Monday, January 31, 2011

Of Trains, Sagebrush, and the Call of Nature

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

Please excuse my lateness in posting this; my computer was being stupid this morning.

Because this is a true Garfield Monday where enough stuff has gone wrong to require a good laugh (and maybe some chocolate), I just want to tell a story for my blog post today. A true story. A story that probably should not reach the eyes and ears of anyone other than close family and friends, but one I feel compelled to relate nevertheless--because I tell stories to entertain.

A few years ago, I was hiking with my family near the river. Now, my bladder doesn't gently warn me over a period of time that I might want to consider visiting the restroom. What generally happens is that I'm going about my business, and as soon as I'm nowhere near a restroom or port-a-potty, that pesky little organ starts screaming, "I gotta go NOW! You'd better find a place to go immediately, or I'll take care of business for you!!"

So as you can guess, it wasn't long before nature called, and out in the wilderness there wasn't an outhouse or port-a-gross in sight. But my oh-so-empathetic family weren't ready to leave yet. I told them to go on and head up the river bank--way up the riverbank, since there were no trees here, only a bunch of scrubby sagebrush and smallish rocks. (I wouldn't have cared so much about modesty if it were just my husband and kids, but extended family had also come along on this particular excursion. Because I was so mortified, I'd already held it so long that I was becoming physically ill.)

As soon as I couldn't see them anymore, I started looking around for decent cover. There wasn't any. Up the hill above me was the road, which wasn't very busy, but not deserted either. Below was the river, and the train tracks. I deliberated for a moment on the riskier side of exposure. Either way, I'd be offering someone a view of something other than acres of sagebrush.

"What are the odds of a train coming along right now as I'm taking care of nature?" I thought. "Besides, trains are loud. I'd hear one coming a mile away."

I listened for a minute and heard nothing but the quiet rush of water several yards below. I decided it was much safer to moon the deserted tracks. Besides, I couldn't spare another minute for internal debate; I'd already reached full capacity and was crossing over to emergency status.

So I scurried over to the biggest clump of sagebrush I could find, positioned myself so I was hidden from the highway above (but faced the road just in case), undid my jeans, and took care of business (please don't ask me about toilet paper; when you're that desperate to go, you don't think of these little trifles until afterward).

Well! I'm sure most of you have an idea of what's coming. That's right, the quietest train in the world just happened to sneak up on me while I was so indisposed. I was about halfway done, when I heard a soft noise behind me, like metal roller skates. I turned my head, and saw that there was indeed a freaking train not ten yards away from my open toilet! And not just any train. An Amtrak, no doubt full of passengers all staring out the windows to look at our beautiful Nevada scenery.

I couldn't jump up and hide myself, because anyone who's a girl knows that once you've started, you have to finish the job (my husband thinks that's weird; I guess the same "gift" doesn't extend to men). I only had time to register this horrible fact, when the conductor blasted his whistle. I SEE YOUUU. I imagined him getting on his intercom to tell all the passengers to look out the left side of the train.

When I caught up with my family five minutes later, red-faced and slightly hysterical, I asked them if they'd heard the train's whistle. When they affirmed they had, I told them what the conductor had whistled at. This didn't lead to expressions of sympathy and pity, as I'd hoped. No, upon hearing this delightful revelation, half of them immediately dropped to the ground and started rolling around in uncontrollable laughter. I hoped they got sagebrush and stickers in their pants.

So what kind of lesson could I have learned from this experience? I hope some of you can come up with some creative ones. What I learned was that the most obvious choice isn't always the best. I probably would have mooned far fewer people if I'd chosen to face the highway instead of the train tracks. Hindsight is not a kind teacher--especially when it results in someone sighting your hind.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sketchbook Exercises

By Wendy A. Jones


I stayed up way too late last night reading Robin McKinley's Pegasus.

I love Robin McKinley.

It's amazing to me I didn't even know who she was until about five years ago, despite her winning the Newbery Award during my school years. It's possible that a later discovery, though, increased my appreciation for her complete mastery of the craft.

Whenever I finish reading one of her books, there is a satisfied sigh and a happy glow all about me.

It's like I've eaten--and savored--some decadently-rich chocolate or insanely expensive ice cream; the taste lingers on my tongue long after the treat is gone.

A friend and I went to see a Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum earlier this month. Over 150 pieces were visiting from the Musee National Picasso in Paris. I had prepared for the exhibit by reading books about Picasso in the months leading up to it.

When we arrived, the museum was packed. We had to wait in line almost an hour just to get tickets, and then another 20 minutes to get into the exhibit. Once there, the wall-to-wall people made it difficult to move without invading other patrons' personal space.

No one grumbled or complained, though. We were seeing Picasso!

The exhibit was arranged chronologically, starting at the beginning of his career and spanning a large portion of the 20th century. "How many eyes have seen this art?" I thought.

In researching, there were a couple of pieces I found particularly interesting: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Guernica. Sadly, they weren't among those at the exhibit; however, I could see paintings that led up to Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Studies of masks, studies of people in various positions . . . practice. Rough drafts.

Later, I had to be warned by a blue-shirted security guard to stay six inches away from the art; in my excitement I'd leaned on the display case with sketchbook exercises from Guernica in order to get a closer look. It's easy to look at Picasso's work and think he started with a blank canvas (in the case of Guernica, a very large blank canvas) and just attacked it. One reason Picasso's work is so powerful, though, is because he figured things out first. He tried different compositions in his sketchbooks before attacking the canvas.

I've thought about that a lot in the ensuing weeks. And even though after closing one of Robin McKinley's YA books I feel like she wrote the entire thing with an enchanted pen, I know that isn't true. I've read her blog and discovered it isn't easy for her.

Creating art--writing books, painting pictures, all of it--is hard work. There are no shortcuts, no woo-woo that happens as soon as paintbrush touches canvas. Not even with Picasso.

Yes, there are periods of inspiration; yes, there are times when we feel our muse is feeding us great material.

But.

(There's always a but.)

Those times follow a lot of research, a lot of character interviews, and a lot of rough drafts.

A lot of sketchbook exercises.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

For Now


Last summer my friend Heather was in charge of Girl's Camp. She'd never been to one, ever, in her life. She's a convert like me. She sat down at this brainstorming session and I sat with her and we came up with this. It ended up on bookmarks for the girls. I need it this time of year when spring is nowhere NEAR touching Alaska and the days are short, and cold.

Have you ever read a book or watched and movie and became lost in it?
I mean you wanted to be the main character, the hero and save the day?
Have all the strength and courage for some amazing adventure and win?
To triumph over every obstacle no matter the odds?

When I look at you, I see a hero. You have your own amazing story. You will have your own obstacles to overcome. You have the strength and courage to stand immovable. To be brave. To be strong. It's so easy to look at someone else's story and want to be them.
Don't.

