Saturday, May 31, 2014

My english teachers hated me....

By Lacey Gunter

I often think about the crazy road that brought me to this unexpected junction in my life right now.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am not your stereotypical writer.  My 'talents' as a young child and continuing through adulthood mostly seemed to be clumped around mathematics. I did exceptional at it, so that is how people saw me, as a math wiz.

One thing I liked about math is that it is so black and white. You knew there was one right answer and if you could figure out a correct way to get there, you knew where you stood. Other people's opinions didn't matter. But that sort of black and white mentality always seemed to get me in trouble in English class.

I was never a bad student, mind you. I have always been and will probably always be studious to the core. But my wanting things to have an apparent 'correct' answer often set me at odds with my English teachers. Honestly, I think some of them flat out hated me. Or at least that's how it felt when I was young.  As a result, I think I hated writing. It was an unbearable chore. 

Educational research often studies interactions with math teachers and how it affects students' perceptions of math ability. I have not seen the same type of examination on interactions with English teachers, but based on my own experience, I am guessing it is the same.

I am mostly free from the direct influences of a judging English teacher now, and luckily I have also broken free from hating writing. But I still carry around a vibrant insecurity of sharing any of my writing with them.  I have a lovely friend who has taught English for years and I am sure she could influence my writing for the better, but I can't seem to muster enough courage to even tell her I am writing.  I have managed to conquer any insecurities with sharing my writing with other writers, general audiences and even with prospective agents (thanks to a healthy dose of anonymity, hiding behind a computer screen). But this one I haven't been able to conquer yet.

How about you? Have you had any of these types of insecurities and how have you conquered them?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Why I Stopped Watching Parenthood


(Even if you've never seen Parenthood, you'll have an opinion about this post.)

When I first starting watching Parenthood a few years ago, Max had just been diagnosed with Asbergers, a form of autism.  This was an interesting and informative story line.  Our daughter teaches teens with Asbergers, and the show brought attention to this complex issue.
jason ritter parenthood
Other story lines included losing a business (Adam's), teen angst, the effect of divorce on Sarah's kids, a stay-at-home Dad (Joel), weary working moms, an out of wedlock grandson (Jamal), the emotional disconnection that sometimes occurs in a marriage of 30+ years (Zeke and Camille), and adoption.  I thought from the beginning, these characters were a bit shallow, but the story lines were significant.  They were true to life challenges.

Then...the show became more about sexual escapades.  Crosby slept with his nephew's tutor, ruining his chance for love and reconciliation with his son's mama.  Sarah began an affair with her son's teacher.  Zeke admitted to being unfaithful to Camile.  Adam became tempted by a young coworker.  Haddie, a teen, slept with her boyfriend for the first time.  Sarah broke up with the teacher and began a relationship with her coworker, which, of course, led to a sleepover.  Drew, just out of high school, got his girlfriend pregnant (she had an abortion.)  Amber fell for a young soldier, and the relationship quickly became sexual.  Enough, already, I thought.

The story line that kept me watching was Kristina's breast cancer.  It was real and touching and important.

Then, Joel returned to work, and his wife Julia became enmeshed in a male friend's marital break-up.  She eventually kissed the friend, causing Joel to leave her.  Later, Julia sought out the friend again; the viewer was left to wonder how far things went.  From the beginning, Joel and Julia's marriage was the only stable one on the show.  The writers must have decided a solid marriage was no longer worth writing about.

That's when I decided, with some disappointment, I needed to quit watching.  My final viewing was the season finale, where Haddie brought home from college her lesbian girlfriend.  I almost laughed.  The writers apparently wanted sexual freedom to be represented across all avenues. 

I thought of the scripture verse that tells us to focus on things that are "good and pure and holy."  I just began to feel sleazy after soaking up an hour of Parenthood.  I don't want to feel that way anymore. 

I'm making no judgments about those love Parenthood, or the Kardashians, for that matter.  God gave us free will to make choices about what we allow into our minds and hearts.  I'm making a choice for myself. 

So, goodbye Braverman family.  We shared some good times, but I need to move on.

p.s. Do you watch Parenthood?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Killer "What If?"

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

About two years ago, I started wondering if maybe it was time for the hubby and me to have another child. I have never been a baby-hungry sort, and it was a challenge for me to accept the idea of bringing both of our other children into the world, so this idea was hard for me to accept. But since the hubby has always been more receptive to promptings than I, I brought it up tentatively with him. To make a long story short, for several very good reasons, he did not agree at that time. So I set it aside, somewhat relieved. Three months later, we were both ready to follow that prompting.
The very next month, I started having worse mittelschmerz* than I had ever had previously.

And I didn’t get pregnant.

And I didn’t get pregnant.

And still I didn’t get pregnant. Which, on the whole, was quite a shock. I had come to accept that I could get pregnant at the drop of the hat, so this had not been a worry.

And yet, as the months passed, I began to fear. What if that niggling feeling in May was the signal of my window of opportunity? And I had lost my chance because I wasn’t ready to seize it?

And what if I never had the chance again?

The feeling plagued me for quite a while, and I became just a little too uptight about all of this—not so much out of a desire for another child (although that came eventually too), but mostly out of guilt that I had not taken the chance when it lay before me.

I wonder, sometimes, if we are susceptible to that as writers as well, particularly as beginning writers trying to make our way into the publishing world. You hear about a fantastic contest—and wouldn’t it be great to enter? This is the perfect opportunity. And yet . . . you’re not ready. Or there’s a conference that sounds amazing, with several wonderful agents who might love your work. But . . . you can’t go. An agent expresses an interest in your manuscript . . . but you just have to change only about a gazillion critical things about it.**

What if this is your one and only chance?

Well, I’ve come to believe the world doesn’t work that way. And more importantly, the Lord doesn’t work that way. Just when I had decided that I would buck up and schedule some minor surgery to sort of clear the pipes, as they say, and maybe give me a chance to get pregnant again—that very next month, I was pregnant. And even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant that month, even if I never would again, that didn’t mean that God was punishing me for failing to be ready.

Just because a brilliant conference or contest or agent opportunity arises—just because you can’t or don’t take that chance, it doesn’t mean your writing career is over. Not every chance is the last one.

But I think sometimes we freak ourselves out (or is it just me?) with the “what if?” And we layer on the guilt or fear and determine that this is our one shot, and if we don’t get it—if the agent doesn’t love us, if we lose the contest—it’s over.

This is not true.

Sure, seize every opportunity you reasonably can. Put in the time and sweat and effort to go for what you really want. But don’t forget to keep it in perspective. Sometimes the timing is wrong. This year I went to two wonderful writing conferences out of state because they were important to me and because I really wanted to see some of the speakers there. Oh, and because for the next year or two I probably won’t be attending much of anything except my newborn’s diaper changes. And if one of the speakers at the conferences next year is the speaker I’ve always wanted to see, my whole entire writing life, I will take a deep breath and suck it up. Because it’s not going to be the end of the world. I may still get to see him/her again in the future.

