Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grateful for a Change

There are two ways to interpret that title:

1) As opposed to my usual disposition, I am currently feeling grateful.

2) I am currently feeling grateful for a coming change in my life.

So which is it?

How about both. 

I'm never nearly grateful enough for all my blessings--my health, my loved ones, my Savior, the peace and freedom we enjoy in this country, the opportunity to attend the temple frequently, my husband's care for all of us, my beautiful children, and the gifts the Lord has bestowed upon me, not the least of which is my inclination for writing. 

I'm particularly feeling grateful for the blessing of health right now because, for the second year in a row, I'm suffering through a cold during Thanksgiving. Not fun. I'm missing out on the usual aromas of a turkey meal with all the trimmings being prepared by my wonderful husband. And when we eat in a couple of hours, it won't be quite as tasty because my taste buds are being suffocated. I couldn't even get up the energy to make my homemade butter horn rolls. But we must have the bitter to know the sweet and I'm determined to be healthy and strong next November!

By then, we'll be closer to family--both his and mine--because we're moving to St. George, Utah at the end of 2013! I'm grateful for this coming change. Not only will it bring us closer to my family in Southern California, and many of his relatives in Utah, (as well as several Utah writer friends) but it provides a fresh start. A fresh start at being a better neighbor, a better mother, a better Saint, and, hopefully, a better writer.

I haven't been able to write for a few months now due to pressing family needs. I'm hoping that this relocation, once we're settled, will help me find my voice again.

So I'm grateful for a change, however you want to take it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pushing to Reach New Audiences....

Valerie J. Steimle

As a published author of five books, sales wax and wane. I am in a financial slump in book sales and I need a bigger audience to discover my work. How do I do this?

From the Futurebook conference held on November 21st sponsored by The Bookseller website there were some pretty good suggestions.  Push Entertainment’s Simon Scott talked about what authors can do. He focused on the importance of always trying to understand how to connect with people and “keep to the core fans of your work who are willing to buy” up front.  Announcing upcoming books to remind “lapsed” fans that you still exist which also helps them connect with you again is a great way to keep the sales numbers up. Authors (especially self-published ones) who go the extra mile will reap the benefits of better book sales.

Ruth Spencer, a marketing manager at Random House, suggested a concept not really known to publishers and authors: verticals or vertical integration.  Meaning authors get together with other like authors and promote each other.  Banding together to help each other promote books helps reach higher audiences. There is always power in numbers.

Another suggestion came from author and entrepreneur, Joanna Penn. She talked about what self-publishers have always known: the need to take a lot of risks.  Self-publishers “must always be writing new books (or articles) and have a consumer focus”. Keeping to one category in writing is like cutting off your availability to readers. There is a whole world out there waiting to hear what you have to say in many areas of life such as social media, speaking engagements or website articles. Using e-book promotions also help authors reach a bigger audience. They really do work.

This is a very well needed boost in the arm for authors who are trying to keep their heads afloat in the publishing world.  A well managed push into more areas of expertise helps authors reach more readers….and in reality….that is the name of the game.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Incomprehensible Journey

by H. Linn Murphy

I had a beautiful poem all ready to post for today and somehow I lost it on the computer. I tried and tried to get it back via several ways. It simply went bye-bye. All that long hard work down the flusher. I'm sure there was a reason for it. I think this situation is like many in my life.

I don't always understand why some things happen the way they do at the time they are happening. But later, often the meaning comes clearly to view.

I had a son who was ready to turn in his mission papers. He'd been working hard and pretty much had all he needed. He seemed jazzed about going out to serve the Lord. He was, at the time, very immature, though.

On graduation day I had two graduating. My oldest son was riding next to me in the car on the way to one graduation. I looked down at his arm and it was bright purple. "Ack, move it around!" I told him. He did and nothing happened. I ended up sending him to the hospital with his dad while I went to his brother's graduation, expecting all the time that they'd come sit in the seats I saved.

It turned out my son didn't leave the hospital for two days because he had a blood clot in his shoulder. He wasn't able to even think of a mission for almost a year, until he got off the anticoagulation medicine. At the time we couldn't think of any reason why he should have gotten a clot at his age. We had a rough time understanding why the Lord didn't just heal him and send him out into missionary service. We kept having road block after road block.