Look at your story.
Look at your story through Heavenly Father's eyes.
Do not let your obstacles and challenges stop you. Some of your trials will be easy and some will take everything you have to conquer.
But you still triumph.
You still win.
I know this because you have the strength and courage to stand alone and be the hero of your own story.

Never, ever forget how important you are in the eyes of your Father in Heaven. And never, ever, forget the power you can have as a writer.

Flipping the Switch

by Kari Diane Pike

I am very glad I logged on last night. I had forgotten that it is my turn to post and I agreed some time ago to help judge science fair projects at our son's junior high today. Some day I will learn how to say "no" instead of "on." Maybe I would have more time to write. Then again, the things I learn in the process most certainly add to my pile of writing ideas. I tend to think in circles a lot, and run around in them even more.

Anyway, I wanted to share an experience I had last week over which I am still shaking my head. Due to my dyslexic issue with the word "no," I agreed to host a Dove Chocolate Party in my home. Who can say no to Dove Chocolate? Besides, I was celebrating my first rejection letter of the year and it seemed like a great activity for getting to know my nonmember neighbor. (I know that sounds odd to those of you living outside of Utah, but out of the 86 houses in my ward, only 4 of them are owned by people who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) I spoke a couple of times with the Chocolatier before the party and I learned that she was also LDS when I told her that I did not care to serve the Chocolate Martini mix or any of the coffee or tea products. We decided on chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped pretzels, cinnamon bears, and chocolate covered cashews and almonds...oh, and the little baking bits that look like ultra-mini Reese's. Those are soooo yummy! (Can you tell I started a weight management program this week...that's a blog for another day.)

Friday evening finally arrived and so did about 8 guests, including my sweet neighbor. The Chocolatier began her presentation and handed me a hostess gift - a mug with a packet of Chai tea and a chocolate covered pretzel stick. Ummm...Chai tea? Really? I tried to be gracious said thank you and the show continued. While we ate our way through samples, my neighbor asked if I knew if the tea was as good as the price was high. I told her I had no idea because I don't drink black tea and offered her my packet from the Chocolatier, who just happened to walk up to us at that moment and say,

" Oh, I love the Chai tea. I've been through the temple, and I know I shouldn't drink it, but it is my biggest weakness and I just have to have it now and then."

Huge sigh.

Why did she say that? Probably to increase her sales. But why at that moment? Why, to this person who took it from there and expressed how that justified everything negative she feels about the church. I stood there with my mouth open and nothing came out. The next day I felt a tremendous amount of guilt about not speaking up. But when I shared my thoughts with my husband he asked,

"Did the Spirit prompt you to say anything?"

I told him no, to the contrary. Every time I tried to speak, I felt compelled to refrain. I suddenly experienced one of those amazing Aha! moments. I knew right away that anything I had to say that night would have set a match to the fuel. I wanted to learn more about my new friend and that certainly happened. The Spirit did prompt me. In answer to my prayers to be more understanding, He prompted me to listen and to understand. I look forward to strengthening my friendship with my neighbor.

See what I mean about experiences giving us material to write about? There is another facet to this story that I will share in 2 weeks. What I would like to learn now is how and when to flip the switch from "on" to "no" so that I can have time to actually write!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hope and the Hummingbird

by Melinda Carroll

First of all, I've got to say that it's very hard to write for this blog.  I've been thinking of how to write something that everyone will read and be enlightened by, something that will be new and fresh and different, something that will garner hundreds of comments on how fabulous my post is.

Hmmm.

Nope, still nothing...

So instead I guess I'll just talk about hope and the hummingbird (sounds like a fable, doesn't it?).
First, hope.  We're now into our final week of January. How're all your New Year's resolutions going?
Is your philosophy this:

Or more like this:

I'm finding that for me it's usually both.  If you're determined not to give up, then everything will happen- both the good and the bad.
One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:4.  I don't think hope, as the Lord defines it, is the same as hope as the world defines it.  In worldly terms, hope is a wish-- I hope something will happen (or won't happen).  In the scriptures however, hope only comes after faith.  Moroni describes it in Ether as a "sure hope" and an "anchor."  Certainly this means something more than just a wish.
I believe that the reason hope comes after faith is because it requires the vision we develop through exercising faith.  Faith is acting on something true that is unseen.  Hope, I believe, is acting on the rewards of faith, even if we haven't actually been given those rewards yet.
So how does this apply to writing?  For those of us who haven't been published, do we write as if we are confident it will happen?  Are we so sure of it, that our actions reflect that confidence?  For those that have been published, do you write with confidence that your next book will be even better than the last? Are you confident that your sacrifices will yield positive results?
I know I don't have a perfect grasp on that kind of hope yet, but I think it's something worth reaching for.

And now to the hummingbird.  A couple weeks ago, a hummingbird got caught in our garage.  I opened the garage door, hoping it would fly out, but it didn't.  Instead, it kept banging at a little window, trying to get out to the backyard.  The hummingbird could see the backyard, it knew it wanted to be there, but it just couldn't understand the obstacle in front of it.  I kept thinking that if only it would turn its head (do hummingbirds have necks?) away from the small window and look at the giant gaping whole just to the side, it would be able to get to where it wanted.  The bird just needed a change of focus, not a goal change.
Sometimes I think we're this way.  We keep pecking futilely at the same old things because we think that it's the path to our goal.  But sometimes we require a shift (which for me, usually comes in the form of some sort of challenge or trial) so that we can successfully accomplish what we really want.

That's it.  These are just some things that have been on my mind lately.  Nothing too profound, and nothing that you all didn't already know.  But thanks for letting me share.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life Long Learner

By Leesa Ostrander
I would like to start over. I am new to ANWA Bloggers and new
to blogging. I did not properly introduce myself.
In a quick recap of myself I am complicated and simple. I
love to write and have written for years. I am the one asked to write poems for
funeral fliers, edit/write essays for school grants and edit high school
papers, not that I am good, just willing to do it. These beautiful fun tasks came because I cannot say “no” and truly love doing it.
I live in Washington State and have two daughters, 9 and 5.
My husband is gone for three months of training in Oklahoma and I love the
freedom (I love my hunny also and need the space). We spent this last summer at
local lakes and finally love it here.
I teach Communication courses at an online college in
Arizona. This involvement fell in my lap. I was in Arizona visiting my parents,
their neighbor suggested I go to the college and drop off a resume. I went to
the college, said I wanted to work for them and here I am a year later, loving
the experience the students bring each day. I have students in high
school in the Running Start Programs to older students re-entering the
workforce. The class is a requirement and a beginning level; this gives me a
huge variety of stories, examples and head-scratching moments.
I am an EMT or Emergency Medical Technician. I went to
school in my earlier years to go to medical school. Both times I applied, I
became pregnant in the approval process. I took this as the Lord saying, “No,
no. Medical school is not for you.” I say this because I was violently ill with
both girls. I still want to be involved in the medical field and after 17 years
of dental assisting, I rested my aching wrists and traded it for lifting adults
onto gurneys.  
I travel. I love to get up and move. We spend summers in New
York, once in Greece, and roaming the Pacific Northwest. This year we are summer road tripping down California’s Highway 1, over to Arizona and back up through Utah. These will be very exciting times in the Ostrander car, any takers on sitting between the squabbling siblings?
I am a forever student. We are students in our homes
and neighborhoods. I took this further and am working on my third degree and
fourth certificate program. I love the process of learning, how you can
affect change in a small way and leave a lasting impression. I go to MOPS, to
learn about people and the messages that come from a different point of view. I
love listening to my visit teaching partner give her lesson, full of life’s
experiences, dripping in love of our Lord and completely blanketed with the
Spirit. (hehe  -I know I feel like I am at a Round Tuit Writing excersise) I want to learn from her and one day, hope my daughter will say something similar about me.
In closing, I want to share it is the learning moments in
daily life that affect the future generations. If each simple mistake or
triumph is celebrated as a gift, it will make us stronger, more grateful and
ready to use our words for positive influence. This is my goal to be a positive
force in my family’s life, that they will have light is the stressful times
ahead.
With this, I bid you adieu.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's All in How You Spin It

