Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing Heavens

By Janie Van Komen

I think I just landed in a Writer's Heaven. There have been other heavens along the way. Whenever I find myself in such a place as this I savor every drop of the time I might be allotted there. You never know. This could be my last one, probably not, but you never know. I never take anything for granted anymore.

Two days ago I flew into Philadelphia for the purpose of tending three of my grandchildren for several days while their mother met up with her husband (my son) on a business trip. They only moved here in May so I've never been here before. They are only renting this home for now. The owner is a doctor of some sort who wanted the experience of building a home. My husband is a General Contractor and all of my children have worked in the construction business.

I can safely say from experience that this home is a million dollar fixer-upper. The design of the home is very unique but it stops there. After this man set up his design he probably built the house using a how to book about building a home. I think he purchased everything from Home Depot. Not that Home Depot is a bad place to buy things but nothing is custom, it's all stock fit awkwardly into a custom space which most of the time doesn't fit.

Hence there are drawers that won't open because they hit into the door jam that is too close, or cupboard doors that won't open because he didn't know he needed a spacer behind it to allow for the swing of the door to work, etc etc.

But the house sits on five acres of wooded seclusion and as an afterthought he closed in the space between the house and the garage and put a visitors suite above the garage, complete with bath. This is where I am staying.

I have the benefit of time with the kids before and after school and the weekend. During the day I have all of this to myself. The view from every window is inspiring. I can stroll up to the main road to get the mail and come back for exercise. I am sitting in the middle of history all around me. It's like the ghosts of the Revolutionary era and the Civil War era are saying, "You can do this." And I am. Everything from the kids to the comical house to the landscape to the ghosts give me fodder for writing.

I have been writing my little heart out. I haven't even punched a tv on button since I arrived. I wish I could stay here a little longer than planned but that's not possible so I will be grateful for the tidbits of time that do have and make it as productive as I can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

By C.S. Bezas

Life is tough at times. Therefore, it's encouraging to read of individuals who bless the lives of others and who help make our earthly experience a little more gentle.

Such an individual is Jewel Adams. She is the author of several books. The most recent is titled, Against All Odds. Jewel was kind enough to share a few thoughts with me. I think you'll enjoy reading her words.

C.S.: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is something that those who know you might not know?

JEWEL: Well, I was born and raised in Asheville, NC. My husband and I have eight children, all of whom I have home schooled. Let's see, something people don't know. Well, everyone tells me that I don't have an accent at all, but if you standing close by while I'm on the phone talking to one of my relatives, the southern drawl snaps right back in.

C.S.: You have several books out. What has been one of the hardest things for you as a novelist?

JEWEL: Getting used to rejection:o) Having my work picked apart, even though I know it's usually for my own good and the good of the novel.

C.S.: What has been the easiest?

JEWEL: Coming up with story lines. My imagination usually works overtime. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it isn't.

C.S.: When you begin a writing project, how do you start? How does it start?

JEWEL: Subjects also come easy for me because I've had so many experiences, some good and some bad. But for me, the first paragraph is everything. If I can't draw a reader in with the first paragraph, then I feel like I've failed.

C.S.: How disciplined are you as you write?

JEWEL: It's funny but I have two specific time during the day that I write. Noon til 2:00 and after 9:30 at night. Those are the times that my family says I'm 'in the zone.' Once I'm there you can't talk to me because I literally do zone everything else out.

C.S.: What kind of responses have you received from readers about your novels?

JEWEL: So far everyone has loved them. I keep all the emails I get, and when I'm feeling a little down or unsure about my writing, I just pull those out and it gives me an instant boost.

C.S.: What other kind of creative projects do you have going? Or are you strictly a novelist?

JEWEL: I'm pretty much just a novelist. I am working on a YA romantic fantasy right now, which is totally out there for me. I love fantasy, but I never thought I would attempt to write it myself. My project, however, is not your normal fantasy. The book is called "The Journey," and it is set in another world and based on life and the choices we make. I excited to see how it turns out.

C.S.: What do you believe sets you apart from other writers?

JEWEL: Most of my books deal with interracial couples. It's what I know and I'm told you write about what you know:o)

C.S.: If you were to name one gift the Lord has given you, what do you feel that is?

JEWEL: It would have to be the gift of imagination. Without it, I know I would never have been able to get through so many things I've had to deal with in life. I'm grateful for that gift.

C.S.: What do you view as the purpose for gifts and talents?

JEWEL: To touch the lives of others, as well as ourselves.

C.S.: Do you have a favorite scripture? Something that helps you on difficult days?

JEWEL: Actually, I have two favorites. Revelations 3:21 and 2 Nephi 31:20 Both talk about overcoming and enduring to the end.

C.S.: If there were one thing you would tell a new writer or somebody seeking to better their personal gifts, what would it be?

JEWEL: Just think positive. You're going to face opposition, but you can do anything you set your mind to.

C.S.: What kind of helpful resources are there for LDS writers?

JEWEL: Well, there are writer's groups, LDStorymakers for one. It's pretty neat getting feedback and tips from other authors. There are also books written by LDS authors that offer tips and suggestions on writing.

C.S.: Do you have any favorite writers? Favorite books?

JEWEL: Oh, yes, but there are too many to mention. I would have to say though that my two top favorite writers are Richard Paul Evans and Chris Stewart. My top favorite books are "The Last Promise" and "The Great and Terrible" series.

C.S.: What does your family think about your books?

JEWEL: My oldest daughter is a total romantic like myself and she loves them. My husband has never read my books, even though I've told him that my male characters have his attributes, they're just a little younger and have more hair. (Laugh) The rest of the kids just know their mom writes books.

C.S.: How did you first begin writing?

JEWEL: I started by writing a book about my life. After that, I started doing fiction and giving some of my female lead characters some of my experiences. That way I'm able to share a little of myself, only my characters are a lot more interesting.

C.S.: Any final thoughts?

JEWEL: You know, I just love writing, and if I never got another book published, I would keep doing it. There's just something magical about giving life to people who only exist in your mind.

We at LatterDayAuthors.com wish Jewel and her family the best. May she continue to bless the lives of many! For more information, visit Jewel Adam's website.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tips to avoid scams

By Patricia Wiles

There was a post on the latterdayauthors forum recently about identifying poetry scams, so I thought this topic of literary scammers deserved a bit more attention. There are lots of unscrupulous scammers out there who make a pretty good living by emptying the wallets of newbie writers.

