Monday, April 27, 2015

That Moment When...

by Kasey Tross

As I have mentioned on here before, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members hold "callings", which are basically volunteer jobs we are asked to do (and we usually say yes).

I am blessed that one of my callings involves writing. I am the Assistant Director of Public Affairs/Media Relations for my stake (like a diocese). My assignment is to write articles detailing the positive things going on with the LDS Church in our area and submit the articles to local print media (though few actually get published- that's just kind of how it is). I also help oversee the stake Facebook page and other social media.

It's an exciting and fun calling- people in public affairs get special access to secure parts of the website, and we even get our own special e-mail addresses. Because each stake typically has just 3 people who work in public affairs, our frequent training meetings are in conjunction with many other stakes, and our stake presidents attend the training meetings with us. The chain of command to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is astonishingly short (I once got an e-mail from the Coordinating Council Director of Public Affairs letting me know that L. Tom Perry was requesting some stats from our Facebook page- ulp!)

Anyway, it's a calling with huge responsibility- I write the articles on church letterhead and submit them to local media without anybody looking over my shoulder, so they put a lot of trust in me- but it's such an exciting time to be doing it, and I have learned a great deal as I've served.

Earlier this month I had submitted an article about an unusual stake conference we were having in our stake- our stake president had asked us to meet at the Washington, D.C. temple (2 hours from our home in Richmond) for two sessions of conference: the first one at the Visitors' Center and the second one on the 7th floor of the temple in the Priesthood Room. I knew that temple worship is often a source of curiosity for those not of our faith, so I decided to submit this article and include some information about new exhibits at the Visitors' Center for those who might want to learn more.

This special conference took place yesterday and I was blessed to be able to attend with my husband. When we arrived home, I saw a notice in my inbox that the Mid-Atlantic Mormons Facebook page had mentioned our stake's Facebook page in a post. When I investigated further I saw that they had posted a link to the article I had written, which had been published yesterday by a local newspaper.

When I checked my e-mail later I saw an e-mail from the Richmond Coordinating Council Director of Public Affairs who very excitedly told me she had gotten an e-mail from Marcus G. Faust (yes, he's the son of THAT Faust) who had sent a link to my article to the entire North America Northeast Coordinating Council for Public Affairs (which covers Virginia up to Nova Scotia).

The full article is here: Local Latter-day Saints to make pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. for special worship service was kind of cool. And then my stake president mentioned it this morning over the pulpit in stake conference and thanked us for our work in public affairs, which was very nice because it's kind of an invisible calling. :-)

As exciting as this was for me because of the widespread recognition (what writer doesn't want their work read by a wide audience?) that's not why I wrote this post here at MMW. I wrote it because:

1. As Mormon Mommy Writers, some of you may get asked to do this calling at one point or another, and I wanted to share what a wonderful and exciting and rewarding calling it is.

2. One of the reasons this calling is so important, which they emphasize to us at every training meeting, is that for every positive article published about the Church, there are ten negative ones. Which means that if you are blessed with writing talents, whether you happen to have a calling like mine or not- it is time to use them to share goodness (#sharegoodness)- whether by a blog, your Twitter or Facebook, or whatever- share your faith! (This goes for all you non-Mormons of faith as well- I invite you and encourage you to share your love for the Savior in whatever way you can.)

3. HELP your public affairs people! We are always looking for story ideas- human interest stories, service projects- anything that's uplifting and inspiring and will help connect us to our communities. When you go to and look at your local stake leadership you should see the names and contact info for the people who hold callings in stake public affairs. If your stake has a Facebook page, they are the ones who run it and you can contact them through there. We need your stories!

This is the work of the Lord, and I know that as we use our talents to build the kingdom we will be blessed, not only with success but with an increase in our own personal testimonies and opportunities for missionary work.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Top Ten Birthday List

