Sunday, January 31, 2010

Help for Haiti

By Trina Boice

Here at the Writing Fortress, our hearts are heavy because of the recent deaths and destruction in Haiti.

Today's blog is a little bit different.
I'm the National Director of Marketing for a company that manufactures and distributes the best water filters in the world.  (Shameless plug for Multi-Pure Corporation!)  During the past three weeks I have had many conversations with organizations all over the world who are racing to give aid to the people of Haiti. It has been heart-breaking and inspiring to learn about how so many are working hard to bring relief to those who are suffering.

My company, Multi-Pure, has been sending hundreds of emergency water filters to Haiti in the last three weeks in the suitcases of volunteers we have identified who are traveling to the country with several different relief organizations, followed by a very large shipment of thousands of specially-designed filters for Haiti.

We feel very grateful to have such an important product to offer to people who are struggling with the very basics of survival. Clean water is one of the very first concerns in a disaster. We're proud to be able to contribute a tool that can make such an important difference in people's lives.

If you are traveling to Haiti soon and would like to include some of our emergency filters in your suitcase for delivery, please contact me to make arrangements. I encourage you to make monetary donations to some of the organizations that are functioning at full speed on Haitian soil already, such as UNICEF, Red Cross, LDS Humanitarian, Hope for Haiti, and AMURT.

Besides simply donating money, most people want to know what else they can do to help.  Use your writing skills!   Write letters to companies to see if they are helping out and thank them when they say yes.  Write to organizations who want to help but might not have all of the resources and help them connect with others who can offer their assistance: there are companies with supplies that need funding for shipping.   There are willing doctors and nurses who need airfare.  You can be a literary force for good!  It is easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with such a devastating disaster, but there is much good one person can do.
Our prayers are filling the heaven-ward skies on behalf of the Haitian people. Hug your loved ones a little tighter tonight.

- Trina -

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let the Son Shine

This morning when I looked outside, I saw this:

It's a picture of the sun trying to peek through the fog. And once it was finally able to, the fog cleared, and now it looks like this:

Sometimes my life gets a little foggy, whether it's related to illness, life events, or writer's block. Lately, it's just been my mind. Ever since Christmas, I just haven't had the same focus and creativity to write as efficiently in my book. Maybe it was holiday indulgence, stress, or whatever, but I've been struggling to keep my writing goals.

But something struck me a couple days ago, and that was that I needed to let the Son, my Savior, shine more in my life, mainly by trusting Him. And I found that when I focus on trusting Him, loving Him, and allowing myself to feel His love for me, the fog lifts, not only on my writing, but on every other aspect of my life.

What a blessing to know that He is there, shining for us, and lifting the fog from our lives if we allow Him. I am so grateful.

And now with this new-found peace and creativity, I'm off to write. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ANWA Writers Conference

All local writers are invited to this year's ANWA Writer's Conference. It’s one of the best in the west, with some very big names in the business.  The cost is about a third of most other writer's conferences.

The 2010 ANWA Writers Conference
“Start Write Now”
Saturday, February 27, 2010
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Dobson Ranch Inn,
1666 South Dobson Road
Mesa, Arizona 85202-5699

Open to all writers on this or any other planet

 Register at

Discounted Hotel reservations available on the above registration site or by calling Dobson Ranch Inn directly at 480-831-7000 or 1-800-528-1356

Keynote Speaker
 J. Scott Savage
Author of the "Farworld" Series

Aprilynne Pike
New York Times best-selling Author of “Wings”

Doug Johnston
Publicist Extraordinaire

Nancy E. Turner
Author of “These is My Words”

Dr. Pamela Goodfellow
Writing Coach, Editor
and Owner of Goodfellow Publishing Services

Sara Fujimura
Author and Magazine Writer

Helen Bair
Counselor and Author of
“Finding the Healer in Me”

Marsha Ward
Author of the “Owen Family” Series

Book signings at end of conference

Early Registration 
General Public:  $75 before February 7, 2010
ANWA Members $60
After Feb. 7 add $5

Cost includes Catered Lunch

For questions contact, the ANWA 2010 Conference Chair Person, Cindy R. Williams or Conference Registrar, Krista Darrach at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tense and Point of View

By Nichole Giles

Obviously, no two people think exactly alike. So how do we expect that our readers will all think the way we do? Like the same things we do? Prefer to read your story from one point of view or another? I think I’ve had the third person versus first person point of view discussion at least two-hundred times. Every time with a different person. Predictably, no two authors, editors, or agents share one exact opinion. And that’s totally and completely okay.

