Feb 27, 2014

Penny Pigs

By Beckie Carlson

The was had begun. None of us thought it would get this out of control. It started as a small scrimmage, far from where we were. There really wasn't much to worry about. We thought.....
Our school is having a change drive. Every teacher was given a plastic jug for students to put change in. Everything silver counts for the teacher. Every penny deducts from the silver total. Sounds fun, right? What does the winner get? They get to kiss a pig. Yeah, that's quite the prize, isn't it? Some teachers are actually bribing their students to NOT bring in silver change. That just didn't seem right to me. The money is for our school, for our classrooms....it's all good! I told my kids to bring it on! If by some miracle I actually won, I would get a T-Shirt that said, "I kissed a pig and I liked it." Not my choice for a first date attire, but still pretty cool since there is only one....Besides all that, I am discovering that I am a bit competitive. Just a bit. Not as much as some....
When we counted our change yesterday, our class had raised about $47 and some change. I thought that was pretty good. I was able to hold my head up and throw some trash talk around at car line. But today, the game changed. One of my students presented me with a check for $250 to put into our jar. I'm pretty sure it is because his mom doesn't like me and wants to see me kiss a pig. Gee, thanks....But, honestly, the joke is lost on me because I'm still a team player! I'll kiss a pig, if I win. 
The war started when the rumors about my check hit the school. Someone there likes to talk. It might have been the teacher that told everyone in the break room to "hit Carlson!" or it might have been the student that brought the check who went down the hall peeking into classroom to brag about his big donation, or it might have just been the winds of war changing. Whatever it was, for about half an hour I had kids lining up in the hallway outside my room with bags of pennies. I am not sure where they came from (the pennies), but I had over $16 in pennies donated to my jar. It made teaching pretty impossible for a while.
Fun as it all was, I needed to teach. That's what I'm there for. I decided to put a "Testing, do not disturb" sign on our door. It wasn't really a lie, we were taking practice AIMS like tests today...... 
The funny thing is, as much as it is a pain, it is really lots of fun. I'm someone that likes to know everyone on campus. I was afraid that being a teacher in just one room, instead of an aide that got to see everyone, would be boring. Looks like I found a way around it. I had kids from all grades sneaking off to my room during lunch to bring me money. I may end up having to kiss a pig, but, I'll still be the winner. So Neener neener!
Cause I said so.

Photo credit: www.adventuretime.wikia.com

Redeeming Elder Callister: The Lord's Standard of Morality

By Susan Knight

Living in Utah means a lot of media about Mormons. If I still lived in Pennsylvania, I never would have heard comments on an article written by a general authority in the Ensign on the evening news. However, my attention was drawn to a segment on the news this week about Elder Tad R. Callister’s article entitled “The Lord’s Standard of Morality.”

Though the ladies (sisters in our church) on the news were complaining and rebelling against what was said about modest dress, I agree wholeheartedly with what was written. I have friends who probably would agree with those sisters on television, but, after living in the wake of a divorce due to a breach in morality, I couldn’t agree more with Elder Callister.

In speaking about the “Tentacles of the Adversary” reaching out to "cause us to break God's standard of morality," Elder Callister went on to write about "Pornography" and "Immodest Dress." He wrote, "The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts . . ." Having lived through the ignominy of immorality in my marriage, I now know immodest dress is a trigger for those men who have a pornography addiction, are fighting and trying to recover, or who are “. . . striving to be pure,” as Elder Callister stated.

I never realized how contemporary women dressed in the workplace until I got a job in corporate America here in Utah. Until then I worked in small businesses with only a few employees. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been embarrassed by what women are wearing where I now work. If I am embarrassed, imagine how the men must feel.

I don’t agree that men should just keep their thoughts to themselves or try not to think lustfully when they see a scantily-clad woman. Elder Callister wrote, “. . . most women get the type of man they dress for.”

This reminds me of what a young woman I know—now a young mother—said to a classmate when she was in high school. She was asked by a friend why she dressed the way she did—modestly, shirts with sleeves, prom dresses with sleeves, etc., while her friend went low-cut, sleeveless, short skirts and shorts.

That young woman profoundly answered, “What kind of message do you want to send to the boys in school? What kind of guys do you want to attract?" After that, the young woman she spoke with started dressing modestly, and they are best friends to this day.

Here is an excerpt from my blog, “Divorce: Steps to Climb,” which speaks to this same subject.

“Contemporary women in the workplace think men should control their sexual impulses as they flaunt their scantily-clad bodies, but many men have trouble doing so. One of my pet peeves is women wearing provocative clothing at the office. I balk and wonder, ‘Why is that woman dressed like a prostitute? What is she thinking?’
I pity the poor men I work with. They have to shield themselves in the workplace at every turn from cleavage, strategically-placed tattoos, fishnet stockings under too-short skirts, spiked heels, and lingerie worn on the outside, instead of hidden underneath. Men are visually oriented. Get it?”

