Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writers - A Volatile Persuasion (revisited)

***For those of you who are also readers of my blog (thank you!) I'm sorry for the repeat--still trying to get unpacked, find the floor of my bedroom and get over this darn cold. Hopefully it is still just as fun as it was two weeks ago ;)***

Upon first sight, writers appear frazzled, distracted and jumpy. This would be very inconsistent with the image of a writer at work on their current project. Suddenly, they are focused and determined. Nothing short of their hair catching on fire and a cat using their back as a scratching post will drag their attention from their life altering purpose: to form words into sentences.

Yes, writers are animals based on contradiction. Within one conversation this breed may both complain about the characters keeping them awake at night, and state that other characters aren't talking enough and they just don't know what they'll do in the next chapter if these ungrateful creations don't start voicing some opinions--and soon.

You may also find them complaining about the many things that keep them so very busy--and in the next sentence exclaim how excited they are that they just figured out how to use Twitter, started a new blog and decided that Facebook needed to be updated a minimum of twice per hour.

Some will stick book after book away on a shelf without ever submitting them to anyone, while still others will submit every sentence they can get to sit still on a paper to any man, woman or dog that might be walking past. They will then request and expect immediate positive feedback. If the feedback is not given or if it is not positive, the consequences may be dire. (may Rover rest in peace.)

With careful observation, you may come to see a direct correlation between the size of the ego and how long they survive in the business. It appears at least a moderate ego is necessary to continue through rejection after rejection but also, if the ego appears too big it is another problem altogether. In this situation it is very probable they will give up on the industry and become a hermit in the mountains, self-publishing every word they write, from the 700,000 word epic to the grocery list.

There also is often a great incongruence between the way writers respond to positive and negative feedback. One negative comment and many writers spend hours considering placing their laptop in the microwave or possibly just becoming a mute and forgoing all forms of communication from this point forward. However, to elicit such a dramatic response from positive feedback it takes approximately 7,482.3 positive comments that will bring about dancing in the streets and unbridled revelry for at least several minutes.

The absolute best approach when trying to strike up a conversation with a writer is to become or claim to be an agent or an editor. They will immediately snap out of their frazzled state and become the most attentive listener on record. This tactic has been abused in the past, as writers have been abundantly willing to throw gobs of money at anyone that says they are an agent, or know an agent, or have a cousin whose ex-wife's, uncle's, brother-in-law's, nephew's, cousin's, best friend is an agent. (You know who you are Ted)

Please do not take advantage of these poor writers like this,

~ they hear voices in their heads (and none of them are polite!)

~ they find themselves inexplicably typing at all hours of the day

~ they consider it a success if they have both a shower and find a comb before it's time to go to sleep

~ and they are responsible for reliably completing entire worlds, complete with governments, religions, people, rules, and relationships.

In fact, no wonder we look so frazzled... Excuse me, I have to go rethink becoming a mute for the fourteenth time today.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Bad, The Ugly + The Good! Life in a Nut Shell!


It was a strange, bad, frustrating, glorious, painful, wonderful week last week! Out of all the chaos good still happened! To every bad thing that happened a good and even more wonderful thing occurred to replace the bad. I think that is just how life works. Without opposition we would never grow! So if you are facing opposition right now...just remember that you're not alone (reminds me of a favorite song)! We are all right here rooting for your success!!! It's just another bump in the road that will help launch you to where you will be, who you are, who you will become and to your future success. Success has many shapes and forms. Yours is just around the corner. So hold on tight and get ready to launch when that bump comes! And don't forget to come here when the bumps come! We will be right there to cheer you on!!!
Ready... Set... Go!!!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Epiphanies

According to my english literature textbook, an epiphany is "some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character's life, or view of life is greatly altered". Today is my birthday, and I was thinking about where I was in my life last year. I hadn't finished any of the many stories I'd started in the five years before that. I was feeling quite sorry for myself and thinking that I would never consider myself a writer. Then, the day after my birthday, I had an epiphany. It was the day I realized I could "change my story" (as my niece, Bella, would say.) Here's the post from my blog last year. I'm also adding a picture of my youngest daughter who helped bring about my epiphany.



March 29, 2008

My birthday was on Thursday. So yesterday, I found myself contemplating all the things I haven't accomplished in my 29+ years (29+ just sounds better than 30+). I guess I was kind of hosting my own pity party, thinking of all the goals that have gone unaccomplished. When Kassi walked up to me and asked, "What makes me special?" I thought it was a strange question for a 4 year old, but then realized she probably heard it on the show she had been watching. I looked at her blonde frizzy curls and her big brown eyes and wondered how I could possibly tell her how special she is to me in words she would understand. How do you tell a 4 yr old, that your heart has a different beat for each of your children? How do you tell her about how full she makes your heart, or how seeing her smile seems to light up your world? So I settled for saying, "You're special because I love you, and because you love me, and you're smart and nice, and you give the best hugs!" After which I was rewarded with a big hug and a kiss. Suddenly I couldn't resist asking her, "Kassi, what makes Mommy special?" She looked up at me with a glint in her eyes, excited for the opportunity to voice her opinion. "You play with me!" She said simply. And with that simple statement, life was right again. I may not have a prostegious job, or any published books with my name on them, or any awards, or a college diploma on my wall. But what I have is much greater. I have a wonderful husband, 4 beautiful children, and lots of family and friends that love me. Even better than that, I have a God who is my loving Heavenly Father. Whose heart has a different beat for each of us. Who is smart enough to know that when we ask ourselves, "What makes me special?" he can send a 4 year old to our side to answer that question.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Feedback is Priceless

