Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Outside the Box

by Rebecca Talley

Sometimes, I think we box ourselves in when we determine that what we've written is just for the LDS market. We tend to think that only those who read LDS literature will enjoy our books. Perhaps, it's time to think outside that box.

It's true that sometimes what we write may be harder for others outside the LDS culture to understand, but that doesn't mean they won't enjoy it or learn from it.

One of the best ways to market outside our LDS market is through Goodreads. Goodreads now offers advertisements for a low cost but I've found that giveaways are even better. I've done two giveaways with over 2000 entries between the two. Since I do visit Goodreads, I saw a review pop up. This review was very positive so I thanked the reviewer. Turns out, she'd seen my book advertised for the giveaway and when she didn't win, she decided to buy it herself. She really enjoyed it even though she is baptist.

Several others who have reviewed my book, The Upside of Down, on Goodreads are not LDS but have still enjoyed it. Some have even changed their perspective about Down syndrome after reading my book--yay!! Two of the reviews came from winners of the giveaways. I probably would never have reached those readers if I had not done a giveaway.

I have also handed out bookmarks to people in my "circle" who are not LDS. My son's speech therapist bought my book on Kindle. She's not LDS and didn't understand a few of the references but really liked learning more about the LDS faith. And, she got a message from the book that surprised me. She said that she'd learned she should reach out and serve more. That wasn't an intentional theme, but I'm glad she got that from the book.

We write our books to reach out to others and share something that's important to us. It may be a message or it may be to lift up, entertain, or comfort. Heavenly Father has blessed us with the talent to write and I believe sometimes we shortchange ourselves, and others, by only seeing inside a box. We need to reach outside that box. As we write about LDS characters and the LDS life we can serve to breakdown barriers and educate others outside our faith about what we truly believe.

At a time when inaccurate, disrespectful, crude musicals bent on tearing down our faith flourish on Broadway, it's even more important that we reach beyond our box and share our LDS literature with the world around us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


By Christine Thackeray

My daughter came home the other day with a group of friends. One had a red nose and shiny eyes, clear indicators that she was crying. My daughter was planning on spending the afternoon with them but suddenly made up a thin excuse, the other girls left and we were alone.

Like an exploding water balloon, my daughter began to pour out what had happened. Weeks before the girl and her had had a conversation at lunch about gay marriage spurred by a classroom discussion led by a liberally biased teacher. My daughter's friend took the position that homosexuals were an abomination and should be hated for their sin. My daughter said their behavior was a sin but we should love them. In response her friend had let the feelings fester for a few weeks until that afternoon, when out of nowhere she said that my daughter didn't even have a testimony and couldn't be her friend.

While the girl was crying while she said this, my daughter was dry eyed and felt relieved. She spent the afternoon reading, hoping the girl never speaks to her again but they are in the same church group. I'm the advisor. I talked to my daughter this afternoon about loving everyone in our ward family. She says she loves her but now knows she's a complete idiot.

In stories we always have some great ending that makes everything work out but in real life, I can't see it. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life is Full of Fun

I sent an e-mail to Cedar Fort explaining that I would need to take some time away from blogging. I guess I didn't get it to the right person. But that's alright. It will give me a chance to explain in this post.

I'm now helping take care of my 88 year-old mother who needs almost constant care. Along with that the Southern Utah Heritage Choir has asked me to write a musical production about the first pioneers who helped settle Saint George - then direct it.

In order to do this, I'm going to have to put a few things on the back burner for several months. The musical production will be performed in January. I hope to have the script completed by the end of August and in the hands of the performers--once we have selected the performers.

It's going to be exciting, scary, and a heck of a lot of work. So if I can be put on hold for my bi-monthly post, I would appreciated it.

Thank you and have a great day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Least Likely Places

by Cheri Chesley

My daughter--this beautiful creature here--and I were out for a drive Friday and, of course, talking. Really, because getting my kids to stop talking is quite the feat. :) My big van doesn't have a working radio, so we had to (gasp) communicate.

