Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spaghetti Bits

Saturday we had a stake dry-pack day at our regional cannery. Specifically, those of us who participated got to order food for our food storage, can it ourselves, and take it home (after paying for it, of course). We had to drive a couple of hours to get there, so I made sure to order lots and lots of food to take home.

Apparently some of the other families there had the same idea. And somebody had the brilliant idea of ordering lots and lots of spaghetti for their food storage. I didn't order any myself, but I was one of the fortunate ones assigned to spaghetti duty while the others packed, well, practically everything else.

Now, the Church does in fact offer dry spaghetti as part of the dry pack program. I'm sure that in times of need it would be a lovely thing to be able to draw on for feeding your family. Spaghetti is, of course, a much-beloved meal, and it's easy to make.

But one of the things about dry spaghetti is that it's long. Spaghetti, by definition, is long. And spaghetti, by definition, does not fit in a #10 can.

To make matters worse, the spaghetti that you are supposed to stuff into the cans comes in a really, really big and heavy box. There's a lot of spaghetti in that box. And from that box, you are supposed to fill five #10 cans. That's all. Just five. And you can't cheat and leave some in the box. That would be, well, cheating. The purpose behind this rule is to ensure that everyone purchasing spaghetti receives a full can. But what an ordeal it is to cram that much spaghetti into only five cans!

You have to break the spaghetti to fit it in the can. There's no way around that. Beyond that, you can try standing it on end, or you can lay it down flat. Either way, the noodles will persist in poking up this way and that, leaving all kinds of small air pockets between them.

You can try to leave the spaghetti in fairly long pieces in an attempt to simulate the appearance of actual spaghetti (which this no longer is). Or you can break it into thirds as you pack your can. But sooner or later, you're going to have to crush down what's already in the can, because you just won't be able to fit any more noodles in there if you don't. You hear a none-too-appetizing crunching sound as you do so, but you continue bravely because it's all for the best.

And finally you have to just break the spaghetti into little tiny pieces and cram them into whatever air pockets you can reach. Because at this point, although you've been shaking the cans down and crunching down the contents, there really is no more space left in the cans. At this point, you are no longer canning spaghetti. You are canning what is known as "spaghetti bits." (At least three of us today agreed that this is what they should be called. I can't claim that I coined the term, however.)

Meanwhile, the group behind you is packing dried onions. All they have to do there is pour the stuff into the cans, and they're done. Onions are small, and they settle easily. Next they pack the dried carrots, and then the dried apples. Same story here. Pour into this can, then the next, and the next...and voila! They've finished all their orders, and you're still trying to pack the same five lousy cans of spaghetti.

But at long last, you're finished. You don't know how you did it; it seems like the loaves and fishes story in reverse. (Actually you do have a handful of spaghetti left in your box. You remedy this by putting it in your neighbor's box when he isn't looking.) Then you cram an oxygen packet and a lid onto those five cans and seal them on the machine. It's a tight fit, and you hear more crunching going on, but you remain valiant and you get those lids on.

Then, years later when some unsuspecting individual opens a can labeled "spaghetti," they will not find the gloriously long Italian strands they may be longing for. Instead, they will find...spaghetti bits.

Anyone for spaghetti bits and meatballs? Yum.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Okay, I realize it's Friday, but sometimes I get the biggest kick out of my children's homework, that I had to share this one with you. It's an actual English assignment. Write a bad love poem...

Bad Love Poem
by my 15 year old daughter

Your handsome silky hair is no bore,
so dark and beautiful like my hard wood floor.
Your skin so soft to pet
like my pretty new baby blue carpet.

You have a personality so funny and wack
like the funky shag carpet from the 70's way back.
Your brown eyes so full of adventure and happiness
like a multicolored rug that gives a sense of liveliness.

Your hands are very dirty and rough,
kinda like the tile floor that thinks its so buff.
Your touch warms me from the inside out
like the newest softest carpet that was just brought about

Your strong tan body is such a nice sight
like my shiny linoleum floor I just got tonight.
How I wish I could stay wrapped in your arms forever
like a lifetime carpet guarantee I couldn't even imagine, ever.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fashion Disaster

I love the magazine Real Simple. Just reading it makes me feel like I’m living a more streamlined, organized life. The fact that I have to search for my copy because it’s buried under a pile of laundry/junk mail/CDs is neither here nor there.

Every month, the magazine poses a question to readers and includes select answers in the “Your Words,” column. One or two months ago the question was something akin to, “What was your biggest fashion disaster?” I laughed as I read the various responses and made a list in my mind of a few of my own fashion disasters. I’ve listed them below in order of most to least traumatizing.