We often talk about the business of writing, and writing is a business -- it's a lot more than pouring your creative soul out onto the page. And as with any other business, you will find those whose practices are less than ethical. It behooves new writers to take as much time learning and understanding how the business operates as they do learning how to craft a good story.

Here are a few tips and links I hope you'll find helpful.

1. Poetry and self-publishing scams: http://windpub.com/literary.scams/

There are legitimate poetry journals, then there are scam anthologies. A legitimate journal will not expect you to purchase a copy of their "anthology" if your poem is accepted for publication. A legitimate journal will, at the very least, pay you in copies. This link will take you to other links that expose some of these anthology-producing publishers for what they are: scammers. Also included are links explaining why some self-publishing outfits are less than trustworthy.

2. Legitimate agents and editors do not charge reading fees. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/;
http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/; http://www.sfwa.org/beware/

When you begin subbing your work to editors or agents, it pays to spend some time online at these sites. I've heard stories of "agents" emailing a writer, saying they'd read her work online and wanted to discuss representation. In most cases you will not get an unsolicited email from an agent or an editor. It may have happened in a rare instance or two, but most have too many submissions to spend time searching the web for new clients.

Before you submit to an agent, check Publisher's Marketplace to see what they've sold. Check AgentQuery.com or the AAR website to see if they're listed. Not all legitimate agents belong to AAR, but it's still worth a look.

Agents do NOT charge reading fees. They charge a commission after they sell your work, and most will expect reimbursement for office expenses, i.e. copies. Again, a good way to learn how real agents operate is to visit the blog of a real agent. One I especially like is Pub Rants.

It is common for agents and editors to attend legitimate writer's conferences and accept an honorarium for speaking as well as payment for one-on-one sessions with writers. These private sessions are educational tools to help writers know how to improve their manuscripts. Sometimes an agent or editor may request to see more of the writer's work because of this session. However, there is never any promise of representation or acceptance implied in these activities. They are critiques, not American Idol tryouts.

Real editors and agents will not read your submission, then suggest a friend who's a good freelance editor who can help you whip your work into shape. They can suggest you find one on your own, but they won't point you to one specifically.

3. When it comes to networking, take advantage of writers groups.

I am a believer when it comes to writers organizations. I am a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and over the years I have found it to be worth the cost of membership many times over. I have had more opportunities through SCBWI to network, meet real editors and agents, and learn more about the business of children's writing than I could have ever done on my own. If you have at least one published book under your belt (with an advance by a royalty-paying publisher) you can join the Author's Guild. There are also organizations for science-fiction/fantasy writers, romance writers, mystery writers and etc.

But if you're not at the point where you're ready to join an organization, there are many online resources you can turn to, such as those listed above. And of course, you can visit our latterdayauthors forum (the link is on the right) and ask there.

The process of writing, for all the creativity it entails, also requires a practical approach. Be sure you're prepared to deal with both. As the editor I work for at the newspaper says, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out before you believe it."

Guardians of the English Language

By Terrie Bittner

I am the training manager at BellaOnline.com and select new columnists. One of my greatest challenges is finding people who know how to use commas. In fact, I’ve become positively obsessed with commas lately. Some applications have none. Almost worse are those in which the applicant grabbed a handful of commas and threw them at the article.

The very worst applications are those with a single sentence article. We require four hundred words. Have you ever tried to read a four hundred word sentence? There are applications written in text message style, those that have every word misspelled, and the ones with no capital letters—or nothing but capital letters. There are days when I threaten to only select writers from England. I’ve yet to receive an application from England with any of these problems.

Sometimes rejected applicants will ask why they weren’t accepted. They will explain they are the next Shakespeare, and they need this column to get started, and won’t we be sorry when they’re famous and they tell everyone we turned them down? At first, I tried to be helpful and explain they were rejected because their grammar, punctuation, and spelling weren’t at a professional level. I soon learned, though, this extra step was pointless. Nearly all responded, “But I just want to write great stories. I don’t need all that junk.”

A carpenter needs a hammer. A teacher needs chalk. A doctor needs a stethoscope. A writer needs words, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. They’re the tools of our trade. Years ago, when I read that the Internet was destroying writing skills, I laughed it off. My own children, who homeschooled, wrote better after their writing was placed on the Internet and people commented on their skills. However, in the past few years, I’ve begun to be worried about the future of writing. Are we destined to read books written in text messaging style? Will “are” be permanently replaced with a single letter? Will capital letters go out of style? The new Shorter OED says the hyphen is going out of style because of Internet and designers. They’ve removed it from many words. Is the capital letter next?

I read recently that many old languages are dying out. As writers, we’re perhaps the last protector of another dying language—good English. It’s up to us to safeguard capital letters, periods, and the proper use of commas.

Soldiers…take your posts.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

LDS Writing Competition!

Here is a news release from Christian Vuissa, founder and president of the LDS Film Festival:

Hi everyone,

I'm the founder and president of the LDS Film Festival. I wanted to let you know that the LDS Film Festival is currently accepting submissions for the following writing competitions:

7-page script competition
12-page script competition

In both competitions the best scripts will be made into short films that will screen at the festival. If you're interested in submitting a script, go to: http://www.ldsfilmfestival.org for more information.

Christian Vuissa


Here is some additional information:

-------------------------------------------------
CALL FOR ENTRIES 2008
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The LDS Film Festival is the premiere place for LDS filmmakers to showcase their work. With an attendance of close to 5000 in 2007, the festival has become a reliable audience magnet and the ideal networking platform for filmmakers.

We invite and encourage writers and filmmakers to participate in the 7th LDS Film Festival 2008 and submit their work to the festival. Over $3000 will be awarded to the best scripts and films.

For more information go to:
http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?McVUysSm_q79qYMESNrpZg

-------------------------------------------------
NEW SCRIPT COMPETITION ANNOUNCED
-------------------------------------------------

After the huge success of the 7-page script competition, we are happy to announce the 12-page script competition! Selected filmmakers will read all script submissions and pick one script for production. Each selected script is automatically a winner and will be made into a short film by an accomplished filmmaker.

Unlike the 7-page script competition, the 12-page competition has a theme and important rules to follow. The theme for this year's competition is CONVERSION. We are looking for stories that deal with the different processes and stages of conversion. Stories about people that are moved to change or have an experience that transforms their life.