I know some women will disagree, as said sisters on television did. Don’t judge my opinion. I have found this argument to be a truth in my own life. I had no idea what my (ex) husband was viewing every day on the job. In pornography and addiction jargon, immodest dress is called a “trigger.”
Women need to "get it."

Feb 26, 2014

Utilizing Twitter as a Writer

a post by Gina Denny 

How can 140 characters be all that helpful? It can't be THAT great. I mean... it's about the length of this opening paragraph. So what?

Turns out, if you know how to use it, twitter is enormously helpful to aspiring, querying, agented, contracted, and published writers. Here's how:

- #WriteClub 
You want to write a book, that means you need to get words on the page. Every Friday night, no matter where you are in the world, there is Write Club. Follow @FriNightWrites to see sprint times and report word counts. Meet other writers, share milestones, commiserate, and just have fun. Despite having paltry numbers during the week, I regularly put three or four thousand words down every Friday. Write Club is crucial to meeting my writing goals every week. Sprint for 30 minutes, break for 10, repeat for as many hours as you can handle. Follow the hashtag during the week for impromptu sprints with others trying to meet their goals, just like you.

- #MSWL 
Every so often, agents and editors take to twitter in droves to tell us all about what they wish they saw in their slushpiles. ManuScript Wish List is a compilation of these wishes. If your manuscript is shiny and ready to rock, you can stalk this tag to find an agent who is looking for just the thing you wrote. If you're stuck in a rut, this tag is chock-full of fantastic ideas that you can use as writing prompts. BONUS: This is happening TODAY (2/26) Go follow the #MSWL tag to see what agents and editors want to see more of.

(Note: Please do not query agents via twitter. If you someone who is asking for the thing you wrote, save the tweet, go to their profile, find their submission guidelines, query like normal, but put #MSWL in the subject line or mention it in the query itself)

- #PitMad / #PitchMas / #AdPit / and other pitch contests
Five or six times a year there are huge twitter pitch contests happening. They go like this: You craft a pitch for your (completed and revised!) manuscript. Tack the hashtag on the end, and tweet it once an hour. Agents and editors will stalk the tag and favorite pitches. If they favorite your pitch - they are requesting your work. You are bypassing the slushpile. They usually request partials, but I've had one editor send me a private message and ask for my full manuscript via one of these pitch parties.

The next one is happening on March 25th (#pitmad) and you can see all the rules here.

- Networking
Meet other writers. Meet beta-readers. Meet book reviewers. Meet people who are funny and super useful when you're trying to distract yourself from your revisions. Meet people who just like books and words and want to talk to you about them all the time. We all need support and we can find it on twitter.

I've met almost all my critique partners through twitter (with the exception of my local ANWA sisters, whom I also hang out with on twitter a lot).

You want to self-publish? Meet editors. Proofreaders. Cover designers. Layout experts. People with hundreds of hours logged doing the thing you want to do. Twitter is literally a world-wide collection of people who want to connect with others who do the same things they do.

- Advertising

Now that I've said that: You can absolutely advertise on twitter. Your profile should have a link directly to your author website or Amazon landing page. You should tweet about your release date and your cover reveal and your ARCs and great reviews. These tweets should only make up about 10% of your overall tweets; you should be a real person, not just a virtual billboard for yourself. But yes, twitter is an excellent marketing tool.

- Connect directly with readers
This is pretty self-explanatory: You can connect directly with readers, without them being connected to your personal facebook page or having your personal email address or anything like that. Some authors who have pretty big names are people I count as my friends as a result of twitter, and some authors that I regard as something akin to rock stars have answered questions and had discussions about their books with readers via twitter.

So there you go. Seven amazing writing-related resources on twitter, something useful, no matter where you are in the process. A little bit of something for everyone.

Go forth and tweet :)

Feb 25, 2014

What is Voice?

by Terri Wagner

I thought I had this concept down pat, but as with all things in English, it has changed, evolved is perhaps a better word. I always considered voice as the author's tone...and why he said what he said the way he said it. Vague maybe, but for years, I understood that concept. I interviewed one half of a two-author series once and asked, how do you maintain one voice? How does it work so seamlessly? She explained that he wrote, she edited. When she had something she wanted to write, she wrote it; sent it to him, he rewrote in "his" voice; then sent back to her and she in turn edited. That seemed cumbersome to me, but it worked. They are a highly successful team. Even more telling, when he or she wrote as individuals, the style was definitely different from each other and from the "team"effort.

Armed that way, I dove into an assignment on another blog to explain voice. The draft was not approved. I had it wrong. Puzzled, I scratched my head, and googled it. Big mistake, in retrospect. Information overload. So I narrowed my search down to English professors. Still information overload. I narrowed it to writing voice. Better. Only still rather confusing. So in the spirit of information overload, here's what I found out.

