Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Princess and a General

by Jewel Leann Williams

Like much of the world, I spent my week a little stunned, a little sad, at the passing of Carrie Fisher. For those of you who think this is stupid, that's okay. I usually agree that this huge outpouring of grief over celebrities' deaths is asinine, and maybe it is in this instance as well. 

I'd like to ramble on for a bit about why, at least for me, this particular death has hit me in the feels. 

I wish I could find the picture to post here of myself in Princess Leia regalia: long white dress, super-long hair braided up and twisted into giant Cinnabons on my head. Alas I do not have that picture, but imagine a really cute, sassy, spoiled, maybe a little chubby, little girl.. well, here. Let me provide a visual aid: 
This is not me. I got it from Google. 
  So, this isn't me. But imagine better buns, no boots or belt, and NOT skinniness. That was me for Halloween for--I don't know how many years. A few. I was like, 4 or 5 years old, and then 6, 7... I really liked dressing up as Princess Leia. 

And who wouldn't? She was an awesome role model! A princess, which is just automatically cool for little girls, right? But more than that. She was on a life-risking mission. She could program robots. She stood up to Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin with sass and bravery. When her rescuers came, she was as much a superhero as they were. I mean, Princess Leia Organa was the ultimate female superhero/role model for little girls!  The other princesses could take some lessons from Leia, ya know what I mean? 
( Here's  a fun link for someone's imagining of a Princess Tea Party with Leia)

A few years have passed. Just a few. 

I'm in a way different place in my life. I haven't dressed as Leia in a LOT of years (although I did attend the premiere of Episode 3 dressed as Padme Amidala, accompanied by a friend who WAS dressed as Leia, complete with buns of braids). 

Princess Leia has evolved as well. She's now General Leia Organa, head of the Resistance. Still kicking butt and taking names, still brave and sassy. Her character resonates with me as much as the bold and daring Princess did to my tiny little self all those years ago. 

Why? This is no "happy ever after" -- Leia got her man, yeah, but lost him, as well as her son, due to circumstances, the way life works for most of us. In the book BLOODLINE, which is one of the Star Wars novels that led up to The Force Awakens, we learn that Leia was a respected member of the Senate. She stayed true to her beliefs and values and the cost of that was that she made enemies. She was the victim of political machinations and betrayal and left the Senate to concentrate on the Resistance, back to danger and doubt and war and loss, because she knew where she could do the most good.  Leia in this iteration is a grown-up "princess"--she's a role model for not just girls, but women. Actually she's a role model for not just women, but anyone who  looks for an example of selfless leadership and general badassery. 
General Leia Organa, in the midst of heartbreak and personal loss, doing what she does.

I've had to be an adult for a few years now, and with adulthood comes the realization that life is full of disappointments, of dreams slipping through fingers like sand, of loss, of really hard things amidst all the good. General Organa is a fine example of a woman who has endured those same realities and has maintained not only her spunk and her fire, but her grace and kindness. 

That resonates. 

So yeah, I cried when I found out Carrie Fisher died. I laughed at myself a little, because I realize the absurdity of being so affected by the death of someone I don't know. But the part of my heart that was around when I was a kindergartner, is a little broken at the thought of the heart and soul of Princess General Leia Amidala Skywalker Organa Solo being gone.  

So make fun of me if you want; point out how a lot of people who had more of a real impact on the world passed away this year; but for me, I will miss the lady who taught me that: 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gratitude in Every Thing

By Lacey Gunter

Thanksgiving weekend is a good time to contemplate gratitude, in general, not just the actual things we find easy to be grateful for. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18, "In every thing give thanks."  For most people, even in the midst of a difficult trial, it is fairly easy to come up with at least one thing they are grateful for, a loved one, a warm shower, sunlight, chocolate. There is usually plenty enough in our lives to find gratitude for at least one thing. But, what does it mean to give thanks in every thing?  Should we really be grateful for everything? For example, pain and suffering, what is so great about that? Why would God want me to be grateful for that?

