'm content with the traditional route of getting published: querying agents, consuming massive amounts of chocolate with each rejection, then dusting myself off and sending out another round of queries. I feel popular enough, and I'm sure I'll sell at least a few dozen books when I'm finally published! It might not be 52,000 right away, but I'll do a little dance with each and every sale.

May 8, 2011

Honoring Mothers

By Wendy A. Jones

For some reason one of my strongest Mothers' Day memories involves my brother. He was on his mission to Denmark and had been asked to speak on Mothers' Day. After his talk, one of the members approached him and said, "That was a wonderful talk. You should send a copy of it to your mother."

My brother said, "I could, but she doesn't know Danish."

I've also had to speak on Mothers' Day. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and cried even more readily than normal. My parents were visiting my married student ward, so they were in the congregation. I finished my talk (I'm pretty sure I cried throughout) by saying, "My mother wasn't perfect." At this point, someone in the congregation gasped. I still remember that gasp--it stands out in bold relief in my brain, like the time one of the deacons fainted while passing the sacrament. I found it funny (and still do) that someone was surprised. How many of us, as mothers, think we're perfect? How many of our children think we're perfect? I'd put both of those numbers at zero.

It wasn't for several years after that incident that I started hearing how some women hate Mothers' Day. What? I thought. How can you hate Mothers' Day?

There's the breakfast in bed, the homemade cards, the candy or potted pansy at church--what's not to love?

Probing more into the issue, I realized many women don't like Mothers' Day because the entire Sacrament Meeting is generally dedicated to praising paragons. It's like reading Proverbs 31, but with a real person instead of the oft-lauded "virtuous woman" behind the words. She scrapbooks, she sews, she sings, she dances, she never raises her voice, she reads, she bakes bread, she blogs, she organizes, she runs the PTA, she plants a garden, she takes her family camping, she repairs the car, she pilots airplanes, she trades on the stock market. Her children have clean, freshly pressed clothes for each activity they do, which generally includes private music lessons, sports, and visiting the elderly at the nursing home. This is all while she keeps a perfectly clean house and puts in a minimum of 17 compassionate service hours per week.

All the talks from all the Mothers' Days blend together to create the LDS AmalgaMom, she who does all this and more . . . with a smile on her face!

Psst. I have a little secret, though. I'm sure there are women out there who do those things. But I'm equally sure it isn't all the same woman, and it isn't all done at the same time.

For Mothers' Day this year, cut yourself some slack. Enjoy doing the things that you do, and don't worry about what anyone else does. Honor the mothers in your life by calling them and telling them you love them. Be grateful for what they were able to do and how they shaped you as a human being. And plant that pansy!

My mother wasn't perfect. [Insert gasp here.] But she was the perfect mom for me, and for that I will always be grateful.

May 7, 2011

First Drafts

By Bonnie Harris

I never realized how dependent I’ve become on the internet and computers. My husband has had my computer and I haven’t had access to the internet when I’ve had the computer. Gotta love traveling. :) (I just have to say that the LDStorymakers Conference has been wonderful.)

This past little while I’ve been struggling through a first draft. The last few books I’ve completed it has been the revisions that caused problems. Then a few people have stated how much they hate the first draft and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about, until now. It seems every direction I turn, a wall has effectively been built and I have to go back and figure out a way around it. It’s really thrown me for a loop.

So, as any good writer would do, I’ve turned to chocolate. :) When that didn’t fix the problem I began thinking about what I’ve heard other author’s have said about using an outline. My only problem with that is I’ve never done a real one. All through school I always wrote the paper first and then did the outline. That works until you can’t figure out where the paper is going. Since that’s

basically where I’m at, I’m wondering if any of you out there have any ideas on what an outline for a book would look like. Crazy question I know, but what I’m doing is obviously

not working.

Anyway, I ran across something Shannon Hale facebooked about sometime ago that I keep reminding myself of. She said something to the effect of, I have to remember I’m dumping sand into the sand box so I can make a beautiful castle next. To me, that means even if I write myself into a wall, I need to keep dumping in the words even if I haven’t figure out the whole outlining process or anything like that, because without words, there is no book.

I guess in a way I’m giving myself and anyone else who finds themselves wearing the shoes of a first draft road block, that this to shall pass. Keep the words flowing, even if they don’t make sense and you want to burn, throw, pulverize or beat your computer (or paper, notecards, post-

its, whatever you are using to write with). Just imagine what a beautiful sand castle you will have at the end. Happy First Draft Writing!

May 6, 2011

Sometimes... I get to be an agent...

I've given a lot of thought about being a literary agent as I've begun to query far and wide in the literary world.

And then. The other night. As my husband and I were walking through Barnes and Noble, I had an epiphany.

Every week, many agents look over hundreds of emails, and they hope to see something they love - to connect with something that's been written.

While I walked through the aisles of lovely, beautiful books, I realized that's exactly what I do. I'm looking through the shelves for something that I don't just like, but love.

The difference is that if I pick wrong, I'm out like 10 bucks.

If an agent picks wrong, it's a lot of hours of their professional life and credibility on the line.

Just something to think about.

Also, I'M IN UTAH AND IT'S GORGEOUS AND SUNNY AND I'M SO LOVING THIS!! And for all of my ANWA sisters in SLC for the writer's conference - I'll be seein' ya tomorrow :D

May 5, 2011

April Snow Showers Bring...

by Kari Diane Pike

Saturday morning I had the rare opportunity of spending an entire one-on-one day with my thirteen-year-old son, Levi. The original plan involved mowing the lawn and prepping the garden, but when we woke up to three inches of the frozen white stuff covering the ground, plans obviously had to change. I felt a bit annoyed that my intentions to teach my son about work and effort and goals seemed to be thwarted. My husband was out of town with the car, and pay day wasn't for another week, so whatever we did had to be without purse or scrip and couldn't require transportation other than our own two legs.

