Friday, February 26, 2010

The Beauty of Human Spirit

Last night the final skate sealed the medals for 2010. Of all the years I've watched the Olympics, none of the lady's figure skating has been the kind of experience this year has.

And it's all because of the personal triumphs, not just the sport.

On Tuesday, all I could do is sit silently while tears dripped down my cheeks as Joannie Rochette skated her short program. I've never cried watching someone skate before, but then, I've never seen the sheer courage and depth of emotion in a skate as I did last Tuesday. For those of you who aren't in the loop, her mother passed away just days before her first event.

How did she do it? The whole time I was watching her I could imagine her mom there on the ice lifting her up. For once, she didn't have to sit on the stands to watch her daughter skate.

But the world spirit didn't stop there. Kim Yuna was incredible and with the weight of her country resting on her shoulders, she went out there and made it look easy landing a gold medal for more than herself, but her country.

Let's not forget the silver medalist Mao Asada. She has the most elegant lines. When it came to her skating, I fell in love with her lines- the flexibility and the perfect ... there just isn't another word for it- lines.

And even though she didn't take the podium, Mirai Nagasu turned in a breathtaking performance and surprised everyone with her incredible performance. I couldn't stop smiling while I watched her skate. She's only sixteen, so I know I'm going to see her rise to the top in four years.

Maybe it's all the reality, talent and drive that draws me to the Olympics. The human spirit. It's tangible, even on television.

And, to twist things in a new direction, I think it's the human spirit that makes any story worth reading. It's something I've thought a lot about as I've been writing. What is it that make us want to read a story?

I know I turn almost everything into a writing post at the end of the day, but what can I say? It's part of who I am.

Oh, and thanks world, you made me laugh and cry and reminded that everyday can be that beautiful.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because I'm a Writer

I haven't always been like this... I think. Maybe I had the characteristics and just never noticed. Maybe you have some of them too.

You might be a writer if...

You try to come up with the perfect word to describe the color of someone's eyes or hair.

You find yourself thinking about characters in books- whether your own or someone else's- and wonder what they're going to do next.

You edit everything you read.

You hear a cool new phrase in real life and wish you had an excuse to use it in your book.

You need an emotional high that comes from reading and writing, without it, you start realizing how dirty your house is and how much you don't want to spend your day cleaning it.

You think about publishers as often as you think about checking the mail.

You're still wondering if the next query letter you write will be even better than the last one you tried.

You wish there was a free service for writing the perfect synopsis- yes, all the different kinds... The 1 page, 2-3 pages version and the dreaded 10 page synopsis. Don't forget to make it riveting while you suck all the juice out of your story and end up with a concentrated piece that will capture the adoration of every editor and agent in the universe.

You love editing. You hate editing. (It's a love/hate relationship.)

You're still wondering if you should have had your character eat that for dinner.

You wish you could have eaten that for dinner.

You realize that one book will never be enough. Then two, three, four, and so on. That's when you realize you're in it for life; that you're never going to stop writing.

Does any of this seem normal to any of you? Oh, yeah. There's one more characteristic I forgot to mention. If you're a writer, there's a good chance you're a little crazy--in a good way. I gave up on sanity when I had my twins, so nothing lost there for me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

High Gold

I know the winter Olympics have captured the attention of the world, but yesterday we took some time out to have a little competition of our own.

The Boise Kick-Off Clogging competition was fabulous. I love watching all the other teams and seeing the latest greatest ideas. One of my favorite things is sitting next to complete strangers in the audience and hearing their opinions- especially since they have no idea who I am.

And, well, maybe that's a true test of how things went. What other people think.

As for me and my studio, we thought it was a blast. We had 13 team events and 37 individual events. I only kept track of the team scores, and of course, my own sons'.

And the results of our very fun day.... 9 First Places, 2 Second Places & 2 Third Places.

High Gold is given to teams that score 98% or higher. Our teams took four High Golds. And, just for icing on the cake, we enjoyed Overall Studio awards for the Advance and Championship level.

