Friday, July 30, 2010

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

BY. Amber Lynae
Writing can be lonely.  Especially, when we try to do it on our own.  At times when we are not receiving the support we need, or we are accepting the support offered, the process becomes even harder. 

One of my favorite episodes of Writing Excuses aired in May 2010 called Living with the Artist  It is only a fifteen minute podcast, if you get a chance go listen to it sometime.  In that episode, the spouses of three published authors cover the ups and the downs, and share embarrassing anecdotes about living with an artist.

SO if you are willing to share. 
Who makes up your support group? 
And what do they do or do you wish they did to support your writing habits?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marshmallow Wars

Last week was our districts Cub Scout Day Camp. As a favor to my mother I subbed as walking den leader for a day. On this day I learned something important about boys... they are predisposed to war games, and they are good at it.

I laughed as, after crafts where they made marshmallow bazookas, they shot them at each other, forming sides, alliances, and strategies. This went on the entire day, at lunch they did a sneak attack on their rival dens, they took prisoners of war and even eventually surrendered. It was a humorous though slightly unsettling sight to watch.

A few day's ago I was asked if I was a wall flower or busy bee as I thought about my response I realized something; the more I sit back and watch people the more I learn about human behavior and the more I can apply that to character building.

I really enjoy character building, I love getting to know new people and as that is essentially getting to know new people it's fun. I can let my imagination run with it and come out with a totally unbelievable yet perfect character. However, for those times when I need a believable character I find that I can draw on the behaviors and motives that I have observed and learned about people.

So the next time I have to write in a boy I'll remember to through in some fun war games.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Writer's Fairy Tale, Part One

Once upon a time there was a writer in love with her story garden. The seeds of different stories fell from the story trees like rain every time she visited Published Forest. She would carefully gather them and tuck them into her bag to bring back.

There was a fox who lived at the edge of the forest. This fox was considered wise by all the other creatures and visitors to the forest, and many went to visit him to learn from his wisdom and experience.

The writer loved to sit at the edge of the clearing in front of the fox's den, listening to other's questions and relating it to herself. "I am just like that writer" or "The fox knows so much. I should follow his counsel."

One of the things the fox said often was "The story seeds you gather from the forest are all you need to be published. These seeds will grow by itself into one of the cornerstone trees of the forest."

After these times visiting the fox, the writer would walk home, carrying her ideas, excited by the possibilities she held. "These are such amazing story seeds. I know I will add to Published Forest someday!" She would get home with the seeds, placing them carefully on the dirt that surrounded her house and wait for the seeds to sprout and grow.

There was a part of her walk home that scared the writer, however. As she traveled along the path, she had to pass the tiny farm of the crazy hermit. She didn't like the hermit, for he was old and wrinkly, and smelled of sour sweat. His garden was amazing, though, and and if he wasn't sitting outside, harassing the other travelers, she liked to pause and wonder at the amazing variety that grew there. He had few plants, but they always seemed to grow quickly and strong, and there were many of the more famous story trees that were his.

One day as she leaned against the low stone wall that surrounded the hermit's garden, she noticed something horrifying. One of his plants the same idea as one of the seeds she had put in her own garden. While the hermit's was already halfway grown with full lush leaves and a trunk that thickened by the minute hers was sickly and yellow, with a weak trunk and only a few leaves.

Despite her fear of the hermit, she climbed over the wall and approached the new tree. It was even more beautiful as she neared it, it's leaves deep emerald, the trunk sturdy and firm under her fingertips. As she looked closer, she saw tiny purple fruits beginning to grow. This tree was already bearing fruit!

Despair washed over her. How could she possibly compete for the precious space of Published Forest with the hermit, who's magic far surpassed her own?

"I was like you, once," came a voice behind her. She spun and saw the hermit standing close behind her. She stepped back, but ran into the tree and had to stop. The hermit did not come any closer, but continued talking. "I was once a path traveler like yourself. I would come and pluck story seeds from the ground almost every day. I would pause and listen to the fox spin his tales and go home and scatter my seeds by the handful into my garden."

At her look of surprise, he nodded. "Oh, yes, the fox is very old. He has been around longer than I, longer than anyone can remember. He tells a very pretty story, himself. One that is easily believed by the new and gullible."

The hermit stepped around her and placed a work-calloused hand on the trunk. The tree shuddered. And then before her very eyes it grew, the trunk thickening, sprouting new leaves, and the small fruit growing big and heavy, bowing the branches above her. The hermit's magic awed her, and she gazed in wonder at the miraculous tree.

"It is not magic, though it may seem so to you," said the hermit. "It is only that I have learned the true secret of the trees."

"Tell me, please, I beg of you. I want my story trees to be like yours," begged the writer. "What must I do to gain the secret?"

The hermit shook his head. "I do not know if you are ready. I know you have admired my garden, but..."

The writer fell to her knees. "Please. I am willing to do whatever it takes. I have scattered my story seeds, but nothing comes to fruition. I don't know what else to do."

The hermit sighed. "I hope you are ready, because even if you are not, the truth of the secret will haunt you, keeping you awake at night until you follow this new path."

