“Mom, I look ugly.” When I heard my young daughter speak those words, my heart broke into a million pieces. Did she really know what she was saying? How could she feel this way when she was absolutely beautiful--perfect in every way--as far as I was concerned. Ugly? Not my daughter. Shiny, silky brown hair, chocolate eyes, and lips people pay money to buy. It was time to reaffirm what real beauty was all about.
Any mother living in the 21st century knows that "feeling ugly or not pretty enough" is all too common. There are few words in the English language that when paired together can rip us to shreds, chew us up, and spit us out. "I look ugly. I'm not pretty. I don't like the way I look." These are just a few them. My daughter's comments shook me to the core. With all the love and compassion a mother could show a daughter who was hurting, I reassured her she was beautiful! And in no way "ugly." My intervention worked. At least for that moment.
Knowing that my little girl, still so very young and inexperienced, was experiencing “the world” for the first time was so hard to accept. Why? Because I knew what was ahead of her. And it really wasn't going to get any easier. Imagine growing up in a world that bombards young girls, and women, with images that tell them they have to look, dress, and act a certain way in order to be beautiful. Imagine trying to find out who you are and who you want to become in a media obsessed culture that values fleshy fashions, super models, and body makeovers, more than it values true beauty--beauty from within. Self-esteems and self-worth are suffering greatly. So, what is a mother to do? What is a woman of faith to do? Well, THIS mother decided to write. I found my voice. And that voice compelled me write about what really makes a woman beautiful. And I believe that something is virtue.
In a nutshell, virtue is the essence of true beauty. And my voice, if you will, compelled me to write about The Beauty of Virtue (chapter one from "Women of Virtue"). That voice is what motivated me to keep writing even when I wanted to give up and say, "Writing is just too hard." I'm being honest when I say that I didn't set out to be a writer. That is until I found my voice.
So, as a writer, how do you know when you've found your voice? Well, when those thoughts flowing into your brain simply won't turn off no matter what you do; when everything you see, or touch, or hear, relates to what you're writing about and you constantly have to jot down scribbly notes to yourself so that when you have time to sit down at your computer you can write about what you just experienced; when you can't NOT write or you'll die; that's when you know you've found your voice. It's exciting when it happens. And, at the same time, it is also strangely nerve wracking. That "voice" opens up inside you a thrilling new passion and at the same time an intense fear. You worry, "What if the voice goes away? What if tomorrow I can't write? What if...."
May I offer some advice? Remember that when the "what if's" start to annoy you...you need to go back to the moment you discovered you had this voice. And remind yourself that you were given this voice for a reason. It's your voice. It's your reason for writing. It's your motivation for picking up that pen or for typing on that keyboard. If you start to lose your voice, close your eyes and go back to that moment in time when you were forever changed. Reach within you and pull it out. Remember why you started writing and why you can't ever stop.
Each writer's voice is unique. While some writer's voices carry stories of fantasy, adventure, or history. Other's voices articulate motivational, informational, or instructional messages that teach. Whatever the purpose of your voice, don't be afraid to listen to it. My voice happens to focus on the spiritual aspects of beauty and teaching about virtue. My voice compels me to write about how virtue helps us feel more beautiful and how we can experience true happiness and joy in ways never imagined! That’s not what the magazines are selling, but that is what is real and what is eternally true. That is the voice I listen to and that is why I write.
The beauty of virtue has become my passion. It is my reason for writing. I recently received an email from a woman who said: “After reading your book, ‘Women of Virtue’, for the first time in my 37 years, I am getting a glance of who I am.” Ironically enough, this woman is a beauty queen. She is outwardly beautiful. But, because of MY voice...MY written words on page...she is discovering that there is more to beauty than outward appearance. That gives me great satisfaction. It reaffirms to me that what my voice speaks to me is true. It reaffirms my voice has a purpose.
My tip for the day is to write about what your voice tells you to write about. Whether you're writing a novel, a "how to" book or a blog, listen to that story inside your head; that message that keeps reoccurring; that voice that refuses to quiet down. Let it speak and let it flow. You need your voice to write and your voice needs the written word to be heard.
Henry Winkler said it best: "Your mind knows only some things. Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything. If you listen to what you know instinctively, it will always lead you down the right path.”
In the coming months, I will share more of my experiences in writing "Women of Virtue." I look forward to writing for the Cedar Fort Authors Blog each month. Check back for my postings. And, have a wonderful week!
Sincerely, Jodi Marie Robinson
Author, "Women of Virtue"
Saturday, October 31, 2009
“Mom, I look ugly.” When I heard my young daughter speak those words, my heart broke into a million pieces. Did she really know what she was saying? How could she feel this way when she was absolutely beautiful--perfect in every way--as far as I was concerned. Ugly? Not my daughter. Shiny, silky brown hair, chocolate eyes, and lips people pay money to buy. It was time to reaffirm what real beauty was all about.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
One thing that needs to be remembered when trying to insert humor into your writing is that humor is based on the understanding of the nuances of language. The exception is slapstick humor, which is universally funny because it is understood without the need to comprehend a language.
Since different aged readers have different depths of language comprehension, it is wise to target the age of your reader when inserting humor into your manuscript. While teens understand irony, the youngest reader may not. The youngest ages always understand slapstick, although this can be overdone. Parents appreciate clever plays on words when they are reading aloud, and a book that can entertain the parent as well as the child will be read over and over again. To be successfully funny, your humor must be understood by the target audience, and be performed by an appropriate character or narrator, who is believable when delivering his lines or acting funny. In addition, it is more funny to the target audience if they have shared experiences in common with the humorist or character. For example, you wouldn't be joking about a boyfriend to a six-year-old audience.