And, not because the world cares, but just because it made me cry, my thirteen year old son took first place in all his individual events for the first time in his life... Freestyle, and three All-Around Solos. That's four first places.

But he wasn't the only one to rock the house. So here's my shameless shout out to all my amazing dancers- You were the best!

And, not to leave out my nine year old son's score... First Place in Freestyle and Second Place in his solo. Do we mention that he missed one of his solos because he ran off the stage and forgot he had one more to go? Nah. He didn't even mind-he said. But then the rest of the day he kept asking if he could go on stage and do it. Go Figure.

Here's my adult team. There's me in blue in the front scrunching down to be shorter than the back row ladies. I'm the one who looks like Shaun White... ha ha ha.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Speaking of Gold

Last night, Lysacek became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988.

Lindsey Vonn not only made it down the hill without crashing, but took the gold in the women's downhill. Did they set a new record for the most crashes in an Olympic Downhill? We started calling out who we thought would crash. Sad, I know. We were usually right.

Shaun White with his half pipe snowboarding magic.

According to my son, Shaun was the most impressive athlete in the whole Olympics, but then he did insist on staying up with me until 11:00 last night to see the men's figure skating. That was awesome too.
But I have to say, when they did the medals ceremony for Shaun White, my kids kept asking if Shaun was a girl, and then they kept saying that he looked like ME!!!! What? He looks like me? Yeah, mom, he looks like you.
Great. It turns out that my would-be twin is a snowboarding GUY. I have no skills but apparently I have the looks. Uhm, do I really look like Shaun White? Please tell me it's more like I could be his sister or something.
Well, if you haven't picked up on it yet, I love watching the Olympics. And, I have a place in my heart for all the athletes who didn't win gold but took my breath away all the same. Sometimes the world forgets that even the ones not on the podium represent some of the best talent the world has to offer.
Last night I would have given a standing ovation to the skater whose skatelace broke. He left the ice to fix it and then came back on to finish flawlessly. Talk about pressure, but he handled it.
I know I didn't list all the sports. I haven't even listed everything I watched, but hey, that's what the TV is for. All I can say is, GO WORLD. You're amazing.
And, because I'm sort of partial- GO USA! You rock!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I never thought I'd say this, but I'm afraid of finishing this novel. It's been a whirlwind. I started writing in December and today or tomorrow, the book will be completed. I've never written a full-length novel so fast.

And it scares me.

Well, the story is awesome, but I've been so caught in it that I wonder where I'm going to get my next adrenaline rush from when I have nothing to look forward to other than editing. Yeah, editing and revising. It's the evil twin of writing. Some people love doing it. I find it a necessary chore.

You know, it's funny. When I'm in the middle of writing a story, I wonder if I'll really get it done- especially in the time frame I've set for myself. Yesterday when I realized that I only had one or two more days until THE END I felt sad. Sad that the ride was over- and it was an incredible ride. Intense. I love this story. And now all I have to look forward to is cleaning it up.

It's sort of like cleaning the house. I love a clean house but I don't adore scrubbing dirty bathrooms, vacuuming, picking up moldy apples that found their way under the sofa and the list goes on forever.

But when the cleaning is done and my carpet is visible and the mirrors actually reflect again- I feel great. I love having a clean house.

Yeah, I know, I could pay someone to clean my house if I was rich enough. I could pay someone to edit my novel if I was rich enough too.

The biggest difference between houses and books is that pretty often people are willing to help you clean your book for FREE. Don't ask me why. I mean, unless I'm physically disabled, nobody offers to come clean my house.

But a book? Oh yeah.

There exists in this world a select group of people who find joy in editing books. Bless their hearts. I don't think I'll ever be one of those. I sort of missed the editing boat when they were handing out talents. Yeah, I probably raised my hand for writing and ran off before I even heard the word editing. If I had known you couldn't have one without the other I might not have raised my hand.

