Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Love Triangle

By Wendy A. Jones

I listened to a podcast on writing romance by Janette Rallison the other day, and it got me thinking about love triangles.

In YA lit, especially, it seems like love triangles are all over the place. Think of Bella-Edward-Jacob (Twilight), Katniss-Gale-Peeta (The Hunger Games), Laurel-David-Tamani (Wings), Cassia-Xander-Ky (Matched), or Evie-Lend-Reth (Paranormalcy). There are more, obviously, but these were the ones I plucked right off the top of my head (although I had to pluck some of the character names right off of Amazon--the ol' memory isn't quite what it used to be).

Janette mentioned that sometimes the love triangle isn't between two desirable people (which, hello, Reth is SUPER creepy) but the power balance is such that the tension about who the heroine will end up with keeps the story moving forward.

As I thought more about it, I realized "love triangle" is just a fancy romance writer phrase for something else: "choice."

A love triangle--so necessary in romances because they focus on relationships--deals with the personal, or private, choice of a character. The character (and the other two in the triangle) are the only people greatly impacted by that choice. Other choices--which job to take, whether or not to move, should he or she step back and watch a robbery or step in and help--which a character makes can become more and more public.

It's when these personal stakes are in direct opposition to the public stakes that we get some real tension: save your family or save the world?

Not every book has someone saving the world, but every good book does have elements of personal stakes and public stakes. Figuring out how to solve both in the best way possible is what makes a really great story.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Again? Really?

By Bonnie Harris

My internet has decided to take on a life of its own. It decides when, where and how long it wants to work. There is no consideration taken into account. I can be checking email, writing a blog post, doing research and it will kick me off. I have to admit, I don't have very kind feelings when that happens.

However, it has brought to mind a thought. What would we do without the internet? Would we know how to communicate with each other if email didn't work? Do we remember how to write a letter? Would we know how to conduct research? Would we remember book stores? Not that I have anything against epublishing, but if the internet didn't work, how would we get our hands on ebook? (I think that's one reason why I really like to feel the pages of my books.) How dependent are we really?

Don't get me wrong. I love to have information at my fingertips and I would have as hard a time as anyone readjusting, but it does make one think. Now, I figure I better get this posted before my internet decides it's had enough again. So I guess you could say this is a venting post, but it has made me think. Happy Saturday! :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Little Pieces We Create

By Jolene Perry

When I cook I rarely use a recipe, and even when I do I take it as a guideline… unless I’m baking. But even then, I guess on teaspoons and tablespoons and that kind of thing. What does this have to do with writing?

Nothing yet.

You’ll have to stick with me for a little longer.

When I was in high school, I helped my mom clean out her spices. I remember finally taking the time to smell each one, and I started to understand why chili powder, cumin and oregano work to make yummy taco meat. The more I smelled, the more I wanted to experiment. Now, as I’m cooking, I know when I should use white pepper instead of black pepper, or powdered garlic instead of minced garlic. In the end, it’s those subtle additions that make the difference.

And NOW I’ll talk about writing.

When I read, I study language more than anything else. Building stories I can do. I may not be the best, but I can do it. It’s the language that fascinates me. The way some people put words together – Sarah Ockler, Marisa De Los Santos, John Green, Jandy Nelson… I could go on.

So when I look at my own writing, it feels bland… too soupy…

I remember when I first heard someone say that you really do need to actually look at each sentence in your book. Does it say what you need it to say, does it say more? Does it say less? Am I using my brain and the tools I have to write the best way I know how?

Do I have a point with this post?

I have no idea.

But I’d like to think that my point is that we all have a style and a way we like to do things, but there will always be ways to be better, to learn from writers around us, whether they be famous published authors, friends, or both ;D

Next time you go to edit, work on one page, look at the words you’ve put together. Pay attention to the small details, the subtle flavors and all of the little things that make your writing particular to YOU.

Happy writing people :D


Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's All In the Family!

In less than twenty four hours, I will be on my way to the Salt Lake City International Airport with my husband, seven of our nine children, thirteen grandchildren, a grandparent or two and maybe even a couple of aunts and uncles. Our missionary is coming home! Ammon has been serving in the Toronto East Mission (now known as the Toronto Mission)/Korean speaking for the past 25 months. He has come to love the people he has been serving and considers Canada to be his home away from home. It has been a joy to see his growth and example of faith.

During Ammon's absence I discovered that our family has deep roots in Canada. Our earliest Canadian ancestor immigrated to Quebec from Normandy in the mid 1600s. I am amazed at how digging up these roots has nourished and strengthened the branches of our family tree. Yesterday I read a bit of history on an English ancestral line. Sir Thomas Cook led a fascinating life, full of economic ups and downs, time in the Tower of London, and a stint as the High Mayor of London. A family member asked a couple of the kids what they could learn from this particular ancestor. Someone quipped, "Don't lend money to the queen." (If you Google Sir Thomas Cook, you will find the humor behind that statement.) In one of those amazing AHA! moments I realized that my family history is a treasure trove of fodder for my writing. I've decided to dig a little deeper.

so...the 13 grandchildren just returned from a picnic at the splash pad, the dogs want water, and dinner for 34 needs to be prepared. I am taking lots of notes to add to add to our family story.
Is there an ancestor who has inspired your writing?
hugs~

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By The Next Time I Post...

