Wednesday, August 29, 2012

writing wednesday: guest post by meagan

[image from the lovely etsy shop dearcatherina]

hello friends, writers and non-writers alike. today i have a guest post from one of the girls in my critique group, meagan.

meagan is the oldest of 9. she is the one that everyone goes to when they need something, the dependable one, the kind one who thinks and listens a lot before she speaks. and you guys, she totally keeps her house spotless clean ALL THE TIME! here is the amazing meagan:


Don’t only practice your art But force your way into its secrets For it and knowledge can raise men to the divine -Ludwig Van Beethoven

When I was a little girl, I always felt lost. I knew I wanted to be something, that I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what. Looking back on it now, I realize that what I really wanted was to write something.

I started seriously writing a few years ago. One day I sat down and decided to write a book. So I did. Then I wrote another one. I had so much fun writing that I didn’t worry too much about anything. I was just having fun. And when I began to get all those reject letters from agents I had queried, I didn’t really pay attention. Sure, it would be cool to be published. And maybe that might help justify to others that I was a serious and brilliant writer, but for the most part I just wanted to create. I wanted to write a story and I wanted those characters in my head to come to life and live all the lives that I never could. It wasn’t until I had finished my second book that fear and doubt began to set in. I realized then that I had no idea what I was up against. What if I wasn’t really a writer? What if I was wasting all my time on something that in the end would mean nothing? What was my end goal?

It was about this time that I met and fell in love with my writing group, which presently consists of Rachel and this lovely gal. It only took a few times of me sitting next to them at a Barnes and Noble café to realize that these people were my people. My writing had found a home and I knew that this was where my writing would really start to grow.

I was right. The past few years have been sort of brutal, writing wise. I’ve written the same story three different ways. I’ve written 50,000 words just to delete them and try again. And then again. I wrote an entire book and then had to walk away from it completely because it just wasn’t right. It has been hard and sometimes I yearn for those moments where the words just flow and the pictures in my head literally materialize themselves onto the screen of my computer without effort. I have days like that. Sometimes I only have moments. But a lot of the time I am working and learning. I am gathering knowledge and forcing my way in.

I think that Beethoven was absolutely right. It isn’t enough to just write. We have to unlock the mysteries of our craft. We have to give ourselves over to it and set aside all the fear and all the doubt. We have to think of every sentence we write as a gift and every deleted word as a lesson. And then we have to move forward.

So what is my end goal as a writer?

To raise men to the divine, of course. ;)

Monday, August 27, 2012

book recommendations, and a GIVEAWAY!

today i am directing you to olivia's blog where i shared a few book recommendations. she asked what i look for in a favorite book, and i shared here.

also, i just now finished THE RAVEN BOYS by maggie stiefvater and let me tell you, i think you're going to like it. a great ghost-like story with fantastic characters and a lot of seemingly unsolvable problems brewing. and i think, like me, you'll be really frustrated that you have to wait for the next one in the four-book series. it's really good. eeek!

and now, my first giveaway! i loved this book so much that i'm planning on buying the hardcover. the copy i have is an ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) that is signed by maggie, with a few marks from me (it's well-loved, and i wasn't sure i wanted to give it away when i first read it). i'm giving away this copy to one lucky person that comments here. spread the word. the book comes out september 18 and now's your chance to read it early, before it comes out, if you are an impatient fan like me.

leave a comment with your email if you think i might not have it to be entered to win. contest closes sunday, september 2 at midnight, mountain daylight time. good luck!

Friday, August 24, 2012

my new favorite things, plus new running music

oh, hello!

how are you? me, i'm good. the world is beautiful. our bodies are miraculous. children are precious. so many things to be grateful for. here are 5 things i've been enjoying a lot.

1. victoria bjorge's sketchbook
isn't the above image great? it's from her online sketchbook which she uses to foster inspiration. i'm going to try a collaging laser beams coming out of people's eyes in my own sketchbook and see if it helps me focus when i'm writing. ha!

