Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Chance!!!!

It's your last chance to get in on the action. I'm giving away a signed copy of Ally Condie's book, Matched. It can be yours by going here and filling out the entry form. You have until Midnight to join the fun. I'll post the winner Monday morning. Good luck, friends!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pulling the Weeds

Not too long ago, I blogged about how a shiny new idea is like a seed. This is kind of a corollary to that idea.

My family bought a house last October. The ground was hard and all the plants were mostly dead. We had no idea what we were going to get when the spring weather hit. We waited with anticipation to see what plants were going to come up in our flower garden. The snows died away. They ground started to get soft. The world started to turn green and plants sprang up all over the place.

Every night, we walked around the yard, looking for new signs of life. Beautiful things started happening. We discovered a clump of tulip bulbs. Then another. And another. Literally hundreds of tulips broke through the ground. Irises started to wake up. Grape Hyacinths and other Hyacinths started to peak out. Bushes and trees started to blossom. Rhubarb and Daffodils and Scilla and others we couldn't even name popped out of the ground.

Along with all these unexpected beauties, other plants came up, too. Weeds. Prickly plants. Grassy foxtail things. A type of mustard that just takes over everything. They came up right in the middle of all the flowers. The problem was that we couldn't know for sure what was plant and what was weed. We had to wait until the plants and weeds both grew into something recognizable. It wasn't until we could tell that the flowers were flowers and the weeds were really weeds that it became time to decide which to keep.

This is like our writing. We have an idea. We put time into it. We give it fertile ground and let it grow. We pour out the words until we see something amazing and new. And then, we have to revise it. But, just like with my flower garden, we don't know what to pull out and what to keep until it's had a chance to really grow, until we know what works and what doesn't. If we try to pull out things too soon, we may be getting rid of something beautiful without realizing it and leave the weeds behind.

This is why we have to take a break from our manuscripts before we prune them. We have to know which parts to prune and that only happens when we let them grow for a while.

So, friends, how are your stories going? Are you at the let it sit and grow point?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where Did That Come From? -- Character

Trash day. I sat on the sofa with my baby on my lap. I looked out the window and saw a shocking thing. An old man, heavyset and rumpled, was going through the trash can across the street. He would pull out items and discard them by the can until he found something interesting. He took his prize across the street and added it to a shrine that grew as he emptied the trash. He went around the yard of another neighbor and collected twigs and branches. Then he would drop the twigs into a pile in another neighbor's yard. He must have spent twenty minutes creating his work of art. When he was done, he grabbed a pair of jeans from the left overs and rode away on his bicycle.

As a mom of young kids, it was a little creepy at the time. Several of the neighbors called the police. And they didn't find him.

Later, I found myself thinking about what kind of person he might be. I imagine he probably had some sort of mental instability. But what if he didn't? What if he just went around creating random art out of trash all over the place? What would he be like as a character? And how would I describe him?

How about you, friends? Have you ever come across someone that you wanted to make into a character?

*If you haven't entered the contest to win a copy of Matched by Ally Condie, don't forget to check it out here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where Did That Come From? -- Idea

One day, a few years ago, I was sitting in my bed, unable to sleep. I had tried everything I could think of and nothing worked to lull me off to dreamland. I must have been pretty restless because my hubby asked what was wrong. His advice to help me fall asleep: tell yourself a story.

At that point in time, my kids were on a Lilo and Stitch kick. In my head, I kept seeing the part of the movie where Stitch is reading the story of the Ugly Duckling. Later, Stitch gets lost and the Ugly Duckling is what he relates to. While I sat there, sleepless in my bed, I started to ask myself questions about the story. And suddenly, an idea was born. What would happen if you turned Cinderella into the Ugly Duckling? Over the next half hour or so until I fell asleep, I explored that idea. The next day, it was still hanging around. I told my hubby about it and he said, "Maybe you should write it down."

Over the next several weeks, I wrote in the evenings. It took about a month and a half to finish my very first "first draft." That was the start of something amazing and the ideas have just kept coming since then. The smallest things can become a new idea.

Over the next several blogposts, I want to explore where ideas for different things like setting and character come from. I hope you'll join me.

How about you, friends? Where do your initial story ideas come from?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter

We're going to the in-laws house for Easter weekend. I'm one of those lucky people who has great in-laws and I loved spending time with them. It'll be a good weekend, I'm guessing.