"I am ready. I will do whatever necessary to follow this new way."
(Look for the conclusion next week!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Every Now and Then

by Tamara Passey

Every now and then, I find a book that stops me in my tracks.
I saw this book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, on the shelf in the gift shop of the children's museum. Usually parenting books do not grab me. When I was a new mom, I read a handful of them. As my children got older, it seemed like what I was reading in those books was so different from the way my kids  behaved in 'real' life, I lost interest. Either that or life got a little busy -you know as a mom you barely have enough time to be the mom and even less time to read about how to be a good one.

Maybe that's why I picked this one up. The subtitle, "New thinking about children" set off that feeling, like 'Okay, I dare you to tell me something I haven't witnessed in over a decade of Mom-hood.' Hmm. Or it could have been, 'Please, I have a toddler and a teenager - if you have anything new - I'd like to hear it.'

Either way, I was pleasantly surprised and perhaps slightly mortified. You'll understand if you read the book.
Be warned. It is not a how-to. Rather, it is a thought-provoking compilation of the scientific research that has taken place to understand children-and how so much of what we think about children, how to treat them, how to raise them -- is wrong. Or right, but for very different reasons.

What are some of the questions this book tackles or raises?

Is it better to praise your child for being smart or working hard?
What's hurting your child's waistline? Is it that extra hour of TV, or the extra hour of staying up late?
Does your child lie because she doesn't want to get punished or simply keep you happy? Or because you taught her how to do it?
Could watching Power Rangers be better for your child than say, a PBS show like Arthur?
Oh there's more, like
Are your kids fighting each other for your attention or because they really don't like each other?
And brace yourself if you read the chapter on The Science of Teen Rebellion. Maybe even wear a seat belt for that wild ride.

As I mentioned, this book is not a how-to. There aren't any prescriptions, neat little check-lists or what-to-do-if's -it's the science, and the surprising, sometimes overlooked conclusions. It is cleverly written, well documented and it has easily digestible chapters. For me, I like that it has given me pause, a reason to do some self-evaluating. Do I really scold my children more for 'tattling' than 'lying' when in fact, when they are reporting bad behavior, they are also telling the truth?
Daunting? Yes. But rewarding, too.

I didn't go looking for this book, but I'm glad I found it.
Anyone else have books like that?
Anyone else reading something unexpected while waiting for Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) - or am I the only one?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Finding Balance

~ by Christine Bryant

About eighteen months ago I left my job at our family restaurant and decided to give my writing career my full attention. I poured my heart and soul into every word I wrote, taking more and more time away from the important things in my life. For several months, writing was the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing that crossed my mind before I went to sleep. Some nights I woke at wee hours of the morning only to get up and sneak into my office to write some more. I was obsessed and determined to get published.

After the highs of getting a contract for my book, and then the lows of losing it, I decided it was time to slow things down and reevaluate my routine and my priorities. Much to my shame, there were a few things and people who were being neglected and ignored. I took a few weeks off, cleaned my house, set up a schedule my family could live with and set back to writing. But after only a few weeks, I realized there was still something wrong. Seriously wrong.

It took a trip to the doctor for a sinus infection for me to realize I'd been neglecting my health. I'd gained more weight than I'd suspected--way more--and my blood pressure was through the roof. I'd forgotten to take care of ME.

Since that time I've taken more time from my writing to concentrate on creating a diet I can live with, added some exercise into my daily routine and continue to take the vitamins and medication I should have been on years ago. I'm feeling better and the weight is slowly coming off.

What I've realized in all this is that we need balance in our lives. I believe that with anything we do, we should create time for other things and people. It just isn't good to consume our entire being with one thing. It's not healthy for our bodies or our minds. So take a walk, go to lunch with a friend, watch a movie with the family or just sleep in until noon one day. Your muse will love you for the break.

You can visit Christine on her blog by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Honor of all Pioneers

by Elizabeth Mueller

This post is in h0nor of those who have suffered, endured and died for their cause. It is also in commemoration for the pioneers who settled Utah July 24, 1847.

It would be foolish for me to say that not every believer in his/her own setting of religion had not suffered some kind of persecution.

Christ and His followers: *Crucifixion of Christ. The twelve apostles were martyred.

Joan of Arc: (1412) She followed the visions from God, directing her to reclaim her homeland from English domination. She was captured, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake. She was only nineteen years old!

Martin Luther: (1483) He was appalled to see that church officials felt they could escape purgatory by grand purchases in the name of God. He translated the bible from Latin into the language the people used, so that they could study on their own. He was excommunicated by the pope and condemned as an outlaw by the emperor.

John Knox: (1505)Lost his old faith when he studied the church fathers' (Jerome and Augustine) teachings of the ancient faith. He was considered a heretic and was made prisoner of the French and condemned to the galleys as a slave chained to an oar.

Joseph Smith, Jr.: (1805) Believed that the original church established of Christ in its entirety had been lost and refused to join any religion. He was imprisoned, tarred and feathered, and chased from his home.

Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw nations and many others: (1831)"Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee." (quote found here) I would have to say because of the lands the settlers wanted, not respecting the current residences as deserving human beings. Again, because of their beliefs.

