Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is it Fall yet?

We're coming up on my favorite time of the year. Fall. Autumn. Whatever you want to call it. I have loved this season since I was a little girl. I couldn't wait until I could put on my long sleeves and feel the slight chill to the air. 

I knew school would be starting. I knew football season was starting—which meant social interactions and my mom's bag of popcorn with marshmallows at the bottom. The small things. 

And the colors! If you check my closet, you'll see the reds, yellows, golds, and browns. I can't get enough of it. My family loved to go up in the mountains to see the leaves changing colors. I would stare out the windows just waiting for another explosion of color.

It's fun to share some of these same activities with my kids. We have gone up to the mountains with the kids, but not as often as I'd like. Hopefully this year I can remedy that.

Instead of football like I grew up with, we now spend all our time at soccer practices (one would argue that soccer is actually football in most countries). With six kids playing, we're busy! As I sit at their practices and games, I eat up the chill to the air and the need for jackets. 

So what do you like to do in Fall?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ways of Telling a Story

This is kind of a strange way of getting information. I was never, ever a TWEET fan.  I don’t have a TWEET account, I don’t want to know what other people are TWEETing but I came across this article by Cyriaque Lamar posted online about how Emma Coates (a Pixar story artist) comes up with story lines for movies they make.  I love Pixar and what they do for full length feature animated movies.  They are becoming my favorite amongst all the movies we watch. This information definitely caught my attention in helping me tell a story in whatever I write.

Twenty-Two Rules of Story Telling

1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but its poison to the audience.

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like?

21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

All of these ideas are so fantastic... This even helps me with setting up a non-fiction story I write for websites....

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School

Today is the first day back to school for my kids. Hooray! 

Various friends and family have already started while others won't start until after Labor Day. No matter when the kids return to hitting the books, moms have mixed feelings and a new day/routine begins. 

For those who home school, it means fitting in writing outside of learning time, for those of us using the public or private systems, it means prime writing hours.

All writers are different. Some work best at 2 am, while others let their fingers flyover the keys during early, midday, or late night hours. No matter when you write, it's all about balancing writing time with family, responsibilities, and chocolate. 

So, today, well tomorrow, is my day to set up a new writing routine and get down to brass tacks. I've found that I work best in 45 min sprints twice a day or to have a daily word count goal, which is usually 1000 words. 

Now, I know there are many writers out there shaking their heads and thinking, "That's shameful. I produce 10,000 words a day" or fit in whatever amazing number works.  And I applaud them. 

But in order for me to have balance in my life, that's where I'm at. 

So, today my husband is off, which means we can get back to having lunch dates while the kids are at school. And I'll put off the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning until tomorrow. And perhaps go buy a car as mine got totaled earlier this month. (Not my fault and we're all fine.) 

The biggest thing I've had to learn is that all days go awry. plans go out the window, and priorities have to be redone. Sometimes, volunteering at the school will trump writing, or visiting a friend in need, or your spouse's car will break down. 

Deep breath. The computer, characters, and muse will wait on standby until you can get to them. 

That or grab the nearest napkin and jot away! 

Happy back to school day! I need to reorganize my desk for optimal writing. 

How will school affect your writing routine? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Poking the Creative Ashes

When you build a fire, it burns hot and fast, and then the embers create a long, slow roast that can go on for hours. You add wood, and you stay warm for as long as you need to. When you don't add wood, slowly the fire dies down, but the embers stay good and hot. It takes quite a while for them to die by themselves, and often, campers pour water on their fires to make sure nothing is left that could start a forest fire. The great thing about those embers, though, is that if you don't want to put out your fire, you can stir them up with a stick and throw a little kindling on there, and before you know it, you've got a raging flame again.

Creativity never dies out. Sometimes you've got to let it simmer, sometimes you've got to walk away from the fire pit for a while, but come back and poke it. Then stand back or it will take your eyebrows off.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Marin At The Well

by H. Linn Murphy

My friend Wes owns two bookstores. The other day we were talking books, as we often do. He said to me, "Heidi, I want you to write me a book. I need a book like the Tennis Shoes books by Heimerdinger that will capture youthful imaginations and increase their testimonies." He told me he's tired of the freshet of admittedly great middle grade and YA fiction which doesn't also answer that need for spiritual nourishment our kids are finding lacking.

