Monday, March 31, 2014

Writing For Ourselves

by Kasey Tross

*Side Note: This is my 100th post, so I’m going back to my roots- where this writer started!

Just last week I got the devastating news that a friend from high school had been diagnosed with leukemia. She has two young children- ages 1 1/2 and 5 months- and she had to be started on aggressive chemotherapy right away.

I received this information through Facebook, and because we live far apart it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve seen her in person. I felt helpless and frustrated that there was so little I could do. This friend was my first friend when I moved to West Virginia in eighth grade, and we stayed friends all during high school. She felt almost like a sister to me at times because we were so similar in so many ways- we had the same glasses (we both later got contacts), we both played the flute, and we were both shy. We both dated the same guy for awhile (and we both realized he was a jerk- don’t know why I didn’t believe her when she told me as much!) and we had the same group of friends. Recently, we even ended up being pregnant at the same time and had our babies within a month of each other.

Well, as I was trying to think of ways I might help support my friend, my thoughts turned back to those years, and so I went back to my journals from high school to read about the things we did together, curious to see how often her name might have appeared on the pages. I was an avid journal keeper from eighth grade on, but sadly, I was a boy-crazy teenage girl so I wrote quite a bit more about the boys in my life than I did about our friendship. However, I was able to find several instances when I mentioned her and some fun we had, and I have had such fun reading through my journals and reliving those great memories that I have decided to start sending her excerpts so that she can enjoy them with me.

In the past few years I have been so busy with mommying and with all the other writing in my life that I have neglected my journaling. But as I read through these journals, I realized once again that they are a treasure- not only to me, but to those I share my life with on a daily basis. The memories make me smile and laugh and cringe and then smile again, and I am able to see how I grew from a skinny, boy-crazy 12-year-old to a (almost) mature young woman who found the man I wanted to share eternity with. I realized that someday my own girls will probably be boy-crazy, self-obsessed pre-teens; but because of my journals I know what to expect from that phase, and I know that they will grow out of it (well, at least I hope so).

 I also realized that I want to continue that journey in writing, because as I age I want to be able to look back on these times with the same clarity I find in the journals of my youth. I want to remember what it was like to raise young children and be able to see my own personal growth over the years. I also want to have something that I can share with my children, especially my girls, when someday they are young mothers struggling through the day-to-day work of raising a family.

This life is for learning and growth- but not just our learning and growth. When we journal, we can leave behind a legacy of learning, a real-life story that will have far more worth to the generations to come than any bestselling novel. 

We are also making a record of the people and moments that mean something to us in our lives, so that when we come to a place where those people have grown up and changed, or they are faced with difficult trials like my friend, or they are even leaving us for the next life, we have concrete memories of the part they played in our lives, memories written in the freshness of the moment that we can treasure and learn from for years to come.

I challenge each of you to keep a journal. If you’re like me and computer keys work better for you than a pen, then use it’s free and you can later print it out as a book. I have started back again and I am grateful for the space it gives me to write from my heart.

My friend said she had a good laugh at the excerpts I shared with her, and she said that reading it had made her day. I am grateful for the heartwarming memories I chose to record and keep safely tucked away, saved for a time when they are sorely needed. A journal is one of the most precious gifts we can give to ourselves and our families!

Do you keep a journal? Do you ever go back and read old journals?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


“I have hated words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” That is from The Book Thief. I have had this thought many times in my writing. I have also had this thought in life in general. Words can really be everything to someone. I’m not sure if you have seen this video going around Facebook, but I cried when I saw it.

We all have had our moments when we didn’t really believe we had worth. Where we didn’t think anyone cared, but it’s not true. As women we need to support each other and be there for each other always. I loved how that was the theme of last night’s General Women’s Conference.

I loved how Sister Oscarson, the General Young Women’s President quoted Marjory Hinckley. “Sisters, we are all in this together. We need each other. Oh, how we need each other. Thos of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other. These friendships are a necessary source of sustenance. We need to renew our faith every day. We need to lock arms and help build the kingdom so that it will roll forth and fill the whole earth.”

Think of what we can do if we support each other. Think of what we can do with words. Think of what our words as writers can do for many people. We can encourage, inspire, support, make someone laugh, cry, and be able to keep moving on. I loved what Sister Wixom told of the 90 year old woman who said, “If rewriting life, I would not include some chapters. I would like to live a little longer to see how it ends.” I think it is true in all of our lives. There are definitely parts we would like to leave out, but those hard times, with the support of others is what gets us to the end.

In the movie Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney said, “George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination, because that’s what we storytellers do. We instill hope again and again and again.” Writing for me is peaceful, it’s my therapy and medicine. If I can help one person with my words then I have done my part.
      Be the words that saves someone. Make a difference in another woman’s life. Support each other in our failures and success. Henry B. Eyring said, “He sees the glorious potential in all of his daughters. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

Always a Bridesmaid...

 You've probably heard the saying, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." Well today I'm changing that saying to, "Always a writer, never an author." Sometimes this describes how I feel about myself. Not always mind you, not even most of the time, just in those moments when I feel low and frustrated. And even when I do have those thoughts I usually don't allow myself to dwell on them, but today I did dwell on that thought and I'm glad I did, because it turns out just being a writer is pretty cool. But first let me walk you through my thought process (hang on this could be a bumpy ride.)
To go along with the analogy, the bridesmaid watches her friends announce their engagement and then stays by their sides and helps make sure their day is wonderful and fantastic. Over the past six years, I've watched many of my friends announce their success in finding an agent, or editor then get publishing contracts. I have stood on the sidelines cheering them and am honestly ecstatic and deliriously happy for them. I share links to their books on Facebook, and review their books online and I love every minute of it! But there's a voice in the back of my mind that says, when's it going to be my turn? I know it's a very selfish thought, but it was there for a long time. I had to be honest with myself and realize that I haven't really put myself out there to be snatched up mostly because I'm picky. Oh I wasn't picky about my writing in the beginning and got a lot of rejections. I went through the jaded phase, where I just didn't want to go through the agony of rejection again, so I stopped trying. Then it became about polishing my writing until I was happy with it, but I still didn't let many people read what I'd written.
 I just started editing my romance book this past week and I'm finally happy with my writing and for the first time in a long time, I'm ready to put myself out there again. I'm ready to query and submit and accept whatever comes. Because the thing I'm realizing is that being a writer is pretty darn wonderful. I get to be friends with amazing authors, I get to grow and learn in my writing, and I get to make up wild and crazy stories and not get in trouble for lying!! I've also learned to appreciate the time I've had to grow in my craft. I feel at peace with who I am and with my writing and I know that the right publishing opportunity will come in the Lord's time and I'm ok with that.
So to go back to the analogy, this bridesmaid isn't bitter she's not a bride, in fact, she's ready to catch the bouquet and see what happens. Life's too short to dwell on what I'm not. I'd much rather dwell on what I am, A WRITER and proud of it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Know Your Audience

