Feb 28, 2015

ANWA Writers Conference 2105
Time Out For Writers
by Cindy R. Williams

Left to right, two ANWA Conference attendees, 
Brandon Mull, Tiffany Williams and me, plus half of another attendee.

Cu do's to Janette Rallison and Rebecca Lamoreaux for a job well done in chairing the 2015 ANWA Writers Conference. Thanks also to the Conference Committee and the ANWA BOD and many volunteers for their hard work. It takes a village for sure.

It looks like the conference paid for itself which is critical. Most of the presenters/faculty received high 8 - 10 scores in their evaluations.  Which means we learned a ton about the writing field.

The two key note speakers were INCREDIBLE.

Regina Sirois, an Amazon Breakthrough First Novel winner, (over 10,000 entries) gave incredible council about choosing and climbing your own mountain, and not diminishing your accomplishments by looking over at someone else climbing a higher mountain. We set our own goals and when we reach them, we ARE good, even good enough. I am butchering her beautiful, calm, inspiring message, so I ask you to look her up and see what she has to say about writing and life. She is an amazing person.

Brandon Mull, the NY Times Best Selling author of the Fable Haven Series, The Candy Shop Wars, and the Beyonders was delightful. He is personable and has this funny giggle and uses it often as he speaks. It is one of those laughs that makes you laugh. He would say something, giggle and we would laugh with him, which made him giggle harder, which made us laugh harder. His journey was so like every writers journey, yet with his own personal twists and turns. He had five years of rejections before someone finally showed an interest. He spends 12 - 13  hours a day on his craft, sacrificing family time and is searching for that magic balance like we all are. He is often on the road with book tours. His time at our conference was the tail end of a three week trip away from his family.  I picked his brain at the Gala Friday night and asked him more about this. He seemed sad about the toll it was taking on his family. He is out doing school visits, which he says he loves, but while he is entertaining all these wonderful children, he is missing his own children's big moments with sports, music etc. I could see the struggle in his face. One thing he said that I have now adopted is that we can each find at least ONE HOUR to write everyday. So far so good. This one hour a day thing has freed me up from guilt. I CAN rearrange my schedule for this one hour. It is not a huge sacrifice. I don't need Candy Crush for a little respite/break from life. I need to write. Love it!

ANWA Conference is one of the best values for the dollar. Other conferences are up to 10 times the cost. I challenge each of us to set aside $15-20 each month in our ANWA Conference WISH JAR. It is one of the best investments we can do for our writing.

I hope to see ALL of ANWA there February 17 or 18 through 20, 2016.

Feb 26, 2015

The Musings of an Overgrown Teenager

by Andilyn Jenkins

This past week, I went to the annual ANWA Writer’s Conference, which brought me to self-evaluate not just my writing, but all my goals and aspirations. Where do I want to be? And what am I doing to get there?

I am twenty-five. Which means I am old enough to have children but young enough to still act like one. I am old enough to balance a checkbook but young enough to still blow spending cash on new clothes. I am old enough to admit my naivety but young enough to be bold regardless. I am old enough to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. but young enough to stay out until 2:00 a.m. with the right group of girls. I am old enough that I see my future in long-term but young enough that I still believe anything is possible. Young enough to dream. Old enough to fight against dreams in the name of comfort and familiarity.

I see that to the world I’m just a baby. But I don’t feel like a baby. I feel like the clock is ticking and the historians are waiting for me to make my mark, and I’ve already waited too long. But I suppose the feeling that mankind is waiting, pen poised for my first step is the epitome of that self-absorbed time we call youth. So, I am a baby? After all, I’m only twenty-five. Right?

Time to go pick out a mountain. #ANWAcon15

Feb 24, 2015

I don't like this

by Terri Wagner

as Dr. Seuss would say. As you all know I've been in the process of moving into a trailer. Well, Elvis has left the building and is not happy about it. My TV no longer has the ability to DVR. Why????? The exclusive Internet provider in this area has to hook up a land line to provide me with at best spotty Internet, why???? The dealer messed up the paperwork so our first date to pay came and went without anyone, including the dealer, knowing who was supposed to pay who, why???? Of my two labs, one has decided she prefers the house and finds it necessary to leave the trailer at 4ish in the am, why???? The guest bathroom has a ton of space, the master ensuite (you cannot call it a master bathroom) has none to speak of, why???? And the small guest bedroom has 6 electrical outlets, why???? Neither bathroom sports a toilet paper holder, why????

Do you find yourself completely floored at the lack of professionalism these days. Was it always around, and I just never noticed? Has it gotten worse? Am I just discovering the woes of mobile home living? I go around the trailer finding things that just astonish me. And I'm a bit disappointed in Kota LOL. I need her company doesn't she know that?!

