Thursday, August 30, 2007

Writing Responsibly

When I was in high school learning to drive, I remember having to watch a video with a horrible title like "Bloody Asphalt" or something like that as part of my drivers training. The video showed how driving too fast, driving while tired, and all other types of reckless driving could result in injury or, worse, the loss of life. It was powerful to me to see these images. To know that as a driver every time I got behind the wheel I was in a position that required great responsibility. The message was simple: Drive Responsibly.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, as a writer, every time I sit at my computer I am in some ways as if at the wheel. People will read my books (if I do my job right, lots of people! he, he) and thus, the words, images, and messages I choose are very important. I should most definitely: Write Responsibly.

So what does that mean exactly? Does it mean all of my characters have to be angelic and say only words Thumper would approve of? Does it mean I must only write about rainbows and kittens? Some author friends of mine have recently been discussing this very issue. Questions about author responsibility have been posed and answered in a variety of ways.

When I write, I find that two tests help me to know if I am writing responsibly. I thought I’d share them with you. The first test comes from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and the second from the Holy Bible.

Test One: The Invite/Entice Test:
Does my writing “invite and entice to sin,” or does it “entice to good continually,” and to “love God, and serve him?” (See Moroni 7:12-13)

Test Two: The Fruit Test
Does my writing “bring forth good fruit?” Or does it bring forth “corrupt fruit?” (See Matthew 7:17)

Asking these questions has helped me in my journey to be the most responsible writer I can be.

So tell me about your own tests. How do you write responsibly? How do you exercise responsibility in all aspects of your life? I’d love to hear your insights.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

by Marsha Ward

I attended BYU Education Week, which you all know by now. I thought this week I would tell you about a few of the classes I attended, and insights, if any, that I gained from them. I may not have the exact titles of the classes, since I'm working from my notes and not the class schedule, but hey! Is that important? Let's see how far I get down the week. (Chuckle, chuckle. I may have fodder for several blogs!)


Richard and Linda Eyre's Emptying Nest Parenting
This was a popular class, the last of three they did that day, dealing with young and then elementary school age children. They skipped the teens and went right on to this class, about how to deal with children as college-agers and then adults. The thing Richard said that struck a chord with me is "God is an empty nest parent."

The Eyre's have a website at

Brad Wilcox's Getting Kids Hooked on Books
Educator/author Brad Wilcox read several intriguing books aloud, which parents and grandparents should be doing for their offspring. Children need their minds to work, and reading does this for them. Brad gave several cogent facts about the importance of reading, and the frightful statistic that since World War II, when children had a vocabulary of 25,000 words, the literacy of our children has dropped, so that children only have a 15,000-word vocabulary today. EEEEEK! Read to a child today. Flood your progeny with the sound of language with nursery rhymes, jump rope jingles, finger plays, camp songs, and leg rides ("This is the way the lady rides . . .").

Check out Brad Wilcox's website

Don Aslett & Sandra Phillips: Decluttering the Simple Way (the actual title was way long)
The class taught me to ask this question about my belongings: "Does it enhance my life and that of others?" If not, it's junk. The problem with junk, or stuffication, Bro. Aslett says, is that it keeps us from loving and being loved.

I found several websites listed for Don Aslett, including,, and Aslett and Phillips have another site jointly,


Barry J. Ewell's How to Effectively Use Family Writings, Newspapers, Internet Resources, Libraries, and Historical Societies to Find Your Ancestors
Yes, that was the actual title.

This session focused on newspapers, and among the info I gathered is that the society news, also called the gossip columns, can be mined for information about the friends of ancestors. In case some of them are still alive, they can be interviewed for data about the ancestors.

Although the instructor was good and the topic interesting, since my friend was going to catch the series, this was the only session I attended.

Devotional Address by Elder Richard G. Scott
Elder Scott taught us how to learn through Spiritual Guidance. He asked us to write down and apply the following:

Throughout the remainder of my life I will seek to learn by what I hear, see and feel. I will write down the important things I learn, and I will do them.
He said that knowledge flows through endless avenues. When we record a spiritual impression, often, more impressions come as we do so. He urged us always to have paper--even a 3x5-inch card--handy for writing our experiences down.

Elder Scott said to find out what is critically important in our lives. We should devote our efforts there, setting aside other good things that we could do.

Daniel C. Peterson's Islam: The Continuing Presence of the Past

Tuesday's class focused on "Muhammad's Life and Its Influence Today." I found the class so intriguing, and the topic so important in today's world, that I attended the entire series, and enjoyed it a great deal.

Since there wasn't an Arabian literary culture at the time Muhammad was born, little is known about his early life. However, some facts exist, and legends fill in the rest of the blanks. Brother Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU. He wrote a biography of Muhammad entitled Muhammad, Prophet of God.

I also attended a performance Tuesday night. It was "Take the Mountain Down," a tale of the prodigal son, and lived up to its billing as a "foot stompin', hand-clappin' musical". Steven Kapp Perry and Marvin Payne collaborated on the work, and it featured the Potluck Social String Band. It was great!