by Katy White

In February, I had the incredible opportunity to attend my first conference (through ANWA (American Night Writer's Association)).  I went to classes, pitched my novel to an agent and an editor (and got requests from both of them!  Woo hoo!), and met a bunch of really neat people whom I can't wait to see published one day.  It was a neat experience all around, and I'm still reviewing the notes from the classes I attended so I can apply the appropriate principles to my writing, my brainstorming, my marketing, etc.  

As I've gone through my notes, one message has stayed with me:  know your audience.

This message had one important caveat:  You are NOT your target audience.

Say it with me:

But wait, you may be thinking, I read YA voraciously!  I know and read all the best sellers, and I talk to my Young Women at church about every book we read!  I KNOW THIS GENRE, dang it!
Let me share an example about how you're not your target audience:  if you write YA (like I do), and you dislike Tumblr or Instagram or other like social media sites, don't assume that your readers feel the same way.  In fact, these very youth are probably so obsessive in their love for these things that they've been grounded from their phones and are quite possibly going through serious withdrawal of the very things you hate right now.  From a marketing perspective, if you write YA, you need to be active in social media.  You need to be annoyingly present on twitter and you probably even need to navigate the scary, yucky Tumblr waters to get your name out there.  So as much as you hate that junk, you have to remember that you are not your target audience.

When it comes down to it, we have to remove ourselves from the group for whom we're writing so that we can write the book or article or short story that will reach that group.  

What do you think?  How do you separate yourself from your audience when writing?  How do you know what your audience wants?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your Writing Environment

As I write this I'm on a writing retreat in the Suffolk countryside. A writer friend is house-sitting a smallholding in a little village, and asked me to join her so that we could share a few peaceful days to write without the usual distractions.

The pictures above show the village, and the house. I was awoken this morning by the sound of the cockerel crowing, and the day started with my friend feeding the chickens, goats and rabbits. It really is a rural idyll - no shops, no cars, no noise. The perfect writing environment.

Last night, to celebrate our writing achievements, we watched lots of pointless property programmes. One of them was an episode of Grand Designs in which a man was building a house in France for his family. He built it out of bales of straw, which was quite interesting, but what really piqued our interest was that the focal point of the house was his study, high up with a view across the French countryside, which he had designed carefully to give him the ideal environment for writing. He wanted to write a novel, and felt that with a study like that, he would be able to. He needed to create for himself the perfect writing environment.

The programme visited the family in their straw house seven years later. Had Mark written his novel? No. But he had written a book about buying property in France. Apparently it wasn't selling very well.

My friend and I agreed on something very fundamental when we were watching that programme. If you are going to enormous lengths to create your perfect writing environment in order to be able to write your book, then you're never going to be able to write.

In other words, if you have to look to a particular place or setting for inspiration, then you're doing something wrong. Your perfect writing environment needs to be anywhere you happen to be.

I have written in my car while waiting for my daughter to finish her riding lesson, in a ballet studio while waiting for another daughter to have her ballet lesson (every week), in a church classroom while my children are at mutual (also every week), in McDonald's, and in fact anywhere I happen to find myself with a laptop and a few minutes to kill. The perfect writing environment, for me, isn't just a six-hundred year old farmhouse, or my desk at home, but anywhere and everywhere I happen to have five minutes to kill, and my laptop.

Yes, it might be true that having a desk with all my reference books to hand, peace and quiet, and a lovely view, would be very nice. But I know that's not going to make the muse come galloping through the sky to me. If you need an environment conducive to writing to provide your inspiration, then you're probably never going to find it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Write Negative Book Reviews and You Can't Stop Me.

I write reviews on Goodreads. I write glowing five-star reviews, I write "meh" three-star reviews, and I write negative one-star reviews.


I do. I write negative reviews. I always have, I always will, and here are the reasons why: 

1. Reviews are not for writers. Repeat that as many times as you need to in order to understand it: Reviews are not for writers. The content of a review is not intended as constructive criticism for a writer. They have someone who offers constructive criticism: their editor. Also, their critique partners. Not random strangers on the internet. I'm also going to go way out on a limb here and say any person who takes the internet's "advice" to heart is in for a world of heartbreak, just in general. 

2. Reviews are for readers. It sounds like a repeat of #1, and it is closely related, but it is absolutely different. Readers use reviews to determine if they might want to read (or buy!) a book. That's it. That's the purpose of a review: to convince someone to either read a book or not read it. Period. It is not meant to give advice on how to improve the next book in the series, it is not meant to discuss the author's personal life, and it is not intended as a soapbox for the reviews (that's what blogging is for, hey-yo!)

3. I use reviews to make decisions about books and I expect them to do their job. Here's a story for you: Back in early 2011, there was a book coming out. Everyone on the internet was psyched for it. Early reviews were glowing, raving, bowing-down-and-worshipping. I read it, eagerly... 

And it sucked. 

Bad. So bad. So so so so bad. Continuity problems, stupid science in a science fiction book (seriously... my second-grader could have debunked this "science"), paper-doll characters, a flimsy plot that was poorly explained, etc. Just really, grade-A awful. I contacted some of my reviewer friends and talked to them about this book. Their response? 

"Oh. Yeah. I noticed those things. But I just wanted to love it, so ... whatever." 

