Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
I'm thankful for two boys who will wake themselves at the crack of dawn to make sure they can surprise me with breakfast in bed. (I tend to be an early riser.) It was one of my favorites. French toast, a mini ham and cheese omelet, and OJ. And they did it all on their own.
I'm thankful for a daughter who tells me she loves me and that I'm her best friend. A daughter who showers me with hugs and plays uplifting, empowering songs when I need them, even though I'm not telling her I do. A daughter who stands by me in the kitchen before and after the Thanksgiving meal to help with preparations and clean-up. A daughter who hands me her size 3/4 jeans because she thinks I can wear them, after I see that mine are too big and no longer fit. (I won't tell you if hers fit, though!)
I'm thankful for family and friends who show their support and share their love and help keep me focused on my hopes and dreams. I'm thankful for a wonderful home, good schools that help educate my children, the means to put food on the table, and strong health. I'm thankful to have full days to enjoy, the sun when it shines, and a future that keeps me looking forward. And I'm thankful to live in a state and a country that affords us so many freedoms to do the things we do.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
However, I lost all credibility on the football front when my youngest brought in the morning paper and asked through a veil of confusion, "Who lost by one point last night? Was it the Colts?"
He was trying to sound hopeful.
I spun from my desk.
"One point! Did you say, one point! They had been leading by 13! With two minutes left to play!"
But I knew before I even snatched up the paper, deciphered the meaning behind the amazing photograph of Reggie Wayne's catch, that I should not have doubted Peyton. I knew he was capable of amazing come-backs such as this. After all, the announcer had reminded me so on their last failed drive before I clicked off the TV with confidence.
I won't doubt him again. Watching those two drives would have been fun. (Don't tell my sister. She's a true Patriot fan.) Me? I just hate missing out a good game. What was I thinking?
Sights are on the playoffs for sure.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The calendar tells me that was 2 months ago.... To me, it seems like that was merely days ago, or at least a handful of them. But, if you're interested, you can check out the interview here, as well as the other useful and insightful posts and interviews she has. Hopefully, I'll soon have good news to share on some of the projects I talked about. (Fingers crossed!)
Lori has her own good news. The book she illustrated, What Are You Thinking?, written by Valerie Ackley, is a 2009 National Best Books Awards finalist. What a wonderful accomplishment! Congratulations to Lori and Valerie!
Make it a great day, everyone.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
We were there for the Las Vegas Mayor's Cup soccer tournament that her team was playing in, and a friend had suggested we take that ride on the Big Shot, or at least get to the top of the Strat for the view. Lucky for us, these plans became part of the team's agenda for Saturday night, since they didn't have an early game scheduled for Sunday morning.
But as the captured Kodak-moment shows, even 4Gs of being shot 160 feet upward at 45 miles an hour isn't quite enough to zap my brain into motion. It took more than a few moments for me to realize, that yes, we were indeed moving, possibly and quite quickly, toward death. And by the time I was in full comprehension of my experience--that I may not survive--the zero-G's bestowed on us as we plummeted back downward kept me from vocalizing any of the sheer terror I felt in comprehending that there really was NO WAY off until it was over.
But of course, once it was done, I kind of wished I could do it a second time. And maybe a third.... What's up with that?
All in all, getting away to Las Vegas was great. The sun was warm enough to kiss my skin, the soccer games well-played and enjoyable to watch, the watershow at the Bellagio perfectly timed to impress upon my teenage daughter that I really might have clue as to what we were doing as we toured the strip, and the singing bus driver on route to the terminal was fabulous enough to end the weekend with a smile. Although the singing vacuum cleaner--i.e., the fellow who was riding a motorized vacuum cleaner at the SLC airport while singing Kumbaya upon our return--left me a bit perplexed over the intricacies of human nature.
As for daily life, the sun and warm weather have returned for at least a few more days in northern Utah before the snow truly starts to fly for good. Although I like to ski, here's hoping the sun will stick around for a little while longer.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Although as humans, we're nothing like fish, I've come to realize that in some ways we may mirror this behavior when we allow ourselves to give in to that gut-wrenching pull toward something or someone we like in hopes that the journey forward will lead us to a place that resembles our roots, shapes the foundation of our soul, and sharpens our senses to the point of knowing what it means to truly be alive. So that at the end of it all, we can say, yes, life's ultimate journey was worth it, even if we did get battered among the rocks along the way. Because feeling something is the first step toward believing, and believing in something provides the purpose for moving forward, even if we're swimming against the current and dodging all sorts of debris coming our way.
