Friday, April 30, 2010

And one more thing

Today is the last day of Small and Simple Things Week. I've really had a good time focusing on the small things that I can do to be better and the simple things that make it worthwhile. I hope you have too.

I have just one more thing I wanted to add. Thank you. Thank you to all of you who come and read this blog. Thank you for the comments. Thank you for connecting with me in this journey. Thank you for the support and encouragement on my down days and the celebrations on the good ones.

I can't think of anything more important than telling you all that I really appreciate you and the friendships we have made. Have a great weekend. I know I will.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A few Simple Things

It's "Small and Simple Things Week", Day Four. Today's entry is all about the simple things that make writing and reading worthwhile.

 I saw this quote and knew it was perfect. "Richer than me you'll never be, for I have a mother who reads to me." I love reading to my sons. I love that my 3 year old picks up the books on his own and tells himself the story. (Very inventively, most of the time.) And now, the 18 month old does the same thing.

I love that feeling of finding just the right words to express what I've been thinking. Whether it's in a blog post or in my manuscript, I love to make words sing. I love the satisfaction of a solid string of feeling on the page.

I love being able to share a piece of myself through the things that I write. And in return, I love being able to know more about someone else by reading their words. I love the connection that forms as we exchange these little portions of being.

I love curling up with a good book and knowing that someone put so much effort into providing me with a new and meaningful experience. I have a freedom and excitement for life when I read something that really resonates with me.

I love that I am doing something every day that I really enjoy. I love to feel like I'm able to express myself, to be creative. It feels like I'm doing something that will last forever.

There's a few of my simple things. What are some of yours?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Few Small Things

It's Small and Simple Things Week, Day Three. Welcome to you. Come on in and take a seat. Jeeves will be along shortly with a beverage.

Once a week, my husband and I sit down and talk. We discuss our calendar for the coming week, what our personal goals are, things that we want to work on.  We talk about the progress of our little family. The things the boys have learned. Things that made us laugh. Things that frustrated us. Things we'd like to see change based on the previous week. It's a really unique opportunity to connect over the mundane things that we otherwise take for granted.

This week, my big goal is to work. I know. It's kind of strange to set that as a goal, but I feel like I've been slacking off. I thought hard about what the small things are that I need to do to feel productive and successful. And it really just comes down to work. Work at keeping the house clean. Work at getting critiques done for my crit group. Work on writing new stuff. Work at spending quality time with my kids. It all really seems to come back to working.

Another small thing I'm working on this week is being more positive. I admit it. I've been kind of down on myself. It's a cyclical thing. It's hard to want to do anything at all when I'm feeling low. Motivation reaches critical mass and implodes into some sort of black hole. And this is going to take more work. Small thing. Big difference.

The last thing small thing is to set really (and I mean really) attainable, measurable, realistic goals. Get the dishes done. Pick up the living room. Write 300 words. Read one chapter. Things that I can reward myself for. It's an important thing.

What are your small things? What are you focusing on right now?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mormon Writer Blogfest: Missionary Work and the Book of Mormon

Welcome to Small and Simple Things Week, Day 2. I've written this post in my head a bunch of times, but finally decided to take a chance and put it out there. I'm Mormon. It's true. And many of you have probably been pretty suspicious about it. After all, I grew up in Small Town, Utah, Mormon Central.

I've been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) my entire life. It impacts every aspect of my life. When I was 21, I spent just over 18 months of my life serving as a full-time missionary for the Church. I learned more about human nature and relationships in that short period of time than almost any other time in my life. If you aren't a Mormon, you've probably met or seen one of those missionaries: the young kid in a suit and tie or a young lady riding a bike in a skirt. We're all pretty idealistic and hopeful about the people we'll encounter. We have an innate trust and desire to serve and strengthen others.

Missionary work is a pretty big focus of the LDS Church. It's not that we're trying to be pushy or tell everyone they are wrong. It's that we have something amazing and want to share it with everyone. It's like when you read a new book or get a great idea, you just want others to share what you are experiencing. One of the things that I spent months sharing with people is the Book of Mormon. It tells the story of a people who who lived in the American continent. They believed in and waited for the coming of Jesus Christ and their experiences of faith and testimony have changed my life. There are many who hear the title "Book of Mormon" and think the Mormon Bible, but that's not accurate. I read (and enjoy) the Bible, and use the Book of Mormon to supplement my understanding of the nature of God.

