Thursday, August 29, 2013

A New Writer is with Us......

Every women and every writer has a season in their life.  The season for Connie Sokol as a blogger on Mommy Authors has ended of which we are very sad.  But now we have another writer with us and she will be great!!!  Already a published author, Dorine is expert in middle grade fantasy stories which sound so interesting.  We are looking forward to hearing from Dorine.

Dorine White 

Here is her bio: Dorine White is a a children's author and a book reviewer. She grew up back East in Maryland and attended BYU in Utah. She has a BA in Humantities with an interest in Art History and French. Currently she lives in the beautiful, yet rainy Northwest with my husband and 6 children.

 Her first book in The Cleopatra's Legacy series, The Emerald Ring, was published by Cedar Fort Books on May 14, 2013. It is a middle grade fantasy novel that involves Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, and a magic emerald ring. 
 She is also am a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Assoc.). 

Check out all of her online places:

Author Website-
Blog- The Write Path-
Twitter @Dorinewhite-
Facebook Author Page-

Monday, August 26, 2013

Drawing the Line

A recent publishing controversy got me thinking about where and how we draw the line in terms of deciding what is or is not acceptable as art for our children.

An LDS publisher recently canceled the publishing contract with two authors days before the book was set to go to press because they were concerned that one of the authors, who is gay, was going to use the book to further the LGBT agenda. Never mind that he never made such threats. All he wanted to do was set forth in his bio that he lived with his partner and some pets. In other words, he wasn't willing to hide his sexual orientation. There is much more about the way this publisher dealt with the issue, and if you're curious you can read about it here and here.

If you're an LDS author and want to take a stand against such unprofessionalism, you can go to this site to read the letter and request that your name be added.

In all the discussion that has ensued, I couldn't help wondering what kinds of mixed signals we're sending our children about all of this in the LDS community.

When does an artist's bio overshadow his art to the point of exclusion?

After all, how many of our children have sung songs written and/or composed by gay musicians and we don't bat an eye? How many of our youth have performed in plays and musicals written by gay playwrights or created by gay composers? 

Doesn't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, itself, perform songs composed or written by such well-known gay musicians as Lionel Bart (Oliver!), Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd), and Elton John (The Lion King)? If the Mormon Tabernacle Choir can, in a sense, put its stamp of approval on such songs as "Where is Love?" and "The Circle of Life," why can't an LDS publisher, big or small, approve a manuscript like Woven? (Actually, they did; it only became an issue because they wanted to refrain from seeming to endorse a gay lifestyle by printing the truth about this one co-author.)

Are we simply hoping our children will never find out the truth about the sexual orientation of these artists?

This issue was all about integrity and honesty, and those are principles we can't afford to be fuzzy about when it comes to teaching our children.

I'm not saying LDS publishers don't have the right to edit their authors' bios. I'm simply saying they ought to always be upfront about it and have that discussion early on in contract negotiations. Otherwise, they're sending the signal that sneakiness, dishonesty, and discrimination against some people is still all right.

That's a signal that will destroy our children and, thus, our future.

Where will you draw the line?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cauldron of Love

Writers Unite to Fight Cancer are crafting their first cookbook! You are invited to participate by sending in your favorite recipe to be included. Cauldron of Love will include all the categories of traditional cookbooks plus additional categories:

  • R&R recipes - items for home spa and so forth
  • Appetite friendly recipes - items for  people with loss of appetite such as patients going through chemotherapy
  • Juice  - cleansing or detoxifying recipes
Recipes should include items and measurements with instructions,  ADA label information if available, and a high resolution, >300 dpi full color jpg, picture of the final product / plated item. 
There is no limit to the number of recipes any one individual or group / organization may submit for consideration to be included in the Cauldron of Love. All submitters who are published in the cookbook will be allowed a 150 word bio with links to their own websites/blogs. In addition the submitter may choose to include a personality recipe that describes themselves or their group.
The purpose for this cookbook is to raise operational funds for Writers Unite to Fight Cancer , WUFC. (All published authors are invited to join WUFC.) We will be holding a Kickstarter Campaign with the Cauldron of Love during Cancer Awareness month, October 2013.
Send your recipes or additional categories you would like to see included in Cauldron of Love via email to . 
Writers Unite to Fight Cancer
Margaret L. Turley, Administrator
Writers Unite to Fight Cancer
1146 N. Mesa Dr. #102-233
Mesa, Arizona  85201

