Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why? (a conversation of parenthood)

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Confession time: I wrote this post on my personal/family blog a few years ago. I ran across it again recently, and because I am absolutely without inspiration for this week’s MMW post, I’m totally cheaterpantsing and using it again here. Hope you enjoy my slackerliness!

Version 1:

Please don’t drop that toy in the toilet.


Because then we’d have to throw it away.


Because it would get germs on it from the toilet.


Because toilets are where poops and pees go, not toys.


Because that’s what toilets are made for.


Because someone invented them so that we could use them for poops and pees.


Because back in the olden days, people had to go to the bathroom outside, even when it was cold or dark out.


Because everybody eats, so everybody poops.


Because that’s how God made us.

Version 2, on a less patient day:

Please don’t drop that toy in the toilet.


Because I said so, that’s why.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Emily Dickinson IS THE SHIZ!!!!!

There's a certain Slant of light, (320)

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Local Writing Workshop

By: Kristi Hartman

About two weeks ago I was able to attend a free writing workshop hosted by my local library district.   It was given by author Sharon Skinner, and you can see some of her work here.  She was passionate, forthcoming, and super informative.  I felt like I not only learned about writing process tips, but also how to get into my characters' heads.  Specifically the protagonist.

Since it was a great evening, full of very useful ideas and insights, I decided to pass on the great information and exercises to you!  Because of the length, I think I will split this into two different posts, the next one coming 2 weeks from today. (If you guys are interested!)

The Writing Workshop was titled:

The Struggle and the Payoff:  Leading Your Protagonist's Journey to a Satisfiying Conclusion.

Start off, by asking yourself some basic, yet major questions about your story.  In other words, get down to the heart of your story.
In the presentation, she had us ask ourselves these questions:

Who:  Protagonist Wants
What:  His/Her desire
Why: Motivation
Who or What Barriers:  Antagonists/barriers that 
stand in the way

Write this down for your story.  Keep it short and sweet, but know the answers to these questions.   

She went on to explain that "the protagonist in our stories must be tested and tempered in order to ensure your hero is forged into a strong enough weapon to win the day at your climax."  
She encouraged us to mess with our characters, given them problems, roadblocks, and struggles in order to them to make them stronger and more interesting.

Next, after we discussed the heart of our stories and the who-what-whys behind it, she moved into traits for our characters.  

"What traits does the protagonist embody?  How are these traits tested and/or strengthened and honed by the conflicts and barriers she/he encounters?"

We wrote down in a table 5 strengths and weaknesses for our protagonist, as well as the antagonist.  
This really got me thinking, because even though I knew a few strengths and weaknesses for my protagonist, I didn't give much thought to strengths for my antagonist.  What makes them who they are?  I wrote down a good quote she mentioned, that said:  

"Every villain is the hero of their own story."

Ask yourselves, what are your characters like?  What makes them tick?

Some other helpful bullet points she included for important points to hit with our characters in our story were:
  • The character's initial motivation must be understood. (plausible or not)
  • The character must be able to change, whether willing or not (foreshadowing)
  • The character must be affected by experiences that can motivate change.  (demonstrate)
  • The character must reveal plausible new behavior/motivation (reveal)

I hope this was informative. I have more content that talks about conflict, tension, and plot if you guys are interested! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Truth About the Mormon Church: Am I in the Wrong Club?

by Kasey Tross

A few weeks ago I read an article in which a minister was attempting to explain LDS doctrine. In the comments section, a church member tried to clarify a few of this minister’s misconceptions (like that men in the LDS church could marry women without their consent- uh YIKES!), and he was met by another commenter who used the argument I hear all too often:

“Mormons don’t know the truth about their own church.”

Maybe I’m naive, but this statement is always so confusing to me. It’s like if I joined a club for people who love the color blue, and at all the meetings we all wore blue, talked about blue things, made blue craft projects, and ate blue food. Then someone told me, “You don’t know the truth about your club. It’s really a club for people who love red.”

