Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sharing your gift

By Lacey Gunter

As the Thanksgiving holiday wanes and the Christmas holiday begins to wax, I seek to bridge both wonderful holidays with some brief thoughts on gifts and thanks.

On what is traditionally considered the first Thanksgiving, the Native Americans living on the North East coast of America had a gift, the gift of knowledge and skills.  In a true act of humanity, these wonderful humans shared their gift with a group of immigrant settlers who would greatly benefit from it. I am confident those settlers were truly grateful for the acts of generosity from their Native American neighbors.

At this time and season in my life, as I reflect on the things I am grateful for, the obvious things emerge; family, friends, the gospel, the means to provide for ourselves, and the talents and knowledge we have been blessed with.  Love is of course a key part of that list.  But recently I have found myself being just as grateful for the abilities of others, as for those Heavenly Father has blessed me with. How grateful I am for the beautiful gifts of talent, knowledge and insight Heavenly Father has given to those who have been willing to work to perfect those gifts and have freely shared them with others. These gifts truly edify and enrich my life. They fill me with joy, peace and understanding.

As I reflect on those gifts, I am left to ponder over what gifts Heavenly Father has given to me that he desires I should cultivate and share with others.  How can I edify and uplift those within my sphere of influence.

It is not always easy to discover what these are.  While I am still not entirely confident what they are or should be for me, I am entirely confident on one thing.  As I seek to discover and perfect these talents, my desire should be to benefit those around me, rather than to benefit myself.  With this frame of mind, we truly find how we can make a lasting and valuable contribution to the world around us. It seems ironic, but by giving greater value to the welfare of others, we end up discovering our own infinite value.

I encourage each of you to recognize and give thanks for the gifts of others that have made your life better and then, in turn, seek out and share the special gifts you have uniquely been given to help and benefit others.  My gratitude to all of you lovely Mormon Mommy Writers, you help me to see the world in new way.  I will strive my best to do the same for you. God bless all in this lovely season.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My 2015 Thankful List - from the Handy Man to Baby James


We're still eating turkey in this household, so in my's still Thanksgiving!  This is my favorite holiday. It's like Christmas, without all the crazy shopping and overspending. And Easter, without all the candy. It's a day that refocuses my mind - for at least a week - on what's truly important. We need more holidays like this.

I want to share with you how, despite some heartaches this year, I am still mindful of how blessed I am. These blessings are in no particular order.

1.  I still love our 25-year-old house, despite the fact that the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet. This dear home has raised three kids to adulthood, weathered copious Florida hurricanes with no flooding, housed many, many friends and family, and tolerated one lovable dog who liked to drag dead squirrels inside.

2.  I'm so grateful for dark chocolate-covered malt balls.

I don't know why it took someone so long to create these, but they should get the Nobel peace prize.

3. I'm grateful I have a handy husband. Between the two of us, we can manage most home repairs and updates. Recently, we re-framed an old, industrial-grade bathroom mirror.

(If you want to do this, here are detailed instructions: GETTING FRAMED)

4.  I'm beyond grateful that my handy husband is finally recovering from vertigo - a condition that made him so sick a week ago, he was sleeping on the bathroom floor. It's an odd inner ear imbalance problem that is completely debilitating, and it often springs up for no apparent reason. Whoever figures this one out really deserves a prize.

5.  I'm grateful the little fender bender I had two weeks ago hurt no one and no one else's car either. Only my own, which is fair, I suppose. Luckily, I have first-accident forgiveness, so I have only my deductible to pay, and I can move on with my life. Thank you, USAA.

6.  I'm grateful for a week in a condo on the beach last month to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This was a gift from many family members and we have great photos to remind us of this time away from our own lives. Here's one of my favorites.

Thank you, son Jeremy, for taking so many lovely photographs.

7.  I'm grateful for my nutritionist, who by muscle testing keeps me on track with eating well, despite my occasional cheating with chocolate-covered malt balls.

8.  I thank God that Dad is finally recovering from his fall six weeks ago. He had several set-backs, and we wondered if he would be able to return to his ALF, where Mom is. Looks like that will likely happen now.

9. I'm grateful that my ebook about our family Christmas project (here: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE) is finished and was published in July. I felt called to write it and share it with the world. What happens with it now is up to God.