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Gamboo

By H. Linn Murphy

Wow. Can I say this summer was short? Normally I welcome the advent of a new school year with open arms. Woo hoo! The house stays clean for days at a time. The food consumption and subsequent refrigerator grazing goes way down. But mostly it's quiet

I have time to write and think, without their music or distracting shows on TV blaring through my ears. That's a good thing for a writer, yes? I have plenty of time to hatch plots and instigate mayhem. Bad guys who can never shoot straight, beware.

But it's so quiet that I tend to fall back asleep after I get back from taking the cusses to Seminary and school. Little things like laundry and a new ceiling drip chip away at my concentration. I find myself going to the fridge to graze.

What have the little bounders done to me? They've infected me with the Summer Gamboo. I break out in a rash at the sight of school supplies in the stores (which for us sneak in just as the Easter paraphernalia clears) and not just because they cost their weight in gold bullion.

I sit here and remember my summers of long ago, the proxy ache for my children's lost lazy hours filling my head. My legs itch to run through the fields of sunflowers for them. I can feel the icy chill of the slough water on my skin. There is a cow (or is it an elk?) munching its cud just off my right shoulder. I look up through the branches of the tree spreading cool leaves over my self-made fort and I sigh for my children, who only know how to kill imaginary things with big guns and magic sword buttons. 

My parents forced me to weed an acre of garden. I learned what eats tomatoes and which weed has to go. I had forty-five rabbits to feed, water, and care for. I learned responsibility, and that death can take you at any time. I had to feed, water, and milk a herd of goats. I learned to be industrious, and that the work would be there regardless of how much I wanted to sleep in. We had a barnful of chickens to feed, water, and gather eggs from. I learned that you can't always tell the healthy rooster from the sick ones. 

My parents also dragged me off to Europe twice. The lessons I learned there I will never ever forget. I learned to catch trains, to speak the language and be polite. I learned about history from the places where it was made. I learned that getting along sometimes means you get pounded on for no good reason at all. I learned that you don't ever take pictures at Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin before the wall comes down. I learned to love great art and architecture, music, and dance. I went to Dachau and East Berlin and my senses taught me how it felt to live there.

I couldn't have learned all of that in a couple of weeks a year. School teachers have the whole rest of the year to try and cram knowledge into their subjects. Frankly, I find that the preponderance of those teachers can't. They teach to the AIMS test. They often hate what they do. Many have little understanding of their own subject. Often they despise the people they're trying to teach, and that comes through in their lessons. Some of the new teachers my children have are foreign and no one in class can understand anything they say. Also, their school isn't a state-of-the-art school and is up on the chopping block for possible extinction. Which means that teachers are leaving the school like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a teacher's daughter. My father taught German and English. He was strict and I learned most of what I knew from him. I personally have taught both art and critical thinking skills. So I'm not bashing those teachers who are good at what they do, and/or love their work. 

I'm knocking the ones who hold our children hostage with R-rated movies and mindless twaddle because they are too lazy to fill the hours with actual valuable knowledge the kids can use in their future lives. They fall back on garbage when there is a whole wide world of ready knowledge right at their fingertips. I'm also knocking those who stop teaching facts and start in on conjecture and spinning lies instead of facts. Summer is my time to debunk many of their myths.

