Friday, February 29, 2008

Stress -- It's a Killer

by G.Parker

Anyone who knows me picks up on the fact that I am an avid movie watcher. I don't usually see the movies in the theaters as I'm frugal, but I watch them on DVD all the time. My kids love to quote the movies we see, and we can have hilarious moments just quoting an apropos line from a movie.

The title of today's blog is from Anastasia, the Don Bluth movie from 1997. The line in particular was related to physical health, but I find that it applies to creative outlets as well. My life has been rather stressful of late, and I find that I don't have the time or inclination to write as I'd planned in my 'non resolution' blog. I even had to skip on my blog for last week, the first time (I believe) since I'd become a weekly contributor.

All of us at the Writer's Blogck have families and a few of us have grandchildren. We all have jobs, households to maintain, families to spend time with -- in short, we have lives. We find many times during our lives that reality interferes with our dreams and creative desires. Sometimes this is because things are wonderful and crazy, while at other times because they are stressed and chaotic. The challenge is finding the time to balance everything with what we need to do each day -- write.

Recently many of us were able to attend a free seminar at BYU on writing, and you've already benefited from the information gained there. I had fully intended to go -- it's not often that workshops are free to those of us who write or illustrate -- and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity. But, life got in the way. This past two weeks have been an illustration in chaos and frustration. My husband hurt his back and was laid flat wording kind of sounds a little funny here…-- throwing the responsibility for everything on my shoulders. It hasn't been that big of a challenge, but I've felt it keenly.

I've noticed it in my lack of time to write as well as my lack of creative thoughts. I haven't been able to get much down on paper, let alone on my own personal blog. I'm not sure why that is exactly, except for the feelings of stress. This feeling seems to rob me of will or desire to accomplish -- I feel chained or frozen in the attitude of despair as I think of what needs to be accomplished and the impossibility of it.

But then the light shines, the Lord blesses and my burdens ease. He always blesses when I most need it -- it's amazing. So -- I am writing, I will not let other forces get in my way. Once again I am back among the blogging to send my voice out to the masses and try to encourage those who desire to write and seek advice. Thanks for sticking with me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Encouraging Creativity

By Nichole Giles

During the BYU sponsored conference, “Life, the Universe, and Everything,” I was privileged to sit through many of the Thursday sessions that other people were unable to attend. The main address that day was given by Kevin Wasden, an illustrator.

In the beginning, I considered skipping the address to hunt up a snack. I’m not an illustrator, so I wondered what Kevin could say that might pertain to writing. Luckily, I came to my senses and remembered that writing is art, and all things artistic are related—especially writing and illustrating. Those two in particular go hand in hand.

I was glad I stayed. Kevin gave a presentation so impressive that it gave me cause to think about a lot of things—in life, in writing, in thinking, and in motherhood—differently. I took four pages worth of notes, and that is only what I was able to scribble by hand.

He began by asking the question: What is creativity?

Of course, people tossed out a few answers here and there. It was suggested that creativity is: Ability, desire, illumination, and generating a combination of ideas to become something new. I thought these were great answers.

Then he went on to list traits common to creative people. (I love this list.)
Creative people generate many ideas.
Creative people recognize and nurture good ideas
Creative people are observant
Creative people are imaginative
Creative people are interested in many things
Creative people dare to take risks
Creative people are independent thinkers
Creative people welcome challenges
Creative people persevere
Creative people value their ideas

This list gave me cause to think about my own creative qualities, and the reasons behind them. It was an eye opener to think about some of these points. Those of us with even a few of these traits should be proud to have them.

Kevin also claims creativity is something everyone is born with, but can also be learned. We are all naturally creative, but we must learn how to channel our strengths. It requires hard organizational change in attitude and thinking style. He suggests carrying a sketchbook (or notebook) everywhere you go, and always sketching/writing things that catch your attention. Kevin claims this is especially crucial for children, and quoted Pablo Picasso to make his point.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”

I love that thought too. Kevin also gave the following tidbits of advice:

“Our children are creative. It is our job to foster their creativity—as well as our own—as much as we can.”

“Success begins on paper. If you have an idea, do what you have to do to get it down.”

What brilliant thoughts he shared. In case you’re interested in learning more from Kevin Wasden, you can visit his website Thanks for reading.

Stay tuned next Thursday for my favorite tips from Orson Scott Card, Gail Carson Levine, Brandon Sanderson, Rebecca Shelly, James Dashner and more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

An Honor

By C. LaRene Hall

During the past week at LDS Writers Blogck, Nichole Giles gave me an award “A Roar for Powerful Words” and C. Beck gave me an award “You Make My Day”. I can’t believe this coming from either one of them because they are both my inspiration.


Of course, they stole all the good tidbits of advice I’m supposed to pass on to you. Nichole said to read, join critique groups, and write. Then Cindy said to believe in yourself, submit, and share the wealth. Now what does that leave?

First, I will say to enjoy the journey. How could you not? Writing is a blast.

Second, learn the techniques in writing by reading and attending writing conferences. It will make the going easier. Once you learn these techniques, you can use, ignore, break, or twist them any way you want. The choice is up to you.

Third, don’t just dream of big things; wake up and do them.

Since Nichole and C. Beck used some of my advice, they also used the other people in our writing group. When I think about powerful words, I recall the writing conferences I’ve attended. Some of those who have helped me at these are James Dashner, Julie Wright, Tristi Pinkston, Annette Lyon, and H. B. Moore.