So, as many of you know I'm in the midst of editing. It's why my blog is like a ghost town and my comments have been sporadic. Editing is work. I shouldn't complain though, in fact, I feel super lucky. I had a real, living and breathing agent talk to me on the phone and tell me what would make my book even better. How priceless is that? Well, Jenni James sent me this video that pretty much shows exactly what happened when I hung up the phone with the agent. In fact it's so creepily accurate to what actually happened that I wonder if Star Trek really does take place in the future and they were watching movie clips of my life to get this scene.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I want to read you guys, so de-lurk!



So here's the opportunity and the challenge. I want to read your work. A first paragraph of your novel, a poem, a description of your favorite character, whatever you write, I want to read it! It doesn't have to be long. Just something to show us what you like to write about. This is a challenge for all the blog contributors AND readers AND lurkers. (I know you're out there, so de-lurk and let us get to know you.)

I'll start. I typically write novels, but I also enjoy writing poetry from time to time when I'm inspired, so here's one of my favorite poems. I wrote it for my sister.

Thrust upon a raging sea of transience
My decree of permanence is threatened
I sink deeper into the black, blue nadir
Drowning in my sea of strength
I wait for an arm to lift me up to weakness
Where for a moment, a breath
My lungs are free from heroic resolution
Forcing out the oxygen
I gulp in the free air and keep it
Reluctant to let go of life
Only for the hope of comfort
Distant from the harbor so long
An island of deceptive might
Gaze fixed on the tranquil shore


Your turn!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Round Robin Story

In case you didn't know, Jenn is on vaction this week. So I'm going to start a Round Robin Story. Last time we did one it was a romance, this time it's a fantasy. I started this story about five years ago, so it's a little rough. Do your best. You can add your part of the story in the comments. Someone else has to post before you can post again. Let's get started!


The woods around her shimmered in the wind as the sun glanced off the leaves. The tall trees waved their acceptance of her. Her presence there was always welcome by all that thrived in the woods. The trees knew her touch, the animals knew her voice, and even the streams gurgled her praises. The enchantment of the forest coursed through her like rushing water. She could feel the will of the forest and knew what it truly meant to be free and happy. She came to the forest often to relax and find the peace that she needed and often times to seek answers to her many questions. Eve wondered about everything, but mostly she wanted to know everything about the rest of the world. Growing up secluded had left her with many questions and zero answers. While her parents were supportive of her, and tried to answer her droves of questions, they couldn’t tell her why they lived like they did. They always said they didn’t know why except that they knew it was right.
Her long, dark brown hair, flew out in a stream behind her as she ran through the trees gaily. Her blue eyes took in all around her. Her pale skin appeared white in contrast to her hair. If she had grown up around other people, she would know how disarming her looks were to the casual observer. Though, he was no casual observer. A sense of pride coursed through him as he watched her. He’d watched her many times over the past couple of years, but today it was time for her to see him as well. He watched shock course through her features as he stepped out of the shadows.
“Who are you?” She asked timidly, but with a bit of excitement as well.
“I apologize if I’ve frightened you, I was just out for a walk in the woods.”
Eve knew that couldn’t be possible since the nearest village was over 2 days away. As she looked at the middle-aged man before her, she saw a power in his eyes, but that was all. There were no thoughts attached to him. She could always read her parents thoughts, maybe that was all she could do. After all she had never met anyone else.
“Oh? Do you live nearby?” She asked quizzically. She found she had an unsatiable need to find out everything about him.
“Fairly near,” he said evasively.

Monday, March 23, 2009

cupcake how to frost

Here is my latest attempt at video How to's :)

Cupcake Wraps

Here is my first How to Video! Enjoy :)

Back to the Starting Line!


Many of you know that I am training for the L.A. Marathon coming up this May. I went from doing very little exercise to 13 miles in just 2 months! I can hardly believe it myself! Last night I started to read this runners book ,"The Runners Guide to the Meaning of Life, by Amby Burfoot, Winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon"and these words were particularly poignant,
"Nothing ventures nothing gained.....Nothing started, nothing experienced, nothing learned, nothing finished.

Starting lines are one of the most important stations in life. We need to do more than just avoid them. We need to actively seek them out. Otherwise, we grow stagnant. We will disappear into black holes.

When you see the first hazy edges of a starting line begin to form in your life, don't avoid it. Don't look the other way. Try to bring the starting line into sharper focus. Consider its potential. Remember that if you don't go to the starting line, you will never view the whole course with all its possibilities.