Now, don't get me wrong. I am known to fangirl-flail and forgive a lot of errors if something is awesome (Harry Potter, anybody?), but this was a brand new author, so nobody could be a "fan" yet. They had just bought into the hype and then lied in their reviews. 

I bought a book because a couple reviewers lied. It made me so angry. I have a hard time not hating the author by extension (it's not her fault - she just wrote a book... she didn't lie to me!) and I absolutely stopped trusting those reviewers. Which brings me to the next point -  

4. I want people to trust my opinion. If you're looking for romance recommendations, I am not your girl. If you're looking for sweet middle-grade stuff, again, I am not your girl. But you want high fantasy? Or science fantasy? Or steam punk? I am your girl. And you know you can trust my opinion on those subjects because I will not gush indiscriminately, nor will I coyly say I loved the secondary characters when I really hated the whole thing. 

If I say it's good, I really mean it, and I want people to know that. Because when I love a book? I want everyone to love it. I become an evangelist for that book. And I want people to think, "Hey. Gina doesn't do this for every book, so this stamp of approval must really mean something!" 

And the very last reason that I will write negative reviews... 

5. There's no such thing as bad publicity. When I write a negative review, it can actually help the author. Mike Mullin, author of the ASHFALL series, said a negative review drove six times as much traffic as a positive one, and then boosted his sales. Studies by Harvard Business Review and Stanford University both conducted studies that said negative reviews, even scathing reviews, can boost sales for newbie authors as much as 50%. Several author friends have attested to the same thing - when a big-name blogger gives them a negative review, it actually helped their sales. 

Think about it this way, if I write the following in a review: 

"I hated this book. Too much kissing, not enough swordfighting!" 

There are likely to be several people who see that and think, 

"Wow. I love kissing and hate swordfighting. This book sounds awesome!" 

And thus a "bad" review turns out to actually help someone find a book they're probably going to love. 
Everybody has different tastes. 

Now, I want to be very clear. 

Just because I write negative reviews does not mean I write mean reviews. I did, unfortunately, write a few mean ones when I first started. I am ashamed to say I did, and I have deleted the substance of those reviews from my profile. 

While those mean reviews were up, however, they drove the most traffic, collected the most likes and comments. 

The internet really likes mean stuff, you guys. 

But when I say "negative book reviews" I do NOT mean: 

- Attacking an author for his/her personal life
- Attacking an entire genre just for existing
- Attacking an entire category just for existing
- Being deliberately insulting to the author
- Being deliberately insulting to people who enjoyed the book 

That's not "negative" ... okay... it is. But it's also mean and totally unnecessary.

Here's a negative criticism: 

"The whole climax of the story felt lackluster and as a result I felt cheated by the end of the story."

Here's the same thing, but mean and unnecessary: 

"This book sucked and I hated it. The author should quit writing because he is worse than anything." 

I won't write mean reviews. But I do write negative reviews, and I stand by that decision. Do you write reviews? What's your policy? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Flip Flops...But Not the Kind You Wear On Your Feet

I have a confession to make.  I don't watch TV.  I haven't even watched the news in quite a few years...yikes, I know.  But for me it seems to make my life a little less hectic and gives me fewer things to worry about.  As a result I rely on social media for information on the going-on's in the world.  If I happen to see something of interest I will click on its link and read.  If it happens to pique my curiosity I will sometimes Google the topic and read more.  This method also keeps me up-to-date on whatever ideas are making the rounds, trendy blog posts, or the latest meme.  Lately, though, it seems that for every article or opinion released into the world there is another to counter it almost instantly.  We live in a world of differing ideas and beliefs, and while this can be wonderful and give a great variety and excitement to life, it can also have a darker side.  
So how do we know where to stand and who to ally our own opinions and ideas?  Just in the past few weeks or so I've seen conflicting articles or posts on parenting, holiday celebrations, "easy weight loss," homeschooling, politics, media, and religion.  It can be a bit overwhelming.  Sometimes after reading some of these things I feel a bit fickle thinking, "Oh, I agree with what they're saying." Only to pull a flip-flop after reading a conflicting response and think, "I completely understand where they're coming from!"  Am I really so wishy-washy?  No.  At least not about this, and neither are any of you. (I'm not the only one who flips back and forth, right?)  The fact is every situation, every child, every background is different and can produce a different experience and opinion to go with it.  Here's my solution-
I go with my gut.
It's pretty simple.  Any time I come across one of these blog posts or articles, whether it's conflicting with anything else or not, I read it and digest it then I let it be.  When I come across something of great importance or significance that might impact me personally I take some time to think about where my own beliefs lie and if I feel negative or torn, I pray.  That seems to be a pretty safe and sure way of not getting tangled up in the sticky webs of the world.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Staying Positive While Treading the Waters of Rejection

By Lacey Gunter

I am currently in the process of querying. As many of you know, this can feel like an act of self initiated torture. Given the odds of success, this description may not be too off base. Unless you are that one in a million, one must be prepared to face rejection and likely a lot of it.

I am not sure who originally coined the phrase (or equation, rather) "Happiness equals reality minus expectations," but applied to this situation, the only sure way to be happy seems to be to expect rejection. On the surface this sounds very pessimistic and counter productive to success. So are we then forced to choose between optimism and happiness?

I would say NO. So then, how do we stay positive while treading the waters of rejection? There are many techniques that can help us do this. Here are a few that I have been using. (Please forgive me if I sound like I am in statistics instructor mode. I am immersed in it a good portion of my time, so it can be difficult to step back out.)

1.Bring the odds to your favor: Rare events, by definition, occur very rarely. So if you only observe a single outcome, you are very unlikely to witness a rare event. But rare is not the same as impossible. Observe many, many, many outcomes and you are much more likely to observe a rare event.  So in writers speak, one can maintain optimism about eventual success, while still recognizing that this particular submission will most likely end in a rejection. Write frequently and submit often and eventually the odds of success are going to be in your favor.  

2. Keep moving forward: When you first try to tread water you feel like you are barely hanging on
and you don't know how to swim. But the more you practice it the stronger you become. Eventually you are strong enough and skilled enough to just swim. Writing and writing well is a skill. Like all skills, the more you practice the better you get. Especially if you take the time and effort to learn from your rejections. If you tread the waters of rejection long enough, you will eventually be strong and skilled enough to swim away down the lane toward success.

