Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Let Your Voice Be Missed!!

I miss Robert Jordan.  Robert Jordan is the author of the fantasy book series, "The Wheel of Time".  He is my all time favorite writer.  His world is like Tolkien's on steriods.  His characters are so real and the world is so alive.  Some people lament that his books have too much detail and not much happens in the 700+ pages of some of the books, but I don't care.  When I read his books, I'm not just reading a story or a plot line.  I'm walking around in his world.  I'm seeing the different cultures, I'm tasting the different foods, and I'm becoming friends with his characters.  Unfortunately, Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 leaving his family and fans to feel the loss of his voice.                                                                        
Luckily for his fans, another author was found to finish "The Wheel of Time" series for us.  (He passed away after book 11).  Brandon Sanderson is a wonderful writer and if I had just one ounce of his talent I would be a very happy writer indeed.  Book Twelve, exceeded my expectations.  Brandon did very well at taking the notes and unfinished scenes of Robert Jordan and blending them into a wonderful book.  There will be fourteen books in all.  Book Thirteen just came out, and for the first time I could tell the difference between Brandon Sanderson's voice and Robert Jordan's voice.  This book has been the best teacher for me on actually learning what voice is in a novel.
The thing is, you can't copy the voice of another writer and you shouldn't want to.  Last February at a writing conference at BYU (LTUE - Life, the Universe, and Everything) Brandon said he wouldn't even try to mimick Jordan's voice, but use his own.  He was true to his word and the world of Robert Jordan's has a new voice that adds more complexity to the story.  While I do enjoy the new perspective on my favorite world, the most recent book has made me finally feel the loss of my favorite author.  I miss his voice.  I miss his perspective of the male/female relationships and I miss his detail and the passion his voice had.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm very appreciative to Brandon Sanderson and the reverence with which he is showing the story.  His writing is amazing and I love the detail he is showing to each and every plot line to make sure the story is satisfying.
I'm just saying that voice in a novel is like a fingerprint that you can't copy and I'm missing Robert Jordan's fingerprints.  He is an amazing writer and by leaving his books in the hands of another I have finally been taught what voice really is.  He is still teaching me how to write long after his death and I will always have a special place in my heart for Robert Jordan.
Now I want to speak to you all about voice and tell you that you are all unique as writers.  No one can tell you story like you.  Do you ever discard an idea because you saw a movie or a book that was similar to your idea?  Don't do it.  Because no one can write the same idea the same way.  You have your own fingerprint, don't be afraid to use it.  Maybe you are thinking that writing is too hard, or that your not good enough.  Now I want you to think about your favorite authors and how your life would be different without their voices.  What if your voice could make a difference in someone else's life?  What if your voice could bring a smile to someone's face?  Sit down and make those writing goals for 2011 and don't let your voice be missed by the world!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Resolutions

Yes, I said it. It is that time of year where people dream of a new life, a new and improved version of themselves. Some people take this seriously, and others don't. I belong to the Utah Children's Writers yahoo group, and every year several writers (most of whom are published) send their writing goals for the year, and report on the goals they set the previous year.

I'm mostly a lurker there, hoping that some of their greatness will rub off on me and I'll magically become a better, more consistent writer. But I'm always impressed by the height of their dreams. I've never submitted any, though.

So here I am, quivering in my boots, ready to plunge into a public declaration of my writing goals for 2011. You all out there can hold me accountable...maybe it'll get me off my behind this year. :)

Here goes, Megan Oliphant's writing goals for 2011:

1. Finish the rough draft of the three (count 'em, 3!) half-finished novels sitting in my files. Before June.
2. Polish at least 2 of them to the point of submission.
3. Decide which genre I really want to focus on. (All three of these novels are in different genres. :P)
4. Find an agent for my work.

Okay all, the gauntlet is thrown at your feet. Pony up with your own goals, if you dare. ;)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Being Me

"Be Yourself!" How many time have we heard that, in terms of our writing? It brought to mind a scene from this movie version of "Anne of Green Gables", where Anne Shirley has convinced her friends to send her down the river in a leaky boat in a dramatic reenactment of Tennyson's poem, "The Lady of Shalott". Watch this, and then I'll continue my thought.

You just have to laugh, but Anne typifies something so similar in us writers. Anne dreams the big dreams, the ones that are just so far away from her own reality, but then real life comes to wake her up. Not that our big dreams of being writers can't come true, or that we can't write about fantastical things. But what Anne had to learn, both in life and as a writer, is that what really sells is not "high-falutin'" talk, but characters based in reality. What would a real person do?

That's where we can mine our own experience to build our characters. Even if you are writing about pixies or ogres or an elf prince, they still have to have have personality traits that your reader can relate to.

