Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Say Yes to You

By C. LaRene Hall

Saying no to something you don’t want to do means saying yes to something you do want. It means you have more time for things that will benefit you.

Years ago, I decided that other people were taking up lots of my time and usually it was doing things that I had no interest in doing. Some people took up so much of my time sitting in my home and talking about the same thing day after day, and never taking action to help themselves that I began to feel used. The problem was they didn’t do things for me in return.

I believe you should be charitable and do service for others, but sometimes it can go too far. People can and will take advantage of you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t serve others. Service to others gives meaning to life. Service is what life is all about.

Giving service is looking around and seeing a need. It’s not someone begging me to help them. It’s not someone making me feel guilty because I don’t want to do everything they want. It’s doing quiet acts of kindness when least expected.

I watch those around me, and try to help those in need. Sometimes people just need someone to talk with. Other times maybe it’s a meal, or a visit. These are the type of things I want to say yes to. I like to make another person feel worthwhile. I love doing quiet acts of kindness. It’s not always convenient to help others, but giving real service can be rewarding.

Even with writing deadlines, I find time to serve others. When I see someone in need it’s not a burden to serve, it’s a pleasure. If someone is using me, however, I’ve learned to say, “No. I need to write.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Killer Beginnings

By Darvell Hunt

“I believed if I could save the injured bird, my mother wouldn’t die from cancer. It was an irrational belief back then and it still is, but that didn’t stop me from believing it.”

“I helped kill a man while serving my two-year LDS mission. I didn’t even try to help save him when I had the chance—and I did have that chance, but I passed it up. So much for the parable of the good Samaritan. So much for loving your neighbor.”

The above paragraphs are the beginning sentences from two of my stories. I’m not sure if they are great beginnings, but I think they’re pretty good. I feel they at least prompt the reader to read further.

Recently, one of my writing groups has been talking a lot about great beginnings. There’s a lot of material out there nowadays with the Internet, television, video games, and other such contenders for our attention, that it’s so hard to attract people’s attention to books. Our modern-day stories must have a great hook if we expect anybody to read further. Before we can even attract readers, however, we have to attract an editor at a publishing house. Great beginnings can help do both of these things.

Now I just need to write some magnificent middles and some excellent endings!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Delivering the Unexpected

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008

Two men are at a batting cage. The one, in his forties and obviously klutzy, is trying to learn how to hit a baseball. The other is trying to teach him. After several swings and misses—one that includes falling on the ground in a heap, and another that sends the baseball bat flying out of his hands to ricochet off the wall—the batter says, “I’m quitting; I’m terrible at this and I’ll never learn to hit a ball.”

The second man, trying to be encouraging, says, “Come on, you’re doing good! You’ve done it six times in a row without hitting yourself in the kidney on the follow through.”

The audience watching the show roared with laughter—me included. Then I found myself wondering why it was so funny. Was it the slapstick nature of the guy, swinging a bat and missing? That was at least a part of it, but the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced it was the writing. The writer of that particular show consistently gave the audience an unexpected punch line.

Read it over again and see for yourself. When the second man starts to give encouraging words, you’re expecting him to tell the batter something like, “You’re getting closer.” Or, “You got a little piece of it last time.” Or, “You almost hit it twice in a row.” Instead, the writer gave the audience a line that was the last thing expected … the batter was getting better because he didn’t hit himself in the kidney with the bat.

Delivering the unexpected is what keeps the humor writer’s audience in stitches. It’s what keeps the romance writer’s audience in love, or the mystery writer’s audience in suspense.

And it’s what keeps the cookbook writer’s audience … in hot water.

C. Lynn’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap"
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction

What books C. Lynn recommends:
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

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hook, Line, and Sinker

By Keith Fisher

It’s time to dust off my tackle box and head out to my favorite fishing hole. Unlike today, when I was a kid, there was a fishing season in Utah. My family always got together for the season opener. I remember waking up before daylight so we could be the first ones in our spot. We clearly should’ve been granted squatter’s rights, or at least first cast into the lake.

The number of anglers lining the shore on opening day rivaled the number of those waiting in line on the day after Thanksgiving these days. Well, it wasn’t that bad, but in those days, it wasn’t uncommon to never see another angler all day. So we were shocked to see another person within fifty yards on the opening, and everyone competed for the same spots. The rules were clear—the first people out got the best spots and therefore caught the most fish.

In order to catch anything, I learned to tailor my tackle to make it appealing, and fishing for different species required different tackle. Since I was a kid, prone to line tangles—fishing for trout from the bank at our favorite reservoir—I required a certain kind of rig. My dad started with a bubble for weight, then a swivel to keep the bubble from sliding off. He tied a hook on the end of a leader and a loop at the other end. Next he’d clip the leader into the swivel. I’d fill the bubble with water, bait my hook, and cast in.

When I got older, I noticed that Dad used two hooks tied at different ends of the leader. The loop was tied between so each hook hung at different levels. This gave him the advantage of multiple kinds of bait, and increasing his chances of catching fish. I wasn’t allowed two hooks because I was, well, as I said above, prone to tangles.

In my dad’s tackle box, there were many kinds and sizes of hooks. Different hooks for different reasons. The key to catching fish was in choosing the right hook for the type of fish and the location.

One time as a Boy Scout, I got bored fishing for Pike below the dam at Yuba Reservoir. I noticed the Perch came up next to the shore. I dropped my hook in the middle of them and immediately caught one. Now, you should know, Perch in those days were trash fish. They are considered to be delicious now, but old prejudices diehard. Anyway, somehow I noticed that if I dropped a bare hook in the water, the Perch would take it, and hook themselves. It was easy, and we had great fun feeding the Perch to the Seagulls.

Now, I’m passing the legacy on to my daughter and I don’t have to wait for the season, but I learned something this week. I attended the League of Utah Writers meeting in Provo where Jeffrey S. Savage (J. Scott Savage) taught about hooks in query letters. I had a rare moment of clarity, and began to think of metaphors and similes. I decided to share a few with you.

