Saturday, March 31, 2007
It’s that time again. The time when I try to convince the government that I made less last year than they think I did. It’s a problem aggravated by having to cash in an annuity in order to make ends meet.
After hearing Rachel Ann Nunes talk about taxes for writers in the 2006 LDStorymakers Writers Conference, I decided to look into tax deductions.
As you might have guessed, the first step is admitting I’m a writer. Not that I’ve been keeping a secret, but now I have to let Big Brother in on the news. So I typed, Digital Preservation Specialists/Freelance Writer on the occupation line. That’s when I remembered Connie’s blog a few weeks ago. Like her, I can always use a good visual image to spur me onward so I listed Freelance Writer/Digital Preservation Specialist.
In going over the issues with a friend who prepares tax returns and is a law student, I found I could use schedule C and list all the write offs from my writing business. And I can do it every year.
My friend said the Self-employment tax form isn’t necessary because I didn’t make over $400.00. That means I can list all my expenses on Schedule C; Toner, paper, copies, the website, Membership fees, and the cost of the writer’s conference. The list can be endless. Of course I will need careful documentation.
One thing though, if you use this form, then check box number 2 and list the accounting method as accrual. Also, check it out with your tax person. I don’t want to catch the blame for your audit.
By the time I get this solution thoroughly researched, I’m sure it will be too late to file and perhaps the government will have forgotten about me. And they said I’m not a fiction writer . . . the real version? Congress will change the tax law just before I file. The IRS will laugh at my return; they’ll add it to their wallpaper, stamp the word sucker on my forehead, and attempt to squelch my uppity aspirations of being an author. May-be I really am a writer . . .
Friday, March 30, 2007
Okay, so it's not really a monster, it's my sweet husband. But he's still the edit Nazi. He came with me to the writing conference this past weekend, wanting to put faces with the names of the people I've talked about. I hoped he would be interested in some of the classes, but there were no expectations.
He went to the outlining class by and the editing class by Julie Bellon. Hoooboy. Last night I was working on a story that I started in James class on Fantasy (thanks for letting me use your example, James!) and I invited him to read the first page.
Now - when I invite someone to read my work when I'm just starting to write it, I'm NOT asking for editing help or suggestions. I just want them to read and see if the whole idea is good. I'm asking if they like it and would continue. I'm not even thinking editing yet.
The first thing he tells me is that I need to cut out one of my sentences and that I've used the same word twice in the paragraph. ARGH! Then he continued down the page, and I started hitting him. He just laughed at me. He claims I'm the one that took him to the conference, what did I expect?
What frustrates me the most is how much he remembers, and is able to apply it so well. Because, well, most of - well, okay - 90% of what he suggested was better. Ouch. It's so frustrating. Why does he remember this stuff? I do okay when I'm going back over and editing, but when writing, I turn the inner-editor off. I've learned this through doing Nano for three years. I thought that was a good thing, but it's hard when he sees the errors before I do.
The upside is now I've got my own built in editor! Not that he has a lot of spare time to read and edit my stuff, but at least he'll be great at it. Now if I can just convince him to let me finish the rough draft first...
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The audience sat, captivated, as she sauntered onstage. Gone were the fairy wings and sparkling tiara. Gone was the magic wand and magical basket of presents. Instead, she wore a stunning red, feather boa as her lovely voice resonated into the microphone.
“Unforgettable, in every way…That’s why editor, you had bed-itor, publish me and make my dreams come true-hu-hu-hu.” Applause thundered through the audience, peppered with whistles and catcalls. Tristi Pinkston had given another great performance.
It wasn’t her first performance of the conference, and little did James Dashner know, it wouldn’t be her last. Tristi’s antics would be sure to keep us giggling for weeks. And eventually, I’m certain, poor James will learn to live with the memory of being interrupted in his duties as MC, to be serenaded by a beautiful woman who isn’t his wife. “You know you love me,” she sang. (Sung to the tune of “You Made Me Love You.”)
There is a special chemistry, a certain kind of camaraderie that makes the LDStorymakers stand out—above and beyond your average writers conference. If you look hard enough, there are lots of conferences available for an aspiring writer to attend. Most of them are fairly expensive, easily weeding out those for whom money doesn’t grow in a garden in the backyard. The instructing authors are usually well compensated, and their expenses covered, allowing them to fly into town to give a brief 50-minute lecture and then answer a handful of questions. And these conferences are valuable. They are packed with information and instruction every writer needs to hear. Not to mention networking opportunities.
But the LDStorymakers conference is put together largely by volunteers. These people give up hours and hours of their personal time in order to put together an instructional conference as a service to other aspiring LDS writers. The cost to attend their conference is minimal, mainly covering the expenses of hosting such a large event. And the excitement they feel for having the opportunity to share their knowledge is palpable.
You could not walk down the hall without hearing many different discussions between hosts and attendees alike, all sharing a combined enthusiasm for our blessed gifts. And if somehow you missed the conversations, you couldn’t miss B.J. Rowley and his infectious smile. (I wonder how he managed to be everywhere at once?) How could anyone be in the same building and not share that enthusiasm?