I've gone long here, so I'll give more details next week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

Guess what happens when you have three kids in three years? (Yeah, I actually have seven, but the first three came in three years--I know, crazy!) I'll share the highlights:

You get three kids in diapers at the same time (my oldest was a boy--'nuf said).

Basically, your body is in a state of non-stop pregnancy or nursing for half a decade--for me, it was my twenties (can you say, "deflated water balloon"? I'm getting depressed, let's fast forward a bit).

You get three teenagers in the same house, at the same time ('nuf said).

You get three college students at the same time (can you say, "deflated wallet"?)

So I've arrived at my point. Yes, I have three kids in college this year, and for the first time, two are actually going AWAY--one to Sam Houston State University (only an hour's drive north, but still...), and one to Brigham Young University, Rexburg, Idaho campus (only a three day drive north...). The other is at the local community college (thank you Gods of Education for the Community College educational system).

Why, as parents, do we have such conflicting emotions when it comes to our children growing up? A part of me is screaming, "Yay, there outta here. There on their way--woohoo!!!" and another wants to fall at their legs crying, "Don't go! Don't leave me yet! Just one more game of Scrabble. One more trip through McDonald's drive through. Let's watch What About Bob together just one more time!

But they leave.

I have a pretty good feeling they'll be back. A little older. A little wiser.

I hope I am too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rainy Days

I love the rain! All night and all the morning we've had gushes to drizzles to gushes again, and I can't get enough. There's something about the rain. Oh ... and running in the rain is better than a hot fudge sundae!

When I moved to Louisiana years ago, we got 12 inches of rain in just a few days. I wondered if it would ever stop and I must say I was getting slightly worried as we were no longer able to see the road, any neighbors or the yard because of the downpour. I learned quickly why everyone in the area kept rubber boots by the door. That was the first time I've ever heard of school being canceled because of the rain.

We lived there for nearly three years before moving back to Utah 12 years ago and I still miss the rain and humidity. Ah, well, if all goes well, we'll pay a visit this October.

There's something about the homes in the south, too. Inspired by the old plantations, many have wide porches the length of the house, columns and great expanses of lawn between the road and the house, with beautiful, long driveways.

Oh, and trees! What trees you see in the south. Oaks with branches dipping to the ground and moss dangling from the limbs. That's something I've always wanted, but as long as I live in Utah, I'll never have my live oak. I've come to terms with that, however, as I've come to love the city where I live, the neighbors, the ward ....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boy Toys

What do seven, soon to be eight-year olds play with? If anyone has an eight-year-old boy or has ever had a eight-year-old boy, I’d like to know what they play with. Other than video games or sports, what do they enjoy doing? My son will be eight in October and if you were to ask him what he wanted. One of his top picks would be a 2007 San Antonio map book.

My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and so some of his interests are unusual. He’s enjoyed a lot of the boy toys throughout the years- trains, cars, Bob the Builder. He still plays trains with his younger brothers a little, mostly making train layouts for them, but he’s outgrown them. And, to be honest, I have no idea what kinds of toys he likes right now. One of his most prized possessions is his 2006 San Antonio map book. He studies it intently in the car whenever we go anywhere. Sometimes, he even brings it in the house and looks at it for long periods-up to 45 minutes. He loves maps and he’s amazingly good at reading them.

He’s my little GPS system in my car. He can get me anywhere in San Antonio. He just looks up the street in the map and tells me how to get there. I rely on him a lot because I’m so bad at directions. If I don’t have him with me and I’m going somewhere for the first time, I will probably get lost. I rely on him almost too much sometimes. Recently, we were going to a minor league baseball stadium where we’ve been to only a couple of times. Of course, we asked my son to help us get there, so he was guiding us with his map. When we took a major highway- I-10, he got very agitated. “It’s the wrong I-10,” he cried. How can there be another I-10? It’s I-10. Somehow, it was the wrong I-10. I still don’t understand how we got on the wrong one, but he guided us a different way and we made it only a few minutes late. Anyway, he’s a lifesaver. We should always trust him because he’s always right. Sometimes, I doubt him and take the way I think only to find out I went the wrong way.

Anyway, he’s quite amazing. One day, my husband asked him where a certain high school was. One none of us had heard of; there are a lot of high schools in San Antonio. He knew exactly what page it was on and where it was. He randomly knows where almost every school is and I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew all the streets. He even knows exactly what page a certain street is on. He has an amazing memory; that’s part of the Asperger’s Syndrome.

