Saturday, 30 June 2007


I didn't do any writing today. Instead, we took our family and went with some extended family to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in Alberta. (Here are some of the pictures we took) This is one of my family's favorite places to go. There is a river to play in with a nice sandy beach and well-kept picnic and camping areas. But the best part are the "Hoodoos". They are sandstone formations that are incredibly fascinating. The kids love to hike in them. (They make for a great game of hide-and-seek.)

We were pleased to arrive today and find that the brand new interpretive centre was finally open. It is a beautiful building with lots of interactive displays explaining how the rocks were formed and even more interesting to me, how the native people, especially the Blackfoot tribe, revered the area. We learned how they believed the area was home to many spirits and other interesting stories about the area.
After lunch we went for a 3.6 km (about 2 mile) hike through hoodoos in part of the park to see some old Indian carvings on the rocks. I was already planning on featuring this location in the next book I am working on, so visiting today really sparked my imagination for the things I want to happen there. Even though I didn't actually put any words down, my mind is working over time, and as with everything else I do, I will write about it in the end.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Finding My Niche

It seems to me I've spent most of my life not quite fitting in. Part of that is my shyness which I have spent a lifetime trying to overcome. Part of it is feeling different. Not many people talk about the voices in their head or spend their days playing make believe in their minds. But in March I had an incredible experience. I attended the LDStorymakers conference.

I became aware of this conference several years ago, but the timing and the money never worked out for me to travel to Utah from Canada. One year I really wanted to go, but had become lazy with my writing. I told myself I would go the next time, if I could earn it. During that year I wrote my first novel. I persuaded a sister-in-law, who is also a writer, to come with me and we made the trip. I even entered the first chapters contest, hoping to get some valuable feedback on the work I had done.

Because I don't like crowds or strangers, I felt fairly nervous at the whole prospect. What I found when we first arrived was a feeling I had never felt before. Yes, these people were strangers, but we seemed to have a common bond. Here was a place where the written word was honored and revered. Here was a place where dropping everything to write down that perfect line is expected and encouraged. Here is a place where you say, "I am a writer," and you are respected for it. I finally found where I belonged. I am already planning to go to Utah again next year and get to know people a little better. And if I can find a place just once in a while where I truly feel at home, I'll be there.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Customer is Always Right?

Several years ago I worked as a seamstress for a bridal shop. After the other girls made the sale, I would step in and make the alterations. It is amazing how everyone thinks you can take a tuck here and a pinch there and work miracles.

I remember one particular customer. She came in and tried on the dress she'd ordered several months earlier. It fit her perfectly and only the hem needed to be taken up. The problem was she wanted it tighter. This request came on the assumption that tighter would make her look skinnier. We tried to explain how this wouldn't work, but our advice fell on deaf ears. I looked at my boss, silently pleading with her not to make me do this job. I could only predict problems. But the customer is always right.

Several days later she came in for her next fitting. She wasn't happy with the alteration. She insisted on us making it even tighter. Apparently she still didn't think she looked skinny enough. We repeated our original conversation about the problems with making it too tight. But, once again the customer is always right.

The third time she came in, I knew the bride would not be happy with the new look. When she put the dress on, she came close to tears. The fabric across the front of the dress pulled in unattractive horizontal wrinkles and the seams were strained. We could barely get the zipper up. The mother was thrilled, she thought it looked great. The bride started blaming us for wrecking her dress. I reassured her that if she wold come back the next week, we would try one more time. She didn't look like she wanted to trust us, but she agreed. I talked with my boss and told her my plan.

The next time the bride returned and tried it on, the fit was perfect. The fabric hung smooth and the seams were unstressed. She looked in the mirror and beamed. We looked at her and said, "Wow, you must have lost weight. It looks gorgeous on you." The bride and her mother couldn't stop gushing over how great the dress looked. They were amazed at what losing a few pounds would do. I looked at my boss and she winked at me. I had let the sides out to the original measurement and pressed the stitching lines away. But as far as the customer was concerned, we had taken in the sides to make her look skinnier and performed a miracle in making her dress fit her perfectly.

I still chuckle when I think of this satisfied customer. It makes me think of writing and the steps I take to please my "customers". I let them read drafts and make suggestions. I let them read more drafts and make more suggestions. But when it comes down to the final version, it really is up to me to take the suggestions and use or discard them as I see fit. And hopefully when the they get the final copy, they leave satisfied, because the customer is always right.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Don't Lose It

As a writer there are always thoughts and snippets of stories running through my head. Often I listen to the voices of characters work things out in my mind. Other times a great line will come to me and I know it will be the perfect springboard to an award winning short story, or the closing line for my next novel.

The biggest problem is these thoughts and inspirations don't always come when I am sitting at the keyboard ready to type. More often than not they come when I am elbow deep in dishwater. Sometimes they come when my hands are covered with dirt as I pull weeds in the garden. And they come quite regularly when all the lights are off and I am just getting ready to close my eyes for a much needed sleep.