As an aside, the heading for this week "Small and Simple Things" actually comes from a reference in the Book of Mormon. I think it's really applicable to our lives as writers, in addition to on a more personal level. It's from a chapter in a book called Alma. Chapter 37 vs. 6: "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." I like to think that this small thing (me) could possibly do something that other people look at as amazing. It's also a great reminder to do the small things so that the big things actually happen.

I'm a deeply spiritual person and sometimes have a hard time sharing that part of my life, but now that I've kind of put it out there, if you have questions or want to chat about the LDS Church, I'm open to it. Just shoot me an email or something. And you might consider checking out these other blogs for more information from other Mormon bloggers who love writing, too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Definition Please: Curiosity

Welcome back, friends. My short hiatus is done. Last week I posted about how kids like the little things in life and it has inspired the creation of Small and Simple Things Week. All week long, there will be posts that emphasize some aspect of the little things that we all miss or forget or don't enjoy any more. Hope it's a great week for you. On to today's post.

I've noticed as I watch my children, and most children in general, that they are curious about everything. My 18 month old will sit on the floor, happily stacking blocks to see how high he can get them. My 3 year old throws rocks in the air to watch them fall down again. (Yes, he gets hit in the head fairly frequently, but a mommy kiss makes it all better. I don't know why.) Little children are constantly figuring out how the world works and what the rules are. Their curiosity is boundless. Sometimes, they are curious to the point of it becoming dangerous. "What happens when I run out in the street?" "What if I stick my finger in the electric socket?" "What if I try to help mommy cook dinner?" Everything and anything is interesting, whether it should be or not.

I've found that as a writer, a healthy sense of curiosity is pretty much essential to success. I have to be able to look at things and ask myself, "What happens next? If my character does this, what will it mean for that?" Curiosity drives me to find new situations, new ideas, and new possibilities for the stories I write. I think that a really big sense of curiosity might be part of what gets a lot of us writing. We want to explore the world, but we can't do it in normal ways. We can't hop on a jet to Bora Bora. We write about it. Pretty much every story idea I've had has been the result of a "what if this" question. I'm curious.

Curiosity makes the world a richer, more fulfilling experience. What are you curious about? How does curiosity help your writing?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Progress Report, Sir

Well, I've been handed a dose of "reality check" on a silver platter this week. I'm still aiming to jump into the query wars in the next couple of weeks, but I think it's going to take a little longer than previously imagined. Nothing like a major rewrite to derail plans, eh?

As I've contemplated this, I've found that my heart isn't in blogging right now. I really want to just plunge in with full force and knock this latest round of revisions out of the ball park. I've seen on many other blogs that people will sometimes go in spurts like that. Blogging block happens when writer's block doesn't or something. So far, that hasn't been a problem for me, but I feel it looming. to prevent that, I'm taking the next two days off. I want to get back on track with my goals. I love the blogosphere and miss it terribly when I'm away, but that time is really valuable to me, so I'm using it where it will do the most good. Figuring out what the heck I'm doing with my WiP. (Today is an I hate editing day, just FYI.)

Before I go, though, I have a question for the world at large. I try to respond to comments. I really do. Sometimes, it's just a little spit on the page, but really, who comes back to check? Sometimes, it's with an
 email. (If I can respond that way.) Which one is better? What works best for you?

Now, go forth and write. I'll see you all on Monday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Looking back

I grew up in a rural town in Southern Utah. We were about ten minutes away from the next town and that town wasn't really very big either in the grand scheme of things. I lived across the street from a sheep farm. Boy, did it smell in the spring.

We had an acre of land to roam around on. It seemed huge! Just down the street, the neighbors had an empty lot and all the neighborhood kids got together every day during the summer to build a bike track. It had spectacular holes and huge jumps and hills. We thought we had the most amazing thing ever built.

My parents never really did much landscaping. There was lawn around the house, but a lot of empty dirt to play in. We always had a large garden and several fruit trees. There's a spigot in the middle of the property to water the trees and garden with. We would turn on the water and let it soak into the dirt, creating a huge mud pit. Then, we'd play the Ten Commandments and we were the children of Israel making bricks out of mud and grass clippings. Those were good days.

I was just reminded of it by my own kids. They are out in the yard. We have a yard that's only 1/10th of an acre and half of it is desert landscaping (in other words, rocks.) I used to think that they were cheated somehow by not having a huge yard to run around in, but they are just as happy throwing rocks at a bush as I was clomping through the mud.