By the next time I post:
-My kids will be in school
-For the first time in over eleven years, I won't have a child at home during the day
-Swim lessons and summer movies will be over
-The puppies will be sold (hopefully)
-I'll have my Gospel Doctrine lesson finished
- I will have survived substituting in Nursery (I'm convinced that Nursery is the hardest calling in the church.  The people who serve in our ward are angels)
-My husband and son will both be done with separate Scout camps
-The salsa in my fridge will either be gone, or have gone bad
- We may, or may not, have squeezed in one last trip to Sea World (we paid extra for year-round passes, but haven't been able to use them yet)
-Amidst all the rest, I will try to fit in Doctor's appointments, dog grooming, shopping for school clothes and supplies, cleaning the house, exercising, grocery shopping, laundry, organizing the kids' rooms for school, and WRITING
-And at some point, at least once during the next two weeks, I will take a nap.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Art of Communication – Character’s

By Leesa Ostrander

As I have mentioned before I love the art of human communication. Our methods are complicated yet so simple. There are norms that are expected and when these norms are broken the communication is less effective.

 One of the topics in the course I teach is about noticing communication behaviors in groups and interpersonal conversations. By watching people and how they interact we can have a glimpse into personalities and characteristics.

Watching how people interact, from happy conversations to conflict and resolution the aspects of a character can make or break the story. They can be realistic and make the reader want to read on and love them as much as I do.

I read a book recently where I loved the characters! They were well developed and I wanted the book to continue on. However, the book was riddled with editing errors and cliché after cliché. This was distractive to the characters and storyline.

Communication is the full gamut. It is the spoken words, the nonverbal messages, the scenery, the context, the conversation and the story in whole.

Making the character realistic is not an easy task. The character can formulate in many ways. I watch people and pay attention to their behaviors. I find the behaviors that fit in the situation I need. Then I write it down and use a puzzle matrix to create “The Character”.

This method works for me, yet I have about 100 characters in my head.

So I ask: What do you do to give your characters their personality? How do you find the norms of the storyline?

Monday, July 25, 2011

You've Been Such a Good Girl

By Tracy Astle

When I started in the BYU BGS program (an independent study course), the first class I was required to take was basically a how-to-be-successful-in-this-program-class. No big surprise there. This class had sections on study skills, goal setting, etc. No big surprise there either. What did surprise me a bit, and maybe it shouldn't have, was that as part of the goal setting section they encouraged us to build in a reward system for whenever we reach a goal.

Wow. Earth shattering concept, I know.

But really, I hadn't had a reward system in place for myself in, oooooh...I have no idea how long. After all, I am not three years old anymore. I am a grown up, thank you very much. I should be able to do things by sheer will and self-discipline, right? Accomplishing the task should be reward enough for an adult person like myself, shouldn't it? Of course it should.

But, you know what? (Of course you know what!) It works. It really, honest to goodness works.

Why? In part because it makes things fun. And fun is important, right Jolene?

So, I've decided I could benefit from using this ground-breaking system when it comes to writing. I'm new enough at this that I haven't needed a whole lot of discipline or goal setting to keep writing. I've just done it because while I worked on my first novel - I. Could. Not. Stop. Now, working on book two has been a different situation. For one thing I was an at home mom when I wrote the first draft of my first book. Now I'm not. And let me tell you, a job just gets in the way of a lot of things! ; )

Anyway, one of my favorite rewards for reaching a small or short term goal is to download a new song from iTunes. Love that!

How about you? Are you a goal setter when it comes to writing and do you give yourself rewards along the way? If so, what are some of your favs?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24th - Pioneer Day

by Marsha Ward

Throughout Utah, and in many communities in the Intermountain West of the United States, this weekend will bring parades, fireworks, concerts, and other celebrations in honor of the Mormon Pioneers, whose first wagon party arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on this day in 1847. They were followed by thousands of pioneers who came west in the next decades.

July 24th is special to those LDS members whose ancestors trod those many miles across America, looking for a place to worship as they wished. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--the Mormons--is no longer simply an American religion. A few years ago, a milestone was reached where there are now more LDS members outside the United States than inside of it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world-wide church.

What about all those millions of LDS members who did not have pioneer ancestors? Do they celebrate Pioneer Day?

Certainly. Many of them are pioneers in their own right: they might be the initial members of the LDS Church in their families. Perhaps they were the first member of their family to serve a mission for the Church. Maybe they are the first to finish high school, or go to college.

We all have ways in which we are pioneers. Although I do have Mormon Pioneer ancestors, I was the first young woman from my ward to go on a mission.

How are you a pioneer?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Writing Expectations: Email to a Friend

by Cindy R. Williams

We all have high expectations. I expect to be back to my high school weight by Christmas. It could happen, that is if I'm willing to exercise four hours a day and eat only lettuce with mustard.

High expectations in writing are based upon where we are in our educational journey of writing.  I now have high hopes and more realistic expectations in the writing arena, thanks to beginning to understand the process of what it takes to become published, and more importantly, what it takes to write well.  

When people find out you are a writer you may hear things like, "I have a great story. How do I write it?" or "I am writing a book too, but I don't really know how. Will you fix it for me?"  I am always happy to help where I can, but sometimes what I have to say is not what other's want to hear. I give advice on writing and tips I have learned, but there is really no short cut. Writing is a craft, and as such, we must study and practice.  

