Mar 29, 2014

ANWA Southwest Retreat 2014

Several empty chairs waiting for you!

by Cindy R. Williams

Pencil in June 25 - 28 for the ANWA Writers Retreat 
in the wonderful, cool mountains of Show Low, Pine Top Lakewood area. 

This is for ANWA members only. 

Watch for ANWA Bulletin email coming out soon for how and where to register.

Mar 28, 2014


ImageBy Beckie Carlson
Once upon a time, there was a girl that did every thing right. She said the right things, acted the right way, smiled and waved and pushed forward toward the next thing on her list. Her life was good, great, and just as it was supposed to be.
But then things changed. Her life took a sudden turn to the left and she scrambled, trying to keep up the momentum she had lived with before. Change likes friends, it rarely comes alone. That one change caused a series of domino changes to take place in her life. She moved, stretched, grew, shrank, and looked around desperately trying to see who she was. The biggest change came when she herself changed.
Bubbles pop, that is just their nature. Trying to keep a bubble in tact is an exhausting, fruitless endeavor that most often ends in disappointment of one kind or another. When her bubble popped she popped along with it. Gone were her ideals, beliefs, dreams, and securities. She tried to piece the bubble back together but realized quickly it would never happen. She mourned. She kicked against the bricks in her life, crying out in frustration, blame and guilt. Life's not fair. Neither is death.
Two choices lay before her. She could spend her days sifting through the rubble of her broken bubble, trying to find meaning or solace, or she could open her eyes and see the wonders that surrounded her now that her walls were down. Choices are hard when consequences are unknown. Leaps of faith can sometimes crash on rocky beaches. But sometimes, those leaps can broaden horizons, expand our view and help us discover new worlds full of things we never imagined.
Burst your bubble. Step outside and see the world. Cause I said so. 

Mar 27, 2014

Mother's Memoirs

By Susan Knight
A few years ago I started a blog called “Mother’s Memoirs.” I started it because my daughter, Jewely, gave me one of those fill-in-the-blanks books. Instead of filling in the blanks, I chose to blog about it so all my kids could read my answers, easily, on-line—where they always seem to be. I figured my daughter gave me the book because she wanted to know about my life, but, bless her heart, I think she just knows I like to write, I love family history, and thought it would be a great gift for me. The reason I know this is because . . . she’s never visited my blog.

“What’s the name of it again?” she asked as I pouted and tried to make her feel guilty.

I’ve reached that age where I actually do like to write about myself. Not because I’m vain or self-serving, but because there are things I’ve done in my life that I want my children to know about. And not just the wonderful and great stuff, but the small and subtle things I’ve lived and done.

For instance, in 1974 or thereabouts, I attended a John Denver concert in Philadelphia. The reason why it meant so much to me was because I had just returned from living in Boulder, Colorado for a year. I confess I wasn’t “into” John Denver before I went to Boulder, but almost everyone I met was there because of John Denver’s music.

Two of my best friends from high school indulged me and attended the concert with me. I was in my glory. It was (almost) heaven . . .

I’ve been playing the CD of this concert lately and singing merrily along, harmonizing at times, reminiscing always. I’m twenty-one again and at that concert when I play the CD. I re-live my fantastic year in Boulder where I climbed mountains, pondered my life, lived one with nature, a happy pauper. In a word, it was a year of adventure. In those days, as a youth, the big thing was to find yourself. Discovery. I found myself there.
Flatirons, Boulder, Colo.
I do so want my children to know how much this music means to me. I’m not sure if it’s just the music, but also the experiences I had, woven into the songs. Mountains, nature, splendor, stars, campfires, snow—all the things that excited my young heart. The thrill of climbing Green Mountain, then looking down and realizing how small the trees were—and the people weren’t seen at all. I wrote a song about it.

I’m at the age when I want to leave something behind of me. I want to be sure my kids really know who I am, even the small inklings. I am the sum of all the rich experiences I’ve had in my (very long) life. My memoirs are my legacy.
I only hope they’ll read about me one day . . .


