Thursday, January 31, 2013

Parenting Pearls


Okay.  So this might label me a nerd, but I enjoy a good parenting book.  I try to glean little pearls of wisdom from each one, and work each day at being a better mother.  But this is probably the best parenting book I've come across in a long time.

So for any world-weary mothers out there looking for rays of sunshine, or any fellow nerds that love parenting manuals, here's a recommendation:  The Love & Logic program, by Jim Fay and associates.  I actually had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a Professional Development Seminar several years ago, and found him very wise and uplifting.  This month I finally picked up one of his books, and found it equally encouraging (they have a wide range of topics available, this just happened to be the one at my local library).

Parenting is hard.  Raising children is not the same as it was two generations ago.  But it can be rewarding.

And I can use all the extra help I can get...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Having a Plan B

Here's a little tip I have gleaned from my 13 years in the authoring business: always have a Plan B.

I think many people, on putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) know that they are writing the next masterpiece, a sure-fire hit to rival Harry Potter or Twilight or (shudder) Fifty Shades of Badly Written Porn. They will send it to an agent who will wax lyrical about it, a bidding war between the top three publishers will ensue ending in a six-figure advance and negotiations by several major studios for the film rights. With the royalties they will buy houses for all their friends, and they will bask in the glory at book signings (the queue will go round the block) and TV interviews. But first they have to finish Chapter 1.

Unfortunately it seems that it doesn't always work like that and the disappointment when the agents and publishers send you rejection slips rather than beating a path to your door can be crushing. I've found that if you're going to avoid becoming despondent and disillusioned in this business you can't pin all your hopes on one dream. Or one book.

Here's an example. I recently published a unique book highlighting the heartache which accompanies religious intolerance. My co-author and I were convinced The Saved Saint would be one of those books people talked about and recommended to all their friends but so far this hasn't happened. Given the effort we put into it, that could be disappointing. But I have other irons in the fire.

I have a YA fantasy/Sci-fi novel currently under consideration by Harper Voyager. That's Plan B. If they reject it I have found a really exciting new publisher I want to submit it to. That's Plan C. And if they reject it too, I'll self-publish it (but that's Plan Z because I don't like self-publishing).

Plan D involves my collection of short stories–to include my top-secret project–which I'm currently working on and very excited about. And Plan E is for the republication of the first two books in the Haven series and the publication of the third and final Haven book, probably towards the end of this year.

Add to those three other books that I have under way (all over 10,000 words long so far) and you'll see that I'm more likely to succeed by writing lots of books which sell just a few hundred copies than one book which sells a million.

While any one of these books could be my magnum opus, the work which is lauded and loved and pays off the mortgage, I'm not stupid enough (any more) to pin all my hopes on one book. It's great to have a dream, but it's always good to have a backup dream in case the first dream doesn't pan out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Talking:The Focusing Trap

As most people, I occasionally take time to reflect upon the current state of my life.  I take inventory of how far I've come and whether or not it was the right direction.  In such a time of reflection, I realized that I have spent much of my life, even as a small child, waiting for some loosely defined perfect time in my future.  I knew when I reached this point in my life, I would have a life of ease and happiness.  At one time, I knew sixteen would be the perfect age because I would be able to date and drive.  What would there be to bring unhappiness?  But, by sixteen there were so many other worries to focus on that driving and dating were a mere fraction of what I needed to provide me the happiness I searched.  The future of ease has always been just beyond my grasp.

With a figurative magnifying glass, I have looked over the dissected pieces of my life focusing especially on all the imperfections.  I say to myself, "When insert random event (all my kids are in school), I will have time for insert desire which will most certain provide me the ability to be happy (cleaning my house and writing enough stories to fill a mansion.)

Have I had moments of pure joy in my life?  YES.  Am I bless beyond measure?  Without a doubt.  I do realize these things; however, so much effort is spent worrying over things that haven't and my never happen, as well as, waiting for life to fit in a self conceived idea of perfect.

This is anything but the spirit of gratitude we are commanded to have.  Why do we/I race toward the finish line without enjoying the journey?  Life is not a to do list that everything must be checked off before you always yourself to be happy. 

Perhaps a single lady has told herself that when she has a husband, house, and two kids she will be able to enjoy her life. A lot happens in her life to get her to that point.  Enough to fill many great novels.  We don't pick up a book read through its pages only to be able to enjoy it when we are through.  Hopefully, we have laughed, cried, and cheered as we have read. 

I hope you will resolve to enjoy your life while you live.  The time to be happy is now.  If you have not taught yourself to enjoy life as it come and to be grateful, then your "someday" not be a day of happiness.  It fall victim to your habit of dissecting and focusing on the negative.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Design Your Heaven: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Writing


I took this photo last year when my husband and I visited the Bahamas for a second honeymoon to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. No, it’s not photoshopped- the colors really are that vibrant. And yes, plenty of features from that island made their way into my heaven!

This past week as part of my lesson for Singing Time in Primary (children’s Sunday School) I was going to ask the children to close their eyes and imagine what Heaven would be like. I thought maybe I could help them by providing some descriptive imagery, so I started wondering: What would my ideal Heaven be like? 

As I let my imagination wander, my mind was filled with such incredible ideas and images that I thought, This is good stuff. I need to write this down!

I began writing and it was hard to stop. But eventually it was late and I needed to go to bed, so I did. As I laid in bed I couldn’t help daydreaming of more parts of my heavenly existence. The thoughts made me giddy with excitement as I let my dreams go wild and I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

When I got up in the morning, I wrote even more. I’m sure that as time goes by I will continue to fantasize about my magical heavenly place and continue adding on to my description.

Not only is this a great writing exercise- you want to choose the perfect words to really bring your place to life for yourself- but it’s SO much fun. You don’t have to make the setting of your heaven work to further a plot line, it doesn’t need to reflect some aspect of a character’s personality, you don’t have to worry about foreshadowing or symbolism (well, unless you want to). The only person you have to please is you. It’s just you and the limits of your imagination. It doesn’t have to make sense or follow the laws of physics or geography or science. It’s your world. It can be as whimsical and fantastic as you want it to be- it just has to make you happy.

Here is an excerpt from mine:


I am walking through a cool green forest. Golden sunlight filters through the trees. A babbling brook of fresh, clear water cascades over smooth stones nearby. Birds twitter and sing lilting melodies as they flit about the treetops high overhead. The scent of spring lilies and freshly picked lavender wafts in a gentle, warm breeze.
I am treading on a soft green carpet of moss. I see a little stone bridge up ahead that crosses the stream. As I cross over the bridge, there are branches of flowering trees bending overhead, and flower blossoms are gently floating down around me like snow.
Up ahead I see a lovely white stone cottage, with window boxes bursting with leafy ferns and flowers of every color of the rainbow. Roses and ivy climb the sides of the cottage, hanging like garlands about the eaves and creating flowering arches over the windows. Lilacs also hug the corners of the cottage, and their scent drifts on the breeze. The path leading to the cottage is a snowy white carpet of flower petals from the archway of blossoms overhead. 


So tell me about your heaven. Is it a natural setting? A mansion or a castle? What does it sound like? Smell like? How do you feel when you’re there? Do you have any special abilities? (I can fly and breathe underwater!) Just start with describing the most beautiful place you can think of and then go from there.

