Thursday, February 28, 2008
Fast forward several years - my oldest daughter wants to be a writer. She was quite disappointed after a class assignment to look up different career options and learn more about the career they wanted to pursue. She had a hard time finding out anything about being a professional author and then was disappointed to learn that there is little money in it and she would still probably have to hold another job. Still, she wants to be a writer, and who am I to tell her it's a bad idea, since I still want to be a writer.
And now my ten year old is struggling under my bad influence. Last week, she had an assignment in school to write a story. I don't think the teacher meant it to take endless hours, but for her it did. She spent so much time researching the characters she'd decided to use (they were all mythical creatures and we even had to look up the sphinx's riddle), then writing the story, then editing and rewriting it by hand.
I asked her why she didn't just write a shorter story. She rolled her eyes. "Mom, every kid in the class writes a little two page story and they are SO boring when we have to listen to them all. They have NO detail and the characters are dull," she says as she stacks her seven page story and puts it into her notebook. "I want my stories to be good like yours."
And that's what happens when you live with a bad influence.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
My youngest daughter spent half an hour practicing the guitar tonight. Before she started that, she sang and danced to the cd playing. But when I asked her to practice her piano before bed, she really fought it. First she tried the whole, "I don't know what the notes are" and "I don't know where to put my fingers." I know she is just trying to mess with my brain and she did finally play the songs. She loves music and is the girl most likely to turn on the karaoke machine and sing along, she is in her school choir and is excited to be taking guitar lessons from her grandpa. But she views the piano lessons as a way for her mother to torture her.
I keep telling her she needs more time on the piano even if she doesn't like it. It will help her learn the basics of reading music and if she can just stick with it, she'll be grateful for the skill later on. It will make band class easier, playing the guitar easier and even help her when she wants to sing. Of course, she can't see that at ten years old, but hopefully she'll get there.
It got me thinking about the writing related things I don't like doing. I wrote many papers in school and wrote for the local newspaper for a few years. Now I have to write synopsis's and cover letters if I want to send my novels out. None of this is writing I enjoy, but there is value in the work. I just want to tell a good story. But the exercise of writing news articles and coming up with a synopsis have taught me how to tighten my writing and say what I need to say with fewer words.
This is true so often. We have to make the connection between the things we dislike and the things we love. Just like learning to play the piano will make learning to do other musical activities easier, every type of writing I work at will make all the other things I write that much better. Now if I could just get her to understand this, practice time at our house would be so much more enjoyable for everyone.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
This isn't the first time I've submitted something, and I have my share of rejections. There was the chapter I submitted to the conference last year and all the short stories I've written over the years. I think there is even a children's picture book somewhere in the pile. (Okay, deep breath.) This is the first time I've sent off a manuscript for a completed novel.
The chapters were child's play. Now I wonder if I told the novel's story completely. Are my characters engaging and well-rounded? Did I leave enough of a hook at the end of each chapter to keep the reader engaged? What did I miss in all my editing.
Hang on, I need another deep breath.
It's kind of like sending my baby into a den of ravening wolves. Now I know editors aren't wolves, or any other animal, they are just people trying to do their jobs. But meanwhile, I've handed over a piece of my soul and hope they treat it gently.
Meanwhile, the best medicine for the level of anxiety I am currently experiencing is to keep working on those three partially completed manuscripts that are awaiting their own turn to be submitted- and maybe a little chocolate.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Last night I attended a quilting club sponsored by our ward enrichment board. One of the other women told us how her sister-in-law had been over to visit and grabbed a quilt off the couch to wrap around her little girl. This horrified the quilter. She didn't say anything at the time, but almost had a panic attack watching someone use one of her treasures. She makes her quilts to be displayed around the home. They are not to be used.
I am at the other end of the spectrum. Every quilt I make is intended to wrap around someone. I like to display them, but ultimately, I make them to be loved, used, and eventually worn out and replaced.