by Tracy Astle

Let me introduce you to my husband.
     Arms carrier
     Drug money courier
     Money launderer
     Skipped the country last week
     Tax evader

All true.

Wait. Let me reintroduce you. We have been best friends since high school and have two binders full of letters we wrote to each other while I attended BYU Provo and he served in the Queensland Brisbane Mission. He has been active in the Church all his life and has never been without a current temple recommend since he was endowed just over thiry years ago. (Cue theme to the Superman movie.)

Also, all true.

So, how can all these things be accurate? Well, it's all in how you spin it. In our job as storytellers we need to be sure of exactly how we want to spin the details of the stories we choose to tell. Which details do we include? Which do we leave out? Which words do we choose to describe a character, a setting or a situation? All these decisions hinge on what mood we want to create, what theme we want to present, on what is at the heart of the story we are telling and who our target audience is.

With an audience like this one of LDS women writers it's likely that you either didn't believe my first introduction, or at least figured there was more to the story than I was telling. And you would be right.

Just to be nice and get my husband off the hook, I'll fill in some little bits I may have left out.
     Arms carrier - He has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
     Drug money courier -  We recently sold a gold coin and a few of the bills he brought home (couried) from the coin shop had on them a sticky, black residue with a disgusting stench. Apparently it was marijuana resin. (Totally had to be drug money, right?)
     Money launderer - He carefully cleaned the foul bills with rubbing alcohol.
     Skipped the country last week - We went on a cruise to Mexico, Belize and Grand Cayman.
     Tax evader - He bought a few things at duty free shops. (No taxes to be paid when we brought them back into the country.)
I think he still deserves the Superman theme, don't you?

Wanna play? It's always more fun when lots of us come out and play. So now it's your turn. Spin those facts. Tell us the most sordid thing you or a loved has ever done. (And then tell us the 'real' story, of course. We don't want to get anyone in trouble, now do we?)

P.S. - Bonus points if you make us laugh. If you get enough bonus points I may have to reward you with chocolate chip cookies.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Remington Steele Reminds Me of a Few Life Lessons

by Marsha Ward

I mentioned two weeks ago that I've been watching episodes of the beloved 1980s romantic comedy/mystery television series, "Remington Steele" lately. Mostly--grumble, grumble--when my Dish network conks out on me--which is a lot!

I've completed watching the third season now. Only two more, well, one and a half, to go. (After six episodes of the fifth season, NBC pulled the rug out from under MTM and Pierce Brosnan by canceling the show. Details can be found on the Internet.)

Anyway, I've remembered a thing or two from watching the show. The conversation below illustrates them. It's from an episode in the 3rd season written by John Wirth entitled "Springtime for Steele," and takes place between Remington Steele (Pierce Brosnan) and the world's worst singer, Rocky Sullivan (Lynne Randall), toward the end of the episode. 

After discovering that one of her backers had bought up all the tickets to her previous show and given them away so it appeared that she was a hit, but that her managers' plan was for her to fail since they'd sold "pieces" of her amounting to 500%, she has lost confidence and doesn't want to go out and sing. The elipsis indicates irrelevant dialog has been cut.

Rocky: I can't go on.
Steele: Of course you can.
Rocky: I'm a fraud...I've lost it.
Steele: You know, Rocky there have been times in my life when I felt as though I couldn't go on. As though I had nothing to live for anymore. When everybody I seemed to trust failed me.
Rocky: That's funny. That's exactly how I feel now.
Steele: Rocky, we're not always able to anticipate or affect the way people treat us. I suppose that's what makes life exciting and frightening at the same time. But still, there is one constant we can control.
Rocky: Yeah? What's that?
Steele: You. No matter what happens, you can be the best Rocky Sullivan there ever was. And no one can do a thing to stop you.

Okay! Awesome writing, awesome delivery!

Well, maybe I would have written one line differently: "When everybody I trusted seemed to fail me." Maybe John Wirth did, and Pierce Brosnan muffed it--the actors in this show were extraordinarily careful to say the lines as written, so I can only think he muffed it and the production crew missed it. But I digress!

The two things that stand out to me here are 1) everybody needs a cheerleader, and 2)  we have no control over how readers or relatives or critics or neighbors or reviewers or members of our faith community treat us. However, we can control one constant: we can be the best self/writer/friend/sister there ever was.

Thanks for reminding me of that, John Wirth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why We Write

I received the ultimate compliment at my last ANWA Chapter meeting. My heart is full just writing about it. Pamela Reynolds shared with me that her little boy with Autism has a special book he loves. It's the first book he has ever read all by himself. That book was Chase McKay Didn't Get Up Today, my little children's picture book I wrote a few years ago. If I never hear another nice word about my writing I'm pretty much good forever. I wrote that book out of love for my own little boy, Chase McKay, and it brings me joy to share it with other little girls and boys. Check this one off my bucket list Pam, and give your little son an extra hug for me.

I could pretty much call it good in the writing department, except characters keep waking me up at night demanding that I tell their story, so . . . I shall do my best to get them out of my head and trapped in the computer for now. Having said that, I will probably start having nightmares about my characters being cramped and smashing into each other in my computer. Dragons will step on faeries. Evil Shadows will smother angels. Goblins will steal ice cream from back yard picnics. Cyclopes will shoot lasers from their one eye at the nice little old grandma. They will all come alive and escape my computer. Alas, the reality or insanity of being a writer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Twitter"pated and "App"licated

by Tanya Parker Mills

Everyone's talking about Twitter today over on another list. Questions like: Is it worth it to get on? How do you get on? Should you "follow" or not follow and, if so, how best do you do it? And what about using TweetDeck? What's all that about?