2. spotify
am i the last one to know about spotify? it's my new favorite thing.

if you haven't heard about spotify, it's like pandora, BUT WITH DOUBLE RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS. you can create and/or listen to a radio station based on a song or artist, much like pandora, but spotify is like a whole other level of greatness. you can also create playlists to listen to whenever you want. you can find other people who have the same taste in music you do and follow their playlists, or just them in general. you can share music on facebook, twitter, or tumbler. you can listen to it on your smart phone or ipad. and if you are a paying member, you can make ANY playlist available offline. i think it's genius. and you can try it out for free for a month, then cancel your membership anytime you want.

i have playlists for my two novels, for a working idea of a story, and lots of other things. it's so much fun!

3. treadmill workout by iowa girl eats
i usually HATE the treadmill. i think it's ruined many a potential running lover. but, this workout has got me through a smoky, hellish utah summer. it's fast--only 30 minutes, it's really, REALLY hard and i can feel the afterburn from it all day long.[and really, her whole blog is excellent. workouts, recipes, and when i read her blog i feel like i'm chatting with a good friend]

4. running music
and last, a new-to-me running playlist that's making my indoor workouts feel like a party. i always start out with slow tempo and then take off. i think you're really going to like this music! you can see the full playlist over on my spotify, but the first 20 songs are listed below. i'm happy to share if you email me.

1. hit the ground (superman) / the big pink
2. i've got your number / passion pit
3. run on / moby
4. enjoy the silence / depeche mode
5. over and over / hot chip
6. girls like you / naked and famous
7. e-pro / beck
8. ice ice baby / vanilla ice
9. ready for the floor / hot chip
10. sixteen saltines / jack white
11. pull up the people / m.i.a.
12. midnight city / m83
13. lasso / phoenix
14. dilly / band of horses
15. gonna make you sweat... / c+c music factory
16. girl / beck
17. train in vain / clash
18. pure / the lightning seeds
19. someone great / lcd soundsystem
20. on top of the world / imagine dragons

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

strong at the broken places

the kids are back in school and it sure is quiet around here.

and clean.

you'd think that would make it easy to write. yes, it gives me time to write—which is half the battle. easy though? well. i guess no matter where i go i still have my brain following me around. which means i'm easily distracted. [and also i have crazy brain.]

but the quiet helps a lot. i have been sitting here all morning just thinking...and sighing...typing a few words then sighing some more.

i'm thinking about the things in my life that have been hard. not just hard like running 13 miles or giving birth. hard like being pregnant 36 months of my life and throwing up all day every day. hard like being falsely accused. being shamed and feeling like i deserved it. standing alone, being misunderstood. realizing that a few of my own dreams will not come true in this life.

things that have broken me.

and i'm thinking about my character, trying to think of what will break him. because my favorite kind of story is one where the protagonist becomes strong in his broken places. i hope the story i'm writing, as well as the one i'm living has that same character arc.

strong at the broken places.

Monday, August 13, 2012

happening this week

oh, hi! just a few quick things.

1. last week of summer here. the kids all go back to school next week. i would be more sad about this if i'd had even one writing session go for more than five minutes this entire summer without being interrupted by my dear, sweet, needy children. [i realize this makes me sound like a heartless, ungrateful, selfish mother. i'm not. we've had a summer full of fun family time. it's been wonderful. but. i have a rule to always have an open line of communication with my kids, even when i'm writing. they know they can always get a hold of me if they need something. which they take full advantage of, thus the interruptions.]

i'm so excited for them to be involved in good things at school so i can sink my head deeper into my novel. so excited.

2. it's the little guy's birthday this week. if you live in northern utah, you've seen the swampy, smoky air we've been breathing. lucas has had some breathing trouble because of it and because of me not being vigilant enough to stop his dairy-sneaking ways.

i was up all night with him last week, doing breathing treatments, rubbing essential oils on his chest, and trying to keep him calm. it worked, his wheezing eased a little after about 5 hours of ministering to him, and finally, in the wee hours of the morning he dozed off. i crawled into my own bed, exhausted, only to hear him yell down the hall, "MOM HURRY! I'M DYING!" i rushed in, asking what was wrong. "I'm starving to death," he said.

yeah. happy birthday little guy! he requested a fun day at the waterpark, crepes for breakfast, waffles for lunch, and pancakes for dinner. can you sense a theme?