Science teaches us that gratitude is a wise virtue to develop. More than just improving our emotional wellbeing, it can also improve our health. And that is great. But, honestly, one can "be grateful" most of the time by simply focusing on the things in our life that are easy for us to be grateful for.  I believe this scripture is asking us to dig a little deeper than that.

How do we become grateful in every thing?  I don't have a really great answer to this question and I can easily confess that I am not informed enough to know God's thoughts or ways. But for me, this kind of gratitude requires way more than just an "attitude of gratitude."  This kind of gratitude requires a desire for knowledge and understanding, coupled with a lot of pondering and introspection.

Probably one of the biggest causes of pain and suffering in this world is the selfish or poorly thought out actions taken by others. On the surface and even at a moderately deep level, it can be really difficult to find gratitude for these things. How do we find gratitude for other's painful mistakes? One way I am trying to do this is through pondering the plan of salvation and considering what those mistakes really are.

Mistakes or bad decisions and actions are often born out of choice. So, suffering from someone else's choices means we possess the true power or ability to make choices. This is certainly something to warrant a hefty amount of gratitude.

It is also through choice and its consequences that we learn and grow. Without the consequences we face from other people's actions, neither we nor the person who made the choice would be able to learn how to act better and be better. This I can feel honest gratitude for.

What sticks out to me the most, though, in pondering about the directive to give thanks in every thing, is understanding how our suffering is the path through which we are able to truly feel the joy the atonement can bring to our lives. We cannot fully understand the power and magnitude of the atonement until we have felt a small inkling of what it actually paid for. We cannot recognize what the Savior did for us individually unless we personally experience some of the pain and suffering our actions cause. And without this, how could we possibly feel the joy of repentance and knowing we have been cleansed and sanctified with the Lord. That joy, through first experiencing suffering, is beyond what I am able to express gratitude for.

These are some of the things I have begun to try to recognize and acknowledge in my life. How have you tried to develop the ability to give thanks in every thing in your life?  I would love to hear other people's insights that we all might uplift each other and be grateful.

Monday, November 14, 2016

We All Need Therapy

No, I'm not talking about the recent election (although there are a lot of people who probably need therapy after that, too). I'm talking about you and the characters in your story.

That's right: Character Therapy!

Recently, as I worked on my NaNoWriMo story, I got a little stuck. So I did some googling about how to get un-stuck. And I came across an article that suggested some questions we might want to ask our characters.

I can't remember what those questions were, but I do remember that they were deeper than the usual, "What is your character's favorite food?"-type questions.

Anyway, I used them as a jumping-off point and essentially sat down with my characters and had a therapy session. I was especially concerned about the male lead in my story, because I was having a hard time writing his reactions and responses, which I realized was because I didn't actually know how he felt about the situation. So I put him on the virtual therapy couch and asked him some questions and wrote out his answers.

Me: Cole, how did you feel about Molly before the scene at the restaurant occurred?

Cole: Well, before that I was interested in her- the way she reacted to my comment in Sunday School showed me she has some spunk, and her willingness to lie showed me she's not all goody-goody, and while the situation she's put herself in is kind of a pain, that part of her personality did add another layer to her that kind of surprised me.

Me: And what about the piano lesson?

Cole: When I gave her the piano lesson I saw that she's determined and willing to work hard.  But it is kind of irritating that she thinks she needs and wants a vanilla guy like Jacob. I guess part of my irritation is that I like her and I think she deserves better; the other part is that I hate that I get stereotyped so often because I don't look typical, so I want to challenge Molly to both be true to herself AND look beyond my appearance.

Me: Do you want to pursue Molly?

Cole: At times I wonder if there's even a point to pursuing her- is she determined to just be the person she thinks Jacob wants her to be? I'm mad at myself for even wanting to try when the odds seem to be stacked against me. Plus, I'm mad at her for settling and not being honest with herself. I hate that I want to help her, too, when what she's doing is so against what I think is right. But I can't help it. I want to rescue her.

