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.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Influences on Writing - Part 2

Writer's Block

Do you suffer from writer's block? Do you worry that you won't make that deadline because you can't come up with anything? Have you put your writing away because you just can't get past that one part?

We've all been there. We all get writer's block! When I was writing By Love or By Sea, I sat in front of my computer for 30 days before I figured out a solution to the problem. So what did I do?

Well, first off, I sat there, every day. I tried to write and usually I ended up deleting it all. But I kept trying. When my mind was completely blank, I did research online. I kept trying to come up with new angles and new situations.

Finally, after a month of dedicated perserverence, a thought struck me. A lot like lightening. I suddenly knew exactly what to write. And I couldn't write down my thoughts fast enough. My house and family were neglected because I was so desperate not to lose my thought!

Is that the only way to go about writer's block? Probably not. I do think that by trudging on through you can work through it. Although sometimes I think you need to put it away for a week or so and work on something else before coming back to it.

One think I know for certain, if you put it away and don't keep trying, you will never get beyond it. So keep on trying. It will work out sooner or later!
*Part 1 of this series, Influences on Writing - Music, can be found at on my blog! I look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I Write

By Christine Thackeray

A friend sent me an interesting essay. In it a woman said that she writes because she can't draw. Her brother is an artist and in her heart she felt a need to describe the beauties of the Northwest in the autumn so she penned gorgeous lines which I'm not even going to try to imitate.

I read that and thought, "Wow, that's not why I write at all."

I write because I love people. I love stories and passions that drive action. I love coming to new epiphanies and seeing life from new perspectives once those lessons have been digested. I love seeing the flow of life in miniature and feeling that every difficulty has purpose and perhaps, I'm a little too impatient to wait for reality so I make it up myself.

I write because I have vivid dreams and more vivid imaginings. I write because I want to experience the past with the muscles and flesh on, not simply the bones that historians leave behind. I write because I want to reach to the future or maybe even change it a little.

And if I didn't write I would still dream and dance in my mind, but the moment I turned from those thoughts, they'd be gone forever. So I write to keep the crazy wonderful musings of mind alive just a little longer.

So my question to you is... Why so you write?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

With all of our heart and soul

JoAnn Arnold

A week ago my husband and I attended a funeral for a close friend. She and I had worked side by side for several years in the temple. She got Breast Cancer a few months before I did. Hers was much more serious, and though the cancer went into remission for a time, it came back - this time in her lung. She fought a good fight with all her heart and soul - with deep faith and she won. She got to go home where there is no more pain and suffering.

Last Tuesday, I helped at the voting poll. Santa Clara has just over 1600 residents. Only 275 people The thing was that it is an 'off' year and it's not important, right? Wrong!!! We have to fight with all our heart and soul to keep that which is precious to us - our freedom.

Last Wednesday, I helped receive art that is to be hung in our Zion's Bank Staircase Gallery. I put numbers on the frames and had the artists fill out the information paper, etc., giving me the chance to see (up close and personal) the beautiful artwork revealing the heart and soul of the artist.

(Thursday, I went to the Chiropractor to get my back back in line.)

I've been reading "Am I Not a Man?" A powerful story of one man and the difference he made in the world just because his heart and his soul directed him.

I think what I'm trying to say is this: If we want to make a difference in this life We have to live and die with all of our heart and soul. We have to stand up for freedom with all of our heart and soul. We have to paint with all of our heart and soul. we have to write with all of our heart and our soul. We have to do this so that we can touch others lives and raise our own one more step above the bar.

I have to sign off now. I'm leaving for Provo to see the Rhumetologist and this is one thing I will admit, I do not have my heart and soul in this.

Thank you for stopping by

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Moment of Silence or Meditation

By Nichole Giles

Did I mention last month that I’m participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge? The deal is that I had to sign up on a website, and by doing so, commit myself to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. I did that, and then added a bunch of writing buddies who will cheer me on and keep me going when I decide I don’t want to do it anymore.

The challenge started at midnight on November first, or in other words, the minute Halloween was over.

