May 31, 2012

A Unique Temple Experience

by Kari Diane Pike

There's nothing like a little chaos in my life to give me a greater appreciation for the blessings of the temple. As the stress builds up to the point where I have to remind myself to breathe, all I have to do is walk through those temple doors to find relief.

My visit to the Mt.Timpanogas Temple last night was of a different nature...but no less of a blessing. When I entered the temple last night I wore tennis shoes and jeans instead of my Sunday best. Rather than a white suit, the security guard who let me through the service entrance wore work clothes. Instead of a beautiful white dress, I pulled a set of white scrubs on over my street clothes and joined over 100 other friends and neighbors in a small room while we waited for our instructions. The supervisors assigned each of us to various task of polishing, scrubbing, vacuuming, mopping, moving furniture, and cleaning grout. (I am now an expert in Grout 101.)

 The best part of my experience last night was feeling the strength and presence of the Lord, even though our service last night was more of a physical nature. No one grumbled or complained about getting on their knees  to scrub bathroom floors. Everyone smiled and laughed (quietly of course) and willingly worked together. I've experienced similar feelings working at the Bishop's Storehouse and cleaning a sister's home with other members of the Relief Society -- anywhere I have been able to be a part of rendering service.

My new goal is to try to replicate these same feelings as I work with my family. Our homes are sacred -- or at least should be! -- and as we remember who we are and the purpose of families and working together we will experience that same joy and peace.

Facing this summer not knowing where we are going to live or work is a lot easier now that I have been reminded of what is most important in my life. So -- off to more packing and cleaning!
Maybe next time we visit I'll actually talk about writing....

May 30, 2012

Story Engineering

by Nikki McBride Spencer

So I finally purchased “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks after thinking about it for months. If you don’t remember, Larry gave us a stellar presentation at this year’s ANWA conference. He says there are six core competencies one must master to write a book worth publishing. They are: Concept, Character, Theme, Structure, Scene Execution, and Writing Voice.

I’ve read books on plotting and outlining before, and they always left me with a bitter taste and a sense of defeat. I truly couldn’t get my head around how to outline without loosing the magic of organic writing. It seemed to me that if I decided what to write before I wrote it, everything was boring. No WOW moments to be found. No fun surprises, no gifts from the muse. It seemed that outlining was not for me, but it also seemed that all organic writing was way too slow and plodding, and always a struggle to come up with the next thing.

Enter “Story Engineering”. This is the first book on structure and organization that I’ve been excited about. He explains things clearly and I love the efficiency of his method. The light bulb is finally going on. Sure, it’s still dim, but I’m only on page 31.

I read a few paragraphs, then the muse seizes me and I run to the iPad, open Phraseology and start putting my concept in words. I go back and read a few more paragraphs, then the muse kicks up again and I am compelled to write a few more words. This has happened several times—which is why only page 31—and I’m loving it.

He says that when he writes this way, he is able to complete his books in about 8 weeks (after the outline is done, I’m assuming...we’ll see what he says in the rest of the book). Because he writes using this tried-and-true technique, his first novel was sold to a major New York publisher on the very first submission.

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

May 29, 2012


By Leesa Ostrander
The other day, I heated the oven to 425, washed the pump sweet potato, place it on a foil lined stoneware, set the timer for 1 hour. Then, I waited.
Slowly the house filled with the aroma of sweet, starchy baked sweet potato.
I had to step outside to ease my salivating mouth from drowning me.
As I waited outside, my girls came home from school. We walked in the house and they lost all sense of after-school routine. They dropped everything at the door and ran to the kitchen.
All three of us stood around the oven while I pulled it out.
The girls, now beyond excited could wait no longer to dig in. I told them we first need to slice the potato, place a pat of butter on it and let it cool.
I explained, “It is very hot and will burn you if you try to eat it now.”
My older daughter sat patiently watching the butter infiltrate the potato. She sat closely and smelled the sweet steam mixed with a buttery quality rising into her nose.
My younger daughter could not wait. She took a huge forkful and stuffed the entire bite in her mouth. She jumped off the chair, mouth ajar muffling, “HOT, hot.” However, she did not spit it out, did not lose a single piece, but continued to jump around shaking her head and frantically moving her tongue.
Once this bite had painstakingly made it to her belly, she continued the charade until her portion was gone. The process took about three minutes. She then ran off to get cold water and out to play.
Ally and I laughed and sat for the next 20 minutes and enjoyed every bite of the potato.
I began to think about how much I enjoyed the sweet potato. The preparation and cooling down took two hours before I could actually eat it. Most times when I crave something sweet, I open my snack drawer and eat a Milky Way. I open and eat in about three minutes. Then it is gone and I think, “That’s it?”
Comparing my sweet potato to Milky Way, I prefer the sweet potato. Sure it takes longer to prepare and eat. The overall satisfaction is greater.
We are told through the scriptures and church leaders to work hard all the days of our life and to enjoy the process.
This is true when we can see beyond the immediate gratification and truly choose something superior. When I choose to practice my craft, and learn more about it and work hard the end result is better than rushing to publish and having the readers find multiple errors.
My younger daughter was in too much of a hurry. She did not slow down and enjoy the sweetness and essence of the root. Instead, she was burned.