And you will certainly never see the glories of the finish line."


This was poignant to me because just recently my literary agent called me to tell me she didn't think that she was the agent for me and that she didn't think she knew enough about the crafting industry to promote my book to publishers properly. So we have amicably separated and I am at a new starting line...sending out more queries/proposals. At first I hung my head and shed a tear or two and then I got back in the game! What else could I do? I knew my book was great and my future books are awesome as well! Why stop when things are just starting? So I immediately emailed the other agents that wanted to see more of my book (before I kindly told them I had already had representation) and I even found a publishing company and craft magazine on twitter that I could sent stuff to!


So with that being said....."Remember that if you don't go to the starting line, you will never view the whole course with all it's possibilities." I'm posting my new How to Videos here today as well! Hope you enjoy them :)


Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Heavenly Father Loves Me!

I liken this amazing story to the way my Heavenly Father bends over backward to uplift me and support me. My goal is to stay positive like this boy and enjoy all of the blessings and burdens Heavenly Father gives me, and to see the bright side of life--even if I am mentally weighed down or handicapped.

I know the Lord has asked me to write. I know He's asked me to write books with good morals and standards. I know I will sell them all eventually, because He is with me and has been with me every step of the way. I just need to remember this and keep writing!

Hope you enjoy the video. Jenni

Friday, March 20, 2009

Meet Sugoi


Hi all, I invited a guest blogger for today's post. Sugoi is in my ward and just started writing recently. She is kind of a lurker on our blog, so I insisted she introduce herself to the rest of you. She loves our blog, she even has a notebook especially for all the writing exercise we put up! So she is joining in the fun today, give her a great big welcome! Thanks, Nikki (PS. I took her wedding pictures, otherwise I wouldn't have had a picture of her. I hope you like this one, Sugoi.)


Hey! I'm Sugoi Harris, I've been following this blog since it started so I'm pretty excited and a little intimidated to get to post something. A little something about myself... my name is actually thanks of a spelling error, but seriously I'm happily married for just over a year so I guess were kind of still newlyweds. No kids yet but we're trying to hopefully soon enough. I'm also fairly new to writing, I ran from anything academic in school so I never even tried to write or read much. Though recently I've started reading and Nikki challenged me to write - I couldn't say no to a dare, I had to at least try so I did. I loved it! Now I'm hooked - thanks Nikki.

Lately I have been stuck, the stress from life has taken over my brain and locked up whatever creativity lurks within. I'm sure that I'm the only one to ever have this problem right. So I need to do something to get the ideas flowing. For this exercise I want you to take a picture, any picture and briefly describe what is going on. Maybe something will come from it, maybe it won't but hopefully it will help to kick start some your creativity. Here's mine:

He noticed the slight limp in her walk and the awkward angle at which she held her pack. He knew that the trip was taxing on her but she didn't let it show in her face. She was like her mom - durable.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Create

I don't know if you've all seen it, but on lds.org they have a new section that shows the "mormon messages on youtube". It's awesome. We saw this video last night at enrichment. I know you've all seen this talk by now, but I love the way it was arranged in this video. And seriously? Can we see this message too much? I love it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is Charisma?



From Wikipedia...

Although difficult or even impossible to define accurately (due to an abundance of wildly diverse criteria in regard to the trait), charisma is often used to describe an elusive, even undefinable personality trait that often includes the seemingly 'supernatural' or uncanny ability to lead, charm, persuade, inspire, and/or influence people. It refers especially to a quality in certain people who easily draw the attention and admiration (or even hatred if the application of such charisma is perceived to be negative) of others due to a 'magnetic' quality of personality and/or appearance...

Despite the strong emotions they so often induce in others, charismatic individuals generally project unusual calmness, confidence, assertiveness, dominance, authenticity, and focus, and almost always possess superb communication and/or oratorical
skills.

This subject has been on my mind as you may already know if you've read my personal blog. How do you define charisma? How do you make your characters charismatic? Is it an acquired trait or is it just there? Do we love and adore characters who don't have it? Or is it a necessity in literature?

Last night I was watching American Idol and Adam Lambert sang a remake of Johnny Cash's, "Ring of Fire." It was very weird, but incredible at the same time, and I thought to myself, there is somebody with charisma. Oodles and oodles of it. The judges were so mixed in their opinions, but I had to laugh when Kara said, "It was strange and left me confused and happy." I thought to myself, ditto. It would have been incredible strange if anyone else had performed it, but because it was Adam it was awesome!

I think it's that way in writing sometimes. The truly charismatic characters can get away with murder (literally), and yet we still find ourselves drawn to them. One character can say something outrageous and conceited and we love him, while a different character could say the exact same thing and we would think he was a slime ball. Charisma is just one more subjective, elusive issue we deal with as writers and sometimes we write our characters with it and sometimes no matter how hard we try it evades us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter Education

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was asked to do an educational class on Twitter. I have no idea how many of you use it or are even familiar with it. So, I'm just going to tell you everything I know (admittedly little) and what I use twitter for and then you can take it or leave it.

