Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Writers

Enjoy this hilarious article at And if you come up with your own clever song, be sure to post it here and at my blog, It's bound to improve your day!

Footnote: Sorry, try this url:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Birthday Lady

by Lori

“Happy burffdayh to you…Happy burffdayh to you…”

The off-key, seven a.m. solo always made me smile. I never met her face-to-face, never knew her name, but a decade ago, I looked forward to the Birthday Lady’s yearly phone call. For me, it was a pleasant start to the day I celebrated my birth.

In our small town, a ladies group published a calendar which listed the birthdays of their friends and relatives. Since, my grandmother belonged to the group, my name and all the names of my family members were included. Sometime, during the early 1990’s, the unknown “Birthday Lady” decided to start calling everyone whose name appeared on the calendar to personally wish them a happy birthday.

The first year I received her call, I dismissed the elderly woman with a chuckle.“Is this Lori?” she queried. Following my reply in the affirmative, she began to drone, “Happy burffdayh…”
When she finished crooning, she added in a lilting voice, “And I hope you have a very special day.” Without identifying herself, she hung up.

Days later, my husband and daughter received calls on their birthdays. Within a few months, several people we knew reported that the same woman had contacted them. The following year, precisely at seven a.m. on my birthday, she phoned again.“Is this Lori? Happy burffdayh to yooouuuu….”I had to admit, I admired her tenacity -- there must have been hundreds of names on that calendar. And, I found her sincerity and good will refreshing.

Year after year, my family members looked forward to our annual calls from the Birthday Lady. However, there were others in our community who were offended. The Birthday Lady had a bad lisp and some people claimed she was a nuisance, a blight on our fair town. “The nerve of such a person,” they protested, “how dare she rudely awaken innocent citizens with an early morning phone call, and her less than perfect voice!”

Someone did some checking and identified the Birthday Lady. A couple of people phoned her to complain. Soon, she stopped singing. A short while later, the Birthday Lady passed away.

I recently celebrated another birthday and, yes, Pollyanna that I am, I miss the Birthday Lady. I regret that didn't ask her when her birthday was. I don’t sing, but I could’ve called and wished her my best. I could’ve thanked her for the joy she brought to each of my birthdays; it breaks my heart to think no one else thought of thanking her either. Maybe one day I’ll be given the chance to tell her what her calls meant to me. Until then, if blogs are read in heaven, I’d like to say, “Happy Birthday, Birthday Lady.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Storymaker Writers' Conference

The LDStorymaker Writers' Conference is coming in a week! I'm not sure if you've had the privilege to attend one of these before, but the lineup this year is exciting.

Timothy Travaglini, Senior Editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group, USA) is the Keynote Speaker. He has worked at Henry Holt, Scholastic, Walker & Company (to name just a few of the publishers).

In addition to Mr. Travaglini, Jamie Weiss Chilton will also be in attendance. She is an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. Ms. Chilton represents children's books, teen novels, picture books, amongst other genres. Her most specific interests include literary fiction with intense emotional content. She too worked at Henry Holt, amongst other companies such as Bantam Delacorte Dell and Knoft & Crown Books.

The beauty of attending conferences such as these is that in addition to workshops presented by published authors with an expert eye of what constitutes an excellent book, you also meet national individuals who work to make literature a fine experience. For example, Mr. Travaglini and Ms. Chilton will have private appointments with writers attending the conference.

Here are just some of the topics being addressed in this year's conference:

"Getting Out of the Slush Pile," by Mr. Travaglini

"Writing in Spite of a Busy Life," by Rachel Ann Nunes

"Writing a Synopsis," by Josi Kilpack

"Writing about Real Issues for Children & Youth," by Tamra Norton

"The Middle Grade Writer: Character, Voice & Audience," by Lael Littke

"10 Things That Get You Noticed/What LDS Publishers are Looking For," by Kirk Shaw (of Covenant)

""Your First Novel: Step by Step Basics," by Heather Moore & Julie Wright

"Creating Your Inner Writing Team," by Carroll Morris

"The Editing Process," by Lisa Mangum (of Deseret Book)

"Non-fiction - Finding Your Niche," Shirley Bahlmann & Jaime Theler

A Publishers Panel

General Session Speaker, Chris Crowe

And all this in just the first day's line-up! Day two of the conference contains even more, including the Whitney Awards Gala. You may check to see if tickets are still available by visiting the LDStorymakers website. But if not, make sure to mark your calendar in January 2009 to purchase tickets for the 2009 LDStorymakers conference. It will be well worth your time!

(Did I mention a writer's best friend, an Alphasmart Neo, is being given as the grand prize to the First Chapter contest winner?)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

James Dashner and The Thirteenth Reality

I love books that are good. Who doesn't? But I've found one that is not only good, it is excellent. It now sits on my shelf right next to my all time favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth. Who is this newcomer to my coveted shelf of only-the-finest books?

It is The 13th Reality, by James Dashner, just released March 3, 2008. (Actually The 13th Reality is the title of the series.) Even though I have an ARC copy, I am waiting with baited breath to get an official hardback of "Book One: The Journal of Curious Letters!"

This is why I marched into my local Borders bookstore yesterday and demanded a copy (nicely, of course). They have 6 on order and my name is the first in the list to get my copy (I'm sure it's because I asked so nicely). You better run to your bookstore and do the same, because they will go fast when they come in!