After attending the conference last week, I can’t help but feel a shot of inspiration that cannot be curbed. No matter what degree of success these authors have found, they haven’t forgotten the source, and they set their sights on sharing it with all of us.
After two days of classes and socializing, Tristi the Pink Present Pixie was back, bearing the last of the door prizes. Then the audience gasped a sigh of sadness as reigning queens, Julie Wright and Josi Kilpack, brought the 2007 conference to a close. Removing the glittering crowns from their own heads, they crowned Heather Moore and Annette Lyon as conference queens for 2008. And that was it, until next year.
But being the enthusiastic people that we are, we had to stick around for one last party. Is it really networking when you sit around shooting the breeze with authors and editors who remember your name? Even though I was reluctant to share Keith Fisher’s killer bacon dip, there were plenty of sandwiches and lemonade for all.
I already can’t wait for next year!
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
What writing skills have you cultivated? Have you prepared the reader by digging deep furrows? Did you plant the seeds, and cover them carefully? Don’t just wait for them to grow; you have to water carefully and frequently.
At the end of the season, you need to gather in the bounty. Some of us get our rewards sooner than others, and some writers like myself seem to wait and wait.
One of the things I did this past year was attend workshops throughout the year. I always felt I gained much insight listening to new ways to write because everyone has room for improvement.
There are many books written to help you develop your writing abilities. I decide what my weak points are and read about ways to improve.
Learning to describe my senses was one area I studied this past year because I’m more aware of how important they are to my writing. I’m getting better at my descriptions, but I still have to work at it.
Using the senses helps writers reach out from the page into the sensory perceptions of the reader. One thing I studied was about layering descriptions such as; one thing tastes like another smells, a sound is a color, an emotion feels like something looks. When you use one sense to describe another, they call it synesthesia.
If you are like me, you’re so concerned with your own routine that you don’t always see, hear, taste, touch, or smell the world around you. You can expand your writing by using sense words to portray the emotions and attitudes of your characters. Remember to use smell because it can evoke complete memories. Since we experience the world through our senses, we should allow them to show in our writing. Make your story come alive by cultivating and planting these things.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Returning from the all-you-can-eat buffet that was the LDStorymakers writers conference last week, I find my stomach having difficulty digesting all the information that I took in. I feel it may take awhile before some of the things I learned settle into my head as something useful.
The one thing that has already digested was information presented by Tristi Pinkston. She essentially bore testimony to us that those who attended the conference had learned to be writers long before we were born and to deny that here on earth is to bury our talent in the ground.
I have never enjoyed being called to repentance more than this one-hour session presented by Tristi. I guess I’ve always enjoyed writing, even though I haven’t always nurtured it. The realization finally came that I have always been a writer.
I was assigned to speak at my high-school graduation ceremony, longer ago that I care to admit now. One of the English teachers was assigned to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself or the school. I wrote my speech and took it into her for evaluation. After reading it to her, she was left with a surprised look on her face. She simply told me to memorize the speech without making any suggestions of her own.
She then confided in me that she had been nervous about me bringing my speech to her, because I had never been in her drama classes, nor debate, nor anything else that would give her any indication that I knew what I was doing. Yet she approved of my speech with no changes.
Somehow, I believe, I have been given an innate ability to write. But, just like the talents given to the three men in the parable of Jesus, I have had the chance to either develop that talent, or bury it in the ground for safe keeping.
I have buried that talent many times, only to dig it up later, reform it in my hands, refine, examine, and then bury it again. No matter what I do, though, I find myself continually prompted to dig up my talent and try to rework it.
Tristi has prompted me to not bury it ever again, but rather nurture, feed, further refine it, and multiply it as well as I can. I hope when the Master comes, I can show him my writing and say, “I have done the best I can,” and offer it to him in humble confidence.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
A “six word novel” is a writing exercise in which you create the plot for a story using only six words. You've probably seen the well-known one written by Ernest Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never used."
I don’t claim to know the details of Hemingway’s plot, because—well, actually, I’m not sure there were any. It was just a writing exercise. But my mind instantly wondered … who kidnapped the baby from the hospital? And why? Where had they taken him? And what color were those baby shoes?
That’s the point of the exercise—to get your mind shakin’ and movin’.
Because I thought you’d enjoy them, below are a few “six word novels” to get you started.
Magician fired. Nothing up his sleeve!
Cat scratches. Baby cries. Fur coat.
Sale: Scuba tank with shark bite.
Rural America. Smell the dairy air.
Feathers, manure and money. Turkey farming.
Music loud, time fades, hearing aids!
Horse bucks, cowboy flies, ambulance ride.
Theater fire. Magician disappears, hare singed!
Try writing few of your own; they’re a lot of fun to do.
And thanks to my husband, Russ, who allowed me to share a few of his six word novels as part of this blog.