10.  I'm grateful for our local thrift shop. It reminds me that "stuff" is recycle-able and share-able and trade-able. I love taking a bag of things there just about monthly, and I love finding an item there I need. We could all save so much and probably help the planet too, if we would just rotate our stuff.

11. I'm grateful for Champion brand sport bras. For various reasons. Enough said.

12.  I'm grateful, delighted really, for our first grandchild James, who is six months, pre-born. Here he is with his folks, our son and his wife.

Isn't he the most beautiful pre-born you've ever seen? He looks great in plaid, don't you think? Clearly, I'm going to be one of those nutty grandmas, but I'm OK with that. James and I will be buds.

13.  I'm mostly grateful that I know there is a sovereign God who loves me and has a plan for my life. Without that, nothing else makes any sense.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful of Course!

by Patricia Cates

For all of you today who are currently elbow deep in a bird or knee high in potato peels, thank you! Thank you for being a great mom, dad, cook, teacher, friend, grandparent or leader. Thank you for serving on a holiday; and being patient, and cleaning and watching out for loved ones, and being a creator and contributor of all things homey. You are what this day is all about...tradition and history and love.

I'd like to invite everyone who follows this wonderful Mormon Mommy Writer's & Friends group to share what they are thankful for. As it snows outside and the temperature begins to drop to a low of seven tonight, I am undoubtedly thankful for a full belly, a roof over my head, the special spirits dwelling under it with me, indoor plumbing and a hot water heater that works. It might sound frivolous but right now I'm sure that there are folks in our city that are mighty cold, lonely or worse. What are YOU grateful for? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Set Your Intention

This past weekend as I rallied the troops for room cleaning, I took a different approach. I said, "Kids, we're not 'cleaning' rooms today. Today we are going to make our rooms BEAUTIFUL!"

Okay, so they kind of saw through my ploy. But it also kind of worked. When we removed the negative connotation- the idea that we had to CLEAN and cleaning was WORK- and instead thought about how we were going to make our rooms beautiful- and making things beautiful was creative and fun- it changed our approach.

I have found this to be true in other aspects of my life as well. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed out with parenting I engage my creative energies and try to envision what I want and how I can get there. The more outside-the-box thinking I do, and the more creative I can be in solving my problems, the more fun it is.

I'm not a big fan of cooking, but the one way I've found to make it more bearable is to look for new recipes to try and to keep searching for the very best of the best so that I know my cooking efforts are going toward a stellar result. This puts a creative spin on a sometimes mundane task, and it makes it much more enjoyable for me. (By the way, my current "nailed it" file contains recipes for fajitas, fried rice, bread, brownies, vanilla frosting, chocolate frosting, and chocolate chip cookies, among other things- can you tell which types of things I spend the most time perfecting?)

Same thing when it comes to food & exercise- when I think of what I don't want my body to be (flabby and out of shape), the idea of getting rid of the negative can make me sigh and want to grab another cookie (after all, I do have the perfect recipe for them). If, however, I envision what I want my body to be (fit and healthy) and I get creative about my plan to get there (trampoline workouts, anyone?) the more fun it is to achieve my goals. Recently we've switched to much healthier eating so I've had a chance to get really creative with vegetables, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. (Cookies aren't totally out of the picture, we're just eating a few less these days.)

I have this one workout dvd in which the trainer says things like, "When it gets hard, this is where you set your intention," and "this is how we're sculpting our bodies." And it's a good thing she says stuff like that because it's a hard workout! But when I'm sweating and shaking and I hear those words: "set your intention", it makes me feel determined, it reminds me of the end goal, and I feel stronger. When I remember that I'm not just sweating and exercising for exercise's sake, but to "sculpt my body", then it becomes more of a creative endeavor than work.

So this Thanksgiving week when you may have a few extra chores to do around the house or a few more dishes to make for dinner, set your intention: you are creating a beautiful home and delicious food- have fun with it!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Start Where You Are

by Jewel Leann Williams

In General Conference this past October, President Dieter Uchtdorf shared a profound truth, and guidance for those of us who struggle (which is ALL of us, in some way): 

Start where you are

He said:

Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.”4Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.
I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.
God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.

So, there you have it. I love the simplicity of this idea, that Satan tells us that we are not good enough; we'll never be good enough; give up.  GOD, on the other hand, tells us that we are good enough, simply because we are His; but, if we will just take his hand and let him lead, we will become even more. Learning our weak points doesn't have to be negative, if we realize that those weaknesses are given to us to help us to come to our Savior.

