Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Day of the Year

Whoa! It's halfway through the last day of the year and I'm just barely blogging. I guess I've been too busy thinking about lots of things; my new year's resolutions, what my plans are for tonight, and what I was doing ten years ago today. (Because ten years ago today was the last day of the last thousand years, and I wondered what would happen with all the Y2K hype going around. I was also ten years younger, and ten years less wise. I had two less children as well, and the idea of becoming an author one day hadn't been sparked yet.)

But somewhere along the line between ten years ago and today, I decided that I wanted to become an author. So when a story idea came to my mind, and I wrote it all down, I had dreams of seeing it in a book one day. When that didn't happen, I gave up my dream of becoming a published author for a while, until my next story idea came to mind. This time around, though, I was determined to see it published, and I dreamed about what it would be like to see the contents of my brain's imagination in a book that I could hold in my hands.

But whether or not I realized it, I set goals to see that happen. For four years, every time a new year came, I would write as my new year's resolution, "Finish my novel and get it published." Finally I did accomplished my goal, but it took longer than I wanted.

As I reflect back on how it all happened, I realize there were some different ways to set goals that would have made my journey a little smoother. Maybe even chopped off three years. (I guess I won't really know, because it all worked out and I learned a lot along the way.)

One thing I learned about setting goals is that they need to be attainable, by breaking a large goal down into smaller goals. For example, I would like to have another novel completed and in the works to be published by the end of 2010. I first need to break it down into smaller, more attainable goals, like completing a chapter a week. That way I can feel satisfaction in accomplishing a mini-goal, and that sense of accomplishment is something that keeps me going. Otherwise, I think I would feel overwhelmed and just give up.

My goals also need to be flexible. For instance, is it reasonable to expect myself to keep my writing goal during Christmas? Not in my case. I decided to take the week off. I have also found that my goals need to work for the type of person I am. Everyone is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

It also helps to write goals down. There's a sort of magic feeling that's generated when you write a goal on paper and an even better feeling when you can cross it off after it has been accomplished.

This concept of goal setting carries over into any goal, no matter what it is; getting into shape, learning something new, or achieving exaltation. When you look at the big picture, look at the little steps that need to be taken in order to get there, and recognize that accomplishing little goals along the way brings a whole different kind of satisfaction that helps to keep us moving to the big picture.

Now, I better get back to my goal of making New Year's Eve plans so I'm not doing nothing all night, and I wish you all a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Enhance Your Writing with Writing Devices

by Rebecca Talley

You can change the mood of a scene by employing some writing devices.

For example, if you're writing a tense scene in which the protagonist is threatened, short, choppy sentences will enhance the feeling you’re trying to create. Fast-paced scenes need shorter sentences to convey stress and anxiety. Think of a quickened heartbeat and you get the idea of how you might construct your sentences for that effect.

Conversely, if you’re writing a love scene you’ll want to have longer, flowing sentences to add to the romantic feel of the passage. Draw the scene out by using more words, even flowery descriptions, to communicate a sense of love and romance. Take your time, don't rush the words.

Other writing devices include:

Alliteration: using several words with the same beginning sound/letter. Example: “Across the arid Arizona desert she argued with herself for allowing him to confuse her again.”

Onomatopoeia: the word consists of the sound it makes. Example: “I heard the whoosh of the water a moment before it hit me.”

Anaphora: using the same word or phrase to begin three or more consecutive sentences. Example: “He knew she loved him. He knew she couldn’t live without him. He knew it was only a matter of time and she’d be his.”

Asyndeton: when using a list of three or more items, omit the conjunctions. Example: “I was happy, jubilant, carefree, innocent.”

Polysyndeton: using conjunctions, such as “and” or “or,” multiple times in a sentence. Example: “She talked on and on and on.”

Epizeuxis: repeating the same one or two words for emphasis. Example: "She was filled with regret. So much regret. Too much regret."

Epistrophe: using a key word or phrase at the end of successive sentences. Example: “She opened the front door, afraid he might be there. She tiptoed to the bedroom, afraid he might be there. She checked the bathroom, afraid he might be there.”

After you’ve written your first draft and it’s time to edit, you may want to include some of these writing techniques to enhance your writing.

For more articles on writing you can check out my website:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reaching For Attainable Goals

By Nichole Giles

I’ve been thinking this weekend about goals. With the impending New Year, I suppose it’s a subject that can’t really be avoided.

My husband and I have maintained a gym membership for over six years. While neither of us is able to go every single day, we’re of the “waste not” variety, and refuse to pay for something we never use. So we try to go as often as possible, which usually ends up being three or four times a week. We’ve noticed that every year between January and March there’s a surge of new members who crowd the parking lot and hog the equipment. Then sometime around the end of March, the crowd starts to die out, and by May, gym attendance is back to normal.

Every year we speculate about the whys and hows of this phenomenon. See, to attend the gym for even a few months, you have to sign a contract. Usually, these contracts span for a year minimum, often more like two or three, and require either a large up-front payment, or monthly installments that cannot be canceled once the responsible party signs on the dotted line. So why do people pay for gym memberships and then only use them for a few months?

There are probably thousands of reasons, and each person has a different one, but in my mind I can’t help but wonder if people make goals for themselves that sound great to their ears, but may be impossible to physically attain. Did they perhaps plan to lose fifty pounds in three months? And if that isn’t working out, do they then get discouraged and quit? Or were they planning on having a firm, cellulite free figure after attending twenty fitness classes, only to realize that their goal will require much more effort than just those few classes?

It may sound crazy, but we all do this to ourselves. As the New Year looms, we set goals, planning for our future. And of course we set our standards high, sometimes not knowing what we’re asking of ourselves. That is the only way to get the things we most want in life, right? But sometimes, I think it’s better to set smaller goals that we can actually reach.

For instance, rather than setting a goal to get a big publishing contract, complete with a half-million dollar advance, maybe we should consider making a goal to first finish the rough draft of a manuscript. Or finish the edits and submit to fifty different agents or publishers. Or maybe that’s even too much. For some, a daily goal is better. Perhaps a certain number of words written every day, or every week. Maybe the trick is to set aside certain hours on days when we can focus on just writing—even if it’s only in a journal.Whatever you do, make sure you're exercising your writing muscles.

None of us has any control over whether or not an agent or editor will accept what we send them, but we can decide to how many and which ones we submit. It’s important to make goals over which we actually have control, rather than goals which depend on the tastes, timing, and whims of others.

As you’re getting ready to make your goals for 2010, remember to make goals you can reach along with your highest hopes. Sometimes, it’s the small steps that remind us we’re moving forward.

Good luck with setting your personal and writing goals.

Happy New Year, and write on.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Writing Gift

One thing I have always loved to write is church talks. I don't even give them in church. I just write them. Richard G. Scott once called this type of thing..storing up treasures of knowledge. Writing down the sacred things I've learned helps me to organize the thoughts and principles of the gospel in a way that is more concrete than just thinking about them in my head. I like to keep them in a special journal, saving them for a future date to give to my children. They're my own little "Plates of Brass". I write those sacred things in the hopes that someday they will be of value to my children. I believe it helps me in my secular writing endeavors as well. Being able to record things in a meaningful way helps me to put more heart into my other writing, and it helps me learn to touch and inspire others with my writing at a deeper level.