Even though the Declaration of Independence granted freedom of religion in the States, it didn't end persecution of those who desired to follow their own hearts.

Just as the believers I mentioned above, the members of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints suffered. Their homes burnt. Many murdered. Scriptures desecrated.

They were driven city to city until they fled far into the west, settling into what we know as the State of Utah.

Many died along the way, burying their children in the cruel wild. Many arrived orphans, too.
Though they endured their own Trail of Tears, they finally were able to root and grow, free to follow their beliefs.

I truly admire any and all who can stand for justice, honor and freedom.

What has your journey been like to fight oppression of those regarding your beliefs?

*updated info
(photo found here)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Internal Landscape

By. Amber Lynae

Lady Lamp post outside of the Paris Opera House

"Landscapes exercise a strange power over you.
As if each of us has an  internal landscape, embedded in us during childhood
and which lies in  wait until the point of recognition. 
Ah, there it is, you think. 
Or  rather, there I am." 

 I agree completely with Lucy's thoughts.  I felt this way as I walked through various parts of France.   I think we all have a place, whether we have been there or not, that we know is our own little heaven.  There is not one place on earth that I would be completely happy, because I would always long for the closeness of all my friends and family. 

I grew up in the foothills of West Virginia. The turning of the trees in the fall boasts colors that artists would struggle to capture.  It is breathtaking.  Those landscapes will always be a part of me.  

Yet there is a connection for me to Paris.  With her (Paris is nothing if not  feminine) intricate ironwork, casual cafes, grandiose statues, cobblestone streets, and the glorious gardens, she beckons me.  This is my internal landscape.  The aromas, the sounds, and sights leave you longing for more around every corner.  You are seduced into a relationship.  While you eat your pastries or culinary art,  roam through the leafy boulevards, or hunt bargains at the weekly markets; you are charmed by her arrogance and coquette manner. She all but demands you love her; and you helplessly obey.

Do you write your internal landscapes into your novels?
Describe to me your internal landscape and why you love it so much.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review--The Journey Takers by Leslie Albrecht Huber

I have been given the wonderful opportunity of reading and reviewing Leslie Huber's non-fiction book.  Let me just give you the press release to begin with and then I will tell you of my thoughts of the book.

"Freelance writer and genealogist, Leslie Albrecht Huber, delves into the past to recreate the immigration story in her new book, The Journey Takers, coming out in the summer of 2010.  Centered on the story of one family, book widens its focus to tell the story of one of the most influential groups of people in US history - the nineteenth-century European immigrants.
"Huber's ancestors were journey takers, leaving their homes in Germany, Sweden, and England behind to sail to the US and start new lives here.  Huber sets out to trace these journeys and to understand her family - who they were and what mattered to them.  As she follows in their footsteps, walking the paths they walked and looking over the land they farmed, she finds herself on a journey she hadn't expected.  Based on thousands of hours of research, Huber recreates the immigration experience in a way that captures both its sweeping historical breadth and its intimately personal consequences."

I've really enjoyed reading this book.  It's my idea of a wonderful example of narrative non-fiction.  She tied real family history into the realities of her present life showing that the past really is interwoven into our lives.  She pays a touching tribute to her ancestors who immigrated to a world unknown to them, America.  This book really inspires a love for past generations and may ignite your passion for family history.  I definately recommend this book.  Thank you, Leslie for letting MMW review your book!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gasp! What Do People Think of Me Now?

Last week I wrote about writing evil, and how we can't be afraid of writing it if the story calls for it. All stories need conflict, a bogeyman to give the main character something to fight against. Where would Luke have been without Darth Vader, after all?
But for every choice there is a consequence. And while we as writers like to say that we write for ourselves, 99% of us also hope to get published. To get from point A to point Z is a long a twisty road for most of us, but what happens after we get published? Do you care what others think?
Big confession here: I care. I want people to like me, to like what I write, and tell me so. (No ego problem here, huh?) But as I work the path to publication I'm finding myself worrying that what I write may be offensive to people. I find myself editing things out of my stories that might be offensive to somebody sometime down the road.

I guess my question to you is how do you shut off all your internal editors so you can write what needs to be written, regardless of what some faceless audience might possibly think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caught in the Storm

by Tamara Passey

Earlier this year I was seized with an idea for a short story and wrote it in two days, sprint-to-the-deadline fashion. You know how writing can do that? Show up like an unplanned house guest, move in and consume your thoughts and schedule.  I woke up the third day to patiently waiting laundry and dishes and wondered what had happened to the maid service (uh, me, that is). I had been caught in another 'brain strom'. When I  was writing my morning pages that day, this poem was born. Can anyone relate?

On Writing

What do I know?
I didn’t invent language
I can’t answer
For the way it rains
Clears the air, puddles in places
Generally, I avoid it with
An umbrella of busyness
Or I fall in, unwillingly
Wet and uncomfortably cold
Am I supposed to show this to people?
The aftermath of a cloudburst
In my head?
What can they know
About riding out storms
Hunkered down
With a flimsy keyboard
For protection
They read words
To laugh or cry, to relax
They want user friendly words
To dream or forget
What do I know?
I write words to survive.

