Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

By Bonnie Harris

I've debated on posting something about goals this time around, but how can I not with it been New Year's Eve Day? My own personal reflection of the past year has really made me reevaluated my goal setting process. For the longest time, I only set goals (or at least wrote them down) when I knew for sure it was something I could accomplish. And "come hell or high water," as the saying goes, I would accomplish that goal.

This year has taught me that may not be the best approach to things. Goals should be set with the mindset that somethings can't be controlled, and if something comes along that's out of our control, it's okay to change a goal midstream. That doesn't make one any less of a person or mean that the goal wasn't accomplished, that just means that life happens and adjustments have to be made.

I recently reviewed a book by Connie Sokol called Faithful, Fit and Fabulous. Connie talked about setting one goal at a time so we don't feel to overwhelmed with things. After a couple of weeks, add another to the mix, but if we do to much at once we can burn ourselves out. I really enjoyed her perspective on things even though it was nothing new to me. She gave me "permission," so to speak, to allow myself to make changes mid-stream. Or maybe she helped me see what I was already doing with my goals from 2011.

Anyway, as we approach a new year, I've been thinking of the baby steps that I'd like to take in all aspects of my life—with the mindset that I can adjust as needed based on what life throws my way. Here are some of my possible goals (which will probably become goals sometime throughout the year).
  • be less judgemental
  • cook dinner at least twice a week
  • finish another edit through my WIP
  • finish a draft on another WIP
  • don't complain about housework
  • keep up with my book reviews
  • do two blog giveaways a month
  • attend writing conferences
  • critic someone else's novel 
  • clean one room a week
The list could go on forever, but I feel like I can be successful at these, and they can be adjusted—if needed—without too much effort. So as you look ahead to the New Year, don't be afraid to set goals because you don't think you'll make it through the year. As you get into it remember they can be adjusted. They are set in stone. Happy New Year 2012!


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Gift?

The morning before Christmas, my husband wakes up and tells me he has one more gift to purchase.
Really!
With all the traffic and congestion and crowding.
“We’ve done it all,” I tell him, not wanting him gone with so much left at home to do. “The toys, bikes, stocking stuffers, all the goodies we need for Christmas we have.  Everything’s done.”
“I need to get one more thing,” he insists.  He laces up his shoes and runs out the door.
“Alright,” I say to myself and start the morning routine of baby bottles, diaper changes and breakfast.
Over an hour later, my husband returns home with a bag hidden under his shirt and a smirk on his face. 
“Is the wrapping paper in the bedroom still?” he asks, but he’s already shut and locked our bedroom door.

Christmas morning was perfect with happy faces and lots of surprises.  After the kids opened their gifts, my oldest son Chandler hands me a package from underneath the tree.
“Here, Mom,” he says.  “From Santa.”
My other children wanted to go outside to ride their new bike/scooter/skateboard (with 5 kids, take your pick), but I sat back to open this mysterious gift from Santa.
I tore the paper open and gasped.
I looked up at my husband with tear-filled eyes, amazed at how well he knows me.
A book.
He’d given me a book.
The 3rd in Nancy Turner’s series from These Is My Words.
“I know you just finished Sarah’s Quilt, so I wanted to get you Star Garden.”
“This is what you ran out to get yesterday?” I asked, touched that he’s aware of what I’m reading and anxious to find me what I want to read next.
What a wonderful gift and I’m not just talking about the book Star Garden, although I can’t wait to start it.
Did you get a book for Christmas?  If not, which book would you most want as a gift today?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coping With Change

It wasn't bad enough that I had wrapped myself in a blanket of self pity because Christmas was over and all the grandchildren had returned home --  and I had no one else to blame for the five pounds I gained from indulging in all that fudge and truffles and other delectable chocolate delights. No. I just had to open an email from Marsha Ward. Because I love Marsha Ward!

 It began with the usual holiday salutations:
"Hello Kari
I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with your family. My daughter was
able to come up and spend Christmas with me in my new home. It was lovely!"

But Marsha gets to the point in the very next sentence:
"The ANWA Board of Directors has asked me to pass along to you the
authorization to split Wasatch Writers into two chapters at your next
meeting."

NO! (dramatic fist shaking)
You can't do this to me! (heavy sigh, slumped shoulders, and hanging of my head) Yes, you can. But I don't have to like it.

Can you tell I have a difficult time with change?

Of course, I am thrilled that ANWA continues to change. (Have you read the new by-laws yet?) Because with change comes growth. Growth is a good thing! It's just that I get so attached to all of you  phenomenal women. I learn from each and every one of you and I feel like I am just now getting to know you.

I laughed out loud when I opened my textbook (Families and Change: Coping With Stressful Events and Transitions) the very next day and read this:
"A stressor event is an occurrence that provokes a variable amount of change in the family system [ANWA]. Anything that changes some aspect of the system [ANWA], such as boundaries, structures, goals, processes, roles, or values, can produce stress. ...stress becomes problematic only when family members [me]experience dissatisfaction (or distress) as they [I] perceive change as being disruptive to the family system[ANWA]...Stress or crisis is not simply the direct result of the event itself but also a product of how a family defines demanding circumstances and the extent to which the family has resources available for coping."

"Various life transitions and events provide essential ingredients for normal psychosocial development...by evoking disturbances and pressures for change."

In other words, change is what you make of it. I can either curl up in a fetal position and pout and get left behind, or I can rejoice in the opportunity for growth, and jump in and enjoy the ride. The women of ANWA are like sisters to me. We share more than just how and what we are writing. We rejoice, whine, commiserate, console, eat chocolate, and work together.

I thought about how the world looks at the start of a new year as an opportunity for introspection and change. I'm grateful to know that I can do that every minute of the day -- thanks to the Savior and his redeeming sacrifice. I am grateful to know that God never changes. He is constant and perfect. I live in a world of change. The knowledge of men changes every day, shifting back and forth between what is popular and accepted at the time. By building my foundation on the unchanging truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I can weather the changing world.