Friday, March 23, 2007
I’ve been knee deep in the writer’s conference today and I need to post this tonight before I fall into bed. If you missed the conference today, I’m sorry for you. It was great! I attended a class about grammar and punctuation that left me self-conscious about my writing. I’m not sure if I should’ve used a comma up there or not. Okay let the chips fall where they may and since I won’t have to time to run it past the group for editing, the chips probably will fall. They’ll fall from the Internet and leak out of your computer screen, oozing onto the floor. Okay, maybe we’re not talking potato chips here.
I only have a few minutes so I’ll get right to the point. Rachel Ann Nunes, (pronounced noon-ish for those who are uninformed). Anyway she talked about the state of the LDS market. It was a good presentation and left us with hope that the market will be good but we have to work hard and learn the craft and keep writing.
At one point during her presentation, she compared our niche market with the national market and I asked the question: Why won’t national market publishers print LDS books? The answer was a good one, she said, because LDS fiction tends to try and convert.
I’ve got to agree with that, God’s stated purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. If our need to write was given as a gift from God, then we should help to fulfill that purpose with that gift.
To be fair though, I think I can understand the fear of being converted. One of the things I would never do as a missionary was force someone to listen.
But I have another question and an observation: I hate to admit it, but I have been reading some of Dean Koontz’s books lately and I’ve noticed very strong overtones involving another church. He puts far more references to the other church in his books than the LDS references I put in my books. Other authors put less than I do. What’s the difference?
If we refer to the LDS church in our books, the moral family values are shown. Love of God and keeping the commandments are like innuendo. But it’s as it should be. As I said, If God is the source of our writing desires, then we can’t help express our love for him.
I am curious though, What would happen if one of us wrote a demons and monsters book with a character that is a worthy priesthood holder, who is not necessarily a Mormon missionary? In the story, the character would banish the demons and monsters and everyone would be happy in the end.
I said this would be short but I guess I was wrong. See you tomorrow at the conference.
Fortunately, there are options all around. For the computer, I would recommend at least two things. One: Save your information on a CD every month or every week if you are writing volumes every day. Label those disks and make sure you back up everything you would hate to loose. Two: Save your things to a site off your computer. There are lots of free email sites that have gigs of storage. There are even places you can pay to store them if you’re really worried, but I don’t think we need to go that far. Yahoo is great for storage, or Gmail. But always have a good copy somewhere beside your home. A side note suggested by fellow blogger, C.L. Beck, is that it’s important to save under a different name if you want to keep different versions or drafts. That way you don’t confuse which version you have. Using dates, numbers or letters is a good way to designate the new file.
The most important thing I want to stress though is CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Walking away from a typing stint without saving your document is a nightmare waiting to happen. ALWAYS save a major editing or large file of writing right after you’ve finished with it. You’ll never be sorry.
So, everyone say it with me: “Constant vigilance!”
(sniff) I'm so proud!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
In the blog I posted two weeks ago today, I threw a plot beginning out into the wind—or more accurately to our readers. I suppose you could call it a writing exercise of sorts, with the promise of a prize at the end. The idea was borrowed from a book that is full, from beginning to end, of great writing ideas.
This is a book that has helped me—on many occasions—to wake my brain up and get my fingers moving. It is called, “The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration, New Ideas for Writing” by Monica Wood.
The offered prize? Well, what better prize than a king size bar of the winner’s favorite candy?
The assignment was: in 50 words or less, Write about a household item that becomes the source of a family war.
And the winner is (drum roll please)…Keith Fisher for his entry:
"Oh no! I fell in," said my wife from the bathroom.
As I ran to hide I asked myself,
If a man is required to lift it up,
Then why can't a woman learn to put the seat down?
By Keith Fisher
Keith can expect his king size Symphony bar by the end of this week.
Honorable mention (but sorry, no candy) goes to Connie Hall, C.L. Beck, and Triple Nickel. Thanks for playing!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"I assume that the first fifty ways I try it are going to be wrong." – James Dickey
I agree with the above quote. Writers should expect to change the stories they write. A first draft usually needs rewriting. Revision means to see again. As a writer, you need to look at your story through a fresh and critical perspective. Rethink, reconsider, review, refine, reorganize, and revive your story. Remember that revision is not proofreading (commas and spelling), or editing (looking for better words, and repetition). Revising is something completely different.
Some instructors suggest that you wait awhile after you’ve finished a draft before you revise it. Others tell you to wait to rewrite until you've finished a scene, a section, or a chapter.
As writers, we often produce lots of stuff that needs to be tossed. You shouldn’t fall in love with what you have written. If you want to be a polished writer, then you can't afford not to throw stuff away.
Save your drafts. You never know if something you took out of your story might work later on, and you certainly don’t want to lose the hours you spent struggling with a certain scene. If not in this story, maybe it’ll work sometime in the future for another piece.
Here are a few suggestions to think about when you begin to revise: Do you give lots of detail early on and then let it fizzle out by the end? Are your facts accurate? Is the tone and language appropriate for your audience? Do you spend too much time on trivial people and neglect the main character? Are your transitions smooth, or do you need to move some things around? Remember, if you don’t have a smooth ending, your story dies a slow death.
