Sep 30, 2011

Contests and Critique Groups

by Tanya Parker Mills

As great as your critique group may be, sometimes you need to get an outside opinion, or even several, to be sure if your group's take on your work isn't skewed by what they know of you.

Recently, I'd begun writing a Middle Grade/YA fantasy (I know, I know...which is it? Middle Grade or YA? The jury's still out on that) and while I thought I had a strong beginning, my group kept finding things wrong with it. I was beginning to grow rather discouraged after two tries with my opening chapter and still coming up empty.

So, what did I do? I entered my beginning (actually the first 250 words) in a blogfest contest for YA and Middle Grade fiction, hosted by a total stranger--Brenda Drake. A few of you also took part, but for the rest of you, this was how it worked. The blog host had lined up two published teenagers to act as judges for who could actually hook a teenager best with their beginning. We were encouraged to post our beginning on our own blog and then try to read and comment on everyone else's postings for a few days. (That was the best part for me because I got feedback from absolute strangers, for the most part, as to what worked and what didn't.) Then on the final day, we were asked to return to her blog and post our beginning (revised or not) in her Comments section to be judged.

Well, I didn't win but I did get mentioned as having hooked one of the judges. The important result was that these strangers backed up what my critique group members had been saying. They loved my voice but wanted to know who my MC was right up front.

Taken together, all this feedback caused me to finally write my first chapter the way it was meant to be. And if you have Chapter 1 right, it's so much easier to proceed from there.

Lesson: Never be afraid to show your beginning...even to total strangers.

Sep 29, 2011

Sorting Books

By Susan G. Haws

I recently said good bye to some old friends and advisors.  I have so many books I want to read that some of the ones I have read had to leave.

In my Ideal world I would have a library like the one in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. But alas in this world I have run out of bookshelves. (I have not stopped buying books.)

But maybe with e books we can have a tidy house and a library the size of  a castle at the same time. Just keeping some dear friends in paper form.

I love the texture of the paper and the crick of opening a new book for the first time; the new smell of a new book and the musty smell of an old one. On the other hand paper books are heavy and bulky. After about 5 boxes you think kindles should be mandatory and out of print books should scan themselves in.

Another thought I had upon taking my boxes of books to the resale book store was that some of the books would be recycled (I couldn't bear to do it myself), and some would find new homes and enrich new lives just like the previously owned books I buy. As writers we want our books to have resale value rather than end up in the recycle bin.

What are some titles you just can't part with?

Sep 28, 2011

...and boy are my arms tired!

by Kami Cornwall

Well actually my legs are tired...because I walked all day...and don't fly.

This is it! My pen-pal from Germany has finally arrived with her husband. They flew into Sea-Tac last night, we stayed in a hotel, and spent all day sight-seeing in Seattle. This has been amazing, fun, wonderful, and splendiforous! Okay...I know that's not a word.

Today we zoomed to the top of the Space Needle, walked all around the E.M.P., chillaxed at Ivar's, swam with the fishes at the Aquarium (well we walked beside them on the other side of the glass), and bought some amazing peaches at Pike Place. Tomorrow we see the Science Center, the Museum of Flight, and sail away on a Harbor Tour, and at some point will eat at the Spaghetti Factory. All the while we will be practicing our German and continue to be floored at how well our friends speak English.

Did they bring any chocolate, you might ask? Why, yes! Yes indeed they did! Have I been secretly snitching it every chance I get? Um...let me lick my fingers before answering that.

If you ever have the opportunity to meet your pen-pal of 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years (I heard this on NPR today. 50 years!) I highly recommend it. What an adventure!

Sep 27, 2011

It's Like a Job

by Terri Wagner

I never thought of writing as a job. It was my passion, my hope-for-future revenue, my gift to children, my more expressive side, a break from my practical, analytical side, but never a job.

Jobs were 9-5 somewhere in a 24/7 scale and required a boss, a few co-workers and equipment. Jobs were sometimes fun, sometimes boring, sometimes netted great friends and sometimes terrible enemies.

Writing was my haven from the world where I could fly through the stars, meet alternate life forms, communicate with anyone, re-enter a lost world, live in the middle ages without the hygienic inconveniences, and sometimes tell off a few people that probably needed it but I was too chicken to do it in person (fill in boss here, ha).

However, I have recently discovered in trying to actually write something publishable, writing is a job. It needs set hours (that can be variable from day to day like a retail position), bosses (insert deadlines), co-workers to bounce things off (like ANWA [I'm really glad we kept the name]), and can be a hard taskmaster when you are staring at a blank screen or a scene that just will not work right or worse yet your equipment is less than adequate.

I miss my haven, but I'm producing more. We all work at our writing, that's nothing new. Claiming it as my number one job at the moment as in rewriting resumes and cover letters to fit the position I'm applying for is eyeopening in a good way. So here's to work! God never said it would be easy eking out an existence in this world, He only promised it would be worth it.

Isn't a finished, polished, written, created piece of art worth it? You betcha!

Sep 26, 2011


by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I'm going to have to make my post a brief one this week, because I have two little girls home with the flu and two little boys almost out of school soon.

So is anyone else planning on planting forget-me-nots in their garden next spring, if they don't have them already? They've been blooming on the walls and profile pictures of my LDS friends on Facebook. No surprises there!

All I can say is, wow. Thank you, President Uchtdorf. What an amazing talk, and what an amazing, spiritual man. He said all the things I needed to hear and helped me feel so much better about the trials my family is going through right now. I know I'm not the only one who felt like his message was a personal one.

I'm posting a link to the General Relief Society Meeting highlights here.