To see first hand why an understanding of language nuance is essential in understanding humor go to the Reader's Digest Funniest Jokes around the World. They have posted the funniest jokes in all the different countries around the world. Even though all of these jokes were all voted the funniest jokes in their own country, you'll find that some of them just aren't funny to you. The reason is because you may not be familiar with the nuances of their language or culture. That is why it is crucial to target your humor to the right age and audience when you are adding it to your story.
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
Posted by Kersten Campbell at 5:16 PM
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I wondered as I wandered and I asked myself, what motivates a writer? What is happening inside when the writer can't be motivated by thought or action or imagination? I wandered through the maze in my mind trying to locate that spark of imagination, and I wondered where it disappeared?
In all this wandering and wondering, I think I found one answer though I sure there are many. But the one that seems to fit my agenda is life itself. Let me explain.
Over thirty years ago Meniere's Disease (a disease of the inner ear) entered my life. Though the Dr. put a shunt between the middle and inner ear, the vertigo episodes made it impossible for me to perform on stage. I had chaired and performed in a musical theatre group for 15 years and I loved that part of my life. But it came to an abrupt end. So I exchanged the stage for the pen and used my imagination on paper instead of on stage.
A little over a year ago the Meniere's moved to the other ear and the doctor put a shunt between the middle and inner ear, and life took another twist. Somehow in having the second shunt between my ears, my eye-hand coordination was not in sinc and I could no longer focus my brush to the canvas, and I put the canvas and paints away.
Then, in January I had surgery for breast cancer and though they caught it early, the radiation treatments affected the meniere's,causing unwanted vertigo, and the pills they gave me to kill the estrogen enflamed my RA and somehow seemed to imprison the imagination. (Needless to say I refused to take any more pills and was truly grateful when the radiation treatments ended). To add to the complications, my back decided to get involved and it's pain made it impossible for me to sit very long. It hurt to walk. It hurt to sit. Basically, it hurt to move.
The challenge seemed overwhelming and I found myself fighting depression - a side-effect of everything that was changing my life. Then, one day, I said to myself, "It's time to fight back. Get off your duff and make it happen."
I put an empty canvas on the easel, poured some paint on the palette and I spent days retraining my brain to accept the delay in eye-hand coordination. I painted a portrait of my father, who died at the young age of 58, for my mother (that was my motivation) Then I put a bigger canvas on the easel and though my back limits my time at the canvas I find myself painting again.
Then, someone told me that if I sat on one of those big round exercise balls, it would support my back while I work at the computer. I tried it and it actually helps. Cool!!
A friend suggested I see an Acupunturist for the Meniere's. I did, and after three months of the needles, the vertigo has subsided to interupted movement. It's so cool. He also gave me some drops for the depression. I didn't really believe in acupunture until I experienced it. Now, I am truly converted.
Last night I sat in front of my laptop and found my imagination stirring from somewhere inside me
So what I'm trying to say here is I'm so glad I didn't give up. I'm thankful for those who guided me to where I needed to be when I needed to be there, and I'm glad I listened. It's true that we are our own teachers. I have learned a good lesson about life, its twists and turns that help to make us who we are.
Life is good!!
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 10:03 AM
Monday, October 26, 2009
By Nichole Giles
The other day during a critique meeting, my friend, Danyelle, used a great analogy. Imagine for a moment that your story is a meal. The dialogue is the meat, because let’s face it; dialogue is a very important part of the story. We’ll call the narrative potatoes, and description, plot, characterization will be the vegetables and other side dishes.
The meat will help us get to know the characters, see the plot, and probably give us a T.V. screen view of what’s happening in the story. Without it, we really can’t see the full picture, and will be left wanting more.
The potatoes, on the other hand, will bring the reader deeper into the emotional realm, give them a better idea of what the characters are thinking, what they see—or think they see—and what’s happening in the background. This widens the picture a lot, but will probably leave several blind spots.
Both of these things are crucial toward creating a great meal, but if that were all you had to eat would that meal be balanced? Nope. Every story needs more than just those two essential items. That’s where the veggies and sides come in handy. They fill in those blind spots and complete the meal, and if we use them right, balance the story in the same way we’d hope to eat a balanced meal.
But how do you find the correct recipe in writing? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. Every author is different, and every story has a different formula. In the case of our critique group and the manuscript we were discussing during this analogy, we decided it needed more potatoes and some beats. Not beets the vegetables but beats as in character movements or actions in place of dialogue tags.
Using beats is a great way to break up dialogue, confirm who’s speaking, and show emotion without actually telling the reader what that character feels. And while beats aren’t actually a food when spelled with an a, they can often act as a bridge between the meat and potatoes, and help carry the reader through to the finale—dessert.
And as we all know, dessert is always the best part.
To find your recipe, read, read, read and write, write, write. Keep at it and never give up. After all, it takes patience to wait for a loaf of bread to rise.
Now on that note, I’m off to make dinner for my family. For some odd reason, I’m feeling mighty hungry.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Don't get me wrong, I really like Halloween and all of the free chocolate, but when it comes to costumed trick or treaters, I'd rather give my precious Snickers bar to a cute Tinkerbell toddler than a prepubescent goul with blood and guts rolling down his cape. My boys think I'm a dork because instead of decorating our front yard with cool, creepy tombstones and vampires, I display happy pumpkins and harvest designs. I'm just not going to spend my hard-earned money on yucky plastic decor that gushes with fake blood. EESH.