Revising is easier from a hard copy, and you should read it aloud. You won’t catch every thing on your first draft. When you have finished revising it, you are done. Leave it. Too much revising can take the life right out of the story. Remember perfection doesn't exist.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Writing exercises can be stupid. They can also be fun. Some writing exercises can even be stupid and fun, yet still be worth doing. It's all about teaching yourself to be creative and to think new thoughts.
I found a writing exercise that I found fun (but not stupid!) on Josi Kilpack’s web site (see josikilpack.blogspot.com), which was in response to the same writing exercise posted by Sariah Wilson on the Six LDS Writers and Frog blog (see sixldswriters.blogspot.com). I thought it would be interesting to repeat here. Feel free to do this exercise and post your results below. I even promise not to call your answers stupid (unless, of course, you have stupid answers).
Rules: Use the first letter of your name to answer each of the following. They MUST be real places, names, things...NOTHING made up! If you can't think of anything, skip it. You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question.
1. Famous Athlete: Dennis Rodman
2. 4 letter Word: Darn (after all, this is an LDS writers blog)
3. Street Name: D-Street
4. Color: Dark Green
5. Animal: Dingo
6. Vehicle: Dodge Dart
7. Tropical Location: Dominican Republic
8. College Major: Dance
9. Junk Food: Doritos
10. Things in a Souvenir Shop: Die-cast landmark statues (kind of working that one)
11. Boy Name: Daniel
12. Girl Name: Danielle
13. Movie Title: Dune
14. Occupation: Doctor
15. Flower: Daisy
16. Celebrity: Dom DeLuise
17. Magazine: Discover
18. U.S. City or State: Dover, Delaware
19. Pro Sports Team: Dayton Dragons
20. Something Found in a Kitchen: Dirty Dishes
21. Reason for Being Late: Dog Died
22. Something You Throw Away: Dead Mouse
23. Things You Shout: “Dang, don’t do dat!”
24. Cartoon Character: Donald Duck
Come on, post your answers! Let's see 'em!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Every once in a while, I like to post a blog that has nothing to do with writing—well, except for the fact that it's written. So ... for a change of pace, here's one that's just pure fun.
It’s time to think of spring crops and thereby, to ponder manure. But first, let me qualify—pondering animal waste is a guy thing.
I base that opinion on observation. Just go to any feed store and you’ll hear men discussing the merits of manure. Apparently it cures everything from warts to hiccups. And even grows mammoth veggies in the garden.
Speaking of gardens, ours is a cement pad. You probably think I’m kidding, but try to stab a pitchfork in it and you’ll agree. Every year we’d till, add sand, and by the next spring, it’d be hard enough to play basketball on again.
One year, my husband, Russ, mentioned the problem to our neighbor—a farmer who grows a vegetable patch that rivals the Garden of Eden.
“Ya need cow manure. I can give you a truckload,” he said as he whacked a weed with his shovel.
Wham! A load of manure landed in the bed of our truck and I instantly wished I’d thought to close the rear window. Manure dust floated into my hair and eyes, and I started coughing.
When my throat finally opened up, I tried again. “We probably don’t need a lot…”
Wham! Another load dropped into the truck. Then, before I even had a chance to catch my strangulated breath, a third batch landed.
By now, the front end of the truck was slowly lifting off the ground, and I had visions of the epitaph they’d engrave on my headstone: “Here lies C.L. Beck, a ton of manure fell on her neck, her writing career has come to an end, the result of the waste from a cow’s rear end.”
My nasal passages felt like someone had packed a set of long johns up them and my throat was so constricted from the dust that I figured they’d need a crowbar to open it. I managed to nudge Russ and make a slashing motion across my throat. Normally that signal means “stop”, but in this case it had a dual meaning that Russ easily understood.
Our trip home was like something out of “Ma and Pa Kettle”. The rear bumper smacked the asphalt on every pothole, scattering cow pies down the road, while the front tires only touched the pavement once every 50 feet.
When we got to the house, we unloaded the stuff. As we finished, I turned to Russ and said, “We are never getting a load of cow manure for the garden again.”
Russ nodded his head in agreement, leapt over the side of the pickup and as he walked away said, “Yup, you’re right. Next year we’ll get turkey.”
It was a good thing all that manure was beyond arm’s length. I’ve got pretty good aim, and if I could have grabbed a cow chip, I’d have flung it at him.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Okay I didn’t finish part two of the two-part blog. I was caught napping (I mean editing) when something, (Cooking Dutch oven for the whole Fourth Grade), sneaked up from behind and hit me on the head.
Then I was roped into Judging at a Dutch oven cook off, I gave a talk in Church, and I still haven’t prepared my lesson for Priesthood meeting.
Starting Monday, (afternoon, because I work Sunday night at eleven and I’ll be sleeping Monday Morning). I have to get myself organized for the LDStorymakers conference. I was foolish enough to say I’d help with the Mix & Mingle. So, part two may not get posted next week either. (I’ll probably be writing about some totally sage thing someone says at the conference).