By Beckie Carlson
I had another birthday last week, I know....seems like only last year that I did that celebration. My daughter has informed me that I can 'park it' at 36 and no one will be the wiser. I'm going with it. 36 is a nice number...not too old and not too young.
Each year, I like to look back and what I've learned and share that smidgeon of knowledge with the general public. Here you go. My top ten lessons of year of life...again.
10. One is never too old to learn. I started a double master's program this last year and it is amazing to me how much I am learning! I always thought Brad was the smart one. Truth be told, he was just the one 'learning'. Look at me now!
9. People will be whatever you let them be. Treat someone like an idiot and voila, they are an idiot. Treat someone like a world class jerk and they most definitely will be one. Treat someone like they matter, they make a difference, they are valued....and you've created something beautiful.
8. Multi-tasking is not always a good thing. I actually watched a TED video on this. When a person is multi-tasking, their endorphin's go down which results in a feeling/sense of depression. Focus on ONE thing at a time and you feel happier. This explains the general public's feeling of inadequacy.....
7. Being vulnerable will not surely kill you. I am a strong, capable, intelligent woman that doesn't need anybody. Except, when I let down my guard and LET someone help's pretty great. I'm still all those things, but I've share and maybe even strengthened a relationship.
6. Clean houses don't matter. I used to STRESS over my house. Must be clean or no one can come in the door. Must seem like super woman every day. Guess what? It doesn't matter. Let stuff slide now and then and all you do is give yourself room to breathe. 
5. Seeking first to understand is not always easy. This is one of Covey's habits I really try hard with. Maybe it comes from my dear mother, but I tend to take things way too personally. Nine time out of ten, the insult I felt was just someone else not paying attention. People don't usually try to hurt your feelings, they are too busy trying to make themselves not look stupid. 
4. Sleep is good. I know, you all already knew this one, but seriously. I haven't slept much in the last......25 years or so....and I'm just now realizing that sleep can do wonders for just about everything. When they say "sleep on it"...that's good advice!
3. Diversity is a good thing. I know I've beaten this one to death, but it's true. White bread is boring.We need to smear some nutella and jam and sprinkle nuts on there. That's when things get good.
2. Creativity isn't a gift, it's a muscle. When I taught craft classes, I didn't understand why people couldn't just "do it." They were such babies at times, wanting me to 'hold their hand' and it was mind blowing to me. Now that my life is not filled with daily card making, scrapbooking, sewing...etc...I can totally understand. When I try to make a card my brain freezes up and I want to crawl in a hole. My muscles are weak.
1. Pay attention. Life goes by pretty fast. If we don't stop to actually pay attention to what is going on, we miss all the good stuff. Babies laughing, puppy smell, kids saying crazy things, weeds growing, days and weeks and months just passing us by. Stop for a minute and be present.
I'm no genius with revolutionary insight into the world, but I'm glad I can say I learned something this year. What did you learn?
Cause I said so.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why Writing Matters Now, More Than Ever!

I read an article a couple of weeks ago titled “The Death of Writing—if James Joyce Were Alive Today He’d Be Working for Google.” The idea of the article is that writing has historically been like anthropology—making observations and then interpreting them, synthesizing them into content that the reader can digest and become more informed about the world. However, in our modern world, academia has been replaced by businesses as the gatherers and purveyors of information and ideas.  As the title of the article hints at, the author Tom McCarthy states, “If (insert quote about James Joyce)” As for being informed—we are terminally over-informed, with Instagram, social media, cameras everywhere, and viral everything. Nothing happens that the world isn’t instantly aware of.
So does writing matter? Do we really need more voices telling us what’s going on, reporting on the world, shaping our ideas of our environment?
YES! I would argue that we need writers and their work now more than ever, and here are two reasons why.
  •            We desperately need different viewpoints, spoken articulately.  In a world of soundbites, slogans, Tumblr, and emoticons, the written word becomes ever more valuable. Discourse is dying; replaced by insults shouted from the rooftops. Our society needs courageous souls to be voices of reason for all sides of every issue; examples to the masses of how to disagree civilly.

  •             We’re all living together, alone. While it seems that every detail, down to the food we’re having for lunch or the haircut we just got, is already a matter of public record, we are more isolated and alone now as a society. Social media and corporate communication have given us a million tools to create and maintain the masks we want to wear, the barriers to shut others out. Perhaps it is the writer’s duty to rip those masks off and tear down the walls we are increasingly constructing around ourselves.
What is the most important thing writers can do? I propose that in addition to the above requirements to eloquently and civilly express viewpoints and to tear away the facades of our instant information society, we need to dig.  
      We need to pull out the exquisite pains and joys of real, honest-to-goodness, blood-sweat-tears-mud-gravel-and-sunshine life and lay them out for all to see, to feel, to understand. Our function as reporters of happenings, of exteriors, becomes less and less important—others have taken over that role—and our ability to expose the interior becomes increasingly paramount.

We need to find, celebrate, amplify, and join humanity.

We need to shine light in the darkness—or brighter, clearer, cleaner light in the fog.

We need to be the long, loud, crisp clear notes in the cacophony of information overload—singing out truth and true reality in the miasma of hyper(false)reality.

What we have to offer our fellow humans matters now—more than ever!
Graphic credit: W. Jarosz & M. Zwicker & H. W. Jensen

Friday, April 24, 2015

Surprises in Writing

Last night, I started to write a post about the update of my book, but then I decided to watch "Grey's Anatomy."