As writers, we are fishermen. We submit our manuscripts, hoping to catch the eye of publishers. There are different kinds of publishers just like there are different kinds of fish. The hook we use depends on who we are submitting to and what kind of bait we have. With any luck we will catch a publisher and land a book contract.

In workshops and conferences, we’re taught the value of a good hook. As in fishing, we’re only as good as our tackle. Unlike the perch I caught with a bare hook, a publisher isn’t liable to bite a hook that isn’t appealing. So we need to use bait that will entice and lure someone to read our manuscript. We must write a first paragraph that will make the reader want more. We must write the second paragraph so they will continue. But first we must get them to read the first paragraph.

We do this by baiting the hook in our query in a way that explains the story, but more than that, it must be enticing, it must make the publisher want to look at the first paragraph.

Jeff talked about four elements to look for in a query and explained why they are important:

  1. Who is your protagonist?
    You must decide so your readers will have someone to care about.
  2. What is your protagonist’s noble, goal?
    What must be accomplished? What is driving him/her to the end?
  3. What stands in the way of reaching the goal?
    What major obstacles stand in the way of number two?
  4. What happens if the protagonist fails?
    It has to be dire circumstances. There has to be a real consequence.

If the answers to these questions are sufficiently intriguing, your query will be noticed. You can also use these questions when plotting your next book. If you can dream up great answers, you may have the beginnings of a best seller.

Good luck in your writing and your fishing (submitting)—see you next week.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's Not Personal

by G.Parker

Our group has been commiserating and encouraging and discussing a well known writing dilemma: the rejection letter. Rejection letters come in all forms, sizes and paper. We feel honored if it actually has handwritten signature or comments on it -- because that means someone has really looked at our efforts and has taken the time to let us know we are on the right track, just not the one they can use right now.

It reminds me of the movie (I know -- a movie again? lol) that I think I've mentioned before. In You've Got Mail, he tells her "It's not personal, it's business." Well, I've used that phrase in many conversations, but in this instance, I'm telling you it's true. In the publishing world, especially in regards to agents and editors, your rejection is probably 99.99% NOT PERSONAL. It's not about you and whether you spell your name right, comb your hair a certain way, look as gorgeous as a model or wear a specific outfit.

It's about publishing.

You see, a lot of writers have a favorite day dream: A literary agent sitting at his desk, waiting for that wonderful manuscript that's going to change his or her life (and ours). Or even better, that the editor is just waiting to get my book because he knows it will be a raise and promotion and will spring both of us to the top of the heap, king of the hill, etc., yada, yada, yada.

Unfortunately, most of us at Authors Incognito have discovered this scenario doesn’t represent reality. They aren't waiting, they are WADING. They are quick to explain in about every writing conference the idea that publishers and agents are swamped with manuscripts. Agents get an average of fifty a day. Publishers get hundreds. Your manuscript is just another in the pile and if it doesn't stand out as an amazing read, it will get the rejection letter.

So, rather than let this discourage you, the next time you get a rejection letter remember that yours was probably the last in a long day, or the wrong genre, wrong season, wrong anything to that editor who is overworked, or the agent who has to eke out a lively hood from finding a person to represent. It's not personal -- it's business.

It's up to you to make things the best they can be. It's your job to keep submitting, keep improving, keep moving forward. You have to remember that many famous published authors were rejected many times before they made it big. I've heard Gresham was even rejected 100 times before his first novel reached print. 100 times.

We have an annual contest going in our writing community -- it's the rejection letter contest. We were told at one of our writing conferences that you need to keep these letters, count them and be proud of the work you're doing. If you are submitting, you are persevering. You will make it.

In the future, try to remember when you find yourself holding a rejection letter -- it's not personal -- it's publishing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Be Like a Munchkin

By Nichole Giles

For the last four months, my kids—along with more than 60 others—have been working toward a goal. They’re cast in a children’s theater production of The Wizard of Oz. Tuesday, they opened their first performance to a house full of first through third graders who laughed, gasped and cheered until the final curtain call.

The kids were exhilarated and amazed at their accomplishment, and the adults…well, they were impressed. It was my privilege to be the “green room mom” during that first performance, which means I was back stage in the green room helping with makeup, hair, costume issues, and anything else that came up.

If you’ve never been backstage during a performance before, let me enlighten you. As the cast prepares to go onstage, the energy level practically hums through the air. People dance through the halls, singing and laughing, and just before the curtain goes up, the entire cast forms a circle, holding hands with their heads bowed while they pray. Just being there is an amazing, moving experience.

But that’s behind the scenes. The performance of these kids is amazing. They range in age from six to eighteen, and the directors are talented enough to bring them all together to produce one working machine. During their months of practice, they’ve learned responsibility, endurance, and self-confidence. They’ve learned to treat each other well, despite disagreements and differences, and they’ve learned that it isn’t always fun to stay up really late rehearsing and then get up very early to perform. Sometimes, acting is tough.

As a case in point, the girl playing the part of Dorothy happens to be eight-years-old. She has worked for several hours every day learning lines and dances. Practicing. Yesterday, she came down with a terrible cold that has affected her singing voice. Rather than crying and refusing to sing, that little girl drank tons of water, carried a pen and paper around, refusing to talk except when she went onstage, and did her very best to belt out her songs—even though it hurt.

Why do they do it?

Because they love it. There is no other explanation. If these kids didn’t love what they do with their whole hearts, they would never commit to give up all the Saturdays and afternoons in April—including spring break—to rehearse. They wouldn’t be willing to wake up at 6:00 am—two days in a row—to have their makeup and hair done so they can make an 8:30 performance call time, knowing they might be at the theater until as late as 10:00 pm.

Writing is a form of creativity that is put on paper rather than performed on a stage, but the same rules apply. Why do we do it? Because we love it. Why do we sacrifice our time, our talents, and sometimes our sanity, going to workshops and reading books and writing things no one will ever see? For the love of it.