Finally the ordeal was over and the boy finished preparing to go out. He was a week away from his farewell talk when he told his dad he wasn't going. Again we questioned why. I'm still wondering what happened. I don't understand his choices. I don't understand the Lord's reasoning in this. Maybe if the boy had gone out, he might have encountered situations so difficult for him to navigate that he might have left the church. Maybe there was some other reason why he wasn't to go to that mission at that time. We're still clueless.

There is still time for him to go, even though he spent most of his mission money on a car and an apartment of his own. Maybe if he makes it his decision, he'll surprise us and go. And maybe not. It's his journey.

My job is to have faith in Heavenly Father's methods, whether I can see a reason for them or not. He's the one with the 360 degree perspective. I am the sheep who will come at his call, not stand bleating in a bush because I chose to stray. He calls and I go.

Meanwhile, his younger brother is serving in Russia, loving his mission.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What Makes You Think You Can Write a Book?

by Michelle Wilson

I was chatting with a friend of mine a few months ago who has harbored a long-hidden desire to write a non-fiction book about the gospel 

"Why don't you?" I asked.

"I don't know. I just feels . . . presumptuous. I mean, what do I have to offer? Who am I to think I can write something and make people pay money for it? What qualifies me to write a book for help others? What makes me think I can write a book?"

In speaking of my non-fiction writing, I have always loved to write inspirational tid-bits for women, so much so that I wrote a book. It was after  I wrote a book and signed on with a publisher that my friend and I had this conversation. 

I have to admit, the moment he said that, my wheels started turning. I looked at other inspirational books out there. Many were moving stories of faith and inspiration by people who survived amazing circumstances. I never did. Don't get me wrong, I've had my ups and downs, but I've never had to endure what I would call extreme hardship. Some books were written by scholars and experts in their field. Not me. I never graduated college. Don't even get me started about high school. Some books were written by church leaders. I was just called as a ward missionary. The Bishop must not trust me, because he called my husband as my companion. I guess I used the term "Goin' rogue" one too many times in my last calling. Lol. 

I looked at these authors and I began to wonder, what do I have to offer? What qualifies me to write a book for others? "What makes me think I can write?"

I'm embarrassed to tell you that the questions festered inside for longer than I want to admit. Underneath the excitement of my upcoming release, they mulled around the back of my mind. The questions grew louder as I attended different conferences and read other inspirational books and stories. 

I'm not a survivor, scholar, expert, or leader. I'm just me. What do I have to offer?

Then a scripture came to my mind that I had read just about a year ago. It was morning of the last day of my first writer's retreat. I picked up my scriptures, and as I often do, I said a prayer and let the pages fall open. I looked down and read: 

 "And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer. And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare that the Lord reigheth!" (Mosiah 27:37-37). 

This was referring to Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Of course they weren't publishing books, but they were getting a good and righteous message out. By doing what the Lord asked them to they "published" peace and good tidings of good. It wasn't all their doing, Heavenly Father was using them as His instruments to share a message. 

I recognized then, allowed myself to forget for a while, but understood once again that the thing that qualifies me to write isn't past experiences, education, or position. He has given me the talents and desire to write. It is my willingness to be an instrument in His hands that qualifies me to write. So when I write, I acknowledge His hand, and all that I write I do with a prayer and a purpose--to write what He would have me write. 

What makes me think I can write a book? God does. 

This does not apply only to non-fiction, either. 

Over this past year I've met many talented and amazing women writers--most of them fiction writers. Some have great confidence in their abilities and their purpose. Yet, others (more than not) question their ability, their qualifications, and even themselves. They wonder why they are writing and writing, yet never getting published. They wonder how many drafts it will take until their book is done. They feel guilty for trading family time for writing time, so they steal hours from their sleep to write. They are discouraged, impatient, and doubtful. They may even be asking the same questions my friend did, the very questions I allowed myself to entertain. What makes them think they can write a book?

I would say to them:  He has given you the talent and the desire to create ideas, stories, situations, people, and places in your mind and, through the keys of your keyboard, bring them to life. Acknowledge His hand, and write with a prayer and a purpose. Bring to life the stories and messages He only can through you.

What qualifies you to write a book? What makes you think can write?  He does.

And there's not higher qualification than that.

PS- I joke about my calling, but for the record, I know my Bishop was inspired to call me as a ward missionary, and I am where I'm supposed to be :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kids on Meds

I just wanted to share my personal experiences involving my son, ADHD and medication. From the time my son was young he was super active. My older son was a very quiet kid, and so I thought maybe this son was showing the wild boy gene. As time went on I asked the doctor about his behavior, and she said that he might have ADHD, but that she couldn't be sure until tests were given. Tests she didn't recommend until he was in school.

