Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Characters Coming to Life

by Megan Oliphant

So right now it's about 2:50 am, and I just got home from seeing the Twilight Trilogy at our local theater with my 14 year old daughter. (So I apologize profusely if this is incoherent.)

It was fascinating for many reasons, but what I enjoyed most was people watching (or people listening, since we were in a darkened theater.) Our crowd was definitely "Team Jacob", with lots of cat calls, whistles, and various other outbursts of approval every time he came on scene. Especially with his shirt off.

It made me wonder about Jacob as a character, and what made him speak so clearly and so well to so many. Or Edward, for that matter. Or Harry Potter, or Elizabeth Bennet. All these characters are from a book, but books that are so well known, so beloved, that somebody had to make a movie about it. Had to visually realize what millions of people pictured in their heads.

As a writer, that's what I want for my characters. I want them to be as real to others as they are to me in my head. When I first started writing, I thought that meant describing their physical appearance, so the reader could see dark hair, blue eyes, and glasses on an oval shaped face above a perfect male body. Or whatever. It took me a long time to understand that no, I didn't need to create an actual picture with words, I needed to leave an impression strong enough that the image could carry the reader through the scene, or chapter, or the entire book. I struggle with this in the visual arts, too, trying to be so accurate that when all that's really needed is a hint of color or highlight.

That's the type of thing we have to practice as writers. Creating hints and highlights, not a realistic photograph. We have to leave enough up to the reader's imagination that they want to keep reading because the story and characters have become their own. We as the authors have slipped into the background and let them step into the story.

Think about that this week as you work on your own writing. Are you adding enough to be clear, but not so much the reader is bogged down with explanation? Do you trust the reader enough to "get it" or are you so preoccupied with creating the "perfect picture", that you bore them?

Buon Lavoro!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Elementary, my dear Watson

By Tamara Passey

Yes. I’ve been reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s been an unexpected read, but one I’m enjoying. I should explain what I mean by ‘enjoy.’ Not ‘this-is-exactly-what-I-love-to-read’ kind of enjoy, but the ‘hey-this-is-different-from-my-usual-diet-and-it’s-waking-up-parts-of-my-brain’ enjoyment. I confess I picked it up after I noticed my initial resistance to it. (This is part of my ongoing effort to “broaden” –it’s a creativity thing that I plan to blog more about soon.) This doesn’t always happen when I read books I was leery of in the first place. But Holmes has not disappointed.

First, a few things I’ve learned:

In print, Sherlock never said the aforementioned phrase (see title). Maybe the rest of the world knew this, but seriously – this is one of the most famous, identifiable sentences – and he didn’t say it?! Well– he said “Elementary” and he would say, “My dear Watson” just not together. It sprang from one of the first film adaptations.

Second shock, Mr. Holmes had a cocaine habit. Also something the rest of the world probably knew. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen any movies and really hadn’t read anything about him. So, you can imagine my surprise upon reading this character description in the first short story.  I did some quick research and learned how it wasn’t illegal at the time and not well understood. The things you learn when you open a book!   

Those were the little things. I’ve been thinking about deeper issues, too. Likely because his stories are so well written. What do detectives, lawyers and writers have in common?  The need to understand peoples’ motives. We have to know and understand why people and our characters want to do what they do – in order to do our job well.

Characters with motives can make the story believable, or not. The right motives can help a reader relate to the character, too. My MC (main character) might be a princess (she’s not – but I’m thinking of an example on the fly) and as a princess, maybe she has a life of ease. Not something I’d readily identify with. But she’s also lonely and seeking companionship – who hasn’t felt lonely in their life? The right character motives can bring all the pieces of the puzzle into place. This is what Doyle used over and over in each of his cases for Holmes. Readers didn’t get tired of the pattern. He wrote Sherlock’s adventures for thirty years! It might be a mystery why a stepfather would plot the death of his stepdaughter –until the reader learns he’ll lose a fortune if she leaves and marries. Or who would think a new bride to a royal Lord would skip town until it’s revealed she’d been married to a poor miner back in the US who said he’d come for her when he struck it rich.

I don’t have the perfect formula for how to give your characters the right motives. I’m working on it myself. But I think reading great writers, seeing it done on the page, is the best instruction.

I want to share one other random, or maybe not so random, occurrence this week. And yes, this is a true story but the real names have been changed. Okay, more like made up, but that’s because I never asked what they were in the first place, but the story is true!

While grocery shopping a few days ago, these Sherlock issues were on my mind. In the produce section I thought, “Who makes inferences about a person’s entire character from one stray article of clothing.” And  through the checkout line, I took notice of the small details of people and chuckled inwardly about potential meanings. “It doesn’t work like that in real life,” I told myself.

Then I got to the parking lot and I think I met MRS. Sherlock Holmes. Not really. But I finished putting my groceries in the trunk and I pushed the shopping cart into the parking lot Cart Return. As soon as I finished, this elderly yet energetic woman, standing beside her car, yelled to me, “You must be from out of state!”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I grew up in Massachusetts. But what makes you say that?” I asked.
“I knew it.” She said. “I’ve lived in a lot of places and the people here don’t put their carts back – in other places they do, but here - no.” Then she proceeded to point to carts shoved up onto the curbing and one sitting just yards from the cart return. Go figure.