But what about tense? I’ve done the past tense thing for a long time, because, is there any other way to tell a story? Just to be clear, though, I’m talking about active past tense. As few as possible “was, had, did” words. Still, books I’ve written up to now are told very much in a “this is what happened” type manner.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of bestselling YA books that have been written in present tense. Most I’ve seen are done in first person, but this week I read a couple that are done in third person present tense. It’s different. Makes the plot and actions feel so much more immediate, more urgent.

And I like it! A lot. In both first and third person, present tense is becoming the hot new thing in YA lit.

Not everyone can write in present tense and have it read smoothly. Not everyone has the ability to create that sense of urgency that this particular style demands. And that’s okay too. We all have our own style, and our own stories, which each demand a different point of view, a different tense.

But if you have an urge to try something new, here are a few tips I’ve given myself while I experiment with this new trend.

1. Keep it short and simple by using as few words as possible.
2. Internal dialogue is extremely important, so make sure to include lots.
3. Remember that it’s okay to skip over large passages of time as long as the reader knows you’ve done it.
4. Read as many books done in this tense as possible.

Give it a try. It may not be for you, but it’s certainly a great writing exercise everyone should try.

A short aside here. Not everyone likes reading present tense and it does take some getting used to. If you’re the type of person who absolutely abhors it, that’s great. Our differences are what make us unique, what make our work ours. But I do recommend that you try writing a simple paragraph in this manner, just to shake things up and give your brain something new to work on. Stretch your writing fingers.

To learn more about what I’m doing these days, check out my personal blog. Or for more writing tips, come visit the LDS Writer’s Blogck, where I post every Thursday.

That’s it for now, folks. Until next time, write on.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blessings in Trials

By Christine Thackeray

I've missed my last few times blogging here, but I have a good excuse. Lately, my life has taken some unexpected curves. In September my husband was laid off. It wasn't a horrible thing, and you would agree if you met his supervisor, but with a son on a mission, another ready to go and a senior in High School, it was bad timing. Three months went by with lots of resumes and interviews but no hard offers. Then a few weeks before Christmas a family in our ward approached us about buying our house. (We hadn't even thought about putting it on the market until we knew where we were going.)

At first we simply let the idea go, but it worked on us and most of the jobs Greg was applying for were out of state. The family needed a place by December fourteenth and on that December fast Sunday I woke up with a strange idea. I knew my sister had a little mobile home at the corner of her property that she had put up for her married children to stay in from time to time. My sister is on a mission with her family, and I wondered if the trailer might be empty. I cried all day both from the humiliation of asking and the worse humilation of having to live there, but it felt in my heart that this was the right thing to do. At last I sent the email and got a reply almost immediately that she would be fine with us using it.

We made the move from my beautiful seven-bedroom home to the little three-bedroom trailer in the woods in less than a week. Interestingly, it was the same week our severance pay ended. We only brought air mattresses and pads because I was determined this was a short-term thing. We cut down our tree, had a great Christmas together, took my senior daughter to BYU (she decided last minute to graduate early) and my son to the MTC. Meanwhile, Greg's job search was not going well. Two jobs we were sure he would be offered ended up drying up. Consulting positions he was promised haven't come through and so he started his next semester of his master's program.

Last week I finally put the kids in school, swallowed my pride and accepted that we will be here for a while. The location is beautiful- it's in Redmond. We live a remote grove of trees not unlike a scene from the new Avatar movie but sans the strange blue creatures. Looking around, I have to wake up and count my blessings.

1. I have a sister that would give us this great opportunity to live rent free. With no house payment and unemployment checks we are doing as well as we were before.

2. My fourteen-year-old son's classes didn't transition well to the new school so homeschool looks like the best option. One-on-one time in a big family is rare and it is a wonderful little season for us to learn and grow together before he starts moving towards independence.

3. The youth program here is incredibly valiant. Camron's participating in a musical production with over 200 youth, seminary is of the highest caliber and Sarah's beehive class have been truly encompassing.

