Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How I Became a Writer

When I was in first grade, my mom bribed me to learn to read. After that I couldn't get enough and read everything I could get my hands on. I was always making up stories in my head, inventing characters to play with and daydream about. I think at some point it occurred to me that I wanted to be a writer, but for some reason I thought -- I can't do that. I don't know how. Writers are like -- famous -- right? I could never do anything like that.

At some point, I decided I wanted to major in physics and become a nuclear physicist. When I got to college, I had to take calculus before I could take any physics classes. Calculus defeated me. I changed my major to English and never looked back. As an English major, all I ever did was write stuff, but none of it was fiction. I did try my hand at writing a children's story about a dragon that blew bubbles instead of fire. It was pretty cute.

When I was getting ready to graduate, (and expecting my first baby), I decided that I would like to write children's books. That didn't seem too hard. (Actually, it is just as hard or harder than any other writing and the competition is ferocious.) I told my husband, but I never did anything about it, never tried to write anything. My baby was born, and at that point I'd pretty much accomplished every goal I'd ever set for myself (college, marriage, motherhood). I felt kind of lost and depressed. I checked a book out of the library called, "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy," by Orson Scott Card, mostly because I like Orson Scott Card, and not because I thought I could write sci-fi or fantasy. I was still stuck in , "I could never do that" mode.

I went to work frying doughnuts at a local bakery (yum), because Tracy was still in school and we were broke. One day while I was at work, Tracy noticed that Orson Scott Card was doing a book signing at the BYU bookstore. He went home, got one of my Card books and went and got it signed for me. Tracy said he just walked in and no one else was there. He walked right up to Card and got the book signed. This is amazing to me. I've never been to one of his book signings where I didn't have to wait in line forever. Anyway, Tracy brought me the signed book when he picked me up from work. I was excited. He told me that he told Card that I wanted to write science fiction. My first thought was "Why would he say something like that?" and my second thought was, "Wow. He's right." He told me all the good advice that Card had given him, like stop thinking about it and just do it. So I did. I started writing and submitting and writing and submitting some more.

Nine years later, I finally had my first short story published. The more I practice writing, go to conferences, get critiques, give critiques, talk to other writers and just write, write, write, the more I realize that I can do this after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My First Published Work

Yesterday, my mother-in-law gave me a book she found in a box she was going through. It's the, "Castle Dale Stake Mormon Arts Festival Writing Contest Winners, 1979." And guess what was in there? This little poem that won second place in the children's division:

The Lord is Where
The Lord is through the ceiling
And the rainbow that just came out,
And through the stars of night
And the sun of day.
We are just passing through its beautiful rays.
We finally reach his holy place;
We jump up and down with a smilie face.
--Angie Taylor, age 7

My first publication! You know, I can actually remember composing this poem in my head during Sacrament Meeting. It's funny that my mother-in-law had this. We lived in the same stake back then, but my husband and I didn't meet until college.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting in touch with your muse

My mom made me a wall hanging from a Mary Englebreit picture which says, "Inspiration is the act of pulling up a chair to the writing desk." I like that.

Here are some random thoughts of mine on getting inspired to write:

Music: I like to listen to music while I write. Some songs inspire emotions that I want to capture in a story.For instance, my short story "Ripped" was inspired by the melencholy homesick feeling of the song, Five Hundred Miles. (If you miss the train I'm on/You will know that I am gone./You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.)

Daydreaming: Heck, I love to daydream. It also helps me get to sleep at night.

Reading: Reading really great writing makes me want to do some of my own. Reading really crappy writing makes me think, "Hey, I can do better than that." Reading non-fiction often gives me story ideas, too.

I'll add more when I think of some.

I'd love to hear what inspires you guys!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Accepting Rejection

I got a rejection letter last week. It wasn't a letter actually rejecting the story. It was more like, "I'm shutting down the magazine, so here's your story back." It's still disheartening. All rejections are disheartening. Believe me, I have received a ton of rejection letters. Some of them almost made me happy, like the ones actually signed in ink by Stanley Schmidt from Analog, and one really nice one from Sheila Williams at Asimov's. Others have made me absolutely furious. Who do those stupid editors think they are, anyway? I resisted the urge to reply and tell them as much. (You should always resist that urge. Nothing like burning bridges.) Mostly, though, I just feel really disappointed. Sometimes, I fall into "I'm a crappy writer" mode, but that's really not helpful. The best thing I can do is pick myself up off the floor and send the dratted story out to someone else. Then do it again, and again, and again.... All of my published stories were rejected numerous times before finding a home. Last week's rejected story was back in the mail the very next day. (Pat on the back for me.)