Besides family and friends, which include my blogging group, the ones who usually make my day are those in my local Oquirrh writing group. Jill Vanderwood, Sara Fitzgerald, Dorothy Crofts, Susanne Morley, and Kathy Jones are always supportive. They sometimes have more faith in me than I have in myself. Aren’t people wonderful?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Awards

C.L. Beck
© 2008

Thanks to Marsha Ward, at Writer in the Pines, who gave me the “You Make My Day Award” and to Nichole Giles, at LDS Writers Blogck, who gave me the “A Roar for Powerful Words Award”.

If there had been an “Inept with Scissors Award” in kindergarten, for the child who couldn’t cut straight, I’m sure I would have won it. However since someone with infinite foresight did not bestow that dubious honor, my parent’s fridge was bereft of prizes and instead was cluttered with crookedly cut, artistic endeavors.

Hence, you can see why I’m tickled pink with the kindness that Marsha and Nichole have shown me.

Although Marsha didn’t specifically state it, I believe the “You Make My Day Award” is supposed to be passed on to others. I’m passing the torch to Nichole Giles, Connie Hall, Shirley Bahlmann, and Ronda Hinrichsen. Thanks for making my day, ladies!

The “A Roar for Powerful Words Award” requires that I pass on three snippets of wisdom before bestowing the honor on others, so here they are:

— Believe in yourself. If you don’t, who will?
— Submit, submit, submit, submit, submit! You’ll get used to the heartbreak of rejections faster when they show up in grundles in your mailbox.
— When you become a famous writer, share the wealth with me. After all, it’s probably my snippets of advice that got you there. :)

And now, I’d like to bestow the award on Danyelle Ferguson, Karen Hoover, Karen Mittan, Holly Horton and Rachelle Christensen. They are writers; hear them roar!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hard Cover or Trade Paperback—An Author’s Choice

By Keith Fisher

So, you finished your book and a publisher made an offer to print it in trade paperback, but you want hardcover. You think a hard cover will give your book more authenticity somehow. You’re not alone, many writers have felt the same, and many authors have their name on hard cover books that readers don’t read.

Before you make an issue of wanting hard cover, you may want to reconsider.

Walk with me into the library of a very old stately mansion. This musty house is as old as it is intriguing. Since electricity was never installed in most of the rooms, candle wax drips from the chandeliers as the reflection of flames dance on the walls and ceilings around you.

In the library however, the homeowners have spared no expense in providing us with all the modern conveniences to illuminate the collection of leather-bound first editions. Some of the most important books ever published sit on shelves at our fingertips. We pause to examine some of the familiar titles and marvel at the dollar value that must be placed on some of these old books.

We pick up one of those books and run our fingers over the gilded edges and admire the binding. We open it and examine the pages. Raising our eyes, we spot another, more beautiful book---bound in leather and very similar to the other ones, only newer and with a title we’ve never heard before. The pages crack as we turn them. We look at the title page and discover it was published at the same time as the first book, but it appears to have never been read before.

We don’t have time to wonder, because another book has caught our eye. It’s almost pocketbook size and smaller than most of the others. The green cloth hard cover has gold letters and a picture of a dog in a harness on the spine. This book intrigues us because it is different. We examine it closer—it is The Call of the Wild by Jack London. This book is worn and well read. We open the first page and there is a piece of vellum protecting an illustrated cover page with a dog in the center. This book was published in 1903 and is a story that almost every young man has read since then.

This week, I inherited a first edition reprint copy of The Call of the Wild. There is a certificate attached to the book that tells me it is exactly the same as the original. As I run my fingers over the cover, I’m reminded of a story about a young man and his dog in the wilds of the Klondike Gold Rush. More than that, however, I am amazed at the size and the binding. It was small enough to fit in a hip pocket and since there wasn’t a dust jacket, the color pictures on the cover must have attracted readers to look into the pages and read the book.

The hard cover original was bound in cloth, which was cheaper than leather, meaning it could be purchased by far more people. Over the years, it found its way into the hearts of millions.

Now, consider this: do you want your book bound in a more expensive hard cover, that may or may not be purchased or read except by literature professors? Or do you want your book to touch the hearts and lives of as many readers as possible? Yes, there is prestige in the hard cover. There is something about it that says, "I am literary."

The bottom line, trade paperbacks (not pocket paperbacks) are the same size as most hard covers, which are more expensive and may not get purchased.

I searched online for first editions of The Call of the Wild and found one signed by Jack London’s daughter. It lists for $425.00. I also found a 1906 copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, signed by the author. It listed for $19,072.33. Compare those to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Beautiful and the Damned listed at $175.00, Beyond the price, however, is how many more people have read London’s or Twain’s books vs. Fitzgerald’s.

Rather than sitting on a shelf with a rare book collection, I want my books to be read. Good luck with your writing, see you next week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Roar for Powerful Words

By Nichole Giles

Dan from the Thoughts on LDS blog at has honored me with a beautiful award called “A Roar for Powerful Words.”

I had never heard of this award before. I’m grateful to know that my words have affected someone else in a positive way, and that he would remember me when choosing five people he felt deserved this award.

The deal is that I have to give three tidbits of writing advice and then pass the award on to five other people. Before I do, I want to thank Dan for reading, and for telling me my words were powerful. That is a high compliment, indeed. Now, here is my advice.

Read. Read, read, and read some more. If you want to write, the best way for you to become a better writer is to read as many books as you can. I’m not just talking about reading in one particular genre, either. I’ve found that the more I read—even from genre to genre—the more I learn about what makes good writing.

For instance, I’ve been working on my current novel since September. I wrote an entire manuscript and then scrapped it and started over because something really bothered me about my first attempt. Something was missing. I started over, going much more slowly, and at the same time, reading several books. The other day I was reading at the gym (my version of multi-tasking) and I read a certain paragraph that completely got my mind spinning. In the fifteen minutes I had left on the elliptical machine, I was able to unlock the mystery to my own writing.