Someday I will pass these treasures of knowledge on to my children. And I believe it will be the most important writing I've ever done.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas.

JoAnn Arnold

I know I should be writing from the author part of my brain, but I just got back from buying all the food items I will be needing to make the tummies of 6 grandsons and 3 granddaughters content, along with their parents, and the only thing I can think about is the joy of Christmas and the birth of the Savior. I once asked myself "If I was on the earth when christ was born, would I have believed?"

He performed miracles. He healed the sick. He raised the dead - yet there were those who scorned him.

He brought comfort to those he touched. He taught us patience through his patience. He taught us love through his love for us - a love so deep that he died for us - yet there were those who turned away from him, even his own disciples.

Where would I have stood? I pray that it would be the very place where I stand today. Beside him.

My youngest son, Kray, served a mission in Bulgaria when Bulgaria was first open to the missionaries. His experiences were remarkable and emotional. The people he taught hungered for the teachings of Christ. When Communism took away their freedom to worship, many years before, they could not even speak of Christ. In fact if they were asked if they believed in Christ and their answer was "Yes," they were shot.

Because they would not deny Christ, they made a decision that would save their lives. from that day "no" would mean "yes" and "Yes" would mean "no." Now, when the soldiers asked, "Do you believe in a Christ?" they would simply shake their heads 'no', and the soldiers would let them pass. Communision could not take Christ from them. They held him in their hearts until they could worship him opening, once again.

Our freedom is a special gift, a miracle from a loving Heavenly Father.

Christmas is the season to recognize all of the blessings and the miracles that have been given to us, so I want to put on my author's cap and say that I believe that we, as authors, have been given the blessing or perhaps the miracle of imagination so that we can write stories of value in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Just as Pres. Uchtdorf said, "The more you rely on the spirit, the greater your capacity to create."

I believe that is true . . . no, I don't just believe, I know that is true, and I think all of you know that too.

So my christmas wish to you is this; Do not pray for tasks equal to your power. Pray for power equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, you shall be the miracle." (I don't know who penned these words but I know whoever did, was inspired).


Monday, December 21, 2009

But you promised!

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about promises. Not promises between couples, or parent and child, but the promise between a writer and a reader. Every story makes a promise to the reader. I argue that it's a two-part promise: emotional and intellectual. We are drawn to books that promise what we are looking for. I pick up a light, fun story when I don't want to think too hard and just want to escape. When I want to better myself, I pick up a self-help book. And when I want to be a little scared I'll pick up something a little darker.

For published books the promise begins before the first word. It's in the title, the cover, and the back cover or jacket copy. Look at these book covers, for example.

This will have adventure, elements of fantasy, and probably some fighting.

With this book you'll be able to fit in that slinky black dress hanging in the back of your closet.

This is most likely a romance. Probably with at least one wedding in it.

A suspense/thriller.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think this is paranormal, and probably with a humorous twist.

You can see how the titles and covers give a promise. It's the marketing department's job to take care of the cover/blurb promise. Once you brand your name and/or series, then that gives your readers a promise, too. That's why it's not a good idea to try and genre hop too much. (At least at first, then you become Nora Roberts and can do whatever in the world you feel like.)

As a writer, you give the readers a promise. The first word, the first paragraph, the first page, and the first chapter all give that promise. In a non-fiction book you better make sure your promise is stated clearly by the end of the first chapter. In fiction it's not spelled out as clearly, but there is still a promise.

I try hard in my writing to live up to the promise set down in the first chapter. And if the book veers off on its own course, I want to make sure and go back to the beginning and tweak my promise. Because readers expect you to keep your promise. And they will put the book down in disgust if you don't.

Or, if they're like me, they will throw the book across the room. *To the library: I apologize profusely. But it's not my fault!

So why am I talking about the writer/reader promise? Because I'm very angry at Dean Koontz.


I used to read quite a bit of Dean Koontz, and he has written some truly creepy stories. But it's been a while, and I wanted to renew our relationship so I picked up this book. The back cover copy sounded pretty good, in a creepy Koontz way. Something about a dead woman stalking the man who got her heart in a transplant. And the almost freaky eyes of the woman on the cover boded well.

Unfortunately, Dean broke his promise in a big way. I gave you 100 pages Mr. Koontz --100 pages!!-- and it is boring, boring, B-O-R-I-N-G. I get it your main character has lots of disturbing dreams. After the second dream I got it. No need to beat a very dead horse. And I know the whole "heart" concept is a theme throughout the book, but if I had to read any more heart metaphors I just might wish my own to stop beating. I was a third through the book and the character hadn't even been put on the heart transplant list yet, for crying out loud.

I refuse to read anymore. I might pick up Koontz's next book in case this was a mid-life crisis mistake or something. Maybe

Note to writers: Do. Not. Do. This. (Please, for all that's good in the world of writing!)

Especially if you're not as big as Dean Koontz; readers will give you less of a chance. So figure out your promise and keep it!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is it that time again already?

By Trina Boice

Is it that time again already for another shameless plug?  YES!!!   I'm thrilled to announce the launch of my 8th book, just one month after my 7th book hit store shelves!  YAY!   No, I don't really write them that fast...that just happens to be the timing of their publication.

Life is all about timing, I've decided.  I've known writers who have spent years trying to get their manuscripts published and then, when the book finally hits the market, people call the writer an "overnight success."   The common thread I see that groups successful writers together is persistence.  Even the most talented writer can remain unpublished if he stops believing in his work and gives up in the "hurry up and wait" world of the business of book publishing.

My newest book is one that I started over 2 years ago.  Its journey involved a change of publishers, where it has finally found its home at Cedar Fort!  The book was created to help LDS Cub Scout leaders combine the Primary's "Faith in God" award requirements with the overwhelming myriad of Cub Scout achievements.   Like all of my other books so far, this one offers a giant brainstorm of ideas to help the devoted leader who is outrageously busy. 

The Cub Scout program is very sweet, bringing families together and providing memorable activities that bind hearts.   I became a "Den Mother" when my oldest son was just 7 years old.  He wanted to be a Tiger Cub Scout, but because LDS packs don't sign up boys until they're 8 years old, we joined a school pack and I naively volunteered to lead the group, not having a clue what I was getting myself in to!

My two oldest boys went all the way from Tiger Cub Scout to Eagle Boy Scout!  My third son is currently working on his Eagle Scout project, and my youngest son is still in Cub Scouts.  It's been a wonderful adventure and I'm thrilled to be able to share a few of the things I've learned over the years with moms and dads who may just be starting.

Advancing from Tiger all the way to Eagle takes time.  And so does going from thinking of an idea for a book to autographing the finished product at your own book signing.  Remember, persistence!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Say It Like You Mean It

By Jodi Marie Robinson

 “I couldn’t help but cough as a cloud of dust particles danced in a stream of light beaming through my basement window.”

Okay. So, that’s an overly fancy way for saying, “I was unpacking a box covered in dust and, when I brushed it off into the air, it made me cough.” Now, we could still work on that sentence, but let’s move on to my main point.