Sep 25, 2011

Sticky Situation

By Wendy A. Jones

My writing is going through a rough patch lately. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, I only know that I'm having a hard time getting anything to stick. The words, they slip through my brain and out of my mind without stopping to greet the paper.

When I was a kid, we would go up to the mountains to a place called West Piney for family reunions. You're probably thinking, "Piney? That sounds like a made-up word." Well, it just might be. Still, that's what we called it. But when we thought about it, we didn't think of it as "West Piney." We thought of if as "that place with the gigantic slide."

Now, there's gigantic and there's gigantic. I don't know if you can fully appreciate this slide without seeing it in person, and seeing it in person when you are under four feet tall is even better. The lodge was built on the side of a mountain, overlooking a small valley and creek below, and then the mountain grew back up out of the opposite creek bed. To get down the mountain you could take the 40-some-odd steps . . . or you could take the slide.

And look! Through the magic of the Internet, I found an actual picture.

So, when we'd be there for our family reunions, my brothers and cousins and I would do the regular camping-type activities like hiking, wading in the creek, and performing corny skits around the fireplace, but we'd also raid the kitchen for wax paper or used chip bags. You can't tell from the picture, but the slide is made out of metal. In the July sun, that baby would heat up enough to blister. We'd take the wax paper or chip bag (opened up with the greasy side down, of course) and sit on them at the top of the slide. The slide has high sides, so it was almost like going down a chute. There we'd perch, the drop off looking impossibly steep, with the end yawning into a pile of cedar shavings.

Once we shoved off, the only way to slow down was by pushing our feet into the sides. But, heck--who wanted to slow down?

We'd zip down the mountainside, the wind whipping our hair behind us, feeling as though we were flying. And then we were flying--right off the end, for only a fraction of a second, but it was you, in the air, free as a bird with a chip bag stuck to its bum.

Then we landed, of course, which wasn't always the best part of the ride. Just ask my Aunt Barbara, who happened to sort of break her ankle at the bottom.

Sometimes when I'm writing I have these thoughts, these bursts of brilliance. It's more than my normal writing self: it's adding a greasy chip bag under my tush at the top and flying, flying, flying, sometimes with the slide underneath and supporting me and sometimes completely on my own.

And then I land.

I lose the flight.

I haven't caught it. It's over. It's done.

It didn't stick.

Apparently more people than Aunt Barbara were injured on the slide, because they extended the bottom in later years. Instead of flying off the end, we rode flat for longer periods to ease some of that momentum. The only problem was when you didn't even make it to the end in your initial ride. Then you had to scoot along on your bottom to be able to jump off the end.


In my writing I'm working on finding that perfect balance where I can go fast and fun and free but slow down enough to not injure myself. Not too slow, because no one wants to have to push themselves to the edge. The perfect end is where you come to a stop just before stepping off all together. Although it could be argued an even more perfect end is where you don't stop at all and the momentum carries you through to the last sentence, where you hop off lightly, turn to look back at what you just conquered, and sigh in satisfaction.

It's the delicate place between sticking and not sticking too much. How do you find your sweet spot while writing?

Sep 24, 2011

Why I Didn't Sing Lullabies to My Children

By Bonnie Harris

My mom recently shared this article with me and my sisters. It came about because I was feeling like I wasn't doing enough in any aspect of my life, more especially for my little one. It sure made me feel better about what I have been doing and helped me realize that I'm doing OK. I figured it might help others also. I hope you enjoy it! :)

Why I Didn’t Sing Lullabies to My Children

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At a baby shower recently the guests, who were “experienced” mothers, were invited to offer advice about rearing children to the mother-to-be. Each of the twenty-four of us present shared helpful tips, but it was Ginny’s suggestion, particularly, that triggered a lively discussion among the group.

She offered, “Don’t try to be all things to your children. Just do what you do best and don’t worry if your neighbor spends days designing and sewing Halloween costumes for her children and you just grab something out of the dress-up box for your kids.”

Her comment caught my interest and caused me to reflect on my singing— I can change keys four times during “Happy Birthday”, so I’ve done my children a favor over the years by not singing to them. But I have read lots of stories to them.

Sue must have also felt some vindication because she jumped in and laughed as she said, “I’ve never made a thing from scratch. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a recipe in my house. But between Rob and me, we’ve taught our children how to paint and lay tile and how to fix about anything that breaks.”

“Speaking of husbands,” JoAnn added, “Larry isn’t one to play ‘rough and tumble’ with the children, but almost every evening he spends at least twenty minutes reading to each of our four children individually.”

Brittany, relieved by these disclosures, admitted, “I’m not the athletic type so I don’t take my children swimming and hiking, but I love to have my children cook with me. We have lots of fun in the kitchen.”

Allison was the next one to comment, “My friend, Lindsay, who is the practical rather than the artistic type, has put lots of time and effort into compiling a binder filled with emergency information and recipes using food storage items. She recently presented copies to her married daughters with the comment, ‘These are in lieu of the scrapbooks I didn’t make for you.’”

Linda, a single, working mom, added, “I can’t afford to take my children on vacations and trips but we do enjoy local events together such as parades, firework displays, festivals, and rodeos. Once we sat on the sidewalk and watched as the Olympic torch passed by. My boys still talk about that.”

The ideas poured in. It was evident that the notion of building upon our strengths was winning the day. Mothers need not worry about, and waste their energy on, what they cannot do with their children. Rather, it is better for mothers to spend time doing what they can to nurture them and connect with them.

So now you know why I never sang lullabies to my children.