Buon Lavoro!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Wait! Christmas isn't over yet! I know that, here in the U.S., we don't celebrate Boxing Day, but who says we can't?

If I understand what it is, it's when you gather some of your extra gifts from Christmas and put them in a box and drop it off at someone's door (preferable someone in need) and then you ring the doorbell and . . .


Isn't that a nice way to top off the wonderful celebration of our Saviour's life?

Serving others is the true spirit of Christmas.

Try it. Share with us what happens!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Tis The Season

How many of you readers/writers give books every year for Christmas? What kind of criteria do you use before you do? Is it something you have to have read? Is it okay if it's recommended to you? Do you give books to individual children, or do you let them be a "family" gift, so no one child hogs them?

I'm a firm believer in the giving of books, but as my kids get older, it's getting harder. Especially for my 14-going-on-30 daughter. Here are the links to the books I've chosen so far. I haven't read any of them (shocking, I know, as this is my chosen genre.) I still have to get some for my 3 youngest, all in the beginning reader/picture book stage. Recommendations before Thursday would be welcome, as I'll probably go then to do the last minute shopping. Have a wonderful holiday, all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music and the Written Word

So right now I am our ward's choir director. This is my third Christmas, and I still feel like a total newbie. We performed today. I had some serious pre-performance anxiety during the sacrament, as we'd had to unexpectedly cancel last Sunday's rehearsal, and then had to have two rehearsals this weekend, one Saturday and the other Sunday morning, at 7:45 am, with only about 1/2 of the choir in attendance. (Yeah, we have early church.) Even during the Sunday morning rehearsal, we had issues with our opening song and had to stop and start several times. I had 3 men (of my already tiny men's section) bail on me this year, leaving me with 5, and I had to make my poor hubby (who's wonderfully musical and versatile) switch between tenor and bass, depending on which part needed help. I was nervous. We kept joking about the angel choirs that would join us ('cause don't they always when it comes to praising God?), but I was doing some serious praying.

On top of the music, however, I had written the Christmas program. I'd done some narration with scriptures between the songs, but because I had to leave it up to the bishop to choose who would say it, I didn't find out until this morning when he announced the couple from the pulpit. I'd had no time to work with them, or point out things I thought were important to emphasize. I'd had to leave it up to their interpretation.

My point in all this is that I had control over only so much of the program today. It was hard to let go of my baby and hope she'd fly. I'd done all I could do, I'd prepped and prepared with the pieces I had. I had to trust that I'd done enough.

Of course everything went wonderful. It wasn't even close to perfect, but those imperfections added to the character of the overall program. I think my favorite part was when the primary kids (all 130 of them) came up to sing "Away in a Manger", the version in the Primary hymn book that has the "Asleep, asleep" echo in it. The primary choristers had given a few kids chimes to hit along with the first "Asleep" in the echo during the chorus. They all followed directions except for one child, who hit his chime during the whole chorus. All three times.
I hope you can draw some parallels here. Sometimes we just have to let those written words loose into the publishing world. We've done all the prep and all the preparation we possibly can, and it's time to see if it will fly. There will be that one "kid" in your story, hitting his chime out of sync with the rest, but that imperfection is what makes it unique and memorable. In a good way.

So be brave, my writing friends. Make a resolution that this year, you will sent something out. You will let your darlings learn to fly, and get over "perfectionitis".

(Here's a little Christmas present from me to you. One of the pieces performed today was this piano solo of 'The First Noel' done by a very talented young lady in my ward. This isn't her playing, but she was even better.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Lessons I Learned as a Boy"

This brought tears to my eyes.

My thoughts: The best way to drown sorrows is to serve others. The smile on their faces is oh-so worth the effort.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Stories, Josi Kilpack

Today I am excited to highlight published author, Josi Kilpack.

Q--Would you share your bio?

A--Josi S. Kilpack grew up hating to read until her mother handed her a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was 13. From that day forward, she read everything she could get her hands on and accredits her writing “education” to the many novels she has “studied” since then. She began her first novel in 1998 and hasn’t stopped. Her novel, Sheep’s Clothing won the Whitney Award 2007 for Mystery/Suspense. Lemon Tart, the first book in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series was a Whitney Finalist for 2009. Josi currently lives in Willard Utah with her husband, four children, one dog and varying number of chickens. For more information about Josi, you can visit her website at or her blog at

Q--Could you list for me ALL of the books you have published.

A--                                             Earning Eternity
Surrounded By Strangers
Tempest Tossed
Star Struck
To Have or To Hold
Unsung Lullaby
Sheep’s Clothing
Her Good Name
Lemon Tart
English Trifle
Devil’s Food Cake
Key Lime Pie
Blackberry Crumble
March 2011)

Q--I know you work for Precision Editing, would you tell us a little bit about it?

