Thursday, March 5, 2015

In a Slump

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

I’ve been in a major slump when it comes to writing. Seriously. The last several times I sat down to write an MMW post, it didn’t happen. Last fortnight’s post only happened because my husband took mercy on me and wrote a guest post. But I’m starting to think it’s maybe one of those get-back-in-the-saddle-again things. Like this whole writing this is getting scarier and scarier because I keep avoiding it.

Here’s a true story:

You may or may not remember that I am a bit petrified of driving. Yes, I’ve gotten fairly used to it, and desensitization has definitely helped a lot (ongoing exposure to the thing you’re scared of). But I wasn’t always so petrified.

Back when I was fifteen, I took driver’s ed. I wasn’t a great driver, and I wasn’t superbly comfortable doing it, but I was passable. Then, through a series of unimportant, unrelated events, I didn’t get my license. Then the certificate saying I passed driver’s ed expired, so I had more reasons not to get a license. What started out as lack of comfort with driving grew bigger over the ensuing years. It became low-level anxiety, then it grew into occasional nightmares, and it kept going until just the thought of driving was slightly nauseating.

My phobia developed over a long stretch of time, and though it is fairly manageable now, I still have to be careful. If I go too long without driving at least a bit, I start feeling anxious again. I have to take the freeway frequently because I find that if I avoid it for a week or two, the fear begins to rise. It has to be tamped down on a regular basis.

I think I have gotten that way about writing too. Even now, typing this post, I can feel the tension in my shoulders, and my brain wants to be anywhere but here. It’s about all I can do to just stay on the page and not go skittering off to check Facebook or my email or Youtube or really anything. But it is only the continuing to do something that wears away at this sort of anxiety.

So this post, my friends, is my therapy. :) And you’ve all made lovely therapists. You probably deserve a raise. But I’m not going to give it to you. Unless I suddenly write a best-seller and magically become filthy rich (ha!). Then I’ll credit you all in the acknowledgments.

In the meantime, back in the real world, I hope that if you too are in a writing slump you will just sit down, tell the anxiety to go take a time-out like a misbehaving toddler, and write.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Small is the New Big.

by C.J. Schneider

The other day my friend and I were at our local pool hanging out in the hot tub.  We were not hanging out there because we had just swum a million laps and were trying to relax our exercised muscles.  No, we went there to hang out because last week I slipped on some ice and threw my back out and that was the only place I could imagine sitting while catching up with my friend.

My friend's back is perfectly fine but the fact that she went from having two kids to four with the happy arrival of twin boys means that she is constantly tired as she slogs through living in a foggy haze of life, experiencing a lot of it in angry survival mode.

As we sat in the warm frothy water, my friend brought up the fact that her life wasn't everything she thought it would be.  When we're young we look at adult destination points and dream of how wonderful life will be when we get there.  I think what we don't look at so closely is the paths that get us there.  We don't see that the journey to those incredible places are fraught with disappointment, pain, monotony and more.  When I was young and I pictured myself having children I certainly didn't think about how my bathroom would constantly look like a vagrant moved in with the waft of urine always lurking somewhere.  I didn't think about how my back would suffer from hunching over so many years while I spent hours picking up kids, toys and looking down at my small children.   I certainly had no idea how much cleaning would be involved....I hate how much cleaning is involved.

What is so striking to me is that for every moment you have where you get to feel a euphoric "I made it!"  there lies before and after that moment a million other moments that feel nothing like euphoria.  They mostly feel like work.

So this is what I want to say about those million other small moments that do not bask in any extraordinary glory, the ones that smell of urine, sound like whining and can many times feel so very painful - those small moments are not small at all.

Women have a regal heritage of understanding the power and potential in seemingly small things.  For thousands of years women have looked at the smallest of babies and have seen greatness.  Women cheer at the first little step, the first little words - not because the step or the word itself are amazing but because they are the glorious humble beginnings of a lifetime of steps and a lifetime of words.  Neil Armstrong would not have stepped onto the moon if it hadn't been for his first tiny step and Maya Angelou's gift of words to the world all began in a little word spoken by a precious little mouth.