Okay, so even if that was the case, what would be a good reason for me to stop attending, if I love blue and everything I see, hear, read, and experience from this club is about blue?

Perhaps such people think that the church is trying to get my money. After all, isn't the ulterior motive behind most things in the world either money or power? Well, if money were the driving force I would be okay with that because the church is using my money to build temples and meetinghouses where I worship, create and distribute worship materials that I use, and to spread the gospel through missionary work, which I wholeheartedly support. All church leaders on the local level are unpaid volunteers, and the ones in higher positions are paid appropriately according to the full-time service they provide. As far as I can tell, nobody is getting rich from my membership in this church.

So let's take the second option: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is power hungry, and they want to control large groups of people. To do what? To serve in disaster areas around the world? To provide means to the less fortunate to get a good education? To help people in their community who are struggling? To bring people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Actually…yeah, I'm okay with all that too.

So tell me, what am I missing?

Some of these individuals cite former leaders of the church and random obscure statements they made and say, "If people in your church knew what [fill in the blank here with Joseph Smith or any other former leader of the church] said about [fill in the blank here with some topic] then you would probably [cry, demand that your name be removed from the records of the church or fill in the blank with some other extreme reaction]." I, for one, can say that that is not true. Because what these people don't know is that my faith is not based on some random statement made by Joseph Smith or any other leader of this church. They are just men- good men, but imperfect and human. My faith is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ- who is the real Head of this Church- and those are the teachings I hear in church every Sunday. His teachings are what I read about in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I am a member of this church- His church- because I believe in Him, and I believe that the doctrines of this church are what will help me draw closer to him, not the words of the leaders (though I believe many of those words are inspired and do help me draw closer to him). For a great article discussing this in more depth, click here.

The best thing about this church is that we are encouraged to question. If I ever wonder whether a leader is off the mark, I am allowed to question and receive answers from the Lord for myself. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to the President of the LDS Church, said:

“We are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is how the Church got its start, from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question…. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. 
“Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth.” 

In the LDS Church we are taught the process of personal revelation, and we are encouraged to find answers and learn the truth for ourselves, and not to simply follow our leaders blindly.

I am not writing this post to convert anyone, though you may have noticed that Mormons are pretty big on that too. Why? Because we want more money for bigger, better meetinghouses? Because we want bragging rights? No. Because we love Christ and we have found peace and joy in His gospel, and we not only want to share it, but we know that we are commanded to share it. Robert C. Oaks gave this wonderful analogy about why we share our faith:

"Consider that you are invited to a friend’s house for breakfast. On the table you see a large pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice from which your host fills his glass. But he offers you none. Finally, you ask, 'Could I have a glass of orange juice?'
He replies, 'Oh, I am sorry. I was afraid you might not like orange juice, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering you something you didn’t desire.' 
"Now, that sounds absurd, but it is not too different from the way we hesitate to offer up something far sweeter than orange juice. I have often worried how I would answer some friend about my hesitancy when I meet him beyond the veil." – Robert C. Oaks, Oct. 2000

We share because we love what we have and we want others to enjoy the same happiness and peace.

But are all Mormons happy all the time? No. Once again, we are human and imperfect. However, most of us have inner peace (sometimes called “ruthless optimism”) that comes from knowing who we are, where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going after we die.

So for all of you who try to tell me I'm in the wrong club, I know you mean well, but I just can't believe it. The scriptures tell us, "By their fruits ye shall know them.”(Matthew 7:20) When it comes to what really matters, I see nothing but good fruit. And I will continue to partake.

Please note: This is not a post directed to those who disagree with our doctrine. I understand that everyone must follow their own path, and to you I say that we can agree to disagree. “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where or what they may.” (Articles of Faith #11) This post is regarding those who are of the opinion that I am misinformed about my faith, or that I am somehow being duped about my religion.