A--Precision Editing is an editing company where the editors are also published authors. We do everything from line editing to ghostwriting, tucking it in between our own writing projects. It’s been a great way to hone my own abilities to revise and rewrite and, hopefully, helped other writers on their own journey. We edit the first 10 pages free. More info or you can check out our blog

Q--When did you begin writing?

A--While on bedrest with a pregnancy, I started writing a short story because I had run out of other things to do and the idleness was making me neurotic. That story grew and grew and ignited something within me that I didn’t know was there. Even when I had this 300 page story I didn’t think about publishing—publishing was just SO big. I mean, to be a novelist? I was a mom, I was a homemaker. How could someone like me publish a book? However, I’d had a great time writing that book and after the encouragement from friends I jumped into it and a year and a half later I had my first published book. For me, writing was a bend in the road I didn’t see coming, but boy has it become a journey since then.

Q--Of all the characters you have ever written, who is your favorite and why?

A--That’s a hard question to answer. My earlier characters will always have a special place in my heart—they feel the most ‘pure’ to me in that the only person’s opinion I thought about when I wrote them was me. That said, my more recent characters feel more real, more three dimensional. I have loved writing Sadie—she’s someone I would love to take a cruise with :-)

Q--Do you have a certain process you go through when you write or do you just wait for the "must" to come out of hiding?

A--I’m a sloppy writer and I tend to just sit down and write—figuring I can spend my time preparing to write or I can spend my time writing (I am not necessarily recommending that, but it’s just how I do it). Because I don’t know what I’m writing, I end up going in circles a lot or, as I call it ‘wandering around my plot’ and I end up cutting a lot of what I write because it isn’t going the right direction. I’m also a mom of four kids and therefore I don’t have a lot of structure to my writing time; I shove my writing into corners most of the time and work around my family as much as possible.

Q--What is the oddest thing, event, place, or person that has inspired you to write a story?

A--I don’t even know—I’ve been inspired by all kinds of things; a person at the mall, a newspaper story, a smell in a hotel room, a word, a flavor. I think I absorb inspiration from all around me all the time. Not all of it ends up in a book, but if it gets me going in the right direction then it counts. :-)

Q--Can you describe your road to publication? Any road blocks or speed bumps along the way?

A--I paid for part of the publication of my first book—at the time it made a lot of sense and it wasn’t until later that I realized that in this market, paying to publish your book can be a road block of it’s own. That’s not to say it was a mistake, it wasn’t, and that’s not to say that the industry hasn’t changed since then, but it put me in a certain category that I then had to fight to change. I did fight, and I’m glad I did, and I was able to make a career that I’m very happy with, but the journey has been full of road blocks and speed bumps and I have no doubt there will be more to come. The key, for me, was to figure out how the publishing industry works—that has made all the difference.

Q--How do you overcome every writer's arch-nemesis...discouragement?

A--Just keep writing. Sometimes I have to just tell myself that I can write garbage or that this is the last book I ever have to write but I have to finish it. Like every other writer I know I fight discouragement all the time and I have learned there is no magic bullet to make it go away—I just have to keep going.

Q--How has your life changed since your first book was published?

A--It’s changed in almost every way possible. I’ve had to make room for my writing, which can be a very loud and demanding houseguest. I’ve met a lot of great people, I’ve learned amazing things. I’ve developed more talents such as editing, public speaking, researching and a hundred other little things I never would have guessed. My world has become much bigger—and I’ve learned that’s not always a good thing. I’ve had to find a way to meet a deadline while a child has a crisis, or do a book signing in between a dance recital and a doctor’s appointment. I’ve also come to realize that this is part of my measure—part of the reason I am here, therefore part of my journey is finding a way to make it fit with the rest of my life. I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I had given up the first time it was hard. I’m glad I didn’t, I can’t imagine that my soul would feel good about that choice back then.

Q--How do you balance your writing and your family?

A--The balance is a struggle every day of my life and after 12 years I still battle with it. There are times my family has suffered for my writing, and times when my writing has suffered for my family. If there is a secret to resolve that, I haven’t found it. For now, I try hard to make my family feel like they are first in line. That means I am tucking my writing into any other available time I can come up with. I write early in the morning, late at night, in small snatches throughout the day but sometimes go days and days without writing a word. I pray, a lot, for help with my writing and family and keeping the two of them afloat and fantasize about the day when I feel like I’m giving both of them the time and attention they deserve.

Q--Who is your publisher/agent and why did you choose them?

