Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Writing Teaches Important Work Skills

By Nikki Wilson

I've recently been asked at work how many words per minute I type. I didn't even blink and replied that last time I checked I typed 72 wpm. So for fun, I took some online typing tests...and then I took them again...and again...and again. My highest score was only 54 wpm??!! What in the world is going on? Then I realized, I don't really type at work, and for the past year I've been editing my books, not writing new ones and I haven't even worked on edits since the beginning of April. So what does this mean? It means I can tell my husband and my kids that I need to be writing more often to keep up my valuable marketable skill of typing.

It also means I may need to join in on Camp Nanowrimo in July. Well, I better go work on my next book idea because I need to get to typing SOMETHING!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

That post where I captured something in my bathtub...

by Kasey Tross

Really, now that you've seen this picture, I doubt you even need to read the rest of this post, because chances are good that you know EXACTLY why every writer needs bath crayons*, and more importantly, why you are either going to put bath crayons on your shopping list or go steal some out of your kids' bathroom, like, right now.

It's all about CAPTURE!

For some reason, my muse really likes to visit me in the shower. (Creepy, right? Totally stalkery.) I've figured out that it's because when I'm in the shower, I don't really have to think about what I'm doing- I'm pretty good at washing my hair, I've been doing it all by myself for quite some time now- and I'm surrounded by white walls- no children or messes or 'gee-I-think-I-should-hang-that-picture-over-there' thoughts- so my mind is free to wander. And when a writer's mind wanders, it's usually into The Forest of Awesome Ideas. But when you're buck naked and soaking wet it's not particularly convenient to grab a pen and paper (I've soaked through a couple of notebooks that way) or to use a voice recorder (turns out they're not exactly waterproof) to capture said Awesome Ideas.

So.....(insert drumroll here)....BATH CRAYONS!!!

Seriously, why has it taken me so long to figure this out? Just jot down your notes right there in the shower and then snap a pic when you're done. BAM! Awesome Ideas captured.

The point is this: Sometimes we get crazy good ideas in some crazy inconvenient places & times. But it shouldn't mean we have to lose them! We're creative people- we must think outside the box and find ways to capture those ideas. Don't let them get away! Voice recorders are perfect for when we're driving in the car; a pad of paper next to the bed for those late-night-only-half-awake scribblings; use sidewalk chalk when we're playing outside with the kids; whiteboard in the kitchen for when we're cooking dinner. Let the ideas come when they come...but don't forget to GRAB 'EM! QUICK!

*And it's not just for when your 11-year-old son uses them to draw a big spider on your shower in an attempt to creep you out or when you draw a giant hawk coming down to eat the spider or when he draws a hunter shooting the hawk or when you draw a bear sneaking up from behind to attack the hunter or...well, you get the idea.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

You, my friend, have potential!

By Lacey Gunter

Tonight I was fortunate enough attend the keynote address for the Children's Book Festival at Provo City Library, given by Katherine Applegate. She is the author of the Newbery Medal winning book The One and Only Ivan.

In addition to being a wonderful author, I thought she was an enjoyable speaker. She had a warm and gracious disposition that easily drew the audience in. She of course discussed the ups and downs of being a writer.

First she talked about the long road she traveled in writing before finally finding her true literary voice and encouraged any would be writers to not use age as a barrier. She also talked about the long and difficult road to completing her award wining book. It went through several different forms and countless edits. She even showed us a slip of paper she had written at one point debating whether she should abandon the project.  Lucky for us she did not. She said writing and editing a book often feels like getting a high school English paper back all marked up in red ink.

Despite all this, what shined through the most was her infectious passion for her story.  She made me want to seek out every bit of information on it. It never ceases to amaze me how authors can be dragged through Hades and back trying to create a story and still be so passionate about it on the other side.

After all that, she ended with the insisted statement, "You, my friend, have potential." Great inspiration!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

She Was Good at Apologies

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

In 2008, I attended the funeral of my husband’s grandmother, Helen. I had met her only a few times, but the hubby’s childhood was full of stories of summers at her house in California. There he spent hours in the ocean (he’s still a beach lover), ate Red Vines, and played games in which she cheated (so that he would win).