Me: Thank you for your honesty, Cole.

[Cole leaves and I invite Molly in to take the hot seat.]

Me: Molly, how did you feel about Cole before the scene at the restaurant?

Molly: Before the restaurant he was like an annoying brother, but he was willing to help me, so I also thought of him as a friend. While we were at the restaurant he was definitely the annoying brother, but I also saw his nerve and his talent again, which I guess a lot of girls might find attractive, and it was...well, it was interesting.

Me: You say that other girls might find it attractive- why don't you find him attractive?

Molly: We practically grew up together. He's too much like a brother! And he has tattoos, which is obviously...well, it's not exactly my cup of tea. He's just completely wrong for me. Plus, he makes me nervous. He knows my secret and that makes him dangerous. 

Me: So why do you continue to spend time with him?

Molly: Easy- he's the only one I've got on my side in this if I have any chance of ever being with Jacob.

Me: Thanks, Molly. Good to know.

Essentially, I used the opportunity to kind of sort through the characters' emotions so that I could better write their responses to the different situations. As you can see, what I uncovered was a little bit more complex than a simple "I like her" or "I hate him." The different things that have happened in the story have shaped these characters' perceptions of each other, causing their relationship to evolve. You might also have noticed that these characters aren't being completely honest with themselves, and that also complicates matters. I have to understand not only how they say they're feeling, but also how they're actually feeling.

So if there's ever a time when you feel like you just don't know how your characters should react, send them to therapy! Take a time-out from the story and interview them and find out what's going on their heads. Pay attention to the underlying emotions they might not even be aware of, and think about how you can use the plot and other characters to move them to a greater awareness of those subconscious feelings, and also perhaps change their ideas on things. You might also want to consider throwing them into situations that are the exact opposite of what they might want to happen, and allow them to grow and change through adversity.

Here are some sample questions to get you started:

How did you feel before [event] occurred?
How were you feeling during?
How did you feel afterward?
If you could change one thing about [character or situation], what would it be?
What is your greatest frustration right now?
What is your greatest fear right now?

Happy writing, friends!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A More Rounded Discussion About Flat Characters

By Lacey Gunter

It's never pleasant to get feedback from a reader or reviewer that your main characters are too flat. Flat characters are characters in a story who have one, maybe two, personality traits and experience no growth or change throughout the course of the story. It's okay to have flat characters in your story to move the plot along, especially if their development would be a distraction from the main plot line. But even a moderately interested reader could probably tell you that flat main characters are bad because they don't feel real. They don't seem human. They are more like a plastic doll being moved around by the author as a tool to illustrate an idea, facilitate action, or contrast the realness and growth in a truly round or believable character.  Because of this, we really don't care much about what happens to flat characters. It's only the round, fleshed out, or realistic characters that command our attention and deserve our emotional investment.

There is a deeper lesson in understanding character depth than just improving your writing, a lesson that has never been more desperately needed than now, at least not during my lifetime.

When we throw labels on living, breathing human beings, we are attempting to reduce that person to a single perceived trait. In essence, we are suggesting that that one word description could sum up the entirety of who they are, what they have experienced, what they have accomplished and their relationship with the rest of human kind.  We are attempting to flatten that person's character and  implying that they lack the ability to experience true change or growth We are dehumanizing them and declaring them unworthy of our attention or emotional investment.

No matter how much we dislike what a person has to say or an action they take, no single label can truly sum up the essence of who that person is.  And Christ suffered on the cross every bit as much for them as he did for each of us.  So he has clearly demonstrated they are capable of growth and change and worthy of his attention and emotional investment. Why then should they not be worthy of our attention and emotional investment?

