Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's Play Catch


Exploring Creativity Series - Part Three

If you are just joining the fun - here's a recap.

Part One - Creativity is within every one's reach -posted here.

Part Two - Busting myths and beliefs that can hold us back -found here

Now that we are past the introductions - let's get to the exciting part.
Do you want to improve, boost or enjoy more benefits from your creativity? There are skills proven to help you do so. Do you remember playing catch as a child? Did you ever go fishing? Did you ever try to catch a frog, lizard, snake - or any animal? What did you use to help your 'catching' ability? A mitt, a hook, your bare hands? Did you need to be fast, patient or both?

Before we can act on any of our creative ideas, we have to capture them first. Why? If we don't record or capture an idea, we'll forget it. Even if we think we have a great memory. Even if the idea is big, or so totally awesome we think it's impossible to forget - it is possible to forget. The better the idea, the more important to record it. This is what Dr. Peek (BYU Humanities Professor) had to say about creativity and memory:

“In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne*, was the personification of memory. She was the mother of the nine muses. The muses in turn, were the goddesses who inspired literature and the arts. They were considered the sources of the knowledge that was contained in poetry, myth, and history. And that was, for many centuries, celebrated and disseminated orally. The types of work inspired by the muses were the artistic, the creative. Memory, is therefore, the grandmother, so to speak, of almost all creative endeavors and a critical component in the relationship between the creator and the created. In part, this was so because of the profound orality of the ancient world, where even when anything was preserved in writing, the average person did not have access to copies of that writing. The memorization of long passages of poetry, drama, and oratory was the presumed activity of educated artists and citizens. All literature, indeed arguably, all language, knowledge and skills were preserved and transmitted orally. For the created work to have any value it must be remembered. If it is not remembered, it cannot exist.
"Yea, They May Forget, Yet Will I Not Forget Thee", Peek, Cecilia M.**, November 09, 2010 italics added for emphasis! & a really great devotional message, too.
We have to find some way- whatever way works best for us- to record and preserve the idea so we don't forget it. 
"New ideas are like rabbits streaking through consciousness; they're fleeting. If you don't grab them quickly, they're usually gone forever.
The main thing that distinguishes "creative" people from the rest of us is that the creative ones have learned ways to pay attention to and then to preserve some of the new ideas that occur to them. They have capturing skills."   
"Capturing is easier in certain settings and at certain times, so we improve our catch by identifying the settings and times that work best for us. For some people, the Three Bs of Creativity--the Bed, the Bath, and the Bus--are particularly fertile, especially if you keep writing materials handy in those locations. . . Others need to sit by a pool or on a cruise ship or in a lonely cabin in the woods."
"People who are serious about exploring their creative side develop and practice various methods of capturing new ideas. Artists carry sketchpads. Writers and advertisers carry notepads or pocket computers. Inventors make notes on napkins and candy-bar wrappers--especially inventors of new foods!" ~By Robert Epstein, Capturing Creativity,  July 01, 1996 
So take a minute and think about what you do when you have a 'new' idea. 
Do you dismiss it? Do you write it down? Do you pick up the phone and tell your best friend who then patents it and makes millions? 
Do you want to discover how creative you really are?
Try the Capture Challenge.
For the next forty-eight hours (that's only two days, right?) decide to take every new idea seriously. Each new idea gets the right to be captured or recorded in some way. Not dismissed. Not judged as crazy, worthless, or useless. If it is new - it gets to be captured. There will be time for evaluating later. And what counts as a new idea? If it is new to you, record it. If it's a new idea for your book, record it. If it is a new idea for a gift, a talk, how to fix your garbage disposal, write it down! 

Be prepared for a couple of things to happen when you take this challenge. As you back off critiquing your ideas before you write them down - you will begin to have more ideas. Also, new ideas may come when you are not in a very good position to capture them. It turns into a game, 'catch me if you can'. So, yes, I'm about to utter (okay, write) the phrase I've never really liked, but happens to apply here, 'expect the unexpected'. Here is a little example. (I don't think Otto new about my creativity challenge, but it fits!)
The scientist Otto Loewi had struggled for years with a problem in cell biology. One night, a new approach to the problem occurred to him in his sleep. In the dark, he grabbed a pen and pad, recorded his new ideas, and went back to sleep. Come morning, he couldn't read his writing! Had he imagined this great solution, or was it real? The next night he was blessed by the same flash of insight. This time, he took no chances; he pulled on his clothes and went straight to his lab. He won the Nobel Prize for the work he began that night.~By Robert Epstein, Capturing Creativity, July 01, 1996
I think Otto was blessed to have the same flash of insight two nights in a row. Most of us do not get that opportunity. However, if we practice the skill of capturing, we can be ready for the ideas the first time they 'streak' through our minds. Good luck. Tell me what you already do to capture your ideas & let me know if you take the challenge. Of course, I cannot be held responsible if you have a flood of new ideas - although if you have any dreams that lead you win a Nobel Prize . . . I wouldn't mind a little shout out!


