Monday, August 31, 2009

The Power of Believing

My two boys are artists. At least, they think they are. And who’s to say they aren’t? They are writers and painters, sketch artists and sculptors. They believe in themselves and in what they might do.

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

The neat thing about being a writer is, we don’t really have to grow up. In our stories we can be anyone we want to be and do anything we want to do. We are free.

Just for today, play like a child, think like a child, dream like a child. And tell me, if you believed you could do anything, what might you do?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Artist's Way

by Karen E. Hoover

Years ago, my friend and mentor gave me a book to help me through some of the creative self-doubt I'd been struggling with. It is a book that has changed my life and one I have bought and given to friends many times over. The book is called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and is a 12 step program, a spiritual path to creative self recovery. Who would have thought artists need creative self recovery? But we do. Artists as a group tend to be very sensitive, and doubt themselves and their abilities frequently. Artists are rarely encouraged to pursue their love of the written word, or music, or painting. It's most often supported as a hobby or not at all.

I was blessed to have a mother who encouraged me to write. It was a love we shared. She'd always wanted to be a journalist, but life and family made her put that dream on the back burner for many years. She finally turned that love to writing several family histories, writing occasional articles for magazines, and gaining a final publication credit just weeks before she passed. Mom always told me I could do anything I wanted in this life if I wanted it bad enough. She always told me she had confidence in me and my abilities--and yet still The Artist's Way was needed, though for some strange reason, I've never been able to get beyond chapter 4. Just those first four chapters have given me tools that allow me to be creative and know where that creativity comes from.

Recently, three of my dear friends and I have begun this journey together. They are new to the Artist's Way, but their e-mails to me have been full of excitement and wonder as they discover the gifts that doing morning pages have given them, or the eye-opening understanding of adding voices to their Monster Hall of Fame. Discovering where those negative critical voices come from has been crucial to their creative self-recovery, just as it has been to mine.

This journey for me is not new, and yet even now, the fifth time I've begun it, I have discovered things about myself and the blocks that have made me what I am. I've added new Monsters and am realizing some of my potential.

But, I think the pinnacle of this week was knowing that I'd made a difference. While doing affirmations two of my three friends told me that they weren't hearing any blurts (the negative self talk that comes when we praise ourselves). And then they told me why. They in essence said that they weren't hearing blurts because when they did the affirmations they heard my voice telling them it was true. One of them listed me in her Hall of Champions. It was an act that was more dear to me than any award I've won, made me feel more value than any money I could gain. It humbled me to the depths.

I was somebody's hero.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

There's a Formula for That

By Keith Fisher

In college, I learned about formulas. If I needed to find out the length of C on a right triangle I used, A2 + B2 = C2. For area calculations, Width in feet x Length in feet = square feet worked for me. Later, as a house builder, I figured concrete in cubic yards this way, Width in feet x Length in feet x Thickness in feet / 27 = Volume. Of course there is the famous formula, E=MC2. Or, energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. Of course it’s a little difficult to understand. Follow the link to hear Einstein explain it to you.

But I digress . . .

When the ladies in my critique group told me I’m not writing a romance, but women’s fiction, I asked them to tell me what romance is. To subsidize my lessons, I consulted a book called How to Write Romance, published by Writer’s Digest and edited by Romance Writers of America.

I found many answers, but my group said it has to follow the formula.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy gets girl.
3. Boy loses girl
4. Boy gets girl back.
5. They live happily ever after.

“But what about Nicholas Sparks?” I said.
“He doesn’t write romance,” They said.

Having read Nights in Rodanthe, I shook my head. Okay, I admit it’s a guy thing, but I always assumed that when two people meet and fall in love, it’s romance. I learned that because Sparks ends his stories with a tragedy, its not considered romance.

“So what about Bridges of Madison County?” I asked.
“Not a romance,” They said.

I learned that even though a story could have romantic overtones, it has to follow the formula.

During this time of learning, I watched one of my favorite old movies, Father Goose. Starring Gary Grant and Leslie Caron. The role Cary plays is completely different than his usual suave and sophisticated leading man. He’s an alcoholic, anti-social, society drop out. He gets tricked into becoming a coast watcher on an island in WWII.

Enter the leading lady. She appears to be the opposite of him. So much so, they begin to hate each other. While watching the movie, I suddenly realized, the ladies were right.

The movie is classic, and it follows the formula.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy hates girl.
3. Girl hates boy.
4. They fall in love.
5. They get married.
6. They almost lose each other.
7. They come back together for the final scenes, when we are assured they will live happily ever after.

Okay, so, even though my book has romantic elements, it is women’s fiction. I can live with that, because I’ve noticed that women are more critical than men, and if I write my story correctly, I will have accomplished something.

Of course you’ve noticed there are formulas to follow in every genre. Just like the Pythagorean Theorem helps me find the length of the hypotenuse on a right triangle, following a genre formula will help me plot my book. If I get it right, I might have a bestseller on my hands.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 28, 2009


by G.Parker

If you've been around the writing world for awhile, you will have picked up on some of the slang that is used. Acronyms abound, just like everything else. The acronym ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy.