After reading The 13th Reality, I had to learn more about the background of the book. So I emailed James Dashner, the 13th Reality man and author himself, if he would oblige. And to make it fun - since The 13th Reality is YA fiction (like the Harry Potter series) - I invited two kids do the actual interviewing!

David is six years old; Cassandra is twelve.
David: How did you come up with the idea for The 13th Reality?

JAMES: It came from some serious brain pounding after being given one week to come up with a proposal for my eventual publisher. I'd submitted a different book to them, and they liked my writing, but didn't feel that particular book was right for them. So I worked my tail off to write a proposal for an idea that had always bounced around in my head: The concept of a group helping kids by sending out riddles and clues, but also horrible, dangerous things that try to stop them while they solve the mystery.

David: What was it like when you were writing your very first book about Jimmy Fincher compared to now?

JAMES: Totally different. Then, I didn't know if it would get published. This was done with a deadline. I really like the second way!!

David: How did you come up with more ideas for the next 13th Reality book? Isn't that a lot of work?

JAMES: I'm just always thinking, I guess. And when a cool idea pops in my head, I write it down.

David: How old will Tick be in the second book?

JAMES: It ends right at his 14th birthday.

[Now for questions from my daughter, Cassandra.]

Cassandra: What was the funnest part about writing The 13th Reality?

JAMES: Creating Mothball and Rutger, I think.

Cassandra: How did you come up with your characters?

JAMES: Most of them are based on people I know or characters I've loved in other books.

Cassandra: Who was the hardest character to write about?

JAMES: Mistress Jane. I wanted her to be evil, but have a human side. I think I did a much better job in Book 2.

Cassandra: Who was your favorite character to write about?

JAMES: Tick. He's basically me.

Cassandra: What was the hardest chapter to write in Curious Letters?

JAMES: The one where MG explains everything. I wished I had spread that out more.

Cassandra: How did it feel when you were finished? Sad to be at the end? Relieved?

JAMES: I was beyond ecstatic. Not sad, because I knew I had 4 more books to write in the series.

Cassandra: How do you start writing a book? Where do you get your inspiration?

JAMES: My inspiration comes from loving to create stories. I start by creating a very simple outline and then going from there.

Cassandra: What do you do when you run out of ideas while writing?

JAMES: Honestly, I don't very often. If I do, I stop and think. Seriously!

Cassandra: What is your writing schedule like?

JAMES: All over the board. But mostly in the evenings and Saturdays.

Cassandra: How do you plot out your books?

JAMES: I just do a simple list of the main events I think need to happen. Then I expand that a little and develop how they will happen. It usually just ends up as 2 pages of detailed notes. Then I start writing, referring back to that outline often and making further notes or changings things as needed.

Cassandra: What is your favorite part about writing books?

JAMES: Coming up with cool plot twists and writing exciting action scenes. Also, hearing that a reader liked my book.

[And now a question from me...]

C.S.: What advice do you have for new writers?

JAMES: Well, there's a lot on my blog, but here's something: Rejection is part of the game. It hurts, and it will always hurt. But no matter how good you are, no matter how brilliant your work, the odds are astronomical that you will never receive a rejection. Or 10, or 20, or 100. If you learn to accept it and keep submitting, reworking when necessary what you've written, you'll find a home.

I'd like to thank James Dashner for the time he took to answer two new fans' questions - in spite of his busy schedule. He is touring around the United States doing book signings. Check the official 13th Reality website to see if he is coming to a city near you. He not only is a very nice man, but he is a terrific Latter-day Saint who is making the world a better place through his talents. The 13th Reality is a great tale, but it also contains a message of truth and uplift.

Very few books make it to my highly coveted only-the-best book shelf, but The 13th Reality now has its very own spot. This book is that good. In fact, it is not just good, it is excellent. You don't have to take my word for it . . . just check out these readers' opinions!

For all my readers, run to your local Borders, Barnes & Noble, or Books-a-Million and request your very own copy . . . before they are gone.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is March Sponsor at ldspublisher's blog

I am a sponsor for ldspublisher's March contest. Readers who make insightful comments on her blog may win my book, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys, at the end of the month. I highly recommend this blog for accurate and informative information about writing and publishing in the LDS market. Visit her blog at

Count to ten before shredding

by Patricia

The SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) is the author's boomerang -- pitch it in the mail, and it comes right back.

Over the years I have come to accept that, when I open the mailbox and find my name and address, written by my own hand, staring back at me, I have been rejected.

Usually, dejectedly, I will remove the envelope from the box, open it, and cringe as I read the cold, impersonal rejection slip. When I'm finished, I send it to live with the other rejection slips in my office and I try not to think about it. Discouragment, I have learned, doesn't offer much to encourage me into action.

A few months ago, however, I learned an important lesson about SASEs: never take the contents for granted.

I went to the mailbox, and groaned when I saw the 9X11 envelope inside. I brought it in the house and headed for the shredder. I knew which submission the envelope had been mailed with. There was no need to even open the envelope and read the rejection.

I started to tear the envelope in two, right down the center, before feeding it to my little friend, Jaws the Junk Mail Shredder. What would it matter? I thought. There was only a rejection slip inside. No need to even look at it.

Still ... curiosity got the best of me. At least I could add the rejection slip to the stack. At least, after all the effort put forth by the USPS to get my SASE back to me, I could open the envelope.

I opened the envelope, pulled out the letter, and began to read.

It was an acceptance letter.

The moral of the story: Count to ten before shredding your SASEs.