Mar 25, 2014

Crazy Daze!

by Terri Wagner

As most of you know, life can get crazy busy seemingly overnight. I thought I was going to get some slowdown time. So much for my being able to predict things. My three-year-old great niece (altho I'm just AunTee to her) came for a visit with the happy news that her family will be moving back to this area in May. Her father has been on stateside deployment for 18 months. Visits have been few, but knowing she's back in May for a while is very welcome news.

My niece who is prone to incidental accidents had one that totaled her car, surprisingly not her fault. No one was hurt. Walmart parking lot no surprise there uh?! So under pressure I decided to give her my car and look for a newer one myself. She can't really afford any car payments at this point. This current car is a missionary fleet Malibu that I have been very happy with. So naturally I called them first. Apparently they are so popular now you have to get on the list for one. I put my name so maybe she can get one later on. Maybe I just missed the right time. Not sure, but darn it, I sure wanted to go that route. So now I'm looking at cars. Any ideas?

My sister's house is finally built, and she closed on it. She officially moved in, but all her furniture is in storage. That means I am probably going to have to travel this weekend and help her get it. I'd rather just pay the minimum cost of 2500 for someone else to do that. I'm getting old, LOL.

I have two nephews getting married this year. One is in April in Baton Rouge. That one will be easy as dad and I will just travel over early Saturday for an evening wedding and back on Sunday. No time off from work. The other one is in Ohio. The car travelers are going early so I'm making a one way flight and drive back only needing two days off from work. It's an early afternoon wedding so I can't just fly in on Saturday. Funny thing about these weddings. One couple is following the world's way. They've lived together, bought a house together, and are having this big wedding celebration. The other couple are not Mormon but have waited for their small and simple wedding. I still need a dress for both, any ideas?

Work got super busy just when I thought it was slowdown. And really crazy stuff happens and most of the time I have to google what to try to fix it. Thank goodness that people talk online about their computer problems and other people share their experiences in fixing it. The little 4-6 graders are so cute. So worried they did something wrong. 99% of the time not their fault. The older grades are just playing the game of when-will-you-catch-me. And believe me you would be shocked at what you find. Still waters run deep is a very true truism.

Being in the RS presidency is crushing on time load. There is always something. We can't even seem to get Sundays to run smoothly. And visiting teaching is totally fluid out here in the mission field.

I guess I just mentioned all this because it's what's swirling in my head right now. Especially the car. I must be rare in that I'd rather just have my old dented car.

Mar 22, 2014


by Christy Monson

As wives and mothers we have many people wanting our attention—asking us for this or that, or needing help with an immediate task. I give and give until my water bucket is empty. I must take time to fill it:
Read a good book.

Watch a funny movie.
Enjoy time with a friend.
Get enough sleep.
Let someone else cook dinner.
I'm sure you can think of many other ways.

These ideas all work, but for me to truly replenish myself, I need some time alone.

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. Henry David Thoreau

When do you carve out your time of seclusion? 

Mine is early in the morning before the household wakes to begin their day. As the dawn brightens the earth, I awake to my moments of inspiration.

It's a talking-to-God time. It's a listening-to-the-Spirit time. It's a sorting-things-out-in-my-mind time. It's a step-back-and-look-at-the-big-picture time.

I love the  insight that washes over me during these refreshing moments. If I'm working on a new story, this is the time my ideas come. This is when the plot development and character development occurs. 

One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude. Goethe

When my bucket is full, I arise to read my scriptures to set the tone for my day, and I'm ready to roll.

 Where and when do you find your moments of inspiration?