Up next: How to accelerate the flow of your new ideas.
*(nem-o-soon-ay) Greek goddess of memory, in Greek mythology, the goddess of memory and mother of the Muses ] 
**Cecilia Peek is an associate professor of humanities, classics and comparative literature at BYU. Her research interests include Hellenistic and Roman history, Greek and Latin prose literature and classical historiography. She received a bachelor’s degree in classical literature, from BYU; a master’s degree in ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology from the University of California–Berkeley; and a doctorate in ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology from University of California–Berkeley.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creative Myth Busting 101

Myth n. a widely held but mistaken or false belief


Welcome to the second post in my series Exploring Creativity. (In case you missed the first one, you can read it here.) I'm excited by research that sheds light on what creativity is and isn't, how the process works and how to improve your creative abilities. Before I get to the specific skills that Epstein suggested to boost 'novel behavior', I'm devoting this post to myth-busting. Why? It occurred to me that many of us may not take the time to be creative, or work on creativity-enhancing skills if we are held back by certain myths. Myths can be like powerful illusions, like the sidewalk-chalk art picture above. Doesn't it look like a real puddle?  It's important every now and then to check our beliefs about our creative abilities to make sure we are seeing things as they really are.
“Myths about creativity are deeply entrenched in our culture. Myths have enormous power to shape everyday behavior, often to people's detriment. When people believe the world is flat, for example, they're unlikely to venture out to sea very far and "lands away" remain undiscovered. When it comes to creativity, myths keep most people firmly shore bound”.  Epstein, Capturing Creativity, Psychology Today, July 1994
What "creations" are waiting for you to create them? Are you 'shore bound' thinking that only artists are creative, or you are not a 'right brain thinker' so why try? It's time to replace those myths with the truth about creativity.

Myth # 1- Only Right Brain Thinkers are Creative  
 I was surprised to read what Epstein had to say about right-brain research. It is certainly different from what I've 'heard' and even read in other places. I'm not trying to stir up controversy here, but I think having accurate information about ourselves and our brains helps us to make the best use of them.
"The brain hemisphere distinction is based largely on clinical studies of about 40 "split-brain" patients--people whose brains were severed surgically in order to treat seizures or other neurological problems. The initial studies of such patients, conducted in the 1960s, seemed to show significant functional differences between the left and right cerebral hemispheres. In the 1980s, however, scientists began to reinterpret the data. The problem is split-brain patients all have abnormal brains to begin with."

"As a practical matter, the right-hemisphere myth is nonsense because virtually no one has a split brain. The two halves of our brain are connected by an immense structure called the corpus callosum, and the hemispheres also communicate through the sense organs. Creativity has no precise location in the human brain, and people who promise to reactivate your "neural creativity zones" are just yanking your chain." Epstein, Capturing Creativity, Psychology Today, July 1994


Myth # 2 - Creativity Comes From Creative Types
     This myth is a close cousin to the right-brain/left-brain thinking. The following research is about creativity in the workplace but I think you will notice it has applications to other settings.

"Teresa Amabile . . . heads the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and is the only tenured professor at a top B-school to devote her entire research program to the study of creativity. Eight years ago, Amabile took her research to a daring new level. Working with a team of PhDs, graduate students, and managers from various companies, she collected nearly 12,000 daily journal entries from 238 people working on creative projects in seven companies in the consumer products, high-tech, and chemical industries. She didn't tell the study participants that she was focusing on creativity. She simply asked them, in a daily email, about their work and their work environment as they experienced it that day. She then coded the emails for creativity by looking for moments when people struggled with a problem or came up with a new idea."
"When I give talks to managers, I often start by asking, Where in your organization do you most want creativity? Typically, they'll say R&D, marketing, and advertising. When I ask, Where do you not want creativity? someone will inevitably answer, "accounting." That always gets a laugh because of the negative connotations of creative accounting. But there's this common perception among managers that some people are creative, and most aren't. That's just not true. As a leader, you don't want to ghettoize creativity; you want everyone in your organization producing novel and useful ideas, including your financial people. Over the past couple of decades, there have been innovations in financial accounting that are extremely profound and entirely ethical, such as activity-based costing."
"The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Intrinsic motivation -- people who are turned on by their work often work creatively -- is especially critical."  The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)
Myth # 3 - Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
    The research on this myth might be more controversial to writers than any other myth. I can already envision lots of comments from writers pointing out that without a deadline from an editor or critique group they would not get words on the page. I think the important distinction here is that time pressure may fuel productivity but not always creativity.

"In our diary study, people often thought they were most creative when they were working under severe deadline pressure. But the 12,000 aggregate days that we studied showed just the opposite: People were the least creative when they were fighting the clock. In fact, we found a kind of time-pressure hangover -- when people were working under great pressure, their creativity went down not only on that day but the next two days as well. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up."

". . . it's not so much the deadline that's the problem; it's the distractions that rob people of the time to make that creative breakthrough. People can certainly be creative when they're under the gun, but only when they're able to focus on the work. They must be protected from distractions." The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)
Myth # 4 - Fear Forces Breakthroughs
Do you have to be the moody, brooding, starving-actor-type person to be creative? The answer is a resounding, NO!
"There's this widespread notion that fear and sadness somehow spur creativity. There's even some psychological literature suggesting that the incidence of depression is higher in creative writers and artists -- the depressed geniuses who are incredibly original in their thinking. But we don't see it in the population that we studied. We coded all 12,000 journal entries for the degree of fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, joy, and love that people were experiencing on a given day. And we found that creativity is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety. The entries show that people are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they're more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. There's a kind of virtuous cycle. When people are excited about their work, there's a better chance that they'll make a cognitive association that incubates overnight and shows up as a creative idea the next day. One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity." The 6 Myths Of Creativity, by Bill Breen, December 1, 2004 (italics added for emphasis)

There you have it. Exposed myths to free your creative energy and allow you to 'set sail' and explore your creative potential. As always, I love to hear what you think. And I know there are more myths out there that need busting - so comment away!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's About Time