Have a great writing day!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

What a Mess!!!

It's funny how I think that everything I write on my blog needs to be profound or, at the very least, entertaining. I've gotten to the point where I can't find anything at all to write about because my life is too ordinary and boring. I sit here for hours wondering what to write about and nothing comes. I try to gain inspiration from reading other blogs and still NOTHING.

So, I've decided to just throw out whatever is on my mind at the moment. Today that means CLUTTER. Some have the clutter of life on their mind which keeps them from writing and I have clutter in my office. Oh, man . . . do I have clutter in my office. So before I write another word on my novel, I have to clean and organize.

I've been spending the last two days cleaning out my office. It wouldn't be so bad (or at least that's what I tell myself) if it weren't also my library, craft room, sewing room, scrapbook room and general "throw it in there if you can't find somewhere else to put it" room. What a mess!

In the process of cleaning, I've also been organizing everything. I have all my books in catagories on the shelves. All my blank notebooks and writing paper organized on another and my reference books at arms length. I've also sent 5-6 big garbage bags to the dumpster and have a pile in my garage ready for Deseret Industries. I think I'm doing pretty good.

As I move closer and closer to the dreaded closet, I realize how much stuff I've hoarded "just in case I might need it someday."  How do you part with things like that? I mean, who wouldn't save that beautiful picture frame, even though it's broken. I just might fix it some day. It will look nice in the box on the shelf with the 25 other picture frames I have stored there.

And then there's a box for everything. For some reason I think I need to save the box everything came in. Why? I certainly don't need the box my hand mixer came in, especially since I don't have that mixer anymore. I know what you're thinking--I'm a hoarder, right?  Ahem . . . well, maybe with some things, but the truth is, my house is pretty clean. I hate clutter, which is why it all filters back into this one room. UGH!

So, just for kicks and giggles, tell me about your embarrassing spot in the house. Is it a closet? The garage? The shed? Or is it under your bed? Or under the sink in your kitchen? I'd really love to know I'm not alone.

Back to cleaning. I've got to get this done so I can sit at my computer and dream up something else that needs my attention. Am I avoiding my novel?  Nah!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Begin to Let Grow

“Mormonad,” New Era, Aug. 1991, 7

Photography by Craig Dimond

Nurture your creative nature. After all, you take after your Father and He was the ultimate Creator. (See 2 Ne. 2:14.)

I'm thinking, how far can you go with Heavenly Father's help when you write?


Have a great Sunday.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's the Diagnosis, Doc?

by. Amber Lynae

Me: I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I never seem to get anywhere with my writing.
Doctor: Why is that?
Me:   Millions of reasons.  Primarily, every time I open my document, I end up fixing or deleting what I’ve already done.
Doctor: Why do you do that?
Me:  I want it to be perfect now.  Who wants to have to fix later?
Doctor: I’m asking the questions. I’m the doctor after all.
Me: Sorry.
Doctor: Don’t worry about it.   I get it a lot.  So you are telling me that you just keep rewriting the same things over and over trying to make them perfect.
Me: *nods*
Doctor: Well, I’m sorry to say this, Amber Lynae, but you’ve got a bad case of the rewrites. One of the worst cases I’ve seen in a long time.
Me:  I’m doomed.  DOOMED I TELL YOU!
Doctor: *Rolls eyes* Writers are so dramatic.  You are not doomed.  Take a prescription of 50,000 Words in 50 days.  I will see how you are doing when your prescription runs out.
Me: Thanks, Doc.  You may have just saved my career.
Have you ever had a bad case of the rewrites? 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review--Alma the Younger by Heather B. Moore

Reviewed by Nikki Wilson

I was fortunate enough to be able to review "Alma the Younger" by Heather B. Moore.  This is the third book in her prophets of the Book of Mormon series.  I have been a fan of these books from the beginning, I love books that leave you wanting to read the scriptures.  Here's a brief description of the book:

Alma the Younger, son of the aging high priest, once was taught by the wisdom of the prophets. Now, ensnared by the wiles of strong drink and harlots, he’s a bitter dissenter determined to overthrow the church and lead the people into new “freedoms.” But en route to one of his malicious missions with his royal henchmen, Alma is halted by an unexpected opponent: an angel of the Lord, a messenger of the very God he has sought to defame. What unfolds is a story of miraculous redemption, a story building on the poignant Book of Mormon account to show how even the vilest of sinners can be transformed by the Savior’s amazing grace.

Ok, this story really made me think about the scriptures and think about my impressions of Alma the Younger. At first I wasn't buying the author's view of him until about halfway through when I finally realized that she was making the character more believable. She showed the rationalizations that led Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah to become instigators of a rebellion against the church. When telling the conversion story, she used Alma's own words as he had told his son, it was a really powerful tool and I thought she did it well. However, the ending did fall a little flat for me. I'm not sure if it's just because I wanted more or because I felt the people that had been persecuted, forgave them a little too quickly. It just seemed like it needed just a little more time, or a little more story at the end. The portrayal of Alma the younger definately left me hungry to read those scriptures. I also found myself really trying to imagine what I thought Alma the younger was like before his conversion. I really did search the scriptures more and I searched within my own character to find the things and the rationalizations that could lead someone away like that. To me, that is the goal of reading fictionalized books based on the scriptures. Based on that aspect, it was very successful.

