Monday, 31 March 2008

BIAM with Tristi

Tristi is holding another BIAM challenge on her blog and once again I've signed up. I haven't been very successful when with her other challenges, and yet I've done NaNoWriMo two years in a row and achieved 50,000+ words each time. My husband and I were talking about it and think we came up with the reason.

When I do NaNo, the whole family thinks it is cool and pitches in to help. They fix meals when they can and try to be understanding when the meals I prepare are not as exciting as they might like. They put up with the house being a little messier than usual and most important, they push me when I get lazy or distracted by reminding me to go write. They celebrate every thousand words and make me feel like I'm really accomplishing something worth while. But when I've done Tristi's challenges, I don't make as big a deal about them and so I don't get the same support.

I guess this has helped me realize that even though writing is a solitary pursuit, it isn't something I can achieve on my own. No one can write my story but me, but it will take my entire family to get me there. This is part of the process that I'm still trying to learn. I need to discover the things my family can do and learn to let go a little. I need to share my goals, my success, and my defeats with them so they can support me through the process.

Luckily, I have a teenage daughter who wants to help make dinner despite her busy schedule and a husband who doesn't mind cooking once in awhile. It has been suggested that I don't fold the laundry anymore, but sort it into baskets and get each family member to sort their own. That one I still struggle with. I know most of the clean clothes would just get stuffed into drawers and worn wrinkled.

Like any learning process, this one is filled with surprises and errors, but someday I'll get things figured out. Meanwhile, Tristi's challenge starts tomorrow and I'm determined to make it this time. I have a story that's just begging to be finished, and if I can write 1,000 words a day, I just might get there.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

My "Signature" Hair

The picture on the sidebar is quite accurate, enough so that at the conference people recognized me based on the drawing. I commented on this a few days ago, mentioning that I almost cut the hair off just before the conference. Michele commented that I should leave it because some girls would kill for long curls like I have (and sometimes I would kill to get rid of them). Tristi said they were like my signature.

I started thinking about how true this is. When I was born I had corkscrew hair, or as my husband calls it, squiggy. The only time I ever had hair remotely straight was after the birth of my second child. It's amazing how hormones affect everything, even hair. But after my third came along, the curl came back with a vengeance.

Once in a while, I'll straighten it, which takes way to long, but I love getting rid of the frizz for a day or two. There have been times when people ignore me with the straight hair because they don't recognize me. Once I approach them and say Hi, they realize their mistake, but I find it quite funny.

The most amusing incident happened a few years ago. My husband and I went out to dinner one Friday night. I had straightened my hair that day, and he looked good as always. We were sitting in the restaurant enjoying our meal when a friend from town came up behind us to say hello. Her blush indicated to me this wasn't just a normal "Hey, fancy meeting you here" type of greeting. She proceeded to tell us that she was there with her husband and two other couples we knew. They had spent much of their meal watching my husband out of the corner of their eyes and discussing how to deal with the situation. You see, the straight hair threw them. They thought he was out with another woman and were trying to decide whether to call me or confront him. I'm glad they chose the confront him option. I can only imagine trying to squash rumors of the other woman once they reached our small town.

So I guess it is a signature and I probably will keep it for the time being, at least to preserve our reputations and truth is, I usually can't be bothered to make appointments with the hairdresser anyway.

Write What You Know

Truthfully, I don't think I know much. I've lived in small towns most of my life (although there are a wealth of stories right there), I haven't traveled much, especially in my own country, and I don't watch lots of television or read many newspapers, so I often fall behind on what's going on in the world. Sometimes I wonder what I should write about if I need to write what I know.

I took a class at the conference called "Research is Not Just for Historicals", taught by Julie Coulter Bellon and Michele Paige Holmes. This great class was full of interesting advice on how to do research and organize the research you do. With today's technology, the resources are endless.

Some of the suggestions included, having maps up on the wall so you can consult them when you need your characters to go places. This way you get the directions right and readers familiar with the location will not find errors which could have been prevented. Watching videos about different locations helps get a feel for the place. They also suggested children's non-fiction books as good research material because the information in them is simplified and usually in a novel, just the basics are needed anyway. The internet is another great resource, but we were reminded to verify everything we find with at least two other sources since internet information can be posted by anyone. News stories and documentaries can also spark new ideas for stories.

I get a little lazy when it comes to research, but they made it seem fun. Julie did remind us to check everything thoroughly, doing enough to tell the story well. The purpose of research is to tell the story. And in the end, we have to remember we are writing fiction and we need to blend that fiction with reality, not the other way around.