4. My sweet husband who spent the last two years in almost an abusive relationship is returning to his normal self. I can't imagine going to work every day, being constantly undermined and mistreated. One day he told me he wished his car would lose control and hit a tree so he wouldn't have to go back to work. That's when it's time to quit. At least he was laid off so we get a year of help.

5. No debt and food storage. If we had bills hanging over our heads, this would not be nearly as stress-free, but we don't. Although things are tight, we have a kitchen full of food (too much wheat) and except for tuition and monthly missionary payments, we have no monthly payments to anybody (but both of those things are another blessing in and of themselves.)

So I guess we've been greatly blessed but not in the way I'd choose. As far as writing, I don't have the heart of my days to devote to it any longer and I was upset. I prayed about it one night and the next morning realized that during seminary I could write. So now I've got an hour a day from 6-7 and another hour when Camron's older brother takes him out for PE from 8-9. Two focused hours is pretty good so I'm not going to complain anymore.

It's funny when God says my ways are not your ways. I'm curious to see what the end of this part of my story is. I have no idea when or where a job will come through but my faith muscle is sure getting a workout and so far, I can't complain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finding the Time

Many people ask authors how they find the time to write. The truth is, most authors don't have time to write. They have to make time. There is always something that is sacrificed. For me this has been sleep. I used to get up at 4am and write for an hour or two before the kids got up. After a couple of weeks though, I cracked and started yelling at everybody in sight and so my husband said I couldn't do that any more. Then I discovered a secret. If you put first things first, such as family and the gospel, the Lord actually gives you extra time to write.

This has happened to me so many times. I will do everything I am supposed to for my family and my calling, and though it should be impossible, the Lord gives me some extra time in my day to write. And not only that...I write better than I do when I'm trying to force writing time into my day at the expense of what's important. I love this! It just goes to show how miracles and faith really work. And my quality of life is so much better when I enjoy what's most important in life. To me it is a personal miracle that shows how much the Lord loves us all.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Words to Ponder

JoAnn Arnold

Dorothea Brand (1893-1948) published Becoming a Writer in 1934. In this book she discusses a writer’s most important problems. She explains how subconscious feelings and motives affect our ability to say what we mean.

In her words: “It is a commonplace that every writer must turn to himself to find most of his material . . . If you can come to such friendly terms with yourself that you are able and willing to say precisely what you think of any given situation or character, if you can tell a story as it can appear only to you of all the people on earth, you will inevitably have a piece of work which is original. The author must look at the persons of his own creation with no one else’s eyes but his own.

She explains that we as authors must trust ourselves in deciding how our hero meets his dilemma and what we think of the impasse. These are the things that make our story truly our own; and it is our own individual character, unmistakably showing through our work, which will lead us to success or failure. “You are persuading your reader, while you hold his attention, to see the world with your eyes, to agree with you that this is a stirring occasion. That a situation is essentially tragic, or that another is deeply humorous. . . Your conviction underlies all imaginative representation.”

Now I ask you, do you agree with Dorothea?

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

3 New Year's resolutions I can help you keep!

By Trina Boice

No doubt that most of us have the same stuff on our list of New Year's resolutions this year: lose weight, exercise more, be a better parent, save more money, write more, and serve others more. Right? Well, I can help you out with 3 of those right now! (Save money, write, & serve more.)

Starting on January 1, 2010 volunteers will be able to sign up for volunteer opportunities specifically designed to engage whole families in volunteer service. In exchange for your day of service you and your family members aged 6 and up can qualify to receive a free ticket to a Disney Park! In order to receive your Disney ticket you must follow the directions below:

Go directly to and click on "Give a day, get a day"

Complete the registration process for you and your family

Sign up for a Disney qualified project listed on the Disney parks website

Show up for the project you signed up for and volunteer

Make sure when you show up for your Disney qualified project you sign in and out so you receive credit for your volunteer service. The FAQ will answer most of your questions regarding participation, black out dates, ticket redemption and more.  Believe it or not, some of the volunteer work involves using your writing skills!

While you're revising your New Year's resolutions, here are a few more worth considering:

1. Drink plenty of water.

2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.