The following is an email response to a friend hoping to write his book in his spare time this month and have it published possibly the next month. High expectations to be sure. I don't like popping other peoples dream bubbles but it is what it is. Here was my answer.
 
Hi _____,


Here are a few pointers.

Write your book like a three act play. Beginning, middle and end. May seem too simple, but bare with me:
1st Act establishes setting, characters and what problem(s) they must solve.
2nd Act is the journey which ends in the confrontation of the problem which will make the climax.
3rd Act is winding down, what happened from the journey and the results and change in the character(s).

Choose 1st person or 3rd person. You must stay with one or the other throughout the entire book.
Remember 1st person is telling the story fas if you are the character. Example:  I looked out the window and saw a dark shape weaving in and out of the bushes. A shiver ran up my back and my throat went dry. I knew deep inside it had come for me.
3rd person example: She looked out the window and saw a dark shape weaving in and out of the bushes. A shiver ran up her back and her throat felt dry. She knew it was coming for her. 
 
If you use 3rd person, you must remain in one person's point of view for the entire scene or chapter. This means if you have 2 characters or more in the scene, it has to be told from only one person's point of view. Switching the point of view within the same scene is confusing to the reader and a sign of an amateur writer.
 
Show don't tell. This means that you say, Her heart sank and tears trickled down her cheeks when she saw him kiss the other girl.  NOT: She saw him kiss his date. She was sad. It was supposed to be her.
 
Use dialog to reveal information, not just as chit chat.  
 
Try to stay away from words ending in "ly"  Also, try to limit words ending in "ing".
 
Use a variety of sentence structures.
 
Not too much slang. It dates your novel.
 
Toward doesn't have an "s" on the end.
 
Show how your characters feel about things by including what their body is doing. Instead of "She thought he looked hot." You could write; He walked into the room and she felt flushed when their eyes met. (Again, this is more of showing, not telling.)
 
Hope this gives you something to go on.  If it takes a little or a lot more time than you expected, keep at it. If it is important to you, you will stick with it as long as it takes. May I also suggest you look into some writing conferences, on-line writing classes or other writing classes? There is a ton more to writing, and I have only given you the tip of the iceburg.


       Best of luck,  Cindy

I haven't heard from this person since. I think he was hoping for easy advice or that I would take what he wrote, fix it and get it published for him. I wish I could. If it were that easy, I would have about 20 books published now instead of one.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rough Drafts in Life

by Tanya Parker Mills

The writing process is symbolic of so much in life. Perhaps that's why one of Christ's monikers is that of "Author of our faith." I'll probably delve more into that in a future post either here or on my own blog, but events of the past few days have only reinforced that truth.

I'm down in Utah lending a hand to my daughter as she prepares her classroom for her first year of teaching. It's definitely a good thing I came because I defy anyone--experienced or not--to create bulletin boards with only two hands! As with writing, you need more than one set of eyes on your work as you go along to check to make sure that your vision is being communicated clearly. And, as with writing, there will be whole sections of your creative work that may seem "finished" to you but are indeed still in rough draft form. Some may even need to be left out, if not done over.

For that reason, I understood her frustration when her "facilitator" (that's an assigned Mentor Teacher who helps her in her internship) made certain criticisms of her work thus far and then took her to show her a couple of other classrooms prepared by two other interns. (Of course, they had had help from their moms who both happened to be experienced teachers.) A writer, like a teacher, needs to develop thick skin AND get used to comparisons without falling into the trap of always comparing themselves to the point of denigrating themselves.

Rough Drafts are never easy in writing, in class prep, or in life. But they're an essential step.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Themes


By Susan G. Haws
As an avid Harry Potter fan I recently enjoyed the movie Deathly Hallows Part 2. (Two times. I loved Bonnie’s farewell to HP blog.) A friend of mine also went with me to one of the showings.  Following the movie we discussed how the actions of the characters illustrated themes from the series such as: good triumphing over evil, power should be earned by valor and used for good and then relinquished, love and self sacrifice are two of the most powerful magics in the world, people in leadership positions should serve the people they lead, to name a few.

This conversation made me remember one I had a few weeks ago with a young man who I learned is also an aspiring writer. He stated that he wanted to teach people how to live through his writing. I responded that I like to read for entertainment and no one likes to be hit over the head with another person’s morals.

In my opinion the first job of fiction writers is to entertain. A good story must have characters that encounter conflict. How those characters behave and how they deal with their challenges can illustrate themes and good and bad choices. I believe authors reach a broader audience that embraces the themes of their writing  when the author concentrates on providing an interesting and entertaining story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fostering