This, somehow, is so easy to forget.  It is so easy to look at your small days, doing seemingly small things and see yourself as small as well.  I write this mostly as a desperate reminder to myself, to see the small things in my life with the greatness that small things can hold because in the end, life is nothing more than a stream of a million small moments.

So now I'm going to stop writing and go taste my son's attempt at a smoothie because my little three year old is clasping her small hands and in a small voice is saying excitedly "come mommy, come taste!"  And I will enjoy this small moment.


(My friend wrote her feelings about this idea here:)
https://missconginnyality.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/enjoy-things-for-what-they-are-instead-of-what-you-thought-they-should-be-mandy-hale/


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Be outrageous, you can fix it later.

By:  Kristi Hartman


Two Saturdays ago I attended a writing workshop hosted by my local library district.  It was engaging, informative, fun, and most of all helped me get out of my writing rut I seem to be endlessly stuck in.  The presenter gave us prompts to get us started writing, encouraging us to just get something down.  ANYTHING.  So for those of you who are sitting in that writing rut with me, here are some ideas to help you get out.

Here are some examples of 3 creative writing exercises:

#1- Write as poorly as you can, using as many cliches as possible.  Do this, because you need to allow yourself to write badly.  Do it fast, without regret or hesitation, and do it often.  And, because you can't fix blank.
                           


“[A first draft is] just for size. That draft isn't any good; it isn't supposed to be; the whole purpose is to sketch out proportions. . . . I rarely have a very clear idea of where I'm going when I start. Just people and a situation. Then I fool around--writing and re-writing until the stuff gels.”
James Thurber 

#2 Stories live everywhere.  Practice pulling them out of the most mundane places, because you are the magic.  Write a story about an artifact, with any character that comes to mind.


#3 Write a story that takes place, beginning to ending, in 3 minutes.
Don't over-think things, just do it!



Now start (or keep) writing!  You have an amazing talent to share with the world.
Don't hide it under a bushel anymore.


“You fail only if you stop writing.” Ray Bradbury 

Monday, March 2, 2015

You don’t want to read this post because you know it’s true.

by Kasey Tross

You know that irritating, nagging feeling? That feeling that you should open that file lurking on your computer...that one with that book you started...maybe that rooooough draft from NaNoWriMo? Or that story idea you wrote down but haven’t done much of anything with yet? That feeling that sometimes even keeps you from reading this blog (GASP!) because this blog is (partially) about writing and it reminds you you’re not writing?

I’m writing this post to tell you I understand. I know there are those times, and they make us sigh and shrug and avoid making eye contact with certain computer files.

But there are also those other times, when our brains get abuzz with an exciting new idea- for a new book or a new scene or a new plot twist- and we wake up and scribble madly on a scrap of paper next to our bed and our fingers fly furiously over the computer keys...

So what do we do in between these two states of writerly being? Well, I think this quotation says it best:




Friends, all I can tell you is that this is the truth, and I relearn it over and over again each time I sit down and make myself push those feelings of dread aside and just do it. When it comes right down to it:



Do. the. work.

Just DO it!

For me personally, the best way to get myself back into gear is through baby steps. Here’s how:

1. Open the document. Read through some of it. That’s all you need to do to open the door in your mind (and heart) to the feeling you had when you first came up with that sparkly, shiny new idea. Granted, you might not get that same giddy feeling back- but now the door is open. Peek through it. Good job.

2. Chances are, if you start reading through it, you’ll find something you’ll want to edit. That’s okay. It’s kind of like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:

If you give a writer her own work, 
she’ll want to edit it. 
And as she editing it, 
eventually she’ll get to the end. 
And when she does...

3. You’ll want more. The characters have come back to life in your head, the ideas have started booting up again and humming and Stuff will start to happen. Not necessarily when you’re sitting there in front of your WIP (because now it’s back to being a Work In Progress and not a Dusty Old Thing) but later, when you’re doing the dishes, or when you’re just getting ready to fall asleep- those characters will start talking to you and the plot will begin twisting again and before you know it, the Tug will be back. The Tug to write!! 