The next time you are tempted to throw a label on someone who thinks or acts differently from you, I challenge you to see that person as more than just a flat character.  Take the time to discover some of the depth of that person's character and recognize their humanity. In spite of their apparent flaws, you may discover something you didn't expect, a reason to respect them, an issue you agree with them or even the potential for a lasting friendship. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What I'll Be Doing This Election Cycle

Note: Oops! I’m sorry, I’m cheating and posting on my wrong day. I wasn’t able to get this up in time for my regular day last week. Sorry, MMWs!

I’m sure I don’t have to point out to any of our American readers—and possibly not our international readers either—that this has been a rough presidential election year for the US. Now, what I want to say here is somewhat political, but it’s more about who we are as people. So I hope you’ll stick with me in a dicey subject.

Many of us have struggled with who to vote for, and I’m not going to address that at all. That’s your decision, and I only suggest that it be made with prayer and consideration. But no matter who we vote for, there are some things I think we can and should do.

I was reading this past week about when Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount. As you may remember, He says this: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). This struck me forcibly as I thought about the news, the general world that we live in, and this election in particular.

There’s a nearly 100 percent chance that we will end this cycle with a president I personally am unhappy with, someone I am not naturally inclined to love (since, to be frank, I don’t like either of the major party candidates). Regardless of who wins, around the country there will be anger, name calling, scandals, fights. This is inevitable and I can’t change the general climate. But what I can change is my own response.

I can pray for the future leaders of this country, even if they feel like enemies. I can pray for those who show their displeasure in immature, unpleasant, and even violent ways. I can pray, and by praying I can increase my love (even if I still don’t like them).*

But how can you pray for them sincerely, you ask? I have given some thought to this, and here are some of the things I feel like I can genuinely pray for, no matter who it is:

*That they will be guided to choose the best possible advisors and friends.
*That they will listen to wise counsels to the greatest extent possible.
*That they will be moved to strive for nobility in action, even when it’s difficult.
*That they will experience the true joy that comes from choosing righteous paths, and that that joy will lead them to seek more good.
*That they will be protected from making choices that will lead to their own and others’ suffering.
*In general that they will find wisdom and then find joy in following wisdom’s path.

Are these not things that we can ask for anyone who enters an office, no matter whether we consider them enemies or those who despitefully use us? Are these not things that we should be able to pray for all?

I guess no matter how we feel about our elected officials this election season or any other, no matter how we feel about our neighbors, our acquaintances, the anonymous commenters on news articles, I hope we will find the moral courage and the true charity (AKA love) to pray.

*Yes, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to love someone even if you don’t like what they do or want to hang out and get pizza together.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Your NaNoWriMo Lifeline

by Kasey Tross

It is Day 7 of NaNoWriMo and we have officially hit the end of the NaNo honeymoon (you know, that first week where you're all, "I just looove my novel! It's soooo amazing! This 50,000-words-in-30-days-thing is gonna be soooo easy!")

So how is your novel coming along?

If you answer is, "Well, Kasey, actually it's NOT coming along," then never fear- your lifeline is here! 

On Saturday I went to a great free event called The Festival of the Written Word at one of the county libraries. It was an all-day event that included several panel discussions and workshops. I was only able to sneak out of my house for one panel discussion, but my goal was to gather a few tidbits that would help inspire me and keep me motivated to finish NaNoWriMo. 

Good news- mission accomplished!

So if you feel like your novel is more likely to sink than swim, then try thinking about a few of these ideas and see if any of them get your creative juices flowing again:

1. Nail-biting Tension- there are many things that can create tension in your novel. One device to create tension is conflict. Where is your story's conflict? Is it man-vs-man, man-vs-nature, or man-vs-self? How can you use these conflicts to ratchet up the tension? One idea- sometimes two (or more) people can interpret a situation in VERY different ways. How can you use that?