And the best part about this exercise? We know that Heaven is FAR better than anything our feeble little mortal minds could ever imagine. So when you’re done and glowing in the delight of your imaginary heaven, you can rest assured that it’s just a tiny slice of what is REALLY awaiting you someday....

:-)

Afterthought: Wouldn’t it be cool to have a whole book filled with different authors’ descriptions of their heavens? Now THAT would be a fun book to read! Hmmm....any takers??

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Al Roker Shamed my Husband

So What happened this week in my family? LOL  Well, it kinda exploded.

It started one week ago when my husband and I agreed to be interviewed for a relationship column in the Wall St Journal. They were talking about weight as a stressor in marriage. That published on Tuesday with an accompanying Skype interview for their web show. We were completely open about it, sharing a few of really low points and some of the truly idiotic things my husband has said regarding my weight in the past. You can read the whole WSJ article here.

Well, a half and hour after the Skype interview aired, the Today show called. THE Today show. They wanted to fly my husband and I out to to New York to appear on the show... the next day.They promised to show my book and let me throw in a quick plug. Can't beat that. Except my husband has some wicked social anxiety. For him to even agree to be interviewed over the phone was groundbreaking, but to talk to people in person... wow this was a huge sacrifice on his part, especially since he was getting pretty beat up over the WSJ article.

So we agreed, my mother in law said she could watch my kids and we jetted off to New York. We would have about 4 minutes to answer Savannah Guthrie's questions on our marriage and weight. And find a way to plug my book without sounding smaltzy. To say I didn't sleep would be an understatement.

At the show, we got our hair and makeup done, (yes even Jarom) and then we waited to go sit on the sofa and get wired up for sound. Before we went on, Al Roker went by. I shook his hand and told him I was a big fan. Him keeping the weight off has been a huge inspiration to me and for my dad (who is currently going through the bypass process himself). Mr. Roker was so nice, to me anyway. He expressed complete disbelief over the comment referenced in the WSJ article that my husband said, basically surprise that he said it and was still alive and next to me.

Then it was our turn to sit on the couch. Jarom was terrified and I'm sure, pale as cheesecake under all that foundation makeup.

The next little bit was a blur, but somehow we survived. Video

And now the aftermath. Positive side: My little teeny regional book has gotten huge exposure and started taking off. And I've been contacted by some women who are going through those same trials as I once did.
Downside: It's really hard to give an accurate accounting of a marriage in 4 minutes.

One comment I hear over and over, Why didn't you leave him? You should have divorced someone who would say such hurtful things.

At one point, I almost did. Our marriage was fairly miserable for about 5 or six years. Neither one of us were very good partners to each other. But the cavalier attitude about just walking away and finding someone else disturbs me. That some people believe I am less for choosing to stay to work on things.

The "world" doesn't understand marriage in terms that we do as Latter Day Saints. Jarom and I were married in the temple. Getting a divorce is not like moving out of a bad neighborhood. The decision should be weighed with the heaviness of the eternal consequences it possesses. For us, the union was salvageable through love, understanding, and repentance. That's just us and our story though.  But to have people imply that I am abused, weak, a victim or a horrible role model because I made my marriage work -- blows my brain.

I am thankful to have grown up in a church that proudly proclaims the importance of marriage and family. To have the attitude that divorce is a last resort, not the first option of convenience. Sometimes the bond can't be saved, even for LDS, and I am just grateful that wasn't the case for us.

If I had left that one cold night seven years ago, if my husband hadn't let the air out of my tires so I couldn't drive off, my daughter, Lily, wouldn't be turning 6 next week. I wouldn't have her or my littlest one Autumn. My husband wouldn't have had the chance to grow and change, becoming my best friend and biggest supporter. And I would have been emotionally broken still, stuck in that loop of hiding from painful things instead of standing up and repairing myself.

So yes, my husband used to be an idiot at times, but there was plenty of that to go around on my side too. But in my opinion, any man who is willing to go on national tv with you, knowing he will be chewed out for being a jerk, by Al Roker no less, is a keeper.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Four Years to Celebrate!


This month marks MMW's four year anniversary. I like taking a stroll down memory lane and remembering all the wonderful bloggers and guest bloggers that have been featured on our blog over the years. Let's take a moment and revisit our most popular blog posts over the years:

Coming in at #1 is a post by one of our original bloggers, Candice: Squidward Can't Make Crabby Patties
There must be a lot of Spongebob fans out there. Not sure how they all felt being directed to MMW but I hope they felt welcome!

Coming in at #2 is our most controversial post ever on our blog and it was posted this year by Kasey: In Case You Thought Mormons Were Sexist
This post was never supposed to be derogatory in nature. Instead it was meant to show that we who blog here, as women in the Mormon church, we feel loved and cherished.  We hope many of our readers feel the same way.

Our #3 most popular post of all time is a guest post by my wonderful sister, Tiffany: Writing Family Histories--Guest Post
My sister thinks she isn't a writer, yet this post written almost 4 years ago is still hit on almost daily!! What a great accomplishment!

The 4th most popular post was written by yours truly (Nikki) about my daughter: A Little Demented, Or a Writer?
The follow up for this post is that my daughter is now 13 and she IS a writer! She writes the most beautiful stories, even if they are sometimes a bit strange. That's why I like them so much, you never know what is going to happen next!

And coming in at #5 is another guest post by a friend of mine, Valerie Ipson: The Baby's Alive--Guest Post
I loved rereading this post. It reminded me that I too am neglecting my creative side and it needs attention...FAST!!

Those are the 5 most popular posts on MMW over the past four years based on the total number of pageviews it recieved. But what do you think?  Which of these is your all time favorite post?  Is it one that's not on this list? Copy and paste the link into the comments so we can remember more great MMW moments.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oh, I'm So Blue!

Okay, so maybe this blogpost title is a little deceiving.  I'm not actually blue (in colour or emotional context). And yes, I used a 'u' in colour, despite blogger's desperate attempts to correct my mistake.  If websites/software could twitch, I'm sure blogger would have a lovely kink in its neck by now.

But I digress.  Do you know what the significance of this past Monday was?  Perhaps you heard, but January 21, 2013 was deemed the most depressing day of the year.

Was it because we made it another month past 'the end of the world' (and turned over the Mayan calender only to realize that the next 2012 years were printed on the back....awkward!)?

Was it because we realized it is another ten months before we can play Christmas albums again (without guilt or strange stares)?

What makes one day of the year more depressing than any other?

Well, according to one researcher, who has been credited with coining the term 'Blue Monday' (you can read an article about it here), it's a number of factors that work together to make the third Monday in January the day when we feel most blue.

And honestly, I can see his point.  Monday, here in Central Alberta, Canada, was a balmy - 20 degrees C, with blowing snow.  Yay!  And most of the monthly bills arrived around that time.  Yay!  And I realized that exactly a month before, we'd been gearing up for Christmas (where has the time gone already?) with all the excitement that accompanies that blessed event.  So yes, I suppose a day like that could harbour a depressing edge.

And yet, on Blue Monday, I felt fantastic.  Why?  Because I'd spent the whole weekend living.  I'd made memories with my family (a temple date with hubby, a restaurant and movie date night [gift cards - boo yah!], a family date with my favourite kiddos, reading a book, working on my WIP, feeding the missionaries, and board games with good friends).  I went into Monday feeling rejuvenated and revived.