by Kami Cornwall

When my youngest son was born, my doctor - amid sewing my body back together - began listing the various things wrong with my lady-innards. I had been through four pregnancies and only two survived. I knew where he was going with this. My newest little bundle of joy almost didn't make it...twice.
"So, you're saying I'm done?" I was elated at the news. Of course, I was lying on the hospital bed leaving my life in the hands of three other human beings. One was controlling my heartbeat, the other two had just pulled a nine pound boy out of my stomach.
"Yeah, you probably shouldn't try to do this again. Some women are built to birth babies. You aren't one of them."
"Great! I don't want to be here ever again. Trust me." My husband and I have been great with that decision. Still are. We agreed if we felt like we were missing a child we would adopt.
A few years later I began to realize there was a need for foster parents out there. A friend of mine had temporarily taken on a few boys to go trick-or-treating and they were so grateful for the experience of having a nice family for a day. It made me sad to think of what their lives must be like without the same stability and love my boys have. I began the process of becoming a foster parent.
Then my brother-in-law moved in with us so he could attend college. The paperwork got put aside. Life got in the way. When I mentioned fostering to my mother on the phone she freaked out and lectured me on the dangers of fostering for thirty minutes. I never turned in that paperwork.
Fast forward to last Sunday. Our Relief Society president announced that DSHS would like a list of any of us who are registered foster families and encouraged those who aren't, who are interested, to become one. I talked it over with my husband and he agreed. We could do it. Our boys are older now and our guest room is empty.
I have contacted the office and filled out my information. The next step is to attend an orientation next month. Have any of you been foster parents? Was it horrible? Rewarding? I want to go into this with my eyes wide open.

Sorry I Missed my Day

by Terri Wagner

I won't post a long one just a short apology. Was in an unemployment seminar at the LDS Services. Learned a lot. Hope it helps. Am still hearing it's 1-2 years before people find work. Has that been others' experience?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Reason For My Insanity (During the Summer, at Least)

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

Well, Bonnie Harris beat me to it with her lovely post bidding farewell to the magical era of Harry Potter. I couldn't have said it better. Ms. Rowling has been such an inspiration to us authors, and not just those of young adult fantasy, and what a wonderful, emotional sendoff the last movie was!

That said, I was going to write about characterization, and suddenly a different bit of inspiration crawled across my monitor. I'll save the other topic for next time. Just as my fingers hovered over the keyboard, a little six-legged speck raced up my laptop, and I felt my blood boil. I mean, I don't even let my kids touch my laptop, so what gives these stupid creatures the idea that they're allowed to glom their disgusting feet all over my just-polished monitor, and scurry for cover in the electronics when they sense the crushing finger of death coming for them?

I'm talking about the bane of my existence from April to October of every year: ants. Tiny black sugar ants, to be exact. They've taken over my house. You can't leave a crumb of food out on the counter overnight or they'll be swarming the kitchen by morning. They get into the cat food, and constantly scout out my pantry. They leave a strong, nauseating smell of rotting oranges when you squish them. One of the kids spilled a few drops of pink lemonade on the floor that my oldest had just mopped, and I walked in a few minutes ago to see a trail of hundreds of them, leading from a miniscule crack in the tile to the sticky spot on the floor. When I'm finished with this post, I'm going into the kitchen to spray the lemonade spot with cleaner, then track down the ant line and attack it with Raid, laughing maniacally the whole time.

I've tried every home remedy suggested to me, from instant grits to cayenne pepper to vinegar. I've bleached their little pheromone lines. My ants are either too good or too smart for the little ant domes which are filled with poison-laced food that they're supposed to take home to their queen. Those come highly suggested by my friends, yet my ants refuse to touch them. Last year my husband bought some professional-grade outdoor poison suggested by his karate sensei, who's also an exterminator, and he sprayed all around our home's foundations and in trouble spots, like his sensei suggested. Did it make a difference? Oh yes. There was a noticeable drop in the ant population getting inside my house, from about 5 million to 3 million. For a week. Forget cockroaches surviving the apocalypse. My ants could kick the roaches' butts.

Yep, the only thing that really seems to work against them, albeit temporarily, is a trusty can of Raid and a good pair of eyes to track down where the line of invaders originates. Clean up whatever is attracting them, spray it with bleach or vinegar to obliterate their pheromone tracks, then sit on the couch cradling the Raid, nervously giggling and jumping at every movement. It's smart to stay at least ten feet away from me during this season, if you don't want to get sprayed.

Last week my husband did some research to see if you could give animals a blessing, after our little black kitty Yoda hurt his leg. He told me that not only can you bless a hurt or sick animal, but he read that you are supposed to treat all animals with respect and kindness, including insects. Well, we already knew that, but then he suggested that instead of cruelly poisoning our ant invaders, I should gently shoo them out of the house. I grabbed the can of Raid and chased him down the hall. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating here. I really did.

What is the point of my rambling blog post today? I really don't know. A peek into a tiny slice of my everyday life, I guess. Well, now I'm going to go attack that patch of lemonade on the floor. If you hear primal screaming coming from my house, don't be alarmed. This is therapeutic.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Practically Perfect Penderwicks

By Wendy A. Jones


I picked up my copy of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (by Jeanne Birdsall) used, at Goodwill or a garage sale. It's been sitting on my shelf for almost two years, waiting until the perfect moment to be read.


This weekend brought the perfect moment.


I was in the mountains with my extended family for a family reunion. We gathered at my grandparents' cabin and renewed our bonds with each other by splitting into groups and re-making Johnny Lingo. In our downtime, we went boating and rode the jet skis. I enjoy going on the boat and jet skis occasionally, but it's not my favorite thing. I was content to let everyone else have a turn and only headed out when one of my kids begged me to take them on a ride.


Instead, I would relax on the deck and visit with aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or their children. Or else I would read.