Mar 21, 2014

10 Reasons, according to Mark Coker, Why Indie Authors Will Capture Half of the Ebook Market by 2020

by Marsha Ward

I've been an admirer of Mark Coker—who founded in 2008—ever since I became a Smashwords user and content provider in 2009. His business is author-centric, and he is a stalwart supporter of indie authors and their issues.
Recently he did a blog post about the reasons, as he sees them, why indie authors are headed toward taking a larger share of the ebook market. This upward surge is in the nature of a revolution beneficial to independently publishing writers and authors. I share those with ten points with you here.
  1. Print will continue to decline as a book-reading format as more readers transition to screens. The transition to screens will be driven by the low prices, selection, exceptional discoverability and instant reading pleasure delivered by ebooks.
  2. Brick and mortar bookstores will continue their march into the sunset with more store closures. I'm not happy about this, but I don't see the trend reversing unless bookstores start serving wine and pot brownies in their cafes.
  3. The perceived value of publishers will decline in the eyes of writers as the importance of print distribution declines. Print distribution is an important glue that holds many writers to their traditional publishers. When publisher stickiness decreases, writers will be tempted to explore the indie author camp.
  4. Indie authors have learned to publish like professionals, which means self publishing will lead to more better books, and more diversity of better books. The professionalism and sophistication of indie authors has increased dramatically in the six years since we launched Smashwords, and this professionalism will increase in the future as indies pioneer tomorrow's best practices. These authors are publishing books that are quality-competitive with traditionally published books, but priced dramatically lower. As a result, these authors have the ability to under-price, outsell and out-compete the ebooks from traditional publishers. It means indie authors will have platform-building advantages over traditionally published authors.
  5. The number of self-published ebooks will explode, and these ebooks will continue to enjoy democratized access to professional publishing and distribution tools such as Smashwords, and democratized access to global online retail distribution (every major ebook store wants to carry self-published ebooks). Every author - even indie authors - will face increased competition from the glut of high quality works that never go out of print.
  6. The most successful indie authors are mentoring the next generation of authors. Indie authors act like a vast publishing collective of writers helping writers.
  7. The stigma once associated with self publishing is melting away at the same time the stigma of traditional publishing is on the rise. Indie authors are in the cool kids club now. They know they can publish with pride and professionalism, and they're developing teflon skin that deflects the once ego-bruising criticism levied by self publishing naysayers. If you haven't been to a writers conference lately, go to one. A few years ago, writers would leave conferences depressed in the knowledge that their dream agent only accepts one in 10,000 queries. Today, writers attend conferences and learn to self publish like a pro. They leave the conference upbeat in the knowledge that one way or another, they'll publish their book their way.
  8. Writers are discovering the joy of self publishing. If publishers are from Mars, authors are from Venus. They speak different languages and hold different values. The rewards of self publishing transcend the conventional and myopic commercial metric value systems of publishers. Indie authors are enjoying total creative control, faster time to market, ownership over their publishing future, and the flexibility to innovate and evolve their immortal ebooks which will never go out of print. Indie authors enjoy the freedom to serve their fans as they want to serve them. Icing on the indie author's cake: Indie ebook authors earn royalty rates 4-5 times higher than they'd earn from traditional publishers.
  9. Readers don't care about the publisher name on the ebook's virtual spine. The brand they care about is the author brand. Indie authors are learning to build their own brands.
  10. The growing rift between writers and publishers will cause the next generation of writers to avoid shopping their books to publishers, and will undermine the goodwill of writers who until now have been loyal to their traditional publishers. Writers are angry. After centuries of living on the bottom rung of the publishing ladder, they're feeling their oats and relishing their new-found power and respect.

Thank you, Mark Coker, for your foresight and willingness to create a business that is helping to bring an Indie Author Revolution to pass.

Mar 20, 2014

Letting the Light Shine Again

by Kari Diane Pike

Today, I am pretending to be a writer. Monday, I was a brilliant writer. Tuesday and Wednesday shot me down. The only thing that kept me from shredding all my paper and completely quitting was knowing I had a commitment to post this blog today. No way was I going back on my word to Marsha. Then I remembered a doctor appointment I made two weeks ago and that I had company arriving this afternoon and I hadn't touched the bathrooms in over a week

I do have one thing going for me. I write events on three different calendars to reduce the risk of me forgetting. I had to walk past the wall calendar in the kitchen to get to the pan of nearly evaporated water I forgot on the stove. The big purple letters "BLOG" caught my attention. Don't worry though. I took the pan off the stove (and turned the stove off) before I headed back upstairs to write. Or at least pretend to write.