And ready to write.

And you know what?  I realized something....

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to focus on my writing (because, like so many of you, my writing time is sparse, and usually allocated to the evening hours that my body screams were made for sleeping) that I forget to remember to live.  And then my writing stagnates: probably because my life stagnates.

And while I can't keep up the kind of pace that last weekend allowed, it's nice to have a little boost once in a while.

Here's hoping your Monday wasn't too blue...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why It's Great Being LDS in the UK

When I was first baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I thought wistfully about those lucky people in Utah who didn't have to explain ten times a day why they were turning down the offer of a cup of tea, or travel fifty miles to do their Visiting Teaching, and who could, in all probability, find modest clothing in every local clothes shop. Lucky folk, they weren't considered somehow strange or abnormal or viewed with suspicion by those around them. It must be so much nicer, I thought wistfully, to be a Utah Mormon.

Well, since then I've changed my mind and come to realise that there are huge advantages to being a Mormon in the UK.

Weddings
Leaving the chapel after our wedding.
Under the medieval coat-dress was
the dress I wore for the Temple sealing.
Temple marriages are not legally recognised here because weddings have to take place in licensed public buildings. So standard practice is to get married in the chapel of the local LDS meetinghouse and then go to the Temple that same evening, or a day or two later, and be sealed. Unlike the US, due to the legal situation, there's no requirement to wait the requisite year before the sealing ordinance.

So whereas US brides and grooms agonise over how to avoid offending their non-LDS family members if they want a Temple wedding, we get to do both. Roderic and I got married in our chapel. My non-LDS Dad walked me down the aisle and we were followed by my bridesmaids, two of whom were Sikh. Our non-LDS families were all in attendance and we had a traditional marriage service including the exchanging of rings. Then we all gathered in the Cultural Hall afterwards for the Reception (wedding breakfast) and early that same evening we and a few ward members travelled to the London Temple for our sealing.

Politics
Despite the Church shouting until it's blue in the face that it is politically neutral, most US Mormons seem to be Republican. I think this is a pity because Democrats may turn away the missionaries thinking the gospel doesn't fit in with their leanings, and I would prefer the Church not to be associated with any one party in people's minds.

Well, over here we don't have Republicans or Democrats, and the church really is nothing whatsoever to do with politics which means there is no danger of anyone thinking they need to vote in any way other than according to their conscience.

Youth Programmes
I have read a couple of blogs recently complaining about the perceived inequality in the youth programmes of the church in the USA. The boys, it seems, have Scouting, with uniforms to wear, fun activity programmes filled with adventure and challenge, all culminating in a well-attended Court of Honour when they earn their Eagle Scout award. Meanwhile the girls have Young Women and Personal Progress, learn to knit baby hats and arrange flowers, and might get to collect a medallion from the Bishop when they complete it.

Well, not so here. The church is not involved in Scouting in the UK (it pulled out of the programme a couple of decades ago in protest at girls being allowed to join) and so the boys have Young Men and Duty to God, which seems almost identical to the programme for their sisters except with more playing of football in the Cultural Hall.

Missionary Work
A good friend of mine lived for many years in a small town in central Utah where 95% of the population were active Mormons. Missionary work was a huge challenge for her. She just didn't know anyone who wasn't an active member of the church.

My youngest daughter is the only member of the church in her Junior school, my middle daughter is one of only two members in her Senior school and my eldest daughter is the only member in her college. Less than 10% of the UK population ever goes to any church. Missionary opportunities abound.

So we may have only two LDS bookstores in the entire country, and have to travel extremely long distances to go to Stake Conference, but there are advantages to belonging to what most of my neighbours seem to view as "some weird American sect" outside America.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Talking/Thinking Tuesday: Failing isn't the End

 
The Louvre

The Louvre started off as a palace and today is a museum.  But the art is more than just what the building houses.  The building is art itself.  I love this man sitting on the corner.  He looks so deep in thought.  It is a great reminder to me that we all need time to meditate and ponder our lives and the world around us.  

I have been thinking some lately (don't worry I try not to do that too often.)    The theme of my thoughts: the difference between quitting and failingIf you had to be a failure or a quitter which would you choose? 

Since this a time of year when many are setting new goals, I thought this might be a good time to share this thought with you.  There is a misconception made by many that if one fails there is no more trying.  If you don't get your workout in one day or you eat something bad, then you abandon ship.  If you had a set word count but got distracted by email and facebook, then you ignore the keyboard again the next day.  If your marriage is lacking the luster of a new relationship, then you think there is never chance for happiness.  (You get my point.)  It is easy to fail and then quit.  But you don't have to be both a failure and a quitter.
If the race is on and you are in last place, wouldn't you rather cross that finish line knowing you gave it your all, than always know you quit?

So my thoughts as I look at the picture above is, even if you are a failure-- don't be a quitter.

If you have the time to stop and think, what are your thoughts today?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Go On and Steal My Show

Last week I posted an amazing video featuring President Uchtdorf’s words about being creative. I hope you don’t mind if I go along that same vein with today’s post.

In One Year to a Writing Life by Susan M. Tiberghien, she writes:

“A writing life springs from the one creative source that is within each of us. It is the same source in all spiritual traditions. For me, the source is God. For others it is Allah, the Tao, the Spirit. When we tap into this source, we become co-creators with our Creator. If the well is blocked, the water does not rise. But if we clear away the clutter, our creativity overflows and touches those around us.” (emphasis added)

With my Fast from the World this month, I have had the radio station in the car tuned to a Christian pop music station, and one of the songs I heard that made me smile is called, “Steal My Show” by TobyMac. The song is from the point of view of the singer, and he talks about preparing for a concert. The last line of the first verse says, “...but what we really need is You,” and then the chorus says, “If You wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch You go/ If You got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away...”

I loved the message behind this song and how it goes right along with what Tiberghien and President Uchtdorf are saying. The key to tapping in to our potential as writers (or artists, or singers, or architects, or pilots, or teachers, or...) is to “become co-creators with our Creator.” He designed us for this. If we let Him, He will “steal [our] show”. And isn’t it safe to say that the show He’ll put on will be far better than anything we can come up with?

Just after Christmas I finished that script for the Stake Youth Conference Pageant. This was a perfect example for me of the Lord “steal[ing] my show.” We prayed, the concept came through inspiration, then I set about with the task of filling in the blanks (me heading the committee turned into me writing it- time constraints and logistics made it necessary). When I finished, I felt uncomfortable saying that I’d written it. It truly feels like it was just ‘there’ and I just typed the words that were given to me. It was time consuming, but it didn’t feel hard. When I prayed, the true Creator did all the work. I was just the scribe.

One of the things that I feel my “fast” has helped me to do is to “clear away the clutter.” The creativity has been flowing and I am more excited than ever to be a “co-creator with [my] Creator.”

So, Heavenly Father, “If you got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away”! I’ll be here with an open heart and fingers ready to type, type away... :-)

How can you “tap into [the] source” and let Him “steal [your] show”? 