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

By Tracy Astle

Let us remember with deepest gratitude.

May 27, 2012

Writers: Don't Let Yourselves be Exploited

by Marsha Ward

Many of my friends know I'm a fervently self-publishing author. This isn't, by the way, because my writing stinks. Even though I have days when I think I can't write my way out of a paper bag, my writing is not awful. I've been publishing for the last 25 or more years in a variety of publications, and I served as a newspaper editor for three different newspapers (one of them for two separate stints), as well as a publisher for two small-press publications back in the day. I have over 900 publishing credits besides my novels, so I don't think anyone can say I'm a crappy writer.

I went into self-publishing for a specific reason (a seemingly fatal medical prognosis that proved otherwise). I've achieved a welcome level of freedom in my endeavors, if not millions of books sold. My readers are avid, I get almost universal praise along with impatient pleas for the next book, and the criticisms are along the lines of "I won't read your book because the saddle on the cover isn't accurate to the period," or "nobody would get baptized that quickly" (except one of my forebears).

My sense of outrage and a sinking feeling sometimes come to the surface when I am approached by wanna-be writers who eagerly espouse the notion that publishing a book will fulfill their need for more income, or that getting an agent or a publisher will validate their almost crippling desire to be loved and appreciated for their writing skill.

Don't get me wrong. I was in that camp for a lot of years. I thought signing a publishing contract was the pinnacle of the publishing mountain, and much to be desired.

Well, I have learned many, many truths about the industry we love in the last several years, and I have had my eyes opened to the fact that WRITING ISN'T ABOUT GETTING AN AGENT OR A PUBLISHER. It's about getting a book into the hands of or the iPad (insert your favorite ebook-reading device here) of a Reader!

When some of my favorite eye-opening blog writers post about exploitation of writers or unfair contracts, my indignation can rise in my throat almost to the point of choking me, all on behalf of the writers who want to be published in the worst way--and sometimes get what they want.

I'm not saying traditional publishing is the devil. I'm saying it's exceeding difficult to get a fair shake from an industry that has had all the power on the publishing houses' side for too long. If I was offered fair terms in a contract with a huge advance on a book, and could afford to wait around for a publication date two or three years hence, I might take it, then turn my back, walk away, and forget it. Fair terms would have to lack a "non-compete" clause (because I'll for darn sure be writing other work), but must include a "period of licensing" clause, not to exceed ten years. Lacking such terms, I don't think I would accept a publishing contract because, hey! Right now I'm making money and reaching readers.

Isn't that the end-all and be-all of our writing endeavors, after all? Reaching and touching the lives of readers?

May 26, 2012

Book Talley is 11,900. HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU HAVE?

by Cindy R. Williams

Hi all, I'm still counting books. Please take a few minutes to close your eyes and do a virtual walk through your home and leave a comment below with how many books you have.

Another question . . . what say you? Ebooks or books you hold in your hand? Which do you prefer?

As we all watch the electronic world make huge changes in the future of books, where do you stand on the issue?  Do you think traditional books will eventually become items for museums, or are they here to stay?

Do an Internet search and find rattled opinions. Die-hards are adamant that books will never be obsolete, ebook proponents say that someday soon only ebooks will exist.

What do you think?

May 25, 2012

I Got My Contracts!

The mailman must’ve thought I had a thing for him, with the way I rushed outside each day to check what he had in his hands for me. For the past two weeks I’ve been waiting for my promised publishing contracts from Walnut Springs Press for Firesetters, and Changes. I can’t help but hear Karen Carpenter singing “Please, Mister Postman” in my head over and over again.

There must be some word today from my boyfriend so far away.
Please, Mister Postman, look and see.
Is there a letter, a letter for me?
I've been standing here waiting, Mr. Postman, oh, so patiently
For just a card or just a letter sayin' he'll be comin' home to me.

Of course not all the lyrics fit my situation. I wasn’t waiting to get a letter from a boyfriend, (my husband frowns on such relationships, you know, with being married and everything) but my heart pounded just as hard in anticipation of a new career he would be bringing me.

(Mister Postman look and see.)
Please, Mister Postman, oh yeah.
(Is there a letter, a letter for me?)
Please, please, Mister Postman, oh yeah.
(You know it's been a long, long time.
Since I heard from that boyfriend of mine.)

So many days have passed me by.
You saw the tears in my eyes.
You wouldn't stop to make me feel better
By leavin' me a card or a letter. *** or a contract!!