His birthday is coming up and I want to get him a toy he will enjoy. Somehow, buying him a new map doesn’t seem right; it should be something for a child. At least, we’ll wait for the 2008 map, no sense in getting a 2007 one now. So, please help. What do boys that age like to play with? Other than doing stuff on the computer, he’s not interested in toys. We went to Toys R Us the other day and I asked him to look around for something. He couldn’t come with something to buy. He almost settled on a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine train, but I told him he’s too old for that. I wanted him to buy something more age-appropriate. Like what? I don’t know. He’s my oldest, so my other two are still playing with trains. I need to get him interested in something other kids his age like to play with. Other kids just don’t get it when he wants to show them on the map where their school is.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book Signings

One of the scariest things for me to do as an author is book signings. I get nervous easily, and when I talk while nervous my voice gets all wobbly like I’m trying to sing with that cool vibrato sound the ladies in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir use-- only I’m not singing. So, when I was asked to sign books at the BYU Bookstore this week for BYU's Annual Campus Education Week, I have to admit I was a little nervous. Okay, a lot nervous.

(Me at a signing in California)

When I got to the bookstore today, my hands were shaking so much my friend who was with me told me to stop setting out the treats we were putting on the table, because I was making a mess. I smiled a wobbly, nervous smile and let her do the set-up.

But after those first few scary minutes, I experienced a series of events that left me not only less afraid, but also deeply moved and grateful for the kindness of those around me.
  • Soon after arriving, I looked up and saw Marsha Ward, my fellow Ink Lady. It instantly put me at ease to talk to a seasoned author and hear about her latest project. And she even bought my book. Thanks so much, Marsha!
  • I was seated next to another author, Elizabeth Watkins, who was so kind and so gracious. She read the first two pages of my book while sitting at the table, bought the book, and was even helping me sell it to people! How awesome is that?!
  • Some very dear friends who were not attending Education Week, but had heard I would be there, gathered up their children and came all the way from Salt Lake City to say hello. I didn’t even know they were coming. Their support and sisterly love made me feel so blessed.
  • A family of girls who used to baby-sit me showed up with their mom. I remember those girls (now women) and the awesome examples they were to me growing up. There’s some of what I learned from them in me and therefore in my book. It was such a cool moment to see them.
  • And finally, a woman stopped by the table and told me her daughter enjoyed the book and had even started a journal of “Pink Notes,” where she writes about people who inspire her. I sat there and thought, “If this was all that came out of my book, all those hours of writing were worth it, because this is what it’s all about.”

    Thanks to all of you who stopped by and said hello. Thanks to all of you who read this blog. Thanks to all of you who read my and my fellow Ink Ladies’ books. I am just so full of thanks! So…thanks!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Dawning of a Brighter Day

by Marsha Ward

This week I'm attending BYU Education Week for the first time. I obtained Internet access relatively painlessly, so I guess my turn is a go.

The theme this year is "The Dawning of a Brighter Day." Yesterday, at the Devotional, what a thrill it was to raise my voice with thousands of others in singing, "The Morning Breaks, the Shadows Flee," the hymn from which the theme is taken. Elder Richard G. Scott gave the devotional address, in which he taught us keys for learning from the Spirit.

I was able to sit with Rachel Ann Nunes during her book signing yesterday. I may even have sold a book or two for her. What fun to renew our acquaintance! Later that day I met Michele Paige Holmes, the author of Counting Stars. Today and tomorrow I have other author buddies to see and meet (you can be Internet buddies without meeting, you know).

Of course, there are classes to attend--I'm enjoying the select few I've chosen to go to--and performances to see. Last night I took in the new musical, "Take the Mountain Down," by Steven Kapp Perry and Marvin Payne, and had a hand clappin' good time! Mandolin and banjo music have such joy inherent in their sound.

I'm having a good time in this first taste of Education Week. I hope the aches and pains of protesting muscles will prove short, and the social, mental, emotional, and spiritual boost of the classes and being with friends will continue to lift me up to that Brighter Day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quiet time to write

This time of year I hear many of my writer friends express their excitement that summer is finally over, the kids are heading back to school, and now they will actually have some quiet time to write. A part of me is envious of this; the only quiet time--ever--in my house is in the middle of the night. You see, we are homeschoolers. We've been at it now for about 8 years...or is it 9?

Summertime is my care-free writing time. During the school year if I want to get writing in, it usually happens after my little ones are in bed (a.k.a. Quiet Time). Sometimes I can sneak off to my bedroom in the afternoon with my AlphaSmart and pound out a page or two. But often, because I was up late writing, I find that I'd rather take a nap than write. (sigh...)

I'm curious. When do YOU find quiet time to write? Do you even need quiet time to write? Do you write listening to music? Or do you need total silence?

Come to think of it, I can actually be quite productive writing in a noisy, busy Whataburger. I think the difference is that no one is tugging on my shirt asking for a cookie or asking me to tell their brother to quit calling them a stinkypoopooface!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Absent already

So I've been "absent" the last couple of Mondays ... so sorry. I've been engrossed in a good book, not yet finished, but getting there. I've set a deadline and am working night and day to meet it. I'm not sleeping much these days, but the kids are back in school and all is well. I love sending the children to school and getting some time to myself! The kids love it too. I think we all just need some time away from each other occasionally - or daily.

I do love my kids and think school came all too early this year. What ever happened to waiting until after Labor Day??? Oh well. Summer is officially over and that means no more trips to the lake in the middle of the week. We are all in mourning. At least we still have the sunshine.