From Wikipedia, we learn: The writer's voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). More or less what I thought I understood voice to be.

From Writer's Digest, voice is: Finding a writing voice can be a struggle, whether you’re writing a novel, short story, flash fiction or a blog post. Some may even wonder, what is voice in writing? A writer’s voice is something uniquely their own. It makes their work pop, plus readers recognize the familiarity. You would be able to identify the difference between Tolkien and Hemingway, wouldn’t you? It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author. But remember, voice and style are two entirely different things. When you find that unique voice, you might not even be able to explain how it came about—let alone describe what it is. That’s the beauty of writing and discovering as you write. Sometimes the best things just happen naturally.

From Scholastic, we muddy the water further: You know writing has voice if It shows the writer's personality It sounds different from everyone else's It contains feelings and emotions The words come to life It comes from the heart

My bottom line is voice is so impossible to define, there are no rules. So go with what feels good. LOL

Feb 24, 2014

You've Got A Friend In Me

By Claire Enos

As kids, moving every year or two, my sisters and I grew close. This was before my brothers were born, when all of us were under the age of 8. We played house, like I'm sure many of those my age or older did as children. We were always the same characters. At the age of 7 or 8, I was always the rebellious teenager, who snuck out and drove cars and moved out on her own as soon as she turned 18. My sister, who must have been around 5 or 6 at the time, would always play the mom, with a babydoll as her baby. She was good at it, and she always looked forward to being that. Being a mother. Raising her own children. My youngest sister, maybe 2 or 3 at the time, was always the pet. We didn't grow up around animals, so it was new and exciting having an animal. She'd always play a dog or a cat.

As we got older our roles changed. When I was about 10 or 11, we were living with my cousins in Oregon. My cousin, only a couple days older than me, and I decided we wanted to be teachers, so we set up a "school" with our siblings and gave them homework and taught them how to do cheerleading. I always wanted to be a cheerleader, and my cousin did as well. We would teach them cheers and math and have them write stories.

Curiously, these roles that we played tell so much more than any random quiz on facebook could about our true natures. My sister, the one who played the mother, she always wanted children of her own. She is very nurturing, always looking for the good in others. She has all the traits of a good mother. She's patient and kind, but she's also firm with kids. And kids love her, a lot.

My youngest sister loves animals. She now has two dogs, and a parakeet. The fact that she is allergic to animals doesn't phase her. She just takes the shot every week and continues on as if nothing is wrong. When she graduates from high school, she wants to go to school to become a veterinarian, and knowing her she'll succeed.

My cousin, the one who is only a couple days older than me, she loves kids as well. She wants to be a mother, but she also loves taking care of other people's kids as well, so she started a daycare. She babysits kids in her home most days while their parents are at work. She will be getting married later this year and hopes to have kids of her own within a few years from now.

Then there's me. I'm a writer. I struggle each day to force myself to sit down and write. We're pretty sure I have ADD, because I have trouble concentrating on anything for very long. I'm easily distracted and my grades sometimes suffer for this. I was never very rebellious, at least not in the way many teenagers appear to be. My parents trusted me not to go out and do anything I would regret later, and I didn't. So, what do my childhood roles say about me? That I can be anything I want, and I've always known that? That I'm not afraid to be whoever I want to be? I have so many dreams, all of which I want to accomplish, and maybe one day I will. For now, my characters can live out my dreams for me. Maybe that's what my child like self was trying to tell me. I can be whoever I want to be. And while I'm at it, I always have my best friends, my cousins and my sisters and brothers here with me, cheering me on. I know I've always got a friend in them.


Feb 22, 2014

The Blessings of Critique Groups

By Christy Monson
Some may say that writing is a solitary experience. That's true. I like being alone, and I enjoy thinking my own thoughts and making my own stories. This part of writing is absolutely my dream job. I can do it every day and not get tired.

But the added bonus I've found in writing is connecting with other people in critique groups. I love the friends I've made. They are so dear to me. Each meeting we take a little time to discuss our lives outside writing, but mostly we enjoy exploring our characters, moral dilemmas, tension, action, and so many other things that go into a good manuscript.
As far as writing is concerned, I always second-guess myself. Have I developed a strong protagonist? Do I have a compelling plot? Is my premise well defined? Do I have a sneaky, slithery, slimy opponent who has some redeeming qualities in the story? Have I developed my three try-fails?
To answer these questions, I have joined several critique groups. (I NEVER do anything half way.) 