Thus arose the perfect moment to read about Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty Penderwick. I loved them from the first page. Ms. Birdsall's writing reminds me very much of Elizabeth Enright (Thimble Summer, Gone Away Lake) and Maud Hart Lovelace (The Betsy-Tacy books) and yet is still fresh and modern.


Even better, she has two other Penderwick books already written! I can't wait to discover them.


What have your favorite summer reads been so far?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

EXTRA! EXTRA! ADDITIONAL EVENING ADDED TO WRITERS CONFERENCE 2012


by Cindy R. Williams

It's true!  The 2012 ANWA Writers Conference is now February 23, 24 and 25, 2012.

The new, additional date of Thursday, February 23, will be the evening only. It will bring us the opportunity to add a great Critique Camp and a Super Jump Start Workshop. More information is forthcoming.  This is going to be the most amazing writers conference ever.

Get your manuscripts finished so you can pitch to publishers or agents at the conference.

Registration is limited and will be opening in about SIX weeks.

This writers conference will give you the kick start you need. Patti Hulet and I are the ANWA Conference Co-Chairs. The entire ANWA Board is working fast and furious on booking the best faculty. We will be signing with a hotel/conference center this week. I will let you know which hotel as soon as it is official.

One goal is to: "Uplift, Inspire and Educate".

More to come soon.

A Fond Farewell

By Bonnie Harris

So who's already seen it? I have and I'll probably go again with my dad next week (since Mom doesn't like those kind of movies). It really has been a fantastic journey though the books and the movies. I think back on the journey that I'm calling the Harry Potter era and smile. I admit I didn't jump on the bandwagon until book 4 came out in paperback and ate it up. I discovered them when I was "kicked out" of my house and went away to college. I sucked up the books, probably because they made me think of home. How many people have found comfort and solace within the pages of a book?

Now I look back on who I was at that time and who I am now. It's amazing to see the growth I've made and who I've become. It's amazing to see the growth of the Harry Potter characters in the books as well as in the movies.

Since I've learned more about the art of writing, I looked at this last movie from a different perspective and I have to say I'm blown away. Outlining and planning out a book before it's written is very difficult for me to do, but then to witness what happens when someone does that motivates me to keep going. It's in credible the subtle little details that I've noticed now that to have been planned and set up all the way back into book one. Incredible. Now I know J.K. Rowling is not the first and only author who has done that, but she's the first one I've really noticed. Maybe that's because I'm taking notice now, but I just found it interesting.

A nice little side note, but this really is a fond farewell to a magical era. I believe the books will still be popular for years to come, but they won't hold the same excitement. The anticipation and speculation of what will happen in a book that hasn't been released yet. The midnight shows and book store openings just for that release. None of that will be happening anymore.

For those who are interested, J.K. Rowling is doing something new with Harry Potter calledPottermore. It sounds pretty interesting. Here's her interview about that. And just for kicks and giggles, here's the speeches given at the London premiere sometime last week.

So, I'd just like to say farewell and thank you to all those who have participated in the Harry Potter era, J.K. Rowling for writing the wonderful stories, the publishers, the actors in the movie, the director, agents, and everyone else involved. It's been a magical time. Thank you.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Writing is Supposed to be FUN

By Jolene Perry

I’ve been to SO many blogs lately where people are talking about being jealous. Being burned out. Being just tired of the writing process. Being discouraged by rejections.

And I get it.

Perseverance, right?

I think sometimes people are comparing themselves to other writers. To peers. To crit partners. And if they’d just write, on their own terms, they’d be so much happier.

I don’t write with the beautiful language of one of my crit partners. My grammar is obnoxious compared to another crit partner. My books are based in the real world instead of some fantastic place like another crit partner. I know a woman who has one book out, but I know right now that her next will be even more fabulous than her first, and definitely more literary than anything I plan on attempting.

But if I sat at my computer and compared my writing and my style and my publication aspirations to those around me, I might get discouraged. A good friend is signed by a big name agent and only wants publication in the big 6. She’ll get there. I have no doubt. I’m thrilled with my new agent and how much fun I’ve had with Cedar Fort in getting my first book to print. For me, that’s perfect.

I don’t want to be discouraged. I get to WRITE! I’m not slaving away over my garden for food (out of necessity ;^) and I live in a country where I’m free to write whatever I want.

Life is good.

So, next time you sit at your computer (or your notepad, you crazy longhanders) enjoy the process. Enjoy what you do, and make it your own.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stepping Up To the Light

by Kari Diane Pike

After catching up on the past week's posts for this blog, my heart aches for the large number of us who are experiencing huge challenges in life, whether it be health problems, lack of employment, or watching someone else in your life suffer tremendous pain. Today is the first day since my last post that I almost feel like I can breathe out again. You know the feeling: you take a deep breath in and nothing wants to come out...you just keep taking in breath after breath until your head spins...Yeah, there has been a lot of breath holding around here lately. (WARNING: disturbing content)

About 11:00 pm July 2nd, the six-year-old boy who frequently stays with his mom in our home came to my bedroom pleading for help because his mom was getting hurt.

"We have to call 911 because my mom's getting hurt. She fell down a lot. [Someone] is hurting her. I think we need to get a doctor because she is hurt bad." Perspiration beaded on his pale forehead and dripped into his rounded eyes as he looked at me, but didn't see me. His little hand felt like ice when I took it in my own to lead him down the stairs to the phone. When I let go so I could dial the phone, he paced back and forth across the kitchen floor, repeating the words, "We need to get help. We need to get help."