A--I publish with Deseret Book. I chose them because they are the largest publisher in the LDS market and have been able to make ‘career authors’ in a very small market. It was an excellent choice and I’m grateful everyday that they ‘chose’ me as well.

Q--There's a lot of talk in the blogosphere about LDS Publishing Houses vs. National Houses, do you have two cents you'd like to add to that discussion?

A--Rather than publishing houses  vs. national houses I think the distinction is more LDS market and national market and market is all about who is going to read your book. If you’re book is written for a national market, LDS publishers are going to have a harder time reaching the full breadth of your market. If you write a book for the LDS market, national market publishers won’t necessarily be interested. So, who you send your book to should have everything to do with who you want to read your book.

Q--Would you share a story with us about your writing?

A--With my first book I knew nothing about how the publishing world worked and I didn’t think it mattered. I fumbled and bumbled my first three submissions. The first two publishers I submitted to rejected me with a form rejection. The third one was three pages long and very detailed in why they hated my book. I was devastated but after wallowing for a few days I read it with a new set of eyes and realized they were talking about things I didn’t understand; phrases that didn’t make sense. I realized, then, that there was more to writing a book than coming up with a story. I began learning the craft of writing because of that rejection letter and though it was a painful experience, I am so grateful for it. It made all the difference.

Q--Computer or Notebook?

A--I write everything on a computer—I am certain I would never have been a writer if I had to do it by hand or by typewriter.

Q--If you could offer an aspiring author any advice, what would it be?

A--First, ask yourself why you want to write. Money isn’t a bad motivator, but most writers I know have a day job for many years as they wait for their career to take off and so if money is your only motivation, you will likely burn out before it feels like you’ve succeeded. If you want to change the world, that’s a good motivator too, but remember that there are 50,000 books published in the US every year. A lot of them are trying to change the world. The best motivation, therefore, that every writer needs is to love to write. If you love to write it can work, but if the love of it isn’t there, then you’ll make yourself crazy with unfulfilled expectations.

Second, drown yourself in writing experiences. Write anything you can, read about writing, attend writing conferences, become part of a writing group, enter writing contests, and show the people in your life that this is real by treating it as such. Writing is not easy but if it enriches your soul and gives purpose to your life, then pursue it with fervor and embrace the challenges it presents with a can-do attitude. I don’t know anyone who had a publisher knock on their door and say “I hear you like to write?” you have to be the one to put yourself out there; only then can you be discovered.

Thanks Josi!

Since my next post is set for Christmas day, I'll be taking a break from Saturday Stories so the wonderful writer's I am highlighting get the attention they deserve. Saturday Stories will resume on New Year's Day.

Now for a little self-promotion....I submitted a story to LDS Publisher's Christmas Short Story Contest and I'd like to encourage everyone to go over and vote. The stories are being posted as they come in so you can head on over today and start reading. Voting starts Monday the 20th. So warm up your voting fingers and enjoy some Christmas spirit.

As for my post on Christmas Day (you can read it on the 26th or 27th since no one will be checking our blog on that sacred day) I'll post a link to the story I submitted to LDS Publisher's contest. (Voting ends on the 24th so I won't be swaying anything.) Good luck to everyone who's entered!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I always thought that what we did in this life would determine our happiness in the life to come.  But I'm coming to learn that what we do isn't nearly as important as why we do it.  For example, two young women can be at the exact same service project doing the exact same thing, say helping an older woman by cleaning her yard.  They both rake leaves, they both pull weeds, and they both plant flowers.  But one girl is there because her parents made her come and all she wants to do is hurry up and get it over with so she can go play with her friends.  The other girl is there because she really cares about the woman she is helping.  She wants to relieve the woman's burden and she wants to do the very best she can.  I think we all know which girl in this example will gain the most from this experience and take one step closer to happiness in this life and the one to come.  The real question is how do we change the reason we do things?  How do we attach the correct thoughts to the correct actions?

Why do you write?  We've asked this question before, but now I want you to think about how you attach the correct thoughts to the correct actions.   What do you think we need to do to get the most out of this writing journey?  How can we change the way we see ourselves when it comes to our writing?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

So Here's the Parallel

Watch this video first...

Okay, so here's the parallel. As I watched this music video, I couldn't help but liken it to the art and practice of writing. At least for me, the process begins with a small spark of energy, an idea, a possibility for a story. Then it takes on a life of its own, crashing into things, veering in new directions, all the while causing new and different reactions in the surrounding story. But did you notice something? Every step built on the drama of the one before. Almost before you could process what just happened, the next great twist came and you went on another bit of the roller coaster.
This same process is what makes a great book. Constant, surprising movement that keeps the reader strapped in, glued for the duration of the ride.

