Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inspiration at a Writer's Conference

I've been allowing myself to feel defeated where writing is concerned. I've been questioning why I put myself through the vigors of writing. I've given myself all sorts of reasons why I can't do it, new job, 4 kids, church calling, hack writer, etc. Despite how often I tell you of my lows, I really do try to stay positive most of the time, but underneath my pseudo confidence lurk feelings of failure and inferiority. I've been praying about what I'm doing wrong. I've been needing guidance and inspiration. Yesterday, I got it!

I had the priviledge to attend ANWA's writer's conference. I found myself overwhelmed by emotions as I listened to different writer's discuss their own path's to being published. Their roads were filled with the same ups and downs I experience. And hearing them tell us to push through the hard times and encourage us to continue, brought me near to tears everytime. The dream sometimes seems too far out of reach for me but yesterday it felt a little closer. I'm going to touch a little bit on each of the speakers that touched and inspired me. I will focus on just one of the speakers today, next Sunday I will share more.

Our keynote speaker was J. Scott Savage, author of the Farworld Series. He talked about what holds us back from achieving our dreams. After going through several things we use as excuses he finally hit on the real answer, what holds us back is OURSELVES!! I've know this about me and I think I thought it was only me that held myself back, it was kind of a relief to know I'm not the only one. He talked about focusing on the things we can control, like doing our very best. He also cautioned us against comparing ourselves to others. We can't fall for the following thoughts:
-My story stinks (everyone feels this way at some point, don't let a stinky story stop you)
-I'm better/worse than... When we read, don't compare, ask yourself what did or didn't work
-I could never...write like this, or create that. Focus on what you can do
-I didn't get... he said lots of published writers fall for this one. They feel jipped if their publisher gives more publicity or attention to another writer. You can't control this, don't let it be your excuse to give up.
-That was my idea... by now must of us know that it's not the ideas that are original but the executing.

Another thing he mentioned that really resonated with me and brought me to near tears was when he talked about recognizing the approach of dawn. Sometimes we are "Dancing in the Dark" (a song by Bruce Springsteen about writer's block) and we want to give up. That is when we need to recognize that the dawn is approaching and we just need to hang in there a little longer. He compared it to climbing a mountain. When you first start something new the path is clear and we are excited. The higher we climb the less clear it is. Our frustration builds as we near the next level. The urge to quit is a sign that we have reached the top level of our growth. We need only keep going to reach the glorious top. He ended by admonishing us to allow ourselves to succeed.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Words of One Man CAN Make a Difference

A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a stake Relief Society gathering where the guest speaker was Janice Kapp Perry and her husband Douglas. The theme of the day was to surround yourself with the good things in life. Children. Joy. Love. Friends. And of course, music. After both Janice and Douglas spoke about their lives and shared humorous and spiritually uplifting stories about their family and relationship, there was a musical medley performance of Janice's most popular songs and then we were dismissed for the luncheon.

While Janice was having her picture taken with the presidency and anyone else who wanted to take advantage of the photo op, Douglas stood back and watched. He had a glint in his eye and a smile on his face as he watched his loving wife and her many fans swarm around her. I just happened to be standing near him and asked him if he ever got tired of being Mr. Janice Kapp Perry. He laughed and said that he didn't. That seeing her achieve her dream of being a song writer was more fulfilling to him than anything else in the world.

Then he turned his attention on me. At first I felt uncomfortable, fidgeting with my napkin and paper plate and acting way too shy for my own good. But after only a few seconds, he put me at ease with his mere presence. And then he asked me if I liked music. I told him yes, that I played the guitar and even liked to write a song now and then, but wasn't very good at it. I also told him that the problem I had was that I love to do so many things, that I had a hard time concentrating on doing just one thing really well. I couldn't seem to choose what single talent defined me or what thing I could do better than all the rest.

He thought for a moment and then said something that has changed my life. He told me I should choose one thing, give it everything I could for one year. Eat it. Drink it. Breathe it in everyday and make it part of my life. Learn everything about it and if after doing that, if I'm not in love, then leave it behind and move on to another one.

I couldn't imagine devoting an entire year to just one thing, but I took his advice and began to take my writing seriously. A few days later at a Relief Society board meeting, the sisters were asked to share one thing about themselves that no one knew. I said I liked to write.

Afterwards, a new sister in the ward, Angie Schultz, came up to me and said she and some other women had started an online magazine called Segullah and she invited me to send in some of my work. I was so excited, I went home that night and looked it up online. It was there that I found out about the LDStorymakers Conference and the rest is pretty much history. I was hooked. It didn't take me a year to figure out I was in love. I still play the guitar occasionally, scrapbook, crochet, paint, draw and do so many other things, but writing is my passion. Writing is what defines me as a person, a woman and as a daughter of God.

I've since thought about writing Brother Perry and thanking him for his great advice, but as yet, have not done so. That one man's words can affect a person's life in such a way is unbelievable. Someday soon, I will write that letter or email and let him know how grateful I am for him taking a few minutes to care about what mattered to me. In the meantime, I'm off to write the next best seller. Thanks for letting me share my story. Has anyone inspired you like this. I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Give Away!! Signed Brandon Mull Book!!!