One challenge in writing is saying what we really mean. I know, at times, I’m guilty of it. So, how can we avoid overly fancy phrases and expressions that just complicate our writing? I have one simple tip that may help. Give a speech. What? You may ask. But I hate speeches, talks, anything that resembles public speaking. Now hold on! I’ve had a lot of experience as a public speaker. I’ve given presentations in front of small groups, as well as hundreds of people, and one thing I do know is that, when you have to “speak” or “say” something out loud, you tend to simplify your message. You say it like you mean it.

Take for example the example I used earlier. If I take my hands off the keyboard and ask myself, “What am trying to say?” And then I say it out loud, my message becomes more clear. I talk about the dust on the lid and how when I brushed it off, I coughed. Talking about dust particles dancing in a stream of light, well, we don’t talk that way. So, we should be careful not to write that way. It doesn’t mean we can’t describe dust as dancing in the light, but there better a good reason for it otherwise it’s just flowery writing and we’re guilty of not saying it like we mean it.

When you’re pretending to give a speech, you use your hands. (I'm part Italian, so I can't help myself.)  You also pause. You inflect. All of this can help you as you craft your words and your message. So, let your hands fly across the keyboard and write like you talk. Let your ideas hit the page freely without “writing” them.  Try it and let me know how it works for you. You can always go back, edit, change, and improve your word choice. The key is getting the right idea in thebeginning so you can communicate effectively.

Coming from someone who talks a lot, the best advice I can give is: Don’t complicate the message. Just say it. (Now the challenge is to take my own advice.)

Oh, and one more thing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Is that clear enough? See you in 2010!

All the best,

Jodi Marie Robinson

Friday, December 18, 2009

Adding more than the basic details

By Heather Justesen

Lately I've been trying to dig through another edit before submitting a new book to my publisher. I've also been up to my elbows in sweet holiday confections--both making ones to give away and ones coming in from friends and neighbors. That means I've been spending a lot of quality time with my audio books. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I love to listen to a book while I travel or while I'm working in the kitchen, which allows me to 'read' other genres and squeeze in time to study the way other writers string words together.

I've never been a very descriptive writer--or at least I wasn't when I started out. I've spent a lot of time reviewing passages in my books, working in more description that enriches the scene, rather than drags it down so I'm always eager to see how other writers manage it. What kinds of detail does the author add to add life and background, to make the people more real? How do they weave certain things through the series of books to give it more realism and to give out clues to readers about what is going on?

I also like to study the way the personalities are crafted. As I've been listening along, there are scenes in my current book when I can tell who is speaking just from the conversational comments before speech tags are added--even when there are four or five sisters in the scene. Who they are just shines out and they are all so distinct.

I'm striving to add more of those kinds of details, while trimming back on unnecessary clutter as I work through this edit. And I'm looking forward to next week when I'll have a couple of uninterrupted days to really dig into this draft. If I can translate my scene, my characters to paper so clearly that you can hear the fire crackling and smell the sweetness of frosting on the cookies, I'll have succeeded.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Moves Your Words?

I had the experience to learn a little about persuasive writing for advertising, press releases, websites, and such. The first important thing listed was personality, and the second, the ability to keep the reader interested in the topic so they will continue reading.

This was interesting to me, because, as someone who loves to write fiction, I have found that the top two ingredients that make a good novel are the same two things; characterization and a solid plot, by using the right words at the right time to keep the reader turning those pages.

Now, there are people who prefer plot driven books, and there are others who prefer character driven books. My personal preference is the character driven books, but that's not to say that you can have a weak plot and get away with it. They are both essential. But I feel so strongly about characterization, that I would say that it helps to move the plot along and creates an interest with the readers, a connection, so that they will keep reading.

But there are other important ingredients needed to help create characterization and move the plot forward. Two of them are:
1. Show vs. Tell
2. Dialogue

Here is an example of how using show vs. tell and dialogue can add to your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, by helping to develop character or personality. But first, I'll relate a story using tell. (This is a true story, by the way, so I suppose you could call it non-fiction.)

The other night, while I was typing, my six-year-old asked me what nuttins were. I had no idea, but it turned out that he got the word from "I'm getting nuttin' for Christmas." I laughed to myself, cleared up the misunderstanding, and we gave each other a hug. He is so cute and funny.

Now, here is the same story showing how it happened, not merely telling that it did, along with dialogue to make the scene come alive, hopefully developing a bit of character:

I was sitting in front of my computer, working on my latest project. At least I was attempting to work. It was difficult with more interruptions than I would like.

There was a tap at my shoulder from my little boy. "Mom, what are nuttins?" Another interruption, but those eyes of his were so wide, expecting me to be wise enough to answer his question, that I really wanted to answer him.

"Nuttins? I have no idea." Maybe they were some kind of nutty muffin recipe. I would have to try it.

"But it's in a song." He started singing with that serious expression he gets on his face when he's concentrating. "I'm getting nuttin' for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy, are...oh, I forgot the word. Is it angry or mad?"

At this point, I was smiling. My work forgotten.

"Oh, it's mad," he said.

"The kid in the song is getting nothing for Christmas because he's been bad. But you are good, so you don't have to worry about that."

A grin lit up his face, and he threw his arms around my neck, squeezing me tight. I returned his squeeze with a kiss on his cheek. Merry Christmas, my little boy.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, I feel that adding a little personality to your words will keep the reader interested and they will want to keep reading. And if you have made it to these last words in my post, I'm hoping it was because you found it interesting enough to keep reading.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Write from Experience

On Saturday my youngest woke up with a wheezing sound. It calmed right down when he got up and moved around so I figured it was a cold (we've had at least 500,0000 colds at our house just this year). Later that evening, the wheezing picked up again so we found the vaporizer, loaded it with Vicks, and let him breathe in the medicated air. That didn't settle it and he started struggling more and more to breathe. At that point, I knew it must be croup but I didn't have the ability to treat it.

Realizing the inevitable, my husband and I scooped him up and loaded him into the car to make the 30 mile journey to the hospital. We arrived at the ER and were immediately ushered into a room (a 3-year-old having difficulty breathing gets you into a room quickly). The doctor came in, listened to him, asked us some questions, and diagnosed it as croup. He received a breathing treatment (which he loved--reminded me of the Cheshire Cat) and a steroid shot. After several hours, we were on our way back home with a soundly sleeping child who could breathe easily.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. We all have experiences that will lend credibility to our stories. None of us live in a vacuum where we do nothing, see no one, and have no experiences. The trick is to use our experiences to our advantage.

I may never use this particular experience in a story, but what I can use are the feelings I had. For example, I've never had a child held hostage. I have, however, felt fear for my child's life. I know what it's like to worry that my child may suffer harm. From my experience Saturday night, I know what it's like to watch my child struggle to breathe and feel like I can't do anything to help him. I knew what he needed, but I couldn't provide it for him because I don't have steroids. So I could apply that fear and feeling of helplessness to my character whose child is being held hostage.

No experience in our lives is wasted. I've actually used real life experiences in my writing. In my novel, Altared Plans, the main character meets her future-mother-in-law while dressed as a clown. Yep, that same thing happened to me. In Heaven Scent the main character can smell her deceased mother's perfume. Again, the same thing has happened to me.

Our experiences shape our writing, which is why we are the only ones who can tell our stories. I've heard it said that if you put ten writers in a room together and give them the same writing prompt, you'll end up with ten completely different stories. Why? Because of our experiences.