I remember after the hubby and I were married, as we opened our wedding gifts, we kept finding more and more boxes from Helen and Jesse, her husband; they were wonderfully generous. Of course, I also know her son fairly well, and I must say he makes an excellent father-in-law. So I knew that Helen was a lovely woman.

Sitting through her memorial service, however, was a bit daunting. Her children’s tributes involved statements like, “She was always singing,” “She was never angry,” “She always made us feel important and loved,” always always good, never never bad. She sounded like an absolute angel, and I was half surprised this was her funeral instead of her translation party (translation = being taken up to meet God without dying because you’re just that awesome).

Contrast that with my own mother’s memorial service about three and half years before. When I spoke, I said approximately, “Mom left me four gigantic bins of yarn. It’s going to take me to the end of time to finish those projects. I love that she taught me to crochet, and pretty much to try out all sorts of crafts. I love that she encouraged me to create beauty. Even though she wasn’t very good at other things in our relationship.”* And that seemed to be the theme of the way my siblings and I talked about her—complicated relationships, some rather rough patches, mingled with the good stuff.

I could not help comparing Helen’s memorial, my mother’s memorial, and my own future one. At the time of Helen’s funeral, the hubby and I had been married about three years** and we had a year-old child. And it was already quite clear that I was definitely not going to be particularly good at the following:

1. Keeping my temper
2. Keeping the house clean and/or regularly cooking delicious meals
3. Most of the traditionally motherly type stuff
4. Playing with my children for more than five minutes in a row.
5. Did I mention the temper thing?

Many years have passed since then, and two more children have been added to the mix. And when I think about the far-flung future, I am even more certain that my children will not be able to pay me the glowing tribute that Helen received.

And I’m coming to grips with that.

Here’s what I hope they will be able to say about me: She was good at apologies. She asked forgiveness when she made a mistake, and she kept trying to do better. Sometimes she lost her temper and snapped at us, but she came back afterward and gave us hugs and said she was sorry. She genuinely tried to make amends. We learned about repairing relationships and repenting from her.

And if they can say that, I hope it will be enough.***
After I wrote this post, the 7yo gave me
this card for Mother's Day. Happy
smiling commenced (even if the "always"
and "never" were just conveniently used for
their first letters).

* I’m totally not kidding about the yarn, by the way. So. Much. Yarn. But it’s my fault, because before she died I told her I’d take and finish her projects. I’m sure she’s up there somewhere in heaven crocheting bookmarks out of clouds for all the angels. And also laughing that I still have three bins of yarn, ten years later.
** Yes, if you’re doing the math, Mom died four months before I got married.
*** Although it would also be nice if they could say that I vacuumed more than once a month too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Avengening Expectations

By Nikki Wilson

I have a confession to make. I didn't thoroughly enjoy the first Avengers movie. I know, I know...get a rope! I actually admitted it on Facebook at one point and it was most definitely a public verbal lynching. But that's ok. I didn't say I hated it, it just didn't fulfill my expectations. I'll tell you why. To me there was a lot of action. Not that I don't like action, but it seemed like one action sequence after another. Also, it felt like the movie had been made to satisfy fans who wanted to know who would win a fight between Thor and Iron Man and Captain America, etc. Not that I wasn't curious about that, but the movie just felt like it was lacking something.

Image result for Avengers

In the movies leading up to the first Avengers movie, most of the plot lines tugged my heart strings, and tickled my funny bone, and ignited curiosity. This is what I wanted from the first Avengers movie but didn't feel that I got. Though many people said they were completely satisfied with the movie and that I was just being too critical. And maybe they were right. I have been known to be overly critical of movies and books, so I accepted that as the reason why I didn't enjoy the first Avengers movie as much as I wanted to. But last week I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron and I suddenly knew what I was missing from the first movie.

The new Avengers movie is AMAZING. I hate to give someone high expectations that may not be met like happened to me on the first movie, but I truly think there is something in this movie for everyone. Why is that? Because this time the movie gave us many different beats.