So driving home I reminded myself that there are plenty of people from ‘here’ that do return their carts. And who knows if my reason for returning my cart had anything to do with the state I used to live in or if it was for fifteen other different ‘motives.’  Her reasoning was too general, I insisted. Yet, I had to admit – at least that time, she was right. Maybe it is that elementary. 

If you're interested here's an article on motives: What Do Your Characters Want?

And one way to add a little mystery to your summer:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Knowing How it Ends

~By C.K. Bryant

A few days ago I started a new book. Crazy, I know. I have two books finished (both in the same series), the first of which is being queried to agents, and I have two other books that are about 1/2 way finished. What the heck was I thinking?

It's been a long while since I started a new book and I found myself excited and scared all at once. I opened a blank page on my computer and typed about four pages, feeling pretty good about what I'd written. I LOVE the voice of my new character, a sixteen year old girl who loves to laugh. But as I got to the bottom of page four, I stopped. I couldn't go any further because I realized I didn't know how the story ended.

Yep, that's right. I can't write a book without knowing how it ends. I just can't do it. I've heard so many of my writing friends talk about how they just start writing and let the story guide them, having no idea what comes next. I've also heard others who do a complete outline and have all the details hammered out before they even begin to write the actual novel. It's hard to believe that there are so many different ways of doing it--almost as many ways as there are writers.

So, first of all . . . I'm curious how you write. Do you just go headstrong from the get go, or are you meticulous about an outline and the details?

Second, I'd like to share the video and power point presentation given by Dan Wells at LTUE. It's the closest I've come to finding someone teach the way I write. I love the presentation, so if you can find the time, please check it out. Click HERE to go to the website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bearing it All

I have to apologize, I had this all done and ready to go, for some reason, I had the posting day set for 2 weeks from now! How horrible is that??

Okay, now for my post:

Have you ever felt as if life has become impossible? Too many dishes. Too many dirty clothes. Too many toys. Too many weeds.

The husband didn't get his raise. The car broke down. You can't afford health insurance any longer.

You love writing, but the balance has tipped and now you feel you need to tuck your hobbies away to make time for everything else.

Wait a minute. Something is wrong--can you guess what it is?

With life, there are so many things that can trip our sights that we forget who we are. We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us . . .

If only we remember this at all times, all places--everything will melt into its proper place and our faith becomes renewed.

It is Christ's place to bear our burdens--He bore them that one night in Gethsemane. Why should I worry about anything if I do what He asks me to do? I believe that if I did them with faith--scripture reading, church attendance, family home evening, Temple attendance--everything will fall into place. I must believe they will. I must trust they will.

With trust in our Father in Heaven, great things can be done.

How does faith help balance out your home, hobbies, and spirituality?

Friday, June 25, 2010

What’s in a name

I’d never given much thought to my character’s names. I figured that they would have to deal with whatever name I decided was best for them, I was after all in control of my story, of course we all know that’s not true.

I am a particularly bad namer, I use name such as Billy, Sue, Beth, Samantha, James. Very common names that are used everywhere, unoriginal and even boring sometimes. Usually the names fit the character and that was that. That was until Alyssa, or Alisha, or Alice? This characters name was particularly difficult for me to remember, I didn’t think much of it and decided that she was going to be a minor insignifigant character. Mentioned in the background here and there and probably edited out later. No big deal.

Shortly after resigning this character to their very unimportant status I had a friend mine read some passages of editing that I had done. She jokingly noted that all of my work friends, except her, had a character named after them in my WIP. I decided that, to be nice, I would name a character after her. I didn’t really like the idea of creating a character just for her so I decided to change that oh so unimportant characters name that I couldn’t really remember anyway, to hers, Katie. After all, I least now I didn’t have to worry about remembering that name.

I wasn’t prepared for what came from this simple gesture. Katie came to life on the page. She was still the same character I imagined but much more than I had seen before that. Suddenly she was there in the book, not as a background forgettable character but as a leading role. Her personality, her thoughts, her everything popped out at me clearly. It was as if she were hiding from me offended that I didn’t give her the correct name before. One simple change affected my entire story.

So Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? No, sometimes it’s sweeter.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Want to be a Published Writer...Now What?

I get asked this question often and I wanted to address everyone's questions in one blog post, let's see if I can.  First of all, you have a great story idea, now you must write it.  For some people this is the easy part.  For me it wasn't, it took alot of commitment and focus to make this happen.  One thing that helped me alot is this book by Dorothea Brande, called "Becoming a Writer". 
Ok, so say you found your muse and you wrote your first book.  The next step is rewriting, editing, and joining a critique group.  This is a very intimidating part of writing a book.  I found out the hard way that I rewrite a book until it is almost unrecognizable from the first draft.  It's a little frustrating when you first learn this about yourself, but just know that many successful authors have the same process and it is very worth it.  Editing requires help.  You can't edit your own work entirely by yourself.  You are too close to the story and you know what you think it says, but you don't know how other people will read it.  This is why you must have critique partners.  Here's a cute video by Jackson Pearce about why critique partners are important:

There are some great online writer's groups to help you with this.  Our own MormonMommyWriter's online yahoo group is a good place to get feedback.  Also, joining ANWA, a writer's group for mormon women, has really helped me in this respect.  They also have online meetings if you don't live near a chapter.