Anyway, here's to spring cleaning. Books and houses. Which reminds me, I need to switch the laundry....

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 LTUE in Review

Although it's been around for years, this was my first time attending the writers symposium, Life the Universe and Everything (aka LTUE) at BYU in Utah.

And I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in some panel discussions. The first one I was in the hot seat for was "Mormons and Fantasy"- why the explosion of mormon writers in fantasy? Brandon Sanderson sat on one side of me and Lisa Mangum on the other. It was an interesting conversation. Although Brandon made many fantastic points, my come-away thought to ponder was that the LDS population is education oriented and that probably has a lot of influence on the fact that there are so many readers and writers in that genre.

The more I considered that concept, the more I agree with it. Education plays such an important role in influencing people to stretch their minds on a broader horizon. It's a powerful idea to consider.

I always figured people who read my book were smarter than the average person ;)

I attended other panels and came away with new ideas to ponder.

*What is the surprise element in the new technology you developed for your story?
*Edgy YA is dealing with problems head-on in an honest way, but yes, it can be other things too.
*Publishers put the ISBN number on your book that will help it sell. This ISBN thing is way more complicated than I ever realized.
*The best ideas are compounds- multiple ideas that have bonded together to make a completely new element.
*There are no rules. I mean, yes, there are rules, but broken rules sell too.
*Write from your heart. Write what you're passionate about- that is what makes a good story.
*There's not a right way or wrong way to go about writing a book, and it might be different every time you try.
*Some people actually diagram every single sentence in their novel. Said people haven't published a book.... yet. It would take me approximately 100 years to diagram every single sentence in my novels.
*For all their talent and success, every single author and artist I met was incredibly nice, normal and perfectly human.
*Almost everyone wears jeans to the LTUE. Who knew?

I had a great time, met some wonderful people and will absolutely be going back next year. I thought everyone was especially friendly and it seemed to me that complete strangers had no problem sharing handshakes and hugs. Wow. I love you guys. Thanks to last week I have dozens of faces to put with names and I know the people in my writing community a little bit better now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Something Unpredictable

But in the end it's right.

That verse feels like it was written for me this week.

In life and in writing.....

In my little world of writing, I've been hitting forks in the road with my story. More than I've ever hit before. This new book is a journey that started with an idea and has grown and twisted in ways that I didn't see coming. In fact, sometimes it turns so quickly that I honestly don't know what is supposed to happen next.

It's like solving a mystery. What is supposed to happen next? Yesterday I thought I had it all figured out, but then another path came into view and the more I think about it, the more this new and different direction fits the goal of my story better. In fact, it brings more depth and meaning to it, not to mention that it requires the different personalities of the characters for it to work.

And in the end it's right. It turns out my story didn't change direction, it just took a different path to get there- a better one.

I will say this about writing. Each time is different. Sometimes the whole picture might be in your head and other times, the future is foggy. But both ways work.

In many ways, I'm glad I didn't know too many details. It made it so much more unpredictable. And yet, for all the unpredictability, the beginning supports the end. It's kind of amazing.

I read another author's blog and she put her writing formula kind of like this.... prayer, time, persistence, repeat. She didn't say it like that, but I would. For me, it takes all of those things.

And in life, yeah, the same formula. If I thought my book was unpredictable, it's nothing compared to life.

So, here's one of my favorite songs. You can sing it in your head with me today.....

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day

Another turning point A fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist
Directs you where to go
So make the best of this test
And don't ask why
It's not a question
But a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable
But in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life

So take the photographs
And still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf of good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth
It was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable
But in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life
I hope you had the time of your life

Friday, February 5, 2010

Little Miss Muffet

Some of the exciting news for today...

First order of business, the winner of the $20 Barnes & Noble Giftcard is...


Thanks to all of you who left a comment on "Something that Makes You Happy". It was encouraging to hear all of your thoughts. I really do appreciate all of you taking the time to share your happiness.

Today the Whitney Awards announced their finalists. Click here to see all the great books you could be reading right now. Congratulations to all the finalists!