One of her favorite movies right now is How to Train Your Dragon. I tell you this because one of her favorite lines is one Gobber says: "Trolls exist; they steal your socks. But only the left ones. What's up with that?" The first few times I heard that line, I laughed. But now, I'm pretty over it. It got us thinking, though.

Why just left socks? And, if it's trolls stealing your socks, why haven't we seen them?

So we started brain storming. And now, it looks like we're going to write a book together. I'm excited. It's not going to be a long book--maybe it will just be a picture book--but we've solved the mystery of the missing socks.

Her best friend right now is the daughter of my friend who has cancer. My daughter has chosen to name the main character in the book after her friend. How cute is that?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Layla's Birthday Rollercoaster

27 Traffic Tips for Bloggers


There are a gazillion blogs out there on the Internet these days.  How do you draw traffic to yours?  Try experimenting with some of these simple tips.  Why 27 and not an even 30?  Because 30 would have been too predictable!  Keep your blogs interesting and don't be afraid to mix it up.  The most important tip is to provide valuable content....with that many blogs out there, you need to give your readers such rich content that they keep coming back to you for more!

1.  Post often and on the right days: People are more likely to read blogs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
2.  Turn on Google Sitemaps.  Claim your Internet real estate.
3.  Invite people to comment.  People don't like to be lectured.  Have a conversation.  Reply to comments.
4.  Build your following.   Follow others.
5.  Share posts to Twitter and Facebook
6.  Optimize your post titles and tags
7.   Draw in traffic with a capture or "squeeze" page
8.  Add email alerts
9.  Include plug-ins
10.  Reach your followers' followers with Reblog and TypePad Micro
11. Add videos
12. Run contests with prizes
13.  Participate in a blog tour with other bloggers
14.  Advertise it on swag at booksignings and other events
15.  Invite guests to share their posts
16.  Interview other people your readers are interested in
17.  Ask readers what they want to learn about.  Include fun surveys.
18.  Build trust.  Before people engage, they need to know you, like you and trust you.
19.  Provide links to your blog on your web site
20.  Make it a fun place to visit!  Lighten up!
21.  Provide RSS
22.  Keep your blog posts short and sweet.  Write like you talk.
23.  Include eye-catching graphics.  Use a theme to show who you are visually.
24.  Mix it up.  Don't be so predictable.  Keep it interesting.
25.  Write grabbing titles. 
26.  Provide your readers with solutions to their problems.  Be a helpful resource.
27.  Provide valuable content

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Reviews Can Tell Us

During the first few weeks after my first novel's release, I would check reviews on Amazon and Goodreads almost daily. At first, all the feedback was from people I knew-family and friends who bought the book at my launch party. No big surprises there: 5 stars from my mom, all my cousins and the ward members who had to face me on Sunday. "Great book, loved it, couldn't put it down, and-- I know the author!" was what most of it conveyed, and although that kind of stuff is easy on the ego, it doesn't tell me anything about what could have been better and is not very helpful in convincing OTHER people to read the book.

Then the first wave of reviews from people I didn't know started coming in. Finally comments that offered opinions that I could see as unbiased and helpful with my writing. Most were positive, and a general consensus emerged: A good story, a little slow at the beginning, but gripping by the end, with well-developed characters and some surprising turns toward the climax. Some readers weren't willing to give it more than three stars, but couldn't really put their finger on why it wasn't better for them. I suspect some were reading outside of their favorite genre, or were expecting a romance and got a coming-of-age story instead. As will happen with any book, comments ran the gamut from "the best piece of LDS fiction I have ever read!" to "...a rookie effort and it shows...could have cut 100 pages and it would have been better."

So what am I to think about my reviews? Does my average rating of 4.07 stars from 23 text reviewers on Goodreads tell me my book is good? Not really. I suspect that's close to the average rating for ALL books. It probably wouldn't have been published if it didn't resonate with a majority of the people who picked it up, and most published books do if they're marketed to the right demographics. When I go to the pages of those Goodreads members who gave me 5 stars, I find that many of them give 5 stars to EVERY book on their shelves.