For more information go to:
http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?tmdm9DkiUiK1P8al5X_Sbw

-------------------------------------------------
SUBMIT YOUR FILMS AND SCREENPLAYS NOW
-------------------------------------------------

The LDS Film Festival 2008 offers the following categories for submissions:

Short Film Competition
Films 20 minutes and under

Feature Film Exhibition
Films 60 minutes and longer

24-Hour Filmmaking Marathon
Become an award-winning filmmaker in 24 hours

Special Screenings
Films 20 to 60 minutes in length

7-Page Script Competition
7-page scripts to be made into short films

12-Page Script Competition
12-page scripts to be made into short films

For more information go to:
http://clicks.aweber.com/z/ct/?hAY.Z7IhwJxLeUdZtVeZPg

______

This is not sponsored by latterdayauthors.com, but we are more than happy to pass the information on. Hurry and click on the link. You just may be the one who wins!

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 21st

By David G. Woolley
History has a way of repeating itself and in my case that happens every 1st, 11th, 21st and 31st of each month. I complained about these dates in my last blog, but repetition has a way of, well, repeating itself. Today's date ends with the cosmic number one. Cosmic because it is likely the meteoric day appointed from the foundations of the world as my Latter Day Authors blogging day. And cosmic because it was the gloriously grand day appointed for Joseph Smith to be yanked out of thinking that his first vision was a personal experience intended only for his personal salvation and inform the seventeen year old that "God had a work for me to do".

We all have a mission in life. Mine is bad blogging. What else could a writer of fiction be than a bad blogger? I spend hours figuring out new and creative ways to muffle my voice and disappear from the pages. If I'm fortunate enough to succeed my voice falls entirely silent and my characters do all the talking. Blogging is the anti-fiction. There is no invisible third party beguiling the reader into believing they are communicating dreictly with a fictional character. The blog is the nightly news equivalent dangerously left to the unable hands of amateurs and for this broadcast I happen to be your anchor speaking right at you without the protecting filter of a fictional character. If you're feeling my intrusion, I beg your pardon, but today is September 21st and there is some good news to share.

Despite my recurring mention of the dates that end with the number one, I'm not fixated on calendars, though this month does sport one of the really important dates in all of recorded history. Sometime tonight, one hundred eighty four years ago, a seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith was concerned about his standing before God and when he prayed for assurance that his sins were forgiven an angel named Moroni not only assured him that his plea had been heard, he set the boy's feet on a path that would lead four years later to the unearthing and translation of an ancient record of scripture.

I am just this morning placing the finishing touches on historical notes that will be appended to a novel titled Day of Remembrance. I'm going to suggest to the publisher that it be released next year in September. Good luck with that. It will likely be a hard sell. Publishers prefer to get things out as soon as possible no matter how non-cosmic the date. Last Thursday, September 13th 2007, Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year). It's a solemn day devoted to remembering covenants made with God. The feast celebrated on that day is called the Feast of Trumpets. The horn playing is intended to awaken Israel to a remembrance of her covenants. It was the day Moses returned down the slopes of Sinai to the playing of shofar horns (a trumpet made from the hollowed horn of a ram and a common instrument in the homes of ancient Israelites) with the covenant written on stone tablets. About 1200 years later in Lehi's time the day was known as Ha Zikron (The Day of Remembrance).

This Jewish holy day falls on the first day of the month of Tishri on the Hebrew calendar,but doesn't always occur on the same day on our western Julian calendar. Next year the Day of Remembrance will be celebrated on September 30th, 2008. When the angel Moroni directed Joseph Smith to the hill three miles south of his home to get his first glimpse of the ancient gold plated record buried in a stone box it was Monday, September 22nd 1823 and the Day of Remembrance had already been celebrated seventeen days earlier on September 6th. On Joseph Smith's second visit to the hill one year later the Day of Remembrance was celebrate the day before. On Joseph's third visit in 1825 the Day of Remembrance was celebrated nine days earlier on September 13th as it was this year, and in 1826 the Hebrew celebration took place ten days after Joseph's yearly visit to the hill on October 2nd. It wasn't until the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday September 22nd 1827 did the celebration of the Day of Remembrance coincide with Moroni's declaration that the time had arrived for Joseph Smith to receive the ancient record. Not unlike Moses, Joseph Smith returned down the hill south of his home in Palmyra New York bearing a record he called a New Covenant and he did it on the same day Jews celebrate the remembrance of ancient covenants.

In honor of a four-year run of events which began one hundred eighty four years ago tonight with a sincere prayer offered by a seventeen year old boy in the attic bedroom of the Smith family cabin and culminated with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, I share this historical note:

The Feast of Trumpets marks Israel’s final harvest period in the fall of the year. It is the first feast in a series of three of the holiest feast days in Judaism which are also referred to as a trio of feasts of ingathering beginning with the Feast of Trumpets followed ten days later by the Day of Atonement and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles. Bruce R. McConkie indicates that these High Holy days occur during the final harvest period to metaphorically symbolize Christ’s final harvest of souls (McConkie, Promised Messiah, 432-37). These interrelated feasts include the symbolism of the Feast of Trumpets as a time when God remembers His covenants with Israel and is likely the reason the feast day was originally known as the Day of Remembrance (ha-Zikron) before it became better known as a Jewish New Year (Rosh ha-shanah). The term Zikron means memorial or remembrance and according to Hebrew scholars the blowing of trumpets on the Day of Remembrance is in keeping with the definition of Zikhron “as a sound that will arouse God’s remembrance (or judgment) of his people” (Bloch, Jewish Customs and Ceremonies). Numerous Jewish scholars explain the purpose of the trumpet sound on the Feast of Trumpets as the signal of Israel’s redemption from world-wide exile. The Old Testament indicates that “And it came to pass in the day [the time of regathering] that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt (Sherman and Zlotowizt, Rosh Hashanah, 58, 61-62, 112-13, 117-18; Artz, Justice and Mercy, 55, 94, 154; Block, JewishHoly Days, 21; Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 162; Leo Trepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, New York: Behrman House and Summit Books, 1980, 95).

