Oct 31, 2012

A Potato Jack o' lantern?

By Jill Burgoyne

One of my all time favorite traditions of Halloween is carving the Jack O' Lanterns. Growing up, every Monday before Halloween, my mother would buy us each a pumpkin. My father would cut open the tops and then the scraping of slippery, stringy pumpkin goo would commence.

When the pumpkins passed cleaning inspection, we drew on them with markers, indicating where our parents should cut with a knife. (That is, until we were strong enough to cut our own faces.) We would then place a candle inside, light it, and leave it on the doorstep.

Although pumpkins are very American, the carving of Jack o' lanterns actually originated in Ireland. True to most traditions, this one is linked to a legend. This one, about a man named Stingy Jack.

Stingy Jack is said to have invited the devil out for a drink, but Jack didn't want to pay, so he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin to pay with. When the devil was a coin, Jack put it in his pocket next to a silver cross, preventing the devil from turning back into himself. Eventually, Stingy Jack made a deal with the devil. If Jack let the devil change from a coin, then the devil would have to leave Jack alone for one year AND never claim Jack's soul. The devil agreed.

A year later, Stingy Jack was hanging out with the devil again, and he convinced the devil to climb an apple tree. When the devil was in the tree, Jack carved a cross in the bark, preventing the devil from coming down. Before the devil could come down, he had to promise Jack to leave him alone for ten more years. The devil promised. Jack let him go. Then Jack died the next year.

Seeing the unsavory character that was Stingy Jack (and all the hanging out he did with the wrong company)- he was not admitted into heaven. But the devil: being true to his word also refused to claim his soul. The devil; however, did give Jack one coal to light his way as he roams the earth. Jack carved out a turnip to put the coal in and the ghostly figure became referred to as "Jack of the Lantern" and now: "Jack o' lantern".

The Irish began to carve scary faces into turnips and potatoes to keep "Jack o' lantern" away from their houses. Irish immigrants discovered that turnips were not so prevalent here and, they began to use pumpkins. And that is how the tradition came to be as it is today.

Cited: History.com

Oct 30, 2012


By Leesa Ostrander

My family is in the middle of the super-storm in New York. They have massive flooding from the lunar high tide and massive storm surge. I pray for their safety and am grateful for the safety I have. I am re-posting a previous blog. I think it says so much of what I am feeling today.

Adapted by previous blog submission

President Monson stated in the October 2010 conference talk, “A grateful heart… comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives.”

Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we receive.  By looking at a variety of definitions of the word gratitude, we can see the deeper meaning. The meanings can range from simple to complex. The thesaurus translates gratitude as thankfulness, appreciation, gratefulness, appreciativeness, grace, praise, acknowledgment, and obligation.

This is so complex and temporal. We are asked in the simplest form to show gratitude. D&C 136:28 says, “praise the Lord with prayer of thanksgiving.” We should regularly express our gratitude and be thankful for the blessings we have. Through our act of gratitude we will be happy, spiritually strong and blessed.

According to the Webster dictionary gratitude is one word: thankfulness.

The adversary strives to make our world complex and gratitude compound, multifaceted and daunting. This is not how we have been instructed.  Pure love and daily thanks make gratefulness a simple act. The Lord's method is simple, clear and plain.

When we have a grateful heart we can see and experience many blessings. Through basics or fundamentals a grateful heart is born.

A simple task of remembering someone and showing your gratitude will not only fill your heart with joy, it will give thanks to our Heavenly Father. President Monson asked in the October 2010 conference, “Do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive? Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us to recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.” Do we thank with the humblest heart?

Genuine acts of thanks can be simple, heartfelt and everlasting. Remember our neighbors, friends and family in our prayers of gratitude and be blessed in return. We can also show thanks through small acts and gifts of love, service and goodies.

In closing, I am grateful for the simple plan set for me to obtain eternal happiness. I am thankful amid all the world tribulations and hardships to continue to grow, teach my children and assist my neighbors. I am grateful in the middle of a storm; I have a soft and eternal love to keep me safe.

Oct 29, 2012

Time for a Feeding Frenzy

By Tracy Astle

Okay, so I've become the Queen of Quotes. I seem to be on a quote binge lately (and I make no guarantees as to how long this episode might last). But it's okay, it's not fattening like so many other binges. 

I love a good quote; it lets me learn wonderful things from others' experiences. I'm all about learning from others so I can gain from several lifetimes of wisdom, not just my own.

At any rate, here's your quote to gnaw on until it's my turn to post again.

“I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
— Ray Bradbury

Oh my. Isn't this...inspiring, daunting, exciting, depressing...something? How wonderful to think of never having a dry spell. It makes me stop and take stock of what I do to "feed myself well." Reading, watching people or any number of other things, zoning out and letting my imagination roam, listening to whatever - people, music, animals, nature, ideas, these are all things that are delicious to me and feed my creative spirit. All of them involve being attentive to life as it's happening, which is sometimes easier said than done, but always worthwhile and enriching.

How about you? How do you "feed" yourself creatively?

Oct 28, 2012

Author Interview: Patrick Dearen, author of To Hell or the Pecos

by Marsha Ward

Patrick Dearen
I thought I would do something a little different today, so I reached into my bag of tricks and dug out a congenial fellow whose brand-new novel was released at the beginning of October. Say hello to my fellow Western writer, Patrick Dearen.

Dearen wears two hats. As a historian and folklorist, he digs deeply into the lore and legend of the West and produces books that appeal to both scholars and general readers. As a novelist, he draws on this reservoir of knowledge and crafts stories of people interacting with a harsh and yet beautiful land.

Dearen was born in 1951 and grew up in the small West Texas town of Sterling City. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin in 1974 and received nine national and state awards as a reporter for two West Texas daily newspapers. He is the author of nineteen books.

An authority on the Pecos and Devils rivers of Texas, Dearen also has gained recognition for his knowledge of old-time cowboy life. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he preserved the firsthand accounts of 76 men who cowboyed before 1932. These interviews, along with decades of archival study, have enriched Dearen’s ten novels and led to nine nonfiction books.

His newest novel, To Hell or the Pecos, is based on actual nineteenth-century incidents along the Butterfield and Goodnight-Loving trails. His other novels include Perseverance, set along the rails in Depression-era Texas.

Dearen has been honored by Western Writers of America, West Texas Historical Association, and Permian Historical Association. A backpacking enthusiast and ragtime pianist, he makes his home in Midland, Texas with his wife Mary (managing editor of the Midland Reporter-Telegram) and their son Wesley.