The group I have belonged to the longest has seven writers in it. Each week we meet to discuss everyone's five pages that we have emailed (several days before), read and critiqued. Wonderful synergistic dialogues ensue in this group. These people are dedicated to learning their craft. When I joined several years ago, there were no published authors in the group. Now almost everyone is published, and several have won writing contests.
Another group I belong to meets monthly to discuss an entire manuscript and render a critical evaluation. There is something to be said for reading a whole book at once. You pick up details and problems you don’t see with just a few pages each week. These writers are dedicated also. Several of them have books in print, and all of us are published in anthologies.
The last group I belong to is a picture book group. (I LOVE writing picture books!) In this group we email our monthly writing and discuss our critiques when we meet. About half of us are published in that group.
The friendships I've made in these meetings will last my life time. What a blessing to find people you look up to and admire who love the same things you do and have dedicated themselves to improving their talents.
Spend a few minutes today being thankful for your critique group, and count the blessings each person brings into your life.

Feb 21, 2014

The Electricity is Fabulous!

by Marsha Ward

The ANWA Writers Conference, "Time Out for Writers," is off to a good start. The electricity around here is almost palpable as we go into Day Two surrounded by friends, acquaintances, fellow chapter members, outstanding faculty, an awesome keynote speaker, and wall-to-wall writers.

I know I will go home Saturday night wrung out from so much noise, babble, and social interaction, but at the same time, I hope to go home with my writing well full of inspiration and new insights for marketing, time-management, and knowing what I have to offer to my fellow-beings. Those are the best kinds of things for me to bring home from a writing conference.

What are your most valued take-homes?

Feb 20, 2014

The Family Table

by Kari Diane Pike

It all started with a picture posted on Facebook by a friend -- our two families gathered around an old oak pedestal table celebrating a birthday -- and a comment posted by another friend:

Kari, your wonderful table; I remember when you received it and you were so thrilled...

And I was thrilled. I first saw that table in a store in Las Vegas about 1983, a year or so previous to moving to Arizona, and I knew we were destined to be together. Solid oak and able to extend to ten feet, that table became a symbol of our family motto, "We always have room for one more." And yes, I did make my  husband drive all the way back to Vegas just to purchase that table.

Your table always felt like "home"...I feel all these "warm fuzzies" looking at you and Doug and everyone sitting around it - Also, my first taste of kimchi was eaten at that table. Not a fan. lol

I had forgotten about introducing my friend to kimchi around that table. I started thinking about how many other "firsts" have happened around that table: first birthdays, first Christmas', first time a child cooked dinner, first homework, first solid foods and first try at dipping chocolates.

I sat at the table and touched the marred surface, remembering how each scratch, dent, ding, burn mark and water ring came to be.The table has been the center of sewing projects, arts and crafts, science fair projects, Skype sessions, wedding receptions, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, Relief Society board meetings and even a couple of political campaign sessions. That table has hosted Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware, and Discovery Toys. It's even been used as an infirmary table as I've administered first aid to injured children.

That table has served neighbors, missionaries, and an occasional dignitary. It's surface has been covered by everything from elaborate cheesecakes to simple loaves of brown bread. But none of this has meant more, or been more important than gathering our family for evening meals during which we discussed daily challenges, celebrated successes, mourned losses, and gave thanks to God for our bounteous blessings.

When we moved into our new home a few months ago, after living with our son for over a year, the table was one of the first things taken out of storage. One daughter, upon walking through the front door for the first time exclaimed,

Oh, Mama! Your table - and your kitchen. It's yours. It feels like home again.

I started writing sitting at that table. I still use it for my office. I'm pretty sure it will be mentioned in the dedication of my first book. What memories do have of your kitchen table? 


Feb 19, 2014

Procrastination Princess

by H. Linn Murphy

I'm so annoyed. I wrote my post for this day way early and scheduled it for today. Somehow it apparently aired instead on the day I wrote it.

So instead I'm going to enumerate all the reasons I why I'm going to put this off:

1. I already wrote something.
2. It's 3:45 in the afternoon.
3. The kids are home and doing various distracting things. Or not doing things I want them to do.
4. The TV is on and the program is pulling me away. I must admit to possessing the attention span of a sea anemone?
5. The Olympics are on. Who in their right mind can write while people are wiping out?
6. I haven't even gotten out of my jammies.
7. The stench is overpowering me. Must shower sometime this week.
8. I'm supposed to call three Cub Scout packs and one Scout troop about why they haven't rechartered yet. There are old guys nipping at me over the phone about it.
9. I'm supposed to go do a Friends of Scouting presentation. See #8.
10. I need to figure out something edible to cook for dinner.
11. I need to cook that dinner.
12. I need to finish packing for the ANWA conference and make another part of my costume.
13. I have to find someplace to run off my conference notes and my copies for the critique camp at conference since the printer is hosed.
14. I need to call several people and see if they'll take food to two sick people.
15. I have a leadership meeting in three hours.
16. I need to call the secretary and tell her not to wish Sister X happy birthday since she thinks that's not what Relief Society phone lists are for.
17. Some of my ANWA friends have asked me questions on Facebook about the conference and I need to answer them.
18. Laundry.
19. Hanging laundry.
20. Folding laundry.
21. Taking kids to YM/YW.
22. I only did one load of dishes. Another one waits in all its smelly non-glory.
23. Emptying the dishwasher.
24. I haven't read my scriptures yet.
25. I need to send in my book review.
26. Did I mention that I have yet to make my bed? It's nearly time to get back into it!
27. I'm looking at the front door and it's corroded with finger smudges.
28. So are the kitchen cabinets. My kids must wash their hands about as often as they voluntarily wash dishes--once per solar eclipse.
29. The fridge needs to be shoveled out and disinfected with a fire hose. The goo in there could be sentient enough to climb out and make war on the casserole from yesterday.
30. Dust. Everywhere. On every surface. Clogging up my keyboard and monitor, even. Dust bunnies are propagating on every flat or semi-flat surface. I can write my name in twenty-six different places.
31. I need a drink of cold water. While I'm in there, there might be something to eat.
32. I need to exercise away all the calories I just consumed. That'll take probably two hours.
33. I need to dig into a few more emails.
34. I forgot to put the latest version of my three books on my thumb drive. Don't forget to put that drive in my purse.
35. ..............................Wait a minute. These are the same excuses I use when I need to sit down and write pitches to agents.

Feb 17, 2014

Awestruck and the ANWA Conference

By Stacy Johnson

I wanted to give an "after" look of my office but illness struck our home and I was literally in bed for almost a week. Once I got feeling better the others got sick, then husband went out of town for work and I was in survival mode. That means nothing much got done with the office, I'm sorry to disappoint anyone who was on the blog early this morning to see my reveal, ha ha. Instead, I offer this...

I'm on the committee for the conference this year and can I just say, "It's gonna be UH-MA-ZING!" I have had a small part and I can tell you that these ladies have gone all out with their planning. I'll admit I'm a little excited to be in such near proximity to this kind of talent. I know the energy there will be high long before everyone arrives because I felt it at our very first meeting back in the fall when I met one of my ANWA sister-heroes in real life. As I've gotten to know everyone on the committee and a few on the general board, my anticipation has skyrocketed.

I've tried to act all cool beans about it like I'm not bursting to see everyone there but I know I'm going to be awestruck to meet some of you. I can't wait to hob nob and act as if I am anywhere near your level of author-ness. "Oh yes, I've written a novel, it's in editing right now." (Even if it is just my editing, ha ha.)

I have some last minute things I need to finish for the conference today so I'm keeping this short. If you haven't registered, do it! If you are registered, come say hello to me, I'll be the one trying to act cool and calm while my knees knock together. Hopefully I won't drool too much while you are talking to me and I can appear somewhat professional, which I'm totally not in real life.

Feb 15, 2014

Gilbert Temple . . . life changing.

by Cindy R. Williams

I live in the new Gilbert Temple District which delights me. I have had the opportunity to wear many hats in serving with the Open House. Let me tell you a bit about the miracles I saw in each.

As a Public Affairs Director over Media in my stake, I was part of the VIP list making and personal delivery of the invitations. All of the dignitaries I gave invitations to were gracious and most were excited. A leader of the Hare Krishna religion stopped by my home for his invite. He was on his way home from their "Holy Cow" celebration and brought us "sweets".  He also did a Hare Krishna prayer for us. It was a remarkable time of sharing beliefs and love--quite  entertaining as well.

I'm also helping the youth learn to play "How Can I Be" on the ukulele so they can perform for our prophet in the Cultural Celebration. How cool is that?

As a writer for The Beehive, I had the opportunity to take the Media Press Tour of the Temple. It was fun to be a fly on the wall and see the general media big boys and girls with their questions and witness first-hand how Elder Walker of the Quorum of the Seventies handled the tough questions. I received the most plumb writing assignment for The Beehive, my first column about the temple about my experiences as a temple tour guide which ended up being my most FAVORITE Church assignment in my life, which is saying something because I LOVE PRIMARY.

All of the Catalina Ward members received an invite from our Bishop to "knock and invite" 10 neighbors. I admit I was a bit hesitant to go "door knocking" even though it was my own neighborhood. The week prior, I received an email from my son serving a mission in Dallas. My backbone grew strong as I considered a typical day for him is to tract at least 12 hours a day, unless they have a service opportunity. He is mocked, sworn at, called a member of "Satan's Church," yelled and screamed at, spit in the face, flipped off, hit by garbage from passing cars and more. If my dear son can face all of this and go out again to serve the Lord, day in and day out, I can certainly walk my neighborhood and extend invitations to visit the most wonderful place on our planet. All week long we prayerfully worked on a list of names to visit.

