Nov 30, 2011

Ode To Thanksgiving Leftovers

By Melinda Carroll

The month is gone, where did you go?
Goodbye fall leaves, it's time for snow.

And with another season change,
My food I'll have to rearrange,

Oh turkey, it is time to leave,
I know it seems hard to believe,

'Tween ghosts and elves you were the bridge,
But now your scraps are in my fridge,

And going bad, I'm sad to say,
They won't last even one more day.

Out rolls and sweet potato pie,
Out mashed potatoes, my oh my,

'Cause I need room for Christmas treats,
for custard, ham and yummy sweets,

So leftovers, it's time to part,
But know you'll stay deep in my heart,

Until next year when one more time,
we meet again to feast sublime.

Nov 29, 2011

To Pen Or Not To Pen

By Leesa Ostrander

I have been thinking about if I would use a pen name. I came across a site by Jamie Hall, with a list of reasons why you would choose to use a pen name.
I said yes to the first two. My maiden name and married name are both hard to spell, say and are very long. My maiden name is Christensen and married is Ostrander (pronounce “ah-strander”).
Both uncomfortable.
So I have been thinking of adopting my grandmother’s married name. She is my inspiration many days. Since her death a few years ago, I feel I could honor her this way. Her married name is Berry. Leesa Berry. What do you think?
The question is why would a pen name suit me? The article’s author suggests trying out the pen name and seeing how people react.
Here is goes: Hi my name is Leesa Berry and I am a closet writer.
Or, Hi my name is Leesa Garrett and I am still a closet writer with two books on my hard drive.
Well, what do you think?
The topic as to why I have thought of using a pen name is not on this list. I would want to use a pen name because when my students search me on the Internet I want my writing to be separate from my day job. I know it will still come around if searched carefully.
What do you think is a benefit of using your birth name, married name or pen name?

Nov 28, 2011

VBU Days (or Hours or Minutes)

By Tracy Astle

Of necessity I live a very schedlued life. Weekdays are usually packed full from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with teaching seminary, working at an accounting office, maybe running a few errands before going home, then dinner with the family. Evenings vary between attending high school basketball games to watch my daughter cheer, Relief Society meetings, exercising, maybe writing, and an occasional ANWA meeting  (PMWriters are a very patient group).

Weekends aren't much better. Saturdays are devoted to household stuff like menu planning, grocery shopping, laundry and the like. Sundays are for church, preparing seminary lessons for the week and family dinners twice a month.


Don't get me wrong. I am quite happy with all the things filling up my hours and days, but as you can imagine my schedule sometimes leaves me wishing I could just sit and do nothing at all. Only problem is, just parking myself and vegging out doesn't really work for me. I'm not happy when I'm wasting time. That doesn't refresh me or renew my energy.

I've been stewing on what to do about this and recently realized what I need. It's not time to do nothing that I really want; it's time do what I feel like doing rather than what I need to do - VBU time, Valuable But Unplanned. In VBU time I write, wander the house with a clorox wipe or dusting cloth in my hand cleaning things that usually are forgotten, sit and watch a whole college football game with my family, take my daughter out to lunch. You know, all the things I wish I had more time for. The only rules for VBU time are that I cannot have a schedule to follow and the things I choose to do have to be of value to me.

I have found that when I adopt this attitude toward toward minutes, hours or occasionally days that aren't committed to some specific purpose I feel relaxed, rejuvinated and satisfied - much better than when I waste time which never adds to joy in life. Some people might call this doing nothing, and thats okay. It's still valuable to me.

Maybe you could use a little VBU time, too.

Nov 27, 2011


by Marsha Ward

It's been a very busy time in my household, with me trying to move enough things from the old house to the new to be able to invite guests to celebrate Thanksgiving with me. My daughter and one son were able to come over 100 miles to be with me, and although my daughter had to return home Thursday night, my son spent the next three days with me. I took him home today, signed some paperwork for my daughter, and then came home myself. I'm not sure whether I'm exhilarated or exhausted. Maybe a bunch of both! I do know I'm very grateful for family and friends at this special time of year. Wherever you fit into that continuum, thank you!

Nov 26, 2011

Character of Our Characters

by Cindy R. Williams

It is not our ability that shows what we truly are; it is our character - Abraham Lincoln

Great advice for our characters. I mean think about it. You can have the most accomplished hero in your story, but if they knocked a child over then laughed, you have more of a villain than a hero.  If you have a character that never makes a mistake, you have a boring character.

The character of our characters is probably the most important thing in creating and writing good characters. (That's a whole lot of character going on there.)

We all know people who others refer to as "What a character," usually meaning that the person is quite a joker, or a story teller or the like. We know some characters character is dark and mean, while an other's character is bright, shiny and happy.

The character of each of our characters makes or brakes whether the reader love or hate them.

