Saturday, September 27, 2014

Do you know you are loved?

Valerie J. Steimle

I'm changing gears for today and posting a talk I gave at church a few years ago....  Everyone needs to think about the questions I ask because with the answers to these questions, we can move forward to be better writers.  I also want to flood the earth with positive words.

Do You Know You are Loved---

I have a few questions to ask you and I want you to think about them for a minute:

Do you know you are loved?  Do you really know?  How do you know you are loved?

These are questions that many people face in their life and I would like to answer them.
It is hard to know you are loved if you live alone.   It is hard to know you are loved when you move to a new area.  It is hard to know you are loved when you have trials and tribulations in your life.

1. Living alone:  It is difficult to have the feedback of another human being when you live by yourself.  I sometimes think about  Moroni (from The Book of Mormon) after he took the plates and hid from the Lamanites.  He knew his mission in life and continued to write on the plates.  Moroni chapter 1: 1-4 -- chapter 7: 1-2
 He could write these things because he knew he was loved by his Heavenly Father and his Savior Jesus Christ otherwise I don’t’ think he would have been able to write.
   I found a story that illustrates this idea in the Ensign this month under the question and answer section.

   I know if we know that we are loved then our actions turn to others to serve them.  We feel good about what we are doing in our life and we can be happy.

2. Moving to a new area:  This is a difficult situation for those who have to move to an area where you are unknown to others.  No one knows your dislikes or your likes.  No one knows what your past history was and what your strengths are now.  True---many people who move have their families with them and that does help but finding extended friends and family in a new place is difficult.  I think of Nephi and his family who had to leave everything they knew and live in the wilderness.  Of course they didn’t have any new neighbors to meet and all they had were themselves but it was a difficult situation to be in.  Nephi knew he was loved by his parents and His Savior. From 2 Nephi 9:40-41:

 40 O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.

 41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

   Nephi could testify of the truthfulness to his family because he had that strength of knowing he was loved by his Heavenly Father.  He could teach with power and the Spirit because he had the confidence of knowing he was loved.

President Ezra Taft Benson’s Talk give great guidance:   Seek the Spirit of theLord April 1988 Ensign

And I believe that we will also feel the love from our Heavenly Father.  When we feel the Spirit-- when we know that the Holy Ghost is speaking to us ----we are loved.

3.  Tribulations in your life:   Through challenging situations, it is the most difficult of all to know that you are really loved--  Not only by your family here but by a loving Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ.  When everything is not going well in your life and you are feeling the burden of tribulations it is especially hard to remember that you are loved.   You have to face tough decisions and having that knowledge that you are loved by those around you helps immensely.   These trials are actually for your benefit and help you to be a better person.   If it helps to know that it’s not what happens to you but its how you handle what happens to you that give you a different perspective.  If you know that you are loved then those trials are not so difficult

We have all heard the many great examples in the scriptures of those having tribulations in their lives; who acted accordingly because they knew they were loved: Job, Nephi, Joseph Smith and even Jesus Christ.  Along with scripture examples--- we can all think of those people we know personally who go on in life when life gets tough.

            Butch (my deceased husband)  has the most amazing cousin ever. Her name is Darthel Pike—She raised 9 children and now has about 100 grandchildren---her husband’s on dialysis (has since passed away) and for a while taught the gospel to people in prison.  She is the busiest woman in the world and she still finds the time to write to me.  She is a great example to me on someone who knows she is loved and helps everyone else around her.   Not only does she write me but she includes copies of little words of wisdom and inspirational messages in her letters.  During one of my times of discouragement, I read one of those inspirational messages and I would like to read it to you now:

    The troubles that beset you, along life’s winding road. Are sent to make you stronger, to share another load.  We cannot share a sorrow, if we haven’t grieved a while, nor can we feel another joy until we’ve learned to smile.  Sweet mystery of music, great masters and their art, how well we understand them, when we’ve known a broken heart!  Let tyrants lust for power, Sophisticates be wise, Just let me see the world, dear God, through understanding eyes.  By Nick Kenny

As a single woman in the Gospel for the past two years---I have noticed one overwhelming attribute of many singles over 30 in the church----and that is that they do not know that they are loved.  They do not know that they are loved by a Heavenly Father. This has a profound affect on how they live their lives.  You are all loved and if you don’t know it or feel it then you need to pray to feel that love in your life.  It will have a profound affect on you and the decisions you make.