For you folks who aren't chickens like me and who would like to try a Freddy Kruger whack at writing scary stories, here are a few tips from the pros (well, at least according to what I read on the Internet...so it must be true, right?)
The hallmark of horror writing is fear -- the ability of the writer to create it and the ability of the reader to feel it. Of course, poor grammar and bad editing can horrify a reader too! Include these elements in your spooky writ and you're sure to scare your readers, just in time for Halloween:
* Prey on their emotions and fears
* Present a believable plot
* Understand shock value
* Learn how to withold and create suspense
* Throw in a twist to leave them gasping
By the way, the above list is also effective parenting advice...
Posted by Trina Boice at 12:01 AM
Friday, October 23, 2009
By Heather Justesen
Just had to share. This has been several months in the planning and creating stages so I'm totally excited to see it. A big thanks to Stephanie Fowers for filming and compiling the video, and the Kevin Mathie who wrote the music (isn't it gorgeous?).
In other news I've had an interview and a couple of book reviews this week.
Cindy Williams interviewed me for her blog Writer's Mirror on Wednesday.
Danyelle Ferguson at Queen of the Clan blog reviewed my book. Danyelle has a non-fiction book coming out next summer which I'm totally excited about.
Tristi Pinkston, author and reviewer of many fine books, reviewed my book on her blog.
A big thanks to all of these ladies! My big local launch party is happening at the Fillmore, Utah library tomorrow from 10 AM to 1 PM if you or anyone you know lives in the area, invite them over.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
If there is one thing I've learned since becoming an author, it's that I'm always learning something new.
For one, just the very nature of writing necessitates learning, whether it's researching a certain topic, location, or human nature for a new book, or re-learning all the things I was taught in English about punctuation and grammar.
Another thing I've learned, and am continuing to learn, is how to be a better author; how to (and how not to) market a book, how to write and edit more efficiently, how to organize my time better so that I can devote more time to writing, etc.
And lastly, I must say I have learned so much from other authors, which includes reading the posts on this blog. I can't tell you how many times I have struggled with some problem or another in my writing and have found answers, suggestions, and solutions, when I need them most. What a wonderful thing it is to learn from others who have experience and wisdom in areas that I lack.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
by Tristi Pinkston
I love words and language. I'm fascinated by the way you can say the same thing in a hundred different ways. I love the nuances of words, and how moving a comma gives a sentence an entirely different feel. I also love learning new words and inserting them into my writing and my vocabulary.
I'm a little concerned at the trend I see today to dumb down our writing so everyone can understand it. How am I supposed to know what Betty Jean down the street has or has not been exposed to in her reading, and so how am I supposed to know what's safe to use or not? The trend toward dumbing down leads to lazy readers, and a backward step in education. If we're supposed to be learning from our reading, but our reading doesn't teach us anything, really, what's the point?
Okay, I got off on a little bit of a tangent there. I was about to head off into a discussion about new thoughts and ideas as presented through fiction, but I think I'll save that for next time and today, just focus on the original intent of this blog, which is to discuss putting new vocabulary words into our books.
First off, I don't think we should just throw long words in there for any old reason. If the character wouldn't use that word, or if it's one that we're using just to show off how cool and educated we are, then it obviously doesn't have a place. On the other hand, if it's in keeping with your character, or it does fit the situation perfectly, then you should use it.
Second, give enough context so the reader can get a sense of what the word means without having to race for the dictionary. I believe it was in the book "Little Men," by Louisa May Alcott, where I first hit upon the word "fractious." It means grumpy, testy, irritable, troublesome. I used it in one of my novels (not yet published, but soon) but I also showed the character acting grumpy, testy, and irritable. This allowed the reader to understand the meaning of the word by observing what was going on.
Third, make sure you really know what the word means before you use it. Working as an editor, I sometimes see an author use a word that sounds like the one they want, but isn't quite. Or they'll choose a word that means almost what they're looking for, but not quite. If you're not very well acquainted with a word and you don't know its ins and outs and all its connotations, it's best to leave it out - or look it up carefully before using it.
You don't have to keep all long words out of your manuscript - in fact, I encourage you to use them from time to time. I don't recommend more than two or three per book, and I definitely recommend putting enough explanation in the context that the reader gets where you're coming from. Let's have a little more fun with language and really tap into all the rich resources we've been given to tell a story and communicate all that's in our hearts.
Monday, October 19, 2009
by Rebecca Talley
I took my daughter to the DMV to take her driving test yesterday. Upon our arrival, the lady at the counter snapped, "Do you realize you are 20 minutes late?"
We both answered, "Yep." (My son was recently married and this last weekend we had the open house as well as a house full of guests. I'm a little exhausted and we live 30 minutes from town).
She then proceeded to tell us that my daughter would have to wait because she was late and the other appointment had shown up early and they were going to take him first to do his test. This was fine since we were late, but her 'tude was rather annoying and, truthfully, every time I go to the DMV, I not only wait forever, but deal with crabby women. I've come to the conclusion that in order to work at the DMV you must be crabby (as well as make snide remarks) as that is part of the job description.
As I sat there waiting and waiting and waiting, I realized what a golden opportunity I had to not only glean personality characteristics from this woman to use in my writing, but to also analyze how it made me feel. Sometimes, I'm so caught up in what's going on, I fail to realize how a situation can help me in my writing endeavors. The more observant we are, the better our stories will be. And the more we can pinpoint and understand our own feelings and apply them to our characters, the more realistic those characters will be to our readers.