A stressful event brings about change -- for the good or for the bad, depending on how I look at the situation, and what my resources are and how I use those resources. A testimony of who I am, why I am here, and where I am going -- based on a testimony of Jesus Christ and His redeeming love -- is the greatest resource I know of. It brings me hope, clarity of thought and peace of mind. I can view challenges for the opportunity for growth that they are. I can find hidden resources -- strengths I never knew I had -- and come to know that, through Christ, I can do hard things.

Splitting Wasatch Writers is going to be a tough change for me. It may be a little stressful, but it won't be a crisis. I love being a part of a growing group of women who believe in seeking out anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy and writing about it! We will always be connected by our love of Christ and our desire to make the world a better place -- one change at a time.

If you want more information on this exciting change, you'll have to attend our chapter meeting January 12th , 7:30 pm at my house in Highland, UT. I promise chocolate, tissues, and loads of fun!
May you have a happy and blessed New Year!!
hugs~

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye

By Melinda Carroll

Well, this is my last post on the ANWA blog.  It's been great to get to know you through your posts and comments, and I've really grown to appreciate the support that comes from this group.

I've always enjoyed writing, but my venture into fiction is relatively new.  A few years ago I got an idea in my head and started writing.  Once my first manuscript was done, I was stumped.  I didn't know what to do next, so I contacted a childhood friend who'd just published a book.  She told me to get to a writing conference and to join a critique group.  I really didn't know how to do either.

I remembered she'd mentioned something about SCBWI and so I looked it up on the computer and discovered that the local chapter was hosting a writing conference in Phoenix.  I signed up, and a few weeks later, drove into town with no idea what to expect.

I sat alone as groups of people entered the room, chatting and laughing.  At lunch, since I didn't know anyone, I decided to go sit next to a couple of the visiting editors (a logical choice, right?  I reasoned that they likely didn't know too many people either).  Of course, I wasn't the only one who'd decided to do that, and our table filled up quickly.

As we chatted over lunch I learned that the woman next to me lived only a few streets away from me in Gilbert.  We quickly discovered that we were both LDS (not by asking directly, but by throwing out words like "home teacher" and "ward").  That's when she invited me to an ANWA meeting.

I attended my first meeting November of 2009, in December I volunteered to be vice-president of our chapter for 2010, and at the beginning of 2011 I began hosting our ANWA meetings at my house and joined the ANWA blog.  In 2012, I'll be our chapter president.  Clearly, I have enjoyed being involved with ANWA.

So I want to say thank you to all of you for letting me join this blog.  I love being part of ANWA, and I especially love the friendships I've developed-- some of whom I now count among my closest friends.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Simple Christmas

By Tracy Astle

After lots of this -

and this -

 
and hopefully some of this -

it's easy to become stressed and overwhelmed (even if it is for wonderful reasons) and lose sight of the fact that Christmas is really this simple.


Hope you had a Spirit-filled Christmas and that you feel His love surrounding you and those you love all throughout the coming year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas, and a Happy Blogging New Year

by Marsha Ward

I'm wishing all our readers a glorious holiday season and an awesome Year 2012.

Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year, what with my continuing moving adventures (ever tried it in the snow?), so I won't say any more about that holiday, except to mention that I've had a lovely time.

I always check with our Blog Team each six months to see if their lives allow them to continue with us. Three have had enough changes come along that they are bowing out, so on January 1st, we'll say goodbye to Wendy Jones, Tanya Mills, and Melinda Carroll. Taking their spots will be Margaret Turley, Debra Erfert, and Nikki Spencer.

I'm always torn when the six month mark comes around, because I'm sad when we're obliged to lose our past bloggers, but I always welcome new faces and voices to our team. Is there a term for this ambivalent feeling of sadness mixed with joy? If so, I have it.

Thanks to all our retiring bloggers, and welcome, newbies!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas


by Cindy R. Williams

Terri's post a few days ago got me thinking. We celebrate the birth of Christ every year. December 25th always comes whether we have plenty of money to try to shower our loved ones with gifts or very little money so we do the best we can and make do with gifts we create.

I have had both. My children --all five -- often mention the most memorable was the one we took most of the money we allotted for Christmas that year and played Secret Santa for some families we knew had struggles.  Filling boxes with groceries and presents, then sneaking them onto porches, ringing the doorbells and then running and hiding was a blast. It was like we were world class secret agents. We were partners in fun adventure. My kids loved it.

We also chose to give each other only gifts we had made. I remember worrying about how Christmas morning would be when our children didn't have the gifts they had fantasized about.

But, do you know what? My worries were for nothing. I was humbled by what happened that Christmas morning. Each child was excited to see the reactions to their gifts they had created. They also absolutely loved what was made for them. I pondered this and realized each of us was emotionally and physically invested in the fits we had worked so hard on. It is one thing to give some thought to what you will buy someone, but a whole other thing to take the time to create something. It really does become a labor of love.

My high school son's gifts for his dad and me were stunning. He borrowed a friends snuggy and created his own pattern adding his own improvements like making them longer and with deeper pockets. He also added more material around the top so you could really snuggle in if you wanted. I love it. I wear it often, especially when I'm writing. While he was on his mission, it not only warmed me, but brought me much comfort. I felt him near me. It really was the best Christmas ever.

This year is a . . . well . . . not so lucrative venture. And that is just fine. I finally wrote the Christmas story about a little girl learning the true meaning of Christmas that I 've wanted to write for years. It has become part of my Christmas gifts to some. We are making gifts to share with extended families, visiting teachers, home teachers, neighbors and friends. You really can do a ton of baking using your food storage and some imagination. Christmas cards are being sent on-line.

