Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Telling a Story with Pages of Printed Words

JoAnn Arnold

I'm going to take a writing class from Dave Wolverton, in March, here in St. George and I am really looking forward to the learning experience. Though the class isn't until March, we already have a reading assignment. "Character and Viewpoint" by Orson Scott Card. "Writing the Blockbuster Novel" by Albert Zuckerman, and "Story" by Robert McKee.

In the book, "Story", Mr. McKee discusses substance, structure, style, etc. In Chapter 1, page 25 he tells us; "A storyteller is a life poet, an artist who transforms day-to-day living, inner life and outer life, dream and actuality into a poem whose rhyme scheme is events rather than words."

On page 26, he tells us; "Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly. Master storytellers know how to squeeze life out of the least of things, while poor storytellers reduce the profound to the banal."

Just under the chapter title "The Element of Story," in chapter 2, we read: A beautifully told story is a symphonic unity in which structure, setting, character, genre, and idea meld seamlessly. to find their harmony, the writer must study the elements of story as if they were instruments of an orchestra--first separately, then in concert."

As you can see, this book is going to be a deep, thought provoking read.

But I just want to warn you,in advance, that by March 12, 2011, after I have read the books and attended what I think will be a blockbuster workshop, I will have all the knowledge and training I need to write a bestseller. The only thing left will be to put all that I learned to work.

Now I have to go practice my piano. I think learning to play the piano beautifully is a lot like learning to write an amazing story.

Have a great day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Writing Season.

By Christine Thackeray

I know there are authors of many different shapes, sizes and interests, but for writers who are mothers, a special season is upon us. It is the writing season. Where others may appreciate the cooler nights and loaded fruit trees, as signs of the impending season, those of us who are mother writers find our fingers tingling as we finish up the school shopping and clean out closets in anticipation of the first day of school.

In my mind I think I'll wait for at least a week after school begins before diving in but the reality is that as soon as I wave good-bye to my elementary schooler, I make a mad dash to the computer and begin typing away at the plot that's been stewing in my brain all summer while I've taken children to the beach and entertained relatives.

The beauty of it is that for all of September and most of October, each day I can bathe in creative expression. I have to admit it's hard to put it away when they get home. But I try to still focus on go through back packs, encouragin homework and at least having an idea of what I'm going to cook for dinner. After Halloween costumes are taken care of, I'm free for another month to type away. The goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of NaNoWriMo so that you can let your rough draft steep during the Christmas holidays. With the end of Christmas vacation, that's when editing starts (always a bummer) and as the older kids finals come around, I'm ready to submit.

That's the goal anyway. Well see how I do this year. Last year a move sidetracked me, along with editing another project, but this year I'm determined to finish and submit my new WIP by next spring.

Hallelujah, the writing season is almost here. One more week.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Words Have Power

by Rebecca Talley

As writers, we use words all the time. We string them together to make sentences and then weave those together to make paragraphs and, eventually, we create stories from them. The words we choose to use will have an effect on those who read them. We must carefully select words to create the exact feeling, emotion, or sense we want for our stories.

In the English language we have so many words from which to choose. Crack open a dictionary and you can find thousands and thousands of words. we even have a thesaurus to help us find similar words that may convey a different feeling. With all of these words at our disposal it seems that we would be able to use a specific word to describe what we want to say. Some words have lost their power simply because they've been overused. What exactly does beautiful mean? We've used it in some many contexts and to describe such a myriad of things, it has lost its true meaning.

Why do people resort to profanity or even words such as stupid or dumb, when there are a vast array of words we could use to describe exactly what it is we want to convey?

There's an old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I strongly disagree. Words stay with us. Words have power. And words can hurt. For example, watch this clip and tell me, how does the use of the word retard affect you? I know how it affects me because I have a son that will likely have intellectual disabilities.

We need to carefully consider the words we use, in our writing and in our everyday lives, because words have power.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Change can be Good

My kids start school tomorrow, and in my house that's a good thing. The trouble is it happens to be the only thing occupying my mind lately. So when I sat down to plot out this post, it's all I could think of.