I'd like my children to learn about why Europe went on Crusade to the Middle East and why few of them came home. They should learn about why our Founding Fathers felt they needed to break from a tyrannical government and govern themselves. Teach them about the reasons a man fought on one side of the Civil War and why his brother fought on the other. I'd like them to know about Hitler's regime without watching people getting shot on Shindler's List. There are so many other stories which came out of that era. 

These are things I teach them, not the current school system. That is why I regret the hours the school district has stolen. The school system opines that the children forget things. My answer is that everyone forgets things. That's what review is for. They do those review for the first nine weeks anyway (if not more). They can't convince me that chopping off most of the summer will boost the amount our children learn at all. That cow left the barn years ago when I compared European schools and ours. Ha! They don't compare. I know, because I tried to get into a German high school and they laughed at me. I graduated in the top ten in my class.

How I would have howled to have my summer snatched by the school thief on the first of August, of all things. First of all, there was very little time to play after the chores were all done. And we had no TV for a long time. The one we finally got wasn't worth the time and my parents rarely let us watch it. So playing/reading time was precious. We used it to re-charge, to learn about our world (like that you shouldn't run with a glass jar full of tarantula or you might trip and find that thing sitting on your face), to visit other worlds, or to explore ours.

One and a half months is not enough for all this re-charging and re-making and world visitation. The school district's excuse is that they have given us extra weeks off elsewhere. I don't know about you, but it's like when your grandma gives you a package of panties for your Christmas present instead of something cool. Thanks Grandma. And TUSD. I want their summer back.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Do I Know?

We are creatures of continual change and growth. That's how God made us. We have this deep, innate desire/urge to progress. We seek for knowledge and guidance, ways to learn and improve. We find comfort in answers, excitement in success, and peace in heavenly support.

We are imperfect. God made us that way, too. I like to call myself perfectly imperfect :)  I believe He made me this way so I can learn to trust Him with my weakness, and He can help me make them strengths.  It's a beautiful principle, really. In black and white, on a glowing screen, it rings true. But, in real life, it is harder to see, and even a bit scary to live.

At least, it was for me the day before I wrote this post.

I have two biological children. Twelve years ago I had a mandatory complete hysterectomy due to medical issues.  The night before my surgery I requested a blessing from my bishop. In it, Heavenly Father told me my family wasn't finished growing. I'll admit, I peaked open one eye and looked towards the ceiling as I thought, "You do know what kind of surgery I'm having tomorrow, right?"

Of course He did.

And of course He was right.

Three years ago my youngest daughter (then six) joined our family through adoption.  Most of my life, through my own intellect and His guidance, I've been able to figure things out. But, my daughter came with a slew of problems that were completely new to me.

The things she would do and say were difficult for me to understand and accept. Many a night I would cry myself to sleep, convinced someone else could be a better mother. I mean, what mother doesn't understand her child? What mother has no idea what is best for her child? What mother wishes she could go away on an extended kid-free vacation . . . for like a year? (Okay, that last one wasn't serious...mostly.)

Over the years she has grown and improved--and so have I. She has blossomed into a beautiful young lady who loves her family and her faith. Through prayer and study, I have obtained a greater knowledge, understanding, and skill in helping her. More times than not things run pretty smoothly around here, and all is well.

Until something like yesterday happens.

I won't say what she did. Sufficeth it to say, while visiting a friend's house she did something that was just off the wall crazy.

I get an "FYI" text from her friend's mom, and in less than five minutes I was bringing my daughter home.

I was so upset I wouldn't speak for the first ten minutes. I could have, but the well of my emotions would have violently spilled over. So, I kept quiet. 

When I was ready to talk, in measured and control tones, I informed her of the consequences of her actions, and sent her to her "thinking pad" on the floor to write sentences while I escaped to my room and cried.

What was she thinking? Who is this kid anyway? Haven't I taught her better? Doesn't she know better? 

The questions and doubts rushed through my heart and head and out my tears. I became angry, embarrassed, frustrated, and lost. What do I do with this child?

I counseled with my husband and a good friend, who offered peace and support. But, it wasn't until late last night that I received the answer I needed to hear from my Father in Heaven. And it wasn't the answer I was expecting.