Ok, let's say your book is done and in perfect order.  The next step is deciding what kind of publishing you want to do, traditional publishing or self-publishing.  Check out this link to compare and contrast the benefits of each.  If you decide to go with traditional publishing you must decide if you are going to first look for an agent.  Here is a link about agents.  Next step is to write a query letter.  This is a link to a google search about writing query letters to agents.  Say you want to send a proposal directly to a publisher. Here's another link to a google search for that.

So now you have a query letter or a proposal, how do you find out who to send it to?  Visit for a list of agents in the genre you are looking for.  Also, your best resource for any of this is a book called "Writer's Market".  You can also go to 

The next step in all of this is to remain positive and continue to educate yourself on the craft of writing.  Here's a few books to help:

Getting published is not for the faint of heart, but you can do it!  Just keep at it, you only fail if you quit!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Program....

Today's post from me was going to be about another of my favorite authors and what I had learned from her.
But just like TV shows, sometimes life interrupts our schedule with a big whack upside the head of reality.
On Friday of last week, my husband got laid off from work. He has six weeks before final termination to find a new job. I knew that his company was struggling, and that maybe it was time to start looking, but this came seemingly out of nowhere.
Needless to say, this weekend (and yesterday) has been a roller coaster of emotion. The Lord blessed us with the opportunity to go to the temple Saturday morning, where the Spirit was so strong, whispering peace and promises of a bright future. Sunday was also great, where I got to help out another sister from ward who broke her foot, so I subbed as Primary chorister for her. Service always brings the Spirit.
But Monday. Oh, Monday. It was the most depressing, overwhelming, bitter day. Oh yes, I wallowed. I moped. I complained. I got crabby with my kids. I indulged in food therapy, even though what I really wanted was retail therapy. And up until 8pm, I was misery personified.
The cloud began to lift as the kids went to bed, and Tuesday morning, I woke up fine. Happy. Excited for the future. Exited to write. Knowing that even though the road before us will be bumpy and filled with obstacles, the peace sent by the Lord is undeniable and will buoy us up during this time.
The reason I share this is that the road to publication is filled with obstacles, just like normal life. But if we know that this is the path we must tread, then we can do it with a light heart, knowing the Lord with support us in this course because we are following His direction.

So press on, dear sisters, press on! :o)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I learned one of my most important life lessons when I was 12 and attended Girls’ Camp for the first time. Every camp is different and has varying degrees of roughness -we slept in tents with cots on wood pallets. Very out-doorsy but we didn’t sleep on the ground. I don’t have to try very hard and I can smell the musty green tent, but oh, how I loved waking up and hearing the birds chatter. The New England morning air had a crisp coolness in it, even in August, and I’d cling to my sleeping bag until the second wake up bell. I could go on, but I think I was trying to make another point. A life lesson.

That first year, I was assigned to a tent with a girl I’d never met, but soon learned was a little eccentric and not at all popular. And there were popular girls at camp. Silly, I know. After the first night, one of ‘them’ asked me what it was like to bunk with ‘her.’ I was 12 and hadn’t learned yet what I was about to learn. I opened my big mouth and described all her strange habits. It didn’t even take two hours before we were sitting at breakfast and fake-friendly popular girl number one started talking to my tent mate. I listened in horror as popular girl 2 and 3 chimed in to the conversation –or whatever you would have called it. They teased and taunted her with the ammo, uh –info, I’d provided. Dumb!

I couldn’t eat. I was sick. My tent mate shrugged it off. I was stunned for days. I wrote in my journal, “Never talk to so-and-so again!” That was a little extreme. I was too young to have the words of the hymn come to mind, “Nay, Speak No Ill.” But I did learn, even if I couldn’t articulate it then, sharing is powerful and it’s one of the ways girls bond and it can be used for good. Or not.

And my point today? What is a blog but sharing – a lot? Let’s face it, there is a lot of blogging and writing and sharing going on in the blogosphere. It is one of the reasons I am glad to be here – on MMW – sharing my thoughts about writing. It enhances my creativity and if I give support – it comes back to me. That is my point in a nutshell. To say it like you’ve heard it before, ‘what goes around comes around.’

I’m guessing if you are a writer you already know this: Words can be powerful and they have a way of coming back to you. So. If you meet any popular girls wanting to dish – do what I wish I’d done –keep your mouth shut and hand over your dirty mess kit. And whatever else you get to do today – send good words out into the world.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Author To Her Book

I found this poem among some others I was reading and thought I'd share it.
I have a hard time deciphering poetry for some reason, but I kinda liked this one.
I'd love to know what you think.


THOU ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true
Who thee abroad, expos'd to publick view,
Made thee in raggs, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).

At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, of so I could:
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.

I stretcht thy joynts to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i'th' house I find.

In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam,
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.

By - Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day . . . and single Mommies, too!

I read an article from the Liahona. I can't help but say that I love the story that James E. Faust told and it has never left my mind. I thought it would be nice to share this with you. It has touched my life, and even though I am not a daddy, I believe this would apply to mommies too. ;)
"Brethren, noble fatherhood gives us a glimpse of the divine attributes of our Father in Heaven. A father should be many things. He should magnify his priesthood and be an example of righteousness. In companionship with his wife, he should be the source of stability and strength for the whole family. He should be the protector and the provider and the champion of the members of his family. Much of his love for his children should flow from his example of love, concern, and fidelity for their mother. By his uncompromising example he should instill character into his children.

When Elder LeGrand Richards left to attend college, his father, George F. Richards, said to him and his brother, George F. Jr., “I would trust you two to go anywhere I would go myself.” Their hearts swelled with love and pride in his words. LeGrand later said, “They put rods of steel in our spines, and we couldn’t do anything that would disappoint him.” 10
A father should never consciously disappoint his wife or children. In 1989 there was a terrible earthquake in Armenia that killed over 30,000 people in four minutes. A distraught father went in frantic search of his son. He reached his son’s school only to find that it had been reduced to a pile of rubble. But he was driven by his promise to his son, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” He visualized the corner where his son’s classroom would be, rushed there, and started to dig through the debris, brick by brick.
Others came on the scene—the fire chief, then the police—warning him of fires and explosions, and urging him to leave the search to the emergency crews. But he tenaciously carried on digging. Night came and went, and then, in the 38th hour of digging, he thought he heard his son’s voice. “Armand!” he called out. Then he heard, “Dad!?! It’s me, Dad! I told the other kids not to worry. I told ’em that if you were alive, you’d save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved. …

“There are 14 of us left out of 33. … When the building collapsed, it made a wedge, like a triangle, and it saved us.”

“Come on out, boy!”
“No, Dad! Let the other kids out first, ’cause I know you’ll get me! No matter what, I know you’ll be there for me!”

~ James E. Faust

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Channelling your Creativity

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed 
that I would give it unto you, when you took no 
thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must 
study it out in your mind; then you must cask me
if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that 
your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, 
you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, 
but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall 
cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; 
therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred 
save it be given you from me.
Docterine and Covenants Section 9

I want to share this uplifting article 
printed in the August 1983 New Era. (click the link for the full article.)

Channeling Your Creativity

—Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The process of creative thinking reminds me time and again of the work we used to do on my uncle’s ranch. The steps used in growing crops offer a good guideline:
1. Prepare the soil.
Start with prayer to clear your mind and set the proper atmosphere. Research the problem thoroughly. Develop a positive attitude that a solution can be found. Establish an atmosphere of trust in yourself and in others.
2. Plant the seeds.
Investigate what you can do to help. Determine where you may need help. Ask for counsel when you are ready to act on the advice given to you, but don’t ask someone else to make the decision for you.
3. Let the seeds grow.
Don’t uproot your idea before it has a chance to grow. Back off and give the idea time to develop. But you must be willing to face failure with a willingness to try again.
4. Examine your crops.
Weed out ideas that don’t belong. Through obedience to the Lord, you are entitled to inspiration. Review D&C 9:7–9. Inspiration comes when we ask if we have made a correct decision.
5. Harvest.
The most productive farmers in the world would be unsuccessful if they didn’t harvest their crops. Do something about your ideas. Take the initiative to share your thoughts with others and to take action on your own.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Goals are like exercises for our souls!!

I've been writing a LDS non-fiction book about our bodies, and using our spirits to make changes that will help us grow. Here's a small snippet from that book that relates to writing, I thought I'd share it with you all:

Goals are exercises for our spirits. They cause our spirits to control our bodies and natural man tendencies, doing so causes our spirits to grow stronger and stronger. Imagine doing jumping jacks, how does your body feel? I’ll tell you what happens when I do jumping jacks, after just three of those things my lungs are burning. I start thinking of how to only do them half way because it’s just too hard. And let’s not even talk about the incontinence issue that arises when I’m jumping up and down after having four children.
How do jumping jacks relate to setting and reaching for goals? Setting and working towards goals are hard. They require the body and the spirit to work together. After awhile, you begin wondering how you can change your goal or work half way to achieve it. When you first begin a goal, your spirit sets it, then your body must perform the actions to achieve the goal. Our bodies sometimes reside in a permanent rebellious teenage state where complaints come immediately. Our minds begin telling our spirits that we can’t do it, we’re too weak, too young, too old, the excuses begin piling up. Our spirits that came from our Father in Heaven know these things aren’t true, but sometimes buckle under the pressure. When this happens, our bodies are training our spirits and not the other way around. Only then do we truly fail.
President Spencer W. Kimball at the Regional Representatives Seminar of April 3, 1975, said, “I believe in goals, but I believe that the individual should set his own. Goals should always be made to a point that will make us reach and strain. Success should not necessarily be gauged by always reaching the goal set, but by progress and attainment.”
Just like physical exercise, our success should not be gauged by the weight we lost but by the healthiness of our bodies. We must remember that setting goals are how we keep our spirits healthy. The Faith In God program starts us off learning to set goals and achieving them, then we go to the Young Women’s program that has even more ambitious goals to conquer. After we go to Relief Society it doesn’t mean we can stop being goal oriented, it only means that we should know how to set and work towards the goals that are right for us. We need goals that make us reach and strain as Pres. Kimball said.
We need to glory in working towards a goal and not just achieving them. All too often we don’t consider a goal successful unless we achieve it. This is not true. We must recognize our growth along the way and praise our spirits and our Heavenly Father for our progress. This will keep us energized to continue to the end. The success of some goals are out of our control, like my goal of publishing a book someday. All I can do is write the best book I can and hope that publishers are looking for what I wrote. Does this mean if I’m not successful that I have failed? No, it means I have learned so much about the craft of writing, it means I trained my body to sit for hours in front of a computer, it means I trained my spirit to listen to the promptings of the Lord as I wrote, it means my spirit exercised control over my body. How could we ever view these things as a failure?
“True happiness is not made in getting something. True happiness is becoming something. This can be done by being committed to lofty goals. We cannot become something without commitment.” (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “The Word is Commitment” Ensign, Nov. 1983)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Acceptable Influence