3. in addition to the birthday this week, it's also my anniversary [15 years!]. and we have two soccer tournaments going on. so naturally, i decided this would be a great time to start a yeast cleanse, to see if i can't get rid of my horrible, horrible allergies/hay fever that have persisted for almost a full year now, only getting worse and worse. i'll let you know how it goes.

4. and just a quick writing update. [i feel a little silly always posting these, since i'm so far away from being a "real", published author, but i keep doing it anyway. my way of faking it until i make it, i guess.] i am loving my story now. i wish i could ignore all my other responsibilities and just finish writing it, but i am a wife and a mother and a volunteer at my church, all things that i choose to take precedence over writing some of the time.

anyway, i'd love some first draft beta readers in about 4 or so weeks when i get to the end. let me know if you're willing to read it and have the time to offer constructive criticisms. just a caveat: it's probably pg-13 in content for swearing and drug-use, and it has some dark, intense themes.

5. what about you lovelies? anything great happening this week?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

of wishes and writing

trying a new thing on the blog—hopefully something that will last a long while—my first guest post.

i'm so pleased to introduce you to my friend brook, who has been a writer since i've known her, and has just started on her first novel project. brook is an herbalist, nutritionist, reader, and the person i go to when when i need wisdom to face my own challenges. when i first met her, i felt like it was a reacquainting, because i'm certain i knew her before this earth life. she is really one of my soul mates and i'm so happy to be able to share her with the rest of you.

here are her words on beginning.

a friend said, "try."

and i looked at the keyboard and wondered.

i had always said i would.

and i ached at the lost time since my declaration.

and i wondered. . .

could i give myself permission to daydream?

to wish?

to begin?

to steal out of the covers early in the morning to commune with my characters?

and sit out on the porch at night, while everyone was sleeping and listen. to listen to the sounds of my story. working in the sound of the crickets and the breeze?

to feel?


and take bits and parts of myself.

and all the things i love.

and weave them together in that just right paragraph that begs to be read again and again?

and so i combated the daily "not nows" and the bigger "not yets" and the nasty "not good enoughs"

and wrote.

and i settled down in to it.

and let myself feel.


and pain.

and as I wrote I began to feel me.

bits and pieces floating up to the surface.

and i wrote them down.

and i cried and sighed and felt and believed in these characters and this story.

and in these stolen moments

i wasn't a mother.

or wife.

or daughter.

or neighbor.

i was just me.

selfishly, completely, wonderfully me.

and yet all those rich experiences came through as i wrote but I tied them together in my own creation. molding them. turning them round to inspect.

and i began to assemble. . .



notes scribbled on tiny pages, church announcements, to-do lists, and brightly colored birthday card envelopes.

i felt myself opening.

creating a space.

for me.

my voice.

a story only i could tell.

writing the book i wanted to read

the book that had this without the that.

and that without the this.

and the this and this and this that made me clap and rush to write it down,
eager to get to the end of the story, as if I was reading it, instead of writing it.

and then I battled the “not yets” and “not enoughs”again and made myself brave

and sent a little bit out

to share with a friend.

and waited.



was it amateur?



i read it again to see.

and realized, it spoke to me.

a story

full of wishes

and heartbreak

and imperfections.

but it was there, pages and pages.

because someone whispered, "try."

Monday, August 6, 2012

my family's musical story in a venn diagram

when i lived at home, my mother would, on occasion, sneak into my room and...uh..."edit" my collection of music cassettes if she saw anything she judged to be inappropriate. meanwhile, she offended my teenage music sensibilities by listening to musicals, pretty much exlusively. she was particularly fond of michael ballam and i can sing from memory any song he ever sang on broadway.

i close my eyes, drew back the curtain
to see for certain, what I thought I knew
far far away, someone was weeping
but the world was sleeping
any dream will do

awesome. or not.

my mother and i had but one musical taste overlap. the beatles. especially the beatles on vinyl.

now, the circle of life is completing itself as elder daughter and elder son develop their musical [it is so hard to type this word] taste. they delight in torturing me with their music. they reset the stations in my car. they add the katy perry station to my pandora. they can't get enough of nicki minaj. maroon 5. one direction.

the only music we both like is the new passion pit album. so now i am biding my time, waiting for their musical tastes to mature. do you think i'll have to wait long? did you like the same music as your parents?