So, the next time you're sitting in the ER, waiting in line at the grocery store, or listening to your child explain the world's longest dream, think about how you feel and how it's affected you and then use that in your writing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Five, Four, Three, Two, One...Launch!

By Nichole Giles

Well, it’s official. Mormon Mishaps and Mischief is available for purchase online and in stores. Woo hoo! To celebrate this milestone, we asked the Cedar Fort public relations manager, Sheralyn Pratt, to help us schedule a launch party.

I’ve always believed in word of mouth advertising. As long as you tell a few people, the news should get where it needs to go. Correct? In theory. But have you ever tested that theory? We did.

          (Getting started!)

Both Cindy and I publicized this event on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and newsletters. We hung posters around town, we emailed all our friends. But most importantly, we made sure to remind the important people in our lives that this party meant a lot to us. A true milestone in the beginning of our careers as writers.

We planned it, and people came. And when I say people, I mean crowds.

(Yes, that is a line you see.)

How did this happen? It’s hard to say exactly. But here’s one thing I know for sure. I told my mom, who told everyone she knew, which included my grandma, who told everyone she knew (you know, family pride and all). Then I told my dad, who told everyone he knew, and his mom told everyone she knew, and the web branched out from there. Now imagine me telling everyone I met for about three weeks solid. Then consider that Cindy did the same things as me. Then our families and loved ones and friends and neighbors. And we treated everyone like they’d been given a special invitation. (That's a key point, I think.)

The result? Too many people to count. We sold out of the forty books Barnes and Noble had in stock, then opened a box of fifty we’d brought with us. Eighty-one books sold out the door that night, and we left six more for the shelves. (Don’t worry, B&N ordered more books from the publisher and will be replacing those books we brought with us and sold through them.)
(Left to right: contributors Rachelle Christensen and Connie Hall, Cindy, Nichole)

I’m thinking that’s a successful launch! Three days later at the next signing, we sold another fifteen, even though it was the middle of the day on a stormy, cold Saturday. Another success.

We’ve done two events, and have two more scheduled before Christmas. We’re definitely learning as we go, but I want to share a few tidbits we’ve learned up to now.

First, when you have an eye catching table, people will naturally be inclined to wander over and see why that table is set so pretty. At that point, you can talk to them about your book, offer them candy (one of the items on the table) and a free bookmark, and have them enter to win a prize from a drawing held by you.

 (In the back: Authors Rebecca Shelley, Heather Justesen--creator of the gorgeous cake on the table--and Keith Fisher.)

Second, it pays to have drawings. Free stuff always draws crowds, and if you tell people they have to be present to win, they’ll probably stick around for a while. That gives them time to fall in love with your book and buy two or three copies.

Third, whenever people see a crowd, the natural inclination is to mosey on over and see what’s going on. Those people will likely at least look at your book or take a bookmark. These are potential buyers. And if they think they’re meeting a famous author (just pretend, it’s partially true, right? Okay. Lie then. It’ll make them feel good) they’ll not only buy your book, but maybe ask to take your picture. Smile!

Fourth, always have extra books in your car. If the store sells out, they’ll be more than happy to work out something in order to get more books from you and keep up the selling momentum. Aim to sell out every store you walk into, and be prepared to restock the supply if needed.

(Us at the Gateway signing. This was our last half hour, when we sold all fifteen books.)

I’m sure we’ve learned a lot more than that, but this post is getting mighty long. Stay tuned in two weeks for my next post about what I learned at my first four book signings.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Quiz

I was doing some research for a Christmas thing this week and thought I'd make it into a little quiz. I hope you have fun!

1. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. What did they believe it did?

  1. It had healing powers.
  2. It warded off evil spirits.
  3. It helped the winter to be less sever.

2. Where did the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe come from?

  1. The red of the berries symbolizes love.
  2. The Scandinavians associated mistletoe with their goddess of love, Frigga.
  3. Eating the berries gives the euphoric feeling of being in love.

3. Poinsettias are native to what country?

  1. England.
  2. Mexico.
  3. Italy.

4. In the 1800's, the poinsettia was believed to be symbolic of what?

  1. The star of Bethlehem.
  2. The mother, Mary.
  3. The birth of Jesus Christ.

5. What country did the Christmas tree originate from?

  1. France.
  2. England.
  3. Germany.

6. Where was St. Nicolas, the first Santa Clause, born?

  1. Italy.
  2. Turkey.
  3. Belgium.

7. What is the belief behind the Yule Log?

  1. It is believed to burn away the last year's evil.
  2. It is believed to warm the Christ child when he comes.
  3. It is believed to welcome all to it's warmth and beauty.

8. What were the first Christmas trees decorated with?

  1. Candles.
  2. Cookies and candies.
  3. Flowers and fruit.

For the answers, click here! Hope this was fun for you! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Begging Forgiveness

JoAnn Arnold

First of all I have to apologize for missing my turn to blog two weeks ago. It's kind of like having one of those dreams Cindy talked about only when I woke up, I found that it wasn't a dream, I really did forget. But, I have a very good excuse. My daughter-in-law called and said, "can you come a few days earlier than planned for Thanksgiving? I have signed you up for a Watercolor Class on Tuesday with a good friend of mine who will teach you how to love painting in this medium."

Now, I've never worked with watercolor because I thought it was too hard . . . too unforgiving if you made a mistake . . . and I like oil and acrylic and pencil where you can just cover up or erase the mistakes. Rochelle knew this. But being the good daughter-in-law that she is, she decided it was time to bury my fears and step up to the challenge.

You can see my concern. What if I fail miserably and it floods my creativity brain cells with shame? What if I . . . Well, you know what we all put ourselves through when not knowing the unknown until it's forced upon us.

Tuesday came and my thoughts were filled with pails of colorful doubts, all other responsibilities drowning in the flood. However, I put on a brave face and let Rochelle drive me to her friend's house where this lovely lady appeared at the door, greeted me with a tender smile and invited me in. (I think Rochelle had filled her in on my great fear of watercolor). She led me to her kitchen where on the table lay everything one needed to create with watercolor. at this point let me say that the moment I sat down, the door of learning opened and the fear was swept away in the excitment of the education.

What an incredible learning experience - not only in finding that I really enjoyed working with the medium but that I could do it. There was a greater lesson learned, however. Fear of failure had kept me from learning something exciting for more than twenty years.

I had to share this with you, partly so that you might understand why I failed to post, but also to tell you one more very important lesson I learned. Whether as an artist or an author, it is the same. We have to not be afraid to try something new. We cannot be afraid of reaching out and finding that new medium that will take us to the next level as an author. We have to open that door that will allow us to believe we can write so that we can.

We have to step up and not be afraid of failure . . . or, I suppose booksigning launches. (Right Cindy?)

I leave you with this thought. "If you think you're too small to be effective, you have never had an encounter with a mosquito."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Launch Nightmares

By C.L. Beck

Not to do self-promotion here, but … okay, so maybe just a little self-promotion … my co-author, Nichole Giles, and I have our very first book launch coming up on Wednesday, Dec 9, 6-9p at the Barnes and Noble, in Orem, UT. I’m calm about it. No nerves at all. Just nightmares all night long, and dry heaves during the day.