Through all of this, I finished another novel, (Now I’m napping, I mean editing.) It’s going to be terrific. If you read it, you will cry. It is the story of twin brothers who . . . well I don’t want to give anything away until I get it re-written. Perhaps I’ll have a stack of volunteer readers by then.
You know, not that I’m Rambling, but during the time period above, I made copies of Eternal Tapestries, (you know the cover I put on this blog?) Anyway, I gave those copies to the ward RS book club and I’m on pins and needles, waiting to hear what they think.
I hope you’re waiting with baited breath for the second part of the other blog. It may get hairy. Well, not really, but I got your attention didn’t I?
It’s Saturday night and I know you have been wondering why I didn’t post early this morning. (See above). I am excited about the conference coming up and I hope to see you there. Look for me, I’ll be the guy with the Dutch oven burn on his arm. I felt like a newbie with a Dutch oven, but that’s another story. Good luck and good writing.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
In every writing class I’ve ever taken, the subject of “what if” has come up. “What if” your character does this? “What if” this happens? “What if” that happens? It’s a question writers learn to ask constantly as they are perfecting their plots.
But sometimes “what if” is not a good thing. In the nonfiction of real life, sometimes you have to close your eyes and ignore all the “what ifs” raging through your mind. “What if” that doctor had caught your child’s appendicitis (rather than convincing you it was the stomach flu) before it burst? “What if” you hadn’t followed your instinct to take him to another doctor a few days later? “What if” you had left him home sick while you went shopping? “What if” you had come home and he was dead? “What if” the surgery didn’t go well? “What if” he got pneumonia in the hospital after surgery? “What if” you lived far away from your family during a critical time when you really needed help from them? “What if” you lived fifty years ago instead of now? What if…what if…what if….
In real life, “what if” becomes guilt, anger, and unattainable wishes. Sometimes, you just have to stop wondering “what if” and be proud of yourself for going with your gut. Because you did take your child to the second doctor, and you didn’t leave him near death to go shopping, and he didn’t die. You can be glad his surgery went well, and even though he got pneumonia, he fought it off beautifully. And your ward and family rallied, offering more help than you knew what to do with. Today, it is 2007, not 1957, and technology is on your side.
There are days when “what if” needs to be left completely alone, so the writer in you can live real life. In real life, “what if” is not always your friend. I should know. I’ve been “what if-ing” myself for the last two weeks. Trust me. It only makes things worse. I’ve decided to leave my “what if’s” for fiction. After all, that’s where they belong.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
This past week I spent my time getting ready for a stake 24-hour roadshow. Friday evening and Saturday during the daytime, I observed the different wards as they prepared their performance for the evening. Many of them brainstormed their ideas before they wrote their first draft. Next, they revised the script. Each of the seven wards had a different technique, but in the end, all of their efforts worked. All seven wards were able to present a good show.
Some wards had excellent directors and others muddled their way through. Costuming was important to some, and others worried about the props. A few of them included dancing, while others mostly acted. All shows included songs because it was a requirement. As each drama unfolded, you could recognize the efforts put forth as we all enjoyed a fun evening together.
This made me think of writing and the efforts we put into the things we write. Sometimes I take the time to brainstorm, while other times, I just plunge into the story. After the draft, I spend lots of time revising. Developing a good story line takes extra effort. If I read my story aloud, I usually find the errors. Editing for me is never over until I have the manuscript in the mail. I spend much of my time doing research because I don’t want to write anything too dumb.
Like the roadshows, if you put the effort and time into the story you are writing, it will all come together. No two writers use exactly the same technique, but in the end, you’ll complete your story.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
My bishopric has 27 fingernails. Each member of my ward’s leadership has a missing fingertip on his left hand, leaving all three of them with only 9 fingernails each.
I can write with my left hand. So can my dad, my dad’s dad, my son, and my sister. Only three of us are left-handed.
When my youngest daughter was born in 2000, her name was the third most common girl’s baby name that year in the United States, even though her name was practically nonexistent before a 1984 film directed by Ron Howard.
While I don’t know if any of these details make a good story or not, they are certainly interesting bits of information. And—they are all true details from my life. I don’t think I have a terribly interesting life, but I do have unique experiences that might become source material for my writing.
One of the most common questions I hear asked of writers is: Where do you get your ideas? I have one simple answer for this question:
Be observant and you, too, can tell interesting stories.
Monday, March 12, 2007
To set the stage for this poetic piece of nonsense, imagine you have a voice like Julie Andrews, and you're in an Austrian castle during a thunderstorm, singing this song to a group of writers.
Publishers’ blog sites
And writers’ home pages,
And stories in stages,
Places that all help a writer to think,
These are a few of my favorite links.
Agents who guide us
And answer our questions,
Authors who listen
And give us suggestions,
People who just help a writer to think.
They are a few of my favorite links.