The point is that the “what if?” does us no good. It keeps us from focusing on the future and new possibilities, keeping us dwelling in the losses and failures of the past. It kills potential. So seize the day, but if you can’t, keep plugging along. Another day will come.

* Mittelschmerz is cramping that occurs in the middle of your period, usually around ovulation. It can signal that there are blocks in your system, or it can just be one of those unfortunate occurrences. So there’s your educational bit for the day.

** Remember Katy’s post here?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What a character!

Last month I took a week-long vacation with my hubby and 3 kids to the paradise of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  It was beautiful and relaxing (well, I did say I brought all 3 of my kids, so sort of relaxing) and was a great memory for all of us.  Whenever I go on a long vacation I plan out my book selection very carefully, so I will be thoroughly entertained and engrossed in the books- they need to be beach vacation worthy on all accounts.  

With that said, I added two more titles to my kindle before I left, then set out for some interrupted, distracted reading time (enter 3 kids again).

One book I picked was written by a very well-known author, and it hadn't been out for too long.  It had gotten great reviews, and I had read some things by him in the past that I really enjoyed, so I thought I was going to be set.  
I sat down to read and after being mildly entertained for a few reading sessions I would shut the cover of my kindle in annoyance, open it again and give it another hopeful, maybe even desperate try, then shut it again.  I couldn't go on anymore.  There was so much potential with the storyline that I really wanted to find out how it all ended, but something in particular was making me crazy.  

That something was the characters.  Or the shear number of characters, or the lack of character development, or the constant POV shifting between the characters.  Just when I would begin to be interested in a character and their part of the story, the author would yank them away, and plop another in front of my face.  And this teasing author did this OVER and OVER.  It felt like I was watching t.v. with a channel surfer-"Hey! I was watching that!" 

I guess it really got to me because when I invest time into a book, I really want to be able to connect and get interested in the characters.  I want to know them, feel for them, love them, or even hate them.  I want to feel something.   If I can't feel for them, then why do I want to read their story?  
Characters should feel real. I love when I can picture their appearance, the sound of their voice, the way they stand, or how they like to talk with their hands.  I want the characters to feel so real, that maybe I have to remind myself what I read was just a book, not an excerpt out of my life story. 

For the record I did finish the story, and when I say finish I mean skimmed through the last half because I did want to know how it ended, and I left feeling very unsatisfied.  

Is there a particular thing that you just can't get past when reading a book?

What is your annoyance/pet-peeve when you are reading a novel?  What causes you to shut the book before you finish?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Greater Love Hath No Man Than This

by Kasey Tross

On this Memorial Day I would like to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives for this beautiful country of ours.

I am very proud to have had a grandfather who served in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Colonel before he retired. 

Colonel Robert Otis Quackenbush was born May 10th, 1915. I remember him as the grandpa who used to “count my ribs” (his excuse for tickling me) and tell my grandmother not to give me any mashed potatoes because I didn’t like them (they were my favorite food).

My grandparents’ wedding day, 1942. 

My grandparents lived in Pennsylvania, near the New York border. They had a house on a hill, with rolling land around it. There was a pond where my grandpa taught us how to fish, and a cherry tree where we would pick cherries. At the bottom of the hill was a road, and just beyond the road a river. Just past the river were the railroad tracks, which were one of my favorite parts of visiting their home as a child. I loved to hear the sound of the trains going by and watch them through the huge picture windows in my grandparents’ living room.

They had all sorts of exotic things in their house that they had brought back from Japan, where they lived for many years during the U.S. occupation. My father was their only child, and my brother and sister and I were their only grandchildren, so we were spoiled completely rotten.

My grandpa passed away when I was 6, and I will never forget the creaking of the wheels on the caisson and the clopping of the horses hooves being the only sounds as the funeral procession made its way through Arlington Cemetery that September day. I remember the little black and white plaid skirt I wore, with a matching purse that made me feel so grown-up. I remember the gunshot salute that made me jump and cover my ears. I remember the white-gloved soldiers rhythmically removing the flag from the casket, folding it so carefully, and solemnly presenting it to my grandmother, who looked as elegant as ever dressed in black.

At the time I was too young to really recognize the significance of what was happening, too young to notice the empty space next to my grandfather’s grave, too young to even think of the day that my grandmother’s headstone would be there next to his.

Now I look back and I have realized how blessed I was to have known my grandfather who had served in Korea and WWII. I am so glad for my grandmother, that the smiles she and her young groom wore on their wedding day were smiles that they would share for many more decades to come, because there were so many other brides who were not as fortunate.

I got these beautiful photographs from an album my dad put together for me, and so many of the photos in the album did not include my grandfather, but had captions that said things like “photo taken to send to Robert Otis Quackenbush, Sr. while he was serving abroad, exact location unknown.” What faith and devotion it requires of not only those who serve, but those good women and other family members who support those who serve. May we never forget all that has been given, all that is being given, and all that is yet to be given by these brave men and women.

May you have a blessed Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


This will be my last post. I have really enjoyed writing for this blog for the last 7 months. It was hard to decide what to do, but I feel like right now I really need to concentrate on my own personal writing. I do love reading all of the posts and will be a frequent visitor. I wrote this article for my mom, her mom and so on. I come from amazing women that I strive to be like. Never forget where you come from. Talents are often passed down through generations. I never knew when I was younger, but as I have done more genealogy I have learned several women from various parts of my family tree who were writers, teachers and mothers. I strive to be half as wonderful as them. Enjoy! 
Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Isn’t this statement so true? I feel that it can be true to every single person. If you had a wonderful mother, who was everything that a mother should be than you want to be like her, thank her by having a wonderful life. There are some who didn’t have such wonderful mothers, who maybe made the wrong choices and that weren’t around. But you still owe everything that you learned to that person. Your experiences growing up made you the person who you are today, good and bad.

A few years ago my brothers and sisters and I wanted to make a picture for our mom and grandma. I went and found pictures as far back as I could go. As I have looked at those names, memorized each face I have learned more and more about each woman. What they were like and what they passed down from generation to generation. 

I learned from my mom, Janeen, to be strong and giving. That I can be a fun mother who puts her kids first. We learned from my grandma, Merle, how to be faithful, kind and how to love. Mary Viola Allred, my great grandmother, was patriotic, faithful through storms, and always knew how to make us laugh. My 2nd great grandmother, Mary Eliza Tracy was a quiet woman, content with her life and supported her husband and church. Emma Maria Burdett was an inspiration of love, she’s my 3rd great grandmother and she was beautiful. She passed down her faith, talents and love.