The Swimsuit Debacle. When I was about 14 I wore a brand new swimsuit to a waterslide park. The slides were kind of old and were giving me and my friends scratches all over our backs. I didn’t think to connect that if the slides were giving me scratches on my back they might also be—yes, that’s right my friends—tearing a hole right in the rear of my swimsuit. I have no idea how long I walked around like that and only found out when my friend was walking behind me and saw my predicament. I have worn board shorts over my swimsuits ever since.

My Electric Purple Fanny Pack. I thought I looked oh-so-cool on my school trip to Great America with my leggings, layered t-shirts, and purple fanny pack. I did not. And I have the pictures to prove it.

Senior Prom. I used to look at old prom dresses and think I would never wear something that would look so silly years down the road. Well, I was wrong. During the year of my prom, the princess look was in. I had my mom sew me a very long, very full dress and, thinking I was so clever, made it glittery by covering it in fabric glue and sprinkling on tons of craft glitter. The night of prom I left a trail everywhere I went— like Pigpen, only my dust was a little more sparkly. My date had to vacuum his Mom’s car the day after the dance because of the trail I left.

So tell me, what are your biggest fashion disasters? It would be fun to hear.

Gifts or Life Lessons?

by Marsha Ward

It's actually Thursday as I write this, but since I missed last week's post, I thought it prudent to do a better-late-than-never one this week.

I've had a hard time focusing the last couple of weeks. I went to an eye doctor, who told me my eye problems probably are not going to get any better. That's brought on some depression, which I'm trying to get rid of, but I recognize the signs, and it hasn't run its course yet. I did get a blessing on Sunday, which helped me feel better. I also made an appointment with my cardiologist, to see if the medicine I'm taking is causing my extreme dry eyes. It's not for a couple of weeks, though. I just have to hold on and use lots of eye drops . . . and exercise my faith that this isn't the end of being able to serve in the church.

I guess that's what it all comes down to. Not only is writing a book a struggle when I can't see clearly to edit and type, I'm pretty devastated at the thought that I might not be able to play the organ and piano in church. I play from music, not by ear or from memory. In my tiny branch, my gifts are important. I can't believe God would deny his other sons and daughters music to teach me some lesson or other. I'm sure there's some great eternal plan at work, but it's hard to see when I'm in the middle of it.

My problem isn't unique. We all have struggles in life, whether it's agonizing over a child who has gone off the path, or taking care of an elderly parent, or watching our bodies deteriorate with age. Sometimes it's overwhelming, though, and it is all we can do to take a deep breath before the next wave washes over us. That's how I feel just now.

I hope tomorrow will bring me a happier outlook and the assurance that my life as I know it isn't over.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing Funny

Last night after I got the fam fed and settled, I pulled one of my mini writing retreats and headed to my favorite writing spot--Whataburger. The choice of this prime writing location has nothing to do with the fact that Whataburger is to hamburgers what Rolls Royce is to the automobile and Shilo Jolie Pitt is to good genes. I simply find the ambiance of this prime Texas eatery conducive to the flow of my creative juices. (Okay, so I like to munch on a burger and fries while I write. Shoot me!)

It was fairly late for dinner--after 8:00--so there weren't a lot of patrons in the joint. With my food on the left and my AlphaSmart on the right, I began a new chapter in my manuscript. I have to admit, I'd been looking forward to writing this scene. It had a perfect set up from the ending of the previous chapter, and I was enjoying every minute of this process. So much so, that I found myself laughing out loud after writing a certain sentence. Right there in Whataburger, with a french fry sticking half-way out of my mouth, I was cracking myself up.

Suddenly self conscious, I gobbled the fry and scanned the surroundings to see if anyone had noticed my outburst. Thankfully, the four other diners were preoccupied by their own food and conversation. They had little interest in the loony lady in the corner.

Now, I've made myself cry while writing certain parts of stories (think of Kathlene Turner's character at the beginning of Romancing the Stone--it really happens) but I don't ever recall having a good belly laugh over something I've written. I've been told my writing is humorous. I guess that can be taken two ways...

A few years back at a writing conference, I taught a class about writing with humor. Now, I've taught a lot of writing classes in the past and have always enjoyed the experience, but I found teaching this subject excruciating, because I didn't know how. How do you teach someone to be funny? I was at such a loss on the subject that I wrangled one of the funniest LDS authors I know, Robison Wells, to team teach with me, and thank goodness for that. Rob saved the day.