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Good Sunday

    Today was our Stake Conference.  I loved it.  I love Conference in general.  I actually really like church too.  If you were to rewind about 20 years and go back to a much younger me I'm sure that statement would utterly shock her.  But, truly, I have gotten to a point in my life where I look forward to going to church, and I especially look forward to Conferences. 
  This morning was not crazy or difficult.  My family and I managed to get to our church and find a parking spot without any trouble.  We were able to find a row towards the back (unfortunately on the hard chairs) and we sat for about 15 minutes before hand and my children were very well behaved.  A Sunday Miracle, I assure you.  I feel like this was one of those tender mercies of the Lord because as we sat waiting for the meeting to start I was able to focus on why I was there and prepare myself to listen to the speakers. 
  The presiding General Authority was Elder Baxter of the Seventy.  He was delightful to listen to.  He was witty and engaging, and I'll admit that his accent was also quite enjoyable, but he was also very spiritual and I think every person in our church building could feel the love he had for us. He spoke of many things, but there were a few that really stuck out to me.  I felt an overwhelming sense of hope and faith as I listened to Elder Baxter speak of all of us, as a world wide church, and our need to work together, to be missionaries, and to be united in mind and spirit.  He asked us "What is the answer to the calamities of the world?"  His answer: Jesus Christ.  He spoke on how important it is that we bring others to Christ so that they may partake of His salvation. 
   We have an important duty.  I truly believe in the cause and mission of this blog, to change the world one book at a time.  I believe that no matter who we are, no matter what station we hold in life, no matter how big or small we may feel, we have a duty and a mission to fulfill.  I would like to thank Anna for her post last Wednesday.  What a great way to be a missionary.  What a great way to be an example.   I took her idea to heart and as I sat in church today, and hopefully in the future as well, I listened to each speaker more intently and took note of the things that struck me as something I was in need of.  After today's meeting I feel so much hope.  I really believe that we can all touch others' lives and help them to feel the love of our Heavenly Father. 
  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday So What: sMothering

So This week, I did something I never thought I would -- I censored a book.

Usually I'm pretty much an artistic integrity kind of gal, but now that I'm reading to my kindergartner ... not so much.

My daughter's teacher does take home reading for the kids, and this week one of the books was Martin's Big Words, the life of Martin Luther King.


I was a little worried to start, but only because I thought the book would be boring for her. Instead she was rapt with questions, questions I wasn't entirely prepared to answer.

Lily: Why does Whites Only mean?
Me: Before mommy was born, there was a time when black people and white people couldn't use the same things.
Lily: What are black people?
Me: You know, people with black skin, like Grace in your class.
Lily: She's doesn't have black skin, she's brown. And I'm not white, I'm pinkish. Did people used to not know their colors?

These are complicated issues for an almost 6 year old to understand. Its wonderful and amazing to me that while she has little friends that are different ethnicity, the only difference she sees is whether it's a boy or a girl.
I'm okay with talking about the civil rights movement with her. It's history. It's important. Dr. King and Rosa Parks are amazing and inspiring role models. I loved the lesson from the book where "Martin" says, You can't fight hate with hate. You can only fight hate with love. That is such and important thing to teach a child at any age.

After that, the book veered off course for me. It started talking about Dr. King's persecution  Saying that people came after him. That he was beaten, attacked and bloodied. That he was threatened and his church was burned. While these things are all true, and important to know, are they important for a kindergartner to know?

I admit, I skipped reading those parts aloud. We don't use violent language in my household. I improvised and said that some people didn't like his message and were really mean to him and his family. And that hurt him and made him sad.
I kept going through the book, changing words here and there, my voice cracking with emotion. At the end, I could not bring myself to say that Dr. King was murdered. Shot down for his beliefs.

Lily: Why are you crying mommy?
Me: Because he was a great man and he died and that makes me sad.
Lily: Did he die because he was old?
Me: No baby, he was shot.
Lily: With what?

I never had the chance to answer because I got left behind in the excitement of Daddy coming home. My daughter didn't understand, because I'm pretty sure she thinks that guns all shoot Nerf darts. She has no idea the Conn. shooting happened, and it's never come up in any other aspect of our lives.
I've mentioned before that my daughter is a little behind the curve in emotional and social aspects. She's my little bundle of anxiety, with chronic tummy aches, just sure that the world is going to crash down on her. I couldn't bring myself to bring any more worries into her little world. The idea of arson would give her night terrors for weeks.

Friday, I approached her teacher and told her I was concerned that the book was a little above grade for Lily. The teacher didn't call me a racist or anything, but that was the feeling I left with. Just to be clear, I wouldn't read my daughter a narrative of Joseph Smith's persecution in Carthage jail either. There will be time enough to learn that the world is not really full of rainbows and unicorns. It doesn't need to happen in kindergarten.

I guess what I'm struggling with is the question of "Did I do the right thing?" Am I protecting my daughter too much and I should have just read it as is; let her turn over the idea that people are willing to kill someone if they don't agree. Willing to burn down their homes over hate?

As a parent, I want to protect my girls from everything. I want to dress them in bubble wrap and marshmallows and tell them their birthday wishes really do come true. That they will always be safe and nothing bad will ever come from the closet.

I was much like her as a kid. I thought that everything bad would come for me. Used to hide in my closet, sure that a robber was coming to kill me and my family.
Am I trying so hard to spare her from my own traumas, that I've surpassed helicopter parent and moved on to sMothering?

Friday, January 18, 2013

24 Hour Story Revisted

When we first started this blog four years ago, we used to do what we called a 24 hour story. It meant that one of us started a story, and our readers would help finish it by posting a piece of the story into the comments which would later be copy and pasted into the post. They either went over very good, or fizzled out very quickly.  Let's hope this one doesn't fizzle.  Please help me out by finishing this story.  You have 24 hours to contribute to the story.  For some reason, the romance stories always went over best.  So here's my twisted attempt at the beginning of a love story.

Beauty and the Monster


The kingdom had been taken over by a tyrant.  Her whole family killed except for her.  Her fate?  To marry the monster to try to keep her people safe.  What could she do?  How was she going to protect the people when she could't even protect herself? Isabelle smoothed a hand over her best gown that had been laid out this morning.  Even her maids knew she was the kingdom's only hope. Holding her head high she entered the throne room. Her eyes filled with tears as she saw the throne of her beloved father, occupied by the monster. She blinked back the tears and committed to not show weakness. Though her legs trembled, she curtsied before the throne and lifted her stony gaze to the man before her.  
He looked at her with dark eyes and she tried to look for any ounce of good in them, but before she could see anything he blinked then stood up.  Isabelle couldn't help but notice that he was a very striking man. Besides just his stature, the man had a charisma that commanded attention.  That was what made him so dangerous. He knew what power he had.  
"So Princess, you have come to save your kingdom. How very noble of you."  His voice was deep and seemed to rumble down to the depths of her very soul.  
"Well it appears I am the only noble one in this room then."  Isabelle hoped he wouldn't see through her brave face.
"Point taken."  He stepped down from the dais and began to walk around her. "Though they do say that opposites attract. That is what makes our coming marriage so interesting don't you think? After all, what more can you ask for than a marriage that will always keep you guessing.  Because I can guarantee you,"  He came close and spoke in her ear, "I am nothing like you expect."
The deep voice dripped with evil and she couldn't suppress a shudder.
"I will accept this loveless marriage for the good of my people. But you will NOT harm them or so help me, you will regret ever coming to this land." She hoped her voice was as menacing as his because she meant every word.
He came around and stood in front of her and smiled. "At least we agree on the loveless part. Love is only a lie."  Isabelle thought she saw pain in his eyes before he looked away. "But I will do as I please with my new kingdom. But if you please me I will grant you a measure of freedom. You will have a curfew of course, but I can loan you a horse from my stable-“



“You mean from MY stable?” Isabelle hissed through gritted teeth. 