3. Be grateful:  As painful as rejection is, I have found more peace and closure when I take the time to tell agents thank you for reviewing and considering my manuscript. They may never take the time to open up my thank you email, but that doesn't really matter. I have already experienced the positive mental and physical health benefits of gratitude and I am emotionally prepared to try again.

These are a few techniques I use to stay positive. I'm sure you have a few we could all benefit from hearing about. Stay positive and just keep treading.

Friday, March 21, 2014

To Be (Anxious), or Not To Be


I've been a bit stuck this week.

I'm waiting to hear from an editor about my critiquing my book proposal.

 I'm debating blogging my book instead of traditional publishing.

The missing Malaysia plane is worrisome.  I can't imagine the heartbreak of those families.

My father-in-law had a stroke last week, and we're waiting to see what his prognosis will be.

So many unknowns at this point.

When I'm anxiously waiting for life to unfold, it's sometimes helpful for me to focus on the KNOWNS, big or small, in my life.  Here are a few that are carrying me through this week.

1.  I have chocolate chips in the freezer.

2.  There's plenty of laundry to hang on the line (I actually enjoy this.)

3.   My kids love me (most of the time.)

4.   My husband loves me.

5.  I have thumbs that work, so I can write to my heart's content.

6.  The sun will come up tomorrow.

7.  God is in control.  And He knows all outcomes already.

So, I need to just wiggle past feeling stuck and get on to the next thing.  Worrying about events doesn't move anything forward.  Why is this so hard to remember?! 

From God's word to my heart - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (emphasis mine.)"  Phil. 4:6

What are you stuck on this week?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sixty-Minute Shorts

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Recently I decided that it would be fun to actually, you know, complete a project now and again. I mean, I love working on my novels,** but every once in a while it’s nice to have something finished and point to it and say, “Hey, that’s off my to-do pile.” And thus was born the “sixty-minute short.”

Because I'm pretty sure that adding a pic of
Cary Elwes will drive up blog traffic. :)
The idea is to spend no more than sixty minutes from start to finish on some little project that sparks your interest at the moment. I’m still deciding how to divide up that time, but right now I’m going for roughly this:

1. Ten minutes on planning
2. Thirty on writing
3. Ten on polishing
4. Ten on whatever else needs it

I finished my first one this week, and you can read it here. It’s a short retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale variant called “The Nix.” I shan’t overanalyze it much, but I will mention two things.

First, it was tough for me developing a story I actually liked in that period of time. Story development has always been very slow for me. Also, the time restriction meant that there was plenty of polishing, cutting, revising, and such that I would have done but just didn’t have time for. It was actually freeing in a way to say, “Okay, well, it’s over. Good enough.” And while I’m not perfectly happy with it, I had fun, and that was a big part of the point.

Second, my first draft was significantly darker. Many moons ago, when I was a teenager, I tended to write sort of depressing, bleak stuff (teenage angst, anyone?). Eventually I came to a realization that I didn’t want to write bleak anymore.*** For me, it was a copout—dark was always easier than pleasant. So I decided to revise that out a bit. I think it’s still the teensiest bit ambiguous, but I’m much happier with the ambiguity.

Well, analysis of my story over. Now it’s time for the encouragement! If you are so inclined, you should give flash fiction a try. It’s fun, it’s quick, if you hate it you can just dump it and move on!***** Write it up and polish it in an hour or less. And if you post it on your blog, share the link here so the rest of us can revel in your flash fictioning.
Writing flash fiction is like
crocheting stuffed animals.
No, really. It is.

Finally, if you’re looking for inspiration to draw from, Writing Excuses always has funny prompts, or you could just google “writing prompts.” Go have fun!

* No, I’m not talking about the kind of shorts you wear. I’m not even sure what “sixty-minute” would mean in that context, but it probably wouldn’t be good.
** Okay, “love” may be an optimistic word sometimes.
*** This is a long story involving my sister, a tv show whose name I can’t remember, and Cary Elwes.**** It is not particularly relevant at the moment.
**** I think probably all life-changing events should involve Cary Elwes.
***** These are some of the same reasons I crochet stuffed animals instead of afghans. Maybe I have an attention span issue?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Say what you need to say.

by Kasey Tross

Last Saturday I got the rare opportunity to have a Girl's Day with my daughter. My relationship with this little girl is…strained. She is like a 15-year-old in an 8-year-old's body. All spunk and attitude, with a huge dose of stubbornness thrown in.

Don't get me wrong. All the things that drive me crazy about her are all the things I love about her. I will never forget the day when some bullies on the playground were trying to keep kids from going down the slide. Her big brother walked away in tears.

She simply glared at them and then pushed past them to go down the slide. I think she was 3 at the time.

They didn't mess with her after that.

Anyway, she is the oldest girl, so she often takes on the mother role for her two little sisters, and it's easy for her to get lost in the mix, and look for attention in all the wrong ways, which is why I was glad we had this time together.

We started our morning with crafts at a mother/daughter activity at church and then we went shopping, both activities that we both really enjoy. After shopping, we went out for an ice cream treat at McDonald's.

We were sitting in the solarium-type part of the restaurant, right by the window. She was chattering away about something and the sun was hitting her hair just right and her eyes were all blue and sparkly and I just began to feel overwhelmed by how amazing and special she was to me.

All the things I felt about her were running through my mind, and I thought:

I should tell her these things.

But when I tried to form the words in my mind they just sounded cheesy and contrived. Who just comes out and says, "You know, I think you're really special"?

I have never, ever thought of myself as someone who couldn't express feelings. In fact, I've always thought that sometimes I share a little too much information. But sitting there, in front of my precious 8-year-old daughter, it became painfully clear to me that it was hard for me to say how I felt. I felt self-conscious.

Yes, in front of an 8-year-old.

Fortunately, that wonderful influence of the Holy Ghost (that I think sometimes moms get an extra portion of) began to work on me. God said, She's 8. She doesn't know it sounds cheesy and contrived. These are things she needs to hear. If you don't tell her now, how will she know how you feel?

