Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In Which I Have a Birthday and Review the Year


via GIPHY

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Next week is my birthday. I’ll be 37, which is exciting if you like prime numbers but less fun if you prefer to have lots of factors in your age (like 36, which is fantastic—1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 36!). If you multiple 37 by 3, however, you do get a cool number (111), so it’s not all bad. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to be geeky about numbers, which is always a bonus.

Anyway, I think it’s about time for an early midlife crisis, but I just don’t know what direction to take that (except, of course, rearranging all the furniture in my house and trying to toss half of my belongings, but since that happens regularly, it doesn’t really count).

When I think about my age and writing, though, I can’t help but think of many/most of my favorite authors. Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson are both only a few years older than me. They’ve been publishing waaaaaay longer than I have (since, technically, I still haven’t!). Kate DiCamillo published Because of Winn Dixie when she was 36ish. We won’t go on and on, because that would be depressing. I guess the point is that it sure doesn’t feel like I’m doing much with my writing career.

At the same time, I’m quite aware that their career paths are just not for me. But then I think, “Maybe it’s because I’m just not a hard enough worker” (totally true), “Maybe I’m not talented” (hopefully not true), blah blah blah. I dither a lot. In the end, pretty much the only reasonable conclusion on this topic is Comparison = Bad.

So instead of comparisons, it seems like a good idea to think about the things I have done this year with writing.

I’ve written a bunch of short stories and flash fiction, two of which are going into anthologies relatively soon. I’ve participated in a flash fiction competition, which has been delightfully fun so far. I won the Mormon Lit Blitz this year. (Yay!) I won a Beginning of Book contest. I was given a great opportunity that is still terrifying the pants off me (and I am therefore stalling!)

I tried writing several stories that I wasn’t good enough to write yet. One of them turned out well. Some turned out okay anyway, though not amazing. One of them crashed and is still burning. I’m planning on pulling out the fire extinguisher and trying again. In trying things I wasn’t ready for, I got (hopefully) just a teensy bit better.

I started out the year with a goal of writing every single day. That goal also crashed and burned around August, but that was still pretty good for me. I went farther on that than I had previously, and I still write many days, though not even close to all.

I taught a writing class to a group of awesome teens, and as part of that, I put together an anthology of their awesome writing. It was an insane amount of work, but it turned out so fun, and I’m so glad I did it. I learned a lot about how anthologies work, how hard it is to put things in an order that makes sense and flows, and a lot of mishmash of stuff that I may never need to know again.

I discovered how much I love short fiction. I’m learning how it gives me most of the joy of writing, which is a big part of why I write in the first place. But it comes with far fewer of the bouts of angst, suffering, agony, and self-doubt that novel-writing has done in the past. So I’ve not given up on novels, but I am definitely loving the change of pace.

And none of this even touches on the sheer awesomeness that is each of my kids, which is a whole different topic.


Looking back, I’m really happy about writing this year, even though it still isn’t what I had planned on. I won some, lost some, grew and changed a lot. Another time I’ll start thinking about goals for the coming year, but for now, I think I’ll just relish where I’ve been. I’ll never catch up to my author crushes, but I think maybe I’ll find a place where I’m happy being me.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

All God's Children

by Jewel Leann Williams

(note: this comes from a post I made on Facebook some months ago, and for some reason I came across it tonight and felt prompted to share it here)

So many different ways on Facebook (and everywhere else) that people are posting things or commenting in ways that are breaking my heart. So many horrible things said about "those people"---all different sorts of "thoses" and so many sweeping generalizations, falsehoods, fearmongering, dehumanizing.... 

People. We are all, on this Earth, brothers and sisters. No race, religion, gender, class, or political group can be judged by the bad actions of a relative few. Even of they could, it's not the point. We were commanded by the Lord to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and when he said that, there was no fine print with exceptions to that commandment. 

You can't denigrate a whole race, or religion, or any group of people either by holding up their worst as an example of them all, by taking things out of context, by spreading rumors, by going on websites full of hate to find "facts" and then say you love your neighbor. You can't spread discord and contention and think you are right with God, OK with the Savior. 