How am I doing? So far so good. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this month, it’s the value of a quiet moment of meditation. Now, I’m not talking about during the writing process—that, my friends, is a stall tactic—but just before. I’ve discovered that when I take five or ten minutes to meditate, to sit still and quiet in a relaxed position, all by myself, I am far more prepared to write from the heart instead of my head.

“But,” you ask, “What’s the difference?” Everyone is different, so this may not be true for you, but I’ve discovered that the material that comes from my heart is far better—and requires less editing or large, ridiculous numbers of rewrites—than when I sit down and force something to come out of my head.

As an example I’ll use my two current works in progress. I started the first one last winter, in a moment of inspiration that came to me during one of my kids’ basketball games. The first chapter or two flowed easily and established a cast of characters I loved, and who have developed into people a reader can care about. I’ve been working on this manuscript for almost a year, and it stands right now, about 2/3 finished, at 60,000 some odd words. Currently, this story is stalled.

It’s taken me a long time to build up that word count because of countless minutes of writing time wasted staring at a blank screen as I wonder what happens next and try to force the story to work out in my head. By trying to force myself to write the story, I caused my characters, plot, and setting details to stall, gel, and rebel against being written. The stinkers!

On the other hand, the story I started last week for NaNoWriMo is in a completely different realm. I know the characters fairly well, and have a very vague idea of what needs to happen and where the story is going, but I have no preconceived plans other than an idea of what the main character will need to experience in order to accomplish her quest. By not having outlined ideas in my head, and then trying to force these ideas onto the screen, I am better able to take five or ten minutes of quiet meditation before I begin writing and use them to dig deep into my heart, and allow the words and story to simply flow—unedited and not judged by my dreaded fear of failure.

This week I’ve written over 20,000 words, which is roughly 1/3 of the words completed in my other manuscript. You know, the one on which I’ve been working for eight or nine months and still have not finished. Interesting, isn’t it?

So the question of the day is does it make a difference when you start your writing session with a few quiet minutes of meditation? Share your thoughts, I really want to know.

**Mormon Mishaps and Mischief update: Cindy and I have received the proofs, and are getting ready to turn them in to our editor, Heidi. We’re still waiting for a solid publication date, and our real cover art, but are expecting good news any day. Stay tuned.

Until next time, write on!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

What have you learned that's worth writing about?

By Trina Boice

Ever wonder what it takes to succeed at something? I stumbled across the list below and got a real kick out of some of the college degrees famous people have earned. Some will surprise you:

Adam Sandler - Fine Arts

Alex Trebek - Philosophy

Andy Griffith - Music

Angela Bassett - Drama

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Physical Communications Art Garfunkel

Barbara Walters - English

Barry Manilow - Music

Bill Clinton - Foreign Service

Bruce Lee - Philosophy

Cindy Crawford - Chemical Engineering

Clarence Thomas - English

Colin Powell - Geology

Conan O'Brien - American History and Literature

David Letterman - Telecommunications

Dick Cheney - Political Science

Donald Trump - Economics

Garth Brooks - Journalism/Advertising

George Clooney - Broadcasting

George W. Bush - History

Harrison Ford - Philosophy

Janet Reno - Chemistry

Julia Roberts - Veterinary Studies

Kevin Costner - Business Administration

Margaret Thatcher - Chemistry

Michael Crichton - Anthropology

Michael Jordan - Cultural Geography

Mick Jagger - Economics

Will Ferrell - Sports Information

Willard Scott - Religious Studies

So, why did I want to share these with you today? Because I wanted to make a few points. You'll notice that some of the famous people listed above went on to achieve great things in their chosen field, while others did something completely different from their educational pursuit. You may have travelled down one of life's paths, planning for a specific destination, only to find that it wasn't what you thought it was going to be.

You may be currently working in a profession that you don't enjoy or one that simply doesn't pay as much as you thought it would. You may even be out of a job right now. Or you may have set aside your occupation for a time in order to stay home to raise your children. I know that in between diaper changes you often ask yourself if you're succeeding at anything!  I've learned that, despite your best plans, life throws lots of twists and turns at you.  Those experiences can make for the most interesting writing!