When my son was in kindergarten I mentioned my concern to his teacher, but she said he was just like all the other boys and not to worry. In 1st grade I mentioned it to his new teacher, and she said she would keep a look out for signs. Over half the year went by, my son regularly did not finish his homework, bounced around and distracted other students. I was surprised when I got a letter sent home that said he'd passed part 1 of the gifted and talented test and he should be further tested. To my shame, I thought there was some mix-up and didn't have him tested.

It was during his third semester conference that the teacher and I sat down to talk about his behavior. She mentioned that he was easily distracted and distracted others. He was also very good at math, but his reading was way behind. I finally got the confirmation I'd been looking for when she agreed with me about ADHD testing.

I took him to the doctor and received questionnaires for both me and the teacher to fill out. When they were done I brought them back to the doctor. Unfortunately, the teacher and I showed my son with completely opposite symptoms. It didn't help the doctor at all. The choice was to apply some behavior therapies, such as sitting at the front of the class, using a cardboard cutout around his desk to keep him centered, and using a timer to make him do his classwork. I was also given a prescription for a small dose of Ritalin.

At first I tried the behavior therapy, and it did improve his behavior, but he still had problems overall. I was worried about using meds, so I put them off. Then I read the most amazing article about ADHD kids and the new parental trend of not giving medication. There have been many years to study the research and results of kids on meds vs not on meds. The overall all feeling of the article said that around a decade or so ago, a huge scare went through parents about having over medicated children. Many parents stopped the medicines all together. The results have been a generation of children with ADHD who never learned to cope for themselves. They have a high drop-out rate, high drug rate, and a low level of job/work.

As I read the article I knew it was right. I'd seen the same thing happen to families around me. So, I decided to try the Ritalin. During the last month of school he was on the low dose. After thirty days we went back to the doctor with new questionnaires filled out. The medicine didn't work, in fact I felt it made him a little more hyper than normal.

Since school was out, I decided to wait until 2nd grade to try again. The summer went by in all its craziness, and then school started. I purposely did not set up my son's medicine check until after three full weeks of school. I wanted the teacher to see him as he really was so that she'd have an opinion when the medication started. I told her this at the open house, but lol, she forgot.

The doctor upped his dosage slightly and he began another thirty days. After the failure last time, I was unsure it would help, but I needed to try. I called his teacher and told her we we're beginning the medication now. She said thank goodness. She told me she'd forgotten I'd mentioned it and had thought herself in for a whole year of his behavior.

Guess what? The medicine worked beautifully! It took several days to regulate, but then my son was acting so much better. Was he still a bit hyper, yep, but he was also focused, listening to the teacher, not distracting others, and doing his homework. When I asked the teacher for her questionnaire at the end of the thirty days she hugged me. The doctor had found the right dosage, and there was no glassy eyed drugged behavior that people had scared me into worrying about. I think the right dosage is key there.

The only side affect we've noticed is a lack of appetite at lunch time. So, he gets extra snacks after school and at bedtime. As my son learns to control his behavior with the use of the medication he will learn coping skills and some day in the future be able to come off of the Ritalin and control his actions. In the meantime, his schoolwork and learning are no longer suffering. I feel such hope again, and I hope this might help someone else.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I am Not a Pigeon

I hate taking to the internet when angry. It rarely results in anything productive. But from sources foreign and domestic I feel like I am being told who I am. As a writer, as a person, as mom, as a woman. Maybe it's just time for an internet hiatus, there are too many messages running about the interwebs whose only intent is to tell others where they should be standing. 
I think this blog post (minus some of the cursing, except for the excerpt beneath the Shakespeare pic, which is just too hilarious) from author Larry Correia sums up my current feelings both on the NYTimes article in question, but to anyone who thinks my personal affiliation with any group gives them the right to tell me who I am. I am a woman,daughter, sister, wife, mother, writer, teacher, missionary, friend, Mormon, libertarian, food enthusiast, ANWA member, white, Arizonan, high school graduate, and none of that means beans when it comes to my potential as a human being. 
It also does not mean that I have to agree with every sentiment expressed by every other member of that group, or even any other member of that group. 
I guess one of the blessings/curses of being able to connect to hordes of folks in a matter of clicks is we often think it gives us some kind of insight. We think we know this or that person, or the groups to which they feel comfortable belonging. It allows access to groups we normally wouldn't know anything about, while simultaneously convincing us that all we need to know about any group is a few quotes from people on Facebook.
Maybe I'm worn out from finishing this novel while raising my babies, helping my hubby go gluten-free, and generally juggling about a million different balls at once, but I don't think I can take much more of others telling me the size and shape of the box into which I fit. You don't know which hole I fit into, because I am not a pigeon. 
*I didn't proof read this, try not to judge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Picture Day