The most useful reviews, of course, are those that function as constructive criticism from avid readers who care enough to lay out exactly what they liked and didn't like about the book. More than anything, I want perception and opinion. I want a review that tells me what the reader felt while reading and what struck him or her as unrealistic or undeveloped.

Although it appeared in a major LDS internet site and says not one negative word about my book, this review, published just this past week, is probably the most annoying of all. Posted as a "book review", all it does is summarize the plot. That's right, the article is completely devoid of any opinion whatsoever. Either the writer was afraid of hurting my feelings (which I greatly doubt), or she simply does not understand what a "book review" is supposed to be. Worse, she spoils the ending of the book in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination (do not go there if you have not read and have any intention of reading The Rogue Shop).

It's all worth sprinkling liberally with grains of salt. You'll learn the most from those reviewers who clearly took the time not only to read but to think about what they read, and have enough distance from you to remove any filters from their honest perceptions. Of course, I'll never complain about my mom and everyone else who gave me an enthusiastic 5 star review. Those are the people who will benefit most from my magnanimous generosity when I get a seven-figure advance on my next runaway bestseller.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pickup Artist and A Captive Audience

I was never particularly good at using pickup lines as young man. I thought they were corny and transparent, so I rarely ventured much past "Hi" -- a deficiency sadly reflected in my weak social calendar .

Now, some twenty years after (successfully)(mercifully) leaving the dating scene, I find myself returning to the world of Pickup Lines, although I now call them by a more mature name: Pitches.

I recently had a book signing at our local LDS bookstore, and a few things finally clicked into place for me. I had my table set by the door, a plate of chocolate, and a stack of printed pages ready to fold into paper airplanes.

As people walked through, I would offer them chocolate. If they had kids, I would offer paper airplanes. One young family tumbled into the store, and within thirty seconds I was down four planes and ten pieces of candy--the youngest looking like a squirrel with a cheek full of nuts.

But I digress. At first, as I would offer the chocolate, half of the customers would politely refuse, and the other half would come and take a piece. A very few of those taking some candy would linger for a moment, looking at my book and handouts, and I would take a moment to tell them about my book. However, nobody was buying.

But as the signing wore on, I realized that even those who didn't take time to linger still took 5-10 seconds selecting their piece of chocolate. For those brief seconds, I had a captive audience. So I decided to try something.

As people reached for the candy plate, I said, "I'm here today letting people know about my new book." Go ahead--time yourself reading that aloud. I get 3.5 seconds. And that was it.

With that brief pitch in place, nearly every candy eater then became a lingerer, looking at my book and other materials and listening to my full-length book pitch. And a significant number those ended up buying.

All because I found a way to connect with a potential reader, and had the courage to throw a four-second pitch at a captive audience.

I've come to accept that book signings are all about connecting with customers, and actual sales are secondary. To that end, I think it's essential to come up with a strategy to rise above the noise. For me, that has been chocolate and paper airplanes.

And it seems to be working. Let me share with you a portion of an email I got a few weeks ago, showing exactly how that connection helps.

I picked up your book on Saturday...and honestly, I was a little unsure if I would like it. But, I felt I needed to be supportive of a new author putting himself out there and I wanted the paper airplane.  I didn't pick up the book again until Tuesday morning and then I struggled to put it down to work and drive. I even got up early Wednesday morning to finish it before heading off to work. What a fun read! 
All because of a folded piece of paper, and a concerted effort to connect.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Comment Misconstrued

By Christine Thackeray

Sometimes life is funnier than fiction. The other night our family had one of those laugh-so-hard-you-pee-in-your-pants moments. Here's what happened.

