Jun 30, 2014

What I Believe to Be True

By Claire Enos

I think I've learned more about myself in the last year than I did in the previous 21 years. That's not to say that I didn't learn a lot in my first 21 years, just that I feel like I've learned so much in the past year. I used to see my world in black and white. Good and bad. There was never any in-between. In the years since high school I've discovered so much I never considered before. I've come into my skin and begun to realize what's important to me. I've discovered what I believe, with all my heart, to be true. So, here is the number one item on my list:

  1. When considering whether a religion is right or wrong for you, the people should not be a judge of whether or not it's true. The values and beliefs found within the doctrine are the true test of the religion. People are human, they make mistakes, they have emotions. The values, beliefs, and doctrine are the true tests. If they ring true for you, you've found what you're looking for. With that being said, most people don't realize this, and so it is important to stick with what you believe. Don't just say you believe it, act on it! Be those values and beliefs. Make them you. So that when a friend or a relative looks at you, they can tell immediately what you believe. What's the point in believing something if you don't live it?

I am human, I make so many mistakes. We all do. But, we get up, we dust ourselves off, and we get right back into the fight. The fight for what's right and good in this world. We fight every day. Even with all that is being said about us (as a religion) in the news, I still hold true to my faith and my beliefs, because they mean everything to me. We are fighting the good fight. And I will not give up, I will endure to the end!


Jun 28, 2014

Sally and Her Hip Replacement . . . A Larger-Than-Life Companion

By Christy Monson

Sally continues to heal from her surgery—almost three weeks now. She lays in bed moaning when I come in her door. I sit on the covered potty chair across from her bed and listen as she tells me about her aches and pains, how long she waited at the doctor's office yesterday, and why the pharmacy wouldn't give her any more pain pills.

She told the Relief Society all she wanted to eat after surgery was fruits and vegetables—to lose some weight. The first two weeks out of the hospital her appetite wasn't very good, but she really enjoyed her fruits and vegetables. However, today she is hungry.
"I needs some real food. I ain't got nothin' to eat."
"But you have what you wanted," I say.
"I changed my mind."
"I wants a polish sausage in a hot dog bun with some cold slaw."
Oh, my goodness, I'm thinking. I have to go to the store to buy this, and what if I don't get the  right kind? So I begin to quiz her on exactly what I should buy.
"Don't worry," she says, "I'm going with you."
"What?" I say.
"I needs to get out of the house."

I start to argue with her, but realize it will do no good so I go with her program. She's been to the doctor twice and has been fine. I can take her out of the house.

Off we go to Kroger with Sally in a long flowing purple-flowered house coat, her pink slippers, and her walker. I try to drop her off at the entrance to the store, but she's having none of that. She is going to walk.

We are greeted at the entrance of the store by an armed guard. (This isn't the best section of town.) Walker in hand, Sally motors past the security man toward the back of the store—purple robe flowing behind her. I run to keep up with her. She's a woman on a mission.

We get her groceries and head for home, but she's not finished with this outing. There's more. She wants Captain J J's special meal deal with fry sauce. (I'm buying.) We have to take a detour to get the food because of road construction. 

When we finally reach home, she's laughing and happy. She piles herself back into the nest of pillows on her bed, props her fish dinner at her side, turns on her soap operas, and tells me she'll see me tomorrow with the "young Elders." They need to disinfect her shower chair and give her a blessing.

I realize I'm the therapist, nurse, personal shopper, lunch companion, and entertainment committee. This larger-than-life lady needs a larger-than-life companion. Can I fill the bill? 
Jury's still out on that question.

Jun 27, 2014

The Writers' Retreat: a Valued Tool

by Marsha Ward

I am a firm proponent of getting away from home to write. It doesn't matter how that is structured. The benefit of getting away from the regular writing venue, whether that is your bed, your couch, or your own home office, is that you're mixing it up by being in a new spot, and your brain somehow responds with ideas galore.

I'll talk about non-organized retreats a bit later. But first, I want to put in a good word for ANWA's retreats.

I've attended all but three of the ANWA Writers' Retreats that have been held in the southwest since 1997. The first time, I was going on a huge road trip with my family; the second time, I had unexpected surgery and was recovering; and the third time, I was obliged to be elsewhere to participate on a panel. However, I am attending this year's ANWA Southwest Region Retreat on the day this is posted. I expect that I am having a productive day, cranking out lots of words to wrap up my novel, Gone for a Soldier.