Shocked.  I still had tears in my eyes ten minutes after it ended. That Shonda Rimes can write. Oh. My. Gosh.  I was horrified by how it ended.  If you are a fan of the show and have not seen last night's episode, I won't spoil it for you.  Just have tissues when you watch it.

Greys Anatomy Season 11 Poster.jpg

On to my book.  Which doesn't seem nearly as eventful as last night's "Grey's Anatomy."

After talking with an acquisitions editor at Helping Hands Publishing, I decided not to pursue that avenue for my book.  They were interested in my book, "The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure," but they wanted me to create and commit to other projects as well, none of which I have going at the moment.  Caring for my parents, dealing with my own health issues - I don't foresee another book project anytime soon.  And I'm OK with that. 

I'm really not in the writing business to make money, or to go on a national book tour. When I first started this book three years ago, I had dreams of those things.  But after many ups and downs with this manuscript and the interruptions of life, I decided to go with self-publishing an e-book through Smashwords.

It took me awhile to figure out what my goal was with this nonfiction book.  What I discovered was that I just want to share the premise of the book with others.  I want to share how a Christmas project changed my approach and outlook to the holiday.  I've seen this project touch so many people, and my hope is that when people read "The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure," they will be inspired to execute the project in their own life.

That's all. That's really it. Nobody's more surprised than me.

There's a song on Christian radio called "He Knows My Name" by Francesca Battistelli  It has spoken to me repeatedly the past month or so.  This is the chorus:

I don't need my name in lights, I'm famous in my Father's eyes.
Make no mistake, He knows my name.
I'm not living for applause, I'm already so adored.
It's all His stage, He knows my name. 

My idea to write this book came straight from God. He crafted it, using my flawed and haphazard methods.  After confusion about how to get the thing in the marketplace, I'm finally at peace about its launch.  I'm hoping to have the book submitted to Smashwords by July.


God willing.  It really is all His stage.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reasons I'm Not Writing

My son needs me even more than my story. I need to cuddle and take in that newborn smell more than I need to figure out character motivations. I need to revel in the love my daughter has for her new baby brother more than I need to revise a tricky scene. 

Sometimes it's okay to take a break. :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Do Yourself a Favor

by Kasey Tross

One great thing about being writers is that we have awesome imaginations. When we were kids, we were always the ones directing the games of "Let's Pretend!" and even now we can go off into our own little worlds and daydream the day away. 

Well...if we had the day to dream away. But we don't. We have responsibilities and stuff.

But just because we have responsibilities, it doesn't mean we have to stop pretending! In fact, pretending can actually help you accomplish things. 

Besides the normal things- like imagining sports commentators in your head exclaiming over your extraordinary laundry folding abilities and predicting that you will indeed successfully fold that onesie in under ten seconds and then saying "She NAILED it! Did you see that? She absolutely NAILED IT!"

What? That's not normal? 

Oh. Well then. Ahem. Moving on.

Something that often helps me when I have things I need to do and my inner brat starts kicking and screaming and saying, "But I don't waaaaant toooooo!" (I know we all have an inner brat) is to think of myself as a separate entity. There is me, and then there is Kasey, the mother of my children, the wife of my husband, the daughter of my mother, the sister of my brother and sister, the first counselor in the Relief Society, the blogger for Mormon Mommy Writers. She's just great, but she's so busy. She needs someone to take care of her- someone to cook for her and her family, someone to vacuum her house, someone to do all that laundry. Because I want the mother of my children, the woman my awesome husband loves the most, to be happy and cared for, and I want her family to be happy and cared for. 

So I ask myself, "What can I do to help Kasey out today?" 

Sometimes, I lay her clothes out the night before, and put important items in her purse so she won't forget them. Sometimes, even if I'm in a hurry, I put some dishes into the dishwasher so she doesn't have to see a sink full of dirty dishes all day. Sometimes I make her go for a walk and get some fresh air. And I always try to get her to go to bed early. I know that those little things help her out and help her to have a better day. And isn't it important for the woman who takes care of everyone I love to be happy and healthy? 

This may seem silly, but so often we are so much more willing to take care of other people's needs, and not only to we neglect our own, but we begin to feel resentful that we're doing everything for everyone else. This way, I don't think about household chores as things I have to do for everyone else- they're things I do to help me out and make me less frazzled. To make my home more pleasant for me. 

Not only does this apply to everyday life, but also to our writing. Wouldn't it be great to wake up one morning and turn on your computer to see that somebody added another 2,000 words to your WIP? And it was good? And wouldn't if be great if the person that did that for you was you? 

When you choose to make the time to write, you are giving yourself a gift. 