Here's a question just for fun. If you were in your own book, what kind of a character would you be?

I would be sometimes serious, sometimes silly, sometimes hard working, sometimes lazy, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes outgoing, sometimes quiet and shy - yeah I know . . . hard to believe, sometimes funny, sometimes I just think I'm funny but I'm not, sometimes wishy washy, sometimes determined, sometimes good, sometimes not so much. I think this is probably how most of our characters characters really are. I am not black and white, cut and dry, so why would my characters be so. However, I know my heart, and my heart is in the right place.

Maybe the trick is to know the "heart" of our characters. Hmmm . . . I think I'll save that for another blog.

Nov 25, 2011

Who Invented Black Friday, Anyway?

by Tanya Parker Mills

And why did they name it "Black" of all things? Is it because they want shoppers to start lining up in the black of night? Is it because it blackens the day after Thanksgiving for those who have retail jobs and want to keep them (particularly in this economy)? Or is it because it creates the kind of blackness or customer frenzy/financial crisis that was originally seen back in 1869?

It turns out (according to Wikipedia, anyway):

"The earliest known reference to 'Black Friday' to refer to the day after Thanksgiving was made in a 1966 publication on the day's significance in Philadelphia: "JANUARY 1966 -- 'Black Friday' is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. 'Black Friday' officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing."

"The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled 'Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy,' which ran in the Titusville Herald on [November 29, 1975]: "Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. ...'That's why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today 'Black Friday,' a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. 'They think in terms of headaches it gives them.'"

So, out of sympathy for those poor retail persons, cops, taxi drivers, bus drivers, and basically all for whom this is a truly BLACK day, I'm staying home...except to see a movie this afternoon.

Nov 24, 2011


By Susan G. Haws

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Nov 23, 2011

Let the Good Times Roll

by Kami Cornwall

Growing up in Boise, my mother's family was the only one living outside of Utah, therefore we were the ones expected to travel for every holiday. We packed all seven of us into the blue Oldsmobile station wagon and head out for a long drive. My older brother and I would pump our fists up and down each time we passed a trucker. When they would honk in answer my mother would jump and wonder aloud why they were honking at her. She hadn't done anything wrong. Then hearing us snicker in the back we'd get a good scolding.

As the evening wore on we would fold down the back seat to a hard, fuzzy surface area and pull out our sleeping bags while my parents tuned into CBS nightly news. I fell asleep watching the sky grow black and the stars wink. When the car tires rolled slowly and the hum of the car died down we woke up, knowing we were almost to grandma's house.

Now I have children of my own and we are packing up for the long drive to Utah. We don't do it as often as I did as a child because I live farther away. It is now a twelve hour drive rather than the mere six. My car doesn't have a folding back-seat, nor would my children legally be allowed to roll around in such an area if it did. They will be securely strapped into their seats, asking for snacks, electronic gadgets, or their favorite music. We will bring along books and an old-school travel-bingo game for them to play and may even get a chance to do the "alphabet game" which gets even better in Utah where there are tons of billboards.

Despite all this, one thing remains the same this Thanksgiving. The whole family will be together sharing good food and reminiscing about those times when we were young, rolling around in the back seat and getting truckers to honk their horns. However you spend this Thanksgiving, I hope you have a great time reminiscing about "the good old days." And drive safe!

Nov 22, 2011

I get to say it first

by Terri Wagner

Happy Thanksgiving!!! I and well over half of my fellow Americans have decided to traverse this great country of ours via personal transport (ie car). And apparently tomorrow is HUGE travel day. Ok call me dumb but I didn't know that.

So I'm going to say a prayer when I head out and then repeat what one of my roomies used to say. Everyone obey the rules, no one has to die. Seriously. I thought it was pretty funny myself.

My mom and I are going to spend our holiday together yakking and sitting around and just enjoying being together without any other siblings or grands around. Sometimes that can be fun.

Oh football there will be football. Roll Tide Roll!!!

Nov 21, 2011

A Local Tragedy

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

Some of you may already be aware of this, but Reno got hit over the weekend with a terrible tragedy. (Yet another in a long line of strange tragedies lately.) I'm posting a link to the article in our local paper, the Reno-Gazette Journal, because I'm pretty sure I can't save and post most of the article's pictures without buying them, and I'm not able to do that. The link may not be active in a few weeks' time, I'm not sure for how long RGJ archives their articles.

Late Thursday night, a few of my friends posted this haunting picture on Facebook, of our skyline on fire. Although I'd smelled smoke when I took the dog outside, I just assumed a lot of people were using their fireplaces. By 3:30 in the morning (I'm a shameful night owl, and was a bit too keyed up worrying about the fire to go to bed), I grabbed my daughter Emily and we headed out to see if the skyline really did look like that. (Emily attends an internet charter school, so her schedule is flexible. Lia stayed home, because she had a stage crew job in the morning.)