I am so thankful for these wonderful women to learn from, it reminds me of a quote by Virginia Woolf, “For we think back through our mothers if we are women.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Throwing Planks at Your Windows

Last weekend, I was listening to “Rosie on the House,” a home improvement radio show. They were at the Pella window factory (in Pella, Iowa!) and Rosie was squeeing like a fanboy at Comicon about all of the cool machines they use to test the strength, durability, and awesomeness of their windows. The Pella people put their product through a plethora of performance (p) evaluations, from extreme temperature ovens that subject the windows to extreme heat and cold. I won’t say what the exact temperatures are, because I don’t remember the exact ones. But it was in the “humans can’t survive this heat/cold” range—well beyond what a window should reasonably be expected to withstand. Pella has tests for “forced entry resistance” where they put pressure on the product to make sure it won’t be an easy target for burglars. Rosie’s favorite test involved a machine that hurls 2x4 planks of wood at the windows to test them for resistance to breakage.  Pella also pulls five windows off their assembly line and sends them directly to testing for performance ratings, compared with many manufacturers that pull windows, tweak and calibrate them, and then send them to the performance rating tests. The result of all the extreme testing is that Pella is considered one of the Rolls Royces of windows.
What does this have to do with writing? Well, Pella wants their windows to be the best, so they subject them to testing that borders on outrageously overdone—if the Earth ever got as cold as what they are testing their windows for, the occupants would already by dead. Winds strong enough to throw full planks of wood at windows would have already sent the whole house over the rainbow. Nevertheless, Pella knows that if it can withstand those extremes, then everything else will be easily overcome. They want to be sure that their product is the best it can be.
Are you willing to do that to your book/poem/short story/magazine article? We don’t have machines to test our writing—we have critiques and beta testers. Just like manufacturers (window, car, tire, etc.) throw their worst at their product, we should be putting our work through stringent and repeated testing to make sure it can hold up to the standards that editors, readers, reviewers will place on it.  If Pella wasn’t willing to have a few windows break in the name of quality, they shouldn’t be in the window business. If an author isn’t able to handle criticism, even blistering, scathing dislike, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the business. Think of the critiquing in your own close groups, or by family and friends) as heat or pressure testing. A beta read, on the other hand, is more like checking to see if your “window” can withstand a 2x4 at hurricane speed. You need to know if it can, before you send it to an agent.  Welcome the shattering—it means you still have time to fix your product before sending it out to the world.
So, your beta reader breaks your window—ouch. It hurts. The words you wrote came from your soul. This book is your baby—and this reader just called your baby ugly. How should you react? Well, first, don’t punch the reader in the face. You asked for a critique. Be grateful for the honesty.  Secondly, acknowledge that it hurts—but put an expiration date on the pity party. You need to give yourself permission to feel sad about the negative criticism for a few moments (or the time it takes to consume your favorite guilty pleasure treat, or a lunch with friends to commiserate). However, what you do next is what separates the amateur from the professional. Your next choice is whether you sit, with your thin skin, cradling your ego and stroking your “baby” muttering “what do they know,” and “Mommy thinks you’re just beautiful”—okay, I’m being extreme. But think about this—the energy you devote to building your ego back up, getting validation from others about your talent, focusing on how you feel, is energy that you could be spending making your book better. If the engineers at Pella spent any time at all feeling sorry for themselves when a window cracked in the oven or shattered when the board hit it, we would think they were ridiculous—just fix the product! It sounds heartless (and I need to take my own advice, trust me) but it is not about you, it’s about the writing.  A professional just gets back to work, figuring out what didn’t work, and fixing it.
I have chapters and trilogies full of thoughts about this, but you don’t have years (or patience) to read them. Here are a few:
Writing is a craft—yes, it is an art as well, but whereas an amateur relies mostly on raw talent, a professional practices the craft. Professionals are often not satisfied with their own work, because it’s not ready to withstand a hurricane yet—and amateurs think what they have created is so AWESOME that anyone with differing opinions is either mean, misinformed, or just doesn’t understand. Not all criticism is valid, but gives all of it serious consideration. As a professional, you can sift the wheat from the chaff.
A professional at anything separates themselves from their work, even as they throw everything they have into their work. The thick skin, the ability—no, the eagerness­­­­—to accept negative feedback, is a sign of true professional because they know that identifying flaws is the only way to fix flaws.
A professional never argues with criticism. The book is going to be sent out into the world defenseless, so to “yeah but” with your beta readers is pointless. If a beta reader has an issue then you can rest assured that other readers will too. Figure out the problem, and fix it.
A professional doesn’t throw the beta reader under the bus. By this I mean, that the writer shouldn’t kill the messenger, or try to make the beta reader out to be the bad guy. Even if your feelings are totally hurt, have the professionalism to leave them out of it. Getting other people to tell you that your beta reader doesn’t know what they are talking about, that your writing is amazing, blah blah blah, may make you feel better, but it doesn’t make your book better.  
Remember, it’s about the book. It’s not about you. Your book is a window—make sure it can withstand the hurricane before you send it out into the world. If someone finds flaws, fix them.

Have you had a critique that just crushed you? How did you use it to improve your craft?

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Am Not A Pimp

By Nikki Wilson

I once read a discussion by published authors who made a comparison between writing and selling books to being like pimp. It was a quite humorous discussion and it had me laughing all the way through. There are some similarities. It tends to feel like to make good money publishing you need to turn out book after book and spend some time making them look pretty but not get too attached. After all, if it's not going to make you money you need to be ready  with another one that will.

I was thinking about that comparison this week as the school year came to a close and so did my paychecks for the next couple of months. (I work as a reading tutor at a school.) The week before, we had some unexpected things happen, like a trip to the emergency room and a broken car part. Neither one was anything major and I'm very grateful for that! Though they both cost some money we hadn't planned on. Luckily we have an emergency fund and were able to cover it, but that was supposed to last us through the summer too. So my mind turned to the book I've written and the edits I'm doing. I suddenly wondered if I could make it look pretty enough to sell it. I believe my exact words to my husband were, "I need to quit babying this book and whore it out!" (Yes, I know used the words whore and pimp on a Mormon blog. *GASP* But I promise I have a point.)

It sounded like a good idea at first. I know I treat each book I write like a work of art that shouldn't be touched by anyone and should remain behind glass always (In this case, behind the glass of my computer screen.) If I can't get a book to reach my standards I hide it away for no one to see. This isn't very helpful if I want to eventually make money at writing books. But the idea of becoming a book pimp didn't sit well with me either. I need to find a balance that works for me.