In the end, it all boils down to one question--how do you write "funny"?

Now maybe this is a total cop out, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I've finally come to the conclusion that the ability to write humor is something you're born with. You've heard of the funny bone? Maybe there's some validity to the notion. Is writing humor like having rhythm? Can you teach rhythm to someone who simply can't hear the beat to the song? I'm not saying everyone can't enjoy the music. But not everyone can pick out the rhythm when they dance to it.

Below, I'd like to salute a few writers who make me laugh. My favorite books are the ones that combine good writing with humor (okay, and a little romance always helps).

I mentioned Robison Wells--funny guy, family man, talented author, and now grad student. Even though he's on hiatus for the next two years, you can still catch him at Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog.

Janette Rallison has been one of my favorite authors for years. She's managed to combine humor with some great writing for the YA market. We need more Janettes out there!

James Dashner. That's all I'm gonna say. The dude has received way too much publicity lately! He's crazy funny. I have a hunch 2008 is going to rock his a good way.

Stephanie Fowers and The Ink Ladie's own Elodia Strain are both young, funny, and beautiful! Two fresh voices in LDS fiction.

Elasticwaistbandlady! (I'll call her Ewbly for short.) Ewbly is a blogger friend and momma to six, who has managed to capture a worldwide audience, one witty blog at a time as The Smiling Infidel. Of course, she sometimes turns to the dark side--BB&F humor (butts, boogers and farts--gasp!). Don't despair, Ewbly. I still laugh at, "pull my finger."

So, what writers make you laugh? And more important, why?

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Well, I'm almost done reading through my galleys. It is exciting to see what my pages will look like. One frustrating part of it is as I read through what I submitted months before, I find little things I wish I could change. Not anything big, just a few things I would like to reword. There are some sentences I wish I could take out. But, it's too late for a lot of that. I can only really change errors or certain things the publisher has recommended.

However, even after the book has been published, I find myself wishing I could change minor things, but it's too late. That's just how it is. So, I'll finish reading my galleys this week and send them back to the publisher, keeping my fingers crossed that I caught all the errors.

This part is always exciting, followed up by seeing the cover which is equally exciting. Can't wait for that!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lost that Lovin' Feeling

I've been at this writing thing now for six and a half years. And I've always been a one-project-at-a-time writer. I wrote this way through my first five novels--and it worked well. I simply wouldn't start into a new project until I'd finished the current WIP (work in progress).

But life can get complicated. It did for me. I was asked to write a non-fiction book on homeschooling by a different publisher (which will hopefully be released in 2008--fingers crossed). I started into a picture book project (which will hopefully be released in 2008--fingers crossed). I went on a month-long book tour in 2006. I went on an agent quest in 2007, with several prospects that eventually fell flat. And school visits.... And marketing.... And more marketing.... And throughout all of this "other stuff" I managed to get half-way through two different manuscripts--one middle grade, and one LDS YA. I seriously felt like I had writer's ADD. I simply couldn't focus because I had so many "spoons" in so many different "pots," and yet there was still no dinner on the table!

Am I alone here? Do you ever get so many writing projects going that you feel like your head is spinning?

So one by one, I finished each project to the best of my ability. I mentioned the hopeful release dates of the homeschooling book, and the picture books (all in the hands now of the publishers), and I finally finished the middle-grade novel, MAKE ME A HOME, which will be released in Feb., 2008.

That leaves me with a half-written LDS YA novel. And there is a reason I left it for last. IT SUCKS! Okay, not really. :) It has many really fun moments. But overall, I think I was trying to write a book that just wasn't ME! And the plot has serious issues. I think I've figured out how to fix it, but it would take a major re-write, which some day, I hope to get to. But overall, I've completely lost that lovin' feeling for this manuscript. I'm not even sure I had it from the beginning. It was more like a blind date that just wouldn't end. I've never before felt like I was "fighting" with a manuscript, like I have with this one. Am I crazy?!!!!

So what do I do?

I keep writing--but NOT on the previously mentioned LDS YA manuscript (we've pretty much broken up at this point, maybe for good). But, please, don't cry for me. You see, I'm head-over-heels-and-tingly-all-over in love with my current WIP--a totally different LDS YA manuscript. And this one is ALL ME!!! I don't feel like I'm trying be some other writer when I work on this manuscript. And it feels pretty dang good. To quote my character, Allie in MAKE ME A HOME, "I feel chocolate-chip cookie good!"