Now the smoke was bad outside! I was coughing already. We could only see a little bit of ominous glowing from the freeway, so I drove a little farther. My friends live in Northeast Reno, and I was worried. By the time we reached the area where they live, I realized the fire was a few miles south, so they weren't in any danger. We decided to drive down a little anyway (although keeping out of the way of emergency vehicles, we knew not to try getting too close). Suddenly, the midnight sky above us seemed to burst into flames. It turned a horrible reddish-orange, and when I turned down a side street to start heading home, we saw fire all around. We parked so we could see without me running into anything. I couldn't believe the sheer area it covered, going miles up and down the mountainside and jumping roads. This was the worst kind of night possible for a wildfire: dry conditions and 60 mph wind.

This link includes some pictures of what it was like. This Youtube video shows just how bad the wind was blowing.

The fire was consuming about 400 acres by 4:30, the time we got home, and by that afternoon it had grown to 2000 acres. School was canceled; we have occasional snow days, but this is the first time in my memory that we had a fire day. The winds continued to rage all day, blowing smoke directly into Sparks, where I live. It was no wonder schools were canceled, as people with breathing problems were urged to stay inside. Since I drove to drop Lia off at work and pick her up in downtown Reno twice for her split shift, my hair smelled like smoke by evening.

At least 32 homes were destroyed or damaged. So many residents in our community are thankful for the firefighters and emergency crews who worked through the night with the unpredictable wind to try to save homes. As someone who has grown up in the area and is familiar with wildfires, I know it could have been much worse. The really sad part is how close this happened to Thanksgiving and Christmas. The United Way has set up a fund to help people who have lost homes, and I think the Red Cross is accepting donations of jackets, clothing, bedding, and other items to help them while they're trying to put their lives back together.

I hope I don't sound smug in any way when I say that I'm so thankful for the home over our heads, our belongings, and our safety. Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to make you realize you should be more grateful for all that you have. My heart breaks for the families who lost so much over just a short weekend.

Nov 20, 2011

Tell Me it Ain't So

By Wendy A. Jones

My apologies for posting so late today. I had one of those days yesterday (which included a birthday party for my eight-year-old daughter) that could only be unwound by reading a good book. Or two.

I always forget (or conveniently avoid thinking about) what happens to me when I stay up until 2 a.m. I'm an adult, and in all honesty should know better, but I still do it on occasion.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog, which I actually hatched before turning myself into the perfect object lesson. My first title was "Sacrifice as a Life Principle."

Most everybody, even if they aren't formally taught the concept, understand the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow. If I go to bed early, I wake up more refreshed than if I stay up until, say, 2 a.m. I'm sacrificing the pleasure of now (reading one more book!) to the idea of something more important later on (being patient with my children). We make so many of these choices every single day I don't even think we realize it 99% of the time. Obey the traffic laws or don't? Eat breakfast or skip it? Do the laundry or go to the park? Watch a movie or do the ironing? (Okay, that one's easy: watch a movie while ironing.)

The point is, we all sacrifice some things and don't sacrifice others because of expected outcomes. If the expected outcome is greater than the sacrifice, we'll most likely choose to sacrifice something right now for something better later. If the expected outcome is less than the sacrifice, we may decide to bag it and not bother.

Let's use another instance in my own life, this time when my sacrifice was a little misguided. I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and I saw something at the store that I wanted. I wanted it badly. It was a Get in Shape Girl aerobic exercise set.
See the girl on the far right? Yeah, that's who I wanted to be. I was ready to sell my soul for those white and purple dumbbells. Luckily, I didn't have to do that because I was paid 50 cents an hour to babysit my younger brothers.

Now, the Get in Shape Girl aerobic exercise set was $15.99. That's a lot of babysitting. But . . . ooh, I wanted it. I wanted it so much I was willing to give up penny candy for months. When I finally had enough saved, my best friend and I rode our bikes to the store and I made the purchase.

When I got home and took them out of the box, I was unpleasantly surprised. Those dumbbells . . . they didn't actually weigh anything. What a rip off! Here, I thought I'd be toning and getting strong enough to beat up my older brothers, but all I'd gotten was fake dumbbell lookalikes!

To bring this back to writing, then. This week, I looked at my book and I wondered if it was worth the sacrifice. Not only all the hours I've spent writing it, but all the other things I could have been doing while writing. Is the outcome going to be worth it? Or am I going to end up, after all my effort, with plastic dumbbells again?

Truthfully, there's no way to know at this point. But I think my book's pretty good so far. I honestly think the only way I'll end up with plastic dumbbells is if I quit too soon. If I can hang in there long enough, eventually I'll be the one keeping people up until 2 a.m.

Yeah. The sacrifice is totally worth it.

Nov 19, 2011

Let's Celebrate!