We finally decided we would take a walk to the local library. A stinging wind brightened our cheeks and encouraged us to hurry our steps, but time seemed to warp during our walk. Levi chatted about school and the musical production they were putting on. I asked if he enjoyed taking musical theater and would he like to participate in another production. He said,

"I am really glad I took musical theater. I learned a lot, and I think I am a lot better at speaking in public, but one of the things I learned is that I never want to do it again! Next year, I want to be back in the pit."

It suddenly occurred to me that Levi has never enjoyed being the center of attention in a large crowd. One year his entire soccer team greeted him with a happy birthday song during practice. Levi turned tail and ran! He is such a gifted young man, it is difficult to understand how he can be so shy. I had not given a second thought to how much courage it took for Levi to sign up for that musical theater class in the first place.

On the way home, I asked Levi where his interests were taking him now that the school year is nearly over. He used to be fascinated by airplanes and astronomy. I've seen him reading articles on the internet ranging from how to program computers to what insider trading means. Levi's eyes lit up (or is that lighted up?) as he turned to face me, walking backwards as he went.

"Mom, I think I'm a lot like you. I like to learn about stuff for awhile, and then something new comes along and I want to know about that, too! Micaela and I talk about 'remember when Mom did such and such...and then she did this other thing?' Yeah, well there is just so much to learn about in the world! I want to know it all." Then he launched into how he wants to invent new means of transportation and alternative energy sources.

The walk home was far too short. When did my baby grow up? Oh, did I mention how he carried my library books home for me? He had already read what our little library has to offer in the way of science and technology (including books from which he memorized the periodic table). He just went with me so that I didn't have to go by myself and because he wanted to spend time with me.

This morning I lingered in bed a few extra minutes listening to Levi practice his cello. He will be awesome in the pit next year. Who gets up at 5:45 am to practice the cello? Then it hit me. That book I want to write would probably get written a lot faster if I would get up before 6:00 am and actually write something. Who knew how much I would learn from a thirteen-year-old? I have never been so grateful for snow on the last day of April.

May 4, 2011

Free Books

by Melinda Carroll
A few weeks ago my husband and I went on a business/pleasure trip to Palm Springs.  My husband is a huge bargain shopper, so naturally he checked Craiglist once we got there to see if there was anything worth looking at (yes, he really did this-- did I mention he's in sales?  The adage that salesman are the easiest to get sold is sooo true.  But that's a different post).  He found a furniture store that was advertising free books.   Yay for me!!
We drove down to check it out.  Sadly, most of the books were not really the kind we read, but we did find a few gems.  We walked out with two leather bound sets of books-- neither collection was complete, but they still look great on our family room bookshelves.  We looked up one of the collections and, even incomplete, it was worth over $100.
For good measure, I grabbed a romance book to have something to read while on vacation.  I tried to pick something that looked tame-- I figured it was free, so if it was awful I could always get rid of it.
But I discovered that I really liked it.  It was a Regency-era book that was not too graphic and was really well written.  After I got home, I went to the bookstore and bought the other three books in the series.
So why am I telling you this story?  First, because you guys are the best audience for a fun story about free books.  Second, I've learned that you never know where you'll find inspiration.

May 3, 2011

Critique Group a Positive Step

By Leesa Ostrander
~ Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success. 
Dinana Rankin, writer
Reflecting on my last post and the upcoming weekend, I thought a post on an outstanding person in my life would be relevant.
Yet, this did not seem to be the direction my fingers wanted to go. Instead my words want to discuss critique groups.

As I learn more about the art of writing, critique groups are at the center of the rewrite. A productive critique group brings collective assurance to the group’s goal: more writing.
I recently became involved in a very small critique group. It is once a month, one hour in the evening and only four people. We are a mixed crowd, one male and three female and from various professions. I love this fresh perspective I feel privy to. It has also been rewarding since we do not know each other and cannot form a bias based on past experiences.

From an article at How to Choose a Critique Club  

I found helpful direction in the author’s words.
1.      See the “jewel in any piece of writing”
2.      Ask questions in unclear areas
3.      When reading a piece, ask where is the most energy?
4.      And when bored ask more questions

I am a teacher and have made it a ritual to “sandwich” my comments on students writing. This is a common technique of positive comment, constructive critique, and positive comment. It is  successful, especially when the writing is mostly well done. On the other hand, if it has very little to see positively it can be difficult.

In creative writing this is much different than when I am grading essays on conflict resolution. This sandwich technique is still a good method to discuss a piece.
Looking at a piece of writing as a work of art, unique to the creator and speaking from the soul then it is easier to see a “jewel.” It may take a lifetime to polish the rough edges, yet it is truly the process that we can reflect upon. When giving a constructive critique, remember it is someone’s thoughts and soul on the paper, not words generated by a machine.

Going back to my opening quote, it takes learning the skills, practicing the techniques and having a goal to bring success. One step along the way is a critique group.
I ask how many are in critique groups? What do you find the most effective? What have you learned from the group experience that you can share?

May 1, 2011

We're Sporting a Shiny New Award!

by Marsha Ward

It's always gratifying when someone recognizes the hard work people put into their appointed tasks. That's why it's so marvelous to announce that each of our bloggers has been awarded the "Powerful Woman Writer Award" by blogger Deirdra Eden Coppel at A Storybook World:

Thank you, Deirdra! We're honored.