Sep 23, 2011

The Writings In the Purse

By Laura Lofgreen

I was at church last Sunday enjoying a wonderful lesson on the gifts of the spirit.
Faith, personal revelation, testimony, writing and so many more are spiritual gifts given to us through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The instructor passed out a paper to each of us and asked us to write down what we felt were our own personal spiritual gifts.  I thought for a minute and between holding my baby girl and giving her a bottle, wrote down three distinct things I felt were my special gifts.  After class, I folded up my paper and put it in my purse.
This is my purse.
A knock-off Coach bag I found at a yard sale for $5.00.
At least I think it’s a fake, but I’m not really sure.
It does look real, doesn’t it?
This is my Sunday purse. 
I have another purse for other days of the week, but when I go to church I don’t want to carry my wallet or receipts or coupons.
I use this Sunday purse for one bottle, one diaper, a bag of animal crackers and binky.
It’s a small purse, but I can fit everything I need into it.
So, last night when I was working on the computer, my husband came into the office and looked at me all funny, like he’d discovered a secret about me.
“What,” I said, trying to figure out his suspicious mood.
“Oh, nothing, just that you’re a great cookie maker, peace maker and baby maker.”
And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about, but I vaguely remembered writing it somewhere.
“Where did you read that?” I asked him.  “Did I write that on my blog?”
“I don’t think so,” he said as he walked off to bed, smiling under his breath.
I worked on the computer for a bit longer, still wondering where he'd come up with that, when I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth
That’s when I saw it. 

My list of spiritual gifts. 
My husband had taped the paper on the bathroom mirror.
And I laughed and laughed.
That’s what I wrote in Sunday school!  
Sleep deprived and spiritually high while my baby crawled all over me, I had written my spiritual gifts were I’m a good cookie maker, peace maker and baby maker.
And it made me realize.
We never know who’s going to read our writing (or who’s going to rummage through our purse), so make it count.

Sep 22, 2011

Capturing Thoughts

by Kari Diane Pike

Random thoughts crowded in my head like a bunch of junior high kids shoving each other in the lunch line. They all clamored for my attention. I held up my hands and tried to gently hush them. I promised each and every one of them a turn. All they had to do was patiently wait in line. But every time I started to focus on just one thought, it got shoved from behind and the next thought jumped in the way, waving in my face and shouting, "Me! Me! Pick me!"

I stomped my feet. I shouted for quiet. I paced back and forth and tore at my hair, screaming for some kind of order. They just laughed.

Since I have no desire to be completely bald, I am taking a new approach. I am sitting quietly at my computer and acting like I don't care. I will write, but I won't let them see what I am writing. They will be curious. Am I writing about them? But I'm not telling. If they really want to know what's going on, they will have to jump onto the page on their own. Then I will punctuate them and they will be caught!


Sep 21, 2011

The E-book, Self Publishing Dilemma

By Melinda Carroll

A writing friend of mine wrote on her blog recently about the rising issues and challenges with ebooks.  I brought it up during our monthly ANWA meeting (yay ANWA) and discovered there's a lot to this topic.  Here is some of what we discussed:

Ebooks are changing the face of the publishing industry, in some ways quicker than the industry can keep up. In the past, if an author didn't get a book deal there were very few options, but not anymore. An increasing number of authors are starting to self-publish, many of them using the ebook format and selling their novels for as little as $2.99 (which seems to be the magic number for ebook sales). Some of them have done very well, even getting great book deals from large publishers after their ebooks were a success (the Tiger'S Curse series by Colleen Houck, for example). On the other side, well-known authors are dropping their publishers and going straight to selling ebooks on their websites and garnishing 100% of the profits. So which option is best?

The ebook, self-publishing option has lots of positives. First,you get all the profit with very little overhead. This is appealing for authors who usually get about 10% on their books, and some of that goes to the agent. Second, there is something very tempting about foregoing the grueling and time-consuming process of finding an editor and agent. But this option comes with risks too.  When you don't have a publisher, then you lose support in marketing your book. All the work is up to you and you really have to do your research to know what are the best ways to spread the word and get your name out there. Second, when you forego the publisher the quality of your book is often compromised. You lose that team of editing support that can make a book shine.

Going the traditional route has it's benefits and issues too. As far as benefits, they have resources that in general go far beyond a self-publishing author. Marketing and editing resources are two huge ones. A publisher wants you to succeed, and (in theory) can help guide you in getting your book out there to the masses as a polished product. They can facilitate your meeting other successful authors. And there is just something appealing about seeing your book in hard copy, not just ebook format. But there are some challenges here too. For one, the author makes considerably less per book, which is understandable because there's a team of people working on your book who all have to be paid. Also, there are still a lot of issues with ebooks that have yet to be worked out. For example, publishers make a considerably higher percentage of the profit on an ebook than the author, whereas with hard copy books the percentage is about equal. Also, the profit reporting for ebook sales can get a little sticky. The ebook phenomenon happened so fast that some publishers may not have accurate systems in place to report profits, and some authors are concerned that they are actually selling more ebooks than are getting reported.

When it comes to ebooks, self-publishing and traditional publishing both have their benefits and problems. The most important thing in deciding between the two is to make sure you do your research and discover which option is best for you.

Sep 20, 2011

What did you learn?

by Leesa Ostrander

Yesterday, I taught a CPR class to one student. I do not normally teach private classes, yet this lady needed the class for a working job interview the next day. She said she is unemployed and is nervous about a working interview. She had never been to a working interview and did not know what it entailed.

I related the CPR class as to a working interview. It was the first time she had met me and is interviewing me as to if she would hire me again. We talk about the interview as a true assessment of her skills and personality.

She paid for the class, took her certification cards and said she could not think of a better way to start the week.

I hope she is gainfully employed the next time she needs my services.

This leads to my thoughts on how I treat my plight for employment that pays.

I have many areas that I do mediocre at. All of which, I do because I love. I wonder when work will become work?