Last week I talked about finding my voice and balance between myself and absorbing the flavor of the authors that I read.
This week I wanted to introduce one of the writers whom I've actively admired and tried to emulate (not too much, though.)

Orson Scott Card is a famous Mormon writer. He's been around longer than he'd like me to point out, and while it wasn't his first effort at novel writing, Ender's Game was, in it's time, as amazing as Stephanie Meyer's Twilight is today.
I've read every book by Mr. Card, and own most of them (which is a serious investment with several kids to supply basic needs for.)
OSC has also written How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Even if this isn't your genre, its principles apply to the basics of good writing.
Two things have stuck with me over the years about OSC's writing. First, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Perfecting your dialogue, the voices of your characters through what they say is key. Dialogue, more than anything your characters do, will bring the reader closer to being a part of the story. Dialogue reveals more about the people in your novels, whether they are liars or perfectionists, sly or simple. Or all of the above. As much as we want to be able to put the things we see inside our heads on the page, we don't want to take up 1000 words of our novel to describe the view from the doorway. Our readers don't want that, they want to know what happens next. Dialogue propels the action forward. So the sooner we get a handle on our dialogue, the better.
The other thing that I've heard from him several times is that evil characters are boring. The whole “anti-hero” fad is annoying in the extreme because what really fascinates him in a book is when a good man (or woman) is faced with agonizing decisions, choices that have us as readers screaming at the book in heartbreak over these people we love having to deal with such horrible options.
I have to agree. I have a hard time sympathizing with characters whose motivations are so alien from my own. I don't mind reading about them every once in a while, but it's like looking at some odd creature of nature, safely behind glass at the zoo. I'll look for a while, but I won't ever fall in love with it.
So when I write, I try to have my MC be the kind of person that is good, faced with difficulties that seem impossible to overcome. Of course you need bad guys, and they can't be one dimensional, either. But they're the bad guys. They don't need to be sympathetic. They can be alien to our way of thinking. That's why they're the antagonist.
Next week I'll talk about another author who caught me young, and changed the way I thought about narrative in novels.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I ran a 5k on Thanksgiving Day last year. Before I give the impression that I am more of a runner than I am – a 5k is 3.1 miles and that is about as far as I can run without stopping. It was my second year to do it and I felt like I was in good condition. I woke up on the morning of the race and oh, was I tired! I got to the starting line and my legs were lead. I changed my focus from how fast I wanted to run to getting across the finish line without passing out. I started with a very slow pace. Most of the runners passed me and I remember thinking, “What am I doing out here?”

At the halfway point of the race, the runners were to make a u-turn at the end of a street and run back the way they came. As I approached the u-turn, all the runners ahead of me were passing me on my left. What I did next wasn’t premeditated, but I am still surprised today by the result. I looked at each runner and smiled –you know a big, happy-to-see-you smile and a few times I said, “Good job!” I laughed at myself because these were the runners ahead of me.

I kept nodding and smiling and then I made the u-turn and braced myself for the slight hill. There were a few runners behind me and I kept smiling at them, too. And instead of feeling each heavy stride, I felt like I was gliding over the road. What I expected to be the hardest part of the run turned into the most enjoyable stretch. Cheering on the other runners changed me. I felt happier, lighter and physically better able to do what minutes before felt impossible. I finished the race, shaved a minute off my time from the year before, and I didn’t pass out. I also walked away with a newfound appreciation for the power of encouragement—receiving it and giving it.

So even though I feel like the new kid on the block today, this is me, with a big smile on my face saying keep up the great work you are doing. For those further along in their writing journey, I am happy to be following in your footsteps and for those just beginning, I am here to say, you can do it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Blogger

Cheri Chesley believes in magic and miracles. When not writing she can be found reading the dictionary for fun or improving her photography. She lives with her husband and numerous children in Tooele, Utah. Look for updates on her latest works at or check out her blog at


I used to be a writer in the dark. By this, I mean I used to write because I felt the urge, or need, but lacked true direction.