I'm in love again!

(And again, I must ask the question--am I crazy?)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breaking the Rules

Had a fabulous weekend with some amazing people at the League of Utah Writers fall conference. I even had the chance to pitch a story to an editor from Penguin, who asked for more ... will keep you updated on the progress.

We learned to be successful and effective from Hyrum Smith, from Franklin Covey. Fabulous! We heard from Dave Wolverton (David Farland), Orson Scott Card and so many other successful writers! Let's see, there was Candace Flemming, children's writer who spoke on breaking the rules. Do it, she said. Orson Scott Card spoke on breaking the rules, do it.

They were speaking my language. Rules? Who likes rules? I believe today I'll break a few rules and see where it gets me. My guess is the New York Times Bestseller list!

A few Thank You's and Some Book News

I missed posting on my day, so I'm posting a day late. Sorry. I was sick this weekend. Very sore throat. Alternating fever and chills. Major body aches. I laid on the coach all day on Saturday. My husband does some volleyball officiating and was gone all morning on Saturday. My boys were so good, but I let them watch way too much TV. One of them happily announced to my husband when he came home, "We watched three movies today, Daddy" and it was only 2:00PM. Needless to say, they ate lunch very late when my husband came home and made it for them. (Thanks, Honey.)

I spent a better part of the afternoon trying to get a sub for Nursery the next day. Getting someone to sub in the Nursery is not an easy task. Many phone calls later, I finally got a brand new sister in our ward who I haven't even met yet to sub. (Thanks!)

On, Sunday I was feeling much better, able to read and eager to eat. My baby was so good while I lay on the couch as the others were at church. Baby had a runny nose as well so he stayed home with me. . Then, my mom ( I have a wonderful mom) brought me some homemade chicken soup (Thanks, Mom). She even offered to wash the dishes after asking what smelled so gross in my house. Really icky dishes combined with trash that needed to be taken out. I didn't let her though, I do have some pride. So, I made my husband wash them that night. (Thanks, Honey!)

Anyway, I didn't much feel like blogging on Sunday. So, here I am today, feeling much better, having caught up on chores-4 loads of laundry, more dishes, and getting groceries. Our bread really smelled moldy! Gross. And, my house smells much better. (Thanks for the Febreze, Mom.)

Some book news to make me feel even better. I received my proofs today. Yay! I'm excited to start reading them. 10 more pages of New Moon to go and I'm starting in on the proofs. I'm not even getting Eclipse until way after I've sent the proofs off. And, my publisher has decided to go with my original title after all- Reasonable Doubt. So, that's pretty exciting. I always felt it was the title that fit perfectly, so I'm glad about that. Well, off to finish New Moon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Tongues of Angels

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we’d recently been to Germany. Actually, I wrote a multi-paragraph description of the jet lag I was suffering from. (To be honest, I was so tired when I wrote it, I’m not sure I want to go back and read it to refresh my memory.) The week before that, I didn’t post because I was busy visiting big castles in Bavaria and subsequently getting lost on some highway leading back to our hotel in Munich because of a sign with an arrow and a really long German word that we didn’t understand. (The word turned out to mean “Detour.”)

I don’t want to bore you with a big travelogue, but I would like to devote some space to a sweet experience we had the next day back in Munich—Sunday. Before we left home, we’d used the meetinghouse locator on to look up the wards in the city, where they met, and when they met. We also printed out directions using (Incidentally, I was truly impressed with how well directions from Google could get us around in a country where we didn’t even speak the language. They were very reliable.)

Since we had to check out of our hotel that morning, and into another one in the afternoon, we chose a ward that had sacrament meeting at the time most convenient for us. Frankly, we expected to sit in the back, take the sacrament, and not understand any of the talks. We’d heard that you could still feel the Spirit when you attended church hearing an unfamiliar language, and we did certainly hope we might gain something from the experience. But we didn’t expect to actually understand any of the messages.

We also didn’t expect the ward members to welcome us with open arms. We didn’t expect that there would be at least seven missionaries, many of them from the United States. We did not expect that they would provide interpreters for us. But they did. One sweet sister missionary sat behind us and translated for us all through sacrament meeting and Sunday School, and then came with me to Relief Society. A couple of the elders helped with Priesthood meeting for my husband and for our son in his classes. (He said afterwards that it was pretty cool that he had his own interpreter.)

In Wisconsin there are a number of Hmong-speaking people, and it’s common to see a Hmong-speaking missionary translating for someone during church. But it was truly humbling to be the ones receiving the translation—receiving help for something that we simply could not have done ourselves.