As an editor over at Mindflights, I get to see the other side of the coin. That has added a lot of perspective. All magazines (and book publishers) reject waaaay more stuff than they buy. I've read a lot of really poorly written stories. Do I think the authors should never have submitted them? Not at all! Writers have to submit, have to keep working, have to keep trying and improving. Rejection is just part of the game if you want to be a writer. You just have to learn to accept it and go on. Send the story out again. Work on something new, but never give up. If I've learned anything trying to get published it is persistance, and persistance really works.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Random Weirdness

This is my Nesquik folder:

It is very appropriate that I have a Nesquik folder, since I drink Nesquik every single day. I have Nesquik in my year's supply. I love Nesquik. I cannot live without it. Anyway, I carried around my novel chapters in this folder when I was making my revisions. Now, when I look at this folder, I see Caleb. Those of you who have read the novel will agree that the Nesquik bunny is in NO WAY an appropriate image for Caleb. But there it is. That's Caleb in my mind. Weird.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My apologies...

...To everyone who thought this blog might be interesting. Sigh. It seems that when I get intensely working on a writing project (or two, or three), I don't have time or interest in blogging. I'm going gangbusters on "Consecrated." I've written 35 + pages. That's cool. I can't wait until it's done. I pulled out the Christmas story again and proofread and changed some little things. I think there are still some weak spots that need polishing, so I'm working on that, too. I got the critique of my novel back from my good friend and FREAKIN' AWESOME critiquer/editor Suzette. I am so excited to be working on her suggestions. So, that's writing project number three. I have to admit, I'm a little scared to finish the novel because then I'll have to submit it, and that is terrifying me. I don't know why. It's not like I don't submit stuff all the time. I'm nervous about it, though. I've had several people read the manuscript, and I have asked all of them to tell me who their favorite character is. It is so interesting to me to find out who they relate to in the novel. It's been cool. They almost all chose someone different. Well, that's all for now. Hopefully, I'll blog again soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Notebooks

Since I write everything out by hand in a notebook, I want to have a notebook that I am excited to write in. So, I took one of my rare forays into the scrapbooking section to get stickers to decorate the front of my notebooks.
This is the Christmas Story notebook -- my first attempt at decorating a notebook. It looks pretty good, but some of the snowflakes peeled off on the the edges. Bummer. I wrote one Christmas Story in here, and I'm saving the rest of the notebook for future Christmas stories.

The short story/novella notebook. This is the one I am writing in now (notice the pen in the binding). I am sixteen pages into "Consecrated." I wasn't paying attention and I accidentally got a wide ruled notebook instead of college ruled, so I have to write a little more than 10 pages per week to reach my actual goal.
The novel notebook! This is my favorite one. I think it turned out really nice. The black squares at the top say Always Remember To... Very inspirational. I hope to be working on a novel in it as soon as I finish writing "Consecrated."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How I Got the Writing Chair

Tracy thought I should post about how I got my writing chair. Short version: found it on craigslist for $20, drove to Orem, and bought it.

Long version: Last summer at one of our Loafer Ladies Writing Club meetings, Suzette asked us all to describe our ideal writing spot. I said mine would be in one the rooms on our top floor. They are attic rooms, and the ceilings are sloped. I love the cozy cabin feel. I said that as soon as I could kick one of the boys out of their bedroom, I'd turn it into my writing room. Well, we did some bedroom rearranging before Xander was born, and one of the rooms became Tracy's office. My friend (and fellow Loafer Lady) Wendy pointed out that the room was big enough for him to share it with me. So, I claimed half of the office for myself. I wanted to get a comfy chair for writing in, but at the time, it just didn't seem worth spending money on. Besides, I was about to have a baby.

Fast forward to this past summer. Tracy and I had a conversation about what was stopping us from going after our dreams. Fear and self-doubt topped the list. We both decided that we shouldn't let fear stop us. I decided I was going to really dedicate myself to my writing, and that meant it was time to get the comfy chair. So, I did! It sits between the two desks in the office, where I have a lovely view of Mt. Loafer out the window. I love it, though sometimes, I have to admit, the writing chair is just a little bit too comfy! Now, nothing is stopping me from going after my dreams.

So, what's stopping you???

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unleash your creativity!

Today at our Loafer Ladies Writing Club meeting, we talked about fostering creativity. I used an article from Family Fun magazine about children's poet, Jack Prelutsky. His steps to fostering creativity in kids were:
1. Rubbish the rules! (Don't be afraid to take artistic risks)
2. Try something different. (Sing, paint a picture, write a poem, something you don't normally do)
3. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary (Ideas are all around us.)
4. Dive right in! (Go for it. Creating is fun!)

Though the article talked about fostering creativity in kids, I think it applies to us boring grown-ups, too. We all need to get into a childlike frame of mind to be truly creative.

To get your creative juices flowing, play with the Prelutsky Poetry Wheel. Here's a link:

Let your imagination run wild.

From President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

So, what's next?

Well, this is the first time I've had this problem. Instead of finishing one project and being empty and idea-less for a while, I have too many things to choose from to work on.

