Saturday, October 31, 2015

Things Seen and Unseen

By Lacey Gunter

Happy Halloween all! For Halloween kicks my kids and I checked out a documentary from our totally fabulous local library about mysterious monsters. It is a 1970's documentary that explores the array of available evidence for such legendary creatures as Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Aside from being interesting entertainment, one of the comments the narrator made got me to thinking. The narrator mentioned that there were lots of detailed eye witness accounts, backed up by polygraph testing, that scientific investigators refused to even listen to or consider. I couldn't help noticing the irony in that statement.

How often, as a religious community, do we hear science and others put forth the idea that if we aren't able to physically see God or the Holy Ghost with our eyes, how can we expect to believe that they are real? Yet here are numerous people putting forth eye witness accounts of these legendary creatures, and sure enough, scientists say that evidence doesn't even come close to being scientific enough for us to even consider it.

Such a catch 22. - We can't consider anything to exist scientifically if it can't be seen. Oh ya, and any evidence based on people seeing it really isn't considered scientific. Sorry!

Now please don't think I am elevating the ideas of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster to the level of God or the Holy Ghost. Rather, I am suggesting that sheer reliance on 'scientific verification' for truth is more that a little too narrow. Or, dare I say, close minded even (Gasp!).  Yes, I did say that, and in sincerity.

So the next time you have a moment where you question your faith because of some 'scientific evidence', step back and consider the evidence you have collected and question the science.  Because if you are only relying on the things you can see, you are apparently on very shaky scientific ground.

Have a spooktacular Halloween y'all! And watch out for the mythical monsters, both in your NaNoWriMo manuscripts and in your neighborhood.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Writing Contest Anyone?

By Patricia Cates

Who has ever won an essay, poetry or creative writing contest? I bet in this group there are a few. I’d love to hear about your triumphs and/or defeats.

One can easily do a web search and find a myriad of contests going on at any given time. The contests and competitions go quarterly, bi-annually or yearly depending on the genre and the outfit. They also often come with sizable cash awards. Most of all it’s pretty nice to have your material published in a magazine, anthology or journal. For those who have not ventured into the contest arena, let me warn you that they often come with a submission fee. So here is a website that offers links to free contests at The Write Life.

In the spirit of Halloween season I must say that I have noticed a trend over the years. A good majority of the chosen winner’s pieces seem to be very dark. Has anyone else noticed this? I’m not talking morose. I’m talking full on freaky, lewd and foul to the point of offending. I’m no prude and have heard and maybe even uttered profanity in my lifetime. For some reason I just have had my fill of allusions to molestation, deceased children and abuse on all levels. I just don’t need that. I want to feel uplifted or changed for the better when I’m done. Instead I often feel yucky. I know the answer is easy. Put it down and don’t read it. But I want to know why they won! So I am curious to seek out what is so brilliant. What is inside the story or poem that's winning these minor literary awards?

So here’s a shout out to all of you at MMW who have managed to eloquently and tactfully share and describe trials and tribulations. We’ve all suffered losses and many have demons. I’m impressed to see how you have managed to rise above, and frame experiences in a beautiful and pertinent way. I’m happy to be part of a group who decides to choose Christ, use appropriate language, and share the good news of healing through the atonement. Shedding tears while reading a story is great because evoking emotion from an audience is critical for writers. I want to be moved. I just believe it takes a deft hand to do it properly. I’d love to see someone win, who has something positive to say. I think we have winners at MMW.

Today I challenge each of you to enter a contest. Commit to submit. Maybe there are not enough positive works being submitted so the macabre has taken over? Whatever the case may be, I say we start a new trend in writing…and contest winning!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Getting the Support We Need

By Kathy Lipscomb

I’ve heard a lot of bad talk about women who have interests other than just their children. Sometimes I hear of someone complaining, “So and so told me I don’t spend enough time with my kids because I like to write on the side,” or something to that effect.


People can be so rude.

I’m one of those doting parents that posts too many pictures of their kids on Facebook because I can’t handle how adorable my two children are. I know I post too many pictures. Everyone else knows it. I dote on my son and daughter. I spoil them with my affection. I’ll be the mom who is still trying to kiss her son on the cheek when they head off to college. And he better kiss my cheek back, dang it!
But despite my love (possibly borderline smothering affection) for my kids, I don’t think there is anything wrong with pursuing a dream for ourselves.

Becoming a mother is a sacrifice. I totally believe that. There are a lot of things I give up to provide my children with what they need (uh, my sanity, my time, friends and other family members get bumped down the list, my appearance…), but that doesn’t mean I can’t ever do something for myself. We all choose something different, but mine, like many of yours, is writing.

Being a writer does not make me a bad mother. I still put my kids first. And if being a writer means that a few hours a day (mine are often interrupted and spanned out over the 24 hour period) are spent writing instead of keeping the house perfect or whatever, then I think that’s fine. Following my dreams will show my kids that they can do that too. That determination and hard work will get them somewhere even if it takes longer. It will also show them that I put them first, because I stop to help them. I stop to play with them, to make them food, to snuggle, and to kiss an owie. And when I leave for a several day or week-long writers conference, it shows them that I am goal-oriented, that I am not perfect and need help, and that I am willing to work for what I want. It also gives them extra time with their daddy, which they love. J

I’m lucky to have supportive people in my life, including my wonderful husband. To those of you 
who may not have that, you have us. The writing community is amazing. We help each other, not just with plot holes and problems concerning novels, but with personal matters of when life or writing gets you down. If any of you don’t know how to connect to the author community (I’m unpublished myself, so you know they don’t discriminate!), connect to us on Facebook through iwritenetwork. It’s not a place of spamming books, but of sincere questions and of supporting each other.