I fought it. It felt icky.

It feels icky? For real? That's your excuse for not giving your daughter one of the most precious and valuable gifts she could ever receive, the gift of knowing her mother loves and respects her? It feels ICKY? Do you REMEMBER childbirth?

Point taken.

So I did. I told her how special I think she is. I told her that I trust her more than the other kids with things, she has a sense of maturity about her that I respect, that she has a way with younger kids. We talked about her little sister and I confided in her that I didn't treat my little sister very well and I grew up feeling terribly about it and I don't want her to feel that way. I told her that she's a good person, a kind person. Her sister loves her and looks up to her, and so do I.

And when I said it, it didn't sound cheesy or contrived. And her eyes sparkled even more, she sat a little taller, she held her chin higher.

The moral of the story is this: Don't wait to say the things in your heart because you're afraid of how you might sound. How you sound isn't important. The words you say and the feeling behind them is what they'll hear. If you open your heart, they'll open theirs.

If you can't trust yourself with your own feelings, how can your child trust you with theirs?

As John Mayer sang,

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You'd better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say. 

Say what you need to say. 

P.S. Happy St. Patty’s Day to you! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Inspirational Hymn

By Nikki Wilson

Dani is out of town today so I told her I would fill in. I love to post on Sundays because I like to talk about how writing and religion go together. Today I'd like to share the hymn that inspires me to write. "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go". If you click on the link you can play the song and even read the lyrics. (Click on the audio button under the player and check the box for music and lyrics) The verse that really stands out to me is the second verse, more specifically the end of the verse:
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,
Tho dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet:
I'll say what you want me to say.
(Text: Mary Brown, 1856-1918
Music: Carrie E. Rounsefell, 1861-1930)
This describes perfectly how I feel when I write. Anything I write I pray that I am writing things my Savior would have me write. That may seem strange to say when I mostly write fiction, but messages of love, inspiration, and conquering evil can uplift and inspire no matter the story. If you think about it, Christ used fictional stories (parables) to explain deep principles of the gospel. I know that if I use Him as my guide and my inspiration that I can be the instrument He needs in this world today. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged and think that since I'm not published that I'm really not doing the Lord any good. I'm not touching anyone's lives with my words. But I have learned to recognize that those thoughts would never come from my loving Heavenly Father and come only from another source. And so I keep writing. I write because it's my God given talent, I write because I want to honor Him by using it, I write to glorify Him, and I write in hopes that I can share His message sweet. In short, I'll write what he wants me to write.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Writing Resources

By Nikki Wilson

I may have mentioned this before but I think it deserves repeating. MMW is about working together as fellow writers and helping each other to achieve our dreams as published writers. To help us accomplish this, our own Gina Denny has taken great pains to making a wonderful resource page that is very informative and quite inspiring actually. Please check our resource blog here.

If you have any other resources you would like to share, please put them in the comments or send them to our email address mormonmommywritersatgmaildotcom.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Write What You Know

by Katy White

I'm not an expert on many things, but there are a few things I know more about than most.  One is chocolate chip cookies. I know what you're thinking: you have the greatest chocolate chip cookie recipe in the world. I respect your belief and your taste-buds too much to contradict you. But I kind of also need to be the judge of that. (Seriously, I would LOVE to be the judge of that.  Send me your recipes!)  

I also know about silly things like what a French accent really sounds like or typical bank protocol in case of a robbery. So when I see a movie with a bank heist and I can spot a half dozen problems right off the bat, it drives me crazy. Though not as crazy as hearing an actor butcher an accent when the director could just cast a talented actor from the country, for heaven's sake. Ugh.

I'm sure you've had a similar experience where you've watched or read something you know a lot about, just to get frustrated and stop watching when you find inconsistencies or flat-out impossibilities. It's super annoying, isn't it? And it comes from writers not writing what they know.

We've all heard that advice, to write what we know. If you're like me, you've scratched your head and wondered what that means for you as a writer. By this logic, I should stick to writing about being a freckle-faced redhead from Canada. I should write about coming from a blended family or being a business woman or a wife or a mom. I should write about having oatmeal on my clothes All. The. Time. 

Unfortunately, I write YA, and few of the topics "I know" appeal to me as a writer (though my characters always have freckles). So how can I write what I know if I don't want to write what I know?  

Because that laundry list of facts isn't all I know. I also know about loss and heartache and having your whole world ripped apart and put back together in a completely foreign way. I know about mourning and longing. I know about hope and joy. I know how it feels to be rejected. I know how it feels to be truly, unconditionally loved. I know about experiencing a pain that I swear would last a lifetime (and, indeed, seemed to). I know how time and the love of my Savior can heal even the most grievous of wounds.  

Writing is hard, and writing what you don't know can take an almost laughable amount of research. But just because you've never worked in a restaurant, doesn't mean you can't write a story that takes place in one. It just means you have to do your research, and it'll likely be a longer, harder process than it would be for someone with a lot of restaurant experience. But who cares? With research, you can fake a lot of stuff. It's not like Tolkien had been shot by an arrow, right?

But, boy, he faked it. Poor Boromir.

What you can't fake, though, is emotion. While that doesn't mean you have to stick to the exact type of loss that you know, it does mean that you can't cheat and use the breakup of your high school boyfriend to create the emotions of a husband of 20 years losing his wife to a long battle with cancer. 

No matter your occupation or personal history, or your setting or the age of your characters, write what you want to write. But when you're dealing with emotions, dig deep, and write what you know.  Write what you feel.

Do you have any advice about "writing what you know"...or a delicious cookie recipe?  ;)  Please, sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Choose your Mechanic carefully

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I offer a very cheap editing service - I'm currently editing a 65,000 word novel for £120 ($200). Two weeks ago, I blogged about why I was finding that editing was much harder than I'd expected it to be.

I shared my blog on Facebook, and it led to an interesting discussion:

"Your rationale is one of the main reasons it is becoming impossible for full-time editors to make the money needed to survive on.