The comparison I thought of was of a mother. I've heard authors talk of their books as their babies. It feels like a pretty apt description to me. But there comes a point when I have stop seeing the book as a baby and let it become an adult. Then I have to let it find it's way in the world but always hope and pray that it will eventually marry. I did have to ask myself if  sending query letters and the like was similar to the marriage marts of the regency era. Was I like a mother that would try to marry her daughter to the man with the most money? Or did I want my daughter to marry for love? Well, in real life and in my writing life the answer has to be love. Yes I want my books to grow up and make a love match (Meaning I want to find a publisher that loves them as much as I do.) Yes, money is the ultimate goal but for me, that can't be my only goal. Money doesn't motivate me enough. I have to do it for the love of writing and in the hopes that others will love it too.

I'm hoping this comparison helps me to see the importance of allowing my book to grow up (get edited) and let it be seen (by agents and editors.) Thanks for bearing with my strange analogies I hope it made sense to someone else besides me!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Have a Voice

by Katy White

I've undertaken a new experience recently as an editor and contributor for another LDS women's blog. I'm excited about the opportunity to share the gospel in this capacity, and as I've considered how to make an impact there, my thoughts have turned again and again to the importance of voice.  As we know, voice is more than just the way that we write, it's the authority and authenticity with which we write. It's subject and style and ne said quoi that makes our writing unique to each of us.

As I've pondered how best to use voice in my writing, I stumbled upon an Ensign article from Elder Ballard.  Elder Ballard talked about how more and more people are telling the story of what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their stories are on the internet for anyone inquiring what it means to be a Mormon.  Yet many of these people aren't members of the church, aren't active, or don't actually believe/live the fundamental principles of the gospel. 

Everywhere, people are telling stories about the church. But the stories they're telling aren't my stories, and the church they're describing doesn't sound like my church.  So if someone is searching for answers--member or not--are they actually finding a good report of the gospel on the internet?  Are they being uplifted by what they find? Is the content drawing them closer to their Savior?

Too often, the answer to each of these questions is no. 

But that doesn't need to be the case. Elder Ballard said,
You have a great opportunity to be a powerful force for good in the Church and in the world. There is truth in the old adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” 1 In many cases it is with words that you will accomplish the great things that you set out to do.
We're writers. We know this.  :)  But he adds (emphasis mine),
There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. 
In other words, we need to use our voices and exercise our talents to take part in these conversations. Elder Ballard explains in the article that there are too many conversations and questions happening for the church to address every one. So he calls on us--as faithful member of the Lord's church--to help in this noble work.  Again, I quote Elder Ballard:
Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. You can download videos from Church and other appropriate sites, including, and send them to your friends. You can write to media sites on the Internet that report on the Church and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports. This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel. It is essential that you are able to offer a clear and correct witness of gospel truths. It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know.
Each of us here has been blessed with a gift in/love of writing. Whether that's journaling, family history, blogging, non-fiction, short stories, or novels, we all have a desire to write, and we have powerful voices that the world needs to hear.

I encourage everyone to take a minute to read Elder Ballard's talk. If nothing else, I challenge all of us to look for opportunities to bear testimony online (without getting caught in the weeds of argument and doubt, of course!). The world needs to know the truth of the restored gospel. Earnest seekers of truth need to know our stories. The Lord is counting on each of us.

Have you had an experience sharing the gospel online? What tips do you have for those of us who may be new to it? What cautions would you give? What concerns do you have in sharing your gospel story online?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tips for a Writing Beginner - Part 3: Purpose

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I've already talked about Point of View in this post, and setting out your manuscript according to industry guidelines in this post. But today I'm going to address one of the most fundamental things of all for a writer - knowing the why, what and how of your manuscript.

Let me elaborate by demonstrating how not to do it. I recently edited a short story which was a deeply unsatisfying read. It was a courtroom "drama" told from the point of view of a juror. Now, I don't subscribe to the view that every short story should have a dramatic twist ending, but it should at least be interesting, compelling and have something to say. The reader should gain something, some reward, for the effort of reading the story.

In this story the court case was relatively straightforward and dull, the characters were stereotypes, the verdict was exactly what it was expected to be from the beginning, and the juror went home again, did some gardening and reflected on her return to normal life. After wading through 5,000 words, I was left wondering why I, or anyone, needed to read it.  There was no plot, no revelation, nothing life-affirming, a lot of uninteresting and unnecessary detail, and no satisfaction for the reader.

Your book should have a purpose. There should be something very fundamental to gain from reading it which you can sum up in one intriguing sentence, because when you come to query agents and publishers, that's how you'll sell it to them. In fact, that's how you'll sell it to readers, too.

Agents and publishers will ask why a reader with limited cash would choose your book over all the others available, and you should be able to answer. What conflict does it solve? What life-changing revelation does it contain? What peril is going to keep readers on the edge of their seats? Which characters are they going to remember forever, and why?

In short, keep the purpose of your book to the forefront, and include some drama in your courtroom.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Holy Journaling--

by Tiffany Pankau

When I think of writing a family history book I have to look for sources. Those sources can come from many different places but the best place is if someone, like one of great-grandmothers, left journals....tons of journals. Journals give us loads of information. In my great-grandmothers case she started journaling when she was young, about 15 years old, and they continued until she died when she was 92. Sometimes her journal entries were long and detailed, always including the weather and other times short and sweet... you know just tellin' what the weather was. She included when people were born,  her testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the weather (as I mentioned before), her troubles with the wash, when the kids were sick, when family members were quarreling and many more things. All these entries give me a sense of her life and make it easier to write a book about her if I so desired. Do they tell the whole story of her life? No, since its all in her point of view but it can help me get a clearer picture of all that is happening in the time she lived and of those around her. As I piece together her life and those around her I can write a wonderful life history of her. 

Spencer W. Kimball said, "I promise that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others on through the generations. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us and as our posterity reads of our life's experiences, they too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted." 

As I said before most of us are already writing our family journals in our blog posts and facebook status', but what a wonderful treasure journals, and blog posts and facebook status' are. Did my great-grandmother know how awesome her journals would be to our family? Did she realize that by reading her journal someone could learn to know her and love her even without knowing her in this life? Do YOU realize that your posterity will treasure the things you write... even if we are just writing journals, or if we are self published writers, or published by a large or small publishing house, or even if we are never published? 
Part of the reason we write books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction, is that we can give something great and positive to  the world. That we can have a positive influence in the world and those around us. Writing in a journal can help with writers block, it can increase your understanding of the things in your life, and it can give you peace as we work toward writing other things, and it gives us time to step back and enjoy writing the things of our souls. 
So if you keep a journal keep it up... if you don't start now and then enjoy the blessings that can come from it. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

About the Cross

by Kasey Tross

The other day my kids and I got into a discussion about why most Christian churches have crosses on them and why ours, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not. I thought I’d take the time today to share my thoughts on the matter with those of you who may not be of our faith, and to remind those of us of our faith of the meaning behind it.

