Monday, March 23, 2009


Several years ago I set five goals for my writing: write, polish, learn, attend, and send.

I’m a prolific writer so the first goal wasn’t a problem. I’ve always got a pen and paper—or laptop—in my hands. The second goal, polish, was a challenge. I’m a perfectionist and felt my work was never at its best. With the help of other writers, however, I learned that polishing a story, article, or novel is just that—polishing. Polish, by definition means to buff up. When I spray furniture polish onto my piano, it doesn’t automatically shine. There is, in fact, a dull residue which only after lots of elbow grease—buffing up—begins to yield results.

I began to understand that though my writing starts out needing lots of work to make it shine that doesn’t mean I am doomed to fail. It only means I need to work until I get the results I want—just like polishing the piano.

For me that was a great realization—a blessing.

Since fifth grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know it was okay to work at making that dream come true. When I was young I wrote with enthusiasm, then I followed my mother around reading my work. Her response was constantly harsh and to the point: “Lori, writing is not your forte.” She didn’t believe I could become what I dreamed of being, and she feared I’d embarrass myself; her fears became mine.

It took a long time for me to start believing in myself.

Knowing it was alright if my words didn’t shine the first time I wrote them, or when I rewrote them the second time, or even the third, I came to the realization that I could help myself by striving to learn more about writing in general. I began to read more, books on writing and books in the genres I wanted to pursue, thus helping myself meet my third goal. Attend, fourth on the list, involved writing classes and being part of critique groups. I met lots of other writers and would be writers who shared dreams and goals similar to mine.

I become conscious that early on in my life I’d been lead to believe that writing—being a writer—was something you either could or could not do, like walking or talking. When I understood that (just like playing the piano with any degree of proficiency) becoming a writer takes time, effort, and practice I was able to let go of old fears and enjoy the process of becoming.

The last item on my list, send, became easier as well. I analyzed, versus agonized over, rejection letters and resumed polishing before I again sent my work out. In time my efforts paid off. I found many opportunities and enjoyed writing for the newspapers and magazines that asked for my work; it felt good to have my articles, short stories and essays—my own words and feelings—appear in print.

But there was something more, something I dreamed of for a long time: I wanted to write children’s books and novels.

Gathering courage amidst continued opposition, both interior and exterior, I set out once more with my five writing goals. I still have a long road to travel but I enjoy being on that road, grateful to know it's okay to do more than just sit by the wayside and wish.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Interview with Editor and Author, Lisa Mangum

Lisa Mangum is a person who has helped writers for many years as an experienced editor. So when I heard she had her own novel coming out May 2009, I was thrilled. I love to see others succeed and creating. Lisa was kind enough to spend time with me, chatting over all kinds of things. In fact, she's going to visit with us periodically over the next two months about her pending release of The Hourglass Door. It's a YA (Young Adult) novel that is full of adventure, romance, and a whole lot of intrigue.

C.S.: Lisa, you have a new book that is scheduled for release May 13, 2009. It's categorized as YA (Young Adult), but I bet adults will fall in love with it too. I'm soooooo intrigued with the title, "The Hourglass Door." Tell us about the book.

The Hourglass DoorLISA: First and foremost, it’s a love story. It’s about a girl named Abby who is going through some tough times during her senior year of high school. On the surface, she has it all figured out: cute boyfriend, good friends, and high hopes for college. But it doesn’t take long before Abby’s life starts to take a different turn. Her boyfriend is looking for fireworks, but Abby’s not so sure about her own feelings. Her friends are full of advice, but Abby’s not sure they always have her best interests at heart. And she’s pinned her college dreams on the one school that she fears she won’t get into.

And then Dante Alexander walks into her life. He’s mysterious and interesting and unlike anyone she’s met before. Sparks fly between them almost immediately, and a relationship develops between Abby and Dante. But when the lead singer of the rock band Zero Hour, Zo, takes an interest in Abby and her friends, the danger deepens—and so does the mystery. Soon Abby learns of a centuries-old secret and must make a near-impossible decision that will change her future forever.

The Hourglass Door is technically classified as Young Adult, but I like to think that readers of all ages can enjoy the story.

C.S.: When you were little, did you have any idea of what industry you wanted to work in as an adult?

LISA: Absolutely. In fact, when I was in junior high, I checked out a copy of The Writer’s Market from the library and wrote to the editors of, maybe, twenty publishing companies asking for advice: How did they get where they were? How could I do the same thing? What should I study in school? Almost everyone wrote me back with great advice and encouragement (the editor at Del Rey even sent me two free books!). I still have those letters. It was a great boost to my youthful dream; it made everything seem possible.

In college, when I would tell people I was pursuing an English degree, they all ask, “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” and I’d say, “No, I want to be an editor.”

C.S.: When did you first start writing?

LISA: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d fill up notebooks with stories, poems, and ideas. I’d spend my summers writing stories on the computer in my pajamas. I guess I started writing seriously three or four years ago when my friends and I started a writing group together. I think that was when I put writing as a priority in my life and said to myself, “Hey, I can do this!”

C.S.: Did you have any self-doubts when you first began writing?

LISA: I think all writers have that little voice in the back of their head that says, “What are you thinking? Why would anyone want to read something you wrote?” It’s hard to silence that voice, but when I do, I find that some of my best writing comes through. Maybe because those are the times I toss my fears out the window and write something that I would want to read.
Thanks, Lisa! Next month, Lisa Mangum will share with us how she got the glimmer for The Hourglass Door in the first place, her most favorite character in the book (hmmm, I wonder if it is the dreamy Dante), and especially how writers' groups are important to the improvement of pure creation. Make sure to subscribe to our blog so you'll be first to know when part two of our interview series posts.

Have fun checking out Lisa's website. And here is a bonus link to President Uchtdorf's message on creativity given at a recent General Relief Society meeting. It will inspire you and lift you, all at the same time. Who knows. Maybe it will be you next year being interviewed here for your own book!