One of the assignments given to me to complete my bachelor's degree involved reflecting on how my BYU experience helped me grow spiritually and intellectually. How did the courses I take help me increase my ability to learn and serve? This process brought up a lot of old memories. I remember feeling very confident as a young child.I did well in school. I participated in extracurricular activities and loved trying new things. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I think I was ten years old when I caught a stray horse I found wandering down the street, took it home and asked if I could keep it. 

Then I became a child of divorce and experienced Mrs. Coe's eighth grade math class.

The math was all review, but the state, the city, the climate, the school and the people were all new to me. I admit, I was prideful and probably annoyed the heck out of the teacher. I did say I was confident. When we moved from Montana to Arizona, I left a junior high algebra class learning how to solve three equations with three unknowns and graph them and entered an elementary school setting and a math class that had just been introduced to negative numbers on the number line. Anyway, in my haste to answer a question, I forgot a negative sign and gave the wrong answer. The teacher looked down her nose at me and scoffed.

"Wrong!" She called on another student, the problem was solved and the class moved on. A couple of minutes later, the teacher asked another question. I was the only one to raise my hand with an answer. The teacher ignored me and asked the class two or three more times for the solution. She gave a heavy sigh before she finally spoke to me. " Miss Newcomb, I'm only going to call on you if you are sure you have the right answer. You're supposed to be so smart and know so much - so you better be right." Total and complete humiliation. I will never forget it. I felt like the foolish man whose sandy foundation washed away, leaving me in a deep, dark hole. I secretly hoped that the sand would bury me so that I couldn't feel the eyes of my classmates staring at me or hear their snickering.

High school was, well, high school. I did a lot of growing up and healing. I graduated and attended BYU, met my eternal companion, raised a family (decided to major in two-legged critters, instead of four) and have lived a life filled with incredible learning experiences. My BYU studies enlarged my intellect and enlightened my spiritual understanding. Many more growing experiences have come through ANWA. I still struggle to believe I can really write something of value, but I'm ready to step up and serve the Lord and stop being afraid of what others think. I want to tell other people how magnificent they are! I want to show my neighbors the joy in living the gospel. I want to serve my ancestors in the temple and I want to strengthen and support the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Elder Quentin L. Cook said, "We need to protect our families and be at the forefront together with all people of goodwill in doing everything we can to preserve light, hope, and morality in our communities." I can do this with my writing!

So - I'm going to let my light shine. Won't you add yours to mine so that we can shine even brighter?


Mar 19, 2014

For Every Book There is a Season

by H. Linn Murphy

"In the depths of the forest, of which the leafy surface lay bathed in the brilliant light of a cloudless day in June, while the trunks of the trees rose in gloomy grandeur in the shades beneath, voices were heard calling to each other."--The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

"Dick looked about him right and left; and at last he perceived that the other end of the cord had been made fast to the trunk of a little hawthorn which grew, thick with blossom, under the lofty arcade of the oak. With his dagger, which alone remained to him of all his arms, young Shelton severed the rope, and instantly, with a dead thump, the corpse fell in a heap upon the ground." The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

"...the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell; it was such a pleasant evening, so serene, so warm; the still glowing west promised so fairly another fine day on the morrow; the moon rose with such majesty in the grave east. I was noting these things and enjoying them as a child might, when it entered my mind as it had never done before:-- 
"How sad to be lying now in a sick bed, and to be in danger of dying! This world is pleasant--it would be dreary to be called from it, and to have to go who knows where?" Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

"Separated lovers cheat absence by a thousand fancies which have their own reality. They are prevented from seeing one another and they cannot write; nevertheless they find countless mysterious ways of corresponding, by sending each other the song of birds, the scent of flowers, the laughter of children, the light of the sun, the sighing of the wind, and the gleam of the stars--all the beauties of creation. And why should they not? All the works of God are designed to serve love, and love has the power to charge all nature with its messages. 
Oh, spring, you are a letter which I send her!" Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Each of these snippets feature how the seasons affect scenes in the book. What if Dickens' Oliver had been set in a balmy, blossom-studded spring instead of freezing winter? How would the book Heidi have been different if she had arrived at her grandfather's house after climbing through hip-deep snow?