These copies are kind of like a unrevised draft of the book. These are what's handed out to people who are paid to read them, or those who volunteer to read them (for the free book!), and then give their opinion -- and write a review perhaps -- so that the final copy can have positive comments on the cover.

You'll find that many of these ARC books have spelling errors, grammatical errors, and sometimes even messed up formatting. One such book I got to read didn't have the illustrations, only the words.

I think it would be kind of a mixed feeling upon receiving the first copy of your story. You think, "Wow! It's in print!" and then you see the first mis-spelled word. Perhaps it's while perusing this copy that you realize a scene should have been written differently, or could have done a better ending. At this point, there is still the possibility of minor corrections. I'm not sure about major ones, but definitely minor ones. If you are self publishing, you can have as many different versions of this 'rough copy' as you want to pay for. In the traditional publishing world though, you don't.

That is also another reason to be part of a critique group, or as I've heard some authors, a collection of 'readers' who are paid to go through and make sure everything is spotted early on.

Even if your book does make it to final publishing and gets out on the market with some kind of error, don't think it's the first. I have a friend who has written and self published. He was amazed at the mistakes that survived his many different edits. Fortunately, those errors were changed in a second run, as he sold out the first printing.

So take heart -- should your work make it through to the printed page with typos -- there is always the next run...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Forks of Opportunity

By Nichole Giles
Every once in a while, you get to one of life’s roadblocks—wait, no, let’s not call them roadblocks. Let’s call them…roads of opportunity. Yes, so you’re standing at a fork in the road of opportunity. And both roads look good from your viewpoint. They both have some rough-looking spots, but also some smooth paving that’s appealing. And no matter how hard you look, you can’t see the end in either direction.

And as you stand there, you meet other people, some who take one road, and some who take the other—and all seem to be happy with their decision. It shouldn’t be such a tough choice. Yet, you keep standing, waiting, hoping that somehow the selection will be made for you—or taken from you—anything to avoid making the wrong decision on your own. How do you know which road to take? (And no, the answer is not the road less traveled, because they’re both equally traversed in my vision.)

This issue sometimes comes up as we go through the process of both writing and submitting. Right now I find myself in one of these places. Both roads look equally appealing for different reasons, and I know both choices are good, but I’m struggling to decide which one’s right for me. The road on my right hand is looking more and more appealing each day, but I can’t decide if I feel that way because it’s what I want or because it’s really the right thing to do. And what if…

Well, see, now that’s where being a writer stops me short. I could play the what-if game for days—no weeks—or even months. And people, I don’t know how long I have to choose. (But that might be just me feeling rushed.)
The other day, I mentioned my dilemma to a group of friends. That’s when Josh said something about his own fork in the road, and his words made me think. He said, “Well, I suppose there’s no way of knowing the right decision right now. I guess I’ll have to pray really hard for the answer.”

Here’s the funny thing. My first thought was, well, I hope the guy upstairs posts a billboard—cuz I’ve been doing that and still have no clue what to do. But then it occurred to me that maybe I’ve been asking the wrong questions. Have I really been asking for help in making the right decision? Or have I been begging to have the decision made for me?
My bad. I should know better than that.

Here’s the truth. Writing as a profession is an exercise in extreme faith. Most of us will never have success and fortune handed to us—we’ll have to work our tails off for it. But we can have it if we’re only willing to put forth the effort. And when we come upon a fork, sometimes the best thing to do is to close our eyes, spin in a circle, and walk forward with renewed faith that a higher power is leading us in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who Am I?

By C. LaRene Hall

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. -- Winston Churchill

Find out what you do well then aim for it. Do everything you can to reach higher than even you imagined possible. Maybe you can shoot for the stars.

Life is like riding a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you plan to stop peddling.-- Claude Pepper

If you think you can’t, you’re right. You won’t. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect someone else to.

Surround yourself with those who push you to your limit. Find out who you are – not just as a writer, but as a person.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Raw Dragon Boogers

By Darvell Hunt

On my way back from an errand last week in Salt Lake City, my nine-year-old daughter and I were enjoying some rare time alone. She’s a talkative little girl and, just like me, she’s a thinker.

On our way home, we got into a discussion about whether or not there was such a thing as raw dragon boogers. If dragons truly do breathe fire, wouldn’t their boogers be cooked?

We finally concluded that if dragons breathe fire from their noses, then there could be no such thing as raw dragon boogers. If, however, dragons breathe fire only from their mouths, there was still a chance of them being raw. Or, more likely, they’d be medium rare, rather than raw or cooked (that was my addition to the conversation).

Writers don't think like most people. Our brains must somehow be wired differently than “normal” people. We writers tend to always ask questions like, “What if things aren’t really the way they appear to be?” Thinking like this often points us in the direction of a new story.

Stephen Fraser, a New York literary agent who attended last year’s BYU children’s writing workshop said, “Don’t underestimate the value of a good idea.” I like that. It seems that most best-selling books are more about great ideas than great writing.

I don’t know if my nine-year-old daughter will be a writer when she gets older, but her mind is certainly wired for it. She has those “weird ideas” that only writers seem to get. A chip off Dad’s old block, I suppose. I just hope that “block” isn’t part of my head. (“Blockhead”, get it? Okay, fine, it’s a stupid pun, so never mind.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Ugly Monster

By Ali Cross

Probably like writing mothers everywhere, I’m holding my breath waiting for school to start and the opportunity to get myself into a good writing groove. The difference for me is that I homeschool my children. So the beginning of school doesn’t mean that I have oodles of free time in which to write in blissful silence. What it does mean, though, is that we have a routine, and I thrive on routine.