First, let me just quote people who know better than I do- this is taken directly from one of our church magazines, The New Era:

"President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the reason [for no crosses] in a talk delivered in general conference. He told about talking to a Protestant minister following a temple open house. The minister had asked why there were no crosses anywhere if we say we believe in Jesus Christ. President Hinckley answered, ‘I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.’

'He then asked, "If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?"
'I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship’ (“The Symbol of Christ,” New Era, Apr. 1990, p. 4).”  (full article)

I think that President Hinckley (a former president of the LDS Church who passed away in 2008) said it beautifully. My husband once told me that when he asked his father this same question- about why we do not have crosses on our churches- his father asked him, “If someone you loved was shot and killed would you want to go around wearing a necklace with a gun on it?” Probably not.

 His point was that the cross is a symbol only of the Savior’s death, a single day out of His ministry, not the 33 years of perfect life He gave beforehand. Like President Hinckley said, we prefer to memorialize the life of Christ and His teachings through the way we live, to always remember Him by seeking Him out on a daily basis.

But let me go back for a minute- if I were on the other side of this discussion I would probably want to point out that the most significant thing Jesus Christ gave to us was the Atonement, a gift that was incomplete without His death, and that His death was a pivotal moment. And I agree with that, absolutely. So let me assure you, I do not think the cross is insignificant by any means. And I completely understand why many choose to uphold it as a symbol of their Christian faith.

When I was a teenager a friend gave me a beautiful cross on a necklace as a gift. I felt conflicted about this- I loved my friend and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I wasn’t sure about wearing the cross, just because it’s something that’s not really done in the Mormon community. So for several weeks- maybe months- I kept the cross in its box in my jewelry chest.

One day I had a beautiful realization. I realized that the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” was very true in this case. I realized that my friend- a very strong Christian- would not have given this cross to just anyone. She gave it to me because she recognized me as a fellow follower of Christ. She recognized it through my words and deeds, and in her eyes, this would be a fitting gift for me.

After that little epiphany, I wore my cross, and whenever I was asked about it by my LDS friends I would explain to them why I wore it and why it was special to me.

Since then, I have received other cross-themed gifts. In the spirit of friendship and love, I refrain from giving anyone a lecture about Mormons and crosses; instead, I accept it with joy in my heart, knowing that a friend has recognized me as a believer, and feeling grateful that we share a love for our Savior.

For more information about crosses and the LDS (Mormon) faith, visit

How do you feel about the absence of crosses on Mormon churches?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Survival in the Desert

A couple of weeks ago we were able to take a bit of a road trip together. We had piled safely buckled our kids in the back of a minivan at o'dark hundred and were headed to St. George, UT. We had so much fun.  We talked, we laughed, we sung songs, and played games.  We even got some writing done!  Yay us! But as the sun came up we began to notice things about our surroundings.  To put it bluntly it was ugly.  Dry, flat, and ugly.  There were no real trees to speak of and no pretty flowers growing along the road.  But there was a whole lot of nothing.  For miles.

We did see some of those rough-looking desert plants.  Surprisingly those scrubby, boring plants actually gave us quite a bit to talk about.  We started to notice some of these hardy survivor-plants were actually growing up through the asphalt at the edges of the road.  As if growing in the desert wasn't hard enough, these plants wanted to go the extra mile.  We got to thinking about these plants.  To survive in this harsh desert climate they had to be specialized, unique, and able to withstand some of the harshest elements.  The desert is certainly not an ideal place to grow much of anything, so the things that do grow there must be hardy and strong.  They develop deep roots to search out and reach the much needed water and also to anchor themselves against the gusty desert winds.

We, as followers of Christ, are not too different from these desert plants.  In the coming years we will have to make ourselves somewhat "specialized" to survive in the harsh world, a place we know is not an ideal place for spiritual growth and development .  We need to be hardy and strong.  We will need to develop thick skins like that of a cactus to protect us from enemies who would suck out our inner goodness.  

We can create an oasis of sorts, within our communities, a place that people can find spiritual refreshment. Together we can stand strong and give strength to each other.  And for those who are truly standing alone, be strong, set your roots deep, and do not give way to the harsh winds and back lashes of the world.  
We will survive in the harsh desert. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Inspiration and Perspiration

By Lacey Gunter

So I went to hear Kevin Henkes speak last night in true mommy fashion, toting along my vivacious and outgoing 4 year old daughter. Kevin is the author of numerous popular children's books, most notable Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and now the most recent Newbery Honor Winner The Year of Billy Miller. He was speaking at Provo Library's Children's Book Festival.

As you can imagine it was a little hard to catch all of what he was saying while still trying to keep my daughter entertained and quiet, but I did catch a few interesting nuggets I am happy to share with you.

He emphasized the idea of how really great ideas can come to us when we are just out living our lives.  As an example, he said he got the idea for Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse one day when he was at a park and watched a little girl with a toy purse that would play music when she opened it. He didn't have any kids at the time yet, but he found it especially entertaining how exhausted and irritated the purse was making the girl's father. He thought is was such a funny situation he had to go home and write about it, which turned out to be an award winning and much loved children's book. He has no idea who the girl was, but he is amazed and grateful for the inspiration.

Another idea he emphasized was the complexity and depth of emotion children experience, even though they don't have the vocabulary to express it. As a children's writer or illustrator, we need to capture and address these emotional moments if we want to really connect with our young readers.  We need to give visualization and voice to the things they are feeling. He thought the best way to do this was through imaginative thinking.

The other important idea he expressed is that if you want to be a successful author you have to just go for it no matter what the world says. He is sure if he had listened to all the people who wanted to talk some sense into him, he would not be where he is today and imagine kids literature without all of his great contributions.

I am glad I was able to attend, even if it required a mother's dose of patience and energy.  Hmm, maybe I should write a book about that. ; )

Friday, May 16, 2014

CFS and Fibro: Oh, The Things I'm Learning


I've had a puzzling, interesting, disappointing, and then hopeful few weeks.  I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a week ago.

I suspected it, but didn't want to hear it.  For seven months, I've been dealing with joint pain, muscle aches, serious fatigue and no energy.  I kept pushing through it, which, I learned later, made things worse.  Since the diagnosis, I've been reading this book and learning things that give me hope.

1.  Fibro is an extension of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS.)  Being deprived of good, restorative sleep (REM sleep) for a long period of time sets the groundwork for fibromyalgia.  (I've not slept well since I had children, thirty years ago!)

2.  One aggravating factor in fribro is inflammation.  Sugar is an inflammatory agent.  AUGH!!  I have to start viewing sugar as a toxin to me.  No more cupcakes.

3.  Other factors in fibro are hormonal imbalances.  Thyroid and adrenal glands, in particular.  The standard blood tests for thyroid are not effective in determining thyroid malfunction.