So today, ask not what you have to do, but what you choose to do for yourself. Go ahead, do yourself a favor!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marshmallows and vinegar

By Beckie Carlson
I went to a one man play recently called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I think I expected a comedy. Anytime anyone tries to explain the differences between men and women, there is laughter involved. Even if it is only from me. It's like comparing apples to Volkswagons. You thought I was going to say oranges....didn't you.
Brad and I used to have this conversation often. There is so much talk about equal rights and women's rights and blahblahblah. IT's a myth and a dream and a nightmare if you ask me. Men and women are not equal because they are not the same. They are two different creatures with a few commonalities. I wouldn't want to be treated equal to a man because I am not a man. Now, equity is a whole different thing. I would like to be treated with equity. I would like to be treated fairly. There is a difference.
Anyway, I digress. The play was pretty good. I wasn't expecting a one man monologue, but he did pretty well. He had lots of funny stories where he was the victim and his wife was the hard to please, moody, even scary woman of his dreams. He didn't paint her in a bad picture, but .... it was in good humor. 
The basics of the show were based on that book by the same name which I've never read. I didn't need to. I understand that men and women are different. We think differently, we love differently, and we need differently. The funny thing was, the way he described a woman did not fit me. Neither did the description of the man. What does that leave me?
It's all just a balancing, communication game. Find out what you need and find someone that can give it to you. At the same time, find out what the person needs and make sure you give it to them. It's not going to be equal effort on either side. Both sides need to go into it expecting to do more than their fair share because they love the other person. Going in thinking..."I'll do this, and then she/he'll be so grateful they will....." will never work. Setting high expectation, especially in the reciprocal department is a guaranteed way to jinx a relationship.
I know, I am no relationship expert. But, I'm pretty good and messing them up. Take my words as guidance. I've been there, done that, failed there, succeeded here.....I know a few things.
Cause I said so. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Glad I'm a Picture Book Writer

By Lacey Gunter

It doesn't take long for newbie writers to hear the old writing adage 'write what you know.' It is a wise piece of advice, to be sure. It keeps your writing authentic and true and can usually give your writing more depth and emotion.  

I see it as no easy task, however. Good literature stretches characters. It often casts them into horribly difficult storms in their lives and forces them to change and grow.  To know these emotions and write about them requires authors to stare down their demons; to take a step back into the most vulnerable moments in their lives, lay them out on a platter and serve them up to the world.

I have thought several times about topics I could probably write a pretty compelling story for, having experienced something like it.  Sometimes I even write parts of these stories in my head. But to actually put them down on paper and share them with the world terrifies me. How do you adult literature authors do it?

Maybe one day I will be brave enough to write the difficult narratives in my heart. But for now, I'm glad to be a picture book writer.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Be Our... Guest

Greetings, MMW friends.  I've decided to take a little time off to ponder my chances of winning a Hugo Award.  Hence, it is my great pleasure to introduce my guest writing substitute and friend: Alex Mathai.

Howdy! My name is Alex Mathai and I am a fellow writer! I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and have a Master’s in Library Science. I have been working at the Texas A&M University alongside Mike for about a year now. We became fast friends when we discovered that we both “dabble” in writing and decided to motivate each other by forming a small writing group. After just one semester, we each completed a novel. Mike jumped right into the challenge of self-publishing while I decided to go the traditional route with an agent (still waiting to hear back from them…). Although I am not yet a mommy, I still have plenty of great writing advice to share. Hope you enjoy!

As writers we tend to view the world a little differently. Some might call us strange, but we have our reasons for staring at strangers for an uncomfortably long time, or pulling out a paper napkin at Whataburger and scribbling seemingly meaningless dialogue on it. Our brains are just wired differently than most people.  So in honor of our collective weirdness, here is a list of the top ten things writers tend to do:

1.       Writers tend to have animated conversations…with themselves
I will admit that I do this all the time. It’s not so bad when you keep it well hidden, but when you start making facial expressions and hand movements to go along with your inner dialogue, that’s when it can get awkward. And don’t even get me started if a stranger catches you doing this.

2.       Writers get really great story ideas at very inconvenient times.
Have you ever been about to fall asleep after a really long day and suddenly inspiration strikes? Or maybe you are mowing the lawn or bathing the kids when a vital plot point comes to mind? You scramble for something to write with and something to write on. If you are lucky enough to find something, you end up writing your idea down with a red crayon on the back of the phone bill, which will later be discovered by your very confused significant other.

3.       Writers listen to instrumental music for inspiration.
I thought I was the only one who collected soundtrack music from movies, movie trailers, and video games so I could study/write. But I recently read a couple of Twitter posts, both from two of my favorite authors, who claimed to be listening to the same music! I felt justified in my nerdiness.  