One thing I have to vent about though are the back to school nights. Has anyone else ever wanted to raise their hand to correct a teacher grammatically during one of those things? I must admit that notes from the teacher also set me on edge. At one particular elementary my children attended years ago, I actually took a red pen and corrected it and sent it back with my son. I still remember some of the mistakes that grated on my nerves - explaination???

Ah well, even school teachers are entitled to their errors, but after several notes filled with misspelled words, dangling participles and more, somebody had to take action!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Revising, everyone's favorite topic. Not! Revising has always been a challenge for me. Right now, I'm in the middle of some heavy revising as I'm trying to complete my novel which I'm currently calling One On One. It is the sequel to my book that comes out in November.

Right now, I think I'm on schedule to have it finished by the deadline I've set for myself. Then, I will send it to a few people who help me by reading& editing it. My sister is a wonderful & oftentimes merciless editor. She's very honest and has helped me so much. She is a great adherent of Sol Stein. She sent me his Stein on Writing book for my birthday and it has been a tremendous help.

In his chapter on revision, Stein says that there should be something visual on every page. He suggests putting a small V in the lower right corner of every page that has something visual on it. If the page has nothing visual on it, write NV and return to it later to add a visual element. Further, he says that if there are 2 or more pages with NV, maybe there is too much narrative summary and an immediate scene is needed.

This was great advice and I think I will try it as I do my next hard copy revision as soon as I'm done with my current one.

Revising this manuscript promises to be a little more fun than previous ones. My husband is not much of a reader. He read my first book after it was already published. My second one, he only read about 7 chapters. This one, has a basketball theme and perhaps is a little more interesting than the others. I told him I need his basketball expertise to make sure I don't get anything wrong. I know basketball a bit, but it always helps to have someone with greater knowledge point out everything that is wrong. Well, I'm off now to find my husband (he's putting the kids to bed. He really is wonderful, just doesn't like to read, especially women's fiction) and get him to read the next two chapters.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Antibiotics and a Wedding

Sometimes you just have one of those days…or weeks…or lives…where nothing goes the way you would have wanted it, if you had taken the time to plot everything out in your Franklin planner. I suppose that’s just part of life. Sometimes it seems like all of life.

For starters, it would have been nice if I had had a neat packaged little experience this week that I could share with you in this blog. But this week, my life has not been neat. Nor has it been packaged. This week I feel like a box that someone has accidentally stepped on, with chocolate pudding dripping out the corners.

I did have a to-do list on Monday. Our family has a big upcoming event to prepare for, and I made a careful preliminary list of what I needed to do. I expected to have all week to work on it, so I wasn’t too worried. Well, it took me until Thursday to finish most of Monday’s list. Never mind what I would have done on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday if I’d finished my to-do list when I was supposed to.

Meanwhile, our dog is on antibiotics. We thought we’d outsmarted him by popping the pill into his regular breakfast and mixing it with a little canned dog food. It worked for a few days, till one afternoon when I found the pill he was supposed to have eaten at breakfast. He’d bitten into it and decided he didn’t like it. (I can’t say I blame him, but still.)

So we tried peanut butter. That worked too, for a while. But he decided that he was tired of eating peanut butter with pills tucked inside.

So I tried opening up the pill and pouring the powder all over his regular food. And our usually ravenous dog suddenly decided he wasn’t hungry anymore.

So now we’re making the dog peanut butter sandwiches three times a day. Just small ones. But he loves bread, and he still loves peanut butter. Hopefully he won’t figure out that they’re actually peanut butter and pill sandwiches before he runs out of pills.

Wednesday we got a phone call that Brother So and So was getting baptized in about three hours. Usually this kind of call has the postscript, “So can you come play the piano?” This time, oddly enough, I didn’t get asked that. We went, and as always it was a sweet experience. I always feel like applauding when an individual comes up out of the water after baptism.

And then yesterday a family member called me and informed me that she was getting married—today. In Oklahoma. And where am I? Wisconsin, I think. Well, I did look at catching a flight and attending, but it would have been a real stretch to make it work. So, *sigh*, I am here (still in Wisconsin) and she is getting married (without me) in all of fifteen minutes from this writing. I called her an hour ago to let her know I was thinking of her.

I’M FREAKING OUT!” she said.

“So are you still going through with it?” I asked.

She said: “…so far…”

I talked to her for another minute, and she responded pleasantly, but I could sense the tension in her voice. The tension that said, I’m about to lose my mind and you expect me to stop to talk to you on the phone??

So I told her I’d better let her go or she’d be late to her own wedding. And then she said, “Oh, that’s okay. They can’t do anything without me.”

Which conjured up images of an impatient groom who decides to go on and hold the wedding without the bride…and she arrives only to find out that she missed her own wedding and now she’s already married…

Well, anyway. This is life. Theoretically a bride can schedule her wedding, but I can’t schedule when my dog will decide to cooperate with the antibiotic program, or when a family member decides to get married (without me), or apparently when I’m going to have time to work on Monday’s to-do list. All I can really do is (hopefully) enjoy the ride.