I hadn't even heard of Twitter until last December. I saw a post on an agent's blog about it so I went to check it out. My "check-it-out" consisted of signing up for it, logging in, clicking a couple of buttons and then logging out again. I didn't look at it again for a month. When I started getting the occasional e-mail that someone who followed my blog was not following me on twitter, my response was actually, "Oh darn! I need to tell them to stop that." LOL At this point I never planned on logging in again. Finally I decided to log in and delete my account.

That was when I happened upon agent Colleen Lindsay's post about a community thing she was doing that day on Twitter called #queryfail. By now, I have no doubt that most of you have heard of it. As a person who was there to see it, I personally believe it got a horrible rap and was completely misunderstood, but that isn't the point here. What I really loved about #queryfail was that it got me into contact with hundreds of writers, editors and agents.

I simply watched people that were posting, clicked on their name and if they had writer, editor or agent in their byline I would follow them. Twitter is a very friendly place and most of them quickly returned the favor and followed me right back. Then, it just snowballs. I get on and post maybe 3-5 lines per day or just see what some of the people I like have said and respond to them. That is all it takes and then other people just keep following you. It's tremendous and the networking potential is unbelievable.

Both my blog and my website have started rising in views and comments steadily since I began using Twitter. On top of that, I've started really getting to know some actual agents. I had one of them message me on Twitter that they liked my blog post today... yes, an agent checked my blog! LOL I had a long conversation with an assistant agent the other day about her ferrets. It is just an amazingly great avenue for networking and to for support from fellow writers.

Today I posted a question about 1st person POV and whether there was a stigma, I had 2 agents 3 writers and an editor weigh in on it. Where else can you get that kind of inside information? It is awesome.

I also found it saves me time because you can click this button on your Facebook account and then any time you type something in Twitter with a #fb after it, it updates your Facebook status with that message. <-- this is something agent Rachelle Gardner taught me on Twitter.

Anytime I put on a new blog post, I put a link and brief description on Twitter as well. I would totally recommend that. Anyway, this is way longer than I meant for it to be. If anyone has any questions, please let me know and if you are on Twitter, then find me! :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today is the Day!


Writing and being a Full Time Mom may sound like an oxymoron but it's not and can be done. We are living proof of that! Lately I have noticed that I have been hiding behind the Mom badge and I haven't let the Writer come out! If I let this go on too long I start getting resentful, depressed, and caged. So today is the day ladies. If your inner writer has been hiding behind the Mommy badge then let her out for just 1 hour today (you may not be able to put her back but if you have more time then let her go...). Pick a time where you will not be interrupted for a solid hour (it may just have to be tonight at midnight). Stick to that time and write ,write, write knowing that several others are there with you in spirit as well as keyboard, soda, ipod or whatever helps in hand! I can't wait to hear from you and see how successful you have been.
Also let me know how you find your balance between writing and full time mommying :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer

Okay, can I just say I heart Nathan Bransford, can I? Yes, yes... I'm happily married to my totally hot hubby... this isn't THAT type of HEART... Just this guy works for me. He's happy, he's funny, he's nice, and he really, really helps other writers out there understand what is happening in the publishing business and how he can make it work for us. He is really one of the nicest agents out there (next to my totally awesome agent Kirsten, of course). Anyway, I came across an article he wrote about a week and a half ago, and for those of you who have already read it--sorry--but I had to post it here. Which resulted in the following email conversation:

giddymomof6 said...
This is awesome! I run a blog for a group of mommy writers, do you mind if I post this on there, with credit to you of course? Jenni

Nathan Bransford said...
jenni-Definitely. I just ask for a link back. I appreciate it!

giddymomof6 said...
Thanks! You're the best. There already is a link to you on the site, but I'll make sure it's in the post too. Jenni


Hehehe! I know, gasp! Right? I mean, he wrote me back! Eeeh! See, what did I tell you? Nice. Very nice.

Well, since it's Sunday, I thought you'd all enjoy this little pep talk, thanks to Nathan.

Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer

Writers aren't generally known as the happiest lot. As a recent Guardian survey of some top writers shows, even the best ones don't particularly enjoy it all that much. And in case you think this is a new development, an 1842 letter from Edgar Allen Poe to his publisher recently surfaced in which he was found apologizing for drinking so much and begging for money.

But believe it or not, writing and happiness can, in fact, go together. For our Thursday entry in Positivity Week, here are ten ways for a writer to stay positive:

1. Enjoy the present.
Writers are dreamers, and dreamers tend to daydream about the future while concocting wildly optimistic scenarios that involve bestsellordom, riches, and interviews with Ryan Seacrest. In doing so they forget to enjoy the present. I call this the "if only" game. You know how it goes: if only I could find an agent, then I'll be happy. When you have an agent, then it becomes: if only I could get published, then I'll be happy. And so on. The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you're actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It's found in the present. Because writing is pretty great -- otherwise why are you doing it?