We are late starters in the morning, though this year’s workload may mean we need to get started before ten a.m., but we never go later than two in the afternoon. I finish up with a little housework and then, around three o’clock, I sit down to write. I give myself from 3:00-5:00 while the boys run outside to play, finally free for the day.

I put my headphones on, put on whatever music my muse wants to hear that day, and write, write, write. At least, that’s what worked for me last year.

I’m feeling a little nervous that things will be different this year. Maybe I imagined how well it went for me and now that I have deadlines and such, I’ll find I can’t do it. That ugly monster FEAR is looming his misshapen head and scaring the bejeebies out of me.

What if I can’t find the time to write after all? What if I don’t have anything good to write, anyway? I could go on and on . . . those “what if’s” are scary!

No matter our circumstances—a working father who has to fit his writing time into the wee hours of a day, a young mother who feels she is never free of little ones who need her and has to write in fifteen-minute increments—we are all faced with challenges that hamper our writing. We all have fear and doubt clamoring for a place in our hearts.

But being a writer invariably imbues us with another quality that has the power to see us through all the rough spots—hope.

We writers are tough. We’re resilient. We keep on keepin’ on. I’m sure you can think of a dozen more colloquialisms that would all fit here.

The point is, regardless of our circumstances, each day presents us with the opportunity to try, try again. Be a writer and write. Whether you have five minutes or five hours in which to do it, just write and you’ll be the happier for it.

Whew. I feel better now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Collecting Brownie Points

By Keith Fisher

So, My wife woke me at three am. She forgot to take care of something at work, and it was haunting her. Like a good husband, (which I’m not), I got up and went to help her. I needed some brownie points.

I tried to write a blog when I got home, but my mind wouldn’t work. I tried to go back to bed, but my body kept telling me it’s time to get up. At seven am, I went to help my wife move some things from my in-laws house. (More brownie points).

My neighbor baptized his son this morning, and I promised to make baked beans in a Dutch oven. I had to rush home from my in-laws, and dig out my stove and pots and everything else. I got it done on time, and took the pots across the street. (More brownie points).

Now I’m sitting here writing this blog, trying to think of something to say. I feel I’ve put in a full day already.

I’ve pondered the purpose of many things in life, lately. Such things as adversity, children, and covenants have come to mind. Also, life’s choices, like education, career, and whether I should be a writer or not. In all my rambling thoughts I’ve come to some conclusions.

In some eastern religions the concept of Karma is prevalent. Essentially it means that whatever good or bad we create will determine our fate in the next life. Now, I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in an after life, and the good or bad I create will determine my state in worlds to come.

In my philosophy, I like to think Karma is, stated simply, whatever goes around—comes around. In other words if I do good for my fellow man, someone will do good for me. If I am bad to my fellow man, it will return to me in kind.

One thing I’m absolutely sure of, however, is Christ suffered, not only for sins committed by the sinner, but also for those who have been sinned against. If another person wrongs me, and I don’t forgive, I am essentially telling Jesus I don’t believe. All the brownie points in the world can’t save me from holding a cancerous grudge.

Those who have sinned against us don’t need our forgiveness. The Savior took care of that. We, however, must forgive, in order for our hearts to be pure. As the scripture says, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Thanks for letting me ramble this morn . . . uh, I guess it’s afternoon now. Have a great weekend.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wait...Let Me Grab a Pencil

by G.Parker

Sometimes as a writer the voices in your head take over your life and there isn't anything to do but write. Despite all the wisdom of the published in having outlines, applications for characters and plots, sometimes a great story starts out just by being written.

The more passionate you are about something, the stronger you feel that urge to express yourself, the better your writing is going to be.

Yes, after that initial pouring out onto paper comes the editing, and the smoothing of the rough edges. Sometimes you only get a piece of the story, but from that piece you can discover a plot, uncover all the characters you need and further the idea.

The point is, once again, to write. If you aren't writing, the voices inside cannot get out. Bottling them up inside just causes stress...and stress is a killer, don't cha know.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fresh New Notebooks and Inky Pens

By Nichole Giles

Don’t you just love school supplies? For me, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of filling a shopping cart with notebooks, pens, glue, paperclips, and…well, all of it. I walk down the store aisles taking the time to look in every bin, to consider every deal, weigh the pros and cons of name brand versus generic markers/crayons/pens, and then I pile my cart high, buzzing with excitement over the amazing sale prices.

Being that I’m a summer girl—meaning summer is my season of choice—I have issues with back to school. It basically symbolizes the end of my warm season, and the beginning of the cold one. Besides that, it’s a sad thing to know our schedule will change and solidify, that we’ll have to deal with homework, teachers, and extracurricular activities. Oh, and the dreaded carpools. I’ll have three this year.

But there a lot of good things that come with the beginning of the school year. The kids are looking forward to spending time with other kids their ages—especially my older ones. They’ll be learning new things, moving forward by filling their sponge-like brains with information and knowledge. And me? I will finally have my days to myself again.