Lord Marek smirked, but it turned to a grimace as he icily replied, “Not anymore, princess,” he said the word with contempt, “I believe that when I beheaded your father last week that lovely row of stallions and mares became mine.”



Isabelle’s heart pounded as she clenched her fists against the rage that threatened to suffocate her at the mention of her father’s murder. It was all she could do to keep from lunging at him.



Fortunately, the echo of his words concerning granting her a "measure of freedom” pushed a calming breath of air into her lungs. If she could get to Thomas, she knew, there was hope. 



Thomas had been her best friend since childhood, when his father was the royal blacksmith. Thomas had followed in his father’s footsteps, but preferred living outside the walls of the palace and serving those who wore cotton rather than satin. He never seemed to fit in with those of the royal blood, even as a servant. Isabelle and Thomas had that in common- perhaps that was why they had become lifelong friends.



As Isabelle held to the calming image of Thomas’s sandy hair and hearty laugh, a sudden scraping clang reverberated through the throne room. She and Marek both turned at the sound. A breathless messenger stood just inside the now open door at the back of the room.

Ok, your turn!  What comes next?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brandon Sanderson Teaches Writing

It's January.  We're full of warm memories from the holidays, or perhaps finally triumphing over the latest bout of whatever flu bug is making its rounds.  Time to pull out the old manuscripts, dust em off and dig in, right?

Feeling a little rusty?  Sometimes it helps to have some motivation.  What better than free online writing classes (in the form of YouTube videos) from master author Brandon Sanderson?



An author by the name of John Waverly has composed a playlist of the lecture series, and you can link to it here.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What I Learn in Church

My father once commented that he had heard many hundreds of sermons in his life, but remembered almost none of them. However, he went on to say that his wife (who happens to be my mother) had cooked him many wonderful meals in his lifetime and he didn't remember any of them either, but his belly and contented demeanour is evidence of the fact that, over the years, he has been well fed.

Well, I too have been well fed over the years, and not just by my amazing Mum. Just how well-fed I am spiritually was brought home to me when a friend from another church visited my LDS ward one week. She commented with awe on just how much teaching and learning time we had during the Sunday services. Think about this, brothers and sisters. During Sacrament meeting we have two or three talks totalling at least half an hour. We then have almost an hour of in-depth Scripture study (something very few other churches do, certainly not for the entire congregation every single week) followed by another hour of more practical teaching about how to apply our faith in our daily lives. Two-and-a-half hours of learning. Plus Firesides, Seminary or Institute, and our own personal study each day.

So about this time last year I took inspiration from another dear friend and decided to take notes in the Sunday meetings. Like my father (from whom I inherit it) I have a terrible memory, and began to suspect that I was taking in many wonderful truths each Sunday morning, only to forget them all over lunch. I found that taking notes really opened up the meetings to me. It forced me to listen more carefully not only to what the speaker was saying but to how the Spirit was interpreting it for me and opening up new truths. Each Sunday I ended up with at least a page of notes of uplifting and edifying new things I had gleaned from what was said, personal revelation and inspiration.

And then one day I decided that what I had gained deserved to be shared, so I put a summary, called "What I learned in church today", on Facebook.

That seems to have been a good idea, because it's become very popular over the last few months. Several people look out for it eagerly each Sunday, often reminding me if I'm late with it. I have had comments from people who are housebound and love reading my summaries because it makes them feel they haven't missed church, and many who say that they have gained something important from what I have shared. I've had discussions about some of the points in the comments, and it's even been mentioned from the stand a couple of times by speakers who say they hope to appear in my status later.

Some people have started to do the same, putting a "What I Learned in Church Today" summary on their Facebook status each Sunday afternoon, and many of them are Christians from other churches. I love reading their thoughts because it shows just how much learning really is going on out there and how vibrant and alive the churches are.

It's a great missionary tool too because it reminds my many non-Christian friends that I don't just go to church because I'm expected to, or I'm in the habit, or I think it's good for the children, or I have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning(!). I go because I learn. I am uplifted and edified, but most of all educated and brought closer to God. Despite almost ten years of attending the LDS church weekly I still learn several new truths every single Sunday which help me in my Christian journey. I expect that's true of lifelong members too.

That's not to say that I don't sit in Sacrament meeting every Sunday worried that no one will say anything worth noting down. But thus far, even on Primary Presentation day, I have ended up with too much and have had to condense it in my Facebook summary.

I've decided that since not everyone is friends with me on Facebook I shall copy my Sunday Summaries to my blog too. So from now on you can read them at www.annajonesbuttimore.blogspot.com. As President Lorenzo Snow said, "In this system of religion that you and I have received there is something grand and glorious, and something new to learn every day, that is of great value."

Monday, January 14, 2013

CREATE!

Because President Uchtdorf says it so much better than I ever could. :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Believe in Miracles

     In fall 2005 through the summer of 2007 I was privileged to work with a very special little boy. I'm going to call him Cameron. Cameron had a rare neurological disorder called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS). This caused Cameron to lose his ability to speak and communicate easily or clearly, he also suffered from seizures because of it. To learn more about LKS click here. Because of his numerous seizures and loss of his speech he needed a lot of help while at school. I first met Cameron when he was in second grade, about a year after he was first affected by LKS, at the time I was working with another child. It wasn't until Cameron was in third grade that I was able to work with him. I would arrive midday and stay with Cameron until the end of the school day. He had another helper that stayed with him in the mornings until I arrived. Working with Cameron was the best job I ever had. I learned so much from this little boy in the short time I was able to work with him. Working with Cameron could be a little stressful at times. There were days when he would have eight to twelve seizures. Some days could be sad, seeing Cameron struggle to write and read or attempt to fit in and play like the other children. Other times I truly felt like I was in the presence of an angel.
     One of Cameron's greatest talents was his ability to love, unquestioningly and unconditionally. There wasn't a day that went by when Cameron wouldn't give me a big hug and tell me that he loved me. Something else that set Cameron apart from others was his incredible faith. When Cameron was taught something he truly believed it. He knew of his Heavenly Father's love for him and he knew he could pray to Heavenly Father whenever he needed or wanted. He demonstrated this over and over in the time that I got to spend with him. Cameron was not afraid of what others may think of him if he was seen praying, what he cared about was the love and feelings he had for his father in heaven and for Jesus Christ.