My youngest will be a first grader, so this will be the first year none of my kids will be home during the day. I'm too excited for the opportunities they'll face to be worried about missing them. (It also helps that I have kids I babysit, so I'll hardly be alone) The beginning of a new school year also has its share of anxiety. One of my kids refuses to do her work or listen to her teacher if it's something she doesn't want to do. Stubborn? Willful? Oh, ya. I have no idea where she gets that...;)

But change is good. Change is necessary. My husband once said the only constant in life is change. And it sunk in deep. We aren't progressing or moving forward without change. I've come to a point in my life where I almost seek change. It's exciting, or at least it can be.

For instance, I found out recently that the cover I thought my book would have (or something similar) has been changed. Now I am exercising patience until I find out what it will be. A lot of patience, but that's just me. I'm anxious to order business cards, posters, wristbands--and promote the book--but I need to wait until I see the cover.

But, regardless, I'm choosing to see this change as a good thing. It's different, perhaps not what I envisioned, but there are people who know better than I do what will catch a reader's eye--and it would be foolish of me to not at least consider their wisdom and experience.

I also realized that my second book's main character had changed on me. It's something I will have to adapt to.

In the mean time, I will focus on the changes my children face. 8th grade, 6th grade, 4th grade, and 1st grade.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Knowledge is power...and free!

                                                                    By Trina Boice

Can you believe it’s BACK TO SCHOOL time already? While some parents are celebrating the idea of a quiet, clean house during school hours, others are sad to leave behind the carefree fun of summer spent with their children. My kids think I’m crazy because I absolutely love the smell and anticipation of opening up a new textbook.

For parents who are just a bit envious of their children’s opportunity to learn new things at school, I have a goldmine of resources for you! The following web sites include thousands of video lectures from some of the world’s top scholars! Knowledge nirvana! And they’re all FREE!

One of my favorite quotes, and one worth teaching your children, is:
“The more you read, the more you know.
The more you know, the smarter you grow.
The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice
When speaking your mind or making your choice!”

Courses include detailed lecture notes, a calendar of teading assigned for each class and a description of major assignments.
Offers student-made documentaries about social issues as well as a list of weekly readings.
Professors Martin Evans and Marsh McCall lecture on great works by Virgil to Voltaire.
Berkeley's lectures online
Alternate site of Berkeley's lectures.

If anyone is interested in Entrepreneurship and learning more about what it takes to own or run a business, I highly recommend the Standford eCorner ( ) or the Harvard business school ( ) podcasts. Both are great resources that provide outstanding insight into running your own business.   Others include:


Sister Thrifty a/k/a Trina Boice

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just Fun Stuff for Tuesday, August 17th

JoAnn Arnold

Several years ago I wrote a few Melodramas for my Community Theatre and, for some reason, I just gotta tell ya about some of the fun stuff inside the cover of one of them.

The title: "The Legend of Alley Backward" or "What is, Just May not Be, and What Could Have Been, Was Not"

Now in this melodrama we have our villains, our Sheriff and our hero, in that order. I'm just going to share with you two songs from the melodrama so you can get a taste of the story.

Song: "Alkali and the Sarsaparilla Bar"

In the town of Alkali, thar's a Sarsaparilla bar,
Just a stretch out that a-way. It isn't very far.
It's hidden and secluded. the population's small.
If it weren't for the outlaws, thar'd be no one thar at all.

But thar's one thing really clear.
They like to gather here,
In this fine bar to have a sip
Of those six delicious flavors,Cherry, orange and grip.
(that's grape but I had to make it rhyme)

Song: (Describing Alley Backward, the hero . . . in the end)

Ain't ya heard the story 'bout the backward outlaw?
Funniest thing that ever ya saw.
He was backward in the way he walked.
Backward in the way he walked,
And backward in the way he thought.
Even too backward to even get caught.