All my life I've been an avid reader, devouring anything that sparks my interest. When I sit back and take stock of what I do know, I find the list is longer than I realize, and with research, I can discover many new things. So when I hear the phrase "Write what you know," it just reminds me I can write anything I am willing to learn about, and that opens a whole world of possibilities.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

2007 Whitney Award Winners

My husband pointed out to me last night, that after all the lists and reminders to nominate that I've put on my blog, I should at least post the winners. Can't believe I forgot. I must still be tired from the trip. Anyway, here they are...

2007 Whitney Awards


Best Novel of the Year

On the Road to Heaven
Coke Newell


Best Novel by a New Author

Dragon Slippers
Jessica Day George


Best Romance/Women's Fiction

Counting Stars
Michele Paige Holmes


Best Mystery/Suspense

Sheep's Clothing
Josi Kilpack


Best YA/Children's

Fablehaven 2: Rise of the Evening Star
Brandon Mull


Best Speculative

Book of a Thousand Days
Shannon Hale


Best Historical

Out of Jerusalem: Land of Inheritance
H. B. Moore

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Home Again

I'm finally home after six days away. The LDStorymakers conference was wonderful, and my brain is overloaded with information. I also attended the first Whitney Award Gala and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's probably the closest I'll ever get to being in an Oscar-like setting. The whole weekend was great.

The conference felt like a family reunion for authors and it was great to put faces to all my blogging friends. I had a chance to visit with Tristi Pinkston and Julie Coulter Bellon, picking their brains for a little writing advice. I talked with James Dashner about trying to get him to come to Canada for a school visit. Autumn sat with us at the award gala, and I also got to meet Ali, Don, Shanna - and that's just the short list.

Before we left, I was seriously considering cutting about fourteen inches of hair off and going with a new shorter look. But I was so busy, I just didn't get around to it. I guess that's a good thing. So many people came up to me at the conference, greeted me by name, and introduced themselves. They all said they recognized me because I look just like the portrait I have on this blog. It was tempting to straighten my hair the second day and see how many people I could fool.

I took a great class on writing a synopses, doing research and sat in on two great presentations by editors, Kirk Shaw from Covenent, and Lisa Mangum from Deseret. There was so much information, I'm glad I wrote everything down, to study later. Of course, I bought many books at the bookstore and got them all signed. My kids love it when I bring them home signed books.

And speaking of my kids, it was sure nice to be able to leave them with my dad and my mother-in-law taking turns supervising them. The best part was coming home to find that the house was still clean, the dishes were done, they were still getting along, and when they heard me come in the door, I received the most enormous bear hug. What a great thing to come home to.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

On My Way

The day I've been looking forward to since last year is finally here. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Utah to attend the LDStorymakers conference. I've spent the last week getting things ready for bootcamp, helping my sister-in-law make a dress to take with her and all the other assorted things I have to do before I leave for six days.

I haven't blogged much in the last week because my laptop died and I've been so busy trying to catch up on everything. Luckily I did have some warning that something was wrong and we were able to transfer all my files to the other computer before it quit completely. We still hope to be able to get it up and running again, but meanwhile, I get to go to the conference and take notes the old fashioned way. Oh well, less to carry around with me.

So I'm signing off for a few days but I'll be back next Tuesday motivated to get to work. Talk to you then.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

I'm the Quiet One in the Corner

I tend to be something of a homebody. There are few places I like to be better and very few places where I feel as comfortable. Despite the many efforts I've made over the years, I just can't seem to become the outgoing people person I sometimes wish I was. My husband encourages me to be involved in the community, partly because we both believe it's important to give back to the place we love, but also because if he doesn't give my those gentle nudges, I'd be quite content to stay deep in the shadows where no one can see me.

Just recently, a neighbor invited to me to become involved with our public library board. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. The library is one of my favorite places and I am excited at the chance to help in that area. I'm still getting to know the job, but I enjoy the meetings and the people I get to work with.

I also serve on our elementary school parent council. This is the second time I've taken part in this group. I love going to the meetings and knowing what is going on in the school (because my daughter never remembers to tell me anything). One of my favorite people on the council is the principal. I love her optimism and rosy outlook. If I hadn't served in this capacity, I never would have gotten to know her.

Both of these groups work hard to make things better in our community and I love being a part of that. Unfortunately, I'm too quiet most of the time and don't tend to speak up a whole lot when I am in a large group, so I don't get to know the people there as well as I could. (Although, one-on-one, I could talk your ear off.)

In March 2007, I attended the LDStorymakers conference for the first time. Last year I just stuck the tip of my big toe into the conference pond. I'm not exactly the dive in type of person, but this year that's what I want to do. There are so many people I would like to put faces to and even a distant cousin I want to meet.