I've been on Twitter for probably a year now and, to be honest, I just haven't gotten into it. I still don't understand "hash tags" and how to best insert myself into an ongoing tweet conversation, or even if I should. Now I realize I haven't given it the time and concentration necessary to get over my learning curve, but something about the whole thing makes me want to rebel. I'm a writer who wants to write novels, not 140-word witticisms that will attract followers. You may say, "Well, Tanya, don't you realize that if you gain a large following on Twitter, those same people will likely want to read your books?" Uh, no, I don't think so. My books are serious and tweets generally aren't (at least, not the ones that people enjoy reading). What happens when they buy my book and then find there's no happy, witty banter in it? I guess I'm being a curmudgeon about the whole thing.

Actually, I'm far too distracted these days. If it's not talk of Twitter, then it's this "Apple's about to download its 10 billionth App" announcement, promising $10,000 to the person who lucks out and actually downloads their 10 billionth app. So, what am I doing every couple of hours today? You got it! I'm checking my Apple page to see where the counter's at so I can download that free app I've been wanting for the last week at precisely the right moment. Hah! It's probably all a scam, anyway.

I long for the good old days of face to face time without gadgets, internet, and...oh, yes, blogging.

Go on, tell me I'm wrong.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Deal with the Devil

By Susan G. Haws

Have you ever been just about ready to make a deal with the Devil?  Have you ever said to yourself, hey, I probably wasn't going to make it anyway so if _________ and __________ happen it might be worth frying in the deep, deep South for eternity?  Come on down ( Should I say up?) big guy and let's dicker.  What kept you from dialing 1-555-burn?

Have you ever felt so frustrated you just had to break or crush something?  Did you do it?  Did you clean it up quick  wondering what came over you?  Did you set it back down carefully and go for a jog?

Did you ever feel so joyous you could just shout to the world or rent a billboard?  What did you do?

Did you ever feel right on the razor edge where just one breath wrong would push you over a desperate cliff?  What kept you from doing something drastic?

How deep are our characters, an emotional tea cup or the ocean? How high will they reach, a step stool or Mt. Everest? To what depths will they sink; shouting or murder?

I think as writers we have to draw on all the emotions, the positive and the negative and remember that both our protagonist and antagonist experiences a full spectrum of emotions.   The differences are what triggers the happiness, rage, and depression; then, the key is the choices the characters make to cope with  situations and achieve their aspirations.  We can draw on emotions we know to make our characters believable even if their situation or choices don't match our own.




Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To whom it may concern,

by Kami Cornwall

Dear Hair - We haven't had a good day in a few weeks now. When I let you be curly you go all wild. If I straighten you out, I end up having to pull you back and that just gets boring. If you don't improve your performance soon I'm going to have to cut you off.

Dear Starbucks - Does the world really need a coffee drink larger than the 24 oz Venti? I mean, Trenta? Really? If it takes guzzling 31 oz of coffee in order to wake people up in the morning maybe it's time to admit they have a problem. Just sayin'.

Dear Mother Nature - Could you maybe make up your mind as to what season we're supposed to be experiencing right now? Winter? Spring? You're making my mother with her "sign of the times" lecture very happy.

Dear World - When did everyone get so crazy? Politics is out of control, media is depressing, and I know a sick amount of women who have been damaged in their tender youth. I mean, really - is there anyone out there who had a pleasant childhood anymore? World, can we agree to just put some happy-pills in the water? We need some serious therapy....or maybe some superheros. My kids would like to be Superman and Batman respectively. Also...whenever you want to send the Big Guy down to straighten things out that would be great.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Foreign Natures

by Terri Wagner

Admin Note: Internet access has been spotty, but I think this should go out.

I often listen to a radio version of a Dr. James Dobson interview session on my long commute. The last two days he has interviewed his son and wife both were adopted. The wife's story was as opposite my own as it could get. In a nutshell, she was 3 years old when her biological family was split up. She was eventually adopted by her foster mother's daughter. When she hit puberty, emotions long dormant came welling up. She didn't want to upset her adopted parents, she didn't know anything about her "real" mom and then felt guilty for not seeing her adopted mom as her "real" mom. She took refuge in cutting and harming herself, unable to deal with such strong emotions or even understand why they suddenly appeared. Happily, things are better now. Her adopted husband knew something of his biological mom but felt where he was and who he was was in fact enough. There was some clinical curiosity but no real need to find out about this "mom." He did learn she was 16, unable to care for him and gave him up for adoption. Eventually, his wife pieced together some of her biological family history.

I myself have never considered harming myself (ok you could make a case about being overweight but let's not go there shall we?). And that in turn got me to thinking about characters we develop for our stories with natures foreign to our own experiences. The proverbial they say write what you know. But I can't know what that feels like. I could go on forever about how many times I have been literally stunned when a trigger phrase has prompted outlandish behavior only to discover the explanation was as foreign to me as the reaction.

Our new chapter president Laurie spent our last cyber ANWA meeting telling us of character bibles. Write your character's strengths, flaws, motivations, physical appearance and refer to it as your characters go through their story. How you write their growth or lack thereof must always confirm to the character you develop, i.e. Luke Skywalker, who was his father lead George Lucas to create Anakin’s story.

So how do we write about experiences foreign to us? Feelings and emotions we may never fully understand? The character bible…armed with the knowledge that I can still have a character with a nature foreign to mine without actually having to “accept” that nature.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our New Year Surprise

by Kristin Baker

The dawning of a new year doesn't really excite me very much anymore. Of course, I make resolutions--some of them I even keep. Sure, I spend a few minutes on January 1st saying a little prayer, making a wish, reflecting over the old year and hoping the year to come will be full of promise, at least a few of our dreams will come true, and that nothing really bad will happen over the next twelve months.

But mostly, I'm just grateful we have the day off, and I spend New Year's Day wondering how much nagging I'll have to do before the Christmas decorations will come down (they're still up).

However, the first week of 2011 started out rather differently than the beginnings of years past. My husband went back to work after lunch in the middle of a seemingly normal week, then came back home a half hour later with an armload of paperwork and a panicked expression on his face. He'd been laid off, because his department wasn't getting a contract they'd expected, or something like that. He was one of two who lost their jobs that day.

As could be expected, this sent our family into a whirlwind of fear, despair, and indecision. It's amazing how quickly one can go from feeling reasonably secure in life, to "rug pulled out from under your feet" scared, in the space of a few moments. Dennis paced the house for two days talking to himself, looking lost and bewildered. I realized, with increasing alarm, just how much my husband placed his own sense of self-worth into being able to provide for his family. (I've since learned from other women who have been through this, that it's a normal trait for most men. Whatever. Guys are funny like that.)

As for myself, I suddenly got that nesting instinct that I never had when I was pregnant, and I hopped up from the computer and started cleaning. I finally grabbed the Laundry Monster around the horns and wrestled it into submission (although, my friends, I can tell you the Laundry Monster is still viciously fighting back. I WILL win this time, though!). I reminded myself of the mother in that 80's movie, The Day After. Faced with the threat of nuclear war, she went nuts cleaning her house, instead of going down into the basement for shelter. She, like me, was desperately trying to cling to some sense of normalcy.