Eliciting emotion from our readers comes from experiencing emotions ourselves and then capturing them on the page--perhaps that is why writers tend to be so passionate. No experience in life is wasted if we can then use it in our writing. Did someone hurt your feelings? Make you mad? Insult you? Accuse you? Compliment you? Ask you for help? Tell you a secret? In each of those situations, how did it make you feel?
When we can apply our feelings to our characters, we can make them more complex and more realistic. Flat characters don't experience emotion and they don't jump off the page. Characters who experience genuine emotions throughout the pages of a book grab readers and make readers think about them long after they turn the last page.
So, the next time you're sitting at the DMV observing cranky employees, defending your religious and/or political beliefs to a neighbor, or dealing with a rude customer service representative on the phone, pay attention to not only the details of what's happening, but especially how it makes you feel and then apply those feelings to your characters to make them come alive on the page.
He has won several Athlete of the Year and Sportsman of the Year awards. Armstrong retired from racing at the end of the 2005 Tour de France, but returned to competitive cycling in January 2009, finishing third in the 2009 Tour de France. He is also the founder and chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research and support.
Lance knows quite a bit about pain, and about not giving up.
Whatever it is in your life that you really want, or that you find yourself enduring to get through to a bigger goal, remember that pain (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual) is temporary--even if it doesn't feel like it. But quitting lasts much longer.
I don't know if I'm the only one who needs a little motivation right now, but I'm sharing it in case it helps some of you. You can do it!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I usually try to post early and have my blog ready so it posts automatically. However, I've been painting my house and then my mom came into town and I haven't checked my emails and missed my reminder. Fortunately I found it today and not tomorrow, huh!
So, I'm not sure I have anything relevent to write today. So, I'll post this. One day in April, I went into my room and found a paper on my bed. I picked it up and instantly knew it was from my six-year-old. This is what it said. (complete with picture)
Abinadi by Lylli Rager
To my mom and dad for all the teachings about the prophets and having faith in him. I love you very much.
Abinadi was one of Heavenly Father’s prophets. He told Abinadi to come to a king. The king’s name was King Noah. So Abinadi walked to King Noah’s kingdom all alone but with Heavenly Father’s help. When he got into King Noah’s kingdom, he told them to repent or else their enemies would destroy them.
But they said, “No we don’t want to repent. Go away. Now!”
So Abinadi walked home all alone again. A few months later he came to King Noah again.
They said, “We have not repented, young man.”
Abinadi said, “All right. Your enemies are going to destroy you.”
King Noah punished him for telling the truth. His punishment was for him to walk to prison all by himself. King Noah put him in prison for two weeks! After two weeks in prison, Abinadi walked halfway home until he started thinking about the message Heavenly Father asked him to tell King Noah. So he went back to his home. He taught him about Jesus and Heavenly Father. After that King Noah wanted to kill Abinadi. So it happened. He burned him down. And that was the end of Abinadi. The end.
Reading this was one of those awesome moments as a mother when I knew I was on the right track! May you all have a wonderful Sunday!
Friday, October 16, 2009
By Marcia Mickelson
November is National Novel Writing Month and those who participate in Nanowrimo make a goal to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. I have never participated in Nanowrimo before, but am seriously considering it.
I must confess. I haven't written in many months. I took the summer off because I just can't write when my kids are home full-time. I write at nights and since my kids have a later bedtime in the summer, I just don't write. I know, I know--that's a terrible excuse. Well, school has been in session for 6 weeks and have I started writing again? No.
My summer break has extended into fall and for one reason or another, I haven't picked it back up again. My excuses have become reasons and writing has been put on hold.
That is why I really need to nano. So, should I nano? I find that when I make a goal in which I have to be accountable, I do much better. I've done Tristi's writing challenges- BIAM (Book In A Month) and these have really encouraged me to write. Lately, I seem to need that accountability and encouragement to write. Otherwise, I talk myself out of it and let other things get in the way. So, you see why I need to Nano? If I don't participate, the whole month of November could pass me by without writing a single word.
So, who's with me? Who would like to nano? I've got a few weeks to talk myself into it.
Posted by Marcia Mickelson at 9:45 PM
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Many people have the misconception that they can't add humor to their writing because they aren't funny. This is a myth. Humor can be learned. Humor has basic formulas that are fueled by what every writer has an abundance of: creativity. I'm living proof of that fact. Before I studied humor, I had no idea how to be funny. But now that I've studied some of the science behind what makes people laugh, I understand that humor comes from a combination of certain factors laid out in a certain way. I recognize it more in other people's work and I can add it to my own.
I'll give you and example of one basic formula that can be learned. One of the most basic ideas in humor writing is incongruity. When two ideas that don't make sense are put together it makes us laugh, whether it be in a character, a plot, or a dialogue. For instance, much of the dialogue in the movie, "The Emperor's New Groove" is incongruous. The two main characters are about to fall over a steep waterfall and the emperor asks, "Sharp rocks at the bottom?" And his companion very calmly answers, "Yup." Then the emperor replies straight-faced, "Bring it on." This dialogue is all said in the most calm manner, making us laugh because it is the total opposite reaction than they should be having to the scary situation.
An example of an incongruous character is in C.S. Lewis's "Voyage of the Dawn Treader". "Reepicheep" is the tiny mouse who is braver than anyone else and a swordsman that no one can defeat, yet he is the tiniest of all the creatures on Prince Caspian's ship. It makes us laugh when this tiny mouse shouts out huge threats at people in a squeaky little voice. The incongruity of someone who is in reality so tiny, but acts like he is ten feet tall is funny.