First, I teach classes in Communication and Basic Life Saving. I do these not for the little they pay, I teach because I love it.

Second, I am an EMT. I do not get paid money as a volunteer, I am paid with experience. I do it because I love it.

Third, I am a member of my family with little kids. I pay to hold this position. And I do it because I love it.

I then write to relieve the stress of the above positions, and maybe it will pay one day. I do it because I love it.

Looking back at my early morning student, she was grateful to begin her week with hope. There are times when it is important to pay a little, take the time to learn a skill and then be thankful. Be thankful for the opportunity that we are here to learn, to gain knowledge and have a talent to share.

I am thankful for being able to share. I am thankful for the time I have to read and learn more. I am thankful that I get paid to tell my opinion J in the courses I facilitate. I am thankful for what I learned in my private class.

Sep 19, 2011

The Afters

By Tracy Astle

Some events leave a person going, "Now what?"

With the recent tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I've been remembering how when the dust of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center buildings, those marvels of architecture, settled, holding within them untold tales of  tragedy and heroism, it seemed as if the whole nation asked together, "Now what?" Our collective perception had been suddenly and irrevocably changed.

I'm sure many historic events, not all tragic, have had the same effect: the Civil Rights Movement, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the end of each World War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, just to name a few. These were all very Big Events which required some time afterward to adjust to a new way of thinking, a new kind of reality. In looking at how people responded after life changed in such dramatic ways, we're reminded of how much of life depends on how we handle transitions.

We all have to deal with what I call The Afters. After the goal is met or the unexpected event happens, then what? Knowing how to transition is vital to our progress.
          We're home from our mission. Now what?
          We've finished college. Now what?
          We've gotten married...
          Had our first child...
          Gotten a new job...
          Finished our first novel...
          Landed an agent...
          Sold out first book...
          Experienced health problems...
          A job is lost...
          A long, lost uncle dies and leaves us a fortune (What? It happened to Jane Eyre.)...
The list is endless.

Good things, bad things, things we can plan for, things we can't. One thing is sure; things will change.

The more skilled we are at transitioning, the more easily we'll keep progressing and the happier we'll be in the long run.

Any tips you can share that help you with transitions?

Sep 18, 2011

The Curmudgeon Groans

by Marsha Ward

Recently someone who owns a small publishing house posted a comment somewhere that contained the letters alot, which the person came back and corrected as allot. The person lamented the previous comment, acknowledging the misspelling.

Well, this brought The Curmudgeon out of hiding. You see, that person really meant a lot, (notice that there are two words) meaning a quantity of things. There is no word in English spelled alot.

The correction was no good, because allot means to distribute in arbitrary shares, apportion; or to assign as one's shares. We see it frequently in the word allotment. If I inherit a house, the deceased person did allot it to me. If I give a bowl of cereal to one child for breakfast, and a chocolate bar to another, I allot those food items to them.

You can figure out what roused The Curmudgeon from his closet. The fact that the person who made this egregious mistake buys and edits manuscripts for a living is just wrong!

Sep 17, 2011

FEAR of Letting My Baby Go.

by Cindy R. Williams
I realized I have been tweaking my middle grade fantasy for about six months now. I could continue to tweak it for another . . . millennium or so. Why don't I let my baby go?

I curled up on a bunch of yummy pillows and considered what is really going on. I am afraid of failing. I love my story, I love my characters, but what if others don't. I am holding my novel close, trying to protect it, and in doing so, I am smothering it.

I realized this is just like the situation of my son going on a mission to Brazil. I love him. What if others are not kind to him? What if he is harmed? I wanted to keep him close and protect him. I reflected back on the morning he flew from Phoenix, to Salt Lake City to enter the MTC. I awoke from a fitful all nighter worrying about my son - wondering if I had the strength to let him go. Sobbing, I rolled off the bed onto my knees and poured my heart out to Heavenly Father. I asked for protection for my son and to find comfort to face his departure today. Within minutes, I found the answer. I turned my son back over to Heavenly Father for the upcoming two years. I asked him to watch over him, be with him, protect him, comfort and guide him. As soon as I released him, peace filled me from head to toe like a warm, snugly blanket. I rose to my feet with a calm heart. I stood in the airport and watched him walk away with a spring in his step, excited for his new adventure. Sure, tears still rolled down my cheeks, but I knew he would be well taken care of.

My son, Elder Jordan Williams, squatting down on the front right.  Very, very, and I mean VERY far away, somewhere in Brazil.

What does this have to do with my novel? Just as our lovely children will always be our babies, we must let them go to grow, to let them go forth and bless others. So must I do with my book. My book deserves to see the written page, and I must rise to the occasion and let it soar.

My query is done. My ten pages are attached. I will push the "send" button this afternoon then take a big breath and do a silly jig. I will turn it over to the Lord and what will be will be.

Oh, and by the way, on the day this blog posts, my missionary will be home in 19 days. The Lord took my son and will bring me home a fine young man. Life is good, VERY good!

If you are still reading . . . don't forget the greatest writers conference in the world. ANWA's 20th Annual Writers Conference Time Out for Writers on February 23-25, 2012. Registration opens October 1 on  Incredible classes, agents, editors, pitch sessions, critique camp, BOB/Beginning of Book Contest, Book readings, Meet & Greet the agents and editors will have bookstore reps there to schedule books signings. A great chance to improve your writing no matter what your goals are. The entire conference will be at the luxurious Mesa Hilton Hotel. ANWA booked a block of rooms at a great discount for you. If you want more info on the ANWA conference, and boy do I have tons, leave a comment here with your email addy, and I will get back to you. (They tell me I am the ANWA Events Co-Chair which means I get the priveledge to eat and sleep "all things ANWA Conference" for the next 159  days until the conference, not that I'm counting.)