Nearly two weeks later, a new sense of normalcy has settled over our house. My husband has a few prospects, and is going to job-seeking seminars and getting his resume out everywhere. He still paces, but he's not scaring me anymore by having conversations with himself. Our family has banded together and become closer in our efforts to comfort our fears and cooperate more to get things done.

Dennis recently confided in me that losing his job may have been the answer to a recent prayer of his. Feeling that we'd hit a spiritual rut, and that he was becoming complacent in his career and not working to the best of his abilities, he took these concerns to the Lord. Literally days later, the apparent answer came in a rather jolting way. (Always be careful what you pray for!)

This revelation was a confirmation of what I was starting to suspect: Our temporary crisis is a blessing in disguise. Doors are beginning to open where we hadn't seen doors before. Many dear friends are popping out of the woodwork and offering support and assistance, or just a listening ear when I need that more than anything else. Both of us feel that, although still scary and uncertain, this will be over soon enough and we can breathe a sigh of relief. I may have to go back to work at Denny's for a while, we may need to tighten our belts, or we might have to move--but I'm ready to face whatever is in store for us, because I strongly feel that this was meant to happen.

I can't say that my house is now spotless or that the Laundry Monster has been vanquished at last, but this new year has definitely begun with some major changes, for us. Maybe it's time to start to getting excited about New Year's Day again. By this time next year, who knows what will have happened? What company will my husband end up employed with? Will we be in a new home? In a different town or state? And will I finally land that deal with my future amazing agent and/or publisher? Whatever happens, I resolve to spend the entire year not taking anything for granted, with an appreciation for all blessings, great or small.

Even blessings in disguise.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Body Parts

By Wendy A. Jones

I've always had adequacy issues.

Thankfully, I've come a long way in the past two years, but there are still times when I think, "I'm just not enough. What should I do?"

As I went to compose this blog post yesterday, my adequacy issues again appeared, with their wolfish grins and mocking eyes.

I had read through the past couple of weeks of posts on this blog and felt painfully, woefully inadequate.

"Who are you to think you can write?" the wolfish-grin-eye-mockers asked.

"I don't know," I said, my voice very small. I put my laptop away, knowing I couldn't put it off indefinitely--I had a deadline!

All the ideas I had had were half-formed, disconnected blobs of thought. I went to bed last night still unsure of which way to go.

I found my way this morning, after reading 1 Corinthians 12:14-27.

For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I sometimes wonder, when I think about the gifts and talents I've been blessed with, "Why?" Why was I made the way I am? Why can't I be more like ___________, who is so good at _________?

This scripture gives me comfort; it shows me that even though I may not have the same gifts as other people, my gifts are still important.

I am part of the body.

Take that, adequacy issues!

I am humbled to be not only a member of the Church, but also of this writing organization where there isn't fighting over who gets to be the eyes and who gets to be the feet. Each member helps the others; we sorrow and rejoice over the rejection and successes of everyone in ANWA.

Later on in that chapter of 1 Corinthians, it talks about "coveting the best gifts." So it's okay to want a particular gift--to ask for it, and try to nurture it. But it's okay, too, when your gifts are on par with an appendix or a spleen. Then we bounce back to the parable of the talents--it's all right to be an appendix or a spleen as long as you're being an appendix or a spleen ("I'm an appendix and I'm proud!"), as long as you aren't hiding your candle under a bushel, as long as you're using your gifts to benefit others.

Be the best spleen you can be.

I wish I knew how to cross-stitch.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Broken and Unbroken Resolutions

by Bonnie Harris

Confession time!


I'm having a hard time keeping my resolutions this year, something I haven't struggled with before. (Confession #1) It seems I was doing better the week before the new year with them. So I've been thinking (a dangerous thing at times), what are the reasons for broken resolutions? Why is it so hard to set and keep goals? Here's what I've come up with . . .

  1. Time
  2. didn't really want to do it to begin with
  3. Time
  4. unobtainable in the first place
  5. other things take precedence
  6. Time
  7. don't want to be accountable
  8. did I mention time?
Now I don't know how true this is for others and I'm not saying all of them are true for me either, but it's been interesting to ponder on. I think for me I'm finding other things are taking precedence which in turn takes time away from the goals. As hard as it is for me to admit, I'm finding something more enjoyable to do this year. I never expected to feel satisfied with just sitting and watching my baby. (Confession #2)

I have always been up and moving and the idea of just sitting and "doing nothing" has never appealed to me. I have since learned that watching my baby is far from doing nothing but it's an intriguing development for me, something to continue thinking about. Then again I don't want to think too hard otherwise steam will billow from my ears. Not a pleasant experience. :)

This brings me around to confession #3 and where I ask for help. I don't like food. I don't like to eat. It's a necessary evil for me. This poses a problem. I had the same problem when I was pregnant, but at least then there were times I actually felt hungry. Those feelings are completely gone now. So how does one who doesn't like food remember to eat? Discuss. Further more, what does said person eat that doesn't take too long to make and doesn't burn easily?

Anyway, I hope everyone is having more success with their resolutions this year than I am. If not, consider changing them. After all, life is about learning and growing and the best way I know how to do that is to set goals and achieve them. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Newbie

By Jolene B Perry
I'm new blogging here. Normally I blog here. This is what I like to call shameless self-promotion. It's okay, we all do it, and I kinda like it from the rest of ya.
Some stuff you should know about me:
I live in Wasilla, Alaska. I don't know Sarah Palin. (everyone asks)
I spend an exorbitant amount of money at Taco Bell. It’s the only fast food I eat.
On the flipside I won’t touch a fruit or veggie that’s not organic. I know, I know, it seems a bit counterproductive…
I whither a little every time I leave my house without my iPod
Need someone to tie your fishing lure? I can do that.
Start a fire? Set up a tent? Build a house? Justify a shoe purchase? Learn to play the guitar? I’m your girl.
If you’re looking for the bottom of the laundry pile? I’m SO not your girl. I don’t think it exists.
I taught middle school math with a degree in Political Science and French and I now LOVE math. I’m just a dork like that.
Been married for 14 years to a guy who baptized me into the church at 19. We have two kids who are more outrageously awesome than any other two kids in the world, ever.
The last thing you need to know about me is that I firmly believe in brevity (anyone who has written me a simple question in an email will adamantly disagree) and I believe in writing. I will ALWAYS write about writing – at least a little.
SO – today I’m going to share one of my favorite self-editing tips. This is NOT one to do with a rough draft. This is one to do when you THINK you’re ready to submit.
Print off your MS - make sure the pages are numbered – toss it into the air, sit in the middle of the pile you’ve created and pick up one page at a time. It’s SO good because you don’t have the chance to get pulled into the story. IF you don’t want to kill a tree and turn your floor into a disaster zone all at the same time - you can randomly scroll through your document NOT ALLOWING yourself to read consecutive pages. Mark the pages with comments. If there’s NO EDITING NEEDED, leave a comment that says some thing like “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
Happy writing!
Leave me your favorite self-edit tip, if you would. We’re all lonely writers at some point in time… and my favorite tips about writing, editing, submitting… have all come from fellow bloggers. No pressure or anything.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wait Patiently On Him