So if you want to add humor to your writing, but think you're not funny, don't be discouraged! Just take the time to study one of the many books on Amazon.com that teach the formulas for writing humor. It will be well worth your time, because sometimes humor is the edge that gets your manuscript to stand out above the others that are all alike in the slush pile. Good luck! and let me know how it goes!
author of "Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I have a list, several inches long, of Books I need to read or have read or have booksmarks where I've read to. Books like "Tasty Vegan and Raw Recepies." "The China Study." (The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted)."Second Spring." (Hundreds of natural secrets for women to revitalize and regenerate at any age.) There are a few more but I won't bother to list them. It's just that these are books for helping yourself. You don't read them for enjoyment. Still they are filled with mystery, one of which is this: "How to motivate myself to become a vegetarian or more intense, a Vegan when there are so many good things to eat that aren't included in these books. But I'm told that becoming a vegatarian will guarentee that I'll won't get cancer, again. This is my motivation.
Now, let's talk about reading another kind of book. The kind that doesn't tell you you can't have frozen yogart.
Let's talk about, "In the Company of Angels" by David Farland," It was an emotional, sad, brave book that brought tears, at times. I had to keep reading until I got to the end. It reminded me of my ancestors who gave up so much to pull a handcart mile after mile, day after day, month after month, surviving on faith. I recommend it to all of you.
Next, "Dragon Rider" by Cornelia Funke. I carried it with me everywhere I went so if I had a minute, I would spend it inside this book.
I know I've mentioned this one before, but just in case you didn't read my post that day, I want to mention it again. "A Train to Potevka" (true Story) by Mike Ramsdell. Oh, and what a story.
The only food I ate while reading these three books was dark chocolate.
Now, I think I'll go have lunch and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
Thank you for reading my post.
Posted by JoAnn Arnold at 12:33 PM
Monday, October 12, 2009
It just occurred to me—as I’m running out the door to run errands—that it’s my day to blog here. And since I have a crazy busy week, I don’t have any deep thoughts to share. Well, actually, I probably do, but don’t really have time to sit down and pour them into my computer.
Actually, I’d rather do that than what I’m going to do in a minute. I’m getting a flu shot, so…well, yeah. Not fun. Anyway, rather than skip my day posting here and deny you my deep and undying wisdom, I’ve resurrected a blog I posted over at LDS Writer’s Blogck way back in April, 2006, hence the spring theme. This was officially my very first blog post ever, and reading it now, years later, I have to admit, it wasn’t all that bad. (Come visit us over there, where I post every Thursday. We talk a lot about writing and the processes involved.)
Enjoy my very old, yet new to you blog, and have a great October!
By Nichole Giles
The other day the sun came out, the temperature jumped, and I decided it would be a great day to play in the dirt. Sunny days are perfect for planting, and I had some plants to replace. Having been in our home for two years this month, I had hoped to be finished planting shrubs and vines so that I could move on to planting more colorful things. And last summer, I was. For a day or two.
Last spring we got a dog, a female Golden Retriever. As dogs go, she is the calmest, most easy going dog I have ever met. She never barks, she never jumps on people, and she always minds the commands we give her. However, she does have one major flaw. Our dog likes to dig up plants. She didn’t just dig them up. Once she got hold of a new plant and pulled it from the ground, she then proceeded to rip it to shreds and drag its remains around the back yard.
Now I suppose you are wondering, what does this have to do with writing? When a writer puts words to a page (or screen), he or she is planting a root. With sunshine and nourishment and time (not to mention lots and lots of rewrites), that root will grow into something beautiful, something precious, something truly amazing.
And then someone, usually an editor (or critiquer), will rip it up, stomp on it, and drag it along the ground, making sure to leave tire marks where they drove over it.
When I found the remains of my once beautiful plants, I yelled at the dog, and banished her to her kennel, where she remained for several days. I only let her out when I could be out with her, guarding my newly planted roots. I replanted them, you see. The other day when I went outside, I could see tiny shoots peeking their little heads out of the soil screaming, “I’m alive! You didn’t think I’d live, but I did.”
And so will our work. We will take the shreds of what we once considered a perfectly beautiful story, and replant it. We’ll fix it, and nurse it, and give it time and faith. With those things it will grow into something publishable. Something that will make us proud.
This is the reason I went outside last weekend. I saw the old plants coming up, and it inspired me to plant some new ones. So I did.
P.S. In case you were considering it, I wouldn't suggest comparing your editor to a dog. Nor would it be a good idea to scream at them and whack their noses with your red-inked manuscript. For some reason, editors don't react well to those situations, and you may find yourself without one.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
By Christine Thackeray
I'm a mother of seven great kids and discovered early on that there was a definite correlation between the way my kids were potty trained and how they learned to read. My oldest struggled with both. My second son fought against the whole idea on both fronts. Then my daughter decided she was done with diapers at 11 months and was fluent at reading by the time she started kindergarten.
Well, you get the idea. I do believe that certain skill sets can clue us in to brain patterns when it comes to other activities. One such pairing might be in the way we prepare "talks" or presentations and the way we write novels.
I've noticed that some people write out every word and then stick exactly to their script without deviation. Others write a lose outline and stick closely to it while still others write out one thing and then when they get up there go off on a separate tangent completely.