When the “no” comes,
When my mind blanks,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply go click on my favorite links,
And then I don’t feel … so bad.
The links below are some of my favorites. Please note that I am not endorsing them in any way, they just happen to be a few of the sites I like to visit and that I think you might enjoy. In addition, please check out the links for our bloggers, listed at the right, under LDS Writing Links.
Links Related to Writing:
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ (Agent—Kristin’s blog page)
http://ldspublisher.blogspot.com/ (LDS Publisher’s blog page)
http://anwafounder.blogspot.com/ (American Night Writers’ Association blog)
http://www.shirleybahlmann.com/new_page_1.htm (Author Shirley Bahlmann—writing tips)
http://www.tristipinkston.com/ (Author Tristi Pinkston)
http://www.suite101.com/readingandwriting/ (Experts who offer advice on everything to do with reading and writing)
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/index.html (Poets’ Corner)
http://www.m-w.com/ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, on line)
Links for Fun:
http://www.dogpsychologycenter.com/ (Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer)
http://www.flylady.com/ (Fly Lady—cleaning and decluttering tips)
http://www.families.com/ (Good, clean blogs on almost every topic)
http://us.mcafee.com/root/speedometer/default.asp (Internet connection speedometer—to check out the speed of your DSL line)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
"I promise I’ll be a good writer just please, don’t burn my book!"
By Keith Fisher
This is the first part of a two-part blog that is intended to incite the expression of opinions. I'm on my soapbox again and I would like to hear your opinions, but please keep your comments within the parameters of the spirit of the blog.
In 1933 Nazi youth groups, encouraged by Hitler, set out to burn books in Germany. The books they burned were subversive by their own standards, not conducive to the doctrine of the state.
I have been told that in 367 AD, in the interest of purity of religion, Athanasius, a Bishop of Alexandria ordered the Egyptian monks to destroy more than 95 percent of a legendary library that had been built for thousands of years.
These were not the only groups guilty of this act of abolition in a quest for absolution. Many have repeated this atrocity throughout the centuries, to the extent of the loss of irreplaceable volumes of the history of man.
Recently, I was reading a book by author, editor, and publisher, Sol Stein. After reading his non-fiction books about writing, I looked forward with great anticipation to reading one of his novels.
In the forward of Stein’s book, The Magician, the author talked about the history of the novel, and discussed at length, the banning of his book by several school districts in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Immediately, my hackles were raised. I thought back to a time in my youth when there were several books on the "questionable list" Such books as Catcher in the Rye, the Great Gatsby, and Breakfast of Champions, to mention a few.
I thought of the television episode of Mash when the characters were driven crazy by the desire to see a banned movie called The Moon is Blue. When they finally saw the movie, they discovered the questionable material was really nothing, especially by today’s TV standards.
History shows that when you attach the word "BANNED" to anything, it only increases the desire of consumers to experience it.
I was torn between my intellectual side and my spiritual side. On one hand, I was appalled that anyone would ban a book. After all, isn’t banning the first step to burning? On the other hand I read further in the Magician and I asked myself, would I want my kids to read that book?
I turned to my neighbor for his thoughts. He is a sociology professor who has taught in both LDS and state institutions. I recited for him, my dilemma. His response is telling, he said, "I have asked my students to read materials that I wouldn’t want my own children to read." As an educator, his task is to teach his students about different cultures and some of them reflect a different set of standards than does the LDS culture.
For now, I can control what I, and my children read. You might say I’m banning books in my family. But the evidence is in. Children are better adjusted if they are allowed to keep purity of mind and heart for as long as they can. It’s true that naiveté is a factor, but my heart tells me they are better off learning certain things later in life, when they can deal with it in an adult way.
On the other side there is the parent who bans LDS fiction and non-fiction from his family. The parent is undoubtedly convinced that his children will be brainwashed by those blankety-blank Mormons.
Continued in my next blog
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Last week we passed the deadline for the “Highlights for Children” Mystery Fiction contest. I’ve noticed contests are a good motivator for our group, because as soon as the first entry was sent to the group for critique, a whole bunch more started showing up.
The LDStorymakers also had a contest deadline last week. They are running a “First Chapter” contest for the attendees of their March conference. I know several people in our group have entered that contest as well.
Some people wrote furiously, attempting to enter as many stories or first chapters as possible. Others wrote only one story, and edited it over and over and over again in order to make their one entry the best it could possibly be.
Whatever the method, we find ourselves motivated by the enthusiasm of others. And lucky for us, when someone from our group wins, we all win. We congratulate them, we cheer for them, and then we start our next contest entry hoping that someday we will be the winner everyone is congratulating.
Since the contest deadlines have passed, I’ve borrowed a writing beginning from “The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration” by Monica Wood, in hope that our motivation does not wane.
“Write about a household item that becomes the source of a family war.”