I've seen Patrick Dearen over the years at Western Writers of America conventions, and at the one I attended last June, we made a connection, discussing social media methods. Welcome Patrick. You've been a journalist for a large part of your life. What attracts you to write Western fiction, and non-fiction dealing with the West, as well?

Perhaps my deep roots in West Texas are to blame.  My forebears came to this region in 1887, and I remember as a child asking my pioneer grandmother for cowboy items that had been my grandfather’s.  Right now, his 100-year-old quirt hangs within arm’s reach of my computer.

As a young reporter for two West Texas daily newspapers, I traveled a region as large as the state of Ohio and heard legends and frontier tales that intrigued me.  My earliest writing about the West came in the form of newspaper articles.  It was a natural progression from there to nonfiction books and novels.

You wrote your brand new novel, To Hell or the Pecos, as a tribute to the late Western writer Elmer Kelton. Tell us about your relationship with him.

Although born 25 years apart, Elmer and I shared roots (West Texas), a journalism professor (DeWitt Reddick, University of Texas), a training ground (San Angelo Standard-Times), and a mentor and dear friend (Paul Patterson).  It was the latter connection that carried us beyond a professional friendship into a personal one that I valued.

Elmer was kind enough to write forewords to my first two nonfiction books, and provided blurbs (endorsements) for three other works of mine.  But as superb a writer as he was, I remember him most for his humble and gentle ways.  He was one of the few truly great men I’ve ever known, and we should all learn from him.

I agree with you. My relationship with Elmer was to admire him from afar (or a-near, depending on how closely together we sat at a writers' convention or on a bus tour). He reminded me greatly of my father. Why did you determine to write a novel to honor Elmer?

As I made the three-hour drive home from his funeral in August 2009, I pondered how I could best honor this special man who single-handedly lifted West Texas out of a literary desert. I decided there could be nothing more appropriate than to write a novel about the region he and I both loved, and to dedicate it to him.

A good choice. You're a busy man with many interests. I read that you had been immersed in a huge research project. How did you find the time to write a novel, too?
That was the tricky part — stealing time that wasn’t there.  My only free time each day was devoted to my four-mile walk.  So immediately upon my return from Elmer’s services, I grabbed a pen and a few sheets of blank paper and headed out for my daily exercise.

I soon learned that I thought better while walking.  Maybe not faster, but better.  I developed my own new measurement:  WPM (words per mile).  Over the next 289 days, I averaged 35 WPM as I stayed immersed in the Pecos River country of 1886 while hiking under a blazing Texas sun and through winter snows when the chill factor hit 26 below zero.  Try writing about characters facing heat stroke when the ink in your pin freezes!

The short days of winter were an enemy, but I donned a headlamp and kept at it.  On those occasions when I was out of town, I continued to write longhand — in airports and speeding cars, at the home of friends and along backpacking trails in the hostile Chihuahuan Desert. I never missed a day.

By the time I wrote “The End,” 1,200 miles had passed under my boots, far enough to carry me from West Texas to the Pacific.

I sometimes have trouble just doing the walking part. I love details of how things get done. How does one write as one walks, physically?

First, don’t get run over! I only crossed one busy street in my typical walk, but each time, I had to drag myself out of 1886 and back into the 21st century.

There’s also an art to wearing reading glasses and walking, but I learned to hang them on the lower part of my nose and use peripheral vision to gauge my next step. Probably the biggest challenge was in deciphering my chicken-scratching as I input my week’s work each Saturday.

Thanks for the back story! When you write fiction, how do you come up with the story ideas?

As much as possible, I draw straight from history and actual geography. I’ve written nine nonfiction books about early West Texas, and also interviewed 76 men who cowboyed before 1932. These represented the last generation of men who cowboyed before mechanization. So I have a wealth of material on which to base fiction.

To Hell or the Pecos grew out of three actual incidents in the Pecos River country of 19th century Texas. In 1867, the Joel D. Hoy party was besieged by Indians at Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos. One person died and four others suffered wounds in a three-day ordeal. About 15 years later, a drifter abducted a teenage girl and fled to Horsehead, where several men overtook him and rescued her. And in 1890, two cowboys chased Mexican bandits across the same stretch of Butterfield Trail that I write about in To Hell or the Pecos. It ended with the death of one of the cowhands.

That's rich material. Sell To Hell or the Pecos to me and other readers. Why should we buy and read it?

Truth is always more powerful than absolute fiction, so I believe the novel's basis in actual events is a plus. But I think it’s my probe of the ethos and egos of the characters that stands out. Here's the story. For twenty years, Tom Rowden has been haunted by the memory of killing his wife at Horsehead Crossing to spare her from Comanches. Now Tom is dying, and he is riding back to Horsehead to make final absolution at her grave and join her.

But Tom’s plans are sidetracked when Mexican bandits burn a ranch house, abduct a young woman (Liz Anne), and flee for the Pecos. Tom now sees an even better way to find absolution — he joins up with cowhand Jess Graham and three other men to try to rescue Liz Anne, whom Jess loves.

 Jess, too, is haunted. As a boy, he stood by without intervening and watched his father commit suicide. Now as Jess sees hints of suicide in Tom, he feels he has a second chance to right a terrible sin of omission.

Before any of them can reach the Pecos, they face a 79-mile stretch of desert more trying than anything they’ve ever known.

Powerful stuff! Did I read somewhere that there is a book trailer for To Hell or the Pecos?

Yes. It can be viewed on YouTube, and also on my website, patrickdearen.com .  Not only does it include photos of historic sites mentioned in To Hell or the Pecos, but also a stand-up I did at Horsehead Crossing, scene of the novel’s climax.  I think it gives a potential reader a good sense of the novel.

It does, indeed! I got shivers just watching it. We heard a lot at the last Western Writers of America convention about using social media to attract new readers. You have a website. Do you also have a Facebook presence?

I do. In fact, I’ve posted a 10-part series on the historical background for To Hell or the Pecos on my Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/Patrick.Dearen.author.

It's a wonderful overview. I enjoyed reading it. Where is To Hell or the Pecos available?

It can be purchased through Texas A&M University Press (1-800-826-8911). It’s also available through major online sellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million.

Thank you for the interview and being my guest today, Patrick.

Thanks so much, Marsha. 