My Mister Postman became concerned with me being so weepy when all he could hand me was bills.  Truth be told, WS and I needed to work out a couple of points before the contracts could be sent through the mail. I didn’t mind it coming the old-fashioned way. I took a phone photo of the big manila envelope before taking a favorite letter opener and slicing through the envelope’s edge. The whole experience is embedded in my brain—so cool.

(Mister Postman look and see.)
Please, Mister Postman, oh yeah.
(Is there a letter, a letter for me?)
Please, please, Mister Postman, oh yeah.
(You know it's been a long, long time.
Since I heard from that boyfriend of mine.)

You better wait a minute,
(Wait, wait a minute.)
Oh, you better wait a minute.
(Wait, wait a minute.)
Oh, you better wait a minute, wait a minute.
(Wait a minute.)
Oh you gotta wait, wait.
(Wait, wait.)

When you’re a writer, waiting is practically all we do. It takes time to write a decent story. It takes more time to edit. Then we do research on literary agents or publishers, and write cover letters, and query letters, and, gasp—we write the harder-than-carving-granite synopsis. Most of us know the cruel pain of rejection. I use to keep a file especially for those little, generic gems until I realized they didn’t do anything for my self-esteem. The only good they did do was remind me who not to submit to again. 

Now I will be waiting—again, to see my first book, Firesetters, in print.

I think it’s appropriate to say . . . I can’t wait!!! 

May 24, 2012

Secondary Characters

By Susan G. Haws

When I read and just love a book I try to think why I get sucked into those characters and worlds. I am discovering several things that help me accept the characters and their situation. One of these is distinctive secondary and antagonistic characters.
As a reader not only do I identify with the main character I appreciate the individuality of the other characters that populate the novel. Just as in real life, some side characters are more important, such as: family, friends and enemies so the reader knows them well and other characters are more of acquaintances and others only cross paths with the main character.
The Harry Potter novels exemplify distinctive secondary characters.  The reader gets to know core people surrounding Harry such as Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Snape in depth. But a reader of the series could easily discuss the character growth of Percy Weasley, the fears and strengths of Remus Lupin, the change in behavior of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy over the series, or  Neville Longbottom as a hero. Even  Mundungus Fletcher can be picked out of a line up.
How do you develop your secondary and smaller characters into individuals?

May 23, 2012

In which I say the strangest things

by Kami Cornwall

"The Superheroes need to go back home."
"Zombies aren't allowed in my house."
"Malcolm, don't eat the wall."
Okay, that last one was directed at the dog, but with boys sometimes it could go either way. The point is, I find myself more and more saying things that I don't normally ever say.

When I became a mother I found myself repeating things my mother said. It took a few years to undo the "mom-isms" she had ingrained in me. She used to exclaim things like, "Good night, nurse! It looks like hurricane Hannah hit in here! My word!" Whenever we returned home from anywhere she would repeat part of the nursery rhyme, "Home again, home again, jiggity-jig." I still find myself beginning that little phrase only to shake my head and try to grab at the words drifting out of my mouth. Make it stop!

While on the phone with my mother recently I had to pause and cover the receiver with my hand while I broke up an argument and threatened to take away somebody's privileges if they didn't stop misbehaving. My mother chuckled on the other end and said with a smug voice, "It's so good to hear that what comes around goes around." So I know she has been where I am. With five children how could she not? But did my mother also say to her child, "It's probably not a good idea to balance your bowl between your chest and the counter, honey," or "No chocolate before breakfast!"

Okay...I think I do recall the no chocolate before breakfast rule. But some rules were made to be broken.

May 22, 2012

Sometimes the Still Small Voice Take Over

by Terri Wagner

School is over. I made straight A's. Wow, I didn't do that even in undergrad. It's been a wild ride going back to college but immeasurably fun and exciting. I've learned more than I ever thought I could. Want to learn more. And especially pass it on to younger students. I hope that teaching job comes to pass.

I prayed briefly for the right conference talk to use at my VT meeting earlier today. This particular sister is a wonderful, beautiful, caring soul who has no idea how important she is...or that matter that she is all those things and more. Our visits always last longer than they should because we enjoy friendship along with VT.

The one that shot out at me was Elder Oaks' talk in April's conference on Sacrifice. I was a bit afraid to bring up the subject because she is facing a very long-term dis-settling sacrifice, and hating every minute of it. It's hard for her. I can relate.

However, when I started to talk, the Spirit took over...almost literally. I'm sure we all here have experienced that feeling. The words she needed to hear just poured from my mouth. And somewhere inside my brain, I thought, wow, this isn't me speaking, isn't this cool?!

I could see the burden lift off her shoulders as she understood what she was doing was giving her the opportunity to be "one with our Heavenly Father and with Christ." That's what she needed to hear. Oftentimes we get caught up in the emotional aspect of sacrifice and forget just the doing of it counts.