Well, not really - this post is about Creativity. I've been thinking about it and talking about it and it's about time I sat down and started it. Started what? My series on creativity. I am fascinated by creative people and the creative process. I'm convinced all of us have an inner artist and so many of the myths surrounding creativity -are just that- myths. I came across this article a while ago and loved the research. Here is a little of what Epstein had to say:

The very good news is that, with the right skills, you can boost your own creative output by a factor of 10 or more. Significant creativity is within everyone's reach--no exceptions. What's more, greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we're also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily. 
~"Capturing creativity" By Robert Epstein, published on July 01, 1996

Did you catch that? 'Creativity is within every one's reach - no exceptions' In the words of my four-year-old, that totally rocks! And who couldn't use another source of joy in their life or extra help solving problems? I'm so excited about it that I decided I wanted to do a series. Mark your calendar (I usually post on Tuesdays), become a follower and stop by for upcoming blog posts. I'll be exploring each of the suggestions Epstein has to boost creativity, sharing interviews of some of the really cool, creative people I know. And I might even have a contest before I'm done.

And just for fun - let's get creative. Leave a comment with at least one sentence about the two pictures in this post.




Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where Have All My Blog Posts Gone?

I won't list all my excuses for not posting recently.
Especially when I can sum it up in four letters: L-I-F-E.
But I will include a convenient little link to a new post
over at ANWA. Written by me. Yes, me.
Now whether you are recovering from shock or still
laughing, go on over and read my post.
You know, just for the fun of it.
And I'm not making any promises,
But I might be getting back into the posting groove.
Hmm. Didn't know there was a posting groove, did you?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Word Play

My friend Nikki, over at MMW, read my post on Tuesday (see below) and had an idea for a contest.
So - go here and check it out and even if the last thing you like to do is write - give our contest a try. One sentence. How hard can it be? Play with the words in your brain, or in your last email. Make up an opener about some dream you had that you can't forget. We want to read it. 

And in case you missed it, here is my Tuesday post -

Easy as 1, 2, 3 . . .
I was thinking the other day (hold your comments :), about my own little writing formula. I was trying to break down the mammoth task of crafting a novel into digestible, doable steps. And just for stopping by the blog today - you get my new novel-writing recipe for free:


Step 1. Come up with one awesome, attention-getting, thought-provoking sentence.
Step 2. Repeat 10,000* times.

*Amount may vary depending on genre, publisher's preference or an author's ability to remain seated at the keyboard. Substitutions are allowed, except for the awesome part - that is pretty much mandatory if you want anyone to read and buy your book.

There you have it. I know not all sentences can be as gripping as the ones we use for our hooks or our endings, but you get the idea. Of course I 'm having a little fun here, but sometimes when I get just a smidge overwhelmed by my outline and my plot points and all the loose ends I have running around without any characters to come along and tie them, I take deep breaths and repeat the aforementioned formula to remind myself that I can take the writing one step at a time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Give An Author A Piece Of Your Mind

Have you ever read a book and said,
"Oh, I wish the author had done this, or not done that?"
Maybe you wanted to give the author a piece of your mind?
Yeah, I know you have.
Well, here is your chance. Sort of.
You know I've been working on my first draft - see sidebar status report - and I am at a place where I am deciding about POV. And despite the knot in my stomach, I'm asking for input. That's right. This is your chance to tell an author what you want to read. Do you like one POV throughout the entire book or do you like switching between the POV of the two main characters? Of course, I've already written the rough draft alternating every chapter, from her, then his perspective. And I'd like to keep it that way so I don't have to scrap half the book. But I am taking the time to rewrite a few things and I don't want to overlook something this important.
I'd love your comments, input, opinions, complaints (literary ones, that is).
Of course, I retain the right to choose the POV I think works best for the story - but right now I'd love a little help from my friends.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just For Fun

Because not all blog posts have to have deep,
life-changing messages, right?
Some can be just for fun.
Like the game I played recently at a girl's game night.

Quelf.
Play it.
Just for fun and
Laugh
Really hard
At your friends, but more at yourself.
Go home and wonder for days
Where you learned to talk like a parrot.


If you've played the game, you know what I'm talking about.
If you haven't - what are you waiting for?

Okay - that's all for today.
Next week I'll get back to my regularly scheduled programming.
Enjoy.
(And thanks to great friends for giving me a nice push
out of my well-worn comfort zone!)

Quelf Premier Edition Board Game     Quelf Card Game

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scrapbook Page, Sort Of

I shared this poem over at MMW and also at ANWA and blogged about how I might not be great at scrapbooking, but I do capture the little moments in life with words. I'm posting it here, too, because I just now noticed that I haven't had a post on this blog in almost a month. Sheesh. What have I been doing? Who knows. Reading books, driving kids to school & the orthodontist and reading more books. I think my writing schedule (and I use that word in the loosest sense) - might resume after Labor Day. Thanks for stopping by

Storm Watchers

We sat on the lattice-back patio chair
You and I
To watch a storm
Because in the desert, rain is a spectator sport
Water spattered on the rocks
Tapping rhythms
You sang the alphabet song
Somewhere around H-I-J-K
The thunder clapped directly above our heads
Like you had the fast-moving gray clouds for an audience
Your eyebrows snapped up like rubber bands
“What was that?” Your shock sent up a hand to cover your mouth.
“Thunder.” I explain.
You still scanned the yard and the soggy grass
Looking for a culprit
A gust of wind pushed the rain horizontal
And I knew our moment on the edge of the storm was over.
You clung to me with your four-year-old arms and legs as we scrambled inside.
We stood behind the glass door,
Watched our dusty patio chair get drenched
And laughed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Growing Inspiration

This is also appearing at ANWA.