Hopefully, I can do the same, someday, with my own work.

Happy Writing!

(Reposted from my personal blog.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Theme Writing

How many of you write in a "theme"? Like right now, there are tons of holiday themed stories out there. But you have to be writing them months or years in advance. I haven't written much of it myself, though I do have a few short stories that would fit into this category. But I've had a lot of questions about it I'd like to have some input on.

If you do write them, what do you do to get in "the mood?" How do you prepare for and research info to write about a "theme"? Do you feel like it's a hard place to "break into", because so much has been said about it so many times? How do you make it fresh and original?

Share, people!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


“Mormonad,” New Era, Oct. 1992, 19

Click to View Larger Format
Photography by Matt Reier

You Are What You Watch
What you see and hear affects your thinking. And what you think is what you become. (See Alma 37:35.)

Gospel topics: media, standards

"You are what you watch." I want to add to that as well: You are what you read. You are what you you write.

Let us shine so that our writerly works leads others into our light!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Stories, Jordan McCollum

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is the Grammar Guru from my Mormon Mommy Writer's critique group. The Grammar Guru, also known as Jordan McCollum, is not only a great grammarian but an amazing writer!

You can get a taste of Jordan on two different blogs. You can catch a bit of her writing brilliance over at her self-titled blog Jordan McCollum or check out her thoughts on motherhood at Mamablogga.

Let's get onto business. Allow me to introduce fellow writer and friend, Jordan McCollum.

Q--Please share some background with us. Some fun facts about your family, childhood, etc.

A--Fun facts about my family: I'm the oldest of four daughters. I'm a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin (that's my dad's name). I have a husband, one son and two daughters. The kids are four and under (husband is older than that).

Q--Please share your journey through submitting your story and winning at LDStorymakers conference.

A--Like anyone who's writing a book, I fell in love with an idea and couldn't stop myself from writing it. The story flowed and came together really fast. Editing, however, took longer. I wrote the story in less than two months, spent a month smoothing it over and incorporating characterization changes, and then sent it off to beta readers. I dutifully waited months before I looked at it again. My betas pointed out some areas where it could use more work. I adjusted those areas and entered the first five pages in a contest. I got great scores, but there were only 2 finalists per category, so I didn't progress past the first round.

I kept working and submitted to a first chapter contest. Two months later, I got some pretty horrible feedback on it. The contest judges completely disagreed on basically every point--one said, "I can tell you've done your research!" and another said, "Be sure you do your research." One said my writing was the strongest aspect of the entry, another said it was the weakest. My big take home: contests are a crapshoot, and probably not worth my time.

The feedback was still a little devastating, but I had to move on. I swore off contests and got back to work on the novel for a few more rounds of revisions. A year after I started the book, I submitted it to a publisher. Two months later, I got rejected. I asked for and received the reader feedback forms, and while they all disagreed on some things again, they did all agree on some very important deficiencies in the novel. I did three major rounds of revisions in about two months to try to address those issues, changing character actions and motivations, adjusting pacing, etc.

After much internal debate, I decided the very inexpensive first chapter contest for the LDStorymakers conference might just be worth it. With a few more rounds of feedback, I put a final polish on the chapter and sent it in. By the time the conference rolled around two months later, I was pretty much a total bundle of nerves. At the bootcamp critiquing group, I couldn't bear to bring that first chapter, I was so nervous about the contest results. I began to wonder if this book--and even focusing on the LDS market--had been a total waste of my time.

I was very surprised to win my category (you can read about the experience here: ). It was a much-needed shot in the arm--but, as I've learned in motherhood, approval and praise from others can't be our only source of validation.

Another very interesting aspect: on my feedback forms, I didn't get all perfect scores. I didn't just get applause and praise. You can be good enough to win--and be published, even--without being perfect.

Q--Please share any awards you've won and anything you've published.

A--Aside from the LDStorymakers contest, in the last few years I've won an essay contest and an honorable mention in a short story contest at the Covey Center.

Q--Knowing that you are the grammar queen, please share a little about your background--what has helped you become the grammarian you are.

A--The biggest thing that helped me become a grammarian was my parents. My mother has a degree in English and taught Language Arts at a middle school. My dad is just a perfectionist.

In college, I studied Linguistics and minored in English. Interestingly, in Linguistics, we learn that we shouldn't impose "rules" on grammars, but observe actual usage--but it seemed like Linguistics attracted the people who already knew the rules.

Q--What have you done to help improve your writing? Any advice?

A--I've read lots of books on craft, and that does help, but I think I've learned more by looking at my own work through the eyes of my critique partners. I can better find my weaknesses and look at ways to fix them. Finding good critique partners can be hard--I'm on my third group right now, and really happy, but I still maintain a few other 1-on-1 partnerships for looking at my work with fresh eyes pre- and post-critique.