 A support group is important, especially when others ridicule or say your worth less than you are.

You are a great parent.

You are a great writer.

You can do both.

But sometimes we need to hear that from people who understand what we’re going through. J

Monday, October 26, 2015

Books, bats, NaNoFiMo, broccoli, pretty leaves, and satin pajamas. All in one post.

I couldn't decide what to write about today, so here is what's going on with me:

1. This week I participated in a Career Night at church. I was the only writer in attendance. I got to talk with young people about why writing is awesome (the main selling point being that you can do it in your pajamas). I brought books & magazines I'd been published in and seeing them all together like that made me quite proud of myself. And made me realize I still have a lot of goals I have yet to accomplish. Will be working on those.

2. We have a bat living in our window. A real, live, furry, big-eared, ADORABLE bat. I love him. I have named him Bruce Wayne. He is our free Halloween decoration and I want him to stay forever.

This photo makes him look big. He is tiny. About 4" tall. But look at that cute face!!!

3. I had hoped for October to be NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month) for me so that I could use NaNoWriMo to start on my new book, but computer problems derailed that grand plan. Alas. Should I shove Old Novel aside to work on Shiny New Novel for November and try to actually finish that one? Or should I be tough on myself and finish Old Novel? Decisions, decisions...

4. I am changing the way I eat. After I heard the interview with Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth, at the Mom Conference two weeks ago I realized what he was saying made way more health sense than anything else I'd heard, so I'm going for it, and dragging the rest of my family along with me. What did he say? He said eat more veggies. Like, 10 servings a day. He said sure, fine, eat other stuff too, whatever you want, but please, for the love of your body, eat your veggies first. It's that simple. I like simple. I can do simple. I'm eating my veggies.

5. Fall has finally arrived here in Virginia and it's so blasted gorgeous I keep squealing as I'm driving down the road and saying, "OHMYGOODNESSLOOKATTHATONE!" My kids roll their eyes and say, "We know, Mom. It's called fall." And I just keep squealing and pointing and I just know that one of these days I'm going to get into a terrible car accident and it will be all fall's fault for being so pretty.

A drive-by photo I took a few years ago of my favorite fall tree. It's right next to where all my kids have gone to preschool, about 15 minutes away. None of my kids are enrolled in preschool this year. But I still may go visit the tree. I mean, just look at it...

6. My KonMari festival is still happening! It's slowed down a bit due to a hectic schedule, but it's still going, just slowly. I am loving my perfectly organized drawers and I may not be rich, but when I put my newest library book into the bottom drawer of my nightstand (which has been designated just to hold my current reads) and I put some sweet-smelling lotion on my hands (lotions, pens, notepads, and lip balm- top drawer), and I turn out the light sitting on top of my polished and gleaming nightstand and slide between the sheets of my neatly-made bed wearing my satin pajamas (which have been tucked carefully away in my dresser drawer), I feel absolutely luxuriously wealthy. Total joy. It is a lovely feeling. I highly recommend it.

Of course, then I jump up, turn the light back on, open my top drawer and take out a pen and notepad and start writing. Because that's what writers do in pajamas. And because I have ANOTHER New Shiny Novel idea...*sigh*

Happy Fall, y'all.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why I Write

by Katy White

A couple of days ago, Twitter blew up with a hashtag specifically designed for us: #WhyIWrite. The comments ranged from funny to profound, and I found myself doing a lot of head nodding. Some head scratching, too, but I was glad about that. I loved seeing the diversity of thought and experience that compels people to write.

Some of the trends I noticed centered on how writing is freeing, how it helps people explore anxieties and phobias, because they felt alienated growing up and never finding stories that reflected their reality. Others said they write because of the voices (heh heh), because of the stories in their heads that demand to come out. Others said that it's because they are mortal, because writing ensures they go on living after they die, because they want to leave a legacy, to be remembered.

Meanwhile, I said:

I'm deep like that, guys.

Honestly, though, the hashtag stayed with me, particularly because of the powerful responses from fellow writers. There are so many reasons to write--some of them noble, some of them less so--but the fact is that writing fulfills something in all of us. It's something I don't think most of us could quit if we tried to. Even when we aren't writing, we're thinking about writing. We're taking notes on our phone or in our travel-sized notebook. We're waking up in the middle of the night with a cool idea or the answer to a plot problem and debating whether or not we should write it down or if we'll remember it in the morning. We're staying up late night after night to write after our kids or even spouses are asleep because we sincerely believe our writing time is more valuable than our sleep time (thank you, Diet Pepsi).

In other words:

It's not really optional, is it?

What do you say? Why do you write? Sound off in the comments!

Monday, October 19, 2015

When CEOs Give Parenting Advice...

You know how when something is awesome, it's not usually free (well, except for love and all that good stuff), and when something is free, it's usually not that awesome- or worse, there's a catch: it's free because someone is trying to sell you something?

Well, when I heard about this free online Mom Conference I was a little bit hesitant because come on- isn't there always some sort of catch? But it seemed like fun, and it was put on by Power of Moms, which is an organization that I greatly respect, so I decided to give it a go.

Oh. my. goodness. Am I ever glad that I did!