Sometimes you don’t realize just how much an act of service can mean to someone until you’re on the receiving end. We finally left after the block of meetings (so similar to the meetings we attend at home, but just a little different) with a beautiful spirit of gratitude and kindness accompanying us.

And sacrament meeting itself? I was incredibly grateful for the whispered translation behind me, but I did notice that as those speaking up front testified of their love for the Savior and the truthfulness of the gospel, their faces shone with a radiance that told me that they knew that what they were saying was true, and it brought them joy. Even if I didn’t know exactly what they were saying as they said it, I knew that they knew it to be true.

P.S. And here's a picture of a big castle in Bavaria... ;-)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Gift of Books

A lot of people ask me why I started writing. The answer is pretty simple: I kind of had to.

See, here’s the thing: I was on the fast track to the life I always dreamed of when I was diagnosed with a chronic, painful, organ-destroying disease that changed everything. Suddenly, I found myself bedridden for days at a time, crying more tears than I like to admit to people, and constantly trying to figure out how to answer those inevitable, “So…when are you going to have children?” questions. On a good day the answer was, “It’s in God’s hands, not mine,” and on a bad day the answer was a shrug and a rush to the nearest bathroom or any place with Kleenex.

During the hardest times, I turned to books. I was most attracted to humorous romantic fiction, because laughing made things seem a little…less awful. I devoured those books and when I couldn’t seem to find any more that were clean enough to read I knew what I had to do: I had to write the kind of book that was saving me. Because maybe someone, somewhere was struggling or suffering or just plain overwhelmed and could use a good read. So you see, this is not only why I write, but why I write what I do.
Oh, I still have those days when I cry and wonder why things turned out this way, but mixed in with those days are the wonderful moments of gratitude for the gift of books, the gift of humor, and the gift of joy.

The Dashner Dude is the Greatest Blog Ever (a.k.a., I'll Do Anything For a Free Book)

Hey Folks,

My buddy James Dashner has launched a new blog called The Dashner Dude. Whether you want to learn how he snagged a NYC agent or landed a pretty schweet deal with a national publisher for his upcoming sure-to-take-the-place-of-Harry-Potter middle-grade fantasy series, The 13th Reality, Book 1:The Journal of Curious Letters (coming March 13th, 2008 to a bookstore near you), PLEASE take a moment and check out his blog.

James isn't a newbie to writing and publishing. Check out his website, if for nothing else, to hear the creepy music. Oh, and if you didn't realize at first glance, James is the constipated looking one in the middle. (I'm the constipated one on the far right). James and I--we're like peas and carrots. :)

Love ya, James. I'll take a ARC next month, 'kay? :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My Last Gasp about Education Week

by Marsha Ward

At this distance in time, my trip to BYU Education Week seems like a very good dream from very long ago. Yet it hasn't even been a month since I returned, which I can scarcely believe.

At any rate, here's my recap of the rest of the classes I attended.


On impulse--which it turns out, was related to the theme of this class--I joined a line in the Wilkinson Center and attended the second day of Kevin Hinckley's class, Was It a Prompting, or Just Me? Being Led by the Spirit. The session was entitled "Recognizing Your Spiritual Gifts." This was another of those popular classes. You line up, you slowly move forward, and if you're lucky, they number you off as possible attendees. I was almost the last person admitted to the inner sanctum of the Actual Presence and didn't have to go to the overflow room. Only the couple behind me also slipped into the room. I sat on the back row of a massive room, so I'm sure I won't be able to identify Bro. Hinckley in a lineup, but there it is.

Basically, Bro. Hinckley said there are three reasons why LDS people filled with the spirit second-guess themselves about whether they are receiving a spiritual prompting or coming up with their own idea. He reminded us that nine times out of ten, our first impressions are correct, so if we're thinking the idea is coming from outside ourselves, it probably is. We should follow those promptings in order to walk in the light. Unfortunately, we often betray our impressions by justifying, rationalizing, second-guessing, and doubting the answers we receive.

Why don't we know what we're feeling?

1. We comparision shop. How does so-and-so get their spiritual impressions? Shouldn't we also? Do we insist that must be the correct way for us?

2. We misunderstand what to look for or feel. Elder Mark E. Petersen stated that the revelation to Oliver Cowdrey that includes the famous "stupor of thought" was for OC, not for the general membership of the Church! We won't necessarily get such a stupor if a thing isn't right for us.