Those people you insult, are children of God. Literally. Imagine how you feel when someone has insulted your child. If you, being imperfect, love your child so much that your heart aches for them, imagine how much more pain YOUR GOD feels when you behave as if one, or some, or many, of HIS children, are trash or devils or whatever terrible label you want to use. 

The great deceiver, Satan, would have us live in fear of each other, in misunderstanding, in hate. He laughs at us when we believe him, that we have to build MORE walls around our countries, our communities, our hearts. He is a liar.

Our Savior said things like love, pray for, do good to, those we call enemy. He said things like if ye are not one ye are not mine. Like turn the other cheek.  

What I say won't convince anyone to "Stop it," but I had to say it anyway.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Because When It Gets To Be Too Much, You Disappear



Hello, my awesome MMWs! I have missed you so, and I apologize for my abrupt absence. I have no good explanations for it, except that one day I didn't get around to writing my Monday post, and then it happened again, and then again, until it was just easier to keep "forgetting" than to come back and post.

But now I'm back, because Things are happening with my writing!

Thing 1: I made an author page on Facebook. I decided it was finally time. Come see me- www.facebook.com/KQTwrites

Thing 2: I'm NaNoEdMo-ing my LDS romantic comedy novel based on the four- yes FOUR- critiques I got back from critique partners. They are amazing and it was a big boost to my confidence that they all FINISHED the book and seemed to enjoy it! I'm feeling thisclose to getting this novel ready for submissions, and as soon as I do submit it, I have several other projects just waiting for my attention, so I'm eager to get going on those as well.

Thing 3: I'm trying to put myself "out there" more. This past week I gave a presentation at my kids' middle school about what it's like to be a writer, and I also attended the Festival of the Written Word, a fantastic event put on by my local library, where I attended 3 panel discussions and was reminded of how much fun it is to be among my tribe. Side note: did you know that 90% of published authors are finding their agents through networking these days? Only 10% through cold queries. If that doesn't encourage you to put yourself out there in the writing community, I don't know what will!

Another reason I'm back posting here once again is because I was helping a writing friend with an issue she was having with character development and the first resource I turned to was Mormon Mommy Writers, because I remembered we'd had some fantastic posts on the subject. I started searching through the posts and I realized we have a TON of fantastic posts on all aspects of writing, and I remembered what an honor it is to be associated with this blog, and I was ashamed of myself for letting my participation in it lapse.

So again, please forgive me my neglect, and I look forward to jumping back in with both feet and sharing this journey with you once again!

Now, it's time to catch up- what's going on with YOUR writing these days? NaNoWriMo? NaNoEdMo? NoNaNo? Give me the scoop, I'm dying to know!



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Finding Your Voice Through Storytelling

By Lacey Gunter

I had the opportunity this weekend to attend the Timpanogus Storytelling Festival for the second year in a row. I went with my parents and my kids and we had a great time.  Some of the stories were unique and personal, some were retelling of an old classic in a new way, and some were just off the wall zany and silly.

I love listening to the stories, but one of the best reasons to come to a storytelling festival is to hear each of the story teller's unique voice.  I don't mean the actual tone of their voice, but rather the way they tell their story.  A storyteller's unique voice is at least half of what draws an audience into their story.  In much the same way, a writer's voice is critical in drawing a reader into their story.

But how do we get our writer's voice or even know what it is?  If you've ever got the feedback on a manuscript that your story lacks voice or needs more of your own unique writer's voice, it may not be obvious how to get it. Fixing grammatical errors, making characters more three dimensional, mending plot holes or spicing up a query letter can be difficult tasks. But there are typical tried and true ways to help you accomplish these tasks and most authors with enough commitment can reasonably manage them.

Knowing how to find your unique writer's voice, on the other hand, may not be as apparent. Finding your unique writer's voice isn't exactly something you can learn from studying writing books or talking to successful authors. So what's a writer to do? My suggestion to you is to try out storytelling. If you can figure out how to draw someone you are talking to into a story, your unique voice is going to naturally shine through in your writing as well. 