That is why there are notebooks all over my house. There are several in my purse and one in each of the tote bags I take wherever I go. All it takes is a few key words or a quick paragraph, and it is enough to jog my memory later. Sometimes I have to get it down so fast, my handwriting is barely legible - especially at 1:00 a.m. - but the act of writing the thought down seems to be enough. Most of the time.

Two nights ago I was just getting settled. Everyone else in the house slept soundly, but I couldn't relax enough to get myself sleep. I had finished writing for the night and turned off the computer. But my brain wasn't so easy to turn off. My thoughts were full of ideas for the next days writing session. I finally got out of bed and went into the other room to write them down. I scribbled three or four ideas into a notebook. Once this was done, my mind settled and I was able to go to sleep.

This is good, right? I haven't worried too much about those late night thoughts because I knew they were sitting in a notebook in the office. I might have trouble deciphering them, but they were there. That is why today, I am turning my house upside down trying to find that very notebook. I can't remember if I used it for something else and moved it, or if I only imagined getting up to write them down. (Sometimes those dreams can be so realistic.) I think what probably happened is another set of hands found the notebook and borrowed it for something else. I guess I need to gather the usual suspects and follow the clues that will lead me to scribblings that just might win a Whitney Award.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Summer Days

This is the time of year I look forward to. I'm not a huge fan of hot weather, but the relaxed routine once school lets out and all the visiting with family more than make up for it.

Yesterday my brother and his wife had their second child, so I have another nephew to love. What a great way to kick off the summer. When we were at the hospital holding the new baby, my brother made a comment about how exciting it was to have the doctor tell them they had a son. They chose not to find out earlier and had convinced themselves it was going to be another girl. He is a sweet baby and both mother and baby are doing well. Older sister isn't yet convinced having a baby is a good thing, but I give her a few days to become quite possessive of her little brother. Congratulations guys, he's perfect!

My other brother arrived in Canada yesterday from Arizona. We haven't seen his family in two years. The distance is just too far to do very often. Once they leave we will head to Montana and Idaho to visit more family. The kids are excited to go on vacation, but I know that by the time we get home and finish our summer activities, we will all be more than ready to get back into the routine of school. Until then we are going to enjoy the swimming and vacationing. The kids will enjoy the extra time with friends. We will make time to strengthen relationships with our extended family. I have lots of reading to do to keep up with the Summer Reading Thing. Who knows, I might even enjoy the heat a little.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

And the wind blew...

If I have the opportunity to feed my children without actually preparing the meal myself, I’ll take it. So when our ward campout came last Friday night I was as excited as the kids. We have a wonderful new stake campground only four blocks from our home, so the temptation to sleep in my own bed was tremendous. But it was a beautiful day for a campout and my husband even convinced me to sleep outdoors with the rest of the family.

The food was great as always. The young women did a short program and the primary had games for the children. We sat around the campfire and were entertained by the scouts. My favorite part of the program was my Somalian neighbor telling us a story in Somali. Of course none of us understood a word he was saying, so three other men in the ward (including my husband) interpreted the story for us. It was something about pink elephants in tutus chasing a Zebra. I wished I could understand the story because the storyteller used such expressive body language and inflections in his speech, I knew I must be missing something.

By the time I put my two girls to bed it was after eleven, and it took a few more minutes to locate my son and convince him it was time to turn in. The kids fell asleep quickly, while I tried to get comfortable on the hard ground. Yes, we were in a tent and there was only one air mattress to be had. We weren’t doing too badly until 3:00 a.m. That is when the wind started.

If you are familiar with Southern Alberta, you know how quickly the wind can pick up and how fiercely it can blow. I woke up to the noise of the tent flapping in the gale. My son was wide awake listening to the clamor. I turned over and realized my husband’s sleeping bag was empty. This was understandable since the tent was being pushed over so far he would have been breathing tent fabric rather than fresh air. I went outside to find him standing guard over the family, trying to figure out the next move. The stake president wandered over from his campsite next to us and said his children were crying because they were scared by the noise. Several other families headed for home.

Everything was still staked solidly, but we knew we wouldn’t get any sleep staying there. We woke the girls, collapsed the tent and put some weight on it so it wouldn’t continue to flap around, then went home. We got everyone tucked in for the second time around 3:45 a.m. And even though none of us had much sleep, we were up the next morning, bright and early, to go back to the campground and get breakfast. Like I said, if I don’t have to cook…

Friday, 22 June 2007

The Summer Reading Thing

Karlene is hosting a Summer Reading thing that sounds like lots of fun. Click on the logo if you want more information or if you want to sign up. I read all summer anyway, but it will be fun to check out what everyone else is reading and maybe discover a few new favourites. (I confess right now that I have never read Pride and Prejudice) I tried to pick a variety of books for my list and went to the LDS bookstore yesterday to pick up Sheep's_Clothing by Josi Kilpack. I am excited to start this one, but I have to put it aside as motivation to finish the book I am already reading. Here is the list...