And find whatever antibiotics the dog has hidden around the house.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Should Be a Reverent Writer

by Marsha Ward

Last Sunday I gave the Relief Society lesson, filling in for the teacher, whose mother died. The title was: "We Should be a Reverent People." As I pondered this subject, preparing to introduce it to the sisters in my branch, I wondered what kind of example I set?

Personally, I hope I'm doing okay. Professionally, I have some questions about how to remain reverent and still write my characters so that they are true-to-life.
  • When I'm writing about a profane and no-good character, do I use his language?
  • Can he refer to other characters in coarse terms?
  • Do I allow him to swear and take the Lord's name in vain?
  • How many times can a character under duress cry out to God before it becomes a vain repetition?
  • Is even considering using the name of God in a novel an indication that I've sunk into an irredeemable pit?
I still don't have good answers. I hope you'll help me with your comments.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Movie about me

Friday night I saw the movie, Becoming Jane, and I LOVED it! Anne Hathaway was fantastic as Jane Austen. The chemistry between Hathaway and James McAvoy, who gave a stellar performance as Tom Lefroy, was incredible. All I have to say is, Colin who? I've found a new favorite actor from the other side of the pond--Scotland to be exact.

Since many have not yet seen the movie, I don't want to give anything away. Just go see it as soon as you can! But yesterday when I was listening to the radio, the subject was "who would play you in the movies?" interesting thought! My hunch is that Jane Austen would be pleased with Anne Hathaway's performance in Becoming Jane. So what if someone ever wanted to make a movie about me...

When I was a kid, I was a dead ringer for Cindy Brady. But since it's no longer the seventies, and I'm not sure Susan Olsen is even in the acting business, I guess I'm out of luck there.

When I was in college, I had a few people tell me I looked like "Glenda, the Good Witch" from The Wizard of Oz. Again, I'm having a "time-frame" issues here.

There IS one female actress, however, who just might work for me in the here and now! She has charm. She has charisma. She's "full figured" (PC for "chubby"). And since she's a comedian and I'd much rather laugh than cry, I think I've found the perfect ME!

So play with me. Who would play YOU in the movies?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Youth Contest

Anne Bradshaw is sponsoring a contest on her blog that I thought everyone should know about. It's a great opportunity to honor young people who are making honorable choices. Here are the rules:


1) Entries should be typed and emailed to Anne Bradshaw with “Youth Contest” in the subject line. Maximum number of words is 800. In this contest, content is more important than writing style or skill.

2) Anyone (LDS or not LDS) can submit an entry. Please describe, in your own words, a young person you know who is doing fine things with his/her life, maybe against all odds—or is someone who love to serve others—or who has an unusual talent, or a talent that's well developed—or who is a peacemaker—or anything you consider good, whether it be small or large.

3) Entries can be about young people between ages 12 and 25. They can be family, friend, or someone in the neighborhood.

4) The deadline for entries is midday
Friday, August 31st.
Feel free to send them in any time before this date.

5) Posting of top entries (on Anne's blog) will take place within days of August 31st.

6) Blog readers then place a comment on their favorite entry.

7) Closing date for comments is midday (US MST) on Thursday, September 13th.

8) The winning entry will be the one with the highest number of comments. There will be a 1st and 2nd winning entry.

9) If you want to include a picture, that's great--but please get permission to post from the young person and his/her parent or guardian before sending. Anyone who doesn't want their full name appearing on the blog will have their wish respected. Only first names shown unless otherwise instructed.


The WINNER (young man or young woman) is the featured finalist receiving the most comments from readers. He or she receives an autographed copy of Please, No Zits! & Other Short Stories for LDS Youth. He or she also receives 50 soft cover books, the content of which being whatever the winner wishes; the winning story, a simple memoir of the winner’s experience, or some other book-type idea. In addition, the winner gets from Zdocs (at no cost), the opportunity to sell some of these 50 books on Razorpages for free.

The SENDER of the winning entry receives two gift wrapped items--Liquid Facial Wash, and Facial Moisturizer--from the all natural line of beauty products, Scentiments. He or she also receives a copy of Annette Lyon's latest novel, Spires of Stone.

The featured finalist SECOND WINNER with the next highest number of comments, receives a copy of Chick Lit author Stephanie Fower's latest romantic comedy out in September, Meet Your Match, together with a copy of Marcia Argueta Mickelson's novel, Star Shining Brightly.

The SENDER of this second entry receives a copy of Heather B. Moore's first book in the Out of Jerusalem series--Of Goodly Parents.

Please click on author links above for book cover pictures and more information.