Have you ever tried to force a plant to grow? Or a flower to bloom? Or force fruit to ripen? Have you ever tried to force inspiration? That doesn't work so well either. I wasn't exactly trying to force inspiration for this blog post --I just got excited when I had an opportunity to visit the gardens at Thanksgiving Point yesterday. I planned to wander the beautiful grounds there and come home with ample analogies for nurturing the inner writer like a gardener might nurture his flower beds.

It was Two-Buck Tuesday, so I brought my children. We arrived and the place was packed. We were there no more than six minutes when my four year-old said, "Can we go home to Grandma's pool?" Of course we stayed, having just driven numerous miles and paid admission. But my time there was not the leisurely, contemplative kind. I spent the next few hours helping my child stay engaged in the vibrant outdoors. The vibrant, hot, humid and crowded outdoors. Oh, isn't that what summer family vacations are for?

The gardens were great for a day trip with my children. Had the conditions been different, I might have been struck with ideas for writing. But maybe not. Those inspiring ideas are like the gardens --they bloom when they are ready --not always when we are.

As for nurturing the inner writer, this is my conclusion: Take your kids to the gardens (or any other lovely place) to nurture them. Buy a 15 cent notebook at any school supply sale and take it and yourself anywhere you'd like . . . and write.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

While I'm waiting . . .

for Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) to come out in August, I've been reading all sorts of things.
Least expected of all is a book I saw at the Children's Museum.
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.
Good book. Surpising Science. Not a how-to.
I talk more about it here, at MMW.
Let me know what you think if you read it - the book (or the blog post -whatever!)

Anyone else waiting for Mockingjay?
And what are you reading while you wait?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fan Mail

(I wrote this and posted it on the ANWA blog and wanted to share it here, too.)

For every writer that wonders.

Dear Writer,

It's not like me to write a letter to someone I haven't met. I've read your book, your blog or your article and I feel like I know you, though. Words can do that. I go about my ordinary day which sometimes is crazy-busy and other times is dull and slow. Either way, reading what you've written picks me up, takes me to good places and by the time I'm done, I'm refreshed for the work I have to do. Thank you for that - that writing thing you do. Thank you for inspiring me, for stirring the life-loving part of me. You can do it with a chapter, sometimes with a sentence. You can make me laugh, cry or stare at the page in wonder. Writing, composing, and editing must not be easy. I imagine you must spend countless hours --or maybe you do count them if you're preparing for that Good Morning America Interview when Matt Lauer asks you "So how long did it take you to write this best-seller?" and even though you might not admit the truth of 10,542 hours - you want to know it so you can sheepishly say - "Oh, I don't know, Matt. Time flies when you are doing something you love." I hope you love doing it, because the world needs good writers like you.

I was thinking if writing were an Olympic Sport, you'd be a medal contender. Of course, the cameras would have to follow you for two years, rather than two weeks and they'd have to figure something out for the action -since typing can come across kind of slow on the screen. And you'd want to be sure not to to give your villains any foreign names because you wouldn't want to offend any of the international judges. Wait. Why am I talking about the Olympics? I was thinking of the sacrifices you must make as a writer that go completely unrecognized by most of the reading public. In our defense, it is not entirely our fault. The publishers never advertise the portion of your life you've dedicated to improving your craft and subsequently finding an agent and publisher that are willing to put your book on the shelf. The two paragraph bio on the glossy inside back cover gives the distinct impression that you've written books in between your first job at the hospital help desk and starting your vegetable garden. It's like their marketing strategy is to minimize, not celebrate, your hard work. Not to mention the time you spend wondering if you really could be doing something different with your life. Only, I hope you don't wonder about that. As your reader, I hope you know what you are doing with your amazing writing talent is priceless, irreplaceable and worth it. Worth all of it. I guess I can't really be the one to tell you what's right for you, your life, but I do know that no one can tell your story, at least not the way you can tell it. I thought it only proper to tell you I love to read what you write. And I hope you will keep writing, for your sake and mine.

Sincerely,
Your Appreciative Reader

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Laughs

I know there is some saying about how good it is to laugh at yourself.
I prefer to laugh at comics.
I used to collect them, but worried that my children might suffer needless trauma if their mother had photo albums of her favorite comic strips instead of albums filled with perfectly scrapbooked pages of thier every waking moment. So. Now I read the funnines online and I feel pretty good if I can at least take pictures of my kids on major holidays (okay-I'm exaggerating. Just making a point.)

Oh and this particular comic - Zits. I'm sure I think it is funny because I and my son are NOTHING like the mother and son portrayed. Nothing. Well, maybe a little. Maybe.