For me, I want to believe that the ultimate journey will have been about love. I want to be able to say that I held on to it when it was found. That I did everything I could to make it grow, and that in doing so, in sharing it with those around me, made my corner of the world a better place.
Last week, I came across a quote I liked from Souza. Here's part of it:
Love as though you've never been hurt before....Live as though heaven were on earth.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I had no idea what I was in for when the remodel on our house started, and now that the largest part of it is done, and we are back to living on the first floor, it almost seems like the summer has been a surreal existance, at least as far as trying to stay connected with the writing and publishing world. I learned that I can not necessarily write "anywhere," at least as far as keeping up with office to-do lists. Being limited to 2-square-feet of floor space at an itty bit desk-that-is-not-a-desk in my daughter's room underneath the watchful starry eyes of Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Lautner (who is now wallpapered on my screen, thanks to youthful daughter) did not do a lot for inspiring the muse to keep the blog updated. (Or the photos downloaded--sorry, Mom! Those will follow.) But thankfully, the embers that feed the creative side--at least as far as making fiction--kept burning and I managed to wrap up my middle grade and get a picture book hammered out by writing in quiet pockets outside.
It's hard to believe summer has passed by and fall is well upon me. The first big rain of the season lured me from bed early this morning, and already I'm looking forward to drier and warmer weather to return. There are too many things left to be done in the garden. Green beans and corn plants are ready to be ripped out, and limas, carrots and beets are standing tall for harvest. Thank the Lord for a friend like Kristen, who does not have a garden and who has found a new passion for helping in gardens that are not her own. We have a date to do all good things with beets, carrots, and a bottle of wine on Tuesday. Yesterday, we tackled the beans, tomatillos, zuchinis-that-are-now-listed-as-deadly-weapons, cucumbers, and tomatos. Good times, good times.
I'll leave you with a few photos of summer journeys 2009.....
Monday, June 15, 2009
Alane Ferguson was definitely a daily highlight. She kept me laughing in her class, while showing how to critique manuscripts well. Learning from her was more like an osmotic-process than a bottling process, if that makes any sense. Here are a few Lanie-isms that I enjoyed walking away with:
"That is absolutely one of the unbreakable rules, except for the fact that it will be broken next week."
"My curtains are always closed, because I know there are people like me out there."
"Does he glitter? I get a lot of gratification when people glitter."
"I'm the rebel, but I'm also so compliant."
"That is brillance in action, people."
"I'm giving you the Lanie Guarentee. Editors will love this."
............ I can only hope!
I also attended break-out sessions. Here are a few words of wisdom.
"Sometimes what your characters don't say reveals more than what they do." -- Ann Dee Ellis (Everything is Fine)
Mette Harrison (The Princess and the Hound) wasn't there, but she was quoted. "Clarity first. Pretty words second."
"Does each scene move the plot forward? Does each scene deal with internal/external conflict?" -- Ann Cannon (The Loser's Guide to Life and Love)
I took a few notes during Krista Marino's address. Krista is an editor with Delacorte. She highlighted 4 books from her list and discussed why she had chosen them. They were:
The Witch's Alphabet by Caitlin Kitteridge (Feb 2010). A "steam-punk novel described by her as A Great and Terrible Beauty meets The Golden Compass, which was the original steam-punk novel.
The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien Jones. Described as The Penderwicks, as perceived by Tim Burton.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Described as The Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which is a love story with a zombie threat, described as 28 Days Later meets The Hand-Maids Tale.
The best part of the conference was the send-off extravaganza, in which Carol Lynch Williams and Cheri Pray Earl danced and sang and Will Terry showed the story of The Little Red Toyota. I have pictures, and as soon as I get them downloaded, I will add them here.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I'll have to remember to take pictures tomorrow. A camera being toted around in purse does not take pictures by itself.
I'm in the morning workshops being led by Alane Ferguson, who is absolutely amazing. Her knack for editorial insight and guidance has blown me away. Here are a few nuggets.
Don't underestimate dialogue. Good dialogue will move a plot forward more than narrative.
In addition to having a good hook on page 1, tap into a Universal by page 2. A universal is that element that everyone on the planet can relate to: need to belong, fear of abandonment, fear of failure, a curiosity in wondering how a character will use his/her power to get what he/she wants, etc.
At the end of the story, the conflict must be resolved (of course), but there must always be a cost for the character in getting that resolution.