Join a critique group. Having available to you a group of trustworthy writers who are willing to read your work and be brutally honest can be invaluable to you. I’m not suggesting you allow anyone else to write your book for you. But others can tell you what they think is wrong with your work and how you might be able to improve it.

Write every day. Even if you only have five minutes to jot down a few thoughts as you sit in your car. Our brains—and thus our writing abilities—need exercise every bit as much as the other parts of our bodies. If we don’t use them often, they will shrink, and our abilities will fade away bit by bit until the voices in our heads become silent and the stories come to a halt. And always, always save what you write, even if you think its junk. You never know what nuggets of wisdom are buried in the mush.

Now that I’ve shared a bit of advice, I am passing this award on to: C.L. Beck, C. LaRene Hall, Keith Fisher, Darvell Hunt, and Gaynell Parker. You have all influenced my writing for the better with nearly two years of wonderful writing advive. For that I am forever greatful.

Stay tuned next week for a blog about last weekend’s Sci-fi/ fantasy symposium at BYU, “Life, the Universe, and Everything.”

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Difficult Choices

By C. LaRene Hall

This past week I attended a Science Fiction/Fantasy Symposium held at BYU. I was only able to attend a couple of days, but the effort was worthwhile. There was so much information given throughout the day it was a difficult choice to decide what would be most beneficial.

I started my adventure bright (well maybe, it was actually too early to tell), and early Friday morning learning about dialogue, and how each character needs their own speech pattern. They encouraged us to write dialogue rather than large paragraphs of telling. I’m reading a book that I’ve almost stopped reading because of the long paragraphs telling instead of showing. I was glad for the reminder I received in this panel discussion.

Next, I was listening to a group of women talking about fairy tales. To this day, they still fascinate me. I would hate to live in a world without them. I now understand why I love them so much. I had never heard that the journey in a fairy tales resonates because it’s the plan of happiness we all recognize. What a beautiful thought.

Orson Scott Card then treated the audience to an intriguing presentation. During his opening remarks, when he said Mormonism is a science fiction religion, I knew I was going to enjoy the next hour. He reminded us that we believe in other worlds.

I also attended a panel discussion about biblical motifs in fantasy. Many comments gave me reason to reflect, I agreed with most of them, such as the bible is a question and answer book. I totally agreed with the comment that fantasy fosters faith. No wonder I love fantasy.

I wasn’t very encouraged as I sat through the discussion of Realities of NY Publishing. There was one encouraging sentence, the more you study the market, and the more you submit the closer you get. They also said that if you write a good book it would sell. The last encouraging thing said was to tell a fabulous story your way.

I’ve never written a romance novel, but decided I’d attend the Putting Romance in Your Novel discussion. Maybe I haven’t tried this because they said romance has to have a happy ending.

I love story settings in the Medieval time period so I was excited to listen to the panel discuss Women of the Fantastic – creating strong, believable female characters in a Medieval fantasy setting. With lots of research, I decided this is a genre I would like to tackle.

The first day was almost over, but I had to attend one more class so I could learn about publishing with a small press. I loved the comment always shoot for the stars, and that is exactly what I’m going to do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Many Were Cold, But Few Were Frozen

By Darvell Hunt

It's a stupid thing to go camping in the snow in the middle of February, but that's exactly what I did last weekend. My ward held their annual Klondike Derby, an insane practice by scouts who happen to live in snowy regions like Utah.

The boy scouts did fairly well in the cold weather, except one eleven-year-old who got cold feet. Literally. My toes were well insulted with thick woolen socks and waterproof leather boots, but I also got cold feet. Figuratively.

It ended up becoming my task to take home the cold-footed scout, which was fine by me, as I didn’t have to spend the night in the sub-freezing weather.

So, as things turned out, many were cold, but few were frozen. The eleven-year-old's toes weren't really frozen, only very cold. And, best of all, I got to back out of camping in the snow and save some face as well.

But cold feet isn't what I'm writing about today. What I want to write about is bruised shoulders.

Last Sunday in Priesthood meeting, we sang the song "Put your Shoulder to the Wheel," which took on new meaning for me—a meaning that I've never really understood.

The hymn is a pioneer song about, presumably, pushing either a handcart or a wagon, possibly uphill or out of the mud. The song tells us to "put your shoulder to the wheel, push along."

I found myself doing just that at midnight on Friday night for about 40 minutes. Well, okay, I didn't put my shoulder to the wheel, but rather, I put my shoulder to the grill. The grill of my pickup truck, that is.

I got stuck in the parking lot trying to make my getaway—and this gets me to the whole point of this story. I put my greatest effort into getting my truck off the ice in the parking lot by pushing with the weight of my body. I found that I could move the truck further by planting my feet in the snow and putting my shoulder to the grill, than by spinning my wheels on the black ice. I exerted so much force on the front of my truck that the next morning I had grill-shaped bruises on my shoulder. I was also in considerable pain.

And now for that elusive point I’m trying to make: despite the opposition of cold, freezing weather, and a large patch of black ice, coupled with an upward slope, I gave my task my greatest possible effort to get my truck unstuck. That’s what writing takes. You have to give it your all in order to succeed.

Getting published is a lot like the Atonement. Okay, stick with me here, as I promise this will kinda-sorta make sense by the time I’m done. After all you do with your writing, it doesn’t make much difference unless your work attracts a publisher (if publishing is your goal, that is). Once you do find a publisher, they take the book from there, but despite all the considerable effort to that point, there’s only so much you can do.

Did I get my truck out? Yes, after about 40 minutes, like I said, but in the end, I bruised my shoulder in vain. Some other dad—who was picking up his cold son from the winter camp—saw me trying to get out of my parking spot and pulled me out with his truck. I could only do so much by “putting my shoulder to the grill, push along.”