Whatever education or training you’ve had in the past has helped mold you into the person you are today.   The truth is, your life is an education and there are things you've learned that others would love to read about, whether through characters in your book or as an autobiography. 

Look at that list above again. Wow, who knew Cindy Crawford had beauty AND brains?! What did it take for those people to succeed? Persistence. Talent. Time. Hard work. Tenacity.  Those are the same things it takes to get a book published!  Whatever chapter of your life you're in right now, look at what you've learned and celebrate it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reading is a Must

By Heather Justesen

If I said that writers need to read, you might nod and think I mean that internally we have to read--it's part of our makeup. That would be true for most every writer I know, but that's not what I mean.

The fact is, as in any profession, writers need to keep up with what's going on in their business. That means I need to be aware of what other writers in my genre are producing, what the trend is. Reading is also necessary as part of the process of learning to write. When I read a book, I often study the setting, characters, plots and other aspects of the writing. I pay attention to beautiful prose (because that is really not my strong point) and things that don't work for me in the story.

I may be totally caught up in the book, but after writing for so many years, a part of my brain is always scrutinizing the text, trying to figure out why I enjoy the book. Is it great characters? A skillfully woven plot? Is there just enough chemistry between the man and woman to keep me wondering how and when they are going to get past their obstacles? Is the mystery getting more complex and do I keep asking myself who was responsible for the murder?

It's important for me to focus on these aspects as I read because they help me become a better writer. After I had one of my manuscripts edited by a published writer for the first time, I realized that I had trouble knowing how and where to add descriptions. I tended to add them in unecessary places, or I made them too passive (or I left them out entirely). On the recommendation of another friend, I spent untold hours over the next several months reading everything written by a specific author that I could get my hands on. I probably read close to forty or fifty of her books in under three months (they were mostly pretty short and she's obviously been writing for quite some time) and when I started writing again the descriptions came much easier to me--because I had studied how to do it.

Reading is an important part of honing my craft, but I sometimes struggle to find time to sit down with a book because I have so many other things to do (writing is only one of them). Still, when I do pick up a book, slide back into a hot bubble bath, or wrap myself up in blankets in bed, I find my frustrations trickle away, my worries flee, and when I finish, I'm far more ready to get back to work on my next book.

What have you read lately?

PS I'll be signing with some other great authors at the Sandy, Utah Barnes & Noble Saturday from 2-4. Stop in and enter to win one of our prizes!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fun Writing

The first time I wrote a novel, it was so fun! In fact, it didn't feel like work at all because it was just pure enjoyment. (Maybe I should have put some work into it, then it might have gotten published, but hey.)

My second novel started out fun, but after a few months it started to become work. It was hard to get all the way through it, and then all the way through it again. But I did, and now it's published.

When I began a third novel, it was really fun for the first few months, and then the holidays came and I stopped writing. Then I never went back because by then the fun and newness had worn off. I lost my desire to finish it.

Part of me felt obligated to finish this "baby" because I was officially a "writer" so I had to. But sometimes when I feel like I have to do something, I automatically don't want to do it anymore. It was the same with the book.

But then something happened. It was a turning point of sorts. I decided that I was a writer, that this story deserved to be told, and that I was going to write it even if it was work and it could be difficult. (Besides, I have a small fan club, consisting mostly of immediate family members, that can't wait for it to be finished.)

So I decided to try again, but there were a few things I needed to learn before I could, and they were:

1. Have fun: I engaged in a couple different writing projects that were so fun and satisfying in every way. This helped me to get the "fun" spark back again.

2. Trust God: I believe my talents were given to me by Heavenly Father and that He intends that I use and share my talents, not bury them. I needed to trust that He would help me write, but I also needed to put forth the effort. Recently, when it was that time of day for me to write, I had no idea what to write about. No thoughts had come to my mind at all previously, but within two hours, I had still written more than eight pages.