Then I got a phone call. It was August 2006 and my brother called to tell me our cousin, with whom I share a name, died suddenly after a routine gall bladder procedure. It broke my heart, not so much that Cheryl died—but that her daughters found her. One crawled into bed with her mother’s body and held her until the authorities arrived. Cheryl was 34 years old.

What no one knew until the next day was my grandmother, who had struggled more than ten years with an inoperable tumor, fell that night and broke her hip. She spent the last days of her life in the hospital, where we visited her when we went down for Cheryl’s funeral, and then in a care center where she died on my birthday, September 1st.

That October I saw a specialist about my sinus problems and learned I had a severely deviated septum that would require surgery. But I was assured it was a routine procedure the doctor had performed many times. The words “routine procedure” freaked me out. My overactive imagination began to wonder if Cheryl’s untimely death was a portent of my own. By the time the surgery day arrived, I’d pretty much reconciled myself to the idea I’d never wake up. I’d even written letters to my family and loved ones with all the things I’d always wanted to say.

When I not only survived, but recovered the use of my nose, I began to seriously re-examine what I’d been doing with my life and my writing. I’d hit 31 years of age. Did I ever plan to become a published author, or should I just relegate it to a hobby and move on with some other career? What would my grandmother want me to do? So why wasn’t I doing it?

I knew even then I couldn’t simply make my writing a hobby. It’s too big a part of me. I had to pursue publication. I had to make something of the words that came to me like projectiles on a besieged castle. I was going to be an author. Which meant I would have to evolve from an introvert to an extrovert.

Have I ever mentioned I like quiet, I love being alone, and I hate drawing attention to myself? I thought not.

But God has a wonderful understanding of me, more so than I think I understand myself. He has given me writing friends, author mentors, and supportive family and friends who keep me buoyed up and pave the way for me as I follow my chosen path. He gives me guidance and inspiration, and has in no uncertain terms made it clear to me this is my role in His kingdom.

I only had to stop fighting and accept it. I remember that day clearly. Late April 2009. See, even after deciding to be an author it took me almost 3 years to accept this as my role, as the part Heavenly Father has been waiting for me to play. That day, I’d received an inspiring Priesthood blessing. After taking some hours to process it, I sighed and said aloud, “All right. I’ll do it. I’ll be the writer You want me to be.”

This doesn’t mean I’ll ever be rich and famous. I mean, a person pretty much has to hit the publishing lottery to become rich and famous as an author. It’s been done, but there are no guarantees.

What it does mean is I am doing what my Heavenly Father wants me to do. And that’s good enough for me.

**Cheri was one of our applicants for the blogger openings we had a few weeks ago. You can tell by her wonderful blog how difficult the decision was for us to make. I hope Cheri can come back soon and be a guest again. Thanks for hanging out with us today, Cheri. ~Christine

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My New Life

My heart is full, knowing that my Father in Heaven loves me enough to send His Son to die for me, so that I may live with Him again!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Butterflies Take Time

Confession: I am a murderer.  I kill bugs frequently.  I can't stand things that creep and crawl.  I even dislike caterpillars, but butterflies fascinate me.  I love butterflies.  Do you see the dilemma?  If I kill the caterpillar; I am killing the butterfly.

In my writing I struggle with my work in the unedited phase.  It is nothing of beauty.  I often fail to see its potential.   It is raw.  For these reasons, I will find my finger hovering over the delete key-- ready to slaughter.  But If I want to see the work become something of beauty, I must allow it to go through this awkward stage.  I must nourish it daily.  Until one day it can be my very own butterfly.

"   There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you 
it's going to be a butterfly."  
Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guest Post--Mary Greathouse

Mary is another wonderful writer that applied to write on our blog. After reading her post you will know how difficult it was to choose our new writers. She is an amazing writer, be sure to check out her blog here.

Midnight Plane to Georgia

"Took the Midnight Plane to Georgia...." (then on to NC) Sounds oddly like I song I once knew. But, it was actually true. My daughter called on Wednesday to say she was having surgery.....then called shortly after to say she had already had it. She couldn't pick up, hold or feed her 2 month old baby, so what's a mom/grandmom to do? Hop on the next plane and make the sacrifice of cuddling with the cute baby for the next two weeks.

It kind of derailed any plans that I had for the next few weeks, but it was worth it. I had a few contacts to make on my book, Family Record Keeper, but they could be done later. I had to change a few piano lessons, and strong arm my youngest daughter into taking the rest of my students for a week or two......but it was good for her. (Isn't that what a mom always says?)

I read a long time ago that "Life is about the interruptions." That meant to me that, in spite of all of the special things that we schedule in our lives, the really important things are really just taking care of the people around us and their needs, when they need to be taken care of. Sometimes it's reading a bedtime story and sometimes it's jumping on the midnight plane to Georgia.

PS I'm glad to be sleeping on a real bed after using the couch for two weeks, but I wish I could get off the baby's schedule of getting up every two hours to eat....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Writing Voice: Who Am I?