Be mindful of "burying the lead." This means, put the emotional hook, the conflict, the important stuff up front. Don't let it be muddled in an otherwise beautiful, well-written narrative, assuming the reader will "get it."
Claudia Mills was thoroughly entertaining. She suggested a few books for inspiration in the craft. Two of them are If You Want to Write by Brenda Velan and The Creative Habit by Twyla Thorpe.
Lael Littke, the bionic woman with titanium knees (my mouth literally dropped to the floor when she told us of her recent surgery!), also stressed the importance of adding that emotional conflict to the main conflict. This gets the reader connected to the character. And, of course, there has to be an event that forces the character to take a different direction.
Make it great day!
Monday, May 11, 2009
And guess what? I'm a winner, too! Although I laugh when I think how it pales in comparison.... But I won a B&N $50 gift card! That's right. Fifty bucks to spend on books, just by being one of the lucky seekers of a treasure chest on writer Bree Despain's website. She's another talented Utah author who will see her first book, The Dark Devine, in print by February 2010. Her website is great and definitely worth checking out. While you're there, tell her I said, hi!
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I don't know why, but for me, they always signal a time for putting work aside and cozying up with family to read books or play games. It's time when life can slow, and we can hang together indoors where it's safe and warm.
We don't get many thunderstorms in Utah, but we're having one now. The rain is patting at the windows, the chimes are blowing in the trees, the thunder is rolling and rolling and rolling, high across the dark tumbling sky, and my children are luring me with puzzles.
Utah, though, is different from Iowa, and I know I wouldn't be saying this if I still lived there. In Iowa, thunderstorms terrified me. Tornadoes were a common occurrence, and my safety zone? A mobile home on top of hill--the only one, it seemed for miles around. All too often, with one of the rainiest seasons on record during my stay, I was left hunkering down in a feeble shell of a tin can that seemed to scream, Come and get me!
But none did. So the wild dance remains. As do my children, who are calling me. It's puzzle time.
Happy Thunder Day!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I love it when taking a break from the rewriting of a novel brings such pleasant surprise.
Monday, March 16, 2009
"Fairy tales don't tell us that dragons exist. They tell us that dragons can be defeated."
G.K Chesterson said that. And I think it's pretty cool.
Other than that, Shannon said she keeps on top of her writing by setting daily goals, and then making them. ... Something I should start doing. Work, of late, has gotten sorely in the way. BUT! With my new-found inspiration, that will change.
Happy Spring, everyone. The snow is melting and the air is quickly growing warm.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I challenge HE.
Mr. Groundhog. To a duel.
Because that furry, brown rascal brought winter back to my door. And just to make sure I hadn't forgotten what winter looks like, he brought a whopping two feet of it.
This is how it went:
I woke this morning and had to shovel through 10 inches to get to my truck. Something I was not expecting at all, so in order to even begin, I had to march back inside and get my snowboots. I felt so juvenille...wearing snowboots to work. Big, black rubber ones, with a not-so-attractive, tan-suede upper. Any way you work it, black rubber does not make beautiful footwear. But it does keep the toes warm and dry, which makes the day doable.
But I digress. Because after coming home from work, I had to trudge through another 10 inches to get to my house.
Yeah, I know. Ten plus 10 does not add up to two feet. But, given the fact that it's still snowing, I think I can take the liberty of tacking on a few inches. Plus, I still need to go out again.
But before I do, I'm leaning toward curling up with a cup of hot chocoloate and watching the snow fall a little bit more. And then, maybe if I'm really comfortable, I'll wait and sit around, watching and waiting for the snow melt.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Yesterday, we were relaxing, resting, after a long day of skiing. I was trying to entice him into Kathi Appelt's The Underneath, and read the first few lines to him.
He rolled his eyes and told me he liked very few books, but said he did like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and said I should read the series, and that it wouldn't take me long to do so.
So, I told him I would, and then a few minutes later, started reading aloud from The Underneath (call me persistent, and maybe also a cheater, because I had skipped ahead a few chapters, and had deliberately picked out a few lines where things started getting scary....well, not Stephen King scary....but there was definitely a hint of horror to come, perhaps some fantasy, and mystery).
His ears perked. He scooted next to me to read the text. Then, he made me go back and start at the beginning.
After a few chapters, I put the book down to get dinner ready. He picked it up, and started reading on his own. Later, I had to pry the book away to get him to eat. Then after watching a family movie, (Pirates of the Carribean 2), he had his nose back in the book again even though it was after 10pm....