They had these speakers who were not just nice smart people they've come across, they are New York Times bestselling authors, multimillionaire business moguls, and experts in their fields. And no, they didn't spend every interview just throwing out a bunch of teasers to make you go buy their books or do their programs, they gave real, tangible, specific things you can do in your life right now to make it better. I was inspired, I was uplifted, and I still cannot believe the quality of information I got for FREE.

Here are just a few of my notes:

Overall impression from many speakers- Parenting is so much more than just teaching our children concepts; it's providing children with opportunities that allow them to put those concepts to the test.

One of my favorite examples from this was from Richard Eyre, who had shared that as part of their values-based parenting they had children memorize quotations. One day he had taken his children to a pro basketball game. His older boys were participating in a special dunking contest being held for the children, but his youngest, who was somewhat reserved, hung back, too nervous to try. He didn't think much of it until his youngest son suddenly stood up and started toward the court. He paused and looked back at his father and said, "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." He then went onto the court and proceeded to win the dunking contest.


Eyre and his wife had actively been teaching their children about having courage, and when the time came to put that lesson to the test, their son passed with flying colors, thanks to a quotation from Shakespeare and the effort his parents had put in to teach it to him.

Rich Christiansen was another wonderful example of this- he was interviewed alongside his teenage son, Timmy, who told the story of how his dad taught him perseverance through mountain climbing, one step at a time. Now Timmy has co-written a book with his father and is on his way to great success in the world at a very young age. Rich also talked about the important of family doctrine, symbols, and rituals as part of creating a strong family culture (LOVED that). This interview also inspired me to create a personal mission statement.

Dr. Laura Markham was a big favorite of mine. She taught about teaching children to manage their emotions and how to problem solve. She gave specific examples of sibling rivalry and how to approach it in a calm, productive way, and how we as parents can learn to manage our own emotions in order to provide a more stable example for our kids to follow- and why it is SO important to do that.

Amy McCready was another favorite- she gave the 5 R's to consider when creating consequences for our kids' misbehavior (wonderful) and about how we can support our kids while really teaching them to take responsibility for their own behavior. She also gave some great advice about helping our kids manage technology usage which will be great for me in the future.

John C. Maxwell was a really cool, fun guy who talked about living intentionally, and he talked about how his parents paid him to read books- but not just any books. They had him read nonfiction books about having a positive attitude and leading people and developing good habits. At one point in his career he came across a list of books that every successful person should read, and he realized he had read all of them before he had even graduated from high school (except for 4 that hadn't been written yet). I loved this idea! (Honestly though, my favorite part of this interview was when the interviewer said she'd love a copy of his book for her birthday, and he said, "I have the CEO of one of my companies here and he's writing that down for me so I don't forget. I'm in Helsinki right now, but I'll be sure to get on that when I get back!" Helsinki. Finland. ONE of his companies. Yeah. I think his parents were on to something with those books...)

Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth, gave some health advice that made more sense to me than anything else I've ever heard, and was more doable than anything else I've ever heard, and his interview has launched my husband and I in a new direction health-wise, and I am so excited to see where it takes us.

So, anyway, if you're completely jealous that I got to do this conference and you didn't, I have very, very good news for you- there is going to be an encore presentation of the conference with just a few of the select speakers from last week and it's happening TOMORROW- available for just 24 hours online, and you can sign up here. You give them your e-mail address and they send you the link to watch, no strings attached. So exciting! I hope you all take a few moments and watch/listen- I promise you that you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lamp unto my feet

By Beckie Carlson

I love the weekends. That's the only time I usually have to sleep. During the week, I stay up too late and get up on time. By Friday, I'm exhausted. Having very little social life comes in handy when I crash and burn at 4pm on Friday afternoon.

The problem with finally getting sleep on the weekend is that my body doesn't know what to do with it. I wake up with crinks and cracks and pains in my neck. I'm rested, but I don't want to move. I have to question if it is worth it to sleep if it is going to cause me pain.

I am probably like most of you in that I have certain room requirements for me to fall asleep. I need my room to be completely silent and completely dark. This can be a challenge since I have the computer router in my room with all it's blinking lights. I also have a window to the backyard and a vent over my door; all excellent ways for light to sneak into my room.

As I was snuggling in last night, I realized the light in the hall was on and the laser beam of light was going to be right in my face. I sighed and climbed out of bed to turn it off. After I turned it off, I made my way back to my bed in the far corner. I walked confidently and carefully, avoiding the items I knew to be in the way and using a small red light as  guide. I thought the light was coming from my phone charger.

I touched the edge of a pillow as I got closer and my world was rocked. It was not where I thought it was. In fact, I was completely turned around. So much so, that I could not figure out where I was in my room. It was an incredibly weird feeling. I almost felt as though I had been put into an room that wasn't my own. I kept moving forward, feeling as I went, trying to figure out where I was. I finally made it and lay down on my bed. Once I got there, the room spun and locked into place and I knew what had happened. I recognized the red light for what it really was, the air filter, and it all made sense.

This experience had a deep meaning for me yesterday. I had been going through some memories and talking with a friend about events in my past. Looking back, I can now see exactly where I went wrong back then. I remember how I felt at the time. I was going forward, sure about where I was headed and using the landmarks to guide me. I was stepping confidently and carefully as I went. It wasn't until I got to the end and looked back that I realized how lost and misguided I had been along the way. In real life, the destination I reached was not the one I had set out for. In real life, the choices we make can take us into different rooms, houses, and even lives. Those little guiding lights we look for can be devastatingly misleading. Sometimes, we when get to the end of our journey, the life doesn't click into place for a long time, if ever. Sometimes we end up lost.