I debated all week what to write. Should I write something inspirational? Personal? Instructive? Should I try to be all things to all people?
And so I came to my topic. Being a people pleaser. This is built in to my psyche. I never want anyone to be angry with me, so I try to accommodate them by being everything to everybody. (This doesn't seem to apply to my children, with whom I have no problem making angry and not caring one whit.)
When it comes to my writing, I write as eclectic as I read. In fact, I can't be a reader while I'm a writer. I tend to absorb the style of the author and it shows up in my own writing, both in cadence and genre. I'm very sponge-like in that regard. (I'm spongy in other ways, too, but we won't go there.)
I'm still discovering my voice. I know I like humor. A story doesn't have to be all funny, but a surprising twist that make me laugh out loud is something that makes the story memorable.
I also like mysteries. Even when the story isn't a mystery per se, I still like unexpected twists and being outsmarted by the author.
I'm a skimmer. I am not a page-after-page of description gal. I've ruined more than one reading experience by skimming over pertinent facts and being brought up short with a “What did I miss?!?” Then having to flip back several pages until I can track down the lane change in some paragraph I skimmed over.
There are a few authors, however, that have made it into my permanent pantheon of acceptable influences. In the coming weeks I'll explore these various writers and why I consciously choose to emulate them, hopefully creating my own voice in the process.

Buon lavoro! [A traditional Italian phrase that directly translated means “Good work!”, but is more like “You can do it!” I hope you don't mind if I finish off my posts with it. Because you can, you know. Do it, I mean. ;)]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Members of MMW & Something To Make You Laugh

First of all, I'm THRILLED to announce our new Mormon Mommy Writer, Tamara Passey. She will be blogging on Tuesdays and we are very excited to have her with us. Click on her picture to visit her blog and learn more about her.

We've also created a new slot--an 8th day if you must know--and are just as THRILLED to announce that Sugoi Knight will be our "go to girl" when we need a substitute blogger. We just couldn't let her slip through the cracks because there wasn't enough days in the week. So keep your eyes open for her posts.

Now, since Tamara can't start until next week, I have a fun little treat for you. This video is GREAT! Both Nikki and I laughed so hard, we cried. So enjoy, and make sure you welcome the new MMW members when you see their posts.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Joy & Sorrow

I've often wondered how, while one day we can have so much joy, why the very next we have deep sorrow. Are the days that different? Have we forgotten the joy and that, in and of itself, makes us sad and depressed?

I've been fortunate enough to have several successful and fulfilling days in a row, both with my writing and in my personal life, but today I struggle. I have no desire to write and I'm on the edge of . . . well . . . everything. One minute I would give anything for some space and a few days somewhere alone on the beach and the next I just want to feel love and peace within my own family. Can we have it both ways? Should we want both solitude and companionship? Peace and chaos? Joy and Sorrow?

While searching for some words of wisdom--anything that would explain my feelings--I found this quote. It makes so much sense to me. What do you think?

* * * * *

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

- Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sabbath Sounds

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains

And we never even know we have the key."

the Eagles, 1974 On the Border album

It is my experience in my own lifetime with certain things that go on, that I've suffered in silence because I've been stuck in a certain mind frame that keeps me back. It is the realization that I must do something about it that propels me away from the stagnant waters of fear.

"Maybe we are too comfortable, fearful, or lacking in faith. President Thomas S. Monson has counseled us that “faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other”" click here to read more

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Your Voice Guest post by Kasey Tross

Hello there! My name is Kasey Tross, I live in Richmond, Virginia, and I discovered Mormon Mommy Writers through my friend Amber (aka, Amber Lynae). I haven't actually seen her since high school (or shortly thereafter?) but I enjoy her writing and I have had a good time reading the experiences of other writers on Mormon Mommy Writers.

I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 kiddos, ages 6, 4, and 9 months. I write two blogs, one on budgeting, The Beautiful Thrifty Life ( and one on whatever random thoughts pop into my head, Making It Up As I Go ( I write far more in my head than actually makes it onto a computer screen, but I dream of someday being published. For now, dreaming and blogging (in between chasing children about and cleaning) will have to suffice.