"If you have a car, and your car breaks down, you generally won't take it to the dealership mechanic and complain when the mechanic quotes you for what needs to be done. Yes, the amount of money is substantial and yes, you don't want to pay it, but the car has to be fixed. Even if you do complain, a mechanic isn't likely to charge you a tenth of their quoted price out of sympathy for your budget. They might offer you a 10% discount. Fundamentally, you're the one who bought a car. You know it has to be fixed. You buy car insurance or you save money for a rainy day to keep it well maintained, or you drive a broken-down car. Or, admittedly, you have a friend who is a mechanic, and they help you out.

"When someone writes a manuscript, they must build the cost of editing into the production of that manuscript. They are the ones producing what is, objectively, a voluntary effort which they must expect will cost them money if they want it edited by a professional." (James Baldwin)

You know what. I entirely agree with him.  In fact, here's how I responded:

"I tell my authors that I'm not a professional editor, that I can't work quickly, and that there are only certain types of books I will consider. They know I'm not the best editor they could get. To use your analogy, I'm the neighbour who will tinker with their car in exchange for a bottle of wine. [Obviously I don't drink wine, so in my case it would be a box of chocolates.]

"But so many indie authors decide not to have their work edited at all, and I feel that's bringing down the standard of books in general, and indie books in particular. So I like to be available, as that neighbour, while telling them that there's no substitute for a qualified mechanic."

James's point is very valid. If you want to write a book that's any good at all, you need to factor in the cost of editing. And editing costs money. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. You can expect to spend around £1,000 ($1,500) on a professional edit of a full-length manuscript. Since most indie authors make under £500 from their books, it's clear that you will lose money when you write your book.

I consider that any editing is better than no editing. I paid $600 for an edit of my fourth book, Honeymoon Heist because, although it was being traditionally published, my publishers didn't feel it needed an edit. I disagreed, and I'm glad I went ahead with the private edit. (Partly because I got to spend precious time with my amazing and talented editor who died of cancer less than a year later.) I don't think I have made $600 from the book (I posted my last royalties cheque on Facebook because it was so pitiful that it was funny) but I have no regrets. I would rather put out a good book and lose money than be associated with something substandard.

So the better the editor, the better the resulting book. Remember to factor the cost of your editor into the equation as you write your manuscript.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Picking Up

I hit a wall a couple weeks ago. 

I don't mean a "Man this wall is high and hard to get over" kind of wall. I mean a "Holy crap. This wall extends upwards into infinity and I will, never, ever find a way to get over it" kind of a wall. 

I'm not prone to anxiety generally (with one notable, and fairly comedic exception, but that's a subject for a different post), so I didn't deal with this well. I wanted to hide in my bed and do nothing. 

I stopped writing. Cold turkey. I didn't write a word. I didn't even open the doc. 

I stopped critiquing. Cold turkey. Left a dear, wonderful CP hanging high and dry without an explanation. 

I stopped reading. The last time I "stopped" reading, I was thirteen and in high school and stopped out of willful disobedience. 

I had decided to stop attending my writing group. I couldn't imagine how I could face them - I was such a fraud. I wasn't a writer. Not anymore. I'd failed too often and for too long and too spectacularly and I had NO RIGHT participating in the creative process, not for any reason. 

Then God intervened. My Heavenly Father loves me, and he wants me to use my talents, so he put a lot of voices in my head and a lot of influences in my path, all on the same day, to jump start my writing passion again. 

First, I read a blog by Matt Walsh* regarding a subject only tangentially related to this one. One passage stuck out to me: 
OF COURSE it won't work out at first. DUH. Nobody succeeds right at first, nobody gets it right the first time. I didn't get it right the first time (or even the hundredth time) I rode a bike or baked a cake or tried to be a good friend. Why would writing be any different? And did I expect this to be a boring, linear progression? 


I set out on an adventure, and then I got mad when the journey delivered. 

Second, I read a post by Jen** of EPBOT (and CakeWrecks). Her words pierced my very soul. 
She was specifically talking about the rage-quit that comes with video games (You know - you get so mad that you throw your controller on the ground and disconnect the game, stomping off and declaring you'll never, ever play, ever again... yeah. That one hit too close to home), but she was applying this behavior to all other aspects of our lives. 

She continued, "I let myself be overwhelmed by the mountain instead of focusing on my feet, and I worry more about everyone's expectations than the experience I'm gaining from my "failures" right here, right now."

Because we all know you're gonna go back in and reconnect the game tomorrow, and that you'll beat the unbeatable boss next week, once you've gained a little perspective. 

(If you're not a gamer, I'm sorry, but this analogy is perfect.) 

Third, I saw a quote on Pinterest from President Faust***: 

By this point, I was ugly-crying and really knowing that God was speaking directly to me. All these words had been put in front of my eyeballs on the same day; it wasn't a coincidence. 

And last, I found a talk by Elder Kapp. He was speaking to the young women of our church, but his words echo through the ages, applying to all people: 

I should say: the day this all was put in front of me was Thursday. Thursday is the day my writing group meets. I wasn't going to go, I was planning to hide in the dark and lick my wounds. But my good friend, Katy, texted me. Not with a "Hey are you going to ANWA tonight?" text, but instead a "I'll be at your house at 6:30" text. 

She didn't give me a chance to say no. 

And the women in my group did exactly what Elder Kapp asked them to do - they sent out a message of hope. One sister presented a beautiful essay she wrote and will submit to a magazine. Another announced she had a very successful pitch session, in which her full manuscript (series!) was requested enthusiastically. 

They offered encouragement. 

They stood as beacons of hope. 

They picked me up when I couldn't do it for myself. 

And that's what this writing community is for. To pick each other up, to help us pick ourselves up, and to bring each other to success, whatever that means.

PS - you can pin all these quotes to Pinterest, if you're into that sort of thing. And honestly, who couldn't use a little bit of encouragement spreading around the internet?  

*I can't heartily recommend Matt Walsh. He's extremely politically conservative and very, very rude most of the time. Read at your own risk. 