At the last ANWA retreat I attended, in 2012, I was able to make a lot of progress on Spinster's Folly, which was published later that year.
Yes, that's me huddling in a corner, working on Spinster's Folly.
I jealously guard my writing time at retreats, because I want to crank out the most words per hour that I can. Revise? No, that's for later, in most cases. "Write" is the watch word.

At a writers' retreat, usually the planners allow you lots of time for free writing, that is, writing on your work-in-progress, crafting something brand new, or writing a poem about the setting around you. You choose how you spend that time. You may also congregate with other writers who are willing to talk. Alternately, short classes may be planned for your edification.

What if you can't afford to attend an organized writers' retreat? What if there's nothing available at the time you need to get away?

Well, nothing is written down that says the only way you can have a retreat is to attend a big event. Do your own!

A couple of years ago, several friends of mine rented a cabin and had their own two-day retreat. Another friend traveled to a small, quiet town in a rural area, rented a room in a small motel, and spent the week writing. I know of many writers who just go to a bookstore or quiet cafe, plug in their laptops, and write for several hours, with friends, or alone.

Anywhere there's a table and an electrical outlet (unless you have good battery life) can work as a retreat. You don't really need company; it may be too much of a distraction, in fact. Try to choose a venue without music (restaurants), because that can be annoying. One of my favorite write-away-from-home spots is the local library. I can hide away in a corner and write for as long as they remain open.

Wherever you choose as your writing retreat, be sure you take plenty of water; food, if you're staying longer than four or five hours; and music, if that fits your writing style.

Now, retreat and write!

Jun 26, 2014

A Magnificent Day

by Kari Diane Pike

What do you do when your morning starts like this? 

What a glorious mess - a magnificent start to what  could have been a mundane morning. When this happened to me last week, I realized I had two choices. I could whine and complain and be grumpy the rest of the morning, or I could take a picture and laugh about it with my friends and family on Facebook. I chose to take the picture and write about it. 

Since breakfast was late, I worked on lunches in between cleaning up the mess and making more waffles. I've always been a little proud of my ninja multi-tasking skills. Except that morning my paying attention skills still hadn't kicked in. As I wrote names on lunch bags, I asked my husband if he wanted peanut butter or a meat sandwich. A few minutes later, I started to fill the bags and discovered that instead of writing "Micaela" on our daughter's bag, I wrote "Meat." My laughter must have sounded a little hysterical, because Micaela told me I needed to go back to bed. I took a deep breath and tried to gather my scattered brain. I decided to "fix" the mistake and ended up with this:

I thought it was a pretty good recovery. Plus, I had another funny moment to share on Facebook. I also  thought about my need to pay attention and be more present in the moment. I even considered canceling my bike ride. Instead, I chose to leave my ear buds at home so I wouldn't be tempted to listen to  the next episode of "Bones" on my phone. Call it a premonition or a prompting or whatever, but the thought that I needed to be extra careful on my ride kept tickling the back of my brain. 

Eight and a half miles into my ride, my phone rang. I didn't even have the chance to stop and answer. The  very second I took my mind off the road, I caught an edge (from concrete to gravel) and experienced my first wreck since the day I learned to ride a bike. No worries. I hopped right back on the bike, bloody knee and all, only to discover that my chain had broken during the fall. No problem. I was less than two miles from home. I could push the bike and still get home before the intense heat hit. Except that, while trying to take a short cut through the neighborhood, I turned down the wrong road and couldn't get through. I had to back track to the main road. Forty-five minutes later, I limped into the house. Of course I took a picture - and posted a smile on Facebook. I had to tell everyone about how I "fell" into cross training.
The rest of the day passed without incident. I babied my sore muscles and read the comments made to my Facebook posts. I had written about how great those challenges were and how grateful I was for the learning experiences and reminders to pay attention. Guess what. People "smiled" back. I received several messages from friends about how their day got better because I chose to share a positive "go-get-em" attitude. By sharing the light I felt, someone else's day improved. Despite being injured, my energy increased as I looked beyond what was "wrong" and focused on the things I wanted to do right.

During my scripture study that evening, I came across Mormon 9:14: "And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them;...he that is happy shall be happy still..." Wow. By choosing to be happy when things went wrong, my day not only improved, but I helped someone else feel joy.

Stuff happens. Stuff happens to everyone, all the time. As I come to better understand God's plan and who I am, moving through all the "stuff" becomes less of a burden. Nothing feels impossible and I can stand back and "comprehend the marvelous works of God" (Mormon 9: 21 - 25).