By: Bonnie Harris

I recently attend the Northwest Writer's Retreat in Washington. First off, it was absolutely gorgeous. For us desert rats, I had a turtle neck, jacket, heavy coat, hat, and scarf on. It was a great change from the unseasonable warm weather we were having. At least it made everyone from up there smile. :) The presenters were fabulous and I got some valuable writing time in as well as much needed critics. So here's my shameless plug for it . . . if you haven't gone, you're missing out! Put it on your calendars for next year. (The first weekend in November, I believe).

*Stepping off soap box now.*

One thing that has really stuck with me was given my Sarah Eden, the keynote speaker. She was talking about a class given by Jennifer Wolf, where Jennifer reminded Sarah that you have to celebrate along the way. How easily we forget that. We get so wrapped up in that, "When I get this book finished," or "When I get an agent," or "When I get published," or "When I get so many followers on my blog," and the list goes on. We are constantly looking forward and getting bogged down when we can't see the light at the end. That turns to discouragement and stress and in drastic circumstances, quitting or giving up. Don't let that happen!

As a person, we/I need to feel validated in what I'm doing. I think we all do and when we don't we get frustrated. So, we need to remember to celebrate the small stuff. I've really been trying to take this to heart since I've been back and it has helped me in so many areas of life. Here are some of the small things I've celebrated (even if it's been as simple as patting myself on the back, I've acknowledged what I'd completed) . . .

  • Finishing a revision
  • Completing a chapter in one of my WIP
  • Writing a complete thought before the baby wakes up
  • Reading a chapter in a book
  • Doing the dishes
  • Being able to see the floor, even if you have to step over things (my sister and I celebrated this one as she is working on getting a room cleaned out)
  • Vacuuming
  • Making my bed
  • Not getting angry for the small, silly things
  • Getting to bed before 11
  • Getting this blog post done
And the list goes on. Looking at this it makes me feel like I've actually done something. I can smile at what I've accomplished, even if it's done the one big goal that I'm working toward. All of these stepping stones are allowing and teaching me how to get there. So when I do, boy am I going to have a party!

So take a moment to celebrate the little things along the way. I'm speaking from experience when I say, it sure makes life a lot more fun!

Nov 17, 2011

Strength Conquers Fear

I read a definition of strength the other day that blew me away:
"The capacity to do something. An inherent capacity to manifest energy, to endure, and to resist." 

I love knowing that with my divine nature comes this incredible INHERENT capacity! I don't have to create it. It is already a part of who I am. I call it forth through faith and prayer and action. Fear weakens my ability to access my strength. I can let go of fear by exercising faith in my Savior to call forth the strength I have been given to fulfill the measure of my creation.

Lots of choices in front of me right now are triggering ginormous fear monsters. They aren't just the big ones like testifying in a criminal case (this morning). It's the little nagging negative thoughts that pile up, telling me I can't...

So, I'm going to remember who I am and why I am here. I refuse to give up or stand quietly in a corner hoping no one can see or hear me. I choose to speak up and speak out...even if it means I get a few stones thrown at me. I'll just chuck 'em at those monsters!

Nov 16, 2011

Micro-tension: Welcome To Life

By Melinda Carroll

There was an LDS Family Services counselor who spoke at a multi stake meeting a few weeks ago about overcoming trauma and fear.  One thing really struck me in that meeting.  She said that our bodies are engineered to handle the big catastrophes.  People who have been through horrendous tragedies surprisingly don't always need counseling because their brains and bodies are essentially wired to help them endure.  Instead, its the smaller things-- the day-to-day trials and struggles-- that actually impact us more and do greater harm.  Especially when we're young.

I'm reading a book right now that I feel like I should love but I don't.  There's action (major, end of the world type stuff), a romance, good characters.  The writing is beautiful.  So why don't I like it?  It's boring. There's no micro-tension! Turmoil and major catastrophes?  Yes, there's plenty of those.  But from chapter to chapter it feels like the characters are numb to the crazy things happening around them and they just sit around worrying about the big picture.  It's getting a little annoying, honestly.  The author does a great job of getting us inside the characters' heads, but nothing is happening in there.  At least, nothing new.

So what is micro-tension?  It can be a lot of things.  It's the animosity Harry and Draco have for each other while Harry is trying to defeat Voldemort.  Or the typical teenage/parent tension between Bella and her dad that Bella has to deal with while figuring out how to survive when dating a vampire.  Or the death of a little girl that Katniss honors while trying to stay alive in a horrific game of Last Man Standing.

We need micro-tension in our stories.

If in life it's the small, day-to-day things that impact us the most, maybe it works that way in literature too.  Just like in life, micro-tension develops character, shapes decisions, and often directs the final outcome. The big story is important, but it's the micro-tension from chapter to chapter that keeps us reading.

Find your WHY

By Leesa Ostrander

Sorry this is posting a bit late....