3. Trust myself: I think I was at a point where I didn't know if I had it in me to finish writing another novel. (Who knows. Maybe my published novel was just some sort of weird fluke that fell into my head and flowed out my fingertips, and could never be repeated.)But every time without fail, when I set time aside to write, words that weren't even there before, come. Plus, I've completed three books now, I can certainly complete another one.

4. An attitude adjustment: My problem was viewing work as something not fun. But when I could see how fun, exciting, rewarding, and satisfying work could actually be, the whole idea of work shifted in my mind.

5. Patience: Writing a book takes time, but everyday I can see progress being made. Goals help to keep me on track, and when I accomplish a goal, it's all I need to feel satisfied. This helps me to be patient while I work for that day it's complete.

I'm still working on getting a good writing system down, but it's coming together nicely. Most of all, I'm doing what I love and having fun while working at it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

'Tis the Season!

by Tristi Pinkston
That's right - Halloween was a whole half a week ago. Get with the program - it's time to start thinking about Christmas! Forget that it's a month and a half away. Procrastination is for lazy people! At least, that's what merchandisers would have us believe. I can hardly believe how quickly stores make the leap from Halloween to Christmas sales, as if Thanksgiving didn't exist at all.

Yes, I do have a reason for rambling about the seasons, and it's not just that I'm suddenly craving eggnog. I'd like us all to seriously consider giving books this Christmas season. No, they don't all have to be my book, although I certainly wouldn't mind and I'd be flattered and you can purchase it here or here or here. What I'm suggesting is that we each do our part to give the gift of literacy for Christmas.

We live in such a fast-paced world. We are becoming more attuned to movies and Wii and iPods all the time, and our children can program computers better than we can. (Okay, maybe you can program your own computer, but I can't - I'm constantly yanking my ten-year-old out of bed to come install something for me in the middle of the night.) Where children used to spend hours reading, they're now spending hours in front of screens - and even our books are becoming electronic, with Kindle becoming such a major new way to market reading material. I fear that little by little, we're losing the joy of holding those pages in our hands, the feel of turning the pages, and that awesome new-book smell.

I want to make sure that my children know what it's like to regularly crack open a new book, to be the first one to skim its pages (except for browsers at the bookstore) and to feel the joy of ownership of the story. I loved getting books for Christmas and my birthday. (That wasn't a hint to mail me presents, but hey, if you want to, I certainly wouldn't turn them down ... unless they really stunk) I'd like to see a movement back toward the simple things, pen and ink and cardboard brought together to create something that rivals even holiday magic ... the magic of reading. It doesn't go away after the last dry needle falls off the tree.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Altared Plans" Book Trailer Contest

by Rebecca Talley

Who doesn't love contests?

I want to spread the word about my LDS romance Altared Plans. After all, what better Christmas gift than a light-hearted romance novel?

I created a book trailer and would love to have you post it on your blog or on Facebook. If you do, I'll enter you into a contest to win a $20.00 gift certificate to Amazon. Here's the rules:

1. Post my book trailer on your blog or on Facebook. Here's the url to pick up the embed code.
2. Leave a comment here and let me know you posted it and the address of your blog or Facebook page.
3. Deadline to enter is November 15th at midnight. I'll choose a random winner on November 16th and post it here. Be sure to check back to see if you've won.
4. You can enter each time you post it to a blog or post it to Facebook.

Thanks for participating in the contest and helping me promote Altared Plans.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Six Word Novel

by Cindy Beck

As writers, we’re sometimes prone to descriptive sentences which too often need trimming, and there’s a great warm-up exercise to help with that. It’s called the “six word novel,” and the idea behind it is for the writer to create a story in just six words.

Not long ago, I asked my husband, Russ, a question as he sat in his recliner watching football with Corky Porky Pie, the dog. The only response I got was a grunt. I’m thinking the fact that the TV was turned up to level 40 on the volume might have had something to do with it. I hate to say it, but he’s almost deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other—a condition that I’m certain is the result of playing his stereo at full blast as a teenager. So, to express it in six words:

Music Loud
Time Fades
Hearing Aids!