And...I can apply this lesson to my writing goals. When I get a rejection letter, I can choose to hide under the covers and cry and wish that I was a better writer, or I can plant my backside in a chair in front of my computer and practice writing until I get it right. I can hide my manuscripts under the bed and guarantee that I will never get published or I can put my work in front of editors and beta readers and learn from their comments. By choosing to keep going, someday I will hold my very own published work in my hands. And it will be another magnificent day.

Jun 25, 2014

Because There are Lobsters

H. Linn Murphy

I recently read a couple of posts which opined that the writers refused to read long-winded blog posts. In that vein, I've shortened.

This is my current list of excuses for not getting a thousand words written on my WIP today:

1. It's too hot to write. Volcanically hot. Keys are melting all over the place.
2. I'm blasted tired because I stayed up watching a wretched movie and daydreaming about a movie being made from my book.
3. My Hubs and daughter are on the fourth year hike and I can't concentrate for worry that they'll get heat stroke and kick off.
4. We've got armies of ants eating what little came up in the pathetic garden.
5. The kids keep turning on interesting things to watch including vampires, Scottish lairds, Canadian horsewomen, and curmudgeonly bookstore owners.
6. Dinner must be cooked before the turn of the next century. I'm considering haggis.
7. I keep forgetting that I challenged my friends to do one thing they'd never done before. I must quest for my own challenge. I'm considering chimneying up the hallway.
8. Dust bunnies are taking over the world--at least this part of it.
9. The stove covers need repainting.
10. I'm spring cleaning. Late, I know, but necessary. Tossing out old stuff has become very important since there is very little room left for humans.

The good thing is that I've got another fabulous idea for a book and I can now go and develop it.

Jun 24, 2014

Creativity and Self-doubt

 By Lucinda Whitney

Today we're talking about self-doubt:


As a creative person, I like to have feedback on my creations. For me, this means opinions on my writing and stories. Since I haven't published yet, the experiences I've had with feedback thus far are with beta readers. I had quite a few last year (about twelve of them) after I finished the first edits on my first book. Despite the corrections, I was highly encouraged by the positive responses to my characters and their story. It actually helped me stay on track knowing that readers had enjoyed it.

For published authors, the positive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, etc, are a good indicator that readers love their stories and characters.
But what do you do when the feedback is less than positive, even when the criticism is meant to help you grow? I tell you, it's hard to take and it leads to a lot of self-doubt. It's easy to fall into a pattern of "maybe I don't know what I'm doing", and "maybe nobody will ever like it". Self-doubt is like the seed of a weed—once it takes root, it's hard to yank it out.

Recently I got my manuscript back from my editor. I hired her on an excellent recommendation. She's experienced and I trust her experience and opinions. Plus, I know her goal is to help me with my story. She had lots of good things to say about my story, characters, setting, overall proper writing mechanics, but there were also lots of corrections. This is really why I hired her, to see where my problems are. But knowing this doesn't make it any easier to deal with those edits. And knowing the story so well with all the time I've spent working on it means I'm too close to it, and it's all too personal. I can see the problems but I can't see the solutions. Talk about major insecurity.

I was left with a simple decision—give up on my story, or believe I can make it better. As hard it was to think about it, it was also an easy decision to make: I believe in my story and characters, therefore I believe in continuing with the work, no matter how hard it is and how long it will take.

After talking it over with some writer friends, I concentrated on the positive and turned my back on self-doubt. I know it will still pop up unannounced, and more often than I care for, but keeping my goal and my belief in the story and characters are the reminders I need to not give up.  

What are some of the trusted ways you use to get over discouragement and self-doubt?

Jun 23, 2014

Happy Birthday to Anny!

By Stacy Johnson

I'm going to be out of town for the next two weeks so I'm sharing some posts from my personal blog until my life resumes its normally scheduled chaos.

Today I'm headed to camp with the YW in the ward and it is also the birthday of my youngest daughter. I sent her to stay the night with Grandpa and Grandma so I know her birthday will be a blast but I already miss her sweet face. We are blessed to be the parents of some seriously amazing kids and friends with some amazing people. Check out the new hand our friend made for our daughter born without fingers, it is totally rad.

You can read her story here.

“To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Jun 21, 2014

Everyday Quotes

by Cindy R. Williams

Like many of you, I have been fascinated by words for as long as I can remember. Quotes, in particular, resonate with me. I am on the look-out 24/7 for quotable sound bites I hear in everyday conversation. Here are two that came this week.