Let me take a minute to testify here. Whenever I think to myself, “No. I have no new ideas. I have no way to make Scene X work, I have no way to fix this plot hole, my characters are too 1-D (yes, not even 2-D) I can’t do this,” all I have to do is just look at it. Just open the file and read it. And things just start happening. The block that was there just kind of dissipates. New ideas show up that were completely hidden before, and suddenly the slump is over.

Nothing will make you feel better except DOING the WORK. So pull out your DOT (Dusty Old Thing) and make it shiny and bright and new again. It won’t happen by magic. 

YOU have to make it happen. 

After all, you’re a writer, aren’t you? Go WRITE!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Boys Vs Girls


This week I read a blog post by the fabulous author Shannon Hale (here’s the link: http://oinks.squeetus.com/2015/02/no-boys-allowed-school-visits-as-a-woman-writer.html ). Ms. Hale did a school visit and to her amazement and disappointment, found that boys over a certain age were not allowed to attend her presentation. It was assumed that only girls would be interested.
The question was posed as to why we assume that boys won’t like books with girls as main characters.

Is it certain assumptions about the kinds of things that girls like in their stories? You know, roooomance….loooooove……ooeygooey-ness?   It made me think of that line in the movie The Princess Bride: 

Growing up, I read Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys, Choose Your Own Adventure… okay, to be fair, I read the backs of shampoo bottles, soup labels, instructions to everything…. If it had words on it, I was all-in. Now, it’s Dean Koontz, my scriptures, stuff I read from ANWA sisters, and after being nagged about it for a couple of years, TWILIGHT. The latter was the most “lovey-dovey” of books I’d read for a long time. I’m not much interested in kissing books.

My brothers…. They certainly didn’t read the same books I did, but they weren’t very interested in reading back then—at least not like my sister and I, who practically read our way through our local library every summer. 

My kids…. Well, they all read Harry Potter, but only my daughter reads Nancy Drew (she’s crazier about ol’ Nancy than even I was!).  Even my son who loves to read, is not into books that aren’t about animals, or soldiers, or sports, or monsters, or Wimpy Kids™. 

But he’s a boy. Just like I wouldn’t drag him out to go see a ballet, or a Hannah Montana movie (back in the day), I wouldn’t expect him to like girly books.  

But should I? Is it just that girl-centered books tend to talk about girly stuff and boy-centered books talk about boy-y stuff, and each plays to the interests of their focus group?

Or is it something deeper? The blog talks about rape culture and how these assumptions being made play into that. She says:

The belief that boys won't like books with female protagonists, that they will refuse to read them, the shaming that happens (from peers, parents, teachers, often right in front of me) when they do, the idea that girls should read about and understand boys but that boys don't have to read about girls, that boys aren't expected to understand and empathize with the female population of the world....this belief directly leads to rape culture. To a culture that tells boys and men, it doesn't matter how the girl feels, what she wants. You don't have to wonder. She is here to please you. She is here to do what you want. No one expects you to have to empathize with girls and women. As far as you need be concerned, they have no interior life.

Wow. That makes it sound much more sinister than the old nursery rhyme about boys being all snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails, and that they just aren’t interested in girly stuff. 
Have we been perpetuating this culture all along, since…. I don’t know, the days of Moby Dick vs. Pride and Prejudice?

Do I need to get my boys reading more books with girls in the female role? Am I harming them by just letting them read whatever they want and being happy that they are reading at all? Part of me thinks that this is a large part of why people don’t think that boys will read girl books…because they think that you have to use stuff they like to bribe them to read.


What do you think? 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Common Spelling Mistakes

by Katy White

Like so many writers, I'm a grammarian at heart (and a staunch one, at that), with an editor who is rather more outer than inner. So here are a few common mistakes to avoid when writing:

A lot vs. Alot

This is a common mistake, but also an easy one to remember. Alot isn't a word. Think about it this way: there's no such thing as afew. (Allot, on the other hand, is a word and means something completely different.)

Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb meaning to influence or to impact. Effect is nearly always used as a noun meaning a result or consequence. When using effect as a verb, use it when you mean "to bring to pass."