My daughter Anna went to a group job interview at Old Navy. About eight girls, mostly college students, were sitting in a row and asked a number of questions by the hiring manager. My daughter was feeling guilty for being the first to answer most of them so she vowed on the next question she wouldn't answer.
The hiring manager said, "I'd like you to sell me the clothes you're wearing, as if they are on a mannequin."
No one answered right away and then one stylish girl stood with her hand raised. "I'll do it."
The manager nodded and so the girl struck a pose with a hand on her hip, her chin in the air and the other hand in front of her with the palm raised and froze. Everyone waited.
After a few seconds, the manager said, "Okay, now sell me."
So the girl struck another dramatic pose and froze again.
Trying not to embarrass her, the manager prodded, "Can you do something else?"
Breaking from her stance, she asked, "Would you like me to walk, too?"
I remember reading The Comic Toolbox that proposed much of our humor comes from a feeling of relief that it's not me. It's the reason we laugh when we see someone slip and fall in Funniest Home Videos. The humor for me lies in the fact that it was such an understandable mistake. The only difference is that I doubt I wouldn't have questioned why anyone would want me to act like a mannequin in retail sales. Apparently, this girl never paused- just went at it full boar.

So my challenge is to use this concept somewhere in your WIP. I'm going to try. I suppose when you dumb it down, it's just stupid humor like Amelia Bedelia or Patrick on SpongeBob Square Pants where they either don't listen or take something over-the-top literally.

But a comment misconstrued could be used much more cleverly. A misplaced or dangling modifier could lead to a wide variety of plot points other a simple laugh. It could detour your character into danger, help him find unexpected love or have him be blamed for a crime he didn't commit. I'm facing a new scene where my MC has to be blamed for something he didn't do. I'll write in the comments how a comment misconstrued plays into it.

Fun and funny! Wow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cedar Fort Carnival

Looks like a fantastic event to benefit literacy and to celebrate CFI's 25th Anniversary. Friday, May 20th, 3:00-6:00 pm, at the Cedar Fort Building in Springville ( 2373 W. 700 S.). Bring your family for lots of fun, free books, bounce house, dunk tank, and food. You don't want to miss this event!

(Any Cedar Fort authors who would like to help out with a booth are invited to contact CFI for details).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The First Five Pages

Agents and publishers receive thousands of submissions from authors who have spent months and even years writing their masterpiece. With each new submission the pile on their desk grows into a mountain, out of which they must mine the shining gems.

Agents and publishers simply don't have the ability to read every submission in its entirety. The mountain is too high and their time is limited. They will read through a query or maybe a chapter, but even more likely they will only read the first paragraph or the first few pages to get a feel for the writing to see if they want to continue reading.
As a newby writer I've been surprised to see a number of blog contests judged by agents. Some contests are based on the first page, one was based on the first paragraph and one on the first line. Can a trained eye really spot potential in just a page, paragraph or sentence. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But regardless, most of the time that's all the opportunity we get.

What does this mean for a writer? It means we need to have our work pop out of this mountain of paper and shine from the first sentence, paragraph, page and chapter. If that catches a publisher or agents attention they will continue reading. Check out a short post on writing The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide to Staying Out Of The Rejection Pile on my blog. After reading this book I refocused my attention on my first five pages, looking at it from the perspective of an agent or publisher who may be weary of mining and simply trying to find a good reason to reject the manuscript. Every author needs to view their own work with a critical eye to polish the gem to a shiny gloss.

I recently had an opportunity to be one of many judges on a first chapter contest. I had a wonderful time reading the entries and evaluating the chapters. In almost every case, I could tell after the first paragraph or page which chapters should be taken seriously and which chapters I would need to struggle through. Is it fair to make such quick judgements? Yes.

Remember, the mountain of manuscripts agents and publishers read through is huge. We need to polish our gem and then present it to them, hoping our story fits their publishing needs. As I read these chapters I found myself wishing that the writers had spent more time polishing the grammar, working through holes in the plot and finding consistency in their voice. I wished the conceptual framework had been flushed out better and that the story and writing required me to keep reading, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The fun part was finding the stories that did just that, and there were many.

While I was in school I often had the dream that I showed up to class only to discover I had a huge assignment due or a major test I knew nothing about. I didn't know what was expected and therefore I wasn't prepared to succeed. It is critical that we know what is expected and have the tools we need to be successful. I recently wrote about the Enjoyment Factor which helped me to judge Whitney nominations. I'd also like to share some criteria from judging first chapters. Though I didn't develop these first chapter criteria I'd like to share a couple of the categories. It's like being told what will be on the test so we can properly prepare.