3. We can be confused by Not-Quite-Divine answers. Elder Packer says Satan may try to deceive the very elect, but he can't duplicate the feeling of Gratitude that comes with an answer. Such a prompting may bring terror instead. That's a sure tip-off.

The four personality types--Talkers, Doers, Thinkers, and Planners, will each receive spiritual impressions in ways unique to their style of being. We need to assess who we are and what our likely gifts are to appreciate how to use them.

Daniel C. Peterson's class on Wednesday was "What You Should Know About the Qur'an." One word describes this whole series: fascinating!


Douglas C. and Janice Kapp Perry persented a class on The Many Miracles of Music. I attended the class on "Music Sustains Us in Times of Trial." Sister Perry noted her long battle with a strangely crippling condition and last year's stroke. She pointed out that both the Savior and Joseph Smith turned to the comfort of a hymn in their last hours. She sang a couple of her songs, and told how they came to be written. One was "The Test." The first verse was written in honor of the last specialist she consulted about her crippled hand, a blind physician who did more for her attitude than her bodily ailment. The second referenced her condition. The third verse was written for a cousin who had just lost his wife.

Bro. Peterson's class was entitled "Sunnis, Shi'ites, Sufis, Wahhabis, Taliban, and the Rest: Who Are They and What Do They Want?" He pointed out the differences between the sects and their guiding principles, and curled my hair more than once. He also pointed out the harmless factions.

I spent much of Thursday hanging around with author buddies at the BYU bookstore, buying waaaay too many books.


On Friday, I spent the morning in the dorm, working on my book. Then I got out and attended two classes and a musical performance.

Bro. Peterson's class wound up with "The Rise of Islam in the West: Threat or Opportunity?" He pointed out that there is a sizeable Christian population in the Arabic world. Since Muslims are under threat of death if they leave their religion, the Arabic Christians are the most likely people to be proselytized first, by missionaries who were Arabic Christians and converted to the Gospel.

I caught Gracia N. Jones's last class in her series on An Unequivocal Testimony: A Descendant Looks at the Sacred Mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Reviewing the Involvement of His Family in the Restoration Story. (Such long titles!) Friday's offering was "Discovering the Lagacy of Emma and Lucy: Mothers--Widows--Friends."

Sister Jones is a direct descendant of Joseph Smith through his son, Alexander. She has done extensive research about her ancestors, which was necessary because Joseph Smith being the Prophet of the Restoration was not mentioned during her childhood. She mentioned several fun facts, including that Emma was left-handed, and that Lucy was the curator of a museum in her home. For a quarter, you could see the mummies and other artefacts that her son, Joseph, had acquired.

The final event I attended was the musical, "The White Star." Though it was nicely performed, I don't see it becoming one of the classics of LDS theatre.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Provo, Utah. The company coming and going in the car was splendid, and I plan to attend next year. Perhaps I've intrigued a few of you enough that you'll show up, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Contract Writing

I love to do contract writing. I've been getting more and more requests lately and it's been a ball. I've done a few keyword articles for people and recently had the opportunity to write a feature article on one of my best friends! You've got to check her site. She's a very talented artist!

Jennifer does what we'd all love to do. She hides out in her basement being creative all day while her husband takes care of the children. Okay, so she only paints a few hours a day, but her husband is able to stay home with her and handle the entire financial end of her business.

Her artwork is fabulous and she's recently got her website online. Check it out at She's got an online gallery and just started her own blog, mostly to show what she's working on next.

Anyway, I met with another friend and will be writing some company information for his website as soon as I get back from a writing conference this weekend. I'll post the link when we get the info online ... he's got a great product!

I also get to do a book/DVD review soon. Anyone heard of Rindin the Puffer? It's a brand new children's book/DVD/stuffed animal combo that's supposed to be wonderful for children! My sister raved about it, saying her two year old (who cannot sit still for more than 30 seconds) wanted to sit and watch it over and over. I've invited the entire neighborhood of children over to watch it with us and give me their feedback. I figured I really ought to consult the experts after all.

Well, onto pressing matters that I've postponed long enough today. I've got an author bio to finish and a CD to make with the finished portion of my upcoming novel on it for the writers conference. Anyone else going to the conference in St. George? Maybe we can meet up!

Also - so sorry to be a day late on this one. I went on a research trip for my novel only to realize as the water was cascading from the sky that the steep dirt road I didn't know I'd need wasn't passable in wet conditions. Perhaps another day.