I left as uplifted as she felt. Don't you just love it when that happens?

May 21, 2012

The Picture Says it All!

by Kristin Baker Przybyla

I think it was my last post where I mentioned my troubles about balancing my new work hours with my family, housework, and writing. Well, as you might have guessed, it didn't work. I haven't written anything new since I took the job, and I hardly saw my kids at all, let alone was able to make dinner and take care of the house. So I had to prayerfully consider our situation, and whether it really was dire enough that I needed to work outside the home.

So it's back to belt-tightening again, and praying some more for the hubby's interviews in Boise to land a bite. I always try to learn something from experiences, especially those that don't work out. In addition to the obvious one about the importance of me staying with my family as much as I can, I've learned to appreciate the time I have at home, and the chance to make dinner for my family again. And I'm really, really going to love having the time to write again!

May 20, 2012

Perfecting the Craft

By Jennifer Debenham
One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to attend writing conferences or seminars. Perhaps this is because I LOVE to learn. I've often said I'd be perfectly happy being a full-time student. Too bad that's not very practical. Or affordable.

Whenever I attend one of these classes, I listen carefully when the instructor recommends a book on writing, because, let's face it, I love to read just as much as I love to write. Sometimes even more.

Because of this, I've acquired quite a collection of writing books. Some I've read all the way through; others (with stars) I've got on my "to do" list.

Have you read any of these?

If so, what are your favorites?

*Save the Cat and Save the Cat Strikes Back, by Blake Snyder. These books were both recommended at this year's LDStorymaker's Conference.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and *Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card.

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks. He was the keynote speaker at last year's LDStorymaker's Conference.

How to Read Novels Like a Professor, by Thomas C. Foster. Great for learning how to disect novels and get more out of them.

*Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein.

*Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass.

*Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee. This book was recommended by David Farland/Wolverton when I attended his week-long seminar in St. George, Utah.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. Even though I haven't read any of his other books, this book was recommended to me over and over so many times that I finally broke down and read it. I wasn't disappointed.

*Immediate Fiction, by Jerry Cleaver.

How I Write, by Janet Evanovich, another book that was recommended so many times I finally picked it up. Loved it too.

So these are my books. Writing them down like this has reminded me how much I want to finish some of them and review others. Of course there's definitely no better substitute for just buckling down and writing to improve your grasp on the craft. No one ever became a successful writer simply by reading how to do it, but these are some great resources.

What would you add to the list?

And while we're sharing our lists, what are your favorite websites or blogs on writing?

May 19, 2012

Outlining Part 2--How to Beat Out Your Novel

By Bonnie Harris
So, my journey to figure out how to outline continues. If you missed my intro to this journey, you should check it out, as well as Part 1.
This particular process I learned about at the LDStorymakers conference this past May. Elena Johnson shared how she’s adapted the Blake Snyder method for screenwriting to writing novels. I thoroughly enjoyed this class and learned some very valuable points. Here are my notes, (hopefully they make sense) as well as some links that may help.
Elana Johnson
Beat Out Your Novel (Adapt to how you write)
write the book out, then do the outline or beat it out
do a mix
For this presentation, I read, pored over, and loved SAVE THE CAT and SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK both by Blake Snyder. There is a third book in the series, SAVE THE CAT! GOES TO THE MOVIES, which I have not read as it seemed more for screenplays and less for general structure and writing.
That’s right. Structure. Seems strange in this class that’s sort of against outlining… But structure is necessary!
You can only take so much weirdness at one time. 
Three Acts, Fifteen Beats, One Board
  • the world as your hero knows it (normal)
  • theme stated—choices, careful what you wish for
  • a catalyst pushes us into Act 2, MC freely chooses to move to Act 2
  • Antithesis to Act 1—the normal world turned upside down