Oh, to have those precious few hours of time when I can ignore the messy house, pile of laundry, shopping list, and other important mom duties to sit down with my trusty computer and write. Aaahhh.

While the dog-days of summer will forever be my most enjoyed, I will happily fall into autumn this time around. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finish the rough draft of my WIP, and outline a sequel for my other series. Of course, I’ll be using a fresh new notebook and a package of inky pens. Oh, it’s going to be a great year!

(Now...get to work!)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Things Change

By C. LaRene Hall

Last week I began edits on a story that has been finished for the biggest part of a year. The problem that I’m running into is things have changed. Maybe when you are writing for adults it’s not as big a problem as when you are writing for the MG or YA market. Slang expressions are different, so that changes the dialogue. Styles of clothing aren’t the same now as they were in the past.

The biggest question I have is – what do you do? I can’t think of anything except re-write, but when I’ve done that, it will have changed again. It sounds like a vicious circle to me. Maybe I’m supposed to have answers for you reading this, but guess what? I’m as baffled as you are. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Usually, I’m okay, but not always. Since I’m writing most of my story in a different century, I can get away with a lot. If these two kids weren’t modern day children, I wouldn’t have such a problem. I guess the biggest problem I see is – it takes so long to get your story accepted that by that time, too many things have changed. Do the rest of you continually need to update your stories? Or, am I the only one in this boat?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Art of Rediscovery

By Darvell Hunt

I keep a list of my favorite books written by my all-time favorite writer. Every time I read these stories, I experience a personal connection that is unbreakable. I love each and every character, each and every plot, and don’t think I could have done any better—because, well, because they are my stories.

I love reading a story that I wrote years ago and have forgotten about. It is such an adventure in rediscovery. I like them so much because, as I read, I can say, “Hey, I would have done EXACTLY that!” because, well, because I did. It’s especially fun if I don’t remember what I wrote and I still like what I created.

This experience can also be a great opportunity for improvement. All too often, when we create a new work, we are so in love with what we are doing that we can’t see its flaws. If we give the story enough time that we forget about what we wrote, reading it gives us subjectivity as if it were somebody else’s story. We can often see holes that we never saw before. Then we can fix them and have a much better story.

It’s not easy to view your own work this way. It takes practice. But in the end, rediscovering old projects can be a fun and rewarding experience. Try it out. Go read something you wrote a long time ago. Take comfort in seeing flaws, because you know now that you are better than you were. And don’t forget to enjoy reading. It’s supposed to be fun!

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Your Mark

By Ali Cross

“Ali, as you sing your line through 32 and 38, cross center stage to stage right and hit your mark.” The director waves his hand in the vicinity I’m supposed to go as I follow his directions and cross the stage. He holds up a hand to indicate that I’m to stop. I look at him for confirmation, he nods, and a stage hand jumps up and puts a small piece of red tape on the stage at my feet. That red tape is mine—the stage is already decorated with many red strips. There are black marks, and blue, a couple in the mark of an “x” that indicate someone else will stand there, other than the principles of the production.

As a principle singer in this opera production, I must “hit my marks” as if my life depends on it. And, in a way, it does—my professional life, that is. On performance night, if I fail to stand where I’m supposed to, it could throw the director’s entire vision out of whack. Other people won’t be able to go to their marks and soon, the entire cast will be adrift, unable to present a cohesive, attractive show.

If a show were to falter because I failed to follow the director’s instructions, I might never work in the industry again. It wouldn’t matter if I were the most celebrated singer in generations, it would only matter that I was not “directionable.” Being able to take direction is a performer’s ace. Sing well, perform well, and do everything your director asks you to do, and you will have a stellar career.

So it is with authors and their relationship with an agent or editor.

An agent’s job is to help you perfect your presentation so that you can attract the best offer of publication. He or she will show you where your marks are—hit them, and you will have the best possible chance for a contract.

One step up the ladder, is the editor, whose job it is to ensure your book is as clean and presentable as possible. Do as they say, and your book will shine under the spotlight.

One time, I performed a secondary role in the production of Les Miserable. The company I worked for had hired a tremendous up-and-coming singer to play the role of Mimi. I watched her work with great interest as she had a personality larger-than-life and a voice to match.

By the last night of performance, I had lost all respect for her.

She had argued with the director non-stop during the entirety of rehearsals and threw out all of his suggestions on performance nights. She did her own thing, preferring her interpretation of the piece than the director’s. As a result, the show was a mess. In domino fashion, no one could find their mark, the lighting technicians couldn’t find their marks either, and the director’s vision was nonexistent.

Countless hours of work and it was all for naught because one person was not on her mark.

Of course, as Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” Should your agent or editor ask you to do something that goes against everything you believe in, or that compromises your story in a fundamental way, then you need to trust yourself.

But remember, your agent or editor is there to help you achieve your very best. They want your book to be a success—it’s good for everyone if it is. It might be your talent they are seeking to magnify, but it is their job to decide how best to spotlight that talent. Use your best judgment, but don’t be afraid to trust them, and then do everything in your power to be on your mark.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On the Flip-Side

By Keith Fisher

In my editing this week, I found a spot where my group didn’t understand what I had portrayed. My character sat alone by a fireplace, and she did the, on one hand or on the other hand, routine. Of course that’s clearer than the way I wrote it.