Hello everyone!! I'm soooo excited because our blog has hit over 100 followers!! To celebrate this milestone we are giving away a signed copy of "The Candy Shop War" by Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven Series. My friend Bonnie Harris was generous enough to write a review about this book:

For those of you who have ever imagined what it would be like if candy had magical powers, this book's for you! Nate and his friends discover the treats from a local candy shop have just that, magical powers. They also discover that magicians from around the world are suddenly appearing in town and trying to gain Nate and his friends as allies. It is up to them to figure out why everyone is gathering and what exactly they are after. This book is great fun for people of all ages. It is a quick-take-your-mind-off-of-reality read that the entire family will enjoy.

You know you want this book!! So time for the rules. You must comment and tell us which of the following you have done to qualify. And because I'm mathmatically challenged, give me your # of entries altogether:
1. Become a follower or already are one - 1 entry
2. Blog, tweet, or facebook about this give away - 2 entries
3. Add our blog to your blog list - 3 entries
4. Comment and tell us your favorite part of our blog - 1 entry

There are lots of ways to enter!! The deadline for entries is next Tues. March 2 at midnight. The winner will be announced Next Thurs. March 4th. Let the entries begin!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Networking, part 1

Networking, Part 1

I've been hit with the strength of love over the LTU&E weekend. Everyone from illustrious artist Nathan Hale, Hollywood special effects wizard Marty Brenneis, amazing author Brandon Sanderson, crazy cool James Dashner, the new J.K. Rowling Karen E. Hoover--and many more along with on-the-way-to-be-published little ole me--shared the spirit of brotherhood.

It was A-mazing.

The panelists shared with us their sacred passions as their followers (a potpourri of published & aspiring authors, along with young fans) cheered them on.

I've been thinking.

Q: What do you think makes LDS conferences different from others?

The authors there truly reach out and CARE about the aspirations of children, mothers, fathers, students and you! At least that's been my experience.

There is no doubt the feeling of oneness there. There is no doubt the feeling of strength there. There is no doubt the feeling of the Spirit there.

Which faith you are doesn't matter, either--you are and do feel equal to the authors. They feel like real people and nothing like demigods.

Here is a passage quoted from the Ensign (I have color-coded keywords):

"When we understand our relationship to God, we also understand our relationship to one another. All men and women on this earth are the offspring of God, spirit brothers and sisters. What a powerful idea! No wonder God’s Only Begotten Son commanded us to love one another. If only we could do so!"

You will definitely taste this at any LDS writers conferences. No gospel is preached there--the only thing that is shared is the religion of writing.

"What a different world it would be if brotherly and sisterly love and unselfish assistance could transcend all boundaries of nation, creed, and color. Such love would not erase all differences of opinion and action, but it would encourage each of us to focus our opposition on actions rather than actors."
"Brigham Young gave us some practical advice on how to do this. “The difference between God and the Devil,” he said, “is that God creates and organizes, while the whole study of the Devil is to destroy” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 69). In that contrast we have an important example of the reality of “opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11)."

"Remember, our Savior, Jesus Christ, always builds us up and never tears us down. We should apply the power of that example in the ways we use our time, including our recreation and diversions."

Including our writing!!

"Consider the themes of the books, magazines, movies, television, and music we make popular by our patronage."

And not to mention by our authorship in those medias, right?

"Do the purposes and actions portrayed in our chosen entertainment build up or tear down the children of God? During my lifetime I have seen a strong trend to displace what builds up and dignifies the children of God with portrayals and performances that are depressing, demeaning, and destructive.

The powerful idea in this example is that whatever builds people up serves the cause of the Master, and whatever tears people down serves the cause of the adversary. We support one cause or the other every day by our patronage."

Or authorship.

"This should remind us of our responsibility and motivate us toward fulfilling it in a way that would be pleasing to Him whose suffering offers us hope and whose example should give us direction." Powerful Ideas, November 1995 Ensign. Elder Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We, as the guardians of the written word, are dubbed with the authority to lead our readers to building of their hearts, strengthening their spirits, and inspiring their integrity.

I want to share with you that I have no doubt that if you feel the power of gravity pulling your hand to word, that it is the Lord who is behind it. Please don't let the whispers of discouragement stop you, but remember the feelings of flight when you write!

What are your experiences with writing conferences? Have you ever been to one where you felt like the one outside looking in?

Stay tuned to next week's Wednesday post, Valor Publishing Group's Blog Tour for author Karen E. Hoover's debut novel, The Sapphire Flute :)

Watch for Networking, part 2 on March 10!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Carol Williams on Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

You're all probably getting tired of hearing me rave about the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. So I went and found someone else to rave about it. Today we are very fortunate to have with us Carol Lynch Williams, who is one of the people who puts on this incredible workshop. And let me just say right here and now, the PINK was HER IDEA.

Hi Carol!

Hey Rebecca!

Thank you for taking some time to tell us about Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.

Of course. Thank you for letting me talk about this conference. Lisa Hale, Cheri Earl and I are pretty excited about it.

Would you like to start out by introducing yourself?