Zits-Scrapbooking

Zits-Open Door

Zits-Talk

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Awards

I'm a little slow. I admit it. I could offer lots of reasons. Like I'm a Mom. Or I'm trying to write a book. Or I fold my towels too slowly because I like the ease of their rectangle shape and their warm softness right out of the dryer. Yeah, I'm worried about that last example, too. Back to my point. A little bit ago & and I'm not saying how long - a friend gave me this blog award!  Her name is Natasha & we met at storymakers. I've been wanting to thank her and do what she did for me - pass it along to some blogs that brighten my day with sunshine. Of course, living in AZ, we kind of already have a lot of that - but I'm pretty sure this is the sunshine that will not increase your cooling bill. Really. So, here's a little thank you to some very cool blogs.
Valerie
Christine
Roni
ANWA
MMW
Thank you, ladies, for making the world a better, brighter place!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Freedom & Cake

Independence Day:
Family, Food & Fun and most importantly, Freedom. I don't like to take things for granted --assuming it will always be around or that it comes easy because it is there. So amid our long weekend of spending time together as a family, I spent some time thinking of and offering gratitude for all those that have fought, died and and are still fighting for our freedom. Say what you will about the perplexities and faults of our country - I think we really do live in a "sweet land of liberty".

***

Now, about the cake: Every Fourth needs a little red, white and blue. My daughter asked, "Can we decorate a cake for the holiday?" She wanted it to look like the flag and also like fireworks. She whipped out a design almost instantly. Then we scanned some pics online and borrowed a few things to polish the look. As you can see we played around with what we put on top.


 

What we did:
Baked a funfetti cake, 8 inch for the bottom, 6 inch for the top.
Made 6 cups of frosting (Wilton Class Buttercream recipe).
We used 3 cups thin to ice both cakes.
We used 1 cup each of red, white and blue for decorating
(We used some for practice and had some left over, too.)
Wilton tip 21 for the rows of stars.
Wilton tip 16 for the mini white stars.
Wilton tip 233 for the layers of strings, or firework spray!
Wilton tip 2D to fill in the top to take the place of the blue topper (that did not fit in the cake taker!)

There you have it. A few hours of festive, edible fun.




Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Article of Interest . . .

For writers.
Okay, who has read any of his books?
Did you like them? What did you think?
My TR (to read) pile is ridiculous - even for summer,
but now I'm curious.

Will Percy Jackson Author Rick Riordan Ever Reach JK Rowling?

As always - I love to know what's on your mind.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whatcha' Readin?

Summer is here in all it's blazing hot glory and I am taking shelter with my books and a good dose of A/C. I'm enjoying The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at the moment. Its a mystery to me why I haven't read any of Doyle's stories (sorry for the shameless pun) before this point in life. Maybe I mistakenly thought because of how long ago the stories were written, they would be predictable. Not so. Even though Doyle uses the same pattern and even some similar character and motives - the endings are almost always a surprise. Either that, or I'm dense, or easily confused. Really, what I love are enough hints to keep me guessing and few secrets to make the reveal very satisfying.  (I blogged a little more about Mr. Holmes at MMW.)

I'm also reading The Book of Mormon this summer with the youth in our ward. They are challenged to read it before school starts again in the fall. It's an ambitious schedule - one that keeps me on my toes - or rather, in the reading chair. 

Next up when I finish following the sleuth - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I've heard good things about it and will be checking it out soon. 

So what about you? What are you reading this summer? I want to hear all about the good books you've found to stay cool - or rather, distracted from the heat. If I get enough (or any) responses - I'll compile a book list.





Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tunes, Anyone?

So I finally added a playlist. I won't tell you how (ridiculously) long it took to figure it out. *Sigh* Playing now is a collection of songs from the same artist -not exactly the collection I was planning before I knew my morning would be half-eaten by setting up free accounts, navigating, deciphering html. blah, blah, blah. Stuff teenagers do at the same time they are writing their English essay and playing the Wii. Sheesh.

Here is what I need to know. Forget, for a minute, the time I spent setting it up and subsequent complaining - Do you like playlists on the blogs you read? When you are reading a post do you like to have background music? I'm asking because I don't want to be annoying. At least not on purpose.
So, here's your chance. Tell me.
To keep the Playlist or not to keep the Playlist.
That is the question. (Sorry, Will.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bundle of Joy

No. Not a baby. Just a bundle of only somewhat related items that all make me happy.

1. There are 55 very cool and kind people following my blog! 55!  Some I know in real life - while others I'm not sure I'd be able to pick out of a line-up - which is a creepy thought - but still - I'm very thankful for my followers. I have follower-contest-ideas percolating. Stay tuned.

2. The ladies at MMW did not give me the boot after my first post! Shocking - I know. But that does mean you can catch another post. Today. Because I have the Tuesday slot. So check it out and you know, leave a comment if you like to do that sort of thing. http://www.mormonmommywriters.blogspot.com/

3. I used to post something on my personal blog (this one) on or around Tuesday's. So I may adjust that unless I can get super-organized and have my posts prepared ahead of time. Not holding my breath for that. But don't worry, I am not abandoning this blog. That is one of the things I love about blogging - the freedom- flexibility-and very understanding readers.

4. If you happen to be a really nice reader that keeps up with this blog and also checks out my new posts at MMW (Hi Mom!) - I just want to point out that I noticed my first two posts over there had stories with morals and I'm really hoping I haven't come across as someone on a soap box or alway moralizing. It really isn't like me, at least it hasn't been. Anyway, I don't think I'll follow that format every week, so hopefully I haven't turned anyone off . *Big Exhale*

5. Stay tuned for more posts about tapping into your creativity. As soon as I can figure out copyright for bloggers and make sure I don't break any laws and get myself sued. That would kind of take all the fun out of this blogging gig.

There you have it. Consider yourself updated. Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I also blog at . . .