Q--Which is your preferred method of writing? Computer or Notebook?

A--Computer, usually my laptop.

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place or event that has inspired your writing? 

A--Aside from bizarre dreams that inspired far more ordinary stories, the most unusual thing that's inspired me is probably the source of half the basic premise of my current WIP. It was based on a preview for a TV series which I've never watched.

Q--Please share a story about writing with us.

A-- I think my favorite stories come from my mistakes. A couple years ago, I had a great critique partner who really urged me to dig deeper in my writing and characterization. She gave me a suggestion for my opening chapter--to add another scene. I balked at first. I thought it was already too long, the scene wouldn't add anything, etc. So I wrote to one of my good friends. Ready to mock the idea, I began a short parody/draft of the scene.

And I fell in love with it. My friend thought it was great, too. I added it to the story, and it solved several problems in clarity in the first chapter. I'm sure it contributed to doing so well in the contest!

Q--At what point did you begin considering yourself a bona-fide writer?

A--I don't really remember. Sometimes I still struggle with this, though, especially when it's been a few months since I started a new story. (Editing just doesn't cut it sometimes!)

Q--Do you have a certain process you go through when you write or do you just wait for the "must" to come out of hiding?

A--At different times, I've had a ritual or routine to get into the writing mindset (which usually involved playing minesweeper). Right now I'm just trying to keep myself from wandering away on the Internet! A few weeks ago, I had a routine where I had to read a chapter for scripture study and write 100 words before I was allowed to check my email or feed reader.

Dr. Wicked's Write or Die tool online has been a big help to keeping me focused lately, especially when I'm just trying to get the story down in a first draft. My progress has also come a lot faster than my 100-words-a-day writing was going.

Q--How do you balance your writing and your family?

A--You tell me! Sometimes I'm good at it and sometimes I'm not. Most of the time, I have little choice because I don't like neglecting my kids to sit on the computer (I do it, but I don't like it), and they fight too much when I do!

Thanks Jordan!

***Stay-tuned next week when I will be highlighting published author Josi Kilpack.

I'm still looking for volunteers for Saturday Stories! Make sure to drop a comment and let me know if you're interested.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stuck Between Hurdles: An Analogy

The hurdles are in place.  There are people already running the race.  You never heard the starting gun, but have decided you better get running.  There are runners gliding through the hurdles at a pace that seems inhuman.  There are runners who are too afraid to exit the starting blocks.  Some runners just plow through upsetting all the hurdles in their wake.  As you run, the hurdles seem to come at you with no rhyme or reason in their placement making it too difficult to set your stride length.  

You run the first few hurdles and gain your footing.  Other runners are still zooming past.  You lose your focus, and end up falling over a hurdle and sprawled out in the middle of your lane.  It is hopeless.  You have lost sight of the finish line.  Your reasons for running are clouded.  In your fall, you lost one of your running shoes.  You are wounded.  You pick yourself and the fallen hurdle up from the ground.

The hurdles ahead are spaced so close together. You have no room to gain enough inertia to get over the next one.  With a low hung head, you admit defeat. You are stuck between hurdles.  Maybe it is time to bow out of the race.

Where are you at in your race?  
Have you ever been stuck between hurdles? 
What helps you to finish the race?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't Laugh

