Thursday, March 31, 2016

Drive Safely

by Patricia Cates

A particular dream that’s been coming back to haunt me since I was a teenager decided to rear its contorted head three nights ago. I guess that is what is called a recurring nightmare. Sound familiar?
It always starts out where I’m driving along a very windy, very narrow, one-lane road. I’m on the edge of a cliff of sorts, up a few thousand feet, when I veer my car off the road. The vehicle is quite literally going around a curve so fast that the tires escape the traction of the gravel road without me even knowing it, and end up off the edge somehow. I only realize I am off the road, and in the air, when it is too late to correct the error. My car and I start to fall slowly into a giant abyss much like Wile E. Coyote has done countless times on Saturday morning cartoon marathons. On the way down to impending doom, the feeling is always the same---sheer panic. Let’s be honest, there’s a finality when one is falling from the sky and there is absolutely no turning back. Death is seconds away. My mind has no way of deciphering at the time that this is merely a dream, one that I will shortly wake from, alive and well in my comfy bed. So despair and pure fear fill me to the core on the way down. Luckily every time I am about to hit the ground I wake up. Still…this is not a very fun dream.

Southern Colorado cliff
Let me confess that most of my dreams are happy ones involving people I’ve never met. They are often set in exotic locales only my mind can conjure. There is beautiful scenery and most often the ocean is involved. I might have a nightmare once a year, if that. (I am so blessed!) So when I had the “car going off a cliff” dream, which I have not had in years, I was a little rattled.
Perhaps this nightmare recurred because over spring break our family went to Mesa Verde, Colorado, to see the ancient cliff dwellings of the Anasazi. The drive up is breathtakingly beautiful, but absolutely treacherous for the faint of heart. I’m thinking now that this simple mind of mine was merely filtering through all of that experience.
Needless to say I did have the dream, except this time it was slightly different.
This time I’m in the same type of desert, up a 3000 foot high cliff side, but I’m driving a 1970 Chevy Malibu convertible. It has the original turquoise paint and interior and I am thoroughly enjoying myself, unaware of any danger. I look off to view the gorgeous, desert scenery at every chance. The wind is in my hair and the radio on when I am completely oblivious to the fact that my car has left the road. I start veering off into the sky. In slow motion I look back at how far off the road might be, in case I can steer in that direction and get situated back to safety. Nope. I am too far off the road to get back. Looking even further to the far right where the road is/was…a mere 4 yards away…I notice that this time I am not alone. My husband is in the passenger seat…asleep. He has no idea what is about to happen to us. So I say, “Babe, wake up. Um…I’m so sorry. We’re going down.“
This kind, sleepy, man looks at me so calmly and peacefully. Having just realized our fate, he’s completely unaffected.  He grabs hold of my hand and we look down together and watch as our car floats slowly through the air downward. The car seems at first to be in such a state that we might actually be able to land the thing. Almost like an airplane. It feels like we can steer it with our bodies for a minute. Then gravity takes over and the car starts falling faster than our bodies, and I can feel the dash pushing on my legs in descent.  We fall rapidly downward now. Impact is imminent.
The feeling inside of my gut is truly sickening, but nothing compared to the prior times I had faced this same situation in past dreams. Because my husband is there I am somewhat calm. As we are pulled down we close our eyes and pray together briefly, and then look at each other and say/scream “I love you” into the wind. Maybe some other things I cannot recall. But at the precise moment of what would have been impact we awake… a dream within a dream. My hubby turns to me and says, “Whoa, I’m sure glad that was a dream.”
Vista point going up to Mesa Verde
Then I wake up.

So what? Everyone has scary dreams. But upon analyzing this one, the thing that drastically changed and improved this old nightmare’s new-fangled scenario is that I am no longer alone. Yay! I have someone there to hold my hand on the way down, someone to lower my degree of dread. How wonderful that my husband is with me now.

But is that a good thing? Before it was only my life on the line…now I’ve picked up a truly beloved passenger along the way. I sure don’t want to crash and burn, and take my poor innocent husband down with me. He dies because of my faulty maneuvers? He suffers because I’m not paying attention to the road I’ve somehow managed to take us down? That sounds awful. I feel like I just lived it. Looking back that’s the last thing I ever want to happen to him, or anyone, for that matter!
If only the Malibu would have had a parachute.
If only there were a Savior...
The Good News for all of us is that there is!

Upon further introspection I begin to wonder what Christ thinks about the routes we are on. I’m pretty sure He’s always in that passenger seat, whether seen or unseen. How I wish He would just drive. There would be no fall. But that’s apparently not the plan. He watches us veer off the side time and again. Even though I’m certain it is He who jostles us perfectly awake before impact and acts to save us every time, I certainly don’t want to send Him over that ledge…or worse yet…DOWN!
Yes that road we have to travel is often steep and rocky, and perilous, and fast moving with lots of twisting turns. Yes we might get distracted. There will be accidents, unpreventable accidents. We most definitely need to wear our seatbelts and use the maps we have to guide us. But, even If we are excellent drivers we may find ourselves looming downward due to some unforeseen circumstance out of our control. We may go off the side of a cliff without even knowing what's happening. If that happens in real life, remember you are not alone...for there is a strong hand to hold, to calm all fear, in that passenger seat.
Drive safely!