As writers that may clue us into what works for our brain type. I remember sitting through one writing class on mapping and calendaring out your novel. I thought at the time that would be my answer to simplifying the writing process and quickly bought a calendar and began writing down fictional events. After hours of writing, scribbling and tearing complete pages out and throwing them across the room, I realized that technique may not be the best for me.
Personally, I do the research, write an outline and then write wherever the characters take me, knowing the basic overview but trying to be true to their personal motivations without manipulating them too much. (Can you tell I'm the loose outline type.)
My other friend plots in her head down to the detail, writes her chapters out perfectly the first time and then plots again. She is more like the person that writes out every word of their talk.
It's a nice guilt-lifter to know that we can each create differently and it may even help the emerging writer to have a better idea how to proceed if they look at the way they create other things and use the techniques that they know work.
Friday, October 9, 2009
By Heather Justesen
Lots of fun and exciting things going on in my end of the world. I just got notice that my author's copies of "The Ball's in Her Court" shipped to me from the warehouse today so I'm going to be jumping every time the front door opens at work on Monday wondering if it's the UPS guy.
I've set up a big book launch at my hometown library on Saturday the 24th, then realized today was the deadline for getting the advertising in the paper this next week, so my notice there I'll only appear three days before the event! But I'll spend some serious time that week hanging up signs and passing out postcards with my cute book cover on front and the party details on back (if anyone reading this is going to be near Fillmore that day and wants to come, by all means--we'll have giveaways and refreshments and lots of fun. 10 am to 1 pm.
I've also gotten hooked up for a signing in Sandy at the Barnes & Noble at the South Town Mall on November 7th--where I'll be signing with Aubrey Mace, Linda Chadwick, and Ronda Hinrichsen.
And November 20th I'll be at Confetti Books and Antiques in Spanish Fork for their celebration, though I don't know who all will be signing with me that day.
And December 5th I'll be signing at Barnes and Noble in Orem along with a bunch of other authors.
Oh, yeah, Tristi Pinkston and I are signing at a holiday boutique in Salt Lake on November 14th too...
All of the details for all of these signings will definitely be posted on my website and blog as they get closer.
It's really rather exciting, but writing the list of everything I still need to do reminded me of a dozen other details I need to iron out in preparation (besides digging out the room my friend Danyelle is going to sleep in when she flies into Utah for the first party--she's awesome, I know).
The point of this post (besides total celebration) is that when I first thought I wanted to be a writer I didn't take into account the fact that there would be promotional stuff to do as well, or that it would take up so much of my writing time. All of the arrangements that have to be made between now and the next couple of weeks seem overwhelming, but at the same time, I'm really looking forward to everything too.
This is all totally out of my comfort zone and normal behavior (I'm usually pretty introverted and hermit-like), but I look forward to the opportunity to meet people and grow into something more than I am right now--and hopefully if any of you see me at my table you'll take a moment to swing by and say hello, even if you only read sci-fi or westerns and wouldn't pick up a romance on a bet. =)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
If anyone has read Carol Tuttle's new book, "It's Just My Nature" which is about personality profiling based on the earths elements, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that I'm a 2. I have always thought myself to be a quiet, gentle, go-with-the-flow type of person. I like soft things, and I love to be comfortable. So the entire time I was reading about "2's" I kept thinking, "No way, that's totally me. It's like they just copied my personality and put it in this book, even the weird, quirky things, like hanging onto everything."
The personality trait I'd like to focus on is comfort. Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to make Caramel Apple Crisp and plug mine and Michelle Stewart's cookbook, "The Diet Rebel's Cookbook: Eating Clean and Green" (coming April, 2010) on Studio 5. While this was a very exiting chance to share my talents and the things I've learned about how sprouting grains partially digest gluten and starch and increases nutrients, I was largely uncomfortable for two reasons.
1. I was nervous about how it would all turn out, if I would say everything I wanted to or if I would say something totally embarrassing, if I would get there on time, if I remembered to bring everything, if I would blush or make a fool of myself on live TV, etc.
2. I was wearing really uncomfortable high heals. Now, comfort is important to me, so part of me said, "It's not like your feet are going to be filmed. Wear your three-year-old, toe-scuffed everyday shoes. Your feet will thank you." But the other part of me quickly said, "You need to dress up, and you can't wear those things! Besides, you never know, they might get a shot of your feet." I opted for style over comfort.
So there I was, walking and standing for a few hours. My feet were killing me, and so were the butterflies attacking me from the inside. But I discovered something very interesting, and that was, when I was focused on setting up, placing things where I wanted them to go, chatting with the people there, and observing my surroundings and the other segments that went on before me, I paid no attention to my discomfort. Likewise, every time I had time to just think, those discomforts came to mind.
Sharing talents, whether through writing or other things, can sometimes take us our of our comfort zone. I've discovered that this is very good. I have also discovered that when I focus on the task at hand; the message I wish to share and if it has the potential to touch and uplift the lives of others and myself, that I'm naturally more comfortable. Sometimes I'm just downright happy! And that is a very good feeling. Now I just need to work on my shoes.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
by Tristi Pinkston
The very first story I ever wrote was called "Sue the Dog." No, this wasn't a story about taking legal action against the dog ... her name was Sue. At any rate, Sue wanted to be a ballerina, and I remember drawing a picture of Sue up on stage, wearing toe shoes. I was five. You've gotta cut me some slack here.