The Hook: Does the story pull the reader in and hold their interest? (Immediately)

Conflict: What is at stake in the story and how is tension used? (Conflict drives the story- does it matter and do we care?)

Characters: Are these compelling, real people whom the reader cares about? (Is their dialogue believable?)

Setting & Mood: Does the story make the reader feel like they are really there? (utilize sense of touch, smell, sight, taste, emotion. Use detail to bring the setting alive but don't over do it)

Pace and Style: How well does the writer use words to move the story along? (Is it quirky and sarcastic or dark and forboding? Is there sufficient conflict to move the story forward?)

Resolution/Read-on Prompts: Does the reader want to keep reading? (Conflict creates a need for the reader to continue as they seek resolution- utilize read-on prompts at the end of paragraphs, pages and chapters)

Mechanics: grammar, spelling, etc. (Be sure to follow defined formatting guidelines) Overall

Enjoyment: Was this a story you’d recommend to others? (Be honest)

I strongly recommend The First Five Pages: A Writers Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. It offers fantastic, real life examples, tangible suggestions and guidelines that will help you polish your work.


1- When you read a book for enjoyment, how many pages do you read before deciding whether or not the book is worth your time? 5 pages? 10 pages? 50 pages? 100?

2- If you evaluate your own work according to these criteria, how do you fare?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

LDStorymakers Conference

JoAnn Arnold

I want to say a capital "THANK YOU" to all those who orchestrated this flawless and exciting writer's conference. I'm sure they were exhausted when it was over but all that they had done did not go unnoticed.

Oh, what a fun, exhilarating, educational two days it was. Just to give you a hint of what was available to us, I'll name the breakout sessions I attended.

"Building Your Blog into a Platform You can Stand On," presented by Elana Johnson. (I learned tips and tricks to get more followers, increase comments and build up my blog).

"Using Social Media Every Step of the Way." - Marion Jensen. (I learned the smart way a writer uses social media).

"the Why's and How's of Short Synopsis Writing" - Sara Crowe (Sara walked us through the elements of synopsis writing so we could make it a strong part of our query).

"Woo an Agent, Wow an Editor: Refining Your Writing," - Angela Eschler (We covered style and voice. how to streamline the manuscript (trim the fat) or tighten the plot).

"Stimulating the Slush Pile," - Guest Agents/Editors. (What makes a submission stand out? What mistakes will doom a submission to slush pile obscurity? That is the question).

The second day:

"Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Show, Not Tell - Annette Lyon (We learned eight ways to make our work show--brilliantly).

"Hooks that Get You Published." - Jeff Savage & James Dashner. (Jeff and James discussed how to create a hook, possibly the most important paragraph (or two) in the process of selling your novel).

"Building Author/Editor Relationships that Build Careers" - Kirk Shaw (Great advice given in this class, as well).

"The Basics of Giving Good Interviews." - Crystal Liechty (Once again, great advice was given).

In fact, I was given great advice in every class. I can't say enough about the learning opportunities that were available to all who attended, and there were many, many who attended.

The food was delicious. The friendly association with other authors, those just starting out on their journey and those who have the craft down to science,was fun. In fact the whole conference was filled with fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Smile and Keep Going

by Cheri Chesley

I feel kind of bad that I don't have anything to post about the LDStorymakers Conference, but I didn't attend this year. I did, however, crash the AI mix n mingle Friday night. :)

I was late, of course, but I did bring a homemade cheesecake. That should make up for it, right?

Even though I missed the conference, it was still great to meet up with some of my author friends and chat and laugh the evening away. I think I really needed that. And, I did notice the entire hotel seemed to buzz with that special energy that only happens when authors get together. :) I love that feeling.

After I got a healthy dose of writing and books, I drove over to the airport to say hi to my hubby at work. We ended up talking for over an hour. Sigh. I like doing that, but I do have to say the middle of the night isn't the best time for it.