My mind was taken back to my scripture study that morning. I had read Alma 40, part of Alma's letter to his son Corianton. He had been teaching Corianton about the resurrection, and came to a point of doctrine that Alma, himself, didn't know. I had underlined the last half of verse 5, which read, " . . . it mattereth not; for God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case."

Alma didn't know all the answers. And he was okay with that.

Then a truth hit me like a ton of bricks: My anger and frustration didn't come from what my daughter had done, but from the fact that I didn't know why she would do it, and I didn't know what I needed to do to help her.

I realized I was upset because I didn't have the answers. (Perhaps that is why I enjoy writing so much--because not only can I control the questions, but the answers as well.)

I let that realization sink in a bit deeper in my soul as I rolled it around in my brain. The real reason I am angry is because of me. 

It's really hard when God shines a light on a weakness. As I said above, it's a beautiful theory and scripture (Ether 12:27), but in reality, it is really hard. And honestly, it took a few minutes for it to sink in. The problem is with me.

As soon as I accepted that God-given truth, the end of the verse came back to my mind, " . . . God knoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case."

God knows my daughter. He knows why she does what she does. Even though I don't have all the answers about her, HE does. He knows I am weak, imperfect, and He still brought her to me. I find great peace in that. I need to trust that He knows all things. And I need to find the strength to be okay not knowing everything.

As a mom, I wish I had all the answers. In that respect, I'm like the millions of other parent that jokingly mourn the lack of a parenting manual. But I don't. I do all I can to educate myself--reading, studying, praying, talking, teaching, etc. But, even after all I can do, there are certain things that, in this life, I may never fully understand. And that's okay. Because God does.

That's where the faith comes in. Not just the faith to know, but having the faith not to know. It's a hard concept, especially when it comes to your own kids. But, I have to say, in the light of the day, and my new faith and perspective, I am at peace.

My daughter came in to my room this morning to show me her sentences. She was happy and proud of her work, seemingly unmarred from the choices of the day before. I don't get it. But, He does. And that's enough for me.

I gave her a hug and told her I loved her. She smiled and said, "I know," and skipped out of my room.

I don't t know everything, but I DO know that God does. I DO know that God trusts me with her (my gift), and my other two children(my joy and my heart.) I DO know that God is parenting them with me. I DO know that as I follow His guidance I become a better mother. I DO know that I love my children and they love me. I DO know that He will take care of what I can't.

And I DO know that it's okay not to know anything else.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Exercise, Discipline, and Affection

We bought a puppy in May--a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi. We named her Moneypenny --"Penny" for short. She's almost six months old, and while she's not quite as demanding as a newborn baby, it does take a lot of work to raise a dog. Penny is a delight 99% of the time, and we can deal with the other 1%. 

We've never had a dog before, so back when we got Penny, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books by Cesar Millan, known worldwide as The Dog Whisperer. I wanted to find out the best way to raise a problem-free puppy without a lot of trial and error on our part. I know that there are some who disagree with Cesar's methods, but we have found them remarkably effective as we follow them. 

Cesar's biggest piece of advice for dog owners is that dogs need exercise, discipline, and affection--in that order. When he is called in to help a family struggling with canine issues, he finds that if the humans will stick to those three things--in that order--most (if not all) of their dog problems will cease. 

Cesar says most people struggle with the concept of discipline, fearing that it's synonymous with punishment. But it's not--Cesar is all about structure and consistency. Expectations and follow-through--which means the discipline is actually more for the owner than for the pet. 

As I've taken Penny on long walks and created and maintained structure for her days (and petted and cooed over her plenty), I've pondered the exercise-discipline-affection triumvirate. It seems remarkably effective for humans, too. When my kids get plenty of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise, they are relaxed and receptive. As far as discipline goes, I've always been a huge fan of structure, consistency, and logical consequences. And of course, daily, unconditional affection is crucial to the development of any child. 