In my room, I could have flipped on a light and looked at the path before heading back to bed. That would have made the journey easier and just as expected. I could have taken my phone with me as a flashlight. There were things I could have done to make sure I was on the right path. But I didn't think I needed them. I had been down that path before, I knew what to expect, I didn't need help.
In life, we have 'lights' to help us. We have trusted leaders, friends, family, and our Heavenly Father. Why do we think we don't need them at time? Sometimes I see myself as a toddler saying, "I do myself!" and realizing too late that I can do nothing without help. My Father in Heaven knows the path. He has told us he is the light. He can see the pitfalls and math binders and misleading lights along the path. He knows how to guide us to safety if we will only let him. If we will only listen.

Pride is such a sneaky thing. Sometimes it comes in as fear and tricks us into a feeling of safety that is really a very dangerous ground.

I learned my lesson the hard way. I didn't stub any toes in my room, but I hurt myself and others in my real life experience. I learned that as smart as I think I am, I don't know anything. I need help. I need that light.....cause I said so.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Parable of the Fly

By Lacey Gunter

My husband is a fresh air junky.  He has a very difficult time existing without a lot of outside doors and windows being open.  As such, we usually have a constant influx of flies in our house for all but the coldest months.  This gives me a lot of time to observe their behavior.

It never ceases to amaze me how many times a fly can ram full force into a light bulb thinking maybe this time it will work.  One can admire these flies for their persistence, but is still doesn't get them to where they want to be.

Not every fly is like this. Some go exploring, albeit haphazardly, but exploring none the less. Usually, these are the flies that make it out.  One might try to argue that these flies just gave up on their goal and only came upon a working solution by chance.  But I would argue their persistence was the same, it was their methods that differed, which in the end let to success.

What can we learn from these two types of flies? One has laser focus and drives continually forward on what he believes to be the right path. Yet time and time again he fails and refuses to broaden his perspective. The other one appears to wander, in what seems to the onlooker to be an aimless pattern, but his strategy leads to success more often than not.

This is a scenario I come across sometimes in statistics and probability.  What seems to be the intuitive best choice can actually end up giving you sub-par results.

Often in our writing and our parenting we can get stuck thinking there is a certain correct way of doing things.  Even though the way has yet to achieve the results we believe it should be achieving, we tell ourselves that if we just keep doing it, eventually it will work out the way we want it to.  It may be our writing process, the way we choose to discipline a child or even a long list of jobs or activities we believe we have to maintain.  We keep treading this same path, not because it has made us a better writer or a better mother, but because we know it and are more comfortable sticking with what we already know.  We then reassure ourselves by saying success only comes through persistence.
Well ladies, persistence is a good thing, but only when it is coupled with wisdom and learning.   Otherwise, we are just ramming our heads into the light over and over and over again.  We need to also be willing to step back and ask, is there something I can learn and improve upon from this experience?  Is there another perspective I can take that will help me see the bigger picture? This may require us to seek direction through inspiration, which to the naive onlooker may look like aimless wandering. But with the Master as our guide, the person whose perspective is eternal, we kind find the correct path to follow. It will still require persistence. We may have to travel through many different doorways and rooms. But at least in the end we will find our way out. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book Problems...

I have a confession to make…I buy WAY too many books. I realized this as I was gazing at my personal library, trying to decide what to read next. It was like I had a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. There were so many choices! Choices, I might add, that I had accumulated earlier that same month. It’s a problem…

I think I once told my husband that I wish I had more than one brain and pair of eyes. Sure, I would look really freaky, but I could read more than one book at the same exact time. How marvelous would that be? You could travel to twice as many places, go on twice as many adventures, and fall in love twice as many times.

Now that I am a teacher, my reading has slowed down considerably. But I still love it. I guess it’s true that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

But as a teacher, I see so many kids that abhor reading. They would rather sit and stare absently at a wall then read. It’s mind blowing to me! I can’t wait to get off work (or sometimes just a break in the day) to read my book. The chance to explore, to be free, and to relax is so enticing. Why don’t kids understand this? Why do they only see it as a chore?

I wish I had a magic wand that would lift their preconceived ideas of reading and show them the true joy they are missing…

What do you guys think? How can we encourage kids today to read without shoving it down their throats? How can we convince them that it can be done outside of school, it can be done for pleasure? Let me know your thoughts! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Problem with Reading?

by Patricia Cates

Let’s face it…there are a finite number of words in the English language. So it's probably safe to say that at some point, words & concepts will be repeated. Much like music...both can only be arranged in so many ways based on what we have to work with. Although it is known as being the most difficult language to learn...we are lucky as writers to have access to such a complex language as English. Could that ever be a problem?

Perhaps. People can find more adjectives to describe “feeling bad” than in just about any other culture. There are the basics like sad, blue, lousy, crummy, cruddy, crappy and melancholy. There are vocabulary words galore. There are also expletives galore. (Yes, I used galore twice and it felt fabulous. Ha…that makes three!) Thankfully we can choose to use a word once, or twice, or not at all. It is indeed great to have the choice of so many choice words!