By Kari Diane Pike

I feel a little selfish as I write this post. January marks the beginning of my fifth year as an ANWA Founder & Friends blogger. January 2007 seems like a life time ago. While I have not yet completed my goals to be published and obtain my bachelor's degree, I continue to take steps every day so I can get there. As 2010 slipped away, discouragement set in to the point that I seriously considered letting go of both of those goals. I prayed and fretted and prayed some more. Then last week, as I began my scripture study in 2 Nephi 27, I came across these words in verse 27: "...and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith." That scripture took me to Psalms 37: 3-7: "Trust in the Lord, and do good;...Commit thy way unto the Lord; Trust in him also and he shall bring it to pass...Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him..." Over the next 48 hours, I stumbled upon that phrase, "wait patiently for him," three more times. I knew it was time to ask how that applied to me.

Here is a brief outline of what I learned:
Psalms 25:5 "Lead me in the truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee I do wait all the day." Learn from the Lord by following his example. Trust in the knowledge that he is our Savior.

Psalms 37:34 "Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it." This scripture reminds me that waiting on the Lord is active. There is no time to just sit around. Make the effort to live as the Lord lived and continue in love and service despite what others around me are doing. Keep the commandments and covenants and be at peace.

Psalms 40: 1 "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry." The Lord does hear and answer our prayers. The answer may not be evident for a very long time, but he does answer.

After reading some passages in Isaiah, and the admonition to cast away our "worldly" things and wait upon him, I pondered on what a professional waiter does. A waiter attends to the needs and desires of those whom he serves. Someone who "waits" is humble and patient. A waiter takes directions from those he serves. The scriptures teach us that we wait upon the Lord through faith, repentance, baptism, and obedience. Then we are given amazing promises such as found in Isaiah 40:31: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." The footnotes on that page use the words"hope for" and "anticipate," and lead to Doctrine and Covenants 133: 45 - "For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen, O God, besides thee, how great things thou hast prepared for him that waiteth for thee."

Our mortal minds can not conceive of the wealth of blessings the Lord has in store for us. When we wait on the Lord, the thing most important to us will be knowing that we have found favor in his eyes. We will look to him and know that we are acceptable in his sight. We will not need to seek out acceptance from the world around us. We will be freed from bitterness, regret, and self-hate. We won't have to be concerned about how we look, where we live, or how much money is in our bank account. The presence of the Holy Spirit will comfort us, and reassure us that as children of God, we are of infinite worth.

Luke 1: 37 "For with God nothing is impossible." How can we not want to wait on the Lord, knowing that he will always be with us and that he loves us with a love so great that he was willing to bleed from every pore and suffer on the cross -- just for us?

Needless to say, I found a renewed sense of commitment to my goals. I know that as I focus on priorities, the Lord will help me attain those goals that help me fulfill the measure of my creation. I am ready to continue moving forward. I think the words of my five-year-old grandson (as related by his dad) sum things up pretty well:
I sometimes tell the kids "Lets rock n roll" to mean lets go. I also sometimes say " That's the way I roll." primarily just to up my level of dorkness. Tonight I was asking why it was that we had a sink full of dishes and an empty dishwasher and Enoch (5) tells me, "Because dad, that's the way we rock." Made me laugh. I love him and his crazy 5 year old brain.
So get out your writing materials my friends and let's rock!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Me and "Micro-tension"

By Melinda Carroll

Hi all,
This is my first post on the ANWA blog, so I thought I'd tell you a little about myself.  Most of what can be said about me can be told in a few bullet points, so here we go:

  • I'm thirty-six, married, and a mother of four
  • I have a BA in English from BYU
  • I served a mission in Florida (met my husband there-- that story deserves more than just a bullet point though, so I'll have to tell it another time)
  • I worked in the political arena before I had kids, including doing an internship in D.C., being a press secretary for a Congressional campaign, and working for the AZ House of Reps.  I actually wrote a speech for Senator Bennett that's on U.S. congressional record-- so technically I've already been published, right? (Don't answer that)  But if you ask me anything about politics now, don't be surprised if my eyes glaze over and I mumble nonsense.  I'm woefully uneducated at the moment.  
  • I have always loved writing, though I've not always wanted to write fiction, that desire has only come about in the last couple years.  (Another story that deserves more than a bullet point).  I strongly believe, however, that there are a million creative ideas out there and the difference between a published and unpublished idea often comes down to learning the craft of writing. 
Which brings me to micro-tension.  No, this is not a reference to what I feel at any given moment (macro-tension may be more accurate).  It's also not a microwave recipe.  It's actually a term coined by Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction.  He uses it to describe the technique authors must use to hold their readers' attention through every word.  It is "the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen, not in the story but in the next few seconds."
Ever skimmed a paragraph of internal monologue?  So have I.  Sometimes when we're writing our character's thoughts and feelings, we use 100 words to say something that could have easily been said with ten.  Or we restate.  Or we say the same things again, just using different words (did I already say that?)
So how do we avoid these flaws and keep our internal dialogue (also called exposition) interesting and full of micro-tension?  Here are some of his tips- again in bullet points:

  • Find a passage of exposition in your manuscript.
  • Identify the primary emotion in the passage, then write down its opposite.
  • Look for what the character is thinking, summarize the main idea in her mind, and then find a conflicting idea.
  • If the passage involved mulling over something that happened earlier, find something about the prior occurrence that your character failed to notice or realize, raise an unasked question, or answer what new reasons your character has to feel uneasy, anxious, or in danger.
  • Without looking at your original draft, rewrite the exposition using conflicting emotions or warring ideas.  Make the contrast strong and add fresh questions and worries.
All right, that's about all the blog space I think I should take up for one day.  But before I finish, I have to acknowledge that I did very little (okay, none) of the research about micro-tension.  I took it almost verbatim from the lesson taught last night at our ANWA meeting (thanks Sandra).  Just one reason, among many, why I love ANWA.




Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why I Donated to Wikipedia

By Leesa Ostrander
Hello and I am happy to be a friend blogger on ANWA. Thank you for the warm welcome.
In the past new year’s I set a common a theme as goals for the year. I reflect on the past and project for the future.  I found individual goals did not work for me. Instead, I bulk them in one common word for the year. The past years have been: year of responsibility, year of perseverance, year of growth and change. These at times have defined the year, improved my motivation and have been the best learning moments.
This year I took a different approach – the year of the sentence. I chose this one for many reasons. I want to improve my craft, I am enrolled in a Masters writing program and need to fine tune my sentence. I also see the sentence as having a subject and predicate or issue and action.
I want to take this year as a sentence, logical and simple. Combine an issue with an action.
This brings me to why I donated to Wikipedia. Wiki has information for the masses. If there is a question, someone has answered it. The answer may not always be accurate and can be up for interpretation.
I did not donate words, sentences or thoughts on the free to write encyclopedia site. I do not feel I have the knowledge base to share with the world. My donation was monetary. Why you may ask would I do this? I ask myself also.
I have a plethora of vast and useless knowledge. This gave in to my need for more useless knowledge. I like the concept of Wiki and the sharing of information. The need for knowledge and being involved is the reason my fingers donated to the site. With my contributing money, I now feel
obligated to use, look at and borrow photos and information from the site.
When I am given a Star, US Weekly or other smuck magazine, I look at it. Why would the need to see what people eat and look like in swimsuits that I will never meet, I do not know. We are drawn to this need to find out about their lives. I am drawn to the reading about the house of John Lennon’s childhood or read about why he was rebellious. I love looking at the flags of the world and the chemical composition of caffeine.  (have a picture and cannot insert it - sorry)
Yet, factual information is at ends here. The information onthe chemical make-up of caffeine can be useful in Trivial Pursuit and not many other places.
 I read a blogrecently that quoted data from Wiki and the author was quite set that the information
was factual. It is when this information is used in a rebuttal of fact that causes stress.
So I ask is it factual or fictional with fun facts?
My year is in need of simplicity, growth, research and the need to find truth.
With this is must say my learning moment is in the knowledge that some useless knowledge should be shed and the articles are just words in the grand scheme of things. It is our perseverance and need for truthful knowledge that will lead to strengthening our talents.
In my case, I will continue to donate to causes, allow my need to pick out the pathetic sentence and how to improve it on Wiki. I will save my learning and development for my talent expansion and eternal rewards. I may still waste some valuable time on what royals are wearing in other countries, because I am nosey.
I ask what you donate to and do you love the fictional fun facts?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hi, from One of the New Kids

by Tracy Astle

Hello, sisters in faith and creativity!

Since I like to know a little about the person behind any blog post I read, I thought it might be a good idea to use this first post to introduce myself. (Don't worry. I don't find myself so fascinating that this will be a long discourse.)

I live in northern California surrounded by rich agricultural abundance. I mean seriously, we grow almost everything here, and I am fully aware of how completely spoiled I am when it comes to having access to an enormous variety of beautiful fresh produce. I love living in CA - politically, maybe not so much, but in every other way, absolutely!

I am a wife of 29 years - married my best friend from high school. It's a great story, really, considering that even though we knew each other for five years before we got married, we actually only went on one date before we got engaged - senior prom. Like I said, best friend, not boyfriend. I am also a mother of four, ranging in age from 27 to 16. Three boys, then one girl bringing up the rear. Two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren have increased our family circle in the last five years. Gotta love that!

I have been formally involved in creative things since about seventh grade, mostly music and theatre, but started writing seriously in 2008. I have also been working with youth most of my adult life which means, of course, that YA literature is my drug of choice.

One of the most important things I have learned in my life is that people are what matters. For example, ANWA is a great organization not because of it's basic idea of providing a supportive place for LDS women writers, which is a great idea. ANWA is agreat organization because of the women who make up it's ranks, who give of themselves to encourage and support each other. It's my hope that by being part of the blog team I will have the chance to get to know more about more of our sisters, so I can hopefully give them something they need - support, encouragement, a crit of their work, maybe point them in the direction of a good resource for information they want or need, but most of all to let them (you)know that they and their creative efforts are valued.

Now, to lighten things up a bit and to help me get to know you, let's talk about superpowers. Yes, I said superpowers. I know - rather an abrupt turn, but I am positive the bright women here can follow such turns! If I had a superpower based on my personality it would have to be uber-optimism. I am not only a glass half full kind of girl, I am probably more of a glass three quarters full kind of girl. I can find the bright side of anything. Really. Now, if I could choose a superpower it would probably be to be able to heal people - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - with a single touch. wouldn't that be awesome?

So...what about you? What would your inherent superpower be and what one would you choose if you could? And why?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What I Learned from Remington Steele

by Marsha Ward

Lately I've been watching episodes of the private-eye television series from the 1980s called Remington Steele, which starred Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. It became a hit because of intriguing mysteries, witty dialogue, and the romantic chemistry between the two lead characters.

The premise is this: a beautiful, intelligent, excitement-loving woman named Laura Holt, who we might nowadays call an "adrenalin junkie," determines to become a private investigator. She studies, serves an apprenticeship, and gets her license. Eventually she opens her own agency--and no one beats down the doors to hire her.

Bruised but not beaten, she invents a masculine boss who she says acts in an advisory capacity (so he doesn't interact with clients), hires a sassy secretary and a male investigator she knew from the firm she left, and soon the new agency known as Remington Steele Investigations takes off.

One day, a handsome, mysterious, blue-eyed man with a British accent (let's call him Harry) walks in the door and tries to run a con on Laura and her associates as they work on a case involving the firm guarding precious gems being used in a promotion. In a ploy to steal the jewels, he impersonates an official from South Africa, and talks his way into accompanying the agency crew on their rounds.

When the client insists on the participation of Mr. Steele, Laura goes into the song-and-dance used on such occasions, where her male investigator books a hotel room, hangs an entire wardrobe in the closets, and disturbs the bed. The usual plan is that Mr. Steele suddenly gets "called away" on an urgent case, and he is never seen by the client.

Before that can happen, the real South African official shows up and introduces himself; and the client mistakes the con man for the living, breathing Remington Steele.

In a--by turns--madcap and serious exploration of how the fictitious Remington Steele came alive, Harry assumes the role of the head of the agency, a necessary thorn in the sides of Laura Holt and her employees.

Besides the eye-candy factor, the series is enjoyable because there are lessons to learn from the characters.

First, Laura never gives up. She has a goal to run her own agency, and even though no one wants to hire a female private eye, she finds a way to achieve her goal. Her use of subterfuge leads to frustration when an interloper becomes her titular employer, but she comes to terms with the consequences of her actions and presses on.

Second, "Harry" grows and changes, from a scoff-law into a respectable citizen, from a figurehead to a useful member of the team through learning the fundamentals of investigation and applying his skills.

Writers can take a lesson from both characters. Never give up. Face up to your shortcomings and conquer them. Press forward.

Now, I think it's time for me to watch another faith-promoting, er, inspirational episode of Remington Steele. See you later!



Saturday, January 8, 2011

SPARKIN

by Cindy R. Williams

I took the big plunge into vanity, vanity license plates that is. When it came time to renew my plates, I did it online, which by the way was awesomely easy. (Yeah, I did just use an "ly" word here, but you know how they say you have to know the rule to break it. Well, I know the rule and I chose to break it cause that is pretty much how I talk.) Now back to my vanity plate.