In life, this is true.

As writers, or sculptors or pianists or football players or dish-washers, mothers, fathers--any venture that is worthwhile, I can hear the Spirit whisper:

Start where you are.

Perfection is the goal. It's not expected until we have journeyed long and hard, and learned.

Any failure isn't one, as long as we dust ourselves off, and start where we are.

We only fail when we sit in the dirt and refuse to start again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Princess Lolly: A Bedtime Story

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Princess Lolly, as drawn by my daughter

My lovely oldest child turns eight this week. It is nearly impossible to express how fantastic this girl is. She is funny, loving, kind, smart, good, curious, and just all-around amazing. She’s the sort of kid I would have loved to be friends with when I was young. She’s enthusiastic about everything, and we just love her to pieces.

In honor of her birthday, and also because this story is part of a giant project I’m working on this month, tonight I am posting a story I used to tell her a lot when she was a little girl. Princess Lolly is one of the characters from the board game Candy Land, and she went on many adventures in our bedtime hours. This, however, is her original adventure.

Hope you enjoy something light and silly tonight!

      Once upon a time, Princess Lolly was walking along the path through Candyland to visit her friends. Now, Princess Lolly is always very, very sticky, but on this particular day she got even stickier.
      The first place she went was to visit Plumpy to eat some plums from his tree. Now, a normal person would pluck the plum from the tree first and then bite into it. But not Princess Lolly. She liked to bite the plums right off of the tree, which is not a very exact method of eating. It was rather messy in fact, and plum juice ran down her cheeks, making her face very, very sticky.
      Next she visited Mr. Mint in the Peppermint Forest. He was chopping down peppermint trees, and she volunteered to help. She wasn’t strong enough or old enough to use Mr. Mint’s ax, but she was very good at gathering the peppermint logs up against her chest and stacking them in piles. Of course, peppermint logs are candy, and gathering them made her arms and her chest very, very sticky.
      After she helped Mr. Mint for a while, she wandered off to see Jolly at the Gumdrop Pass. Gumdrop Pass was one of her favorite places to run and jump because every time she jumped on top of a gumdrop, her legs and feet would sink deep into it. As you can imagine, this made them—you guessed it—very, very sticky.
      Gramma Nutt was next on her list of friends to visit, and she loved to see Gramma Nutt because Gramma was always making a batch of her yummy peanut brittle. She stirred the brittle over a fire in a giant cauldron, and then she would pour it out into shallow pans to cool. Princess Lolly was not very patient, though, and when it was still far too warm to have hardened, Princess Lolly poked at it with her finger. Fortunately, it was not too hot to burn, but her hand did sink deep into the brittle, which made it very, very sticky.
      At this point, you can probably understand why Princess Lolly spends her whole life being so sticky, but trust me, it gets worse. Because just before the end of the day, just before she headed home to see her mother, Princess Lolly stopped off to see Gloppy in the Molasses Swamp. And the swamp looked so inviting that she jumped in and swam around. So even though there had been parts of her that were relatively clean before, now she was absolutely covered in molasses—and therefore, very, very sticky.
      “Mommy, I’m home,” she called out to her mother, Queen Frostine, when she arrived back at the Candy Castle.
      “Oh, my dear!” exclaimed Queen Frostine, smiling. “You are very, very sticky, darling. I think you need a bath before bed.”
      Princess Lolly agreed.
      But do you know where she bathes? In the Ice Cream Sea. And so, even though Princess Lolly got a bath that night, it was in ice cream, and so, at the end of all her adventures and the end of the day, Princess Lolly still ended up very, very, very sticky.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Take a Hike

On Halloween morning my husband and I took our kids hiking.

We went on the Beaver Lake Trail, our favorite trail at our local state park. It's a 3-mile trail around a lake, but we just went about a mile and then turned around and came back the way we came, because 3 miles is tough on tiny little legs. :-)

I adore hiking with my family, and it's not just because of scenery like this:

And this-

And this one too. 

While the scenery is amazing, and I love being able to get my "fall fix", I also love the way it gives us opportunities as a family that nothing else does.

I love that we have space, and breathing room. Sometimes when you have a bigger family it's hard to be all together without feeling claustrophobic. Nobody's saying, "He's TOUCHING ME!" or "Leave me ALONE!" We're together without being on top of each other. And that's nice.