Recently, several of our authors here at the Writing Fortress have held book launches. That's very exciting, and since I've heard horror stories about book launches gone awry, I’d like to offer my jealous envy sincere congratulations to friends who’ve managed to live through one.

Even though I’ve never done a launch before, I have a pretty good idea—due to warnings by friends and the nightmares I've been having—what the top ten worst fiascoes would be for me.

1. The bookstore orders my book and receives seventy copies of "Tales of a Stripper" instead.
2. The bookstore parking lot is closed off for resurfacing at one end and to accommodate the new In and Out Burger at the other.
3. Aaackk! I’ve shown up in nothing but my underwear.
4. I made it there in one piece, I remembered to bring a tablecloth and I'm signing books ... at a table in the restroom.
5. Aw, drat, I forgot a pen and all that’s on hand is a crayon.
6. Umm, I’m sure I knew it once upon a time, but I have no clue what my name is.
7. Cramp, cramp, I have a cramp in both hands.
8. Gas, gas, I have really bad gas. I should not have eaten that double bean burrito.
9. I’m signing two doors down from Sarah Palin.
10. The power has failed and it won’t be on again until morning.

So, wish me luck, dear friends, and if you get a chance, stop by to say hi on December 9 at the Orem Barnes and Noble. I promise I’ll be wearing something more than just my underwear.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Shameless Plug

By Trina Boice

Alrighty! Time for the shameless plug! I have a new book that just hit store shelves last week! Woohoo! Happy Dance!   Pour the sparkling cider!  Hooray Cedar Fort Books!

While releasing a new book is extremely exciting for any author, it’s also a bit of an awkward time for us. We’re so thrilled about our little creation that we feel like screaming hallelujah at the top of our lungs and telling anyone who walks within 200 feet of us every last detail about the writing/publishing process that led us to this climax. At the same time, we also feel hesitant to open our mouths, because we’re afraid we’ll come off as obnoxious salesmen and "vomit" our happy news to people who really don't care.

Writing a book is very much like giving birth.  It's a long, exhausting process and one filled with excitement, worry, elation, and fear.  And every minute is worth it when you see your new baby for the first time.  I can't decide which I like better: the creation process of actually writing a manuscript or finally being able to present my book to the world.  One thing I definitely love is having written something that will forever prove that I was here.   My children are my legacy, but so are the written words I leave behind. 

Shameless plug moment:  My newest book is entitled "Ready Resource for Relief Society."  It's meant to be a helpful tool for LDS members who teach Relief Society lessons in 2010.  The course of study for next year is the recently revised "Gospel Principles" manual.  Back to basics! 

You can find all 7 of my books at LDS bookstores online and in a neighborhood bookstore near you!  To read more about them, check out my author web site at:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Trips to new places

By Heather Justesen

November was supposed to be given over to NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month, though I had more editing than fresh writing planned. Unfortunately, as seems to be the case every November, other things intruded, keeping me away from my story file, and keeping my word count from climbing. This year that thing was my book publicity, school visits, a blog tour, and other fun book stuff. I'm hoping now the biggest part of the rush is over I'll be able to spend a little more quality time with my laptop again.

However, I thought I'd share some thoughts and experiences I had this week. As part of my trips to visit students, I spent two days in San Juan County this week. Now for people who are as unfamiliar with where this is located (I had no idea how far off it was when I contacted the school back in October.), it's down in the Four Corners area--the place where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet.

Yes, that's a long drive.

Just a few notes from the trip:

There's a big scrub evergreen (I really ought to know what kind of trees they are, but I don't. If anyone else does, I'd be happy to be educated) on the East side of the road near Moab that is covered in tinsel and Christmas decorations. It even has a huge star posted on top. It was cool. I hoped I would see if on the way back so I could stop and take a picture, but it was dark and I totally missed it.

The tree gave me something to think about, though. It reminded me of the shoe tree in Park City (which I blogged about here). I can't help but wonder whose idea it was to begin with, why they picked that tree, and what they were thinking about when they did it. Could one of them have wondered if someone would see the tree and blog about it? Did they want to encourage holiday cheer to spread and hope the idea would catch on so others would do the same with random trees in their areas?

Actually, that's not a half bad idea....

Anyway, Tuesday evening I spoke to a small group at the CEU San Juan Campus library about writing and what I've learned over the years. Then we had some tasty cookies and talked for a bit before my new friends, the Razors, took me home and fed me some seriously tasty homemade pizza. Many thanks to them and their mom for putting up signs and feeding and housing me for the night.

The next day I went to Mexican Hat Elementary school where I spoke to the kids all day with each grade coming in for half an hour. I did two presentations to kindergartners. We'll just say that I got a bit hoarse by lunchtime. Thankfully there was a bit more break time between the afternoon sessions. It was fun, but my voice box was ready to have a break when I turned my car back north.

The red mesas and rock formations near the Navajo reservation at Mexican Hat are so cool. I took a number of pictures--mostly while I was driving back to Blanding. I couldn't stop because school got out a bit later than I planned on, and the drive was a good 20 miles further than I remembered from my early research, so I had to rush back so I wouldn't be late.

This formation is near the reservation. I remember when I drove near it in the morning I thought it looked like fingers coming out of the ground. It's more gray than the reddish dirt and rocks around it--the picture doesn't do it justice.

This one is called "Hat Rock" and ask you can see, it kind of looks like a Mexican Hat. I'm assuming that's where the town gets its name.

One day I'll have to drag my husband down that direction and we'll have to spend a few days going through Arches and Canyonlands national parks, then see some of the other sights that I didn't have time for on this trip.

In the evening I did a signing at the main grocery store in Blanding and sold several copies. Considering there was almost no advertising of my signing and I'm a nobody, it was still really decent.

My blog tour has ended now too, and it was a lot of fun. You can check out a full list of the blogs where my book was reviewed here. Jennie Hansen also reviewed it (along with Rebecca Talley's book, Altared Plans) this week for Meridian Magazine here. Also, there are a few hours before I draw the last few winners in my big giveaway tomorrow morning. You can learn more about that here.

Tomorrow I'll be signing with six other authors at the Barnes & Noble in Orem from 2-4. If you're in the area, pop on by and say hello! And if you have Wednesday evening available, Cindy and Nichole's book, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief is now out, and they are having their book launch at the same place Wednesday evening from 6 to 9 pm. It's going to be fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Writing Destination

Over Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to visit with extended family I hadn't seen in a few years, and it was so fun to see them! It was dark that evening when we met, as it tends to be when it's this time of year, and a little more challenging to find the home where the gathering was held.

Thankfully I had the address and a set of directions from MapQuest to help me find my way. From there, even though it was dark and my car's lights only lit a certain distance in front of me, I was able to find the home. (Well, almost. We knocked on the neighbor's door for a couple minutes before we realized we were one house south of our true destination. But that's another story involving a flip in house numbers.)

I find the same is true in writing, not knocking on the wrong doors, but having a basic destination of where I want to go with a story, with the details not being clear. These details, however, are lit or brought about a little at a time. I may not see clearly all the way to the end, but I can see clearly enough to get me through the next section. With this, little by little, I'll have a way to reach my writing destination.