1. I want to start a novel. That was my original plan. I have a vague idea I could work on OR I could start a sequel to my first novel, Zion Rising. Incidentally (Lindsay), I don't have a whole sequel in mind. Just a couple of intriguing situations. I've just been so excited about the characters ever since I started revisions. Frankly, though, I'm kind of terrified of the idea of writing a novel again.

2. I want to rewrite a story that I wrote many, many years ago called "Consecrated." It's the story that gave me the idea for the novel. It's probably one of the first things I ever wrote, and it's dreadful, but I think it's a good idea and I'd like to do it right this time.

3. I found another cool word seek list. A story I wrote this year, "Sofie and the Night Eagle" was created from the following list:

actress, airport attract, breakfast, bulletin, cashmere, center, country, delete, devote, disrupt, eaglet, essential, fascinate, fisherman, fountain, guardian, ivory, mileage, nectarine, newscast, parish, pizzeria, premiere, ruler, science, somewhat, teacher, timetable, trampoline, treasurer, trinket, union, uproot, wonder

Those of you who have read "Sofie and the Night Eagle" probably recognize those elements.

Well this week, I found this awesome list:

ammunition, arctic, beanpole, birth, brought, cabdriver, colonel, corridor, cuckoo, despite, detergent, dribble, emperor, evaporate, everyone, hitch, homemaker, homestead, layman, mermaid, muddle, noblemen, nonstick, orangeade, prospect, rosary, saucepan, silence, sincere, sodden, stowaway, stuck, tarantula, triple

That sparks all kinds of ideas for me. Maybe I could even turn it into a novel. Who knows?

At the moment, "Consecrated" is the front runner for what I want to think about and work on.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Christmas story is finished!

Yes, that's right. I finished writing my Christmas story on the last day of September instead of the third week in December. Amazing! I am going to have the most relaxing Christmas season ever. Of course, it's not totally finished. I write everything out by hand in a notebook, so I still have to type it all up on the computer. (For me, that's the worst part of writing.) I hope to have that done by the end of the week. Then, I'll let it sit until November, pull it out again, and see if there is anything I want to change. It's called "Star Blessed," and those of you lucky enough to be on my Christmas list will still have to wait until Christmas to read it. :) It's a straight fantasy, which is a little different for me. It doesn't have a medieval setting, but it does feature an evil sorcerer king.

A little background: I have been writing a Christmas story as my gift to family, friends, and neighbors since 1995. We were pretty much broke that year. I thought it might be nice to write a story to give to everyone. That wouldn't cost me much except for time. Now, the tradition is in its fourteenth year. Most Christmases, I regret ever starting this tradition. At least until the story is finished. I plan to try and sell them all as a collection.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finlay's Class

I went to speak about writing to Finlay's second grade class yesterday. It was fun. I read them my favorite book on writing, "Arthur Writes a Story" by Marc Brown. Then I talked about how to get ideas (use your imagination, ask "what if?"), and the difference between fiction and non-fiction. They had written down some questions for me like what kind of stories I write, the tools I use for writing, and how books get put together (didn't know the answer to that one), and if I got mad when someone says they don't like my stories. (Sad, maybe. Not mad.) All in all, it was fun to talk to them about what I love. It made my day when his teacher, Mrs. Mecham, said she'd heard that I was really good. I don't know where she heard it, except maybe from Fin. :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

For with God, nothing shall be impossible.

How does a mother of six find the time to write? The past month or so I have absolutely been on fire! I wrote forty pages in the past five weeks, which is double or more what I considered good output even two months ago. If that isn't enough, I also pulled out my first novel and cut it down from 98,000 words to 90,000 words and seriously tightened up and polished the prose. I attribute this great writing output to yielding my heart to God. No kidding. When I got down on my knees and humbly asked Heavenly Father to remove my shortcomings, to give me a new heart and make me a new person, I have found writing more important to me than ever, and through the grace of God, I have dramatically increased what I am getting done in the time that I do have. I also lost ten pounds without even thinking about it. President Ezra Taft Benson said that, "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can." I can testify that this is true. The Lord is making a new person out of me, and happily, writing seems to be a part of His plan. Even if I never publish another thing, at least I get great satisfaction just from the writing itself. I'd love to have a larger audience, but I will leave that in God's hands.

Besides the grace of God, I also don't watch TV. We have a TV, just for watching movies, but it doesn't get any channels. And, okay, I do own the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation on disk, but I don't even watch that all that much. This is such an amazing blessing. I highly recommend getting rid of your TV. The other thing that gives me time to write, which I can't recommend as highly, is that I don't do housework. Okay, I do some housework. The dishes are done every day, and the laundry, but as far as stuff like vacuuming, dusting, mopping, bathrooms -- those get done on Saturday, and the rest of the week I just don't worry about it. I figure I can have an immaculately clean house or I can write. I choose to write.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welcome to the Writing Chair

Hi. This is my blog for talking about writing rather than family stuff.