** I can, and do, heartily recommend Jen. You've probably seen CakeWrecks sometime in the last ten years, but you're less likely to be familiar with EPBOT. If that's the case, I recommend you read it. It's an excellent blog, full of a wonderful blend of uplifting, funny, informative, crafty, geeky, DisneyWorld posts. 

*** Of course I recommend the General Authorities of our church. President Faust is one of my very, very favorites. The full talk is available on I wasn't familiar with Elder Kapp prior to reading this talk (it was given in 1986, so that was a bit before my time), but you can read his full talk, also on, though there is not a video of it. Because... 1986. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

All Fired Up!

           It's interesting, there are times when people literally give me the exasperated look when I raise my had yet AGAIN to make another comment, and then other times when you can barely get me to open my mouth.  It got me thinking as to what makes us think and speak, and in this situation, write.  For me, anytime that I feel the spirit I am filled with all kinds of thoughts and feelings that are just bursting to get out.  I can hardly contain myself!  All of the sudden, I want to be heard!  I want others to see that I think and feel deeply, and more often than not, I just want them to feel the wonderful feelings and sensations I am feeling!  THAT is when I can barely keep my hand down, or keep up with my fingers as I am writing or typing... I LOVE that feeling!  My friends and family know then just to step back and allow me to be me.  They know that it means a lot to me.  They understand that in these moments, the real me is expressing herself.

          So what gets you going?  What makes your brain turn on and go into hyperdrive?  I can almost hear your brains whirring right now.  What inspires you?  What makes you so full of thoughts, energy and feeling that you cannot hold it in?  What gives you that feeling of wanting... no, needing to be heard?  I want you to think hard on this, because when we get to those moments where we cannot get that pencil going or keyboard warmed up to save our lives, we need something to tap into.  Not just something that makes us feel good, but something that gets us FIRED UP!! Isn't it easier to have a couple pages of  ideas to narrow down and refine, than pulling more ideas out from the mysterious void that our thoughts go to linger in limbo?

           It's kind of funny when I get all fired up, because not only does my brain go nuts, but my hands start shaking... and my heart races.  It's like the positive version of a panic attack.  I should know, I've had enough of them in my past! And then when I get them out, or on paper, I get that same almost worn out feeling afterwards.  Only in this case, it is that contented worn out feeling.  I'd pray to have these moments all the time, but I'm afraid that my body probably couldn't handle that much!

           I found out that there are several things that get me fired up, but of them the strongest are music and the spirit.  I love listening to uplifting and inspirational music.  The kind that makes your mind think, whether it's just instrumental or has lyrics.  One of my favorites is Lindsey Stirling- check her out if you haven't heard of her... this girl INSPIRES me!!  Not just because I played the violin, but the girl has gone through some intense stuff, and she has become something really great by finding strength in God and pushing through it.  And goodness is her music uplifting!  Another is The Piano Guys.  Man are they talented!  One of the reasons I love instrumental is that it gets my mind going without distracting with lyrics.

          Another thing that inspires me is listening to inspiring and intelligent talks and speakers.  I love listening to conference talks, especially since this is what I teach on once a month.  They really open up the heart and spirit to inspiration.  I also love to listen to motivational speakers.  Anthony Robbins (life coach) and Robert Kiyosaki (financial guru) are a couple of my favorites.  They are intelligent and uplifting!  The truly great ones are the people who, no matter what they are talking about, teach us truths that can be applied to many aspects of life.

Now that I've hopefully got your brain thinking about what moves you... share with us!  And once you are moved, get up and do something with it!  Thoughts without action do us no good!  Happy Monday!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another Branch to Our Tree

A lot has happened for my family the last few months.  The most significant being that we have moved from Virginia to Texas.  Moving can be so crazy.  Lately I have felt like there's been too much to do in the few short hours of the day.  Now that we are in our new home and starting to get settled I am looking forward to being able to do a few of the things that were pushed aside during our move. 
 One of the bigger projects I have anxiously been waiting to do is my husband's family's genealogy and temple work.  I wrote a post a few months ago about receiving a packet of genealogy for my husband's paternal side.  We never thought it would happen, so we were very excited about it.  We felt that it was an enormous blessing and we were grateful.  Little did we know that that first packet of family history was only the beginning.  A couple of months after I finished going through the first packet we received word from my husband's maternal side of the family that, while going through some things, a relative had found copies of an extensive genealogical collection.  She had asked if anyone was interested in having a copy.  My husband jumped at the opportunity and within two weeks we had received the packet of information.  My husband and I were unprepared for the amount of information that was being given to us.  This amazing collection of family history contains dates and stories dating back to the 1500's.  As I had stated in my previous post, my husband and I did not expect to be given any information.  My husband is a convert to the LDS church and is the only member of his entire family.  While we had prayed that some day we would be allowed to do the work for his ancestors, we never thought it would happen so soon or that we would be given so much.  I don't think it is a coincidence that we were given this great blessing at the same time we were moving to a place where we would be within a short drive of a temple.  Previously, it would take us hours to get to our nearest temple.  The thought of being able to complete all of the work for his family was daunting.  
I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and that if we have faith and a good deal of patience we will truly be given all that is promised.  
To any of you who are awaiting the opportunity to do the temple work for your ancestors, or to anyone who feels that because of certain situations or family conflicts that it seems it is not possible or that it will never happen - please have faith and don't give up.  It may happen when you least expect it.  And for those of you that have already been blessed with information - Get to work! :) I am so excited to dig into this information and get to know these people from long ago.  I would love to hear any stories you have about your own genealogy experiences.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Benefits of a Writing Mentor

By Lacey Gunter

In nearly anything that takes a certain level of skill or practice, it can be helpful to have a mentor. Writing is no different. There are lots of benefits to having a writing mentor (or a few).

So, most people would consider a mentor to be someone with an expertise, or a high level of knowledge and/or experience who helps guide and teach you.  I would even go a little step further and include anyone who has a richer knowledge and experience base than you from who you seek advice and help from (whether they be an expert or not).  Sometimes just having someone who is a few steps ahead of you in the game can be quite helpful, while not so intimidating.

So how can having a writing mentor help you?  There are many ways, but here are just a few to consider. 