At the time I was polishing my LDS book about a sister missionary and was deep into edits for my forthcoming LDS romance. Those will hopefully increase testimonies, though not especially youthful ones. At the time I really had no intention of haring off in a completely new direction to light fires under today's youth. I have four other books in the works right now and a whole host of others waiting impatiently for publishers or agents.

But the other day something happened. I woke up with a story banging at my head to get out. It flew from its aerie nearly fully fledged. I can only think that God wants me to write this book and sent it to me nearly complete. I was on fire with it, lit from the inside.

I continued to kick at it, having so many other ideas flocking around for other books. I'm researching honey badgers and Mozambique, Johns Hopkins University and Niassa nature reserve. But this morning whole scenes of Mary's life clattered across the stage in my mind and I could no longer deny them pride of place there.

MARIN AT THE WELL is the answer to these questions. It's basically the story of Mary and Martha told through the eyes of a modern teen. I allowed myself to examine how I would feel in Mary's place. What would it be like to kneel at Christ's feet and hear his stories and teachings? How would it feel to tell my sister that Jesus was coming to dinner? How would it feel to stand in the knot of other weeping women on that fateful hill, knowing everything was changing? To crouch and look into the tomb and find my Savior gone?

I think a lot of times we don't write these powerful stories because we're afraid they won't make any money. Well this book is pushy. Marin and Marco want their story told and won't take  a pansy-ish "no" for an answer anymore. I don't care if the "great unwashed hordes" want sex and violence. This is what I write.

I suppose I'll just have to tell Wes I've got his book. Hopefully Deseret will help me out with that.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I'm rambling about writing today. More specifically, the waiting that is involved with writing. There is no other business, but maybe science, where you have to wait so long for results. Writing the book takes forever. Of course, then you have a gazillion rewrites, but that's okay because it needs to be perfect before you query. The hard part is next- waiting to hear back from an editor. Agents are usually very zippy, but once they've all said no, you move on directly to editors.

I had one editor take over two years to get back to me. The good news was that she was very upfront in the process and told me it might take that long. The others take at least three months, but more often than not, six months to a year. And that's the hard part, waiting and waiting, and you can do nothing about it. Even worse is what I call the book 2 wait. That's where I am now. I got my foot in the door and had a book published by a legit publisher. Now I have a great credit in my query letter, and you'd think it would be easier? It's not. I actually joined a group of other writers that experience depression because they can't get that second book picked up. I'm not quite at that stage, but I have gotten to the part where it is hard to write anything new because my excitement is wearing thin. I just want to hear back.

My publisher has my book right now. It is a YA fantasy that I submitted four months ago. The wait is killing me, and I know 90% of all other authors go through the same thing. Ugh. The path is so hard. Any other writer's out there have similar problems?

Monday, August 11, 2014

What's that about Wisdom?

by Suzanne Warr

Let me tell you something funny.  In a little over a week, my oldest will be heading off to college.  Two weeks ago, we would have told you that we were on target for that change, and maybe ahead of the game.  Today, we're scrambling around pulling pieces together...and wondering if we'll get to it all.  How'd we slide so fast?  Well...let's just say I admire otters. ;)

Honestly, most of it's just the usual hangups you come across when working out something like this.  We'd planned to drop him from our car insurance 'cause he won't have a car and won't even be in the same state...but the car insurance refuses to drop him unless we have proof that he's moving to some other insurance.  Which, he's not.  He won't have a car.  But that makes no difference to them so we'll be visiting our most fav party place, the DMV, and changing his license to an ID so we can make them drop him.  He's also having trouble getting his bank card to work (just an electronic snafu) and the banks been helpful trying to straighten it out...but he still may not have it fixed before he needs it.  And, the list goes on.