I'm a mom and have five beautiful daughters. (And they are gorgy, I promise). Though most people think I am barely 25 myself, my oldest daughter Elise is 23, Laura is 21, Kyra is 19, Caitlynne is 16 and Carolina is 12. I have a nephew who is like my own child. Craig is 25. He is smart as heck. They are the very best parts of who I am. I've been a writer myself for many years (my first book came out WAY back when). My most recent title is The Chosen One about a modern-day polygamist girl and her family and what happens when she bucks the system. I have two novels coming out this year. Glimpse will be released in June. This is about a girl who walks in on her sister trying to kill herself. The next book, Miles from Ordinary, will be released in the fall. It's about a girl who lives with her mentally ill mother and her dead grandfather's ghost. Yup, I always believe in writing about the happy things of life!

Tell us about the history of the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. How did it get started?

We are going to be in Sandy, Utah, this year at the Waterford School; it's a spacious venue that will allow our conference to grow.
So this is the first year for this particular conference--you know--The 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. BUT--I do have history with the conference at BYU. In fact, Chris Crowe, who is a terrific writer and a professor at BYU, called me up more than a decade ago and said, "If you could attend any conference you wanted, what would it be like?" He and I brainstormed, got together with John Bennion (another BYU professor) and WIFYR was born.

What are you most excited about for this year’s workshop?

What I am MOST excited about this year is that we are in this new venue. Morning workshops are going to be in classrooms that are filled with light. There will be space to move around. And when you all see the auditorium where the plenaries and keynote addresses will be held, you're going to be thrilled. The room is massive. We'll have more room for more people who want to attend the afternoon sessions (attendees can come to this conference for whole-day sessions, or just in the afternoons. It means not working through your novel with a faculty member--but the afternoons are going to be amazing, too). That's another change. The afternoon session is a little bigger--we have a few more breakout sessions.

What is the underlying theme or philosophy that drives this workshop?

We believe that writers and illustrators should work to hone their craft and better understand genre. Our morning workshops are dedicated to helping writers and illustrators create stronger stories and illustrations. We also bring in publishing experts--editors and agents like Kate Angelella from Simon and Schuster, Jennifer Hunt from Little, Brown and Company, and Mary Kole from Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.--to help conference participants learn the ropes of publishing. We love it when writers or illustrators from the conference get picked up by agents or sell their work to publishers, but our first goal is focusing on creating strong manuscripts and illustrations.

Who is this workshop most geared towards? Beginners? Writers ready to break in but not yet published? Experienced published authors?

This is a terrific question, Rebecca. Thank you for asking it. This conference is for all writers. We have a beginning class for people who aren't sure what they want to write--picture book, middle grade, young adult or non-fiction. That will be taught by Rick Walton and Cheri Earl who have years of writing and teaching experience between them. We have a new class this year, The Beginning Novel for people who aren't quite sure what to do with an idea or are at work on their first novel. Emily Wing Smith (who has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College is teaching that class for us).

This year is an excellent opportunity for those who have finished a novel or two and want to polish them up a bit, learn about the craft of writing more, listen to editors and agents and see what they might be looking for. By the way, we'll have editors from the local Utah market speaking in a breakout session, so writers and illustrators are going to be able to see nationally and locally what is going on in the publishing world. It's important to note that the editors and agents that come to this conference are coming to find new talent. These conferences that we have been a part of have had HUGE success. In New York, they're asking what is in the Utah water!

We can't forget about our Advanced Classes. Both Sara Zarr and Alane Ferguson have won multiple awards. They know the business of writing inside and out. In fact, all our faculty are crazy good at what they do. Ann Dee Ellis is leading the Contemporary Novel class. Ann Dee has a unique way of writing. Her books are beautiful. And she's an excellent critiquer. (Ann Dee actually got her start at the conference. She was with author Virginia Euwer Wolff of The Make Lemonade Series). Brandon Mull (Fantasy Class) is a New York Times best seller and draws standing room only at some of the events he speaks at. When I wrote Dave Wolverton (Fantasy Class) and asked him if he could participate, he said yes, but that we would have to hurry and get the paperwork to him as he was off to China write a Jackie Chan movie! No, I'm not kidding!

Then we have Bonny Becker who has written several very cute picture books and just won the
E.B. White Read Aloud Award. If you write picture books you need to be with someone who understands this tight market and knows the structure of the picture book. Picture books are selling, just slowly. Our other picture book writer, Kristyn Crow is proof that the market takes on good work. She was discovered a few years back at this conference. Her incredible rhythm got Kristyn published. And she learned from the best--Rick Walton was her teacher. Cool, huh?

Mike Knudson will be teaching the Early Chapter Book class and we are excited to have him with us. School Library Journal says 'rollicking, laugh-out-loud' about Mike's work--an important need when you are writing for the younger audience.

And for all our illustrators--this year we have the award-winning Kevin Hawkes working with us. He is terrific! Kevin illustrated Paul Fleishman's picture book Weslandia, among many, many other picture books.

How's that for an all star lineup?

You have an amazing faculty—some of the most talented people in the business. How do you attract such a stellar cast?