Now Backward tried robbin' the frontier stages,
But sent the stage drivers into fits of laughin' rages.
'Cause every time he took the gold,
He'd hand it to the driver to hold,
While he mounted his horse and holstered his gun,
Then left riding backward the way he had come.

Now Backward tried learnin' a new profession,
Stealin' horses became his next greatest obsession.
But the saddle he'd steal instead of the horse,
Just opposite of what he should, of course,
For backward he was and backward he thought.
But though he was backward he never got caught.

That's as far as I'm going in this story, but I just have to tell you how much fun I had writing it. I might add that you haven't seen alkali until you've been to Emery County, and that Alkali in Emery County was my inspiration. Yep!

Butch Cassidy did some traveling through that area and after holding up the Train in Castle Gate, he was brought before Judge Cox,in Huntington. Judge Cox was my grandmother's father,and since I knew that story, hence my outlaw inspiration. Well, maybe I took a little creative license with that one, but you get the drift.

You just never know where your next story's going to come from. Look around you. If you see white stuff layin' on top your dirt. It just might be gold in disguise.

Ya'll have a good day, now.

Making the Writing Look Good

I have a new calling at church: I'm the Assistant Stake Executive Secretary. This means helping the three members of our Stake Presidency with maintaining their schedules and agendas as they coordinate the affairs of nearly two-thousand families and individuals spread out among ten different congregations.

In short, my job is to make the Stake Presidency look good.

There are a lot of things to coordinate--meetings, agendas, appointments, callings--and this week I've been doing it all on my own, as the main Secretary has been on vacation with his family.

I thought I was doing pretty well until yesterday afternoon, when I realized I'd failed to inform the Stake President of a meeting with the Mission President.

Now, this missed meeting isn't a hundred percent my responsibility. It's on the schedule for everyone to see. The problem is when I talked to the Stake President and updated him on his schedule, I didn't double-check the calendar.

Oops. So much for making the Stake Presidency look good.

I'm still well down the learning curve on this calling, and getting a handle on exactly what my responsibilities are has been a real challenge.

The same thing has happened as I've tried to develop my skills as a writer. There are so many things I'm responsible for as I try to make my story look good: smooth prose, an interesting premise, empathetic characters, solid story structure. The list goes on and on, and it seems like just when I think I've made some progress, I'll come across something else that I've missed and need to do better.

Yet as many writing skills as there are to learn, I'm having fun learning them. And I'm finding the more I write, the more natural these things become.

Right now I'm working on making sure every scene in every chapter has sufficient conflict to move the story forward. I've always been kind of a peace maker, so conflict doesn't always come easy to me.

But as I work at giving my characters sufficient conflict, I find the conflict writing itself into the story without my needing to put quite so much effort into it. And my writing looks better as a result.

What about you? What writing skills are you currently trying to improve?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Copyright Infringement

By Christine Thackeray

This week I found myself eating my own words. On another group I belong to, a woman complained that she had joined a list called the Clever Homemaker. Each day the site owner would post articles about entrepenuer ideas and ways to save money. The woman that joined it was amazed at the consistant quality of writing until one day the words sounded familiar. They were hers.

Jaquelyn was a write and had published an article for a e-magazine. Can you imagine her surprise at finding her article lifted to increase this woman's platform, which was extensive. As she began searching previous posts, she found that this was common practice for her posts, very little of any of them were original.

When she asked about her options, I told her she could send a cease and desist letter and was entitled to have her not use the information and pay her up to 150% of the cost she would have gotten for an equivalent article. (Which financially wasn't that much.) BUT she was angry, offended and wanted more-- AND she got it.