The prophet Zechariah writes that “The Lord God shall blow the trumpet,” and that Ephraim will help raise up God’s covenant people, and that those of Israel’s blood would return to be part of the God’s flock (Zechariah 9:13-16). After the Israelites returned from Babylonian bondage the prophet Ezra gathered them together and read the law to them on the Feast of Trumpets (Nehemiah 8:1-2) and they rejoiced when the truth was restored to them. LDS scholar Lynette Reed indicates that this ancient restoration of the law after exile in Babylon which took place on the Day of Remembrance may have its latter-day counterpart in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Among the ancient readings still used during the celebration of the Rosh ha-Shanah is the restoration of Ephraim. The prophecies of the prophet Jeremiah are among the important readings on this feast day where he calls Ephraim a darling son and that God will “remember Ephraim” (zakhor ezkerenu).

The name most often used for the day on which the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated today is Rosh ha-Shanah which means New Year. But that was not its original name and the significance of the day is really a new beginning rather than the start of a new calendar year. On this day the Lord is said to move from His seat of judgment to His mercy seat by mercifully providing a new beginning through gathering Israel out of exile, remembering His covenants with their fathers, and restoring them as His covenant people. This new beginning was to be initiated by the sounding of the trumpet.

The sounding of the trumpet appears not only as a remembrance of the revelation given at Sinai, but also as an indication of future events. Just as the trumpet preceded God’s revelation of the law at Sinai (Exodus 19:16) some scholars believe the trumpet sounding during Rosh Hashanah signals further revelation, including the establishment of the true law (Goodman, The Rosh Hashanah Anthology, 42). Old Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants scriptures speak of the trumpet preceding the establishment of truth that leads to redemption (Isaiah 58:1, Alma 29:1, D&C 33:2). “And at all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump” (D&C 24:12). The statue of the angel Moroni atop Mormon temples is portrayed as blowing a trumpet, proclaiming the gospel to the world, and particularly to the house of Israel. A review of LDS history and scripture indicate that most of the restored truths in the gospel of Jesus Christ began with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

The return covenant-blessings from God which follow Israel’s remembrance of their covenants with God are repeated in prayers offered on the Day of Remembrance and are similar to the words written by the prophet Moroni in the title page of the Book of Mormon where he stated that one of the two main purposes of the book was, “to show unto the remnants of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever”. As part of the prayers offered on Rosh ha-Shanah Jews today still read the Old Testament passage, “I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 26:45).

Jewish religious scholars (Arzt, Justice and Mercy, 146-48) indicate that Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the remembrance (or restoration) of Ephraim has special significance to the Day of Remembrance, but are uncertain what that significance may be. LDS scholar Lynette Reed suggests that the part the Book of Mormon plays in restoring knowledge of significant religious covenants to descendants of Ephraim is the connection between remembrance (or restoration) and the Day of Remembrance.


Happy 21st of September everyone! And be grateful that September only has thirty days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Your Favorite Book?

By C.S. Bezas

Ever heard the quote: "We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own..."? Orson F. Whitney stated this long ago.

Forget the fact that perhaps you have never read any works by Milton or perhaps the only thing you know of Shakespeare is that taught by your 9th grade teacher. What really counts is that quality literature has the power to move and change souls.

To celebrate just such books, the prestigious Whitney Awards have been born. Begun to stimulate the search for quality LDS literature, the Whitney Award is in its infancy and first year. Yet just as the acorn contains immense potential, the Whitney Awards seek those books whose impact resonates and continues to expand through space.

Have you experienced such in your life? Do you have a favorite book? If so, nominate that book today for the new prestigious Whitney Award! Click here for the nomination form and further details.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sarah Jane's Very Best Story Ever

By Lori NawynFrom the back cover of the book Sarah Jane's Very Best Story Ever:

"Sarah Jane Van Komen was a most amazing storyteller. Now what made her such an amazing storyteller was that she always knew exactly the right kind of story to tell. Sarah's simple tales began when she first started to speak. Those tales carried children, as well as adults, into her gifted imagination of wonderment and purpose.

Many admirers, friends, and family members were brokenhearted at her tragic death in an automobile accident when she was only sixteen years old. However, not long after her death her mother began to record the occasions of people calling her to report that Sarah had indeed come back and told them stories in their dreams. The common thread in all the reports was that the story or message Sarah brought them was one of purpose and peace. This story is one such story, and Sarah believes that it is her Very Best Story Ever. All of the events in this story talking about Sarah really happened.

Sarah claims that the entire story is true."

I never knew Sarah Jane Van Komen while she was alive, yet she is a person I can say I am much the better for having known about. I know her from the book Sarah Jane's Very Best Story Ever, a book compiled by her mother, Janie Van Komen, which details Sarah's life, death, and return to our Father in Heaven. Sunday night, while I sat in a packed audience listening to Janie speak about Sarah, I savored the comforting surety that heaven and earth are not so far apart and that miracles still occur. I am grateful for the power of the spoken and written word to bear witness.

Thank you, Janie. Thank you, Sarah.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rating Rejections

By Terrie Bittner

When my daughter was nine or so, her teacher decided to send a poem she had written to a magazine. He did so without telling me until after the fact. I was not thrilled, since her home address was included and the rejection, if it came, would come to her. This was not a children’s magazine, but an adult magazine, and unlikely to publish her. I worried about the impact of getting a rejection letter so young. My first one was certainly hard on me, and I was an adult when it came.

Sure enough, one day a thick envelope came back, and we know what those mean. I hovered nervously as she opened it and read it. Then, to my surprise, she started to giggle. I leaned over, thinking it had been an acceptance after all, but it wasn’t. It was an ordinary rejection letter. Seeing my confusion, she said, “Look, they have five grammar and spelling mistakes in their letter. It’s a good thing they didn’t publish my poem. Their magazine is probably really bad, too, and who wants to be in a bad magazine? I want my poem in a good magazine.”

So where did this child inherit that sort of wisdom? Not from me, certainly. But this day started a new family game. When my rejection letters came, we graded them together. Often, my children saw funny things I missed, but they (and I) learned not to take our rejections too seriously.

One magazine, run by nuns, sent rejections we all loved. They went on and on about how they could see how much I loved children and God, and about how proud God was of me for wanting to serve Him. They expressed so much sorrow and guilt for not buying the stories we pictured them in tears of anguish. But best of all, they always sent me a present to cheer me up—a pretty bookmark with a scripture on it. Presents are good, and always lead to good grades in Rejection 101.

One had a checklist of reasons the manuscript was rejected. Some of them were silly. The editor I sent my stories to invariably checked, “My mother made me do it.” I was disappointed none of the helpful reasons were ever marked, but my children loved the idea of an important editor bowing to his mother’s demands. Humor got high marks, too.