Those kids may have walked into this program with no idea of what they were getting into, but they came out with performance experience and a new understanding of life.

Often writers jump into a project with no idea of what they are getting into, but they come out with writing experience and a new understanding of life, the universe, and everything else.

Today I’m taking a lesson from a bunch of kids. Despite the many, many challenges that have occurred over the months, these people were able to pull this play together, and their performance is incredible. They didn’t give up when the going got tough, or when their friends went on vacation and they had to rehearse. They didn’t give up when they had to take dinner with them in a paper sack and do their homework backstage. They kept going and in the end, they are rewarded. They are amazing.

I only hope I can be so dedicated and produce as high quality a result as my little munchkins in the play.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Writing Exercises

By C. LaRene Hall

This year my local writing group has been encouraging all of us to do more writing exercises. One that I particularly enjoyed was picking a moment from the day before when there were people surrounding me. Once I freeze that time into my memory, I ask myself questions. Where was I? What time was it? Who was there? What were they doing?

The next step is to set the timer for fifteen minutes and to start writing exactly what happened with no emotions, no adjectives, just what happened. You write short sentences with every gesture, every reaction, and all the dialogue. The thing you want to do is cover five minutes worth of real time in fifteen minutes of writing time.

One week we completed the following sentence; I am the one who . . . forgets, or has never, experimented with, dreaded, hates, believed, must have, wished, and remembers, with a very short statement. Make your own list and see how well you do.

That same evening we finished two sentences.
1. I am going to write my story just as soon as . . .
2. I really want to write about . . .

Another time the leader divided us into teams and had each group pick one of three paragraphs. All the people on the team wrote a paragraph about the same thing, and then compared their stories with one another. It was amazing to see the different ideas that came out of the same basic idea.

These types of activities get your creative juices flowing and help you think about new ideas. The most important thing for each of you is to keep writing. Write something every day. I do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Name Game

By Darvell Hunt

Would you be more interested in reading a story written by Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain? My guess would be Mark Twain, but why? Does the name have more appeal or is it just because we’re familiar with stories associated with the name?

Would you be more inclined to read a novel written by Joe Hill or by Joseph Hillstrom King, son of Stephen King? My guess would not be Joe Hill, but in fact, these two names refer to the same person, but only one of them appears on a recently published novel. I imagine it would be hard writing under the shadow of such a famous father, but I’d be inclined to keep the famous name on my books. Yet I think I understand why he picked an alternate last name, because he doesn’t want his novel to be compared to Daddy’s writing. (What kind of bedtime stories do you think Stephen King used to tell his kids?)

Why use a pen name? Are there valid reasons to use one? Or is using a pseudonym just a “fun thing” we fiction writers like to do? Fictitious names for fictitious stories.

In my case, I’m considering using different names to publish in different genres. I’m currently writing both young adult material and more adult-themed thriller stories. It wouldn’t seem appropriate to use the same name for both, as I wouldn’t want to confuse a young reader who sees my name on a thriller novel.

We’ve been discussing this topic on various writing groups in which I participate. Many of my friends are trying to establish their writing identities before publication, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. It’s better than changing your name later on once you have created a solid reader base.

So don’t be surprised if in the near future you begin to see new writers pop up on your local bookstore shelves with similar names like Darvell Hunt, D. Dean Hunt, or even D. D. Hunt—all different variations of my given name. I might even consider writing romance under DeeDee Hunt, but maybe that’s pushing the idea a bit too far.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Love Getting Tagged

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008

Some time ago, fellow blogger, Nichole Giles, tagged me in the game of “Seven Unknown Facts about Me”. Because I write a humor column, there’s very little the world doesn’t know about me—or my husband, dogs, cats, and dust bunnies under the bed. Because I love playing tag, I’ll give it a shot, however, like fellow blogger, Darvell Hunt, I’m going to give it a little twist and make it seven unknown writing facts about me.

1. I can not diagram any sentence more complicated than, “See Spot run.” Even in that simple pronouncement, I’m unsure where the word “see” would go on the diagram.

2. Like most writers, I’ve composed poetry. Things like, “There was a young girl named Beckie, who was stuck in the snow to her neckie.” Award winning stuff, to be sure.

3. I never aspired to be a writer when I was a child. Although—funny thing—a friend and I started our own newspaper that we hand-wrote and then typed on an old typewriter. We wrote it for friends, when we were 12. It ran about three months and bombed out when we realized the two of us were the only ones reading it.

4. Writing was something other people were good at, not me. Or so I thought, until I had a wonderful graduate student as a teacher in college. Because of her, I discovered that I could actually write. It probably happened because she never made me diagram sentences.

5. Brevity. It’s a problem!

6. Typing is an evn bigger prblem becsaue my brain tinks faster then me fingrs.

7. Author, Shirley Bahlmann, mentors and encourages me. The 2006 LDStorymakers' Conference motivated me. Without those two, I wouldn’t have plucked up the nerve to say, “So what if my stuff gets rejected a hundred times. I’m writing and submitting anyway!”

C. Lynn’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap"
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction

What books C. Lynn recommends:
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

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Warning! Graphic Images!

By Keith Fisher

It’s been six weeks since my wife was awakened early in the morning by our nervous cat. She needed a midwife, the cat . . . not my wife. Anyway, it was a Sunday morning and we ended up being late for church. It was a magical event for our family, but by the time the sixth kitten was born it was pretty monotonous. The cat wasn’t very thrilled either.
My daughter started naming the kittens almost as fast as they were born. "Don’t do that," I said. "We’re going to have to give them away . . . what’s that? No, we’re not keeping just one."

Well, as I said, it’s been six weeks . . .

When the cat got, uh, in the family way (this is a family blog), my daughter assured me some kids at school most definitely had permission . . . well, you know where this is going. Does anybody want a kitten?