For instance, one can choose a myriad of words to tell about a fellow pining away after someone or something. An author can paint a character as feeling depressed, because a love is unrequited, or a dream is left unfulfilled. One can write about suffering intensely and even immensely, or becoming morbidly morose. We can envision teens who are emo and like scream-o, or might be going Goth. That’s just the tip of the "feeling bad" English writing iceberg. So, so many choices.
Our friend Bucky we met at the Tautphaus Zoo
However, my advice today is just to write and journal about how you, or your MC, or your kids are feeling. Dark or otherwise, try not to look up words and forego the thesaurus app. JK. Just try to use what is fitting for the mood and moment. Don’t pay attention to anyone or anything else. Just look into your heart and the right words will emerge and emote. I promise. We have enough of them.
Sadly I have found myself many-a-time actually changing the words I have intricately woven. This happens because a day or two after I have written, (or maybe even a month or year,) I see someone else has already penned the same words. They have used my catchy phrase...and since I don’t want to look like a copy-cat I edit it out. Then I feel really lousy and ripped off somehow. But I didn't invent the isn't solely mine. Thankfully I'm doing better with that. 

Still...I often think, "How is it possible that someone else thought of that first?" SHOOT! Bangers and mash. Barnacles. Fish food flakes. Not a tasty image but its what comes to mind. 
But alas...I need to be reminded that it’s alright to share all of these glorious words, and catchy phrases and funny sayings. It’s okay as long as it’s original….and it’s original if you haven’t already read it somewhere else, right?
That being said, if I have ever used any of your words, I apologize. It would only have been completely coincidental and absolutely unintentional. So the answer is simple.  Avoid reading. It’s downright distracting. 

Oh...and try not to read too much into what people say.  Bucky doesn't and he's clearly found his zen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


By Kathy Lipscomb

            I didn’t realize that when I did my “Breaks are Good” blog that I’d be taking a break from this blog as well (sorry!). Life happens to a lot of us, and it certainly happened to me over the last month. Then I got to hear our wonderful prophet and apostles speak at general conference, and one talk stood out to me more than the others. President Uchtdorf’s talk asked us to simplify.
            We all have so much to do in this life, and it can be overwhelming. As members of the church, we often have callings that take up at least a few hours a week. As sisters (or brethren) in Zion, we serve the members of our community who are struggling. As parents we take care of our kids in all aspects: spiritually, physically, mentally, and their knowledge (That’s a lot of responsibility just in that aspect of our lives). We also have duties or just desires to help our other family members and our friends. There are daily goals: scriptures, journal, exercise, write, critique, clean, and maybe even blog. Then throw in holidays, birthdays, vacations, work stuff, our own goals…
            The list can go on forever.
            President’s Uchtdorf’s plea for us to simplify does not mean to take away all the good things in life. All of the above listed are great things. But we can simplify by not putting extra stress on our shoulders. We need to do what we can when we can.
            It’s okay if there are times we can’t.
            I’ve been in the middle of this mess, thinking I’d failed at my house, at my writing, at being a mom all around. I was upset with myself.
            Then I heard the call to simplify. And as if that weren’t enough, my sweet six month old daughter, snuggled in my arms, reached up and touched my face. I let go of all the stress, of all the things I need to do, and focused on her. Focused on the moment.
            Maybe simplify isn’t just for all the things in our life that need to be done. Maybe it’s a state of mind. When we stress about everything, we can’t focus on the now. We can’t seem to see what we’ve accomplished. We miss out on the happy parts of life.
            I’ve made a goal to do all the things I need to do, but to tackle them one at a time. To take in the moments. To not get mad at myself when I don’t get things done as quickly as I want.
            I’m going to snuggle my daughter, sing primary songs to her, and giggle with her. I’m going to pretend I’m a dinosaur with my toddler and chase him around the kitchen.
            I’m going to simplify.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

One Question That Will Make You a Better Writer, Make You a Better Wife & Mom, and Even Clean Your House (no, really- I have the before and after pictures to prove it!)

Back in June I wrote about this totally life-changing method for decluttering (aka, tidying) called KonMari.

Just so you know, it's still life-changing. Life has been changed. So much.

So much that I had to share it with you again!

First off, let me show you that photo of that drawer from my last post in June:

Isn't it lovely?

Here is that same drawer today- I literally stopped writing this and went upstairs, opened it, snapped this photo. No rearranging or retouching (though it is at a slightly different angle and more clothes are showing and I didn't have as much natural light, so it's not "glowing" quite as much).

Still lovely! How is that possible? (notice there's a pale green shirt absent- I decided at some point over the summer that it didn't spark joy. So I plucked it out and put it in my donate pile. Easy joy!)

The reason it's still lovely is this: this drawer sparks joy. And everything in it sparks joy. So when I put these, my favorite clothes away (I'm kind of a clothes horse, so I have a lot of favorites), I feel happy to do so.

The question that I mentioned in the title of my post is this: 

Does it SPARK JOY?

Does your home spark joy? Do your belongings spark joy? If they don't, it's time for them to go (just your belongings, not your home). Because when your home is a wreck and your stuff is shoved in, stacked, smooshed, and you have to work hard to find things you need, you are not feeling the joy. Once that load is lifted, when you are able to open closets and smile, when you open a drawer and can clearly see everything in it nestled happily in its own spot, you can breathe.

And when you are happy and you can breathe, guess what else you can do? You can WRITE! Because finally, you have a home that isn't screaming CLEAN ME!!!! in your head, drowning out all your great ideas and suffocating your creativity. There is a palpable change in the energy flow of a home when it only contains items that spark joy, items that are joyfully arranged and stored respectfully.

When this was lurking behind my master bedroom linen closet, the last thing I felt was happy and ready to write:

I can practically hear everything in there crying to be let out, to have space, to not be getting lost and crushed. UGH!