But what can I do when I'm not sure where I'm going with my story? This happens sometimes, where I'll type out all I had originally intended to go, but once I'm there I realize there is another direction the story needs to go. For instance, in the story I'm currently working on, I have written to the point where it's beginning to build to the climax. Only now I'm finding myself with a really fuzzy climax. How can I go there when I don't know exactly where it is? I may have to pull over for a second and ask for directions, or simply figure out where, exactly, I want to end up.

So here are the questions I ask myself, a way for me to find my destination:

What are the goals of the main character?
What events do I wish to have happen in the climax of the book?
What events need to take place before the climax can happen?
What themes need to unravel that haven't yet?
Is there anything I'm missing?

By answering these questions and any others I find important to my story, I find new direction and a place to go so I'll be on my way again. Hopefully I won't be knocking on the wrong doors before I find my story's true destination, but even if I do, I know I will eventually arrive there. It's all fun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My, My, How Time Does Fly

by Tristi Pinkston

Our valiant and brave blog moderator, Rebecca, set up a reminder system for us so we'd all know when it was our turn to post here at Writing Fortress. I blog every other Wednesday, after a rather funny incident in which I stole Jillayne's spot and ... oh, wait, that was an un-funny. Sort of a thoughtless, rather. Anyway, I blog every other Wednesday, and I get my reminder on Sunday night.

This week, when my reminder hit my inbox, I blinked. Had it really been two weeks since I last posted? Where on earth did the time go? Between sickness and housework and children's birthdays and work, it all just zipped by, becoming somewhat of a Technicolor whirl. It blends into a mish-mash of chaos, with dirty dishes flying by (look out!) and laundry and the never-ending need for love and attention. Some nights, I crawl into bed knowing full well that absolutely nothing I did that day will still be done in the morning. It was all the never-done stuff - the cooking, the cleaning ... sigh.

But there are two things in my life that I can use as a ticker to show me if I'm making progress - if my children feel loved, and my word count.

Some days, I can only eek out a half sentence. Other days, I have more time and I get in over a thousand words. But regardless of the day's total, (and yes, I have days upon days where I write nothing) any increase is a sign of success. If I can open up my document and see that my word count has gone up by even one, I am a success as a writer. I have written.

Time does fly by, so fast. There's never enough of it to go around. Never enough to keep everything clean, everyone in matched socks (just don't take off their shoes) and to keep all the balls in the air, all the time. But if everyone got hugged, I'm a step ahead as a mother, and every single word written adds up to my success as a writer. No, I didn't write an entire novel today, but I don't have to. I wrote enough. I am a success.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


by Rebecca Talley

Sheralyn Pratt, our public relations director at CFI, has been conducting online classes in an effort to help us learn how to best promote our books. The classes have all been useful and informative.

In our last class, Sheralyn challenged us to create a tagline that we could use in our marketing efforts.

For example, Wendy Paul, author of 101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes, has as her tagline: There's Always a Reason to Bake. It's simple, straightforward, and easy to remember. It also directly targets her audience. She uses it in all of her marketing campaigns.

Coming up with a tagline seems like an easy thing to do, right? Well, it's not as easy as it looks.

For a successful tagline it should be:

1. Specific
2. Simple
3. Easy to remember
4. Targeted to your audience

Once you come up with your tagline, Sheralyn suggests you attach it to everything: websites, blogs, business cards, ads, flyers, anything you use to promote your books. The idea is when someone reads your tagline, he/she immediately thinks of you.

Even if you write in different genres, you can still use a tagline.

I've written a YA novel and a romance, both targeted at the LDS market. My current work-in-progress is LDS women's fiction. Even though the books are in different genres, my target market is LDS so that's what I concentrated on. After many attempts, I came up with:

LDS Fiction Inspired by Life.

I've added it to my website and my blog and plan to add it to my business cards.

Here's a challenge for all of you: create a tagline and then post it to the comments so we can discuss it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


By Christine Thackeray

Some people may wonder whether fiction requires research. I've found it does. In my first book I had to see if there was a real medical condition that would make someone sleep for long periods of time and wake up at random intervals. It turns out there was exactly such a condition called Klein Levine Syndrome and I had to change some of the specifics of my story to make it more plausible.

In my next visiting teaching adventure, due to come out in the spring, I had to look into Child Protective Service and find out how different states dealt with cases of neglect and abuse. Each state has different terminology and processes. In the end I used the most common terms, even though it wasn't exactly accurate for the state I imagined but since I never actually mention the state, it seemed the best way to go.

My current work in progress is a whole new experience. I'm writing a historical fiction piece which has required years of study. It covers King Herod and I thought I was well-versed about the events of his reign. Then my husband took me to Israel and I was amazed how different reality was from books. The first shook was to stop thinking in American sizes. You can see the Dead Sea from Jerusalem, so Jericho and Qumran which seemed world away are more like suburbs of that great city.

Another surprise was how refined their architecture was. I thought their buildings would be more primitive. After careful perusal of Masada, I've decided that slaves offset the advent of power tools, evening the playing field considerably.

Finally, research begats inspiration. I was a little stumped at a point in the story and after visiting the place in person, I received such clarity- I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and start writing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sharing What You Write

By Marcia Mickelson

I'm the kind of writer who doesn't like to share what she's writing when it's in its infancy stage. I'm afraid that if I tell someone my story idea before it's fully developed and more than halfway done, that it will never get finished.

It's so hard to explain your story in a few sentences and many times the person you're telling doesn't see the full picture with a small explanation. They may not be as excited about your idea. Any reaction or non-reaction can trigger a desire to not finish after all. What if they ask a question that makes me think they don't like it? What if they make a face? It can be discouraging.

Recently, I started writing a new manuscript. I'm only about 1200 words in, but I'm not talking about it. My 10 year old son recently saw me working on it and asked what I was writing. He's also a writer and we talk about our stories sometimes. He tells me about what he's working on and asks me about what I'm working on. He asks the title, what it's about, how many chapters it has. Usually, I'm happy to talk about it and tell him all about it. But this time, I said I'm not really ready to talk about it. He said, "that's okay; I understand." And I think he does. Sometimes, he is not so willing to talk about what he's writing. He tells me when he's ready and I will tell him when I'm ready.

In the meantime, I'm not talking. It's just so new and I feel that any talking about it will squash my desire to continue. It's just a baby; I don't want anyone to see it yet. So, don't ask me what I'm working on. Maybe when I've hit 30-40 K words, I'll talk.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I am returning from a Thanksgiving feast with friends and family and have been pondering all the things I am thankful for. I am most thankful for my family and the gospel, but I have been thinking lately of all the gifts that writing has given me. The ability to create has given me so much joy. The joy increases when I see others enjoying what I have created. Also, writing has given me a voice. When I am too shy to say what I feel, I can write it, and somehow that makes things better. Journaling has given me the ability to remember the most important learning points in my life, so that I do not have to learn those lessons over again. Writing helps me to organize my thoughts about life and the gospel, and I can leave those thoughts to my posterity. What gifts has writing given to you?

Kersten Campbell

Monday, November 23, 2009

Showing Grace and a Big Announcement

By Nichole Giles

Last Sunday, a lady in Relief Society asked about my upcoming book release and, after hearing the details, turned to the woman sitting next to her and said, “Did you know Nichole’s a famous author?” The statement took me aback. My book hasn’t even been released yet. And though it’s at the printers even as I write this blog (release details to follow), even when it is in stores and on shelves nationwide (I hope) does that really make me a famous author?