4.  Stress is a factor.  (Stress is a factor in everything nowadays.)  Not sure I can do much about this one.

5.  Exercise is important, even if painful.  UGH.  I have slacked off on the gym these past few months because, who wants to use muscles that hurt?  It also wears me out, which feeds into the fatigue piece.

6.  The root problem is the hypothalamus, which Dr. Teitelbaum writes, "has blown a fuse."  It's exhausted and depleted and is no longer managing the body's systems correctly.  By the time the aches and pains manifest, the system has been offline for awhile. 

7.  The good news is that restorative REM sleep can help heal the hypothalamus and get it back to running properly.

I'm only a week into this, but I'm optimistic that there is recovery for fibromyalgia, even though sufferers are always susceptible to flare-ups.  I'm working on finding natural sleep aids; I'm cutting my sugar intake; I'm trying natural supplements for pain.  At a July doctor's appointment, I'm going to request more extensive thyroid testing.

I've not felt well for the past seven months, and there is some relief in finally getting an answer.  But, it's discouraging too, knowing I have to make many changes in my lifestyle.  I'm too old to start over!

I know God is bigger than fibromyalgia, and I know He's beside me with this challenge, but I have to say, I look forward to the day when this body no longer dictates how I must live.  I'm glad this "EARTH SUIT" is temporary.

Do you know anyone with fibro?  This book would be a great gift to them.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Holy Subgenres, Batman!

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

I write young adult fiction mostly, and I love that the YA section of the library exists. I’m too young to have known the time when YA didn’t exist, but I can imagine it, and it makes me sad. I’m glad that there’s an awesome place for books that are especially for young adults. Sure, I think teens should read adult books too, but I think they deserve to have their own literature as well.

But while I love the YA section, I do not love what my local library has done with it. All of the books in the YA section now have nifty little labels on the spine that classify them into subgenres, which is great for someone who really wants to easily find a thriller or a romance or whatever. The problem is not that they have suggested subgenres for these books; the problem is that they are arranged according to these subgenres.

My library’s YA section has twelve (!!!) subgenres. I tried to remember them all, but I could only come up with eight:

-historical fiction
-science fiction
-paranormal romance (seriously! it has its own section)
-contemporary fiction

Now let’s take a fantastic book I just finished, Perfect Lies by Kiersten White. According to its label (and therefore its section of the YA shelves), it is a paranormal romance. First of all, it’s not particularly paranormal (there are special powers, yes—being able to read the future and read peoples thoughts or feelings—but there are no werewolves, fallen angels, blah blah blah). It’s got romance, but that’s not the main point of the story. And—the part that really amuses me—the book before it (Mind Games) is classified as a thriller instead. So the two books of the duo (duology? duet?) are in two different sections of YA.

How would I know where to find it? Yesterday I tried to see if a particular author I liked had any of her books in. Unfortunately, they qualify as contemporary, romance, and slightly (maybe?) fantasy. So I had to look in all three places (and a couple more, just in case).

But the real problem is not the issue of finding a specific book you want. After all, if I weren’t lazy, I could check on the computer and see where the librarians decided to shelve a particular title.

The real problem is that this shelving system boxes you in.

If you like paranormal romance, no need to ever look in another section again—no danger of accidentally discovering that you also would have really loved that historical novel or even that humor piece. If you like thrillers, heaven forbid you run across a fantasy novel that looks appealing. You are defined by a single, very limited genre.

I realize this has never really bothered me in the adult section; I’ve never been distressed that the mysteries and the sci fi didn’t play well together. I’m not sure why. Possibly because in my library’s YA section, there are only maybe ten linear feet of shelves, and it kills me to see it all broken down that way, all at the same time. Maybe because I hope teenagers are still developing their tastes and may be more willing to read outside their chosen genres—unless they’re forced into tiny boxes like this. Maybe because I think it’s crazy to have a section devoted solely to paranormal romance (hey, I have read and liked several of them, but I think that reading only paranormal romances is a terrible idea). Maybe just because I’m a curmudgeon.

I don’t know. What do you think? Subgenres—good, bad, ugly? Nuances and issues I’ve missed? Can you place your writing in one single subgenre to the exclusion of all others? Do you want to call my library and tell them to stop the madness?

P.S. In other news, a fun flash fiction contest is described here. You should enter!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How does it turn out?

By: Kristi Hartman

My Mother's Day celebration started out like most have in years past, with my sweet husband cooking me breakfast and bringing it to me in bed, the kids trailing behind him with big smiles and handwritten cards with pictures.  The kids climb onto the bed and stare at me while I eat my breakfast, their eyes pleading for me to share my strawberries or eggs. Or anything. 
After finishing my yummy breakfast with a sliver of guilt, we all get ready for church and have a pleasant time at our meetings.  The rest of the day is filled with a big family dinner of delicious salmon made by the husbands of the family, and a rich, ice-cold ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  I get to sit and visit with family members while the men clean and do the dishes.  It is a great, thoughtful, and special day, where I feel loved, appreciated and spoiled. 

We got back home after our dinner, and started getting kids ready for bed.  After everyone was accounted for and tucked in, I opened my laptop to veg for a little bit and look online.  The internet wasn't working for some odd reason, and I mentioned it to my husband.  He went down to the basement where the router is kept (he works at home), and quickly realized why the router wasn't working.  The cords, along with everything else down there, were sitting in water.

Yep.  The basement flooded.

We were up until 1:30 in the morning, sloshing through 3 inches of water to rescue all our belongings and take them out to the garage.  
A flood/restoration service came that night, and helped us get all of the standing water out and placed about 6 fans down there to help dry things out.  
We are thankfully seeing things improve, and luckily didn't have anything really valuable that got wet.  

As you can assume, it's not quite how I pictured my Mother's Day turning out.  
But, as we all know, we can try to plan and hope things turn out a certain way, but sometimes life has different things in store for us.

As I was thinking about this funny turn of events, it made me think about my current WIP.  Sometimes I feel like I have a set direction for my story and how I want a particular scene to end, but other times I don't want to tie myself down by having a strict outline of what is supposed to be.  What if things change while I'm writing?  What if I think of something better?  Should I plan it all out only to have things change later?
I have been grateful for times when I just let things flow as I wrote, as that was when I found some real creative energy and put in things I didn't expect to do.  
Other times, though, I have wished for an outline of where to take the storyline for the next scene, and wanted something more structured to help the story move along.
Although I have gone back and forth about my strategy, I am still somewhere in the middle, having a rough outline and idea of what I want to do, but also write free form, and just let the ideas flow for creativities sake. 

How do you structure your WIP?  
Are you a structured outline person, or do you let things flow to see how it turns out?