Saturday, March 26, 2016

Can I Use That?? Fair Use vs Copyright

by Jewel Leann Williams

For those of us in the creative biz, the question "Can I use that?" comes up from time to time.

Can I use that snippet of a song (or even its title)?
Can I mention that movie plot?
Can I be holding a bottle of my favorite soda while performing an amazing stunt on Youtube?
The list goes on.. . .

Our culture nowadays is very..interconnected. We recycle content by sharing on social media, and everything becomes a part of everything else. One of the ways an artist/author/Youtuber can stay relevant is by both becoming a part of the cultural stream-of-consciousness, and by pulling information from said stream like shiny rainbow trout, to pop into their own work.

There's a very real worry of getting sued for copyright infringement. There are also a lot of myths about copyrights and fair use that muddy the waters.  I thought I would take just a moment and attempt to clarify a little bit.
Creative Commons license: created by Stephan Baum

**Disclaimer*** I am not an attorney, and really, I might give examples of some of this, but the definitions themselves come from the Columbia University Libraries Copyright Advisory Office. Don't quote me if you get sued, is what I'm trying to say.

So, copyright, simply is, that you cannot use someone else's work, whether published or unpublished, in any creative media, without their express written permission. They don't have to have a little "c" next to their stuff, if it's been created, it's copyrighted. The "fair use" exception is this:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
(1)
the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2)
the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3)
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4)
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.


Columbia University Libraries/Information Services/Copyright Advisory Office page “Fair use”  accessed 5:25 am 3/20/16 (from https://copyright.columbia.edu/basics/fair-use.html)
So, first:
1) the purpose of the use.
The most likely purpose we would see in our line of work is "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research"
It is under this element that we hear discussions of the "transformative nature" of the use. If one takes bits and pieces, or even substantial portions, of a work, and changes them to make them different, or shine them in a new light, that is a consideration for fair use. In this election cycle, there have been a lot of mashups with various  candidates saying certain things, intermixed with other situations, songs, videos, etc., in order to provide political commentary. This is a fair use consideration. 
This is where we get into parody. South Park gets away with murder using the parody defense. Saturday Night Live will use parody as well. The idea is that a commentary about the work itself is being made--usually making fun of it or pointing out things that people may not agree with or that they find offensive or ridiculous. People taking pictures of their least-favorite political candidate, and altering them to make a commentary on all of their failings or some terrible gaffe that makes them unworthy of office, is not necessarily a copyright violation.
Another "criticism or comment" aspect of fair use that may come into play in our creative endeavors, is when people are posting clips, quotes, etc. for reviews of the book, movie, video, etc. 
I found it interesting that you can make multiple copies of things for teaching in a classroom under Fair Use.
2) the nature of the work.
Generally speaking, the courts considering the nature of the work has to do with the medium and the content of the work. A politically charged song or book may be more likely to be parodied or have a commentary made that would be disputed as either a copyright violation or fair use exception.
3) the amount and substantiality of the portion use in relation to the whole copyrighted work.
How much of the work are you using? If you say you are reviewing a book, and you are posting multiple pages, or the main "heart" of the work, you may still be violating copyright law. A few snippets without big spoilers is not going to be a problem. The same with parody. If I were to parody Star Wars Episode 7, for example, and actually use the whole plot in my parody, I might be violating copyright. A scene or two, not as much. 
4) the effect on the potential market for, or value of the copyrighted work.
Let's say I wanted to take a popular dance club song and change the words to completely change the meaning. That is possibly a copyright violation, especially if I am then presenting it to the same, or a viable new, market that may have purchased the original work. (This is why Weird Al gets permission to do his parodies.) Now, let's do the exact same thing, but I'm changing the meaning to teach colors to preschoolers. Most likely, this will fall under fair use. 
 Something that's very important to note is that courts are going to consider all of these factors. None of them is a "get out of court free" card. The courts are supposed to consider the totality of the circumstances. The guidelines can also be very subjective and unless you have concrete case law for your specific use, you should obtain permission whenever you can.

Just one of the many times I can encourage you to "Be Like Weird Al."

More links on Fair Use vs Copyright resources:

This is a whole series on fair use laws:  http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/

From the US Copyright office:  http://copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html

More discussion and examples on "transformative nature": http://www.law360.com/articles/645881/the-changing-landscape-of-fair-use-transformative-is-key

Here's a video from Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) that explains copyright and fair use with an animation. By the way, at the end of the video is an icon for Creative Commons license, the particular icon gives permission to use under these circumstances: (so don't start sending me money, ya'll!) Link: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/copyright-and-fair-use-animation
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-NDThis license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.