My husband Doug took the phone and made the call so that I could focus on the child. Doug went out the door to wait for the police. The child relaxed for a moment in my lap and told me he felt safe in our house, then suddenly tensed and asked me if the door was locked. As I walked over to the door, I asked him why we needed to lock it. His eyes glazed over as he said, "Because [someone] tried to kill me. My mom told me to run home and he grabbed my foot and tried to stop me, but my mom got in his way and stopped him and told me to run fast. Then she fell down again." I scooped up that little boy and carried him into the family room. I turned on his favorite Wonder Pets episode and we snuggled on the couch and waited for his dad to come get him.

His mom suffered multiple bruises all over her body, a fractured left jaw, fractured chin and hyoid bone and required seven stitches in her chin. Monday, she underwent surgery to place titanium plates over her chin and jaw fractures. Her fractured hyoid is only a half centimeter away from her carotid artery, but a CT scan showed only soft tissue damage and the artery was not compromised. She may need to have further surgery to remove the broken piece of bone, but for now it is wait and see. Not one of the surgeons is keen on getting that close to the carotid.

This is not the first time the mom has been beaten or abused by a man. Doug asked me how a person could have such little self esteem that they would allow others to treat them that way. He wasn't judging. He was trying to understand. We learned that this little mom has lived with abuse her entire life. Emotionally abused during her childhood and raped by a relative at eleven years of age (the incident was hushed up and ignored), this little girl grew up believing that she was to blame. She has been slipping deeper and deeper ever since as she has turned to tobacco, alcohol, and further abuse to try to hide from her pain.

Okay...take a deep breath and let it out again. I apologize for the drama and the graphic explanations. What I want to share is the hope and light and growth that is coming from this intense experience.

As I read Ether 2 today, I kept thinking about this little mom and the depths of her sorrow and pain. Just as the Jaredites were lifted out of the depths of the sea, every day, I see her get a little stronger as she finds the courage to step out of her patterns of abuse and into the light of living with faith. She reached out for help and her crime victims reparations will pay not only for medical expenses, but for the mental health counseling that she has so desperately needed and never received. She has not only grasped the hands of others reaching out to her, but taken steps to help herself up. Her first shocking words to me in the ER of "But I miss him and love him so much. It wasn't really him." have changed to "He did this to me and I'm mad! No one is ever going to do this to me again. Ever." She's opening her scriptures and looking for peace there. She emptied all of her alcoholic beverages and threw the cigarettes away. Her smile will be lopsided for a while, but the fact that she is smiling brings joy to my heart.

I loved laughing with her as we waited for her surgeon Monday. The immense disposable hospital gown swallowed her thin body. She pointed out the plastic lining in it and the hole in the side that reminded us of a vacuum cleaner bag. We imagined all sorts of scenarios. After the nurse wrapped her calves with those massaging thingies, she attached a vacuum-cleaner-like hose to the hole in the gown and inflated the gown with warm air. Then she handed the little mom a controller and showed her how to adjust the temperature up and down. Climate controlled hospital gowns? Seriously, how cool is that? (no pun intended, of course.)

I told our little mom that she might consider writing all this stuff down so that she can see her own progress. She will survive. She told me she feels more like a Warrior Princess every day. She will be able to help other people leave behind their victim selves and discover who they really are as she learns how the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ made it possible for everyone to rise out of the depths of adversity and step into light and joy. While I truly wish that the horrible events of the past couple of weeks had never happened, I am full of gratitude for the good things that are coming out of it. Prayers and hugs and hopes for happy endings for all of you out there!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Card, Characters, and Characterization

By Melinda Carroll

Right now I'm rereading the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card.  He's one of my favorite authors.  I read his writing and realize I've got a long way to go (which should logically make me not like him, right?  Perhaps I'm a masochist, or I just like to understand what good writing is supposed to look like even if I can't duplicate it yet).

In the intro, he talked about how he came up with the idea for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.  In the later book he has a character with a handful of children who are all pivotal to the plot.  An author friend of his read the manuscript and complained that he was having a hard time telling all the children apart.  Orson Scott Card realized that what it really meant was that he hadn't developed those characters well enough that they stood out as distinct individuals.  Since I had just received the same criticism lately, I thought this insight was very... well, insightful.

So I paid close attention as I read to how he distinguished these characters, especially in scenes where there were multiple ones all together.  I noticed that he constantly referenced each of them in the scene, even if they weren't the ones speaking.  They were still doing something--  standing, sulking in the corner, smiling, or in one case peeing on someone else's leg.  Whatever the case, their physical actions were mentioned-- and those actions were as indicative of their character as their dialog.

He also pointed out that writing a story with a lot of characters is difficult, because there are so many relationships you have to work out.  Not only the relationships they each have with each other, but also how all the characters relate as a whole.  On top of that, you have to keep in mind that different people act differently depending on who they're with (who doesn't act different with a parent than they do when they're with their friends, especially as a youth).  So you are not only developing multiple characters, but multiple variations of each of those characters as well.

Whew!  Writing can be exhausting.  It also makes me realize why I'm so absent-minded.  With all those extra people in my head, it's a wonder I can still remember my children's names.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Short Story Writing Contest

By Leesa Ostrander

I have been working on honing my skills for short story writing. A friend in my critique group led me through dissecting short stories and the actions of the characters. My 2008, 2009 and 2010 Great American Short Story books are very colorful.