If you haven't read "Million Dollar Outlines" by David Farland you may not know what I'm talking about. David Farland talks about how a writer takes their readers on a journey that actually releases seratonin into the body giving the reader (or movie watcher) instant rewards and satisfaction from the journey. (He actually describes it much better than I'm doing, so read the book!!) But one of the tools a writer has to take readers on this journey can be called emotional beats. Think about it like a song, if you play the same notes over and over again, the listener gets bored. But if you mix high notes with low notes and many variations with the notes in between as well you stimulate the listener and hold their attention. The same can be said with emotions. If a movie or book hammers it's audience with the same emotion over and over they become desensitized to that emotion. That's why the best movies and books have a variety of different plotlines and emotions to choose from.

Image result for avengers age of ultronAvengers: Age of Ultron is a good example of how this is done. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of action in this movie, but there are also many emotional beats embedded inside the the action to slow down or speed up the pace of the movie. The humor beats were perfectly timed, and the romantic plot line added a different dimension as did another plot line where our heartstrings were strummed in another way. All in all, Avengers: Age of Ultron was everything I was hoping for. (Though, I will say there were parts when I realized the Avengers were just fighting a mechanical version of Raymond Reddington from the Blacklist TV show! LOL! But then again, I love the Blacklist, so I didn't mind it too much.)

Now I realize that everyone is different in their tastes and in what they consider an emotional beat. Emotions are very subjective, that's why there are so many different genres to choose from so people can pick the emotions they like best. But even then, the best stories are those that have many different emotions present allowing for a wider audience, and a happier one.

(There! So now you can go see the new Avengers movie and say it's for research! Your welcome!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

A question that might change the rest of your day.

Lately, a lot of things have been happening that have made me realize how fragile life really is:

1. I spent some time with some amazing homeless women.
2. A neighbor down the street committed suicide.
3. A dear brother in our ward passed away from cancer, leaving behind a wife and teenage children.

Whenever I see people suffering, I can't help but think, That could be me.

What I didn't have extended family, if I didn't have the church, if I didn't have my husband? Could I be homeless like those brave women?

What if someone I love and care about took their own life? Could my life be torn apart by the grief and guilt?

What if 10 years down the road my husband gets cancer and passes away? Could I be the heartbroken widow with four kids?

Thinking about these things has certainly made me grateful for the tender blessings in my life, and also very mindful of how fragile they are. This quotation came to mind:

The first time I saw this was probably at least a year ago, but it is something that has stuck with me. Yet it was never really troubling to me because my prayers are full of gratitude. I try to always tell God how thankful I am for what He's given me. But then I wondered- do I try to always show God how thankful I am for what He's given me?

Part of what sparked that question was this post by Jason F. Wright about Mothers Day. He said, "What good is it to spend $20 billion on Mother's Day and drop our dirty clothes on the floor Monday morning?" His point was that gratitude is about more than just flowery words- it's about action. 

So my question is this: 

What if you woke up tomorrow with 
only the things you had shown God
 that you cherish today? 

Would it be obvious to someone looking in on your life from the outside that you cherish your children? Or would they assume that what you truly cherish is your smartphone?

Would it be obvious that you cherish your husband? Or does it seem to matter more that he left his dirty socks on the floor again?

What about the gospel? Would it be clear that your testimony of the gospel is something you can't live without? Does it receive enough of your attention that it's apparent it's one of your cherished possessions?

And because we're writers- what about your writing talent? Could someone peek into your life and see how you cherish that talent by the way you use it?

Being grateful is about so much more than the words "I thank thee." It's about what we cherish, what we treasure: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Today in our Relief Society lesson, I read what President Kimball said about the scriptures: "The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for 'unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.' (Luke 12:48) Access to these things means responsibility for them." 

This is true of the scriptures and of every other good thing in our lives:

The Lord is not trifling with us when He gives us our families- access to our family means responsibility for them. 

The Lord is not trifling with us when He gives us our talents- access to our talents means responsibility for them. 