Okay, so before I make a little sidebar with the same title and nifty little link, I want to announce it here in a post, with big letters.
I also blog at
I'm not usually the shouting kind, but I'm very excited and still can't believe I get to be part of a very cool blogging team of of other Mormom Mommy Writers!! Today is my first official post - I have the Tuesday slot. So please, if you have time, check it out and let me know what you think. I love comments! Also, you might notice on the blog, I have a profile picture with a nickname. Right now that nick name is "word girl." I think that figuring out the nickname caused me more stress than the post. Sad, I know. Anyway, if you have an idea for another nick name - I'm taking suggestions.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why I really get up

38 today.
No - not pages written,
Years lived.
It's a good day.
I love life.
Yeah, I'm one of those
Birthday lovers.
Not for the reasons you might think.
Not because life is easy or
Things always go as I planned. No.
I've had my share of
I-didn't-see-that-coming moments.
But I've believed for a long time
Life is beautiful
Easy or hard-
Life is a gift.

This year
I am the age
My older brother
Never got to be.
It's hard to care about smile lines
Or grey hairs when I remember him.
Years take on new meanings
when they are etched on gravestones.
If he were so young when he died,
How can I be getting old?

I'm aware my
Age-announcing
Birthday-loving
Blog post
Is a bit unconventional
In our culture of
Perpetually young everything
And maybe some of my readers are shielding their eyes
Cringing for me - did she really put her age on the page?
Yes. I refuse to dread my birthdays,
Or even pretend I'm not really grateful to have another one.

Here's to watermelon and corn on the cob.
Summer nights and star filled skies.
Moving the furniture and turning up the dance music.
And on hard, hard days
Here's to the kind of peace that only comes from prayer
And singing hymns to soothe a broken heart
And knowing life is a beautiful gift.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What is a Blog?

What do I do when life gets too crazy-busy and I still want to post something?
I get philosophical. Okay. Not really. But I did come across this little video where they asked people in time square  "What is a blog?"

It's short. And it may provide some comic relief. Unless, of course, you are a blogger, then brace yourself. I get the feeling we in the blogging universe aren't getting the r-e-s-p-e-c-t we deserve! Oh well.

Oh, and wait for the guy in the blue shirt. Can anyone tell me what it means to be "one third as smart as they really are?" Don't worry. I don't take offense. In fact, if someone needs to find a blog to point and laugh at - they are welcome to use mine!!

Have a great blogging day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are You A Morning Person?

Okay, I should rephrase the question.
Are you a Morning Pages person?
If you've read The The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, then you probably know what I'm talking about. If not, let me explain one of the coolest ways I know to tap into all the awesome creativity slumbering in your brain. The simple description is: write three pages of longhand in the morning. Yes, I write mine soon after I wake up. I know, scary. This is stream-of-conciousness writing. Nothing fancy, unless custom drapery patterns or new ways to fold dinner napkins are running through your mind when you wake up. One of the functions of Morning Pages is brain drain. This point frightened me at first, beacase really, how much of the grey stuff can I afford to lose? What else about the pages? (Yes, I'm now quoting phrases from page 10-11.) The great news is there is no wrong way to do morning pages. See, this is my kind of writing exercise. No wrong way - so freeing. Also another function of the pages. Write whatever comes to your mind. It doesn't have to be pretty or make any sense. Sometimes they will, mostly they won't. The pages are a way to get all the stuff that stands between you and you're creativity - out of the way. Worries, fears, rants, petty stuff, deep questions - get it all out on the page and make room for the patient creative works waiting for your attention. Another benefit? Doing the pages help you get past your Censor. I'm not going into a long explanation of your right brain/left brain here, but if you have ever tried to write anything - then you know what I'm talking about. The little voice in your head that might say, "Are you serious? Calling him Darrin? Where are you - on an episode of Bewitched?" (Yeah - way too much airtime for my censor -sorry!) So the morning pages trains your Creator to take center stage and your Censor to sit down and be quiet. And the obvious benefit of putting your Censor on the bench? Yep - you guessed it - the major block to your writing is out of the way!

This would be the point in my post where I would show you examples of some the free-writes I've done in my morning pages. But I'm not. If my psyche thought there was any chance I was going to put morning pages on display - I'd lose all that creative freeedom. Antoher rule of the pages - don't show them to anyone! It's tempting, especially when you've done it for a while and you want to show someone that you've been writing something. But don't do it. So forgive me, you'll have to create your own example. Go ahead. Give it a try. Stick with it for at least two weeks and I'd love to know if you notice any changes in your writing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Legends

I've been waiting ever since the conference to post this awesome power point about writing legends and what it takes to become one. Love it.


More conference highlights here.
Some pics here. (mostly random people, but if you scroll to the end of the chap 8 series, yep, that's me with the third place envelope, trying to replace my "Are you serious" shock with a "I'm so happy I could cry" smile.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meet My First Novel Pancake

I decided writing my first novel
is very much like cooking my first pancake.
Imagine loving gourmet pancakes your entire life
(or as early as you could eat them.) Imagine appreciating the satisfying flavor, the perfect fluffiness and undisturbed golden brown edges.
Picture a perfectly cooked pancake, not underdone, no liquid center. Not overcooked, no frisbee prototype.
Now imagine that you decide you want to cook your own gourmet pancake. You use the best recipe and have a great griddle at your hand. You pour, wait for the bubbles and flip. And it looks like. . . a first pancake. A little flat, misshapen and very new. You move it to the plate, stifle your sigh and hope whoever gets that pancake will be able to look past it's superficial flaws and appreciate it's fresh, warm taste.