In other news, my poor little girl got her shots yesterday and has been sitting in my lap, feverish and sleepy all day. She keeps whimpering and it makes me really sad. It's also made me really inventive about how I do my writing. I've got my laptop off to the side and a USB keyboard on my lap, just at my fingertips. So, I'm holding a baby while I type. The things a mother will do to get things done.

I'm going to take the day off tomorrow so that we can get ready for the trip. Don't forget to check out my first ever blog contest. You can win a signed copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie.

Have a great weekend, friends. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Want Ad Wednesday

I'm starting a new feature for the occasional Wednesday post. It won't be every week. Just once in a while, for the kicks and giggles. Hope you enjoy.

Looking for a change
Second draft manuscript with room to improve looking for a thorough once over by a kind and compassionate reader. Not looking for a life-time commitment, but a long-term relationship could develop. Please send inquiries to the inbox.

Help needed
Looking for a good mopping on a regular basis. Or possibly more broom time.  Also, fewer splashes, dribbles, and spills if it can be arranged. Contact wood floors for more info.

desperately seeking sanity
Sleep deprived mother of three seeks quiet, relaxing night out to regain sanity. Can't seem to remember where I left it, but I'm sure we can find it if we get out of the house. Please slide all applications under the locked bathroom door, which is currently the only place where alone time seems to happen.

How about you, friends? What do you want today?

Monday, April 18, 2011

My very first....

(Does that title pique your interest or what?)

So, this is a lesser known fact. I went to high school with Ally Condie. She wasn't Ally Condie then. I mean, she was still Ally, but she wasn't married, like she is now. (Of course. She was in high school.) We had AP English. (Basically college credit for a high school class, if you could pass this super hard test at the end of the year.) This may seem like meaningless boasting, but it isn't. There is a point.

And what is that, you might ask? I got her book, MATCHED, for Christmas and hoped I would be able to get it signed some time. She came to a book signing at a local bookstore in our hometown (where I still live.) It's a small town. In Southern Utah. Let's just say that the crowds were not as big as you might expect. So, I got the chance to chill and catch up with her and get my book signed. She's as funny and kind and friendly as she was in high school, or maybe more so.

What does this have to do with you, friends? Well, you may remember that I just passed the 50 follower mark a little bit ago and mentioned a possible contest. I just happened to get an extra copy signed and I want to give it to one of you. That's right. I'm having my first blog contest and one of you lucky people could win this:

Here's the details of how that can happen.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Truth about Critiques

*edit... I'd like to thank my kids for the original title of this post. Th

My husband pointed me to something interesting the other day. For those of you who don't want to click through and read it, it's a post that someone put on Yahoo Answers, asking for a critique of a first page. The poster didn't put anything to identify the work and the resulting critiques varied from constructive to pretty harsh. One person even said that the poster knows it needs work, so why ask people to look at it. What the people responding didn't know is that this was the first page of a book by David Foster Wallace, INFINITE JEST. This book is considered by many to be a genius work. It's on several top 100 lists. And people were tearing it apart.

So? What's the point, you may ask. I have two thoughts I want to share.

There will never be a point at which our books are going to be acceptable to everyone. Being published won't make people like what you wrote. There will always be something more that could change. There will always be a critic who can't understand or doesn't connect with what you wrote. It doesn't mean that your work has no value or that others won't see it as good and meaningful.

Second, just because someone says you need to change something, it doesn't mean they are right. You are the one who knows your story best. At some point, if you keep changing things to match what someone else thinks, it's no longer your story, but theirs. You have to carefully weigh the critiques against your vision of the story and know when to stand your ground.

And there you have it, friends. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Children and Writing

So, yesterday, we talked about children and the lessons we learn from them. Here's a few thoughts about what they can teach us as writers.

The world is full of wonder. My four year old thinks that scaring the robin in the front yard is the most exciting thing you can do with your day. One of the very first posts I wrote was about the joy my little boys found in spitting in a beam if sunlight and seeing the light glint of it. Everything is amazing. And everything is worth exploring. In writing, we have to have that sense of wonder. The desire to see what's just around the corner.

I love watching my boys play. They can turn a few, completely unrelated toys into a full afternoon of games. They chatter at each other and see the little world they have created all around them. They don't need anyone to entertain them or tell them what the rules are. They just make it up and have the best time ever. In our writing, we need the same imagination and abandon. No one can tell us the best way to write or what our stories should be about.