The most troublesome bit, though, is at least rather poetic--he's had complications from having his wisdom teeth pulled.  This means that we'll be lucky if he's healed up (and recovered from a week+ of liquid/soft foods) in time to hit campus and start classes...but will definitely not be ready for his audition for jazz combo placement.  Kinda hard to play a trombone with a swollen mouth, and besides, the dentist has forbade him from practicing!

So, why is this all making me chuckle?  Because this, as I explained to him recently, is what the 'adult world' is all about.  Yes, what should be a two minute call to activate a bank card may take twenty minutes, or two weeks.  Yes, what should be simple oral surgery may hit a snafu and take time healing.  Yes, the DMV will always take the longest possible stretch of time you can give it--cubed.  It requires self control to remain polite, and an effort to be optimistic in this adult world, and a mega dose of patience won't hurt...which are all key ingredients to wisdom.  How appropriate, then, that in our case it all kicked off with that lovely rite of passages that is getting one's wisdom teeth extracted.

Welcome to the adult world, my son.  We move slower than you'd like, but we'll get you somewhere better.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Build It and They will Come by Monique Bucheger

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I came across these signs on a wall in the Animal Kingdom. The wall surrounded a new project being constructed in the park. No one could see the new project, just the wall surrounding it. It was camouflaged very well—for a huge building-sized anomaly in the heart of Africa. The cream wall held several motivational sayings such as this, but otherwise was pretty nondescript.

Then I realized that this poster translated very well to what we do as authors—and  moms. As a mom, I don't want my kids exposed to the seedier, sadder, uglier parts of the world and do my best to show the world at its best, hoping my kids will strive to keep those images in their minds as they travel through this journey called life. Sure, they get exposed to hurtful people, sad images, and events, but I don't allow those people and places to take up much space and time in my children's journey when I can help it. 

I teach my kids that we can minimize such things by giving some thought to where we choose to be, how we choose to behave, how we choose to react to, and what we choose to embrace. At the same time that they don't choose the worst, they can be empowered by choosing to be in good places, read wonderful literature, listen to amazing music, attend uplifting events. 

As authors, we transport readers into "our worlds." Those worlds ideally are not without conflict or any more perfect than the "real" world, but while there, we want our readers to see and hear and feel a story we want to share. Each author has a different motivation for the story they write, and each reader will perceive it differently yet than the author intends—and that's okay—and even the point. That's what makes it personal to the reader and helps them connect to a story they choose to read. 

Tracy Hickman, an internationally best-selling author for over thirty years, points out that authors are the only artists who cannot fully see and appreciate how their art affects the beholder—simply because the their art plays out on the stage in the reader's mind. But if we do it well enough, the performance touches the reader's heart. 

And when a heart is touched, there is no limit to the good that can be done. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

As I became a mom and started all the sports and activities with my kids, I learned that it’s okay sometimes to say no. If life has gotten crazy and you can’t take one more thing, turn something down so you can stay sane.

Somewhere along the way I forgot that little piece of advice. But is it so bad? As long as I’m doing what needs to be done with my family and church, is it bad to volunteer for a few more things? 

In 2010 I owned a cute little bookstore called Dragons & Fairy Tales. It only lasted a year before funding ran out and I chose to close the store. The store had brought so many amazing experiences and I was able to meet authors that helped me with ideas to jumpstart my writing career.

Fast forward four years and my mind has been going back to my bookstore. I want it so badly it hurts. I’ve thought of reopening, but this time with a kickstarter to help fund it. Right around the time I was thinking of ways to make it possible, I was approached by a lady out here in Eagle Mountain that wanted to restart the arts council that had been tried several times. 

We met and discussed ideas in a group of about ten people. And guess who volunteered to be the director over literary arts? Yes, that was me. One of our visions for the future is to have a theater/museum/bookstore. I’m so excited, I can hardly stand it.

Along with that, I’ve volunteered to help with LDStorymakers, a book festival, and a few other opportunities that have come up. Every time I volunteer, I decide whether or not it will affect my time with family, or if it will interfere with other projects I’ve jumped into.

So, why not? Why not put yourself out there and do something you’ve always wanted to? Why not volunteer to help the groups you belong to? If you don’t, who will?  It’s easy enough to wish that someone would start a group or open a business, but why not do it yourself?