Oct 27, 2012

Character Names

by Cindy R. Williams

Where do you find the names of your characters?

Do you find them in a baby name book, movie screen credits, family members and friends names, your children's sports, choir and band performance names listed on the programs. Maybe you research names for their meaning.

My junior high school son came home yesterday, excited about a website they had viewed in English. It listed many of the names J.K Rowling used in her Harry Potter series, and what each of the names meant.

Here are some examples:

Draco means dragon.

Voldemort means flying death or flying thief.

Harry means home ruler, but it's also a favorite name of Rowling.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is one of her more ingenious names.
Albus means white wisdom. Percival is a knight who saw the Holy Grail. Wulfric is wolf power. Brian means high, noble, strong. Dumbledore means bumblebee.
Sirius means scorching, burning. Sirius is also a bright star in a constellation and one of Orian's hunting dogs. You may remember that he was able to turn into a large dog called Padfoot. Rowley realy did her research.

Lupin means wolf or wolf like and is a French name for werewolf.

Luna refers to the moon.

Both names of Rita Skeeter refer to mosquitoes.

Where do you find your characters names?

(Update to eating healthy post: 21 pounds lost)

Oct 26, 2012

Snot funny

My kids have always been pretty healthy. I haven’t had major illnesses to deal with or frequent doctor trips. I think the Lord knows what I can handle and I really don’t do well with sickness.
I was a bit nervous when I started working at the elementary school. I know those places are just giant cesspools of hibernating plagues. I was lured in by my school’s ‘brand-spanking-new’ fa├žade for the first few weeks. I blissfully went through my days without noticing the mounds of germs that were creeping into my every pore.
One day, as I was corralling the herds of kindergarteners running through the gym, I grabbed a (super cute) little guy and told him he needed to slow down. He took it in stride and ran off. Two seconds later he was back, wrapping his arms around me, telling me, “You saved the day!!” Ah, what a cutie, I thought as I patted his back and attempted to pry him off of me. That’s when I noticed it. Every opening on his face was oozing some sort of fluid or slime. The war had begun.
After that, I started seeing more and more attacks against my immune system. They came sneakily sometimes. I would hug a first grader at the gate and then hear them tell me how, “I threw up green yesterday!” or how their throat hurt cuz, “I have strep!” sigh…I needed more troops.
When we lived in Florida, my two little boys had the same Kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Mustard was a wonder. She was an angel straight from heaven. The kids, parents, administrator, strangers on the street, all loved her. She just oozed grandmotherly love for everyone. Whenever I went into her classroom, she would stop the class and say, “Who’s beautiful mom is that?!” Seriously, who wouldn’t love the woman? I cried when we graduated kindergarten.
Mrs. Mustard never missed a day of school. She taught for twenty five years last I counted. I asked her what her secret was. “Listerine, every single morning.”  These are the words that came into my mind as I watched Andrew’s juices soak into my sleeve that fateful day at recess. Listerine. I was going to need a lot.
I’ve tried to add the big L to my morning routine, but some days I forget. Some days, I’m lucky I remembered my shoes by the time I get to school. It’s a good thing I live a whole 30 seconds away from the school.
I’ve been holding the enemy at bay for over nine weeks. I thought I was doing good until something unexpected happened. It’s what one might call a sneak attack. I never even saw it coming. I’ve been attacked from within. My two youngest boys have gone to the dark side. They brought the plague home with them.
I guess I have no choice. I’m going to have to bathe them with Listerine. Or move out…..cause I said so.

Photo credit: http://i.istockimg.com/file_thumbview_approve/14629334/2/stock-photo-14629334-boy-with-green-goo-on-his-head.jpg

Oct 25, 2012

True Colors

By Susan Knight
Everyone always asks me, “Do you miss Pennsylvania?”

My response has always been, “I miss the people.”

I stand corrected.
I do miss Pennsylvania—in autumn. How happy I was to learn my sister’s induction into our high school’s Sports Hall of Fame was to take place in October, just as the leaves lose their chlorophyll to reveal their true colors. I bought a plane ticket. Family reunion, here I come.

My journey home began in Bucks County, a rural area about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia. I lived there for over 30 years. I met with former ward members and forever friends in happy reunions.

I drove around back roads with a bosom friend, and feasted on autumn light and color—food for the soul.
Bosom friend at Haycock Bridge. She writes short stories and this bridge sparked a
murder mystery in her mind. I can’t wait to read it.
Yes, these roads are almost wide enough for two cars to pass each other

I wanted to get some pictures of the covered bridge that appears in my novel.
As I left Bucks County to head to Chester County, where I was born and raised, a tear trickled down my cheek. Everywhere I looked was a fond memory. Except for my dear friends, there really is nothing there for me anymore. My children all live in Utah now. I allowed myself a few seconds of grief, but headed south, on another narrow scenic route.

Scenic Route in Chester County
The roads are only two lanes in Pennsylvania, so the canopy of trees along the side of the road enveloped my car like a warm coat of many colors. My tears waned and my smile waxed.

During the week one day I met a dear friend from high school and she took me along old haunts from my childhood.

A leaf-strewn path at Hibernia Park

Spackman's Pond, where I would go to think, write poetry, play my guitar and write songs.
I'd sit on the dock and hang my feet in the water in the summer and let the minnows nibble on my toes.
A family reunion, going to church in my old ward, the Hall of Fame banquet, little high school reunions with friends—all these events warmed my heart.

Do I miss Pennsylvania? Oh, yes, I surely do. I know that now. My heart is still there. I give myself permission, after this trip immersed in nature, friends and family, to say “back home” instead of “back east.”

Pennsylvania is where I’m from. I lived there over 50 years. The people and places there shaped me into who I am today.
Looking down at my hometown from the north hill near where I grew up.
 Utah is home now—a new adventure; a new phase in my life. I love it here, too.

Closeup of the mountains I see from my driveway

Oct 24, 2012


by Kami Cornwall

My last few weeks in a word-cloud:

Did I forget "Breathing?"

Oct 23, 2012

Life Gets Busy on One Day

by Terri Wagner

It seems like my life goes completely boring then all at once everything happens...then it goes back to boring. I could get off on my historical millings about how there are centuries of quiet followed by decades of trouble followed by quiet until the 20th century which seems to accelerate towards some huge event we assume to be the Second Coming.

