Saturday, February 25, 2012

Surrounded by Talented Souls

By Keith N Fisher

According to Wikipedia, this is a picture of the corner in the pub called Eagle and Child, where The Inklings met after 1949. It is called the Rabbit Room and as you can see, houses a memorial to CS Lewis.

The group included CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson. In 1933, they began to meet in various places to read and discuss various material including their unfinished manuscripts. Members of the group changed over the years. Even Tolkien drifted away in the latter part of 1950, but it was to this group, Lewis distributed proofs of The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe in June of 1950.

The pub was remodeled in 1962, which changed the private nature of the Rabbit Room. Lewis, of course, died in 1963.

Being a part of the group had it benefits and drawbacks. Williams inspired Lewis, and Dyson was instrumental in Lewis becoming a christian.

To meet with like-minded individuals and discuss your work can be beneficial. Even stark criticism can help. Apparently, Dyson, who was an expert in Shakespeare, preferred talk and literary discussion to reading manuscripts, but he didn’t like Tolkien’s work. The story is told that he would lie on a couch listening to Tolkien read from The Lord of the Rings and shouted, “Oh God, not another elf!”

In many circles today, Tolkien is more revered than Lewis. He is definitely better known than Dyson. Tolkien went on to be named The Father of ‘High Fantasy’, but that is not the way it used to be. Tolkien was a writer before his time, and I’m glad he persevered in spite of harsh criticism.

This is a picture of where my group last met. I doubt there will ever be a plaque on the wall honoring the Super Edits critique group, although it is possible for some of the members. Besides, we don’t meet in that cafe very often. We have been known to read our chapters in the upper room of a Mexican restaurant, between the stacks in the public library, and even in my backyard. We offer help and support to each other, we cheer each other, and we provide a listening ear.

I’m quite certain I would never hold up under the sarcasm Dyson gave to Tolkien’s work, and it took a while for me to humble myself enough to realize my group was right. I am a better writer because of them. I also get to read many popular books in the draft stages. I talked a little about that in my review of Tristi Pinkston’s new book, Targets in Ties. Go check it out and enter her contest.

In the meantime, listen to your critique partners. They might be the catalysts for your becoming a great writer. At the very least, you might learn a little humility.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's The Last Week of February...

by G.Parker

Where do you stand on your writing goals?

Remember back a month ago when you started the new year and resolved to be a better, more consistent writer?  Well, it's been eight weeks now, how have you done? It's important when setting goals that you examine your progress before you get too far.  How they are progressing, if more effort needs to be made, if balance is not there, etc., all this is done each quarter or month or whichever needs be to evaluate your goals.

Goals are mobile or fluctuating things.  They aren't written in stone, can be changed when needed, and are suited to your needs!  That's why you set them in the first place -- for your benefit and growth! Amazingly enough, if we didn't set goals for ourselves, more than likely we wouldn't achieve a portion of what we are capable of.  Goals seem to be the only real way to push ourselves into what we desire out of life.  (My, I'm being philosophical today...)

So, where do you stand?  Are you writing every day?  Editing every week?  Researching that story that is heavy in history?  Contemplating the mysteries of the universe?  (Okay, so that's what I tell people when I get caught day dreaming, but it sounds good!)

I made two goals that were both part of a single goal, actually.  I resolved to write one month, edit the next.  So far, it's been good.  January was edit month, and I got the story I'd written for NaNoWriMo edited and ready for someone else to look at.  This month I finished last year's entry (yes, we're talking 2010) and it's ready for heavy editing.  I sat down last night to write and realized that I didn't have anything I was working on.  Wow.  That was strange!

So, I guess it's editing until I come up with another story line to work on.  At first I panicked..."I'm not supposed to be editing, I'm supposed to be writing!!"  But then I realized that it's not a big deal.  The writing goal was for when I had a work in progress.  Editing can be the focus if that's what I need to get done.  See what I mean about flexible?  So, I can edit for the rest of this month and continue on into March.

So where are you with your writing?  Are you meeting your daily goals?  Let us know...see you next week!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


By Keith N Fisher

I pulled another book from my (to be read) stack, and sat down with it the other day. After a couple of chapters, I had to put it down and searched for a bookmark. Since I couldn’t find one, I settled for a piece of toilet tissue.