I love that there's no hurry. We can all experience nature in our own way, we can talk, we can laugh, and there's no rush. Just the opportunity to really be together.

 My husband and I can stroll along hand in hand while the kids run ahead, we can stop and kiss and they can turn around and say, "EWW!" (my daughter) or "Awww!" (my son)

(And we can hug a tree, if that's what we feel inclined to do.)

Throw into the mix that we're breathing in fresh air, taking in nature, discovering new things, doing something that's healthy, and making memories, and as far as I'm concerned, it's the perfect family activity.

So my advice to you is to take a hike. And take your family with you. :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Field Notes

By Beckie Carlson

The last two years have been very memorable in my life. I had a daughter get married, I started a new career, I completed two Masters programs, and one of my sons served a mission. All of these events taught me lessons. Some of them included time management, patience, and strength, but the biggest lessons I have learned have come in the last week from my newly returned missionary.
A little background is needed. My son is incredibly smart. He is right up there with his dad the rocket scientist. He is the one I would go to for help with math, finances, science, computers, etc. I truly missed his wisdom while he was gone the last two years. He was also a bit self centered, lazy, and not interested in the affairs of others. I prayed that his mission would help him learn to love others and to be more compassionate.
I am here to say that prayers are answered. The boy that I watched get on a plane twenty four months ago was not the man that I saw come off the plane four days ago. He is strong, confident, loving, and a spiritual giant. I understand now the parts of the Book of Mormon when they wrote that words could not utter the feelings of joy. My joy was full.
My missionary has taught me many things since he has been home. Here are a few of them;
Being busy is good. Idleness is just the opportunity to lose your focus. Be anxiously engaged in a good cause at all times.
Confidence comes through effort. He was a super shy kid. He is still uncomfortable talking to strangers, he says, but he talks to people where ever we go and shows genuine interest in them.
Don't assume. Just because his siblings might not have attended church in months doesn't mean he won't ask them to come today and actually succeed.
Less is more. Being a missionary is a practice in frugality. He wants very little and feels guilty for the things I buy him. (I'd love this to rub off on all my kids!)
Heavenly Father loves his children more than I ever could. This was an important one for me. I have friend that I feel responsible for. I feel I have to keep trying to help them, regardless of the way it destroys me at times. It's okay to let them go. Heavenly Father won't. He will keep trying to help them.
He didn't come home to judge or fix us, but his example is already making waves. I love having him home!! He is talking about going to the YSA ward and I want to say NO! Stay with me! But I know his life is before him. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. I love what missions do for these young men!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


By Lacey Gunter

Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk to you again...

Moments like these can feel so dark and silent. Silent like the smothering of hundreds of innocent voices all at once. Silent like the shock of millions of people left speechless with grief. Darkness like the shadow of hatred, blocking out the light of peace and hope.

We've all stood here before. How painfully familiar this is starting to become. It would be so easy to abandon ourselves to the fear and the anger and the mistrust. To look upon our neighbors as suspects and those we've never met as enemies. Or even to abandon feeling at all. To close our hearts off to even the slightest mention of human suffering.

But as easy as it may seem, it won't help. It won't heal the wounds. It won't end the suffering. It won't bring back those who are lost. It won't even make us feel better. Instead of abandoning our humanity, we must embrace it. For this is not only our duty, it is our privilege; to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.  To witness to the world, especially to those who chose hatred, that when we expand our circle of love, we find hope and healing. That through our faith and our willingness to forgive, we find the strength to stand up, to stand our ground and to stand it together.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Who's Keeping Track?

by Patricia Cates

Who's Keeping Track?

Apparently not me. Life is busy. I completely forgot it was my turn today to blog for the beloved MMW until...well....just now! It's not because of NaNoWriMo....although I wish it were. Writing opportunities have been scarce. Would love to hear more success stories from our fellow writers!
My personal list of excuses is long:
  • My oldest daughter is getting married next week. 
  • Computer issues from downloading Windows 10 have sucked up hours of my time over the past week. No bueno.
  • I started home schooling my 8th grader last week and its been an adjustment. A huge adjustment. We got our stuff last minute and the learning curve for the program and software is humbling since I have a million and one other things to do. More on that later.
  • Did I mention that my baby is getting married in 8 days? Our temple trip with her was wonderful and it was a beautiful day. Very busy weekend traveling. 
  • I wish Pinterest didn't exist and that potlucks were in vogue. I'm in charge of transforming a basketball court into an event center. This is new to me as I am a convert.
  • I've been fighting a cold/flu.
  • As the "mother of the bride" I sadly have no sisters, no aunts, no cousins, no grandmas or sisters-in law to help, My mother-in-law was recently in a terrible car accident and is just now using a walker so I cannot ask her for help. I thankfully have my mom and she is going to help make cookies. 
  • I may have gone completely nuts.