Let me also add that Heather was writing this book at the same time she was writing "Women of the Book of Mormon".  How she was able to juggle writing this book and the non-fiction book as well is beyond me and she is definately one of my writing heroes.  If you don't have a writing hero you should get one, I'll loan you mine, learn more about Heather HERE.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing Evil...Mwahahahaha!!!

by Megan Oliphant

Darth Vader: You cannot hide forever, Luke.
Luke: I will not fight you.
Darth Vader: Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for... sister. So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side... then perhaps she will...
Luke: [igniting light saber, screams] NO!

(Star Wars, Episode VI, Return of the Jedi)

There was a time when I couldn't write. I tried, oh, I tried. I wrote short stories and novel chapters and picture books. And they all stunk. Why? Because I couldn't give my characters problems.

One of my biggest flaws that I had to overcome as a writer was making everything perfect in my stories. Do you remember when you were little and you played imagination games with your friends? It didn't matter if it was princesses, pirates, or Star Wars, I had to make my person be the strongest, fastest, have the coolest magic that could counteract anything anybody could throw at me. After a while it got boring, because no one could defeat the other, or even kidnap them for very long, because the other person would miraculously develop some other talent or skill or find the critical piece needed to escape sitting on the dungeon floor.

It was the same in my beginning stories. No problems, or problems so easily solved by my perfect characters, it was B-O-R-I-N-G.

I used that quote from Star Wars at the beginning to make a point. We have to, as writers, be seduced by the Dark Side. It doesn't matter if you're writing a picture book for toddlers or the Great American Novel. Our characters have to be real. They have to have real, relatable problems. Those problems have to be impossible stumbling blocks that make our characters do things out of character, to become something different than they were when they started. As readers, we read about other people dealing with insane issues so that our normal challenges don't seem so challenging. "Hey! I'm not getting chased by a dragon into a volcano! I think I can handle the dishes today."

This doesn't mean you have to glorify evil, or make it seem beautiful. But we do have to embrace the Dark Side within, and acknowledge it, and put it in our writing. Because (lean in close, it's a secret): Everyone else has a Dark Side, too. And when they see your character overcoming evil, or just their own internal demons, it brings a little hope that they, too, can overcome their own Darth Vader.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mothering at Midnight

by Tamara Passey

Some professionals have pagers, well, now it’s a cell phone that rings. Or is that sings? Maybe buzzes or beeps. And the doctor or the tow truck operator listens to a message that determines how much sleep they will or will not get for the night. The wake-up call for a mother bypasses the technology and comes in the form of that universal night-time cry of a child in need. Hungry. Sick. Or Scared. A mother wakes and arrives on the scene. In minutes. We change, feed, console. We’re mothers. It’s what we do. I’ve known this since my earliest days. I heard my mother repeat this often. Usually at odd hours.
A man's work is from sun to sun, but a mother's work is never done. ~Author Unknown (really? Couldn’t we accurately name all mothers as having said this at least once in their career?)
There were months when my youngest preferred my shoulder to the mattress in her crib. One day in the midst of feeling like I’d never have another decent night’s sleep, I came across these words and even though it said nothing about how quickly the time would pass, I sensed there might come a day when she wouldn’t want me to rock her to sleep. And I would miss it.

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. ~Victor Hugo
For one of my children, turning the lights down and signing hymns was what worked, often. Many nights I’d slip out of the room after the second or third song. Some nights, maybe out of my own exhaustion, I’d rest a little longer on the bed. Once, I wondered how much of my time was being spent waiting in a dark room at the end of a busy day –when I could be doing any number of other things. And then I read this quote.

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Now my goal in life is to recognize life’s ‘blessings in disguise’ a little sooner.

Finally, most mothers I know don’t spend their days looking for recognition. Mothering is busy, so busy that most of us at some point get over ourselves and stop thinking about any potential audience. That’s kind of the irony. That point in a mother’s life usually coincides with time her child or children become teenagers. I have no way of knowing what conclusions my children are coming to –watching me. I can only hope they see things in the kind of light that Mr. Fulghum did:

One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands - a kind of mad courage.
Thank you for coming along on my journey.
Me, meditating on being a mom. At midnight.
Probably a little too heavy on the alliterations.
But thank you for reading.
And here is one more of my favorite mom sayings.
Only it’s a poem and it’s more like a letter.
For when life feels a little bare.
It keeps me going.
Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Today, my husband dragged me out of the house to a place called High Falls. He had to scout out a place for their next boy scout camp out and thought it would be a good idea to bring me along. I wholly objected to this idea but in the end lost. I brought along a camp chair to set up by the river while he hiked around setting up an orienteering course. I had sat for a while, enjoying the beautiful day, the soft breeze and the soft pattering of the falls when it hit me. Out of nowhere three new characters popped into my head. The sweet Keely, out going Topy, and rugged Greg seemed to appear out of thin air. Immediately I grabbed a notebook I happened to bring and began frantically writing out a rough sketch of the characters and their relationships. Just like that a new book was born. As if I needed another WIP.