3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants, and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

4. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy

5. Make time to pray.

6. Play more games

7. Read more books than you did in 2009.

8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day

9. Sleep for 7 hours.

10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile.


11. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

12. Don't have negative thoughts on things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

13. Don't overdo. Keep your limits.

14. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

15. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.

16. Dream more while you are awake.

17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need..

18. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.

20. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

23. Smile and laugh more.

24. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree...


25. Call your family often.

26. Each day give something good to others.

27. Forgive everyone for everything..

28. Spend time w/ people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.

29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

30. What other people think of you is none of your business.

31. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.


32. Do the right thing!

33. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

34. GOD heals everything.

35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change..

36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

37. The best is yet to come..

38. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.

39. Your innermost is always happy. So, be happy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What Dreams are YOU Pursuing?

By Jodi Robinson, speaker and author of "Women of Virtue"

My post today is inspired by a quote from award-winning author, Josi Kilpack.

"God gives us bits and pieces of the gifts [or talents] we need to develop. It’s not an easy journey, and sometimes it doesn’t seem as though it’s worth it, but it is. Life will march on whether we are pursuing our dreams or not. Pursue." --Josi Kilpack, Author

It's a new year! A new beginning. So, I have a question to ask.  Are you pursuing your dreams?

I'm not an "achieving your dreams expert" by any means. I haven't risen to high acclaim and one might look at my life and say, "'s pretty ordinary."  So, what can I offer the dream weavers of this universe? What do I have to say about pursuing one's dreams?

Well, I have dreams of my own and I can honestly say I pursue my dreams. In many ways, I feel that I have achieved at least a few of them already (and I'm not done, yet.) These dreams may not make the news or headline some celebrity talk show, but that's not how I measure the success of my dreams. That's because I believe dreams are about perspective. How we "see" what we are given and how we use what we are given to achieve.

I agree with Josi that we are given god-given talents and it is up to us to use them for good. My dream is to do the best I can with the talents God gave me and to use them for His purposes. I know that if I do that I'll be happy and achieve my dreams.

Dreams aren't made solely for celebrities or millionaires. They're for you and for me. Ordinary people who get and go to work; raise families and attend church.  Dreams stretch us. Grow us and help us to reach upward to that divine source, which is constantly calling out to us to remind us that our talents are needed in a world such as ours.

Life will march on with or without you and your dreams, so don't put off them off for some rainy day.  Put your dreams to good use. And don't worry if how you define your dreams differently than the outside world defines them. For me, mothering four children, keeping up with a husband, and nurturing good friendships, as well as keeping up with my writing projects, are all part of living my dream. I've learned that my dream isn't so much about the dream itself as it is the dreamers I am so lucky to dream with.

May you find happiness as you pursue your dreams.  As my Italian grandmother would say, "Salute!" To your health and well-being in a brand new year. May all your dreams come true.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slogging through more edits

By Heather Justesen

This month is Tristi's quarterly challenge month in which she challenges us all to set some writing goal (book in a month, edits, or anything else we choose) and then she posts her daily totals and cheers us on. I admit, I always set very high goals for myself--ones that are completely doable, if only I could get myself to stick to edits and not get distracted by other people's stories, email, Facebook and the like. Not so doable if I let myself get distracted.

This month my goal was all about edits. I have a book all but ready to submit, another I need to do a rewrite on before sending it to readers, and a third that needs one last proof before my editor gets to it for spring publication. This sounds like a lot, and I admit, I've found my book, "Blank Slate" needs more work than I originally thought. That coupled with distractions means there's no possibility I'll finish all three goals this month, but I know if I buckle down I could get close.

It funny how much I put off editing. When I'm in the middle of it, it's really not bad, and sometimes it even feels great--especially when I know the changes I'm making are really making a difference to the story. I started this edit with 256 pages of text, but after incorporating new scenes suggested in notes from several other writers (who are brilliant), it's now pushing 290--and I'm only on page 184 in my edits.

I seem to write all of my stories at about 300 pages, so I'm not concerned about that, but I do have a few minor scenes to add, and some that need to be fleshed out a bit more, which will lead to yet another edit (and I thought this would be the last one). The next one will be to cut stuff.