Simply put, I meant, when we have a hard decision to make, we say, "On one hand, this will happen. But on the other hand this . . . In Fiddler on the Roof, the protagonist uses this method of decision making all the time. Eventually he is faced with a decision that rips his heart out. "There is no other hand!" he says.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of a common saying some people born in the eighties don’t understand.

In the fifties, and sixties, (the heyday of vinyl records), music in the home, mostly came from the radio or three kinds of records. 78’s, LP’s, and 45’s or singles as they were called. 78’s were a bit smaller than albums, but they played at seventy-eight revolutions per minute (RPM). LP’s were albums, containing several songs. In order to be able to get more use out of limited space, the record played at thirty-three and-a-third RPM.

The third kind, the 45, played at forty-five RPM. It had a larger hole in the center to facilitate playing on a Jukebox. It was called a single, because it had a single song on each side.

During this time, radio station personalities (Disc Jockeys), almost never played 33’s. The record companies sent singles to radio stations, hoping for airtime. Songs became hits mostly because of program managers scheduling, and disc jockeys playing them.

Because of that, record company engineers put the best song on the "A" side of the record. Since they wanted to make money they put a lesser song on the other side, or flip side. If they had another great song, it would go on another record. That way, they could sell two records.

Occasionally, the second, or "B" side of a record became a hit too, but that almost never happened. If, (heaven forbid), the "A" side got ruined. Because of scratching, or a little sister played it so many times it wouldn’t play any more. Then the fan either threw the record away or turned it over to listen to the flip side.

So, today, if you hear a speaker refer to the flip side of an issue, now you know what he/she means.

Often, we’re given choices in our lives, and we usually chose the best course. We spend our time building, making a hit out of our life’s choice. Then something happens that devastates us. Something takes away our hit. It forces us to either throw it all away, or look at the flip side. We must turn our record over and try to make the best of the "B" side.

I believe God takes an active part in our lives, and if we’ll only trust Him, He will show us how to make a hit out the flip side. This blog isn’t about writing today, but it’s for those who struggle. And to those who make hits out of their life by building others, May God bless you.

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't Quit, Keep Playing

by G.Parker

In our Sacrament meeting, an older gentleman gave a wonderful talk. He told a story about a piano concert a mother and her child were attending. It came time for the curtain to go up and the mother returned to her seat (one wonders where she was) to find her 4 year old child absent. In panic she watched the curtain pulled aside to reveal her young child on the seat of the magnificent Steinway piano, plucking out the notes to "twinkle twinkle little star."

Mortified she watched as the world famous master pianist walked up and quickly leaned over to whisper in the child's ear, "Don't quit, keep playing." He then reached over with his left hand and started playing the lower part of the melody. Then he reached up with his right and added the upper notes.

What could have been the worst moment in his young life, turned into a wonderful, amazing memory. The piano master played many other wonderful songs during the course of the concert, but no one remembered them as well as the spellbinding moment with the little boy.

The point seemed to be that many of us are like that little boy, plunking out notes to a song, doing a simple thing that doesn't really impress anyone. But, with the master's help, we can do something greater.

I realized this applied to writing as much as anything else. What we strive to do on our own might touch someone or make an impact -- but what we do with the help of the Master will make a world of difference.

Are you willing to play?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inspirational Anger and Useful Hurt

By Nichole Giles

Have you ever noticed that some days your writing is stronger, more passionate and emotion filled than other times? There are days when your writing is playful and joking, and others when—without your intent—the characters are feeling somber and sad. There are even times when everything you write is covered over by a red haze—full of anger and hurt that you don’t remember ever having felt yourself.

Or have you?

I’m one of those authors who is convinced that our writing is so connected to our innermost selves, that we literally pour out emotions based on things we’ve experienced. Okay, you say, but really, truly, I’ve never experienced being in love with a magical creature before, or visiting a far-off magical land…

Nope. But surely you’ve experienced the emotions your characters are feeling. Even if you don’t remember the experience, or if it was in your past existence, you have experienced it. How else could you effectively write about it?

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling especially emotional—regardless of the directions my emotions are taking or the reason behind them—my writing often mirrors those feelings. And during these times, I also tend to wake up at night to search for a pen and paper to write down brilliant plot ideas, or lines of dialogue.

Maybe it’s because our outside emotions have a tendency to connect us to our creative selves, or maybe it’s because writing truly is better when it’s filled with the fire and passion only strong emotion can incite in a person. Whatever the cause, for me, emotional writing is the best kind.

Writing by emotion—for me—tends to be inspiring, passion-filled, and healing. There is no better therapy for what ails you than to pour your feelings into something you love. And there is no better way to preserve your beautiful happiness than to do the exact same thing.

Basically, writing is the ultimate doctor for emotional expression. Or, at least, that’s the case for me.

What about you? What is your passion and how do you write it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cultivate Your Garden of Life

By C. LaRene Hall

Early this summer my husband planted a garden. A few weeks later, we went on vacation. When we came home almost everything was dead. Even my flowers and the grass had turned yellow. He has been successful in bringing most everything back to life, but the vegetables are still struggling. Because he wasn’t home to continually nurture his garden, there’s not going to be as many tomatoes and zucchini as usual.