1) They can help you recognize the weaknesses in your writing and suggest ways to improve them.
2) They can help you understand the process of querying, submitting, contracts, publishing and marketing.
3) The can inform you about possible mistakes or pitfalls they have experienced or witnessed in the process of writing and publishing.
4) They can give you an insider's knowledge on agents, editors and publishers.
5) They can introduce or connect you with other people who can help you with your writing or with publishing.
6) They can be a source of strength and encouragement when facing the difficulties of  writers block and the disappointment of multiple rejections.

Then how does one go about finding a writing mentor?  They are many ways to do this. Attending  writers association's meetings and conferences is a great way to find a mentor. Meetings and conferences are full of people who are happy to offer wisdom and guidance. Being respectful of their time and showing gratitude for their help and advice can encourage someone to continue a mentoring relationship.  Finding people online and asking questions is also another good way to find a mentor. Mentors within your genre of writing can be most beneficial, but don't limit yourself as valuable advice and encouragement can come from many avenues.

Once you find that mentor and are guided and nurtured by them, remember the great help they have been to you and be willing to pass on that wisdom and experience to some one else when you become the expert.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Year with MMW

by Mare Ball from Adventures in the Ballpark

I recently passed my one year anniversary writing for Mormon Mommy Writers.  On February 22, 2013, my first post appeared here: NEW KID ON THE BLOCK.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to show up here twice a month and share my heart.  I'm grateful for all comments and the insights of other contributors here.  It was through MMW that I was first published (as a contributor to Choose to Write), for which I will be forever grateful.

Since I came on board here, I've taken a marketing course, mostly finished my WIP, written a book proposal, and am in communication with two editors.  I have written posts for two other blogs.  If I had not been invited to be a regular part of MMW, I'm sure I would not have made such progress in my writing career.  Even though, at times, I'm rushed or dragging my feet on what to write, it's been very beneficial to have a writing deadline and commitment.  Thank you, MMW gals, and especially Nikki Wilson for investing in me.  

As I looked over my previous posts, I decided this was my favorite: WRITING IS LIKE MOTHERHOOD.  Considering the name of this blog, it seems fitting.  I wanted to share it again, because I didn't know how else to commemorate my time here.  I wanted to share my love for motherhood and writing, and this post does that.  If you've read it, feel free to click to Facebook.  I won't be offended.

What I've learned this year is to keep plugging away.  Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.  We never know whose heart we might touch, whose life we might improve because of something we crafted.

If you love to write, God has placed that in your makeup.  If we honor Him in our efforts, I believe we will win.  Success might not look like our original vision, but I'm learning that's part of the journey.  


Thursday, March 6, 2014

And the Moral to the Story Is . . .

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Today I’ve got an experience that happened yesterday. Your job is to decide what life lesson I should learn from it—or how I can pull my favorite trick and turn it into a gospel/motherhood/writer metaphor.

I have this recipe for a yummy curry that I don’t make often because I manage to dirty every dish in the house when I make it. Well, yesterday, while I was making it, my daughters asked me for an apple. So I cut it in half and sent them off to eat it.

I made the curry. I made the rice. I sat down to take a break while it simmered because I was pooped (and because my kitchen was a mess, and I was trying to get up the oomph to clean it). While I was sitting on the couch, my younger daughter came to me and told me her ear hurt. I asked why, and she said it had a seed in it.


It turned out that she had stuck an apple seed in her ear. I was going to try to tweeze it out, but it was really, really far and I didn’t want to make it worse.

I am actually quite grateful that this is the first time I’ve ever felt the need to take her to urgent care. So we piled all of us together (both daughters and the hubby too, because nothing says “family fun time” like hanging out in a doctor’s office) and drove to urgent care. Where we proceeded to wait. And wait and wait and wait. Then we got called back into the little exam rooms. Where we waited some more.

(Meanwhile, by the way, I’d remembered to turn off the stove but not to put the food away.)

The hubby had to head off to scouts, eventually, leaving me with the two girls (although he brought us Wendy’s for dinner—complete with the toys that come in the kids’ meals, so that was good for about fifteen minutes of entertainment). We continued to wait. And then wait some more. About two and a half hours into our wait (seriously), my pregnant body decided it needed to pee. I took me and the two girls to the bathroom. Apparently the doctor chose those three minutes to come see us. When we weren’t there, she moved on to the next patient.

Another half hour passed, and the hubby came back with donuts (bless him!). By now we were all tired. We’d colored, watched tv, played a lot of charades and a few rounds of “I spy.” It was past the girls’ bedtime. Heck, it was past my bedtime!

And then my hubby looked into my daughter’s ear (which, by the way, wasn’t particularly hurting a lot, so she was fairly cheerful this whole time). And he could see the seed. It had worked its way almost all the way out. If I’d had tweezers on hand, I could have grabbed it then. Apparently all it really needed was four hours of waiting in urgent care.

Five minutes later, the doctor arrived.

One minute later, the seed was out.

Three minutes after that, my daughter was screaming like a banshee because the doctor decided to check the other ear to make sure there wasn’t a seed there too. When the doctor saw something that looked weird, she probed to see it if was wax or another seed. This apparently was not pleasant.

Another many minutes of screaming and probing, and finally the ordeal was over. We were all exhausted. At least one of us was crying (I reserve the right not to comment on whether or not I was). We had an early morning and a long day planned the next day. I was feeling ridiculous for the amount of time we’d spent on this when, in the end, it was a procedure I could have done. I was also feeling blessed that the seed worked itself out. And frustrated about the second ear. And tired. And . . . lots of stuff. (Did I mention I’m pregnant? So yes, I’m feeling lots of stuff all the time, and most of it is ridiculous.)

Back home, as fast as we could. Where I realized I’d left the curry out. But it didn’t have any meat, so I thought maybe it would be fine (turns out the FDA recommends no longer than two hours out of the fridge, but I’m still deciding if I’m going to eat it or not).

To bed. Only to realize, at 10 p.m., that today (Thursday) is my MMW day and I had nothing, no energy, and no time to get it done (given that I was valuing my sleep and sanity). Sigh.

So it’s your turn now. Life lessons? Metaphors? What should I get from this whole fiasco?


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