2. Go With the Flow- tension is great, but don't forget to give some breaks from the tension as well. Your novel needs mini-resolutions throughout, little breaks for the reader to catch their breath. Think of the story as a war in which your protagonist wins a battle, then loses a battle, constantly seizing and losing power. (see Cinderella and the Heat of Battle)

3. The Bad Guy- Remember, every villain is the hero in his own story. Don't forget to give him or her a few redeeming qualities as well, just enough so that he's someone your readers will love to hate. 

4. Arrive Early, Leave Late- Laying out every backstory detail at the beginning of the book may help your word count, but it won't help your story. Readers like to be challenged, so start your story in the middle of the action and keep them a little bit in the dark about everything else. Rather than saying, "We had just moved into the house," say, "I walked through the door and nearly tripped on another half-unpacked moving box." (note- I did this in my first story and I liked it SO much better) Sprinkle little clues throughout the story.

5. Clues and Red Herrings- Even if your story isn't a mystery, your reader hopefully won't know the ending from the outset, so giving them some clues as to the outcome- and some distractions to bury those clues a little bit- will keep the story moving and engaging. Don't forget to utilize setting and body language to drop a few of those bread crumbs along the way. 

6. Love Your MC- A story is only interesting if it's happening to someone we care about. Why do we care about your MC? Give him enough noble qualities for us to love him, but enough flaws for us to empathize with and relate to him. 

7. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid- If we love your MC, then make us worried for her. Make us afraid to turn the page for fear of what might happen to her next. Think of the worst thing that could happen, then go from bad to worst- and then a little worse than that. 

8. What's at Stake? Make sure you know what's at stake for your protagonist, and then as the story progresses, continue to raise the stakes to ratchet up that tension. Rather than "And then..." think "BUT then..."

9. Surprise! Bring in the unexpected, but be sure that it flows from something that's already there. 

10. She Has Her Reasons- Some of the most fascinating plots revolve around characters doing things that seem completely strange, wrong, even unnatural to us- but when you understand the little things that led them to that point, it seems perfectly plausible for them to have ended up there. Take some time to explore some crazy things your characters might do, and then build the steps to take them there.

Hope one or more of these ideas will help to un-stick you if you've gotten stuck.

Keep calm, and NaNo on!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's Almost Over, Folks

by Jewel Leann Williams

This (Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad) election cycle is almost over. It does not need to be said that the country, nay the world, is ready for it to be over. Our collective sanity and IQ's have all gone down at least 10 percent.

Most of us have had some button pushed at one time or another during the past year, and we've maybe said some things that we shouldn't have. Been a little more contentious than we should have, or less patient, or a little judgey.  It has been a LONG campaign. Check this paragraph from a New York Time article about the length of our election cycle when compared with the rest of the world:

So, where does voter fatigue come from, and why does it seem to be getting worse? One part of the problem is that our election season is simply too long. The United States has the longest head-of-state campaign season by a long shot. Senator Ted Cruz, the first serious candidate to announce he was running, announced on March 23, 2015. That means that, by Election Day, the campaign will have gone on for 597 days. In the span with which we’ve been paying attention to the same presidential campaign, we could have instead hosted approximately four Mexican elections, seven Canadian elections, 14 British elections, 14 Australian elections or 41 French elections.  (Roller, Emma for
597 DAYS. Wow. No wonder we're all tired and cranky.
Here's another interesting article about how our elections compare with several other countries:

Another reason we are so fatigued and downright belligerent about this election (aside from the candidates, but I'm not going there) is the negativity in the campaign. Somehow we've let the attack-dog atmosphere influence our interactions with strangers, friends, and even family, and turned us all into rabid zombie tribes tearing out each others' throats.