2. Maintain your integrity.
With frustration comes temptation. It's tempting to try and beat the system, whether that's by having someone else write your query, lying to the people you work with, or, you know, concocting the occasional fake memoir. This may even work in the short term, but unless you are Satan incarnate (and I hope you're not) it will steadily chip away at your happiness and confidence, and your heart will shrivel and blacken into something they show kids in health class to scare them away from smoking. Don't do it.

3. Recognize the forces that are outside of your control.
While it's tempting to think that it's all your fault if your book doesn't sell, or your agent's fault or the industry's fault or the fault of a public that just doesn't recognize your genius, a lot of times it's just luck not going your way. Chance is BIG in this business. Huge. Gambling has nothing on the incredibly delicate and complex calculus that results in a book taking off. Bow before the whims of fate, because chance is more powerful than you and your agent combined.

4. Don't neglect your friends and family.
No book is worth losing a friend, losing a spouse, losing crucial time with your children. Hear me? NO book is worth it. Not one. Not a bestseller, not a passion project, nothing. Friends and family first. THEN writing. Writing is not an excuse to neglect your friends and family. Unless you don't like them very much.

5. Don't Quit Your Day Job.
Quitting a job you need to pay the bills in order to write a novel is like selling your house and putting the proceeds into a lottery ticket. You don't have to quit your job to write. There is time in the day. You may have to sacrifice your relaxation time or sleep time or reality television habit, but there is time. You just have to do it.

6. Keep up with publishing industry news.
It may seem counterintuitive to follow the news of a business in which layoffs currently constitute the bulk of headlines. But it behooves you to keep yourself informed. You'll be happier (and more successful) if you know what you're doing.

7. Reach out to fellow writers.
No one knows how hard it is to write other than other people who have tried to do it themselves. Their company is golden. If you're reading this it means you have an Internet connection. Reach out and touch a writer. And plus, the Internet allows you to reach out to writers without smelling anyone's coffee breath.

8. Park your jealousy at the door.
Writing can turn ordinary people into raving lunatics when they start to believe that another author's success is undeserved. Do not begrudge other writers their success. They've earned it. Even if they suck.

9. Be thankful for what you have.
If you have the time to write you're doing pretty well. There are millions of starving people around the world, and they're not writing because they're starving. If you're writing: you're doing just fine. Appreciate it.

10. Keep writing.
Didn't find an agent? Keep writing. Book didn't sell? Keep writing. Book sold? Keep writing. OMG(osh) an asteroid is going to crash into Earth and enshroud the planet in ten feet of ash? Keep writing. People will need something to read in the resulting permanent winter.

See why we all LOVE this guy? Seriously. If you haven't checked out his blog yet, do so!
Jenni

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Am I a Terrible Mother?

So we were all sitting around the dinner table the other night, eating and talking. We were talking about the games my daughter likes to play and the things she likes to do. My daughter, ever the ham, was like, "And this is what Mommy likes to do."

*Note: This picture was staged later, but it is an exact replica of what she looked like as she pantomimed me typing on the computer.

We all laughed, of course, but I felt a twinge of guilt. I hope my kids will one day read and appreciate my stories, but at the same time I don't want them to resent the time I spend on the computer (which really, honestly, isn't much when they are awake.)Obviously, my children take priority. But, I strongly believe that it is so important for us moms to have that thing. Whether is be writing, or sewing, or training for a marathon, we need a goal that we work on just for us. I think my writing makes me a happier mom, which in turn makes me a better mom. Hopefully, my daughter will understand that one day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Writers are Wired Differently

I went to an ANWA writer's conference last weekend. ANWA stands for American Night Writer's Association and it's a writer's group for LDS women. They are in a few states and also have an online group that meets in a chat room once a month. If any of you are interested the website is www.anwa-lds.com. So in one of the workshops I went to, children's author, Scott Emerson, said that we should stop trying to be writers because we already are. He says that writers are born that way because we are wired differently, we feel emotions deeper, we see things with more depth, etc. I want to test this theory. A couple of weeks ago, my husband was talking to an FBI profiler (don't worry, he didn't do anything wrong). The profiler gave my husband a situation that he uses to help profile people. I will give you the situation:

A women goes to a funeral of a family member and meets a man. She clicks with him right away but she doesn't get his name or phone number because she doesn't feel that a funeral is an appropriate place for that. But later she is regretting this decision and really wished she had gotten his phone number. Two months later, her sister dies...

That's the situation, now you need to post the conclusion that you came to. Let's just say that my husband was worried at my answer because it was supposedly the answer a serial killer gives!! LOL! My defense is that as writers we have to think differently! I'll tell you my answer after I get at least 12 other comments! So everyone has to reply, or you'll never know my answer!!

ANTIQUE BOOK Giveaway!

Hey, I'm not taking over Nikki's post.. this is just a quick advert!