So today I got called in to substitute teach...first call in a very long time. It was for a Language Arts and History teacher which is my certified courses. Loved it. The kids were wonderful, we had a good time, and hopefully they learned something. Every time I get to teach I remember how much I really want to do this and how I am hopeful it is going to work out. Although I am repeatedly told there are 30-40 applicants for every open position. Scary times is all I can say.

So how do you fit in writing on a blog? In the wee hours of the waning evening, you think please let me write something worth someone's time to read. And then it hit me how much of an obligation we have to each other. If you're busy and I'm busy (at times) then what we stop to read to each other should matter.

So here's my take for the day...I'm really grateful to the Osmonds. Because of what they did and who they are, I found out about this church called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And thanks to Elder Wach and Elder Humphries, I was challenged to know for myself if this was true. And since the day of my baptism, I have been blessed to find a helping hand every step of the way.

There were years when I wondered if I knew what I was into and if I even believed but now thanks to John Bytheway who put it best: I have no doubts...a ton of questions...but no doubts.

A testimony is a precious thing. I wanted to share that with everyone. To me, that is worth reading. Hope you think so as well.

Oct 22, 2012

Finding a Balance in Life

By Claire Enos

As you can all imagine (or remember), the life of a college student can sometimes be pretty hectic, and hard to keep up with. My life consists of social events with friends (such as birthdays, dances, dinners, etc), watching/reading the most recent books/movies/tv shows (I don't usually keep up with my reading, but I do watch quite a few movies and tv shows), homework (which I always seem to be struggling with), church and spiritual things (reading the scriptures, keeping up with my calling, etc), writing (which seems to get harder and harder as the years go by), and keeping up a healthy lifestyle. Some of these I am seriously lacking in.

I saw somewhere a chart which states the three important things to a college student: a social life, good grades, and sleep. It stated that you could only choose two things, that you couldn't do all three. I've learned this lesson the hard way, unfortunately.

When I try to focus on good grades and a social life I end up sacrificing hours of sleep. But when I focus on a social life and sleep I sacrifice my grades. Unfortunately for me having bad grades is not an option, and sacrificing a social life isn't exactly good for me either (I get depressed easily and not hanging out with friends makes me depressed).

So, I've been trying to come up with a balance for it all. I think what it all comes down to is what I make a priority. I've found my days run smoother when I start out by saying a prayer and reading the scriptures, even if it's just one verse. Another thing that helps is getting my homework done the day I'm assigned it, because then I'm not stressed out about not having it done the day it's due.

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) coming up I really need to start focusing more on prioritizing. Especially if I plan on participating that month on top of school and thanksgiving weekend (which I won't be able to write during) and friends and everything else I have going on.

We are all allotted a certain amount of time, we just need to learn to use it wisely. So, what I would like to ask all of you is: How do you prioritize, and which ways worked for you in college? I know many of you had to come up with some way to prioritize while in college, or after college and you had everything else going on. Any suggestions for me as I prepare to take on NaNoWriMo for yet another year would be awesome!



Oct 21, 2012

Back to School Part 4--My Baby's Gone to the Movies!--A Writer's Dream

By Jennifer Debenham

As part of my Back-to-School-for-Me, I have been reading Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder, whom I was sad to hear had passed away unexpectedly in 2009. I had heard the book mentioned in writing circles and was imagining I'd get to listen to him in person some day at a writer's conference. Fortunately, I can follow up what I'm learning so far with his two sequels of similar title: Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told, and Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into . . . and Out Of. As I am not a screenwriter, and have no real interest in becoming one, I wondered if this book would have much of value to me. But again, I had heard it praised so readily among many writing friends, that I decided that the bottom line is--a good story is a good story, no matter its medium.

And since the best (or at least most popular) books are typically made into movies, it follows that studying how to create great screenplays can also help in the novel-writing department. Wouldn't we all love to see our "babies" on the big screen? I give the thought two thumbs WAY UP!

This got me to thinking about my favorite books.

At the top of my list is always Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen is brilliant. Enough said. I also must give a place of honor to Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Incidentally, these two books also hold a place in my heart, in part, because of the fantastic films they have inspired.

It's somewhat harder to name other all-time favorites because I feel like an actor accepting an award--if I "thank" some author for his or her brilliant work, I'm liable to leave someone equally important out. So I'll settle for naming some of my favorite recent reads. Does that get me off the hook?

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (Loved the movie too!)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne (Haven't seen the movie yet, but it's on my list.)
The Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah
These Is My Words, by Nancy Turner
The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Room, by Emma Donoghue

What would be on your list?

Oct 20, 2012


By Bonnie Harris

I always find it interesting to see/read about the different ways people plot their books, at least those who aren't pantsers. I ran across this post by Sarah M Eden and found it very informative. She uses a board. Now, I've heard of this method and have even seen others post pictures of their plotting boards, but none recently, and I remember someone in my writing group struggling to come up with a way to organize the info she already has put together.

So, this is for anyone who needs an idea of how to plot a book or anyone who just wants to take a look (because Sarah's posts always promise to be entertaining) or anyone who wants to see another version of a posterboard storyboard or whatever you call it.

Enjoy and Happy Writing!

How I Plot A Novel by Sarah M Eden

Oct 19, 2012

Seeing the Everyday

Seeing the Everyday, a magazine produced and edited by my childhood friend Daryl Smith, shows how small every routine and tasks are the glue holding our families together.  

By lovingly working with our children, having family meals, pray and patiently teaching them we shape the moments that develop their character.
What an interesting idea?  To look at the small things we do in our homes with our families and focus an entire work on pointing out the good that comes from such small things.  
As a mother, this motivates me to keep up my traditions, be more loving when I’m teaching and invite my children to participate with me in every day cooking tasks.
I think it’s easy as an artist to think big and as a writer to write grandiose, but Daryl looked at the small and simple.  Could he capture the true significance of the ordinary?  He looked at those things that are overlooked and it's amazing what he discovered.

Daryl is always looking for articles.  To read submission guidelines to Seeing the Everyday, click here.

Oct 18, 2012

Something to Write About (or Life in the DMV Line)

by Kari Diane Pike

Thanks to a Facebook post, I think I'm onto a new idea for an entertaining (or infuriating, depending on how you look at it) book. Some of you have already read the FB version, but this is what happened when I ventured out of my study/writing cave a couple of weeks ago in order to comply with the law and exchange my perfectly good Utah driver's license for an new (and evidently more acceptable) Arizona license.