My nephew left for his mission this past Tuesday. He is the only child of my only sister. When I called to check on her heart, the best way she could describe her feelings was encapsulated in this rhyme she came up with.
"Fear not. Smile a lot."
She is surely a trooper as she rejoices in the kick in the gut as one let's go of her dearest child.

My mother and I go to lunch every Wednesday. This week she shared with me how difficult it can be getting old and having to figure out this new technology. She was referring to her new Cox Cable and how hard it is to learn a new system.
She smiled and said,
"I used to be a thinker . . . at least I thought I was."
Ponder this one. It is actually a great irony.

One last quote:
“God doesn’t require us to succeed. He only requires that you try.”  Mother Teresa
Great words to live by. Takes the guilt right out of things.

Are you a "Quote Collector" also?

Jun 20, 2014

Puppy lust

By Beckie Carlson
Before you get your tights in a wad over this blog title, let me explain a few things. 
When my husband was still alive, he did not appreciate home improvement shows. He still may not like them, but I'm not totally sure what stations they get in heaven. I, on the other hand, love watching these "totally realistic" transformations of rooms, homes, etc. I have always loved creating and art and doing things with my hands, so to see other people do that and make amazing things just excites me. 
One of my favorite shows for the past few years was Design Star. It was a bit like American Idol in that it featured 10-12 designers competing for their own show. Each week the designers would be presented with a challenge to decorate a room or house or shack...or whatever. They had very limited time and money to make something that was not only beautiful, but also unique and showed their personal flair. Someone must have told HGTV that I cancelled my cable this spring because they cancelled the show. I guess it was all for me.
The reason I bring up the home improvement shows and my husbands dislike for them is that he called them 'women's porn.' I know that is totally stereotyping but, that is what he called them. He explained by saying it was something women/homemakers lusted after but could never really have. Therefore, porn. I could see his point, but....secretly I believed I could really have those amazing homes and I could miraculously "do it myself." 
We all have those things in life that we just pine for. Things we think we MUST have, but really....we are never going to get. I'd really love to have a smooth, strong, feminine yet sexy jawline. I could pay for it....but I am pretty sure I would need to change my cheekbones after doing that and after the cheekbones, my nose would totally stick out. Pretty soon I would be Micheala Jackson, person of unknown facial origins. I'll keep my jaw, and all that goes with it, because it's who I am. Like it or not.
My dog begs for things she thinks she wants. She will sit and stare at you, watching you slowly lift food to your mouth, without blinking. She can sit and stare for hours. It's annoying, mostly because if I break in and give her a bite....she will spit it on the floor most times. She must have it...but she doesn't really want it.
I'm taking a good look at my life, for a few moments, and trying to see what I really want. What am I lusting after? Is there anything I really must have that I don't? I think I'm pretty content. Although, if they brought my designing show back....I might break into the neighbor's house to watch it....maybe....cause I said so. 

Photo credit: Facebook Josh Johnson AKA Sparkle Josh

Jun 19, 2014


By Susan Knight

I used to be a decent photographer and I have a decent camera. But, alas, it is not as convenient as my new iPhone. I had said I wanted a camera that was also a phone, but those were way too big to fit in my pocket. So, I settled for an iPhone. It fits in my pocket, but only has a so-so camera. Nevertheless, I use it all day long. I love the convenience.

While walking the dog, or perusing my gardens, I’m so happy I can spontaneously take pictures of my flowers as they bud. . .almost open. . .

 . . .then the next day open all the way. Serendipity!
Last week at the dog park, I marveled at the backdrop provided to us. My eyes took it in. Then I remembered I could take a picture with my iPhone. I wanted to share with my friends back east. I hoped they would be very jealous.
Sandy Dog Park
As I pulled out of the driveway early yesterday, just before the long day of soaking rains, the clouds skirting the bottom of the mountains looked eery. I quickly pulled out my iPhone at six-fifteen in the morning. My own eyes were bleery, but the picture below is clear. I love how the days are longer when summer is nigh.

 Last night, as I got home at about nine-thirty, the clouds cleared and revealed it had snowed in the mountains while it rained in the valley--a common occurrance--but in June? Someone referred to it as “Juneuary.” The picture below was taken through the windshield, through just a bit of drizzle, so it came out blurry. But I like it. It looks kind of like a painting. 

This photo is the same setting as the one above.