It was a bit surprising how often we found grammatical errors in rejection letters. These are, after all, editors. I had never noticed them until my children made it their goal in life to find them.

One thing I learned from all this was that rejection is just a part of the job, or maybe even part of the game. Life goes on, and so does my writing career.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fear -- cluck, cluck -- of Failure

By Lori Nawyn

I write manuscripts then file them away like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. Unlike a squirrel’s stored supply, however, my stashed manuscripts do me little good. That’s because I’m not a squirrel…I’m a chicken. I never submit half the manuscripts I write.

At first, I thought I suffered from manuscript rejection anxiety, an ailment I have yet to find a clear and concise definition of. After an internet search, I discovered it’s not uncommon for authors to suffer from such a malady. I found this appeal from John Last, Emeritus professor of epidemiology of the University of Ottawa, wherein he pleads for a colleague:

Are there any editors aware of support groups for authors who have something original and important to say but suffer from obsessive anxiety that inhibits their ability to pursue their ideas to fruition?...My admittedly rather superficial inquiries about the prevalence of this condition suggest that it is not uncommon among creative artists and writers, which leads me to wonder whether there is/are support group(s) for victims.”

I didn’t have time to attend a support group, even if I could find one. So, I further researched the subject and stumbled upon the following advice, intended to ease the pain of rejection:

When submitting manuscripts, send two SASE's, one rose colored enveloped labeled"Acceptance Letter," and a black envelope labeled "Form Rejection Slip.” Enclose a smiley face sticker, with instructions to the editor to affix it to the black envelope if he has scribbled a personal note of encouragement or advice in the margin of the rejection slip.”

Interesting counsel, but not applicable to my particular situation because, after reading and contemplating the advice, I realized it was not the rejections, or the words therein, that unnerved me. Some of my rejection letters actually evoked a smile. One I still have:

Had we had received your manuscript a year ago, we would have been eager to publish it. However, due to what we perceive as instabilities in the market that render us unable to make a profit, we cannot do so as we plan to cease publication. However, please feel free to send additional manuscripts as we enjoy reading your work.”

And, my personal favorite: “If you were a well-known author, or a male author, we feel your manuscript would be saleable.”

I was working on the first problem. However, since the publisher didn’t mention an option to adopt a masculine pen name, there wasn’t much I could do about the second!


I decided to break things down to see how I really felt about the whole process of writing and submission. Writing - good. Rewriting - check. Filing - great. Getting manuscript out and rereading, revising, and rewriting - wonderful. Putting manuscript into envelope and sending -- eeekkk!

Two images popped into my head. The first was of my fiery, redheaded high-school typing teacher, Mrs. Weidman, who gave my fingers a sharp rap with her ruler if I erred at the keyboard. She made it plain she didn’t like me, and she had zero tolerance for my inability to produce spontaneous, blunder free papers. To this day I don’t know why -- it wasn’t for lack of trying -- but my brain and fingers could simply not make a connection that would allow me to type 100 plus words per minute with no errors.

The second image was of my mother. In my youth, I frequently followed her around and tried to get her to listen to my stories. Her response was almost always the same: “Lori, writing is not your forte.” I knew she thought she was doing me a favor by discouraging me from making a fool of myself. She believed writing, for me at least, to be a frivolous occupation. Her words stung.

Silly as it seemed, though nearly two decades had elapsed, I continued to allow my self-esteem to remain in a battered state. I wasn’t really afraid of rejection -- I pretty much expected it. The problem was I feared I would never measure up. My efforts would never -- ever -- be good enough for the Mrs. Weidman’s of the world. Sometimes, I could almost feel the smack of her ruler on my fingers when I even contemplated putting a manuscript into the mail. “Yes, Mrs. Weidman, I’d better check it one more time -- I’ll file it away until I can…”

In addition, as I’d discovered with a handful of other things in my life, when a parent expresses stringent and repeated opposition to your choices, it can be difficult to overcome. Could my manuscripts ever be perfect enough that my mother would believe writing was my forte?

My yearning to have my manuscripts be undeniably perfect in every aspect, to the point I feared sending them out (some even after private editors combed over them) was rooted in a fear of failure. I had to have a stern talk with myself and remember failure is a normal part of life. Without it, like I often told my children, how could we learn? It’s not failure that matters, it’s the way we handle it. It’s getting up one more time and trying again, even if those who oppose us think we shouldn’t.

I’m getting braver at submitting manuscripts. As a result, I’ve enjoyed some rewarding achievements, milestones I never would have reached had I always been a chicken and not tried. Now, each time I submit, my fingers and heart hurt less because I know I haven’t truly failed until I quit, and I don’t intend to quit.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What All Stories are About


By David G. Woolley

There was a time in my college days I didn't believe the script writing professor. He said all stories were ultimately about birth and death. The man was an ad director who retired from his Manhattan agency for a career in teaching script writing. Not that you can't trust ad people and their creative attempts to convince me I need a hand sewn magnetic head warmer to promote brain wave function, but they're the ones who hype high fructose corn syrup to reduce the risk of type four diabetes--the type of diabetes the coroner diagnoses. Can you really trust a professor who makes a comment using the word all ?

I don't remember everything I learned in my college statistics courses, but when a lecturer said it was statistically possible to know if a question was true or false based on how it was phrased, I perked right up. You mean there is a real-world application for standard deviations? I admit my perkiness was more about not having to study the course material too deeply and still have a statistically significant chance of acing the test. It was the greatest find since Columbus used a time machine to transport the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock. History is my best subject. My statistics professor was also the same scholar who advised a local frozen food packing company that the best way to insure lower rates of employee turnover was to hire applicants who scored below thirty percent on the company's entrance exam. Apparently exam scores predict a reverse correlation between the repetitive work of stuffing pasta into plastic freezer bowls and job satisfaction. Based on those findings I was willing to suspend my disbelief and I took copious notes to preserve forever the knowledge of how to divine which test bubble, A or B, to darken with a #2 pencil.

Turns out it was a pretty simple matter of semantics. If the question uses the words all or always, you can be 95% certain that the answer is false. When my script writing professor insisted that all stories are ultimately about birth or death, I was statistically skeptical. It wasn't until after he explained the nuances of his claim that I learned he fell into that narrow 5% category of being always semantically false while at the same time remaining true to the art of storytelling.

I said, "Where is the story of birth or death in the Sound of Music?"