Hope to see all of you there!

Sep 16, 2011

Longhand and Drawing on a Computer?

by Tanya Parker Mills

My apologies to those of you who subscribe to QueryTracker and have already read Carolyn Kaufman's blog posting on the relationship between creativity and writing in longhand. If you haven't yet read it, I highly recommend it.

I'm not going to argue her point because I agree with her to a large extent. I believe that the more cursive writing (or any physical writing, for that matter) is devalued in our school systems, the more problems we are going to see among our youth when it comes to writing and creativity.

But it did get me thinking about the ways in which people used to write. I remember being struck by all the journaling T.E. Lawrence did as a young man traveling around Europe during his summer vacations from school and university. Not only did he write, but he made a point of sketching most places he visited. I know that Tolkien did a lot of sketching as he mapped out his LOTR fantasy series. Having embarked upon a fantasy series myself, I've felt the need to sketch out pictures of some of the scenes I plan on writing about.

But can you do that on a computer and, if so, how?

Kaufman's blog post gave me the key: Since I got an iPad, I'd been looking for just such an app and she recommended one--Penultimate. I love it! You can write or draw with it and keep it all organized without using scads of paper. I think there's a way to convert each project to a PDF file and, if so, then I could also save it in my Series Bible (see my last post two weeks ago if you're not sure what I'm talking about) along with all my other research and ideas for my series.

Perhaps some of you have experience in this area. If so, please share. Or perhaps some of you have to begin your writing or even your entire first draft in longhand. I'd love to hear your reasons why. I'd also love to hear if any of you tend to draw (characters or scenes) as you write.

Sep 15, 2011

Fresh Eyes

by Susan G. Haws
At different points in the writing process writers need fresh eyes looking over their work. I need someone to look over early drafts to help me identify weak and strong parts of my story, and keep me on track (tangents and I are best buds). Later I need people to find all the typos I made and can't see anymore since I know what I intended to say and my mind compensates for the mistake.

I was reminded of this by a library book recently. One section of the novel a family was referred to by one surname and in the rest of the novel by another. The author changed the name of the family when writing that section and forgot to find and replace the original name or had computer problems and the wrong version was saved.

As writers we labor over a manuscript through multiple drafts for weeks, months, even years and the reader reads it in a day or two or maybe a week or two. I love my spell check. I admit it has become  a crutch. But there are some errors that we writers make that machines can't identify.

Besides changed names, as in my library book, there are times when I have found in my work and books I have purchased when character Fred is said to have done something like walked to the door. But the reader knows Fred is out of town and James is in the room.  The writer knows James is in the room but Fred is a character too so in skimming for mistakes this substitution can be missed.

Over the years as a reader I have also found changes in relationships. The Uncle at the first of the book is a brother at the end of the novel. In my writing I might think I want a nephew  to my main character then change my mind and make it a son. It is only when the sections of the book are combined that the inconsistency is revealed.

Another common mistake I  particularly have to watch for in my writing is a misused but correctly spelled word. I spotted one on the first page of a novel I am looking forward to reading. I suspect that there was a typo in the word and when the author or editor was offered choices to correct the mistake a person clicked on the wrong choice and thus a now correctly spelled but totally inappropriate word was printed.

As writers we rewrite but sometimes remains of earlier wording is left tagged on to the improved sentence or paragraph. Incomplete deletion. Old phrases or words overlooked in proof reading get their revenge for us trying to get rid of them  by making us look bad in the finished product.

I hope I have not made these mistakes in this blog, especially since there were no fresh eyes to preview it. I do make them. I have to say it is comforting to me to see goofs in published works, as it lets me know even experienced authors make mistakes. But this is why I think it is so good to have trusted readers and especially ANWA or other critique/support groups providing fresh eyes to find errors in our manuscripts.

Just curious, what are some of the errors you have found or made yourself?

Sep 14, 2011

A Mother's Prayer

by Kami Cornwall

I just finished reading Tina Fey's "Bossypants" and laughed at her very real-life outlook on life. She is a very funny lady. It has helped me relax when it comes to writing my own memoirs and not be so self conscious about the humor I add. Here is what she wrote as a prayer for her daughter:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the crystal meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it.

May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need not lie with drummers.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, for childhood is short – a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – and adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that sh--. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


Sep 12, 2011


by Kristin Baker Przybyla

On September 14, 2001, we got a knock on the door at about 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. My husband answered it, and I was walking down the hall to see who it was when three SWAT team guys in dark uniforms, carrying automatic rifles, rushed past me into my house. Just three days after the tragic events of 9/11, when we were still reeling and wondering what was going to happen to our country, you can imagine the thoughts that went through my mind: We've given up our freedoms to have our homes searched, we were saying goodbye to our privacy and to everything Americans hold sacred.

It was just bad timing, actually. The people in the house behind our backyard were apparently involved in some kind of illegal activity, and they were staking out not only our yard, but our next-door neighbors'. I had to grab the kids from the back bedrooms in case guns were fired, but luckily, after a three-hour standoff, it ended peacefully. We never knew exactly what had happened--but they broke our backyard furniture when they used it to climb over the fence!

This event reassured as well as terrified me. I was so relieved when I found out it wasn't the end of the world after all; things were still going on as they normally would (although this kind of thing isn't normal in our neighborhood!), even if things would never be exactly the same.

And they aren't, not really. Americans are freedom-loving people, and we've had to give up a few freedoms and privacies in the ten years since 9/11.