I am looking forward to reading everyone else's take on the conference, and I still hope to learn from what they have to share.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How To Write A Good Book Quickly

                                                              By Trina Boice

Are you working on a book?  If so, check out this short video with tips for writing a good book quickly:

In his video, Steve Harrison, expert book promoter and author coach, shares seven tips that'll help you easily break through the roadblocks that stop you from getting your book out now including:

* The single most important concept which separates a great book (and great selling book!) from a poor book.

* How you can emulate other successful writers to create your own bestseller.

* The biggest mistakes authors make in the writing process that really slow them down.

* The one, simple, easy and FAST technique which you can use TODAY to write your book.

* The one personality trait, shared by many authors, which really sabotages them.

In addition to his Quantum Leap program, Steve Harrison also publishes the Radio-TV Interview Report, which has become a bible for talk-show hosts and producers looking for interesting people to interview.  Growing out of the industry contacts he’s built up through the Report is Steve’s annual National Publicity Summit, where writers can brush shoulders with many of the gatekeepers in the talk-show industry.

I discovered Steve Harrison several months ago and really love his teleseminars.  Great material for authors!
Check him out!

By the way, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all of you wonderful moms out there who inspire our writing dreams!  We love you!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Learning to take criticism

by Heather Justesen

When I was in ninth grade, I had an English teacher who used to go over all of my articles for the school yearbook with me. I'd hand it to her after hours (because my yearbook staff met after school--yeah, I was one of those nerds), and she'd sit me next to her and mark it up, telling me why things worked and why they didn't. I remember her saying that she wasn't sure that criticism could really be constructive.

Mrs. Philips, I have to say, I still disagree with you--and more now than I did all those years ago.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at the first day of the LDStorymakers writer's conference. We call it boot camp--and it can be the first critique session many of the attendees have ever experienced. It's a stressful thing for everyone the first time they allow strangers to read and pick apart their writing--I know it was for me! I remember getting madder and madder as I flipped through the first professional edit I paid for (by the talented Josi Kilpack). It wasn't that she was wrong, or even that I thought was was wrong at the time, it was mostly that I knew she was right about the things she pointed out.

Was my frustration and bits of anger a normal reaction--I'd have to say yeah, they were. Of course I thought my baby was beautiful when I sent it off to her--I just wanted someone to point out the little minor details I'd missed and let me put a pretty shine on it before I resubmitted it. But the truth was, my book needed a great deal more work than I'd expected--because despite having a BA in English lit, I hadn't really been studying what make books work, and how others crafted their stories. I'd avoided writing classes because, heck, I wasn't going to be a writer, so what did I need those creative writing classes for, anyway. (I know, famous last words--I didn't need any journalism classes, either, because I wasn't going to work for the media, and then I became a newspaper copy editor. Oy vey!)

It took me a while before I made the suggested revisions and resubmitted that first manuscript to the publisher, and though they still didn't pick it up, that first experience of getting critiques was invaluable in my growth as a writer because she not only pointed out what was wrong with the specific manuscript, but also showed me where my writing was weak, and directed me to specific resources to help me improve.

Because of that direction, reapplying myself to my writing, and getting more helpful feedback from other writers (which I also hated, but agreed with), the second book I sent for professional edits received a contract.

Now I've been part of my own critique group for three years and the sting of criticism has disappeared from the feedback I get (mostly). I still get a tad nervous when I read out loud to them (though more when they have family members wandering through the next room).

To be honest, the people at my table yesterday took their critiques from everyone else like pros--even if they disagreed with what they were being told from time to time. This is a huge step in the right direction for any writer, because none of us can exist inside a vacuum. We all need editing, constructive feedback (aka criticism) and support, because this writing thing can be a difficult, harrowing experience, but if we work and grow and become better, it can be so worth it.

Someday I'm going to see these books in print--I can't wait for that day, because anyone who brings that kind of attitude to the table and willingness to learn is bound to succeed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writer's Conference Synergy

Last Saturday I attended a writer’s conference in American Fork organized by the American Fork Arts Council. Maybe I should say “participated in”, rather than “attended”, since I was busy in every session. I was apprehensive at first, when I was asked to give one ten minute speech, sit on four panels, and give another 40-minute presentation all on one day. Did having one novel released through a small market publisher really qualify me as an “expert” on the topics I’d been given?