Sometimes if a scene is proving obstinate, a change of season might help. In my current WIP I found that my character didn't seem to have enough conflict happening. Don't get me wrong, the book is crammed with conflict, but that particular scene was a snoozer. I sat back and looked at her spring and decided she needed some bad weather. Voila. Pa-lenty of conflict. I now had great hunting weather interspersed with so much rain that it caused huge mud flows and floods. 

The season the scene is set in can act almost like another character. If you're going for a feeling of gloom and isolation, the skeletal trees and frigid air of winter make great visuals.
The kiss of the waves and light breezes of a summer at the beach can set a scene for calmness and well-being.

Or not.
Remember Jaws? Even a summer beach scene can be deceptive and full of hidden menace. Instead of a balmy day at the beach, the character might need to scrub the sweat out of her eyes or the wind might be peppering her with blowing sand.

The words one describes the season with can affect the story. Victor Hugo's spring seen through the peach-colored lens of separated lovers is much different than that of Dick Shelton's spring in Robert Louis Stevenson's entry above.

Your setting can make or break your scene. So next time you get stuck, try looking at what's happening through the lens of a different season.

Mar 17, 2014

A Well Organized Space Lets the Creative Juices Flow

By Stacy Johnson

I need some cute shelves above my desk.

Warning: Picture overload.

 I did it! I got my office cleaned up and cleared out. I know so many of you were dying for the "after" picture, ha ha. To see the "before" picture, click here.

I still want to do more but those things cost money so for the time being, this will do. And, since it was cleaned up over a week ago, it has remained or less in this state. We only have one computer in our home (gasp) so there have been times when others have left their stuff there and I have had to get on them but it was spring break so that was expected.
I'd like to make a cover for the tall shelves.

re-purposed night stand

I finished these two projects. They were both that 80's brown finish so I painted them black then distressed them, added some walnut stain to the shelves then lacquered them both up super shiny. I added a patterned fabric to the top of my printer table and sealed it with the lacquer as well. It has a beautiful finish and will compliment the fabric I have picked out to sew a cover for the large shelves next to it.

shabby book shelf
My water jug collects loose change. When I go to the store, I throw the coins in my purse and put the bills in my wallet. Every so often I clean out the coins in my purse and throw them in the jug along with the coins I find while cleaning up around the house. It is our vacation fund. The kids add to it as well and when its time for a vacation, we count it up to see where we will go based on how much is saved.

My pretty shelves hold all my assorted binders: recipe binder, mom binder, general conference binders, pinterest binder, scout binder, welfare specialist binder, etc. The books are ones I am currently using for reading, working or journaling.

I keep my family history collections in bags (my conference bags are great for this) inside my re-purposed wardrobe next to my desk. One bag for Grandaddy and one for Grams, it holds their journals, scrapbooks, pictures and notes from their personal history stories I am working on.

In January I turned all hangers the wrong way
Getting organized can be addicting. I got on pinterest and found a few more ideas I'm going to implement over time. I already did an overhaul on my closet back in January. I am a t-shirt hoarder and had quite the collection. I whittled it down to about 25, don't ask me how many I started with, feel free to congratulate me. I also turned every item hanging backwards. As I take something out to wear it, I put it back on the hanger (clean) the right way. I can see how many things I have worn by the way the hanger faces. I know there are several things in there I haven't worn in probably a year or more. When June arrives, it will be six months and those items still on the hanger backwards will be donated/sold.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my organized space and am almost overwhelmed at how the creative juices have been flowing for a short story class I've been taking. I was super motivated after Heather Moore's class at the conference to give it a try and like magic a friend offered a free eight week short story class not far from home. I knew I couldn't deny the blessing so I jumped on the offer. So far, I'm loving the experience! I can't wait to see what comes next! Happy Organizing and Spring Cleaning and Creative Writing!!