You get fifty words, and ten days. Your prize? A king size candy bar of your choice, sent directly to your house via the US Postal service. Contest deadline: March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day.Good writing!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
When traveling an unfamiliar road most of us need a map. That’s also true when we’re writing. We don’t want to get our readers hopelessly lost so we need to know where we’re going. Every story needs a beginning with characters, setting, and problems. Then along comes the middle with lots of details, description, and dialogue. In the ending of the story, we all know there has to be a solution.
I don’t always plan my stories this way. I hate to outline, and sometimes I spin out of control, the same as I do when driving down a dry road and all of a sudden hit black ice. Sometimes I can’t find a solution to the corner I’ve written myself into, and I know it’s my own fault.
Last week I hit a long patch of black ice and slid off the road. I even had several warnings that it would happen. My husband called to caution me about the treacherous road ahead, and several men were standing along the road warning the motorists of the upcoming danger. By the time I hit the ice I was only traveling about 5 mph, but I still slid. I was lucky because my car didn’t go through the fence or hit anything. I could see others sliding and I was a bit concerned so it took me awhile to get enough courage to continue on my way.
Since this experience, I’ve tried to come up with a better writing plan. I’ve had many warnings that I should use an outline. At workshops I’ve attended, the teachers tell us to use one. I’m stubborn and still hate the idea, and I continue to paint myself into a corner. When a writing idea hits me, my fingers won’t wait for me to outline.
After typing several pages of my newest story, I can tell I need to sit back and take a hard look at what I’ve written. I have the story in my head, but I need to develop the characters and setting more. Maybe now’s the time to put together a good outline. I know it’s not the ideal time, but at least maybe this time I’ll keep myself going down the right road, and won’t spin out of control.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
On Sunday, I watched the James Cameron documentary about the supposed lost tomb of Jesus. While I don’t buy the story of the bones of Jesus being found, the evidence presented was very compelling—and more importantly, it made for a great story.
In the very controversial novel The DaVinci Code, I didn’t necessarily buy all of the ideas presented about the Holy Grail, but Dan Brown did effectively create a great story and I must admit that I enjoyed reading most of it.
I also didn't really believe that a psychologically disturbed kid could see dead people. However, in M. Night Schyamalan’s breakout movie, The Sixth Sense, for about an hour and a half, I did believe just that. I suspended my disbelief long enough for me to leave the theater thinking I had just experienced a great story.
I want to find that great LDS story—a great story idea that makes people sit back, nod their heads, and say, “Wow, I never thought of that sort of thing happening, but you know, that’s really a great story.”
But here’s my problem: Members of the LDS Church are interested in truth. I think this has always been a stumbling block in marketing LDS fiction, because how do you tell the truth when writing fiction?
The easiest and safest way to deal with this issue in the LDS media marketplace is to write stories with fictional LDS characters, but leave them in real-life situations. Much of the current LDS fiction fits into this category. But what if I want to write LDS stories with plotlines closer to the likes of Dan Brown or M. Night Shyamalan? My fiction wouldn’t be presented as gospel truth, but as entertainment for people familiar with LDS teachings. Would fabrications dealing closely with LDS doctrine be too much for the majority of LDS readers?
I honestly don’t know. I do, however, want to find out.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The month of February is over, and I know you'll all be sad to hear it, but I’ve officially closed out the License Plate Frames Slogan Contest. (That’s a mouthful—say that five times fast!)
Just to be sure I was doing this correctly however, I watched the Academy Awards and took notes. Following their example, I’m awarding the coveted Rubber Ducky Award to none other than … Al Gore!
Oops, sorry. He didn’t actually enter a slogan, so I guess that won’t work. Apparently he is a writer, and if he’d known about the contest, I'm sure he would've entered.
If by some slight chance you wanted to compete but forgot about the contest, (oh, heavens, you didn’t forget it, did you?) you can always enter … someone else’s contest. But it’s too late for this one.
The first prize—a genuine, almost two inches tall, never-before-used-in-a-bathtub, rubber ducky—goes to Nichole Giles for her award winning, license plate frame slogan: "Undercover surveillance vehicle...surrender your chocolate."
Honorable mention goes to Triple Nickel, W.L. Elliott, John Ferguson, and Darvell Hunt. (Sadly enough, they get a mention but no ducky.)
If you didn’t get a chance to read the entries before now, you can go to:
Once you’re there, scroll down to the bottom of the page to “License Plate Frame Slogans (And a Contest!) By C.L. Beck © 2007” and click on “comments”.
Thanks to all who entered. And Nichole, enjoy your rubber ducky!
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I was so impressed with Connie’s blog about mapping your success that I had to tell you about my new campaign.
I was reminded of the old hiking trick of finding a landmark on the horizon and making that your goal. Then when that spot is reached you find another one. Reaching goals in little chunks is a tried and true method of reaching a larger goal.
While perusing the Authors Incognito group page I discovered the book covers created by authors that were planning ahead. (Elizabeth and Darvell.) I admired their work and realized I could use this idea in mapping my success as suggested by Connie.
I created my own book cover for one of my books. I turned it into a jpeg then I set it as the background for the desktop on my computer. Now every time I turn it on, I’m reminded of my goal. It’s my inspiration, a goal I’m working toward. It helps me persist in achieving the large goal of becoming a successful author while I work on all my other projects.