Word of mouth, first of all. Between Lisa, Cheri and I, we have about 40 years experience putting conferences together. People know about the work we have done in the past. They know the success that has come from the many different conferences. Authors and editors go back home and tell their friends what a good time they had in Utah. Editors know that this particular conference brings the best of writers together. The faculty wants to be a part of that success. It's cool to know you might have been a bit of help in directing someone toward publication.

What are some things you hope writers will gain by attending the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop?

An awareness of the market, that editors and agents are nice (mostly human!) and want to publish good work. That great books are written by ordinary people (not including Rick Walton, of course--he is extraordinary). That if you work hard, if you decide this is for you, if you learn the ropes and find out that publishing is possible, you can do it!

What is your favorite thing about the workshop? Is it when you get to sing for everyone at the closing extravaganza?

How did you know? I love that part! Hahahaha! (I hope this year we have backup dancers. Wanna be one, Rebecca? Got some go-go boots??? Actually, we may do a rap this year). Okay, so I love the singing. But the most exciting part is when I hear about someone else getting a book contract, finding and agent, and finally get a book published. That is worth the very long year of hard, hard work. Year before last, our agent Steve Fraser picked up a few clients at the conference. Steve dropped me a line a day or two ago to tell me that he had just sold books three and four for one of these clients. And this past year one of our conference-goers worked on her book with her faculty. She just sold her novel and its being talked about everywhere. After close work with both an editor and agent that she met at this conference, another attendee just sold her novel.

Will there be any grants or scholarships available for those who want to attend?

We'll have a few scholarships available next year.

What can attendees do to prepare in order to get the most out of this event?

I think there are several things a person can do to prepare for the conference. Read the faculties' books, get your manuscripts the absolute best (cleanest, strongest) you can get them before you come to the conference. Read like crazy before hand, write like crazy, too. When you get to the conference, really listen to what is said to you (and others) about the manuscripts that are critiqued. Don't argue with comments on your piece--listen! Decide that you will learn something new every session, every breakout. Look for the learning moments--this week-long conference will be full of them.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the workshop?

First I want people to know that other conferences like this can cost four times as much as ours. We try to keep costs low so this can be an exciting, affordable experience. Next, I want people to know that they should have fun. Lots of fun. You're going to be exhausted by the end of the week. But the experience will leave you jazzed to get writing again. This is a great time to renew your writing batteries. I also want people to know that I am available before the conference this year, if they have any questions. I can help them decide who would be the perfect faculty member for them.

Thanks again for the interview, Carol, and thank you so much for all the hard work you put in to organize the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop!

Thank you, Rebecca. This was a nice interview! And fun, too!

You can learn more about the Writing and Illustrating for Young Reader's Workshop by visiting the website, You can also hang out with Carol and friends on her blog.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte Book Review

My sister just lent me the book, "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte" by Syrie James. It's not that often that I find a book worth reviewing and I finally found a treasure! If you are looking for a fun enjoyable read that takes you back in time to the private world of Charlotte Bronte, then this is a sure bet for you!
What an enjoyable read, full of sadness, a hint of secret passions, joy, historical facts and info all packaged in words that are written with a modern tone and echos of an era long gone by. My 13 year old daughter is reading it and has consumed half the book in one sitting! I haven't had this much fun with a book since reading the Twilight series (For non-Twilight fans, this is in no way like the series. It stands alone as a good read!). It was good, clean fun. It also contained Charlotte's own struggle to get her novels published and how she overcame! I can't wait to buy Syrie's previous publication, "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen."Authoress, Syrie James

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Opposition to Evil

To kind of piggy back on my post from last Saturday, I'm going to talk about our battle against evil. As writers, we can combat evil with words. As Latter-day saints, we sometimes agonize over putting evil in our stories. There are some in our faith that say just by mentioning the evils of the world we give them power. Still others say, we must be realistic and come at it from the world's point of view or our words will be discarded. I've heard many discussions on this topic and have come to realize that in the end, we must choose for ourselves what we feel is right. When trying to figure out what I feel is right in this reguard, I have thought about the way the prophets approach evil of the world. They approach with blunt honesty. You have only to read the new "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet to know this is true. They approach each topic in a loving yet honest manner. They don't shirk from the uncomfortable topics, they face them head on, discussing the consequences of such choices. Through this example I've learned that ignoring the evil of the world is not the answer. We can't pretend it doesn't exist. We can't pretend there's not a battle going on in our daily lives. To ignore this battle in our writing shows a lack of respect to our characters and our readers. Stuggle is part of life and it is central to any story. The trick is to make sure that our portrayals of evil are honest and show the consequences of such actions. To not show the consequences, we are glamorizing the evil of the world and showing it in a good light. We can see this in the many tv shows on the air today. As writers our job is help change this. We can bring about a revolution of literature and stories that help people see that only by taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions can we become the strong people we need to be.

Our wonderful prophet Gordon B. Hinckley spoke on our responsibility on this matter.
"Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort...

Declared the Lord to this people:

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:33–34)."

I recommend you read the whole talk in the link above. I think you will be able to see how to show evil in such a way that good triumphs. We can't have light without the dark, we have to have pain to relish pleasure, the same is true in our stories. We can show the hurt and pain that wrong choices cause, we can show the blessings and positive consequences of good choices, this is our charge. We must each decide the best way to do this in our writing. We can't expect other people to spell it out for us. But we can rely on the spirit to guide us in this matter.