So today, I would ask you to take a close look at your life, at the way you spend your time- are you doing more than just telling God thank you? Are you showing Him with your actions that you cherish these gifts?

Granted, our lives are full of blessings, and there aren't enough hours in the day to cherish every single one the way that we would want to in order to show our gratitude, but still- 

What if you woke up tomorrow with 
only the things you had shown God 
that you cherish today?

Just something to think about.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers May


By Beckie Carlson

Mother's Day is all about the dads. I know that sounds weird, but if it weren't for the dad there probably wouldn't be any celebrations. I say this to make myself feel better. My kids don't have a dad...and mother's day didn't happen at my house. Who was there to remind them that they like me? No one. Especially now that the oldest has moved out. She is also a mother, so...she would have remembered.
After having just the smallest of pity parties for myself, I realized maybe the reason my kids didn't do any thing for me is because I suck as a mom. I did a little mental inventorying and realized I have fallen to the lower levels of momhood. I work every day, I am going to school, I don't cook much, and I'm tired....so tired. By the time I have five minutes to relax, I'm asleep. Maybe my kids felt like there was nothing to celebrate. I'd have to agree with them.
My mind went back to my previous life when I was a stay at home mom. I spent my days cooking, cleaning, scrapbooking, running errands, and meeting both kids and hubby at the door when they arrived home. After school snacks, home cooked meals, freshly baked bread....yeah, that was me. I wasn't a perfect mom, but I was present. Lately, I feel like I don't even recognize myself as I come and go.
Years ago, I was introduced to the 5 love languages, as were many of you. I gave the test to myself, my husband, and my kids. Even though they were little, it was fun to see what they came up with. I got to thinking today that it would be a fun idea to take the tests again. I know I have changed a lot and I bet my kids have too. It may not be the most spiritual family home evening, but that is my plan.
Speaking of FHE, I had a nice chat with my bishop today. He is the third bishop I've had since I became widowed. The other two were good, but this guy has a way of making me cry whenever I talk to him. I think it is because he cries too. I can tell he truly cares and he has true empathy for me and my life trials. After we both teared up a bit, he told me in his fire and brimstone voice, "You are a good mom!" He is quite convincing. He also gave our lesson in Relief Society. One thing that stuck out to me was him saying we were all good moms. He said that when we stress and worry and cry over our kids, that is being a good mom. The bad moms are the ones that don't care. They don't worry and they don't try.
That's what I needed to hear today. I've been feeling a bit of stress. My kids are amazing. Strong. Capable. And scary as hell with some of their choices. I worry I didn't teach them enough. I worry I screwed them up. I worry they will disappear and fall into diverse traps. Now, thanks to my bishop, I feel like I'm not a complete failure.
It also doesn't hurt that I got to Skype with my missionary son today. He kept telling me how much he loves me and our family. He told me I was the reason he went on a mission. He blamed it all on me. He is loving it. I wish I could take the credit, but I know it was his choice and that he has always been an amazing person. But it sure feels nice to hear that. Especially on Mother's Day.
Cause I said so.
Photo credit: www.intouch-marketing.com

Saturday, May 9, 2015

An Ode to Oldness

Once upon a time there was a very young 22-year-old girl who started a job--and a career--as a 9-1-1 operator/police dispatcher. Within just a few years she was a supervisor, and her technical aptitude was, well, not necessarily legendary, but people thought she was pretty cool.  She was called "whiz kid" more than once. 

Fast forward a few.. okay, almost 20, years and this "girl" is in a new job, totally different field, and is doing pretty well at it. She has technical aptitude for this job too. The problem is, no one thinks it's that big of a deal. No one has ever called her a whiz kid. This is for a very good reason--she's older than 90 percent of the other employees, including her superiors. 

The problem is, she still sees herself as a 26-year-old. 