My book cover is like a refrigerator magnet that is designed to inspire me to greatness. It’s a positive image I can focus on. It’s different than a picture of my overweight body placed on the refrigerator in an effort to loose weight. It’s my spot on the horizon.
I know a publisher will probably have other ideas for the cover, but for now, it helps me stay focused. Thank you Connie, for the great suggestion.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I think as writers, sometimes we wonder if what we have to say has any meaning. We wonder if our opinions matter. We wonder if what we write will affect anyone and do any good.
If we are writing fiction, does it touch the heart? Does it lead the reader to want to do better, or leave a good feeling? If we are writing non-fiction, do we state our point clearly and are we able to persuade the reader to our way of thinking, and if not—are we able to at least get them to see our point of view?
We’ve heard the phrase many times “The pen is mightier than the sword”. I agree - most of the time. But lately, I’m not sure which type of pen they are talking about and I wonder if it is the pen I want to be associated with. Does it uphold the values I cherish? Is it true?
I had the opportunity to listen to a gentleman by the name of James B. Mayfield who used to be a Political Science Professor at one of Utah’s top universities. He is also LDS, and has been a mission president twice. While he was just finishing a stint as mission president in Texas, he was asked to help set up Iraq’s government in 2003. He was instrumental in establishing the neighborhood counsels and city governments during the year he was there.
He has written a book called “The Enigma of Iraq” and it looks very interesting, (unfortunately they were all gone by the time my husband and I got to the table). But what I wanted to mention was the information he gave through his presentation. He told of an incident where 600 men had lined up to enlist in the new Iraqi Army. A suicide bomber drove into the midst of them and exploded - killing 54 or so of them. Perhaps some of you remember this incident—one among so many. Anyway, one of the men Mr. Mayfield had worked with emailed him a day or so later, extremely frustrated. He said he’d been reading the US press, and they had run a big story on how the terrorists had thwarted the Iraqi Army in a suicide blast.
His frustration came because the next day, 600 men did not show up to sign up—1200 did. And not a thing was printed in the papers.
So we have to ask ourselves—what kind of writer are we trying to be? Do we stand for truth and getting that truth to our readers? Or are we going to sell out to the big bucks and become cynical—leaving the world to fall to the wolves?
I know there are many writers who would write an excellent story about the 'war on terror' right now, but no one would be likely to print it. No one seems to really want the truth.
The truth: out of 221 counties in the country of Iraq, only 18 of them have violence. The truth: the only people willing to go into these counties are the Marines, the terrorists and the media. The truth: more high school graduates came out of Iraq in 2006 than in the entire history of the country.
According to Mr. Mayfield, Al-Qaeda is run by a man who wants desperately to kill the independence Iraq has gained and that if we are unable to stop him—if we do NOT stop him, our children’s children will still be fighting over there.
I feel like we are seeing a reality of Captain Hook in the movie Hook. “There will be hooks in the doors of your children’s, children’s children…”
So—while this has become more an editorial than anything else, I am asking for the American public to stand up for truth. I want them to print the truth of what is happening over there - to emphasis for once the good we are doing over there.
Is it too late? Only time will tell.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I’ve never been a fan of American Idol. I don’t usually watch much T.V., but when your children have it on, excited to see their favorite singers, you can’t help but look. So I looked. Then I kept looking, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the couch next to the kids predicting who was going to be eliminated and who would make it to the next round.
Then I got thinking. Not long ago, these contestants were waitresses, auto mechanics, and students, who sometimes sounded good when they sang in the shower. They might have stayed that way, only sharing their talents with the soap and shampoo, except that one day, someone thought, Hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea to hold a T.V. contest to find the one person in America who sings better than everyone else?
And a few years later, a whole lot of nobody’s became overnight sensations. Now, that waitress is almost a household name. The lives of those people are forever changed by someone’s good idea.
It is amazing to me that one person’s idea could affect so many people—from the rejects to the stars. All these thoughts of ideas that influence people with life changing consequences made me think back to some of the things that have affected my own personality, even my own life. Surely, there have been many. But that is not the point.
The point is, whether we realize it or not, sometime in our life each of us has the opportunity to change someone else’s life, one way or another. And it doesn’t usually take a really big-deal-national-phenomenon-great idea. It could be a passing thought, a silly quip, or a profound sentence. You just never know when or where that life-altering moment will happen to you, or conversely, when you will create that moment for someone else.
Now, you are probably thinking, “Okay, nice thoughts and all, but what’s your point?”
The way I see it, you only have one chance to live today. Today is the best day to come up with a brilliant idea. And if that idea isn’t the one that will change a life, maybe tomorrow’s good idea will. Or the idea after that. You just never know. It might be ten or twenty years or more before you run into the person who remembers you as the person who set the example, made the statement, or wrote the words, that made a difference. So take your idea and run with it.
And who knows, maybe someday YOU can be the next American Idol.