4.       Writers read expansively
The number one thing a writer does is read. They read good writing and bad writing and know the difference between the two. They read voraciously and extensively. They expand their normal, comfortable genres to encompass others that are more challenging and thought provoking. They know what’s “hot” on the market right now, and where the next niche could be.  On top it all, reading is just fun and it’s been shown to relieve writer’s block!

5.       Writers listen and learn from author’s interviews
I recently discovered author’s interviews on YouTube. Just type in your favorite author’s name and so many options pop up. Hidden in their ramblings and musings, there is some very valuable writing advice. Also, you can find lecture series from authors such as Brandon Sanderson that not only offer advice on writing, but also the business aspect of being a professional author.  Plus you can imagine yourself in their shoes: famous, successful, and promoting your next bestselling book.

6.       Writers get excited/terrified at the opportunity to meet a favorite author
My favorite author is Brandon Sanderson.  I don’t just enjoy his writing, but I admire his entire philosophy behind writing. He writes two to three books a year, which is amazing compared to some authors who write one book a year…maybe. Now, I have yet to meet Sanderson, but it is on my bucket list. In my head I imagine myself striking up an interesting conversation with him, he will find me fascinating and filled with writing potential, we will become best friends and then he will promote my book. But…I know myself too well. I will probably just turn red in the face, mumble thank you when he signs my book and scurry away. But one can imagine!

7.       Writers stare off into space
I know, out there somewhere, I have some horrified victims of my staring. It’s super embarrassing when that person catches you, but they don’t seem to understand that it has nothing to do with them. Your faraway, glassy-eyed look should say it all. You are currently in the middle of a climatic fight scene, or the hero is finally profession his love for the heroine, or you are trying to remember all the items on your grocery list…you know, important things.

8.       Writers procrastinate
I think procrastination is every writer’s unwanted best friend. It sticks by your side, constantly pulling you to do other tasks instead of sitting down behind the computer and writing. You think “now would be a great time to expand on that new plot point” but procrastination whispers seductively in your ear, “But you’ll fall behind on the laundry and that next episode of Castle isn’t going to watch itself.” We writers just have to be strong and say no…or at least after just one episode.

9.       Writers get in slumps
Every writer has had their fair share of “slumps.” I know I’ve had plenty of moments where I am just not in the right place to write. I don’t feel it in my heart. All the words that I type sound wrong and horrible and I have convinced myself that I will never be published. But these moments pass. One day you’ll wake up and feel light and airy. You’ll sit down at the computer and 10,000 words just come pouring out from your fingertips. If you aren’t really in the mood to work on the project you currently have going, choose something else. Work on a fun, quick short story that has nothing to do with your major project. I do this all the time. The short story might not ever see the light of day, but that’s okay. It works to get my creative juices flowing and back in the mood to write.

10.   Writers are meant to write

I once heard a wise man (my dad) say that if you lay down to go to sleep and the last thing you are thinking about is writing, and if the first thing you think about when you wake up is writing, then you are meant to be a writer. We write because we enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of creating something out of nothing. We like feeling the power of emotion our words create and the characters that spring to life as our story unfolds. We love (even if don’t want to admit it aloud) the struggle and the frustration that makes all victories that much sweeter. You don’t have to aspire to be published to be a writer. You don’t have to have a major book deal with a hit motion picture on the way to be successful. You just have to write! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

When Good Characters Go Bad

by Kasey Tross

Agent Booth from Bones on Fox (fyi- when male characters go bad the facial hair is a dead giveaway)

I was searching through my bedside table notepad last night in search of post ideas for today, and after sorting through a few to-do lists, notes for my novel, and lesson ideas for church, I found a notebook page with a big "MMW" scrawled across the top. Jackpot!

Well, sort of. You know how when you're in the moment (at 11:30pm) and you get that flash of inspiration and you write as fast as your pen can go and it seems to make perfect sense at the time? But then just doesn't?


Well, anyway, after reading through it a few times I think I kind of got the gist of what I was trying to say. So here goes.

I was watching the TV show Bones (great show, btw) and in the show a main character was murdered. Obviously, this was a major shock to the other characters, and so while part of the show was about bringing the killer to justice, another part was about how the characters handled it.

What I found interesting about this story arc is that it created a great catalyst for character development. While most of the characters grieved this loss and became determined to solve the case, one character- Agent Booth- who is typically a very moral guy- started to lose it. It started to push him over the edge, and he began to go from dedication to obsession.