Monday, May 12, 2014

How Did She Do That?

by Kasey Tross

At various times over the course of my adult life- especially since I have become a mother- I have thought about how my mother raised me and I have tried to figure out how she did it. I say this because, not to toot my own horn (really, just to toot my mother’s) my brother and sister and I turned out pretty great. We’ve all been successful, faithful kids. None of us have ever gone anywhere near drugs or alcohol, and we’ve done stuff in the “correct" order: high school, mission (for my brother), college, temple marriage, kids.

But beyond all of those things, there is something I see in my brother and sister and me that my mother nurtured that I think is incredibly valuable: we all reach for our dreams. From my brother, who spent his childhood playing with Legos and now splits his time between his office computer and sites where he dons a hard hat and makes sure the plans he designed on that computer are being properly executed, to me who used to fill journals and notebooks with my stories and now am finishing up a novel. This Mother’s Day I decided to spend some time pondering this, and see if I could look back into my childhood (and recent years as well) and figure out how the heck she did that. Because don’t we all want our kids to reach for their dreams?

1. She said, “Why not?” I remember all kinds of schemes I had when I was a kid. My brother and I used to come up with a new idea every other minute, from opening our very own nature center to selling friendship bracelets to kids at school. I always had big ideas, and my mom’s response was always, “Sure, why not? Go for it!” She never gave me the reasons why so many of those ideas wouldn’t work- as I recall, she let me figure those out on my own. She just happily helped with whatever she could and then got out of my way.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” - Shakespeare

2. She lied to me. Okay, I’m not calling my mom a liar. But one thing I always remember my mom telling me when I was young was how brave I was. I never questioned it until recently when I remembered how whenever I went into a store I would always make my brother pay so I wouldn’t actually have to speak to anyone. I remembered how each night before bed my closet door had to be closed because I was convinced that there was a witch that would come out of it if it wasn’t. I remember having a long, long list of things I was afraid of that I would recite each night in my prayers before bed and ask God to protect me from them. But my mom, my amazing mom, never failed to tell me that I was brave. Do you think she knew that if she said it enough I would eventually believe it? Well, she was right. I did. She told me what I could be enough times that after awhile, I was.

3. She made me want to be better. My mom is one of the classiest women I know. She is one of those people you would never hesitate to invite to a fancy party or introduce to someone important because she is first class all the way. She has traveled the world and met famous people and had a life most people only dream of. I’ve always kind of had her on a pedestal, and I have felt the need to show her that her intelligence and grace and class are a legacy, and that I will carry it on. I don’t know how well I’ve done with that, but I’m trying.

4. She led by example. When my mom was a kid she caught the horse bug. When her parents got her a barely-broken horse she taught herself to ride, bareback, across the deserts of southern California. In college, she dreamed of being a stewardess for Pan Am, the most prestigious airline at the time, and so when she graduated she went through a rigorous interview & training process and finally donned the famous blue uniform and flew the open skies. When I was in high school, she decided to go back to school for her masters. Then she got her doctorate. Then she became a college professor. Then she decided to pursue her dream of breeding thoroughbred racehorses. Then she wrote a book. How can I not want to be like her? She simply said, “Why not?” and followed her dreams, fearlessly, regardless of her circumstances. She showed me that each season of life is a new opportunity, and that even if I’m not doing something right now, it doesn’t mean it will never happen. Because of her example, I hold on to my dreams.

Mom in front of one of her favorite sculptures at the Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. 

5. She remembered who I was. When I was a teenager, I was a total brat. I mean, I talked back and thought I knew everything. Fortunately for me, my mom recognized that it was the hormones talking, and she used to say, “This isn’t you." Of course I always rolled my eyes at that, but once college hit and I was out on my own and I got some perspective, I started to understand what she meant, and I knew that despite my brattiness, she still loved me, and her reminders of that person I once was helped me to find her again.

6. She was impressed by me. My mom came to everything. Every choir concert, every silly play, every performance I ever did. She always said that I was the brightest star, and that the performance was more wonderful than she could have ever imagined. When I would show her something I made at school, she would just shake her head as if she was just in awe of my talent. Now, I know that probably not everything I did was awe-inspiring. But she would say things like, “You are amazing. I just don’t know how you do it. You truly amaze me.” She pointed out every strength I had (and even played up the ones I didn’t- see #2). And, considering how highly I thought of her, those words meant everything to me. Somehow she managed to not give me a big head, but always made me feel like I was incredible and could do anything. The more she said I amazed her, the more I wanted to amaze her, and the more I believed I could.

My mom and me just before I ran the Monument 10k. She drove 3 hours to come cheer me on.

7. She didn’t let me quit. You know that saying, “If you fall off the horse, get right back on?” Well, my mom literally taught me that lesson. I remember when I was little and she was giving me a riding lesson. I fell off the horse and I was crying and I didn’t want to try again (I was scared, of course). She simply told me that wasn’t an option and that if I ever wanted to ride again, I would get back up on that horse. So I did. And she was right. It’s been a lesson that’s served me well: the harder something is to do, the more I probably need to do it. (And besides, I’m brave. Brave people don’t quit.)

Even today, my mom is still mothering me and helping me reach for my dreams. She listens to me rant about things without always offering me solutions (even though she knows them), she supports my crazy ideas and is my biggest cheerleader, and she still acts like she is amazed at all that I do. I just hope that somehow I can internalize all that she’s given me and find a way to pass it on to my kids to help them reach for their dreams.

 Thank you for your incredible example of motherhood, Mom, and for giving me a legacy of reaching for dreams. Happy Mother’s Day!

*Side note- I sent my mom a video to tell her happy Mother’s Day and thank her for how she has inspired me and she responded with this: "You are so amazing and can do absolutely anything you set your mind to!!” :-)

**Another side note- Obviously, my mom was not the only one who influenced me growing up. I had a wonderful father, a fantastic stepfather, and an awesome stepmother as well. They all supported me and continued to support me and I love them dearly for it. :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A few weeks ago, I got into a bit of a….. we’ll call it a discussion…. with someone on Facebook. I won’t go into the details, but feelings were hurt, people picked sides, more feelings were hurt, and it became a HUGE thorn in my side.

I couldn’t write.

I was so distracted by the emotions of the issue, that when I sat down to write, all my brain wanted to do was write a litany of clever comebacks and points about how right I was and how everyone else needed to be ashamed for not being on my side.  This was a problem. I was in the middle of writing a historical fiction piece for a teen magazine, something I hadn’t done before. I needed to be on my game.  I had a deadline. I did not have time to be worrying about this stupid tiff and dang it I was right and how dare they not see my point of view and I should just write something on Facebook right now or I can just unfriend all of them and maybe I don’t want to even be associated with them anyway and and and….. yeah. THAT kind of distracted.