Friendly Arizona  Motor Vehicle Department employee: "I see you have your Utah license and Social Security card. Do you have your birth certificate?"

Smiling, cheerful Me: "No, I don't. I filled out all the paper work online and brought everything your website instructed me to bring. The online page says that Arizona accepts a driver's license from any state of the United States as a primary form of ID.:

Frowning MVD employee: "Well, except we don't accept Utah. They don't prove citizenship."

Me: "Ummm...last I
checked, Utah is a state. Not only that, but I had to show my birth certificate and two forms with proof of address in order to get that Utah license. Besides, I'm a former Arizona resident."

Confused MVD employee: "Let me look at the most recent pages. Yes, they are. Let me check with my supervisor."

Defensive Supervisor: "Ma'am, it says right here that it has to be an "enhanced" driver's license to be accepted unconditionally, but there are very few states that issue them, one being WA, but we don't accept them either."

Confused Me: "Huh??? What do you mean by enhanced?"

Arrogant Supervisor: "You should have called MVD if you didn't know what it means. It is a special license with a chip in it and serves as both your passport and your DL. Since you don't have one of those, you need your birth certificate. Oh..and if you're married, you'll need your marriage certificate to prove the paper trail that this is your real name."

Me (trying not to laugh): "OOOOkay. Except...my maiden name is different on my marriage license than on my birth certificate."

Serious Supervisor: "Well, then you'll need court documents to prove it."

Me (losing control): "THAT'S A LOAD OF CRAP!" (Yeah, sorry. I now owe my neighbor a quarter for my unladylike language.)

Supervisor: Well, maybe...but it's the law." (shrug)

Flabbergasted Me : "I lived in AZ more than 20 years! My old AZ license would still be good if I hadn't moved 3 years ago." (Remember, I already mentioned this to the employee.)

Enlightened Supervisor: "Oh. Well. That's different. I'll have your license ready in two seconds. Have a nice day."

Dumbfounded Me:???????
Forty-seven comments were made on that one post and I had several other DMV stories related to me. I laughed so hard! I mentioned how I should write a book -- a collection of DMV experiences and several friends that it was a fun idea. I guess the point is that people love to read about life experiences. We, as writers, just need to hone our writing skills so that we can make the story interesting. I am also fascinated by the fact that truth in experiences is often more difficult to believe than fiction.

so...what experiences have you had that have given you fodder for your writing?

btw...my husband went to the same DMV a few days later and they didn't even ask for his birth certificate. What????


Oct 17, 2012

Fall Magic

by Jill Burgoyne

I love October. When the sun sleeps past 5:00am, when the temperature starts to settle under 100 degrees, and slowly creeps down to near-jacket weather. I love the pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and decorations.

Early in the morning, when the house is still quiet, I open the doors to invite the cool of the morning and I snuggle up  in my favorite blanket to breathe in the air of a new day.

Baking in my kitchen is no longer a fire hazard, so homemade breads and random kitchen experiments begin to emerge. Cooking is funner somehow. Steamy soups and simmering casseroles replace summer salads.

Fun fall and Halloween-themed crafts find their way to our table. There are lots of patterns for various crafts online. Especially coloring pages. And my children run around in their partially-finished Halloween costumes. (Emery has asked me a hundred times what sound a giraffe makes. They bleat, which seems to her a sorry response to her little sister's tiger-roar. She informed me that baby giraffes roar sometimes.)

Various pumpkin patches offer discounts on Groupon and some of them offer free admission on specific nights for fully-costumed parties. I love neighborhood Halloween Carnivals and trunk-or-treats. My children like to take walks around our neighborhood to point out their favorite yard-decorations.

We have a tradition in our house to roast pumpkin seeds as we are carving our Halloween pumpkin. (We only have one for the whole family until our children get older.)

On Halloween night, I make a hearty dinner-in-a-pumpkin before we go trick-or-treating. The thought of the adventures of October fill our house with magic.

Oct 15, 2012

By Tracy Astle

Oh, Monday...

For reasons too numerous (and dull) to go into, I have approximately 3.43 minutes to write this post.

Here we go.

From A. A. Milne, who just may be my new favorite author simply because of this quote.

My spelling is wobbly. It's good spelling, but it wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places.

How can one not fall for a well known, much beloved author who makes a statement like that? Besides, doesn't that make you feel better about your own weaknesses as a writer? You know it does.

Oct 14, 2012

Cover Reveal

by Marsha Ward

This week I'm doing something totally different for my post. I've been engaged in writing a fourth novel for my series, "The Owen Family Saga," for some time. The manuscript is now finished, the endorsements secured, the cover designed, and the internal text design is underway. I've finally set a date for some kind of a book launch for this volume, Spinster's Folly, and since that is only about a month away, I'm going to reveal the cover here:

This cover will be the ebook version, with a very generous endorsement from L. J. Martin, a prolific writer of western novels, appearing under the title. Deirdra A. Eden of Eden Literary is the cover designer, using a photo image by olly, from Shutterstock.com. 

The partial scene below from Spinster's Folly is a favorite of mine. Once Deirdra and I had agreed that this image would work for the cover, I added this tidbit to an existing scene especially to correlate with the image. I hope you enjoy it.
The next morning, preparations for the journey home were a misery to Marie. She had no desire to talk to Rulon or anyone else, but went through the motions of making breakfast in the half light before sunrise. After she packed up the remains of the meal, she went to arrange herself for the day. She looked for the hair clasp Mrs. Bates had given her so she could twist up her hair. Failing to locate it in the time she had available, she threw together one long braid to keep her hair in order, and then saddled Bess for the long ride.

For reasons known only to himself, Pa went back to the Bates homestead and stood in the barnyard to chat with Mr. Bates. Realizing that the farmer’s kind wife would immediately sense her despair if she came out to talk, Marie forestalled an encounter with Mrs. Bates by fleeing into the wheat field behind the barn. She stood for a long time gazing toward the north. Although she had said her home felt like a prison, she acknowledged that it actually represented her sanctuary after their dreadful trek from Shenandoah County. Melancholy descended upon her like a heavy cloak as she thought of departing that home after the harvest. She scarcely moved until the sun climbed into the sky and Pa called that it was time to leave.

During their brief noon pause for dinner, Marie maintained her silence, spooning out beans and distributing the last of the corn bread, and then packing away the pot and utensils until their arrival home. Even when her younger brothers sought to tease her into joining them in splashing in the creek, she resisted their rambunctious delight.