All in a Day's Work

I generally post to the blog every Tuesday, but it just didn't happen last week--and for good reason (I know, I'm always full of excuses). Not only did I have to get my son on an airplane so he could do the college thing half-way across the country--whatever! But I had to turn around and prepare to abandon my family as well. (Okay, "abandon" is a strong word only applicable to children who choose far away colleges when there are perfectly good ones around the corner.) I did, however, have to leave for a day, and a night, and another day. You see, I drove up to Fort Worth, TX, with a few of my comrades who also write children's books to participate in a conference for all of the school librarians in that area.

In a nutshell, we were there to schmooze.

Along with a bazillion other vendors, we had purchased a booth (actually, a long table) and tried to engage passing librarians into a conversation about our books, why they should have them in their library, and why they should hire us to visit their school for an Author Day. I've done about 30 of these school visits over the past two years (see above picture--baseball hat part of the gig), and they are, hands down, my favorite part of being an author. But back to the librarian conference...

The vendor room was basically set up like a maze of tables (think grocery store. No, think dollar store--the rows were very narrow). Unfortunately, I was at the farthest end of our table, and my book wasn't a picture book, like the other two authors. The mobs of eager librarians tended to stall out at the picture books. C'mon--they're children's librarians! Who wouldn't be drawn to all those colorful pictures? I made a decision right there. I WANT A PICTURE BOOK! Actually, I've been working on a picture book project, if you want to see.

Even though I had to do a bit more to get noticed (just a little yodeling and belly dancing--no biggie), I felt that the day was worthwhile. I passed out nearly 40 brochures about my school visits (which, by the way, if you're a school librarian, and want me visit your school, I'D LOVE TO! E-mail me. We'll talk), sold a few books, and schmoozed till my lips were numb and my feet fell off.

All in a day's work, right?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stat Counter

A while back, LDS Publisher blogged about Stat Counter and how it keeps track of visits to blogs and websites. It is a wonderful tool for anyone who is interested in knowing how many visits they get to their website. I recently installed it to our Ink Ladies Blog and have been able to keep track of our stats. By the way, thanks to my fellow Ink Ladies for interesting and fun blogs. This last week, we averaged about 14 visits a day. Not too bad, for being fairly new. About 4 of those each day are first time visitors.

The great thing about Stat Counter is that it tells you how many visitors each day, how many are first-time visitors, how many are returning visitors. Even greater than that, you can check to see from what city and state each visitor is from, how long they spent reading your blog, and how they found your blog/website. It shows if they were referred from another link or from a search engine. There is even a recent visitor map that shows you where your visitors are located. There is also a lot of other information that I haven't figured out yet.

Anyway, I wanted to spread the news about this great tool. If you want to use it for your blog, it's so easy to install. Just go to Stat Counter and start a new project. If you want to install it on your website, I have found it to be a little more complicated. Stat Counter will e-mail you the code to install on your website.

So, give Stat Counter a try and keep track of how many people are visiting your blog or website.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Today we've been going through stuff. Lots of stuff. Most of it is stuff that we don't need anymore.

Take my son's shoes, for example. I opened a box, and there was a darling little pair of Winnie-the-Pooh shoes right there on top. I had to smile as I remembered our little boy proudly walking around in his big-boy shoes that had his favorite character on them. He also owned a Winnie-the-Pooh playset, and several of the stuffed animals. He insisted on watching Winnie-the-Pooh videos repeatedly. I liked them because they would hold his attention. For Halloween that year, he was Winnie-the-Pooh...

Well, anyway. I just had to show those shoes to him today. They were so sweet and brought back so many cute memories of him.

Today he is on the brink of teenagerdom...or else he's already entered it and I haven't quite caught on to this development yet. I showed him the cute little Pooh shoes that he used to wear, and he raised his eyebrow and said, "And you've kept these for how many years??"

Maybe the little Pooh shoes and the memories that come with them are things only a mother cherishes. The kid that wore them wants me to see him now for who he is now, not some little baby who, in his mind, is no longer here.

I have to admit that he has grown up a lot. For starters, he no longer likes Winnie-the-Pooh on his shoes.

I put the little shoes back in their box, and soon I was going through a pile of clothes that needed to be boxed up. They were my son's clothes, recently outgrown. On top of the pile was a pair of much-bigger-boy black Nikes that he'd worn up until a couple of weeks ago when he declared they were too small. On a whim, I tried them on. I wondered how long it would be before his feet (previously so tiny) matched mine in size.