All right vs. Alright

This is another easy one. Although spellcheck won't tell you this because it's been beaten into submission, alright isn't a word. After all, alwrong isn't a word, either.

Anyway vs. Anyways

The right word here is anyway (anyways is considered informal dialect). Save yourself the time typing that extra letter.

Blond vs. Blonde

The difference here comes from the french words for a male and female with yellow hair. Blond refers to men. Blonde refers to women.

E.g. vs. I.e.

E.g. is short for "exe mpli gratia," a latin term meaning "for example." I.e., on the other hand, means "id est," which is short for, "that is to say." Use them accordingly.

Lay vs. Lie

In present tense, lie means to be in a resting/horizontal position. Lay means to put something down in that same state. So you lie down or you lay your head down. The past and past participle are where it gets tricky. So follow this chart:




These are just a few words and tricks to remember. What common mistakes do you see in writing?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Please buy me!!

I think writing a book is tough work but trying to sell your book and yourself to a publisher is no small feat either.  A while ago I signed a contract with a small publishing company and was elated that they wanted to publish my non-fiction book.  When my manuscript was passed to an editor it was apparent that it needed some major renovations.  I got a call one day and my heart sank as I was told that I basically had to rewrite and rethink my entire book.  The structure didn't work, the tone was too researchy, it was boring and not useful.

I could have given up.  I wanted to but I didn't.  Instead I listened...carefully.  I listened to every bit of feedback I got and started all over again.  My publisher had taken my book off their schedule - my manuscript and  I were in limbo.  It took work to get someone to pay attention to my manuscript again because in their minds it just was a no go.  But I persisted and hassled a very lovely, very busy editor until she finally scheduled some time to re-read my manuscript.  We scheduled a phone meeting and she hadn't yet read the entire manuscript, we scheduled another phone meeting, it was delayed, another meeting was scheduled and she asked if we could delay it another week.  At that point I felt like it was over - but something inside told me to keep pushing, not to give up and that my book was good...maybe even important.   I responded with the following email:


As much as I would love to accommodate, I feel that if we once again delay this phone call any time past this Friday at the latest I may most unfortunately set my own hair on fire.

With all the love and appreciation my heart holds,
Charla
 
 
Crazy right?  She emailed me back quickly, told me to put down the matches and we had a very productive phone call that Friday.  She is now very much on board with the book, she even likes it and is eager to see it published.   I believe that part of my success was due to my tenacity but part of it was also having respect for the market and being willing to accept difficult feedback.  Publishers need to sell books, they know their market and they know what has sold in the past.  I wanted to write a clever, heavy book.  My publisher wanted me to write a book tired worn out moms would be interested in picking up amidst the chaos of their lives.  My editor encouraged me to tell stories, relax and add some humour - what at first sounded to me like "dumb it down" was actually just "make it an enjoyable read".  My editor helped me find my voice as a writer, she pulled out flavor and color and now I think people might actually want to read my book.  Tenacity and humility I think are a wining combination in writing and in life.       

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Water ....I need water!

By Lacey Gunter

So I don't know how many of you read one of the news articles this week about Sao Paula and their big problems with water shortage.  If you missed it, you can read the NY Times version here.  The story was rather alarming. I contemplated to myself what life would be like if I only had access to running water every few days. I know it's possible to live this way and in many poorly developed countries this is not all that uncommon. But to me the idea seemed mortifying.

The LDS Church harps on being prepared for emergencies and disasters, and water storage is high on that list of preparations. But as I thought about it more, how long are a couple 55 gallon drums of water going to last you if your city has to cut off water supply several days a week for an indefinite amount of time? Emergency water storage is obviously only a temporary solution. If that scenario persisted for any long period of time you would either have to move, come up with your own alternate source of fresh water or drastically modify your life style.

What would life look like if the third option was your only choice?  I'd be willing to bet that for most of us any creative pursuits would have to be coached to provide time to meet the basic necessities of life, especially for mothers. Can you imagine bucket showers,  hand laundry, and hand dish washing all on a limited water budget? And can you imagine basic sanitation? It's one thing when you are out roughing it in the wild and you can just dig a small whole to deal with your business. But no plumbing in the middle of a city or the suburbs is a whole different ball game.