Start with 2
Opening Image
starting point
“before” snapshot
intro MC
Closing Image
proof that change has occurred
give yourself a destination
Opening and closing should be OPPOSITES
a plus and a minus
showing dramatic change from beg to end
Break into 2
moment we leave the old world
must be DISTINCT
hero must decide
an “up” or a “down”, false
stakes are RAISED
no turning back
pace increases
Break into 3
use B story characters
fusion of B story and hero finding a solution
synthesis at hand
Acts should stay the same length, Act 1 (25%, 50%, 25%)
Opening image 
Theme state
Break into 2
1. Opening Image (1): the normal world, characters
2. Theme Stated (15):
3. Set-Up (1-30): hook the reader to continue, can use relationships, worlds, events, plant flaws in characters that will change @ end, intro most characters in A story,
4. Catalyst (36): the world explodes, something that shows their different, forces characters to change, not good news, what leads the hero to happiness
5. Debate (36-75): do I go? do I stay? fear of the unknown
6. Break into Two (75)
7. B Story (90): love story, get to know person, doesn’t always have to be romance, relationship story—emotional story, provides a breather
8. Fun and Games (90-165): promise of a premise, get to see what you promised readers, must deliver
9. Midpoint (165): false up or down where they succeed or collapse, answer question are you real hero or fake hero? not one scene—many pages
10. Bad Guys Close In (165-225): bad guys regroup and send in the forces, doubt desinagrates bad guys team
11. All Is Lost (225): false defeat, looks like they’ve lost, something about dying, whiff of death, takes away mentors, could be secondary characters
12. Dark Night of the Soul (225-255): dark before the dawn, in the moment they have no idea what to do, utter defeat
13. Break into Three (255): blending of two worlds, new way of thinking, new hero, new person
14. Finale (255-330): Gathering the team—he’s alone, gather the team, break him out, rallying of allies, amend things, usually a plan
Executing the plan—they might actually do this
High Tower Surprise—finds out the bad guys knew he was coming, no princess in tower, reason the plan false, plan may actually be a trap, whatever hero has done may not be enough
Dig deep down—the whole plan is revealed, hero gets new plan, not exactly what reader expects, no back-up, go into new world with faith unseen
Execute the new plan—the answer comes from a place that we all hope exists, hero trusts themselves enough to use what we hoped was there, then he wins
15. Final Image (330): hero in new world, opposite of beginning
  1. Beat Sheet—can switch with write novel (good driving destination)
  2. Write novel
  3. Board it out—flip over paper
  4. Revise
Stories that have all fifteen beats are what we want to keep reading and watching
The 15 beats can use for synopsis
Act 1 can be used for query letter
*Adapted for novels from by Elana Johnson.

Happy Outlining & Writing! :)

May 18, 2012

Seeing the Everyday - How I Meet Daryl

As a young girl, I loved gymnastics.  Starting at age 5, my mom had me signed up for lessons.  Balance beam, parallel bars, floor; I just loved it all.  I wasn’t very strong.  I remember being unable to pull myself up onto the bars on my own.  I wasn’t very coordinated.  I remember being unable to do anything other than walk back and forth on the balance beam and even that was tricky.  I wasn’t able to do the back handsprings and front walkovers like the other little girls, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make believe I could in my mind.  Gymnastic lessons stopped around the age of 8.  I don’t know why?  Perhaps because my mom was pregnant with her 5th child and it was too much.  Either way, I still practiced gymnastics.  I would dance, make up routines and practice for hours each day; all in the basement of my childhood home.   I used duct tape on the carpet, pulling the tape into a long line and sticking on the floor making an imaginary balance beam.

I quickly became a teenage girl and still did gymnastics almost every day in my basement.  Around the age of 14, I came to the sad realization I would never become a famous gymnast. I was tall, almost 5’8, and big-boned.  I didn’t have the body type, and I wasn’t very good.  I knew this all along, but in my mind I always envisioned me doing the tricks I watched during the Olympics on T.V.

My mom helped me during this time of transition and suggested I try diving.  I always loved to jump on the trampoline, doing front and back flips.  Plus, I loved swimming and would flip off just about anything that catapulted me into the pool, so I decided to give it a try.

The first time I walked down a real diving board (not your backyard wimpy version), I couldn’t believe the spring.  It sent me flying into the air and I had very little control over where my flipping ended up.  The high school coach spent the day just teaching me how to walk down the diving board and be in some sort of control.  After a day of try-outs, he saw the desperation in my eyes and agreed if I trained my sophomore year and came to all the practices and meets, he would sign me up to compete my junior year.
(Photo Shock!  Stay with me now!)
This is how I met my friend Daryl.

My first dive meet I walked onto the bus that would take me to another city, and I walked past a nice looking guy who was sitting alone.  He offered the seat next to him, and we started talking.  He was a swimmer, excited for his first big event.  Daryl was the type of person who loved to laugh, making jokes easily, and we were best friends by the time the bus dropped us of to our swim and diving meet.  Because our bus driver looked like Orville Redenbacher, we gave each other the nickname Orville.  For the next 10 years, I was Orville to him, and he was Orville to me.

     We spent the next 3 years between his house and mine making chocolate cookies, singing and making up songs on the piano, helping each other with chores and homework, telling each other our thoughts, our struggles and our dreams.  We swam in his neighbor’s backyard swimming pool on hot summer nights, learned to drive a stick-shift in my beater car and gave each other pep talks when the odds were against us.  We loved music and sang too loud with the windows of my car rolled down.  All the while, he on the swim team, me on the diving team, and we would sit next to each other on the bus that took us from one competition to the next.