  So back to my original question---How do you know that you are loved?  You feel at peace.  You are motivated to do the Lord’s work. You do service for others and are happy about it.  You can write about the truthfulness of the Gospel and bare a true testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.  You don’t feel self-pity but are confident that you are doing what is right in your life.  You feel the Spirit and the Holy Ghost can teach you.

These wonderful experiences are for our good and will help those we love around us.... Remember that you are loved.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 10 Things I Learned at the Storymakers Midwest Conference

I just returned from the Stormakers Midwest Writers Conference in Kansas. I met wonderful writers, presenters, and a rockin' keynote speaker named Adam Sidwell. I am so blessed to be able to attend a yearly conference! If you are new, or not, to writing, conferences are a great way to meet other writers, find mentors, buy fantastic books at bargain prices, and give back to the community. Here are 10 bits of wisdom I'm passing onto you. 

1. From Adam Sidwell:  The choices that make a good climax are those that lead to character growth and moral choices.

2. Scrivener is an inexpensive writing tool and very likely worth the money. I’ll be picking up a copy when I complete NaNoWriMo and get my discount!

3. Have a marketing plan with a budget and a calendar. Even if the budget is ZERO. 

4. If the marketing idea isn't fun to you, don’t do it. Marketing should be fun!

5. There are lots of kinds of romances. Write the style/series that works for you!

6. What can you bring to the retelling of a fairy tale? Only you can tell that version.

7. Secondary characters need to stick in your mind. Why? What is his/her purpose in the story?

8. Secondary characters are there to make the story work.

9. No matter how seasoned the writer there is always more to learn and you should give back to the 
writing community. You might be someone’s next mentor.

10. Be the kind of writer you want to be and be proud of it!

P.S. Get the Yo app. Totally fun. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Only Bad Thing

I love having a good imagination. When I was a child, I would lay in bed at night and put myself to sleep by imagining stories, scenarios, whole worlds - I never fought my mom on going to bed because it was so much fun for me to lay there and imagine. As an adult, I love being able to imagine how other people think and feel - it has made me more sympathetic to those around me. And yes, I do still imagine myself to sleep sometimes.

It's fun to be able to speculate about things and wonder, "What if this happened?" It provides so many possibilities to life, so much to anticipate, and it makes life a mystery, wondering which of the many alternatives might actually turn out to be the truth. 

But that's where the only bad thing about having a good imagination comes into play. I'm rarely surprised.

By the time something happens, I've already imagined it happening in a million different ways, in different settings, with everyone wearing different colors and styles and listening to different music at the time ... and so when it happens, it's like I already knew it would.

That's why I appreciate surprises so much. When something happens that really does catch me off guard, it's an extra delight.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Of Bananas and Plantains and Month-old Fish

by H. Linn Murphy

(Metaphor warning: I'm going to be mixing them like a nurse in a nuthouse.)
(Disclaimer #2: I'm waiving the pictures in favor of ever getting to bed in this century. What, are they having another slow down day?)

Bananas were made for baboons. Just saying. When I was young they were great. I also ate strained spinach. That doesn't mean that I want a banana now, or ever. I do, however, like plantain chips exceedingly. They're still in the banana family but they don't make me dash for the nearest chuck bucket. I'm not sure if it's because platanos aren't sweet or if they just don't go all gluey as fast. Nothing says run for the barf bowl faster than a mucky banana. And platano chips are fabulous. Just the right salt and they're better for you than potato chips.

And they don't taste like bananas.

So what does all of this have to do with the price of fish in Alaska? Often the dividing line between what we like and what we don't can be nebulous at best. This also extends to those poor persons who have to wade through the slush pile to fish out the occasional mahi mahi from the carp.

They too have likes and dislikes, good days and bad, perhaps a presently full docket of books exactly like yours, or your story went moldy like last month's fish. Who knew?