As I see it, my job as a writer seeking publication is to do my absolute best work, then wave at every publisher I can see in attempt to attract them to pull me out of the slush pile and off the black ice that I always seem to find myself perched on, seemingly spinning my wheels. In the end, whenever that comes, I see my writing being pulled out and eventually ending up on the bookstore shelves.

Many novels are written, but few are published. I know, that doesn't sound as good as my title pun, but is nonetheless true.

See, that kinda-sorta made some sense, didn’t it?

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Twisted Fairy Tale

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

Before I registered for the LTUE Sci-Fi Fantasy Symposium, I wondered ... if I attend, would I come out with the arms of an octopus and the head of a Wookie? Would bizarre people wearing Star Trek and/or Scooby Doo costumes moderate the discussions? And whereas, before attending the symposium my mailing address used to read "Anytown USA", afterwards would it read, "Space, the Final Frontier"?

I'm pleased to say, after sitting through long, but enthralling hours on a chair designed to test the fortitude of a Klingon warrior, that most people there were normal authors.

Normal authors—okay, I'm thinking that's an oxymoron. Or an insult. I'm not sure which.

As it turned out, most of the sessions covered topics applicable to a number of genres, and the attendees wore jeans and sweatshirts. Well, I take that back, I did see some guy in a long, flowing cape and gave him a wide berth—until I realized it was my husband, Russ, with a blanket around his shoulders. I'm thinking he brought his blankie along in case he got bored during the panel discussions.

On Saturday afternoon, an interesting session called, “Twisting Fairytales," caught my attention. What—fairytales aren't twisted enough already? We have to make them worse?

Take "Little Red Riding Hood" for example. In it, a wolf—one that can talk, mind you—poses as Red Riding Hood's grandmother—whom he has just eaten. Ahhh, cannibalism—that's a great topic for kids.

He lies in bed, wearing Granny’s hat and shawl. Now we have a cross-dressing cannibal—an even better theme for impressionable children.

In skips little Red Riding Hood, all dressed in a flaming red cloak with a pointed hood. One that could have could have been worn by the Emperor from Star Wars, if the cloak had been a little longer and in that figure flattering color, black.

Just wait, it gets better. Have you ever asked yourself what little Ms. Hood was carrying in that basket on her arm? Mushrooms she gathered in the woods—probably the kind that cause hallucinations.

The wolf and the girl are having a polite conversation about body parts—"Grandma, what big eyes you have"—when the wolf leaps out of bed and chases the Little Red Emperor ... er ... I mean Riding Hood out the door. In the meantime, a woodsman with a sharp hatchet dangling from his belt—no wait, maybe it's the dwarf, Gimli, with an axe tied to his head—kills the hairy beast and throws Beauty into the fires of Mordor.

Then Gimli slides the glass slipper onto the pro-feminist Ms. Hood's dainty foot, and they ride off into the sunset. Or maybe into the ocean, where she grows a mermaid's tail and Gimli becomes a singing lobster.

I'm not sure which.

One thing I do know is I enjoyed the session so much, I'm going to try writing a twisted fairy tale of my own—just as soon as I figure out how to unglue my octopus arms and take off my Wookie head.

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column

We Want To Thank . . .

We are the proud recipients of a prestigious award. Rachelle from Rachelle's Writing Spot
gave us the You Make My Day Award.

I accept this award on behalf of the group. Little did we know our humble efforts would bare such fruit. Thank You.
Of course now we are going to have to measure up to the expectations. I know that everyone else will do fine, but I’m going to have to work hard to keep up. Thanks again Rachelle.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Chamber

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever noticed we tend to repeat ourselves as we get older? I was reading through past blogs and decided I must be getting old. I found repeated advice, even whole concepts, being introduced as if they were new and undoubtedly patting myself on the back for coming up with it.

This will be my eighty-fifth blog posted here. Since I came later, others have posted more, but I’m proud of what I’ve written. More than that, I’m grateful for the chance to post here and to all of you for reading. In her blog this week, Nichole wrote about the camaraderie of the AI writers group. Her blog caused me to think about how much help I get from the great writers who write here. Since I keep an edit file of all my blogs, I compared some of them with what was posted. I could see how much help I have received. I want to say thank you.

Like Nichole, and many of you, I’ve been caught up in the promise of spring. With another set of conferences and workshops, the excitement is thrilling. The anticipation of meeting with my fellow writers makes me think about starting a critique group. Not just any group but The Chamber. Did somebody hear an ominous echo when I said that? Let’s try it again: The Chamberrrrr. Hmmm, interesting.

Anyway, my vision includes a circular room lined with bookcases that are filled with books of every genre. There are two lockable doors built into the bookcases, and in the center of the room, a circle of five or six, overstuffed leather chairs surrounding a circular glass table. Each person in the group is given XX amount of minutes to read part of their manuscript or talk about a story question or problem they are having. After which, the rest of the group can make helpful suggestions.

The group would meet weekly for XX amount of time, then have the traditional milk and cookies (or vegetable tray for the healthy minded). We would become much wiser, better writers than when we entered the chamber. There’s that echo again.

I was in Deseret Book in South Orem, Utah the other day and sat in one of their overstuffed, leather armchairs. I felt as if I’d died and gone to heaven. I could’ve stayed there all day reading, writing and enjoying life. When it was time to leave, I had to be pulled out of the chair. That is the kind of chair of which I speak.

If I had such a chamberrrr (there’s that echo again). I would never leave. I’d write till all my projects were complete and my group would help me get them right. I would be "the man of the published pages". Hmm, no echo. Either way it would be fun getting together with other crazy . . . eccentric people who also hear character voices in their heads.