Most likely my quiet nature will take over and I'll have a hard time going up to people and saying hi, but I'm working on getting past that. Hopefully I'll come home with many memories of new friends and a camera full of pictures to show the family. But if any of you are attending the conference and see a quiet person in the corner, come on over and say hi. Sometimes the quiet people just need a little push.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Everyone Lives Too Far Away

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live a thousand years ago when people would be born and die in the same village. Families were close and took care of each other. I often think it's unfortunate that members of my family live where they do. It makes it difficult to know any of them very well.

My father and many of my siblings live in the same little town in Alberta as I do, but my mother, a brother, and a sister live in the states. Then there are the aunts and uncles all over the place.

My husband's family are scattered as well. He has three siblings here in Alberta, but they are all at least three hours away. He also has a brother in the states, and a sister in eastern Canada. We are grateful that at least his mother lives very close.

Then there are my kid's other grandparents and aunts and uncles, my ex-husband's family (who the kids rarely see).

I'm sure this is a problem many people face. We never fly anywhere because the cost of flying five people is just more than we can afford, so that leaves us with road trips. We enjoy traveling together and have all sorts of adventures, but with only so much time off and so much money, we don't get to see family very often. I actually have a brother-in-law and a niece that I've never met.

Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if we could all live closer together. Truthfully, I think we might drive each other a little crazy. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to organize a trip to a family wedding in May, a family reunion in August, and possibly a trip to see my mother and brother at Christmas time. Either that, or I need to convince them all to visit me.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Full of Beans

Okay, we're not full of beans yet, but I'm working on it. Over the last several months I've been trying to eat better and incorporate healthier foods into my diet. I've also tried to get the family to make better food choices as well. They are pretty tolerant when I introduce new recipes using beans and whole grains. Sometimes they will say how good something is, so I think I have a hit. When I serve the leftovers the next night, the kids moan about having to eat it again. When I mention how much they liked it the previous night, they roll their eyes and inform me they were just trying to be polite.

If I'm going to make better food choices, the family is going to have to eat better too. I've converted everyone over to stevia - a natural, calorie-free sweetener. I make my own yogurt and the kids will eat it plain with a drop or two of stevia. My youngest daughter a puts little stevia in herb tea. She also likes to sprinkle ground flax seed on her cereal in the morning. So we do some things right. But I'm still trying to figure out how to get them to love beans and more of the whole grains.

They like to read labels with me and are becoming more aware of all the hidden sugars in the foods they like. They also like to cook. So I'm on the hunt for some great healthy recipes or ideas about how to incorporate beans and whole grains into our meals. I'd love to hear any suggestions or ideas you have for this and also for healthy eating in general.

Saturday, 8 March 2008


I'm sitting here looking at the houseplant next to the couch and noticing how wilted it looks. This isn't unusual in my house, and I do try to remember the watering, but unlike children, the plants just suffer in silence. Their leaves will slowly droop, one by one, and yet they never say a word.

I only keep two or three very specific varieties around, because they have stood the test of time. They are forgiving when I forget to water them and perk right back up with a little attention. If I write down a schedule and stick with it, the plants are much happier. They get water and fertilizer at regular times and look better for it.

So I'm looking at my plant and thinking it probably needs water and it got me thinking about the work I'm trying to do. When I write, my mind works best if I stick with a schedule and force myself to write at regular times. If I let it go, thinking I'll get to it later, later takes a long time to come. Like the plant getting ignored because it isn't as loud as the kids - the writing gets ignored because there are so many other things that need to be done too. On the other hand, my plant seems happy when I empty the last of my water bottle onto it everyday. It isn't much but at least it's something. And if I manage to write everyday, even if it's only for 15 minutes, at least it's something.

Now, I better go water that plant.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Change of Focus

Today was a quieter day than yesterday - good thing too. Once the kids I babysit were picked up by their parents, I took my youngest daughter to her ballet class (which is held in the basement of the library) and spent 45 minutes looking at books and choosing some to take home. Usually I just drop her off and pick her up later, but I decided to treat myself today.

This evening I made a dress, all I have left is the hem. I think it is the first dress I've owned since my brother got married five years ago. When I tried it on to make sure everything fit okay, my husband thought it looked pretty good but he especially liked the blue socks I was wearing with the black dress - never say I don't know how to make a fashion statement. I also found some nice fabric in my "stash" that will make a great skirt which I may even get done before I go to Utah.