I didn't realize until I was a mother that kids are really content with what they have. It's a trait that adults must have outgrown at some point because it's harder to feel that contentment now. It makes me kind of sad and slightly nostalgic.

No questions for you today. Just the thought that maybe we should all enjoy what we are doing a little more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Definition Please: Patience

This is a hard one for me, I have to say. I'm really a "want it now" kind of person. Like, I want my 18 month old to be sleeping through the night, RIGHT NOW! Sadly, as with children's sleep habits, most things in life are not "right now" things. Including finding time to write.

Patience for me means that I have to trust someone else's time table, whether that's a critique partner, an agent, a family member, or something else. Patience means relinquishing my need to control circumstances and timing so that I can get the best possible results. Patience also means not getting frustrated by that lack of control.

This is especially applicable to me right now. I'm in the middle of a bunch of waiting. Waiting for the last couple of things to fall into place. And then, a whole new round of waiting starts. If I'd known just how much waiting is involved in writing, I don't think I would have embarked on this massive journey. (Okay. I still would have. It's a good lesson for me. In Patience.)

So, what does patience mean to you? When do you have to use patience in your process?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A piece to the puzzle, or How I Write

I realized something the other day. I was thinking about all of the different ideas I have and what I'm going to do with them. The thing about it is: when I have a new idea, I have to write the first page down. Like, the opening. Sometimes, it changes after I go back to it, but I have to get those first few paragraphs down in writing. It makes the idea real to me somehow. So, I have dozens of first pages to stories that I haven't worked on yet.

Once I have that shiny new idea in a concrete form, I'll take some notes on it, develop the characters a little, then let it stew. A lot of the time, I have a really clear idea of who the main character is. What s/he looks like, etc. More often than not, I have no idea where the story is going to go until I come back to it much later. For an example of one of those, see yesterday's post. It's amazing how clearly I can picture him and his back story, but I have no idea what to do with him yet. He'll probably let me know at some point. I definitely want to hear his story sometime.

So, that's a piece of the writing puzzle for me.

What do you do when you get a shiny new idea? How many ideas do you have hanging around?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teaser Thursday

This one is a complete change from everything I've ever done. Not sure where it's going yet, but thought I'd put it out there. It's either paranormal or contemporary depending on how I answer all the what-ifs.
His breath condensed in a glistening cloud on the window in front of him. He swirled his fingers through the droplets, only realizing after the fact that he had spelled out her initials again. KLP. How long would this keep happening? She had been gone for over two months.

The wind swirled gray fingers across the sky and stirred the fresh snow under the window into waves on the lawn. The thought of all that clean, crisp white would normally have been exciting, with snowball fights and skiing and hot chocolate. His love for those things was buried in dark and dreary feelings, just like the dark earth buried Katie in its cold embrace.

"She was the best thing that ever happened to me," he thought. He rubbed out the initials on the windowpane and wiped his wet hand on his jeans. He closed his eyes and lived through it all again. The horrible screeching sound of the tires as the car skidded across the pavement. The metallic tang in the air as the front end of the car crumpled against the tree. The pool of gasoline that mixed with the dripping red of Katie’s blood.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quotes for A Down Day, Collection 1

All of us have those down days, the ones where we question our abilities. Or we think that we may be pretty good, but we'll never be as good as _______. Or things just aren't going our way for whatever reason, either in our personal life or our writing life. Sometimes, you just need someone else's thoughts to grab on to until your own thoughts can be more positive. Here's a collection of some of those thoughts for me.

"Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." —Helen Keller

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."--Ray Bradbury

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~Sylvia Plath

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." ~James Michener

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

"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

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” ~James Dean

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Nelson Mandela

Do you have any quotes that pick you up on a down day?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Well, there are a lot of little things that I wanted to get down somewhere, so we'll see if we can make it all come together.

First of all, if you haven't heard about Sarah Wylie's contest, you should check it out. She's getting published and has pulled out the awesomeness to celebrate. We're talking about the possibility of a lunch date with the Query Shark, Janet Reid. Or a manuscript or query critique by several different agents. That's amazing.

Second of all, I got a couple of blog awards and wanted to share the love. So, here goes.

This first one was claimed from Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative. She's an amazingly talented writer with a lot of insight, so if you don't follow her, check her out.