Okay, to be fair, I won’t tell you how cute they are, or how they purr when you stroke their fur. I won’t even tell you they all have blue eyes like their mother. On second thought . . . I will tell you, they all have cute meows that’ll melt your heart.
Did I mention it’s been six weeks?
You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with writing. Well . . . I’m shameless. I’m going to have a literature contest and, anyone . . . well, everyone who gives me the correct answer gets a kitten. But you better hurry. I only have six.

Did I mention it’s been six weeks?
Okay here's the question . . . what is the name of our blogck . . . uh, I mean blog . . . what’s that? You want a harder question? Darn. Okay . . . who is your favorite author and why?

Now, there you have it. Leave your answer in the comment trail and tell me where in Utah County you want to meet your new kitten. Oh so cute . . . just look at the pictures. Provide the right answer and you’ll be happily stroking the fur on your new kitten. Did I mention it’s been six weeks?
Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pulling an Elephant Through Mud

by G.Parker

If you've had children, you understand that trying to force them to do anything is much like pulling an elephant through mud. Sometimes it works -- eventually -- when everyone is frustrated, angry and the home no longer resembles anything harmonious.. .you get the picture.

This is also what it's like when you try to force a story to go where it doesn't want to. It's one of the causes for the sickness called "writer's block" and can sometimes be fatal to the sanity of a writer. Case in point? I have a story that I'm trying to finish. I keep trying to end the darn thing, but the characters keep wanting excitement. I guess they aren't ready for it to end yet. (One can hardly blame them, they're in beautiful Hawaii in the middle of the Polynesian Cultural Center.) Unfortunately, while they're having a grand time, I'm totally frustrated. I want it over. I want them on the plane back home, basking in the warmth of a vacation over, lives saved and friendships deepened.

They won't cooperate. I keep getting new plot lines running around in my head. I have a gun that I'm trying to figure out how to justify it's existence, and people who are refusing to just go away. I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill someone. I remember reading about JK Rowling and how she came out of her office one day, just bawling, "I've just killed off a character." (Or something to that effect.) I don't want to kill a main character, just a bad guy. Don't you think that would be simple? Sigh.

So, I'm trying to force my imagination to my will. Unfortunately, the mud seems to be getting deeper each day. It wouldn't matter so much if I weren't trying to meet a self-imposed deadline. I've still got another book that I'm trying to edit and get submitted!

I guess now would be a good time to ask myself why I want to be a writer. It doesn't take much to send me cringing -- just the thought of shutting off that side of my brain gives me chills. There are stories to be told, morals to be taught, and spirit to be felt. I like this If I don't do it, who's to say that my version will ever be told?

So, I'm going to get back to it. Force the plot to make itself known, kill off the bad guy and save the day with a 10 gallon cowboy hat on my hero's head. Hey -- he likes it. He's from Montana.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


By Nichole Giles

Do you remember the story I’ve been talking about on and off for the past two years? The one about my grandfather who was kidnapped? Well, I finished it. Not only did I finish it, but I entered the first chapter in a contest. It took first place.

Then an editor asked to see my winning first chapter, and when she got it, she wrote me back and asked for the rest of the book—which I had been editing like a mad woman, just in case.

It’s a good thing I’d spent the better part of the last three weeks finishing the last of the editing on that book, too, because when she asked for the rest, it was expected soon. So, this past Monday, I printed, packaged, and took a trip to the post office where I sent my manuscript priority mail—and labeled “requested material.”

Now I wait.

While I wait I have two choices. I can either sit around biting my nails and staring endlessly at my phone, email, and mailbox waiting for a response. Or, I can get right to work on another project, that is equally important and every bit as crucial as the one I just finished. I choose the second option.

Life’s way too short to sit around waiting for an acceptance that may or may not come. And let’s face it. The response may very well be rejection. Though it will hurt (this one will hurt especially badly, since this particular story is so important to me) I already have a plan for what to do next. On to the next publisher, on to the next project, on and on and on until I write that story and find that publisher that will give me the break I’ve been waiting for.

And then…I’ll write some more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Live in the Moment

By C. LaRene Hall

One talk that I really enjoyed during the last conference was by Elder M. Russell Ballard on Sunday afternoon. He talked about mothers but there was a message there for everyone – especially me.

He asked if we were all in such a big hurry to get on with life that we let the important moments pass on by us. He reminded us that once that moment goes it is gone.

His encouragement was for everyone. Don’t over schedule yourself. Take time to listen, laugh, and play together. He encouraged women to find time for their self, and cultivate their gifts as well as their interests. I wish I had learned to do this at an earlier age. I feel sad when I think about all the things I could have wrote in those years. I will never again have the same thoughts I did back then. I can never write the stories I would have written then. That time is gone.

All I can do now is look to the future. Elder Ballard reminded us that every situation is unique. We all have different choices and should focus on the things that we can do in the particular season of life in which we are now living, and not everyone’s season is the same. Everyone has momentary feelings of inadequacy, and frustration, but we can also have great joy. We just need to relish the time, and not rush past the fleeting moments of life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Announcing New Online LDS Writing School

By Darvell Hunt

I’m very excited to announce that registration is now open for two classes being taught online at I’ve teamed up with some successful published LDS authors to offer online instruction in the LDS media marketplace.

Author Candace Salima is currently offering two classes, one for aspiring writers who would like to write a novel and a second class for published authors who want to learn how to market their book more effectively.

Here are the details on each of these classes:

Class #1: Getting that Book out of your Head and onto Paper!

Lesson 1: Idea, Outline and Research
Lesson 2: Refining Outline and Creating a Story Treatment
Lesson 3: Story Flow and Structure
Lesson 4: Character Development
Lesson 5: Dialogue vs. Exposition/Narrative
Lesson 6: Readers, Critique Groups and Editing

This writing class will be taught every Monday, via Talk Shoe, utilizing their conference call software as well as email and MSN Messenger. The first class will be held on May 5, 2008. Cost is $150, or $125 each if taken with a friend.

Class #2: How to Market your Work and Increase Sales!