I'm hosting an Celebration Antique Book Giveaway on my blog. If you love Jane Austen or love antique books stop by. Jenni James It's in celebration of my one year mark since I first started writing! Enjoy, Jenni

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bloopers

I know you woke up this morning and said to yourself, "Man, I wish I could see more of that video with Jenni and Kasie." Well, my friends, I like to grant people's wishes. So, in case you didn't think I was a narcissist before, this should prove it hands down. And, just in case the last video didn't convince you we were total dorks, this one should do a good job of it. Now, I'd love to see some other videos from y'all (yes, that is a threat, if I don't see some from you, I might just have to do another one [I know you are all scrambling to think of something to make now so that your eyes can be spared]) Anyway, here are the out takes from the other video we did. And as you'll soon be able to see, as you watch, I am totally computer illiterate. So, the fact that I was able to figure out how to put these out takes together into a streaming video is what I'm really proud of. Not the content of the video. LOL

video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Urban Ninjas

The "urban ninjas" in this video are jump artists. They perform amazing, dangerous feats in the run down buildings of the ghettos where they live in Russia. The first time I saw this video the first thing I thought was, why? But I think I understand a little better now; there's something within us as humans that gives us the desire to distinguish ourselves in some way, to excel at something. Even if it's just within our small circle. What amazes me is the risks we are willing to take to do that. For a writer the risk might not be physical injury, but it can be very personal. Revealing your work to others for critique or rejection is a big deal! But in the end I think we're better for it. We grow and gain confidence, while at the same time gaining humility.

Sorry to wax philosophical, but this has just been on my mind.

This is kind of a long video. I would suggest fast forwarding to 2:00. It's really amazing after that. Sorry for the Russian rap music. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Life, the Universe & Everything - week 3

Yes, it is that time again. More notes from the conference! LOL I know you are all excited so let's dive right in. :P Today will be focused solely on a very informative Writer's Workshop I attended.

Writer's Workshop

The first thing they emphasized was Tension Function or Stress Induction. Every scene, every chapter should induce stress or tension in the reader. However, a gracious host will release the tension regularly. It can be in the form of resolutions or comedic breaks or just a switch of focus, as long as the reader isn't kept in a constant state of tension. There are many kinds of tension: physical, emotional, romantic, the list goes on and on - just make sure it is present.

You must find a balance: if you increase the tension too slowly then the reader gets bored, if you hold it for too long without release then the reader will be too stressed and be forced to put the book down. You must anticipate your audience and let them ride the wave up and down with your characters.

Another point was that authors should write what they know. This is critical, you can't write something if you don't thoroughly understand it. Does that mean we are limited in what we write? Absolutely not, human's are flexible and resourceful beings. We can learn what we want to write. At all times we should have two areas of research: 1 - our topic we want to know 2 - our craft, a good writer will always be striving to improve and learn to write better.

Who do you write for? Always keep your audience in mind. Stories that are too real, are too real. It can make your audience uncomfortable. If your goal in telling a story is anything but to entertain then you will come across as false and deceitful. Readers are intuitive and they will feel cheated and will not continue to read, this book or any other book by you. They trust you to entertain them and provide an escape. You have an obligation not to let them down.

Writers must understand that they are not writing only a book, they are writing a career. Every book will contribute or detract from your overall reputation, keep that in mind and make each book its best version of itself.

There are three constants within a story - place, situation or time. If you change one of these you change the whole look of the story. For example: A wrench on a counter in a garage in modern times isn't much to think about, but what if the wrench was floating in outer space... answer the questions that immediately pop to mind about it (How did it get there? Why? When?)and you have the beginnings of a story just by changing the location. Now what if you put it in a different time, like 2000 years ago, just lying in the grass somewhere, how did it get there? again another story. Anything can tell a story, just alter one of the constants and ask it questions. Follow the path and you will find a story along the way.

Everyone has an idea shelf that they pull their thoughts from, the first answer you pull is usually the most common, just keep pulling down different answers until you find one that is unique and intriguing.

Be determined, be optimistic, and love what you do. The rest will come with time. :) Let's write the stories we are dying to read.

EXERCISE: I want us to come up with some interesting ideas behind a situation. I am going to describe a scene for you and I want you all to come up with a unique explanation for what is going on there. You are absolutely forbidden to use the first idea that comes into your head, unless you've come up with 3 other ideas and still like that one the best.

A house is dark, picture frames and artwork are strewn about the floor--none hang on the walls. A single flashlight lays on the ground in the middle of the room.

Okay Go! :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mompreneurs Make Their Mark


My visiting teacher and friend sent me this great e-mail I thought you all would like to read as well. You are all Mompreneurs and It's your time to fearlessly make your mark!!!