My kids just amaze me with their ability to make the most of their time. They squeeze in every last minute of the day from the time they wake up until we put them to bed. (And sometimes after we put them to bed.) Everything they do is the most important thing they could possibly do with that moment. "Mom, I can't eat lunch right now. I am jumping on the bed." (Yes, that actually happened today.) In our writing, it's really easy to wish we were doing something else. Instead of writing for that extra half  hour, we wish we were watching that TV show we used to. Instead of getting the dishes done, we wish we were reading the next book on our TBR pile. Instead of enjoying quality family time, we wish we were writing. There's lots of things to do with a limited amount of time. And just like a little kid, we can make the most of our time and make the thing we are doing the most important for that moment.

I've posted previously about some of the things my kids have taught me. You can check it out here.

So, friends, what have children taught you about writing?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LDS Writers Blogfest: Become As A Little Child

Welcome to the second annual LDS Writers Blogfest, hosted by Krista at Mother, Write, (Repeat) and myself.  It's really exciting to me to talk about two of the most important things in my life: my kids and my faith.

This is the first time my boys got to meet their little sister. 
(I'm not looking too hot in this picture. It'd been a long day.)

A few weeks ago, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes known as the Mormons) gathered together in a churchwide conference. The leaders of the Church were able to speak to the members and provide counsel, insight, and clarification of doctrine. One of the people who spoke was a woman named Jean A. Stevens. She is a counselor in the presidency of the Primary Program, the group that works with children under the age of 12. Her talk in particular impacted me. She spoke about children and what we can learn from them.

The Savior told his apostles, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3–4).

What is it about little children that makes them such great examples for us? For lack of a better term, they are so... childlike. Sister Stevens gave several examples of lessons she had learned from the children around her. You can read her talk here. I wanted to give some of my own reasons why we should become like little children.

Around the time my oldest boy was first learning to talk, he found a statue of Jesus that sat on a shelf outside of my room. He brought it to me and said, "Jesus!" He smiled so big, it could melt your heart. My response was, "We need to put Jesus back on the shelf." Later in the day, I realized that my priorities had been a little off. I didn't want him to break something. He just wanted to tell me about Jesus.

Every Monday night, we have Family Home Evening, a night where we can gather as a family and share Gospel topics and grow closer to each other. My husband and I thought the boys were a little young to really understand a lot of things, so we tried to keep it simple: sing a song, say a prayer and read a scripture. They love it so much that they ask us to read a scripture to them all the time. They don't understand the words, but they know how they feel when we study God's word.

As a parent, it is very easy for me to lose patience with my two very active boys. Especially when I'm taking care of the baby. They know all about forgiveness and love. No matter how frustrated I am, they know I love them. And they love me with all the intensity their little hearts can hold. They will drop toys or books or anything else to do something to help me. Just yesterday, my four year-old said, "Mommy, can I help you give my baby sister a bath?" They just love, without reservation, and they do things for the people they love.

I could go on about the hundreds of things my kids remind me (or teach me that I never understood.) I don't want to go into the realm of overkill.* I do want to say that being a parent is the most rewarding and difficult thing I have ever done. I love my kids in a way I never knew was possible. It's amazing and I would do anything to protect them and help them be happy.

This is one of my favorite teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. Families are one of the most important parts of this life. If we are good, honest, faith filled people, we can have the ones we love with us forever. I can't imagine a heaven where I couldn't have my husband and children with me. It wouldn't feel complete. I love having the goal of an eternal family to work toward. It makes all the mundane, trivial things stay firmly in their place, so that I can focus on the most important things.

So, my friends, what have you learned from your children or the children in your life? And if you are not familiar with the LDS Church and have questions, I would love to talk to you about it.

*Come back tomorrow for some discussion about how children are great examples of things writers should be doing! And check out the other great blogposts in the fest below.

Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Tamara Hart Heiner: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Four Things

Just for fun, here you go!

4 shows I watch:
1. Chuck
2. Nick Jr, one of several shows on Netflicks (With the boys)
3. Stargate: Universe
4. Naruto Shippuden

4 things I'm passionate about:
1. My hubby
2. My kids
3. My writing
4. Church

4 phrases I use a lot:
1. Holy Hannah!
2. Hey, boys, what are you doing?
3. I hate everything! (Mostly a sarcastic statement)
4. I love you.

4 things I've learned from the past:
1. I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
2. Happiness is part of the process, not the destination.
3. Setting priorities and goals is really important.
4. Surround yourself with positive people and things.