Coming up this Saturday and Sunday is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' semi-annual General Conference, which is televised around the world and is also available to view online. I would encourage any of you who have questions or concerns about the LDS Church to watch this conference and make your own decision based on what you see and hear. And just so you know, this conference is not a show- the teachings you will hear are the same ones we hear every week in our meetinghouses around the world, and the messages given there will be published and used as resource material for church members from now on. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

“I Did It Myyyyy…Wayyyy”

You know it, and I know it. Very few writers, the “lucky” ones, get their work picked up by a major publishing house. But really, it’s okay. I mean, why should author’s sell their manuscripts for a pittance to publishing houses at all, if these publishers are sending out a mass-press-release only and are not more involved in the marketing aspects, then what good are they?

What about setting up your own publishing company? What? You can do that? Sure you can; here are some steps you may want to follow:

1. First, get your pillars in place. Find and get quotes for an editor, a book lay-out company, a cover artist, and a printer.

2. Set up your company. You can actually do it in minutes. A good place to start is by following the steps offered by the US Small Business Administration.

3. Write a solid business plan. This might take a few days, since you’ll want to make sure you have a solid understanding of the multiple facets of the publishing industry.

4. Find a distributor. Most distributors require only three books to be listed as a publishing business. So, either crank out three books (any three will do) OR band together with other authors to reach the minimum. In fact, this latter option is really good because your company will grow its title listings much faster with multiple writers.

5. Learn a few tips to market your book and get publicity. I mean, you’re the boss now, so go be one!

6. Choose a business name. Keep the name neutral and usable in a variety of languages. Before you spend the money to register the name, do a name check and save the headache.

7. Crowd fund your initial efforts. Don’t order any print runs before you have a reasonable amount of orders.

8. Obtain your ISBN and bar codes.

9. Copyright your book(s).

10. Submit a copy (register) with the Library of Congress.

11. Create a publication timeline.

12. Spend the necessary time (and perhaps money) setting up a GREAT publishing website.

Absense Makes the Heart Grow Founder

Recently I shared a post about my season in life. I had said that I would still try to write, but just a little less. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the temple with my sweet husband. While I was there I asked God about my writing and I got an answer I didn't think I would get. I got the feeling I should STOP writing for now. Not permanently but that I should stop. I figured it has to do with my family needing me right now and I agreed. So I haven't been writing....and something strange is happening.

I suddenly feel the desire and the need to write building up inside of me. I feel it bubbling  and gurgling below the surface and I know that soon I won't be able to stop it. I think that when it gets to that point is when I will feel it is time to write again. I think my Heavenly Father knows me so well that He knows what works for me even better than I do and I'm so grateful for hidden blessings that come from obeying the promptings we feel from our Father above!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Favorite Scripture Challenge

by Katy White

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest sister tagged me on Instagram as part of a "Favorite Scripture Challenge." If you haven't already seen this challenge going around social media, I hope you either see it soon or start it in your neck of the virtual woods. You can say MMW & Friends challenged you. :) The rules are simple. Take a picture of your favorite scripture and share the reason why. That's it. :)

I'll admit that this challenge was exceptionally difficult to accomplish. Narrowing down a favorite scripture is like narrowing down a favorite type of Lindt truffle. They're all so different, and I crave their sometimes life-sustaining relief-slash-joy-slash-deliciousness for completely different reasons. Do I need hazelnut? Caramel? Mint? It all depends on the mood and the type of day I'm having. Just like with the scriptures.

Today, I'm going to share with you one a different scripture than I answered when I did the challenge originally, and the next time I post and challenge my friends, I'll share another one, still.

I love this scripture, and I love the hope that the Savior promises us. I consider myself to be a confident person. I've even posted about how much I love myself, for heaven's sake. But sometimes, I have a question that I can't answer on my own. Sometimes, I find myself at a crossroads, or worse, at a dead end where--mysteriously--the way out has vanished. Sometimes, I feel lost and lonely and overwhelmed and like I'm being pulled in too many directions, and I don't know which way is up.