Lesson 1: What is Expected of an Author
Lesson 2: Blogging
Lesson 3: Virtual Book Tours
Lesson 4: PodcastingLesson 5: Book Signings / Readings
Lesson 6: Public Speaking

This self-marketing class will be taught every Tuesday, via Talk Shoe, utilizing their conference call software as well as email and MSN Messenger. The first class will be held on May 6, 2008. Cost is $150, or $125 each if taken with a friend.

Please visit for more information on the LDS Writing School, or go directly to to sign up for one of these exciting classes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Few Announcements

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008

Never-Never Land. Don’t we all secretly wish we could live there? Oh, wait. Maybe I should clarify. I’m not talking the Michael Jackson ranch, I’m talking the real thing—the delightful place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle lived. The world where no one ever had to grow up.

Writers wear many hats, and one of mine has been my less-than-grown-up hat of humor. It’s my favorite, because it’s blue with a big plume that squirts water. It’s covered in pin-on buttons with funny sayings, and when I meet someone sad, I pull off a button and give it to them.

However, I also have other hats, and in honor of fairness to them, it’s time for me to pull out a few, dust and polish them, try them on for size, and actually wear the hats in public.

Hence, the above name change. In keeping with my resolve to be a multi-hatted writer, I’m using a new pen name, C. Lynn Beck, for my more serious/grown-up writings. That’s not to say those pieces won’t contain a bit of humor. After all, I’m not actually taking off my humor hat; I’m just wearing it under the others. However, when I write under the pen name of C. Lynn Beck, you’ll know the topics are things I’ve observed, pondered or studied, and then written because I wanted to share those thoughts with you.

For those who liked hearing from C.L. Beck, don’t worry. You can still read my humorous column at the Sanpete Messenger. Or find humor in a forthcoming book about LDS goofs and gaffs that fellow blogger, Nichole Giles, and I are working on. Or in the new personal blog that I plan to have up and running in the near future. (Information on those last two will be listed at my website, ByTheBecks, so check often to see what’s new in the laughs department.)

I hope you’re not disappointed to hear the news. Humor will still slip in occasionally because it’s a part of me. However, you know as well as I do there really isn’t a Never-Never Land. Sooner or later we all have to grow up.

C. Lynn’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap"
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction

What books C. Lynn recommends:
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

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just Fifteen Seconds

By Keith Fisher

Before we get started talking about whatever the subject for today’s blog is, I want to take a minute and tell you about the great marketing program J. Scott Savage is using. It’s called a blog tour and he has asked all those bloggers who are interested, to sign up for an advance copy of his new book. All you have to do is promise to blog about it. I told him I would help out, so be looking for my humble opinion. The book is called Farworld and you can sign up at

Now on to other things:

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. Millions have quoted this statement, made by Andy Warhol, in 1968. Many people look to this statement with hope, thinking they will someday, be granted fifteen minutes of their own. Consequently, we tend to joke when we see someone posing for news cameras or when we see the crowds outside the studio of the Today Show in New York.

With increased population and thus fewer chances, it seems the estimate has changed to fifteen seconds. Because of our origins, we believe mankind was destined for greatness, but most of us would be happy to simply be remembered when we’re gone. Sometimes our fifteen seconds can be hard to grasp.

In my life I have been blessed with many fifteen seconds of fame, starting with my baby blessing, baptism, priesthood ordinations, missionary farewell, and homecoming. My wife and I were blessed to win The World Championship Dutch oven Cookoff and I was interviewed on television. I have had my picture in the paper many times, been interviewed on the radio, and even had an editorial published.

All of these things have added joy to my life, but none of it compares to the fifteen seconds when I will hold a printed copy of my first book and realize people are actually going to be able to read the thing. It will be joy beyond compare to run my fingers over the spine and know it wouldn’t be possible without all the help I’ve received throughout my life.

I am so happy to see my good friends get their books published. They deserve it—they have helped me along the way. I can think of no greater joy than to see one those friends receive an award for their work and to know what has gone into it. I hope that in some small way, I will have had a part in helping them. Then I will have been blessed with another fifteen seconds, but the fame will be in the hearts of my friends.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The First Step

by G.Parker

As I sat around the table getting to know the four people who were going to have influence on my writing in the coming months, I realized that I'd decided to take my writing to the next level. I'd joined a critique group.

I've been a member of various writing and critique groups in the past, but they were always on the internet, never lasted very long, and weren't very helpful. We even tried one at Authors Incognito, but there hasn't been much activity.

This step in joining a critique group was a first for me. Despite the fact that I'm usually a people person who likes to socialize, there are many times when I'd rather hide in my shell -- when I'm writing or when people are reading my work. I've had so many family members read, various other people give opinions and edited my brains out -- but I know it needs that next step. I've got to have another level of input. I need to know if it really works or I'm just fooling myself.

When I got to the house where we're holding this group, the default chair (no one else took the ball, Gary!) showed me the box he'd stored from writing his first book and the critiques he'd gotten on it. It was stuffed with paper – red-lined, blue-marked, totally covered on some pages, manuscript. It was enough to send some of fainter heart screaming through the night. That was what my work would look like when they finished with it?

Never had the comparison of your manuscript being a baby that you have to let out into the world been brought home so forcibly. It wasn't as if I thought they were going to be mean in their remarks -- it was simply opening myself up to criticism and suggestion. It's that whole "delete that favorite/best line" and move on from there. ARGH!

As I got to know the other people in the group and discovered what their goals were and the work we would be looking at, I was impressed with the diversity. Unfortunately for Gary, he was the only male. I'm sure he felt outnumbered. I tried to get my hubby to come, but he claimed he'd be a distraction. right. cap When I contemplated joining the group, all sorts of thoughts ran through my head, like: "I'm not sure I can do this.", "It's another night away from my family." or "It's another writing thing." and finally, "What if they don't like my stuff?"

Sitting there, going over group guidelines and suggestions, outlining what we wanted to accomplish as a group and discussing our goals, I felt such a feeling of...belonging. I was with people who wanted the same thing as I did -- to write and have it published. They all had the same fears I did, the worry, the anxiety of putting ourselves in the path of rejection. But we'd all been willing to meet, no matter how difficult it might be.