Start out small and easy. Pick a story you know really well. It can be a memory from your own life or even a tried and true fable you've heard a thousand times. Then find a small audience, or even a camera or mirror, and give it a whirl.  The more you practice, the better you are going to get and the more you are going to discover what kind of stories your good at telling and how you like to tell them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Getting Back in the Saddle

Found at quotefancy.com
- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay 

I've been in such a funk. This year started off wonderfully. I had a goal to write everyday. Maybe not a lot, but at least something. And for several months, I was doing great. Not perfect--I missed a couple of days--but really well. 

And then, something hit. I'm still not sure what it was, and I'm definitely not over it yet. It's been like walking uphill through sludge. I just haven't cared. About much of anything, really. I've wondered, am I depressed? Am I just being lazy? What is wrong with me? 

And the wonderful little checkmarks that I used to make to keep track of days I wrote ... They just tapered off. I haven't even looked at the tracking app I have for weeks. Just thinking about it makes me feel tense. Pretty much the entire month of August, a black hole of nothing. 

But here I am again, trying to get back in the saddle. There are two really amazing anthology projects that I want to be involved in, but that takes actually, you know, writing. So I'm starting small, with a blog post about essentially nothing, and working up from there. 

It's hard to start up again after you've lost all momentum. It's hard to feel like you're back at the beginning. But I recently read this statement from C. S. Lewis that I think sums it up: 

"You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending."

What do you all do when you feel like you're back at the beginning with no progress made? How do you get back up and start again?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Muse Wanted

By Lacey Gunter

Muse, my muse, I've been a tad busy lately.
Not by choice though, life and responsibilities just got a little ahead of me.
I've come back to you begging on hands and knees to be my friend again.
Whisper those sweet little ideas into my mind, even in the middle of the night.
I won't complain. I promise.

Muse, sweet muse, remember the good old days when we use to be thick as thieves.
You'd introduce me to all sorts of crazy characters.
We'd plot and scheme together.
You always had a way of making me laugh at the most inopportune times.
We were good together, you and me.

Muse, hey muse, I know you love a good game of chase.
I've got my running shoes on, see.
You can start us out with just the mere shadow of an idea, and I can...
Wait, what was that, ... wait, I wasn't quite ready... ouch... slow down ...please!
You know this game is a lot more fun when you let yourself get caught once in a while.

Muse, crazy muse, alright, I can see you've already got plans tonight.
Well, if you change your mind, I'll just be sitting here in front of this computer all night.
And for your information, I won't even think about getting on Facebook.
You do remember my number, don't you?
Well, I guess I'll be seein' ya...hopefully.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Because of the Struggle

Cursed runner weeds.


- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Today I was out pulling weeds in a tiny patch of my yard. They were the kind of weeds that send out runners that then put down more roots and just keep on going. I had let them go far too long and they were huge and well-established. To tug them up, I had to yank and yank and yank all along their lengths until the whole system came up. I thought to myself, I hate these weeds. I wish they didn’t exist. There is absolutely no purpose to them.

And then, immediately, I began to wonder—what if there is a purpose to them?

For me, the answer came swiftly. They were there for the struggle. That twenty or thirty minutes of hard work pulling up weeds, with my fingers in the dirt, making my little patch of garden lovely again—that time was hard, but in the end, I loved the sense of accomplishment. I loved the progress. I loved that I had done something hard.

I was recently asked to do something that is going to be incredibly hard for me. Quite frankly, my first reaction was I don’t want to do this. I wish it didn’t exist. I can’t do it. I’m still struggling with it, though I absolutely know it’s the right thing to do. But just like pulling weeds, it’s going to be hard. But I think the struggle is part of the point. If we never struggle, we never know what we’re capable of. We never get the powerful feeling that comes of getting through something that is difficult.