     There was one time in particular when Cameron's demonstration of faith and prayer completely blew me away. Cameron's class was currently learning about plants and seeds. This particular day they were taking seeds and placing them on wet paper towels inside of a little plastic bag. Cameron was very excited about this and looked forward to each day when he got to check on the growth of his little seed. One day however, when we checked on his sprouts we found them covered in mold. It broke my heart to tell him his new little plants would probably die. Cameron was sad about it. He hung his head and was quiet for period of time. I  suddenly felt desperate to save his plants. I took him with his little baggie in hand to the back of the classroom. I told him we were going to try and help his plants, but to not get his hopes up because they still might die. Cameron nodded in understanding. We took out the tiny sprouts, doing our best not to break the fragile roots and rinsed them off gently in the sink. We then placed them on a clean paper towel and returned the little bag to its place. It wasn't until days later when we checked on his seeds again, but when we saw them I was amazed. The tiny nearly dead plants we saw before were now the biggest and most robust looking plants of the whole class. When Cameron saw them he was overjoyed. We took them back to his desk to examine them closer. I told him how amazed and happy I was that his plants had survived. Cameron smiled and nodded and told me he knew they would. "Oh ya?" I asked him, wondering why he had been so certain. He nodded again and told me that when I had said the plants might die he had said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to save his little plants. His faith had been sure and he knew his plants would make it.
     This may seem like a silly story, it may even seem unimportant, but for me it served to be an amazing lesson. Not only did I witness the power of one little boy's faith but gained a truer understanding of Heavenly Father's love for each of us. Our Heavenly Father knows us, He knows our hearts and our desires. Most importantly He cares about even the little things in our lives, even tiny little seeds.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday So What: Labor Pains

So What's up? My book's FINALLY here that's what. It feels like it's been forever. (for you reading too huh. lol)

I have always liked the "book baby" analogy, so I think I am going to use it to explain my thoughts.

For me at least, conception was the easy part. It never takes me very long to get pregnant or write a book. The gestation though is a killer. When I was pregnant with my girls, I threw up everyday for nine months. After I signed the contract for my book, I wanted to throw up for the past 11 months. Who knew I was supposed to have a master's degree in marketing and computer science to understand a little thing called social media?

Each time I was pregnant, I gave up my favorite thing -- Diet Coke. I went off the caffeine and soda, and tried to be super healthy for my kids, not a natural state of being for me. It was not fun. I hated the restrictions. I hated the hip and back pain. I thought, "There's no way I will EVER do this again. It's just not worth it."

To try to do what the publisher asked of me, I had to give up my favorite thing. I went from being able to read a book a day, to being somewhat chained to my laptop and giving up my precious reading time. I have been warned by some other authory friends that if I don't figure out the whole blogging thing, then it doesn't matter how good the book is. It will die a slow death of obscurity. So for almost a year I've done the legwork. I've blogged, I've spoken at events, I've solicited endorsements, I've done interviews and podcast. Even got into Utah Valley Magazine. Towards the end when I was trying to gather bloggers for my blog tour,  I thought, "There's no way I will EVER do this again. It's just not worth it."

My first daughter came after 27 hours of labor. I looked into her little blue face (she had trouble breathing) and knew that anything I had been through was worth it for what I had in my hands.

My books I ordered for my launch party arrived on January 3rd, a year after I finished the first draft. I opened the box and looked at the cover in my hands -- and I knew it had been worth it.

The path of an author is never easy. It is filled with rejection, criticism, and sweat with printer ink mixed it. A piece of our soul goes into everything we write. And when that piece connects with some reader, somewhere -- all the pain, the nos, the long nights, the writer's block -- will be worth it.

Here are my babies


Thank you for sharing in my "pregnancy".


Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: "Finished Being Fat" by Betsy Schow

This month marks the four year anniversary of Mormon Mommy Writers Blog. When we started this blog all those years ago, our goal was to support each other to write good, uplifting books, and to promote those type of books as well. That's why I'm so excited to do this post today. I get to not only promote a very inspiring book, but I also get to support my fellow MMW blogger, Betsy Schow by reviewing her debut book!

Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can finish it. In her quest to wish away an extra 75 pounds, Betsy changed her life for good. Using her Philosophy of Finishing, she snowballed her efforts from weight loss into a bucket list of seemingly impossible dreams. This inspiring account of one woman's journey will help you find the strength to conquer your most daunting goals and unfinished projects.

Finished Being Fat by Betsy Schow will have you laughing, crying and maybe send you in search of a Zumba class or two.  I know I did all three! This book illustrates one woman's journey from self-loathing to self-confidence and self-esteem. The damaging voices women hear in their heads can be very difficult to overcome. Most women don't even know where to start. Betsy uses her very real story to show that it can be done and that finding one's self-worth is more important than fame, riches, or even a very shiny medal! Congratulations, Betsy on writing a great book for women everywhere. 

Be sure to go to Betsy's blog and to check out her new book on Amazon!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

To Resolve

Maybe this topic is old-hat by now, because I've seen a lot of talk about it around the Internet, given the season, but the idea of New Years goals and resolutions have been bouncing around my head like that old ping pong arcade game.

While I've been pondering, cogitating and weighing my goals and resolutions for 2013, an email from David Farland arrived in my inbox (it's called the daily kick in the pants for writers, and you can sign up here).

So even if you've already read five blog posts about writing goals today, here's his take on how to meet your own expectations:

With writing goals, I’ve tried a number of different types of goals over the years. I’ve tried the, “I will write a book a month goal.” This is the astronomical goal intended to just push you to get words on paper. I have had times where I was extremely productive, but I’ve never been that productive, unless I’ve been on a writing retreat. The problem is, life ain’t a writing retreat. I can’t do that all of the time. Still, there may be a period where setting an extreme goal makes sense. I can go on a long writing retreat and get huge amounts written.
 
 
I’ve tried the “I will work on one scene a day” goal, which basically says, “I won’t go to sleep until I’ve at least done a little writing.” This seems reasonable, but there are days when other things need to take priority for an entire day, maybe even entire weeks. So you feel pretty crummy about yourself at the end of one of those days. The goal also suffers from not being strictly defined. What does “I will work on a scene” mean? Does it mean that I will completely write a draft of a scene? That’s a nicely defined goal. But “working” on a scene too often becomes sitting around with a distant gaze, just thinking about it.
 
 
How about the “I’ll write X pages per day” goal. It sounds reasonable and measured, yet ensures that by the end of the year, you’ll have a large amount of work done. Same problem happens as above, other things get in the way on certain days. For example, Tax time is coming. It takes me a full week or more to get my taxes prepared, and I can’t clutter my mind with other things while doing it. So by tax time every year, that goal goes out the window.
 
 
While we are at it, how about the “At 6:00 AM, I will park my butt in my chair and start writing.” That’s the goal that I’m using today. I find that setting a time and a place to write works pretty well for me. It has for years. My writing day is supposed to start by 8:00 AM, and I’m an hour early to work this morning. For me, this one has always worked best. Why? Because humans are creatures of habit, and by making writing a habit, I can ensure that I’ll get at least something done every day.
 
~ David Farland, On Being Resolute


 I'm off to get some writing done.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What I Wish the 1970s Feminists Had Known


This may prove controversial but it's about being a mother, and I need to say it. I hope no one is offended by it; it's really nothing more than a wistful thought on my part.

I'm a working mother, but wish I wasn't. I love my job and couldn't ask for a better one, with the exception of one.

I'd love to be a stay-at-home Mum.

Sixty years ago women gave up their jobs (as teachers or secretaries) when they married, and spent their lives looking after children and doing housework, making a clean and comfortable home for their husbands. Then along came the feminist movement and women fought to escape that demeaning drudgery. Various legal challenges followed and now women are expected to be fully part of the workforce, to achieve as much as any man in the same job, and to be paid the same amount.