Copyright 2012 Marsha Ward. All rights reserved.

Oct 13, 2012

Submit it! Pep talk #1

by Cindy R. Williams

Do you have a manuscript complete? If so, SUBMIT IT!

Or . . . are you making excuses?

Here are some excused I have used (and am still using on a few of my works.)

"It is not ready." (Will it ever be?)

"I need to edit it, AGAIN." (Oh really? I think 25 times really is enough.)

"I think I need a few more people read it first." (Beta readers are good, but after you take candid advise and make your revisions and possibly one more read through with beta readers and a bit more tweaking, let it go.)

"It's scary." (Sure it is. That's why so few really make it.)

"No one will really want to read this anyway." (Look in the mirror and say, "I am a good writer," ten times. Positive affirmations are needed here.)

"I don't know to who, or where to submit." (Check out Writers Market, and Google query markets. You will find a ton and networks leading to many more.)

"I need to get organized and research and make a list to submit to." (Don't get bogged down, just make a list or create a document and do it.)

"It has already been rejected. Even though I have changed it, made it tighter, more exciting, cleaner . . . still it has already been rejected so it probably will be again." (Positive affirmations needed once again. Think of the many times successful authors were rejected before their work finally found a home. Also, have you read some of the junk in the library? It is a high probability that you write as well or better than half of what you find there.)

How about,
"I can't submit this. It's just garbage." (You need some high quality melt in your mouth chocolate to drop kick this false thought out the solar system.)

If you take a few minutes and look deep inside, the real answer may be, "I'm afraid. It's my baby. What if others tell me it's no good? What if they think I can't write?

If that is the case, let me suggest you take a day or so to ponder WHY you're writing. It always comes back to this.

In my case, I feel there is a great need in our world today for wholesome writing. I want to write things that help others, bring hope, faith, clean entertainment and smiles, especially for children. I know that becoming a best seller is akin to lightning striking, but that won't stop me from reaching my goal of writing and publishing wholesome stories. As I send some of my babies out into the subjective world of agents, editors and publishers, I vow to keep coming back to why I write so for each "no," I won't give up.

What is your purpose in writing?

Figure it out, and hang on to it.

Go ahead and take a leap of faith and SUBMIT your manuscript.

Every "no" is one step closer to a "yes!"

Oct 12, 2012

Monkey talk

            My kids are amazed when I tell them I grew up without a computer or the internet. They can’t imagine life without the conveniences they have. My son likes to tease me about having to write things on stone tablets. Something that is funny when I tease MY parents, but not so much for me. I’m still a young chick in my mind.
            My sons are both really into technology. My oldest son went to a local Vocational school and got certified in some sort of computer “geek-squad” thingy. My other son is just very gifted….maybe due to the hours he spends in front of that blinking screen? Who can tell. I remember talking to him a few months ago about “port-forwarding.” He wanted to do it and I didn’t have a clue what it was. All I knew was that there are ways you can mess up your Internet and I didn’t want him to do it. I sat down with him and asked him to explain the process to me very clearly. He did his best, but I was still clueless. He looked at me with an exasperated look and said, “It’s like talking to a monkey.”
Yes, he got grounded. And no port forwarding happened.
I consider myself to pretty computer literate, in the areas that are necessary for my existence. Namely, uploading pictures to Facebook, shopping on Amazon, finding cute pictures for my blog, and checking my email. Anything other than those things are really just sprinkles on the already frosted cupcake of my life.
Recently, I enrolled in a few online classes in an attempt to finish my Bachelor’s degree. It’s kind of neat how quickly I can get through a class when I don’t have to get dressed or leave my house. Things were going along quite nicely until this last week.
For some reason, the technology demi-gods decided it would be fun to mess with me. My internet has slowed to the speed of a sleeping snail, files I need seem to have renamed themselves in an attempt to be funny, and all the articles I had saved in my online library account for the research paper I have due Sunday night have put themselves into the witness protection program. I am left with three days to completely redo all the hard work I put into this paper over the last two weeks.
Okay, I have to be honest. I worked on my paper about 47minutes last week and then ignored it until today. But I was serious when I said all my articles are gone. They have been locked down due to ‘personal information’ that somehow manifested itself in between the lines of incredibly boring psycho-babble. Like anyone would read that stuff, let alone comprehend there was hidden treasures of identity in it. Bother.
Thank goodness I am on Fall Break from my job. Its times like this when I wonder how in the world I work and have a functioning home at the same time.  I guess the point is, my house doesn’t ‘function’ very well. I mean, we have clothing that is sometimes clean, food that is sometimes cooked, and toilets that are sometimes scrubbed, but all in all we are a walking time bomb ready to explode into a pile of missing socks and old milk. Life could be worse I suppose, I mean…I could be living in Globe or something…..been there, done that. Cause I said so.

Photo credit: http://tulolb-744392546.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com/ImageProcessor?image=http%3A%2F%2Fassets.nydailynews.com%2Fpolopoly_fs%2F1.411903.1314516861!%2Fimg%2FhttpImage%2Falg-socks-jpg.jpg&height=320

Oct 11, 2012

Nuances of Conference

By Susan Knight

Everyone seems to be writing about General Conference, so since this is still in the week after conference—and I, for one, am still thinking about all those spiritual talks—I decided I would follow suit.

I watched conference with my daughter on Saturday and it was nice to have another perspective on what is seen and heard during that uplifting time. She is young (23) and doesn’t have the verve I have for the gospel, perhaps, though she is solid with a tremendous testimony. It seems we each have our own ways of worshiping—me with my animation; she with her laid back rhythm.

I always pray during the week before conference that someone will say something just for me. I am never disappointed. I sit on the edge of my seat (okay, not really; I’m on a recliner), a zealot, waiting for words to drop out of the general authorities’ mouths to show me how to improve my life. I listen for correlations of ideas from those holy people that apply to my life and teach me how I can become a better person. I appreciate and sing with the hymns and songs from the choir. I don’t want conference to end.

Conversely, my daughter, commented about how we always sing the same old songs during conference, like “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.” I never noticed that. I like all the songs, regardless.
She then confided in me, that instead of sitting leisurely on the sofa in our PJs, me crocheting, she missed attending at the ward building for conference as we did back east. She liked the camaraderie of all the people together worshiping, listening. We had potluck suppers during conference sessions because most of us lived too far away to go home. We enjoyed each others’ company. There was no church business to accomplish; only being together with friends and family. Children were especially reverent and sat coloring or playing conference games on paper.