What are some of the strangest muses you've had? What do you regularly turn to for inspiration?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leaning into the Curves, my Review

I wrote this review a while back and decided to share it with our wonderful MMW readers! I hope you enjoy it!

This story reminds me of a coming of age read, but adult version.

What happens once the kids move out and have kids of their own? What about when the husband retires? What then?

Being a young mom of four, I have only to imagine life with an echoing, dark home and the husband off doing some project from day to day. It almost feels surreal because my life is so filled with nonstop things with kids always underfoot along with the man child.

Well, it was a surprise for Molly Mancuso when Hank retired. Sure, the kids had already gone off to live their own lives, but she had also found her own niche of favorite things to do. So imagine what havoc her life became when he had so much time in his hands?

Hank hopping from adventure to adventure within a period of a few short months drove Molly to distraction. Her life was no longer one of peace since she was in such sudden demand.

Until one day, he dredges up his old love of riding motorcycles.

Poor Molly nearly dies when he comes home with one--she'd never been able to overcome her phobia of them since the day she witnessed a death scene involving one so long ago. And what about when Hank suddenly decides to join the TRA, Temple Riders Association or a "mormon motorcycle gang"?

Life is never the same for her.

Authors Nancy Anderson and Carroll Hofeling Morris are artfully skilled in creating a world with real feeling that leave me empathizing for Molly. Though I would have a hard time connecting with someone so set in their ways to the point of annoyance, I still felt sorry for her when she refused to be a part of the motorcycle events. Molly won my complete admiration when she decides to face her fear and learns to ride one.

The story's pace skips from scene to scene about the first quarter--leaving me hungry for a plot to really chew on. It gave me the feeling of restlessness, irritation and impatience. It makes me wander if the authors intended this? It starts to deepen when the motorcycle is mentioned and Hank does something about getting one.

This book makes for a sweet, light-hearted read. It's about Molly's unwillingness to change, but how love helps her to overcome her fear.

My most favorite part reads:

"Her world was still intact. It had some cracks, but maybe that was a good thing. Cracks let light in.

And light changes how we see things, she thought. Maybe the cracks in her relationship with Hank would throw light on the parts shadowed by neglect. Maybe even divine light, the kind she'd experienced in the temple when she'd seen things so clearly."

For a leisure, heartwarming read, I recommend Leaning into the Curves!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Accepting Talents

By Amber Lynae

 Gustave Eiffel's Iron Lady was inaugurated on 31 March 1889, and opened on 6  May.  Today the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world and  is the single most visited paid monument in the world.  However, the tower was not well received when first built; many called it an eyesore.  Novelist Guy de Maupassant—who claimed to hate the  tower—supposedly  ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he  answered that it was the one place in Paris where one could not see the  structure. 

When I ponder on the lack of acceptance given to this architectural art piece, which I hold so dear, I begin to relate it to my own lack of acceptance of the talents that my Heavenly Father obviously wants me to develop.  

Let me explain--as a child I wanted nothing more than to learn to play piano like my big sister.  I begged my mom to take lessons.  Both of my older sisters had the privilege of lessons.  And I will state as evidence that the youngest sibling does not get everything they want, that I was denied my request.  My mother told me that my sisters could teach me.  

Well that really did not get anywhere.  Teenage sisters are not very interested in teaching younger siblings anything.  So I took it upon myself to learn the art of piano playing.  And I did learn.  However, I have never gotten to the point where I would consider myself a pianist (even though I can normally sight read at least one clef at a time.)  I have never accepted piano playing as a talent.  Even though I enjoy sitting at a piano to play some tunes, I have never really thought to seriously try to better my abilities.  

It would seem that my Heavenly Father has other thoughts of my talent.  In my last ward, I was called to be the pianist for the primary children.  When I moved last fall, it took a month to receive the same calling in my new ward.  I hear my Heavenly Father silently shouting to me that I am a pianist and my talents are meant to be used.

Are you overly modest about your talents? 

Do you have talents that you have a hard time accepting?  

What are they?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Showing Not Telling

On Monday, we had some friends over to hang out.  The kids were in our above ground pool that is only about three feet deep, and the adults played games at a table near by.  At one point I looked up and saw my 10 yr old daughter floating face down in the pool with her hair sprawled around her dancing in the ripples that lapped next to her.  I called her name thinking she was just faking.  He hands floated next to her body motionless but for the movement the water caused.  I called her again louder.  Still she floated not taking a breath.  By the time I called her name in terror a third time, my husband had made it to her side just in time for her to sit up and stare innocently at the faces gaping at her.  "What?" she said, "I was just looking at the bottom of the pool."  I can't describe the feelings and emotions that coarsed through me as I'd been watching her inert body floating motionless.  The feelings still come as that visual continues to haunt my mind.  Even though I know she is safe, I still feel the horror that gripped me everytime I see her in my mind's eye floating as if dead. 
My point is this, a visual picture is more potent than simply saying how our characters felt.  This is why showing and not telling is such an important element of writing.  But I'm not just talking about showing a character's emotions through actions so that the reader can see what the character is feeling.  I'm talking about those moments when we want the reader to actually experience the emotions the character is having.  We can't use this device wontonly, we must use is at the most intense parts of our story, the places where we need the most impact.  We have to choose to show those moments that will produce such strong emotions in the reader as to cause them to see it in their mind's eye long after they set the book down.  One way to do this is to slow down the pace as I did above to mimick how time stood still for me in that moment.  What other ways and tricks have you learned when it comes to showing not telling?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Commas Save Lives!!!