I'm so very grateful for my awesome visiting teachers and ward family right now!

Praying for patience and calm because more things keep coming up. I wish my husband were here to help but he is working 13 hour days, six days a week, and is three hours away. We are glad for the work but life is crazy.

I've got to run because school is starting...and then I need to run up to Idaho Falls and return some dresses that didn't fit and go to a craft store. It just started snowing...luckily its only an hour drive there. Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Creative Play

by Jewel Leann Williams

I’m not even gonna lie, I am avoiding NaNoWriMo like the plague this year. I applaud all of you who are doing it, but…. I failed so miserably last year, and this year I am busier and more stressed out. It’s just not the time to put more expectations on my plate when I already feel I fail at most of my current, non-NaNo ones.  I’m cheering you all on, though.

Speaking of stress, at work tonight we were given the task of creating “hand turkeys” by one of the supervisors. Not officially, just “please do this to decorate, it will make me happy”—so we did.  I was thinking about it as we did it, at first begrudgingly, then more willingly—and more creatively. 
This is NOT one of our turkeys.  It came from IMAGE: @STEELE_MADDIE ON INSTAGRAM

What is it about coloring, cutting, and gluing that was so pleasant?

I’ve been hearing and seeing more lately about “adult coloring books” and “adult play”—there’s even a place in NYC that is running an “adult preschool” for… well, way too dang much money (I haven’t figured out what they mean by a “sliding scale” of between $333 and $999, but since they get to decide who to accept into the preschool, I imagine those who say they can only pay $333 probably are on the bottom of the wait list).

Is it that important?  You bet your sweet bippy—whatever a bippy is. Psychology Today, in an article titled “The Power of Play” states that:
But there is also evidence that play does much more. It may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process. Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, to meet any possible set of environmental conditions.

Now that article is from 1999. But no research has come about to contradict it—as a matter of fact, there is more evidence than ever that play—especially creative play—can not only relax and de-stress the mind, but can serve as actual therapy. We’re not talking coloring books, though—we are talking CREATING.

So—how does this relate to the over-stressed writer? When you’re neck-deep in your NaNoWriMo project and you hit a wall of writer’s block, what can you do? In the interest of creative play, here are some ideas:

·         Draw your main character. Or a villain. Or the hunky love interest. Doesn’t have to be perfect, or even good. Get out the hot glue gun and glitter if you want. Make it into a doll and use it to act out a scene in your book. Get silly.
·         Use your kid’s actions figures and Barbie dolls to act out a scene—or not even a scene. Pretend that they are suddenly flung from the world of the book into modern day—argue with them, make them have a dance off.
·         Since many of us will be alone in our writing place, while all are asleep, when this writer’s block stress machine attacks, head for the nearest open space and make up an interpretive dance. You don’t have to dance LIKE no one is watching, because, seriously. It’s 2 am. No one is watching.
·         Color—but not in a book. Make up your OWN swirls and whorls, or scenery, or scribbles, or make your name in bubble letters and trace the colors over and over…. Again, this isn’t for an art show, it’s just to let your brain be creative, and playful, and “renew the neural connections.”
·         Do you know how to play an instrument? Take a few notes and create a song for your character. You don’t have to remember it later or write it down. You can even change the words to someone else’s song if you want.
·         Are the kids awake? Get them involved. Maybe they want to help you act out a scene. Or maybe they don’t. Play make-believe with them, and get involved in the story THEY are creating. Yeah, I know. Lightning McQueen and Batman are fighting Princess Anna and Olaf in an epic showdown to see who gets to catch Pikachu once and for all—not super-exciting, but you’re a writer, darn it, and you can make that story WORK. Best thing is, you’re creating, it’s risk free and stress free and you get to be the coolest parent in the world for a little while (as if you weren’t already all the time, right?)
·         DO NOT START PLAYING ONLINE GAMES—I say this because it is not creative play, it is not going to expand your mind, it is just numbing it.