Writing has always been hard for me.  Not that I can't write, or that I don't enjoy it, or that I don't get the stories in my head.  The hard part for me has always been in actually sitting down and writing.  The stories would go through my head, and maybe I'd actually sit down and write a little bit, but the story would either go unfinished or sit on my computer considered a complete waste because it wasn't good enough for me.  I would look back and realize I had the time and the ability to do better, but I never did.  Why was that?  I would then begin berating myself for not being good enough.  After all, if I was good enough I could find time, ability, etc.  If I really cared I would make it a priority.  If I was good at it, it wouldn't be so hard.  Does anyone else have these kinds of feelings and thought?
At first I thought it was writer's block and asked published writers about it.  Most of them said the same thing, writer's block doesn't exist.  That was discouraging.  I began to think that maybe that means I'm not really writer.  After all writer's don't get writer's block.  I would see so many of my writer friends whose words were plentiful.  It wasn't like squeezing out blood like it was for me.  The process was so hard that I began to loathe it.  WRITING!  I WAS HATING TO WRITE!  How could that be?  It had always been my solace before.  What happened?  How did I get blocked like this?  I knew it was me.  I knew I was blocking myself, but no amount of discipline, reprimanding, incintives, or punishments worked.
Despite these feelings, I continued to stay active in writer's groups and blogging.
The first time I broke through my block I had read "Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande.  It really did help!  But the second time I blocked myself, it didn't work as well anymore.  I went to a writer's retreat this summer and learned so much at the classes.  But the one that was the most beneficial for me was by Carroll Morris.
She talked about shining our inner writing team.  She broke up our inner thoughts into different personalities.  Inner fears and vulnerabilities she called the inner children.  The defenses we throw up to protect the fear, she called the guardians.  The problem with the guardians is that they often hurt more than they help.  For instance, my fear of failure was protected by not trying my hardest.  If I didn't try my hardest I couldn't actually fail.  Isn't that some messed up logic?  She also talked about our inner managers.  These are the parts of us that can look at both the fears and the defenses and decide what is best for us.  The managers decide if a guardian isn't working and if it needs to be given an extended vacation.  In my case, I had to fire the guardian that thought it was best to not try.  But that doesn't make the fear go away.  So then what do I do?  Carroll is amazing!  She helped me to imagine myself with my inner child (fear of failure) sitting on my lap.  Then tell her that it's ok to be afraid.  I was able to picture one of my own children in my lap.  I imagined them telling me they were afraid to fail.  What would I tell them?  I would tell them that it's ok to fail.  We shouldn't be afraid of falling down because we can always get back up.  I did this in a relaxed state so that I was telling my whole self this so it goes to the subconscious, the part that controls my fears.  I can't tell you how amazing that experience was.  Then I visualized another part of myself, my true self.  For me that meant my spirit.  The spirit that was in the pre-existence.  The part of me that chose to follow Christ.  The part that knows this life is just a moment.  The part that knows I can do this.  I imagined her confidence.  Suddenly my fears seemed so small.  I could do this.  Writing is a talent that was given to me to develop and I'm not going to let anything get in the way, not even myself. 
So, the thing that helped me to break my blocks was talking to myself...I told you not to laugh!  But visualizing myself into different parts and giving those parts names and faces, really helped me to confront them.  It worked since I completed Nanowrimo!  Did I mention that yet?  What?  I did?  Hmmm let me mention it one more time...I wrote 50,000 words in 27 days!  Yes, I know I rock!  LOL!
I'm not writing this to really.  I'm writing it because I want those of you that feel like me to know that there is hope.  Through lots of prayer and never giving up, you will be led to what will work for you.  The Lord will put the people or the knowledge that you need in your path.  You can achieve your dreams!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Editing, Editing, Editing

So you've finished your novel. Hooray! You've put it aside for a while, long enough to get new perspective on the story. It's time to pull it back out, and slice your darling into pieces. So what do you do?

There are as many ways to edit as there are writers, and I want to hear from you. What's your way? Do you go chapter by chapter, or do you go through the whole thing working on one thing at a time, like characterization or intensifying emotions?

Talk to me, People!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Road Block...Or Is It?

So I've been struggling lately with balance between the writing life and real life, and real life has won for a few weeks. I haven't been happy about it, though, and trying desperately to find a way around my self-imposed road block.

I saw this video a little while ago, but was reminded about it this weekend, and had a little epiphany. While the problems remain, I have to be creative in my problem solving, and not automatically go to "I can't!" without even trying. Somehow I think acting like my five year old isn't what Heavenly Father expects out of me when I run into problems.

So, it's time to get creative!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sharing of your Talents

Remember how we have promised Heavenly Father to share of our talents?

I've made it a point to do just that. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a friend.

I love to draw things for my friends, for lessons at church and for my family. When someone is sick, I've made copies of cute things to color. I've whipped up coloring books for Easter, Christmas and Birthdays.

I've been into the writing craft for over 30 years. Yes, I am not a published novelist. I do have a few poems published and am an award-winning author. My efforts have paid well. I intend to become published as soon as I get my current work edited and accepted by an agent. On the meanwhile, I share my talent, my skill and my time with others. I have edited and critiqued many friends--even those whom I don't know--with their work.

I am not afraid to make friends or extend myself to them. I will share everything the Lord has blessed me with with them, so long as it's within His will. I do it with a prayerful heart.

I will be your mentor if you feel you need one. I know enough about the writing world and what it takes to make your work shine. If you or a child who is an aspiring author, and you aren't sure what goals you need to set up, please email me! I don't bite, I promise!

I will post your question along with my advice. I will call it my advice column (I will post it on the side of this blog with a link so you can always find it!) I will do the best I can in answering your questions, if I don't know the answer, I will find it for you.

I'll be waiting. ;)


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Stories, Angie Lofthouse

Angie Lofthouse is my guest for today's Saturday Stories. She is an amazing woman who I can't wait to meet in person one of these days. Perhaps at a writing conference if I'm lucky.