This book is not written in Diary of a Wimpy kid style. It is literary. It's almost poetic. But it has an amazing voice. One that definitely connected with my son, which is so cool.
This is the second "long" novel I've gotten my son interested in reading, after he had initially said, "no," (the other was The City of Ember). Yes, he was judging the books by their covers and length, and thought there was no way he'd want to read them. But all it took was five minutes of reading aloud, five minutes of mother-son time, and he was hooked. Now I'm in the situation of having to read to catch up to him, so we can continue to read aloud together.
The Underneath is a great read-aloud--mainly because it is so beautifully and flawlessly written. I highly recommend it, particulary if you can share it with a reluctant reader--open their world of books to something they normally wouldn't choose for themselves, or even, something you normally wouldn't choose for them. The chapters are short and switch from character to character, which keeps it interesting and relatively fast-paced.
This whole experience has made me question what "makes" a reluctant reader. Do kids fall into this category themselves? Do we hold that label over them? Do they hang on to it?
Or, are they willing to eventually let go? And if so, how will they do it?
(Here's an article by author John Green that tackles adult expectations vs teen preferences, where he too, was surprised by what teens liked.)
I'm not even sure my son knows what reluctant reader means, or if he even knows the term exists. I haven't ever said, "You're a reluctant reader." But I have lived with the frustrations of dealing with a child who doesn't really want to read much, besides nonfiction and his favorite sports magazine. Thank heavens he's beginning to open his eyes to other things, namely longer works, which require some thought, attention, and commitment.
And thank heavens, I took a chance with The Underneath. The result was completely unexpected, but so much appreciated.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Perhaps the best thing about this class were the assignments that we had to complete beforehand: writing bios for our MC (highly recomended, btw) and completing an outline for our novel (which was great, because now I have the final stages mapped out). Even though I knew where I was headed, it's great to have it all on paper. It seems like finishing should almost be effortless.
We talked about lots of stuff. One topic centered on voice and the fact that all award-winning books are effortless to read. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one good example (among many). When asked how she wrote that book, Patricia MacLachlan said she took out all the words that didn't matter.
My favorite quote of the day was, "The mystery of life is how we respond." Which is why we, as authors, need to know our characters so well.
For me, to putting this insight into action means, writing those character bios for all my characters, even though I think I already know them fairly well in my head. Then, even after that's done, I think I'll go back and expand them as I finish and rewrite.
Carol and Cheri used many books for examples. (One shall go unnamed.) Some of those included:
This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis
Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by Ann Cannon
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
On Writing by Stephen King
You can learn more about their classes and see a list of must-read books at http://www.thefirststory.org/.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Saturday, January 31, 2009
I'm not one of those die-hard fans, that goes crazy when her favorite team makes it to the playoffs (unless, of course, we're talking about my kids), probably because being a mom keeps me from having too much time to be a die-hard fan.
Over the years, I've turned into one of those people who, upon turning on a game on the televsion, will forget who she's rooting for, and root for the team that's losing, mainly because she likes to watch a great game, and if it's not happening, well, she wants it to. It keeps life interesting. And makes watching, fun.
Yes, I know. Perhaps I have a twisted idea of fun....
Which bring us to Sunday, February 1, 2009....
Cardinals VS Steelers....
Do I have a favorite?
I can't say. Won't say. But I will say this....It is a surprising duel....One I didn't expect....And it kind of reminds me....yes, it brings certain memories to mind....
Well,...all you STEELERS fans,... not to jinx it or anything, but it seems to me that the playoffs--this whole, road-to-the-bowl sort-of-thing--is kind of similar to what happened last year, when the GIANTS shocked the world by making it to the SUPERbowl.
Everyone thought for sure they'd LOSE the game, and more importantly, that it would be a bad game at that, since they were PLAYING AGAINST THE BEST TEAM in recent history, (even if the PATS had been CHEATING to ensure that spot...) But I digress. The PATs should have won. They should have won so badly, that it was sad, sad, sad, SAD, that they lost.
It left me sorely in a bad mood, which lingers to this day, considering some of the problems they seem to have hired on their medical staffffff who don't know how to heel a broken bone....
Warp speed to present day. DOES THIS STORY SOUND FAMILIAR? I mean, WHAT the HECK (Utah-speak) ARE the CARDS doing PLAYING the STEELERS? Aren't they going to be SPANKED?.....One would think so, unless of course, you witnessed and recall what HAPPENED LAST YEAR....