We are more focused on each other and our Lord rather than the trappings.  We will sing praises to the Christ child in our Ward Choir on Christmas Day. I know I will have tears as we sing Mary's Lullaby. I have not been able to get through the phrase,  "You are a King, but tonight you are mine," without crying. My youngest son will sing a lovely song with the Primary children too.  I have the opportunity to share my heart by playing my harp for the prelude music. It will be part of my gift to Jesus this Christmas. Then we will come home and continue to celebrate the birth of Christ together around the Christmas Tree that was decorated with much laughter, and . . . tossing of ornaments. (I was lucky this year, only one broke.)

I am grateful for Christmas this and every year. Hearts are softened. Families are together.

I wish each of you the Merriest Christmas and may you feel the Saviors love in your heart.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Farewell Christmas Wish

by Tanya Parker Mills

First, I want to express my gratitude to Marsha, et al for allowing me the privilege to post here every other week. I've learned and grown a lot in the give and take of comments, as well as in the postings of my fellow ANWA sisters. I will have absolutely no excuse in the new year not to keep up with my own personal blogging (First New Year's Resolution).

Second, I look forward with excitement to the opportunity to meet many of you for the first time at the conference in February. I'm escaping the cold of the Northwest to fly south at the end of February for a welcome and warm respite among fellow writers.

Finally, my true Christmas wish for all of us this year developed as I studied the early chapters of Alma these past few days. By chapter 5, the people of Zarahemla, having been greatly blessed with prosperity, were now turning on each other. There was contention both within and without the church, so much so that Alma appointed another to act as chief judge and went about to preach among the people full time as their high priest. He began by putting a series of questions to them designed to prick their conscience. Perhaps the most important are listed in Alma 5:14--"And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"

These are questions we need to ask ourselves over and over, at least weekly when we take the Sacrament, if not daily. At this Christmas time, when we celebrate the condescension of God in taking on mortality in the vulnerable form of a helpless baby, may we all strive through His atonement to aspire to be reborn of God--to change our lives to the point where we, indeed, have his image in our countenances. That's my Christmas wish.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Inspiration


By Susan G. Haws
Recently my computer got sick and slow and then it collapsed. I took it to Community General Hospital (sister’s house) where it was resuscitated and it went into intensive care for a few days. The doctor (brother-in-law) told me it didn’t have a virus but he had never before seen a computer with that many problems survive. So my little miracle machine is back home and we are re-bonding.

I did a bit of moping and whining. I complained to some friends who sympathized and each shared some of their recent difficulties. After hearing their challenges I decided mine weren’t so bad. (Can I blame part of my half empty glass on dieting during the holidays? No? Oh, well.)

My friend talked me into putting up my  Christmas tree and I listened to an inspirational audio file and watched an inspirational movie.  (Neither are directly related to Christmas.)  Both brought perspective and tears to my eyes. In a good way.I just had to share them. (Get out the box of tissues.) 

Maybe everyone reading this already saw Soul Surfer (click to connect to an official movie trailer on YouTube.) or read Bethany Hamilton’s book telling how as a teenager she lost her arm in a shark attack and went on to fulfill her dream of becoming a pro surfer and has inspired countless others through her faith, courage and determination. If you are familiar with them I hope the reminder perks up your day.

 Author Tracy Hickman tells a story at Superstars Writing Seminar  of a reader at a book signing sharing  how Hickman’s book had changed the reader’s life. This in turn inspired Tracy Hickman in his writing.. It is not long and extremely worth hearing. 

Both show how people inspire each other. The audio file shows how fiction inspired a reader and how that reader then inspired the author. The movie based on a autobiography shows the how a person inspired fans with her courage and determination. There are scenes where fan letters in turn inspire the girl. This is an over simplification of both. But I wanted to draw these parallels for writers and readers.

 I have wondered,  laughed, cried, and been inspired  by both fiction and nonfiction. Even though writers and readers may never meet and may even communicate over decades or centuries, words influence and have power.


 Wishing you peace and joy. Merry Christmas to readers and writers.



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

...of DOOM!


by Kami Cornwall

Okay, I know my post is a little late in the day but I have a perfectly good explanation! I was held hostage! It's true! Our family decided on the riverboat ride at Disneyland (our Christmas gift to ourselves this year) and though it seemed benign initially, we've now re-named it...the Riverboat of DOOM.

It was all going smoothly at first. The river was peaceful, the animatronics were minding their own business, and then right when we got past the eagle's nest the riverboat stopped. Since I had never been on the riverboat before I didn't suspect anything was wrong.

After 5 peaceful minutes the riverboat captain announced that we were experiencing "MINOR" technical difficulties and that we would need to evacuate the boat. A raft from Tom Sawyer's Island pulled up but instead of the mad rush from the rich to get on the one life-boat that wouldn't possibly hold us all, knowing the rest of us were sure to sink like the Titanic, a group of men boarded the boat, pulled open an important looking hatch, talked while rubbing their chins, then started her up again at half-speed and we managed to crawl back to the dock.

We got fast passes to any attraction for our troubles, which were quickly used at the Haunted Mansion. The Mansion is decorated for Christmas in full Tim Burton style. Fans of Nightmare before Christmas have been squealing with glee! And that's why I couldn't post earlier. But try not to feel TOO sorry for me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa & Crying

by Terri Wagner

Why do we insist in dragging young children all decked out to meet Santa? We had my little grand niece (great niece not sure here) all dressed up in a frilly black-n-red dress, ribbons in her blond hair, black patent shoes and a black bolero jacket (which surprisingly dad bought). She looked adorable. Everyone in the mall oohhed and ahhhed over her.

Now this young lady is quite fearless. She fussed a bit in line but fortunately it wasn't a long wait. Waved to Santa while in line. Watched the older girl before no problem. Got situated on Santa's knee just fine. Looked in the camera and howled. We laughed. The crew asked if we wanted the photos and of course we said yes. Something to embarrass her with in years to come.