We'd taken that first step. I'm excited to see where it takes us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Writers Who Know

By Nichole Giles

If you ever meet a writer who claims to have never been rejected, that person is lying. Everyone who writes gets rejected at some point. It is the nature of the beast, a symbol of the industry, and a sign (or symptom) of an honest-to-goodness serious writer. That person who was never rejected probably never submitted.

I’m not just talking about those form letters that come to us in the mail saying, “We regret to inform you that your work does not meet our needs at this time.” I mean ALL rejections. Some people apparently don’t realize that there are many ways in which to be rejected. Any kind of writing, submitted to any kind of publication, contest, editor, agent…any writing you’ve ever sent anywhere that has not been used for one reason or another constitutes a rejection.

Your rejections count for something, regardless of whatever comments came with them.

Now you’re thinking, “Oh great. Now you’ve made me feel like a total and complete loser.” Ah-ha, but that’s where you’re wrong. The point is not to make you feel like a loser, but to make sure you understand that you are a WRITER. Which, by the way, you couldn’t officially be without at least one rejection.

But it hurts. I admit rejection really does stink. Especially the ones from editors or contest judges who took the time to personally dig into your work and insult you for writing it. Unfortunately, this is also part of our industry. We learn to live with these things and we toughen our resolve because of them. We tell ourselves, “I’ll show them!” And then we work our hardest to do just that.

My writer’s group has a yearlong rejection contest going, and we’re considering another contest for worst rejection comments. By turning it into a competition, we’ve found a way to put a positive spin on rejection.

For all of us out there who have recently had rejections come in, I wanted to share the following reminders.

1. Writers who know keep going.
2. Writers who know write whenever they can.
3. Writers who know ignore their messy homes and ringing phones to get that brilliant idea on paper (or computer).
4. Writers who know listen to the good comments and throw away the bad.
5. Writers who know have confidence in their abilities.
6. Writers who know see rejection as one more step toward acceptance.
7. Writers who know invest in themselves.
8. Writers who know take the time to refine their craft.
9. Writers who know utilize everything around them in the effort to tell a great story.
10. Writers who know write despite—and sometimes because of—rejection.

We are not perfect. Our houses are not always spotless, and sometimes our families eat takeout for dinner because we were too busy writing to cook. We give up sleep, showers, and many other regular daytime activities in order to do something that may not ever make us any money. We do it anyway because we are writers who know.

We all have things to learn. The truth is, there is no one right or wrong way to tell a story. As it is with life, success doesn’t always look the way we pictured it in our heads. Nor does it necessarily look the way our friends, parents, or spouses think it should look. But it is there. Big, and bold and completely within our grasp if we can only reach out and do our best to gravitate toward it.

Remember this, my friends. Writers who know never give up.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On Target

By C. LaRene Hall

Earlier this year, I indicated that I wasn’t going to set goals like everyone else. Instead, I was going to aim for a target, but maybe I’ve carried it too far. My plan was to write every day, and send something out every month. I haven’t reached the success that C. L. Beck has but I’m trying to be as brave as Darvell Hunt.

I have far exceeded my target. Surprising what a little determination can do, but the rest of the year may not go as well as the first quarter. Instead of sending something out each month, I’ve sent more than one thing each week.

I felt like I was so far ahead of schedule that by the beginning of March, I concentrated on a novel that I had let sit for a long time. My word count goal almost seemed impossible, but I decided how many words I had to write each day and sat at the computer until I reached the required number. It was a happy day when I reached the target word count for my novel.

I sent one book out earlier this year and by the end of this month, I will be like Darvell and have another one in the mail.

My success isn’t just my doing. I attribute it to networking. I belong to a great group of women who encourage me daily in my writing. Seeing the things my fellow bloggers are doing also spurs me along. Rubbing shoulders frequently with other writers makes me want to be among those who have published something.

The things that help me are
1. Belonging to a critique group
2. Belonging to an online writing group
3. Attending a monthly writing group
4. Attending writing conferences
5. Writing every day
6. A supporting husband

If you don’t do or have any of the above things, I suggest you try to add it to your life as a writer. I know that if you don’t write every day and then submit what you write, you will likely never get anything published.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sending Your Babies Out into the World

By Darvell Hunt

When I left home for college, I felt like my life changed forever. I was nervous and homesick that first quarter away from home, but it was good to get away and open my life up to many great possibilities. Had I stayed home because I was afraid to leave, I would have missed out on considerable growth and many chances for success.

I just made two novel submissions last week. I should have submitted them earlier, as they really had been ready for a while, but I let them sit around too long. I thought maybe they weren’t ready to leave. Finally, though, I kicked them out of the house to see if they could make it on their own. Now that they are “out in the world,” they have the chance to make something of themselves.

It’s hard to send your writing out, but at the same time it gives you a wonderful feeling of anticipation. Submitting can also actually reduce anxiety, because you’ve done the best you can do and now you just have to boot your stories from their comfortable nest and see if they can succeed on their own merits.

Submitting makes me happy. It’s when my babies flunk out of college and come back with negative comments about their experiences that bums me out. Hopefully instead of that, they will end up getting married to a publisher and send money back home to their aging father, who helped them to become what they are today, by working with them and giving them direction for so many years.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Box in the Doorway

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

My husband, Russ, and I walked into the living room, turning the lights out behind us as we went. It was past time for bed, and we were headed upstairs to our bedroom. Russ glanced out the front door as he usually did in passing, and then stopped. “Is there something in the door?”

He couldn’t really have meant in the door, because whatever it was would have to be the size of a sliver to be in it. He probably meant, “Is something between the front door and storm door?” But that takes way too long to say when a person is tired.

“Something in the doorway? How would I know?” I replied. I believe Russ sometimes thinks I have x-ray vision.