What other creative outlets do you have? How do you use creative play to break writer’s block, or to simply de-stressify your life?  Share in the comments! 
This is Einstein out playing "Pretend to be Minecraft Steve" right before coming up with that whole E=MC thingy
(this image came from

Friday, November 6, 2015

NanoWrimo is HARD!

Happy November! This is the time of year when the leaves start changing colors (unless you live in Texas,) the temperatures start dropping (unless you live in Texas,) and you can pull on your boots and scarves (I live in Texas and do it anyway!)

Also, it's time for NanoWrimo.

Throughout this month, there will be encouraging words from writers around the world. Motivation will be lifting our hearts as we type our little fingers raw on our keyboards and we will feel like we are succeeding in our life dream to become a full time author.

So I have a confession...It is already November 6, and I have not written a word.

It's not that I don't WANT to write. I just don't have time. Now, I know what you're going to say: "Just like exercising, you can always make time for writing." Well, it's hard. After working all day to get kids reading and writing, I just want to climb under a blanket and binge watch Once Upon a Time.

For me, writing is an art that I have to have a clear head to do. I like to be alone and have headphones on to block out noise. Lately, I haven't been able to do this.

So, I'm going to ask you as an audience: How do you find time to write amid a busy schedule? How do you find the energy to pull your laptop into your lap and type out your thoughts? I'm struggling here and will take any advice I can get!


By Nikki Wilson

I like creating something out of nothing. Take a blank word document for example. Using only the 26 little letters in the English alphabet, I can arrange them into seemingly limitless combinations that form words. Words by themselves have little meaning, but when strung together into sentences and paragraphs can form worlds, and characters that boggle the imagination.

This month is National Novel Writing Month where crazy people like me challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less. The biggest challenge is to make those 50,000 words form a coherent story. I've won Nanowrimo two times in the past 7 years and it still amazes me what happens. Just seven days ago, my computer screen was blank with nothing on it. I had no characters, no world, no plot. Now almost 6 days in, with 11,000 words I have a main character who lives in a futuristic, yet simpler world as a princess. In those 11,000 words my character has been betrayed, attacked, transformed to look like someone else, killed a person in self defense and saw the dead bodies of her whole family.

This all happened in FIVE days of writing using only the alphabet and knowledge of the English language. How amazing is that?! You too can create the stories in your head. Join in on Nanowrimo. It's not too late. Even if you don't make 50,000 words, any amount of words on the page is better than a blank page. So become the God of your own imaginary worlds today and create lives with trials, heartache, pain, joy, love, and happiness. You will be amazed at the inspiration that comes and imaginary friends you will make!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

So You Want to Write a Book

by Katy White

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) underway, I've been asked a few times how to get started writing a book. If you're interested in writing, do it! There's no better time than now to start. Writing is the absolute best...with bouts of heartbreak and despair. But it's the best.

The first step is to write the thing (okay, or plot the thing). November is the perfect time to do this. Open up a word document (or, better yet, a Scrivener project) and just start writing. With the goal of 50k words in 30 days, you don't have time to think about things like plot and character development. You just have time to start practicing writing.

But for those who like to be a little more prepared while getting started, the following link provides a wealth of resources for beginners and pros alike:

If you've already written a book, the next step is to edit the thing. My first piece of advice is to read it out loud, as much of it as you can possibly do. Nothing helps you find odd bits of dialogue or strange wording better than hearing it read. Along with that, though, this site is overflowing with tips for all levels:

Next, you'll need to get critique partners to critique the thing. If you can find people who write what you write, ask them! I've found CPs at writer's conferences, on twitter, through online writing workshops, and through contests. Maggie Stiefvater hosts a CP Love Connection every year (at least I think it's every year). Also, if you haven't checked out yet, do. Not only is it a great place to find critique partners, it's a great place to learn how to become an author.

Once your book has been torn apart by your CPs and rewritten, then torn apart by the next round and rewritten again (and again), it's time to write your query letter. A query letter is the means by which you approach an agent about being represented. An agent is your advocate and your way in with publishing houses. If you dream of being traditionally published, you need an agent. If you want an agent, you need a query letter. Agent Extraordinaire, Janet Reid, has a blog called Query Shark that is immensely helpful. Honestly, you probably want to become best friends with this site. :)

Nathan Bransford (famous author and agent) also has excellent resources on all things writing, including how to write a query letter. His website is a goldmine of information for writers.