The writers could have very easily made this story arc all about the plot- after all, it is a crime show- but instead, they chose to take one of the main characters' strengths- his dedication to justice- and let the grief push that positive trait into dangerous territory: a mad need for revenge. If you've ever watched Burn Notice (SUCH a great show) a very similar thing happened to the main character in that show. Toward the end of the show his agenda- which was a noble one- began to put everyone he cared about in jeopardy, and they couldn't help becoming concerned about his growing obsession.

Another simpler version of this can be seen in kids' shows, like Boy Meets World for us 90's kids, and Girl Meets World for OUR kids. In these shows, the writers take the most endearing trait of the main characters- their innocent good intentions- and demonstrate how that innocence, when mixed with the right situation, can become a fault that causes conflict.

So the first question for you is this: Can you drive your character development by taking a character's positive trait and intensifying it to the point that it becomes detrimental and creates conflict in the story? In the examples above I cited dedication => obsession and innocence => naivete. Here are few more ideas for you:

kindness/helpfulness => doormat
bravery => recklessness
teachable => gullible
gentleness => cowardice
confidence => conceit
friendship => total dependence

Now the real trick: How can you use other plot elements to bring your character full circle? As Bones went on, Agent Booth learned that he could be a powerful force for justice without obsessing. Corey and Riley both learned/are learning that they can be kind and helpful in a mature and accepting way.

How will your character learn to be brave while still staying responsible? Gentle and still courageous? Confident yet still humble?

One more aspect to consider with this sort of a character development strategy is point of view (POV). With a television show it can be pretty clear when a character is starting to cross the line from healthy behavior to unhealthy, damaging behavior: the other characters exchange looks, express concern, and so on. With a third person POV like this you can usually see the switch coming, you can see how it affects others, and you can feel its repercussions more.

With novel writing, however, we get the added interest of possibly writing this sort of thing first person, which I find to be one of the most fascinating ways to write such a character flaw, because, if you do it well, the reader might be so totally invested in the main character that they might not even realize when the switch happens from the good behavior to the dangerous. 

I was reading "Twenties Girl" by Sophie Kinsella (oh how I love her books) and something like this happened: the main character started to go a little over the edge, but I didn't even realize it because I was in her head, and all of her thoughts and actions seemed perfectly reasonable to me at the time. By the time I realized the path she was (we were?) going down, I was just as surprised as she was! That's how you know it's well written.

Last question: How could changing your story's POV affect the way the reader experiences this sort of story arc? Would one POV be more effective than another? (You might even want to consider writing it both ways as a writing exercise just to better understand how it affects each character.)

After I mulled over this good-characters-gone-bad idea I ended up finding a really great arc for one of my secondary characters (a love interest) who had been very 2-D before. I decided that he was going to take a noble, diplomatic point of view about a particular situation, which is great, until the situation gets to the point that my MC can't stay in diplomatic territory anymore- she needs to act (without giving him all the reasons why). This creates tension between them, and he has to choose whether he is going to stick to his principles or if he is going to trust her enough to be on her side. When he finally chooses to trust her, it will help to cement their relationship.

Hope these ideas help you as much as they've helped me... now go turn some good characters bad!


Verse two

By Beckie Carlson
I don't particularly enjoy having church at 2pm. It feels like the day is over before we even get there. We manage to be late almost every week. I'm ready for a nap before the opening hymn is sung. I also have to admit that it is hard to keep our activities 'sabbath -worthy' when we sleep in half the day, laze around, and end up watching movies til it's time to go. The only real benefits, beside the sleeping in , are the opportunities for me to actually iron a few male shirts before we go. No more looking like homeless men rolling off their benches to come to church. We are wrinkle free! Most days....
My morning was extra special today because of a certain uninvited guest. Apparently, I have been the unknowing host of a 'missing person' for the last four days. Now, I can understand partly because I hid a friend in my parent's house when I was in third grade. True, the 'friend' was a kitten about the size of a man's shoe, but it was a friend and it was hidden. 
I do not understand how a person can climb up the outside of a house and climb in a window and feel all warm and fuzzy about that. I also can't understand why I stopped setting the house alarm. Darn cool nights!
After dealing with the police (always a joy), making muffins (that tasted BAD), cleaning the kitchen (there was an ox in my sink...), and trying unsuccessfully to talk a surly teen into going to church, I was ready for a spiritual feast. 
We were actually a few minutes early so I was able to quiet my mind and lose my boys to the foyer before we began the meeting. My ward has really been nice lately. It might be due to my relief society lessons and the fact that I tend to use bad language or be overly sarcastic, but people are starting to talk to me. I quite like it. I miss having my grandson to play with so I sat behind another little boy so I could flirt with him during the meeting. He did not disappoint .His shrill laughter was quite the distraction.
Sitting in the chapel, all alone, thinking about the events of the weekend and morning, I started to feel just a bit 'heavy' with the weight of it all. Our opening song was We Thank The Oh God for a Prophet. I know that one, I don't even need the book, but I took it out anyway.As I followed along, I heard the words to the second verse as though they were being spoken directly to me.
"When dark clouds of trouble hang over
and threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us
and we know that deliverance is night.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness
We've proved him in days that are past..."
I've always loved this song, but I never really heard this verse like I did today. I do have dark clouds of trouble hanging over me. I am sad at times due to the choices of my children, as well as some of my own choices. I've made mistakes. I wonder and question if I've made too many. Hearing this song, I realized that I don't doubt the Lord. He has been proven in days of past in my own life. He has never let me down. 
I choose to keep my chin up and look forward to that perfect brightness of hope that smiles before me. This too shall  pass. This shall be for my good. My Savior has suffered this and more for me. Be still.
Cause I said so.
Photo credit: 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Happy National Poetry Month!