Friday, February 15, 2008


by G.Parker

We were watching the Star Trek Next Generation series II this afternoon and started to discuss why they do certain things the way they do. My daughter was asking how they played the three level chess game they always show on the series. We said we had no idea, we weren't the writers.

The thought occurred to me that writers create their own little worlds. Especially when they deal with science fiction and fantasy. I remember attending a work shop with Brandon Sanderson where he said that there are many sci-fi authors who write whole volumes about the worlds their characters inhabit that the reader never sees.

Have you ever thought about the 'why' of your story? Are you writing something that has it's own world and it's own reasoning? Be careful -- the reader is going to want to know why. They are going to expect the why to be explained, or they are likely to not finish the book. Worse than that, they are likely to complain and tell others not to read it. Even if the why is as simple as:

The reason my main character has powers she never knew she had was because they were blocked in her head until an experience opened up the blocked section and allowed them to work.

That's all it takes. Slip that into the story line somewhere, and it explains the plot or action, making things click and make sense. If a story doesn't make sense, it doesn't grab my attention and I won't keep reading.

This weekend I get to go to a science fiction/fantasy seminar and listen to Brandon Sanderson again, along with Orson Scott Card and others who are well known in the craft. I look forward to more tidbits that will help me to write better. Hopefully I'll be able to share some of them with you next week. Untill Until then...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Success is Contagious

By Nichole Giles

It’s been almost three years since I attended my first writer’s conference, where I joined my first writer’s group. At first, even the idea of admitting I wanted to write was overwhelming. But little by little, and bit by bit, I realized these people felt like I did. We had something very important in common.

We all must write.

Some of us write for fun, unconcerned about submitting our work regularly. Others write for growth, constantly submitting to different markets and trying out different genres while they search for their niche. There are even those in our group who write as a form of self-expression, as a way to make some kind of mark in the world. But we all write because we have no choice. Because there are voices in our heads that won’t be silenced until they’ve had their say, and mysteries that keep us awake at night trying to fit the puzzle pieces together until finally, we find the time to transfer them to paper.

No one understands these needs better than another writer. From them, we find the help and support to hone our skills, to strengthen our voice, and to polish our work.

In the three years since I joined, many of the writers in our group have sold articles and short stories to magazines, anthologies, and compilations. Others have even jumped up in the rankings and signed book contracts with publishers.

I know my work has improved over the last three years. Developing good writing habits has helped, but I know a great deal of my progress is due to my association with other people. These people motivate me, they help me see my weaknesses and point out my strengths, but most of all they encourage me.

Right about the time I get discouraged, someone in our group gets a taste of success. Their happiness is contagious as the powdery, inky aroma of a contract wafts throughout the group. We begin to salivate as the smell becomes stronger, and we pay close attention to the other people in the group, wondering who will be the next one to be granted a luscious taste. Then, someone else takes a bite—sometimes a nibble, sometimes a mouthful—and the others work harder and become better until the next person is granted permission to feast.

You see, even though we live in the real world—and consciously we know life doesn’t really work like this—most people have a hidden belief that success works like the chicken pox or the flu. If you hang out with the right person long enough, whatever they have is bound to rub off on you.

In our group, that theory continually proves itself true with one member or another sharing great news about an acceptance or contract. So here I am people! Doing jumping jacks on the table! Throw it at me, because I want to be next!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Those Thoughtless Drivers

By C. LaRene Hall

Several things bother me about people and their driving. One is waiting at a stop sign and not having people signal that they are going to make a turn. However, it’s not the thing that makes me most angry.

I only have what should be a ten-minute commute to work each morning. Every day I take the same route because the other way takes me through many school zones. As I approach the Bangerter Highway to make a left turn most of the drivers in the inside lane leave about one car length between them and the next car. The designated left turn lane has an island, and since I have a small car instead of a large truck, I can see plenty of room for me, but have to wait to get into the turn lane. Sometimes this wait takes a couple of lights before I can move forward for the turn. I know if each car pulled forward a little, I could get to work in half the time.

My next turn is right, and the same thing happens. You can’t pull into the right turn lane until you are almost to the corner. Most of the vehicles in the outside lane leave about a car length between them and the car in front. If they would pull up a little closer then I could make my turn sooner and be on my way.

I believe this simple process has not occurred to many drivers. I’m sure they aren’t trying to keep me hostage and prevent my going to work, but sometimes it seems that is exactly what they are doing.

Sometimes I feel this way about sending my written word out to publishers. Since I’m just a small insignificant person who has never published anything, they won’t even give me a chance. Yes, I know they have lots of mail. I also know they only take certain things, but I research carefully who to send my stories to, so I think they should at least read what I’ve written. Maybe they think they can push one more writer off the road, but this isn’t going to stop me. I’ll keep plugging along until someone lets me through.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Endearing Young Charms

C.L. Beck
© 2008

The remaining leaves on the trees rustled like dried bones in the wind and the clouds resembled fingers of doom. I'm sure it was an omen—but not about the weather—a sign of the strange morning crouched ahead, waiting to pounce.

My husband, Russ, and I ignored it and drove to Nephi for breakfast. When we walked into the restaurant, we noticed very few patrons. Ahhh, another omen.

We sat in a booth without removing our jackets. “It’s cold in here,” Russ said, blowing on his fingers to stave off frostbite.

I wiggled in my seat. “It feels like I’m sitting on a snow bank in Alaska. In fact, my … um … sitter … is so numb, I can’t feel it.”

Russ eyed that portion of my anatomy with a raised eyebrow and tried not to laugh.

“Should we stay?” I whispered, my elbow landing in a sticky puddle of leftover syrup.

“Yes—I need to use the men’s room,” Russ said as the waiter walked toward us. We placed our order and Russ headed to the bathroom.