So I am very grateful to the feminist movement for that tremendous achievement. It means I can have a job where I use my skills and am valued, I contribute to the family income, and I have an identity other than "wife" and "mother" or even "homemaker".

But actually there's a downside too. Because when women started going out to work society reshaped itself to allow for that. Paid maternity leave is now up to a year, but women are expected to go back to work after that, and welfare benefits are in place to pay for childcare for working mothers rather than giving financial support to mothers who choose not to return.

House prices went up when women started working because families now had more disposable income. In fact, they went up so much that the average family can now no longer afford to buy a house unless both parents are working. The cheapest three-bedroomed house in our area is around £200,000 ($300,000). A fairly good salary of £30,000 ($45,000) would yield only a £90,000 mortgage - not enough to buy a house. So in almost all cases if the family want to buy a home (and renting costs as much as buying) the wife is going to have to go out to work too. And the children are going to have to go to a childminder or nursery. That's the situation our family finds itself in. We can't afford for me not to work.

I love my job, but I would love to not work. It's a real wrench sometimes to walk past the dirty breakfast dishes and piles of laundry to my home office. For five hours I sit and design adverts, put together rotas and send out leaflets, and then it's time to collect my children from school and make dinner. It means that most of my Saturdays are spent frantically trying to catch up on housework,Sundays aren't a day of rest at all (it's when I do my visiting teaching and prepare Seminary lessons) and most evenings are spent feeling exhausted and guilty about how little time I've been able to spend with my children. Being a Mum and looking after my home is a full-time job, and I'm run ragged trying to combine it with my paid work.

In order to placate all those who are asking why my husband doesn't share in the housework and childcare burden, he does. He does laundry, cooked Christmas dinner and often cooks our Sunday roast, and is chief dishwasher loader and unloader. But he leaves the house at 6.30 a.m., gets home at 6.30 p.m. and often spend his evenings on his private client work.

So I may be succeeding in my job, but because I am expected and essentially forced to work, I am failing as a mother and homemaker. I'm always running just to stand still, and I'm perpetually exhausted. I would like to finish decorating the bathroom, sort out the garden, paint the bargeboards and sweep the children's bedroom weekly, but I just don't have the time.

What's the solution? Short of us one of my books hitting the big time thus enabling me to give up work (or hire a cleaner) there isn't one. And I don't want it to sound as though I'm complaining - I have a fulfilling job, happy children, and a nice (superficially clean) home. I like knowing that I can work and be paid and valued as much as any man doing the same job, and I don't want to change anything.

But I wish someone had told the feminists who fought for our right to work that they were also taking away our right not to.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Talking Tuesday: That Loving Feeling


To a writer, ideas come often and the newest ones tend to sparkle a lot brighter than the ones we have been carrying around for longer.  I have talked with and read advice from many writers/authors.  While with writing it is necessary to focus especially when there are deadlines for projects, there are valid reasons for writing what you are enthusiastic about while you are experiencing the enthusiasm. 

If you have lost that loving feeling for your current WIP, it might be time for a break.  I am not saying to trash it. Sometimes a short recess is all that is needed to rekindle the spark that once had you working so diligently.  When you lack the desire to write what is necessary, you are not going to be writing material that readers will be excited to read. 

Do you have a process for rekindling that loving feeling when you and your WIP just aren't feeling each other?

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Fast From the World



Just so you know, you will not be seeing much of me this month, with the exception of my weekly posts, which may be shorter than usual. (Stop sighing with relief, I can HEAR you!)

You see, the last Sunday of December (which happened to be my birthday, happybirthdaytome), our bishop extended an invitation to our ward. He invited us to participate in a “Fast From the World”. (When he said this, another mother who was standing out in the foyer with me said, “Did he say ‘a fast from the world’ or a ‘fast for the world’?” I said, “I think a ‘fast for the world.’ The other one doesn’t really make any sense.” Well, I was wrong.)

Our “Fast From the World” means that we are fasting from those things of the world that distract us from what is most important. He talked about TV, movies, video games, facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, and gratuitous texting and e-mailing. He asked us to take the time we would normally spend on those things and use it instead to build relationships with our families, draw closer to the Lord, and improve our talents. He reminded us that missionaries live this lifestyle for two years, and it cultivates a mind and spirit prepared to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost. He promised us that we could receive similar blessings by doing the same.

When he explained all this, I got really excited (because I’m a nerd). This was something I’d been wanting to do for awhile. I could feel how Pinterest, facebook, and e-mailing were sucking up so much of my time, and how even though I used them to relax, I never felt relaxed after doing them. In fact, I often felt more stressed because they were really just a way to avoid my responsibilities, like cleaning and laundry. When my laptop closed or I switched the tv off, the piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and crumby floors were still there.  Wasting my time watching tv or puttering away on the internet was keeping me from being the wife and mom I wanted to be. They were an addiction, plain and simple. I needed to go cold turkey.

So on January 1st, our whole world changed. My kids now have a mom who is present, who is reading to them (The Mysterious Benedict Society is a REALLY fun book, btw), playing games with them, teaching them how to cook and having them help me with chores. My husband and I are talking more than ever before, and each night we laugh over the games we play together. He helps me much more around the house because…well, he has nothing else to do! I have found time to read my scriptures each day, read church books that have been collecting dust on my shelves for years, and I have actually surprised myself with the quality of writing I’ve been able to achieve. I’ve also put significantly more time into my calling (Primary music chorister) and I know that I have been blessed for it, and that the children will be blessed as well.

Possibly the most significant change is that I have found that this fast has given me a constant sense of caution, and caused me to think carefully about everything I do, asking myself, Should I be doing this? Is this in keeping with the spirit of the fast? I think that this constant questioning and awareness is something we all need in all aspects of our lives. We should always be asking ourselves, Should I be doing this? Is this in keeping with the commandments of the Lord?

I’m sure this all sounds quite ideal, but let me assure you that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Like last week when my littlest ones were still recovering from the flu- I was DESPERATE to just plunk my clingy, whining, snot-covered 3-year-old in front of the tv, but I resisted. I decided it was something I needed to figure out how to deal with, and that tv was a crutch both for me and for her. It wasn’t easy, but I survived, and I feel stronger for it.

So for the next few weeks at least, our world seems a little quieter, life runs a little slower, and I can think a little clearer. I will be sure to keep you updated as our “Fast from the World” progresses…



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Re

     I had an epiphany this week. I realized that we aren't just writers, we are rewriters. This realization came while I was trying to edit and rewrite a few ideas that Ash and I had for the beginning of our WIP. I found myself rewriting, redoing, trying to reword something, needing to reformat...and then I started thinking about all the re-ing that goes into books as a whole, the stuff we all have to do before we can send our stories out into the world. We revamp, review, rephrase, reflect, reduce and rebuild, remove, refine, repair, and sometimes we just have to redo the whole thing. It seems like we do a lot more re-ing than actual writing.
     Writing a real book is not like all those times in high school writing a paper the night before, sometimes only hours before it needed to be turned in. I know that in the world of writing there are deadlines that need to be met, but it seems we use the time a little better, at least I use the time better than when I was back in high school or college. For me, I typically waited until the night before a paper was due and then I poured out all my ideas and thoughts and usually only had time for a once over for an edit before turning it in. I'm sure if I had cared more about my writing back then I would have put more effort into it, giving myself more time, allowing for all those re's to help my writing. Now, however, the story we are writing means something to me, I want it to be its best before it is released into the world. Recognizing this has helped me and changed my perspective.
     Realizing all the work and all the re-ing that goes into a book has also changed how I critique other books. I have had a taste as to what it's like on the writing end of a story and can appreciate the effort and time, all those "re" words that it takes to produce a good story.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday So What Spotlight: Bonnie Gwyn