I see my writing the same way. There are books out there that seem to be written for "display." There are words that are written, then praised for their beauty and form, and yet somehow untouchable by the common person. I want my words to be beautiful and accessible - something that wraps the reader in a blanket of enjoyment. I want my stories to keep a reader company long into the night because they are compelling enough to push away sleep. For me, stories, like quilts, are created to be shared and loved.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
When the Whitney Award finalists were announced, I decided to try to read as many of them as I could. On January 21st, I received the email asking me to be part of the voting academy for the Whitney Awards. While I was excited, I also knew it would be a lot of reading and the deadline was the 20th of February. There were 26 books that made it as finalists. I had already read three of the them, leaving me with a month to read 23 of them. So yesterday, I read the final words in the final book, leaving me a few hours to really think about how I wanted to vote.
Every book had things I loved about it, and a few had things I didn't like. I kept notes on each book as I finished it so I could look back and remember my initial impressions. A few people asked me how I could keep so many stories straight as I read them so fast. It wasn't a problem, because I always read fast and I always read lots of books (sometimes I have several going at once.) I enjoyed the excuse to read books I wouldn't pick up on my own and I truly felt that I read some of the best books LDS authors have to offer. I'm actually going to miss the excuse to read. Not often does the family tell me to go read a book rather than cook dinner or some other household chore.
I also had another deadline to meet as the entries for the LDStorymakers 1st chapters contest needed to be postmarked by the 21st of February. Over the last month I've been writing, rewriting and polishing so I could get those in the mail - which I did yesterday. So the reading is done, the chapters are sent, and it is time to move on to the next thing. There is LDStorymakers boot camp to prepare for, a manuscript to submit and another novel finish. At least I don't have time to be bored.
"With her husband half a world away, Alaina derives some solace from the fact that her younger sister, Eleanor, lives nearby. Nineteen-year-old Eleanor--the only woman studying medicine at the University of Utah--is soon immersed in researching treatments for the influenza pandemic ravaging the world, a scourge that will soon touch her life all too closely."
This book took me a little while to get into, as I felt there were too many characters and it jumped around a little. But I was soon caught up in the beautiful way Gale Sears uses words. The emotions she uses when she portrays war and the effects on the soldiers are powerful. I enjoyed this book and the way it made me think about the first world war on more human terms.
Janette Rallison has written a fun book with an intriguing plot. The characters are entertaining and reminded me of my own high school days. There were scenes in the book that had me laughing out loud. This is one I'll definitely pass on to my teenage daughter.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories.
True, when Creel’s aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it’s Creel who talks her way out of the dragon’s clutches. And it’s Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king’s city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession.
But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it."
This book took the age old damsel-in-distress story and turned it on its head. Creel, the main character, isn't about to let life beat her down. She is clever and creative (and I love that she fascinated by fabric and embroidery). Even the dragons are not your standard fire breathing, eating people creatures we are used to reading about. The author has given the dragons wonderful personalities. The story sparkles with description and humor. It is an enjoyable book and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Stopping assassins may keep Vin's Mistborn skills sharp, but it's the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn't run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier's crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won't get easier with three armies - one of them composed of ferocious giants - now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler's hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal. As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows."
This book was not something I would normally pick up, and it took me awhile to get into it. But I finally did read the whole thing (all 592 pages). I enjoyed Brandon Sanderson's writing style and the world he created although I did find the story dragged in some places. The characters were interesting and well-developed. Even though I don't think I'll become an avid reader of fantasy, I am tempted to pick up the next book in series when it comes out just to see what happens next.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
If anyone can find Caroline, it's Major Christopher Dane. The Army often calls on him to discreetly extract people from dangerous situations. But can Savannah trust him and the band of misfits Dane surrounds himself with? Or will the betrayal that took place in their dark past exclude any chance of a bright future?"This book kept me on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out who the 'bad guys' were. The characters had depth and with every chapter we would find out a little more about what made them act the way they did. There were elements of romance sprinkled through the book, but it didn't end with the standard 'happily ever after'. It could easily stand on its own, but there is the promise of a second book following the same characters. I can't wait for it to be released.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into this book. The chapters jump from character to character, all written in the first person, so I often found myself trying to figure out who was speaking. Every time I started caring about what was happening, the chapter would end and I would lose the momentum of the story. That said, the characters were well-developed and believable, as were the situations they found themselves in. The book was well written and the author definitely has a way with words.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
But little do CJ and Matt know the extent of the danger and loneliness that will haunt their lives. A world-class swimmer with Olympic aspirations, CJ faces overwhelming odds that threaten to drown all her hopes and dreams. Will the deep end prove to be a dead end for CJ and Matt?In a story where reality is as tentative as the waters of competition, and happiness is as elusive as the forces of evil that conspire to end all their dreams, CJ and Matt’s race for safety becomes a marathon of fear."