This, sadly, is no fairy tale. It's reality, and it's my reality. I get sad when I look in the mirror and realize that I, unfortunately, am OLD. What's worse, I see the people around me who were 26 when I was 26, and they still look 26. My best friend from college posted a picture, and it could have been taken in the dorms. She looks great. I don't look great. I look tired, and there's a weird wrinkle between my eyebrows that comes from glaring at my children glaring at the sun and glaring at a computer screen. My back hurts--all the time, and I find myself wanting to nap instead of watch a movie--or worse, napping during the movie and annoying everyone by waking up asking what's going on 2/3 of the way through. 

But, I'm only 26. 

Then, my son goes and asks a girl to prom. His first date. (It was "Cops and Robbers" day for Spirit Week. He had the cute idea to dress like a cop and give his friend donuts that say "Go to prom with me". That's why he looks like a police recruit here)
They let 8-year-old boys go to prom now, apparently. Oh. Wait. Crap. I'm old.

My niece, who should by all rights only be 6 years old, is graduating from high school in a few weeks. She was terrible enough to send me a graduation announcement. 

Yes. I'm old. 

I'm going to go take a nap.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Thousand Years From Now

Greetings, MMW friends.  I'm still looking for the elusive Hugo Award.  Hence, it is my great pleasure to have my guest writing substitute and friend, Alex Mathai, fill in for me.

A thousand years from now, when civilization as we know it has vanished and Mother Nature has slowly started to reclaim our manmade structures, a lone archaeologist will stumble upon an ivy covered, broken down library. He will dig his way past the rubble of crumbling bricks and carefully navigate around the copious shards of shattered glass until he breaks through into the main library lobby. Rows and rows of stacked books will line either side of him, the shelves towering tall and proud. The books might be worn and perhaps even slightly destroyed, but when the archaeologist pulls one these diamonds-in-the-rough off the shelf, the writing is still legible. This lone explorer just made the biggest literary discovery of his lifetime; a jack-pot that will make all his colleagues both ecstatic and jealous.

As weird as it is, I often think about the far distant future of life on planet Earth, and what the future archaeologists/anthropologists will judge us for. Think about it. When we are all gone, what will be left of us? Will people speculate that we truly believed that werewolves roamed the countryside? Will they think we participated in the brutal, gladiator-style competition of the Hunger Games?

Furthermore, what will people 100, 1,000, 100,000 years from now think when they excavate a lost library and find the worn copies of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games sitting on the shelf? Will they think the Rowling, Meyers and Collins were writers with incredible substance or would they just write our generation off as frivolous? And we aren’t even going delve into the horror that is Fifty Shades of Grey. (We will just call that a minor blip in our generation’s taste in “literature.”)

What does our apparent obsession with zombies, vampires, and dystopian young adult novels say about us? Honestly, I’m not sure what to call our current literary period. Could we be known as the Imagination Period? The End of the World Period? Oh! Maybe the Flight of Fancy Period?

…Well, it’s apparent that no one will put me in charge in the naming of our period…

I clearly have no concrete answers, so I’m bouncing the question back to you. What do you think defines our current literary period? What do you think will happen to our libraries and books if our civilization ends? What would be the craziest/most profound piece of literature that our before mentioned, imaginary explorer might find?

I really look forward to reading your comments!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mom Brain: It's a Thing

by Katy White

I read an article recently about how "Mom Brain" is a real thing. If you have children and have never had mom brain, first, I want to know your secret. Second, you're probably a mutant, so expect a call from Professor X about joining an elite team of super-humans. Also, you're a jerk and I hate you.



With a six-week old and a toddler, along with a husband who travels for work, I'm burning the candle at both ends these days. Sleep and I are in a huge fight right now, and unfortunately, I'm losing. I can't correctly identify the most basic objects (carseat, highchair, stroller, booster chair...these are all interchangeable, as are drawer, cabinet, cupboard, counter, and closet). The words "left" and "right" have absolutely no meaning (though, in fairness, I've always struggled with these (in English, not French, oddly)). Yet I can recite nearly every children's book we have by memory. I can tell you exactly where every article of clothing and pair of shoes are in our house. I can rattle off our pediatrician's number as easily as the number for poison control (heh heh...).

So, you know, that makes sense, Brain.

And you know the best part is about Mom Brain? I have no idea what the point of this post is.


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