Jaquelyn contacted Yahoo, along with her publisher and the list was closed down. When I heard that, I had to applaud both Jackie and Yahoo for their quick response. What the woman who owned the list was doing was stealing and reaping the benefit of other's work (esp. with 6,000 members). As writers we also need to act to inform and protect the writing of both ourselves and others. It's not just about the money but doing the right thing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Great settings require authentic detail

By Heather Justesen

I was in high school, probably a freshman or a sophomore, excited to be in the school musical, loving the songs, the camaraderie, the funny little jokes and lines shared between cast members. Nope, can't remember which year it was, freshman or sophomore, but I do have a vivid memory of our director leading us through an exercise, which I think we can all use as writers.

The director had been acting on and off for his whole life and recounted one night when he was in his twenties, sitting on a cable car in San Fransisco and focusing hard on everything around him. The sights, the smells, the sounds. He studied the car and focused on the energy of the people around him, then tried to imprint that moment into his brain, so he could pull that experience out if needed for a play some day.

I do a similar thing as a writer. I'm always watching people's expressions, the way they interact, how they react to trauma (it never fails to amaze me what total whiners some adults can be when injured while a little kid hurt worse just sucks it up. Seriously). How do the family members or friends interact? Is that young woman more worried about her cell phone or her driver's license and credit cards in the purse that got tossed somewhere in the back seat? Does the mom freak out or freeze up when her kid is hurt?

There are a hundred ways for people to react to situations whether you're seeing them at the grocery story or in a crises, dropping the kids off for school or having a mother-daughter afternoon at the mall. Watch people, check out how they interact, study their body language, the setting, the scents, and sounds. The world around us is a rich place, full of details we can mine as fodder for our stories, it's a shame to waste it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Convey Your Message

I'm on family vacation, so I'll keep this simple and hopefully quick. A few weeks ago, I had to explain to my younger children that using my nice canning jars for catching grasshoppers was simply not acceptable. This was for a couple of different reasons. One, because I had found more than one jar broken into a bunch of little pieces on the back patio, and two, because eating bottled apricots from a jar that I knew once housed grasshoppers just doesn't sit well with me.

So recently, as my kids were cleaning out their closet, they found my long lost plastic water bottle, my favorite one, and it had four dead grasshoppers in the bottom of it. I'm sure they had been dead for at least three weeks from the smell of it.

Now, I would like to thank my children for obeying my rules of not using the canning jars, but perhaps I should have been more specific, sharing with them exactly what was appropriate for them to use (besides my favorite drinking bottle, which I will likely never use for drinking again).

One of the elements of writing well is the ability to convey your thoughts or message to the reader. This is more difficult than it sounds, because it requires some degree of organization in thought.

Does the beginning have a little intro to the message you wish to bring across? Are the sentences in each paragraph related to each other somehow? And are the paragraphs organized so that they carry the message in a coherent manner? These are just some of the few elements that goes into carrying your message to the reader.

So with these few words, I hope I've conveyed my message of getting your message across in a simple, quick, efficient way, and now I'm off to continue family fun.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using the Sense of Smell

We have many tools at our disposal to make our writing feel realistic. One of those is using our senses, We tend to use sight the most in our writing with the sense of hearing running a close second. We rely on what our characters can see and hear to convey our story, but if we use the other senses we can lend even more credibility to our writing.

Using the sense of smell can help us to better show our characters.

Think about what comes to mind when you smell cinnamon? Pine trees? Lemons? A certain kind of perfume? Horse manure? Rotten milk? BO? Each of these smells produces a different reaction. We can use that to characterize the people in our stories.

If I write about a man who smells of whiskey in the middle of the day, I don't have to say he drinks a lot, do I? What if I mention a woman who smells of a designer fragrance? Chances are she'd be a character that has some money, but I wouldn't have to tell you that.

Using the sense of smell allows us to show our characters and communicates things about our characters and stay away from that dreaded telling.

Try this exercise: Use the sense of smell to communicate something about your character. Decide what it is that you want to communicate and then attach a smell to it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What would you say?

It’s pretty clear by now I love words. Today, though, I want to talk about one word in particular. That word is NO.

As a mom, I have no problem telling my kids no. I’m pretty good with it, in fact. They’ve come to anticipate the “no” before the “yes.” Not that I’m a mean mom; I just don’t believe in overindulging my kids.