Today was a busy day, many assessments to grade, words to write for Nanowrimo, and family in town visiting. One thought kept coming to my mind about a lesson we had in church on Sunday, affliction. Why do some people have more challenges than others?
It was not what the lesson topic was but the concept I could not stop thinking about. The teacher had asked a question why some people appear to have things come easier to them. He then continued, mentioning that some people seem to be financially better off, with little worries or have unwavering faith without apparent challenge. Why does it seem to be easier even for the individuals in this situation?
He waited for discussion. Nothing. We sat quietly.
He then added it is their strength they were given to help the less fortunate or bring up and gratify those that are in need. He reminded the group to not look at someone else and say, “Why is it easy for them but to ask how I can get to a position to help someone else?”

He continued with the rest of the lesson and I stayed there.
I have many friends with wonderful talents, fascinating careers and objectives and much to share with me. I wonder how I can give back when I am in the position of need. Remember, my long list of needed to do’s as well as family obligations.
I then thought back to when a friend suggested I “find my WHY.”
To find my why in what I do and the reasons I do.
My why is to help others. What can I do in my career, my family, my community to help those around me?

Now, I reflect on how my mission to “find my why” has gratified my reason to write and be a parent.

I did. I realize there are amazing people that writing comes easier or can edit with smooth and flawless sentence structure or can read as a constructive critique that we can gratify our lives with. I choose to have them be a part of my why.
I had to add a photo of Why, AZ as a joke for everytime we drove by the sign we would say why in AZ is there a Why? (hehe)

Nov 14, 2011

But What Happens?

By Tracy Astle

Let's play a little guessing game. Here's a quote from W. Somerset Maugham. See if you can guess who was the subject of this quote.

"Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to see what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page.The novelist who has the power to acheive this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess."

Are you thinking?

Okay. While you are, let's look at this quote. I don't  know about you, but I hear all the time how we need to open our stories with action and that we must have action, on every page, in every scene, in every word, movement or thought from every character. Action, action, action. It can be very easy to interpret this to mean we all need to write thrilling, whirlwind types of novels, but that would leave us asking, "What about the quiet kinds of stories that draw us in gradually, let us fall in love with the characters, feel for their plight and maybe even cause us to stop and think about things in a new way? Is their any room in today's publishing world for those kinds of books?"

Of course there is. So how do we keep our readers turning pages when "nothing very much happens?" I believe one of te keys to this can be found in the comment of another author who pointed out that change can be a kind of action. If we put our characters in a moment of change to begin with and then invite our readers to experiences changes along with them, the pages are likely to keep turning.

Does that mean we can write successful books that aren't full of chase scenes, car (or carriage or wagon) crashes, things exploding, or some kind of intrigue? According to W. Somerset Maugham Jane Austen did. (500 bonus points to you if you guessed right!)

So tell me two things -
1) Did you guess it was Jane the quote was about?
2) Can you name some more recent successful novels where "nothing much happens" action-wise? A Walk to Remember comes to mind for me.

Nov 13, 2011

We're so lucky!

by Marsha Ward

We're lucky to have been born into an English-speaking society, for if we hadn't, we would have to struggle to understand the language at all!

Here's an example: I drove behind an eighteen-wheeler yesterday. On the back of the trailer were two words. I didn't know if they were a label because they were upon a shiny surface, or if they were a mission statement for the trucking company.

"Reflecting quality."

Did the words in the phrase have the emphasis on the first word, reflecting? If so, they commented upon the brilliant properties of the trailer's surface.

Or maybe the emphasis was on the second word, quality? If so, those two simple words meant something entirely different: a boast, a statement of value one would receive when putting one's goods in the hands of the shipping workers and driver.

Which way do you think the phrase is meant?

Nov 12, 2011

Book, Query, Synopsis, Oh My!

by Cindy R. Williams

I used to think writing a novel was the hardest thing in the world. I was wrong. Finishing the novel was the hardest part. After three years, the beast was finally done.

Then I began the query and thought it was even harder than writing a novel. After six months and 102 versions, (really) I have a query I actually think says what I want it to, so now I am working on the synopsis.

Now I am telling you that the synopsis is the hardest thing to write. How in the world am I supposed to cram 80,000 really important necessary words into 5, 3 or 1 page as different agencies request? It's like cutting off parts of my favorite hand made quilt.

What's your take on the writing process? Which do you find the toughest or most enjoyable?

Nov 11, 2011

One Last Word on the Retreat

by Tanya Parker Mills

I know Wendy and Kami both posted about last weekend's successful Northwest Writers Retreat, but I wanted to show a few more pictures and share a thought or two. First the pictures:

(Oh, I forgot. Blogger always puts them on top before everything else. If there's a way to switch this around and put them within the body of the post, please let me know. In the meantime, since I can't seem to get around it, I'll share just one more picture--the one of me with the two friends I brought to the retreat...two of ANWA's newest members--Kristen Jenson [L] and Marcie Daines [R].)