     One Christmas Eve my senior year, I called Daryl around midnight.  My parents, too tired to do all the Christmas tasks, asked if I would play Santa, stuffing the stockings and wrapping presents.  I needed my best friend.  We met halfway in the neighborhood on that dark cold night and walked back to my house—he stayed with me until 3:00am.   That night, we also assembled a lawn mower I’d purchased for my dad.  It was like a comedy skit; Daryl reading the directions while I tried to figure out what wheel went where.  Never has there been so much laughter on Christmas Eve.
   After graduation, Daryl left the country for his mission.  It was a sad parting, difficult to know we might grow apart.  We spent the next 2 years writing letters, still as happy as ever, and I could almost hear his laughter each time I read a hand-written note of his, always addressed to me: Orville; always signed by him: Orville.

   He came home from his time abroad, and we were both in college.  We made the occasional phone call and saw each other here and there until I went on my mission.  After 1½ more years of letter writing our friendship was as solid as ever, even though we rarely saw each other.  I knew Daryl was there for me.  I knew he cared about me.  Even when I felt all alone, I had the memories of Daryl and knew he was always by my side.  I returned home, and a year later met my soon-to-be husband.  When I became engaged to Derek, I called Daryl.  He invited me to his house, and we made cookies.  Later, we sat on the side of the bed in his bedroom of his childhood home, talking about the good times, our adventures and wondered now what the world held for us.  So much left unsaid because it is impossible to tell someone thank you while saying good-bye; thank you for caring about me, thank you for making me smile every day and thank you for being my best friend.

    Fast forward 15 years, and my friend Daryl, a.k.a Orville, does graphic design (worked on the Martha Stewart Magazine) and publishes the international magazine Seeing The Everyday, a magazine focused on relationships in ordinary moments.  Seeing the Everyday is a useful resource in discovering and re-discovering that in life nothing is really routine.  It captures beautiful, yet day-to-day moments in family life like cooking, household work and hugs.  It doesn’t surprise me that Daryl now spends his time sharing his love of people with others all over the world.  

Seeing the Everyday has a beautiful website with guidelines for submission (hint, hint).
I wrote a post on my blog My Dear Trash about an experience I had.  I live down the street from my beautiful mom and every few days, she walks into my home to visit.  One day, I turned around and there she was standing in my kitchen.  She took my breath away.  This woman, so kind and beautiful seeks me out and I'm able to spend time with her, have my ideas and dreams molded by her and my concerns and worries validated by her.  I realized how lucky I was to be her daughter and the experience made look at my own daughter differently.  If my mom loved me like I love my daughter, then why would I every doubt myself.  Later, I submitted the experience to Seeing The Everyday and was thrilled when it was published.  You can read it on-line by clicking here.

Daryl has sent me 5 copies of the latest Seeing the Everyday to share with you.  How can you get a copy?  Leave a comment below about your favorite ordinary experience.  This doesn't need to be complicated. It can be as simple as folding your newborns little clothes just out of the dryer or putting sunblock on your child's button nose.  Maybe the warmth of a morning's cup of tea or the bird making a nest in the tree just outside your window.  I will select 5 winners and email you for your address so I can mail you your gift.  Can't wait to read about the beauty in your life. 

May 17, 2012

Characters in My Life

by Kari Diane Pike

After typing and deleting numerous first sentences for this post, I let out an audible groan of defeat.

"Mom, are you okay?"

"I can't think of anything to post for the ANWA blog today!"

"Have you written about your grandkids?"

"Ummm, yeah -- multiple times."

End of conversation. Well, that was helpful. Now what do I do? Everyone is ignoring me now. Ha ha! I just realized that no one wants to say anything because they know they will become my next victim subject of discussion! What can I say? It's true! Just to be fair to all of them this week -- here's a peek at the characters in our home.

One daughter has pretty much memorized the dialogue of every episode of Gilmore Girls. She and her younger, but taller, sister have entire conversations using quotes from that show. She is also the daughter who has this crazy fear of cats. Not that it's unjustified. We had a cat who used to terrorize her when she was a toddler. Seriously, the cat would crouch on the back of the Lazy Boy rocker (like Snoopy on his dog house) until darling daughter wandered by -- whereupon the cat would pounce  onto her head (and only her) and then rocket down the hall. I also witnessed that cat run on her hind legs with her forelegs stretched high above her head and chase our little girl. To our daughter's credit, she has gone out of her way to get over that fear -- but she still despises cats.

Our current kitty is a bred and born hunter. Now that she has eliminated and/or scared away the mice, she thinks it is her duty to attack unsuspecting feet and everything flying thing -- including flies, hornets, dust motes and that fluffy stuff the cottonwood trees currently send floating out in the air. She loves to play hide and go seek. It's my job to "hide" around the corner, peeking out at her every few moments. It's her job to see how close she can get without being seen or heard and then jump out and "buzz" by me. My kids think it's funny that even though I know she is coming, she still manages to startle me more often than not. She is also very territorial and to my dismay, hisses and spits at the grandkids or any other unfamiliar person.