Friday, March 25, 2016

What Standard Guides Your Life? (You might be surprised.)

by Marianne Ball @ ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK

It's Good Friday. We're entered the holiest weekend of the Church year - the commemoration of the suffering and then resurrection of Christ. I wanted to be mindful about Lent this year, but by the third day, I had forgotten to stay away from chocolate. I don't know what happened. I got busy and lazy at the same time. 

But, other things happened over Lent that kept bringing to mind the question, What is my standard for living? 

In other words, to whom do I answer? (Maybe just myself.)  Am I trying to meet a condition (as in conditional) that I've placed on myself, or someone has placed upon me?  Am I trying to keep someone happy? Am I simply trying to get through life without any conflicts or confrontation? What influence or circumstance has my allegiance? What is the standard upon which I make my choices? 

These things came up this week because I talked with two different friends who have different issues with their adult children. In hashing over who's responsible for what, my friends and I realized we were all a bit misguided in how we're approaching finding peace in our lives. As Christian women, we want everyone to get along, share, forgive, communicate, and be happy. It's a mom thing. 

But loved ones don't always see things our way or cooperate. So, we stew about circumstances and say the wrong things and then backtrack and then lose sleep, only to wake up the next day and do it all again. Women have such vulnerable hearts when it comes to their loved ones. I think it's how God made us. But, so easily, we get off track. This Lent, it was confirmed to me that it's because we have shifting standards

We want to be strong, but we want to be protected. We want to be leaders, but we want to be liked. We want to be independent, but we want a man who adores us. Depending on what we're feeling at the moment...that's the standard by which we make a decision. 

It's kind of nutty really, because life is changing daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute. We all benefit (men too - they have their own vulnerabilities) from having an invariable standard that anchors us, regardless of circumstances or people.

I read this quote today by St. Katherine Drexel: "You have no time to occupy your thoughts with complacency or consideration of what others think. Your business is simply: What will my Father in heaven think?"

It's a solid, fail-proof question. It cuts through all the What does so-and-so think? What will my kids think?  My parents? My neighbor, my boss, my dog, the list goes on forever. Why are we such slaves to the opinions of mankind and fairly mindless to what God thinks? 

I think it's because we really don't know, or believe, we are loved by our Creator. If we really believed it in the depth of our soul, we would be at peace. We would know that no matter what, we are worthy of God's time and attention. He made us. He knows us, flaws and all. He is committed to us, and He will guide us. Always. If we operated from that standard, life would be so different. 

We would forgive more easily, because we would see people how God sees them - flawed, but loved, just like we are. We would free our loved ones from walking on eggshells, or jumping through hoops (whichever they do) to keep us happy. We would free ourselves from repeatedly beating ourselves up over past mistakes. As free children of God, we would trust Him and His plans for us. So much of the confusion and second-guessing would be gone. 

The book of Galatians tells us that Christ died to set us free. Free from the harsh judgment of the Old Testament. Free from the standards of mankind and its opinion. We are even free to make mistakes (we are human after all.)  

The message of Easter week is that we are on a journey to freedom. When we face ourselves honestly, we see our need for redemption. We all have our crosses to bear, our demons to fight, our fears to conquer. We're just human. But with the resurrection comes new life and new courage, and a clean slate. We have the reassurance that just as Christ rose, we too can rise from our own dark tomb and start anew. 



So, Lent isn't always about giving up chocolate; sometimes it's about gaining fresh insight. Remembering that God is big and loving. He cares about what we do and how we live. He's invested in us like no human can possibly be. We will not find a better, safer standard. 

My prayer for you this Easter is that you encounter Christ in a new way, that you experience forgiveness and healing from whatever is blocking peace in your own life. And from then on, consider this question before you make a move: What would my Father in heaven think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Romance: Be In Tune with Your Readers

Writing Romance Part One
By Kathy Lipscomb

            I love romances. I love them in both Adult and Young Adult books (huge YA fan right here). But romances are trickier to do than you’d think. You have to match the actions to create the right feeling for your specific target audience.
            For example, I’ve noticed a growing trend in books of both ages where the guy does something during a romantic scene that’s supposed to up the romance, but instead it makes me cringe. I’m talking about “wiggling” or “waggling eyebrows.”
            Pretend you’re on a date with the love of your life. You have a nice dinner where you get him (I’m going with the female perspective here) to open up, which we all know is a difficult task. He’s told you something about himself that he doesn’t confide to most. He smiles then asks you to dance. He takes your hand and pulls you to the dance floor where you and him are the only couple dancing. If you’re nervous about anyone watching, he tells you to focus on him, and you stare into his gorgeous eyes. His hands slide around your waist then press you close. He looks deeply into your eyes and then…
            He waggles his eyebrows.  
            I’m sorry, but every time something like this happens, I bust up laughing. And then when the girl shivers with longing or something along those lines, all I can think is, ew.
            I think wiggling or waggling eyebrows can be used in books, for something unexpected, for comedic value, for easing tension in a scene, etc. It’s not that I’m against anyone doing this. It’s all about how realistic it is.
            This is my opinion, although I happen to know quite a few people, especially teens (so watch out YA writers) that think the same as I do. So when you’re writing romance, make sure you are adding in actions that take the scene in the direction you want. Keep in mind your target audience. What do they think is romantic? What do they think is not?
            This is where critique groups and beta readers come in handy. If people point out something that doesn’t work for them, listen. It doesn’t mean you have to change the scene or even take out the guy waggling his eyebrows, but listen. See if there is a way to fix the problem that satisfies your target audience and yourself. It may not be about waggling eyebrows. It may be about one character watching another one sleep. It may be about the guy being too forceful. It may be the girl being too timid. There are differing opinions on many actions of what is considered romantic or gross. So be in tune with your readers.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Why I Embrace My Mistakes (And why you should too)