Knowing what to cut is an art I've really had to struggle with. In this case I probably won't be cutting scenes or whole storylines--I've got that pretty well established and it really looks pretty much the way it's going to be. My next pass will be to trim off the extra wordiness in my story. I tend to give a bit more backstory than necessary (at least in early versions). I say the same thing four times in a few chapters instead of just saying it once or twice with some lengthy space between. Also, it's amazing how many times you can take a long sentence and pare it back to a shorter one without loosing a bit of the meaning.

I listened to an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast a few months back where Brandon Sanderson talked about this very issue (sorry, I'm not sure which one it was, but it was probably in season three... but they are all well worth listening to). Essentially he said that setting a goal of how many words or pages you want to cut from your book (say 5 percent), and then going through and doing it line by line can be a great way to edit and tighten up your story so it flows better. My final edit for "The Ball's in Her Court" was a big trimming edit, thanks to a friend who pointed out all of the places where I was getting wordy, and my weekly critique group has helped point out spots where I'm too wordy too, so hopefully there won't be too many cuts in my future.

Yeah, whether I do that last edit or not probably won't affect whether my publisher chooses to print the book. It probably won't affect book sales greatly, but part of this writing thing is striving to produce a better book, to hone my craft more every day so that I can become the best writer possible. That means I don't have room for laziness. I have to keep working, and reworking until I either can't stand the book anymore, or I'm happy with it. That way when I send the final product into the editor I can do so with hopefully a tad less trepidation than I would otherwise.

Who am I kidding? I'll probably be a nervous wreck anyway.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Developing a Character Arc

The character Mulan has to be one of my all time favorites because of the transformation she goes through during the story. She begins the story unsure of who she really is inside, but through joining the Imperial Army under the pretenses of a man, she discovers her self worth.

The development Mulan undergoes is called a character arc. What weaknesses, imperfections, or incorrect beliefs, or circumstances does the character possess or experience? How can the character overcome and learn from these weaknesses and imperfections, and experiences? Most stories or movies have characters who change or grow under certain circumstances, usually for the better, though sometimes they can become angry or bitter and wish to destroy the world.

In the novel I'm currently writing, my main character recognizes, through the development of special gifts, who she really is. This is achieved through the unusual and dangerous circumstances she finds herself in.

Sometimes, when I look at my own life either through willful analysis or experiences, I recognize my imperfections, weaknesses, and other things that I can improve upon. Recognition and willingness to change is good, because in a way, I'm developing my own personal character arc. How have I grown since I was an teenager? How has becoming a mother changed my outlook on life? How has coming to know Christ helped me to become a better person?

I hope by the time my life on earth is over, I can look back and see a character arc in which I can be proud.

Click here to listen to "Reflection" from Mulan.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Rewind Button

by Tristi Pinkston

I was boppin' along tonight, working on my current project, when I hit up against a wall. I couldn't figure out how to describe where my character was standing. She's hiding behind the curtains, but she's not really in the window well, because that's outside, and I couldn't pull out any words that seemed right. I stared at the screen for a minute, then typed(reword this later) and went on. I finished the scene and kept going. I'll come back to that spot tomorrow and phrase it the way I want to, and then it will flow. Tonight, I'm tired, and the language isn't happening for me.

I dislike to edit my own work, but this is one way in which editing is da bomb. You can go back as many times as you like and fix what you said. If it sounds unkind, or if it didn't come across as professionally as you would have liked, or if it didn't carry enough power, you can go back and make it work. I sure wish real life worked that way.

I can't tell you how many times I've wished for a rewind button or a delete key on my mouth. Sometimes things come out and are received in a way I never intended, and I want to crawl under a rock. The main problem with that - there aren't a lot of rocks just lying around that are large enough for a person to crawl under, and if I could find one, I'm pretty sure someone would already be under it.

It's human nature to make mistakes, and it's also human nature to want to hide from them. But we've also been given two wonderful gifts - repentance and forgiveness. We can make things right, and we can move forward. Sometimes a scar will remain, a memory of something that took place, but we can choose whether or not to pick at the scab. Life might not come with a rewind button, but it does come with never-ending chances to try again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Hero's Journey

by Rebecca Talley

In anticipation of writing my next novel, I've been reading and studying the hero's journey. It's been interesting reading. I have The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, but I'm not sure I'm smart enough to understand him. I also have The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler which is an examination of Campbell's work but in much easier language.