This morning, it occurred to me that Cesar's formula works for writers, too. 

Exercise: writers write, and they need to do a lot of it. Have you put in your 10,000 hours to become a world-class writer yet? If not, get on it; time's a-wastin.' 

Discipline: what's your routine? Are you consistent? Can you get your rear in your chair and get the words out of your fingers even when you don't feel like it? 

Exercise and discipline alone will take you far in your career, but make sure to allow yourself some writerly affection. Read for the pure pleasure of it. Write something different than you normally do: a poem or a song, a personal essay or a guest post. Attend a conference and bond with other writers. Take pride in your accomplishments and focus on your growth. 

Exercise, discipline, and affection--give them a try. I believe they can solve 95% of the problems we have, both as mothers and as writers. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Announcements of sorts

Sometimes I know exactly what to blog about. Sometimes there is just that one thing that I really need to talk about or what to hear what other people think. This is not one of those times. My perfect bumper sticker for the moment would be: Summer Happens.
In a month of never ending busy-ness, compounded by the scuffs, scrapes, and obstacles that are life with young children, I have just been trying to keep my head. NO seriously, there was a moment where a heavy toy and my face nearly made contact while I was trying to do some stretching.
Near misses aside, I have news.  Though I did announce that my first novel, The Accidental Apprentice, would be a Xchyler Publishing (Hamilton Springs Press) publication I can now tell you that it will be out in February of 2014. Holy deadlines Batman!
I can also tell you that registration for the 2014 Time Out for Writers, sponsored by the American Night Writers Association, will open Oct 1st. And our Keynote Speaker- (drumroll please) is Sarah M. Eden!!
I do promise, despite my mountain of tasks, that I will construct a really thought provoking/entertaining/insightful blog post for next month.
In the meantime, watch this delightful episode of the Big Bang Theory, and impatiently await the season premiere with me. It’s how I get the laundry folded.  ;)

Monday, August 5, 2013

School Days- My End of Summer Lament

“One hundred and four days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end them.”  Makes me wonder how long ago that song was written for Phineas and Ferb or where.  Here in Arizona, if it hasn’t already, school is about to begin.  That gave us a whopping total of seventy-three days of summer vacation.  An entire month- 31 days- missing.  At least if you go with the song.   
 I don’t know if it is early indoctrination from the Nursery Rhyme and I am Mistress Mary quite contrary or just how I am wired but unlike many of my friends and fellow mothers I am not excited or happy that summer is coming to an end-at least as far as school is concerned.  The temperatures are not going to cool down significantly for a while yet but now the pools are closed.  Kids will soon be sweating along with playground teachers in long pants or uniforms, some are lucky enough to have shorts or skorts, on play grounds all over the valley. 

I grew up in Wyoming and I remember summer being long and filled with fun and boredom, and I think at least a little of both is good for kids.  How long do you really have to be a kid anyway?  Every kid who has run out of things to do for the summer should hear from their mother at least once in their life time, “Only boring people get bored.”  Boredom can be good.  It gives opportunity for thinking and problem solving in a real life situation and appreciation for learning opportunities.

Last school year my children were given a writing assignment on an article written by Peter R Orszag.  The article is entitled, “How Summer Is Making U.S. Kids Dumber and Fatter.”  When I heard about it I have to admit it made me angry.  The title is a bit incendiary.   The article referred to a couple of studies that show how children go back to school a month or so behind where they left off at the beginning of summer and that they gain weight.  The studies and article all showed that lower-income children were at greater risk than middle to upper income children.  One of the studies made the great claim that learning loss is cumulative over time because some children lose what they have learned then need more time to actually learn the new stuff so they never catch up and therefore get further and further behind each year. 

  I have news for you ladies and gentlemen who teach though I am sure you have discovered it already, kids forget a lot of what they learned immediately after the test is taken, or over the weekend or when they can finally smell a little bit of freedom.  That in my probably not humble enough opinion is normal and applies to all people- you included.  It is also per the same opinion, at least partly because a lot of the learning in school is not inspiring- there is no reward to retain. 