While I was plotting my father's gift (which btw when you're broke, you seem to have clever ideas for gifts since you can't really afford much), I found a photo of her big sister with Santa same age same howling giggle. Wonder why kids howl so and why we think it's hysterical?

Sometimes I think the British royal family has it right. Since they can obviously afford what they want when they want, they buy gag gifts for each other at Christmas. And I knew one family that had this dreadful tie that got passed around year after year. I think I'll start a new tradition just for my gift giving. From now on, I'll just find clever, inexpensive gifts for friends and family. Most of all whom (who? I can never keep that straight) can buy what they want when they want or it's something I couldn't afford to give them anyway. Like my mom would love a condo on the beach (so would I), my sister a sports car (not my style), my brother got his new motorcycle (terrified of them) and the rest of the gang just seriously needs mola to get through some rotten times. Dear old dad footing the bills for us all is upset I'm driving my aging car to mom's for Christmas.

Yea IF I can't be rich, I'll just settle for fun. Here's hoping the gang agrees.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Busy Christmas!

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I think by now just about everyone has seen the Christmas trees made out of books. This one is my favorite. I'm totally making one next year!

I'm counting down the days until we drive to Boise to spend Christmas at my mom's. It's a very special holiday for our family this year. She started dating the most wonderful guy over the summer. She'd known him for about 3 years, since she moved to Idaho. On Thanksgiving he gave her a beautiful wooden box he'd made, and in it was his mother's wedding ring.

My mom has waited all her life to be sealed in the temple with someone. A couple of things went wrong, as I'm sure many of us can understand. She'd finally given up hope of ever being sealed to anyone, and then Mac came along. Everyone loved him from the start (I did even before she started dating him, I just knew they'd end up together!), and his family treats her like one of theirs. It's so nice to see my mom this happy and treated like the amazing woman she is.

The Boise Temple is undergoing renovations and won't be open again until summer, so their original plan was to get sealed in Twin Falls in the spring. But then his landlady surprised him by telling him she wanted to move into her house by January 1st, so he found himself needing another place to live and quick. They talked to their bishop, who suggested they get married for time at the chapel, then get sealed in the temple when it's open.

So we have a very special, but busy, holiday week planned! The big day is December 27th. My mom is nervous, understandably, but holding up pretty well. They both got their answers when they prayed about it before Thanksgiving. And I'm just so excited I can hardly hold it all in!

I hope every one of you has a wonderful Christmas and New Year! Does anyone have any special plans or traditions? Are you traveling or enjoying the holiday at home? Stay safe everyone, and I'll see you next year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Honesty in Fiction

By Wendy A. Jones






I was going through the information on an old flash drive the other day, and I came across a few pieces in a writing folder. They were written just before and for several months after a traumatic experience in my life.

They were very difficult to read.

Not because they were written with excess adverbs or point of view problems or any other type of writing construction issues. It was because they were so honest.

They were honest enough that I could see my own soul at the time I wrote them, stripped bare of any pretense or subterfuge or agenda. Throbbing with pain and bleeding out an open heart wound.

Yet, while I could still feel the emotions that prompted the writings in the first place, I could now look at them through the prism of time, experience, and healing.

I had compassion on that wounded soul. But I am her no longer.

They are moving and heart-breaking and some of the finest pieces I've ever written, yet I will never share them. They show too much; they are too honest. They make me vulnerable.

Perhaps that's why I like writing fiction: I'm able to use the characters as a buffer, so I can still be honest without exposing my own quivering flesh.

As the sun sets on this year, I've been thinking back on changes I see in myself. I've also been looking forward to the person I want to become. Part of that involves writing truth in a way that resonates.

Wishing you all a joy-filled Christmas and a hopeful New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Tips from the Slush Pile"

By Bonnie Harris

Awhile ago, I subscribed to the Nelson Literary Agency's Newsletter. (I would highly recommend hoping over to their website and signing up for their newsletter.) They've consisted of advice from Kristin Nelson about writing trends and such, along with thought from agents on her staff. I've found it very helpful information and it helps me to stay "in the know" as I navigate the publishing world.

In December's newsletter, Anita Mumm (who is coming to our ANWA Conference in February in Phoenix, AZ) wrote a fantastic note on "Smart Persistence." It gave me good insight on whether or not it is proper to re-query an agent and if so, when it's appropriate. Here's what she had to say . . . Enjoy!



TIPS FROM THE SLUSHPILE by Anita Mumm Anita Mumm
Writer's Toolbox: Smart Persistence 
One of the most common pieces of advice aspiring writers receive is “don’t take no for an answer.”
We all know that rejection is part of life as a writer, and that tenacity is perhaps the most important quality you can possess. But when doors close in your face, is it okay to knock again? And what steps should you take before doing so?
Unless agents specify that they do not take resubmissions, it is perfectly okay try again. In fact, NLA has signed several clients that at first were not the right fit.
One was Gail Carriger, author of the sexy steampunk PARASOL PROTECTORATEseries, which now includes three NYT bestsellers. Gail first queried Kristin with a young adult novel that she turned. Four years later, remembering the great editorial notes Kristin gave, Gail requeried, Kristin fell in love with the project, and the rest is history.
Then there’s Marie Lu, whose phenomenal YA dystopian novel LEGEND hit shelves November 29. Marie approached Kristin at Pikes Peak Writers Conference several years ago, but didn't quite win her over. When Marie came back with a whole new project, Kristin offered representation, but ultimately couldn't sell it. So what did Marie do? She dusted herself off, wrote another book. . . and watched the series sell in a major auction. A film deal with CBS films and the producers of Twilight was not far behind. That's the power of persistence!
Things to consider before resubmitting:
1.  Have you done a SERIOUS rewrite? This is tough to hear, but if your query is getting no attention, or if agents are requesting, then rejecting, your sample or full, there’s probably more to fix than commas and typos. Take it back to your critique group or editor and ask them to take no prisoners! If you see patterns in their advice and you can live with the changes, make them. Regardless, spend months—not days or weeks—working as hard on this new draft as you did on the first. Agents are skeptical when they see rewrite queries almost immediately—how different could this new draft be?
2.  Did agents give positive feedback? If an agent says she’d love to see future work from you, she means it—there’s way too much coming through the slushpile for agents to say that lightly. Any advice about things to work on should also be seen as encouragement. Just be sure that if you resubmit to that agency, that particular advice figures into your revision. You don’t need to agree with every agent, but you do want to have the same vision as the one who signs you.
3.  Don't be a spammer! There’s a big difference between asking an agent to take another look—and becoming “that writer.” The one who sends the same infernal query letter every day/week/month, wondering how agents just keep missing it. See number 1—time to go back to the drawing board! Then resubmit your query (once) and wait for a response. If you get another rejection, third time is probably not a charm—cut your losses and look for agents who might be a better fit.
Resources for obtaining feedback before resubmitting your work:
www.WEbook.com Allows writers to submit (for a nominal fee) samples for readers to rate.
http://pred-ed.com/peesla.htm Lists quality freelance editors and editing companies; also notes those that are NOT recommended.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Am I Funny?