I sat looking over my shoulder, watching the waiter press little buttons with pictures to indicate our choices.

Have you ever wondered about that? If the waiters need little pictures of food to punch in the order, what is the chef using to cook?

Engrossed in watching our server, I didn’t realize it appeared I was staring at the guy standing between us. Hearing his voice, I refocused my attention on the very large man. His jeans seemed held up by something unusual—either a rope, or a long, frayed snake. I wanted to determine which, but staring at his pants didn’t seem like a good idea. He might get the wrong message, walk over and sit with me.

His hair stuck straight up as if he’d combed it with a blender and he looked like he’d lost his razor somewhere in Fargo, North Dakota. As he continued to speak, I decided he was a trucker. The next thing I knew, he stood beside me.

“Boy, this state is really something,” he thundered. “They’ll sell you a pack of cigarettes, but they won’t let you smoke ‘em inside.”

I felt like saying if he didn’t like Utah, he could certainly feel free to keep driving. But he was really big, so instead I said, “Yes, that’s how it is here,” and looked away.

Despite my subtle signals, he rattled on. “We ought to do what they’re doing in California. Sign a petition that we’re being discriminated against!”

This nut was latching onto me. Where was Russ when I needed him? The behemoth seemed to be waiting for some sort of answer, so in a voice that could deep-freeze a hot tamale, I replied, “Well, I’m not a smoker, so you’re not going to get much help from me.”

Did he get my understated message? No. In a voice heard in Detroit he bellowed, “There’s some stadium in Michigan that’s being built with money from smokers and the place is going to be non-smoking. Non-smoking!” And then he belched.

I threw the woolly mammoth a look that should have skewered him. What—didn’t he hear me say, “I’m not a smoker so you’ll get no help from me?”

What was taking Russ so long? Was the little boy’s room in the gas station across the street? If he didn’t return soon, the man might think we were friends and eat half my ham and eggs.

Just then, Russ walked in, and though the Titan was a large man, he was fleet of foot. He scurried back to his table and never looked at me again.

“Where have you been?” I hissed. “That big guy over there wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Russ grinned. “He must have been attracted to your endearing young charms.”

Endearing young charms? Those disappeared ages ago. In fact, only two guys had flirted with me in the past decade—the rope-tied behemoth and an inmate at the state mental hospital who thought I was a fellow patient.

Things like that are hard on a gal’s ego. I’m not sure how to resurrect my feminine wiles, but I suppose I really should try.

Maybe I’ll get my nose pierced and buy a leather skirt. That should help.

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

By Keith Fisher

When I was a kid, we often rode our bicycles to Woolworth's department store. It was about two miles away and the closest place where we could get penny candy. In those days (the late nineteen-sixties), we could get several pieces of candy for one penny. The candy was similar to the stuff we distribute for Halloween, but there were other, more delicious choices.

Pixie Sticks to Bit-O-Honey and Jawbreakers. Licorice Whips, and Sugar Daddy. All for a penny, some of it was five for a penny. The candy bars we pay seventy-five cents for today cost a nickel then, and soda pop was ten cents.

Yes, it was a wonderful time to be a kid. We could go to the store with the dollar we earned from picking cherries and come home with a bag full of candy and change to boot.

I was reminded of that magical time the other day, while I lounged in an armchair in the public library. I looked up from my research and noticed the stacks of books in their racks, lined up like soldiers and extending into the next room. When you add the fact that there is three floors of those books . . .

It’s not that I never noticed it before but I was re-awakened to the thrill of it all. There are thousands of books that I can read. I was struck with the simile of the candy store. Like when I was a kid perusing the shelves and bins trying to decide which morsel of candy to buy, I looked at all those books and realized I could never, ever read all of them in my lifetime, and the collection keeps increasing daily. Just like a bag of candy, I can check out stacks of literature and take it home in my backpack.

I was also reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode. It was the one where Burgess Meredith escapes the holocaust and finds the library intact. He starts organizing the books into piles of books. Each pile representing days of the week. He planned to read his way through eternity—he sat down to begin, and accidentally broke his reading glasses.

He was in agony. He had all of those books, the time to read them, and no way to accomplish his goal. Do you ever feel like this? Books to read, stories to write, and so many things competing for your attention? Likewise with all the fiction in the world, we can only read one book at a time. We must choose which book warrants our attention.

Like the candy, with so many books to choose from, how do I pick? I can narrow it down by genre, LDS or not, even number of words, but in the end I am left with the same criteria that slush pile readers use to determine which manuscript is worthy of a second look. If the first few pages are poorly written, I must move on.

Something to think about when you choose which combination of words to use in the first chapter of your new book. Good luck with your writing, see you next week.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Don't Put it Off

by G.Parker

A theme has seemed to present itself to me over the past week or two. Along with Keith's blog about procrastinating the keeping of the history for his family and the ensuing weeks of mourning for President Hinckley, the message inserted itself into my brain: Don't put it off any longer.

Don't put off recording dad's stories of WWII or Korea or Vietnam - those are things you will never be able to hold onto again. Now is the time to keep the journal as President Eyring suggested at the last conference. It is crucial to write those words that are pounding in your brain to get out to the world.

Our time here on this earth is short - relatively - and we tend to procrastinate. Oh, we think it is just little things: I'll mail that card tomorrow when I have more time. I'll call that old friend tomorrow, I don't have time now. They won't care if we don't visit until next month, they'll understand how busy we are.

But what if they aren't there tomorrow? We never know how much time any of us has been given. Our lives are a joy, a mission and a challenge. It's our responsibility to take these hours into our hands and mold them into what they could be. Many people are heard to mutter "I was always wanting to write a book..." Are you one of those? If so, what happened? Why haven't you even started?