1 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - J.K. Rowling

2 – Counting Stars - Muchelle Paige Holmes

3 – Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin

4 – The Life of Pi - Yann Martel

5 – Sheep's_Clothing - Josi Kilpack

6 – I Heard that Song Before - Mary Higgins Clark

7 – No One Can Take Your Place - Sheri Dew

8 – House of Secrets - Jeffrey Savage

9 – New Moon - Stephanie Meyer

10 – The First Year - Crystal Liechty

11 – What the Dead Know - Laura Lippman

12 – The Princes of Ireland - Edward Rutherford

13 – The Preacher’s Daughter - Beverly Lewis

14 Kissing Frogs - Sharlene Hawkes

(Books in purple are the ones I have finished)

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The Whitney Awards

Just about every other LDS writers blog I read has mentioned the Whitney Awards in the last week. I am going to jump on the bandwagon for two reasons.

First, I am so excited about this. I believe anything that can be done to promote great LDS writing is a step in the right direction. I am already trying to decide who to nominate in each of the categories. I won’t make it this year, but I also working toward the day when I can be nominated as well.

Secondly, I mention it because I want the word to be out there and this is one way to spread it. So go out and read LDS authors. Check out the Whitney website, all the information is there. Try new books and nominate your favorites. Let’s make this something to talk about.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Fiction or Truth?

I spent a few years writing articles for our local newspaper. They even published a couple of short stories I had written.The experience taught me about observing carefully the things going on around me and more importantly it taught me to listen to what people say and then to listen to what they aren’t saying. It was a great job and it gave me my first opportunity to say, “I’m published.”

As a journalist in a small town, great care is taken not to offend the people you see at the post office everyday or you sit next to in church. It sterilizes the news. For me, the biggest problem in reporting the facts was just that. It had to be the facts. There were so many times I told the editor in jest, that I could make the story so much more exciting if she would just let me embellish it a little. Of course, that would take away my journalistic integrity. In fiction, I can take those stories, make my own characters, put in all the facts with an added twist, and disguise it as something that happened in my imagination.

That is why I love fiction. I can embellish and twist things to my heart’s content and the story becomes that much more interesting for me. It also gives me the freedom to take the things I observe and hear, and present them in a form that people can relate to. And in the end, fiction becomes the purest kind of truth.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Supporting LDS Fiction

I have been reading LDS fiction since my teenage years. Many of these books are memorable and touched me in some positive way. There are also many that aren’t so well written. That has been the problem with the LDS market for some time. So many of my friends and family brush off LDS fiction as not worth their time or energy. They say the stories are sappy, the writing poor and they get tired of the preaching. I agree with everything they say, to a point.

As an avid reader of just about anything I can get my hands on, I have seen the improvement over the years and know that LDS fiction is so much more than it used to be. Yes, there is still bad writing out there, and there are still stories that are preachy. But there are also well-written, exciting books that explore the human side of life with an LDS perspective. There are books facing the reality that even though we are LDS we are not perfect and we still struggle with the same issues that plague the rest of the world.

Over the last few years it has become harder and harder to find a book published on the national market that is worth my time. I don’t like to wade through bad language, explicit violence or sex. I am finding this problem even in the books marketed nationally for my teenagers. I am reading more and more YA fiction just to screen it for my children.

This is the beauty of the LDS market. I feel confident that I can buy the books they publish without fear of what I may find inside. They do tackle some tough issues, but they do it with sensitivity and without the need to offend. For those of you who read LDS fiction years ago and haven’t touched it since, give it another try. The writing is always improving, the topics are thought provoking and there is something in every genre.

The best way to see LDS fiction improve is to support the industry. Buy the books you like and recommend them to your friends and family. Let your local LDS bookstore know what kind of books you would like to read. The word will get back to the publishers and authors.

The Chicken or the Egg

I set up this blog based on the advice of the LDS Publisher blog.

The answer she gave made a lot of sense to me, so here I am. I am excited about this new experiment, but it did give rise to an interesting discussion with my husband. His theory is that I should write and post on this blog for several weeks so there is quite a bit of content and then I should start to tell everyone that I know about it. My theory is that I should write for a day or two, then start to tell my family and writer friends to start looking it up. It seems to me that a large part of blogging is reader response. So having several weeks of writing without any comments would feel rather discouraging.

So I guess the question is, if I write it will they come? Does the blog come first and then people come to see what is being said? Or do the people who already support and cheer for me come check it out anyway and watch the blog grow with me? The chicken or the egg?

Monday, 18 June 2007

Digging Deep

I just finished writing a story. Nothing new about that. The difference this time? I reached deep into my own personal experience and pulled emotions I am still trying to deal with right to the surface. I wrote it in an hour and didn’t think much about what I was really saying. It wasn’t until I finished and let my husband read it that the tears flowed. Here were the things I’d been trying to say for 18 months. The things that I almost feel not allowed to think because of my beliefs.

So now it is on paper and I need to make the decision. Is it too personal to share. Was the writing experience in this case a cathartic way to deal with grief? Because I am a writer, I write, I submit, and I wait for the response. This is no different. I wonder what other emotions are percolating deep inside trying to get out?

Related Posts with Thumbnails