by Laura Lofgreen

When I first started blogging, I found the honesty of the entire experience interesting. I’m not normally out spoken.  I’m a good listener and like to hear how others feel yet here I was, day after day, writing about how I felt about things and how I see the world.  I realize my perspective belongs to me, but the honesty sometimes was a bit much.  I didn’t want to force myself or my ideas down people’s throats.  Was there a way to be gracious in the blogging process?  Would my readers know when I was being a bit sarcastic?  Light-hearted?  Emotional?  In other words, would my readers read between the lines of what I was writing vs. what I was trying to say?  Would they know who I was by what I wrote?
One day, I received a comment from someone who reads my blog My Dear Trash.  She said “I love reading your blog.  You’re one of the funniest people I know.”
Funny?
Me, really?
I knew I played around with ideas, joked about my own inadequacies, but a funny writer?
I had no idea.
I read through some of my previous blog posts and chuckled.  I really was funny, I just didn’t realize it.  Someone had to point it out to me which makes me somewhat dense, but that's an entirely different discussion.
Now, I see humor in my experiences I didn’t before and it makes writing so much more fun.  When I get really serious, it’s easy to lighten up a bit.  I also search out humor more in everyday experiences, hoping to write about it later.  When my kids do something funny, like leave the ketchup on top of the fire place mantel or accidentally get the broom struck in the top of the tree (I have know idea how that happened), I take a picture because I know I can later post it to something I’m writing about on my blog.
When things make me laugh out loud, I write them down for later use.  Like when I ran into my husband in the laundry room and we hadn’t see each other all day and I said “Come here often?”  Now that was funny.
I’m glad someone pointed out to me a part of my writing style I hadn’t seen before.  Has your writing improved/ changed because of feedback you’ve received?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Priceless Gifts

by Kari Pike

I have been struggling to figure out why I should continue trying to write. What is my goal? I want to write things that will bring myself and others closer to Christ - to bear testimony of Him and help others feel His love - to help others see and feel and come to know who they are in His eyes (the only true mirror- He sees us exactly as we are and as we can be) and to recognize the gifts that he gives us each and every day - to recognize that He has much more waiting for us, just for the asking. If we seek, we will find. If we ask, He will answer. If we knock, He will open the door for us.

What gifts are waiting for me? Am I assigned just certain ones or do I get to choose? How do I choose? How do I come to know the purpose for which I was created? I know I was sent here to love and to learn. How do I show and share that love? What does love mean? I do believe that by exercising faith, I can come to know the Savior better and He will guide me along the path that will help me become who I am meant to be.

How can I help others feel and see that marvelous light of God? I love the feeling that comes with recognizing the light in each person I meet and rejoicing in who they are and being grateful for them in my life. My life is blessed through their gifts. Yet, all too often, I struggle to recognize these daily gifts. I only see the lack, the hardship, the struggle.

How can I write something that will help myself and others recognize our spiritual gifts? It's one thing to see people face to face and tell them how much I appreciate them and their gifts. What can I write that will touch the hearts of complete strangers?

I received the most precious gift this year for Christmas. My husband and I made a quick trip to Phoenix last week to return the car my parents crashed up here in November. I had planned on spending Friday with my parents. My mom has been ill for a number of years. I packed my computer and some writing projects and intended to just hang out with her and get some writing done while we watched movies. When I walked into the house, my mom was up and dressed and smiling.

"Do you want to go out somewhere? Let's go do something! I'm having a good day today!"

You have to know, that my mom and I used to shop til we dropped. That was our "thing." We loved going home and showing Dad all the deals we found and how much money we saved him by spending his hard earned cash! We hadn't been able to enjoy that activity together for several years. Of course, we hightailed it to the mall! For four hours we wandered up and down, trying on jewelry and clothes, sharing a sandwich in the food court, and indulging in a piece of chocolate.

Did you know gloves can talk? The purple leather, cashmere lined ones, with the buckles on the wrist...you know...the ones in the Coach store? They said,

"Do these make my fingers look fat?"

They tried to entice me to buy them...but one look at the price tag was all I needed to gently place them back across their matching bag.

And that necklace in Macey's...stunning. We didn't dare touch it.

Like those ads we see on TV - purple gloves - $128.00, diamond/sapphire necklace - $10,000 - enjoying the day laughing with my mom and not spending any money- absolutely priceless.