Together, the three of us are gearing up to begin a new chapter here in the Tri-Cities by the beginning of next year. There's a fourth member, Kelly Coughanour, but she's in the middle of planning a wedding for her daughter and hasn't gotten around to joining yet.

My thought about the retreat is this:

Everything worthwhile in life begins small and grows.

The novels we produce begin as small ideas. All living things, including our children, as well as organizations and groups start small and increase in size with time and attention. The reorganization of the Church bears this out, as does the organization of Relief Society. ANWA is also a testament to this principle. Kristen, Marcie, Kelly, and I can't wait to be a part of that growth.

The Northwest Writers Retreat is no different. Liz and her group were truly inspired to begin it (and I know Monique has a similar idea in mind once she moves to Southern California, so be ready you California ANWA members). Last year's retreat had about 32 in attendance. This year, we had 37. I encourage any of you who are wavering about coming this far north next year to set a goal now.

I think the reason Pam felt like this had been planned by a group of Relief Society Presidents is because we truly felt the Spirit the whole time we were together. And that shouldn't come as a surprise.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them--even so am I in the midst of you." (Doctrine and Covenants 6:32)

Our one thing may be writing, but when we gather in the Spirit of the Lord with a desire to magnify our talents to build up His kingdom, he will surely be there.

Nov 10, 2011

Holiday Season

By Susan G. Haws                             photo:  Santa’s in Town by Photoart1

You may be wondering why I have a Santa picture when Halloween is hardly past. Well, I am behind on most of my goals but I wanted to share one goal I met.  That objective was to have 90+% of my Christmas gifts purchased or made before the start of the holiday season.  I am usually a last minute shopper and crafter. But I managed with the help of an elf to get my 90+ and get 98% of my wrapping done (I don't wrap everything.)  before Halloween.

I set this objective as a step to my overall goal of hosting the Spirit of Christmas for the full Christmas Season. She is not fond of my usual "Bah Humbug" grumbling and only makes short visits most years.  I let her know I am not aiming for an elaborate celebration. The accommodations will be simple, but if she would like a retreat from the lights and the crowds, she is welcome to the guest room at my home. We can watch holiday specials on the Hallmark channel together and nibble on some carrot sticks or chocolate almonds.

I wish I could say the Spirit of Christmas was interested in year round residence at my house like when she moved in with Dickens' Scrooge. But as old Scrooge learned there is always opportunity for improvement, and this is my way of letting her know she could relax here. Granted, I may not get Christmas cards out, we'll see. (If not it won't be the first time.) But I am trying to decrease the stress and increase the peace.

Well, the Spirit of Christmas has come by and watched a couple shows and played with my dog and cats. She is pleased with my progress this year and promised to stop by again later. 

Nov 9, 2011

Enjoy the Ride

by Kami Cornwall

Luckily the gunky head-cold fog didn't set in until the night I came home from the retreat in Rosario. I was thankful I was still clear and healthy enough to present a class and enjoy all those I attended. So as I was sitting curled up on the couch yesterday with my 6-year-old watching 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and they played a montage of people going up on a roller-coaster, my mind flashed back to my first scary roller-coaster ride.

The first thing you should know is that peer pressure works. I would never have gone on the ride by myself. Yvonne was a wild, carefree, live-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl and was giving me the pep-talk of my life. Then this tall dark (and yes...handsome) guy in line turned around and recognizing me, grinned wide and asked, "You've never gone on the Zipper before?" He reassured me with honeyed words that I would be fine, it's not that scary, and that in fact it was a rite of passage every teen should go through. He was an upper-classman who I respected (and kind of crushed on) so I acted brave, got in with Yvonne, and braced myself for the worst as dark regret set in at the ominous sound of the seat locking us in place.

For the record, screaming helps. It's funny when you're watching 'AFV' but I completely get it. Also pretending you're doing back-flips in gymnastics helps not feeling like you're going to hurl. When it was all over my body felt like jello but my spirit was invigorated. I felt so empowered! I did it! Me! To this day when I think about a task at hand that seems hard or scary, I compare it to the 'Zipper', my new measuring stick. Is it 'Zipper' scary? And how did I feel after I got through it? So bring it on! Send in that manuscript! Read that rejection letter! Apply for that job! I can take it. I rode the 'Zipper'...and survived to tell the tale.

Nov 8, 2011

The Unexpected Kota

by Terri Wagner

It's 12:21 AM as I write this, full of some shot the doctor gave me for my semi-annual sinus infection. Naturally 11 hours after the shot, I'm wide awake. I'm not alone though. A faithful yellow lab is lying at my feet under the computer desk, raising her head every now and then to ask when I'm finally going to bed so she can too. That's Kota. She came to us oddly and wound her way into our hearts that were aching over losing Belle, our golden.