I’m hoping that I have cultivated things in my garden of life a little better than he did in our vegetable garden. I’ve tried to work on many things, as I’m sure many of you do. Here is my list:
Cultivate a good sense of humor.

Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Plant happiness in your heart, and don’t let anyone remove it.
Cultivate a spirit of gladness in your home. I’ve always believed that the woman sets the tone of the home. If you are cheerful, no matter what, usually everyone else follows suit.

Cultivate the art of being kind, thoughtful and helpful. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.

Cultivate the light you have within you, and it will shine through as a radiant expression that will be seen by others.

Cultivate a grateful heart.

Cultivate good friends who do not try to make you choose between their ways and the Lord’s ways.

Cultivate whatever talents you have, and they will grow and become an expression of your true self.

I’m not saying that any of the things above are easy, but the more of thm you can develop the happier your life will be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Say What?

By Darvell Hunt

“You can’t be cop if you have more than 3 false teeth. To write a detective book, you need to be a cop. You can get a letter of recommendation to be a cop if you have more than 3 false teeth, and then you can write a detective book.”

I woke up at 3am this morning with a great idea for a story. I jotted down the above and went back to sleep. I have absolutely no idea what that means.

There are some stories that hit you at certain times that will never come again. If you don’t write them down when you think of them, they may never come again. Sometimes you only get one chance.

I’m afraid my idea from last night is gone, even though I wrote it down. I’m not 100% sure about this, but I don’t think it was any great loss. Not this time, anyway.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Who Are You?

By Ali Cross

Who are you? I mean, who are you . . . really?

When you become published, you are going to need to know the answer to that question. There will be radio interviews, blog and newspaper articles, school visits and book signings. When you open your mouth to speak, what words will come out of your mouth? What message will you share? Who will you be?

We all know Stephenie Meyer, so I hope you won’t mind me using her as an example here.

When Stephanie first became published, she presented herself as Stephanie Meyer, mom, wife and author-by-happenstance. That became her shtick—she was given the remarkable gift of a spectacular dream that had a life of its own and demanded to be told. She was only the vehicle this story used to find its voice.

Perhaps you are similar, and you, too, will say “I’m just a mom/dad who had a cool story to tell.” And if that’s who you are . . . who you really, really are . . . then that’s awesome.

Or, maybe you have a purpose to your writing.

Last night I saw Julie & Julia, a movie that tells, in part, the true story of Julia Child. Julia Child wrote her famous cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with a purpose—to teach Americans how to cook delicious meals like they do in France. She discovered this purpose when she found herself, an American woman, in France. She loved to eat and wanted to cook the French dishes for herself, but couldn’t find any cookbooks in English. And so she wrote.

If you are writing nonfiction, it can be easier to identify your purpose, or your voice. For those of us writing fiction, that task can be more challenging. There may not be an overarching moral to your story. However, if you do share a message through your story, you could use it to give voice to your public appearances, and in so doing, set yourself apart.

For instance, in my book The Devil’s Daughter, the main character is unsure what power she has, if any, to withstand the forces of evil. She doesn’t know that she can choose, but rather fears she is relegated to living a life of evil because that is what her family expects of her. The moral of this story, of course, is free agency. We are all free to choose for ourselves.

Should I have the privilege and opportunity to speak to fans and potential fans, I would probably speak on free choice, on finding yourself, being true to yourself.

I think knowing who you are as a writer could be elemental to your success as an author. And finding your own shtick, that thing that sets you apart from the crowd, can never be a bad thing.

I challenge you to think about it. How do you want to be known as an author? I’d love to hear what you think about this subject, and any preliminary thoughts you have—or, if you’ve already given this some thought, tell me . . .Who are you?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Day Dreaming in My KItchen

By Keith Fisher

Back in the late nineteen-eighties I started recording movies and special programs from television. In the back of my mind I imagined a condition where, for some reason we couldn’t get television reception. I would have plenty of things to see as long as the VCR worked.

We now live in a more high tech world. We have DVD and digital television. In our house we have many television sets, (All analog). Three are connected to a box that converts from digital. The others sit idol. I never realized how much I depended on a TV signal in the kitchen while making dinner. Now that signal is gone, I miss it.

While making lunch the other day, I watched one of those videos I mentioned, and I remembered my thoughts on having videotapes to watch because there is no TV. I never realized there were so many great shows in the past. I’ve found a new way of procrastinating.

I turned on a Bonanza TV movie, while making breakfast and sat there in my kitchen for two hours. (I had to see how it came out, didn’t I?) Anyway I watched a character that showed me an object lesson.

The character, played by Dirk Blocker, is a newspaperman. Even though he hates violence, he continually puts himself into harms way. An intriguing story piques his interest and he has to find the facts.

When I’m writing, I often feel like that Dirk’s character. I let my protagonist lead me into uncertain places and outcomes. I have to see where the story can go. Like the Bonanza character, I get into trouble and have to start over. Sometimes I fall into a hole and I need help to get out. That’s when my critique group throws me a rope.