This rant did not feel good as on top of all, I find living alone as yucky as I found it before. Who wants to listen to the sound of their own voice? Why would I care what I think? I already know. It's a bummer, lending a form of street cred to Heavenly Father's wisdom that it isn't good to be alone.

How can we bring professionalism to our writing? I was thinking of this after reading Christy Monson's blog entry about John Clease's words. Even a comic has to have a certain amount of professionalism. I once read Joan River's autobiography about how she spent hours on her material for The Tonight Show. Like her or not, she took her comedy seriously.

When we pitch our book, do we look desperate or professional? Do we use effective marketing words? Do we come across as knowledgeable about our genre? In short, do we put the time and effort in our writing we need to be treated professionally? I just cannot help but think it will make a difference. Going back to the beginning of my rant, how do I respond to the dealer as a professional? How do I get DirecTV to give me DVR privileges, and shall I consult with Cesar Milan over Kota or just give Daisy extra love for hanging out with me?

Feb 21, 2015

Creating Creative Circumstances

John Cleese goes on to describe the circumstances which must exist to be in the 'open' creative mode.
1.                  Space. We must have a quiet undisturbed space where we can be alone and uninterrupted.

2.                  Time. We must carve out a specific amount of time to work. He suggests that an hour and a half is an optimal amount of time. After we've worked that long, we need a break. This time period must have a beginning and an end. We can come back later if we wish.

3.                  Time. We must take time to stick with a problem to get the best results. If we're looking for a quick fix, we don't get the best results. Sometimes we have to put up with a feeling of unrest and agitation—wrestle  with a problem—before the very best ideas come.

4.                  Confidence. We must have confidence in ourselves and our process. Fear is the greatest enemy to the creative process. We cannot be open to new ideas if we are worried or if we doubt our spontaneity. Here I have to put in a plug for a great critique group. My group is wonderful (as I've said before). We are all positive in what we say and do there. It's a synergistic group that is to die for. Hope you all create groups just as wonderful.

5.                  Humor. We will become open more quickly with humor. Laughing relaxes us and puts us in a good mood. Therefore, inviting an open mind. 

These are all good ideas, and I will use them from time to time, maybe even on a regular basis, but I don't believe this is the only formula that works for creativity. We each have our own method. One is not right and the other wrong. We each find the ways that work best for us. 

Happy Creativity!

Feb 19, 2015

Made in Heaven

by Kari Diane Pike

A friend on Facebook posted this meme:

On those days when you don't feel like a queen and you don't feel like a masterpiece, just remember...He's not quite finished making you yet. ~Brad Wilcox

Some days I do feel like a queen - like when my seventeen-year-old son takes me on a date and treats me to my favorite Frost dark chocolate gelato. Or when I see my grandchildren's eyes light up when I walk into their home. Other days, I feel like the hairball my cat threw up on my new comforter. The day I read that quote was one of those days. 

But reading Brother Wilcox's words brought a picture to my mind. Do you remember how in Toy Story, Andy wrote his name on the bottom of Woody's boot? That quote brought this picture to my mind:

And you know what? I feel like a queen again. 
Life is magnificent!


Feb 17, 2015

Don't sweat the small stuff

by Marsha Ward

Somebody on a Facebook Group for authors recently mentioned how tormented he/she was to see their cover art used on another book. That's the breaks of using stock images.

I've seen the exact image my designer used for Spinster's Folly, maybe on a website, or maybe it was a cover for somebody's Facebook Page. Here's an example I saw this week of someone else manipulating a specific element for cover art. It doesn't bother me. It's a totally different cover/look.


As you can see when you compare the two images, the other designer flipped the image of the girl, changed the skirt, changed the face, moved the arm away from the body and added a hand. Nice work!

One of my mother's favorite sayings was "Don't sweat the small stuff." By that, she meant to say that there are many things in life to deal with, but the "small stuff" is certainly less important to waste brain power on than big things. Another way of putting this would be "Pick your battles."

So what if another author or cover designer also buys the same image that shows up on your cover! Just make sure that each book you write is outstanding!

Feb 14, 2015

Valentines Day

by Cindy R. Williams

This year is a different Valentines Day for our family. Usually I think of spending some time with my husband, but for the past eight months we have his mother living with us 24/7 so things have changed drastically. M-I-L has Alzheimer's. Every day is a strange day. You think you have a pattern or things figured out then she acts entirely out of character or better said, she acts like a character which is, in fact, the norm.

We have invited the two siblings that live in town to take a turn on Saturdays and spend some time with their Mom. They didn't sign up to care for her so it isn't their responsibility. They're too busy. She has become nothing but a nuisance to them. Besides, their wives don't even like her, so the sons would get "stuck" with her and they are uncomfortable with how strange she has become.