Some of the grandchildren were here for a couple of days this week. They came to help Grandma and Grandpa sort and pack and get ready for our move. I got in some much needed snuggle time and I loved having an excuse to use the fire pit and make s'mores and sing silly songs. Yesterday, baby Maesie slept in my arms while the family packed the car to return home. Three-year-old Kreed gave me a big hug and kiss goodbye. He started to walk out the door and since I still held Maesie, I asked if that meant I got to keep her at my house.

"No Grandma! She's our baby. You can't keep her!"

"Well then, can I keep you?"

"No! I'm an Anderson. I'm not a Pike! You're a Pike. I have to be with the Andersons!"

I love it that Kreed has such a strong sense of who he is. I hope and pray that he will always recognize who he is as a son of God and remain strong in his convictions.

Okay -- so there's not time or room enough to highlight everyone in one post. I have learned something though. Everyone is a character. We just need to look and listen and and pay attention to them. What makes them interesting? What is it about this person that makes me want to smile when I am around them? Why does the hair on my arms stand up when I stand next to that person? How can I create characters in my stories that create these kinds of emotions for my readers? What do you do? Do you base your characters on people you know?


May 16, 2012

Personality Plus

by Nikki McBride Spencer

A couple of years ago my boys and I spent the morning building a kids project at Lowes. This was our going home conversation (edited for length):

Jason: I want to destroy the funhouse mirror.
Me: What? No! You just built that!
Jason: Well, now I want to destroy it.
Me: Arrgh. Fine. Just show it to dad first.
Jason: (laughs maniacally) I'm going to need some equipment.

Can you guess which one is the destroyer?

May 15, 2012

A Challenge to Encourage Reading

By Leesa Ostrander

I was in my doctor’s office today for a follow up of an auto accident last summer. He walked in said hi and “wow, your reading that? How do you like it?”

I was reading Anna Karenina. My comment back, “Yes, I am re-reading it because I loved it and it had been a few years so wanted to relive it.”

The next fifteen minutes rotated around Russian 18th century and Tutor time period literature. I was surprised to find how well-read he is and his depth of understanding with history.

Sure, he is a physician and has a life outside his patients. He has been my physician for the last 8 years and every time I go in the office I’m amazed. He also, has 10 kids!

Back to our discussion, I learned from him there are many pieces I have neglected and now want to read. For instance, Catherine the Great, he said he enjoyed and is worth the read. I also learned how a book connected us on a human level. This is important as we try to create a community and reach out with our words.

He then spent another 20 minutes with me discussing my physical therapy. In the end, I have more respect for him, the time he spent with me and he surprised me.

I know many people who say, “Oh, I hate reading!” or “I don’t have time to read.”

So is reading a priority or a lifestyle?

I think that if reading becomes a lifestyle it leads to many other life adventures and understanding. A lifestyle full of adventures fills our journal with stories, enhances our own plot lines, the memories are countless and challenges become possible.

By enhancing our understanding, creativity, logical sequence of plot and general expansion of vocabulary the world becomes more positive and doable. We can learn from other stories and have examples of how to tackle a tough spot. Or just escape for a little while.

I challenge everyone, to find a local literacy night and volunteer to help at least once this summer. As writers’ we can help expand someone else. Literacy nights need a group to organize and carry out. Each person has something to offer.
Here is a link to plan a literacy night in your own home. Interesting!

I ask, what can you do to surprise yourself?

May 14, 2012

Ah, Spring.

By Tracy Astle

I don't know about you, but spring does it to me every year. I adore spring, with it's sunshine, flowers, budding trees, baby animals, brisk mornings, mild days and cool nights. I feel like I'm surrounded by hope. I'm envigorated by the newness of it. Every. Single. Year. 

It fills me with desire and energy to do things I have avoided through the dreary, though admittedly snuggly, cold of winter. In spring I want to be outside. I want to purge my life of stuff and habits that I feel are holding me down and/or cluttering my life. Spring is a much more inspiring time for me to make resolutions of change than any old New Year is, because in spring I actually feel like doing something about it, rather than just feeling like I should do something about it - whatever 'it' is.

Along with the many other things it makes me want to do, it makes me want to write, write, write, to improve my writing skills, to research and query those agents and publishers, in short to progress. when everything in nature is so ardently consumed with growing, it makes me want to grow, too.

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.Bern Williams

How about you? Any seasons that especially inspire you?