That's how I'm feeling today.
And no, my novel is not about pancakes.
It's a Christmas Story.
About trees.
I like the story so much that I've stuck with it for a year. 
I'm beginning the second draft and I'm wondering-
Can I count the rough draft as my first pancake?

(Note about my post: I should probably eat breakfast before I conjure up writing analogies!)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

LDStorymakers Conference 2010 - Highlights

How I survived Boot Camp  

How many people pay money to wake up painfully early, hand their precious WIPs over to total strangers and allow them to pick it apart? Crazy boot-campers, that's who!
Okay, joking aside, it was one of the best parts of the conference. Who can put a price on honest feedback?  Sharing with strangers was daunting at first, but then I realized, hey - these people are not my relatives and I don't visit teach them - so maybe I can trust what they're telling me. (Note: I have honest relatives- but you know what I mean - right?)

I loved the group I got to be a part of. I enjoyed getting to read the writing samples of the the others in my group and loved!! being able to meet & learn from Tristi Pinkston. She rocks! Totally professional, spot on critiques, and quite funny. Thank-you Tristi, for a great Boot Camp experience.

The Making of a Drama Queen

For the record, I did not ask to change rooms!  The hotel had to cope with the storymaker's conference, BYU graduation and a roll-away bed shortage. So they shuffled us from one room to another on Friday. *Big Sigh* Someday when I grow up I want to be like my friend Peggy who had her luggage packed and ready, waiting by the door. No drama there. Me? I was fighting with my morning-routine-belongings (read: hairspray, make-up) to fit into the suitcase. Behind me was the stack of foam pillows (I'm allergic to down). The Marriott lady, Irene - very, very nice, offered to carry those for me, especially when she saw me opening the closet. Yes, my two days worth of clothes were on their hangers. This is point in my little story you may have seen me, trapesing through the lobby holding my clothes on hangers. If my children had been there I'm sure they would have fled the scene. Oh well. Everyone needs a little comic relief in their day, right? Right?

Contest Winners

I've been waiting for a list of all the contest winners so I could put a link to it here. But I haven't seen one yet. But I am aware of who won third place in the general fiction category. Yes. I won 3rd place!!! And yes, it is very much like the Olympics - winning the bronze - I was very happy just to be on the podium - only there wasn't a podium really, and no medals. But a very cool envelope with $25 in it and a sticker for my name tag that read 'third place.'

Putting the shock aside, I was really thankful to place at all in a competition with other really great writers. As for what I entered? It is the first chapter of the book I've been writing for a year. The working title is "The Keeper" and it is a Christmas Story about miracle trees. I have now nicknamed it 'The Little Christmas Story that Could'.

The judges feedback forms have been really helpful, but did anyone else open their envelope and have the worst one put right on top? Do you think that was on purpose? Sorry, I'll get over it. Someday. I hope.

Up next: Workshop Highlights and more on my Work In Progress

Monday, April 26, 2010

LDStorymakers Conference 2010 - Quotes


This was my first time attending the LDStorymaker's Conference in Provo, UT. It had been on my "become-a-author" to do list ever since last year. And it lived up to every good thing I'd heard about it. Great speakers, lots of really cool writers, agents and editors-what else could you ask for, except maybe a venue change to say, Hawaii? I'm not one for hyperbole but it was the Best. Conference. Ever.

I've compiled random quotes for your reading enjoyment.

"We're glad you're here. You matter." - Saturday morning opening remarks

"The more pain you have, use it." - referring to women's fiction

"Unique-wa-fy your book" -permission from M.A. Bell to use her newly coined word.

"If I can do it, you can do it." -from the cliche class

"Once you start writing, you have a radar for wierdness!"

"We are going to change your reservation and put you in one room the first night and another room for the second night." -said with a smile by the front-desk-man to me upon check-in. This has nothing to do with writing but it will help you understand one of my conference highlights.

"We have a ton of material so I'm going to talk fast to get through it" - from the pacing class . . . okay I made this one up - but all of the other quotes are totally true!!

"If your first sentence is about the weather - delete it!" - first five pages workshop

"Then I'm going to make her squirm" - this was overheard by my friend Peggy, who has incredible powers of eavesdropping, er - I mean observation, at one of her tables. This makes me want to ask, "Haven't you heard of karma? You know, what goes around, comes around!" Unless she was speaking of a character in her book, maybe her villian. Then the comment is totally justified! That's the trouble when you don't have context.

Speaking of context. . .

"Remember to exercise. . . join toastmasters . . . hang out in a bar." -advice from David Farland during his keynote address. Does he know he's speaking to writers? I didn't make this up. But I will add context. He said we have to take care of ourselves physically to have sharp minds. He said we need to prepare for the day when we are asked to give the keynote address at storymakers, 'polish your public speaking skills, you know, join toastmasters'.(We can hope, right?) And he told a story of attending World Con twenty years ago with a new writer who he instructed to go with him to the bar to hang out with the agents and editors - he did warn him not to drink anything, though. *whew*

Last quote "overheard" by Peggy while we were boarding the flight to SLC. Okay, I heard it too, but she got the full sentence:

"I always leave an empty seat next to me if I can, so if I see a pretty girl I can motion to her that the seat is available." -said by the man one seat behind us to his friend. All you pretty ladies taking flight - be warned - he's out there. Unless you're looking for this kind of shallow schemer- well then, he's all yours!

Ahh, good times.

Coming soon - conference highlights including my bootcamp survival story, great writing advice and winners of the 1st chapter contest. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pouring

I wrote this about a year ago. It is unfinished,
but I was thinking of it today and decided to share.