But this? Holy cow, does this ever spark joy! Everything in its own spot, with its own breathing room. This sparks joy. This- towels, toilet paper, and hair products, of all things- inspires me (yes, this is the same closet- and the books are part of my gift stash, lol). 

One of my favorite things about the KonMari method is that she encourages you to not only declutter your stuff, but to mindfully choose what you keep (does it spark JOY?) and then, because you have chosen to keep it, to respect it, and to mindfully display/store it in a way that also sparks joy.

Another horrifying before. (Does anyone else think it looks like a few of these items are actually trying to climb out and commit suicide? SO SAD. Don't do it, purple bottle! It's not worth it!)

And after. 

I still haven't totally finished with this yet- most of these items are things whose categories I haven't yet tackled, but I was able to get enough out that did fit in the other categories that it's looking a LOT better.*

Another before. This was under my bathroom counter, with the blue basket on the floor that usually lives on the top shelf.

That one green bottle on the top shelf and the gold one on the bottom have just given up completely. I can't say that I blame them. 

And after.

Looks like I still need to wipe down that shelf a bit (oh, the delights of a flash in a dark space). But the top shelf has just the two items you see, the bottom has the first aid kit and hair dryer, flat iron, and curling iron (which I will be getting a holding container for soon).

Kids' books before- no, we do not normally keep them in a massive pile on our living room floor (convenient though that may be), we gathered them from all over the house as per the KonMari method.

The living room kids' books after (they each selected their favorites for their own rooms as well):

The (gulp) coat closet in the foyer before:

And after we took everything out and I announced 1 pair of shoes allowed in the closet per family member (with the exception of the snow boots)- everything else goes in bedrooms:

My bathroom drawer after (didn't take a before- but trust me, it was scary):

A few more "afters" with no "befores"... nightstand drawer... 

(I realized one of the reasons things were getting lost in here was because it was so dark, so I added some pretty black and white floral toile contact paper in the bottom. Joy! And as you can see, I have not yet KM'd my writing utensils. Another category. Another day.)' medicine cabinet (nothing but mouthwash, ibuprofen, cough medicine, thermometer, Vicks vapor rub, and some stuff for their fish tanks)...

...and our kitchen medicine cabinet, which was so bad before that I had a cardboard box of overflow sitting on the kitchen counter *cough*hoarder*cough*, and the cabinet itself was stuffed, and whenever I wanted to find something 6 other things would fall out. At least.

Now it's separate baskets for pain meds, cold meds, tummy meds, thermometers, and a first-aid kit, each  in their own spot. No more will I come to this cabinet, feeling sick and miserable, and end up feeling more sick and miserable (and sometimes even tearful) having to shuffle through old, expired medications and weird, goo-covered bottles just to find some relief. I did my future sick self a big favor by cleaning this up for her.

Can't you just FEEL the positive, joy-sparking energy flowing through these open spaces?!

The purpose of this post was not just to show off my progress (well, okay, maybe a little- I'm so freakin' proud of myself!) but also to show you that if you're in a similar situation- drowning in clutter- there's another way to do this, and if I can do it, then you can too. And your family will get on board. My husband was so thrilled with my progress that he went through his clothes all on his own, then his nightstand, and he helped me with the meds (and he wasn't doing any of it in his usual 'if-we-don't-get-some-of-this-crap-out-of-here-I'm-going-to-LOSE-IT' way either!) I have tried to declutter in the past, and had some short-term success with it, but Marie Kondo finally taught me HOW. 

I still have a long way to go- many more categories that need some joy, like pots & pans, cleaning supplies, my books (gulp), and craft supplies (heaven help me), but I am excited to keep going because I can feel the change, and it is thrilling. I can only imagine how incredible it will feel when the whole house is this way. 

So again, if you're in the same boat (and I know this is a downfall of creative people- we're messy!) and you need something that will work, THIS IS IT. That's all. This is it.

I will keep you updated as my house progresses. :-)

*In the KonMari method you declutter by category, not by area of your house. So when it was time for us to do medications, we gathered every single medication from every location in the house- bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms- and sorted them all together. Makes you realize how much you really have, and makes you really think about where you store it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Time to Wrise—Now More than Ever

(see what I did there in the title? Right is to Write as Rise is to Wrise. Okay, maybe not that clever but I’ll let it stand.)

By Jewel Leann Williams

I’ve spoken before about why what we write matters. I’d like to expand on that a little bit, based on what I heard at General Conference this past weekend. 

I’m referring to President Russell M. Nelson’s talk, where he referenced the 1979 prophecy given by Spencer W. Kimball to the women of the Church:

Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.

President Nelson added:
“The day that President Kimball foresaw, is today. You are the women that he foresaw. Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world along with their families to the church in unprecedented numbers.”

I wasn’t surprised that President Nelson said what he did. I do want to emphasize it, though:

You are the women that he foresaw.

Let’s keep that in mind while I point out a few more things President Nelson said:

Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind when directed by the Spirit?

Step forward, take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God, more than you ever have before. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy, and I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way.

(Keep in mind, I’m typing these statements out from the video of President Nelson’s talk, since it’s not out in text format yet, so punctuation and all that might be different.)

We are being called out.

Again, I might add.

We—the sisters of the Church, and specifically those of us who express ourselves in the public forum, are being asked again, as we have been before, to step up, to show ourselves to the world, and to let them see how we are distinct and different in happy ways.

Remember this challenge from Elder M. Russell Ballard?