As a highly unathletic person myself, I found all the details of a swimmer's training for the Olympics fascinating. It was also interesting to think about how involvement in the witness protection program would affect all aspects of a person's life. The story moved forward at a brisk pace, with a multi-layered plot and interesting characters. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely pick up more books by this author.
Monday, February 11, 2008
There seems to be the idea out there that the perfect mom spends every waking moment caring for her home and her children. These moms do lots of crafts with their kids, cook with them, take them places and read many stories to them every night. On top of this, they keep their houses clean, prepare healthy and creative meals for their family and also be an attentive and wonderful wife. On top of this, they take care of their church responsibilities. I've admired many moms I know who seem to do all this and more. From the outside looking in, they seem to have it all.
I’ve never been that kind of mom. When my children were younger, I worked two jobs to make ends meet, so I wasn't home very often. When I was home, I didn't want their friends over and I didn't have the energy or inclination to do crafts or play games with the kids. Sometimes we read stories but never more than one or two, and not always at bedtime. Don't get me wrong, I've made my fair share of play dough, played countless games and read books to my kids until I'm blue in the face (including The Hobbit and Shakespeare, and I don't even like reading out loud.
When I was first married, someone dear to me walked away from a family she spent years creating. Those around her couldn't understand why she left what seemed so perfect. I asked her once, and she said “I feel like I lost myself.” After so many years of being the “perfect” homemaker she was a shell. All the play dough, crafts, reading aloud, and clean house left her with good kids, who were well adjusted and perfectly capable of functioning in the real world. But at what cost? As her kids began to leave home, she was left with an emptiness she didn't know how to fix. Her advice to me was to make sure I took care of myself.
I’ve thought long and hard about this conversation. Very few woman can meet the ideal of what a perfect mother is, and the “ideal” mother may only be ideal for certain children. (Who decided what the ideal was anyway?) Some kids may love the crafts and the organized activities, but for other children that may be stifling. Some mothers may love all the planning and spending lots of time doing things with the kids; other mothers may find it suffocating. In my home, we've never done a lot of “crafts” together. I don't like huge messes and I don't have the time to come up with and organize interesting activities. So why do I feel inadequate when other mothers talk about all the fun things they do with their kids? I do what works in our home and I shouldn’t try to be like every one else.
What I’ve given my children over the years, is the ability to come up with their own ideas and to use their own imaginations to entertain themselves. I provide all sorts of materials for them to create with, I just don’t always create with them. I didn’t like to cook with my children when they were little, but they have all learned how to cook anyway. I didn’t make lots of little crafts with them, but all three children can operate a sewing machine, sew on a button, and cross stitch. And even though I didn’t read to them as often as I could have, they are all avid readers.
Lately, this has been brought to my attention more as I am pursuing my dream and compulsion to write. People have commented on how it seems a little frivolous and they are too busy with their children to waste time on hobbies right now. I actually feel sorry for them. I’m pursuing a dream. The dream includes my children, but it also includes me as a well-rounded individual. The house may not always be spic-n-span, but we’re all healthy and it’s clean enough. They don’t go hungry even if dinner is a little late some nights. My children may not have the perfect mother, but they love me the way I am. In fact they cheer me on and love to hear about the progress I make in my writing. And if I were to give up myself to be someone else’s ideal, what kind of mother would I really be giving them anyway?