I've always thought the hero's journey only applied to epic fantasy or science fiction. You know, the really big stories like Star Wars, but what I've learned is that the journey applies to all stories. In fact, I've been able to see it in my current work-in-progress which is LDS women's fiction.

Basically, the hero's journey is how a character grows and changes because of the road he travels in your story. He doesn't have to go to distant planets or live in a fantastic world, he can be an ordinary person in contemporary society who faces a crisis and changes because of it.

The steps:

1. OrdinaryWworld-- where your character is when the story begins
2. Call to Adventure--can be a phone call, letter, something that changes the status quo.
3. Refusal of the Call--character doesn't want things to change, doesn't think his world needs to change.
4. Meeting with the Mentor--this could be a good friend, a parent, a bishop, someone who counsels the character about the change.
5. Crossing the Threshold--the point where things change, the character enters into a different place (does not have to be a physically different place).

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies--the character meets people along the way who either help or hinder him, he also faces tests to see if he's committed to his journey.
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave--the character must prepare for his big ordeal, also known as the belly of the whale.
8. The Ordeal--this is the crisis, the character faces his greatest fear (not to be confused with the climax).
9. Reward--character survives the crisis, has changed, may have an epiphany, he gains new knowledge.
10. The Road Back--reutrns to ordinary world with his new knowledge and the ability to implement that new knowledge.

11. Resurrection--climax (similar to crisis but even bigger), he goes through a last test to make sure he has learned from his journey.
12. Return with Elixir--makes the circle back to his original place but now he has new knowledge, he's changed, he's different, he shares his knowledge with others.

George Lucas implemented the hero's journey in Star Wars and it's easy to see how it applies. Luke Skywalker is the reluctant hero thrust into a new world. He learns and grows. He has a mentor. He learns to trust in the new elixir which is the force.

For fun, see if you can apply the hero's journey to The Wizard of Oz. Next, try to apply it to your own story and see how it works out. Of course, always be true to your story and tell the story that's in your heart, but you may find the hero's journey will help you to better tell that story.

For more writer's tips check out my website

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing Prompts from Afar

By Nichole Giles

I almost didn’t post a blog this week. As you read this, I’m out of town, spending time with my family, far away from the cold weather of Utah. But I’m one of those people who can’t stand the idea of ignoring a deadline. Even a minor one, like a commitment to post a blog.

So today I’m going to share some writing prompts to help your writing along. If you use them, comment here and let me know if these helped you spread your writing wings this week. Good luck and until next time, write on.

Prompts taken from a very inspirational book, The Pocket Muse, Endless Inspiration by Monica Wood.

1. Most human systems—families, companies, clubs, apartment buildings, political movements, governments, theater productions—include one key person without whom the whole thing would probably collapse. Write about a human system whose key person has just checked out.
2. What’s the most you ever paid for something you didn’t want? Write about why you forked over the dough.
3. Write about two people trying to fit into a space (physical or metaphorical) meant for one.

**Check my personal blog this week for a big announcement and a contest.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Does Physical Exercise Stimulate Creativity?