Mormon mompreneurs make their mark in literature and beyond
By: Dana King
Special to the Post-Dispatch

It was reported today in the Boston Globe that LDS (Mormon) women, many moms among them, are making their mark in young adult literature. click here
I found my husband Dan, an LDS bishop, reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I’ve never known him to be interested in young adult fiction, let alone vampires. He only scanned the Harry Potter series to know what his kids were reading. But the Twilight series captured his interest probably because many in his flock are reading it.
Dan took me to see the Twilight movie. I have to say it is probably the first time in our twenty-two year marriage he invited me to see a chick-flick!
It doesn’t surprise me that LDS mom Stephanie Meyer would write a wholesome vampire story. Well, maybe not the wholesome part, but vampires?… they seem scary. So yes, I am surprised about that. But Stephanie’s vampires are so nice that I am ashamed I had held such negative misconceptions of them.
OK, whoa, back to reality. There are NO such things as vampires.
So what is driving LDS moms to write young adult fiction? And why does it make news? The Boston Globe ar ticle offers some valid ideas.
Here is my take as an insider to the faith:
On why it makes news? I am baffled, but here is what I see –
The LDS voice is becoming increasingly unique in a world that holds views so divergent from the moral standards held by a majority only a few generations ago. A vampire, even a good vampire at that, who does not engage in sex-before-marriage is a stark contrast in the world today. Unique sells? Maybe.
On why LDS moms? –
That Stephanie Meyer and other LDS moms would make their mark is not surprising to me. They are part of a growing legion of clever LDS=2 0“mompreneurs” I observe who have found a way to be there for their children while working and making history for themselves and their posterity.
These mompreneurs don’t sit still, they follow their passions, they move and they shake and make a difference in their communities and they often do it with children in tow. I don’t see many “barefooted” among them. Pregnant, oh yes, but their feet have shoes, running shoes and stilettos…they move fast in both.
In our St. Louis Missouri South Stake (about 10 wards — congregations) are many young mompreneurs. And some are making local news:
Artist Laura Gunn, mom of two, was featured in the Jan/Feb issue of AT HOME St. Louis Magazine. Sh e sells her artwork online and through local interior designers and just launched a new fabric line. Laura does not wait for her children to nap in order to work, rather she engages them in her work. It is not uncommon for mom and kids to have paint in their hair by the end of the day.
Trenna Lange, young mom of two and interior designer, is featured in the March/April issue of AT HOME St. Louis magazine currently on newsstands. Trenna Lange talks about how she also makes her family part of her successful business model.
There are many more momprenuers whose stories go unsung. A quiet legion of local LDS momprenuers, contributing and making a difference in many areas of St. Louis in various occupations.
These women ar e supported by their husbands who hear time and time again in lessons directed to men in the Church that they need to nurture the talents of women. Men in our church who follow that counsel have wives who are the happiest and most fulfilled women.
Julie Berry, also an LDS young-adult fiction author, was quoted in the Boston Globe article:
“I know motherhood is the most important thing I’ll do in my life, but there’s something about motherhood that makes you feel like you’re disappearing - it kind of effaces and erodes you. I came into writing as a gift, and . . . I really feel like it rescued me. Those first years I would thank God every day for giving me writing.”
Stephanie Meyer and Julie Berry and the LDS mompreneurs like them, are a result of a faith that acknowledges they have God-given talents to bless the lives of loved-ones and others.
If they choose, they can tell stories. And being true to their faith, they will champion the good wherever they go, even the good in vampires.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rejection

Back in Feb. I went to a writing workshop by Laurie Schnebly Campbell entitled, "Turning Rejection into Gold". Having recieved several rejection letters by that point, I knew this was a class I really needed! So I'm going to share with you my notes from that class. Laurie is a pyschologist as well as a writer and I HIGHLY recommend any of her online classes. She is an amazing teacher! (see my former post "Public Service Announcement" for dates and links.) Ok, onto the notes:
"Turning Rejection into Gold"
by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Practical things to do after rejection -
-Study comments (they know what they are talking about)
-If you got a rejection where they took the time to point out something send a thank-you note and then ask them if they have any more suggestions or help for you.
-If they recommend specific revisions tell them you would be will to make those revisions and resubmit to them.
-You can pick up the phone if they sent you a personalized response. (This is where I went, GASP! You mean speak to a real life agent? I was skeptical, but I did it. I called an agent that had my MS. She is waiting for my rewrite now! So it works!)
-Send specific Thank You notes to anyone in the business who helps you ie: contest readers, other authors, etc. Be specific about how they helped you and they will be more likely to want to help you more.
-What to do with a MS after rejection:
1. Send it to someone else.
2. Change it.
3. Make it for a different genre.
4. Set aside and write something else.
5. Come back to the rejected MS
6. Use it as inspiration.
7. Use the feelings rejection gives you for writing material!

Psychological things to do after rejection-
-Grieve, it's important to feel grief in order to get past it. Decide how long you will let yourself grieve then decide what feeling you will feel afterwards
-Anger is sometimes part of your grief, let it out. Share it with others or do some sort of physical activity that helps.
-Anger turned inwards is depression, so don't hang on to the anger!
-Take control of what you do next. Take action to help yourself recover.
-Evaluate - "Do I really want to go on writing?"
-"Why am I doing this?" is it for money (not much at that), recognition?, competence?
-"Is it worth it?"
-"Can I accomplish my goal through some other means?" (get a much better paying job that takes less time! LOL)
-Changing goals is not a failure if you recognize what you gained.
-Have a couple of other sidelines, other satisfying things in your life, family, friends, hobbies, etc.
-There will always be something going wrong.
-Go through the process again.
-Ask yourself "What are 3 good reasons for having this bad feeling?"