But this campaign season isn't the meanest or dirtiest ever... well, maybe it is... but for a little historical perspective, let's review some of the things other candidates have said in their attacks in the past:

  • Republicans told everyone that the Catholic Smith had commissioned a secret tunnel 3,500 miles long, from the Holland Tunnel to the Vatican in Rome, and that the Pope would have say in all presidential matters should Smith be elected  (Herbert Hoover about Al Smith, 1928)
  • "Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames... female chastity violated... children writhing on the pike? GREAT GOD OF COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, SHIELD MY COUNTRY FROM DESTRUCTION."  (John Adams, about Thomas Jefferson, 1800)
  •  Jackson's people said that Adams had sold his wife's maid as a concubine to the czar of Russia. (Andrew Jackson, about John Quincy Adams, 1828)
  • Adams supporters attack Jackson's family, calling his dead mother "a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers," after whose service she "married a MULATTO MAN, with whom she had several children of which number General JACKSON IS ONE!!!" Jackson's wife, who was previously married and (accidentally) not completely divorced prior to her second marriage, they call a "convicted adulteress." When she dies within days of Jackson's victory, he blames Adams' vicious campaign practices, exclaiming at her funeral, "May God Almighty forgive her murderers as I know she forgave them. I never can." (John Quincy Adams about Andrew Jackson, 1828)
I know, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right. But, this isn't a unique election, mudslinging has always been around. 

I know, I know. It's all so depressing. In an effort to remind us all that America is the greatest nation in the world, here are some Canadians telling us why they love us: 

And lastly, a beautiful rendition of a patriotic song and prayer, God Bless America: 

Hopefully that was a little bit of a tonic for the giant stomachache of the past 594-ish days, or at least a reprieve. 

Please remember, God is still in charge--if we are righteous, we will all be okay in the end. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo- I Am Doing It!

(to be sung to the tune of Family History- I Am Doing It!)

NaNoWriMo- I Am Doing It!
Yes, Na-aNoWriMo!

And the stress I feel when I'm doing it
Will increase as I go!
I write words and words, and words and words!
I write my own story
I keep track of my wo-ord count
For everyone to see!

I wasn't going to do it, because I haven't been writing. At ALL.

But then Halloween weekend happened. Halloween weekend looked like this:

The Harry Potter-themed trunk for our ward Trunk-or-Treat.

The coordinated Harry Potter costumes, including my handcrafted wand carved from a stick in my backyard, a DIY brooch made from chipboard, and...

...this Hedwig the owl costume fashioned out of a hoodie, fleece, and felt.

And then there was this fairy house pumpkin I carved.
What does all this have to do with NaNoWriMo, you may ask? Well, as I was practically giddy throwing all of this creative energy into making all this stuff, at one point I thought to myself, What is the deal with me this year? I don't ever remember being quite so into Halloween before...

Then it dawned on me: I haven't been writing.
As it turns out, my creativity is like a geyser. If I don't use it, it just keeps building up inside me, and eventually it all comes spilling out all over the place into whatever outlet it can find. 

This time, it happened to be all over Halloween. 

I decided that as much fun as hand-carved wands and glue-gun owl costumes are, I could probably make better use of my creative flow, so I am choosing to redirect it back to writing once more.

My NaNoWriMo website name is KaseyLeigh- I would love to connect with other MMWs on there! Maybe plan a few live Facebook write-ins during November?

NaNoWriMo- I am doing it! Want to join me?

P.S. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Not That Patient, Not That Strong--Not That True

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Note: While this post is sort of about homeschooling and homebirth, mostly it’s about doing things that are important to you but hard. I’m not advocating my life decisions.

When I tell people I had my first child in a birth center, the other three at home, all unmedicated, people look at me like I’m insane or tell me it’s “too messy” (a myth, by the way). But I also get this a lot: “I’d love to do that, but my pain tolerance is too low. I’m just not that strong.

I am also currently homeschooling my children (if you have guessed by now that I am an introvert, you would be correct).* The most common response to that is “I couldn’t teach my kids. I’m just not that patient.”

In labor with #3. Trust me, I'm not feeling all that strong.
Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you a secret.** I’m not either. I am neither strong nor brave enough to birth without meds nor patient enough to homeschool. I’m just a regular person who decided to do certain things.