The first two people I met at the conference didn’t make me feel much more confident. The first was a professor of English at Utah Valley University, and the second was Dene Low, author of Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone (Houghton Mifflin) with an M.A. in Creative Writing and a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. Other hyper-talented and educated people with multiple publication credits and plenty of conference experience surrounded me. I wondered if maybe they thought they had invited that other Mike, Mike Knudson, who spells his last name differently and has a successful line of children’s books. In fact, maybe that Mike would walk in at any moment and ask what I was doing in his chair.

When my time came to speak, the lady conducting introduced me and showed the audience my book. Whew, they did know who I was and what I’d written and they still invited me. I stood up and spoke briefly about my 20-year journey to bring The Rogue Shop to light, with a focus on that “writing monkey” that I never could get off my back. I ended with the exclamation “Embrace the Monkey!” which drew laughter and applause. Now I felt at home. These were good people.

At lunch, I sat next to a nationally published novelist and an accomplished poet and was able to carry on a competent conversation with them. Midway through my ham-and-swiss, one of the ladies from the book sales desk came over to inform me that the stack of books I had brought were sold out, and did I have any more? Sadly, I didn’t. I had also sold through a big stack at “Write Here in Ephraim” three weeks before, but I still hadn’t learned my lesson: When participating at a conference, there is always a chance you will become suddenly and temporarily famous within a 20-yard radius of your person. Always bring more books than you think you should. My speech in the opening session had branded me the “The Monkey Guy”, and had created a demand for my book that I couldn’t meet on the spot.

In the first afternoon session, I faced a group of a dozen or so writers with Jennifer Fielding, Acquisitions Editor at Cedar Fort. Our panel was entitled “What to Expect during the Publishing Process”. The writers had great questions and despite very little preparation and absolutely no comparing of notes beforehand, I think Jennifer and I did a fine tag-team job of answering them.

The final breakout was the one that scared me most. I had been asked to speak on my blog series “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Novelists” for 40 minutes. Intelligent people piled into the room and filled the chairs. More came in, bringing chairs from the other room. They all wanted to be Highly Effective Novelists, and they were looking to the “Monkey Guy” to tell them how. Signed copies of The Rogue Shop sat on several laps. The least I could do is be somewhat effective at delivering the message. I had prepared my notes well and did my best. Within a few minutes I realized there was no reason to feel uncomfortable. Writers are the least judgmental of people, and conferences are one place where we see each other not just as literary entities but as human beings. All the flaws and quirks of personality are on display, and although we may be at various places of success with our writing, we’re all on the same road. That’s the joy of a small, live writer’s conference.

At the end of the day, I felt much better about accepting future invitations to such events and participating as much as I can. It’s not that my delivery or presentation has become any better, or that I’ve become more of an “expert” than I was before. It’s just my newfound knowledge that writers, as a group, can be trusted with the fragility of a rookie presenter’s confidence. Those that see me as a little further down the road want to be where I am, and those already well ahead of me are happy to see me coming along behind them. Writers have no secrets about writing – we liberally share the best of what we’ve learned, because sharing is what literary expression is all about. Despite the business reality that we all compete with each other for a limited market share, writers don’t see it as a zero-sum game; We’re all determined to create our own niche, our own market, and it doesn’t have to come at anyone else’s expense. This spirit of synergy, devoid of competition, is what draws us all along toward our dreams. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but we don’t have to do it alone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Crazy Daze of Motherhood by Jane Still

A mother's day is filled with all kinds of emergencies, from bumps and bruises to hospital stays.

 Find the perfect way to recover from your own family's little emergencies with Jane Isfeld Still's latest book on the hilarious daily challenges of a mother in the fray.

You're sure to laugh and cry as you celebrate the joys of motherhood.

Don't you love this title? It's perfect--sometimes I feel like I'm in a daze :).