I light of my pursuit I looked up some short story contests to enter. This one caught my attention.



We're looking for fiction that's bold, brilliant...but brief. Send us your best in 1,500 words or fewer.

But don't be too long about it—the deadline is November 15, 2011.

PRIZES
First Place: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference
Second Place: $1,500
Third Place: $500
Fourth Through Tenth Place: $100
Eleventh Through Twenty-Fifth Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books

* The names and story titles of the First-through Tenth-Place winners will be printed in the July/August 2012 Writer's Digest, and winners will receive the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and 2012 Guide ti Literary Agents. Plus, all First through 25th place winners will receive a free copy of the 12th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

I wanted to pass it on to all of my wonderful and talented friends out there.

I hope to see your bold and beautiful words in this magazine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sharing Time

By Tracy Astle

I don't know about you, but I much of what I've learned about the craft and the business of writing has come from reading industry blogs. Writing techniques, how to query, who to query, when to query, how to format for submission, varieties of writing and editing styles and approaches, good books to read, authors to search out, genre definitions...The list to be had of writing info available on reputable blogs is downright staggering.

I have several I follow regularly, far too many to overwhelm you with here, so for today I'll narrow it down to three of my absolute favorites.

1) Miss Snark's First Victim (misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com) - A great writing community with with regular critique sessions, idea sharing posts, and monthly "Secret Agent" contests where entries are taken to be critiqued by an agent along with the rest of the people who hang out there. Very valuable feedback is given as well as prizes from the agent, ranging from requests for queries with partials to requests for full manuscripts. It's a great way to learn about what certain agents are looking for. Several contestants have found their agents here and more and more agents have started lurking about, reading work that has been submitted for other crit sessions then contacting Authoress, the anonymous and recently agented host of the site, to find out how to contact authors of things that interest them. I could go on and on about the cool things that happen on this blog, but I'll jsut stop here and say - GO CHECK THIS OUT!!

2) Nathan Beansford's blog (blog.nathanbransford.com) - Up until a recent career change, Nathan was an agent. His blog is probablay the best resource I've found for the 'how to' of writing and submitting. Nathan writes with tons of energy, passion, knowledge and humor. A large community hangs out there with lots of great info and resources. Love Nathan. Love his blog.

3) Kristin Nelson's blog (pubrants.blogspot.com) - This is where I have learned the most about the business of writing, from what happens at the large book fairs, to what the job of an agent is, to how to deal with the financial reports, tax issues, etc. that authors need to be aware of, to the latest stirrings and issues in the publishing world. Great stuff!

So, what are the writing/publishing blogs you can't live without (and don't want us to live without them either)?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Visiting Mrs. Murphy

by Marsha Ward

I remember a more genteel day when one was encouraged to use euphemisms when talking about uncouth topics or bodily functions. No "let it all hang out, baby," attitude then. Sometimes I wish our world would return to that gentler time, but it's probably gone forever in the gathering sin of our era.

For example, our family enjoyed day trips and camping trips that took us to the far nooks and crannies of Arizona. Yes, I think we girls wore dresses on our day trips. We did wear slacks when we camped, but I know I was wearing a dress when my brother was car-sick upon me.

One of my favorite catch-phrases of all time was put in play when we needed to stop and find a bush or tree behind which to do a bodily function. We girls would say, "I need to visit Mrs. Murphy." The boys usually said they had to see a man about a dog. How much more gentle such phrases fall on the ear than "Stop! I have to go to the bathroom!" Or something much worse.

Did your family have special code phrases? What were they?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heavy Heart

by Tanya Parker Mills

I'll be honest. The last thing I want to do right now is write. Write this blog post. Write in my journal. Even write in my Scripture Journal. So you can imagine how difficult it is to pull up and even look at my WIP.

It's not Writer's Block, either. It's just that, for now, while someone very close to me is suffering heartbreak, I can only hurt for her. And, having grown close to the other person in her life, I ache for him, too. My heart is heavy (a phrase that may be cliché but is nevertheless very accurate in its description) and rather than turn to creating fiction I find myself replaying my own scenes from the past of heartbreak in my youth.

I'm sorry. I hope in two weeks' time, I will have bounced back enough to use this space more productively on your behalf.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learning the Craft

By Susan G. Haws

I read and watch now with a more critical eye trying to learn from novels and movies.  I observe a magnificent dust storm and think how I can describe it.  I read a book with natural conflict and think of ways to improve the conflict in my WIP.

Lately, I have contemplated try /fail cycles. Since my life seems to be full of them. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks, projects take multiple trips to the home supply stores and just when I think everything is working something breaks and needs repair.

 For example the swimming pool. The pump is not priming and running the vacuum around. So we dump buckets of pool water in the pump and start it up and when it stops call the pool man.  He finds a leak. Pipes are replaced, the leak is stopped but the original problem continues.  We replace the motor and still the problem persists.

My point is that in real life some problems are easy and some have multiple causes, or require repeated attempts. If everything were easy for the protagonist readers would have difficulty sympathizing. If problems were solved on the first attempt we couldn’t watch characters grow.