We are eleven days into National Poetry Month, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets.  The purpose of the celebration, in a nutshell, is to celebrate poetry's place in our lives, and to help ensure that its legacy continues.

Is poetry important? I would say that it is not only important, but necessary. Not only that, I believe that it is organic--poetry won't ever "go away," because it comes from inside and pours out of us. There are many who call themselves "poets," but I would argue that in some shape or form, we are ALL poets. In his speech "Tide of Voices--Why Poetry Matter Now," poet Mark Doty asserts that poetry is "a way to speak. A way to be heard." I recommend reading his entire speech--it is poetry in itself and gives a great explanation as to why poetry matters today more than ever. The talk can be found here:

I myself love to write poetry. My poems sometimes rhyme, but usually do not. I don't have any form for them, although if one were to analyze them, maybe in 100 years in some high-school literature class, form may be found.  But mostly, the words bubble up and I write them down. I don't edit them much, and I've learned not to ask for critiques because when people suggest I change the words, it chafes at my poetic sensibilities as if my muse is offended that her offerings were not accepted. For that reason, I'm not sure if my poetry is meant for anyone's consumption other than my own, as a way for me to understand myself.  At any rate, for me, poetry happens more than anything.

One of my ANWA colleagues, Stephanie Abney, does a whole month of poetry on her blog, Stephanie Says So. She posts a daily tutorial on a different form of poetry and her own offerings in that form, and then invites her readers to try it out and put their poems in the comments. I've learned tons about poetry that I never even knew I didn't know.

So how can you celebrate National Poetry Month? The Academy of American Poets posts the following list of 30 suggestions on their website,

30 ways to celebrate national poetry month

  1. Order a free National Poetry Month poster and display it at work or school.
  2. Sign up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning.
  3. Deepen your daily experience by reading Edward Hirsch’s essay “How to Read a Poem.”
  4. Memorize a poem.
  5. Create an anthology of your favorite poems on
  6. Encourage a young person to participate in the Dear Poetproject.
  7. Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.
  8. Review these concrete examples of how poetry matters in the United States today.
  9. Learn more about poets and poetry events in your state.
  10. Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.
  11. Attend a poetry reading at a local university, bookstore, cafe, or library.
  12. Read a poem at an open mic. It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local poetry writing community.
  13. Start a poetry reading group.
  14. Write an exquisite corpse poem with friends.
  15. Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.
  16. Write a letter to a poet thanking them for their work.
  17. Ask the United States Post Office to issue more stampscelebrating poets.
  18. Recreate a poet’s favorite food or drink by following his or her recipe.
  19. Read about different poetic forms.
  20. Read about poems titled “poem.”
  21. Read the first chapter of Muriel Rukeyer’s inspiring book,The Life of Poetry.
  22. Subscribe to American Poets magazine or a small press poetry journal.
  23. Watch Rachel Eliza Griffiths' latest Poets on Poetry video.
  24. Watch or read Carolyn Forche’s talk “Not Persuasion, But Transport: The Poetry of Witness.”
  25. Read or listen to Mark Doty’s talk “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now.”
  26. Read Allen Ginsberg’s classic essay about Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
  27. Watch a poetry movie.
  28. Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.
  29. Get ready for Mother’s Day by making a card featuring aline of poetry.
  30. Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, 2015. The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with coworkers, family, and friends.
Here's my own little poetic offering today to close: 

Go out and celebrate
'Tis a short thirty days
To honor the words
that pour forth, that draw out
the sighs, the laughter, the tears
That bring understanding 
That link us all in our
fumbling humanity.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Interview with Editor of Trifecta Books, Tristi Pinkston

By Nikki Wilson

Today I'm excited because my friend Tristi Pinkston is allowing me to interview her about her publishing company, Trifecta Books. Trifecta Books is an new breed of publishing. It combines the benefits of a small publishing company, and the freedom of self-publishing into one place. They just announced that they will be expanding into the LDS and Christian market in 2016! So of course I had to find out more so I could tell you all about it!!