Pouring

My three- year-old daughter learns how to
Pour juice into her cup.
She grasps the too-big bottle
With her miniature hands,
Stretched and wobbly.
I offer to help.
She says, “I do it myself.”
I am learning, too.
I hold my breath as she pours and
The liquid tumbles from the top of the bottle
Down to her small cup on the table
Like the high diver at the circus,
Aiming for the small tub of water.
She doesn’t spill any juice this time.
“I did it,” she squeals.

I am like the high diver, too.
Only she is my target, small and moving.
Even sitting still she is growing
What she needs today
May not be what she needs tomorrow.
Every day I pour myself,
Hoping it is enough.
At night, her room is dark
“Sing me a song,” she pleads.
My pouring is drops as I whisper-sing,
I do not want to spill even one note.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Not to Wear?

So, I'm preparing to attend LDStorymaker's writing conference this month. Yes, I'm excited. Ever since I started seriously writing, I've been looking forward to a conference just like this one for a chance to meet other authors, hear great ideas for improving my 'craft' and the opportunity to do something with my writing that involves other people - something social. Hence, the prepartion. I thought I'd be spending every spare moment writing or editing or in some way polishing my writing. What am I doing?

Um, Housework -haven't given that one up yet.
Reading Conference Presenter blogs - that counts, doesn't it?
Checking flights - why do airline schedules not accomodate my tight itinerary? And finally - Figuring out what to wear. Uhg. This is when I remind myself I am a writer for a reason. I like buying books more than shoes, I like reading books more than stepping out to a movie and, yes, I like writing books more than shopping at the mall.

I know writers can have the reputation of being serious, studious and I-mean-this-in-the-best-sense-of-the-word, nerdy. I don't want to shatter that image by appearing shallow and clearly self-centered here, but I do have to figure out what to wear. Can I be frivolous for a minute?

I checked with some of the places I usually turn for inspiration. I thought maybe dear Jane might have a suggestion for me. *Sigh* The empire waist. She can pull it off, but this century I'd run the risk of it resembling maternity wear. And the bonnet . . . now there's an idea.


"Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!" Jane Austen


How about Miss Alcott? The white blouse looks versatile, but I don't think I could get my hair to curl, shine and extend over my ears the same way. Is it just me or does she look like she could could be Princess Lea's grandmother?

"Let us be elegant or die! --Amy (Little Women), Louisa May Alcott

Last try. What can I learn from Miss Emily? Maybe less is more? Less hair, no collar, no lace -more poise? So writing inspiration? Yes. Fashion inspiration? Not so much. But I like Emily's advice . . .


Dwell in possibility - Emily Dickinson

I think I will look mostly like myself - maybe a little more excited than this pic and definately more colorful. Thanks for taking that little field trip with me. Now back to writing the book!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Chinese Proverb

and why I love my ANWA Chapter meeting

Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your
friend's forehead.
That’s the proverb.

It’s why I love my ANWA meetings. (Note: ANWA is the American Night Writer’s Association. It’s a writer’s network group for LDS (latter-day-saint) women.)

When I set out to write a novel, a full length one with a minimum of 50,000 words, I wrote about six chapters and discovered a few things. One – I needed to adjust my expectations for when I might finish the book, two- I needed to adjust my writing style, accustomed to writing one page poems filled with alliterations and obscure phrases, to prose that someone was willing to read. And three –I needed to adjust my desire to do it alone. I knew I needed help. I remembered basics of plot, characterization and pacing from college and high school classes, but that was (ahem) years ago. I knew from my poetry experiences and the sheer number of words I was writing, I needed to read some of what I was writing – out loud, to willing ears.

That’s when I found ANWA, or did ANWA find me? If you have time for a tangent, I still think it is amazing. One morning in the pouring rain, I drove my son to junior high and got rear ended by a young man, not watching the road or cars in front of him. Whiplash. Some fender and trunk damage. Eventually we sold the sedan and found a minivan I still love driving. (Funny sentence I’d never thought I’d write!) The whiplash led me to physical therapy. Physical therapy included therapeutic massage with a massage therapist that attended . . . yes, you guessed it, ANWA.

Back to the chapter meetings. I didn’t know what to expect when I attended. I promised myself, very much like I would my toddler, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go back. Here I am one year later –still enjoying the benefits of hanging out with great writers. I love how we are women of different ages, backgrounds, family situations and even different writing aspirations, but we are able to learn so much from each other.

Hence, the proverb. It makes me laugh out loud. Maybe because not too many people I know use hatchets these days, and I suppose I’m still young, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fly on anyone’s forehead. But I love the point. How a fly is a nuisance, yet harmless, and someone might use lethal measures to get rid of it.

But not in ANWA! What I have found there is a positive, encouraging, and caring group of women. A place where I show up with my shaky hands, holding my timid pages, waiting for everyone to run screaming from the room when I am done reading. Instead, I finish, look up and see a few smiles and women who appear comfortable as they listen. They do not have to use hatchets to remove the flies from my manuscript. Their kind words of thoughtful critique do it beautifully. I suppose some manuscripts might need a hatchet, or a shredder, or a torch, (sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away). But those are very rare. The ladies I have met and become freinds with in ANWA have helped me to critique and edit and polish my writing, without crippling me, the writer. That’s what I love about ANWA. And in case you are wondering, I have written this blog of my own free will – no one suggested, asked, paid or otherwise prompted me to do it!

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