Mar 15, 2014

Writer's Secret . . .Or Is It Magic?

My Home (okay . . . in my dreams)
by Cindy R. Williams

Writing conferences are designed to teach us how to improve our writing skills, create networking opportunities between writers, and also give those who are ready the chance to skip the slush pile.

These things are wonderful. There always seems to be one or two classes, authors or writers you meet that impart to you that most important thing you are seeking at the time.

It happened for me, at this February's ANWA Time Out For Writers. A chance run in with an ANWA member was my "Ah hah!" moment.

Let me tell you about it.

I was volunteering at the pitch area when I met Carol Stewart. We only a a few minutes to visit, but it was this visit that changed my writing world.

She shared with me the one thing that helps her write.

Wait for it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Carol goes to the library to write several hours a day.

Simple right? No, not simple at all. BRILLIANT!

At the end of a busy day, I have lamented more times than I care to admit, about how I got so many things completed on my "to do list", yet, I didn't get to my well meaning desire of writing that day. I just seemed to run out of time.

I had considered packing up my computer, snacks, and other writing paraphernalia and go write somewhere. (If you know me, you know I tend to bring tons of stuff everywhere I go, and sort of set up house.)  I had considered trying the local Barnes and Noble, the library, and Starbucks. I even talked about it with my friend and favorite writing buddy, Melinda Sanchez. We both thought it was a good idea, but we never made the time nor the effort to make it happen.

When Carol shared with me how she gives herself permission to leave her home and write, it finally gelled with  me.

You mean it really is okay to myself permission to write? My house won't get condemned? My family will not die of hunger?

When I'm at home, I get caught up on projects around the house that are good, but maybe not the best choice right now.

With a little planning, I will be able to get everything done at some point in time. It's okay to leave the gazillion chores the scream to me day in and day out.

My first day at the library was HEAVEN! Those three hours were like a mini ANWA retreat. I have since gone several times a week. I LOVE IT!

Not so secret right? Well, maybe not, but it sure is magic!

Mar 14, 2014

Sky Pie

By Beckie Carlson
I read a book the other day. Actually, I have read about four in the last month. Doesn't sound like much, but I actually haven't had the opportunity to read for ME for a long time. School kind of took over my life in almost every way. I took a mere 57 credits last year alone so, no wonder I had no time for pleasure reading.
I broke back into the 'reading world' with easy reads. I bought several Jenni James fairy tales for my 5th grade class and figured I better check them out before I put them in my library. I was priviledged to see Jenni speak at my recent writers conference and she was.....spunktacular. Fun, spunky, creative, ADHD, and basically....spunktacular. No other word really fits. I decided that if her books were 1/4 as enjoyable as she was, they would be a hit. I was right. She has a way with words that makes you not want to put a book down. She isn't one of those flowery, 'let me show you how many adjectives I know', kind of writers, she is a writer for the every day person. I get her.
After a couple JJ books, I dove into a book I picked up at Barnes and Nobles. One of the few stalwart brick and mortar stores that hasn't dissolved into memory. Please stay open!!! It is painful for me to go to book stores. As much as I love them, with their seemingly endless displays of books and words and pages and....sigh. I love bookstores. It is painful because I want to be part of the 'club.' I want to finish my book and put it out there. Its like an elite club that is only open to people that actually finish their books and send them in and get them published and have agents that actually market for them. Easy, right? So why isn't my book there? Why aren't there a dozen of my books there? arg!
The book I read was really wonderful. It was called The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. I chose it because the cover spoke to me. I think I've mentioned before how I judge books by their covers? Yeah, this one was great. The guts of the book lived up to the promise of the cover. It was a sweet love story full of pain and longing and fears and courage and all those things we all have or want or need. I need an Oliver. Read it, you'll understand.
As much as I know I can write well, sometimes when I read a really good book like TSPOLAFS, I get really intimidated. I want to write something beautiful like that. I want to have people pause in their reading and say, "wow.....I totally get that...." or to have a tear come to their eyes as their heart surges toward my character. I want my readers to lay on their bed after they finish my book and let my characters wander around in their minds, finding lasting life in their thoughts. I want what I write to mean something.
It is no small thing being a writer. We put our heart and soul into what we write. We not only put our thoughts and dreams into our stories, we ARE our stories. When a writer puts their words down on paper, it might as well have been written with their own blood. Its more than a 'carbon footprint', it's a heart print. It may not mean anything to anyone else, but it means something to us. It's a little bit or sometimes a big bit of our self we share with the world. Our stories are living things, born in the womb of our creative mind, nurtured with the input of all that we see or experience. It's hard to let a story go. Hard to set it free out into the world. We are afraid it might fail, not find friends, not be able to make ends meet, and end up back at home, taking up space in the basement. But no matter where they go, no matter who else likes them, they are still our babies. Cause I said so.