Tonight, just as I had decided to write about how much I love living in Utah with its beautiful mountains and skies, my iPhone rang. Number one son was on his way home from work.

“Hey, mom, I just thought I’d call you to tell you to go outside right now and look at the sunset."

I made haste and walked outside. My house faces north, so from my sidewalk I can see east and west. Bright yellows and coral oranges dotted the dark blue, western sky. But I noticed the brilliance fading quickly. I had to hurry to snap mementos of the vibrant display our Heavenly Father painted for us tonight, like He threw color from a brush at a canvas.
Looking west at about 9:00 p.m. Colors fading fast.
 The east reflected the west with an orange tinge to the clouds, still lingering from yesterday’s rain.

Looking east. Colors fading fast.
 Then I looked up.

Above my head.
A kaleidoscope of orange, purple and turquoise blue moved in a circular pattern across the sky right above my head. Beautiful and breathtaking. Beauthtaking.

I realize my iPhone camera can't do justice to the astounding nature all around me at every moment. I take time to let my eyes take it in and let my heart be grateful to my Heavenly Father. I hope I was on the sunset committee in the pre-existence, helping our Savior, the great Creator, who gave His life for us, so we can rejoice in every day we have here on this earth. I pray I am worthy of His sacrifice.

A Janice Kapp Perry song comes to mind: “And now behold, my joy is full.”

Jun 17, 2014

How do you explain the meat?

by Terri Wagner

I know people. Always thought that was a clever opening life. You immediately want to know who, why, etc. But I am already digressing...probably on purpose. This is a hard post to write because it is a tough subject to tackle. And yet I am going to have to share this with someone who may not want to hear, but needs to hear this.

There are times when we revel in the "milk" of the gospel. We share exciting or painful experiences with friends, family, sometimes strangers, and we are awed by how Heavenly Father answers us. At times without meaning to, we remind ourselves not to be too questioning by saying take it on faith, it's someone's free agency, move on, learn from it, it's God's will, etc. Those are truisms. They are a part of the gospel. But they are part of the milk of the gospel. The "meat" of the gospel makes you tremble with its dreadfulness and awesomeness...at least that's how I see it. But I shy away from sharing that meat. It's the meat that explains why a Sandy Hook happens, it's the meat that tells us about our own Sandy Hook's, it's the meat that separates us from the tares growing in our midst.

There are towering examples in the scriptures of those who faced and struggled with the meat of the gospel. Always Mormon comes to my mind first. He lived when his own people were in the throes of wickedness. He edited the scrolls, he defended his people knowing it was a lost cause, he wasn't even allowed to share the gospel with them. He was only able to give his son Moroni the scriptures to save, and bury for centuries until Joseph Smith was entrusted with them. I cannot imagine a prophet more grieved than he must have been, more saddened by what he was surrounded with daily, and yet who did his duty to his family, his people, and to us. I often wonder how he feels about those of us who have accepted and testify of his efforts that gave us the Book of Mormon. But he saw horror...a horror now too often portrayed on our media.

So how do you explain Sandy Hook, or a personal Sandy Hook? Please do not mistake this for comfort. I am not offering up simple platitudes which is about all you can do at first. Be with that someone, hug them, feed them, honor their grieving process. I'm talking about when they "wake" up again, after the horror has somewhat faded, when they really want and need to know why. When their need is so great, you feel it like a thing alive. Recently, after a long time, someone I know and love has asked that question. Why if Heavenly Father knew did He not warn me? Why if He knew it would happen, He didn't tell me? I can't believe in a God that would let this happen to me. I did everything right. I followed all the church advice. I did my duty, and I have a current temple recommend. "They" promised me repeatedly if I did the right things, I would be protected, I would be ok, this would never happen to me. What are the promises worth if that is not true? I did nothing to deserve this.

Believe me when I say the usual answers are not going to work now. The pain has been years in the growing. The situation never resolved. The questions deeper, more painful, more meat than milk. So how do I give the meat answer, and how do I know what it is. I did the usual to get the answer. I fasted, I prayed, I read my scriptures, I listened to the Holy Spirit. The answer flowed into me like a river running silent, angry, and deep. Not gentle, not smooth, overwhelming me, and yet so powerful I knew it for what it was.

Now comes the much much harder part. How do I share this? How do I explain that Heavenly Father at times will not warn the victim beforehand. That sometimes the scenario must play out. That free agency really means free agency to do an evil beyond our comprehension. That promises of safety are not necessarily meant for this life. That horror we cannot fathom is on our doorstep.