He pointed out that when characters change they essentially let their old way of thinking or behaving die in exchange for a birth into a new way of behaving. What he called a new life. Maria, the Captain, all the Von Trapp children, the blond-headed telegram delivery boy of going-on-seventeen-fame turned Nazi. Even Max the freeloader who loved rich people ephiphanized new wine and stored it in a new bottle. There's something to that Jewish parable. It was Max who said he loved the way he lived when he was with rich people, but finally exchanged his greed and let his new-found Von Trapp Family Singers escape over the Swiss Alps.

Okay. Maybe my script-writing professor was right. There are metaphorical births and deaths in that rerun-of-a-drama, but that was an old story lost among millions of newer stories.

I said, "What about Ground Hog Day?"

I was willing to concede the stories of romance, drama even documentary. But comedy? I figured I had him until he pointed out that the main character in Ground Hog Day, when he discovered he was living in a repetitive day that re-cycled every twenty four hours, searched for happiness in the base pleasures of the world. When that didn't make him happy, he gave away his former life, essentially letting it die. It wasn't until he was reborn into a new life did the repetitive daily routine break and the story end with a satisfying conclusion.

Darn. I was forced to concede comedy too.

This is the point where I should limit my analysis to storytelling and declare that birth and death act as metaphors for character change. But its deeper than that. Character change just may be a metaphorical death and birth equivalent for slavation. The spiritual connections are obvious. Faith. Repentance (and its corollary forgiveness). Baptism. Atonement. Maybe what my script-writing professor was teaching me without actually mentioning it was that all things are spiritual. Even all our stories.

Always.

Writer's Travel Trunk


By Janie Van Komen

It’s never really convenient to write. There are always clothes to wash, weeds to pull, people to visit, scriptures to read. I think God set it up that way so that we always have some kind of choice to make.When I was younger I believed I would eventually have time to do everything.

As I collected more and more years into my travel trunk of life I finally realized there is only so much room in that trunk. Everything won’t fit. I am more selective about the trappings of choices I throw in and also about the ones I consider and then throw away. Startled at the revelation that the trunk was filling up too fast I was angry with my past self for dumping lots of tidbits of things I was only interested in for about ten minutes or ten days. Why did I waste all that precious space in time?

Then the writer side of me poked a pencil into a book and as I began to catalogue the contents, stories both real and imagined interrupted the mechanics of the record keeping. The record keeping was my excuse of acceptability to those who prefer I wash dishes or run errands, but the imagined interruptions rejuvenated me.

This exercise of putting my hand to paper is just as vital as keeping my family tree properly trimmed up. The choices of my past rise out of my trunk of life and reappear in some story like coins a magician pulls out of ears and other unlikely places. The choices, whether good or bad, are vital to making my life trunk valuable to a future somebody. My explanations, tangents, and imaginations spun out of those choices are my interpretations of the journey of my mortality.

It’s never really convenient to write but if I don’t, my fear is that somebody else will sort through my travel trunk of life and write what they think my story was all about.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Day My Mother Died

By Kenya Transtrum

I wish I could say I don't remember, but the thing is, I do. I remember when I'm sitting outside looking at the blood-red roses or at night when the skies turn deep purple. My dreams are filled with shuffling feet, swirling colors and barking orders. "She's not breathing! Turn her over! Suction! Bag her!"

When my father died he slipped away peacefully with all of his family silently weeping around his bed. I was holding his hand. At the very last seconds he opened his eyes. They were bright and alert. He looked at a corner on the ceiling and smiled and his smile was so joyful I looked to see what had caused it. It was nothing my mortal eyes could see. And then he was gone, the hint of that smile still on his face. Although I was heart-broken at his passing, it was satisfying. If he was smiling, I knew he was going to a wonderful place.

A dozen years later I stood in the ER as my mother, surrounded by chaos and confusion and riddled in pain, stopped breathing. Her room was not filled with loved ones hovering near whispering their 'I love yous'. She was alone with no hand to hold. I was alone with no one to look to for comfort. My father's death had been expected for hours; my mother just stopped breathing.

The day before we had been out to lunch together. We sang in the restaurant, quietly of course, laughed at jokes and talked about my children and grandchildren, her beloved treasures. She had errands to run, things to do, so she briefly stopped at my house to pet my dog, Cleo, and then ran out the door at 1 PM to finish her day. Twenty-four hours later I arrived at the hospital right behind the ambulance.

It was a very busy day in the ER. Although my mother was critical, it took nearly 3 hours for the doctor to see her. In that amount of time, things had gone from critical to grave and my mother's worn-out little body could take no more pain. The death rattle was heard, blood came out of her mouth and I knew she was gone.

And then the dream began. I stepped away from my mom. Nurses and doctors filled the tiny enclosure. I watched and listened as if I were a casual observer. Even as I watched, I noticed the numbness, the lack of hysteria, the utter calm I felt. And I wondered about it. What's wrong with me? My mother is now turning purple and I am calm. I watched patiently as they cared for my mother, suctioning blood out of her airway, bagging her for oxygen, checking for pulse and breathing. When a nurse asks for the suction I even step in to hand it to her. And I am back to my job of watching. It only takes minutes from start to finish. My mother begins to breathe again.

It doesn't matter. In my mind, this will always be the day I watched my mother die. It will also be the day that will haunt me for another reason. Why was I so calm? Why did I feel so emotionless as I watched? I have thought of all the reasonable reasons: I was in shock, it hadn't hit me yet, so much was happening, I didn't really believe she was dying. But the truth is, had that been my husband or one of my children, I can tell you my heart would have been all over the place.

So, as many daughters do, this will be another secret I keep from my mother. In her eyes, I was dutiful and loving to stand by her bedside for 12 hours that day. She needn't know that I am not so sure.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Shared History with My Mother

By Janie Van Komen

Today I called my mother and said I was on my way to break her out of the joint. Most of my gifts and talents and certainly a great deal of my inspiration and encouragement comes from my mother. Not exactly the mother from my youth but my mother of the “now.”

For fifty years she acquired all aspects of the history of Garland, Utah and its surrounding community. It was time to write the book. Four hundred sixteen pages, one thousand pictures, and many sleepless nights later we did finish the book just in time for the town’s centennial celebration. Not unlike the people in Whoville of Horton Hears a Who, there were many important lives come and gone and still coming that cried out to be preserved in that tiny dot on the map of Utah.