What prompted you to start Trifecta Books?

I've been publishing for about thirteen years now and I've been with a few different publishers, and I've also worked in the industry on the publishing side of things. Every so often, I'd find myself thinking, "If I had a publishing company, I'd do it this way or that way." Then I'd brush the thought off because really, when would I ever start a publishing company? Come on, right? But then about two years ago, I was thinking about it while in the shower (where I get all my best ideas) and the name for the company and everything just appeared in my head. I mentioned it in passing to my friend Jenni James, and her response was, "I want to be your first author." So that's how it all came to be.

What has been the most difficult part of starting a publishing company? What has been the best part?
There's a lot more paperwork than I had realized at first. You fill out this form and then get the other form and then there's this code and that number and on and on ... and then you find out that you really need to do that thing over there ... it's all a learning curve, and I imagine I'll be learning for a long, long time. The best part is creating something where there wasn't something before. I get to help authors take their dreams and make them reality. That's amazing.

Can you describe how Trifecta Books is different/similar to other small publishing companies?

We're similar in that we operate with a very small staff. The people who work with me are dedicated, hard-working, and can see the vision of this company ... and there are only a few of them, meaning that they're each doing a lot right now. Down the road, I'll be bringing on more people and we'll be able to spread the tasks around. We're also focused on the well-being of each author, as other small companies are. I'd say that we're different in that our company is run entirely out of our homes - my office is my bedroom, and each member of my staff also works from home. We also are focusing more on e-book with some print sales, and we're utilizing the Internet more than other forms of advertising. In addition to that, we're doing our own distributing.

What are the benefits of writers publishing with Trifecta Books versus self-publishing?
When you publish with Trifecta, you have the advantage of a company name behind you. You have years of experience between myself and my team. There are pitfalls we can help you avoid. I'm not against self-publishing - in fact, I've done several of my books independently. But with a company, you've got access to help and advice - and if we don't know the answer, we'll find it out. I would also say that my goal for Trifecta is that we become like a family, and that's a definite benefit.

How much control does the author have over the final version of their book when they are signed with Trifecta? (things like cover art, etc.)
The author is consulted on everything, and if they have a concern, we talk about it until comprises are reached that everyone can live with. I do have final veto power as the publisher, but if an author really hates something we've suggested, we will do what we can to address those concerns so they can feel good about their finished product.

What are some things a writer can expect in a contract with Trifecta Books?
We offer really competitive royalties. Our e-books are 50%. For our print runs, since we're fairly new yet, our authors have helped with print costs, and they're getting back 100% royalties until their initial investment is paid back. It's a little unorthodox, but we're trying new things in the industry. Print runs are optional. In addition, we have a very flexible clause dealing with rights of first refusal - we only ask to see the next book in a series. If you're not happy with Trifecta and we're not able to make the changes you'd like us to make, you can go elsewhere without a long legal battle. Our goal is to keep you happy, not to make it into a saga. 

What books does Trifecta currently publish, and what types of books are you looking to publish in the future?
Right now, we're primarily publishing young adult and sweet and clean romance. We have some middle-grade already published and more in the hopper. We will be opening up to more genres in 2016, including LDS and Christian.

What are you looking for in submissions? What is the protocol for submitting to Trifecta Books?
We're looking for well-written, thought-provoking books that are clean and uplifting. Right now, we're looking at more young adult, more middle grade, more sweet and clean romance, and particularly Regency romance. Come 2016, we'll be looking for LDS and Christian novels. You can read all about how to submit at, and you can send any questions to

What advice would you give to any writers that are interested in submitting to Trifecta?
Please send your manuscript through a critique group or a long list of readers before you submit. We're looking for professionally crafted books by professionally minded authors. If I open up your e-mail or your document and I see a bunch of typos, I'm immediately going to raise an eyebrow. Do not send me a rough draft or even a second or third draft.

Please be aware as to what I mean by "clean." I'm not talking about closed-door scenes - I'm talking about no scenes at all. We do publish kissing, as long as the hands stay in plain sight at all times. We do not publish swearing, uses of the occult, or gratuitous violence.
What other information would you like MMW readers to know about Trifecta Books?
That we're an exciting new company and we'd love to chat with them more, not only about our current catalog, but submitting. We have big plans, and can't wait to bring them to fruition. 
Thank you so much, Tristi for all that wonderful information! I'm looking forward to hearing even more about Trifecta Books in the future!


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