I just finished reading The Hunger Games. There's an appalling lack of freedom and basic human rights that the future citizens of North America have to endure in these novels. The life of an individual means nothing to those in power, and you soon find out that even the privileged ones born in the supposedly safe Capitol hardly have any more rights than those who live in hunger and poverty in the districts that serve the Capitol. In these books, you get a horrifying sense of what life would be like if everyone from the president to the local police had the right to kidnap children and exploit them for entertainment, or publicly torture or execute a citizen just for speaking out or trying to feed their families.

There are countries where atrocities like this do go on. I'm so grateful to have been born in a nation whose citizens value their freedoms enough to fight for them. I'm thankful that we continue to stand strong and resist those trying to take our freedoms away from us. I pray that the oppressed people in other countries will someday gain the liberties that so many of us are able to take for granted.

Sep 11, 2011

God Bless America

By Wendy A. Jones

I lived in Boise ten years ago. I was a new mother, a young wife, and had recently taken on a home mortgage. I was 24 years old.

I never watched television in the mornings because it seemed like once it was on, it stayed on all day despite my efforts. But on September 11, 2001, I decided to watch the morning news. I can't even remember why or what prompted it, I just remember my mom calling me to see if I'd heard. "I'm already watching it," I told her.

As events unfolded, it was hard to comprehend that this was actually happening. As Bonnie said in her last post, it seemed like a movie. I don't think the horror or the awful significance of what occurred began to sink in until later that day.

I remember loving President George W. Bush. I know there are lots of things that go on in politics that I don't understand and lots of people who think he didn't do well at leading our country, but hearing him speak after the tragedy made me think, "I am so glad he is president right now." His faith inspired me. And I do love the way he ended his speeches with, "And God bless America."

Speaking of "God Bless America," the resurgence of that song's popularity and the flying of the flag was a testament to Americans and how much we love our country. There was a unity ten years ago amongst us as Americans that has waned in recent years.

A family member of two victims on the Boston flight said, "Every person has defining moments in their lives. It isn't the defining moments that shape who we are, it's how we react to those defining moments."

Today I remember those who died, and honor their memory. I long to react to my own life's defining moments as well as those who survive the victims of this tragedy have.

And God bless America.

Sep 10, 2011

Remember When . . .

By Bonnie Harris

To quote a song by Alan Jackson, "Where were you when the world stopped turning. . ." Where were you 10 years ago on September 11th? That question brings back a flood of memories, pictures, and feelings. Many stories are resurrected and shared again around this time of year. I've heard all over the radio that we have not forgotten the events of 9-11 and I believe that's true to some extent.
My sister has been working with the Boys Scouts of America and one of the things they talked about this week was what was happened during their birth month and the boys in September struggled with it. They had a hard time remembering what happened beyond saying that 9-11
thing. To me, the best way to remember is to share. So . . .

Ten years ago on September 11th, I had just gotten back from Europe. A bug came back with me and I ended up extremely sick with some type of respiratory thing. On that morning, my mom woke me up to make sure I was still breathing. She helped me to the chair I spent way too long in and the handle to the TV. I was pretty out of it and don't remember my parents and siblings leaving. I vaguely remember pictures and news reports of planes hitting the Twin Towers, but it didn't sink in. I thought it was a movie, a movie that felt very surreal.

Honestly I can't say when it hit me that I wasn't watching a movie. I look back and can still see the Towers collapsing, how unreal it seemed. I remember the sky being very quiet, eerie quiet.Most of my clear memories came from conversations with my parents after the fact. I found out that one of the planes hit the wing of the Pentagon that my uncle worked in. I had a cousin evacuated from the Pentagon at the same time. A friend had been vacationing in New York and we didn't hear from her for a few days. It just seemed . . . the only word I keep coming back to is unreal.

Then in looking up pictures for this post my stomach tightened and I felt a void. But I am thankful for the sacrifice of those many, many people. I feel for the loss of life, I am grateful for a nation that pulled together, and I will remember forever. (Here is the link for the National 9/11 Memorial.) Where were you on that September Day?

Sep 9, 2011

Authors change lives. Nancy Turner changed mine.

I had the chance to meet Nancy Turner, New York Times best-selling author of These Is My Words, at the March 2010 ANWA Conference.  

She gave an excellent lecture and spoke on common mistakes writers make and how to keep our writing sacred.  At the end of the day, I purchased several books from ANWA and visiting authors, including Nancy’s book These Is My Words and had the chance to introduce myself to her. 
Fast forward to now.  When my sister recommended I read These Is My Words, I pulled it off my bookshelf, committed I’d find the time to read it.  About 2 pages into it, I couldn’t put it down.
Since picking up These Is My Words, my life has been on hold, just ask my starving and neglected children (just kidding about the starving part). 
I’ve spent the last week reading These Is My Words every chance I can get.  With 5 kids, I’ve had to be creative.  Reading at the gym while working out on the treadmill isn’t something I recommend, but this book warranted the risk.  I’ve brought it on outings, stayed up way too late, I’ve stolen a few minutes or a few hours every chance I can get because I can’t get enough.
I love Sarah.
I love Jack.
I loved the adventure, the romance, and the life-changing heartache of Sarah’s life from 1881-1901 on the Arizona trail. 
I cried when Sarah gave birth to her first child, I shivered when a centipede dropped from the ceiling of the mud army fort and fell into her bed, I prayed for the death of a rattle snake when it sought to harm Sarah’s young daughter, April.
I was over come with emotion when Jack saved Sarah on more then one occasion.  Last Sunday, I pulled my husband aside and read him my favorite passages from These Is My Words.  I might add, the romance between Sarah and Jack inspired a few kisses between my love and I.  Added bonus!
The challenges Sarah survives are more then one should have to handle.  These Is My Words forced me to evaluate my relationships with my siblings and parents, especially my mother.  The love Sarah has for her mother grows as she carries the joy and struggles of bearing and raising children.  Relating to my mom as a mother myself has been most bonding, especially when I realize she loves me the way I love my own daughter.
Sarah says it how it is.  She loves her children, but since the format of These Is My Words is like a journal, the reader gets Sarah’s raw and honest emotions to the mess, commotion and hard work of raising a family.  I love how honesty, even when rough and tumble, teaches such truth. 
Like when Jack returns from his army duties and request Sarah draw him a bath.  Sarah is 8 months pregnant and exhausted herself.
“If you’re too tired to draw your own bath, then you’re too tired to take one,” she says and leaves him to care for the other children while she goes into the bedroom to rest. 
Jack loves Sarah with a passion fit for the Wild West.  What a treat it was to peek into not just Sarah’s heart, but Jack’s as well.  After their marriage, Sarah finds a love note Jack wrote her, tucked inside his leather satchel.  As an army captain, Jack is involved with many Indian encounters and Sarah is taken back when she realized this love note has a bullet hole through it.     
If I could meet Nancy Turner today, it’d be a whole different experience.   I’d gush, go on and on about how the book changed me, how her writing is amazing and spiritual and raw.  I’d ask her questions about writing, family history and inspiration.  I’ve already ordered Sarah’s Quilt.  I can’t wait to get my hands on that book.  
Authors change lives.   
Nancy Turner changed mine. 
Remember, someday your writing will help someone, inspire someone and even change them because when you share a part of yourself through writing, it can be life changing not just for you, but for those who read your work.  