Feel free to share this contest far and wide. Entries accepted from anywhere in the world. Everything will get read, and Anne's favorites will be posted. Some editing may be necessary.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Infamous Journal

Yesterday my dad shared some interesting and faith-promoting experiences he’d had on his mission. At one point, I told him, “You know, Dad, you should really write these down.” He said that some of them were written down in his mission journal. I wondered for a moment what it might be like at some future date to sit down and read the whole thing, like a book. What would it be like to share these growing experiences with my own father, as he was before I even knew him? What insights would it give me into his life? What treasures of wisdom could I gain from its pages?

Then I thought of my own journal that one day my own descendants will want to read. Here’s one word to describe it: Oops.

Since I own a journal, I often consider myself a regular journal-writer. Yes, sometimes it does require a mental leap to make that connection. Okay, a lot of times it does.

Whenever something memorable happens, I always mean to write about it in my journal. I always mean to remember those warm and funny moments, those times of spiritual stirring, those milestones in life. I always mean to write meaningful captions to the pictures I take during family get-togethers, and get them arranged into something that makes sense and captures those moments together.

But is “meaning to” good enough? What is the road to you-know-what paved with?

What important events have I failed to record recently? Let’s see…

  • The time I was volunteering at a huge music festival, helping empty Dumpsters to earn money for a sports club my son was in. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in the noisy atmosphere, and wished for my shift to be over soon. Then my cell phone rang, and after my husband said some things to me I couldn’t understand over the noise, our stake president was suddenly on the line. He asked me if I could sustain my husband in a calling he’d just been issued. Of all things. Funny I could understand him clearly when I couldn’t understand my husband. I never thought I could feel the Spirit in that place!
  • Reading the latest Harry Potter book together as a family, and staying up till 2AM…and only being about halfway finished
  • The time my son wanted to count the wrinkles on my face. He told me to frown, which of course I tried very hard not to do; I didn’t want to know how many wrinkles I had! So he conked me on the head with his fist (softly, but it was still a surprise), and I immediately became cross with him. “Great!” he said. “There’s one wrinkle, and there’s one, and there’s another one…I take it I’m not in trouble, right, Mom?”
  • How we learned the hard way that if you drop a Bottle Cap candy into a can of Dr. Pepper, it fizzes up kind of like Diet Coke and Mentos. Don’t try this in the car.
  • Or how about ordinary things, like what we’ve done with our garden this year, or tricks our dog can do, or places we like to go on a Saturday afternoon?

Unfortunately, this is only the start of the list. It doesn’t include what I’ve already forgotten, for starters. Powerful experiences unfortunately fade with time. It’s important to record these before the impact lessens.

Well, at least now I have a few of these events recorded. It’s a start.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Who Inspires You?

Sorry I'm blogging a day late. I’ll tell you all about why next week. (I’m going for a soap opera-y cliffhanger there. Did it work?)

Today I actually have something else to talk about. In my novel The Icing on the Cake, the main character, Annabelle, has a pink notebook where she writes about people who inspire her. On my website, I have a place where readers can submit their own “Pink Notes" and have them posted on the site. I have been overwhelmed by the amazing, touching emails from readers. They have made me think and made me resolve to try a little harder to be a little better. So I thought for my blog today, I would share a couple of the submissions I have received. You can read these and other Pink Notes on my website

Suzy's Pink Note #1
Name: Emily A.
Why She's Noteworthy: Emily is a little 14 year old girl who has had leukemia three times in her short life. In December, she had a bone marrow transplant and is now doing much better. The thing that amazes me is that she has remained happy the entire time. Even when her hair fell out, she simply pulled out the hats and bandanas and kept going. Emily is a really close friend, and I have never once heard her complain or wonder why God let this happen to [her.] She has inspired so many people. She is the brightest, cutest, most positive girl I have ever met! I wish everyone in the world could meet her.
-Submitted by Suzy, a reader from Utah, via email

Brianna’s Pink Note #1
Name: A friend
Why She’s Noteworthy: Well, as I read the book, every time I read a “Pink Note” I thought of people in my life that have and do inspire me. It is so hard to decide who to begin with so that is why I titled it #1 so that I can eventually write about the others! I want to start with a very good friend who I met in high school...and then she moved far away. We have stayed in contact through the years, which I am very grateful for. She is such an example and inspiration to me because she has always shown me how to be cheerful and happy no matter your circumstances, and this is very hard to do at times! She has worked very hard and has followed her dreams which have led her to great success and I am very proud of her!
-Submitted by Brianna, a reader from Washington, via email

Diane's Pink Note #1
Name: My Grandma
Why She’s Noteworthy: I am caretaking my 91 year old grandma who has dementia and no longer short term memory. What I am learning is [it’s] not the huge events in ones life but the simple acts of kindness...that one joyful moment spent with someone you love...watching their face [as they] open up that piece of chocolate candy. The one line you wrote...
"'You have a way of capturing people,' I said, continuing to admire the photo.
'People are my favorite subjects. When a person inspires me, I capture a moment in their life, so I can remember...'"
That is exactly what I do when I am with my grandma.
-Submitted by Diana, via email

Aren't those awesome?!!! Have a great week, and think about the Pink Notes in your own life. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Fours Tag

by Marsha Ward

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen tagged me in this go-around.