May 13, 2012

Things I Learned at the LDStorymakers Conference

by Marsha Ward

I'm getting out my "Hannah Montana" notebook so I can go over my notes (Don't mock me; it was a cheap remainder at the dollar store):

  • Paul Genesse (say like finesse) reminded me that "You don't fall in love with the plot, you fall in love with the characters," and "If you have a strong plot you'll write a great book, but if you have strong characters, you'll have a great career."
  • Karen Hoover borrowed an acronym from me and gave me credit. Thanks, Karen! BIC HOK TAM
  • I need to buckle down and create a budget, not only for my personal life, but for my business.
  • I really need to learn how to do Styles in MSWord.
  • If your name is big enough, you can turn your class into a commercial.
  • Book signings are most often a waste of time for mid-list to niche authors.
  • Kevin's Eleven Tips rock! Now, where is that digital recorder hiding?
  • I should have gone to some #2 choice classes instead of my first choices. I should have stuck with my #1 choice at least once. Live and learn.
  • If your hands hurt, practice a self-preservation technique when extending one for a handshake. Or surprise a new acquaintance with a hug instead? Or give them the Colombian elbow? I'll try those out next year.
  • It's time to experiment with a podcast. (Let's see, that's Styles, podcasting...and PowerPower is already on the list to master. What else?)
  • When you're exhausted, ditching class makes good sense.
  • It is such a treat to see existing friends and make new ones.
  • Contacts can be THE key pathway to a successful career, along with "Yes, I can do that." Ask Kevin J. Anderson.
  • I like chicken you can cut with a fork.
  • Don't put in the bookstore more than two copies each of novels that are not YA, dystopian, or thrillers.
  • Write the damn ahem, darn book!

And how was your week?

May 12, 2012

11,900 & Counting . . .

by Cindy R. Williams

Two weeks ago on this blog, I began a book count for no reason other than I'm curious about how many books we readers and writers at ANWA Founder & Friends have.  

The total to date is 11,900 books.

Please take a few minutes to walk through your house and guesstimate how many books you have then post it in the comments below. I hope to reach at least a 100,000.

I have this idea that "By their books you shall know them."  This includes not only what we read, but how many books we collect.

I grew up reading fantasies like the Wizard of Oz series. I devoured all things Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm's Fairy Tales. I couldn't get enough about fairies, mermaids, goblins, princes and princesses. Then I added Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. Upon joining ANWA, I discovered Janette Rallison's wonderful sense of humor in her teen books and became a fan.

At some point I began reading tons of romances. Hard to admit, but 'tis true. I found I would often  skip pages because I was uncomfortable with . . . well you know. Then I found "sweet romances"--a much better fit. I still love a good clean romance, especially historical, medieval, and the  regency period Austinland type stories. How great it is to have clean romances books written by our good friends, Joyce DiPastena, Donna Hatch, Sarah Eden, Joan Sowards, Theresa Sneed, Betsy Love and the ever funny friend from Hawaii, Susan Corpany Curtis.

I just finished a book called "THE MOST IMPORTANT CATCH by Jaclyn M. Hawkes. It kept me up late several nights. Yummy.

I read all my children's school assigned books. This serves a dual purpose; it feeds my passion for reading and it keeps me up on what they are studying so I can help them with assignments.

The Harry Potter series and the Eragon books by Christopher Paolini are favorites. Books by James Dashner and Jeff Savage make me smile. The Lord of the Rings series is amazing. I love to have a good book by my bed. I use them to escape the crazy world. (Much more fun to read about the challenges of a good character where I know there is no real risk to me.)

Nobody does a good western saga better than Marsha Ward, not even Louis L'Amour.

Being an LDS woman in today's world, like many of you, I don't neglect my regular reading one of the most powerful books every translated, THE BOOK OF MORMON. Now there's a book! One that will change the world, one person at time. I just finished an interesting book about eight non-LDS scholars studying the BOOK OF MORMON to document its authenticity. It's called OUT OF DARKNESS by Keith Terry. It is full of fascinating facts along with a story of conversion, love and intrigue.

Ah books . . . I could go on for hours with list of books and authors I love to read. How about you?

May 11, 2012

Reaching for the Obtainable

by Debra Erfert

This past Sunday, while I sat quietly waiting for the sacrament to be passed to me, I let my mind linger on the song we just got through singing. We have a small ward, the smallest in our stake, and I sit alone in the pew near the front since my husband was called to be bishop this past December. Usually I have a single friend who sits with me, but she didn’t show up. I still sat in my usual spot, though—basically in the middle of the bench. When the young man stopped next to my row, he held the tray out, but not very far. He didn’t step inside the aisle to make it more convenient for me, either. I had to lean over and reach to get that piece of bread. After he’d moved on to the next pew, I’d thought about scooting over to the edge, to make it easier on him, and me, for the second part of the sacrament. Then I started thinking about what that tiny piece of bread represented. 

In Matthew chapter 26:26 it says: And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 

Matthew 26:28 it says: For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus Christ died for us—for me, so I can be forgiven of my sins and live again. Yeah, I know. I should be thinking about this each week when I renew my baptismal covenant. I’d promised I would, but over time we tend to forget and take the sacrament for granted. It becomes routine—unless we have something happen that stands out—like having to go that extra distance and reach across a bench seat to take that little cup of water.

I learned that everything of value is worth reaching for.