Sep 8, 2011

Let Go and Be!

by Kari Diane Pike
"Joy is a process of subtraction, not addition, of uncovering what has always been present, not acquiring what has been missing. What within you needs to be subtracted?" -John Groberg
This quote caught my full attention yesterday and simmered in the back of my mind all night. The first thought that popped into my mind was, oh, about 20 pounds! As I considered other "stuff" to subtract, it surprised me how quickly I felt the need to fill the spaces with more "stuff." It hit me that the world teaches us to keep taking on more, to move faster, to go higher and dig deeper.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught that we are literally the children of God -- divine beings of infinite worth. Nothing can add to our worth. Nothing can take it away. Our worthiness (a subject for an entirely different blog post) depends on our choices, but our worth is inherent.

We are sent to earth to acquire our physical bodies and to learn through our journey who we are, why we are here and where we are going. If you're like me, you find lots of "stuff" to pick up along the way...a brick of fear here, someone else's baggage there...and it all goes in our own backpack. Pretty soon, our backpacks bulge and weigh us down. When we get tired, we try to let go of a few things, then we look around and see that other people have much bigger backpacks and not only that, but they are way ahead of us down the trail. So we stuff our packs full again and try to pick up our speed. The world tells us that if we can just accumulate more, and do it faster and better than the next person, then we will be valuable. No wonder so many of us struggle with pain, depression and fatigue. Let's go back to that quote:

"Joy is a process of subtraction, not addition, of uncovering what has always been present, not acquiring what has been missing. What within you needs to be subtracted?" -JG

Think about it for a minute. What does a refiner's fire do? It removes the impurities, or the extra "stuff" in the precious metals that keep that silver or gold from reaching its greatest potential. The value is already there, just waiting to be discovered.

President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted Joseph Smith in the May, 2005, New Era: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; … knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.” more. What do we do to our trees and bushes to help them bloom brighter and produce the best fruit? We remove the excess limbs and branches. Wow. Are you dumping out your backpack as you read this? The more I ponder this subject, the lighter I feel. Not only that, but I can feel more light, more joy, more hope, and more love as I use those discarded bricks to pave the path in front of me. I feel gratitude for the lessons I learn from those bricks and the people who "threw" them at me.

How does this apply to our writing? Well, perhaps we need to let go of some of those favorite words or phrases that tend to clutter our manuscripts and weigh them down. Maybe we need to let go of a few fears that block our abilities. I know I tend to let my writing time get shoved aside because I fear what others will think if the lawn is shaggy or the car is dirty, or the laundry is piled on the couch.

In writing copy this past week, I learned a valuable lesson. It's not my job to make the client like me. It is my job to write good copy. When I let go of worrying what the client thought about me, and I apologized to my muse for insulting her character, the words flowed easily. Not only that, but writing became fun again.

So, to quote LeAnne Tolley, "When you're ready, just let go!" You'll be glad you did...and your muse will appreciate the extra space!


Sep 7, 2011

Our Family Motto

By Melinda Carroll

This last Monday night our family picked a motto: WE CAN DO HARD THINGS HAPPILY! Yes, it hurt to have an adverb in my family motto, but it was my husband's idea.

I had this vision that we'd gather together, find the motto that fit us perfectly, and then joyfully vinyl the quote in large letters on our dining room wall (which might have worked if we had a dining room). Instead, picking this motto took two separate meetings over two weeks, the first of which ended in disaster with three family members storming off-- including Mom (hence, the "happily" part of the motto).

Our next goal: pick a family scripture. This ought to be good. I'll be sure to let you all know what it is when we finally pick it-- maybe around next spring.

By the way, I take suggestions.

Sep 5, 2011

Wanted: The Wisdom (no, not of the Ages) of You!

by Tracy Astle


I'm looking to expand my horizons and would like your help. In an effort to enlarge my reading experience I have a few questions for you ladies whose opinions I respect.

1) Who are some of your favorite authors?
2) What genre do they write?
3) What is it about their writing that makes your heart sing?

(Oh, and one more question that's probably totally lame - How do you pronounce Ayn Rand's first name? I've only ever seen it written and it's driving me a little bit crazy!)