When you renew online, there's a place where you can click to personalize your license plate. On an impulse, I clicked it and decided to see if a few things were available. I tried stuff like "WilliamsFamily", but of course that was way too long, so I tried "Williams" and also Willsfam", but both were still too long. ADOT only allows seven characters. Then I got thinking about having a plate with something to do with my writing on it. "Author" was taken and so was "Writer". I didn't like the idea of using either one of them with some random number, so I moved on.

My middle grade fantasy has occupied the main recesses of my mind for the past three years so I tried "Sparkin" the name of the dragon that takes the young hero on some pretty wild adventures. It could be a good marketing tactic.

Voila, it was available. I thought long and hard --at least for one minute that is --about any possible connections to something unsavory or untoward, but figured the worst thing "Sparkin" could be linked to was going into a dark closet and chomping down on wintergreen lifesavers to make them flash and spark when I was younger. Sparkin was also used on dates by the same couples that ran off into the woods to snipe hunt. Not me of course, but I did witness some pretty slobbery kissing going on due to sparkin and snipe hunting, but that is fodder for another blog or story.

It took about four weeks for my new license plates to arrive. When they did, I felt like a kid on Christmas. I opened the yellow packing envelope and gazed down lovingly, yup another "ly". It was almost like seeing my book in print as I admired the Arizona sunset behind the big capital letters
S P A R K I N. Almost like seeing the name in lights.

My sweet husband was delighted for me and promptly replaced my old plate. ADOT sent me two of the same plate so I put the second one in my writing place where I can admire it and dream of how maybe someday I will be driving around in my mommy-mobile-mini-van and someone will point at my license plate and say . . . "Hey, that's the name of the dragon in the book I'm reading."

Here's hoping that dreams come true.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mom's Family Log: From Novel Research to Facebook

by Tanya Parker Mills

Regardless of how it turns out, my next novel, set in Beirut, will be dedicated to my mother, who made an invaluable (and, I'm sure, inspired) decision shortly before she got married.

She determined to keep a "Family Log," documenting all of her married life. This was back in 1950, long before blogs and Facebook (and before she had any premonition that we would travel so much), but she already had the idea of posting brief blurbs of our family's daily life, accompanied by photos, childish drawings, letters, newspaper clippings, etc. Anything that had relevance to our family or anyone in our family went in that log. And they got pretty big and heavy, too, generally measuring 10 inches wide and 14 inches long, with a thickness of some 2-3 inches. Anyone who came to visit the Parkers for a stay or even a dinner party--from the neighbor next door to apostles of the church--was invited to write in our Family Log. We children were embarrassed about it when we got to be teenagers, but I am so grateful now!

Thanks to my Mom (and Dad, for both would faithfully keep it going when separated by travel involving work or vacation), I had primary source material to fill in the details missing from my poor memory when I wrote my first novel, "The Reckoning," set in Baghdad. And now that I'm returning to our past in Beirut for my third novel, I've pulled out more volumes of the Family Log yet again. (There are, by the way, over 20 volumes.)

As I've pored over the pages detailing the beginnings of Lebanon's civil war, old names and faces have come alive again, but this time I've done something more than take notes. I've reached out, through Facebook, and found at least three. One of them, a young Armenian member of the church, had just been called to serve a mission there in Beirut when things began to fall apart. I can't wait to hear his recollections of those difficult days and how he survived everything.

More importantly, I hope to be able to help fire up the light of the gospel for him once more. We know that the gospel will be taken to all peoples and parts of the world and if we hope to bring the church to the Arabs, the seeds once sown by missionaries there (we had up to 6 elders serving in Beirut from the Swiss Mission in the early 70's...as well as missionaries in Iran and Turkey) need to be nurtured again, despite all the conflict.

Mom not only kept a family history. Like the scriptures, it contains testimonies and words from prophets. Like Mom, herself, it reaches out to all those encountered, inviting them in to be a part of our family and the family of Christ. All in all, not a bad legacy for a "Family Log." Are you keeping your family's history?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Clean Slate

by Susan G. Haws

A new year,  the opportunity to put life in perspective.  Take the chalk board of life and erase what is unwanted or even wash it clean and start new.  Find that place of inner peace and live in the moment.  Like walking on the beach enjoying the warm waves lapping  feet and erasing  foot prints behind.  A time for a fresh start with new goals. 

At our ANWA chapter meeting, as we were setting goals for our next meeting, I realized I have been very vague in my writing goals because they have become more like hopes rather than something I believed I could achieve.  Long ago, in a previous life I sort of remember, I was very goal oriented both for myself and clients.  Goals had to be realistically achievable in the time allotted, yet challenging; they had to be measurable, and there were objectives that formed stepping stones to the end goal.  I realized it was time to dust off some of these old skills, find a little determination and set some new patterns in the new year.

 I like zen gardens.  I like the stones and the designs in the sand. Rocks like the  people, roles, obstacles, and goals in life; and  raked furrows the paths formed from habits and actions.   It is time to re-landscape my garden, sand  smoothed; rocks moved; and new patterns traced in the sand.  What are some of the changes you are making in your life?






Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Bite At a Time


by Cindy R. Williams

I am luck to have a sister-in law who is more like a sister than an in-law. We often share with each other our latest break throughs and insights in life. This week she shared with me an "Ah ha" moment that is helping her in a big way. Read this next sentence closely or you'll miss it. Just do ONE TINEY THING toward your goal today. That's it. If you do just one tiny thing each day, soon those tiny things add up and one day you will wake up with goal accomplished.

My sister-in-law was in pickle. Her daughter, my neice, is leaving for the Provo MTC in about a week to prepare for her mission in Boston. She and my my sister-in-law need to sew numerous outfits to take with her. (My neice is 6'1" and weighs 110 pounds and that's is if she's wet - store bought clothes drape like tents on her. - side note . . . I wish I had that problem.)

For the past month, my sister-in-law has put off even beginning to sew because her sewing machine is covered with so many unfinished projects and material that it qualifies as an official small mountain of mess. She didn't know where to begin. It was absolutely too big of a task to have to clean all those things off, put them away or someplace else so that she could begin these new clothes. It was so overwhelming it made her stomachache.

She heard a self-help talk that gave the advice to just do one tiny thing today toward your goal and so she did. She decided she could certainly tidy up one corner of the sewing table. She called me shocked. Once she gave herself permission to not have to organize everything in order to begin sewing, she found that within a very short time, the ENTIRE sewing table was clear and she had even begun to sew the first outfit. And this was all as a result of her choice to do just one tiny thing today.

Often the greatest truths are the simplest.

This brings to mind the old question, "How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at t time."

How does this relate to our writing?  You probably have already figured that out, but just the same, I need to tell you so this posting will come full circle.

We are taught to set our goals high, higher, highest! and we do! Then we become overwhelmed. How about if we each do just one tiny thing on our writing project today. Stop reading this blog and do JUST ONE TINY THING RIGHT NOW.  Please come back in a day or two and let me know what magic happend for you.