Honestly, it didn’t end for a few days. I’m not sure what happened, but late one night, something just clicked. It didn’t matter if I was right anymore, I just wanted the negative feelings and the distraction to end, so I took care of it. I sent it off into the internet abyss, and even when something else happened that could have blown the little dying embers of my indignance right back up again, I chose to ignore it. It was liberating.

I was talking to my husband about the whole thing, and he suggested, “Hey, you should write about that for your next blog post.” We talked about how things can distract us, not just the usual dishes and toddlers and carpools and laundry, but internal things that just block our ability to concentrate on the important things. I’m not even necessarily talking about writing, here. How often do little petty “tiffs” cause us to not be able to feel the Spirit? That person, you know, that person, gets up in testimony meeting to share what you are sure is going to be another travelogue or thankyoumony, and your inward eye rolling distracts you from an important message the Lord would have you hear.

Or the worrying about the mortgage distracts you from seeing service opportunities, or missionary opportunities. The argument you had with your teenager distracts you from seeing more than all the “and it came to pass” and “verily” in your scripture study.

Or, sitting at your desk and trying desperately to finish an article about chiropractic care for infants so that you can try and get an assignment writing for decent pay, distracts you from holding your little one, who just really wants to show mommy how awesome this banana is and maybe put some in your number pad for you.

That last one may have been a true story.

The point is, in life, and in writing, we have things that distract us from what is important. I have a friend who talks about “blocked energy” which sounds like a silly new-agey thing, but in a way, it’s totally true—if we let things block us, they stop us. We have to figure out how to move the roadblock out of the way, whether it is a favorite sin, our Facebook addiction (guilty), or whatever our own personal “energy block” is. For me, it meant apologizing and eating crow (no BBQ sauce or anything), and honestly putting it away. There are a million other little things distracting me, like self-esteem demons, taking on too many things without doing well at any of them, sleep, stupid freakin’ Facebook, the list goes on. Little by little, I will clear these energy blocks. I will obliterate these distractions.

I. Will. Write.

So what about you? What’s YOUR favorite distraction?  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nothing But the Truth

By Nikki Wilson

Today I'm going to write about something I'm learning as a parent of three teenagers and one preteen. Actually it's something I heard a lot when learning about writing YA (young adult) books. Always tell them the truth. Teens are hungry for the grown up world and they don't want to be coddled or babied. They want the ugly truth. That means in books we use real world problems and show real world consequences. Even fantasy books include problems they can understand and natural consequences (at least natural enough in whatever world was created). We want to protect them from the real world sometimes and not let them see how ugly the world can actually be, but the truth is, they will find out the truth eventually it's best if we as parents dictate how they get that information or better yet, if it comes from us. So here are some truths that I want my teenagers to know.

To my children:

The truth is I love you. This is a very important truth for you to not just hear, but to feel on a daily basis. I hope you feel my love when I do something for you, or hug you, or tell you I love you. But mostly I hope you feel my love when I take the time to really listen to you and let you talk about anything without freaking out (I'm a slow learner on the freaking out part. This is where acting lessons would have come in handy). By allowing you to talk to me in a safe zone about anything, I hope you are learning that I truly do love you unconditionally. There is nothing you can do or say to change that (that doesn't mean you don't test that theory)!

The truth is you get to make choices in your life right now that can alter the rest of your life for good or bad. I can set rules and consequences in my home and if you break the rules you will face the consequences. But there are real world consequences for the things I don't know about as well. I'm trying to teach you about the real world consequences of making bad choices. The truth is you will make some bad choices and I can't stop that. But I can teach you to learn to say "I'm sorry" and to try to fix your mistakes where possible. I had to learn when you were young to try not to freak out when you spilled something. Instead I just handed you a wash rag and told you to clean it up. (Except for the mashed potato fight. Then I freaked out! There were potatoes on the ceiling!!) This can be applied to the grown up world as well. We make mistakes, instead of freaking out, we need to clean up our mess. And for those sins that don't feel like they can ever be fixed I try to teach the truth of repentance. When sins weigh you down and make it hard to even breath, you can repent and cast your burdens over to Christ. NO MATTER THE SIN, CHRIST IS THE SOLUTION. This is a truth that the world often tries to cover up. Often people undervalue certain sins, while overvaluing others. The truth is that sin is sin. Christ's plan to rescue us from sin isn't only for those who just sin a little. It's for everyone.

The truth is that bad things happen in life. Sometimes from choices we make, sometimes from choices other people make, and sometimes for reasons we can't understand. But we can rise above the bad things in life and look for the good. The bad things in life often knock us down a hole and make us feel hopeless, but if we look for the good in those situations we will find that the good things in life will form a life line to pull us up higher than we ever thought possible. Because the truth is that all our life experiences will be good if we let them be.

The truth is we DO understand. We made mistakes when we were teenagers. We know how it feels to make bad choices. That's why we try to stop you as often as possible from doing things you will regret. We aren't trying to ruin your life. We're trying to help you. Trust me when I say disciplining you is just as hard on us as it is on you. You think I wouldn't rather let you go to your friend's house then hear you moan and groan all week because you're grounded? But I wouldn't be teaching you any real world lessons if I gave in. I would be teaching you that if you complain enough there won't be any consequences, which would be a lie. Life is full of consequences.

The truth is parents aren't perfect either. *gasp* We make mistakes...a lot. Sometimes you need to remind me that I love you! You need to help me to understand your point of view by talking to me in a calm respectful manner. If you want me to treat you like an adult, then act like one. When you have something important to say, give me fair warning. Say something like, "Mom, I need to talk to you without you freaking out." This gives me a moment to put on my no-freaking-out face (which probably makes me look like I'm constipated as I strain to remain calm). Remind me that I need to hear you out and hear your side of the story (my son will often start saying, "listen Linda, Linda, listen!" It's a reference to a youtube video but it always makes me crack up and then he can get a word in.) But know that just because I'm listening to your side of the argument doesn't mean I agree with you. But I respect you enough to hear your thoughts and to try to understand where you are coming from. I hope you can do the same for me.

The truth is that the ugly truth is only ugly if you want it to be. Sure you can get caught up in the horrors of the world and dwell on how awful people can be, or how hard your life is. Or you can choose to smile through your tears and determine to make the world a better place by remembering "...the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:21) He didn't live a charmed life. His life was hard yet He took the time to find the beauty in it. That often happened when He helped others. When He called the little children to him, or when He caused the blind to see, or the dead to rise. This brought joy to Him and to all around. The truth is you too can change lives by helping others and changing a frown to a smile. Because nothing in your own life is so hard that you can't stop to help someone else. When your grandmother was dying of cancer she still made time to make each of you feel special and loved. Because like Jesus, the truth was in her too. She knew true happiness comes from making others happy.

The truth is you make me happy. The truth is I love you. The truth is you love me too and we will get through this together.

Your Mother


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