The person I need to share this with is ready in the sense that it is time for this to be said. But am I ready to share it?

Jun 14, 2014

Book Characters

by Christy Monson

We writers find our story characters from people all around us—including those we know and love. This mission of ours is providing a glimpse into a culture and, more importantly, lives that we would otherwise never see. Book characters present themselves at every turn.

One enthusiastic sister (let's call her Sally) had a hip replacement this past week. We are the ones caring for her because her kids all live in California. 

She tells us, "Most of my family members left here in Memphis are either too old or too young to help me, and I am fighting with the rest."

She has her surgery, and we are to be at the hospital when she wakes up. We think we have it timed right, but as we are getting into the car to meet her, the phone rings.

"Where is you? Y'all get down here! I needs help!"

The hospital is in inner city Memphis. We snake in and out of streets named after the Presidents—Adams, Monroe, Jefferson—until we find the hospital. We get free parking and the royal treatment because we are ministers. Everyone is so respectful of Christians in this part of the country.

As we get off the elevator on the fourth floor and walk toward the patient's rooms, we can hear Sally yelling clear down the hall. "Ohhhh! So much pain. They not giving me enough pain pills."

We walk in the room, and she repeats her moan and plea for pills. We hug, and she gives us a recap of all the proceedings  from the time she arrived at the hospital up to this moment. Her mood lightens, and we laugh.

Sally lives life LARGE and wears her emotions on her sleeve.

Soon her sister whooshes into the room. She's another living life LARGE person. She drops two big bags of fruit—oranges, apples, grapes, and bananas—along with a six-pack of Pepsi on the side board. "And junk food!" She laughs, bringing out an assortment of candy bars and chips.

I make a note. Sally is not fighting with everyone.

"Oh, give me some of them," says Sally. She reaches for a Pepsi, banana, and candy bar. I wonder how she can do this. She's only been out of the recovery room an hour.

These two sisters laugh and trade stories and talk about themselves. Their only volume is loud, and we are caught up in the grandness of it all.

The sister drives an eighteen-wheel rig. She hauls cross country with a base in Utah. "Those Utah people gave me a Mormon Bible."

"Book of Mormon," corrects Sally.

"No, a Mormon Bible with a blue leather cover," says her sister. "I like those Mormons."

I make a note. We'll get the young Elders over to Sally's house when her sister is there. (Missionaries focus on baptisms, so we are always thinking of potential converts.)

I tell Sally we need to go. We don't want to tire her, but I do need a photo. I pull out my phone, and Sally's sister literally runs to get in the picture. Her step dad has come also, so everybody's in.

What a zest for life! I think I'm enthusiastic, but I can't hold a candle to these wonderful people who devour life. They gobble it up in large hungry bites, wasting not a single crumb. What a blessing to get to know them. We are so grateful. 

Will they wend their way into my writing? They already have. :}

Jun 13, 2014


by Marsha Ward

Yesterday I set out to make sure all my blog posts were scheduled for this week, but EEK! I missed one blog!

This one.

Sometimes life gets pretty hectic. Moms know this. Summertime has its challenges in keeping each child occupied and content.

One person I admire a lot, my sister Pam, had a unique perspective on summer. She loved being with her children so much that she looked forward to its arrival! One summer the entire family was having so much joy in their summer activities together that when autumn approached, the family decided that they would begin to home school.

I don't remember how many years that lasted, but I know others of us followed suit. Those brilliant children deal well with life, thank you, in case you're worried about their "socialization."

Another year, our family and four of my siblings and most of our family members went on a huge caravan trip back east for two family reunions, one in Ohio and one in upper New York state. We always refer to this in the extended family as "The Big Trip," which it was. Many of us are pictured here on the east bank of the Mississippi River, at Nauvoo, Illinois.

That trip is one I'll never forget. Family bonds tightened. We learned much about our heritage. And the kids had a blast!

What do you do with your family in the summer? What is your favorite summertime memory?

Jun 12, 2014

Resumes and Miracles

by Kari Diane Pike

A number of events have taken place in the last 16 hours that have left me breathless - not the "I just ran a 5K in the 100 degree heat" kind of breathless - but the "I witnessed a miracle" breathless.