Sunday, February 10, 2008
It's interesting to read another view of what may have happened once Lehi and his family landed in the promised land. I could tell there had been lots of research into the area and the type of food and plants they may have eaten and used for medicine. I also liked how the author brought in another tribe so Nephi's family wasn't just interacting among themselves. This story followed true to scripture and added new dimension to the account from the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed the read and am looking forward to more from this author.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Marsha Ward and Rebecca Talley both gave me this award: ...which just made my day. Thank you. It's a good reminder to me that all the little things we do and say are noticed by others. Now I'm supposed to pass it on to ten people. I'm not sure if I can come up with ten who haven't already received it, but here goes...
Mandi from abbott and alyssa
Nicole from The Hunters
Carla from The ABC's: The Astle Busy Center
Shanna from Shanna's Life, Stories, and General Ramblings
Rachel from Rachel's Ramblings
Ali from Girl in a Whirl
Rhonda from The Johnson Clan
Julie from Scattered Jules
Josi from What is a Sundial in the Shade?
Thursday, February 7, 2008
"With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise."
I love reading re-tellings of fairy tales and this was no exception. Based on "Maid Malene" by the Brothers Grimm this version is set on the Asian steppes, where there is adventure and romance and everything in between. Shannon Hale has a beautiful way with words and creates believable and likable characters. I liked how the book was written in diary form and even included entries like "I'd write more if I had something to say." The story was fun to read and I look forward to more from Shannon Hale.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot in the county of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Heléne de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, she realizes that the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Heléne races against time—and dark secrets of the past—to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.
Fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction as Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction."
This book was very detailed and gave an interesting picture of life in the twelfth century. The characters came to life for me and kept me interested in what finally happened to them. I thought the author did a good job in telling a complicated tale, keeping everything well ordered and tying up loose ends tidily. If you like historical romance, give this book a try.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
But writing helps cure all my longing for a little adventure. Through the characters I create, I can be any age, live anywhere in the world, be male or female and choose bizarre occupations. In fact, I don't even have to make my characters be part of this world.
Once a character is born in my head, I get the wonderful task of getting to know what he/she is really like. The character I've been hanging out with today loves Tai Chi and drinking hot chocolate at midnight. She is independent and opinionated. She has a secret that will change the lives of everyone around her and she is also 99 years old.
Now I'm nowhere near 99, but it's fun trying to get into her head. I'm taking all the conversations I've ever had with my own elderly grandmothers and other women I've known and trying to get a sense of what it is like to hit that age. It's interesting to think what I might be like, if and when I get there. And then I wonder how a 99 year-old would react to the situation she finds herself in, compared to a 29 year-old who finds herself in similar circumstances.
The stories in my head have been pretty interesting this afternoon and beat the social event at the post office any day. Maybe that explains why my life, which really appears very boring on the outside doesn't drive me crazy. I can always walk in someone else's shoes as I craft a character and a story. That kind of excitement suits me just fine.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Soon the war of wits escalates to an incredible scheme designed to get the ultimate revenge on the Hagbarts. But now that Matthew has been learning that he's supposed to do good to those who hate him, what will he do when a little push becomes a great big shove?Take a hilarious trip back to school in this delightful adventure with its message of forgiveness that will echo long after the last page has been turned."
This is a fun book the whole family will enjoy. The author has a light-hearted way of writing. all the little details remind me of growing up in a large family and the chaos that sometimes prevails. I love how the kids come up with all sorts of crazy schemes to get back at the bullies, and in the end it is something a primary teacher said that helps them do the right thing.
When an undercover operative is kidnapped by a fanatical Arab faction in Yemen, Kam's knowledge of the language and culture prove to be invaluable, and he is recruited to help rescue the agent. However, the mission becomes even more complicated when he learns that one of the team members is his estranged wife.
Traveling with a research group sponsored by Brigham Young University, Kam and Rhiana attempt to navigate the obstacles that distance and time have placed between them, even as they confront dangerous militants determined to prevent the agent's rescue by any means necessary."
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Having been a single mother myself, I was impressed with how well Rachel Nunes described the feelings of these single women and the way they view life. The characters were rich and detailed and the things they faced real. I liked how each woman has her own problems, but all are woven together to make a great story. This is a great book about love, hope, and learning to trust again.