How are we supposed to ride the swells in this business? The truly savvy writer can predict, can plan, can go to a fortune-teller, can chase that illusive best-seller status. But if the fickle public suddenly decides they've had enough mahi mahi and that's what you've based your whole book on, you lose.

So what happens to all those poor lifeless vampires hanging about in dusty attics waiting for their chance to shine again? Do they wait around for another flap around the high school or do they quietly go lock themselves back in their coffins for another fifty years?

I say if you write it, they will come. If you write a story full of "truth" that touches the human psyche, your readers will school around your bait. Make it tempting without being titillating. Make it so good they won't miss the sex or raunchy language or violence. Make it speak from your soul. I've never heard people say, "I only buy books for the sex." (They may say that but I've never heard them.) People buy something that speaks to them.

This is my plan: If I fill the pond up with fabulous halibut stories, readers won't have to settle for trashy sucker fish. So even if publishers say people only want garbage stories, we can show them they are wrong. Another good thing is to go on sites like Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon and give the books you love great reviews. Not only does this show the authors, but it shows the publishers, that we are intelligent, discriminating readers with morals and a wish for spectacularly good writing.

May your seas be fair and your catch prodigious. And don't settle for the banana when you can have the plantain...;o)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How To Find an Agent

From my blog- The Write Path
OK, you've got your manuscript in hand. It is not your first draft or your second, but your well edited umpteenth draft. Now what? My suggestion is look for an agent.
Many people suggest sending straight to publishers, but I think that you should take at least 12 weeks and see if an agent is interested. They are your advocate and key to the publishing world.

Beware, they are hard to get. Many only take on one or two new clients a year, unless they're building their list. But it is worth a try. I'm always amazed at my SCBWI meetings when a first time writer stands up to announce their "good news" that they got an agent. Lucky ducks!

An agents return response time varies too. It can be anywhere from 24 hours to 12 weeks. So you do need to be patient. If you're an impatient person the publishing world is not for you.

So, where do you look? Here are a couple websites to help you out:

Agent Query
It is a free database of agents.

Association of Authors' Representatives
The agents that are members of the AAR must abide by strict standards and ethics.

Query Tracker
Over 1,200 agents listed and it helps you track your queries.

Another important place to look is at workshops and conferences. Agents attending will often give you a free pass over their slush pile. And if you're really brave you can personally pitch to them and perhaps be able to write "requested material" on your envelope.

Good Luck. Don't give up, we're all in the same boat.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Writing What You Feel

by Suzanne Warr

As I thought about this post, I tried to think of something I could share that would be useful to you, dear readers, while also capturing some of the changes going on in my life now.  A post that connected the dots in a meaningful way.  But, the truth is...the dots are still being dotted down, and most of what I'm going through--in sending my eldest off to college, helping my daughter through a life-impacting illness, prepping our family for a move--is still too close and present for me to be able to draw insightful conclusions.

However I am reminded that this--all of this--equals change and that equals emotions.  Feelings.  Such a small word to sum up the bittersweet of a son that's moving on, of saying goodbye to my gorgeous woods and trees--

--yet excitement for the opportunities and experiences to come.  I wish I could bottle up each of these emotions, store them in little glass vials, and pull them out to take a quick sniff the next time I'm trying to convey powerful feelings in my writing.  The next best thing is to take time to notice the impact of these changes, and to embrace the experiences of each day.  It's there that the most powerful changes occur, for me as well as my characters.  I'm grateful, in my chaos, to be alive and growing!