“Let’s eat, Grandpa!”
“Let’s eat Grandpa!”

Commas are something I always have problems with. My teachers in school were horrible and taught me to just put a comma in when I paused to take a breath. Shame on them. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, in my AP English class, that a teacher finally taught my correctly. By then, however, it was so ingrained in me that I continue to get it wrong! Now I work feverishly to correct that bad writing habit.

Does anyone else have bad habits they are trying to break in their writing? If so, how are you doing it?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where Have I Been All My Life?

by Tamara Passey

Not reading the classics, that’s where.
Don’t worry, this will not be a travelogue of my misspent youth
(I’ll save that for another post).
Only a lament, maybe you’ve heard before? “So many books, so little time.” I liked English in high school. I loved the library. (Yes, I was the nerd hiding under big 80’s hair.) But the classics intimidated me. I’m having trouble remembering one I read on my own, you know, that wasn’t assigned.

Imagine my surprise a few years ago when a dear friend invited me to join her book club 
To read, what else? Classics. I finished the selection each month and wondered, “What else have I been missing?” I was eager to pick up the next sleeping volume from the shelf and wake up to a new world I had been too afraid to explore in my younger years.

Which brings me to where I am now. Dividing my precious reading hours between great living authors (lots of them LDS) and wanting to tackle a book by an author that lived, oh, say, two hundred years ago. I love reading for so many reasons – like all the great ones Christine mentioned yesterday. Now that I’ve been seriously writing, or rather– taking my writing more seriously, I love reading for new reasons. I feel like every book I pick up can be a ‘how to’ – for better or worse. In fact, it’s become hard to read a book without my ‘writer’s eyes’. I love books where I’m at least a third of the way through and realize, hey- I haven’t even been paying attention to pacing or plot because the story is just that good -or maybe the characters are so compelling.

I came across the book, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History a few years ago. It's written by three people and they admit it is not scholarly work. However, what they have put between the covers of their book is a list of fictional characters from books, movies, ads, legends, myths, etc. and describe the influence they've had on our culture. Not the most popular characters, mind you, but the ones whose influence was seen or felt in grand or deep ways. My writing brain has loved it for a few reasons. It offers insight into why fictional characters play an important role in our culture -good to know if you are trying to write fiction yourself. It also offers a good beginning or overview of the stories and characters that might be influencing the piece you are writing. Unless you took one of those fun speed-reading classes (anyone?), it's hard to find the time to read every classic or book. This has been a handy little reference. It's also thought provoking - check out #1 on their list. Also who is not on their list. (The book was published before Twilight hullabaloo  - so yo won't see it discussed.)  It might just be me, but I think they maybe left out some influential women characters. Or could that be because there are too few of them, historically speaking?

Before I take off on another tangent, let me end here by saying whatever it is you're doing - reading a classic or maybe writing the next best one --have a great day!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why Do You Read?

Did you know that a survey taken in 2001 revealed that over 40% of all Americans didn't read a single book that year. The statistics for last year aren't much better. I can't imagine not having a partially read book somewhere in my house. I always have at least one checked out from the library and an audio book on my ipod. Sometimes I even have an ebook open on my computer, especially if I'm reading for someone or critiquing. How can someone go through life without reading?

So, I'm wondering. Why should people read?
  1. To Gain Knowledge. I didn't go to college--couldn't afford it and was on my own at 18, so had to work full time to pay the rent. Everything I learned about writing came out of a book. I have an entire shelf devoted to books on writing, editing, publishing and English usage. Although I don't know everything there is to know about it--far from it--I know enough to pursue it as a career. I continue to learn through research on the internet and by going to writer's conferences and workshops.
  2. Improving Your Life. No, I'm not talking about self-help books, although some can be quite helpful. I'm talking about fiction, books on science or even books filled with works of art giving us a taste of culture. They all help us find ways to improve our lives.
  3. Awareness. Okay, so listening to CNN might give you some idea of what's going on in the world, but honestly, you're more likely to learn about the estate of Michael Jackson or if Brad and Angelina are adopting again. The knowledge you can find out about the world and what's happening can also be found in a book.
  4. Power and Influence. How can you change something if you don't know anything about it. Having the details of a particular subject can help you state your case when put in a situation when you have to stand up for yourself of someone else. If you know the facts, you're much more likely to be listened to and believed.
  5. Satisfaction without Embarrassment. I didn't read a lot when I was younger, so missed out on all the classics. I can't tell you how many times I've sat back and not been able to participate in a conversation when someone brought up an author I didn't know or a book I should have read. Having read those books would have given me the satisfaction of being able to contribute without being embarrassed that I had no idea what they were talking about.
  6. Changed Outlook. Books give us something to think about. Many times I've found myself rethinking the way I do things or the way I feel about a particular subject. Reading a book about someone else's blight in life can make you feel grateful for what you have.
I could go on and on about why you should read, but I'm sure you get the idea. We all have our own reasons. For the most part, when reading fiction, I just want to get away. To imagine myself in another world and live through a great character. It's calming and very fulfilling.