My husband and I said a prayer together, took deep breaths and stepped out our front door to begin our route. The neighbors we thought would be most receptive gave us the cold shoulder and couldn't wait to shut their doors. As we kept walking, we were prompted, not once, but three times to stop by houses that we hadn't listed. The neighbors in each of these houses were delighted. They had been watching the temple as it was built and heard so much about it on the news and from friends, they were hoping to find a way to take a tour. That walk resulted in 14 neighbors going with us one evening. My husband invited a number of his clients and I invited three families of my music students. We ended up taking close to 40 guests temple, including the owner and technician from my favorite manicure/pedicure place.

I will tell you this, the Lord is here and in charge of this wonderful temple.

Back to being a tour guide. My husband, Jeff, and I served each Tuesday and Friday mornings, reporting in at 7 am, and finishing between 11 and 11:45 am.  There isn't space to share the many, many, many mighty miracles we have seen, but I will share three heart warming experiences that touched me with smiles.

An extended family of three siblings and their children were at the front of one of my tours. The many cousins circled around me with questions as we walked through the temple. In the sealing room, the girls "ohhhed" and "ahhhhed" about being princesses in their wedding dress as I told them how the bride and groom kneel across the alter to be married. There was only one little boy, and he was about five, maybe six, years old. He was visibly upset. He looked up at me and demanded, "But how do you kiss your sweetie?"  I was disarmed by this charming little guy and his very important question. I held my laughter and reassured him that the bride and groom lean over the alter and kiss. Satisfied, he skipped out after his cousins.

The other comment overheard was by a gentleman as he finished the tour. He said, "I knew I should have voted for Mitt Romney. These Mormons sure know how to do things right."

The comment that touched me the most was from a lovely lady visiting from England. That day, I had added to my personal prayer, a plea that I would have the right words come to mind to touch those I come in contact with as they visited the Lord's temple. Upon reporting to the temple, I received the coveted assignment to be the tour guide stationed in the Sealing Room where special needs visitors toured, separate from the regular temple tour. Most of the other tours were "silent tours" in order to move the many visitors through, but not this assignment. As I shared with this lovely woman and her wheelchair bound husband about being married for time and all eternity, and where the bride and groom sit, then where they kneel across the alter from each other, she had tears in her eyes.  I shared how it wasn't secret, it was sacred. Then I showed them the "Eternity Mirror" and thanked them for coming to the temple today. The sweet lady placed her hand on my arm and told me thank you for what I shared with them here in this room today. Their daughter had joined the Mormon church and had married in the Salt Lake Temple three years ago. They hadn't been able to go in and be with her, and it had hurt their hearts. She said that today, as I explained and showed them what happened in this peaceful room, her heart was touched and the pain she has carried there for the past three years melted away. She now could see in her mind what it must have been like and how important it was that her daughter was married forever. She was at peace.

My prayer was answered.  Oh how our hearts felt love for our brothers and sisters, even when we didn't know them. I feel the heavens have opened in Gilbert with our new temple.

Feb 14, 2014

Elephant tamers

By Beckie Carlson

I've been thinking about something for a while now. It has been tickling the back of my mind for days. It is one of those thoughts that will gel and melt and gel and melt.....hard to hold on to for more than a moment at a time.
Brad read a book one, I think, about this topic. I used to only read brain candy in my previous life. I would see a 'self-help' or 'relevant' book and be intrigued, but not enough to actually read it. I would buy the book and give it to Brad to read. It was great. He hated brain candy, and I was too lazy to read real books so, we would share. After he would read the book he would tell me what it said in a nutshell. It was a perfect situation. Well, except for the fact that he was a painfully slow reader. This might be why he remembered much more of what he read than I do, but that is another topic.
The book I'm thinking about was called the E Factor or something like that. I really don't remember. The point of the book, from what Brad said, was that we as humans tend to 'fill in the gaps.' Whenever we meet a new person or situation, our amazing minds fill in all the details we don't know with stuff we assume so we can deal with the new thing or person. It is really interesting, and very true. Think about it. Whenever you meet someone, no matter how hard you try, your mind creates a story to go with that person. If you meet someone with tattoos and piercings, your mind may decide that person is a bit wild, lives on the edge, drinks tequila from the bottle, and lives in a trailer. Maybe. When you meet someone that has perfect skin, a tiny waist, manicured nails and a coach bag you may suddenly create the story that this person is wealthy, lives in a spotless house with her rich husband, dotes on a yappy dog, and sleeps with her therapist. Maybe.
Sometimes, we are right and most times we are dead wrong. This very topic has come up in class a few times lately during reading. Our reading curriculum is kind of cool because it encourages the kids to form their own ideas about what they read. It is different from what I read as a child. There were only right and wrong answers when I was in 5th grade. Kids today are encouraged to use their brain for more than just filling in the missing word, we actually want them to think. Its pretty cool actually. One of our stories was a bout a boy that came to school with dirty clothes and a lazy attitude and was thought of as a thief by most people, simply because of how he dressed and where he hung out. It was pretty amazing to hear the students opinion of this boy change as they learned more about him from the story.
Too many times we use our amazing brain to fill in details that are completely wrong and unfair. How do we stop it? Is it possible to think the best of everyone right off the bat? Sometimes I really wish I could find a place that sold authentic rose colored glasses. I would buy a case and give them to everyone I know, including myself. What kind of a world would it be if everyone assumed everyone else was a great person? What if we could wait to fill in the blanks in another person's story until we actually got to know them? I think it would be pretty amazing.
Take me for example....instead of just looking at me and assuming I really am WonderWoman, take a minute to get to know me and you just might find that I am a normal person, just like you,.....except maybe just a tad more crazy.....cause I said so.