Four Jobs I've Had:
Instructional Assistant for Traumatic Brain Injured (TBI) students at Mesa Public Schools
Charter school teacher: Spanish, Southwest Studies, Newspaper
Editor, The Beehive newspaper, Arizona Edition
Secretary/Bookkeeper at a construction company

Four Places I've Lived:
Phoenix, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ
Bogotá, Colombia
Caracas, Venezuela

Four Favorite TV Shows:
Burn Notice

Four Favorite Foods:
Chili Rellenos
Green Corn Tamales
Spaghetti & Breadsticks

Four Websites I Frequent:
Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
Walking in the forest
At the library getting free high-speed internet
At church, playing the organ
Somewhere, anywhere, signing the book I’m still writing

Four Movies I Love:
Gone With the Wind
Paint Your Wagon
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
Darvell Hunt
Melissa Williams - somewhere on MySpace
Marcia Mickelson

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Conversation I had with my best girlfriend an hour ago...

(Driving in car, my cell phone rings)

"Hey!" (I knew who it was--caller ID)

"Today's the day!" (We scream in unison--the wussy girl type of flailing-hands scream you only do in the company of other girls.)

"I know. I'm on my way to pick it up right now!"

"Ooooooh!" (extreme longing in her voice) "They messed up my schedule at work and I can't get to the store until 5:00 tonight."

(Gasp) "What if they run out of copies? You know, Stephenie Meyer was on Good Morning America this morning."

"Crap--I missed it!"

"She did great. And now that I've seen her in the moving/talking flesh, I like her even more. She's not pencil-thin, you know."

"They say TV adds 10 pounds."

"Then she probably is pencil thin...and she's gorgeous...and a millionaire, to boot." (We both sigh.)

"Do you want me to pick up your copy while I'm there?"

"You'd do that for me?" (extreme gratitude emitting from her voice)

"Of course. What are best friends for?"

"So why do you think a couple of middle-aged women like us love these books so much?"

"The characters! I love Bella. She's every girl. And Edward..." (We share a moment of silence)

"He's only 17 you know--that's younger than 3 of your children."

"Nuh-uh! He's like 100 or something!" (I shudder at both thoughts) "Anyway, I'll talk to you when you pick up your book. I may even have it finished by then."

"Shut up!"

"I love you too!"

(End of conversation.)

So now I have TWO copies of Eclipse in my hot little hands. For those die-hard Bella and Edward fans, it has 629 pages (27 chapters), and I paid $17.09 at Target (after I couldn't find it at Wal Mart--actual retail price $18.99).

I just stuck a chicken in the crock pot and put on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the kids (released today as well--not a mere coincidence, but a gift from above).

Goodbye world--I'll resurface in 629 pages.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

List Mania

I love Amazon and have really found the Listmania! lists on there helpful. Anytime that I read a book that I enjoy, I do a search for the book and author. There are usually several listmanias! that pop up, and I click on them to see lists compiled by readers. The lists usually have a theme and include books suggested by that reader. Usually, if they enjoyed a certain kind of book or author, they have recommendations of other books similar to the genre or by that same author. I have found many suggestions over the years that I have enjoyed.

This prompted me to create my own list a few months ago. I created a Listmania! list of my favorite LDS novels, which of course had to include my own novel, Star Shining Brightly. I decided to use it as a marketing tool and included books by my favorite authors such as Jennie Hansen, Betsy Brannon Green, Josi Kilpack, Sian Ann Bessey, Rachel Ann Nunes, Michele Ashman Bell, as well as many others. As you list each book, you can add a short commentary for each book. You can also add tags to help others find your list. I included words such as: LDS, Mormon, religious, romance all words that would describe the books that I listed. I also included the names of some of the authors on my list.

Any time that someone does a search on Amazon for an author on my list, my Listmania! list may pop up. Amazon rotates among all the similarly tagged lists, and it doesn't always come up, but many times it does. Since it is a marketing tool, I listed my book first on my list and so a lot of times, a picture of my book pops up with my list. So, this has brought exposure to my book as readers search for their favorite LDS authors. People can then click on my list and see what other LDS novels I recommend.

The first month after I did this, my Amazon numbers were amazing. It really helped sales. My book received a lot of exposure. People searching for LDS novels were exposed to it. In the four months since I started my list, it has had over 200 hits. So, that means that people who may never have heard of my book and were not looking for it were exposed to it. Most of them probably didn't buy it, but some of them did. After all, my book had the best numbers on Amazon since it was published. Of course, that has tapered off now, but it gave me a little boost when I really needed it, about 8 months after it was published.