Me in sixth grade, circa 1976

This week marks 15 years that I've been having children get their school photos taken for Picture Day. Our youngest is in kindergarten now, and she was excited to be introduced to the ritual. 

Every family has its own philosophy and tradition when it comes to Picture Day. As I walked my kids up to the school yesterday morning, we saw little girls with big curls and dresses and little boys in ties with slicked down hair. I've seen a lot of adorable photos of kids all gussied up thusly, but that's not how we do it. First of all, I'm just not that organized. But more important, I decided back when our oldest was in elementary school that I wanted my kids' photos to represent who they really were that year. 

(Our son, Daniel, last year in third grade. I love this photo a) because you can tell he has lost patience with the photographer, and the look on his face slays me; and b) he's wearing his Zelda shirt.)

Not this:
(I have no idea who this kid is. I just found her photo via Google. But I feel bad for her.)

Now, I usually am on the ball enough to make sure the kids have had a recent haircut and are wearing something clean. But as far as dressing up, I've gone from minimal dress-up--encouraging a polo shirt or turtleneck--to just letting them choose their favorite (non-holey, clean) shirt. That way, when I look back through a photo album in years to come, their images will reflect reality. 

I've come to the same position when it comes to my online presence. Back in 2007, when I started blogging, I was a lot more cautious about the image I thought I was projecting. Did I look successful? Composed? Smart, interesting, creative? I crafted my posts pretty self-consciously, with an eye toward projecting a certain image. 

But over the course of the last six years, I've seen that what I respond to in others' posts is authenticity. Honesty. Plain speaking. The heart-to-heart. I've realized that when people confess their faults, I almost always love them more, not less. And I can't be the only one, so I've chosen to be more secure about letting my own weaknesses show--at least a bit. No one likes an over-sharer, after all. But no more gussying up online. It's just me these days. And that feels fine. It's still nice when the image is flattering, but it's easier to connect with a little bit of reality, don't you think? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Little Rambling Gratitude

I love the month of November.  Two of my children have birthdays this month. It is the end of the birthday season at my house and that is something to be grateful for. (We celebrate from July to November two birthdays a month most months- it is great but exhausting!)  

My favorite meal to cook and eat is this month.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love pumpkin- seeds, soup, pie, cookies, smoothies, cake.  Yeah, I think I would eat it cooked with butter like squash but I haven't tried that yet.  I love sweet potatoes unless someone breaks tradition and puts salt and pepper on them, then I am polite and eat them, but it is just wrong. MMMM, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made rolls, cranberry sauce- the jelly kind with no lumps and all those pies-YES- I love Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to it.

 I think what  love best is the cliche- probably not a good writerly thing, but I do love the focus on gratitude.  I am grateful all year.  I have so many things to be grateful for one day would not be enough time to consider them all, but I love this time when it seems like everyone is counting their blessings.  Gratitude.  What a great concept.  


For little hands that smudge my windows
and grip my fingers tight

For windows to smudge and fingers to grip
and gooey kisses good night

For little hands now grown large that can wash
my window smudges

For the faithful hearts that guide those hands
to wash them without grudges

For bigger hands and hearts made
to share smudges and dreams

For struggles managed together
no matter how hard it seems

For dreams just for dreaming sake
maybe they will come true

For reality that grounds the dreams
and keeps them pure and new

For sunshine, roses and puppy dogs
grass and worms and frogs

For rainy days and nights
with or without lights

For hugs and shoulder punches
giggles, hiccups and tickles

For sad times that hurt
but show what happiness is

I am so glad for all these things
even when my heart weeps, my spirit sings


Gratitude can make such a difference in how we see our lives, our struggles, our families.  Being grateful takes us out of ourselves, giving us perspective in our relationships and other areas of life.  Just think of the difference it would make in our world if everyone could have that perspective. 

Thanksgiving may be and American holiday but gratitude is a world wide possibility.  I hope my corny, cliche ramblings will give you a smile.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!