Photo credit: www.dailyphoto.co.uk

Feb 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow

By Susan Knight

I couldn't resist. These crack me up. Which one is your favorite?

So why is the day of the martyrdom of St. Valentine celebrated with hearts, flowers and greeting cards?

There is only legend. One story, of many I found, that comes close to why we do what we do on February 14 is that Valentine, a priest in third century Rome, was in prison for secretly marrying couples so the husbands wouldn't have to go to war--a capital crime since there was a shortage of military personnel at the time. When he tried to convert others to Christianity, this further angered Emperor Claudius, who ordered him put to death. They tried clubbing him to death, stoning him to death, and, when that didn't work, they cut off his head on February 14, 269 A.D.

Before his execution, he healed his jailer's daughter of blindness. He left her a note that was signed, "From Your Valentine."

St. Valentine
February 14, the day of St. Valentine's martyrdom, was first associated with romance by Geoffrey Chaucer. In the 18th century, it evolved into the occasion we still celebrate with hearts and gifts.

Thanks, Geoffrey.

I hope everyone has a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow. It's a weekend. Celebrate to the max.

BTW, I think my favorite Puritan Valentine is the dance card.   s.m.i.l.e.

Feb 12, 2014

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

by Gina Denny

As you can tell from the title of this post, I reference pop culture a lot. 

I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. 

I love to read and I like to say that my favorite genre is the kind where the main character wears a cloak at some point in the story. 

I've done things. I wrote half a book about zombies. 

That's not true. But I do write fantasy and science fiction novels. I'm awful at kissing scenes but really pretty good at, like, being weird and stuff. 

I like being weird and taking my time. 

Hey, Did you ever see that "Twilight Zone" where the guy signed a contract and they cut out his tongue and put it in a jar and it wouldn't die, it just grew and pulsated and gave birth to baby tongues? Pretty cool, huh?

No? Nothing? 

Allllllrighty then. 

What else? I'm a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, so I have tons of extra time. 

I like eating burritos, but I can't go to Taco Bell, I'm on an all-carb diet. Sweatpants are all that fit me right now. I know, I know. Complaining about food and free time is sort of the ultimate first world problem. Like, "Oh, poor me. My wallet's too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight."

I blog about things that have to do with writing, reading, being a person, and living in the internet. 

Oh. And there are nine pop-culture references in this post, not counting any of the pictures. Unicorn glitter to anybody who can spot them all :) 

Feb 11, 2014

Our Writing Voice

by Terri Wagner

I am confused on voice in writing. I attempted to google the subject to write a blog entry for another website. The editor of that site responded nicely that I had voice wrong. I scratched my head, advised I had gotten the idea from various websites, wrote something else, and decided to re-educate myself on voice.

Hmmm. After considerable research, I have decided no one can definitively describe voice. And forget about tone and theme. Taking a very unofficial website poll, it appears voice has to do with (drumroll please) grammar. What?! I'm pretty sure that's not right. It also appears tone is what they refer to as your personality, your particular way of writing that faithful readers like about your work. For example, Shakespeare or Dickens or Clancy or Eddings or (fill in the blank). I thought that was voice myself. Theme is why you write what you right, only sometimes that can be voice too. I thought voice was really all those things. English "ain't" what it used to be.

For one thing, voice is also about your audience. Are you writing for a website? Nonfiction? Fiction? Apparently those things have a piece of the action. I thought that was voice myself and based that blog entry on that. But the editor saw what I wrote as theme. I think "we" failed to communicate because I was using the word "why" when I guess I really meant "how." I think!!!!

So any English majors out there that can give me some assistance here? I want to be an excellent content editor, but I can't explain voice, how on earth can I judge it? Or help an author find his or hers? Nevermind trying to write something myself. That's as I said before on hold for awhile.