So, try this little tool. Create a listmania! list with your favorite books of the genre you write it. Give your list an appropriate title, add some tags, including the names of other authors you recommend or write in a similar genre. Of course, include your book. It will get some exposure and maybe will boost your numbers a little bit. I'm not promising huge numbers, but we can all use a little help once in a while. Besides, you may help readers discover a book they will love, but hadn't heard of. I'm always finding good recommendations when I search Listmana!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Some Helpful Excuses

We've had family in town this week, so I have plenty of excuses for not having time to write, read my scriptures, pay my bills, keep my house clean, weed my garden, or anything else I would normally need to do. Excuses are easy to think of. Here are some good ones:

  • I'm too busy with...(insert anything here that sounds good)
  • I have a headache.
  • I have to finish Harry Potter Book 7. (This one can continue to be useful if you read up until, say, the last two pages and just never finish.)
  • I have to wash my hair. Again.
  • I need bonding time with my family. (Amazingly, this one is too often pushed aside until we have another task staring us in the face that we don't want to do.)
  • I'm too young.
  • I'm too old.
  • I'm too heavy.
  • I can't sit still that long.
  • I ran out of junk food to make me sit still that long.
Well, you get the picture. There is a wise saying that goes like this: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now. However, if we expect to write novels or have a nice garden or have the Spirit in our lives, we gotta put in the hard work. No excuses allowed.

Unless your goal is to procrastinate more. I think I like that one.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Writing in 2007

The other night I saw the preview for the long-anticipated movie Becoming Jane. I’ve heard lots of buzz about the movie and am looking forward to seeing it, but as I saw actual clips of the picture for the first time, I got to thinking: How much different than mine was Jane’s writing life? This question led to some serious reflection on the wonderful blessings I enjoy as a writer in 2007. Here are just a few:

1. A Laptop Computer I love mine so much I named it Lil’ Lappy. It’s much more fun to say than Dell Inspiron 1501.

2. Gap Sweats I once read an article about an author who got dressed up in a professional outfit every day rather than writing in her pajamas. All I can think of is, she must not have yet discovered Gap sweats.

3. Pre-cut Vegetables So easy to grab when I’m on a writing roll, but need a quick snack. Plus, they make me feel better about the chocolate I ate the last time I needed a snack.

4. Online Dictionaries I remember the days of looking up everything in a big fat Webster’s. It's so cool to me that now the correct spelling of Czechoslovakia is only a few keystrokes away (and the only reason I knew how to spell it.)

5. The Blogosphere I am so absolutely happy to be a part of this blogging group. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers' posts. Thank you Ink Ladies!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Grammar Check

by Marsha Ward

I've spent part of my writing life being an editor, several times at a newspaper, other times at a writers' magazine.

Magazine and newsletter editors get all kinds of interesting things in the mail, including manuscripts filled with what one hopes are typos, and not grammatical errors. Unfortunately, more often than not, the wished-for typos are grammar mistakes. Unfortunately again, instruction in grammar went out the window years ago in public education. Students today don’t know the difference when their gaffes proclaim them to be ignorant. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they think a gaffe is a smaller version of a giraffe!

One morning I saw two mistakes that recurred with frequency: using a homophone or a similarly spelled word for the intended word: “Don't your food and drink leek out when you swallow?” The word “leek” is wrong. It should have been “leak”. A leek is a relative to an onion, and the word is a noun, not a verb. The second mistake I saw is in the following sentence: “They both stood very close to each other, no longer trembling, and where becoming good friends.” “Where” should be “were”. Other examples of transposed homophones that I have seen used are “that doesn’t phase me,” which should have been “faze;” misuse of the sister words peek, peak, and pique; and the all-time winners, there, they’re, and their.

Let’s look at peek. It means to look quickly and furtively. “I saw her peek out the window,” and “I took a peek out the glass” are both appropriate. Peak has three meanings: 1 a pointed end or top, as of a cap, roof, etc. 2 a) the summit of a hill or mountain ending in a point, b) a mountain with such a summit. 3 the highest or utmost point of anything—also a verb meaning to come or bring to a peak. This word is not to be confused with “peaked,” pronounced pe’ kid, which is thin and drawn, as from illness. Pique, pronounced peek, means resentment at being slighted. Watch out for pique’, which is a two-syllable word (accent on the last) meaning a cotton fabric with ribbed or corded wales. Ah, the English language is so rich!

There is no substitution for the word “there”. It can be used as in the previous sentence, or to denote something at a distance—“over there”. “They’re” is a contraction of “they are”. “Their” means ownership or possession in a plural sense. My boat or their boat, it is the same boat.

Now, I am asked frequently when to capitalize family names, such as Dad, Mom, etc. When used as a direct address, “Dad, I want to show you this rock,” it is capitalized. When I say, “My dad is 75 years old,” lower case is used.

One of my pet peeves is found today in grocery stores, believe it or not: potatoe’s and rose’s, or roses’ can be found equally frequently on signs. There should be no apostrophe in those words! On the other hand, it is a pity that “it’s” and “its” are switched so often. It’s is always a contraction meaning “it is”. “Its” connotes possession; just like “hers” or “his,” it has no apostrophe.

Grammar isn’t as hard as it seems. You just need to study it and learn the basics. When it doubt, go to my friend Delsa's favorite book, a big dictionary.