For finding agents, I lived on Casey McCormick's fabulous Agent Spotlight through. For tracking the querying process as a whole, I used, along with a shockingly and needlessly convoluted Excel spreadsheet of my own devising (I love Excel. Don't judge.)

And there you have it! Easy as pie, right? (Side note: I can't make pie. But I can eat the heck out of it.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Acts of God

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

“It would take an act of God to get me to go back to school.”

“Only an act of God would make me choose that job over this other one.”

“If I’m supposed to do this, it’s going to take an act of God to make me.”

Perhaps you have heard something like one of these phrases. When people talk about “acts of God,” they’re generally thinking about floods, earthquakes, being struck by lightning. There’s even an “act of God” clause in many insurance policies for something so catastrophic and unexpected that your insurance company won’t pay for it.

On the other hand, I (and I think many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) tend to recognize acts of God in small and simple things—often in my daily life. I believe that God is intimately interested and involved in our lives, that He acts in small ways all the time, and that the more we see it, the more He can lead us in joyful directions.

When I first announced that I am pregnant again, I had a difficult time really trying to explain why we made this decision. I have three children already, and my youngest will be younger than two years when I have baby #4. It would have been easy to explain it if I absolutely loved babies or was naturally “baby hungry,” as I know some women are. It might have been easy to explain it (though rather awkward) if the baby had been an “oops.” But the fact is neither of these is true. The baby was quite planned. I am not a huge baby person. And quite frankly, I am not super excited about the (for me) very small space between #3 and #4.

So why are we having another child right now? This was an act of God. He didn’t send a storm. He didn’t give us blinding visions. He simply nudged; He pointed us in a direction and said, “Go that way.”

And I, being my usual perfect, incredibly faithful self, said, “Really? Are you sure you don’t want to just think it over for a few days?”

But I’d already learned that when I ignore such a clear, obvious act of God, I regret it. And when I follow Him, I am blessed. So, we listened.

We all have moments, some big and some small, when God acts in our lives and changes our course. How we respond, I think, determines in large part how grand and majestic our lives will be. Not necessarily grand in the usual sense—not fame or fortune, not necessarily worldly success—but full, full of joy and of more of who we can be.

So we move forward in faith, knowing that when God acts once to put us on a path, He will not fail to act again to help us stay there. He will move our personal mountains, He will flood our spirits with strength, He will send us lightning flashes of insight and knowledge and power. He will fill our lives with His daily acts.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Characters All Around You

Sometimes when we are writing we can get so wrapped up in the story that we forget about the characters- I know this happened to me with my first novel. I was so excited about this fun plot line that the only job I gave the characters was to propel the plot. Only after I'd written quite a bit did I realize that the flatness of my characters was really detracting from the narrative.

So how can we write characters that are unique, 3-d, and not cliche?

In this case I think the old adage, "write what you know" is very pertinent. Look around you: what intrigues you about people in your life? Start with your own family: look at your husband, your children. How are they unique? What are their quirks, their strengths, their weaknesses, their flaws? (I know, usually we shouldn't focus on the flaws of those we love, but this is for the sake of art.)

One person in my life who is an inspiration to me in the character department is my oldest daughter: she is a total conundrum of a human being, and I have yet to figure her out. She is layered and anything but ordinary. At the beginning of the year her teacher handed out a questionnaire for parents to fill out about their kids, and one of the questions was, "What are 3 words that best describe your child?" As a writer, who is so conscious of words and their power, this was a weighty question. Just 3 words? I could use about a hundred, but these are the 3 I chose:


They might seem like odd words to describe a 9-year-old, but they fit her perfectly. Let me tell you about this girl.

I first started getting to know A when I was pregnant with her. She would get into the most uncomfortable positions, and when I would try to move her manually, she would just push harder. That was when I knew I was in some trouble.

Here she is giving me The Look. She was only 2 at the time, but believe me, it was not the first nor the last time she gave me this look. She is stubborn with a capital S. I thought I had discipline and consequences down with my son, but she laughed in the face of all my consequences. She would yell, "FINE! I WANT to go in TIME-OUT! I LOVE time-OUT!"

