Friday, December 19, 2008

Yes, I Am Still Alive

My mom always taught me that if I couldn't say something nice to not say anything at all, and thus my absence over the past months. I'll just say it's been a struggle and leave it at that. So, instead of a long, rambling description of my occasionally miserable existence, I thought I'd share a poem I wrote for a church party. I'll try to get back into the blogging spirit come the new year. I hope this holds you over until then.

Christmas is more
than ribbons and bows,
it's more than gift giving
and lights all aglow

It starts in November
and should last the year round.
The Thanksgiving spirit
shouldn't flee underground

The reason for the season
of Christmas this year
--remember to be grateful
for all we hold dear

This season reminds us
of God's greatest gift--
a wee little baby
born to seal up the rift

between Heaven and earth,
between God and mankind,
and what greater blessing
can we ever find?

So let us be grateful,
let the holidays combine,
from Thanksgiving thank-yous
to the Christ-child divine.

May the Christmas spirit of peace be upon you all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Book Review: A Future for Tomorrow

When I was first asked to review this book I wondered why I said yes. It's the story of a girl dealing with anorexia nervosa, which is obviously a problem I've never had to face, but it's also the story of a girl dealing with her own self worth and has many spiritual elements that appealed to me, so I gave it a try.

Boy, am I ever thankful that I did.

Any of you who follow my blog with any kind of regularity know that my mother passed away a few months ago and I've been really struggling since. I had even begun to question if there really was a life after this one and if my Heavenly Father loved me. I spent a lot of time very angry at him for taking my best friend away and that attitude has been reflected in my life. Call me strange, but the written word has always affected me much more strongly than anything anyone can say and reading this book was no exception.

What does anorexia nervosa have to do with death, you might ask?

Well, everything, really. I don't want to ruin the story for any of you, but Haley nearly lost her life in this battle and what she went through helped me to understand some of the things that had been bothering me about my mother's last few days. I also saw myself in some of the challenges Haley faced with her self image and her relationship with food. It was a very eye opening experience and a fascinating, heart wrenching read.

Let me put it to you this way. I sat on a bathroom floor for five hours finishing the book because I couldn't put it down. I stayed up all night with two kids to send off to school the next day. That's how great this book was and is something I think everyone should read. The problems with body image and self worth are prevalent in our society and something that each of us will come across almost daily. By understanding the problems and thinking that accompany it we may find a way to help those who struggle--and at the very least, find some answers to our own problems.

That's what A Future for Tomorrow has done for me. Haley's story has brought me peace in remembering my mother's last days and she has helped me to understand myself in ways I couldn't before. I wish I could give a copy of this book to each of my young women, but at least I can use the principles I have learned to help them to love themselves and love their bodies and see themselves the way that Heavenly Father does.

My Rating: Two thumbs up.

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Granite Publishers, Inc (2008)

To Order: or

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


About a week ago we had a freak snowstorm and even though my son had told me the day before it was supposed to snow, I blew it off. When I woke up and saw snow on the ground I jumped into my clothes and raced for the garden. I ended up picking five buckets of tomatoes, two and a half of which were green! What was I going to do with all those green tomatoes?

Well, I started searching and found a couple of recipes for green tomato salsa, but I didn't like them after I put in the work to make a batch, so I took my sister's red salsa recipe, modified it, and came up with a winner! It's a little more tangy than red salsa but has a nice, smooth flavor. Not too hot, not too sweet, and just the right touch of garlic and onion. I thought I'd post it here in case anyone else is looking for an answer to the green tomato question.

Green Tomato Salsa

2-3 onions, preferably sweet (walla walla or vidalia
4-6 Jalapenos, halved lengthwise and seeded
4 Annaheim Chili peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
6-8 large garlic cloves
8 Quarts Green Tomatoes
1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
1 rounded Tablespoon crushed red chili pepper
1 Tablespoon crushed cumin
Juice of 3 limes
1/2 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup salt
1-2 Quarts water (1 makes it thick and chunky, 2 makes it more runny)
2 Tablespoons dry Cilantro

In food processor finely chop onions, jalapenos, annaheim chilies, and garlic. Put into an 8 quart heavy pot. Short and quick, pulse tomatoes to desired consistency (I like them a little chunky. Kind of diced.) Put in pot. Add crushed red chili pepper, apple cider vinegar, cumin, salt, sugar, lime juice, cilantro, and water to pot. Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. (Watch that it doesn't scorch the bottom). Pack into hot jars and process in pressure canner for 15 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure.

Yields 18-20 pints.

So there you go. If anybody tries it, let me know what you think. I gave away four bottles and every single person told me the family ate the whole jar in a day. That's a good sign I think! Hooray for green tomatoes!

Quote of the Day: "And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. "

~Sylvia Plath

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Writing Again!

So, a friend of mine told me that one of our online groups was starting a B.I.A.M. (Book In A Month) for the month of October and asked if I wanted to join. I've been desperate to write for ages and just needed an excuse, I guess, because I started today and wrote 2,295 words! How cool is that? It feels so good to be writing again, I can't even tell you. It's a great way to fill those sleepless hours I can't seem to get away from. Hey, if my brain is awake at one and two a.m., why not use it?

Quote of the Day: "The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home."

John W. Campbell

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book Review: The Santa Letters

I must admit, the timing on reading this book was perfect for me. Since I lost my mother I've found myself questioning who I am without her. It's been an interesting and painful process, discovering who I am all over again, and one I never imagined I'd have to go through once I passed the teenage years. It's not easy dealing with the loss of people we love and The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch Anderson has a wonderful way of showing just that.

I sat down at lunch with this book and didn't leave the table until I was finished. Yeah. It was that good.

The falling December snow brings with it the sadness that has engulfed the previous year for the Jensen family. This first year without their father and husband has been trying. Money is tight, but it's the emotional strain that threatens to snap under the weight of grief. Just as Emma and the children begin to sink beneath the surface, a mysterious package arrives on the doorstep. An ornate wax seal beckons them to open the accompanying note and start on a journey through Christmas. The note is signed simply, "Santa," and each day a package arrives to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas - love, family, memories, and, most important of all, Christ.

As I read the journey of the Jensen family, I found myself wondering how I too could apply the lessons taught in The Santa Letters and how I could serve those in need and those who have served me through my time of trial. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to read The Santa Letters, I would strongly encourage you to take the time to do so. It's a few hours spent that you'll never forget.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comedic Kindness

I've been going through Mom's things and though I know it's a necessary task, there are days it's a real struggle. The other day I found Mom's calendar and seeing her life planned on the page in her familiar handwriting, the pain hit me something fierce. The kids were upstairs playing and I just laid down on the floor and tried not to cry.

After a bit Birdie boy came down and asked "Mom, are you crying?"

"No." I tried not to sniff.

He immediately came down the stairs and knelt down beside me while I fingered the calendar. "You are crying." Well, I hadn't been before, but his kindness set me off, so I nodded my head. He wrapped an arm around me and put his cheek next to mine and tried to comfort me as best as his nine year-old self could. He patted my back while my tears dampened the carpet and said, "It's okay, Mom. I'm sad too."

Tin-man came to the stairs then. "Is Mom crying?"

Birdie nodded and Tin-man immediately rushed to me and knelt by my head, but instead of trying to comfort me he grabbed the calendar and started to flip through it furiously.

"What are you doing?" Birdie asked.

"Trying to find what made my mom cry!" was his answer. That made me cry even harder.

Birdie stood then and said, "Mom, you don't have to do anything else. I'll clean up for you. Just tell us what to do." He wrapped his arm back around me and, scooting to the side, went to sit down, then promptly yelped and leapt to his feet, rubbing his backside. Startled, I glanced to my left to see what had attacked him to find toothpicks scattered across the carpet, the holder they'd been in tipped on its side. I started to laugh hysterically and both boys joined me rather quickly.

He picked up the toothpicks and smacked them with his hand. "Bad toothpicks. Mom, what do I do with them?"

I answered, "Well, after they've been stuck in your butt I don't think anybody's going to want to use them." I handed him the garbage and, laughing, he tossed them out.

What a joy they are to my aching heart.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Something Light for a Change

You Are Belle!
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Intelligent and kind. Your beauty goes much further than your apperance. Also, you make judgements of people based on their personality and not their looks. Attaining all the knowledge that you can is one of your major goals in life, but you are also a person who can make things happen.

Which Disney Princess Are You?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Poetic Grief

Thanks to all who have sent condolences and prayers my way, whether through comments, personal e-mail, a card, phone call, or signing the guest book on the newspaper website. It has been so helpful and meaningful to have so many of you reach out to me during such a difficult time.

Yesterday I was out of town and found myself picking up the phone to call Mom and check on her. When it dawned on me nobody was on the other end, my heart just about broke, but rather than have a melt-down I put it on paper. The following poem is what resulted:
Poetic Grief
I picked up the phone
to call you tonight
when I remembered . . .
you're not there.
Yesterday, I went downstairs
to talk to you
but only the silent remnants
of your life greeted me with memories
. . . and you're not there.
Tomorrow I'll want to share
the music of this masterpiece
and you won't be there.
I never knew how big you were
until I tried to fill the void
you left behind.
There's not enough stuff in the world
to fill this hole.
The place you lived in my heart
is empty
. . . because you're not there.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

And Now . . . I Bid You Adieu

Theda Earlene Gillespie 1931 ~ 2008 Our beloved mother, grandmother, and friend passed from this earthly existence on August 6, 2008 surrounded by those she loved.Earlene was born Sept. 6, 1931 in Tucson, Arizona to Earl Christopher Sipe and Elizabeth Elder. She was a woman full of light and life, a woman who seemed to succeed at nearly everything she tried, from grand gardens to building rooms. Earlene was one of the choice spirits who walk upon the earth seeking to do service for those around her. She had great integrity, a huge heart, and a beautiful spirit and will be sorely missed. Earlene is survived by her six children: Collette Johnson (Washington); Doug Clement (Bountiful); Linda Capello (Idaho); Mark Clement (Oregon); Karen Hoover (Tooele); and Sean Gillespie (Salt Lake). This only child produced six children, 21 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren, and she spent her last few hours surrounded by many of them, sharing stories and joyful memories of our years with her. Services will be held at 1 p.m. on Fri., August 8 at the chapel on 2600 S. and 500 W. in Bountiful. All welcome.

It is not easy to say good-bye to those we love, especially when it is a separation that will last until one crosses from this world to the next. On Wednesday, August 6, at 3:05 a.m., my dear, sweet mother unexpectedly crossed the veil into the eternities.

Farewell, Mama. Thank-you for all the years of love, friendship, and unwavering support. You will be sorely missed. Hugs and kisses for eternity.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review: Room for Two

It is not often I read a book that haunts me the way Room for Two has done. From the opening line to the closing paragraph, this was a book I did not want to put down and has changed the way I think about many things, including mental illness and suicide.

"Sweetie, I'm home." I tried to put as much kindness into my voice as possible. I didn't want to have another argument - at least not right away.
A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall.
Everything slowed down.

My heart literally ached with these opening lines. What would it be like to walk in the door and experience something like this? Abel tells us without mincing words. He is extremely honest in telling us what happened and how he came to deal with it and learned to forgive his wife and himself. Written as non-fiction, it reads like fiction and was very easy to immerse myself in. This is a story I would have loved if it was fiction, but knowing it was fact made it reach into the deepest parts of my heart and squeeze.

What is the book about? Let me tell you.

When a life is destroyed, when guilt says you played a role in its destruction, how do you face the days ahead?
Twenty-six-year-old Abel Keogh chooses to ignore the promptings he receives concerning his wife's mental illness, and now he feels he is to blame for her choices. If only he had listened . . .

At some point in our lives, each of us face devastating afflictions and must eventually cope with loss. Regardless of how it happens, the outcome is still the same - we are left isolated, alone, wondering what we could have done differently, and where we can turn for peace.

This is Abel's story in his own words. His search for peace and the miracle that follows is proof that love and hope can endure, despite the struggles and tragedies that shape each of our lives.

On a more personal level, Room for Two made me realize that I have my own story to share and gave me the couage to begin writing it. If Abel can write about such a painful, sensitive subject, than my fears at exposing myself are negligible.

So, thank you, Sir, for writing words that can stir the soul and improve us in the ways we need, whether big or small. Having the courage to take your life in hand, love again, and share all that you've learned with the rest of us has made you a hero in my eyes.

Purchase Room for Two here.
Room for Two
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Cedar Fort (August 2007)
ISBN-10: 1599550628
ISBN-13: 978-1599550626

Quote of the Day: "Books want to be born: I never make them. They come to me and insist on being written, and on being such and such."
~Samuel Butler

Earwig Mash-up

A couple of weeks ago there was a discussion about earwigs happening on one of the writing lists I belong to. Evidently one of the ladies there had something in her ear and when she washed it out, an earwig came swimming out. Of course one of the gents had to pop in with his earwig story--waking up in the middle of the night with excruciating pinching happening in his ear. Turns out he had an earwig in there too.

Two nights ago I was taking a bath when--you guessed it--an earwig scrambled up the shower curtain. Thankfully I had a couple of books on hand to mash it with. Everywhere I turn I find earwigs this year, insects I hadn't seen much of since I was a kid in Washington.

My nine year old is terrified of them. Well, he's terrified of bugs in general, but he let out a rather girly scream this afternoon when he walked down the stairs and saw one on the wall. I mashed it pretty quickly, but all of the earwig stories and action have created a problem.

See, I've got this really active imagination--probably overactive--and now I can't sleep at night for fear of an earwig crawling inside. I've taken to sleeping with cotton balls stuffed in my ears for protection, which of course makes it hard to hear my alarm clock go off in the morning. *sigh* A girl just can't win, can she.

On a positive note, I've finally started writing again, but not what I'd been planning on. I've played with an idea for ten years or more and never had the courage to write it--a non-fiction piece, which is a form I am completely unfamiliar with. I'm shooting in the dark here and only hoping I can make it right, and it's all thanks to a book I finished on Sunday by Abel Keough, called Room for Two. I'll be reviewing it tomorrow, so come back for the review, but I'm telling you, that story has inspired me in many, many ways. It's got me writing again, which is something I've lacked for two years. In the past three days I've written over 4,000 words. I thought that was a pretty good start. I'm very grateful to have some inspiration and courage again, so keep rooting for me, everybody. I can use it!

Quote of the day: "You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke."

~Arthur Polotnik

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Review: All's Fair

I first met Julie Bellon at the 2006 LDStorymakers conference. We were standing in line for lunch and my friend was chatting with her so I joined in, not realizing at the time that she was a published author. She was very friendly and so easy to talk to I quickly came to love her, and once I began reading her books my admiration grew even more. Julie has the ability to create characters that readers care about, which is the most important aspect of a book for me, up and above everything else.

All's Fair is the story of brother and sister Brandon and Kristen Shepherd. The book nabbed me on page one when I found Kristen running away from the altar, and my connection with her was finalized when she found herself climbing a fence in her wedding dress, rain pouring down, and she slips and falls in the mud. The picture was so vivid and my heart ached for her right then. I was hooked. Add to that Brandon, a military doctor in Iraq who is captured by the enemy, and I had a very hard time putting this book down. Julie always does that to me. It doesn't matter what else is going on, I will avoid it to dive into her books and devour them as quickly as I can.

Great characters, fascinating plot--you can't go wrong with this one. It gets a big two thumbs up from me!

Quote of the Day: "A writer's mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head."
~Ethel Wilson

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bragging Rights

I know most people think their mom is the best, but I've got to say I think my mom is definitely in the cream of the crop. This is a woman who became a widow at 43 with a two and a four year old, then turned around and raised them by herself. She is the most independent person I know and taught me that there truly is a way to do anything if you're creative and research your options enough.

You know how most gardeners have a green thumb? Well, my mom's got a green arm. The woman can grow anything! She's built decks and sheds, she's built rooms and painted, she's laid carpet, done plumbing, took care of her own aged parents, and continued to raise her two kids in a loving home.

But in all the busy-ness of her life she had to give up her greatest dream: that of being an author. She has said on many occasions that she is not only proud of me for my accomplishments, but is so grateful that she gets to be a part of my journey toward publication, that in a small way she gets to live her dream through me.

Well, not anymore.

On Saturday, as I had a marathon wait at the Atlanta airport, I got a phone call from my dear mother. Months ago she had submitted a few stories to a lady she'd met, Joy Robinson, who had previously published a compilation of spiritual stories called Touched by the Spirit. Mom had hoped something would come of it, but hadn't been expecting much of anything, when lo and behold she receives a copy of Joy's newest book in the mail with not one of Mom's stories, but two! She was thrilled, to say the least. The book is called Tender mercies: Stories to Stir the Soul and is published by Cedar Fort.

Can you say proud daughter???

What an amazing thing, to have my mother finally see her dream of publication fulfilled while her daughter is on the path herself. She asked me today if I was at all jealous of her success and I could honestly say, not one bit! I am so happy that she's been able to feel the joy of seeing her words in print and am so, so thankful to have her as my mom. She's my hero--the person I look up to more than any other.

So, congratulations, Mom! I'm so very proud of you! Let's keep making those dreams come true!

Quote of the Day: "A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes."

~William Sansom

Friday, July 18, 2008

Book Review: Caught in the Headlights

I finished two books yesterday (see previous blog for the other one), the first of which was Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way. Wow, what a book! I began my journey through the 10 lessons without much thought for how it applied to me. To be honest, I thought more along the lines of, "ooh, my husband should read this" or "Oh, this chapter would be great for my friend." It wasn't until I hit chapter 7 on forgiveness that I started to feel "caught in the headlights."

Everyone has things in their lives that change them, things that are tough for them to get over and I've certainly had my share, but I had one experience in particular that I found myself reflecting on as I read this chapter. It's not one of those experiences I can share as it is far too personal and would seriously hurt the other person involved, but it was one of those experiences I have really struggled to learn to forgive, both the perpetrator and myself--for being so stupid. I've prayed and done a lot of soul searching, I've met with counselors and sought guidance from church leaders to help me know how to let this go, and even all these years later I'm struggling. This chapter caught me in a cotton vise and wouldn't let go. I don't know that I've found all the answers here, but I've certainly found some, and it was a pleasure to find them in such an uplifting and humorous book.

Chapters 8, 9, and 10 also felt focused toward me and made me finally see what this book was about, but that's something I can't really tell you either. Not because I don't want to, but because the lesson is applied a little differently for everyone. You can only learn your lesson by reading the book and appying it to your life.

As far as the style of the writing is concerned, I found Barry Phillips an entertaining and energetic writer whose voice captures the reader and sweeps them through the book to drop them with a sigh at the end. I laughed out loud many times and found myself really pondering over the messages presented. I loved the cartoons introducing each chapter and found Mr. Phillips did a marvelous job using stories and his unique voice to make an impression. I'm not a big self-help reader, but this is one of those rare books I'd recommend to almost anyone. I think anyone could find something about themself in this book. I know I certainly did.

So, thanks, Mr. Phillips, for sharing your hard learned lessons with us in the hope of easing some of our journey on the path. This reader really appreciates it!

Quote of the Day: "Every novel is an attempt to capture time, to weave something solid out of air. The author knows it is an impossible task - that is why he keeps on trying."
David Beaty

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fighting the Fear

I finished a book tonight that I've been reading over the past couple of months, savoring it like good chocolate. It's called "The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear" by Ralph Keyes. Wow, has it been good. It's one of those books I am excited to read again and again because there was just so much good stuff packed in it that has already helped me in my quest to overcome or at least deal with my fear. If you haven't had a chance to read this book and are struggling with your fear like I have I would strongly suggest you run not walk to your nearest book store and pick it up. It is packed full of examples from dozens of writers who have struggled just like you and me.

People like E.B. White. You know, the guy who wrote Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little? Yeah, that guy. Evidently he struggled so much with fear that at times he would put a manuscript in the mail only to chase down the mailman and beg him to give it back. Mr Keyes says "When the Paris Review wanted to interview him for its Writers at Work series, White said he'd be better qualified for one on Writers Not at Work." Evidently Mr. White had a history of anxieties that shifted as he grew and his best method of coming to terms with his fears was to turn them into stories.

That's just one example. There are stories from authors and poets cover the past hundred years or more. It has been tremendously helpful in letting me see that every writer has some fear or another and that the trick is not to try and overcome the fear, but rather to use it to push me onward, to convert the fear to excitement and help me write.

I've got some great new tricks in my bag now, things I hope will enable me to get back to the page and move past the crippling fear. Things that let me see I'm not so wierd after all. Well . . . I am, but it's okay . . . I'm a writer. Wierd is normal for me. As I'm always telling my friends, "I have come to embrace my wierdness." I think that's how this book has helped me the most. It's let me see that I'm okay just the way I am. Now I just have to use it to put words on the page. Wish me luck!

Quote of the Day: "You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist, you are learning your craft- then you can add all the genius you like."
~Phyllis Whitney

Monday, July 14, 2008

Writing it to Bits

I discovered something about myself today. I am an organized writer. You'd think after having finished two books and starting many others I would have realized that about myself already, but in the past I'd just pray for inspiration and go with whatever worked. I'm still praying for inspiration, but am finally noticing trends that work well for me, and one of those is to break the big pieces of a book into smaller and smaller bits that are manageable. The trick then is to put them back together in a beautiful, understandable whole.

It's a lot like creating a mosaic or stained glass. You break or cut the whole into bits, then piece them back together in a pattern that is even more beautiful than it was to begin with. So, that's what I'm trying to do today. I'm planning my pattern and breaking glass by creating an outline, dividing the book into parts, and within each part, chapters. After that I'll begin piecing it together by creating a synopsis of each chapter before I finally sit down to actually write the first draft. I'm not one of those who can sit and come up with the pattern as I go. I have to have some direction ahead of time, and I create that with this formula of mine. I guess I tend toward the one draft side of things, with lots and lots of planning in advance.

I'm finding it's much easier to repeat the action of writing a book when I understand my process, rather than having to figure it out again each time. It will save a lot of time and hassle in the future, I think. So best of luck to all of you with your writing endeavors. As for me? I'm off to start piecing together a story that will hopefully be as beautiful as the picture above when I'm finished with it.

Quote of the Day: "Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for."
~ Alice Walker

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Writing in Georgia

It's interesting . . . since I murdered my inner critic I have found myself actually wanting to write, thrilling to write. I don't want to do anything BUT write! I'm trying to understand what it was about that nasty woman living inside my head that made me lose the joy that made me want to write in the first place. I'm not sure if it's the lack of an internal critic or the lack of expectations from a publisher, but I feel absolutely 100% free to write whatever the heck I want.

I love this feeling. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm going to use it while I've got it. I was on an airplane today for about six hours and spent almost every moment I was allowed writing. I ended up with about sixteen hand-written pages, just rambling notes that help me figure out the direction I want my story to go, and interestingly enough, I'm working on the same story I didn't want to work on for anyone else. I knew I was stubborn, but that's a little ridiculous. I know there will be times I have to write what the publisher wants, like finishing a series or some other crazy concept, but for today and tomorrow and the rest of this week, I'm going to write whatever catches my fancy and I'm going to love every moment of it.

So, if anybody wonders where I may have wandered off to, I'm in Georgia writing my heart all over the page. Hey, what better way to spend a week's vacation is there?

Quote of the Day: "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."
~William Wordsworth

Friday, July 11, 2008

Violent Silence

I beheaded my inner critic today.

Not that she didn't deserve it, mind you, but I'm not usually prone to that kind of violence. It surprised me to what extent I would go to silence the nasty garbage spewing from her mouth.

See, I got a rejection today. It was a good rejection, a great one actually (if rejections can ever be considered great) and came in the form of a phone call. I always thought calls were reserved for the few select who received an acceptance. I'd never heard of a phone rejection, and yet that is what I got today. It was an extremely nice and complimentary rejection for a book I was told was 99% there--they just couldn't fit me into their publishing schedule for at least two years and rather than hold onto it, they were going to let it go so I could find a home for it somewhere else.

Well, after another no and another "almost", I was feeling pretty low and my inner critic started in on me. "Why even bother sending it out to agents? Even if they like the book, they'll never find a picture of you good enough to go in the back cover," she snarled. That brought me up cold. "Stop right there," I said in response, but she wouldn't stop. She continued to spit her nasty drivel in my direction and I just couldn't take it anymore. It wasn't true. I knew it with all my heart, so first I pounded on her face, then suddenly my hands sprouted sickle blades and, whack--her head went flying.

My first thought was, "Oh no, I've killed my inner critic!", but the silence was so divine I couldn't help but smile and then laugh out loud. The nasty voice was quiet. I'm sure she'll find her way back to life at some point, but for now, when I need it the very most, she is gone.

Oh, blessed relief!

Thought of the day: "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
~Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Heaven Scent

Last Saturday I sat down to read a book for review and spent every spare moment over the next 24 hours finishing it. It's been ages since a book grabbed me by the nostrils and pulled me into it so strongly that it was effort stopping long enough to eat, let alone feed anyone else.

The book was Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley.

I first met Rebecca at the LDStorymakers conference in 2007, but didn't really get to know her until the end of the 2008 conference. I was very impressed with her kindness and the beautiful spirit she carries with her. She was one of those people that I just knew I wanted to know better, so when the opportunity came to join her blog tour, I jumped on the bandwagon.

Heaven Scent is about a young basketball star who seems to have it all, and for the most part she does--everything but her father's attention. It was a story about forgiveness that goes far beyond that which anyone would normally have to endure. I was very caught up in the characters and their lives. Rebecca is masterful in her ability to create characters the reader cares about. I spent the last hour and a half of my reading time almost sobbing, and that's not something I've EVER done. The instant I finished I passed the book on to my mother, who stayed up half the night reading it and bawled her head off just like I did. The emotional power and beauty were too much to hold inside.

I won't give it all away, because I don't want to ruin it for you. Go out and buy the book because my description of what happens will not come anywhere near to giving you a true understanding of the story. It's something that must be experienced. It would be like trying to describe chocolate.

So, here's a big standing ovation from this little corner of the net, and Rebecca--I can't wait to see what you come up with next! You've made a truly devoted fan out of me!

Quote of the Day: "A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure."

~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last week I attended BYU's Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. Wow, what a week. I'm still reeling from all that I learned, just trying to make room in my brain for the overflow. I commented to my friend Shari at one point that I felt like my brain was dribbling out my ears. There just wasn't anymore room to hold it all in.

For those who haven't attended before, let me tell you how it works. Most days the actual workshop goes from 8:30 to 12:30 where the group of 14 or 15 people sit with a published author and learn how to write by tearing each others manuscripts apart. After that we break for an hour for lunch, then come back for a half hour meet and greet with the authors where we can ask them questions and listen to their responses. From 2:00 to 3:00 we would listen to author readings and have a guest speaker, usually an agent or editor. From 3:00 to 5:00 or 5:30 (I forget already) we'd attend classes presented by the various authors.

I loved listening to the authors in the afternoon, but there wasn't much that was new for me there. I've been going to conferences for several years now and you can only hear so much about plot and voice before it gets repetitious. You can approach it new ways, yes, and they were great presentations, but I've heard it before.

For me, the most beneficial part of each day was the actual brutality of the workshop in the mornings. I spent my time with Brandon Sanderson's group and there was not a person in there who couldn't be published. I was astounded with the quality of writing that was presented each and every day, some of the best being written brand new while attending the conference. It's not that anybody was mean, really they weren't. Nearly everyone was very professional with their comments, both the positive and the negative. It's just that seeing your baby torn to pieces before you is never a pleasant experience--but it is a valuable one. I not only learned where my weaknesses were, but I saw where weak writing in general could be improved. I learned to see it all much more objectively than I ever have before, and I used that knowledge to write one of the best darn pieces of urban fiction I've ever vomited onto a page. Granted, it's a rough draft, but my rough draft after this class was better than a third or fourth draft in the past. It was a pheneomenal experience.

Brandon has a way of making everything interesting, even if he does talk too fast for me to take proper notes. He is engaging, entertaining, and extremely knowledgeable. It was a pleasure to be in his class. I've heard from him before at the LDStorymakers and LTUE conferences--have even communicated with him via e-mail before his first book (Elantris) came out--but this was the first time I've spent extensive time learning from him. The man has a brain I can only dream of having. He holds so much information in there, I don't know how he does it. I used to remember things really well, but . . . *sigh* oh well. I digress.

This is a workshop I will go to again and again and would highly recommend to anyone contemplating attending something to further their writing. I've never learned so much in such a short period of time and it was well worth the money spent.

Hey, maybe I'll see you there next year.

Quote of the Day: "Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies."

~Emme Woodhull-Bäche

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Review: Forged in the Refiner's Fire

I first met Candace Salima at the LDStorymakers conference in 2006 during early morning writer's boot camp and immediately felt a connection with her, despite her staunch disapproval of writing in first person. Candace has charisma and a strong personality that is tempered with a kind and giving heart, and thus it came as no surprise to me to discover the kinds of stories that combine to create Forged in the Refiner's Fire.

I didn't actually purchase the book for myself. It was a Christmas gift for my mother who tearfully placed it in my hands when she was done, insistent that I read it as soon as I could. With her testimonial shining in her eyes, I dug in and relished each and every story. This isn't the kind of book I could race through. It required savoring, one chapter at a time, letting the memories and thoughts linger in my mind long after I was done, much like the smoothness of european chocolate that should be allowed to melt and flow across the tongue. I could no more snarf down that chocolate than I could read this book in a day. It may sound trite, but this was one of those rare books that changed me. It changed my perspective and gave me an understanding of the learning and growth that come from our trials and helped me to look to the lesson rather than the pain when I must endure the agony of trial. It made me think, and what greater purpose can the written word truly have?

If you're looking for a recommendation, I couldn't give one much better. Forged in the Refiner's Fire is beyond worthy. It is well written and full of heart and faith, the kind that changes the hearts of those who read.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tristi Pinkston's Blog Tour

Well, after nearly a month long vacation from blogland, I'm pleased to return in time to greet author Tristi Pinkston as she tours the virtual world.

I've spent the past two days reading Season of Sacrifice, and I must say, I am very impressed. I'm sure most of you have figured by now that I'm a bit of a fantasy girl. Okay, that's an understatement--I am a huge fantasy fan to that point that it is what I read almost exclusively. I throw in a few mysteries and most recently LDS fiction, but I would have to say that probably 9/10ths of my books fit into the speculative fiction category. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable history can be.

Besides the obvious differences between history and fantasy (real world happenings verses anything the mind can conjure), the biggest obstacle for me to overcome was time. No, not finding time to read, but the fact that most fantasy takes place over a period of days or weeks and occasionally a year, but history takes years, all within the scope of one book. Once I passed that obstacle, the book was a fabulous read.

Season of Sacrifice is the story of Tristi's own ancestors. Here's the description from her site:

"Sarah Williams is a young Welsh immigrant, coming to Utah to join her sister Mary Ann Perkins. When the Perkins are asked to join the San Juan mission to pioneer a trail through Southern Utah, they take Sarah along to help care for the children. But a six-week journey turns into six agonizing months of hard work and toil as the Saints blast their way through a cliff to bring their wagons through what would become the famous Utah landmark "Hole in the Rock."

"Finally settled in the San Juan, Sarah's true hardship begins when Ben Perkins asks her to be his second wife. With their faith and testimonies challenged to the core, both Sarah and Mary Ann struggle to find the true meaning of Christ-like love and obedience. Will they make it through?"

The story is full of hazardous journeys, personal challenges ,and faith-testing experiences. It also deals with the issue of polygamy in a very believable manner, one that helped me to understand perhaps how challenging it might have been for the early saints.

My favorite scene is that of a story shared by one of the men going through the hole in the rock. He had been helping the families to ferry their wagons across the river all day and his family and wagon had been forgotten. After going back up the hill and seeing there was no one left to help him, he was furious, but his wife said it would be okay. She sat the three year old down with the baby in his lap and their older child facing them and told them not to move until they came back. They weren't sure they would survive the trip down with nobody at the top to hold the wagon back. The wife took the rope and tried to hold back the wagon but was quickly thrown under the wagon and dragged all the way down the hill until the wagon hit a boulder, jumped over it and threw the wife back to her feet. They arrived safely at the bottom with only a gash in the wife's leg to show the trauma she'd experienced. When they got back to the top to collect the children, the young ones said they had waited there with God the whole time. It was a powerful testament to me of how He watches over us, even in our most challenging moments, and can truly make the impossible possible.

If you haven't had the opportunity to read Season of Sacrifice yet, I would encourage you to do so. If you have a heart in your chest, it will be touched. Tristi is my favorite kind of writer: she has an amazing way of letting you climb into the shoes of her characters for a moment and live their lives along with them. I laughed, I cried, I got goosebumps galore, and couldn't put the book down, especially during the last half of the story.

I asked Tristi, "If you could send your readers away with one thing from this book, what would it be?" Her answer was this: "I would like the reader to come away from the book feeling that God can and will reach into their lives and make all things possible for them, just like He did for these pioneers, and that if we will turn our will over to Him, He will send more blessings our way than we ever thought possible."

What more can be said than that? Congratulations on your new book, Tristi. It is fabulous!

Quote of the Day: "When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing."
~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Scary Good News

After my win at the LDStorymakers Confererence last month, my winning chapter was requested for review and as of yesterday they want to see the rest of the book. There's only one problem.

It's not written.

I am ecstatic they want to see it and feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of writing a book as quickly as I want to. At least I can honestly say the first draft is my favorite to write. Editing is the hard part for me, as I'm sure I've mentioned on several occasions. I'll continue to post my progress here in the hopes of holding myself accountable to somebody. I don't want to lose an opportunity to laziness!

So, to help myself along this journey, I've made a list of ten things that have helped me in the past. I needed the reminder to kick start this insane book writing I am about to attempt. I thought I'd share my list with all of you in the hopes that maybe it can be of use to someone other than myself.

1-Go walking every day, out in nature or just around the block. Take the time and get in tune with your creative self.

2-Write your author/morning pages (3 pages of freehand stream-of-conscious writing) and let all the garbage flow onto the page.

3-Do something to fill your creative well each and every day.

4-Remember who the true author is and be sure to check in with Him and ask for advice daily.

5-The spiritual well needs to be filled as often as the creative one.

6-Remember that life does not revolve around writing-writing is about life-and thus you need to remember to live it!

7- Coordinate with family on your needs and let them help you to succeed. Talk to them about what you are doing and where you are at and they might help you move past fears, blocks, and speed bumps. (I'm blessed to have such a supportive family)

8-Have faith. The Lord put you on this path for a purpose. Believe He will help you succeed.

9-Write with a purpose. Make goals and follow through. Use a timer and don't stop until it dings. Remember, B.I.C.F.O.K.T.A.M. (Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard Typing Away Madly).

10-Feed your artist self with love and she will shower you with inspiration. Starve her with criticism and she will wilt and prick. In other words, keep the inner dialogue positive. Love yourself. Love what you write.

Quote of the day: "Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we?"

~Audra Foveo-Alba

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Dragon

Last Saturday I went to a luncheon / party with the Beautiful Bodacious Babbling Blogging Babes, which was basically a potluck lunch combined with an Urban Botanic fragrance party. Holy cow, am I hooked! I've been hearing about Urban Botanic for about a year, but had no idea how wonderful it would be. Not only was the food great and the company wonderful, but immersing myself in scent and creating a fragrance that said something about me was very . . . empowering.

Now, something you should know about me-I am not a party person by any stretch of the imagination. I don't like crowds, and hate feeling pressured to buy anything, so I usually avoid "sales" parties at all costs. This was different. Not only was I surrounded by a small group of people who quickly became friends, but there was no pressure. It was more of a "Here, let's play chemist with all this yummy smelling stuff and see if we can make it smell even better." It worked. I created a scent that I just can't get enough of. Seriously-I spray perfume on before I go to bed! I'm constantly saying "do you like this?" to anyone who will hold still long enough to sniff. This stuff smells amazing!

If you're not familiar with Urban Botanic, check out their website, and if you get the chance to go to or host a party, do it. You won't regret it. It's like playing in a perfume factory, only better-no headache from overwhelming smells. I started by sniffing each of the 66 different oils to see what appealed to me. I loved a lot of them, but there were a few that just made me melt. I ended up with a fruity/leafy/herby mix I call "Spring Dragon".

I guess I'd better schedule my own party soon, because at the rate I'm going I'll be out of perfume in no time! I'm going to wear out my nose with all the sniffing. Thank you, Karlene, for your hospitality and the chance to finally check out Urban Botanic. You've got another loyal customer!

Quote of the Day: What no wife (or husband!) of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window.

~Burton Rascoe

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Power of Encouragement

Yesterday I found myself getting discouraged with my inability to find direction in my book. I felt like a failure and began to question this whole quest to write. What if I couldn't do it? What if I'd written all I was going to write? Whatif it wasn't any good? It was bringing me down big time, so I took a break and checked my e-mail.

There, I found a beautiful message from a dear friend who had just read my winning chapter from the LDStorymakers contest. She said: "Finally read your winning chapter -- What a hoot! I loved it! Loved the grandpa especially, and how you make the story come alive with details. I am right there as Claire and the fairy interact. You've got me checking my cursor and all. Great job and Good Luck with the story!"

I hope she doesn't mind me sharing this, because it made a huge difference in my attitude yesterday. Suddenly I wasn't worried anymore. I was rejoicing. I said to myself, "well, if Jewel thinks I can write, then maybe I really can!" Recognizing the power in this thought, I began to collect as many of the positive things I could find that had been said about my writing. I pulled them from blog comments, e-mail, and even comments authors wrote in the front of their books when they autographed them for me. I ended up with about thirty bits of encouragement from a wide variety of individuals I have met at LTUE, LDStorymakers conferences, Authors Incognito, and the blogosphere.

As I looked at all these beautiful cheerleading words, I decided it wasn't enough to just collect them in one place--these words needed to be somewhere I could see them daily, hourly if needed. This was my cheering section when no one was around, and so I created . . . The Wall of Champions. It is filled with comments like "HA! I told you you were great!" and "I was very impressed with your writing at the conference and the judges obviously were too. Believe in yourself, because we all believe in you!"

The one comment that makes me laugh every time I read it comes from another dear friend. "I read it. LOVED IT!! and I hate you. Call me." The comment that reminds me writing is something I'm supposed to do, says, "We need your gift of writing in our lives. The world needs your stories. Only you can write them." And the comment that humbles me to the very earth says simply "You are my hero."

All of these individuals have empowered me, supported and lifted me when I couldn't pull myself forward anymore. Knowing they believe in me, even when I couldn't believe in myself, has made me sit down one more time, write one more word, try one more time-and they do it time after time after time.

So, thank you, my friends. Thank you for the encouragement and the pick-me-up. Thank you for caring enough to leave a comment or send a note. Thank you for believing in me when I forgot to believe in myself. Thank you for lifting me up and helping me to write again -and the next time you leave an encouraging comment on somebody's blog, know that it's not dropping into cyberspace. Those comments are very meaningful and you just never know when some small thing you say might just make a difference.

Quote of the Day: "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say."
~Anaïs Nin

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tag again

Gaynelle tagged me for a qurky little meme. The rules are:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I'm usually pretty good at posting random things about me, but rarely do I post the weird ones, so I thought I'd take that and run with it today. It shouldn't be hard to come up with 7 off-the-wall things about me, because frankly, I'm an oddball. I'm okay with that though. I have learned to embrace my weirdness.

1-I like to sing songs in what I call "The Bobby Voice". It's high, squeaky, sounds a bit like Mr. Bill, and makes the kids laugh quicker than anything. I once had a roommate who was talking to someone on the phone and unbeknownst to me left it off the hook while she went to the restroom. Being by myself, I began to sing "Jingle bells" in a rather loud Bobby voice. My friend came back in the room after a bit, looking at me rather strangely, and when she picked up the phone the guy on the other end was laughing his head off. Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed. I usually hide my weirdness better than that.

2-While we are on the Bobby Voice concept, my husband and I used to converse as Bobby and Yoda. It was pretty hilarious.

3-On a particulary strange day in high school and with the intent of cheering up a friend, I began to search the garbage cans for my missing brain. I'd open it up, lean inside and say, "Here brainy, brainy!" It worked in part. She laughed the rest of the day, though I never did find my brain.

4-I love miracle whip, especially on broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach. Seriously. Once, when I was a kid, Mom sent me to Grandma's to borrow some miracle whip for dinner. I'd eaten it all by the time I got home and had to go back for more. Yes, I ate it plain. Who needs veggies when you've got the sauce???

5-I love to find better ways to do things, especially if they save me from overexertion. About ten years ago, my husband and I were moving from the third floor of an apartment complex. We lived in the middle of the building and the parking lot could be seen from our back patio. Rather than go down three flights of stairs and all the way around the building while carrying heavy boxes full of books and videos-A LOT of books and videos-I invented a little pully system that consisted of a rope strung from the balcony to the parking lot. I took a laundry basket, strung it up with ropes from each corner, and put a clasp on the end. I'd pop a box in the laundry basket, shove it over the balcony and lower it down the slide-rope with a line in my hand. It worked GREAT. Clothes were the most fun though. Just grab a bundle, tie the hangers to together and let them fly down the line. My sister-in-law insists I should have been engineer, but that's not nearly as much fun as writing.

6-I'm a collector. I can't help myself. If I have the first book in a series, I have to have them all. I can't own two and read the rest from the library. I just can't! Needless to say, I now own over 1,200 books, 600 CD's, and 700 plus DVD's and Videos. Eeek, even I am cringing at reading that. But, hey, we share with the neighbors, so that's got to count for something, doesn't it? They call us the Hoover family library/video store. What's the point in having if you can't share?

7-Sometimes my characters become so alive that I have a hard time drawing the line between the imaginary and real world. Once my family and I got in the car to go somewhere and I turned around in a panic and said "Where's JJ?" Everybody looked at me like I was crazy and my youngest son said, "Mom, who's JJ?" That's when I realized he was fictional. A little scary, I know. It makes me feel like Sandra Bullock in "Premonition". Sometimes you wonder which world is the real one. You never know . . . .

So, now you've entered the strange world of Karen Hoover. As for who to tag next? Well, I'm tempted to pick on my writing group because they are easy targets, :p but since not all of them have blogs, I can only pick on the ones who do. Shanna, Wendy, Michelle, and Paulette-you're up! And as for the rest, how about Emily, Melinda, and Julie.

Have fun, guys!

Quote of the Day: "And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
~Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

LDStorymakers Conference and New Goals

When I was at the LDStorymakers conference, I set a goal for myself.

You see, I've got this problem. I write books, edit and edit and edit them, then park them on a shelf and don't send them anywhere.

I'm terrified of rejection. Stupid, I know. I was a missionary, for heavens sake, and you won't get much more rejection than that, but for some reason rejection of my manuscript scares the crap out of me. It's happened. I've sent it out a few places about three years back and even got some requests for partials out of it, but after a rather viscous rejection letter, I quit sending anything. Three years and I've sent out maybe four submissions, not counting the LDStorymakers first chapter contest.

I finally decided I have no right to be jealous of those passing me by and getting published if I'm not doing anything to make it happen for myself. Last year, Rebecca Shelly motivated a bunch of us to have a rejection contest to try and get 100 rejections within the year. I wanted to participate, but I just couldn't make myself do it. It felt like I was setting myself up for failure. So, I borrowed her idea and flipped it for something that works better for me.

As of December 31, 2008 I plan to have sent out 100 submissions, whether it be a query, a partial, or a complete manuscript. That's the plan, and thankfully I've got a sister-in-law who believes in me enough to shove me forward when I get scared. She's already been doing research-on her own, without being asked-on places that would be a good fit with my style of writing. She's not really giving me any choice, and maybe that's a good thing. It's nice to have somebody believe in me so passionately that they are willing to use much of the little time they have in helping my books to find a home.

I'm going to start adding some writing tips, things that have worked for me over the years. I love the writing quotes I always stick at the end of my posts, and I will continue them, but having experienced the joy of a successful tip just yesterday, I want to share the wealth around. So here it is.

Writing tip #1: Block Buster

Have you ever sat down to write and found yourself staring at a blank screen/page with no idea how to fill it? If so, maybe you should try Rebecca Shelly's advice and do some ramblings. Yes, you heard me right-ramblings. Open a blank word document or flip to a blank page and write whatever comes into your head as fast as you possibly can. You might even start with "I have no idea what to write about, I'm just so frustrated that I can't think of what to write so I'll do this for a while . . . ." Write anything that pops into your head and don't stop to edit. If you spell something wrong, that's okay. If it didn't come out quite right, don't worry about it. Two pages all one paragraph? No problem! Don't stop writing until you know what to do with the blank page of your manuscript-or you're so bored with ramblings that you move to your manuscript in desperation.

It works.

So, next time you're stuck with writer's block, write your way around it instead of trying to hammer through!

Quote of theDay: "I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."

~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

March Mish-Mash

March has been a rather full and interesting month. I had the opportunity to attend the LDStorymakers writing conference on march 21st and 22nd. My brain felt like it had been stuffed with packing peanuts after two days of writing euphoria and I have to admit I was flying high by the time I left late Saturday night. It was wonderful to see all my writing friends again and finally put faces to so many online names.

There were two highlights for me:
first, during the announcement of the short story contest winners, I was surprised to hear my name. For the second year I took first in the fantasy category. It blew me away. The validation has been invaluable, I must admit. After all the struggles of the past year, I guess I kind of forgot that I could write. Winning two years in a row has made me realize that this is something I can do. I'm not a faker. I can write-or so the judges say. My friend Jewel also took first place in the mystery/suspense category and last year she took first in historical fiction. It was pretty neat to see her up there.

The second highlight was having the privilege to attend the Whitney Awards and see so many of the authors I admire (and some of whom I know) attend and even win. There are too many to name, but every one of those authors in attendance deserved to be recognized.

I'm feeling some pressure in regards to writing right now, and it's a bit scary, I must admit. Last year when "The Sapphire Flute" took first, I had a finished manuscript, even if it did need some serious editing (Thanks Tristi!!!). This year I wrote "Gnomebody Gnows" specifically for the contest, never expecting to win. I'm embarrassed to admit it was submitted as a first draft with only punctuation and errors checked, and even then I missed some goofs. I have nothing else. One chapter and how can I submit that? I've never been in this position before, so I decided to do something about it.

I signed up for two BIAM's (Book In A Month) starting today. I'll duplicate the word count for both locations, but I needed as much support as I could get, so I signed up at Latter Day Authors and with Tristi's Challenges. My goal is for 2,000 to 3,000 words per day, six days a week. It's a lofty goal for me. I know I can do it if I can make myself actually type when I sit at the computer. I've got the ideas, now I just need some inspiration and courage to get it down. So, please, anyone, if you've got a kick in the pants, or some words of encouragement, or even a carrot to throw my way, please do! I need to do this-for me, more than anything-to remind myself that I can write when I want to bad enough. I'll put a thing up on the sidebar tracking my progress and hopefully it will rise some every day.

One last thing-a big thank you to all the LDStorymakers who made the conference such an amazing experience. It gets better every single year and is the one conference I can say without hesitation, I will NEVER miss. You guys are awesome!

Quote of the Day:

Let me walk through the fields of paper
touching with my wand
dry stems and stunted

~Denise Levertov, "A Walk through the Notebooks"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Blessing of Service

It is amazing to me how the Lord leads us to the places in our lives we need to be at any given time. It's been a tough couple of years for me. Nothing earth shattering has happened, really, but my family has had to deal with some serious challenges. A short recap would be: my wouldn't-harm-a-mouse husband, the guy who hates violence in any form, was wrongfully charged with child abuse, my sister-in-law had a brain tumor, my mother-in-law had two forms of cancer, two deaths of young children, my brother-in-law was wrongfully dismissed from his job, my son was suspended from school twice, my mother had knee surgery, I had a hysterectomy and discovered it was cancerous, and most recently we discovered that my husband was misdiagnosed and is bi-polar. I'm sure you can imagine all the stresses that went with each of those revelations, and that's just the big stuff. The day-to-day stuff nearly put me in the nut house.

Now, at the time, it seemed that each of these things was the end of my world. It felt as if my life was completely out of control and nothing would ever be right again, not my writing, not my family, not my sanity.

I was wrong.

I learned a great lesson through all of this. Something I wish I had fully realized years ago. It might not be an earth shattering bit of news to anyone else, but for me it completely changed my worldview. A simple thing, really.

Hitting those walls makes one stronger.

Years ago when I was a missionary in Connecticut, my brother sent me an essay a friend of his wrote about The Wall. You know the one--the wall of life? In this essay he spoke of how at the time it felt as if the wall were weakening him, it hurt to swing and push at it, but when he was done and looked back, he realized that pushing at the walls in his life had made him stronger. His hands and arms had thickened, his back straightened. It has forever stuck with me. When going through these trials, I remind myself, this will make you better in the end.

While doing our Young Writers Workshop last fall, I realized how much joy and strength there was to be gained from service. It was a difficult thing to do, teaching these kids how to write when I was still working my own way through the process, but I came to love those girls so much, and it seemed that in teaching, I grew. I learned more than they did, I think.

A while back I mentioned that there were some things going on I couldn't talk about. Well, now I can. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the workings The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, every office, every job within the church are done by the members. All of them. Everything from the Bishop, who presides over the congregation, to the librarian. All teachers and leaders are called by the bishop to fill positions. We call it "A Calling". Recently I have had this experience. I've been called to be the new Young Women's President in my ward (congregation). What this means is that I am now responsible for over forty girls between the age of twelve and eighteen, only thirteen of which come to church on any kind of regular basis.

My point? I have learned of recent years the joy and blessings that come as a direct result of service. I honestly wouldn't want to be in any other place in my life than I am right now. This is where I need to be and what I need to be doing. It's almost as if when I forget myself and serve others, Heavenly Father helps to fill in the holes in my life and lift me above them. The hard stuff doesn't go away, but somehow I seem better able to deal with. I've found purpose in my life again, and through that purpose, not only do I feel more fulfilled, but I have this urgent desire within me to write once again. The Lord has brought me full circle, hopefully a little wiser, definitely more humble, and I have found myself through losing it. Mark 8: 35-36 says "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it."

That is how I feel right now. I've found myself again through service. What a blessing. What a joyous blessing.

Quote of the Day: "The ablest writer is only a gardener first, and then a cook: his tasks are, carefully to select and cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts; and when they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and yet so that they may have a relish."

~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Inspiration Grows

I wrote a poem today. It's been quite a while since the inspiration has come so easily. Usually when there's been a long lapse in my writing, the first thing that comes out in my poetry is all the stuff I don't like about myself or my life. Today was different. It was a poem about inspiration and the way it feels to me. I call it "Teapot" for lack of a better title. Here it is:


I feel like a teapot.
Boiling water bubbling up
from the depths of myself.
Creative ideas dance on the bottom,
leap through the heat to see
the light of my face.
Why is it that these creative bubbles
can be both exciting and terrifying
in the same moment?
Just like the teapot my stomach boils
ideas create acid fear
and efferscent joy
jumbled together in a messy fountain of thought.
Why can't ideas come from peace?
Why can't stillness be their calling card
instead of this crazy tilt-o'-whirl of emotion?
They pick me up and carry me
to the place they wish to go
with echoes of "ooo, what if" and "wouldn't it be cool"
following behind like a pup
racing after a speeding car.
Why no the still, quiet waters
of a mountain lake?
Stop! Wait!
I cry as they race about.
I need time to write it down
before the teapot runs out of water,
before the creative binge runs out of steam,
but, heedless, the ideas race on
and only I seem to notice the dry crack
of the empty kettle on the stove.

It's a little rough, but it served its purpose.

I had quite a flattering event happen this week. One of my friend's daughters wants to be an illustrator, so her mom called me up this past week and asked if she could have a copy of one of my books so Molly could practice illustrating scenes from books. I had an extra copy just sitting around so I gave it to her. Molly read it, loved it, and drew about a dozen pictures. She's eleven, but you'd never know it. She's GOOD!!! One of my favorite pictures is at the top of my blog. The kids is astounding. I know people who have been drawing for twenty years who aren't so good. It's awesome and extremely flattering that she asked to use my book to do it. It's been a fairly happy week. I'm hoping to write another blog entry tomorrow as I've got tons to catch up on and it's time for bed.

I know I've been tagged at least twice over the last several months but can't remember by whom and for what. If you've tagged me anytime since, oh . . . say, September, let me know, would you? I'll get on it as soon as I hear from you.

Quote of the Day: To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make.

~Truman Capote, McCall's, November 1967

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moving On

Isn't if funny how we so often think a project is finished only to find we've still got a million more things to do? I am in that position. I'm editing the Sapphire Flute AGAIN, thanks to some much needed suggestions from Tristi Pinkston. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful, VERY grateful, it's just hard to go back to the same thing once more when I thought it was done. Boy, have I learned a lot in this process though. Tristi is an amazing editor. If anyone is looking for a great editor-for-hire, I'd totally recommend her. It's like getting an editor and writing tutor all wrapped-up in one. So, THANK YOU, Miss Tristi! Even if you are making me work my fingers off again. Hopefully this will be the last time until a publisher/agent swoons over the smooth writing and creatively original story. :P

On another note, I just found out that one of my favorite mystery writers, J.A. Jance, is going to be in Bountiful tomorrow evening at the Davis County Library. If anyone wants to go, it's at 7pm at the south branch of the library. The address is: 725 S. Main Street. Look for me if you come, I'll be there for sure! She'll also be at Sam Weller's the following night at 6:30.

Things are still crazy around here, but I'm finding some peace at last. I can't talk about it yet, but I'll blog about it once I can.

Best of luck to all of you with your writing and in your lives.

Quote of the Day: "The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."

~Norbet Platt

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet . . . .

It has come to my attention that there is an odd rumor floating about that I might have died. I am happy to say, this rumor is most definitely untrue. I have been living a rather busily insane life through the holidays, and once the insanity died down I stuck my head in my pillows and hid for a while. I'm recovered now, and though I am not yet sure how much of my sanity has returned, enough of it is back that I can post a blog at long last.

On a more casual note, the holidays were good. My little brother spent a week painting a beautiful miniature dragon for my birthday, but I can't get my pictures to upload from my camera. I'll post them when I do. My in-laws took us to the Homestead Resort in Midway for Thanksgiving, while Christmas and New Years were spent at home and at work.
Not really anything much of interest going on around here. I've just been really, really busy - and I must admit a little discouraged, due to the lack of writing time. Sometimes I wonder if I'm living a pipe dream with my writing aspirations. Part of me knows this is what I'm supposed to do, but all of the "what-if's" get a little discouraging at times. I know, I know, I've just got to get a thick skin and keep submitting, but some days that's easier to do than others, and the passing of another year without having my dreams find a home always makes me a bit melancholy.

But enough of that. One of my resolutions for the new year is to get organized and to write something every day, including blogs. I've done pretty good so far. Hopefully I can keep this one going for a long time.

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."

~Vita Sackville-West