Steps to getting through any feeling:
1. What is the feeling? Identifying it gives you more control.
2. Where did this feeling come from?
3. How long do I want to keep this feeling? Make the choice to end the feeling.
4. Once time is up on the feeling, what am I going to replace it with? Be action specific.

We are in control of our choices!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ever forget anything?

That would be me, yesterday. I forgot something. What, hmmm still not sure. But if anybody out there has an idea as to what I forgot, maybe you could send it my way.

Until then, I'll leave you with a thought on why it's important to know your audience and choose your words carefully.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Life, the Universe & Everything - week 2

Yes, my friends, it is that time again. Totally Tuesday brings another episode of conference recap!! (Please feel free to read that last part with your best movie announcer imitation) Alright now, let's get started!

Worldbuilding 101

~Worlds must obey their own rules and these rules must be consistent!
~ If you break a rule within your world, it must be for an extremely good reason and it must make sense.

~ Don't forget to understand all aspects of your world. You should know the sociological rules, the political rules, the religious rules. Understand it all, BUT that does not mean you should include all of it in your book. Your characters are used to their world and anything the reader learns should be shown to them, not told to them.

~ You must have a system that functions--unless the point of the book is to fix a broken system

~ Immerse the reader in the world, but don't overload them with insignificant details. Anything you teach the reader should have a purpose behind it. If they don't NEED to know it, leave it out.

~ Provide a comfortable transition for your audience into your world. Start with things that are common between their world and ours and expand from there.

~ At the absolute upper limit, you should never have more than 20% of your story be devoted to world building. Must have a minimum of 80% plot. More, if possible.

~ Don't be intimidated to explore a new world, but if there are aspects that don't work then don't keep them. Make the world work for the character and story, not the character and story work for the world.

~ Start with the story--worldbuilding will just become a part of what goes on around it.

Podcasting for Writers

~ This is the next new marketing venue for new and existing authors

~ Outline your podcast like you would your book, know where you are going with it.

~ Can perform digital interviews across the world using skype

~ You can read excerpts from your book, but if you read the entire book you will forfeit your audio rights.

~ It can, sometimes, be worth it to forfeit your audio rights in order to gain a following IF you have exhausted every other avenue.

~ 20-30 providers for free podcasts - people go and search for writers and then they start learning your name.

~ heavier on men than women, so it can be a great opportunity for female authors

~ A fun website to learn about podcasting is www.writingexcuses.com

Monday, March 2, 2009

What are Some of Your Tried and True Family Time Activities?

As I am writing my knew book, The Lost Art of Parenting, I thought I would ask all of you, who I know is very family oriented, what a couple of your favorite tried and true family activities are. It could be anything from family trips to making P&J sandwiches together. One thing my family likes to do is have art competitions. I am about to start one this week. I have a couple of empty spaces on my walls that are aching to get filled with my children's art. I prefer wrapped canvas because I can just hang it up without a frame.
I am writing this book for the outside world to hear some LDS concepts in a non-religious or intimidating light. the world needs these principles and I plan on showing them the importance of family time without the guilt. The Lost Art of Parenting is not another dusty old parenting book that gets shoved in the furthest reaches of your closet. It's a guiltless parenting guide that you'll actually use! Can't wait to hear what fun activities your family does together!





Sunday, March 1, 2009

God's Magnificent Creations

Do you ever feel just overwhelmed with the beauty of the earth? I went on a really quick trip from Phx, AZ to Cortez, Co this weekend. In about a 30 hour period, I watched the scenery around me change from desolate desert, to lush forest to beautiful winterized trees. I found myself marveling at the feelings these untouched sceneries fill me with. Then I tried to do what I do with everything, and I tried to find the words to describe it. Sometimes there is just no way to accurately describe these beautiful scenes painted by God himself, and the feelings that go with it. How do you convey the majesty and the beauty of God's creation? But as writer's, that's our task. We are responsible for not only portraying the setting in each scene we write, but also for the feelings attached to that scenery. But everytime we do, everytime we capture and honor the beauty of the earth, we are honoring it's creator. So your task this week is to write about something in nature that makes your heart sing! Try to put it in words. You may not be able to use it for your current WIP, but set it aside, it may inspire a whole new story.



Here's mine, it's a little cliche, but like I said, it's hard to find the words!



The colors rushed past her window in a blur. The desert had many faces as the tall majestic sahuro cactuses gave way to small parched bushes and shrubs dotting the yellow scrub brush that blanketed the ground. The mountains and hills jutted out of the earth like jagged knives. Many of them looking as if they'd been cut in half by mother nature to reveal their rich layers of red, orange, and white.

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