It's a new year and we all have made our New Year's resolutions. On my personal blog, for the month of January, I'm holding a contest and to enter all you do is leave a comment with your New Year's resolution. It is interesting to view the comments. Many people's resolutions are to lose weight, be more disciplined in a certain area of life, write something every day, be nicer to people around them.
I think these are all wonderful things. In fact, many of them are my own resolutions! But I had a thought yesterday, and after a bit of research, I stumbled onto something that is worth looking into - or at least thinking about. Not only is it interesting, it could help us achieve almost all of these resolutions!
One of my goals this year is to lose some weight, or in the very least, become healthier by eating better and exercising more. And I won't complain if I lost a couple inches around my waist in the process!
So, yesterday morning, I groggily stepped onto my Wii balance board only to hear the words, "You're overweight!" My brother has cautioned me not to listen too carefully to that because it measures your BMI and not your body fat. But still, hearing those words, and seeing the numbers climbing on the scale, makes one feel a little depressed! And I've been trying to work out!
Now, before anyone gets too excited, I know that muscle weighs more than fat, and I know I'm not fat. But who doesn't want to lose a little weight now and again, or at least see themselves in the 'normal' zone?
After I finished my Wii aerobics, my husband called me from the church and wanted his tennis shoes so he could shoot some hoops. I took them to him and we decided to scrimmage. I haven't played in over 10 years! Wow! I remembered how to handle the ball, at least, and I got better the longer we played. But it was a short game! Needless to say, I certainly got my heart pumping!
When I got home, I felt invigorated! I felt like I could clean my entire house! I had a hundred new thoughts for my WIP tumbling around in my head! I felt younger and much more spry. (Except for my throbbing hip!)
And the difference? For me? A half hour game of basketball.
As a singer, I know that exercise helps me improve my vocal range and breath support.
As a mom, after exercise I have more patience with my children.
As a writer, after I exercise my mind goes crazy with creativity.
A bit of research uncovered that exercise can help with creativity, too. During exercise, blood and oxygen levels decrease in the brain because the blood is needed in the muscles. But after exercise, you feel a rush of energy as everything in your body is rejuvenated. It is believed by many that if you are physically active, you are more likely to increase your creativity level as well.
So that's my new goal. Physical exercise. Then, perhaps, my writing will become easier! I won't have to plot and plan to make things happen. They just will!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Plot-Driven v. Character-Driven

By Marcia Mickelson

I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of plot vs. characters. In a novel, of course, they are both important and both need to be developed. However, the emphasis on plot is not as great in a character-driven novel.

In a plot-driven novel, the focus is on the action, the events that take place. This emphasis on the novel doesn't mean that the characters don't need to be developed. The characters are still important and should appeal to readers.

In a character-driven novel, the character's thoughts, feelings, and decisions take priority. The focus is on the understanding the character comes to and the changes in that person's life. This doesn't mean that action and plot are not important. They still play a part in the novel, but the character comes before the action.

I think it's important to find a balance between the two, but I also feel that my novels tend to be more character-driven. Sometimes, I wonder if there's much happening in my novel because I tend to emphasize the characters and what they go through and are feeling.

Certainly, when writing, an author doesn't have to choose one. A well-written book will have a good measure of each.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stories, Adventure, Music, and Rhyme

JoAnn Arnold

Today I want to make a comparison. I have this book “The Craft of Lyric Writing”, by Sheila Davis. As I browsed through the chapter headings, I realized that the advice given in this book of lyric writing is much like a book we might study on writing a good story.

In writing children’s musicals and a musical about Joseph smith, I found that the music and the lyrics are a story within themselves. The emotions of the music and the rhythm of the lyrics go hand in hand with the emotions of a story and the rhythm of the theme.

Irving Berlin said, “A good song embodies the feelings of the people, and a songwriter is not much more than a mirror which reflects those feelings. If I can manage to put into words and music the feelings of the kid from Podunk and the one from the Bowery . . . then I’ll have something.”

I ask, “Is it any different for an author?”

Here are some of the chapter headings:

“Picking Your treatment and Choosing a Point of view.” (Vital when writing a story)
“Focusing on the Time, the Place and the Plot.” (We hear that one quite often)
“Feeling the Rhythm.” (Maybe the words are different but the idea is the same)
“Avoiding Common Pitfalls.” (Yes!)
“Review – Revise – Fine tune.” (Does this sound a little like: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite?)

In the words of Sheila Davis. “Lyrics that resonate with universally felt emotions foster strong identification between the performer and the audience. A song is successful when an audience responds with a recognition that says: “’Me, too . . . I’ve felt that . . . I’ve seen what you’ve seen . . . I know what you mean.’” This what our applause says. The performer is singing not so much to us as for us.”

In an author’s words, I think it would be said that the story that resonates with universally felt emotions foster strong identification between author and reader. . . . . . the author is writing not so much to the reader as for the reader . . . . .

Alexander Pope put it this way: “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, as those move easiest who have learned to dance.”

Oscar Hammerstein said: “technique and professional polish do not make a song . . . there is an element much less tangible: sincerity.”

What do you think? Could a songwriter and an author go through much the same process in order to be successful in their trade?

Having written stories, music and lyrics, I would say, “Yes, yes, yes.”