While it's important to keep track of our day-to-day responsibilities, sometimes we get too caught up in the things that don't really matter - especially when it involves other people. Take hold of the lives around you now, and make yours what you want it to be. Be known for not letting the moment pass you by. Become someone a friend can trust to share words of inspiration, or for the loved one who is struggling; instead of forgetting or putting it off until tomorrow.

Each new day is a gift. Treasure these gifts and make use of them - there's no better time than NOW.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On a Red Rock Cliff

By Nichole Giles

The air was unusually cold for an evening in early February, but it was warmer by far than the place we’d left behind. I held my arms close to my body and fastened another button on my jacket as my children scaled the red rock formations that dominated the surrounding landscape.

Madi picked up a palm-sized piece of the beautiful rock. “Mom, is this sandstone?”

“Yes, Madi, I think it is.”

We examined the stone while she debated whether or not this was the perfect piece of sandstone to take back to her teacher. Upon hearing that Madi was going to take a rock home, my son Mckay decided that he was also going to find a perfect rock. While the two of them scoured the area, my other two kids continued climbing.

I was dividing my gaze between my two youngest and my two oldest children when something caught my eye. Not far away, the rocks stacked up and formed a natural tower, on which was perched a lone figure. Her long hair waved gently in the evening breeze as she scribbled furiously in the notebook on her lap. As I watched, her pen went still and she looked out over the city, her gaze sweeping far and wide for several minutes before she looked back to her notebook and began writing again.

I should do that, I thought. Take a notebook and a pen and find a beautiful, solitary place that might inspire me to pour out beautiful musings on a piece of paper.

Then I remembered my kids, and my husband who stood near me, and knew that it wasn’t possible during this trip. As we finished our excursion and went to get some dinner, I couldn’t stop thinking about that solitary woman and the peace I’d seen in her eyes as she sat alone on a red rock cliff and wrote whatever words came into her mind.

I’ve felt that way before, many times. I remember having that feeling as I stared at the endless ocean while its waves crashed to the shore. As I witnessed geysers erupting from somewhere deep within the earth, and animal life wandering aimlessly near the side of a road in Wyoming. I’ve had that feeling as I stared at the mountains in the fall, and the sunset in the summertime, and down through crystal-clear pure, blue water and into a completely different world below the surface.

I will never stop being amazed and inspired by the many beautiful things in our world. So I write them. Most days, it doesn’t matter if the words will never be published. It would be sinful for me to keep those things to myself, to not share—or at least record—that feeling.

Our weekend getaway ended the next day. As we drove out of town, I decided that someday, I’m going to go back to those cliffs with a notebook and pen, when I can sit and write in solitude for just a little while and have a taste of what it’s like to create something wonderful in such beautiful surroundings.

We came home to piles and piles of fresh white snow. And I complained because it’s cold and wet and icy, and those are my least favorite weather conditions. But then I looked up, and saw snow covered mountains and low, dark clouds. And I remembered that there is beauty in all things—even the frustrating cold things—if only I take the time to look.

Granted, I won’t be climbing that mountain and sitting alone to write in the snow. That’s something I can’t imagine myself doing. But I can sit in my warm house, with a thick, soft blanket and a cup of warm cider (or hot chocolate) and write on my computer as I stare out at the soft white flakes that keep falling and falling and falling. And I can be glad for the inspiration that comes to me every single day. Even though I can’t always see it through the snow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Polishing Your Finished Product

By C. LaRene Hall

I wonder how many people finish writing and are so anxious to send their manuscript out they forget the necessary steps to make sure that someone will accept it. I hate to say it, but in my endeavors to help someone with their baby, it seems many of them forget to use the spell and grammar check program on their computer. I also noticed the same thing when I was a judge for a writing contest last year.

I don’t ever send anything to anyone without first checking the spelling and grammar. I’m positive if you send something to a publisher without first checking to see if these things are correct, they probably won’t even finish the first paragraph before throwing it in the slush pile. If you are going to send it to professionals then you should act the part.

I can’t understand why someone who takes the time to write a story wouldn’t want every page perfect. I’ve put together a checklist for self-editing that you can use. Print this off and check each step before sending your manuscript to anyone…including fellow writers who are proofing for you.

1. Read your own work aloud. Look for word problems such as missing words, wrong homonyms, and confusing words. If you stumble when reading a sentence, so will your reader. Make sure you don’t overload your story with too many facts.
2. Use a spell-check program. Remember it only tells you if you’ve spelled the word correctly. It doesn’t know if the word you used is the correct one.
3. Check for proper grammar.
4. Make sure you used proper punctuation.
5. Organize your article or story so it flows smoothly and in sequence.
6. Make sure the meaning of your story is clear.
7. Make a printout. Go through your story with a pencil in hand, and you'll spot problems that might have escaped you on the computer screen. Use different colored pencils and do the following:
a. Underline every to be verb.
b. Underline cliché. Write your own twisted phrase instead of using the same old one.
c. Underline preposition, if a sentence has more than five re-write it.
d. Underline all passive sentences. Rewrite every sentence into the active voice.
e. Underline all split infinitive then re-write the sentence.
f. Cut all the clutter and unnecessary phrases.

I would rather read a story for someone that has completed the steps above. With those things done I can concentrate on the plot, the characters, and the flow of the story. Sometimes I end up so busy checking the spelling and grammar that I put the other things on the back burner. I hope this reminder will help you remember to polish your story before sending it to anyone.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

President Romney

By Darvell Hunt

I have already referred to Mitt Romney as President Romney, as he was my stake president for awhile in 1987.

Mitt Romney has a fairly good chance of being called President Romney again, but this time by a much broader population.