Got the idea? Good. Here are a few more to get you in the groove.

First date
Home late
Wedding date

Magician fired—nothing up his sleeve!

Much Money
Stocks Fall
Soup Kitchen

Cat scratches baby. Cries. Fur coat.

Dog bone
Chew Chew
Bone gone

Log cabin with bloodstained floor.

Computer on
Program freezes
Computer gone

Sale: Scuba tank with shark bite.

Now that you have the idea, give it a try. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing while having a little fun.


For those of you who are tracking what's happening with our book, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, Nichole and I just received the proofs from our Cedar Fort editor, Heidi Doxey. We're so excited to be working with her, and looking forward to the book's release in December. Cedar Fort tells us the book will be in the CFI warehouse at the beginning of December and in the bookstores by the middle of the month. Think what a great Christmas gift Mormon Mishaps and Mischief will make for Aunt Persnickety and Uncle Lunkhead ... or anyone else on your Christmas list!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Improving My Sense of Self-worth

by Rachel Rager

I have always known my children are here to help me learn and grow. Shortly after I gave birth to my third daughter I was depressed. And though I can blame my lack of sleep as the result of my slightly depressed manner, I am not one hundred percent convinced that there was not more behind that. My baby had been extremely grumpy one afternoon and evening and I received no more than ten minutes of respite. She would fall asleep in my arms only to wake up as soon as I set her down. I sunk into a deep depression that concerned my husband, the counselor; though I thought I was merely tired. As I awoke the next morning from another sleepless night, I could still feel the lingering effects. And all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep the day away. However, my husband suggested I get out of the house and do something. My thoughts automatically shifted to shopping. I would go to the store and buy something, because that would help improve my mood.
As I stood fixing my hair, I began to contemplate why women feel so much better about themselves when they have new clothes. It is exciting to go shopping and get new things. It makes me feel beautiful, even special. I think sometimes we rely too heavily on physical things to improve our feeling of self-worth. And so often this can thrust us into financial difficulties as well.
At an Enrichment activity the week prior, the Second Counselor in the Bishopric spoke and expressed his concern for the women of the church; for while we are a very caring, compassionate and serving group, we frequently neglect our own needs. Hence, I think we slip into a sort of depression. From there we become more concerned with things of this world and many other outside influences that we think will make us feel better. When they only make us feel good for a short little while, we grasp for other things to give us the same boon and soon are spiraling downward faster and faster. We have little sense of self-worth and have many other problems – perhaps emotionally, physically, financial, and spiritually and these things can affect our relationships, not only with a spouse, but children, parents, siblings and friends as well.
So how do we fix this? First, become intimately acquainted with the Savior. Learn of His teachings. Learn of His love, compassion and friendship. Next, submit yourselves to Him. He has atoned for you and has enabled you to use that atonement to draw closer to Him. Perhaps you have not sinned while in this cycle of self-destruction. Does that mean the atonement cannot help? No. We are all children of God, and as such, He desires for us to return to Him. By Allowing Him to share our burdens and pain, we are drawing nearer to Him.
Another step in this process of self-improvement is to take time for yourself. Do something you enjoy without feeling guilty. Plan a night with friends, away from the children once in a while. Set a budget so you do not exceed your means in the process. Go on regular dates with your spouse. Talk with your spouse about your feelings. Talking with a spouse will not only help with depression and improve self-worth, but it will also strengthen the marital relationship. If you don’t feel comfortable talking, write them a letter. Writing is very therapeutic. Exercise is also a great way to get in touch with yourself and it will improve your physical health while helping your mental health.
How will these things help you become an emotionally healthier person? When you are in touch with yourself and your needs, you are much more in tune with the Spirit. You are able to not only help yourself but are able to help those around you much more effectively. You will no longer need new clothes or other worldly possessions to make you feel better about yourself. When you take care of yourself and take the time to spend time doing what you need to do, without neglecting your family, you become close to our Savior and can truly be happy.