Today marks the four year anniversary of this blog. Four years of  Mormons, Mommies, and Writers supporting and lifting each other over the rough stuff. I think it fitting that it falls on a Saturday So What Spotlight, the day when I turn it over to the readers to guest blog about a challenge that they face in their MMW lives. Today's MMW is my new friend, Bonnie Gwyn - a truly obsessed writer, author, and editor – who never goes a day without penning several hundred words. She is currently crafting a fantasy romance series called The Legends of Elldamorae. The first book, Freedom’s Wings, is in beta right now and the second, Living Fire, is in the works. Bonnie also engages in singing, song writing, and enjoying the tranquility of her Northern Idaho home. Visit her at www.bonniegwyn.com

  A Story to Tell – MMW Guest Blog by Bonnie Gwyn
Bonnie Gwyn
When I was little, creating things enchanted me. I loved to turn common things into treasures, and every little thought or fantasy found a part in a world that only I could create. It was in my mind, and it was my job to bring it all together before sharing it with the people around me.
To this day, I’m still trying to do just that. The fantastical land that now hosts my books has existed in my mind for longer than I remember. As I grew up, it grew up, and the characters changed from children to adults. Their problems and experiences transformed right along with them.
Those characters are like a part of the family. And that’s why I’m still so determined to tell their story. I owe it to them for being so patient with me.
My series, The Legends of Elldamorae, has gone through more rewrites than I dare count. With every one, I pray it will be the last. It delights me so much to finally say that the first book is written, and that – after all of these years – I am happy with it. :)
The problem now is pressing forward with the rest. When NaNo came around last November, I faced once more my constant nemesis: the white, blank page. Sadly, before my count made it past 10,000, writer’s block set in. Been battling that enemy ever since.
But it’s a new year, and I’m going to make it count, because – no matter my blockage – I have a story to tell.
Everyone has a story to tell, be it their own, or the story of the voices that reign inside their head. Yes – there are voices, and they can drive you crazy. But when you listen to them, they give you insight into themselves that you never saw before. You might feel like a lunatic, but really, listen to the voices – they know what they’re saying. Imagine how it would be if someone was trying to tell your story – wouldn’t you want it done right? (I like to side with my characters. Sue me!)
Every story has a beginning – maybe the creation of a world, or the birth of a hero destined for greatness. Whatever it is, it’s a starting point, and it’s up to us to find where it leads.
Inside that space that appears to be blank, there’s so much to discover – a journey of excitement that only you can explain. That’s the amazing thing about writing – and also the scariest. It’s yours. One of my greatest fears has always been that I’ll die before I get this right – that I’ll let my characters down and never tell the story. (Yes, I talk about my characters like they’re real people.) So this year, my goal is to get it done.
Let’s all get out there and tell the story – make it happen! Find the things in your writing that give you a passion for the work, and then run with it like there’s fire at your heels.
Oh, and one last piece of advice: pray about your writing. It’s miraculous what can happen when God is involved in our every endeavor. He will help you. :)
I wish you all the best of luck and a happy new year. Make 2013 exactly what you want it to be!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Weak Things Become Strong

My brother is serving a full time mission in Montana. I try to write him once week and we have recently taken to using a scripture to describe our week or how we are feeling. This week I used one of my favorite scriptures.

Well since this is the beginning of a new year, and therefore a time for resolutions or goals. My scripture is Ether 12:27 "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." 
The new year is a time to evaluate our weaknesses and pick one or two to take to the Lord that He may transform our weaknesses into our strengths. My goal for the next year is to write. I've pretty much given it up lately and I'm not happy with myself. Writing is something I can do that makes me feel good about who I am. My focus for writing is no longer just to get published. My focus is to reveal myself through words. Even if I am writing of a world that only exists in my mind, words are an outer expression of my inner self that I often hide from everyone, including me. So my goal is to go to the library every Tuesday and Thursday after work and picking my kids up from school. I will not limit myself on what I am allowed to write. I will write whatever is in my heart. 

I like to knowing The Lord has made this promise to us that He will make weak things strong unto us. To me this is one of the most inspiring scriptures in the Book of Mormon. I know that with His help I can accomplish all my writing goals this year.  

How about you?  What are your writing goals this year?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Did You Read A Great Book in 2012?

My first order of business today is to wish you all a happy new year.  I'm hard at work working out my new year resolutions, and getting back into a normal routine after the memorable Christmas fun that is now behind us.  2012 was a very good year.  I'm looking forward with great anticipation to many exciting events in 2013.

Secondly, this post was meant for last Thursday.  It is one week late, and I wish I had a reasonable excuse.  I apologize for the tardiness.  The combination of holidays and a nasty flu virus navigating our domicile, made way for an error on my behalf.  

I love book recommendations.  In fact, almost all of the books you will see below were drawn to my attention by the recommendation of someone I cared about or trusted (could make for a interesting future topic).  Here are some of the best books I read in 2012 - some moved me, some surprised me, all satisfied me in the way only books can.

What about you?  What great books did you read in the past year?  Because, if I could repeat it again, I love a good recommendation.








Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolutions and Reviews

Not much to do with the topic, admittedly,
but I'm overdue a cute kitten picture.

Yesterday on my personal blog I posted about my eight, yes eight, New Year's Resolutions. Well, it's day 2 and I'm doing great on them so far. Yay me! (Or maybe I should hold that celebration until day 364.)

But today I want to look at just one of those resolutions, because it's one I'd like us all to make.

Resolution 3: Read and review books.

I hadn't realised, until I self-published for the first time last year how important book reviews are. Oh sure, it was always nice to review Amazon and Goodreads reviews of my books but since my publishers were putting the books on shelves and in catalogues it didn't matter that much.

But then I self-published for the first time and discovered that actually reviews are essential. Buyers are not going to discover The Saved Saint on a bookstore shelf and think it looks intriguing enough to take to the counter, they need to find it on Amazon because a friend liked or reviewed it, and there need to be reviews of it to help them decide whether or not it's for them. Genuine reviews add credibility to a book online. And with the market pretty much flooded and readers spoilt for choice, a few great reviews of your book can flesh out the details and help the buyer decide.

So I will review every book I read this year and post my review on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads, Facebook and my blog. It only takes a few minutes and it can really help the author as well as potential buyers.

I started early, in fact. I downloaded The Penal Colony by Richard Herley a couple of weeks ago and was gripped by it. So I reviewed it and gave it four stars which is pretty much the best rating I give for books that aren't Twilight or The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. And I even emailed the author to let him know how much I had enjoyed it and that I had posted a review. Turns out authors love getting fan mail even more than they love getting reviews! He was very happy to have my email, and sent me another book! Total win! I got to read a fantastic book, engage with the author (I was a little starstruck, I confess) and I got a free book out of the deal.

If you love books, spare a moment to review them. And if you have another spare moment, don't forget to thank the author.

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