A friend recently told me it had been forever since she last wrote, but she wanted to start—and she was scared. She is a confident, awesome person, and she has tried and is good at so many things. But she’s afraid that in this she will fail. So to her I ask, what can you learn about yourself if you try? What if it’s not about “success” (and who defines “success” anyway)? What if it’s about discovering new possibilities? What if it’s about the struggle?

Last month I gave this suggestion: Write something you’re not good enough to write yet. That is something that I’ve really needed to remember lately as I’ve struggled with a story that is almost working but just not quite. I’m just not good enough to write it yet, but I’m still trying.

But I pulled up the weeds, and their purpose was the struggle. I will do the hard thing, and I will grow in that struggle. I will finish the story and I will submit it to the places I’m writing it for, and they will probably reject it, but I will get better at writing, and my next story will be better because I tried.

Because of the struggle.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Things That Matter Most

by Jewel Leann Williams

I think Heavenly Father is trying to help me do some decluttering in my life. I've had a couple of experiences that have been.....enlightening, to say the least, and have helped to remind me about the things that matter most in my life.

I saw some pictures on Facebook of friends who were having a great time doing something all together, which was like the umpteenth time I'd seem some sort of picture/post like this on Facebook. You know, the one where all these different people who are your friends, are all hanging out doing something fun, and you weren't invited... do you ever see those? Well, this time my internal voice, the one that sometimes sounds like those middle-school boys who were nasty to me, and sometimes sounds likes a sibling when we would fight growing up, and a LOT of the time just sounds like my own voice, well that internal voice reminded me that I am not fun, and not good company, and why on Earth would anyone want to invite me to go do fun things when I am not even pleasant to be around? I'm not one of the cool kids, I never was and never will be.  My internal voice is nasty and knows exactly how to push all my little self-esteem buttons. I subconsciously decided that these people I thought were my friends, were really just tolerating me, and didn't really even like me, or else they would've included me in The Neat Thing They Just Posted On Facebook. I found myself feeling alternately sorry for them to have to put up with a schlub like me, and angry at them for not including me in the Fun Thing. This downward spiral makes my tummy hurt and sort of ruins my day/days until it fades back in the back of my mind and then I forget about all the terrible terribleness.

I was in the middle of one of these cycles, sitting in church wallowing just a little when my son snuck himself into a position where he could lay across my lap and have me tickle his back. He turned up his adorable little face to me, smiled dreamily, and said "I love you so much Mommy."  My heart did the little squeeze it always does when I hear those words and see those smiles.  I also had another thought. I can't necessarily say it was the Spirit because it sounded a little too rebellious and snarky, but the other voice in my head said, "Who cares about any of those people? This little boy loves me with everything he has inside him." I thought how I have five other kids and a husband that I can say the same for.

They are the thing that matters most.


This week, I was bemoaning the annoying state of my Facebook feed with my sister-in-law.  I was complaining about how I had all of these things on my feed, from Facebook friends who were leftover from my days in ANWA, but for the most part were people I didn't even know in person and would never meet. I was getting caught up in their opinions and stories and posts about things that sometimes infuriated me, and these were all people I had no actual relationship with. WHY was I investing energy in any of this?  She suggested I unfollow them. There was this fleeting moment where I thought, "But I'm going to miss out on..." and then nothing.  I couldn't think about what I would miss out on. So I unfollowed every person in my feed who was not someone I knew in real life. No more time wasted on pretend relationships.

At the same time, thanks to Facebook, a couple of weeks ago I got back in touch after 20 years with a beloved family from my mission, who I will get to visit with tomorrow all the way from Mexico. I can't wait to meet the 4 kids of the girl I knew as an amazing and smart teenager so long ago, and to give a hug to one of the sisters who showed me so much love.

These are the things that matter most.