Feb 10, 2014

Happily Ever After

By Claire Enos

I first read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare shortly after it came out back in high school, and I fell in love with the main characters (Clary and Jace). I mainly love Clary because she has red hair (which, hello! is soooo pretty!) and because we share the same first name, although I go by Claire instead of Clary. And Jace I fell in love with because he's hot! (At least in my mind he is!!!) And because I just love his personality. So I just had to watch the movie. I loved it so much that I looked up the soundtrack, and that's when I found it. My song. Or rather, I found the song that led me to My song.

Why do I keep capitalizing "My" you might ask? Well, because it just fits me so perfectly right now. I feel like if I'd had enough imagination and I wrote songs or even poetry, I could have written it. But I don't. (Write poetry or songs I mean).

All About Us. It's a romantic song, and the music video is amazing, inspiring, heart wrenching, beautiful, and lots of other synonyms as well. It's by a group called He Is We. They are amazing, but for a while I didn't really listen to any of their other songs. I was obsessed with All About Us. Then, today, I found it. My song. I found the one I could relate to. The reason I love reading, and writing in a roundabout sort of way: Happily Ever After.

We all have a story to tell.
Whether we whisper or yell.
We all have a story, of adolescence and all it's glory.
We all have a story to tell.
Oh, happily ever after, wouldn't you know, wouldn't you know.
Oh, skip to the ending, who'd like to know, I'd like to know.
Author of the moment, can you tell me, do I end up, do I end up happy?

I have this habit, when I read, of skipping to the end to see how things end up and then go back to wherever I left off (usually at one of those high anticipation/action/emotionally draining moments) and see how their decisions lead them to where they end up. There are only a couple times I regret that little habit, but I won't spoil those endings for anyone so I won't say what books I regret doing it for.

Don't we all wish, at some point in our lives, that we could skip to the ending? See how things work out for the best? See our Happily Ever After? It's a nice thought, it really is. But unfortunately, life doesn't work out that way. We can't just skip to the ending to see how our lives work out. Maybe this is why so many people read, or watch movies, or write, or delve into the arts. It allows them an outlet for their emotions, and a way to experience the feeling of "Happily Ever After" again and again. The feeling of rightness that comes at the end of a book or a movie or a song or whatever it is we use to express ourselves.

So, as one last thought: Why don't we make every moment our Happily Ever After. At any one second of the day, we are where we need to be. We are doing what we are meant to be doing. We are experiencing life and love and pain and hurt. But, we are alive. Right now can be our Happily Ever After. Every little action has led us to where we are now, and every decision we make now affects our life in the future. So enjoy this moment for what it is, an experience!

Truly, our Happily Ever After.


PS: I tried to find a good picture to go with this post, but there are just so many options it was impossible for me to choose one so just imagine any infinite number of snapshots from your own life as you think about your Happily Ever After!

Feb 8, 2014

Is There Joy in Your Journey Through Life?

By Christy Monson

Shannon came to see me for therapy, feeling depressed and down on herself. She was a beautiful young woman, ready to go off to college, and wanted to make a new start in her life on the inside as well as the outside. But where was her happiness?

Her father died when she and her twin brother were only three years old so Shannon grew in a single parent home. Her mother worked for an old country doctor who didn't believe in keeping short hours so Mom was forced to leave the children with a sitter for long periods of time. Her mother was always tired and constantly complained about her situation. Shannon hated her mother's negativity. Shannon wanted to find happiness and positive energy in her life, but she didn't know how.

Shannon had her goal in mind, so we set to work. She began releasing all the feelings she had pent up inside. She journaled in her 'angry journal' and talked, and cried to release her feelings. She loved the physical release she got through her sports--tennis, swimming, and track.

As she let go of her feelings, she could see that her mother was over worked and tired all the time. She began to feel empathy for her mother, and then love.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama

As Shannon released her anger, she replaced it with positive thoughts.

1.         She wrote several mantras she could say to herself daily:
            I love life.
            When I smile, I can feel it through my bones.
            Happiness walks with me.

2.         She created several positive visualizations:
            She pictured herself in the loving arms of her father.
            She imagined herself as a child, playing at the beach.

            She could see herself with a group of friends laughing and talking at a party.

3.         Whenever she found herself thinking a negative thought:
            She said 'stop' in her head.
            She replaced the destructive thought with a positive one.
            She took a deep breath, released it, and visualized light filling her being.

Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude. Dale Carnegie.

Through lots of hard work, Shannon was successful in changing her thinking and, therefore, her feelings. Her depression lifted, and she felt better about  herself.

Her journey to find joy didn't happen all at once. She began walking the road to happiness one step at a time; one day at a time. Sometimes discouragement set in, but she was undaunted in her quest to remain upbeat. On those days when things didn't seem just right, she took some time to meditate and renew her goals and get back on her path toward well-being.

Our lives may not be just like Shannon's. Our circumstances are different, but can we remember the steps she took to walk with happiness and do the same.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Gandhi