by Kasey Tross

Yesterday at church I had the opportunity to perform a flute solo, which I always enjoy. On the way home from church, my daughter said, "You did great, Mom! You didn't mess up at all!"

"Actually I did," I said. "I had a little flurble there in the middle where I didn't quite hit the notes right. But I'm glad I did."

"What?" She asked, frowning in my rearview mirror. "What do you mean you're glad you messed up?"

"Well, what if I never messed up? What if every time I played I did perfectly and didn't miss a note? People would think I was perfect at music. And if they thought that, then how would someone else feel when it was their turn to perform at church, like you're friend a few weeks ago? She might think, 'Oh man, Sister Tross always plays so perfectly. I can't ever be like her. What if I mess up?' And then she'd stress herself out and worry about measuring up to my perfection. I'd much rather that she- and everybody else- know that we're all just human and we can mess up and it's not a big deal and nobody's perfect."

"But what if you don't mess up? Are you mad?" she asked.

I laughed. "No, I'm not mad. I pray before every performance and I ask God to allow me to have the performance He wants me to have, whether it's perfect or full of mistakes. That way, I know that no matter what happens, as long as I pray and trust in Him, I'll know it was the performance I needed to have." 

My daughter still seemed a bit confused by this, but I'm hopeful that she'll understand this sooner rather than later.

I think this concept is so important for us to remember in so many aspects of our lives. While it's wonderful to constantly strive for perfection (at least for things that matter, and to do so in a healthy way), I think it's even more important to recognize the value in imperfection. When we fall short- when we miss a note, when our published novel still has six typos, or when we have piles of laundry covering our couch when a friend stops by to visit- we actually give a gift to the world. We tell our audience, our reader, or our friend that we are not perfect, and we give them permission to not be perfect too.

In this world where everything on our glowing screens is airbrushed, quoted, and highlight-reeled, it can be difficult at times to remember what being human and real actually means. It means screaming kids in the grocery store, finding stains on your shirt under the bright fluorescent lights after you've already gotten to church, sending an e-mail but forgetting the attachment, and writing "your" when you should have written "you're" in a Facebook post.

We mess up. We're human. It's what we do. And it's time to stop pretending otherwise.

I'm here to tell you to EMBRACE the MISTAKES! Leave the house a little messy for a guest, sing off-key, laugh when you trip over your own feet, and then thank God for letting your life be a lovely, messy example of what it means to be real, to be human, and to be happy about it anyway.

Go ahead, miss a note. It'll just make the world love you more.

*I intentionally stuck a mistake in here. Can you find it? ;-) (Bonus points if you find more than one!)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Before



By Beckie Carlson

Before I step out my door this beautiful Sabbath day,
let me remember those that aren't with me.
Those that have gone on ahead and watch me from above
Those that have chosen not to join me.

Before I step out my door this beautiful Sabbath day,
let me remember why am leaving my house
who's example I am striving to follow
who's sacrifice I am attempting to justify.

Before I step out my door this beautiful Sabbath day,
let me remember those who can not go
those that year and desire to be where I am
those that have lost their way.

Before I step out my door this beautiful Sabbath day,
let me remember to look as His would look
to see as He would see
and to act as He would act.

Before I step out my door this beautiful Sabbath day.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I need more time!

By Lacey Gunter

I was reading a nonfiction picture book to my daughter last night about energy. It was a really cool book that talked about the different types and sources of energy, written in a way that even a young child could comprehend. Part of the book explained that much of the energy we use originates from the sun. For all intents and purposes, we could consider the sun as an infinite source of energy.

All that thinking about renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy got me thinking about time. Don't you wish time was like energy?  If we were just creative enough or inventive enough, we could find renewable sources of it. Or we could find nuggets of time hidden around in variety of ways just waiting for us to collect and store, ready to be used when we need it.

Ah, time is such a fickle resource. So easily wasted and yet so sparse and precious. We always talk about time as the great equalizer. Everyone is allotted the same amount, only 24 hours a day. And yet, what some people are able to accomplish within those 24 hours seems anything but equal.

I've attended writing workshops and conferences and read plenty of writing blogs. All of them telling you what it takes to be a successful writer. I look at that big laundry list and scratch my head and say, how do you do it?  How can one find the time to do it all and still be a good wife and mother?  Then I participate in critique groups and look at the accomplishments and duties of the other women there, most of them with more children than me, and again I wonder how they do it. Where do they find the time?

It is probably no different with me. I am sure at least one other person has looked from the outside and wondered how I have been able to accomplish the things I have done in the time I have had to do them. But it still seems like there is never enough time to accomplish all the wonderful things we desire to do.

Coming back to the book I read my daughter last night about energy and the sun and all the musing about time, something occurred to me.  As latter day saints, we are given quite a different perspective on time. We existed long before we experienced this earth life and we will continue to exist long after we leave here.  Like the seemingly infinite energy resources of the sun, we believe time is infinite too. Imagine that. All our feelings of being rushed and not having enough time, and yet it stretches out before us in a never ending abundance, if only we can be patient enough to wait for it.

It kind of puts a new perspective on things, doesn't it? I can be a piano virtuoso, quantum physicist, aerial stunt pilot and master gardener in the next millennia.  For now I will just try to be content with laying down the ground work, becoming a good human being, improving my talents and trying the best I can in whatever situation I am put in. The rest will surely come. All in due time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Keep On Truckin'

by Patricia Cates

"Success is never final, failure is never fatal; it is courage that counts.”   -

Winston Churchill

Many of you may be too young to remember this, but in the 1970’s there was a slogan on a bumper sticker that had a thumbs up sign with the words “Keep on Trucking.” There were several variations but the one I recall had a funky font and a dude wearing bell bottoms. I think it was meant to be encouraging to those who read it, and surely brought many a smile.  It’s now mid-March and I am curious how many people have managed to stick with their New Year’s resolutions. Do we need some encouragement at this point?  We are not even a full three months in, but surely it's felt longer for some. Especially for those of us who have managed to fail to some degree.
What are you currently working on? Some statistics from the Journal of Critical Psychology, out of the University of Scranton, reported that the top three resolutions for 2014 were:
1.      Lose Weight
2.      Get Organized
3.      Spend Less, Save More

Most of us have "Work On Book" in there somewhere right! And although that all sounds about pretty typical, it is quite accurate. Sadly the study showed that 45% of people nationwide made resolutions, but only 8% managed to keep them! That doesn’t sound terribly encouraging. So why make any at all?
I know why!!! Because...a wise man once said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Ah, ha! 
Although not in the top three, my personal favorite and current resolution works hand-in-hand with the others...which is, “Stop Procrastinating!” In order to help achieve this goal I went to the library to enlist some help.  On the focus shelf sat a terrific little book entitled, “The Procrastinator’s Handbook.  Mastering the Art of Doing It Now,” by Rita Emmett. So far it has been quite enjoyable. I had a goal to read it for the New Year and am about half way through. I am really looking forward to finishing it...
One of the many exercises the book suggests is that you make a list of 101 things you want or need to do. It instructs you to walk through every room in your house and jot down anything you see that needs to be done. It even asks you to consider goals for your spiritual and mental health, your family, friends, pets and social life. I already had three separate lists I’d been working on, so I was half way there.
An insightful quip this book shared is something called Emmett’s Law. It states that, “The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.” This could hold true for various habits or tasks we are trying to embark upon. I found my favorite chapters to be the ones devoted to excuses, clutter, planning, and just being plain overwhelmed.
Here's a good one. On a recent segment of a popular news show they had an expert suggest that we set aside just 10 minutes a day for household tasks.  Easy right! He argues that before we know it, they will all be completed. The show spotlighted a family with 9 children and had them all working together. It was quite inspiring. I think I will try that with my family next week.
    So what if some of us have not been fully on track with whatever it is we are trying to accomplish, yet. Maybe we have stumbled and haven’t gotten up at 6 a.m. every day of the week, with a spring in our step and a song in our heart. Maybe our book is at a standstill, or losing that weight hasn’t happened as quickly as we would have liked. The wonderful thing about all of this is that we still have a chance to do better. Tomorrow holds hope. We can take the dogs on a walk today, and the next, clean out the kitchen junk drawer. It may be past January 1st, but that’s alright. We don’t have to be down on ourselves for slip ups or stalls. I think the true tragedy would be losing the desire to progress and better ourselves.  To simply strive is enough. Maybe all we can do is just “Keep on Truckin’!” Whatever the rest of the year holds in store for us, is truly up to…well…US! 

Be good to yourself.



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rainbow Confection



by Beckie Carlson

Yesterday I visited a virtual wonderland of excellence. No, I didn't go to Disneyland or Harry Potter world, I went to Tucson. You may scratch your head and wonder what wonders lie in Tucson, Arizona. Normally, I would do the same. True, my brother and his family live there, but other than that is just another dusty Arizona town.
My recently returned missionary son is on fire about his future. I am in awe of his focus, drive, and determination to reach his goals. He daily evaluates his progress and tweeks his direction as needed. I love it. I wish a bit of that would spill over onto my other children.
In his pursuits, he is already working on choosing a college for his Bachelors degree. He is on a super charged course to finish is AA in a year and a half and move on from there. He discovered a Physics lab tour in Tucson going on yesterday and asked if we could go. When I asked my sister in law about meeting up with them in Tucson, she mentioned there was also a book fair of some sort happening at the same time.
Oh. My. Goodness. What I expected to be a glorified school "book fair" turned out to be The Festival of Books. The physics tour was a small, hidden byline we had to hunt for. There were rows upon rows of booths featuring, books, authors, publishers, artists, books, ......I love books. I love writing. I love authors (most of them), so basically....I was in heaven.
I did manage to go on one tour with my boys where we got to play with lasers and burn things. It was super cool and reminded me of the days Brad worked in the physics lab in Texas. There was even a lab worker with a heaven Indian accent...just like our old friend Venai. Memories washed over me as I watched my son take his father's place in the world of science. I'm so glad he takes after his dad. It not only keeps his memory alive, but ... frankly, pays more than being a teacher like me.
I had the opportunity to talk with several authors during the day. I love hearing their stories and seeing their excitement and terror as they pedal their hearts. Writing is much more than just putting words down on paper. It digs the deepest loves, fears, and dreams out of ones soul and lays it out on the pavement where strangers can dance or stomp on them. Writing is not for the faint of heart.
I tried to pace myself and remember my limited reading time...but I still came home with about 15 books. Most of them are self-published, but a few were from the big company under the tent. I'm a sucker for middle grade/YA stuff for my students and Ben. I'll try and remember to post reviews for the newbies to help them along. You know, writers helping writers.
All in all, I felt like a kid in a candy store, spinning with delight as my money flew hither and yon. I'm afraid to look at my bank account, but when I do...you know I'll be writing these off as a business expense....cause I said so.
Photo: www.junk-culture.com

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Punch in the Gut--Tapping into Emotion

by Jewel Leann Williams

Have you ever been reading, watching a movie or show, or listening to music, and felt emotions so strong it was like you'd been punched in the gut?

Who are we kidding? Of course you have. Everyone has.  It's part of the reason people like watching TV, or reading books, or listening to music. These things stir our emotions--and when it happens, it can make our entertainment become so much more than just entertainment.

We've discussed before about how stories--good stories--actually activate areas of our brain that cause us to sort of emotionally live out the arc along with the characters, and that this may be an evolutionary mechanism hard-wired into our biology.

It's strange how those experiences we are living vicariously can be etched in our memories almost as clearly as real, true memories.

Do you have a story, a song, a movie, a play, that is burned into your memory as if it really happened?

As an example, I've been taking notice of this with music. Today, I was actually watching a video of Adele singing "When We Were Young" live, and I felt it--the punch in the gut--the emotion of the music, the lyrics, the drum beats, everything.  Since I've been thinking about emotion and writing and wanting to follow up on that, I took a few moments to think about WHY that song elicits that response from me.

A big part of it has to do with both the memory of prior relationships, back in my single years, and how I felt when they failed, or when I saw those people I'd loved later and had to deal with those emotions.

More importantly, I now translate that longing I remembered into the present--what I might feel if it were to happen now with my husband, my real true love--because like any person in love I relate everything to he and I--even just writing those last few lines makes my heart squeeze and my pulse skip in fear.

The result is a real, visceral reaction to the song--it's not my journal entry, but it could be. Adele successfully tapped into my past, and into my own emotions. Now, since Adele and I are not (yet) besties, there is no way for her to know my history or my emotions.

But she doesn't have to. She only has to know her own, and be able to translate those onto the page, or into the song. Since really those visceral emotions of love and loss and longing and wondering are universal, my own mind and heart do the real work.

So how do we, as writers, tap into those universal emotions?

Simple. We mine our own emotions and use them.

Something I've been experimenting with a bit is an "emotion journal."  When I feel a particularly strong emotion, I try and close my eyes and imagine it. What is it doing to my facial expressions? My eyes? My body language? Did my voice change? Am I speaking more slowly or quickly? Louder or softer?

Then I write it out. I let my pen go where it will, say the most ridiculous things it wants to--the more melodramatic the better-- and I either save them to a file if I'm on the computer, or I tear out the page and literally put it away in a file. Sometimes I don't want anybody happening upon them, because I don't filter my words--that's the point of the exercise.

Now, when I need to write that sort of emotion for a character, I can pull those pages and read them.
Usually two things happen:

1) I start to feel that emotion all over again, and
2) I can more efficiently translate that emotion to my character.

Not only that, but I've also already written physical, observable attributes to help me "show, not tell" the emotion. I can talk about the pitch of voice, speed of speech, facial expressions or tics, etc. instead of just saying "angry," "sad," "giddy," or whatever. I have a good idea that those particular descriptors will be something a real person would possess feeling that real emotion, because I did.

Writing gold!


(An added benefit is that as I get more scientific about my emotions, for lack of a better word, I can manage them a little better.)

So there you have it. One tip for plugging into your own emotions to enhance your ability to plug into your readers' emotions.

What tips do you have for tapping into emotion in writing?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Not Even Politicians




*Jeanna steps up on soapbox to air a grievance.*

Look, I’m probably preaching to the choir here. At least, I hope I am. But I’ve got to get this said: All human beings deserve some minimal level of civility. Even people whose opinions and actions we can’t stand.

When I was growing up, my dad had a rule: Never call anyone “stupid.” I don’t know how he managed it, but by and large I remember my siblings abiding this rule, as well as just generally not calling one another mean names. I still have a hard time even saying “stupid.” It just feels . . . wrong.

However, my dad also had an exception: politicians. Politicians got called all sorts of bad things in our household.

I don’t know that I gave it much thought when I was a kid, but when I think of it now, this just doesn’t sit right with me. Politicians, incidentally, happen to be human, just like the rest of us. Sure, they’re out there in the public realm more than most of us, and they had better have some seriously thick skin, but their thick skin doesn’t entitle us to behave badly.

And that’s what I see constantly, especially in politics, but in other areas online as well. People behaving just really badly.

You’re allowed to disagree, you’re allowed to critique, you’re allowed to think someone else’s politics are downright appalling. But if you aren’t capable of doing anything beyond calling them and their ideas stupid, then I’m really not very impressed.

Now, honestly, I usually stay out of politics. This probably has something to do with the atmosphere in which I was raised—where everyone was treated reasonably kindly, except the politicians. It also has to do with just having a nonconfrontational personality. I don’t really like conflict. I do, however, have some pretty strong opinions this time around, and none of them are very pleasant to dwell on. But I’m a human being, capable of choosing the words I use. Better yet—I’m a writer! I know how to wordsmith, right? I can refine the words I use so they are clear, reasonable, and respectful. And so can everyone else. What a nice world that would be.

If nothing else, can we all just remember an incredibly basic tenet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Little children sing it all over the world just about every Sunday. “I am a child of God.” And by extension, so is everyone else—the politician you can’t stand, the anonymous commenter on some internet chat board, the rude lady who did a lousy job of bagging your groceries the other day, and your next door neighbor who’s just a little too nosy.

Now imagine that you are saying your words to this “child of God’s” face—with that Heavenly Parent standing just behind him/her.

Would you do it?

If not, maybe try just a little bit harder to be civil.

*Jeanna steps off soapbox.*

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dust funnies

By Beckie Carlson

Several years ago, after losing my husband, someone suggested I try therapy. I had the same stigma towards therapy that many people have. You go to a therapist if you are crazy or you can't handle your life. I've always been one that could handle stuff. I'm not crazy, why go?
I can't remember what finally drove me to signing up for sessions, but I found myself sitting across from a lovely lady that let me verbally vomit all over her for an hour. $29.99 and that's not all! She didn't ask any questions, make any judgements, or tell me I was crazy, stupid, or wrong. I had been missing out for years!
I attended somewhat regular sessions for a year or so and then fell off the wagon. I think it was due to not wanting to be accountable to anyone, even myself, for the choices I was making. I wasn't doing anything 'wrong', but I preferred to be private. I went back after six months or so, only to discover my therapist didn't want to see me anymore. And I quote, " you are the most well-adjusted person I know and I feel guilty taking your money." Yes, she was breaking up with me.
I wasn't sure how to take the rejection. Was I really doing that well? Or was she simply sick of hearing about my boring life? Regardless, I stopped going. Who am I to throw money at people that can't or won't help me? Oh, wait,...I'm a mom....forget that question.
My daughter recently starting seeing a therapist. She has been raving (bragging) about how awesome this one is and urging me to go. The problem is 1. I have no extra time. 2. I don't want to pay for something that doesn't help. 3. I have no extra time. 4. I can't remember what number 4 was. I went ahead and emailed him. Because of strong connections, which I can't disclose due to patient doctor rights (is there such a thing?),  I was able to get into said therapist quickly.
The first things I noticed about his office were the smell of a campfire and the coffee in his hand. He's one of those guys that never stops looking you in the eye. He thinks I'm crazy.
We chatted for a bit and I ended up telling him what my last therapist said about me being well adjusted. He literally laughed out loud. Again...not sure how to take that.
The session went well. I think. I mean, how does one judge? He laughed, I cried, I didn't knock his stupid little waterfall/fountain thing on the floor, I didn't get a sucker OR sticker when I was done. I didn't have a rubric so I'm not sure I did it right, but I'm hopeful.
He didn't give me any homework or assignments, so I guess all I have to do now is keep being NOT well adjusted and come back in a month.
In spite of the ambiguous-ness of the whole thing, I feel something in my mind has shifted. He does things a bit different in that he talks to the soul and bypasses the person. If that doesn't make sense, don't feel bad. You are probably only half as crazy as me. I feel that since I went, I partially cracked open the door to my soul and she (it?) is stretching a tentative toe out into my mind where she will surely start organizing and wreaking havoc of some sort or another. I'm excited and terrified at the same time.
But, if you know me at all, I've got this. Totally under control. Or, is it....under the rug? I forget.
Cause I said so.
Photo: www.novel-events.com

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How does this sound?

By Lacey Gunter

Online social networks have seeped their way into every part of our modern culture. No reputable writing conference these days would dare leave out a class or panel discussion on the importance and integration of social networks in the publishing process. But one could easily argue that they have become just as integrated into the writing process as well.

With a large portion of our ranks being introverts, it's no surprise that many writers prefer online social networks for finding and receiving feedback on their writing.  There are a lot of good reasons for this. You have much greater access to writers in your genre or even sub genre. Critiques can be done on a more flexible schedule, in the comfort of your own home or wherever else you prefer.  Comments can be made and received by monitor, so less confrontation and no game face needed.  Likewise, an author can collect their thoughts and calm down before any interacting, rather than suffer from knee jerk reactions.  Taken as a whole they are a great resource for writers seeking to improve their craft.

I frequently use this avenue for getting critiques on my writing. However, I am a strong believer that online and social networks should augment a writer's resources for writing feedback, rather than replace it. The biggest reason I suggest this is that there is great value in hearing your writing read aloud by someone else.

We know how things are supposed to sound in our head. But we are not the voice in our reader's head. Hearing your writing read aloud by someone else allows you to assess whether the reader can replicate your desired rhythm and pacing. It helps you understand if you are setting the right tone and whether your jokes sound as witty when someone who doesn't already know the punch line reads them. It gives you a sense of how events and dialogue might get interpreted and the overall emotion your writing leaves with the reader.

Some of the these things can and do get expressed in online critiques, but usually only when they are a significant issue.  Being in person and hearing the sounds and seeing the facial expressions and body language give you another level of feedback that no one will say to you.

This is just one reason, of course. There are many other good reasons as well. The best part is, your online social networks can also be used to find in person critique partners. You just have to put a little more effort into it.

Now, if I could just find someone to read this blog post aloud to me.

Happy critiquing.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Writing Process

I've been researching different writing processes, hoping it will spark some inspiration so I can write the next Great American Novel. Since my husband couldn't care less about writing or the process of doing so, I thought I would share my findings with you!

Planners Vs. Gardeners
I think some of you have heard about these two different types of writers, but I think it's important to know what type of writer you are.

Planners- as the name suggests, these writers plan EVERYTHING. They use an outline to see where their story is going, what twists and turns they will have, and how everything will tie together in the end.

One of my favorite writers, Brandon Sanderson, is a planner. He churns out at least three-four books a year with his process. If you are interested in how he writes, you can look up his lectures from BYU on YouTube. Here's a link for the first one: Brandon Sanderson Lecture 1

Gardeners- These are the writers that let the story freely unfold as they write. They don't plan, but they have a lot of editing to do (just like gardeners have to cultivate.) Obviously, these writers take longer to complete projects, but they have a tendency to have more surprise in the plot.

A very well-known author who is a writing gardener is George R.R. Martin. If you read the series, you know that good ol' George has been working on the next book in his Song of Ice and Fire series since 2011. He has to keep pushing back the publication date, but I feel as if it will all be worth it.

Of course there are those writers who and a mix of both Gardeners and Planners. I have dubbed them "Gardlanners." These are the writers who may have a loose outline where major plot points are marked, but they allow the story to flow and grow as it will. As long as it hits those major plot points, then it's fine.

I am a Gardlanner. I like to plan, but I have learned that my plots tend to be very linear if I plot too much.

So what type of writer do you fall under? A Planner like Sanderson? A Gardener like Martin? Or perhaps a hybrid like me? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rewrite?

by Patricia Cates

Have you ever written something you thought was absolutely brilliant, and then gone back and revisited it later and said, "What was I thinking?"

Man, oh, man. I sure have!

While continuing my organization of things I stumbled across a poem I wrote in 2011. At the time I was in full flow mode and writing with abandon. I wrote a poem for my husband-to-be, and felt it "to be" the absolute most romantic thing ever scribed. I even framed a copy for him and displayed it at our reception. So, when I found it recently I was uber excited. I couldn't wait to re-read the words on those two pages. My finest work for sure. Except...it's utterly awful! Super bad. What was I thinking? It may have been the first and only draft, but honestly it sounds like a 12 year old wrote it. My tenses are off in parts and it really needs revision. I am so embarrassed. I am thinking I will rewrite it. If not for him, for me!

Who else has done this?

I think that's why some great writing coaches have told us to "let it rest." But does a rest mean four hours, four days, four months or four years? It's difficult to gauge. It might depend on how unbiased we can be towards our own work. Can we be unbiased after a few hours? Certainly after four years. Confession---I often publish on this very blog a complete first draft, because I am in a hurry. The great thing about that is that we can always update! On paper...not so much.

So my challenge today is to say "YES" to the rewrite. Find something old and pull it out and see if it needs a little polishing...or a lot. Could something so-so become great? I think so. If it's something your heart is attracted to, then maybe that will spark some much needed interest and passion. Perhaps some new ideas will even begin to flow along with it as well. You never know until you try.





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