But this is a different no, and I struggle with it horrendously. And as I extend my networks with the intention of meeting new people and getting my name and book title out, I worry that I may be using that word more than others.

Let me explain. Today I got on Facebook to check messages and get updates on my author friends. And immediately someone opened up a message box and started talking to me. In short, he wanted to meet. Immediately I thought of everything we all know about internet safety. For all I know, everything on his page that made me accept his friend request in the first place could be lies. For all he knows, I’m a 40 year old serial killer looking for victims under the guise of an LDS wife, mother and author.

I searched for that instant feeling of foreboding, and it wasn’t forthcoming. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust this guy. Just because the spirit doesn’t instantly let me know someone is bad news, as it has before, doesn’t mean this person is safe or harmless—or even honest.

But saying NO outright seemed harsh. What if he’s a nice guy looking for friends? What if he’s got 16 nieces who’d love to read my book? And my thoughts called to mind something I’d heard before, about how women have such a hard time hurting people’s feelings. We’re too nice, and because of that we often find ourselves in dangerous situations. So why is the word NO so hard to say?

I thought about it for several minutes. What’s the worst thing he can do? Un-friend me? Start spreading lies about me? (Okay, I admit—that one gave me pause) Call me names? This is a challenge I’m sure will only happen more as I continue to extend my network.

In the end, I chose to refuse to go meet him. And I told him why. But I did suggest he come to one of my signings after my book comes out, which is no more or less than I would do to anyone I have “friended” on Facebook.

What is the best solution? What do you do? Do you only friend people on Facebook that you already know, or that are referred to you by someone you know? Do you only friend people who say they are LDS? Maybe I’m cynical, but that can be a lie too. And if they post things I don’t agree with, do I “un-friend” them? Just because they do not agree with my beliefs doesn’t make them evil.

Where does using good judgment end and simple judging begin? Thoughts?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peek in the Past—Beyond the Big D.C.

(Continued from Peek in the Past—The Journey Begins)

One of my new friends in our Maryland apartment was Pauline Stevens, a young lady from London, England. She had fiery bronze hair and a great sense of humor. After a few months working in Washington D.C., we were both tired of the humid summer heat and began dreaming of the west coast.

So we planned a long trip across the States and began saving pay checks for Greyhound bus tickets to our first destination—Nashville, Tennessee.

That first leg of our journey across the Roanoke Mountains in early October 1963 was awe inspiring. We couldn’t get enough of magnificent views and stunning autumn colors. And Nashville was such a cool place. It didn’t take long to find work. There were no secretarial jobs available, so we turned our hands to serving in a restaurant—a first for both of us. That was fun. Hours were long and hard, but we saved enough for the next bus tickets to Dallas, Texas, arriving there at the end of October.

Fortunately, there were more office vacancies in Dallas, and we both found jobs with a Temp agency. As soon as we had enough money for tickets, we moved on to Colorado Springs via a night in Wichita, Kansas at the home of strangers—a generous Baptist family.

During our travels, we discussed religion and attended different churches. Pauline was a lapsed Catholic, and I was raised without religion, but had a great curiosity about God. When I was eight, I went—by myself—to a local Church one Sunday, just to see what went on. My dad gave me a thrupenny bit (three English pennies—like 3 cents) , and said, “You’ll need this for the collection.” I had no clue what that meant until half way through the service a plate was passed around. Everyone around me placed ten shilling notes, or even one pound, or five pound notes on the pile. I kept my tiny, bronze thrupenny bit tight in my fist, and ducked my head, embarrassed. I didn’t understand the service and couldn’t see past all the winter coats and fancy hats. No-one spoke to me afterward so I never went back.
Fast forward to 1963. It was now November 22nd, just one week after we’d left Dallas, and we had jobs washing pots and pans in a Colorado Springs YWCA. I was standing at this large stone sink, washing a huge stew pan, listening to a portable radio, when we heard the never-to-be-forgotten news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. There was a little old lady drying pans with us, and we all broke into tears, hardly able to believe such an impossible thing could happen. The world seemed to take a down turn after that. I was glad to be out of Dallas.