Now my questions are different. What gifts can I give my Savior? He has given me more than I could ever hope for. What am I willing to give up so that I can be closer to my Savior? What am I going to do to show my gratitude? I will acknowledge His gifts not only through my actions but through the written word. I may not write them very well, but they will be sincere and they will be true. And they will be filled with love.

Thank you for being my friends. I wish all of you a joyful Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Troubles And More About Self-Publishing

By Melinda Carroll

My computer won't let me sign on, but for some reason my iPad will. So what does that mean? This is going to be a short post. I had a friend pass along an article from the Wall Street Journal (from Dec. 9) about self publishing. It was about an author named Darcie Chan who wrote a manuscript a number of years ago. She submitted it to over 100 agents before finding one that would represent her. Then none of the major publishing companies would pick it up. After shelving it for years she finally decided to go the self publishing route and published it earlier this year through Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program, selling her books for 99 cents (Chan makes about 35 cents per book).

She did some research and purchased some ads and reviews, and after some fortunate mentions on websites, etc. she has now sold over 400,000 copies. Her book has been on the NY Times best selling list, yet astoundingly, she still can't find a publisher. She's had six film studios request the rights to her book, along with audio-book publishers and foreign publishers. She hasnt accepted any offers because she's afraid it will make it more difficult to get a publishing deal here in the US. But the traditional publishers are still hesitant to take her book on because they now fear it's "run it's course" and won't be successful for them. Any offers she's received have been worse than the money she makes on her own. So frustrating!!!

It's an interesting article. It reminds us that we need to be informed when it comes to self-publishing or traditional publishing. We need to know what our ultimate goals are, and what roads we need to take to get there. And we have to be prepared if those roads lead us somewhere we didn't expect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Applying Work to Passion

By Leesa Ostrander

I mentioned previously that I teach CPR and safety classes. These classes are taught with a standard curriculum and have to cover the federally necessary information.
With this said, I have been certified CPR trained since I was 15, now deep in my thirties. I have been in dental and healthcare and have gone through OSHA training every year and CPR/AED training every two years. This is a lot of time in lecture about how to save a life until EMS arrives.
A few years ago an opportunity came to teach these classes. I was excited, scare and nervous. I had weeks of heartburn over standing in front of the community, doctors, nurses and everyone and teach the about saving a life. How could I teach them to save a life when I had never done it?
I am lucky to not have used the skills, yet do not feel qualified to teach it. I began teaching the class. I felt even more inadequate. I enrolled in EMT training. Loved the training and the knowledge that came with understanding how to keep a heart beating. I did learn other skills to help in my current path as a CPR instructor.
I then kept my path and opened my own business. Again, I was excited, nervous and scared. Now, I have other instructors working for me. I look at the training and still see it as hours of lecture with little new information and updates. This system to me was less effective. After sitting through courses, continuing education and many recertification classes, lecture is not the way to retrain new information on skills known for many years.
I spent sleepless nights thinking up ways to train and have the information swell into a need to gain the knowledge and share the passion I have. I found a plan.
I was excited, nervous and scared.
Turns out the plan works. We learn the training all hands-on in scenario based situations. Very exciting, lets me get to discuss in deeper detail and lets the person choose how much more they want. The participants like it.
So why does this relate to my pursuit of writing?
Sometimes I have to search deeper into why I write. Push past the excited emotions, calm the nervous emotions and conquer the scared to get to the passion to share.
My role in teaching CPR training has led to an opportunity to write for an online site in safety training. I think today I will continue to strive to gain knowledge and the joy of the journey.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Words, Deeds, Thoughts

By Tracy Astle

Two recent, seemingly unrelated happenings brought something together for me.

First thing - I read a book and saw a movie (not a movie of the book, but of a different story) that I expected to really like. I had heard good things about both of them and they are genres I usually like a lot. Only this time I didnt. It's not that I hated them or even disliked them, really. They just weren't very satisfying. They didn't draw me in emotionally. I seriously doubt if I'll even remember reading/seeing them a few months from now. I couldn't quite figure out why I felt so meh about them until the second thing happened.

This weekend I enjoyed the feast that is stake conference. So sorry you all weren't there with me. It was Ah-maz-ing. Anyway, at the Saturday evening adult session three of the speakers, who aren't assigned topics by the way, touched on the importance of doing. Let's go on a slight field trip to hear a story one of the the temple presidency told to illustrate this.

"If I told you three frogs sat on a log then one decided to jump off, how many frogs would remain on the log?

Most of you are probably thinking two. Some of you may even be thinking one, although I don't know why. But the answer is three.

Why? Because I said one frog decided to jump off. He didn't actually do it, he just decided to."

End of field trip. We're back now to the other speakers at conference. The fourth speaker, a member of our stake Relief Society presidency, spoke about the importance of our words, more specifically, about the importance of using postive speech. Our stake president then finished up the meeting by telling three stories: one showing the power of our words, the next showing the power our our actions, and the third emphasizing the power of our thoughts. Trust me when I tell you what an impactful speaker my stake president is. His gift of presentation  makes me want to stand up and follow him wherever he leads, much like I imagine I would have felt  had I been blessed to hear King Benjamin or Captain Moroni speak.

For whatever reason, after attending that meeting I realized the reason I didn't connect with that recent book or movie the way I had expected to. It was that I didn't feel the thread running flawlessly from the characters' words which they chose to speak, to their actions which should speak more loudly than their words to clue me into who they really are and what they really want, to their thoughts which I should be able to discern from their words and deeds. 

Too many times when a book or movie feels kind of flat it's because the motivation for the characters' dialog and actions seem to be simply to move the story ahead rather than the story evolving because of the characters' thoughts creating the words and deeds which then create the movement of the story.

I suppose you all may already know this, and so did I to a degree, but it made me really get how important it is to know each and every one of our characters intimately enough to have every scene we write blossom organically from the actions and dialog that spring from the deep seeded thoughts and thought patterns they hold.   

Suzanne Collins does this masterfully. I hope will, too, one day.