Ten hours ago (Wednesday night at 10:00 pm), I read an email from a sister in my ward that announced the opening of a part-time secretarial position for the Perry High School seminary. The moment I read the message, I felt a strong desire to look into applying for the job. But I doubted those thoughts and went to bed without following through. The prompting to contact Melanie returned as soon as I got out of bed this morning. I talked to my husband about it. I asked his opinion. As always, he offered his support for whatever I decided to do.

Right after breakfast and getting people out the door, I sat at the computer and shot off a message to Melanie saying that I was interested. Her reply:

"Send me your resume and I'll pass it on."

My what? Oops. Oh ya. A resume. You know - that all important document that gives vital information to potential employers. My confidence tucked tail and ran like a hound dog with a muzzle full of porcupine quills. Who was I to even consider applying for that job?

That's when the miracle started happening. I felt a gentle presence and, in my mind, heard an admonition to stop and think about what I felt. Fear. Where does fear come from? Who does it come from? Then I remembered my desire and promise to follow through on those thoughts and ideas that I know come from the Spirit. I remembered my desire to let go of how I thought things should happen and let the Lord direct my path. I always ask Him to guide me along the best path. I'm not nearly as good at listening and following through, so I have been working on that a lot more lately. But a resume? I didn't even know where a copy of my one and only resume could be found.

I knew I had started building a resume in a BYU class more than ten years ago. I completed that resume when I applied for my first "real" job in 2010.  That was four years and three computers ago. My husband's old work laptop was the most likely place to begin my search. I knew it contained back up files and I could also access the external drive that we use to store all that information. No resume, at least for me. I think I counted almost twenty for my husband. What I did find though was the name of the company for whom I had created the resume.

I held my breath as I typed "Thought Equity Motion" into the search box of my Gmail account. I hit "Enter." Success! There it was - my beautiful resume - attached to a hope-filled email I sent to the acquaintance who had suggested I apply as a keyworder. Of course, I immediately sent Technology a public apology via Facebook. I repented of all the bad things I had ever said about it.

I skimmed the resume and updated my education, job experience and other skills and contacted a couple of friends as references. I heard back from both people within minutes (I think I'm starting to crush on technology). One of those friends showered me with super kind words of love, encouragement and confidence. Then I remembered that today was my day to blog and when I logged in, I found even more lovely words from beautiful friends.

I don't  know what, if anything, will happen with this job application process. Other people far more qualified than myself are seeking the position. What I do know is that I am loved! I have amazing friends and a great safety net of support. I am not alone. The Spirit guides me along paths with breathtaking views. I feel humbled and more confident. I am more prepared because my resume is now up-to-date. I reconnected with even more friends who also shared love and light - and isn't that why we are here - to grow in light and love and share that light and love with others? I am here to help make the journey more magnificent. I was created by the Master - I am His work and His glory - and I am His masterpiece. And even though there are days when I feel more like a "piece of work" than a masterpiece, I can see that it's all part of a process. The shaping, curing, pruning, firing, and the knots that hold everything in place, all work together for my good - so that one day I can stand before God and hear Him say, "Well done."

Jun 11, 2014

The Skinny on Accepting Change

by H. Linn Murphy

I'm in the middle of getting my book SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO published with Walnut Springs. It has been a long process--much longer than I thought it would take.

Right now we're going through the editing process. My editor sent in a list of things she wanted me to change. So being the trooper, I did. This resulted in the whole first third of my book being a mass of underlines and cross-outs. We haven't done the second and third parts.

My editor wanted me to accept her changes globally. I had no idea what that meant other than for me to go through every change she made and think to myself, "Yeah, that sounds feasible," or "That's absurd! I'm not changing that."

It turns out that's not what she meant. On the edit menu of my manuscript, there is a button that says 'Changes'. If you go into the drop down menu it has several buttons: record, protect records, show, accept/reject changes, comment, and merge document.

I read about how to do this on-line after she told me to go check out how to accept changes. So I blithely went in and did it. What happens when you accept changes, is that all the editing marks go bye-bye. What she'd told me was that I needed to keep a record of my changes. Well I didn't think I needed a record of my changes, since those marks were right there on the page for me to read. In fact I still have them there in front of me. But apparently they go away for her.

To me it's all arcane. So in the future, I'm going to keep a record of my changes. When it comes time to accept her changes, I'm going to try to do exactly what she says, even if they are garbled and not very understandable. I'm going to accept the changes on a COPY so if all the marks go flinging off into the ether, at least I'll have my own copy.