Hearing my daughter reminisce of conferences past validated me. I know now she has a contentment that comes from consistency and diligence in worshiping our Savior, attending church, conferences, seminary, institute, and living all the pat answers of prayer, service, reading the scriptures, and attending sacrament meeting and the temple.

Did anyone notice the story about Peter, the fisherman, was told twice? To me, that’s a double witness that the story is important in our day. Never turn away from the gospel. Never go back to old ways. Look forward and be steadfast in your testimony.

I wish we had a monthly General Conference, or, at least, quarterly. I look forward to receiving and reading my November Ensign.

What were your favorite talks from this conference? What nuances did you perceive?

Oct 10, 2012

There was that one time...

by Kami Cornwall

(Actual phone conversation with my mom)

Me: She's doing okay. It's funny...we are so different but always best friends. I sent her a poem for her birthday listing some of the crazy antics we pulled. Just a little trip down memory lane.

Mom: That's so fun. I bet she loved that.

Me: Yeah, I still can't believe some of the stuff we did!

Mom: *awkward silence*....hunh.....

Me: *Ahem.*  So...how's the weather over there?

I'm nothing if not a smooth conversation changer. Skills, baby. Because I realized that I never told my mother half of what we did, nor do I feel it necessary now, even twenty years later. She would probably freak out.

"Well there was this one time when we snuck out of the campsite boundaries, crossed over to the reservation, and sat at a fire pit, burning old love letters from her ex-boyfriend, when these four really large drunk natives pulled up looking for some fun. Never ran so fast in my life!" I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have upset her in the least, right? Or all the times we walked to 7-11 in the middle of the night. That was the best time to go out. Smart? Never.

Or what about the time we drove around in her convertible and after hooting at every hot guy, one actually hopped in for a ride. That's when I realized we had no idea what to do next. The idea was fun, but there was no plan. It was the most awkward drive around the block ever. Then we dropped him back off and went home laughing. Dangerous? Whatev's. We lived on the edge, man!

So it got me thinking about what kind of trouble my boys might have already gotten into. Would they tell me about it? Probably not. And they're still in elementary school. What about when they're in High School? How will I be able to let them go to college? Why can't I just lock them in their rooms for the rest of their lives? They'd be safe there.

But those experiences are what we are here for. Okay, maybe not the stupid, dangerous ones...but maybe. All we can do is teach them to be careful, to follow the Spirit, and use some common sense. The rest is up to them. Scary!

Oct 9, 2012

Do You Love Me?

by Terri Wagner

Did Elder Jeffrey Holland hit it out of the ballpark or what? I was riveted. Even more important my non member father was riveted. We felt not just heard every word he said. I was there watching the whole scene unfold as our precious Savior gave Peter the chance to "undo" his three denials by asking him three times if he loved him.

I was especially touched when Elder Holland said I imagine they all looked around at each other and said something like, great three years guess it's back to work.

In my spiritual life (along with my writing life), I have had moments so sublime, so real, the real world seemed colorless and disappointing. Only to turn away from the experiences and think ok back to work. The intensity of the spiritual insight tucked itself into a file in my brain to pop out only when I needed it for a talk or lesson.

What a waste!

As Elder Holland laid out step by step what the Savior might have said to the apostles, I imagined the Savior talking to me maybe even using the same poetic license. I have given you such faith, such miracles, such insight, such love...did you think I just did it for that moment in time? Did you not understand I expected more from you?

It was not a sense of despair that came into my heart but one of joy...strange as that may sound. Suddenly I wanted to take all I had been given and use it...well! A re-dedication if you will of what the Savior told Peter...feed my sheep.

My experiences and your experiences are not just for us. How many times did Joseph Smith share his intimate experiences for our benefit? How many times have our leaders showed us the path to follow?

For the first time in a long time, I wanted to "shout for joy." My mission was renewed and presented to me in a way that made it frankly impossible to turn away.

I am resolved to follow President Hinckley's advice of try a little more each day to be better. That seems doable. I am also resolved not to let this pure simple moment of truth to get filed away.

That was my conference experience. What was yours?

Oct 8, 2012

Missionary Age Change

By Claire Enos

So, I was going to write about General Conference, but the truth is I only saw the Saturday morning session. I am quickly writing this on my sister's laptop because I didn't bring my laptop to Salt Lake City with me and she only has internet in the Clubhouse at her apartment complex. Not sure if I'll be able to get on and quickly write something up tomorrow so I'm writing it up quickly right now.

I know the biggest thing everyone is probably talking about is the fact that Missionary Age has been lowered for both Young Men and Women. This shocked me when President Monson mentioned the change in age for Young Men, and when he mentioned that they were lowering the age to 19 for Young Women I literally started crying. I couldn't even see my notebook through my tears, I was so overcome with the spirit and magnitude of this announcement. It was made even more profound by the fact that I was actually sitting in the Conference Center during this announcement! Somehow, my sister and I both got tickets to that session the night before, and we walked 3 miles uphill to the Conference Center at 7:40 in the morning in order to get there in time to take our seats in Plaza 1 (far right closest to the front on the floor).

We were in our seats by 9:15 and took a few pictures (which I'll probably add to this post when I get the chance). It was my sister's first time going to General Conference in the Conference Center. She was so excited and I was excited to be there when she went! I think the thing that affects me the most is that we both walked in not quite old enough to go on missions, and walked out of the session old enough to go! I texted my mom later and she said she was in shock. One second she had no kids old enough to go on missions (although I would be old enough in 12 days), and the next second she had two kids old enough to leave on missions.

All I can say is, it was inspired that we were able to go see conference in person for that session, and I'm glad we got to be there!

There was a lot more that was said in Conference, anything stick out to any of you?


Oct 7, 2012

Back to Conference!

By Jennifer Debenham

It feels like a holiday at my house. How about yours? Whenever conference time rolls around, we all get a little excited for the opportunity to sit at home on a Sunday morning IN OUR PAJAMAS! and watch the wonderful, inspiring, you-can-do-it messages.

Like other "holidays," we have created our own little traditions. Besides comfy pajamas on bodies, cozy blankets on laps, and conference packets or journals in hand, having a yummy brunch while watching seems like the perfect way to complement the spiritual feast we enjoy emanating from the big screen.