Russ opened it, picked up a box and turned to me with a question in his eyes. No doubt he thinks I can read minds as well as see through buildings.

“Just put it on the chair and we can check it in the morning,” I said, starting up the stairs. The contents were probably two dresses I’d ordered months ago, or shoes, or essential doo-dads no household should be without, or … or.

I stopped, my foot resting on the next step, and Russ almost rear-ended me. “Was that box heavy?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yup, it felt like books.”

Oh, books! Wonderful, glorious books! I almost leapt over him in my haste to get back down the stairs. “They’re here,” I shouted. “They’re here!”

Russ turned the light back on while I tore the tape off the box. Nestled inside were 15 brand-spanking new copies. Gold and copper text glinted in the soft glow of the Tiffany lamp. The title read, A Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers.

My book.

Well, not exactly my book because it’s an anthology. But close enough. The first nationally published book carrying a story I wrote. The first one to pay me for my thoughts. The first one I would autograph at book signings.

I turned it over, loving the feel of its rectangular shape. Then the realization hit me. It might look like a book, but it wasn’t. What I really held in my hands were my hopes and dreams, perfumed with a paper and ink fragrance, and wrapped in a color cover.

(Some people have expressed an interest in a signed copy. Thanks so much for that! If you'd like one, you can order it at

C.L.’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap"
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79 by C.L. Beck
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction

What books C.L. recommends:
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

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Getting a Flat Tire on the Information Highway

By Keith Fisher

Is it really Saturday? It can’t be! I'm not ready.

Did you ever have one of those weeks when you had too much to do and not enough week left to do it in? To top it off, I went online last night with two computers. I was attempting to get tickets for the Miley Cyrus concert at Stadium of Fire . . .

I felt like I was giving a dog a bath. I’m not talking about a nice, well-trained dog, the kind that loves baths. I’m talking about the independent happy go lucky dogs that won’t stay in the tub. If you ever try it, I recommend old clothes or a swimming suit, because you’re going to get wet.

To add insult to injury, I also went online yesterday to apply for a job. We live in an unusual time in the world. It’s a time when we don’t need to see anyone. We can talk to people, work with people, even date people, and we never have to leave the privacy of our home. It’s all very convenient, but I miss pounding the pavement dropping off resum├ęs. Even when we had to physically stand in line to get tickets, at least we knew where we stood. We could see how far back in line we were.

The application was rejected, well, it was accepted, but some electronic gremlin told the system that according to my application, I wasn’t qualified for the job. How does it know? I guess I checked the wrong box, but then again, how am I supposed to find out? It's not like I can talk to a real person to discover the problem.

So, were you wondering what happened with the tickets?

I made it all the way through and gave my credit card number. When I clicked the button to finish, an error message popped up telling me something about my email address. While I went back over the form looking for the problem, another message popped up telling me my tickets were no longer available. Can you imagine my frustration? I slammed my fist down on my desk and almost made it collapse. Then I hit it again. I spent the next forty-five minutes trying to get back in, but it told me the tickets weren’t available.

I have been, and still am, a huge advocate of the information age. I was messing with computers at the end of the seventies and early eighties. But sometimes I wonder if we are losing something in our lives.

We even have online critique groups to help us with our writing. What a great service, but I’ve been involved in another, more personal group lately. Oh how nice it is to touch a paper manuscript. To read out loud and use a red pen. To talk to real people and find they have the same problems with writing I do. Above all, to get support. And if I get something wrong, I can find out what it is. All I have to do is ask.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Convenient Passion

by G.Parker

We watched the movie Amazing Grace on Monday night with our children. It's a wonderful story about one of the men who was significant in abolishing the slave trade in England. While watching the movie it occurred to me that this man had more passion in his little finger than I did in my whole body.

I've often wondered about that aspect of myself. Why it is easy for me to get worked up about something, but it only lasts as long as the first letter or blog about it and then I drop it. Why don't I continue a cause? What is it that keeps me from doing anything big with my life?

It didn't take very long to come up with an answer. You see, I'm lazy. I know, it's not that unusual, but it's true. And, I'm afraid in my case, it's a dangerous habit. It's dangerous because I could possibly let my life go by without accomplishing what I want because I'm too lazy.

Of course, there are some things I simply can't be a part of because I don't have any money. I can't run away and join the Peace Corps or Green Peace -- they don't pay you. (Of course, I wouldn't want to leave my hubby and kids behind either, and that wouldn't go over very well -- I can see it now; "Um, ma'am? We don't allow 12 year olds to volunteer in Nigeria ...") I also don't have the funds to write fifty zillion letters and send them to all the people who don't read my blog about how I feel on the political future of our country. (As If.)

So I'm stuck in my corner of the world, wondering what I was meant to do with my life. I usually end up focusing on the idea that I only know two things: writing and painting. Unfortunately, I'm not yet the quality writer I want to be, and my art takes a back seat to everything else. So where does that leave me?

I've decided that my passion, or my writing, has become a convenient thing. I only do it when it's convenient for me. I do not fashion my life around when I write -- I write around the time slots available in my day. This doesn't make for a very consistent or productive time, and definitely makes it difficult to meet the goals I have set for myself. Welcome to the crowd.

It's not a nice picture when you realize that you are sabotaging yourself.

A couple of years ago I discovered that I have the ability to change habits. I decided there were a couple of things I was determined to do, and I committed to doing them -- every day. I am still doing them, though sometimes it takes a reminder. I have come to the conclusion that my writing needs to leave the convenient passion stage and enter the determined passion era. Unless I want my writing to continue in the "that's a nice habit" section of my life, I need to change how I view it. I hereby commit to you, myself and all heavenly witnesses, that from this day forth I will write everyday for at least a half an hour.

I realize that may not seem like much, but at least that's a chunk of time that I can guarantee won't be compromised by other things. Hopefully it will soon be an hour, but for now -- a half hour a day. In leaving the convenient passion behind, hopefully the passion part will grow so it becomes difficult to think of it only when it's convenient. That's when I'll know it's a true passion.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Get to Work!