I began to reflect on my practice of marking my place. Years ago, I would just turn down the corner of a page, but out of love and respect for the printed word, I don’t do that anymore.

I love real bookmarks. They are almost always made from laminated cardstock and hold my place with dignity and style. Also, I sometimes use the business cards authors hand out to advertise their books. I receive dozens of bookmarks at book signings and author events every year. You’d think I’d use some of them.

What usually happens, after using a scrap of paper, or a toothpick, I finally place a real bookmark into the book just in time to finish the story. The bookmark stays inside the book and I move on starting the process over. Why don’t I just collect the mark from the story I just finished? I wish I were that organized. I’ve revisited stories, years after reading them, and found bookmarks, long since forgotten.

There is a pile on my desk I intend to use but never do. I have several signed by authors. I need to develop a habit of picking a bookmark before I open a new book. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

As my library grows, I will continue to need bookmarks, therefore, don’t neglect this effective marketing tool. When you get proofs of your new book cover, don’t forget to order the bookmarks. You will find that people will almost always take a bookmark even if they won’t look at your book. It gets your name and your book title out there.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, February 17, 2012


by G.Parker

Roses are red
Violets are blue
many words are said
in honor of you

some of them are sappy
 some heartfelt lines
be they measured or
I always feel
the fool.

There have been many a word written in honor of the day known to the world as Valentine's Day.  It's amazing how people who normally wouldn't write anything, will attempt to write poetry to show their loved ones how much they love them.  It seems to be the time of year that inspires the prose in everyone, everything from sappy to truly romantic.  The greeting card industry alone must employ several hundred people just for cards relating to that day.  Want to get a job doing greeting cards?  Can you come up with ways to say I Love You in five lines or less?

Several years ago I ran across a site that was called The Most Romantic Man in the World.  I thought it was a joke, but it was serious.  Apparently the guy really is known as the most romantic man, and has a web site to help other men shower their women with attention.  (Just a caution - beware it seems to be primarily aimed toward sexual relations now)  One thing that he did point out, and my husband and I agreed with -- you should be romantic all year round so that this one day is not such a big deal.  In fact, he and his wife usually boycott it.

The reason I bring him up is he encourages writing poetry for romance.  I think poetry is highly over rated, but I know there is many out there who write it well.  I just have never been into poetry reading.  I used to write some, but that has since stopped when I lost a great deal of inspiration.  I mean, I have a wonderful marriage and a man who loves me.  Most of my poems were about loneliness or how lost I felt.  See what I mean?

Do you write poems?  What is your inspiration?  Do you write for romance for just to express a feeling?  I have to admit that despite how I feel about it, poetry does seem to best convey emotion that some writing does not.

Many songs are taken from poems, or are poems put to music.  A song is a strong romantic item too.

Last weekend our stake held an adult couples dance themed "A Walk in The Park."  It is something they hold every year, with a different theme each time.  They have a live band from the high school that comes and plays big band songs, there are refreshments, decorations, and it's an all around lovely time.  The Relief Society room, however, is taken over for Karaoke.  Every year it's a big hit, and people crowd in after dancing for an hour or so and spend some time singing before going back out and dancing again.  Unless they're like my adult daughters  (who didn't have dates) and spend the rest of the evening there.

My husband did one of the most romantic things he's done for me -- he sang a song in my honor.  It was sweet, and he embarrassed me a little as he insisted on pulling me up there with him, but it meant more to me than any flowers or chocolates could have done.  That's true romance.

I hope you had a romantic day, if you don't get a lot of it.  And I hope you have romance in your life.  If you don't, at least I hope you have chocolate...and poetry.  Till next week...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

LTUE and the Celebration

By Keith N Fisher

I sat in the upper commons area of the Sorensen Student Center at UVU, writing and resting. A young man and his friends passed by after reading one of the signs directing symposium attendees toward the registration table.

Life, the Universe, & Everything,” he said, then he repeated it with emphasis on everything. The guy obviously had no idea what the symposium was all about, and made a mockery of it.

I looked up from my keyboard and made note of his appearance. He looked like the kind of a guy who would love LTUE, if he knew anything about it.

The symposium is 30 years old this year. It was started at a time when there was nothing on campus to support the creative urges of the like minded type of people who make Dragoncon a success. A group of science fiction & fantasy writers and artists were determined to hold that kind of event on the BYU campus.