On today's menu:

    Breakfast casserole

    Stir-fried potatoes with green onions and peppers

    Butterscotch pull-aparts

    Fresh Raspberries and Blackberries

    Fresh squeezed orange juice

What do you do to "celebrate" conference?

Oct 6, 2012

A Writer's Discovery

By Bonnie Harris

First off, I have to apologize for missing my last post. I got my weeks mixed up and when I went to post, someone else already had one up. So I scrolled down and realized I had missed a week and somehow missed the email reminder. Nobody else has every done anything like that, right?

Second, thank you for all the words of encouragement that were given after my last post. It helps to know others care and have gone through the same things. I appreciate the friendship.

And third, here's what I've learned or you could say releared since then. Time seems to be a common struggle for most people. If only there were more hours in the day, or something like that. What I've found interesting about that is, I've never had too many issues with time management. It's something I'm good at and I've been successful at getting everything done for a long time. That may seem like a long shot, but it's true. I believe it's one of the talents I've been blessed with. I'm able to see and map out how to make things work, and I've been able to help others do the same.

So, you can see a little more why I've really been having a hard time when I haven't been getting the things done like I want to.

As I've thought about what could possible be different now (other than the obvious: kids, marriage, you know what I'm talking about) from before, I realized one glaring error I've been making. It's something, that in the past, I never thought I'd ever drop the ball on. (First of all, never say never. Somehow it always comes back to bit you.) :) And it's something that isn't necessarily easy to admit, and I have a feeling that I might not be the only one.

My error has been in my personal prayers. It's not that I haven't been saying them, it's just that they've become repeative and not as sincere as they should be. I haven't asked specifically for help in finding/making/having the time to accomplish what is important to me, i.e. getting at least some of my writing done. Once I was able to express my frustration, how I was feeling about said frustrating, AND asked for help with those specific items, the solution began to present itself.

  • Am I getting as much done as I'd like to be? No. 
  • Am I getting some writing in? Yes. 
  • Will I be able to meet my goals? With my Father in Heaven's help, Yes. 
  • Is this a new concept that I've learned? No. It's just taken a little reminder what what exactly needs to be happening in order for me to be successful.
It may not seem like a big thing to you, but it was to eye opening and a good reminder for me. On this conference weekend, I pray we will all be more sensitive to what needs to be happening in our lives, and as always . . .


Oct 5, 2012

Say Cheese!

I used to own a point and shoot camera, but one day it broke.
I never realized how essential a camera was in my life until I went without one.  For a week, I complained to my husband, to my mom and to anyone who would listen.  I needed a new camera, but didn’t have the brain power to research buying one.  Where would I start?  My neighbor, a genius PhD engineer who owns every electronic device on the planet offered to sell me his outdated Sony 12x zoom cyber-shot camera (it was a year old) for a discounted price.
My neighbor’s awesome, so I bought his camera.
I love taking pictures.  My point and shoot camera had worked great.  Just point and shoot, I think that’s the logic.
But this new camera took some getting used to with so many options, buttons and knobs.  I called my neighbor over a few times that first month, not sure how to turn off the flash or zoom in.
Before long, I knew just about everything about my new camera.
The best part?  The quality of photographs I was taking was far superior to my little point and shoot.  My new camera brought me new confidence; after all, the camera was the best and finest. It was nothing I would have picked out by myself.  I would have talked myself out of all the complexities of the camera instead of taking a chance.
I started staging pictures for my children, mainly my daughter. 
I downloaded a great photography program and learned how to photo shop my pictures,
when one day my sister came over with her new baby.
On a whim, I offered to take her infant photos.
Before long I was offering to take photos of friends and family members with new babies.  
It was a great gift to a new mom and something unique me and my camera could offer.
Sometimes developing our talents means trying new things, stepping out of our comfort zone and sharing our talents. 
I think writing demonstrates the same concept.  Yes, we write for our benefit but more importantly, we write hoping somehow our little talent, our fine eye, our expression will help, entertain and inspire someone else.
Here’s to a happy writing day.  Say cheese!

Oct 4, 2012

Every Step Counts

by Kari Diane Pike

Each and every day, I wonder why it seems to take me so long to "get it." By "it," I mean understanding -- understanding of my spouse, understanding of my children, understanding of what makes people do the things they do, and understanding simple gospel principles. I know my teenagers often question whether or not I will ever "get it."

Last week, my daughter Kati talked me into participating in a 10K with her. (I  should have known that anything other than 14K was going to leave me feeling tarnished.) Yesterday morning, I fought with my phone so it would play conference talks while I made my morning training run (okay...walk). Every thirty seconds or so, I would lose the signal and the session would be dropped. I found myself spending more time on fussing with the phone than accomplishing my fitness goal. After several minutes of frustration, the thought came to me that perhaps I should spend my training time listening to the Spirit and paying attention to what was going on around me. I started to pray as I jogged along and tried to focus on what the Lord might want me to hear and see. It didn't take me long to notice how easily the sights, sounds, and smells of the world distracted me from my intent: the pounding of feet on the pavement by sweaty runners, the whirring of bicycle gears, dogs barking, children laughing on a nearby playground, leaf blowers, dust, the stench of stagnant puddles, the snarl of traffic, the echo of tires bouncing over the  expansion joints of the overpass and the unrelenting heat of the desert sun. Every time I caught my mind wandering, I wondered how Heavenly Father manages to be so patient and always be there when I finally tune in again. He never gives up on me! (And I think perhaps He wanted me to pay more attention to the world in which I live.)

This morning I approached my "long practice run" with  hope and enthusiasm. Surely, today I would "get it" and shave several minutes off my time. It didn't take long for my hopes to be dashed. I slowed my pace and pondered on my feelings of discouragement about not being "fast enough." I kicked at the pebbles on the trail and watched the dust poof as my feet pounded the ground. I thought about the sometimes dusty, sometimes frozen, rocky trails the pioneers had to walk along. Hello! They walked! Step by determined step, they made their way across the open plains and over the mountains to reach their destination. Life isn't a race. It's a journey, and every little step I take helps me get closer to my goal. Little things, over the course of time, become big things -- for good or for bad -- and every effort I make -- even if it means I have to crawl -- counts. All I have to do is look forward, and with a steadfast faith in Christ, take that first step, and He will direct my path.

As far as my writing goals go...I just looked back at the number of blog posts I have written over the past several years. And you know what? I could have written a book! I still can -- and will -- one word, one chapter, one piece of chocolate at a time! Just watch me!