I don't know if there are any special rules attached to this, so I'm just going to pass it on to Talli Rolland. She posts great things that make me smile.

Also, Katie at ...&&PROPHETIC PICTURES. I love reading her posts. She's talking about a non-fiction book right now that just had me in stitches from laughing.

I was also awarded the Silver Lining Award by Shannon O'Dell at Book Dreaming. If she hadn't given me this award, I would certainly pass it on to her because she always makes things seem better.

I would like to pass this award on to Nisa at Wordplay, Swordplay. She's awesome! And you have to check out her Inspiration Week posts.

Also, Krista at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) She is right in the middle of the query trenches and yet, she is so positive. You need to check out her interviews with an agent. She does one a week and they are super helpful!

And the last item of the day, if April Showers bring May Flowers, what do April Snows bring? I mean, really. It snowed again. There's several inches on my yard right now. I'm really ready for spring to get here!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Definition Please: Flexibility

And we're not talking about back flips and doing the splits. (Although that's being flexible, too.)

One of the things I've learned about writing recently is that you have to be flexible. There are just too many variables to life to have a rigid idea of what writing is and how to do it. What works for one person really won't work for me. My writing process is unique, just like what I write is unique.

As a mom, I cram in my writing time. I have to take what I can get between boo-boos and naps. Some days, there's a bunch of time, but other days, I'm doing really great if I get to open the file and read what I wrote last time. If I weren't flexible, I could easily decide that it wasn't worth it. I mean, who wants to keep working on a project that gets sporadic attention and may take months to finish?

Not only do I have to be flexible about when I write, I have to be willing to bend on what I write. This has become especially true with revision. I have to set aside what I have already written and look at what would be better. Keep the options open. Avoid being rigid in my ideas. Being flexible keeps the story growing and changing until it's something that I never dreamed it could be and is infinitely better than what I first envisioned.

So what does flexibility mean to you? What are you flexible about?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox: A Review

I've read a lot of books lately. This one is a sweet, little read. The story revolves around a girl who has been in a coma for a year and wakes up with no memories at all. As she gradually gains her memories back, she realized just how much her life has changed since the accident that left her near death.

This book had an interesting style. It's written in first person present tense. I'd never really been a fan of this POV, but I've been reading more books written that way and it's really growing on me. At different points throughout the narrative, there are sections that are written in a short, almost poetic style. They really emphasized the way Jenna felt about something.

The way the story is revealed felt very natural and flowed well. Even though there is an element of sci-fi to it, it wasn't glaring. The only thing that left me wanting more was the last two pages. They weren't bad, mind you. They just were kind of abrupt.

All in all, if you are looking for a quick and entertaining read that will leave you thinking about life, give this one a try. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Teaser Thursday

Nana ran the brush through Beauty’s hair and the familiar motion relaxed Beauty. The quiet moment engulfed her and she closed her eyes to set the memory firmly in her mind. The pull of the brush. The soft pressure of a hand on my forehead. The scent of fresh lavender from Nana’s hands. “I’ll miss this.”

Nana stopped at the wistful tone. “You’ll miss this? What do you mean?”

“Huh? Oh, I meant, when I am married. I’m engaged to Thaddeus, you know.”

Nana ran her gnarled fingers through Beauty’s long brown hair. “I’ll miss this, too. When you are married, you won’t need me any more.”

“Nana, can you keep a secret?”

“Of course, I can. It’s about Thaddeus, isn’t it? You don’t love him.”

“No. I mean, yes. I don’t love him, but that isn’t what I wanted to tell you.”

Nana sat down on the bed again. “I know all your secrets already. What more could you have to tell me about?”

“Nana, I’m going to take my father’s place.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Progress report, sir

Well, here it is. Midweek, first week of April. I'm setting a personal goal to be in the query pool by the end of the month. I'm just waiting on the critique from one of my readers to see if I need to change anything else. Then it's write the query and synopsis. I don't know how long those things are going to take.

I both hate and love revisions. It's fascinating to see the book take a different turn than I originally anticipated. To be richer, deeper, more meaningful. And it's great to feel that falling in love again feeling when everything is coming together and the light is glowing at the end of the tunnel. And then, when that love is just blooming all over, I'll have to start all over. It's just hard work. And dreary work to cut out or add to or rephrase or any of the dozens of other things that seem to happen.

At least I'm losing that newbie writing thing where I think my first draft is the epitome of amazing and every one should agree with me. It's because I've done revisions and the revisions kick butt. A revised draft is way better than a first draft.