What I know of Kota's past isn't pretty. Nothing horrible but she came to us as a favor to a friend who hinted that she had been treated somewhat badly. It took some time for her to realize this was a permanent home with fields to roam, food on demand and love to share.

It took a while but in time Kota showed us her true colors. She's not a lab at all. She's golden in her mannerisms and in her ways. We marvel how a paper-labeled Labrador could really be a golden in disguise. I think she just knew somehow in that way that dogs do that we really missed our golden gone too soon and felt she could give us joy since we gave her a home.

Now she has our hearts as well. I can't wait for my Belle to meet Kota. I have a feeling they might already know each other. I am grateful beyond words to know our prophets have left us assurances we can be reunited with beloved pets.

I thank Heavenly Father each day for giving us Kota who to be honest at first was taken in as a gesture of goodwill and friendship but has become one of us.

She's stretching now. That's her signal. Time's up. Let's go to sleep. And I promise you she will nosing around my bed because on special occasions I allow her to sleep with me...maybe this will be one of those times.

Nov 7, 2011

A (Not Very) Spooky Little Post-Halloween Story

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I was straightening up the area near my front door when I thought I heard a soft knock. The night was dark and cold, and I wondered who could be knocking at this hour. I looked out the peephole, but saw nothing. (Neither our front porch light or doorbell have been working for the last five years, thanks to the hubby's never-ending "home improvement" projects.)

I dismissed it as the wind, since I have a wooden welcome sign that knocks against the door at the slightest breeze. Like the quintessential dumb horror movie victim, I opened the door a few seconds later, not to call out "hello?" but to take out a bag of garbage. I jumped back and yelped in shock when a tall figure, almost blending in with the dark landscape around him, moved forward on my porch.

I was just about to slam the door on the intruder when he laughed and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." A beam of light from the living room fell on his face, and then I started laughing too and opened the door wide. It was none other than Brian Crane, cartoonist of the hilarious comic strip Pickles, come to talk to my husband about something or other.

And that's my short but sweet story on how a cartoonist scared the heck out of me on my doorstep (back when the Cranes used to live in our ward).

Nov 6, 2011

Northwest Writers Retreat

By Wendy A. Jones

My apologies that this is showing up so late in the day. I've been recovering from an awesome weekend (and a couple of way-later-than-usual nights) spent at the Northwest Writers Retreat at Rosario Beach Washington, sponsored by the Round Tuit chapter of ANWA.

The weather was beautiful (but cold!) and the presentations and classes were excellent. Not only is Sarah M. Eden an amazing writer, she is also a fantastic and enthusiastic presenter. And she can fix toilets!

I came away with a renewed sense of what my writing is, where I want it to go, and how to get it there. Thanks so much to all of you who worked so hard in organizing, coordinating, and accomplishing such a great event.

You should all join us next year. Washington is beautiful in November.

Nov 5, 2011

How to Decipher Rejections

By Bonnie Harris

So I've done something to my blog and now I can't figure out how to put pictures on the left or right side. Gotta love that! :)

Anyway, I ran across this blog post by Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent for Word Serve Literary, about how to interpret rejection letters. I would try to summarize it, but it wouldn't do the post justice. So here's the link and enjoy! Decoding Query Rejections

Nov 4, 2011

Falling in love with a book I found at Goodwill

While in New York, I browsed the book section of Goodwill in Greenwich Village.  A cover caught my eye.  The book was titled A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.  I turned the book over to read the back cover.
“That book’s in my school library,” my friend Chandra who I was shopping with said.  She works as a librarian at a charter school in Harlem.  “I’ve heard really good things about it.  You should get it.”
Usually I’m drawn to a book if I recognize the author or am referred to it by a friend, but this time I was drawn to the photo on the front of the book.  That element alone made me want to read it; haunting, beautiful and left me full of questions.
Several hours later, I boarded my long flight back to Phoenix.  I couldn’t wait to start on my book.  Before take-off, I was feasting on the first page.  I was hooked after the first sentence.  I landed in Kentucky for a lay-over.  My first time and probably only time in Kentucky and all I did was read my book!  On my flight home, I sat next to a woman who asked about the book I was reading.  We started talking and I found out this nice woman was an ANWA member.  What a small world.
Anyway, the next day, I woke with an urge to finish my book.  I just couldn’t put it down.  My kids, so happy to have me home, had me mentally gone for one more day as I read on the couch while they played near and out on the front porch while they played ball.  This book came with me to the gym while I walked the elliptical machine.  Later, I even sent my husband to bed without me.
In A Certain Slant of Light the main character, Helen is a 150 year-old spirit, a young woman who has died and is uncertain why she’s still on earth.  In many ways, she feels abandoned by God and heaven.  She can’t imagine what she did wrong in her past life to keep her in this limbo hell, but she does her best to find some sort of peace with those she attaches too.   She’s a spirit in a world with no one, fighting to stay out of hell when one day a young man sees her.  As a spirit, no one has ever seen her.  It’s no surprise Helen is shocked, even frightened by this attention.  She soon learns James, too is a spirit, but he has found a way to not just hover and host near people, he can actually posses them.
Helen relinquishes her current host to be near James, hoping he’ll teach her how she too, can have a body of her own.  This journey allows her to help a family in chaos and finally find God.  A Certain Slant of Light is an unexpected love story.  You may think this book sounds scary and dark, and although at times it is haunting, it is also full of hope and love.  It demonstrates mistakes we make that hurt others and how we can forgive, especially ourselves.  The ending is so spiritual, I was in tears.
I’m not kidding you, when I put this book down I actually spoke out loud (and I was all alone in my living room in the middle of the night).  I looked at the photo cover of the author Laura Whitcomb and said ‘Man, girl, you can write!”
I love this new author Laura Whitcomb.  
I’ve already facebook-ed her.  I had to let her know how much her novel meant to me. 
Do you every facebook or email authors from books you’ve read?  To let them know you enjoyed their book?
I recommend A Certain Slant of Light to those of you who love to read a great YA novel by an exceptional author.