I have been following Angie's blog Notes from the Writing Chair for over a year now. Her posts are filled with wonderful writing advice, great book reviews, inspirational nuggets and tidbits of family fun. Head on over and check out her blog. You won't be sorry!

Without further ado....I'd like to introduce you to Angie Lofthouse.

Some background on our honored guest...

Angie Lofthouse is a stay-home mom of six children. Her fiction has appeared in NFGAlienSkinAmazing JourneysThe Sword ReviewDragons, Knights and AngelsIrreantum, and Unparalleled Journeys. She is also an editor forMindflights Magazine. She lives in a little canyon in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains with her family of writers, artists, singers, composers, illustrators and musicians. You can learn more on her blog (

Q--When did you begin writing?

A--I started writing in earnest in 1994. Before that I had written a couple of little things, but had an "I can't do that" complex, which thankfully I got over.

Q--At what point did you start considering yourself a bona-fide writer? Was there a moment or an event that helped you come to this realization?

Well, sometimes I still don't consider myself a bona-fide writer! I remember the first time I experienced a little bit of success. I came home from a grocery shopping trip, and my husband came out all excited to tell me that I had one third place in a short story contest that I entered. I called the contest coordinator and found out I had won $50! That was my first taste of actually feeling like my writing was worth something.

Q--What things have you done to improve your writing talent? Would you recommend any books or classes or exercises to help a writer improve?

A--My two favorite writing books are Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress. I learned so much from those two books. Going to conferences did a lot for me too, as did League of Utah Writers meetings.The best way to improve, though is to just write!

Q--Please list any awards you've received and any stories (short and tall), poems, etc. that have been published

A--I have published twelve short stories in a variety of magazines. Most recently, "Shepherds and Kings" was published in StolenChristmas and Other Stories of the Season, and "Highway Songs" was published in Residential Aliens. A full list of my publications can be found on my blog (, along with links to most of the stories if you'd like to read them! As far as awards, I placed in the top ten in the Science Fiction Writers of Earth short story contest for five straight years. Last year, I won the Publisher's Choice award in LDS Publisher's Christmas story contest.

Q--Describe your writing process. Do you have a routine or are you at the whim of inspiration?

A--I try to write for an hour or so in the morning and again in the evening after everyone is in bed. I also take advantage of times I can write during the day if they come up. It's not a real set schedule, but I try to write every day. I don't always have a solid outline, but I definitely need some kind of plan to get me where I'm going. I edit as I go, because I like to get it right the first time. I still have to revise, though.

Q--What is your preferred method of writing? Computer or Notebook

A--Notebook all the way! I can take it anywhere and write anytime. Maybe I could do that with a laptop, but I really don't like sitting in front of the computer for long stretches of time. I can curl up and get comfortable with my notebook and pen.

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?

A--My story, "Getting Colder" was inspired by a disease that affects angelfish. It had all kinds of bizarre symptoms that became really creepy and interesting when I applied them to humans.

Q--Could you explain your role with Mindflights Magazine? Writers are always looking for places to submit work and this would be a great way to show them one more outlet.

A--I have been editing for Mindflights ( since it was formed from a merging of The Sword Review and Dragons, Knights, and Angels in 2008. Before that I was an editor for The Sword Review. Basically, I read submissions and decide which ones I'd like to publish. We have a team of editors that read and decide on the stories. We publish speculative fiction (ie. science fiction, fantasy, and occasionally horror) that is entertaining, enlightening and uplifting. We publish both short fiction and poetry. We are a Christian centered publication, so our stories are family-friendly and Christian-friendly. You can visit our website to read our submission guidelines. We'd love to hear from you!

Q--Please share a story about writing with us. It can be any kind of story you like, just something to provide inspiration or motivation or just a good laugh to those who read it.

A--When I graduated from college, I told my husband I wanted to be a writer, but at that time I lacked the confidence to actually start writing. In March of 1994, I worked as a doughnut fryer in a bakery to help get my husband through school. He was on campus and saw that Orson Scott Card was doing a book signing at the BYU bookstore that day. He ran home and grabbed some of my Card novels and went to the signing to surprise me. He came to pick me up from work that day with the signed books. I was happy. Then he told me that he'd mentioned to OSC that I wanted to write science fiction. I remember thinking, Why on earth would he say that?Then I realized that he was right. I did want to write science fiction. OSC had given my husband some great advice to pass on to me, and so I began. I'll always be grateful that my husband did that for me! 

Thanks, Angie!

If you're interested in joining me for Saturday Stories, please be sure to let me know by dropping a note in the comment box of this post or over at my blog!


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