I will close by using Pres. Hinckley's own words:

"Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God. He is the source of all true power.

Declared Paul to the Ephesians:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:10–13)...

God lives. He is our strength and our helper. As we strive, we shall discover that legions of good men and women will join with us. Let us begin now."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Review - The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
By Mary E. Pearson

Reviewed by: C. K. Bryant

It's been a while since I've done a book review. I'm not sure if that's because my reading list has become quite scarce or if it is because I haven't been very impressed by what I've read. Either way, I couldn't go without telling everyone about this wonderful book.

Jenna Fox is a 17 year old girl whose been in a coma for the past year. When she wakes up, not knowing anything from her past, including her name, she feels lost and alone. As the days go by, she learns to walk again, speak again and eventually gets used to being called Jenna. But who is Jenna? She has no idea, and as she seeks to discover herself, finds that those around her, those who she's been told are her loved ones and those who care the most about her, have been keeping secrets. Jenna is NOT who she appears to be.

In an attempt to solve her own mystery, Jenna finds out things about herself she would have rather left forgotten.

Her inner struggle is poetically spread across the pages like no other I have ever read. The author's voice, Jenna's voice, is internal, deep and emotional. Her feelings pour out before you, making you a part of her life, sucking you into her sorrow and confusion. You laugh when she laughs, cry when she cries.

There were points in the book when I thought I had it all figured out, but then Jenna would discover something else about herself that pulled me right back into the mystery, searching right along with her to find the truth of it all. Even the ending, the last page, last sentence and last word, were a surprise. So much so, that I cried real tears. Not because it was sad, but because it touched my heart in a way no other book has.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox will forever be on my list of my favorites. And I must say it is a short list.

You can find out more about Jenna Fox, the book and the author by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


One of my favorite parts about the conference was meeting all my two dimentional (online) friends in 3-D for the first time. And all the new people I met. I'm going to give you a picture overload from the dinner we had Friday night where thirty of us got together.

Renee, Mary, and Candi

Tiana and Bradley

Michelle, Elana, and Natalie

Laura Bingham (author of Alvor) and her husband

Kimberly Job and husband

Jenni James and Nikki Wilson

Heather Justesen and Carolyn Vawdrey

Nicole Giles, Heather, and Julie Wright (author of My Not So Fairy Tale Life)

L.T. Elliot (Laura) and Mary

Karen Hoover and me

Phew, that took forever. :) If I labeled any pics wrong, please correct me. It was so fun to meet you all. I realized as I was posting these pics that I missed taking pics of a few of you :(, like Elizabeth Mueller, Jenn Wilks, Aimee Morgan , Jamie Theler, Keith Fisher, and Shanna Blythe

Some of you weren't at the dinner but I saw you at the conference. I bumped into Angie while waiting in line for the bathroom. I saw David J. West in one of the classes but never got to say hi.

Anyway, long post, lots of links, but I wanted to say that I enjoyed meeting all of you and hope to see you again at future events.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ideas for Acts of Service

I'd like to think of the entire month of February in honor of LOVE (because of Valentine's day). Here is a list of wonderful ways to show kindness to others (a handout given to me from church!)

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom,that ye may learn that when ye are nin the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Mossiah 2:17

  • Send a note of cheer or thanks in the email
  • Take in your neighbor's trash can, mail or newspapers
  • Give someone a smile! it can go a long way!
  • Wink!
  • Visit the elderly or homebound
  • Cook a meal
  • Visit someone who is sick. Send them a "care" package
  • Send flowers anonymously to cheer someone up
  • Pray to someone in need
  • Watch someone's children
  • Lend a listening ear and an understanding heart!
  • Compliment someone
  • Share a scripture
  • Share a talent you have with someone, like giving a free hair cut
  • Offer a ride
  • Give a call to someone
  • Leave a note of appreciation on a doorstep, on a pillow, or in a lunchbox
  • "Phantom" someone with goodies
  • Shovel snow
  • Rake leaves
  • Keep an eye out for neighbors children and property
  • Pray for someone
  • Sit with an ill person to give their caretaker a break
  • Put someone in need's name on the prayer roll
  • Weed a neighbor's garden
  • Share vegetables or flowers from your garden
  • Snowblow the neighborhood sidewalks so the kids can get to school safely
  • Watch out for other's "breaking points" and offer to help with children, etc
  • Leave anonymous gifts, money, etc. for someone in need
  • Speak well of others. Pass on only good information. Never gossip
  • Stop to visit with someone
  • Say "HI" to someone who looks like they need a friend
  • Leave a poem on someone's desk, bed or pillow, or something to uplift them
  • Just show up at someone's door if you know there is a need you may be able to help with
  • Help fix someone's broken down vehicle
  • Make someone's bed
  • Clean up after dinner for mom
  • Read a story to a child or a younger sibling
  • Do a family member's chores for them
  • Put coins in expired parking meters for people so the y don't get a ticket
  • Nominate someone for an award, like KSL's "Teacher Feature"
  • Clean the house while Mom is gone
I've added my own here:
  • Be someone's writing mentor
  • Help critique someone's WIP and be honest
  • Make it a point to leave a comment when you visit someone's Blog ;)

What are some of your favorite acts of service?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Spark of Creation

Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the musical Wicked, is one of my favorite composers and lyricists. This song "The Spark of Creation" from his musical Children of Eden captures exactly how I feel about WRITING! I thought I would share.