 “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…. 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.” (M. Russell Ballard, “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” Ensign, July 2008)

Those of us who were given the desire and ability to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or to express ourselves via other mediums, were given those talents by our Heavenly Father to bless the lives of those around us.

Satan is so clever, and he also has a way with words. He can flatter and deceive and the things he tells us sound so good. We’ve all felt that in our lives. Magnify it by millions and you have the sophistries and the philosophies of men that we must defend against.

Darkness is out there.  We can be—we must be—a light.

I’m not saying we have to write “churchy” stuff all day long, we don’t need to stand and preach and proselytize. 

Truth and light can shine through in what we write, even if we’re writing a sci-fi or a vampire mermaid historical romance. We can tackle tough issues, but give hope.

We stand as witnesses of God, at all times, and in all things, and in all places—right?

It’s a reason to put ourselves out there. Writing from the soul is scary. Letting people see what we write, terrifying. But remember the promises.

We can be as distinct and different as can be, but if no one sees, who does it help?

We can receive whispers and sometimes shouts from the Spirit, and those things can enrich our lives, but the time for quietly keeping our testimonies to ourselves is over. The Lord needs US to stand and shout our testimonies from the rooftops, so to speak.

It doesn’t matter if it hits the New York Times (or Amazon) bestseller’s list—it needs to be out where people can see it. Remember our promises.

Can I challenge each of us, (like, especially ME) to find a way to take a little kernel of light and truth, and put it out there for the world to see? A blog entry, a Facebook post, or, since this site is primarily for writers, how about a poem, a short story, or a novel?

The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ made us a promise. Here it is again, and I’ll let him close out what I’m trying to say:

Step forward, take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God, more than you ever have before. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy, and I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fail With Honor

As my daughter gets ready for her mission to Chile, there are a lot of things she is nervous about. The biggest thing is the language. She didn't take Spanish in high school, and--like me--she speaks Spanish like a white girl. Our pronunciation is terrible.

The other day we went to the church distribution center in Mesa and saw some Spanish speaking sister missionaries. Since our next errand was to look for shoes for her mission, I urged her to ask the sisters about their shoes and what they would recommend. The conversation eventually came around to learning a language. My daughter asked them how long it took them to learn the language. One sister said it took her 5 months, the other, 7 months.

Then one of the sisters gave her this advice when it comes to learning the language in the MTC: "Fail with Honor." She went on to explain that everyone failed at learning the language in the MTC, but instead of getting discouraged, or giving up, embrace the failure with your head held high and continue to ask questions. Continue to work hard and continue to fail. Because if you're not afraid of failure, you will learn faster that those that are afraid to try for fear they will say something wrong.

As I thought about this advice as it pertains to writing, I realized that I haven't always failed with honor in this area. There were lots of moments where I retreated into myself and was afraid to let anyone read my writing. I also quit querying for six years. I realized I let my fear of failure slow down my progress. I still progressed because I never quit writing but how much faster would I have progressed if I wasn't afraid to show my work to other talented people, or I wasn't afraid to query an agent that may have given me some much needed advice?

So my advice today is to fail with honor. Don't be afraid of failure, embrace it as part of the learning process. Recognize that our life on this earth is full of failures because we are not perfect, but God knew this and prepared a way for us to rise above our failures. Thanks to Jesus Christ's sacrifice, we can all fail with honor as we repent and try harder to do better in all areas of our life.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Clarion Call- Are You Ready?

by Kasey Tross

Okay, Mormon Mommy Writers- did you hear the messages that were just for us in this past weekend's General Conference sessions? Because I did.

There were several that spoke to my heart, but the one I wanted to share with all of you today was this one from Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer.

Elder Schwitzer said,

"If ever there was a time when the world needs disciples of Christ who can communicate the message of the gospel with clarity and from the heart, it is now." 

Guess who can do that?

Us. Writers. Writers who know the truth. You and me.

Elder Schwitzer spoke of Jesus Christ as our perfect example in this, saying, "He was not afraid to speak against the earthly powers or rulers of his day. Even when such were opposing the mission given to Him by His Heavenly Father. His words were not designed to confuse, but to move the hearts of men. He clearly knew His Father's will in all He said and did."

Another wonderful example was Peter, whose words, spoken as he stood up against those who would mock the church, converted thousands. Elder Schwitzer said, "This is powerful evidence that one man- or woman- who is willing to testify when the world seems to be going in the opposite direction, can make a difference. When we as members make the decision to stand up and powerfully witness for God's doctrine and His church something changes within us. We take His countenance upon us. We become closer to His Spirit. He in turn will go before us and be on our right hand and on our left, and His Spirit shall be in our hearts and His angels round about us to bear us up. True disciples of Christ are not looking to make excuses for the doctrine when it doesn't fit the world's concepts."

He went on to say, "True disciples represent the Lord when it may not be convenient to do so. True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them. Often it's not convenient or comfortable to stand up for Christ."

Can we do it? Can we stand up for Christ? We certainly need to, because as Elder Schwitzer said, the world is pulling in an even more dangerous direction. When talking about the "great and spacious building" from Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon, Elder Schwitzer said, "For years, I thought the mocking crowd was making fun of the way the faithful lived their lives. But the voices from the building today have changed in their tone and approach. Those who mock often times try to drown out the simple message of the gospel by attacking some aspect of the church's history or offering pointed criticism of a prophet or other leader. They are also attacking the very heart of our doctrine and the laws of God, given since the creation of the Earth. 

"We as disciples of Jesus Christ and members of his church must never let go of that iron rod. We must let that clarion trumpet sound from our own souls."