I'm writing this so new authors won't go through this hideous nightmare. As it stands right now, if I can't figure out how to get her to see these changes I see in front of me, I'm going to have to stop waving my wand and doing rain dances and go back and re-do the WHOLE THING all over again. Not pretty. In that event I shall have not a single hair left on my head and there will be holes in the walls next to me.

Heed my warning, my young friends. Copy before you click. Read the directions like they're the Book of Mormon. And pray.

I just asked her if she wants me to merge the documents. I should soon hear if she, too, has gone bald and is running around in tight little circles moaning to herself.

Jun 10, 2014

How Many Edits Does a Story Need?

 by Lucinda Whitney

Hello, everyone! This is my first time posting here, and I'm excited for the chance. I write contemporary LDS romance set in Portugal, and I'm working through the edits of my first novel, which is coming out in January of 2015.

A common complaint I hear from readers against indie (or self-published) books is the lack of editing. With Amazon and other platforms making it so easy to publish, there are lots of writers who upload a book without any kind of edits, which is painfully obvious from the first few pages. There are also lots and lots of other writers who do work their most in making sure their book is the very best, which means rounds of edits, among other steps. In the last 2-3 years I've discovered new indie authors who have become my favorite ones to read and they are true professionals in every sense of the word. And, of course, being published with a traditional publisher is not a guarantee that said book will be free of editing mistakes. In fact, more and more I find traditionally published books with typos and mistakes that should be easy to correct, and it makes me wonder about the type of editing they do in those publishing houses. So the question is— how many edits does a story need? And what are those edits?


The first draft of a novel is the raw material, the potential. Like the quote says, it's the lump of clay waiting to be molded into something beautiful. It's not ready for the world and it needs to go through edits and revisions. What does this mean? Writers have different methods to do this, they have their own schedule and way of working, so I'm going to share how I'm doing it. It doesn't mean it's the right way or the wrong way; it's just what works for me. After finishing my manuscript, I read it straight through a couple of times to look for mistakes and unclear parts. I also started looking for beta readers and critique readers. What are these?

Some writers start out in critique groups, which means they belong to a group of other writers and they take turns critiquing each others' works. There are many advantages to this, one of them being that it helps to grow the craft of a writer. I didn't belong to such a group, but I'd been starting to make connections with other writers on Facebook groups. I had also joined the local chapter of the League of Utah Writers. I asked some of these friends if they'd have the time to read my story, and when they agreed to it, I sent it to them (in most cases, I later reciprocated the favor and read for them). The word beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet, and in the writing world a beta reader means the second person to read the story (the writer is the first one, obviously). Sometimes these betas are other writers who write in similar genres, and other times they're readers in the target market for your book, which means they read a lot of books in that genre, and are very familiar with the ins and outs of it. This is good because they can point out the things that don't work in your story.

Simply put, my immediate goal in having beta and critique readers was to find out if my story was absolute crap or if it had any merits and potential. I sent it to four writers and the initial feedback was quite positive. I applied some of their suggestions, and then sent it out to four other beta readers for more general opinions, did another round of edits, and sent it out again to four other beta readers. All in all, I had twelve beta readers (with a mix of writers and genre readers) in three rounds of four with revisions in between. I then put my manuscript aside for six months while I worked on other projects (I started writing my second novel and a novella).

I also started looking for an editor, a free-lance professional editor. In my research about editing I learned there are developmental (or content) editors, copy editors, and proofreaders (when working with traditional publishers, there are also acquisition editors and contract editors, but I'll skip those since I'm publishing my book independently). What does it all mean?
  • Developmental or content editors look for mistakes and inconsistencies in characterization, structure, plot, conflict, and pacing of the story.
  • Copy editors deal with punctuation and grammar, sentence structure, consistency errors, and technical considerations (when needed).
  • Proofreaders take the last sweep, so to speak, and they look for mistakes, typos, formatting problems, and double check corrections.
Most editors will do a free sample edit to see if you're compatible. I highly recommend a sample. I sent about six or seven samples to different editors, and I found those editors through recommendations from writer friends and authors whose style and books I love. I asked around a lot, took my time with research and the edit samples, and when I found my editor, I knew she was the right one for me.

Obviously, this is a process that takes time, but I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and I'm on my own timeline. That's one of the advantages of indie publishing—I can make my own schedule, and take the time to work through the edits. In the end, my book will be much better than that first draft was, and it will show for it.

If you're a writer, what part of the editing process is your favorite? And if you're a reader, does a poorly edited book keep you from liking the story?