I disagree with the article and the study that implies that learning loss is cumulative.  I do agree that there is some skill loss due to lack of use, and that some kids have a harder time learning.  I have two that have dealt with developmental dyslexia.  Both by the way are voracious readers and one of them a promising young author.  I believe that there are valuable things to learn that are not academic that can only happen in the long boring days of summer.  I also have no problem with review.  There is nothing wrong with review.  In fact if more people spent time on review perhaps there would be fewer mistakes made in other areas.  Not a thing wrong with review.  I don’t believe that learning loss is cumulative.  I believe that if you can’t remember something you haven’t really learned it yet.  So the notion that a child has lost something that they just can’t get back in time to learn the next new thing means that that child did not learn it in the first place.  The idea was presented, perhaps played with and used a little, and maybe there was success once in a while- a good guess on a test, but the concept was not really learned.  That is not cumulative learning loss, that is learning not happened yet.  You know what I think?  I think that is o.k.

I have not yet met any two children or adults that learn, think or process things alike.  There were concepts that I did not learn when I was supposed to in elementary school.  In fact to some of my teachers I was a helpless idiot.  For a lot of years I felt that I was too.  You know what?  I got over it.  I learned something in those long boring days of summer that had nothing to do with my inability to comprehend fractions in third grade.  I learned how to get along and have fun with my family even when we were bored.  I learned how to grow strawberries and petunias and that garlic grows under the ground.  My mom and my dad taught me those things.  Mom also taught me the concept of square roots and how to count money back to customers when I got my first fast food job- took about two seconds per lesson.  I learned I wasn’t a helpless idiot.  In fact given the chance I learn pretty fast- just not always in a class room.    You know what else, I have learned all those things I didn’t learn “when I was supposed to.”  I learned them when I was ready.  Kids do if you don’t make it so unpleasant that they don’t want to. 

The bad news in my same, I will add unapologetic opinion, is that I don’t see the shorter summers, longer days- except when they are shorter for teacher meetings once a week, improving the education of our children.  I am not blaming teachers by the way.  I respect and admire most of the teachers I know and consider them caring and exceptional people trying to make a difference.  Kudos to the valiant men and women in the trenches! 

 When I asked an educator why they keep shortening summer, she told me it was done because the fall and spring vacations were made longer, something that parents wanted.  Someone forgot to ask me!  I LIKE spending time with my kids AND having them home- all nine of them and I like a long summer! 
Actually, I am rebellious enough to disbelieve that imprisoning kids in a class room six to eight hours a day for most of the year makes them smarter.  In fact in some cases, I really believe that it does the opposite. I also believe that data on education quality in recent years backs that up. 

That is kind of inflammatory, I realize.  I will just say it is my opinion and I am not apologizing for it.  So since I am complaining, do I have any better ideas?  Well, I believe I do.  They are of course untried on a grand scale but I believe that is kind of the point.  I would say my parents got a better education than I did and I got a better one than is currently offered- back in the days before No Child Left Behind or Core Standards, when teachers had more freedom to just teach and kids had more freedom to be kids.  Those were also times when parents took the time to be involved with their kids and encourage discovery outside (or inside) rather than alien annihilation in the living room.     So perhaps my lament for the end of summer is also a lament for the end of other precious things, things that really ought to be lamented when they are lost. 

My sympathies to those wiggling masses about to begin another “year” of studies, my sorrows for your summer adventures and boredoms cut short.  I do not sympathize with moms who are ready to march you out the door onto the bus so they can finally get the house clean again and have some peace and quiet- it won’t really happen anyway Mom.  Remember the meetings and class room volunteering and homework and…  Well, I think I am beginning to get preachy, or maybe I have been all along so I will stop, dismantle my soap box and get to work. 
Good bye summer!