Now if I can only find the time to get some Easter dresses made for my daughters. The dresses may be finished until a week or two after Easter, but as far as the girls are concerned, that's fine. Some years the dresses don't get done until July or August, so April would be a real improvement.

So I'm still not ready for boot camp at the conference, but I feel rather relaxed tonight. Sometimes it is a good thing to just have a change of focus for a while.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Burned Out

Today was just one of those days. I've been babysitting children in my home for almost three years now. To be honest, it isn't something I've ever enjoyed. As individuals, I like all the kids, but as a group, they're sometimes just too much. They all love coming to my house, so that is something to be grateful for

When I was in college, I was called to assist in the nursery on Sundays. At the time, it seemed like the perfect calling, since I was majoring in education and wanted to teach the youngest children. Instead, the experience opened my eyes. I knew this wasn't the career for me. So here I am numerous years later doing the very thing I didn't want to do.

Do I have other options? Of course. I could go out and find a job, but it has always been important to both me and my husband that I stay home with our children. Also, I'm not trained in anything that would bring in a very good salary. One time we figured out all the numbers and decided that by the time we figured in fuel for the car (we live thirty minutes outside of the city), work clothes, more prepared foods since I would have less time to cook, and child care - it would cost me so much it wouldn't make the job worth it.

So anyway, I get closer and closer to the point where I am burned out. My writing is suffering, I can't think of anything to blog about and look forward to the weekend way too much. But since the money is needed, I need to find a way to stoke the fire again and have some enthusiasm at the beginning of the day. One thing that will help is the LDStorymakers conference I'm attending at the end of the month. I'm just afraid I will have such a great time I won't want to come home.


On another note, go check out the list of books that are eligible for the 2008 Whitney Awards. It is growing, although some of the books won't be released for a month or two. Start reading them and nominate your favorites. And if you know of any books out there that aren't on the list, let me know in the comment section and I will make sure to add them.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

She's not a little girl anymore...

Tonight, my husband and I attended a program put on by my oldest daughter's Young Women's group. It was a nice evening with lovely spiritual moments and several funny incidents. My daughter spoke and did a great job. I was very proud of her, as I always am.

The strangest moment of the evening for me came during the closing song. The entire group of girls and leaders stood together and sang. It's funny, I've been there watching her grow since the day she was born. I know she's growing up (she turned 15 in February) and I see examples everyday of how she's maturing. Yet, she is still my little girl. But tonight when she stood with that group, she was no longer the short, shy, young girl on the front row. Instead, she stood in the back row, taller than most of the other girls and leaders. She looked confident and beautiful and I know the younger kids look up to her.

Every so often I have those moments. You know those moments where you realize how grown up the kids are, or how few years they have left before they leave home, or how much smarter they are getting. My little girl only has three and a half years left of high school, she is halfway through the Young Women program, and has grown into a tall and beautiful young lady. It's exciting and wonderful to watch.

Meanwhile, I think I need to go count my gray hairs.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Another Day

Today was just another day. Seemed like I went all day long but I feel like I didn't really get lots done. So here's my list:
  • washed and folded all the laundry for the week
  • babysat six kids: ages 16 months, 2, 3, 4, and two 5 year olds
  • gave one of the children a bath as she didn't quite make it to the bathroom
  • voted in our provincial election
  • wrote this blog
  • attended the weight loss support group I meet with every Monday evening @ 9:00 pm
  • researched topic to present to the weight group
  • made dinner
  • talked with my husband for a few minutes about my latest manuscript which he is reading
  • had family home evening (I gave the lesson)
  • exercised on the eliptical trainer
  • helped daughter make refreshments for family home evening
When I read back over it, it doesn't seem like much to me, and this is the only writing I worked on today. Sometimes I get frustrated over everything that must be done to the exclusion of the writing I want so badly to do. Of course, there were the moments when I was cutting chicken up for dinner and thinking about the next plot twist in my novel. And folding laundry while watching some old sitcoms led me to re-thinking some of the character names I've chosen that just aren't working. So I guess I did make a little progress.

I have to keep reminding myself - there is always tomorrow. Even though I have these days when I can't seem to find a spare moment and it seems like there is just too much on my plate, I look at the things I have written and how the pile does keep growing. It is all just part of the process of becoming published. Life will never become less busy, and I am learning how to fit the stories into the spare minutes I happen upon once in awhile. (I do have to admit though, I love those afternoons when I can lock myself away in the office and get some real work done.)

I always wonder how other writers find the spare minutes. (And no, 5:00 am is not an option. You should read the psychedelic stuff I write that early. I am SO not a morning person.) Despite the frustration, I am learning to squeeze the writing in at the oddest times, and slowly the words increase.
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