I expected them to be something of a squeeze, but to my surprise they fit perfectly. I brought this pair of shoes to my formerly little boy and showed him how our feet were now very similar in size. Again he looked incredulous, but this time his face lit up: He's grown up so much. His mom's feet aren't bigger than his anymore. It was like a milestone he'd waited for since he wore the Pooh shoes.

He generously told me that I could keep the black Nikes, since they fit me so well. I think I just might do that.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On Hiatus

I'm going to take a week off, since Robyn filled my day with an excellent post. Plus, my eyes are sore today, and I'm going to take a nap to see if that helps them.

See you all next week with more class recaps on Education Week.

~Marsha Ward

Edited to spell Robyn's name right. Sorry!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Holidays and Practices

Okay, so the holiday set me back a couple of days, but I got here as quickly as I could. We had a baptism over the weekend and so much family at the house that it was blissful chaos. I do love having family stay with us. Now we just need a guest room or two ... perhaps when we finish the basement.

Sports is in full swing here in southern Utah. I do love watching my children play! Of course now we have a sophomore in volleyball, a seventh grader in soccer and a sixth grader in football and all three sports play at the same time. We have practices every evening, beginning and ending at different times. Two have their first games this Saturday and the other will be out of town at a tournament Friday and Saturday. Hopefully they will be at different times, otherwise we will have to divide and conquer. At least this is my husband's weekend off.

I figured I didn't have enough to do (finish a novel by my self-imposed deadline, run kids to sports practices, etc.) that I decided to put my youngest in violin lessons. Oh, she's so excited about it all, in fact she's been begging for a month! We bought her a violin over the weekend and she plays it every day, several times a day. Today is her first lesson and we're both so excited we can hardly stand it! I do love watching my children develop their talents! We have one playing the violin already, one plays guitar, one wants to learn the drums and bass guitar and one learning piano. Now the youngest will be playing the violin as well. Have you ever held a 1/8 size violin? Oh, they're cute!

What a musical house this is turning out to be. The other day my oldest walked in and said it sounded like we were tuning up for an orchestra concert, but with all the sports equipment laying around the house I have to wonder what kind of concert it's going to be.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Naming Your Baby

No, I'm not talking about children, although naming them is also very important. I am blogging about naming your book. Finding the perfect name for your work is very challenging. You have labored for many months, sometimes years on this project and you want to find the name that best suits it, but there are so many factors to think about. The title has to entice readers. It has to be intriguing and memorable.

I gave my most recent novel the name Reasonable Doubt. My publisher recently asked me to submit some other title ideas since Reasonable Doubt is a common title. I did a search on Amazon, and there are a lot of books with that title. There are at least 20 titles with those words in it. I hadn't realized that. In hindsight, that should have been something I researched prior to submitting my manuscript. (Note to self: Next time I submit a manuscript, check to see how common the title is.)

So, I sent the publisher a list of several other titles, and I hope that one of them will be suitable. I'm anxious to hear back from them as to which title they think best fits my book. I'll let everyone know when I hear back from the publisher regarding their title choice. Until then, I'm waiting...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jet Lag

When I woke up this morning, it was a long time ago. Really. Well, sort of. I think I've been awake for 25 hours now, not counting some dozing-off time here and there. Before that, I slept all of two hours; I had to pack and get us out of our hotel in Munich by about 4AM so we could get to the airport in time to catch a 7AM flight back to the US. This adventure in the dark was followed by a short flight and then an eight-hour flight that I spent essentially crammed into my seat with my arms glued to my sides so as not to bump arms with the stranger on my left or overflow into my husband's seat on the right. (Bumping arms with him is OK.)

I did make an attempt to update my journal on the flight, but typing is pretty tough when you can't move your arms. And then my laptop ran out of batteries anyway.

And now I'm trying to navigate through the mounds of dirty laundry we hauled home with us across the ocean. I have to, because someone's church clothes are in there and I think we have church tomorrow. I'm not sure when tomorrow is. I've been awake for 25 hours but it's not even 10PM yet--not even bedtime in the USA! Surely I can keep my eyes pried open long enough to fold a load of clothes. Maybe after that, tomorrow will finally arrive.

Right now it's 4:45 AM in Germany, where we were this morning (or that morning; I'm not sure). I seem to remember having eaten four meals today; we would have eaten another but we were frankly tired of eating. This super-long day we're experiencing right now complements the super-short one we had on the way out there. They served us dinner on the plane, and then a few hours later they served us breakfast. We got off the plane and it was morning all around us.

Anyway, we had a lovely trip, and I did manage to stay awake while I wrote this blog, mostly.