I am an echo of the eternal cry of "Let there be!"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Comfort Chili

It's a new month and time for another crafty minute with Mary :) But instead of a craft I have one of my favorite winter comfort foods, chili. It's easy and hits the spot on cold days.
Comfort Chili
2 lbs Meat cut in 1" cubes (ground beef and chicken works too. I just love chunks of beef)
1 medium Yellow Onion chopped in small pieces
3 Stalks Celery chopped
1 C Carrots chopped (the chunkier the better)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 Tbs Parsley
1/4 tsp Pico de Gallo
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
Salsa 24 oz. (use 1/2 can for thicker chili)
Black Eyed Peas 15 oz. can
Black Beans 30 oz. can
Chili Beans in Chili Gravy 30 oz. can
Diced Tomatoes 30 oz. can
1 C Refried Beans (optional if you want thicker chili )***Add after chili has finished cooking and mix in hot chili until desired thickness***
Instructions: Place all ingredients in a crock pot and mix. Cook for 4-6 hours on medium/high. Serve hot right from the crock pot and top with cheese or sour cream! Enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Armor of God

I was fortunate enough to attend LTU&E 2010 this past week. It was so amazing! One of the panels I went to was called "Why Mormons in Fantasy". There were lots of discussions about this topic and how our faith isn't challenged by the fantastical. But I was way too shy to pipe up and say why I think so many Mormons write fantasy, so I'll tell you. The gospel teaches us that we are in a daily battle with Satan. We are taught to slay the metaphorical dragons in our lives using the weapons of faith and truth. This makes the jump into fantasy almost a given.

We read in the bible about putting on the armor of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

One of the best ways for me to stay faithful is to always remember that I am engaged in battle. Which pretty much means I'm in my own epic story everyday of my life. We are our own heroes as we call on the power of the priesthood, use the guidance of the spirit, and follow the example of our Savior.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Clip Art Site!

Hello everyone! Christine asked if I could post today for her and I apologize for getting this in so late--I've spent the past 3 days nonstop at LTUE! I had a wonderful time meeting the coolest authors like Julie Wright, Nicole Giles, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, Paul Genesse, Karen Hoover.

The list goes on and on and on!

Do you remember when I had mentioned setting up a site for clip~art toward the end of January?

Guess what??? I've done it! *Doing the happy-and-bite-my-nails dance.

I've downloaded 11 pieces so far and will work on adding more. On the MMW side bar, you'll find the link (Squiggle Bop) right above ourFollowers.

I have thrown the metaphorical gauntlet on my personal blog for my new clip-art site! Come by and see what it is and help it grow!

Thank you for your warm fuzzies!

Friday, February 12, 2010

MMW'S at LTUE!!!

Nikki, Jenni, Paul Genesse, and Elizabeth

We're at the Life The Universe and Everything Writer's Conference! And having a blast!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sweet and Tender Love

I had to run to the library to post this and enter the winner to our church magazine giveaway! My friend, Rich, from my writing group, happened to sit by me and did me the honors of drawing the name . . . And the winner is--


March 28th, 2009. Do you remember that day? The day when millions of our beloved young women gathered to partake of Heavenly Father's love? It was the General Young Women Meeting.

As I had signed up for a ticket to attend, I found myself surrounded by thousands of young women. Their singing was beyond anything I've ever experienced. Powerful. Uplifting. Pure. I felt Heavenly Father's love pouring down on them. I literally felt His love for them! I openly wept as I basked in the glow of the Spirit. Yes, He loves them.

It was only today that my 13 year-old daughter had to make a choice. Should she go along with the youth to do baptisms for the dead or stay? She was faced with this because she had just recently injured her foot and she feared the sting of the chlorinated water and watchful eyes.

As she presented her dilemma to our Father in Heaven, and as she began her prayer, I received another testimony so strongly that it took me back to the 28th of March. With tears streaming down my cheeks and as she closed her prayer, I gazed at my beautiful daughter.

I felt Heavenly Father's love for her. He truly loves her.

I know He loves you, too. Of that, I have absolutely no doubt. When have you felt the Lord's love the strongest?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Author Interview - Sydney Salter

I got to meet author Sydney Salter at a SCBWI Nevada conference. It was inspiring to me to find someone who was both a mom and a successful published author! She was also super nice--she could tell I was stressing about query letters and so she offered to let me look through some of hers. Thanks, Sydney! And thanks so much for doing this interview for our blog!

First of all, by way of introduction, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?

I live in Utah with my husband, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and a pair of quiet tortoises. When I’m not writing middle-grade and YA fiction I enjoy hiking, skiing, reading, cooking, traveling, and exceptional chocolate. My books are:

My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters (ages 12 and up): 17-year-old Jory Michaels is convinced she can solve all her problems (and snag herself a boyfriend) by getting a nose job.