Here’s another secret, one of the main reasons I chose a birth center for my first child: I knew, with near certainty, that if I had easy access to an epidural, I would get it. And I had decided that I didn’t want to, so I placed an epidural out of my reach. (Why I chose homebirth afterward is another, unrelated story.) I knew I wasn’t brave enough without a little extra help, but to me this was important enough to find a way.*** Homeschooling happened in a similar way, except that with homeschooling we continue to have the ability to choose a different path in the future if ever we decide this plan really isn’t working for us.

Here’s what I think about sometimes: What kind of a world would we inhabit if we only did the things we were already good enough to do? What if at the beginning of the day, my eight-year-old said, “I’m not good enough at math to do that problem, so I won’t try it”? Or if my six-year-old said, “I can’t read because I’m not that smart”? Or if my favorite authors, who continually write difficult but amazing books, said, “I won’t write that book because I’m not a good enough writer”?

We become those things by doing them, not because we already magically are. We put ourselves in the position to try the hard things and become the big things. That’s how we grow. We constantly reach for something that is just a little bit beyond us (or—in the case of patience on a late Friday afternoon when my husband isn’t yet home from work—something that is very far beyond us), and we get closer to the qualities we seek.

That doesn’t mean we need to be striving for everything. It’s perfectly legitimate for you to say, “I don’t want to homeschool or do homebirth. That’s not right for me right now (or ever).” It’s fine to say, “I don’t want to learn piano/guitar/how to write a mystery novel or run a marathon/Ragnar/5k.” Or whatever. The point is, if there is something you want, something that you truly think is important, don’t let your lack of ability stop you. Do it, and by doing it, you will find that you can.

* Although, for the record, homeschooling isn’t exactly an introvert endeavor. And my introversion was not the deciding factor in these decisions, just the happy icing on the cave troll cake.

** Actually, it’s not much of a secret. My kids, my husband, my midwife—even my birth photographer friend—can all attest to my lack of patience and strength. Especially in hour 10 of labor or minute 10 of reading practice.
*** And no, I’m not judging you for feeling differently.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The 40 Book Reading Challenge for Writers

By Lacey Gunter

My son's fifth grade teacher has issued his class a 40 book reading challenge. The challenge seeks to encourage reluctant readers to increase their reading and to expose avid readers to a wide array of literature. In addition to the number of books that need to be read, the students are challenged to read a minimum number of books from 10 different genres. I think it is a wonderful idea. In fact I think it is so wonderful, I want to issue the same challenge to all our blog readers.

 According to the Pew Research Center Libraries Survey of US adults in 2015, 27% of American adults reported that they had not read even part of a book within the last year. Among all American adults, the average number of books read in the previous year was 12 and half of American adults had read 4 books or less in the previous year.

I am highly confident that all our Mommy Mommy Writers and Friends do not fit the typical American profile and are among the avid readers who are skewing the average much higher than the 50th percentile. So the reason I am issuing this 40 book reading challenge is not to increase you reading, but rather to expand your exposure to a wide variety of good writing.

A good way to improve your writing skills is to study how the experts do it, and to see many different examples of how it is done, especially when it is done well. So this is, in part, to improve your writing.  But don't just stick within your genre. Much can be learned by examining writing from other genres too.  So here is my 40 book reading challenge to you:

In the next twelve months read:

Number                 Genre
2 Poetry anthology
3 Traditional literature
5 Realistic fiction
3 Fantasy
2 Science fiction
2 Mystery
2 Romance
3 Informational
2 Biography or autobiography
3 Picture book
2 Translated from another language/culture
2 Religious or inspirational
5 Bestselling or award winning book in the genre you write 
5 Free Choice 

Feel free to adjust this list to better suit your needs, but remember this is supposed to be a challenge to stretch you beyond what you would normally do or choose. Of course, don't forget to learn and have fun along the way.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Being a Mom, Standing in Line, and Writing a Book

by Kasey Tross

Sorry I've been a bit MIA on here lately- caught a nasty bug that doesn't seem to want to go away, but I'm trying to get back to a more normal routine.