As I grew up, I wrote some really depressing poetry (I think we all go through that stage) and then I tried my hand at fantasy (I didn't get very far). I believe I was about seventeen when I wrote a story about two brothers going off to war. It wasn't very good, and it ended up in a box somewhere. But as I cleaned out my storage some years later and came across it, I took another look at it and realized, while it certainly isn't ready for publication now, I could rework it and make it into something worth reading.
We've all written something that perhaps isn't as good as we would like it to be. I'm sure we all wish we could forget some of our earlier attempts and just focus on the here and now, the things we've written after some studying of the craft. But I encourage you to keep those early attempts for two reasons.
1. They serve to act as a journal of who you were at various different stages in your writing journey. They might not be perfect (and let's be honest, they might even stink) but they become signposts along the way and mark how far you've come.
2. They contain a thread of an idea you might use in future stories. If you invested any time in them at all, years ago, you had enough of an idea to build upon. Why not read through them again and see what you might yet create?
I don't know when I'll get around to reworking that old story-I have so many other ideas right now that are taking my attention. But keep your eyes peeled for a Tristi Pinkston novel about two brothers during World War I. It won't be much like the draft I started when I was seventeen (thank goodness) but the bare bones of the plot will be similar, and I'll be so glad I kept that old story instead of throwing it away.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
by Rebecca Talley
by Rebecca Talley
Have you ever read a book and said, “That’s too coincidental?” If you have, you’re not alone.
I finished reading a book the other day and thought there were far too many coincidences in the storyline. In fact, by the end of the book I felt like I’d been manipulated by the author. Not a good reaction from a reader. Definitely not the reaction we want from our readers.
Yes, coincidences happen in real life. But we're not writing real life, we're writing fiction and in writing fiction, things that happen must not only have a purpose, but they must grow organically out of the plot.
For example, if a character needs to know a secret, find a way to allow that character to naturally discover the secret. If you have another character blurt out important information, especially if that character had been keeping the secret for a long time and it wouldn’t be natural for him to blurt out guarded information, it will feel manipulative.
Ask yourself as you write, “Would this character really say or do this?” “Would this really happen the way I’ve written it?” “Are my events growing organically from the plot?”
If you need a character to learn information or meet another character, foreshadow it so when it does happen, the reader feels like it’s natural. Don’t just plop a character in a specific place because you need to do so to advance your plot. Give the reader reason to believe the character should be there, naturally.
As you write your story, consider your plot points and make sure that one point leads to the next in a natural way. Don’t force a plot point because it will be evident to the reader. Don’t rely on coincidence to move your story forward because a reader will feel manipulated and as soon as he feels that way, you’ve lost him.
Make sure your plot grows organically and you won’t have readers scratching their heads and muttering, “Too coincidental.” Or worse, throwing your book across the room.
Monday, October 5, 2009
(An expounded article, with the original version posted at the LDS Writers Blogck in 2006.)
(Photo by Ryan Franklin, Wikimedia Commons)
It’s only fair to warn you—since I usually write fluff and stuff—that this blog is serious. Why am I warning you? Because it’s a matter of trust.
At an online group to which I belong, emails flew back and forth a few years ago about a well-known LDS writer who often changed his morals from one book to the next. Some people stated they refused to read his books because of it.
It got me thinking. Do we owe anything to readers in terms of keeping their trust?
I know that as a reader nothing turns me off faster than an author I can't trust. Not that an author can't change and grow, but a vast, sudden departure without warning, from what I perceive as the norm for that author, is a betrayal.
When Harry Potter first came out, I was enthralled, excited, and eagerly looking forward to each new book. And then, after I’d finished reading almost all of the books in the series, the public announcement was made that Professor Dumbledore, one of the important characters in the Harry Potter series, was supposedly gay.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a gay basher. On the other hand, homosexuality is not a lifestyle I would engage in or that I want my children taught as an alternate lifestyle in elementary school, either. But, I do believe in the right for all adults to utilize their free agency and pick the lifestyles of their choosing.
There was no hint by J. K. Rowling that Dumbledore’s sexual preference was an alternate lifestyle. And in books that were geared toward children, there should have been some warning, so parents could decide if they wanted their children reading the books.
It’s my personal opinion that Rowling sold out to Hollywood; that when the books were written, Dumbledore’s character was not gay. I believe that over time, though, with pressure from the movie industry—a mogul which consistently caters to the gay and lesbian community—Rowling agreed to label the professor as such.
I have no proof of that except for my own intuition. I've read articles, however, stating that even some members of the gay community felt anger at the announcement and believed it was staged for Hollywood’s purposes.
It so incensed me that Rowling would deceive her readers in that way, that I vowed never to read another one of her books. The fact that I'm still thinking about the issue two years later shows just how deep Rowling plunged the knife of betrayal.
Be that as it may, let's put Rowling aside for a second in order to ponder a question that arises. If as writers we have a certain trust we're obligated to maintain, how do we branch out into new, soul-stretching areas without betraying that trust? If we normally write light, fun stuff, and we have a sinister plot in our heads, are we never allowed to move over to the dark side?
No one wants to be cast into a mold, crammed into a style we’ve outgrown, writing the same old stuff until our life is over and we’re just a dusty memory on a library shelf. However, whether we want it or not we have an obligation of trust toward our readers. If we want to branch out, we can use a pseudonym, give warning in a foreword, or announce it on the jacket cover. For the rich and famous, there’s always the avenue of talk shows and radio promotions.
As for Rowling, she could have used any of those alternatives. The most easy would have been simply to warn us in advance and to make Professor Dumbledore’s actions consistent with his lifestyle. If homosexuality was a character paradox for the erstwhile Professor, (see Marcia Mickelson’s entry on character paradoxes) Rowling should have at least given us a clue.