Jungle Crossing (ages 10 and up): The intertwining coming-of-age stories of two girls, one who reluctantly travels to Mexico with her family over summer vacation, the other an ancient Mayan royal stolen from her town and forced to make the treacherous journey back home.

Swoon At Your Own Risk (ages 12 and up): After a junior year of dating disasters, Polly Martin has sworn off boys. Now she's just trying to survive her summer job at Wild Waves Western-themed water park (under the supervision of ex number three, Sawyer Holmes) and focus on herself for once.

When did you decide to become an author?

I started keeping a daily diary during high school, and while I mostly complained about my mother and swooned over various boys, I developed my writing voice. And a daily habit. (I still can’t go to sleep without penning a few sentences in my diary.) In the back of my mind, I hoped to write novels some day. But who was I to attempt something so grand?

I didn’t start writing fiction until after I graduated from college with an English degree. I worked at a series of boring temp jobs while my husband attended medical school. To keep myself busy, I took evening writing classes and filled notebook after notebook with practice writing during my lunch breaks and while my husband studied for hours and hours—and hours.

I started writing for children when my youngest daughter started preschool. I made the most of those two-and-a-half hours a day!

What motivates you to write?

Oh, I really love writing. If I’m not working on a novel, I will sit at my desk and do writing exercises. I write at least a little bit every day. Now, if I could find the motivation to fold the laundry—that would be something!

Has it ever been a challenge for you to balance being a writer with being a mom?

Yes! For me it was much easier to find the right balance before I got published. I used to set aside my writing time while my kids were in school or busy with friends or activities on the weekends. Now that I’m working under deadlines and have additional promotional duties, I find that my writing time bleeds into my family time more than I’d like.

Since I value my marriage and relationships with my daughters more than anything else, I try really, really hard to turn my computer off right before dinner. I am also very fortunate in that I don’t have to work an additional job outside the home. That would make things extra tricky!

You wrote for several magazines before your first book came out. What was your very first magazine publication? Were you excited?

My first published story was called “Sophie’s Butterfly” and sold to Wee Ones Magazine (online). I received a check for $9.69. I immediately opened “Sydney’s Writing Account” at my local bank. I also pinned the check to my bulletin board (it’s still there). After a few more magazine sales and some local writing contest wins, I withdrew money from my writing account and took my family to Disneyland.

I really encourage writers to sell stories to magazines while working on longer pieces. Sometimes that little bit of positive feedback can keep you going through periods of doubt and rejection.

Tell us a little about your writing process. How long do you spend in planning, in drafting, and in revising a novel?

I spend quite a bit of time planning my novels. I used to create an outline for each book, but now that I’m working with an agent, I write a detailed synopsis of the story. I also make a notebook for my work-in-progress. I keep research notes, character biographies, and scene ideas inside. I also clip out magazine pictures that relate to the story.

Once my agent and I work out the kinks in my synopsis, I start writing. I like to write daily while working on a first draft (even if I only squeeze in 100 new words on some days). I can write a first draft in about 6 to 8 weeks. Revision, of course, takes the most time. My mom, my teenage daughter, and members of my writing group read the story. Then my agent gives me feedback before my editor has a whole bunch of other ideas for improvement. Revisions take months!

Every author finds a unique path to book publishing. Can you tell us the story of how you broke in?

I wrote three manuscripts before drafting My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters during National Novel Writing Month ( Once I finished revising the story with my writing group, I realized that this manuscript had the most commercial appeal of all my novels so I only queried agents. I got nice feedback from a handful of agencies, before one recommend me to my current agent. Things moved pretty quickly once I had an agent to advocate for me.

What is your favorite part of being a published author?

Making a small difference in a reader’s life. I love hearing that a reluctant reader couldn’t put Jungle Crossing down. Or that a teenager feels better about herself after reading My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters.

Do your children get involved in your writing?

I’ve asked my daughters to never do anything worthy of a YA novel plot. I want them to be really boring teenagers! Joking aside, I do ask my daughters to read my stories and give feedback. For the book my agent is currently submitting, I asked my oldest to list her top five worries and I gave similar worries to my character of the same age. I also like to sneak a few inside jokes into my stories. The desk-licking reference in Swoon At Your Own Risk was inspired by one of my daughter’s classmates a few years ago.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read, read, read, write, write, write, study the craft of writing, finish your stories, learn to love revision, and never, never, never give up!

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Sydney! We wish you all the best!
Learn more about Syndey and her books at

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why We're Here

When I got the New Era in the mail I quickly opened it up to devour the quick little inspirational stories. I always find the most amazing articles when I have a quick moment to spare. This article was particularly inspiring to me because of it's scripture reference. It was about a young man who was experiencing peer pressure at work and thought about giving in so that he wouldn't loose his job. Then a scripture came to his mind:
"I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth?"
(Isaiah 51:12-13)
The young man went on to say:
,Immediately I knew that I should fear God, not my co-workers or my boss. I also realized that my purpose on earth is not to earn money but to grow spiritually. So I answered my co-worker,"I will choose my belief, and you should respect it."
If you are ever worn down by the pressures of the world in regards to your writing or any aspect of your life, remember this scripture. I shared it with my children and will remind them of it often in hopes that it will help us remember why we are here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

About eight months ago, my husband and I were at the temple when he felt we really needed to start a garden. He began to dream about how he should do that. My job (the one I hated) enabled us to spend the money on dirt, sprinkler system, seeds, etc. We (and when I say "we" I mean my husband) built a fence, a retaining wall, and spent alot of money on 1o tons of dirt. We had a beautiful patch of dirt. But then it just sat there for months.