I want to wish you all a Very Happy New Year and thank you for stopping by.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Posted by Cindy (C.L.) Beck

Words are a writer's stock-in-trade, and for that reason it's essential to understand the nuances of the written language. For example, in reference to the trunk of a car, some call it the trunk and others call it the boot. Face it, that could get confusing if you actually have boots in the boot. To help dispel the confusion of words in general, as well as for your enlightenment and edification ... okay, mostly just for fun ... here are a few lesser-known definitions of familiar words.

· Arbitrator ar’-bi-tray-ter: A cook that leaves Arby’s to work at McDonald’s.

· Avoidable uh-voy’-duh-buhl: What a bullfighter tries to do.

· Baloney buh-lo’-nee: Where some hemlines fall.

· Bernadette burn’-a-det: The act of torching a mortgage.

· Burglarize bur’-gler-ize: What a crook sees with.

· Counterfeiters kown-ter-fit-ers: Workers who put together kitchen cabinets.

· Eclipse i-klips’: what an English barber does for a living.

· Eyedropper i’-drop-ur: a clumsy ophthalmologist.

· Heroes hee’-rhos: what a guy in a boat does.

· Left Bank left’ bangk’: what the robber did when his bag was full of loot.

· Misty mis’-tee: How golfers create divots.

· Paradox par’-u-doks: two physicians.

· Parasites par’-uh-sites: what you see from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

· Pharmacist farm’-uh-sist: a helper on the farm.

· Polarize po’-lur-ize: what penguins see with.

· Primate pri’-mat: removing your spouse from in front of the TV.

· Relief ree-leef’: what trees do in the spring.

· Rubberneck rub’-er-nek: what you do to relax your wife.

· Seamstress seem’-stres: describes 200 pounds in a size two.

· Selfish sel’-fish: what the owner of a seafood store does.

· Subdued sub-dood’: a guy, that works on one of those submarines.

· Sudafed sood’-a-fed: bringing litigation against a government official.

(Definitions received in an email. Author unknown.)

Until next time,
~ Cindy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Sauntering Society


"It is a great art to saunter."  So wrote Henry David Thoreau over 100 years ago.  He used to saunter four hours a day, explaining that the origins of the term "saunter" comes from the Middle Ages, when wandering pilgrims would beg for alms to finance their journey to “la Saint Terre,” the Holy Land. Such people became known as saint-terrers, or saunterers.  I've known some people who consider a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing. 

I remember the first time I learned of Henry David Thoreau and read his famous "Walden."  I had just graduated from college and was recovering from a car accident, stuck in bed with hours upon hours to read.  I was intrigued with his quest to discover the greater meaning of life and I admired his commitment to simplify his life by living off the land in quiet contemplation.  He built a tiny 1 room "house" where he LIVED for 1 year, 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day.  If I weren't so addicted to ice cream and movies I would do the same.

I tried to imagine myself next to him on his adventure and wondered if I'd even be able to withstand the solitude. I wondered if I would be creative enough to keep myself entertained and inspired or if my brain would start to hurt after the first day of attempting prolonged deep thought.

Some consider Thoreau to have been a hermit, although he sauntered into town and visited with friends every few days. Now that my days are filled with never-ending tasks and sounds, I envy Thoreau's stillness. Oh, to have time to sit and think in perfect silence! Unexpectedly this autumn, I found myself in beautiful Concord, sauntering around Walden! A business trip took me to Boson, only a stone's throw from Thoreau's beloved pond.  It was almost dusk, but my husband and I were determined to saunter.
Markers indicate the location where Thoreau's "home" stood, overlooking the pond he made immortal with his words.  For a brief moment in time, life was simple.  We walked and walked, taking in every breath of crisp, Fall air. 

 Ducks swam by.  The wind kissed our chilled cheeks.  The fallen leaves crunched under our feet.  It was perfect.

According to my family's pedigree chart, Ralph Waldo Emmerson and I are related.  Until I visited Concord, I never realized that the Walden property was actually owned by Ralph Waldo Emmerson's father.  I suddenly felt an even greater connection to this place.  Ralph and Henry were not only contemporaries, but good friends who shared a love for this very spot on earth.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Thoreau's home when Emmerson came to visit him!  Both inspiring writers found comfort and wisdom in nature and stillness...a reminder to me to turn off the TV and free my mind on a long walk outside.  

Thoreau says it best..."So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn."