Thursday, April 30, 2009

. . . A Few of My Favorite Things

I thought it would be fun to to a top ten list of my favorite writing things, though it's really hard to organize them in an order that is most important, as I can't imagine writing without any of them, and believe me, I've tried! So, here it is, in random order, the ten most important things to help me write.

#10: All right, I know I said I gave it up, and I've tried, really, really hard, but I am a weak and lowly human and kind of screwed up. Again. I'm not sure what it is, but even a single sip of Pepsi gets the energy and creativity flowing and somehow I write better and get the inspiration I so seriously crave. Which leads me to #9, which is were all inspiration is supposed to come from.

#9: Just pretend this wonderful book represents all scriptures and answers to prayer. I find that when I don't read my scriptures and pray before I write, the inspiration just doesn't flow, and if I try to write anyway, all that comes out is useless drivel I end up deleting.

#8: I have just recently discovered this delicious and nutritious snack. I am a HUGE garlic fan. I use it in almost everything. I'd probably try garlic ice cream if I ever had the opportunity, so to combine my favorite cracker with garlic is just brilliant, in my opinion. Calling me garlic breath would be music to my ears. lol

#7: My wonderful, kind-hearted ex-stepdad gave me the most wonderful Christmas present, thanks to the hinting of my friend and sister-in-law, Jenny. He wanted to get me a camera, and though I do like taking pictures, I don't do it a lot. She told him if he wanted to get me something I could really use that he needed to upgrade my computer. And so he did. He sent a chunk of money to my little brother and his lovely wife and Sean built me the most wicked awesome computer you ever did see. After so many years on a cramped little screen, my poor eyes were screaming. The screen I have now is 24" wide. I can fit two entire pieces of paper side-by-side and still have space between them. I am so very grateful for this gift and for the men who made it happen.

#6:Peanut M&M's. Need I say more???

#5: My Alphasmart Neo I just won from the LDStorymakers Conference. I had purchased a Neo at one point, and loved it, but when the opportunity came to purchase a used Alphasmart Dana, I sold my Neo because I thought the expandability of the Dana would better suit me. I was wrong and had commented to my friend, Shanna, just a few weeks before the LDStorymakers Conference that I wished I hadn't sold mine. She teased me and said "Well, if you win the grand prize you'll have a new one." I totally blew her off and now here I am. How cool is that?

#4: I've been a sunflower seed freak since about 7th grade. I ate them during softball games. I eat them when hiking and camping. I eat them on vacations. And . . . I eat them when I write. The salty / sweet combination of sunflower seeds while drinking pepsi is especially appealing to me, for some reason. I know I'm weird. You can say it, it's okay. I have come to embrace my weirdness. My mom used to call me a squirrel because she used to find little piles of shells around the house and in the corners.

#3: Composition notebooks. I know what you're thinking. why composition? Why not loose-leaf paper or spiral bound notebooks? I'm not sure why exactly, but there's something about the composition notebook that gets me writing and loving the process. I think part of it is that the spirals cut into my hand and I'm always losing loose leaf pages. Whatever the reason, I love composition notebooks and buy them by the dozen.

#2: You can't have notebooks without pens and these are my absolute favorite. I love uni-ball pens in general, especially the Visons and the Vision Elite's, but the 207's are awesome. They glide and if they get wet the ink stays in place. I'm always getting my papers wet. *ahem* I'm a bit of a klutz. *blushing* Writing by hand is sheer bliss.

#1: Of everything on this list, Silicon earplugs are the one item I cannot do without. They are my secret weapon in my writing aresenal. You see, I've got this nasty little thing called ADD and I am hyper-aware of everything going on around me. Every little twitch, chirp, and squeal pulls me out of the story when I'm writing and it takes a while to get back into it. Earplugs solve the problem. I can ignore sight distractions, but not sound. As a matter of fact, I wrote the first draft of my winning chapter in an hour and a half last summer at the BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop. I came to my room determined to write something new, pulled out my Alphasmart, stuck in the earplugs, and pounded out over 2,000 words, just like that. Earplugs are AWESOME!

So there you have it. My top ten list of favorite writing tools. If any of them appeal to you, feel free to steal them. Wait! Don't take mine, silly. Go buy your own!

Quote of the Day: "Ability is nothing without opportunity."
Napoleon Bonaparte

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Head Exploded!

I've been pondering for three days how to talk about the past weekend. Words seem so small in expressing how much my life changed over the course of two simple days. I've been standing in the doorway, waiting for something to change and suddenly I've been shoved into the open and find my feet racing down the path before me.

Friday and Saturday I attended the 6th annual LDStorymakers Conference held at the Marriott in Provo Utah. I couldn't stand to wait for Friday morning, so I sent out a request to my online writing friends at Authors Incognito and asked if anybody had a spare bed Thursday night. Thankfully Kellie opened her door for me. I picked her up from the airport and we spent a wonderful evening visiting with old friends and making new ones. We spent time with Julie Wright and Rachel Ann Nunes. We saw Shirley Bahlman, BJ Rowley, and Tristi Pinkston. I didn't want to go to bed, I was having such a wonderful time, but at long last I drifted off to sleep and got up the next morning ready to rock.

Unfortunately, I didn't get up early enough and was a few minutes late to boot camp. Thankfully my dear friend Shari saved a spot for me at Julie Wright's table. The morning hours with our group were amazing. The different authors presented lessons in ten minute segments, then gave us twenty minutes to critique the work of those at our table, specifically working on the area just presented. Our table was awesome, all very good caliber writers.

The first happy bit of my day came when I read five minutes of my chapter from The Troll Princess. Everybody laughed in all the right spots and when I got done reading somebody said, "I wish I could write humor like that." There weren't many comments on what I could fix. In fact, Julie said "I've got nothing for you." That felt awesome.

I spent more time talking to people than attending classes, but it was where I needed to be, and at 4:50 I had a meeting with agent Amy Jameson to review a part of my manuscript. I was prepared to be hammered, but again . . . nothing. Every page she turned was minus red. She gave me a couple of things to consider but said she liked it, though when I asked if she'd be interested in representing something like it, she had to say no as she is not a reader of high fantasy. I was okay with that.

Not long after that I was told by a certain editor that she is trying to get her publisher to find a place in their schedule for my books. That was jaw dropping for me. I knew she liked my writing, but for her to still be going to bat for me nine months after my phone call rejection blew my mind. It was literally a jaw dropping experience for me.

I switched rooms to stay with my hat sister, Shari, and her daughter, but couldn't sleep that night. My nerves were so jittery knowing what I faced the next day: the contest winners announcement. I had entered two stories: the one I'd reviewed with my boot camp table (the troll princess), and one I'd written last year at the BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Reader's workshop with Brandon Sanderson (Newtimber). I told myself not to expect anything, but after taking first in fantasy last year and first and second the year before, part of me felt like I had a reputation to maintain. I couldn't help but hope for something, anything, to place, but I knew I couldn't set my heart on it.

The results were announced Saturday at lunch. I could hardly eat, the nerves were making me so sick, but I choked down my food and scoped out my path to the stage--just in case. I was terrified that if I didn't I'd do a faceplant on my way up if I was lucky enough to place. The announcements started and my heart began to pound. My entries were one each in the Youth and Speculative fiction categories, which of course were the most heavily entered and were saved for the final announcements. The longer the announcements went, the harder my heart pounded until I seriously thought it was either going to explode out of my chest or I was going to pass out.

There were five places given in the Youth category. I kept waiting to see my name pop across the screen when they announced each place, but . . . nothing. I took a deep breath and tried to slow my heart. Unfortunately it wasn't listening. When speculative fiction came up I had fingers and toes crossed. Fourth place. No. Third place. Not me. Second place . . . at second place I started praying. Still nothing. First place? I held my breath and waited, but again . . . nothing.

I told myself not to be disappointed. They had 175 entries after all. The competition was just too fierce. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and hoped my heart would slow down before I had a heart attack.

One more prize and I held little hope. I scanned the floor, looked at the tablecloth, glanced around me, as they began the announcement for the grand prize winner. They drew it out for a long moment and then the name of the chapter flashed on the screen: NEWTIMBER. I buried my face in my hands for a moment, hardly daring to believe, but when I looked back up, my name was beneath the chapter. Newtimber, by Karen Hoover. My heart still pounding, my knees shaking so hard I was sure I'd biff it, I stood and made my way carefully to the stage, only tangling my heel in a bag once. I was in shock. The room was screaming and clapping and I felt like a freakin' rock star as I took my prize and turned around. I seriously considered bowing for a second, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so I gave a dorky little wave and went back to my table, still reeling from the announcement.

I thought that was the end of it, but no, then they gave a speech about how there were so many amazing entries this year they couldn't help but give one more prize--a SUPER grand prize. What? Yes, a super grand prize of an Amazon Kindle 2. For a moment I felt a surge of jealousy, but then I realized it didn't matter. I had won! It blew my mind like nothing ever had.

My friend Shari said it was like a reception line after that. I spent the next few hours getting hugged by people and getting congratulations and my head continued to spin. All this was happening to little old me? It was the first time I realized I was no longer the person I had been a year ago. Losing Mom and finding such amazing success during this conference had transformed me into something more and it was with great humity and gratitude that I moved throughout the rest of the day.

It wasn't just my success that made me so happy though. My amazing friend Julie Wright got herself an agent! I am so thrilled for her I can hardly stand it. I've never known a more hard-working, deserving person. I have learned many, many things from her over the years we've been friends and my gratitude extends to her possibilities now as well.

There was more that evening, but I won't go into it now--this blog is long enough. Let's just say there are some very real possibilities opening up for me and as soon as I know anything for certain, this will be the first place I share it. For today I am content. I know who I am now. I have found my purpose and the doors are opening. Humbled and content, I'm taking those steps down the path to publication and at last can see the light shining before me.

It's not just going to happen. It's happening now. My head just exploded and I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Me Happy

I got a new phone today--the phone I've been drooling over for almost a year and no, it's not an iPhone. It's a Sprint Instinct in pink with a fuscia case. Isn't it pretty? Of course, my webcam probably doesn't take the best picture, but I think it's awesome, which is hilarious to me since I usually hate pink. I do, however, like bright, vibrant colors. They make me happy and that's always a good thing.

I'm heading out to the LDStorymakers conference tomorrow afternoon and will be gone all weekend, reveling in the company of other writers like myself. I can hardly wait! It's one of the hightlights of my year.

Anyway, just wanted everybody to know I'm still alive and some good things are starting to happen. I'll blog about it more after the conference, but just know if you're a young writer or the parent of a young writer, a few more possibilities are about to open for you.

Quote of the Day: "Sharing our stories can also be a means of healing. Grief and loss may isolate us, and anger may alienate us. Shared with others, these emotions can be powerfully uniting, as we see that we are not alone, and realize that others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hitting It All Around

The last few days have been interesting, frustrating, and awesome all rolled up in a neat package. Well, maybe not so neat, but interesting nonetheless. I found my iPod, offered my kids a reward for whoever could find my phone and wouldn't you know it, Birdie headed straight outside and just found it under the trampoline . . . after three snow storms. Yeah. It still worked, though it took a few days for the moisture built up in the external viewscreen to dissipate. At least I have a phone until I get my new one, which, yes, I WILL be getting sometime soon! It's the Sprint Instinct, which has a lot of similar features to the iPhone, except I can actually afford it.

Yesterday was the presentation at the American Fork Junior High Writing Conference. I had to get up at 5:30 to be there by 8:15 and took the back road through Cedar fort. Everything was fine until I twenty-five minutes into my drive two deer stepped into the road in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and tried to swerve but still ended up hitting the back end of the last one with the passenger corner of my van. It broke my heart to know I'd hit the deer much more than it did to see the slightly buckled hood. The last time I hit I deer I cried when the guy who stopped to help me said "Oh, it's just a baby!" I did not cry over my totaled vehicle. Anyway, I was able to drive on, but my heart was heavy.

I arrived at the conference five minutes late but they were totally understanding when I told them why. I was running on three hours of sleep since inspiration didn't hit me until the night before. I created my first powerpoint presentation and am now a HUGE fan. I taught the kids about where writers find their ideas or How to Become an Idea Factory (Thanks, Kristi, for the phrasing inspiration!). It went awesome. I had twenty to thirty kids raising their hands at a time when I'd ask questions. They got really excited about the topic. About half-way through, after teaching them about the "what if?" game, I gave them a five minute exercise to use the technique to write while I ran to the bathroom. Very important not to pee your pants in front of the kids.

From there we talked about using all of your senses to get inspiration. I played a few music clips for them from different types of music they would't normally listen to. I showed them a few pictures to inspire thought. We talked about smell and how it brings up memories and creates pictures in the mind. What was the most awesome part of the whole thing was seeing it click for them. They got it and it was thrilling knowing I got to be a part of that.

After my friend Haley did her presentation and the kids took a short break, one of the kids approached me and said "can I have your autograph?" You could have knocked me over with a breath. It had never even occured to me that these guys would think of me that way. I wasn't going to say no, so I spent the next thirty minutes signing autographs for kid after kid after kid. It was one of the most humbling and happy moments of my post-writing life. I felt a bit like a pretender since I didn't have any books to sign, but I didn't care, not really. I kept thinking this must be what it feels like to be a real author. One of these days I'll have a book to sign, but in the meantime this will do. I hope they ask me back again or I have the chance to do more things like this. I love teaching teenagers and I think I'm good at it. I have always felt like teaching was one of my purposes in life and it felt great to have an opportunity to teach something I love so passionately.

Anyway, despite the bad start to the morning, it ended up being an amazing experience. I even gave them a handout with quotes from several of my Authors Incognito writing friends about where they get their ideas and the kids (and even some of the adults) seemed really excited by it.

Today I feel blessed. Very, very blessed.

Quote of the Day: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Friday, April 3, 2009

When Will It End??

I swear, I have Gremlins living in my house! Last Saturday I didn't go anywhere. I didn't even get dressed since I hadn't done laundry since our trip to Vegas and I was out of clothes. I decided since I was doing so much laundry I'd grab the coats and all the bedding and wash that too.

I took my denim jacket downstairs, took my cell phone from the pocket, and set it on the counter top. I remember thinking, I'd better pick that up or Teeny's going to play with it. The problem is, I don't remember picking it up, nor do I remember leaving it, and my cell phone has completely disappeared. I've torn my house apart looking for it and finally decided it's a great excuse to get a new phone . . . as soon as I can persuade my husband to get the one I want.

Last night I went to the movies with some friends and when I finally got home, my wallet was nowhere to be found. I spent the morning canceling my debit and credit cards and chewing my nails in anxiety. The third time I spoke to the theater, I mentioned to the manager that my wallet was red and I was afraid that it had dropped onto one of the red seats and had been missed because it blended so well.

After a long pause she said, "Uh, all our seats are blue. Are you sure you called the right theater?"

Me: "Well, I thought so. Isn't this Jordan landing?"

Her: "No, we are at The District. Jordan Landing is a Cinemark theater."

Talk about embarrassed. I finally got the right number to the right theater and wouldn't you know it? It was chronically busy. Desperate, I finally decided to hop in the car and just drive the forty-five minutes to see if it was there. Thankfully, this time around I was in luck and my wallet is back . . . now full of a bunch of useless cards.

So, evidently my gremlin followed me from home to the theater and back again and still managed to mess with the phone lines.

Anyone have any anti-gremlin potions?

Quote of the Day: "Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words – the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered."
J. Michael Straczynski