Three weeks after we finished the book while my mother was selling it at the local fair she became dizzy and fell down on the road. After a few trips to various doctors the brain tumor was tediously removed and the life spared. Two years of grueling therapy and several follow-up surgeries restored her from not quite all of the damage and paralysis. She was so excited to regain her driver’s license and her freedom once again. Four months later when she and my father were returning from a day’s work at the Logan temple they were involved in a head on collision. My mother sustained a broken and dislocated ankle, eleven broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and her neck sustained what is known as the hangman’s break or the Christopher Reeve break.

In some great miracle she was not paralyzed from this, but the resulting disabilities, pain, and suffering along with the leftovers of the brain tumor left her quite a different person than she was when we wrote the book together. She is still inside the body but the body is not so capable as before. Now in order for her to get out of the house somebody has to take her. So, today I did.

After lunch at The Olive Garden we blinked our eyes and found we had spent and hour and a half in Barnes and Noble sharing our love of books and commentaries to each other of “you should read this one,” or “what do you think of this title?” etc. etc.

We laughed and sighed and shared until I had returned her safely back in her house. She gave me an e-mail on some current political prick of information. And then she shared with me a treasure from her bookshelf she had recently read, the 1916 memorial edition of Elbert Hubbard’s A Little Journey into the Homes of the American Statesmen.

Elbert Hubbard was the most sought after lecturer in the United States from 1905 thru 1915. His writings were in great demand and he was paid handsomely for his work. He interviewed people who had known famous statesmen or who were famous statesmen and among other things he wrote about them. On his way to interview Kaiser Wilhelm Elbert Hubbard was aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine. This particular book was printed after his death. My grandmother had signed her maiden name inside the book. It had belonged to her before she was married. The beautiful leather cover is well worn but still holds it original magnificence.

I knew three of my great-grandparents. And because of two house fires, all three of them, my mother’s parents, and my childhood family all lived in the same house for a short time. All of my great-grandparents were born in the late 1800’s. I was born mid 1900’s, and my grandchildren mostly are born in the 2000’s.

Today as I touched the soft leather of that 1916 book I thought about how close in time this man was to the founding fathers he wrote about. I yearned to read his opinions and ideas about those men who shaped our nation. I thought about me holding hands with people from three centuries and wondered if other people will ever want to know what I have to say about those I have known and written about.

Janie

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Memory Jar

By Janet Jensen

After a major loss in my life, I attended a grieving class. One concept I learned is that it's normal to be forgetful and distracted when you've experienced grief, even when you're not thinking about your loss. And that gave me hope that sooner or later ordinary aspects of my life would settle down. And they did.

Then I happened to read a magazine article about a woman who gave her mother, "the woman who has everything" a unique gift. She took 365 small slips of paper and wrote memories of her mother on each. Then she put them in a pretty jar with a ribbon and presented it to her mother. "Read one each day," she told her mother, who promptly reached in, took out one slip, read it, and smiled. They reminisced about the event on the paper. Then, after the daughter left, the mother read each of the remaining 364 papers! She just couldn't ration herself to one a day, she enjoyed them so much.

I returned to my grieving class the next evening and one member said that her familiy was gathering in a couple of months to honor the life of her brother, who had taken his own life. They couldn't afford to do anything expensive or elaborate, but they wanted to do something significant that would bring them closer and help them heal. I thought of the "memory jar" in the magazine article, and told her about it.

Her face lit up. She said it was a great idea; she would ask family members to write favorite memories of her brother and bring them. They'd put them in a jar and take turns reading them. I later heard that it was a great success. They pulled the memories out of the jar and they laughed and they cried and they began to heal.

From simple ideas great things can happen. And in this case, I had the privilege of passing on a story, one that helped a family deal with their grief.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blessings


One summer. Two scares with my health.

I tried to figure out what in my life to throw overboard as I battened the hatches for an anticipated storm. Long abandoned were several time-consuming habits and hobbies, like watching daytime television or nighttime dramas. The cable had been disconnected for years. Gone, too, were hours spent shopping with friends. Those had been replaced with mom-and-daughter bonding time that occasionally took us to the mall. I did, however, continue to spend too much time at local garden centers admiring yard d├ęcor and perennials. If indeed I were gravely ill those excursions would need to cease, as would time spent fussing with my yard. I wanted to spend every minute possible with my family.
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In order to make the most of the precious time I had left, there would be no more long phone conversations with friends pursuing idle chitchat. Lunches and movies with friends would have to be cut. My frequent, obsessive visits to the library would need to stop. Except for projects I’d committed to finish for the magazines and publishers I worked with, time spent on art and illustration would come to a halt. And, writing…what would I do about writing? It consumed so much of my time, so much of me. Could I really bind up my laptop, my journals, my pens and pencils, and my writing tablets and toss them out of my life?

One more afternoon. One more test. I waited to see a lab technician with cold hands and an austere demeanor. As I sat, I took in the faces and emotions around me. All of us suspended in the act of waiting for the unknown seemed engulfed in our own trials yet we managed, from time to time, to exchange brief smiles of compassion and understanding. I mentally jotted down the experience and the feelings that coursed through me. I had neglected to bring a notebook. How I missed it!

Something in my stomach caught as I realized writing was the backbone of my existence. A good fifty percent of what I wrote I’d never share or attempt to publish but it truly kept me sane and focused.

From a strong warning from an invisible messenger I ignored that instructed me not to weed with my bare hands -- right before I got stung by a hornet -- to unseen help in locating my grandmother’s lost necklace, my M.O.M., Mindful of Me Journal, was a place to record all life’s moments when I knew Heavenly Father was watching over me. My gratitude journal held accounts of sweet moments spent with my family and descriptions of things sacred and dear. My daily journal tracked events that were both funny and heart wrenching. I drew in a deep breath. I knew had to continue to write in my journals.

I had to.

My short stories were my way of reaching out. My way of sharing what I viewed as good, valuable, and wonderful in the world, an attempt to help others travel the rocky paths I had already crossed. I couldn’t give those up either.

Another day, another test result. Everything was fine. I was okay. I’d envisioned spending my last few moments, pencil in hand, scrawling out my innermost feelings, as well as what I wanted to impart to future generations and a last few stories I’d forgotten to tell. Thankfully, I didn’t have to face that yet.