Not really. The truth is, very few people will ever associate my face with that cover—or any other cover of a book I write—unless one of my books becomes a New York Times bestseller. And while I do have goals of reaching that list, I believe it takes a book of Twilight and Harry Potter proportions to connect book covers with author faces. At least for most people. (Maybe I’ll be the exception? I certainly hope so.)

But that doesn’t mean I won’t meet hundreds, or thousands of people in my travels, and those people will come to know me—the person—and my actions and behavior toward them will most definitely color their opinion of my work as an author. It may not be fair for people to think that way, but that’s one of life’s truths, so I may as well be prepared to always be gracious and kind to those I meet.

Grace is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but it is necessary in the life of an author to never forget the importance of first, second, and last impressions. That does not mean, of course, that I have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but it does mean I should be conscious of how I present myself when making a public appearance. It means I should always be conscious of how I come across when I speak, and greet my fans, and when I discuss other authors and their books. It is imperative to my future that I come across as a good person, and an author who cares about the world and those in it.

In case you’re wondering why this topic is so forefront in my mind that I’d choose to blog about it today—the week of Thanksgiving—I actually do have a reason. And I have a big, new reason to be thankful. Mormon Mishaps and Mischief has officially gone to press. Yahoo!

Those interested in advance purchase can already order it online here, here, or here.

Because the book will be arriving in stores with only two weeks to spare before the big holiday, Cindy and I are in the midst of planning a whirlwind week of signings, starting off with an enormous launch party at Barnes and Noble in Orem, Utah on December 9th from 6-9:00 pm. We’ve also set up a second signing date at the Barnes and Noble in Sandy, Utah on December 19th, and since this one is a Saturday, we’ll be in the store from 11:00 am-1:00 pm. More dates to follow later.

Guess what? Everyone is invited. And when I say everyone, I mean you, your family, your neighbors, your ward members, friends you haven’t talked to since your school days, friends you talk to now, and total strangers you just met on the street.

The launch is going to be a party of massive proportion, and by showing up, you’ll have the opportunity to meet more authors than just Cindy and me. We've invited many of our contributors, and expect to see lots of them there, so this is indeed a rare opportunity. Come have your books signed, eat treats, enter drawings, win prizes and share a fun night out that you won’t soon forget. I promise you won’t be sorry you stopped by. And if you can’t make the launch, show up to one of the signings later in the month. We’ll be doing giveaways at all events in December.

To stay updated on scheduled events, be sure to check the LDS Humor blog regularly. While you’re there, become a follower and sign up for our newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a wonderful, incredible holiday, and don’t forget to share a few laughs with the important people in your life. Those people are the gifts for which we should truly be the most thankful.

Until next time, write on.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Trina Boice

Happy Thanksgiving! What a wonderful holiday…a whole day to eat to our heart’s content, play outside like a kid, relax on the couch like a potato, and tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them. And we get to take the day off work to do that? And everyone agrees that all dieting is off? Sweet!

Thanksgiving is all about family and giving thanks. To kick off this week’s noshing and thanking, I wanted to share a few fun ideas that will save you time so that your extra energy can be spent on writing more or hitting the stores on Black Friday!

• Cover the inside of a door with a large sheet of paper where visitors who enter and exit can write down what they’re grateful for.

• Share the ABC’s of gratitude by taking turns naming blessings from A to Z.

• Set out a white tablecloth with permanent markers at each place setting where guests can draw pictures of their blessings. Each year you’ll be able to see who shared the dinner together and where they sat.

• Write a letter to someone in the military who is away from their family during the holidays. You can do it for free in about 15 seconds at

• Print out some Thanksgiving poems to share before eating dinner at

• Send a free Thanksgiving ecard to someone you appreciate at and

• Take a Thanksgiving quiz to see how well you know your pilgrim history at:

* Make a cornucopia placemat by following instructions at: 

* Look up free recipes to help you prepare your Turkey Day Feast at:

• Follow these 10 tips for an eco-friendly Thanksgiving celebration:.  I'm sure Al Gore will write you a thank you letter.

• Read some Thanksgiving prayers at:

• Find a ton of Thanksgiving crafts, games, recipes, and other activities to help you celebrate your Thanksgiving feast at:

• Print out some fun hanksgiving Word Search games at:

* Download free Thanksgiving Day screensavers at:

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

G.I.V.E. -- Writing Tips All Wrapped Up

Thanksgiving and Christmas, are my favorite holidays. One is about gratitude. The other is about giving--two very good things. With “Turkey Day” now only days away, I’ve started transitioning from what I’m grateful for to what I’m going to give. So, with thoughts of “giving” on my mind, I've created some writing tips, all wrapped up in the word GIVE.

G is for GIVE yourself permission to be emotional. When you sit down to write, let your emotions flow. Don’t stop writing until you’ve given your all. You can edit and fine-tune your transitions later. Real emotion can’t be forced. If you hold back on the giving in the beginning, you might have a hard time trying to fake it later. Don’t miss out on the crowning emotion and raw energy that will make your piece stand out. Emote! Give way to your emotions.

I is for IMAGINE the possibilities. In the beginning, it’s important to imagine all that is possible. This is about brainstorming. Don’t stop to evaluate whether or not your thoughts are good enough to keep. Just keep writing down ideas. Evaluate later. One writing coach suggests the following: “When you can't think of another word, wait a while. Often the most powerful idea will surface after you have cleared all the less valuable ideas out of the way.”

V is for VERBALIZING your thoughts clearly using strong action words, correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. A sloppy presentation can cloud clever writing. It’s imperative to understand and apply correct grammar rules and proper punctuation. Pay attention to spelling. Even computer spellcheckers don’t catch everything. It’s worth the extra effort to check for accuracy. Verbalize with clarity using strong verbs and nouns. Personally, I’m working on this one. One idea is to circle all of the action verbs on your page. Come up with at least one alternative word and choose which one is best.

• E is for EDIT after everything else. This is tough for me. I write a paragraph and immediately I want to fix it. But that often wastes precious brainstorming time and emotional flow. Remember to EDIT at the end. As one writing tip expert advises: “If you worry about spelling, grammar, or how to sell your book while you write, you are writing with a dull pencil.”

Well, I know this isn’t the traditional, touchy-feeling GIVE list that we’re accustomed to seeing during the holidays, but I hope you feel thankful for the gift. Happy Turkey!


Jodi Robinson, Author, “Women of Virtue”,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Public speaking

By Heather Justesen

Okay, so I've always been a bit of a wimp when it comes to standing in front of a big group and giving a talk--which is crazy, right? I mean, I've done it loads of times when I was in Young Womens and when I conducted in Relief Society in college, but the thought still scared me.

Then I started attending writing conferences and everyone I met was doing firesides and speaking at book clubs and Enrichment meetings. That's when I realized public speaking was a very real part of published author's lives.

And I was going to have to do it someday.


After I presented to high school students in my home town last week, the librarian (who is the sweetest person you ever met) told me I didn't look a bit nervous. Yay me!