Then I thought about the even more subtle things, like the fact that showers are my biggest emotional reboot times. That's the time I give myself pep talks to meet the challenges I am facing, organize my day and do a fair amount of creative brainstorming. Somehow I don't think the occasional bucket shower is going to do that for me. And Heaven knows I would feel too guilty using up enough water to make a relaxing bath. It all would be very challenging.

I am so grateful for the simple blessings that come from running water. Climatologists are predicting a ten year drought for most of America. So I don't know about you, but I am definitely going to be praying for rain for both us here in North America and for the people living in Sao Paulo. 

Thoughts Tonight on Sacrifice


Facebook is full of all the embracing friends, smiling faces, clever costumes, and photo ops with published authors and/or famous writers that make up the ANWA Annual Conference. I glance at them from time to time on my phone as I:

Awake with a start at my little girl’s snore, realizing I missed my alarm and my preschooler will NOT be attending school today, so I roll over and look at all the things my phone tells me I missed;

Check my phone as it dings with more updates while I wait for my 11-year-old and aforementioned other children to put shoes on so we can get to that emergency doctor’s appointment to check out the mysterious and worrisome spots covering the 11-year-old’s body;

Log on to Facebook to inform the people in my ward, and then those who attended a going-away-part at my house this week while I was at work, that I have a child who may have the chicken pox, and to watch their kids carefully because he’s likely been  (highly) contagious for a week now;

Check during a break at work to see what’s happening in the world.

I’m sad. I love the ANWA Conference, and this year because I am working all night and having to sleep and do the Mom thing during the day, there’s just not any time to even pop in for an event or an afternoon session. It’s just one step further away from the dream of earning a living writing.

Then, I see some other things on Facebook:

Postings from a friend who is married to a cop, of their child’s birthday party, with a caption: “Since Daddy can’t be here, here are some pictures of XXX’s party for him! We love you, Daddy!”;

A link to a news article talking about a veteran of WWII;

A post about the Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded this past week; and lastly,

A link to a GoFundMe page for my friends, the Masch’s—Scott needs a kidney. His wife Connie, found out that she is a match and able to give him one of hers, and she is beyond ecstatic. All they talk about is how much they are blessed and how much the Lord is mindful of them.

I think about the sacrifices I make for my family. Some are big, some are not so big. My husband sacrifices for me; friends have sacrificed; there’s our clergy, our military, our public safety—so many sacrifices made for each of us. Sometimes we really feel it, and sometimes, it’s not a big deal.

The Savior gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. We know how much He felt it, that He sweat great drops of blood and wished to have the trial removed. But praise be, He completed it.

What is it that these sacrifices have in common?

Love.

From the fun party I wished I could’ve attended tonight, to the long hours my bishop puts in away from his family, to the lives of those who gave them in service of country, to the ultimate Atonement of my Savior, the common denominator is love.

Not only the giving of love, but the growing of love. When I do things, little things or big things, the love I feel for the person(s) I am sacrificing for gains strength, speed, momentum. That blessing is not always instant, but it is always there.

Conversely, when I acknowledge the sacrifice someone else makes for me, I feel my love for them grow as well. The extent to which I ponder the sacrifice and understand its depth is the extent to which my love grows.

Do you think this is by design?


Is it by what we are willing to give of ourselves that we can measure our love?

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Sat Me Down To Write A Book


I sat me down to write a book,
For Kindle, Google, and the Nook.
My laptop propped between my jean-clad knees.

My spouse gave me the look,
My intentions she mistook.
I donned my grubby clothes for trimming trees.

The leaves and branches I did shook,
Knowing I’d not be off the hook.
My cuttings served to irritate some bees.

Thrice stung, I raced round yard and took,
Screaming words, all gobbledygook.
I’ll not mention them today, if you please.

My sweetie thought I was a crook,
Disrupting her while trying to cook.
Alas, she thought I attempted my best tease.

It would be a rare nor’ cold chinook,
Before she let me near my book.
She kept me outside like a rare disease.

Finally, her wrath forsook,
Mercy on her love she took.

Better writing than trimming, she agrees.

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