As for me, I flit back and forth on choosing a pen name, trying to figure out which pseudonym to use for my humorous writings and which to use for my serious writings. But, no one can say I’m not trying. One of these days I’ll get it figured out, and I'd like to think that if/when I become a famous author, I won't sell out to Hollywood with one of my characters.
In the meantime, those are my feelings, and it can’t be said I didn’t give fair warning about them. Seriousness isn’t really in my nature, though, and I’ve about run of philosophical thoughts for the moment. Besides, I hear an oatmeal brownie with chocolate frosting calling to me … and I must heed its clarion call!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
by Rachel Rager
LIFE ~ What a crazy thing. Everything seems to happen all at once! (Such as moving out of state, going on a blog tour and attend a book signing all at the same time!)
This week we closed on a new house in Provo, UT. Nearly my entire life I have lived in Casper, WY. My husband is also from Casper, so for us to make this move has been difficult. In fact, if we hadn't made the decisions we did and lived with my parents for three months, I'm not certain we would have been as eager to make this move.
Is this my dream home that I have moved into? No. Certainly not. But it's mine and I have definately learned (or rather remembered) how wonderful it is to have family, friends and ward families. The help and support we have recieved has been wonderful. I have learned to find blessings in the little things. Blessings appear in so many different shapes and sizes. I'd like to share just one with you today. When we were preparing to make this move, my four-year-old noticed my tears one day. She asked why I was crying.
"Honey, Mommy's just a little scared. That's all."
"Do you know what Nana told me?"
"If you're scared, we should stick together. We can do anything if we stick together."
What wonderful advice. As you can see, I'm truly blessed. I hope you will take the time to look around you today and list your blessings, big and small.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
A few weeks ago, I mentioned our cellar in the Knutsford, Cheshire, England house (click here). Today, I’m sharing more about that cold, damp place where mold grew in patches of brown and green across archaic stone walls that had witnessed bleaker days than mine.
Apart from being a good area to grow mushrooms, and the only place in the house my mother would let me keep tadpoles and ultimately frogs, it was a breeding ground for wild imaginings if ever there was one.
Our house was built in Victorian times, the 1800s, when servants lived below ground in mildewed cellars such as ours. It smelled like something had died down there and was forever rotting. There was a small window with bars but I couldn’t see sky through it. Wet, brown leaves piled halfway to the top of the well outside, with spider webs and green slime taking up any spare space.
The cellar door was bolted for safety. When it creaked ajar, steep, narrow steps stretched into a black hole and it would have been easy to fall headlong if the door opened by mistake. It stood on a step to the right of another door into the main hallway. High on the wall next to the cellar was an old brown box containing numbers and bells for each room in the house, a device for summoning servants in the old days—long before my time, I hasten to add :-)
There was no handrail, so I would creep down those slippery steps, feeling my way with one hand, sliding it down slick stones, trying not to think about creatures of the dark. In my other hand, I usually carried a lighted candle. I believe there was a light bulb that sometimes worked, but more often did not.
About halfway down, there was a large hole carved into the stones. I guess servants used it for storing wine, but to me, waiting for my hand to hit the edge was like living my own nightmare. Who knew what else besides bottles once got stuffed in there? Children? Bats? Snakes? And what ghosts curled up to rest between hauntings?
Knutsford is renowned for ghosts (see (The Old Prison Site). I grew up on stories about the ghost of Edward “Highwayman” Higgins. He was a gentleman by day and thief by night. Around 1756, he lived next door to the author Elizabeth Gaskell (see King Canute and Elizabeth Gaskell). In his townhouse, on what is now called Gaskell Avenue, he entertained wealthy guests for many years. On being invited back to elite homes, he became familiar with the layout of each, and would return later to steal valuables. He also rode his horse at night between Knutsford and Chester, holding up carriages and robbing gentry.
On November 7th 1767, after getting caught breaking into the cellar of a home in Carmarthen, Wales, a long way from home, Higgins was hung from the gallows.
For me, at the tender age of ten, his ghost lingered around every corner of our cellar. Oh, the stories I imagined back then. Is it any wonder most of my dreams were nightmares?
Friday, October 2, 2009
By Marcia Mickelson
I've been teaching a writing class at church. This past week, we discussed characterization. One of the topics I focused on was making dynamic characters by adding a paradox to their personality.
I talked about making sure that characters are consistent in their actions. In the book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, Linda Seger says that "characters, like people, have a kind of core personality that defines who they are and gives us expectations about how they will act."
However, people can sometimes be unpredictable. Finding a paradox in someone we know or in a character we're reading about draws us toward them. A paradox can make a dynamic and unique character.
Here are a few examples of what I mean, withe the paradox in boldface.
A college professor who is a father of four. He's a good husband, a good father, and a leader in his church. He very intelligent and well-spoken and also winning his fantasy baseball league.
A PhD student who is almost finished with her doctorate and is working on her dissertation. She's intelligent, philosophical, and very focused on her schooling. She's also a huge Twilight fan and collects some of the memorabilia.
Those are just 2 examples of people who have a list of consistent personality traits with one glaring paradox. As an exercise, during the class, I had everyone write a list of consistent personality traits and one huge paradox. It was an interesting discussion and certainly something to think about as authors create their characters. You can develop interesting characters by adding a paradox to contradict their consistent personalities.
Posted by Marcia Mickelson at 5:06 PM