They don't get that you need a break. They think you're just whining. And besides, they didn't sign up to care for her so it isn't their responsibility. They're too busy. She has become nothing but a nuisance to them. Besides, their wives don't even like her, so the sons would get "stuck" with her and they are uncomfortable with how strange she has become.

Heartbreaking, to say the least for my dear M-I-L. None of them will go with me to any training classes or her doctor appointments. Now, having cried over my milk here, I must add that one brother does visit her twice a month from three to five hours each time. However, according to the wife, M-I-L is not allowed to sleep at their house, so no over-nighters. Good thing my side of the family with no blood relation to my M-I-L is stepping in to give us a little relief. My own father died of Alzheimer's and they understand the importance of family support for the primary care-giver.

Feb 12, 2015

Sugar Cookies and Lotion

by Andilyn Jenkins

My knuckles are stingling (who loves my hybrid?). I’ve been baking, decorating, and packaging sugar cookies all day long, and because I’m coming down with a cold, I’ve been washing my hands in hot water at least every twenty minutes for most of the day. Finally, at 2:30 a.m., I packaged the last of the cookies, washed my face for bed, and put on two rounds of lotion. And now, as I look into the kitchen and type through my stingly fingers, I revel in my hard work. The kitchen light is reflecting off of the dozens of bags of pink cookies and making my light grey walls blush. And I sit here, blogging, thinking about how much I really love being a mom. Let me explain.

Being a stay-at-home mom means I wake up each morning with a full day to use as I see fit. Of course, I have obligations to meet, like taking the kids to school, or fulfilling community and church roles, but I’m not accountable to anyone about how I choose to spend my day, which gives me a sense of freedom regardless of the many demands I include in my schedule.

Because I am a stay-at-home mom, I can host a bake sale with my daughter for Valentine’s Day to earn money for a family trip to Disneyland. I can train to become a Zumba instructor. I can blog once every-other-week. I can go to the ANWA Writer’s Conference. I can spend the entire day just playing with my kids. I can go for a bike ride to the park. I can have a picnic. I can take my kids and fly to California to visit my dad. I can pick my favorite meal for dinner, whenever I want. I can read books. I can take piano lessons. I can go to the gym. I can be in a play. I can be a youth group leader. Because I am a mom, I can do anything.

Now, none of these things are easy for me to do. And many of them require an extremely supportive husband and family (which I’m very blessed to have). But I feel like Motherhood is the career of endless possibilities. Every day, I wake up and have to organize my own time, set my own deadlines, and create my own objectives. And the harder I work, the more of myself I dish out, the more I see back—whether it be in pink-frosted sugar cookies, a healthy self, or giggly children.

So today? I’m tired. But I really love being me.

Feb 10, 2015

Don't Change Your Character Please

by Terri Wagner

If your character is supposed to be moral, please keep his moral compass true. I got involved in a series (14 books long) where nearly all the major characters (there were actually several) changed their moral compasses often. In Dragons and Dungeons lingo, if you are neutral good, then you stay neutral good. Unless you evolve.

In this series, the characters did not evolve as much circumstances "caused" them to alter their morals for that situation. Then later confronted with a different circumstance, a character would go back to a high moral compass. Drove me nuts. So much so that I actually found a online blog that summarized each chapter of each book with comments. That's how I found out what happened without actually reading the books. Most of the comments offered up the exact same problems I had with the book. Kinda surprised me that I was not alone since the series is extremely popular in its genre. Best not to name names, LOL.

As an editor, I find myself telling an author, you have changed this character, they can't change back, are you sure you want to go down this road? I realize you want your character to evolve, and a good one was Harry Potter. He grew up, became a teenager, things got grayer until he found his own moral compass. I like stories where the hero/heroine find their moral compass. Starting out good, and turning bad is acceptable, because some people lose their way due to circumstances and become caught up in their shall we say evil ways. And turning from bad to good is fine. But going back and forth brings a dimension to the book that simply does not work, especially in certain genres.

Always keep in mind your end user...the reader. Make sure they are going to be happy with your characters' journey. Nothing makes or breaks a piece of fiction when the main character changes moral compasses the way some people change hair color, or clothes, or eye color, or...well I will not belabor the point.

Have you read a book where the moral compass changed too often to make it even believable?

Feb 7, 2015

Mormon Women and Creativity

As I listened to more of John Cleese's ideas on creativity, I have developed a theory of my own about how women authors, even Mormon women authors, can and do expand on his theory.
He believes that creativity is a way of operating. We must take time away from daily activities and get ourselves in an open, playful, childlike mood without pressure in order to be creative. I'm sure many of you are chuckling right now. There is no way you can take time out of your busy day for this.