At those times, I have the simplest and best possible solution: to look to my Savior. He is the way up. He is the light at the end of every tunnel. He is the silver lining to every dark cloud. He loves me, and he wants to guide me back, no matter how wrong the turn. So regardless of how badly the world (Satan) tries to obscure my path, I can look to him always and know that I will make it safely home.

He is my light.

So, MMW and Friends, consider yourselves challenged. Post a favorite scripture to your Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr--wherever!--and challenge your friends to do the same. Just flood the world with good. And in the meantime, be sure to respond with your scripture in the comments. :)


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Three New Books for your Reading List

By Anna Jones Buttimore

I've had three books released in the last month. I know, amazing! I'm feeling a bit dizzy about it all, really, but it's very exciting.

If you're anything like me you've got a pile of books beside your bed waiting to be read (or maybe a couple of screens full on your Kindle) but I'm in full book-promotion mode at the moment, so I'd like to add at least one or two more to that pile. Maybe one of my latest offerings will be something you think you might enjoy?

Haven is a sweet and gentle tale about a guest house set in the peaceful mountains of North Wales, and Gwen Evans, its kindly proprietress. It tells the story of a single week at the bed-and-breakfast, the problems and worries the guests bring with them, and how Gwen's compassion and faith helps each of them.
Most suited to: Adult LDS readers, particularly those who enjoy genealogy.
Available from: Deseret Book and other LDS booksellers, Costco and other large grocery stores (if you live in Utah) plus online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
Price: $16.99 paperback, ebook price not yet available.

Emon and the Emperor is a sci-fi fantasy crossover about an ordinary young man who discovers that he has been genetically engineered to have special powers which equip him to serve in a mysterious far-off place known as The Empire. At first the Empire seems idyllic, but the Emperor is corrupt and manipulative and is hiding a terrible reality. With a touch of humour and a smattering of romance, Emon's message is that one not-too-bright young man acting with integrity can make a world of difference, even in a different world.
Most suited to: Young Adults, New Adults and anyone who loves sci-fi with a twist.
Available from: Amazon (Kindle and paperback), Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Kobo Books.
Price: $11.39 paperback, $6.49 ebook

Random Ramblings is a collection of short stories, fan fiction, poems and excerpts from some of my longer novels. The short stories are all under 1,000 words so can be read in five minutes, and range from an autobiographical piece to science fiction, dystopia, and fairy tales.
Most suited to: Anyone who would enjoy a quick read, and especially fans of Twilight.
Available from: Smashwords, Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and other online retailers.
Price: FREE on Smashwords, $1.26 on Amazon Kindle (but hopefully will soon be free) and $7.20 in paperback.

There's something for everyone, and prices start at FREE (my favourite price!) so anyone can afford to treat themselves. I know there are plenty of other books out there you could spend your money on, and plenty more you've already spent your money on and need to get round to reading, but I hope you'll take a look at one of mine. Maybe even just to download the sample? Thank you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Starting: The Six-Word Memoir

by Merry Gordon

You know what's harder than writing?

Teaching someone else how to start doing it.

I'd know.  I've been trying for 15 years.

Now, my English 101 class is a survey course, an introduction to expository writing.  And we write. Oh, do we write.  We write negative process in the style of W.S. Merwin's "Unchopping a Tree."  We write analyses of gendered discourse.  We write tongue-in-cheek classification pieces that rework Dante's Inferno in the DMV.  We write Hamlet's Twitter feed. We take our political and cultural opposites to lunch, listen to their points of view, and strain their words into being, arguing against our own perspectives in the name of understanding.  By the end of the semester I have wrenched from them so much more than the requisite 3000 words earmarked in the course competencies.  By then, they don't even know it; they have stopped counting long ago.

But it's now, right about this time of year when the air crisps and the leaves begin to turn* that they start asking me the one question I still struggle with myself:  Where do I start? 

I can practically see the blinking cursors in their eyes.

I tell my students what writers and mentors told me for years:  write what you know.

So we start there.