4 things I did yesterday:
1. Went to Church
2. Slept in
3. Cleaned up a sick little boy
4. Watched Top Gear

4 places I'd love to visit:
1. New York City
2. Kansas City, with the family
3. Disneyland
4. China or Taiwan

4 things I'm looking forward to:
1. My little boy's 4th birthday
2. Warmer weather (please!!!)
3. Another round of revisions (What?)
4. My 5th wedding anniversary

4 things I love about spring:
1. All the green colors
2. Spending more time outside
3. Rain storms with no umbrella
4. The end of cold/flu season

And there you have it, friends. Just a little fun for your morning. Make sure you come back tomorrow for the LDS Writers Blogfest! See you then.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Flight of Fancy

So, it turns out that having an infant is a really great thing. Not just because of all the inherent joys. (She just learned to roll over! She's 4 months old today and huge!) But also, I am apparently my most creative in the middle of the night. I don't really want to be writing at 3:00 or 5:00, or whenever she happens to wake up for her eating time, but I am having some of the greatest ideas in those awake moments.

Just this morning, while every one else was asleep, I finally solved a pacing/POV problem that has been plaguing this revision. And I'm finally, finally, finally excited about the possibilities presented by redrafting something that hasn't been working. I can't believe I'm excited to start over, almost from scratch (again), but there you have it. And hopefully, this makes the story much stronger, more character driven, and fun to read.

In a completely separate, unrelated note: thoughts on comments. I love to have comments on my blog. I love to make comments on blogs. I love to connect to people. I want to have discussion with the people who come to the blog. I know for myself, I don't generally come back to a blog to check if someone has responded to what I commented unless I'm really interested in the idea.  I try to reply by email to anyone who has an email attached to their profile, but that doesn't include every one. Thoughts on this subject, friends?

To recap, inspiration strikes in the strangest times and places. I like comments. How about you? Ready, discuss!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Caution, Men at Work

Just a brief note. My internet is wonky. As in WONKY!!!! As in, if I swore, I would curse the stupid thing until my face turned blue. I hate it.

Okay. Now, I've got that out of my system, just wanted you all to know I'm around, but not really. I'm as around as my internet lets me. Which isn't much. So yeah. Happy day to you all.

Monday, April 4, 2011

That one contest thing I did

I wrote a short *very short* work of fiction for a small online magazine contest. Not a really big deal and not a ton of entries, but the first time I've ever submitted to anything with a cash prize. (I have entered various blog contests, of course.) It was super to write and now, my entry is posted here . It's not the best thing I will ever write, but I'm pretty proud of it. I should find out this week if it won anything.

So, Friends, how was your weekend? How's the writing going?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Melee

I was going to say Friday Free for All, but that was a little too alliterative. Just a few things to mention before the weekend.

1. It's not too late to sign up for the Mormon Writer Blogfest. We're all blogging on April 12th and would love to have you join us. If you are interested, drop me a line.

2. I wrote a short story for a contest and actually submitted it. It's the first time, ever, that I have followed through and submitted something. I have no idea how it will go over, but it will hopefully be the first of many things submitted to many people. (Especially if I ever intend to query in the near future.)

3. I hit 50 followers. I never imagined something like that happening when I first started my blog. I remember celebrating every new face that showed up. (Okay. I still do.) Thanks to every one who has shown an interest in what I have to say and come around occasionally. I sure like you all. (There may be some kind of awesomeness next week. I have to think about it.)

3.5 Check out an awesome (and quick) contest at PJ Hoover's blog as part of the Fool For A Book Hop. For that matter, check out all the blogs in the linky list on her page. You could win books. And it's cool.

4. My husband and I started a schedule together. I had previously tried to do something with a more regular daily regimen, but it didn't stick, since I was doing it by myself. Now that hubby is on board, we're making good progress. (I am exceptionally tired, though. Baby girl is not really a schedule girl and likes to stay up until much too late, even though mommy is still getting up in the morning on time.) I get a great start to the day and have the house mostly clean by the time mid-morning rolls around, leaving me with lots of time to do things of blogging and writing natures. It's great!

5. In reference to the above, here is the great lesson of the day. Trying to do some things by yourself doesn't really get you any where. We need someone to keep us accountable. We need someone to report to. We need someone who will help us when it's really, really hard. We need someone to remind us that the long-term goal is more important than the short-term reward. (Although that extra half of sleep is sooooo appealing.) This is the same idea, no matter where we apply it. Schedules, writing, housekeeping. As much as it's a solitary thing, we're never really alone.

That's all from me this week. Hope you all have plans for a great weekend. I know I do. Until Monday, friends!