It's Your Voice
by Kasey Tross

For most of my life, I’ve been “The Writer.” No, I’ve never finished a novel (though it’s my lifelong dream), written a play (unless you count that one in fifth grade), or been published (does a guest post on my favorite blog count?), but to my friends and family, I am the one who can take awkward feelings, confrontational situations, and important proposals and make them beautiful with my words. It’s something akin to written voice-overs- I simply take someone’s thoughts and ideas and present them in a way that is clear, concise, and comely. I’m not changing the message, I’m just making it sound good. (Does it sound like I’m tooting my own horn? Perhaps, but I think that most writers out there can identify, and I promise that there’s a deeper meaning behind this besides me gloating. Just keep reading.)
            In middle school I remember writing a flow chart on how to gracefully break it to your parents that you got a bad grade. It got passed around the school enough so that it took on a life of its own, the 1990s equivalent of “going viral.” As I recall, there were significantly less groundings after report card day that year.
Later on in high school I progressed to writing flowery love letters from my brother and his friends to the cute girls they had crushes on (but never had the guts to actually speak to). The girls were all aflutter as they wondered who their secret admirers could be, and my brother smiled and gave me a behind-the-back low five as we watched them swoon.
 In college my skills actually gave me a career boost at the call center where I worked when I rewrote the cold-calling script for telemarketers. The day after my supervisor overheard my new-and-improved sales pitch, she asked for it in writing and promptly made copies and announced to the team that everyone was to use the new script. Sales didn’t go up, but let’s just say I don’t think it was the script that was the cause.
Now I’m married with young children, and my ways with words are usually limited to thank-you notes for teacher appreciation week, elaborate status updates on my Facebook page, and the occasional indignant rant to a company with whom my husband or I may have had an unsatisfactory experience. Just recently, however, a situation arose in which it was apparent that my skills might be needed for something more.
In order to protect the parties involved, I won’t go into too much detail. A close family member, who has often relied on me for my wordworking, was recently contacted by someone from his past whom he never thought he’d hear from again. This person was interested in rebuilding a relationship, and there were a lot of tender feelings involved. I fully expected him to ask for my help, but I was torn about whether or not I should oblige.
You see, I’ve discovered that there are certain times in life, such as in the examples cited above, when the message is the important thing. And if the message isn’t received properly, then it won’t get through. Those are the times that it is vitally important to use the right words, and to use the right “voice” to express those words. However, there are other select times in life when, while the message is important, the voice of the messenger is even more important. This person didn’t contact my family member to “hear” me- they contacted him because they want to know him. They want to discover who he has become in these years of separation. As fancy as I may be with my words, I can’t be him. And in this case, when feelings are still too raw for spoken conversation, it is the incomplete sentences, the misspellings, and the awkward phrasings that will tell this person more than my polished writing skills ever could.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain this to my family member. He was going through a difficult time, and despite my misgivings, I wanted to support him in any way I could. Finally, I tentatively asked if he would like my help. Much to my relief, he said no, he felt this was something he needed to do himself. “Good,” I told him, “It needs to be your voice.”
So while lovely words may have changed the fates of my middle school friends, placed an extra beat or two in the hearts of some pubescent teens, and even made some telemarketers sound good (almost), there is one thing this “Writer” cannot do: I can’t be someone else’s voice when it really counts. Because each of us, writers and non-writers alike, have a voice that is imperfectly uniquely ours, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what we say or how we say it. It’s the sound of our voice that will be the first step to someone discovering for the first time who we really are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bad News and Good News

I believe the bad news should come first, along with losing our wonderful blogger, Mary Olsen, we will also be losing Rebecca J. Carlson. Her family will be making a big move and she will be unable to continue as a permanent blogger on MMW. But she will continue to make appearances on our yahoo group but helping with the weekly exercises and will eventually start some online critique groups. So if your not signed up on our online yahoo group, sign up NOW!

Now for the good news! We had so many great applicants interested in becoming a Mormon Mommy Writer, it was too hard to choose just one. So we didn't. We chose three new writers and a permanent guest blogger (substitute) so to speak. I'm still waiting for confirmation from one of our applicants before announcing her name, but let me introduce you to our two newest members of the the blog:

Megan Oliphant will be our new Wednesday blogger you can check out her blog here.
Lisa Turner will be our new Saturday blogger, we look forward to her introduction this Saturday, don't miss it!

We made some changes on who does what days, watch the side of our blog to see who switched around.

Thanks again to all our wonderful applicants, every single one of them would have made wonderful additions to our blog and we will keep them in mind for our next opening!

Be sure to welcome our new bloggers and thank Rebecca for her wonderful posts and writing advice. We sure will miss her!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Basic Writing Tools

I find that if I don't put on my blinders,
I will become easily distracted--even to the smallest of trivial things!
(This goes for thoughts, too!)

Okay okay okay . . . I stole this brilliant idea from Paulette at 700blankpages. I didn't even paraphrase. I totally plagiarized. It was way too perfect to pass up and not share with you!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The E-Book Revolution is Coming

For a long time I was in denial about this. Nothing, I thought, nothing could replace books. Nothing could replace going to the library and browsing the shelves, picking up a tantalizing title, running my hands over the cover, admiring the artwork and design that goes into crafting those little capsules of delight we call books. Crack it open, read the front flap, sample the first page, I'm hooked... can downloading an e-book possibly compare?

But I've seen more and more people with electronic reading devices. They look nice. And I do care deeply about trees and rivers and all the other things in the environment that are affected by paper production.

I'll tell you what really decided me, though. I'm moving to Hawaii in six weeks. A lifetime collection of books is piled on my dining room floor. Any books I want to keep I have to ship. Thousands of pounds of books. Even with media mail rates, that's going to make a dent in my bank account.

If I had an electronic reading device, I could fit my entire library into my purse.

Nothing can replace paper books. It won't be the same. It will be different.

But in some ways, it will be better.

This will be my last post, sisters. I'm stepping down so I can focus on moving my family to Hawaii. I'll be back in the fall as critique group coordinator on the MMW Yahoo site. See you then! Love to all and best wishes for your writing projects.


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