Nov 3, 2011

I'm Writing a Book?

by Kari Diane Pike

In a brochure published by AlphaGraphics I read that the American Association of Publishers (AAP) says that "83% of Americans have thought about writing a book or are currently working on a manuscript." I don't know if that number really means anything. Of course just about everyone has thought about writing a book! But how many people actually sit down and do the work? Evidently quite a few...and the number is growing. That same brochure claims that " independent authors publishing thier own books grew 132% in 2009.

What does that mean to me? Well, it tells me that there are a lot of books out there. It makes me wonder if what I have to say is really relevant or of worth to anyone else. After all, who am I?

Remember that writing class I mentioned last time I posted? Yeah, the honeymoon is over. I think the word (dare I say his name and risk getting caught by his dog sniffing google alerts?) Caleb used to describe my writing was "craptastic." A classmate started reading my work, but after a couple of sentences, Caleb made her stop. He couldn't stand the pain. He asked,

"What is your goal? What are you trying to say? What is your central conceit here?"

I couldn't answer him. So, he tried a different approach. He asked me to tell him about who I am. What do I do to occupy my time all day long? He dug until he got me to say,

"I am writing this stuff because I have a gift for helping others identify their spiritual gifts that they don't necessarily recognize gifts." or something to that effect.

He pointed out that I do have important things to say, interesting stories to tell. But without a goal...without understanding for myself what I really write and why I write it, I struggle with the ending of the story. I don't know where to take it, because I don't know where I'm going. Did that make sense? It's the whole "if you don't have a goal, you can't get there" thing.

So why am I writing this today? Because I learned that even though I have 150 pages of craptastic writing, it still has value. It is not throw away material. I have a marketable idea -- one that I am told is needed and something that is not found on the shelf at Deseret Book at this time. But I need to look at each of the chapters and find the message that is buried in there somewhere.

I thanked Caleb at the end of class. His reply, "After your book is published, then you can thank me."

I'm writing a book? (squeeee!)

Nov 2, 2011

NaNo (part 2)

by Melinda Carroll

I'm also doing NaNo!  This is my first time, and I'm feeling a bit intimidated actually.  I just finished editing my last manuscript and sent it out to my betas today, so I'm already two days behind.  Probably not the best way to get going.
The good thing, however, is that I can't wait to start writing my next story.  I've researched, out-lined, and I'm ready to go (I think).
So this blog is going to be short because I've got to go write!
Happy NaNo to all you crazy other people doing this.  See you next month. :)

Nov 1, 2011

I am ready for Nano!

By Leesa Ostrander

Happy Nanowrimo! I am going to finish this year.

I have signed up two previous years and life has prevented me from completing. This year I am prepared. I set goals and on track.

Top ten:
1.       Story to write about - check
2.       Will I get 50,000 words – check
3.       Outline - check
4.       In-person critique – check
5.       Online support – check, times three
6.       Nano sign posted on office door – check
7.       Family aware of the lack of attention – check
8.       Northwest Writers’ Retreat – check
9.       Bell pepper and hummus – check
10.   Finger stretching – check

I am ready. This month is a busy month on top of trying to write 1,786 words 6 days a week, my daughter turns 6, my husband travels 20 days and Thanksgiving!
I am still ready. With my preparation and mental pep talk, I can do this. I figure, I can run 13.1 so I can have my fingers dance for 1,786 daily.

As a new Nano member, I am curious what are other tips and hints to keep the motivation going? What do you do to keep pushing forward for completion?

To all those participating, good luck and hope to hear from you in December!