I am grateful for these little opportunities to declutter and to get back to basics.  I know that I have some really solid friends, the ones whose regard for me I never have to doubt, and with whom I never feel less than. I have an amazing husband and kids, and people from my entire life who I am blessed to be in touch with thanks to technology. I know that I am exceedingly blessed, and that sharpening my focus to those people makes me a much happier person than when I worry about  superfluous pseudo-relationships.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tips for Finding Short Story Markets

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay



A couple weeks ago I attended Balticon, a sci fi and fantasy convention in Baltimore. It was interesting and fun, with some useful tips for some work I’m doing and also some great accessories (like these horns!). But the part I want to talk about here is the short story resources that I learned about.

Up to now, I have mostly just been randomly coming across places to submit short stories, kind of hit and miss and pretty scarce. But since I’m working on short fiction more these days, I was excited to learn about these resources, listed below. These are all about finding markets for your stories, and believe me—if you are interested in writing short fiction, there are lots of markets.

Facebook open call groups. Search on Facebook for groups called “open call” and then the genre that you write. For example, I have joined an open call group for sci fi and fantasy. When people hear about anthologies or other markets that are seeking stories in the genre, they post. This has been AMAZING for generating huge lists of places I could submit stories to. Now I just have to write them! :)

Ralan.com. This site is for mostly speculative fiction, and it is vast. Does the market exist? It’s probably listed. 

Duotrope.com. This one is a paid service. It was recommended, but honestly, since looking at the other options and how much content they have, I won’t be doing this. 

Submission Grinder. Searchable info on markets, including statistics on rejections and acceptances and other exciting stuff. Data! We loves it, my precious! (I’m married to a data scientist type, so we really really like numbers and graphs and spreadsheets.)

Short fiction is obviously a different world from novels, but it is an interesting and exciting one too, and these resources can help you find markets for your short pieces, including even flash fiction (who knew that some people pay for flash?).

Now for a couple more pieces of advice: 

1. Keep your stories off the web. I have made a rookie mistake a number of times and am paying for it now. Don’t publish your short fiction on your blog just for fun. This pretty much rules it out for a lot of markets who will then consider your story a reprint—which many markets don’t want. Sure, it’s fun to share your work, but make sure you’re never going to want to try to sell it. 

2. Dream big. There are different payment brackets for short fiction—pro (generally $0.06/word), semipro (around $0.03/word), token (less; sometimes a flat rate), nonpaying, etc. And there are markets that may excite you personally more than others (there are a couple of fairy tale magazines that I dream of being published in because that’s my cup of tea). Why not start with your dream markets? The worst that will happen is that they say no and you move on down the line to the next market you’re interested in. But what if they say yes instead? 

3. Try something different, something you’re not good enough to write yet. I’d love to say more about this in the future, but for now let me just start with this—short fiction is an awesome place to try out something you don’t know how to write. I’ve never written science fiction, always thought it was kind of out of my depth, but I’ve recently found a market for middle grade sci fi that I’m kind of dying to write a piece for. It may be awful, it may be great—who knows? But it’s worth trying something new, and no matter how awful or great it is, I took the chance to stretch and grow. Which means it’s awesome no matter what.

Now go write some short fiction!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion!: Mormon Lit Blitz edition

Have you heard of the Mormon Lit Blitz? It's a flash fiction contest that's been going on around this time every year for the past five or six years. Flash fiction, if you don't know, is generally considered to be fiction under 1000 words (although it doesn't include children's picture and board books, which are usually in that range too). It's fun to write--though it can be surprisingly difficult--and quick to read. Hence the "flash" part.

This year, my entry was a finalist, and this week is the voting. So I'm taking a moment to shamelessly promote my story and hope that you will go read it and the other stories then vote.

It's titled "Forty Years," and it's the story of a woman and her relationship with her mother and with motherhood.

The voting ends on Friday, so if you're inclined to vote, go do it! Here's the link to voting instructions. Also, there's a small discussion of each individual piece going on here (and of course you can page to the other stories' discussions too), so if you have a desire to share your thoughts on any of the stories, I encourage you to do so. Being writers, you know how awesome it feels to have people respond positively or thoughtfully to your work, so go share that feeling with someone else!

And if you're on Facebook, go like the Mormon Lit Blitz so that you can hear about and enter the contest next year!

Thanks,
Jeanna

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