Whether you think he should be called that or not, you should get out to vote today on "Super Tuesday," if your state is one of those in which a vote is being taken.

Please, get out and support your candidate, whomever it may be!

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Few Good Links

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

It’s been said that an intelligent man (or woman) isn’t the one who knows all the answers, but is the one who knows where to find the answers. To that end, here is a list of links for market books. Not that I want to be a source of advertising for them—it’s just that if you don’t have the cash to invest in buying the book, their free, online newsletters can be a good source of information.

(The follow information is from Market Books' newsletter.)

The Market Books have web pages with information about each book and a place to sign up for an online newsletter geared to each specific subject. To check these mini-sites out and sign up for the free newsletters, go to:
· Novel & Short Story Writer's Market
· Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market
· Poet's Market
· Guide to Literary Agents
· Photographer's Market
· Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market
· Songwriter's Market

Interested in markets in the United Kingdom and Ireland? Then check out, Writer's Market UK at:

What books C.L. recommends:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Best Intentions

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever noticed that each of us spends our life telling others and ourselves we are going to do better next time? Doesn’t matter what it is, we are constantly vowing to complete a task, or do a good deed.

We promise we will visit our aged relatives, we promise to spend more time with our children. We swear that this will be the year when we finish our novel.

In 1993 my wife and I invested in a used video camera. It was a bulky affair, gigantic by the technology standards of today, but I digress. About that time my grandmother discovered we had it and told me to visit her so she could talk to her posterity on tape and tell all the family stories and legends. I promised I would.

As the years passed, I visited my grandma often but I never seemed to remember to take the video camera and tape her interview. A few years later, we bought another, smaller video camera, but I never took it to Grandma’s.

Grandma never forgot her request and I continued to promise, but never seemed to remember to do it. In 1999 Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mind quickly faded. I remembered my promise but it was too late. I had failed in my duty. What could have been a wonderful blessing for my extended family was lost.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Grandma gave her grandchildren copies of hand written-stories and family group sheets she had been compiling for years. Almost as many years as she had been asking me to come and interview her.

When I received her gift, I browsed through the papers and found familiar information. Some of the info was new, however, and I filed it away for the future. My grandmother died in 2005 and I was asked to speak at her funeral. I went through those records looking for something I could use that would give her a voice at her own funeral, something that would express her love for all of us. I found some of those things in the stories she had written down.

After her funeral, I once again remembered her request. Tears flowed when I realized how much greater her gift would have been if everyone could see her speaking to them across time and from beyond.

Now I sit here trying to revise and edit five books in order to get them submitted to the publisher. I’m reminded of my procrastination and wonder why I allow so many things to distract me from my goal. Many of those distractions are vital in my life. Things like family, church, and the day job, but some of them are not.

I can’t imagine what will happen to my manuscripts if they are not published before I die. Perhaps there is a lesson we can learn from my grandma to not wait—to take matters in our own hands, to make sure our stories get published.

Good luck in your writing, see you next week.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Be...The Best

by G.Parker

There are many examples in our lives we are given which encourage us to move forward. As a writer, many times we see these examples in things not necessarily related to writing, but they fit. Today's message is one of those times.

A great man, Gordon B. Hinkley, passed on to the other side this week. He was such an example to us all -- I'm sure his reunion on the other side took several hours. He will be remembered by those of us left behind for many things -- not the least of which were his 'B's'. I was past the point where I really paid attention to the Young Women program when he expressed those ideas to the youth, so I didn't quite catch on. I have since, and I'm going to display those B's in my home as soon as I paint them up.

But I was laying in bed the other morning, taking the opportunity to try and sleep before having to get the rest of my family up and thought: "What would the prophet have done during this time? He would have gotten up and read the scriptures. He would be having a light breakfast perhaps and reading the newspapers." And thus this blog was born.

I have a different set of B's that I want to share from his life of examples. They are useful for any writer to follow.

1. Be Diligent. He was always working on the Lord's errands. He was in his 90's, but he didn't let that slow him as it would have others.

2. Be a Doer. One of the comments I heard about him was he was a 'doer'. He was always doing things for others, following up on ideas and coming up with new ones. He was not one to sit and relax for very long. I'm told that the schedule he kept would have had a younger man exhausted.

3. Be of good cheer. While most writers don't set out to be funny, laughter is always good. Humor will help anything sell and makes life go much smoother. This man had a marvelous sense of humor.

4. Be loving. We need to be loving to our family, friends, neighbors and everyone we come in contact with. We need to think of that love as we write what we're given to share with others. My goal in my writing is to be an instrument in the Lord's hands to bring comfort and strength to those that read my work -- that means there needs to be love felt within the words. He drew normally tough men to his side and made them his friends. He loved everyone, regardless of faith, religion, affiliation, or tie, and they knew it.

5. Be constant and always moving. I'm not sure if his was the story of the North Star or not, but it fits the analogy that I'm sharing. Be consistent, constant and steady. Don't let fear dissuade you from your goal, he never did. Some of the things he attempted would have had me be a nervous wreak, but he had such faith, such strength of character that no one ever knew if he really felt any of that. It didn't matter, he was on the Lord's errand. As a writer, many things will come to try derailing you from your goals. Story lines will falter, friends will be harsh in their criticism, and publishers will reject your words. What will keep you moving? What will be your driving force? Make sure it's something that can be printed and done on a poster on your wall by where you write. Have it be your mantra. You can do it.

I know that there is much more that could be used as examples from this man's life. I'm sure there is much I have yet to learn from him, but I hope that perhaps this weekend as we say our final goodbyes, we can take some of what he tried to show us and put it into our own lives. Become better at whatever it is we do, be it writer, parent, child. Be the best we can be.