Even with the holes, I prefer to let my characters take me on a journey. Like the movie I watched I have to find out how my story ends.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kung Fu...YOU!

by G.Parker

One of my family's favorite movies right now is Kung Fu Panda. Watching it the other night, I felt a little bit of déjà vu. Although I've seen it several times, this was the first time I'd seen parallels to another movie. You may think I'm stretching it, but it felt like we were watching a remake of the tale of Anakin Skywalker -- the sad story of the promising young apprentice with darkness inside that becomes the evil he was trained to fight.

We've all heard that every story has already been written, but there are different versions waiting to be told. What I find intriguing is how differently we can tell the same thing. And while I thought that part of the movie interesting, the part I wanted to dwell or expound on was the moral of the tale.

There is no secret ingredient.

In associating this with writing, what I'm trying to say is all of us write in our own unique way. Whether it's the time of day we write, how long we write, writing in spurts or consistently, we all write differently. Many successful writers offer their "secrets", but what works for them might not work for us.

One of the men in my critique group wrote his first novel getting up early in the morning and writing each day before work. He felt driven -- he never had to use an alarm, he just woke up and started writing. That would never work for me -- I have a hard time crawling out of bed at 7:30, let alone 6 am. I do write better in the morning as a general rule, but I find that set times and routines don't always work for me.

What I want to say is take heart in your uniqueness. You are special. What you write is definitely yours, despite the fact it may resemble something that has been written before -- it still has your twist on it.

Go to it, and may the Force be with you.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

On My Way to the Ball

By Nichole Giles

Time: 1:52 A.M.
Date: August 6, 2009
Reason: Because I should be in bed and refuse to succumb to exhaustion without first writing a blog.
Tomorrow’s destination: LDSBA

Today, even as you read this, friends, authors, and artists might find me at the LDS bookseller’s convention in Sandy, UT. I’ve never been to this particular gathering, but I hear it should be fun. The difference—I’m told—between this convention and others I’ve attended is that I won’t be sitting in classes and learning about my writing craft. Instead, I’ll be milling around, looking at booths and representations of all the many LDS publishing and production companies, and meeting with the authors and artists they represent.

Sounds interesting, right? And a little bit scary.

Come on, it’s always a little scary to try something new. To attempt to put myself out there and promote myself as an author—albeit a not quite published one.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to lots of scary things in life. Things we probably don’t want to do, but should. Like telling someone the truth, even when you know they might be angry. Or maybe standing in a room full of strangers and finding the courage to offer your hand and say, “Hi, my name is Nichole.” That’ll be me tomorrow.

And what’s more, I’ll be handing out a flier in that offered hand, and maybe a sales pitch as I attempt to get the word out about a book that won’t actually be printed until December. And I don’t love sales. But I’ll do this, because it needs to be done, and if I don’t, who else will?

That’s what it comes down to for us. If we don’t write that story in our heads, no one else will ever do it. Ever. And if we don’t suck in our fear and learn to interact with other authors, editors, and publishers, we might lose opportunities to make valuable connections that will help us along the road to publication.

What we write and how is the most important thing, but as in any other business, who you know is sometimes a close second. That’s not to say that knowing the right person will get you a big book deal or an agent, but more to say that the more people with whom you interact, the better your chances of meeting the person who could make a difference one way or another.

Or at least, that’s my hope. So, tonight, I’m going to bed because tomorrow, I’m off to the ball…er, uh, I mean convention. Now, if only I could figure out what to wear…

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Using More Than Words

By C. LaRene Hall

Some people write with words and others use other means. While on vacation, we came across an out-of-the-way place where the artist used rocks to show what he saw. It was most unusual and yet, although I'm not talented in that way, I could almost see some of the things depicted. This place was located in Montana and wasn't a long ways off the freeway, and was called Pathway Through the Bible.

I took pictures of everything I saw, and since the stories are familiar, I have to show you some of them. Maybe you can see some of the things he saw.

Adam & Eve

Mount Ararat

Lot's wife

I could never do something like this, instead I’d rather sit in front of the computer, or put pen to paper. I don’t have the talent to pile rocks on top of one another, but I have to admit this certainly took talent and lots of time. Any building I do will have to be on paper with the written word.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

He Muttered, She Spluttered

The Story of Edgar and Belinda
By Darvell Hunt

“Oh, Edgar, I think I love you!” Belinda spluttered.

“Belinda, I’m no good for you. I’m too dangerous,” Edgar communicated.

“Will you meet me in the clearing after school today, Edgar? I want to make out!” chuckled Belinda.

“I really don’t want to play baseball today, if that’s what you mean. You could just die if I looked too harshly at you, you know,” Edgar warned. “I’m just too powerful.”

“Do you like motorcycles?” questioned Belinda.

“Why can’t I hear what you’re thinking, Belinda?” Edgar pondered.

“I think I like motorcycles,” Belinda clamored.

“I’d just die if you died,” Edgar reported.

“I love the thrill of riding a motorbike with the wind blowing all around me,” Belinda exploded.

“I’d kill myself if you died, like Romeo did when Juliet died,” Edgar growled.

“Ever tried cliff diving, Edgar?” Belinda queried.

“Just like Romeo, I’d try to kill Paris if he wanted to kiss Juliet,” Edgar expressed. “Did you ever see that movie An American Werewolf in Paris?”