By Nichole Giles

Nearly two weeks have passed since the LDStorymakers conference, and still my creative juices are flowing strong. I’ve been editing like crazy, mostly, but also jotting down ideas that come to me randomly, knowing that someday—when I’m finished with my three current projects—I’ll take the time to flesh them out.

This week I’ve had a hard time trying to decide on a blog topic. I learned a lot of things at the conference and was also reminded of things I knew but hadn’t thought about for a while. Mostly though, I’ve decided that even though the classes were outstanding, the most helpful part of going to a conference is the inspiration you get from spending time with other writers. Other writers understand our craft like no one else can. We encourage each other, we help each other, and we support each other.

And then we play April fools jokes sending out big announcements about contracts with six figure advances and trick all our friends into congratulating us for nothing until we pull out the big whammy. April Fools! Big meanies.

Sorry, I’m rambling. The point is, I’ve decided to share a few bits of advice I gleaned from the conference—sort of like I did after the last one, I guess. These little pieces of advice are the ones that remind me to keep moving forward with my work—even when I’m feeling down.

Gordon Ryan says:
1.The overall concept of fiction is suspension of disbelief.
2. Antagonists could be admirable, loveable, and strong. If your villain isn’t capable, the end result will not be as satisfying.

Tim Travaglini, Editor for G.P. Putnam and Sons says:
1. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
2. You can improve your craft. Training and instruction are important, yes, but you have to read, read, read. It is impossible to cut that corner. If you don’t love to read, it’s impossible to love to write.
3. Your words are not gold. Find the sentence you are most proud of and delete it. Part of the craft is not being afraid to revise and change things.

Kirk Shaw, Editor for Covenant says:
1. Editors are looking for a good read.
2. Editors love characters that aren’t polar. Make them good and bad to feel real.
3. Never start your story with eating, dreaming, sleeping, blogging, mirrors, flashbacks.
4. Create conflicts that are meaningful toward the climax.
5. Have someone look for your pet words: actually, literally, suddenly, that….

Lisa Mangum, Editor for Deseret Book says:
1. By the time a trend is identified it’s over. Be the first of what’s coming next.
2. Submission starts with your mailing envelope. Do not make it hard to open. The manuscript inside is paper. It will survive.
3. Any personalized touch on a rejection letter is a very good sign.

Jessica Day George, Whitney award winning author says:
1. It does not matter that you didn’t go to college.
2. Do not be afraid.
3. Write something, submit it, write something else.
4. Best advice she can give: go to writing conferences! Networking is key.
5. Never submit to an agent named Rodney Pelter. He is a mean, mean man with bad handwriting and he uses crayon.

Jamie Weiss Chilton, Andrea Brown Agency says:
1. I never read cover letters until after I’ve read the first few pages of the submission.
2. I love voice. If your manuscript is great, mistakes MIGHT get overlooked.
3. An agent is the advocate between you and the editor. He/she will become the buffer for all the nitty gritty, and also do your book keeping.

Oh, how I’d love to go on. I have so much more advice to share, not to mention pages and pages of notes. But I’ve taken way more of your writing time than I should have. Stop reading blogs and get back to work! Remember, only you can decide the best way to write your story.

“Today is where your book begins.” (In case you weren’t there, that was the conference theme for 2008.) Ready…set…GO!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Good Job

By C. LaRene Hall

One thing that stood out in my mind at the LDStorymaker’s conference last month was the comment, “You are here to recharge your batteries and to be inspired.

In the presentation by Lael Littke, she reminded everyone about some of the potholes we should avoid in our writing such as a dead-battery beginning. I agree with her completely that you will sit at home all day if your starter doesn’t work. If you want your reader to hop on for the ride, you need to make the action move. She used many terms familiar to all of us. Don’t carry too much baggage. Don’t let your plot run out of gas. Don’t leave home without a destination.

There was something at the conference for every writer. Classes taught on almost every topic you could imagine such as step by step basics, writing a synopsis, how to get your story noticed, creating a new world, tips from editors, and the list goes on and on.

The only problem I saw was there was so much offered it was hard to choose where to spend my time. To me my time is valuable and I don’t ever want to waste even one minute. The classes I enjoyed the most where the ones that taught me something I needed, rather than having the instructor tooting their horns.

I know every person needs something different, so it must be hard for those in charge of these writing conferences to pick competent writers to teach. For the most part, they did a great job and those that couldn’t come missed out on a great opportunity. Three cheers for a job well done.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Blankets Made by Dead People

By Darvell Hunt

Three of my most-prized possessions are blankets.

My maternal grandmother, who died in 1976, made my first prized blanket. My mom passed it onto me about three years ago. It's so old and worn that it has a hole that you can put your fist through, but I don’t care.

My paternal grandmother gave the second one to me for graduation from high school. I used this blanket throughout much of my college career. The maker of this blanket died last year, but I still snuggle with it on the couch to keep warm on cold Utah mornings.

The third is an afghan knitted by my mother about five year ago. It was, as far as I can tell, the last craft item made by my mother before scleroderma destroyed the use of her hands and cancer destroyed the use of her body. She passed from this world in 2006.

It’s truly an amazing feat to leave something behind so valued by others when you depart this earth.

I also enjoy books by dead people. The plot of a 1989 movie starring Robin Williams was about enjoying the writing of poets who had since died.

Artists, including writers, can become almost immortal by creating works that live well beyond their bodies. Think of Shakespeare, Mozart, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, or even Homer of ancient Greece. These people no longer breathe air, but yet they still breathe life into the lives of those who continue to enjoy their works.

Some people create art for fame, others for money, but the truly great artists create their works for the love of their craft. These people are remembered for their art because what they created goes well beyond pigment on canvas, ink on paper, or the blowing of wind through a musical instrument.

The Bible says that faith without works is dead, but I also contend that life without works of art is dead. May our lives be full of art, full of life, and full of purpose, so that when we are gone, the world will be a better place for having hosted our existence.