Did I mention LTUE is thirty years old? I attended a panel discussion on the origins of LTUE and was impressed by the long list of famous people who have been guests.

Whether you write in those genres. Whether you draw dragons or anime. Even if you’ve a mind to dress in costume, you will find help, support, and camaraderie at LTUE. Hope to see you there. Because of health issues this year, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the mezzanine with my foot up. Come over and chat.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Catching the Heart

by G.Parker

This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the 2002 Olympic games held in Salt Lake City.  I was privileged to be a part of the games as a volunteer.  In thinking about that time, I remember the televised moments, the newspaper accounts and all the radio commentary.  But the thing that stood out the most was how we volunteers felt about the games.  I'll never forget the night of the closing ceremonies.  Those of us who had been associated with the opening and closing ceremonies were able to stay and see the closing.  It was a moment I'll never forget.  It was breathtaking, it was amazing, and I didn't have to listen to commentators through the whole thing.  It was also heartbreaking when the torch went dark.  It was an audible groan around me as we watched those flames die.

The Olympics represent so much more than money to me, and to those of us who volunteered.  It's more than just sport.  It's heart.  The Olympics represent the best of every man and woman.  The strength of spirit and heart that everyone on the planet shares.  How even in difficult places one can train as an athlete.  Amazing stories of how sacrifice had gotten that athlete to the games, or how they had risen above great personal trials, those stories are common during the games.  They inspire everyone to attempt greatness.

For the brief period of when the Olympics are going, the average man thinks they can be something.  We watch every event (or the chosen few) with bated breath, yelling at judges and calling out encouragement to the chosen representative of our loyalty.  We don't know any of these athletes personally - for the most part.  We may have never even heard of them before, but their story becomes ours, their triumphs become ours triumphs and we grow together.

Apparently the state of Utah is optioning for another bid to host the games, apparently in 2022.  I was shocked to hear that it costs $150,000 just to apply for the honor to host the games.  That makes me think that despite the hype that the Olympics are about the human spirit, it's more about the money that can be made.  But that's for another blog.  ;)

The idea of the Olympic spirit makes me think of one of my writing friends.  She has been writing for many years, and has become successful in publishing.  Recently she wrote a story about Autism that was printed in the Ensign.  Someone that represented a national magazine saw this article, contacted her, and now she is going to write articles for them!  I'm so excited for her!  But it took many years of writing, reading, learning and keeping things going before it began to work.

It's the human spirit reaching out and showing courage.  She's an athlete in the writing sense, and we're all rooting for her.  You go, Danyelle!  We're all proud of you.

You see...we can all be like her.  It's far more attainable than an Olympic dream.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Randomly Foreshadowing

By Keith N Fisher

I’m writing to you from my living room this morning and that’s a blessing. If I had health insurance I would most probably be in the hospital. Life took a drastic turn for me this week when an ultrasound confirmed the swelling in my leg was indeed a blood clot.

Many things changed and new experiences were thrust upon me. I learned to give myself an injection twice a day, I went into deeper debt, and plans were changed. When asked if I could go to work, my doctor wondered if I could keep my leg elevated. “I work graveyard shift at a convenience store,” I said. I’m on my feet, lifting, organizing and cleaning all night.”

My boss is terrific, and arranged the schedule to give me time to get healthy again. I had planned to attend the book launch for Targets in Ties, by Tristi Pinkston, but was forced to cancel so a nurse could come and take my blood.

Also, I planned to attend LTUE next weekend, but I’m not sure I’ll be able. (Maybe if I promised to elevate my leg?) Anyway, with all this time on my hands, you’d think I’d be writing, but worry and other preoccupations have rendered me incapable. I agonized over what to write this morning, so I decided to tell you what’s up.

Have you ever noticed how random our lives seem to be? Things change in a heartbeat according to the old cliché, but do they? As writers we learn to foreshadow events in our stories. A reader hates to be taken completely off guard. They love to pride themselves on figuring out the mystery. We use foreshadowing for continuity because nobody likes a series of random events strung together in a story.

There is no foreshadowing in real life, however, or is there? We marvel how random accidents occur daily, in our lives. We wish for the ability to predict and avoid pitfalls, hoping for smooth paths. I admit, some things happen with no warning. Often, however, we look back on events and see a series of warnings left unheeded and kick ourselves, saying, “If only I had paid attention.”