Photo credit:

Mar 12, 2014

Making Book Recommendations

By Gina Denny

This is a rant, followed by some (I believe) sound advice. Proceed accordingly.

I am shocked by the number of times the following happens on facebook:

Original Poster: Just got a kindle/nook/B&N gift card (or starting a book club)!!! Give me book recommendations people!
Friend #2: Dan Brown's books. OMG, He is such a goooooood writer.
Friend #3: Twilight. It's this book about vampires and it's awesome and you'll love it.

And this happens with practically ZERO variation. 

Here are the problems with these suggestions:

1. All three people are recommending old-but-not-too-old best sellers. These books (or authors) have been around long enough that everybody and their grandmother (seriously, I got a twitter follow from somebody called "TwilightGrandma" the other day) has heard of them. Opinions have been formed or the books have already been read. If your friend hasn't heard of or read this book, don't worry, it will be the one suggested on the front display in the store or when they first sign on to Amazon.

2. All three people are recommending pretty BLAH books. Let me tell you how that Nicholas Sparks novel goes: Boy meets girl, societal differences keep them apart, they fall in love anyway, death and disease threatens to tear them apart, they recommit themselves to each other, one of them dies. You'll cry, I'm sure, but COME ON. That's the BEST you have to recommend to somebody???

3. There's no accounting for personal tastes. Not everybody likes the same books as you. Shocking, I know.

4. That all said... if this person is the type of person who was given a Nook/Kindle/B&N Gift Card as a present... they've read those books. They are a "book person" and they either have read or formed opinions about those books already.


I'm not good at a lot of things. I don't know how to make cheesy sauces that aren't gritty, I can't scrapbook to save my life, and I don't even know how to hem my own pants. But I am good at recommending books. Here's my advice on the subject:

1. Find out what other books they've read that they've enjoyed. You don't need to recommend books in the same genre (especially since if they are asking for recommendations, they are probably looking to branch out a bit), but note the tone of what they like to read. The person who loved "The Kite Runner" will likely not enjoy a Sophie Kinsella novel. Pay attention to the tone: Serious? Adult? Fun? Fluffy? YA? Emotional-Heartstring-Tuggers? People will generally enjoy books that feel similar, even if they are in a different genre/category.

Sidenote: YA is a category, not a genre. Middle Grade (MG) is another category. Within each of those, there are genres, the same as in the adult category: fantasy, sci-fi, romance, mystery, suspense, non-fiction, memoir, biography, etc.

2. Get an idea of what their expectations around content are. I've posted before about people having surprising standards around language and sex. Don't recommend Game of Thrones if they thought Twilight was really violent and sexually charged. 

3. Try to get off the beaten path a little. Anybody who's ever set foot in a bookstore has heard of the Notebook and the Hunger Games and Harry Potter. If your friend hasn't read them, there are probably reasons. (You can try to win people to your side, of course, but that's not a "recommendation") Recommend an author that maybe doesn't get the front-and-center display at the bookstore, or maybe isn't even sold at Target and Walmart. If you know of some indie-press authors (or really WELL-DONE self-published authors), recommend those. 