He uses the word 'open' to describe the creative mood. So how come many of you are successful authors when you have lots of small children, multigenerational family responsibilities, church obligations, and the myriad of other daily activities?
How many times to you hear your author friends say they were peeling potatoes and got such wonderful inspiration? That is an oft-told story in our community. (Maybe we just peel more potatoes than other people.)

Reasons why I thing we are creative amidst our busy lives:
1.         Women in general are open to new ideas. We have to be or we wouldn't know how to handle the crazy things our kids do every day.
2.         Women can multitask. Because we keep a lot of balls in the air every day, we are good at doing several things at once.
3.         Women are great listeners. Since we have developed the ability to listen to those around us, we are also able to hear what our subconscious has to say to us when it speaks.
4.         Women—especially Mormon women—have the gift of the Spirit. We know that the Spirit will teach us the truth of all things, call all things to our remembrance, and guide us in all we do. 
So, when it comes to creativity, there are many ways to receive inspiration. We can sequester ourselves away to augment our creativity, but we also find that ideas—even great ideas—come while we are peeling potatoes and wiping runny noses.

Your thoughts on this process:                      

Feb 5, 2015

Letting Go of Broken Cisterns

by Kari Diane Pike

I had a magnificent experience because of last week's Sunday school lesson about the woman at the well (John 4:3 - 30). In one verse, the woman of Samaria questions why the Savior would take notice of her. Not only was she a woman, but her people were looked down on by the Jews. And yet, Jesus not only showed  her compassion, He shared with her "living water" - the doctrines of the gospel and the love of God. He testified of Himself as the Messiah. And then,

...The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (John 4:28 - 30)

She left behind her water pot - a symbol of worldly things that, like a broken cistern, can't hold the things I truly need. Another significant point that stood out is the way the woman of Samaria went to the city and shared her news of the Messiah with the very people she seemed to be avoiding by going to the well later in the day.

During my study time, I thought about my own struggles. What things in my life - what broken cisterns - am I willing to give up in order to follow the Savior and share His news with others? I had decided to make that question a point of fasting. I had no idea that the answer to my prayer would come so quickly.

As the ward choir director, I am frequently asked to lead the hymns during Sacrament meeting. Such was the case last week,  and the music chairman sent me a text to let me know that she had asked my niece Megan to play the organ. I couldn't remember ever having seen Megan play the organ. She played the piano beautifully and often accompanied the choir, but playing the piano is the not the same as playing the organ. No worries. I knew other people would be there who would be able and willing to play, if needed.

When I walked into the chapel, Megan already sat at the organ playing a prelude hymn. At the end of the song, she walked over to the display board for the hymns the congregation would be singing during Sacrament meeting. I stood next to her to help and expressed my appreciation for her musical talents.

"Megan! I don't think I've ever seen you play the organ before. Thank you for always being so willing to help."

"I've never done it before. I can play the notes, but I don't know what stops to use. I just try to hold the notes a little extra long so that they sound smoother. I'm kind of nervous, but it's okay."

And she was right. It was more than okay. During the passing of the Sacrament, I thought about the courage it took for Megan to accept the opportunity to serve the Lord. And I smiled.

The woman at the well gave up her broken cistern of fear of what other people thought of her and spread the word that she had seen the Messiah. Many people followed Christ because of her testimony. Megan's willingness to play the organ gave her the opportunity to learn and serve and blessed her with stronger faith, confidence, and an increase in talent. Her example of courage blessed me with a desire to leave behind my own fears and insecurities so that I can better serve my Savior.

Fear of what others think of me, feelings of inadequacy, fear of giving offense, fear of ridicule - all these empty cisterns only serve to hold me back from my full potential. Sacrificing fear in order to partake of greater blessings and help others find the same joy sounds like a pretty good deal.


Feb 3, 2015

Pain and Patience Redux

by Marsha Ward

Two weeks ago, I mentioned the journey I've been going through with an arm injury. Since then, I had reached a measure of wellness that I thought was going to be great! Then I did too much again...

I'm back to square seventeen.

One thing I've noticed is that if I take it easy and let the arm heal, I'm fine. Then I'll feel better and get a burst of "Yes! This is over!" enthusiasm, and suddenly I've taken my healing back a step or two. How will I know when I've finally achieved a complete wellness?

I don't know. In the meantime, I can only wait for some kind of whisper that all is now complete, and that I may resume all the previous activities I enjoyed, without being overly cautious. I plod away with my voice-to-text software, trying to keep up headway in my writing career. I'm paying a steep price for this lesson: I won't be participating in as many outside activities as I had hoped, but perhaps the time I've had to spend in reading mode will be instructive and rewarding in the end.

Have you struggled with an injury or a health issue that made you cut back and attempt to become more patient and introspective? Tell us how this has impacted your life.