Anyone have any tips for how to accomplish this?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amazon's KDP Select program

by Marsha Ward

I got an email from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) last Thursday. It invited me to join a new program that is being offered by Amazon.com to independent (indie) authors and publishers. The gist of the program is that you can make your ebooks available to the Kindle Lending Library used by Amazon Prime members, and get your share of a $500,000 pot that Amazon is establishing for those whose ebooks are borrowed.

Here's the first paragraph: "We're excited to introduce KDP Select - a new option dedicated to KDP authors and publishers worldwide, featuring a fund of $500,000 in December 2011 and at least $6 million in total for 2012!  KDP Select gives you a new way to earn royalties, reach a broader audience, and use a new set of promotional tools."

Prime customers get one free rental per month. You get paid on a pro rate basis, depending on how many of your books are actually rented in comparison to the total rentals that month.

"Wow!" you say. "I can get a whole lot more money if I op-in to this program!"

Well, as with anything, there are conditions. One is really big, to my mind. You have to guarantee Amazon total exclusivity for 90 days to the title(s) that you put into the 90-day-with-automatic-re-enrollment program. Every 90 days, you re-enroll or get re-enrolled by default. When re-enrolled, every 90 days Amazon gets the exclusive right to sell/distribute your titles. (As I understand it, if you change your mind several days after enrolling, and pull out, there are parts to the contract giving Amazon certain rights for that 90 day period. Please correct me if I'm wrong.).

This exclusivity provision means you have to go take down your titles from any other distributors--RIGHT NOW--plus you have to take your own offers off your blog and/or website. That's time-consuming and work-intensive (not to mention counter-productive if you're an indie author because you want to be independent!). Never mind contacting anyone anywhere in the world who offers your work for sale or distribution. Do you even remember them all if they aren't selling well from an obscure site and you don't see a royalty?

If Amazon finds that you have forgotten (or don't know about) even one of those links, they can refuse to pay royalties, and go so far as to kick you out of the entire KDP program!

There are many more caveats along with benefits, but I've decided to say "no way, Jose'." Even though Kindle pays me more than any other ebook distributor just now, that may not remain the status quo in a year or two. Besides, although Amazon is opening Kindle Stores in more countries, I have made sales through other distributors in countries where the Kindle and Amazon have not yet arrived. I don't like to put my eggs all in one basket, or limit my ebooks to only one format. Enrolling in this program would put all my eggs in one fragile place. And what if, as one commenter asked, the handle broke?

Here are links to several other blogs and articles about the KDP Select program. Don't forget to read the comments for more perspectives. You can make up your own mind about the issue, but for me, it's a pass!

Writer Beware blog post (author-centric)
Note to readers by yet another author (with plenty of links to others)

Thanks for reading!

Edited to clarify some confusing parts I wrote very early one morning.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Great Quotes and a Great Christmas Gift for Writers

by Cindy R. Williams

I am a collector of good quotes.  Here is one of the best.

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go." - Abraham Lincoln.

Love the quote, and feel like I live the quote. Another thing I know is that the plan is not for me to fail.

So, I won't. Simple right? Yes, but why not? I am too tired to keep things so crazy and complicated anymore.

Boils down to another good quote, "Do it!" President Spencer W. Kimball.

Here is another timely quote:  "All I want for Christmas is "Time Out for Writers" ANWA Writer's Conference!"  Think about it. Money is T-I-G-H-T -!-!-!  for sure. What a great gift to yourself  -developing your writing talent.  Even better if loved ones have a hand in it. To learn more about it, go to www.ANWA-lds.com   You could even give the gift of the ANWA Writers Conference to a friend. Remember it is for the general public also, not just members of ANWA.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Freezing Fog and Shopping

by Tanya Parker Mills

If you're an anti-shopper like me (and I realize that, among women, I'm a rare breed), you look for just the right opportunities to get into stores and get out fast. Those opportunities are hard to come by during the month of December, but we've been "blessed" with a lovely freezing fog the past two days--one that promises to continue into tomorrow and maybe even next week.

Perfect!

Who would want to go out in this weather? Answer: Me.

I am assuming, of course, that most others will choose to stay in and wait for it to clear to resume their frantic, frenzied buying routines. The mall will be not quite so crowded, the streets less populated, and there may even be a decent parking space waiting just for me near my preferred mall entrance--the one that allows me to get in and get out fastest.

And one more thing: Store employees might be more attentive because they're not as busy.

On second thought, their increased attentiveness will likely be negated by the sour attitude brought on by having to travel to work on slippery roads in freezing fog.

Oh, well. I can't have it all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food, Gifts, and the Holidays

Susan G. Haws

At my house the two humans have two diets. We have the Cream, Gravy, Carbs, and Chocolate diet and we have the lettuce, meat, and almonds diet. You can guess which one I am on (Team Rabbit), but I prepare and serve team Cream/Chocolate as well.

Last night some nice young men and their leader delivered a lovely plate of holiday goodies. The cookies were packed with chocolate chips the icing and sprinkles were thick on the sugar cookies, there were mini muffins and even reindeer cookies and all were at that perfect softness. (Some neighborhood mothers must have been baking up a storm. You can't tell me any of those shiny faced boys did more than run out the door with their containers of yummies. I also suspect some female guidance in the lovely arrangement of the items on the holiday platter.)

I was on an important phone call when they arrived and not so pleased to see more inedibles. I already had whole milk, half and half, egg nog, premium ice cream and several kinds of chocolate truffles in my kitchen. None of which I eat.) So I may have sounded a bit Grinchish when I asked who the gift was from and and grudgingly wished the boys  "Merry Christmas."

(No,  I didn't trash the goodies. Tempting but no.) I encouraged consumption until not another morsel would fit.