“I like trucks, especially old ones that have the radios ripped out and get terrible gas mileage,” Belinda gushed.

“I hate werewolves. They’re scary!” Edgar muttered. “And they stink, too.”

“Biology class is boring, don’t you think? I learned all that stuff at my last school already,” Belinda stated.

“Do you know how old I am?” Edgar stuttered. “I’m older than you think!”

“I felt so ugly at my last school. Nobody liked me there,” Belinda admitted. “It’s nice here. Everybody wants to be my boyfriend. I’m not sure why. I’m the popular plain girl.”

“Arrghh, I’m dangerous!” Edgar cried.

“How come you have a kitchen table in your kitchen, but no beds in your bedrooms?” Belinda verbalized.

“Oh, I’m so dangerous, I could crack you like a twig,” Edgar grimaced. “But I’d never do that. I’ll kill myself before I did that.”

“You sure go camping a lot,” Belinda whispered.

“I can run faster than a cheetah and climb trees like the ninja masters in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Edgar expounded.

“Exactly what color of eyes DO you have, anyway?” Belinda twirped.

“Oh, but I sure do love you, Belinda,” Edgar yammered.

“Huh? Oh. Yah,” Belinda hollered. “Me too. Right back atcha!”

They embraced and kissed, but Edgar accidentally bit her lip.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Triple Threat

By Ali Cross

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Candace E. Salima, founder of Valor Publishing Group, speak to a group of authors about professionalism. Ms. Salima counseled the writers to be professional now, even if their books won’t be out until later.

“You have to be able to speak about yourself and your books,” Mrs. Salima said.

She recommended that if any author feels insecure speaking about themselves or their books, that they enroll in a local Toastmasters chapter and perfect these skills before their books are published.

I’ve heard much said about the importance of building a following, of having a website, and even a blog. Nicole Giles wrote an excellent article about branding and finding your ‘look’ so that you can feel more confident when seen in the public forum.

However, until Ms. Salima spoke about Toastmasters, I hadn’t really considered the importance of the entire package.

As writers we know our checklist:
  • Come up with a great idea for a story.
  • Write said excellent story.
  • Find a publisher for your story.
But now I think there’s more to it than that:
  • Decide who you are as a writer, your schtik, as it were.
  • Begin to dress/act/live like a professional writer.
  • Become utterly comfortable with your ability to speak about yourself and your book in the public forum.
As writers, we naturally love the written word. All the steps that involve us building a following, developing our stories, and finding homes for them are perhaps easier for us to tackle because they involve writing.

I think it’s rather common for us to fear live interviews and presentations—all the more reason to work on those skills now so that when you do become a popular author, you are the total package.

You’ve probably heard the term Triple Threat—in sports it denotes a trio of excellent players who work together to provide the ultimate challenge for their opponents. In musical theater, it refers to the person who can not only sing, but act and dance as well.

We need to be Triple Threat writers.

We need to be able to Publish an excellent work of literature. Present ourselves in a professional and appealing manner. And Promote ourselves and our work.

If you’re serious about your writing career, considering becoming a Triple Threat. Use the checklist from above, and see if there are areas you could strengthen now, in preparation for your amazing success later.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Getting it to Sink in

By Keith Fisher

Congratulate me. Last week I finished writing my current work in process. This week, I edited it, and started re-writing several segments because my critique group felt a character needed different motivation.

Also this week, I got word from a publisher. Because they have a similar project in house, they passed on the publication of my book, My Brother’s Keeper. The editor said some very nice things about it, and I took that as affirmation.
I didn’t go into a tailspin, which shows I’m learning. I quietly submitted it to another publisher. Wish me good luck. The story is very LDS. So, if it gets rejected, I would have to re-write the whole thing for the national market, or put it in a drawer.

I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon and talk about critiques again. I belong to several groups. I am the only male member of a group that meets weekly. I’m also the most inept at providing help for my fellow writers. But I do my best to contribute something worthwhile.

Another group is this blog. We look at each other’s work and offer suggestions. But I never seem to get there in time to offer assistance. I am repenting of this, and my ineptness.

In my Real Time group, I bring a chapter every week and put the red marks aside until I finish writing the book. Then, during my edits and re-writes, I go through the valuable red marks my friends have graciously provided.

I call these red marks valuable, because of the diamond like influence those gems, have on my story. Whether it’s a capital in the wrong place, or repeated words. It could be redundant sentences, or things that don’t make sense. Some of the red marks add commas some take commas out. Because of the ineptness I mentioned, I’m sure my pages receive more red marks than others.

While going through the red marks this week, I noticed something fascinating. In my drafting, I had already changed some of the corrections. It means that I am learning. Then the thought occurred, there are several things that my mind refuses to learn. I still capitalize in places I shouldn’t. I add "that" and other pet words, and the repetitive words make me sick.

So I offer this suggestion, get out of the trap. Learn from your mistakes and reprogram the onboard computer in your head. Get it to sink in. Become a better writer.

Another thing I’ve noticed in my re-writes is, I really am a better writer than I was in the first chapters. So, I’m learning. I just hope people will endure with me long enough for me to grow. And please, my friends, have patience with my procrastination. I promise I will be a better critique buddy.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.