So, it should be with fiction. Characters need to be able to look back and see the signs, but there is a danger. Have you ever read a foreshadowing event, so obvious, it insults your intelligence? You wonder how the characters could be so stupid as to not see it. Writers need to make it subtle. The reader (and the character) must be taken off guard, then realize they should’ve seen it coming. After all the signs were all there.

Give your character challenges, but make sure those challenges don’t randomly pop up. Don’t make her wreck the car without having established she owns one. Don’t kill him in a plane crash without showing us the purchased airline tickets. Why is your character on that flight anyway?

Hope to see you at LTUE. I’ll be the one with his leg up. Good luck in your writing---see you next week.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The English Language

by G.Parker

I was sitting in a classroom the other day and happened to overhear a teacher and student discussing some vocabulary words.  He was trying to figure out how to use the word 'steak.'  After a brief conversation, he said, "Oh, so it's like a steak for a piece of wood or a piece of meat."  I'm thinking, "um, stake or steak?"

It's all in the spelling, isn't it?  I'm terrible at spelling.  On a side note -- I love the fact that Google Chrome and Firefox have spell check in their browsers!

That conversation was a clear example of the complexities of the English language.  No wonder those coming from foreign countries have such a hard time learning our language!  It's no surprise that we as writers struggle with finding the right word in trying to convey exact meanings.  I often wonder what it would be like to write in another language - but since I don't know any good enough to do so, it would just be a translation in my head from English anyway.  And that's complicated enough.

I received an email a couple of months ago about English words, and I wanted to include it but alas, I can't find it.  It had all sorts of examples of our word usage in quite a lovely arrangement.  Bit's like, we shower people with affection, and then take a cold shower to cool down.  We plant a garden, and our children work in a plant.  We gum our food and chew gum.  There is their and they're.  A date is both something we go on and something we eat.  We stake a claim and have meetings in a stake center.  There are words for punctuation and words to do with grammar, and we have dictionaries with thesaurus's that if you don't know how to spell the word, how in the heck are you supposed to find it to make sure you're spelling it right?

Well, if you have it figured out, you're way better than I am.  Being able to understand what the word means is at least something.  I may not be able to spell them all, but hopefully I can use them properly when speaking and writing!   And they have proven that the more you read, the larger your vocabulary, so it kind of circles around.  Interesting, huh?

So how are your writing goals coming along?  Are you working at them each day?  I've been doing good on my goal to edit one month and write the next, which has really been progress for me.  You see, consistency is the biggest obstacle any writer has to overcome, other than dealing with words.  I haven't made any time allotment, just commitment to write or edit every day.  It could be a couple of pages, a couple of paragraphs or simply just two lines.  Anything is better than what I was doing before, and at least I'm getting it done.

Let's just hope it doesn't take me the whole year to do it...

Until next week.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal

by C LaRene Hall

Continued from last week about style and voice

Clint Johnson encouraged us to try an exercise for development by imitating others. He told us to find a passage from a writer we either love or that interest us for some reason, then try to recreate the style as best as we can see it by writing either a short story or one complete scene.

Next he told us to experment in our writing. See what is possible for us to do with the written word, and pay attention to our successes and failures. Exercise for development write one paragraph that works using only simple sentences. The assignment he gave us next was to write another paragraph that is at least five lines long and is all one sentence. Then we were to write a paragraph that is written completely in sentence fragments, followed with a page of dialogue.

Clint encouraged us to adopt other peoples ideas, texts, etc. into our own writing by referring to them, either directly or through allusion. The texts to which we connect will change the experience and meaning of our story and contribute to our style. The exercise he gave us for this was to write a page that connects to one religious text, one fairy tale, and one current news story.

He encouraged us to read out loud, to tune ourself, both to the English language and to our particular use of the language. We should read a passage we like from our own writing in a way that feels natural, then read it faster, then slower, and then as is comfortable again. Then rate our pacing on a scale of one to five from lethargic to rushed.

I enjoyed the class a lot and wish I could say that I have tried all of these suggestions. But no, I haven't. I hope to someday in the future try all of the above suggestions. I just wish life wasn't so crazy.