So, now I realize that I might be preaching to the choir, that most of you probably read a lot. But maybe influencing others to do so is a start toward changing the statistics. We could volunteer to read in the schools, promote your local library or give great books for gifts. Imagine the world you could open up for a child if you gave them a stack of books instead of a video game or pair of designer jeans. 

What's your opinion?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Free Agency

Info on monument found here

Seeing how many have suffered in the distant and near past, my heart and eyes and pain are full for them.

I know that the Lord had never intended for man to be subdued, controlled, beaten, (since His is a message of love) but there are always those who succumb to the power of greed and don't care for the human factor of life but themselves.

I am forever grateful that the Lord had provided a home for those who will seek it out. A land promised freedom so long as they remember Him.

Happy Independence Day!

Come by and visit my clip art blog for some spirited coloring fun! ;)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Room to Grow

Sorry this is so late in the day!

Summer is here and I have been busy all spring planting, weeding, and feeding all my new plants, caring for them and encouraging them to grow. They’ve come in beautifully, mostly. I noticed the other day that one of my potted plants that had been doing well originally was beginning too wither and fall behind similar already transplanted plants. When I pulled the plant out of plot I saw that I had waited too long to transplant it and the roots were becoming bound and choking each other off. I transplanted it into the ground and gave it more room to grow and boy has it grown!

Living in the deep south and being a transplant I’ve had opportunities and room to grow but I’ve also seen how root bound many in the south are. Cutting themselves off from the opportunity to grow and slowly choking on their roots until they become weak and unable to support life. They are unable and unwilling to ‘transplant’ themselves and continue to grow. The south is, after, rooted deeply in tradition. I’ve seen the negative effects of being root bound, I’ve even been on the receiving end of these effects. It’s not pretty!

I've also seen how wonderful it is when you can stretch yourself, push yourself, soak up new things. You'll grow faster than you imagined!

So, are we allowing ourselves to become root bound? Or are we transplanting ourselves, stretching out our roots and soaking up new soil and nutrients and growing in the process?

I hope so! I hope to be stretching myself, searching for new food, both in my writing and in my life and I hope all of you are too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guest Post--Leslie Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber is a freelance writer and mommy of four
beautiful children. Her first book, The Journey Takers, launches -
TODAY! You can read more about it at

Book Launch Anxiety – I mean Excitement!
By Leslie Albrecht Huber

I have been waiting for this day since I was five years old. Today is my launch for my narrative nonfiction book, The Journey Takers. In the years since I was five, there has never been a day that I didn’t want to publish a book. And now it’s happening. I have even worked on this book for over ten years (publishers tell you not to admit that, but it’s the truth – and I think you other mommy writers will understand why it has taken me a little longer than I anticipated…) Over the past few weeks and days, lots of friends and relatives have called or e-mailed me to congratulate me. They often say, “You must be so excited.”

I must be. Right? But, over those past weeks and days, excitement isn’t the main emotion I have been feeling. In fact, there’s hardly been any room left for excitement because of another overpowering emotion that has been crowding everything else out. Would like to know what that emotion is? It’s anxiety.

There are lots of things to have anxiety about. On Monday, I leave on a cross-country book tour from Massachusetts to California. I have to make sure all the press releases have been sent out, all the places know I need a screen to use with my projector for my presentation, all my book talks are tweaked just exactly right to fit the audience. I have to address book postcards. I need to contact magazines and ask them to review the book. I don’t have time to even brush my hair these days, let alone respond to the seventeen new e-mails in my inbox. But I want to!

Did I mention that I have four children including an eight-month-old baby? Did I mention that all four of them (and my mother – bless her!) are coming on my book tour? This brings me back to the detail issue. I need to pack the car for four children for two months! That’s how long we will be gone – two moths. While I’m thinking about details, how big of cake should I order for the launch? That depends on how many people come to my launch. Will anyone come to my launch? Will anyone read my book? Will they like it?

These are the thoughts that swirl around in my head every night. But just this week as I was lying in bed thinking similar thoughts to those described above, a new thought came into my mind. It’s the thought I started this blog post with: I have been waiting for this day since I was five years old. This is my life’s dream. And it’s coming true. When am I going to stop having panic attacks and actually enjoy this? When am I going to celebrate?

I think as moms and as writers, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the details and anxiety of life so much that we don’t pause to celebrate the big and little victories - the meaningful, exciting moments of life. We don’t appreciate our accomplishments whether they are getting an article accepted in a magazine or pulling off a successful birthday party for our four-year-old. There is always something else that needs to be done, something else to worry about, some other goal we haven’t attained yet.

So when am I going to celebrate? I am going to celebrate today. I am going to be excited. I am going to savor this moment. And I hope you will take the time to savor some of those exciting moments in your life too.

Because tomorrow there will certainly be another reason to have anxiety.


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