What are your stories of change?  Of those formative moments when you can feel the course of your life tilting, shifting, and careening off in a new direction?  Author David Zeltser discusses a life-altering event that led to his becoming an author on My Brain on Books, where Joanne is also giving away a free copy of his middle grade novel Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age.  But, don't stop by as I'm hoping to win it. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Make Choices that Matter by Monique Bucheger


Today, I’d like to talk about choices: Ones we make deliberately and ones we allow to be made for us—and how each can impact us.
As mothers, we want to connect to with our kids and other people's kids in quality ways. What could be more important than teaching people to make "Deliberate Choices" that will improve the lives of the people we care about? 
As a middle grade author, I am always interested in finding ideas and ways enhance the tween and teen experience. These years are extremely important years in everybody’s lives. These are the formative years when kids realize that life outside of their family home can be very different from what they are used to.
New ideas and concepts are pondered; new strategies to deal with the good, the bad, and the frustrating are explored—and experimented with.
Personal ethics and codes of behavior are tried on for size and comfort—often tailored, adjusted, and even discarded to fit the whims of peer pressure—good and bad.
Kids learn about who they are or what they want to be known as, and spend a lot of time trying to make others see them as they want to be seen or adapt their self-image to reflect what they see in other peoples’ eyes.
This can be positive or negative—depending on who is doing the accepting and / or rejecting of ideas and concepts.
We all remember the cliché kids: the class clown, the nerd, the bully, the bullied, the overachiever, the underachiever, the geek, the jock, the oddball, the social, the prep, the kid everybody liked, and the one who never quite fit in anywhere, but desperately wanted to.
Perhaps we were one or more of them—or another cliché student—either mixed up or altogether different at some point in our career as middle-grade students.
There comes a time when each person needs to make determinations about who they are, who they want to be, and take the steps to be that person.
This exploration and defining of our core self (of who we are and who we want to be and what that person looks like) becomes earnest and most important in our middle-grade years. This process is often the biggest foundation and shaper of our future self.
Children who are blessed with positive influences and a belief in their inherent goodness, travel through these formative years less scathed than children who are told they are worthless, and those who have the sad misfortune to believe such an atrocious lie.
Until Oct 1st, my friend, James A. Owen has given this link to allow his book: “Drawing Out the Dragons” FREE (a $19.99 value). He is highly sought after as a speaker for middle school audiences.
James is a supremely talented artist, and internationally bestselling author, and a superb human being—a self-proclaimed “Awesomist”—one who seeks to bring out the best in others and shares hard learned insights to bring light to other peoples’ lives.
I bring this up because a big part of the reason James is as successful as he is today is because he made courageous decisions about who he wanted to be as a middle-grade student.
Because I care about kids and the people who love them, I wanted to take this opportunity to share this amazing book and it's incredible insights to the audience it was meant to influence most: Tweens, teens, and anyone seeking to be the best "me" they can be. (and it is only FREE for the next week.)
When he was 11, James spent several months in a hospital pretty certain he was going to die—three of his young roommates did die within a month of his admission to the hospital.
Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him; they only knew he was becoming sicker as time went by. At age 11, James had decisions to make about what his future would—and should—hold. Believing he didn’t have much of a future—quite possibly only weeks or months, James fast-tracked those decisions with actions so that he could make the most of the time he had left.
The top banner on the cover of “Drawing out the Dragons” says: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Choices that Matter. This is a profound concept because quite often—even adults allow things to happen to them rather than be heroes in their own lives by making deliberate choices to be the best person they can be.
To be a hero in your own life, each person needs to take a stand and become the wind—rather than the leaf—that is buffeted about by the wind.
Making deliberate choices about how you live your life, and what you do on your personal journey here on earth directly affects your influence on what happens to you and how you affect those around you.
Two powerful messages that James repeats in his book are:
 If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.
But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.
Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most,
for what you want the most at that moment. 

Think about these messages a minute.
To further quote James:
“All good things happen . . . In Time.”
Choices are cumulative, but the results are not always apparent, or immediate. Sometimes you just have to keep making the right choices, even if it seems there’s no benefit to doing so.
Sooner or later, there will come a moment when what you really want most is tested, and how you respond in that moment will reveal the culmination of your choices. 
At that defining moment, his second message becomes truly powerful:
Never, ever, sacrifice what you want the most,
for what you want the most at that moment. 
It is my hope that the people who read this post realize how important it is to make deliberate choices as to who they want to be and learn to believe in themselves and their dreams because truly:
 If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.
But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.
So go forward and make informed choices--your future self will thank you. :)
Laugh lots ... Love much ...Write on!