So here are a few things that have been on my mind recently:

1. The Mom Conference

There is a FREE conference for moms coming up this week- it starts tomorrow, in fact- and if it's anything like it was last year, you are NOT going to want to miss it! It's an online conference, which means that once you sign up (again, totally free) they will send you the links to the presentations for each day. So tomorrow morning I will get an e-mail with links to all the presentations for the day (videos) and I can choose to watch whichever ones I want, whenever I want, anytime tomorrow. It's GREAT. Don't miss it!

2. I Don't Stand In Line.

This election season has been really good for me, because it has caused me to reflect a lot on what I believe, how I prioritize my values, and how I choose to act on those things. I have written a few strongly-worded Facebook rants, but there was one little epiphany I had that I felt merited a full blog post. As I share Mormon Mommy Writers with other women who have different viewpoints from me, and I want to respect that, I felt like this was a topic that would be better suited to my own personal blog. But I wanted to share it here in case anyone finds it interesting or useful: I Don't Stand In Line.

3. NaNoWriMo

It's coming! It's really coming! Do you think you will do NaNoWriMo? I'm thinking about it, but I'm still not sure...I have a book I'd really like to get out of my head, but I know from the experience of writing the last (STILL unfinished) book that I need to have a plan before I even attempt it, and lately I have had approximately ZERO time to write...or plan...or...anything...

So...for me it's a definite maybe. ;-)

Hope all is well with you beautiful writerly friends. Would love to hear from you in the comments. :-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Writing Something Shorter

This school year, I’m teaching a short story and novel writing class to a group of teenagers at our homeschool co-op. We’ve only been going for a few weeks, but I’m having so much fun!

One thing we’re doing is writing stories in a wide variety of lengths. I thought I’d share some of the lengths we’re doing. I have really enjoyed thinking about these different styles of stories more. Sometimes you just need a break from working on novels, you know? And sometimes you even need a break from a traditional “short story.” If this is you, read on for some ideas!

1. Our biggest project is going to be a novel/novella/novelette (depending on how ambitious and excited each kid is; they’ll be setting their own limits). Incidentally, in case you were wondering, here are some generally accepted numbers for the lengths of those different types:
Novel: somewhere over 40,000 words
Novella: about 17,500 to 40,000 words (or about 70–80 pages)
Novelette: 7,500 to 17,500 words (about 30–70 pages)

(Did you know there are lots of specifications for short stories too, like “long short story” and “short short story”? Crazy.)

2. Six-word stories. This should be self-explanatory, right? Six words. The end. We did six-word memoirs on the first day of class, and it was amazing how much I got to learn about each of these awesome kids from what they said about themselves in just six words.*

3. Twitter stories. Yes, I know some people write Twitter stories that are contained in a long series of tweets, but I think it’s much more fun and interesting to write a story that can be contained in a single tweet—that’s 140 characters (which includes spaces and punctuation). Again, it’s interesting to see how much you really can pack into such a short space—and also what you really can’t.

4. Flash fiction. This is usually considered anything between about 500 and 750 words. Here’s what I love about this length: Let’s say you get a good idea one morning. You hop in the shower and think it out; by the time you’ve toweled your hair, you have an exact plan. If you have a typing speed of, say, 50 wpm, you could sit down to type and have a completed rough draft 15 minutes later! Instant gratification!

5. Typical short story length, somewhere in the low thousands. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about these, although I do think it’s great to write them occasionally.

Are you feeling stuck in your current WIP? How about taking a break. Write a Twitter story based on a side character. Write some flash fiction about what would happen if your main character woke up one day with a super power. Imagine your villain’s six-word memoir. It could be fun.

* In case you were wondering, it’s cheating in a memoir to just list qualities like, “Funny, creative, mother, wife.” You have to tell a story in those words. Try it, it’s fun!


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