When I tell them their first assignment is six words, they are dumbfounded.  Six words?  That's it? They grin, leaning back in their chairs a little.

That's when I throw Ernest Hemingway at them.

Well, maybe.  The attribution's apocryphal, but for the sheer, gut-wrenching punch I wouldn't put it past the old man:  "For sale:  baby shoes, never worn."

Six words.

Their grins turn to confusion, then to slow-dawning horror as the full impact of those six words hits them.  

Lesson one:  words are powerful.

I introduce to them the Six-Word Memoir, as conceptualized by Smith Magazine and based loosely around those few words ascribed to Hemingway.  The project is just what it sounds like: autobiographies in six words by both the famous and the obscure. We read the hilarious (like Colbert's "Well, I thought it was funny.") and we read the poignant ("Couldn't cope so I wrote songs," by Aimee Mann).  Then I invite students to distill their own lives into bite-sized memoirs.

Six words.

Just a little thimbleful of syllables, but we all have to start somewhere.

I write with my students.  I pen six-word memoirs for my job:

English teacher: more spellcheck, less paycheck.

I write them for my family on the good days:

In their laughter, I hear eternities.

I write them for my family on the bad days:

Mommy needs a timeout and nap.

This is when magic starts to happen in the classroom.  In six words, I help students make sense of their world.  Their writing becomes real and important.  It's not the kind of thing that'll ever make those bubble-in standardized tests, but they'll remember it, and that's a start for both of us.

Maybe it's worth it after all.

What's your six-word memoir?

*Not really.  There aren't actual seasons in Phoenix. The tempterature will remain over 100 here until December, when we all break out our Uggs and sweatshirts for approximately six days of actual winter.  But every September I still burn pumpkin-scented candles and pretend it's fall.

Monday, September 22, 2014


"Joey! Sit down please... c'mon, let's get it done fast so you can go out with your friends.."  I beg my son for what seems like the millionth time.  You see, my son struggles with ADHD.  He is a really good kid, but like most that struggle with it, still has a hard time with long difficult events like homework. This is not an uncommon scene for most parents, even those who don't have kids with ADHD.

"Liya, please don't distract him, just concentrate on your own homework!"
I send a silent prayer, begging for help.
Right then an idea hits me.  I bang my hand down on the kitchen table for effect, and watch my kids look up startled.  (Probably expecting me to start yelling at them... ha!)  I put on my most wicked expression and slid over close to my sons face.  In the most sinister 'witchy' voice I said "I have changed your sista into a... llama!

The only way to change her back is to figure out the formulas!!"  (This witch apparently has a bit of an English accent..)
Joey looks at me, his previous dulled look gone, his eyes twinkling with interest.  "Where is the formula?"  he giggles.

         "THIS," I hooked my finger and slid his math page away from him, " is the formula!  My plan is perfect, because I don't think you can figure it out!"  I let out an evil cackle.
"Ha!  Yes I can!  I will save my sister.  I'm smart enough to figure this out!"  His sister is watching from the side, giggling at the fact that she was turned into a llama, fascinated at the scene unrolling in front of her.  He grabs the paper away from me, and starts doing the problems!

I was elated!  "We'll see about that..."  I cackle as I slowly back off.  As I walk away, I turn around and see that not only was my son scribbling furiously away at his homework, but my daughter was too!  Incredible!
When he got to his word study, we dove into another scenario, making it a quest for a spell to unlock a secret room.

What use to be a 2-3 hour battle of the homework, suddenly became an exciting story they got to act out.  My goal, and the purpose of my prayer, was not just to get their homework done, but to help them to see that it doesn't have to be a negative experience!  I want my kids to see that they control how situations affect them.  If we can help our kids to learn this young, they can handle and conquer the trials that they face when they are older...
I was telling my sweet friend Kasey about this experience and she suggested that I blog about it.  I hope that this helps you all open up for other ideas in the big homework battle!  Maybe in the process we can dust off our own imaginations too!


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