All I have to say is, Pray, baby Pray. Any of you. All of you.
Cause, if anything, I want it to be FUN.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today I want to tell everyone--kids, friends, family--how much I love you. I love your easy smiles, unexpected hugs, and stories you're ready to share about your day. You make my world complete. And to those who need a hug--those I don't know--who may be struggling through tough times, I'm keeping you in my prayers. This goes out to you. Consider yourself hugged. ...
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
As for my personal space on the planet, I just received good news that a poem of mine has been given preliminary acceptance into June Cotner's upcoming book: Earth Blessings, which will feature a collection of prose, poems and prayers about the earth. Truly exciting. This will be the second book of June's in which a poem of mine has been published. The first book was called Miracles of Motherhood: Prayers and Poems for a New Mother.
June has other projects ongoing, for which she is accepting submissions. Check out her website for more information: http://www.junecotner.com/.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The highlight of the trip had to be when we were stranded in Minneapolis on our first leg out of Salt Lake. After checking into our hotel, with a whole day and night ahead of us, we hopped on the free shuttle to the Mall of America. My son, after having fallen in love with our room at Embassy Suites--with its two tvs and pool and great-glass-elevator and an upcoming happy-hour of free popcorn and soda, said, "This is going to be the best trip ever! It's like two trips in one!"
Yes, kids are awesome. And in a way, he was right. They loved the tunneled aquarium at the Mall, swimming at the pool, going up and down the great-glass-elevator all night, and drinking as much soda as they wanted for free while being surrounded by an indoor rainforest.
All this helped carry us through the next day, when we faced a couple more set-backs in Detroit.
Having gone through all that, I'm probably the only person on the planet, who after having suffered the inconveniences of cancelled flights on our way to NH, complained when I found I was booked in first class for our return flights to apparently make up for it. I complained--althougth not too loudly--because I'd be separated from my kids, who were flying coach. I can't fault the airlines, since it was an easy oversight. We'd booked our itineary on two different tickets -- with the kids' tickets bought via frequent flyer miles, and mine, via regular cash, so to speak.
Oh well, I didn't complain long, mind you. I figured the kids would be fine back in coach without me, being the seasoned travelers that they are...and as it turned out, they were... so those extra-big seats and comfy footrests were all worth it in the end.
Despite the setbacks, it was a fantastic holiday season. We reconnected with family, ate great food, got plenty of rest, plenty of play on the slopes, and enjoyed lots of fresh snow on both sides of the country. It seemed to follow us wherever we went, giving fresh new meaning to "White Christmas."
Perhaps the best present I got from Santa was one I hadn't expected, but one I very much needed--a break from this writer's block I'd been suffering. Yes, it happened to me, for most of the last half of 2008. And I was embarrassed by it. I didn't want anyone to know. I mean, as far as progress, I probably couldn't do any worse as a writer, because this is how my most of my days went:
Write. Delete. Write. Delete. Repeat.
I figure I wrote and deleted close to 50,000 words. I'd get to an end of a scene or chapter, and decide, "no, my character wouldn't say/do that. What's the point?" And I'd beat my head, decide what I'd written was crap, and walk away.
By December, I decided I'd had enough. No more. And I unplugged my laptop, hid it under some papers, and stopped thinking about that darned MG that was literally going to make me crazy if I didn't give it a rest.
I didn't think about it for a month. I needed a vacation, and I was going to enjoy the one I had with my kids and without the disappointments that writing was bound to bring if I dared pick up a pen.
Unbeknownst to me, Santa left something for me under the tree. And it wasn't anything that came wrapped. It was intangible, but definitely something I could feel.... it was a pull, a steady tug, luring me back to the computer. My story was finally ready to be told, or at least another part of it.
Last week, with the kids back in school, I sat back down to work again. For the first time in a long time, I was excited--eggcited, as my daughter used to say-- about the prospect. Giddy, even. And turned out, I had the best week ever. 25 solid pages of text added to my novel. Headway. At last!
Thank God, the BLOCK is over. On the bright side, I like to tell myself, that after having gone through all the things my characters would not have said and done, I finally know what they will.
And I can't wait to work it all out. Till the end.
So having gone through this, I have a question. Your answers might be helpful to me and others who have experienced this, or who may be going through it now. ... What have you done to break writer's block?
Happy New Year, Everyone!