Friday, August 3, 2012


please see footnote*

I just love these little chats wherein I lay bare my soul. *cracks knuckles. rolls shoulders back*

Here we go. Did you know that at least three-fourths of my waking hours [possibly, very possible more like seven-eighths, or maaaaybe even nine-tenths] I spend thinking I might be going crazy. Racing thoughts is a symptom of mental illness. I think millions and millions of things constantly every second all the time and I often want a vacation from my own mind. And I think this makes me a genius or prime drug addict potential.

I have two toenails that fell off after my last downhill race, one of which ripped off while I was wake surfing in Utah Lake. Toenails falling off post-race is normal for me. Not normal was the infection I got in the one. I blame Utah Lake for that. I've spent the last several years since we got a boat lying to myself, telling myself that lake isn't the teeming bacterial cesspool that it is. No more. Utah Lake you are warm, but gross.

There are a few easy, easy homemaking tasks that I avoid because I have led myself to believe they are incredibly difficult. As I carry a laundry basket of clean clothes upstairs and into my room I often am thinking "this will be so hard to fold these clothes. So hard. The hardest thing I have ever done. The thought of folding the laundry is sucking the life force from me." And then I fold the laundry, which takes a total of five minutes, and immediately I give myself a mental pat on the back. "You are amazing! You can do hard things!" This is how I have survive the weary life of stay-at-home motherhood for nigh on thirteen years.

This whole summer I have only wanted to read long, epic, fantasy fairytales. I've read a few other books in between, and even have a late library book of a different genre that I am insisting to myself that I finish before returning, but really I just want to read another DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST.

Sometimes, when my emotions are too angry, too big, too explosive, I go to the creek across the street and throw rocks. I think of the thing that is upsetting me, I transfer that negative thought into the rock, the ugly, gray little rock and I throw it as hard as I can. Sometimes even with my left arm, which is hysterical because those arm muscles are practically nonexistent and definitely not coordinated. And then I end up laughing. Laughing so hard I usually cry. It. Is. Awesome. And perfect self-therapy.

*You may notice that the picture accompanying this post has nothing to do with anything in the post. Thanks for noticing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing Daily

How great is this poster designed by Giovanni Pintori?

“Write every day!”

I can't tell you how many different sources I've heard say the same thing. Why? Because of what Phillip Pullman says:

One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a ship when the engines stop and there’s no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track … all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn’t have been necessary at all if you’d just kept going!

I have to admit, when I first read that, I was in the midst of writing my first novel. I still hadn't learned the art of protecting my writing time, or setting personal boundaries. I had to learn to make it clear to the lovelies in my life that:

(a) no, I was not crazy for wanting to write; I felt a fiery, passionate burning to do this; writing is work too, something I love and part of what makes me feel filled and complete,


(b) writing was going to be a HIGH priority, like maybe number 3 after faith and family—meaning that everything else would have to be fit in IF there was time.

Sooooo. Daily writing. I have a goal for August. The goal is:


Will you join me? If you're not a writer, is there something you'd like to be doing daily? Maybe exercise, or keeping your sink clean, or writing in a gratitude journal, or meditating, or eating raw vegetables. Let me know what you plan to do daily this month and we'll help cheer each other along.

Don't know what to write about? Check out Laurie Halse Anderson's posts about her Write 15 Minutes A Day program. There are some excellent writing prompts and advice.

Need a push to develop the discipline for daily writing? Chris Brogan has some great tips.

“Writing is a marathon of the spirit. Don't give up.” - Stuart Cohen

Time to put one word in front of the other.