I looked into the faces of my family. I had time -- more time to spend with those I loved. And, a trickle of guilt seeped in, time to write.
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Now, it was back to the balancing act which ruled my life. My family came first. No question. I balanced time with them with moments stolen in the tender light of early dawn or the darkness of late evening. Moments found in the cracks and crevices of my life that allowed me to write. It was a process that was often exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but always an adventure.

Always a blessing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

By Kelly Martinez

Wow! I've never contributed to a blog before. Is it like an instantaneous news article? Is it a journal entry? Hmmm...I will need to swim around a bit to get accustomed to the water.

I love writing. I don't do as much of it these days as I used to, but the love is still there. I don't think I feel more at home anywhere else (except my own home, of course) than I do in front of a keyboard, tapping out what comes to mind, trying to make sense of the thoughts that populate my mind. Writing, for me, is empowering, therapeutic, and cleansing.

For many years, writing has been a hobby to me. I've earned some money from freelancing, but nothing that could ever pay the bills. If I had my way, I'd make a full-time living from my writing. But, reality presides in my world as I continue to graphically design for a living.

Sports has been the focus of the writing I've let out into the public. However, I have found more satisfaction and a truer expression of who I am and what it is that I am thinking and feeling through other writing projects.

For instance, I have a work of fiction on my hard drive that has a sports setting, but is a love story. A story that explores the inner souls of characters who find their true selves in areas they never thought they would. A romantic, familial, and societal love story that follows the life of an athlete who, after the lights have dimmed and the fans have gone home, struggles to find his place in the world. Instinctively, he seeks to recapture the limelight in the only forum he knows: the sporting world. During a series of tragic events, he is forced to eventually prioritize all that truly matters to him and to let go of the superficial things that really don't.

I've found joy in writing about music, television, and general interest topics. While interning at the Deseret Morning News, I wrote about the rock band U2, about corporate groundbreaking ceremonies, and about an LDS musician who is wheelchair bound, to name a few. For Meridian Magazine, I've written about a newsanchorman in Los Angeles who is a convert to the Church. I've also interviewed and written about LDS recording artist Cherie Call for Meridian. I thoroughly enjoyed these writing projects.

It's funny, but 20 years ago, I thought sports was all that would ever interest me enough to write about. For a long time, I adhered to that belief and honed a sports-writing craft that now interests me far less than other aspects of entertainment and life.

Our drive and desire to write, I believe, is God-given and is something we should put time and effort into developing. In the sporting world, an athlete or team cannot expect to improve if they do not practice. So it is with writing. If God has given you the gift of writing, do not waste it away like the foolish in the parable of the ten talents.

Once again, writing has shown me something I didn't expect it to! I am feeling a deeper commitment to developing my writing skills and putting them to good use. I am hereby committing to write more.

How about you?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Genealogy and Writers

I've been doing the FamilySearch indexing for quite some time now. This involves taking records, such as the 1900 census, and putting them into forms that will later be put online free. When I started, the training said each record takes 30-60 minutes to complete. I've yet to complete a census record of 50 names in an hour. I suspect they didn't beta test on writers.

"Wow, look at this. Ten children in the family, all born in different states. I wonder why they moved so much? I'll bet..." and my imagination is off and running, creating a complete bio and plot line for this family. Twenty minutes later, I come to and remember I'm supposed to be extracting, not plotting.

One day I found a family on a 1900 census which listed the woman as head of household and her husband as "husband." This being 1900, there was a story in there somewhere. This being in an area near where my own ancestors lived, where many of the surnames were familiar to me, there was a really good story in there somewhere. I do not come from boring stock. I knew that if the census taker found no one at home, he sometimes got the information from neighbors. I pictured the scene. "That's my cousin. Let me tell you something. She wears the pants in that family. Put her down as head." The census taker, also being a cousin of some sort, would laugh and know it was probably true. (In the hillls of my family, they're all cousins and the women in my family were strong survivors.) Then he'd tell the story all over town as a really good joke to anyone who would listen...until that head of household dumped this week's batch of whiskey over his head.

I start each session by looking over the country of origin, occupations, and educations of my week's list. We don't record some of that information, but I want to know about the neighborhood I'm in. Then I scan the records to see if they might be kin. Only then am I ready to record. I hold my breath as I reach the part of the form that tells me how many children a woman had and how many died. I pause to mourn for the women who have eleven children and only three living. How did they cope with so much death?

I wonder about the homes with grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren, a niece and nephew or two, siblings of the homeowner, all in one home, some of the adults young and widowed. Were they happy? What was such a crowded, busy home like to grow up in, so much family right there in your own home, but so much hardship that made it happen?

There's a story in every seemingly dull record on that list. I am peeking into a moment in the lives of these people and I wish I knew more. I like stories. That is, maybe, why I'm a writer.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What of the Children?

I'm going to be a bit vulnerable here. I can't tell you the amount of times I've felt guilty for sitting at the computer and writing. My children, it seemed, knew the back of my head better than they knew my face.

Project after project demanded my time. For you see, years ago I was the Stake Cultural Arts Director. This meant that my days overflowed with time spent writing productions for stake and regional settings.

Don't get me wrong. It was flattering to see my imaginings on stage, playing before hundreds of audience members. In fact, it was more than exciting to see one of my productions in regional committee discussions to become the "Hill Cumorah pageant-of-the-south."

But when your church calling demands so much time...what of the children? What of my children?

This question, "What of the children?", has haunted me at times. For nothing can compare with the quiet moments of looking into the exquisite eyes of my daughter. Her eyes speak of eternity to me, if I look in them long enough.

Nothing can compare with hearing my youngest son's peals of laughter when we get into a tickle fest. His chuckles move me like nothing else can.

Nothing compares with the deep discussions my eldest son and I are wont to engage in. His insights inspire me and aid me on my darkest days.

Thus years later, I've changed my pace. It's been a hard thing to do -- for in truth, I love nothing better than sitting at the computer creating stories and events, articles and book chapters. Those activities, along with my music compositions, have been rewarding.

But -- in truth -- nothing can compare with irreplaceable moments with my children. Therefore, I determined I would shift my priorities. Surely the Lord could help me work more efficiently and complete my projects more swiftly.

As a result, I soon learned the potency of delegation. I also witnessed that reducing perfectionism speeded completion. "Over-the-top" efforts were not required -- not when my children were present and deserved my love (which they seem to spell "a-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n").

In truth, I may not have three books a year to show for my writing efforts, but at least my children are much more familiar with "Mommy's face!"