This morning a little spark ignited in my coal heart by a different gift. There were some treats but the giver knew I was on a diet and was able to tell me just how much of a cheat it would be. So I splurged and enjoyed it. There was also a non food item (a DVD) and it was one we had already discussed so I knew she valued it and she knew I wanted it. Also both parts of the gift could be shared by both the cream team and the green team.

Both teams have been blessed with thoughtful gifts already this year. I hope I can be as thoughtful a giver. What are some gifts that have helped or touched you?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Word Peeves

by Kami Cornwall

This week I have heard on at least three different occasions the mis-pronunciation of a few words as well as a phrase that is misused time and again. I have to get this off my chest and what better way than venting in a blog read by fellow writers. Hunh? Hunh? Humor me, people.

Okay, say it with me: Button. Not buddun. If you say it quickly it may sound like "bu 'n" but said like "buddun" and you sound like you have a head-cold...but only when saying one or two words. Same goes for "certain." Cerdain drives me crazy! Prounounce the "T" people and I won't threaten to punch the air in inconsequential rage.

My annoying phrase of the week is "I couldn't care less." That would be right. "I could care less" is what I keep hearing, but that implies that I actually care a little and so there is room for me to in fact care less than I currently do. Make sense? So "I could care less" means I actually care somewhat. If you want to really sock it to 'em you should say "I couldn't care less," as in, "I couldn't care less what Kami is blogging about today. She's really on one!"

Deep, cleansing breath.

That is all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Thoughts

by Terri Wagner

Walter Williams, a very interesting economic professor, often has a column he calls random thoughts. Just things that have occurred to him over a select period of time. I thought it might be fun to do the same.

Why is it when I was busy commuting and working I never missed a cyber meeting or a blog entry? Is it really true that the busier we are, the more time we make for doing things?

Why is the media still focused on "fair and balanced" when we are all way past that point? I don't want to know what the "other" side thinks...I get the feeling no one is really telling the truth anyway. And isn't that a scary place to be?

Just when you figure life out and have a direction you feel good about going in, someone comes in and changes it. Sometimes I suppose this could be a good thing, but most of the time, it's a really difficult thing.

Is it really comforting to know you aren't the only one and in point of fact not nearly as bad off as others?

Why is it that when you finally decide you want to watch the BYU channel, you keep forgetting it's on?

Why did HGTV go to real estate shows and cancel (they don't cancel they just go away) all the decorating shows?

Why do I love Christmas so much? I mean the secular side of Christmas like the lights, the food, the music, the sappy movies, etc.?

Anyone else have any random thoughts?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting to Know You: Via Google

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

The other day one of my friends posted this on my Facebook wall: "typing your name into google reveals lots about you haha you have a very large internet presence.."

My first reaction was to laugh and say, "Oh my gosh, Sam, you're such a stalker!" Then, of course, I ran over to Google and typed my name in. I've done this a few times before, because it's always fun to see if there are other people out there with my name (there's just one other as far as I could find). With 'Kristin Baker,' a lot of stuff pops up for this artist in New York. Okay, that's the reason I decided I might use my crazy Polish last name in my writing. 'Kristin Przybyla' reveals a bit more, mostly that I use Facebook and Twitter--and still haven't canceled my Myspace account. It's when I use both my maiden and married names that I hit the mother lode. This is what Sam did. Whoa Nellie. All kinds of fun tidbits popped up, mostly blog posts I've either done or have been involved in with other people's blogs.

Having a "large internet presence" isn't a bad thing when you're trying to get recognized as a writer, but I'm sure all of you can realize it can have quite the opposite effect of what you want, if you're not careful what you put up for the world to see. I've been to conferences where the attending agents and editors have warned us that yes, they DO search for writers' blogs and even Facebook and Twitter accounts. And if they don't like what they see, you might just miss out on a great opportunity to have that person ask for your manuscript. (This means I can't publicly complain with free abandon about the woes of rejection letters!)

What you wouldn't want your parents to see, should be something you wouldn't want a potential agent to see either. I'm not just limiting this to stuff we know we shouldn't be posting anyway; but unprofessional writing habits such as using too many emoticons and "internet speak." (I hate internet speak anyway!) There's nothing wrong with the occasional "lol," but like with adverbs, if you always pepper your conversational online speech with these and other "naughties" such as wat r u doing 2day?, that potential agent is going to close the window and move on to the next writer.

I was pretty happy with the stuff that popped up in my Google search. Sometimes I was amused. It's okay to let your personality show--in fact I would encourage it because agents are people too. And they want to know if they're going to click with the author they're considering.

If you don't see much about you in your Google search, that just means you don't have a big enough Internet addiction you should market yourself a little more. Post more often in your blog, or start a blog if you don't have one. Post often on other people's blogs! That's a great way to get your name out there, and to gain followers and contacts. If you prefer keeping your personal information private, consider opening a public Facebook page for your writing pursuits.

For more fun, click on "images" after your Google search. You might be surprised at what pops up. The following picture of me was on the top row. Oh dear!

The kissy face! Another internet no-no!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Top Reads for 2011

By Wendy A. Jones

After years of thinking I should keep track of what I read, I actually kept a list this year. Well, it's a partial list, anyway. I forgot about it for about three months. Since the next time I post I'll probably want to write something Christmas-related, I thought I'd cull from the eighty titles I recorded the books I liked best.

I don't stick with one genre or one age category--I just love good books. And these are all ones I consider great.

In no particular order, they are:

The Limit by Kristen Landon
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
Being Sixteen by Allyson Braithwaite Condie
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Matched by Ally Condie
My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Princess for Hire by Lindsey  Leavitt
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Cold River by Liz Adair
Cross My Heart by Julie Wright
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (also The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette--it's a great series)
Slayers by CJ Hill
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
The List by Melanie Jacobson
Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Dining With Joy by Rachel Hauck

I hope during the busy holiday season you have a little time to relax and read.