Wish I could say I wasn't actually nervous, or that I didn't say 'um' about a zillion times. On the other hand, because I've been psyching myself up for public speaking for several years, I wasn't nearly as nervous as I expected to be. Many of the kids were honestly excited that someone from Fillmore could publish a book with a regular publisher, and get it into stores and everything. (There are lots of writers in my area with books in print, but very, very few who published through traditional channels--okay, I only know of one other, and she lives on the 'other' side of the county. If there are more out there, they're keeping that a secret.)

I admit I was tickled when several of the students (and a couple teachers) approached me to talk about writing, and I was able to get their names and email addresses to contact about starting a local chapter of the League of Utah Writers, which would be very cool since we're 70 miles from the closest chapter now. There are no writer's conferences within 100 miles, and I'm not aware of continuing ed classes in my area for writing. Hopefully we can solve some of those issues.

Here are a few obvious pointers for speaking in public that we sometimes have to remind ourselves about.

1) Be prepared. I know, I said the suggestions would be obvious, but it's amazing how many times I see someone get up to speak with only a few jotted notes. Basic notes worked fine for my 'how to write a story' presentation for middle school and younger because the kids were writing the story, but not for other presentations.

2) Target your audience. When I was in Kanab and Orderville this week I gave essentially the same presentation to both middle and elementary schools, but I targeted things for each group. And I learned where I need to tweak the presentation before going to San Juan to speak to their students in a couple of weeks.

3) Involve your audience. My high school presentation would have gone over a lot differently if I had been presenting only to people who wanted to be writers. Under the circumstances, before I present to a high school again, I'll make some tweaks to the presentation to try and draw the student in more. I think the way I did it went well enough, but it could have been better.

4) Just as I have to rewrite my books multiple times, we need to be open to reworking the presentations for future audiences. Yes, even speakers need edits.

5) Have fun. No, this is not impossible. If you're enjoying the presentation, those watching you will too. If you are nervous out of your mind, you'll make more mistakes and everyone will notice them. Don't apologize for being nervous or unprepared, brazen it out and see how confident you can appear. You might be surprised how many people you'll fool.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rhythmic Writing

Rhythm can be found all around us. In music, poetry, and the beating of our hearts--just to name a few. But I have discovered a natural rhythm beginning to form in my writing.

My youngest child is in Kindergarten. This means that if I get all my chores and errands done before he leaves in the afternoon, I can have 2-1/2 hours of potentially uninterrupted writing time. I've been trying this, and what has happened?

I have found that my brain doesn't work top notch at this time. I don't know why, but I find myself, after an hour's time, staring blankly at the computer monitor with only a few paragraphs.

But after dinner, I'm pumped. I plug in my iPod, (which drowns out all background noises rather nicely), sit down at my computer, and in an hour have roughly four double-spaced pages. Creativity just comes to me better at this time of day more than at any other. So I've decided to go with my my body's natural creative rhythm, which is between the hours of 7 and 10:00 p.m.

Along with doing this, I have found that I can devote 1-2 hours a day to writing, and end up with roughly twenty pages a week, which I then send to my writing support group. (Support is the key here at this time, since I'm working on a rough draft.)

I have also learned that I like to write at a speed which will help me get my rough draft done fairly quickly (a few months vs. a few years) yet not so fast and hard that I get burned out.

This is the writing rhythm I'm discovering, and it works well when I keep in tune to my natural pace and rhythm.

What is your pace and rhythm?

What If?

We all make decisions, daily, and sometimes they're good and sometimes they are a little unfortunate. We learn from them, and hopefully we don't repeat our mistakes.

Sometimes in our more wistful moments, we might think, "What if?" What if we had taken a different class in college, what if we had married the first guy who asked us, what if we took that job in California, what if ... what if ...

We often decide that we're happy where we are now. Each experience makes us wiser, and when we weigh our blessings, we realize that we are truly rich.

Sometimes, though, we're plagued by the "what ifs" of failure. What if we get rejected, what if we can't really write, what if we're meant to always strive and never achieve?

There's another type of "what if" I'd like to talk about today.

What if you woke up tomorrow morning and decided that you were going to tell everyone you met that you are an author?

What if you ordered a whole bunch of business cards and handed them out?

What if you gave yourself permission to let your other projects slide for an hour and devote some time to your story?

What if you changed the subject when your aunt started criticizing your crazy dream?

What if you held your head a little higher, walked a little straighter, and spoke with more confidence about your goals and dreams?

We can't control when we'll get a contract. We can't control who will accept our manuscripts or when they'll publish them. But we can control ourselves. We can choose to honor our talents and our gifts. We can choose to listen to our inner voices, to follow our guts, to reach a little higher and stretch a little further. We can choose to be proud of what we do rather than feeling the need to hide it. We can choose to look to the future with faith.

Because what if all your dreams came true tomorrow?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winner of $20 Gift Certificate

by Rebecca Talley

Woo hoo, we have a winner. The winner is . . . . Carrie Christina. Please, email me at rebeccaATrebeccatalleyDOTcom. I'll get your info and set up a gift certificate at Amazon to help with Christmas gifts ('cause books make the best gifts, right?). Congratulations!

Thank you to all of you for participating and helping me spread the word about Altared Plans. I appreciate your help!

Let's make this Christmas season the season of books!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Keep Your Eyes on the Summit

A couple months ago, one Friday night some friends invited me on a hike early Saturday morning. We're not talking just a hike, though, we're talking Hike, with a capital "H." As in leaving at 5:00 a.m. and hiking for 12.4 miles and 10 hours up to the summit of a mountain, 11,749 feet in elevation. I see this mountain every day when I set foot outside, and I've always wanted to go to the top. But I had a list of things I planned on getting to on Saturday, and it was last minute. Plus it would be cold, and dark, and I was pretty tired from a long week. So I wasn't sure if I would go or not.

I spent an hour debating in pure Libra fashion. My husband finally turned to me and told me to list the pros and cons. There were several cons, and two pros: it would be fun and I've always wanted to do it. He said, "You can do all those other things any time, but this opportunity doesn't come along very often. I think you should go."

Which meant that he would watch the kids and clean the house all by himself while I was off playing. (I love that man.)

So I told my friends I was in and quickly packed. When the alarm went off at 4:30 and I was making myself eat a bowl of oatmeal, I was still questioning my decision. It was an adventure hiking in the dark, especially when one of my water bottles leaked all over my backpack, sweatshirt, and pants.

Then the sun started to come up.

And the aspen leaves whispered in the the breeze.

And it illuminated further than just two feet in front of me. I was no longer just avoiding rocks and mud and blindly following a trail someone else had made.

I could finally see--really see. And my reservations disappeared.

It was still all uphill, but now I could see my amazing journey!

There were many other people on the same path. Traveling the same journey. And we waved and smiled at each other. I felt safe that if something happened to me or my friends, there were dozens of others around who could--and would--help. We were all in the journey together.

At times the going was hard and maybe a little scary.

But we kept our eyes on our ultimate goal: the summit.

And when we got there, hours after we started and with really tired legs, it was unbelievable. And worth every single step, stumble, water spill, and bathroom trip in the trees.

Whatever summit you're aiming for in life, keep your eyes trained on it. When the sun rises, look around and enjoy the incredible journey. Notice the others traveling the path with you. Smile at them, wave to them, and stop to help.

And when you finally reach the top, it will all be worth it. Because anything really worth it is worth the hike to get there.