I believe that Elder Schwitzer was speaking to you and me when he said, "As Latter-day Saints it is time for us to stand up and testify. It is time for the notes of the melody of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world."

Let me add my testimony to Elder Schwitzer's and say that as Mormon Mommy Writers it is time for us testify through our words, using the talent God has given us. When we come across these voices of the world who are shouting so loudly that abortion is okay, that marriage isn't that important, and that Christians are bigoted hypocrites, we cannot turn our heads anymore and pretend we don't see and hear. We have a unique gift to communicate in ways that others do not, and I know that when we allow the Spirit to work through us we have that power to make a difference, just like Peter did.

If you feel like you don't know enough, it's time to study.

If you feel like you aren't close enough to the Spirit, it's time to pray.

If you feel like you aren't strong enough or brave enough or tough enough, it's time to trust in the Lord and let His strength, courage, and resolve bear you up.

Last week on Facebook I had an experience with this: our local news station shared a story of a woman who had intentionally blinded herself, because she had felt her whole life that she was meant to be blind. She found a psychologist who was willing to help her, and together they poured drain cleaner in her eyes. The comments on the post were things like, "That's crazy! Why would anyone do that to themselves?" and "That psychologist should be arrested," and, "Mental illness can make people do awful things!" and other such things. One commenter said, "I've seen this before- there was a guy who thought he should only have one leg so he cut off his leg. Crazy! Why would someone do that?"

There was something so obvious here, something so blatantly obvious about these appalled comments versus what the world has been applauding lately with magazine covers and awards for courage. I didn't want to say it. I knew I'd get slammed. I knew it would fill my e-mail inbox and my Facebook with contention and negativity- the last things I wanted. But I knew it had to be said. If you don't say it, who will? I heard in my head.

So I said it.

"I've heard of this sort of thing before too. There was this one guy who thought he should have been born a woman so he actually had surgery to remove perfectly good, healthy, functioning parts of his body- and a psychologist helped him do it. It's amazing the damage that mental illness can make people do to their bodies."

Surprisingly, what followed was silence, punctuated only by several likes and one other comment in reply to mine saying, "^This."

I don't know if the post just got lost in the ether, but I'd like to think that perhaps I made some people reexamine some of their opinions and attitudes, if even just to plant a tiny seed of truth in their minds.

This experience taught me to be brave, to speak out, because I have a unique perspective to offer the world, and what I have to offer might just be the one thing that changes someone's mind, that turns them a little bit closer to the truth. I certainly hope so.

How have you spoken out in the cause of truth? If you haven't, will you try?

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Perfectly Worded Surprise

About five years ago, my best friend and I decided to keep a “Best Friends Journal.” We would alternate writing in it. Being the reader/writer of the pair, I would diligently write in it when it was my turn, churning out three or four pages. On the other hand, my lovely friend would write perhaps a paragraph and then misplace the journal for months at a time. It was an ongoing joke between us about how scattered brained my friend was. Of course it was just for fun, but after a few years, the journal disappeared completely, from both our hands and our minds.

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail from my best friend. After going through an unreasonable amount of packing tape and stamps, I uncovered our lost journal! She had once again found it. After laughing at the circumstances, I opened it up to the newest (and rather short) entry…and started to cry.

In just a few words, my friend was able to put all of her personality, all of her quirkiness, and all of…well her into the journal. Her scarce words moved me far more than any 600 page novel ever could. She wrote from her heart and her soul. It was absolutely beautiful.

She wrote about how it only took her 4 years to write me back and how far we have come in those four years. We are both married and have careers when, four years ago, all of this would have seemed impossibly grown-up. She was unapologetic about being herself and how she appreciates how much I accept her. I will admit that I had to sit down in the middle of my kitchen (where I was reading the journal) and let a few silent tears trail down my face.

I guess the point of this was to show you that a few beautiful words can be just as powerful as a long, eloquently written letter. You just have to find the perfect words… 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Story Hoarding

by Patricia Cates

Has anyone else out there ever had an idea stolen by a friend or colleague? Or maybe had a coworker take credit for something that you actually did at work? I sure have. More times than I care to count. It’s a jungle out there. Okay so maybe some of it dates back to elementary school, but it still haunts me to this day. Call it baggage or perhaps a small case of paranoia if you will. Like the old adage says, “Once bitten twice shy.”
Sometimes I think I really need to get over it…but it’s hard.
So how does this pertain to writing? Sadly I now fear going to a publisher or having a face to face. I fear that they are going to give my brilliant (or very poor) book pitch to another, more popular and marketable client. I even have a fear of going to a writers conference, or being in a writing group, because someone there…with more time and talent…will take my story and run with it. Am I completely nuts?

Look what happened to the mastermind/creator of the Facebook concept! This worries me.

How many times have you seen two different movie studios come out with almost the same movie within a year? (Insert answer here.)
So I now refuse to share my WIPs, and I believe it is retarding my growth as a writer. I must learn to trust at some point. Honestly I cannot think of a single person whom I can completely confide in. Every single friend I have has another friend of equal value, or a spouse, with whom they share information freely.
Contracts are broken every day…as are confidences. Not always maliciously…but broken nonetheless.
So I stay holed up like a hermit. My flash drives under lock and key. My passwords thankfully encrypted and changed regularly. The funny thing is that I am just a run-of-the-mill, stay at home mom. That being said….if there are indeed any safe places to go, I would love to know. I will need to emerge from my shell at some point.



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