Last weekend, my husband said he was going to work on the garden. I, having grown cynical over the whole endeavor, couldn't help but snort and say, "It's not a garden, it's an expensive patch of dirt!" Then my husband stopped and looked at me and said, "It IS a garden. If I don't think of it as a garden, then it NEVER will be."

His simple statement hit me like 10 tons of dirt. It's so true that we have visualize something in our heads before we can bring it into being. I learned a long time ago that if I don't see myself as a writer now (even though I have nothing published or haven't won any awards) or I never will be a writer. Same with our stories, we have to see them as published books or they never will be. But it doesn't end there. If we don't see our potential as daughters of God, then we will never reach it. Let's not grow cynical and let's see the world around us as it could be, only then can we make dreams come true.
(These are really pictures of my garden. My husband's vision actually came to life, and I couldn't be happier!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Am I Cheating On My Characters?

For two years I've been working day and night on my book series, Blood Bound. For the past few months, I've lived and breathed along side my characters, Kira and Octavion. I've eaten with them, fought their battles with them, felt their pain and watched them fall in love. Now, after getting a little nibble of what the publishing world is all about, only to see it drift away, I find myself frantically grasping at everything I can to keep ahold. Fighting for that dream. Kicking and screaming my way upstream in a frail attempt to get all that I've lost back. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter. I'm not telling you this to gain sympathy or support, I'm merely saying I've done all I know--all I can--and gotten no results. I'll keep submitting to agents in hopes that one of them will share in my vision and accept my book AND accept me.

But in the meantime . . . I'm starting over.

I've found that my reason to write has changed over the past few months. In the beginning, it was my passion. I wrote to satisfy the need, to fulfill my dreams. I wrote because it was who I was--what I was. Somewhere along the line it became about something else. Whether it was just being published (which we all want) or the money or simply for the validation, I don't know. But it changed for me. I don't like where I am right now--who I am. I'm writing to sell, to impress, to prove to others that I'm not a failure, that I wasn't cast out because I was a bad person or because my book wasn't marketable. This person I've become is NOT me.

A week or so ago, I had a dream. It was so vivid and clear that I jotted it down. Over the days that followed, my muse grabbed hold of it and now it is the beginnings of a book--a series of books actually. So as I sit down to begin this new project, I find myself thinking about Kira and Octavion. Deep down, I know they're okay, sitting on a rock somewhere chatting about whatever, just waiting until I come back and write the next scene. But somehow I feel like I've abandoned them. They've become a part of me--become my friends. Am I cheating on them? And what about my new characters. I'm sure I'll make friends with Tara and Quinton. Their story deserves to be told just as Kira and Octavion's story did, and still does.

So I'm curious. How do you move on? How do you work on a project for weeks or months and then leave it behind to create something new and wonderful? Do you miss your characters, or is leaving them behind easy for you?

If you want to meet Octavion and Kira, go HERE.
And to meet Tara and Quinton, go HERE.

And here's a shameless plug for my friend's new book, "Wrong Number" - Go HERE to see her book trailer and to learn a little about Rachelle J. Christensen.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Hey guys!

We are getting a huge group together of authors, blog readers, friends, family and Mormon Mommy Writer readers at the LTUE conference next weekend. If any of you would like to meet up with us, and hang out, we're all going to be at the Los Hermanos Restaurant in Lindon at 8:30pm Friday night.

It's going to be a great big crazy, fun, group! So if you'd like to come--please let us know in the comments section below so Jenn Johanssen can make sure we've reserved enough seats.

Can't wait to meet (and HUG!) you all!!!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Church Magazines Give Away!

I have an extra copy of the Ensign, New Era and Friend magazines for the month of February and would LOVE to give them away to a family who might need them.

All you need to do is become a follower of our magnificent blog and add a comment along with your email address to this post only. I will collect names February 9th and announce them on my next posting date: February 10th and contact you. I am hoping that the winner responds soon after, due to the timing of the issues' date--then I'll go on to the next runner up if I don't hear from you within the next 24 hour period.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

Five days. Fourteen students. One award-winning author.

Life changing experience.

If you write for children or teens, there is nothing better for your career than to take your not-yet-published book to the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. For less than the cost of most weekend writer's conferences, you get a FULL WEEK of intensive group critiques, discussions on all aspects of writing and publishing, and a chance to hear lectures and break-out sessions from some of the most talented people in the business.

There are eleven classes to choose from, on topics ranging from picture books to YA novels. Or you can sign up to attend the afternoon lectures only.

One thing I really love about WIFYR is how POSITIVE the environment is. At some writers conferences they make it sound as if getting published is like being struck by lightning. At this one they tell you that you CAN do it, and then they tell you HOW.

So check out their website. Sign up! Go! I hope to see you there!

2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers


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