As a mother of ten, I can relate to so many of these humorous stories (after all, if you can't laugh, you'll cry). Jane Still has such a dry sense of humor and she can find the humor in any situation. I loved the story about her little boy stripping down naked and playing in the fountain and Jane trying to pretend he wasn't her son. My kids have done embarrassing things like that. While touring the elementary school for her first day of class, my daughter proudly told everyone gathered in the office that the principal was the devil. Yeah, I wanted to pretend I wasn't her mother that day.

Another funny story is when her son locks himself in the bathroom and refuses to come out. Jane tries all sorts of things to convince him to come out and is stressed about what he's getting into. Been there. Done that. My son just locked himself into a bathroom stall at Walmart and I had to bribe him to unlock it because I sure wasn't going to climb underneath and have to touch the bathroom floor with my hands in Walmart.

I could also relate to her fear of the doctor walking in on her when she wasn't dressed. I've been to the OB a thousand times and always rush as fast as possible to cover myself up even though I'm getting a pelvic exam.

And I could totally relate to her story about trying to have a phone conversation. Kids have a sixth sense and decide to fight and have emergencies only when mom is on the phone.

I loved the story about the overflowing washing machine and laughed thinking about her chasing her laundry load and slipping in the soapy water.

This is a short book full of humor. It's a perfect Mother's Day gift because the stories are so funny and so relatable. I enjoyed it and recommend it.

About the author:

Jane is married to Rick Still, who she believes has the distinction of being the only man in history brave enough to give her earwax candles for her birthday. They had six children in eight years, and while her children were growing up, she discovered she had a great sense of humor. At least that was her take. Rick once said to her, "Honey, you know all those real corny things you say all the time? Who ever thought you could make money at it?" Her son Adam once told her, "Mom could you please stop telling jokes to my friends? It's really embarrassing." One of Jane's philosophies is, "You're not doing your job unless your children are worried about being seen in public with you."

To read more about Jane and her exploits visit her website or her blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Top 10 Things I Love about CFI:

by Rachael Renee Anderson

1. I submitted a book in January, got the thumbs up five weeks later, and found out it will be released in August. No, they're not always that fast, it's usually 10-12 months, which is wonderful.

2. The cover designers rock! A few weeks ago I got to see the proof of my cover and was asked for feedback. Since I didn't love it, they're now redesigning it and will hopefully turn it into something I love--which I'm confident they will, since I love the majority of their cover designs.

3. They recently surprised me by designing a beautiful poster page (see for my last released book. They plan to do that for all new CFI books coming out.

4. Every time I've emailed anyone, I've received a response that same day. If they don't know the answer, I get notified that they'll get back to me when they will know, and they always have.

5. The people I've gotten to know are all kind, honest, and wonderful people--the sort of people I could easily count as friends.

6. I love the fact that I can write a good, clean contemporary book that doesn't revolve around the LDS faith, and they will still publish it and most likely get it into Seagull and DB bookstores, along with Barnes and Noble,, etc. In fact, LDS or not, their books are available on and Many make it to Costco and Walmart as well.

7. They've recently beefed up their sales force, and I've been seeing some wonderful changes in that respect. Lyle even left the following comment on my blog a few weeks ago: "How would you like every clerk in any store that carries your book be able to give an in depth description of your book? We think we'll be there within the year. Above all, please know how important our authors are to us. We're trying every way within our power to make you successful—if you are, we are. " Sounds great to me, and I'm excited to see what comes.

8. They're flexible. They'd love their authors to get out and participate in signings and other events, but how much I do is up to me. With young kids still at home all day, I don't have the time to do as much as others do, and that's okay with CFI. All they expect is for you to do your best, and I've never felt any pressure to do more than I'm willing to do. Love that.

9. They're royalties are ALWAYS paid on time. Every single month, like clockwork.

10. They listen and they're constantly doing things to improve, which makes me confident they will. Cedar Fort is not perfect, but neither is anyone else. I'm very happy I chose to publish with them and am excited to see what comes in the future. In the meantime, thank you Cedar Fort for all you do for us authors.