Sep 4, 2011


by Marsha Ward

Yesterday I enjoyed another holiday cookout held by my church congregation. Since I have a responsibility to record events in our church, I took several pictures (still in the camera, sorry) of the heavily laden food tables, the barbecues grilling the steaks, and the line of people extending from the food tables down the sidewalk and around the corner. When I had finished that task, I got in line.

Once I had made it through the long wait, got my food and water, and sat down to eat, I looked up, and guess what? The line was nearly as long as it had been when I joined it. Lots of people came.

Our church congregation isn't as numerous as the people who attended the barbecue. A lot of them were holiday campers, but not a few were neighborhood people who had been invited to come, people not of our religious faith. It was awesome!

Instead of what first pops into the LDS mind about hosting a community event, I want to liken this event and its numerous attendees to ideas. Curious folk ask where writers get their ideas for a story. Writers having a struggle wonder if they'll ever have a good idea again.

The truth is that ideas are everywhere around us. Once we use one up and carry out a project to its conclusion, if we search out a few resources, we will have an unending supply of ideas. A new story might be sparked by a magazine article, an online blog, or a news report. Sometimes a story may come from a blend of various resources, as we ask ourselves "What if?" A wonderful fount of ideas can come from the practice of people watching. And listening. Not to eavesdrop, necessarily, but to "get" the cadence of language patterns, phrases, and figures of speech.

Now let's ask the writers who come here: Where do you get your ideas?

Sep 3, 2011

Inspirational Quotes

by Cindy R. Williams

The following quotes can be tweaked to fit most areas, but please read them with your writing in mind.

"If it is to be, it is up to me." Many people

"Procrastination is like a credit card; it's a lot of fun until you get the bill."  Christopher Parker

"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."  Colin Powell

"Quality is not an act. It is a habit." Arisotle

"Tis better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln

"Whatever you are, be a good one." Abraham Lincoln

"Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present." Eleanor Roosevelt

"You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note." Doug Floyd

These last three resonate with me big time. How about you?

"Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to." Source unknown.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretsky

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Hellen Keller

If you find one or two of these that fit where you are right now, please print them and place them on your mirror or somewhere to remind you that you CAN DO IT!

Sep 2, 2011

Update on Writing Software

by Tanya Parker Mills

I promised an update and I hope it's not too late for those of you who might have been swayed toward StoryMill by my posting two weeks ago. If not, then I hope it has worked better for you than it did for me. The day after I'd downloaded it, gone through the brief tutorial, and then wrote my first crashed!

I lost my first chapter (which I had really liked, by the way). Not a happy moment. As I looked into the whole program further in an attempt to figure out how to retrieve my chapter, if not the whole program, I found this had happened to a lot of other people. Hmmm. I sent off a quick email, pleading for help and then waited a day, two it got to three days and I still hadn't had a reply from the people at StoryMill, I began to reconsider. Besides, I had all these ideas for my series bubbling in my head and needed to get back to writing!

I remembered Luisa Perkins had sworn by Scrivener, so I decided to give it a second chance. (Thanks, Luisa!) As soon as I pulled it up, I was notified I needed to download the free updated version. Gulping (and hoping this wouldn't bring about another crash), I did. Once I was all updated, I opened the tutorial and was so relieved to see that not only was it a very thorough and easily understood and interactive tutorial (I think they've really improved upon it in this updated version), but any document you are working on automatically saves every 2 seconds!

Long story short, I'm a Scrivener fan now just like Luisa! It basically has everything StoryMill offered (in fact, I suspect that StoryMill got lots of its ideas from this program), except the timeline, but I can work around that.

I paused after the Tutorial and thought, "Well, I'm ready to write. But since this is going to be a series, do I treat it all as one project, using a different folder within the project for each book...or do I treat each book as a separate project?" Unsure how to proceed, I googled "using Scrivener to write a series" and it led me to this helpful posting by a successful author who is in the middle of producing her series using Scrivener. Basically, she creates a "Series Bible," containing all her research and ideas for the whole series as one project, and then starts a new project for each of the books. I liked that idea, so I've adopted that approach.

I've rewritten my first chapter (naturally, it's even better the second time) and am into the second, while fleshing out all my characters as they appear in the story. For any of you with a Mac, I highly recommend Scrivener! For those of you without a Mac and using Windows, there's now a free Beta version of Scrivener for Windows, plus very informative postings about the program here and here.

Oh, and I did finally hear from StoryMill, asking me to send them a copy of my project so they could figure out what went wrong. Hello? I don't have a copy. That's the problem. I'll just be asking for my money back, thank you.

Sep 1, 2011


by Susan G. Haws

I wish I had a magic wand. So many tasks I could complete with just a wave and a spell. With mundane tasks out of the way I could spend more time on activities such as writing. Don't get me wrong I am thankful for washers and dryers and all the other devices that have been invented to make life easier, and I love, love, love the air conditioners and my computer.

If I had a wand I wouldn't just mop the floor, pull the weeds or cook dinner I would also wave away pounds and pounds of fat. I would also help out others and maybe take a trip to the Caribbean. But let's go back to the house work and the fat. They are obstacles I must eliminate on my path to my goals. But I have no wand. Really, this is why I want to build my own fantasy worlds and move into a sea side mansion in one of them.

I read somewhere that a person must learn from his enemies. Fat is definitely my enemy. I must need to learn from it. Otherwise it would be easy to transform myself physically into a fit person.

Mundane chores that take time and effort like lawn mowing and laundry also feel like obstacles or enemies. I need to get control over them and my time. I need to  focus what time I have and apply lessons from successful authors and I hope my writing will improve.  I wish I could magically remove my challenges, but transformation into the  accomplished writer I want to become is learned and earned.

What are some of the first things you would use a wand on if you had one? What are some of your obstacles to writing time?