On our days off, Pauline and I explored Colorado Springs and the surrounding mountain retreats. I think we were the only people bussing and walking everywhere. It took us forever to get around, but we had a great time. Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods were top favorites. That Christmas, we were the only two residents left in the YMCA, and calling home was a must, despite the cost. What was another day’s work compared to chatting with family.

By mid-January, we’d saved enough to travel on to the Grand Canyon—and a new twist in my story. But you’ll have to wait another month to find out what happened next :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thoughts for The Day

JoAnn Arnold

This painting of a little boy finding the courage to climb on a horse at least 5 times his size, reminds me of doing a book signing. Ya gotta prove you can do it. Ya gotta get those boots in the stirrups. If ya fall, partner, ya just climb right back up on that horse and hang on. Ya gotta try not to let the pain show when people walk into the bookstore, give you a quick glance and avoid walking in your direction. Ya just gotta give them one of your best smiles.

as Les Brown puts it, "You have to shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars."

Book signings are like living life. It's a form of not being sure, not knowing what will happen next or how. We just do our best. We guess. we hope, and we take our chances, and we eat the chocolate goodies we brought for the customers who are supposed to buy our book.

One thing I have found is that I meet some really nice people at book signings. We talk and sometimes even laugh. Sometimes they buy the book and sometimes they don't but we get to know each other. In fact I did a book signing and Seagull B&T, and a woman stopped by my table. We talked for a minute then I told her about my book. She thanked me and went on to do her shopping in the store. But before she left she came back to my table and said she had decided to buy my book. A year later, I was doing another book signing at the same store. that same woman came into the store, took one look in my direction and hurried over to give me a hug and bought my book. she remembered me.

Book signings are like doing missionary work. You have to sell yourself and the book in your hand. Sometimes people like what they hear. sometimes they don't. My sons tell me that once you've overcome the feeling of rejection, you become a better missionary. I think it works the same way as we do book signings. Not everyone is converted to our book, and once we can overcome the feeling of rejection, we relax and simply do our best.

Have a great day

Monday, August 2, 2010

To Market, To Market . . .

by Rachael Renee Anderson

I have to say that the marketing side of being an author really stinks, at least for me. Sure, I'd love people to buy my books, and sure, I always hope they like them, even love them, but the last thing I want to do is encourage people to buy them.

This has been on my mind a lot lately because my 2nd book, Luck of the Draw, is being released next week. Tomorrow and Wednesday, I'm scheduled to attend a buyers convention where I'm supposed to "pitch" the book to I don't know how many buyers (I've never been before), and my job is to to get them excited enough to want to purchase the book for their stores or websites.

First of all, I'm not great with public speaking, and secondly, how do you go about making your book sound wonderful without sounding like a cocky author at the same time? I despise the thought of coming across as a pushy salesperson, because I don't like pushy salespeople.

And then there will be signings, which are not nearly as intimidating, but still difficult for me. To have the sales clerks say, "Hey, have you met our author who is signing today?" to every customer who walks in the store (including the elderly gentlemen and did I mention I write romantic comedies?) makes me want to sink down in my chair and pull open a large newspaper. Sometimes I've left a signing feeling like I've made several people decide to stick to online purchasing from that point on. And who wants to make someone feel like that? Not me.

So my question to authors and customers alike is this: If you walked into a store and saw an author there signing, how would you prefer them to act? Do nothing, unless you approach them? Smile, say hi, maybe give you a bookmark to introduce you to the book, and then let you come back if you're really interested? Engage you right away to tell you about their book? Or maybe you have a better idea. If so, I'm all ears.

I think that if I were the customer, I'd prefer option 1 or 2, but I'm curious about what everyone else thinks, so please, pipe up!