Her determination and fearlessness began to really show was when she was 2. I remember one time we were playing at the park. There were some boys sitting in front of the top of the slide, not letting kids go down. Her big brother, who was 4, cried and ran away. A pushed them out of the way and laughed and went down the slide. 

As she grew, I started to notice that she also really liked to get dirty. I wish I could find the photo of her where she has mud in her mouth- yes, IN her mouth. She has never been afraid of gunk and guts and loves to play in the dirt.

This is her with her shrimp, playing with its tendrils, at a chinese restaurant. She said, "He's so cute! I think he likes me!" and then she ate him. She loves shellfish and sushi and spicy food.

But before you decide you know her, that she is a tomboy, just hang on, 'cause she's not.

She loves dressing up, getting her hair done, BEGS me to wear makeup, and takes FOREVER to get ready in the morning (because the JEWELRY and the SHOES!) She has wonderful fashion sense, too. But she hates jeans. She will ONLY wear leggings. Black ones. That's it. Each year I just buy her 5 pairs and call it good.

I love this photo of A because this was when she was in 2nd grade- 8 years old- and she performed in the school talent show. She did a choreographed dance on stage, all by herself, and I was blown away, because there is NO WAY I would ever have had the guts to do something like that when I was her age. She LOVES being in the spotlight.

Eventually she quit dance because the repetition drove her crazy, and she wanted more of a physical challenge. So we moved on to gymnastics. Not as much of a stage/spotlight scene there, but I love when her coach gives her something to work on- that look of fierce determination on her face when she is out to conquer a skill- and then the satisfaction when she does (because she always does). One week we saw the older gymnasts working on some skills for competition and after class I said, "What did you think of the older girls?" A said, "They were amazing! I could never do that!" Then she got quiet and a few minutes later she said, "Mom, what do I need to do to be on the competition team?" Determination.

A has not had it easy when it comes to school. Her brother flew right into the gifted program because he remembers EVERYTHING with very little effort. For A, school is tougher. She has a hard time remembering facts. But she brings home straight-A's because she fights tooth and nail for them (trust me, I've been in the heat of that battle), and this year they put her in advanced math. 

I always say that if I were hanging off the edge of a cliff, A would be the one I'd call. In fact, a few years ago when I impaled myself on a needle in my craft room, I didn't call my older son to come help me, I called A, because I knew she would be calm and do what I needed. She is like iron under pressure.

And she's also kind of goofy.

Another unique thing about this girl that doesn't go along with a lot of the rest of her personality traits but I ADORE about her is her mothering instinct. When she was tiny, even with her stubborn, grouchy, determined self, I remember her coming and putting a blanket over me when I was snoozing on the couch. Just recently I got a monster sinus infection and felt miserable and she said, "Mom, go to bed. I'll take care of the little girls and get them ready for bed." I tried to argue with her, but her stubbornness came out and she won. I went to bed. She got the little girls ready for bed, and when I came downstairs later, I saw she'd even done all the dishes. She took care of me in just the way I needed. 

This is another one of my favorite photos of A. I took this after we went to an outdoor movie event at our local fairgrounds. She and I were waiting in line for face painting and she was doing some gymnastics with another girl who happened to be there from her class. Well, A was trying to be kind and play with this girl's little brother (that mothering instinct) and she was holding him and she tripped and fell. Well, she didn't want to let go of the boy for fear he'd get hurt, so she broke his fall and fell right on the side of her face and scraped it all up (the boy was fine). You can see it on the left side. But she still wanted to get her face painted (because she's a princess like that) so she stayed right there in line while I tried to doctor her up- she didn't even cry (that toughness again). 

In short, this girl is crazy awesome and I don't get her in the least but I sure do love her, and she is a character in her own right, even at only 9 years old. I would love to make her the heroine of a novel. She's not without her flaws- she has a tendency to be a negative nelly about pretty much everything and she has this weird aversion to anything having to do with teeth (?)- but she is unequivocally herself and that is what I love about her. 

This is just one character in my life- one who is determined, dramatic, responsible, stubborn, tough, intelligent, talented, graceful, beautiful, thoughtful, and nurturing. She is one of the most interesting people I know, but certainly not the only interesting one. 

What about you? Do you have interesting characters in your life? Think about how you can incorporate some of those unique character traits you see in them into your characters. You might be surprised at how they come to life before your eyes!


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