I am learning but still have my own try/fail cycles both in my writing and in everyday life.  One of them is how late I am posting this blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Alive!

By the time you read this post I will be half-way through a family reunion/camping trip. I can't vouch for my sanity by the end of this adventure. With adults being outnumbered three to one, anarchy is inevitable. Although there have been moments of structure combined with intensely strong feelings of love and unity, I fear soon the children will take over in a true “lord-of-the-flies” manner.

Having been thrown together in the middle of nowhere, forced to sleep in close quarters, and sharing food has resulted in a lack of sleep including brief interruptions in the night when spoiled grandchildren toss their cookies. Not having running water or indoor plumbing only compounds the problem of a quick and easy clean-up. My allergies alone have almost conquered me completely and I only have a box of kleenex as my aid. Antihistamines prove to add to my insomnia. I haven't slept for three days.

I will only be able to post this at the briefest of intervals since I only have internet access through my phone which is quickly losing power. Power is a luxury no one has in this forgotten place. This post is being written on a battery powered laptop which is also down to only fourty-four percent power. When it's gone...well...I don't want to think on it further. I leave you with this maddening question: If it's called “dueling banjos”, why is it a duet between banjo and guitar? Adieu my friends.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fireworks Finale

by Terri Wagner

I ruin fireworks for myself every year. I just wait impatiently for the finale, it's my favorite part. And then when it's over, I'm bummed it didn't last long enough. It's best part and I want it first or during or mostly. The one-two punch fireworks are annoying. Just give it all you've got for 20 minutes boom boom boom.

I suppose it's the same way I write. I want to cut straight to the chase. I deplore lengthly words about the surroundings unless of course it's pertinent to the action. Like the big gray rock was used by the jedi to smack a foe in the head. I want action lots of it first, during and mostly. If it doesn't relate to the action, whatever is the point of all that "setting the scene business?"

Am I the only one that wants to know who did it first so I can concentrate on reading the book? If I try to read the book first, I end up skimming whole pages so I can get to the end. Did she win his love? Did he win hers? Did Jania ever marry? (That's a Star Wars reference.)

I have to laugh because right now I'm in a forced to be patient mode while looking for a job. I WANT to skip to the end. Anyone else that way?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I haven't seen fireworks or really celebrated the Fourth for the past few years, either because I'd be working that night or parking downtown was impossible to find. I'm not really looking forward to dealing with the crowds today either, so I'm not sure yet if I'm going to go out. My husband will probably call me a party pooper and try to drag me out anyway.

But I still love Independence Day. I've appreciated it even more ever since 9/11. I thank our ancestors for their bravery and sacrifice so we can have the freedoms we enjoy today. I doubt they foresaw that the date of their battle for independence would become a holiday that nearly every American looks forward to--one that some just use as an excuse to party and don't appreciate as much as they should. I'm grateful for the freedom to decide what religion I want to belong to, and what I want to do with my life. I'm especially happy my kids have the same rights.

Happy Fourth, everyone.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Homeward Bound

By Wendy A. Jones

I packed my children into our minivan a couple of days ago and hit the road.

After hours and hours of driving (and countless answers to the question, "When will we get to Grandma's?"), we arrived. Safe and sound and mostly sane.

In our settling in, I had forgotten something outside in the car. When I went outside to retrieve it, the sun had just set beyond the far mountains and there was an orange glow over everything like melted butter on a cob of corn (Idaho does the best sunsets). The sprinklers were spitting out a steady rhythm and the almost-constant rustle of leaves stirring on their branches was in the air.

I took a deep breath.

It smelled like home.

I breathed in deeply once more, then turned back inside to celebrate my mother's birthday.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What's your opinion?

By Bonnie Harris

I've run across many books that have left me wondering about a particular topic. I've asked my husband his opinion and several other avid readers and have been intrigued by their responses. So now it's your turn.

*What is your opinion on Latter-Day Saint authors using curse words and talking about sex in their books?

I have to admit that sometimes the language and content really surprise me. I've gone back and forth with myself on what to do in my own writing. I see and understand both sides of the coin and have heard many authors say, 'If you're not comfortable using the real word, don't use substitutes, whether it be a made up word or just a portion of it.' I would agree with that, but at the same time . . . that's where I'm stuck.

What do you do then, if you have a character that would definitely have questionable language? See where I'm going with it? I guess I'm wondering what other people's experience is or has been with this particular subject. Happy Writing Either Way!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Things to Highlight

By Jolene Perry

One of my favorite tools in Word ever (on a mac) is Command F ( I believe it's ctrl F on a PC, but you're welcome to correct me).

This is the "find" button. (I've used this several times when I need to change a character's name)

I thought I'd share some of the things I hit Command F for -

look
stare
smile
glance
sigh

I also do a search for is/was in all forms.

Then (one at a time) I highlight them.

It's a sad, sad thing when a page or a paragraph lights up like a Christmas Tree.

I really believe that these are the subtle things that makes our manuscript look polished (aside from grammar, of course). Even after having three or four people read my MS, I still often find words that are completely over-used. No one smiles all the time, at everything, and this is still something I struggle with. But at least I'm aware.

Recognizing the problem is the first step to recovery, right? ;D

But these are my favorites, the words I overuse, and can't let go.

What are yours??

Also, a very happy announcement on my blog today... having to do with manuscripts and agents...