And, on a totally different topic... today while my five year old twins and my two year old daughter were eating lunch, I was in the other side of the house when I hear them start screaming. My two year old was the first to make it to me. When I asked what happened, she said something I couldn't understand.

Then my five year old girl, with tears already coming down her cheeks finds me. There's a spider. Oh. A spider. I make my way to the dining room where I find my five year old BOY crying. About a spider?

All of them are shouting, "There's a spider, mom! There's a spider!"

It took them a while to calm down enough to show me where in the heck the spider was.

Oh my gosh. Now I can see why they were crying.

Wedged between the bricks was the biggest freaking black widow I've ever seen in my life. Since running and screaming wasn't an option, I did the only thing a wimpy girl like me could do.

I sprayed it with hornet and wasp spray. I couldn't step on it. It was wedged in between the bricks. As soon as the monster fled to a flat surface, I squished it with my slipper. Yes, my rubber soled slipper.

The kids almost missed the bus, but the spider situation was under control. Now that the black demon is gone from my house, we're safe for another day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ahh, It's Writers Conference Season....

I'm so excited for some of the really great things coming up.

Next week--- NEXT WEEK!!!!

The LTUE at BYU February 11-13. Life, the Universe and Everything
FREE conference. Say the word FREE. Feel it. Now plan to go. I'm going to be there and I can't wait. Check out my other post if you want to know lots more.

And, coming in April, the LDStorymakers Writers Conference. Click on it- it links you to the wonderful world of more details. And, because I love a good contest, join the Show Your Love For the Storymakers Contest-- don't forget to click.

This conference is April 23-24 at the Marriott Hotel in Provo. It's not free, but it is stacked with some seriously good stuff. If you've ever thought about writing, and especially if you already do, you should go. I'll admit that writer's conferences sent me on a trail that really helped me along.

And, don't sign up for the contest- you know, the Show Your Love one that I mentioned... because I want to win. Okay, I know--- I never win, but a girl can dream.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jumping Genres

If you slur your "J" it sounds like zshumping zshenres.

Today's post is about jumping off one category of books and writing another. When I wrote Alvor, I didn't think I could write any other kind of piece. I decided to write another fantasy in between Alvor and the second book in the series. Even though it wasn't the same story and had completely different elements in it, it was the same genre.

Three books in the same genre later, I knew I was going to have to write outside of my own lines. Even while I wrote Book 2 of Alvor, I knew there was another completely different story waiting to be told. I didn't know what story it was at the time, but it scared me to know for sure that it wouldn't be a fantasy.

And did I know how to write anything else?
You never know until you try.

Not all, but many authors stay within one genre for their entire career. I understand why. When you learn how to write well in one genre, why switch?

For me? Because I needed to. It's not a permanent switch- like never writing another fantasy- but it is stretching the horizon of how I write. And I'm learning so much.

Alvor is written in third person and comes from two people's point of view.

My new book is written in first person present tense. Nothing could be more different.

My new book's character is almost 18. She's enough older than the Alvor series that I can explore different situations on a more profound level.

And, my new book is NOT fantasy. Nothing supernatural or magical in it at all. It's not historical fiction, a memoir, a horror or a graphic novel. But it is a genre I have recently fallen in love with. No, it's not a romance either- although there is a touch of that in the story.

Why the switch? My reasons are probably different than everyone else's. I've had this feeling for over a year now that I needed to write a story in this particular genre. I don't know if it's so that I can learn how to be a better writer or if it's because my new story will make it possible for me to find an agent- I'm really hoping it's both.

For the record, I have been told by agents that fantasy is hard to sell right now, and even ones who would be willing to pick it up don't want to mess with the second book in a series where the first book is published already.

Even so, it's impossible to know what the future holds. I have already learned to be more aware of sentence structure, thoughts, feelings, sensations, actions, reactions and dialogue- so writing something new has been a great teacher in the long journey of writing.