How's every one else doing?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favorite things.

Today, I just want to post about things I love. There are so many and I sometimes get caught up in the things that I don't love, so I want to remember.

I love the way my one year-old wants to snuggle in my lap when he wakes up. He's a cuddle bug with a mind of his own.

I love how creative my almost three year-old is. He spent hours over the weekend pouring dirt in and out of a bucket in the backyard, just because he could.

I love ice cream. Homemade. We are experimenting with the finding the best vanilla recipe and we've had some really good offerings.

I love a fireplace. (Even if it means having weather that needs a fire.) There's nothing more cozy than the bright orange flames and slightly smoky smell of a fireplace.

I love my in-laws. I know. I'm pretty lucky. I have the best in-laws in the whole world. (Sorry to disappoint any of you who have good in-laws. They just can't beat mine.)

I love shopping trips by myself. I take just a bit longer than I really need to sometimes, just for the extra quiet time.

And I love my husband. He's the most supportive, understanding guy I've ever met. He lets me write, even when it would be ideal if I didn't. He is my sounding board and best friend. I'm truly blessed to have him around.

What things do you love?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Definition Please: Inspiration

This is a pretty important subject for a writer. And coincidentally, one of the most commonly asked questions from those who know you are a writer. "What inspired you to write?"

Inspiration has a two fold sort of definition for me. There's the "what inspired me to start" side and the "what inspires me to keep going" side. I've mentioned the initial spurt that got me writing briefly before. Lots of things figured into it. I couldn't sleep one night and my husband said, "Tell yourself a story." We didn't have internet or TV at the time, so I started to write down the story I told myself to help me fall asleep. But even before that, I had a list of life goals. Kind of like a bucket list, but not. Things on my list include: put together a CD. Write meaningful books. Become a mother. Mostly, the things on this list are inspired by the legacy I want to leave behind. Before I became a mother or a writer or a singer, I wanted to have a piece of me for whoever cares about it after I am gone. It's kind of a big sort of feeling.

What keeps me writing? Well, there's this.

Okay. Mostly my family keeps me going. I have the coolest cheerleaders ever. I don't have any music play lists or anything like that to get me in the mood to write. I just have the hope that it will be meaningful for my kids to have something that I did.

What inspired you to start writing? What keeps you going?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Austenland: a review

Last weekend, I read Austenland by Shannon Hale. It was a great book. Quirky. Full of voice. A 30-something young women has lived her whole life with hopes of finding Mr. Darcy, so her aunt leaves her a trip to "Austenland", a Regency England immersion experience, in her will. Strangely, my library shelved it in the YA section, even though it's not a YA book. Probably because Shannon Hale does so many other YA books.

My favorite part of the book was the voice. It has a narrator who fills the story with asides and jokes. The line I remember most is "Argggh" she arggghed. I laughed out loud at that and my husband thought I was crazy.

This isn't a straight forward coming of age story or finding love story. There's a couple of twists and some really poignant moments. It was very satisfying.

I'd read it again, but the library wanted it back.

And in a completely unrelated note, everyone, have a Happy Easter. Stay safe.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

You Fool!

My kids watch this anime movie called Porco Rosso by Hiyao Miyazaki fairly frequently. For any one who hasn't seen it, you should watch it. Really. It's a lighthearted tale about a guy who is cursed somehow to look like a pig. There's this other character who is in love with him, but he doesn't think he can be lovable because he's a pig. So, he pretty much ignores any opportunity to have romance with her. The point of this ramble is that my favorite line in the whole thing is the girl watching him fly away (he's a sea plane pilot) and she whispers under her breath, "You fool."

It's hard to tell if she's talking about him for leaving or herself for hoping he would stay. I feel that way sometimes. Like the world is crazy for not recognizing my amazing talent or I'm crazy for thinking I'm that cool. Maybe it's a little of both.

I think the fact that it's April Fools Day has got me thinking this way. It's not something I really ever participate in. I think about it sometimes, but never end up doing anything. Unlike the weather. Geesh. Mother Nature is pulling the ultimate April Fools Day on me. My kids were playing in the backyard without a coat yesterday and now, there is almost a foot of snow. Oh well.

There really isn't a significant point to all this. Just that I'm feeling a little unbalanced. We'll see how the day goes.

Try not to have too much fun. Either at your own expense or someone else's.