4. Be careful about mentioning that you are friends with the author. A lot of people take this to mean "I am helping to hock their book because it sucks but I feel obligated to help a friend." Or, alternately, "I want to seem like a big shot." At best you'll get a "I know one of So-and-So's friends. Now I am an expert on So-and-So's books." I've never seen this work out well. 

There you have it.

My advice and complaints about book recommendations. What advice do you have and more importantly, do you have a book you'd like to recommend?

Mar 11, 2014

Sacrament Meetings on BYU Could Spoil You

by Terri Wagner

This rarely happens to me. Last Sunday, I woke up, hating the fact that I lost an hour only because some brilliant person during WW2 thought it would be great, and no one has changed it, showered, dressed, and worked on downloading some music for Relief Society. At 9:30 I finished and decided one more time in the details here, but suffice it to say, that minute turned into 20. Ok, rushing around, just be a bit late. Then back to the bathroom, finally accepting this is going to be a difficult day lol.

So what's a person to do when they can't go to Sacrament Meeting? Well after beating myself up for not making the most important event in my week that prepares me for the next week blah blah blah I thought (or the Spirit nudged) watch something anything on the BYU channel. Now, I rarely watch BYU. My sister is much more in tune with the shows and documentaries. I just listen to her, and watch Sleepy Hallow or Psych or Almost Human or well you get the picture. I do watch conference, that's about it. So I sat down and turned it to the BYU channel. It just so happened to be a sacrament meeting. Wala!!! Less guilt.

Wow! I was impressed. Except for missing out on partaking of the sacrament (admittedly the most important thing you do at this most important meeting), I was like hey I could get into this. The talks were short, sweet, to the point, and rather good. Simple, but good. Gave the kind of talk I like to hear. A bit of doctrine, a bit of a real story, and a great testimony. They had TWO special numbers. One was a primary child singing a primary song. I was really into it. The bishop summarized the talks, thanked the music people, and had the closing prayer. It was really good. We don't have sacrament meetings like that.

In fact, I've been to a lot of sacrament meetings, and few are conducted that well. Now I realize they knew they were being filmed, and I know that makes a big difference, probably selected their best speakers and most talented singers. But that wasn't really the thing I took away with me. What I thought to myself was why can't we have more music? Why can't we have short but to the point talks? Why can't we do what they do? Even if we have to work at it to get that good?

Did it spoil me for our usual Sacrament Meeting next week? Probably so! Maybe in the future, I should just read scripture on those thankfully all too rare Sundays when I can't make church. LOL

Mar 8, 2014

Adding Light to the World

By Christy Monson
My life is very comfortable. I have a warm place to live. I got up this morning and turned the heat up to just exactly where I like it. My husband fixed a delicious breakfast. I  enjoyed reading my scriptures, along with the peaceful feeling that comes from morning prayers.

I know in a couple of months life will begin renewing itself. I can anticipate the sprouts of green grass and beginning buds on the trees. I look forward to sitting on my deck to admire the sunsets--sometimes a mixture of pink, blue and purple blending into a magnificent display of colors.
My world is orderly and good. But what about those whose lives have been turned upside down with ice storms, flooding, and other severe weather? What can I do? My prayers are with them. Every time I walk outside on the dry ground, I am grateful. I drive down the road, knowing it hasn't been washed away. I am thankful for lights and heat. I understand there are many who don’t have those comforts in their homes right now.
 But are my gratitude and prayers enough? I can’t take away the sorrows and pains of others. I can’t relieve their sufferings--they are so far away. Even at home I can’t do that for my family and those around me. I can listen and show empathy, and sometimes I can fix the problem, but not always.
So what can I do?
1. I can add love to the world in my own way.
2. I can sit with my 97-year-old neighbor who just fractured her shoulder and hip to show her I care.
3. I can comfort my granddaughter when she skins her knee.
4. I can invite those around me to the peace I feel each day by listening and sharing with them.
5. I can pray for myself and others to find wisdom from the things we all suffer.
6. I can add my little small candle of light to the world.
I won't do big extraordinary things, but I will change the world with one small deed at a time.
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.  Albert Schweitzer.