Thursday, December 3, 2009

Opera Gerbil

As an illustrator, sometimes I get images stuck in my head until I put them on paper. My church choir director is an opera singer and she can sing with the force of angels. In an attempt to teach the soprano's how to hit their high notes, she has been convincing us that we have to use the muscles of our face to make our voices cooperate. Thus, we do gerbil faces. We pull up our lips, hit our high notes and sing our little hearts out like opera gerbils (we do not go so far as to wear the viking helmets).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kids Who Want To Write

What do you do if you are a kid who wants to write? My advice would be do it. If you feel like writing, then write. Write letters, write poetry, write in a journal, write stories. Any kind of writing is good practice if you want to be a writer. And read, a lot. Read the kind of books that you want to write. You need to become familiar with the flavor of what you want to write.
Of course it doesn't hurt to read other genre's too. Get lots of information crammed inside that head of yours. You may love science fiction, but give a historical novel a chance.It doesn't hurt to have lots of insight into other things to glean from. Historical facts, biology, science, language, geography, astronomy, mythology, all these subjects and more can be helpful in writing. Learning is great adventure. Barbara Streisand in her movie "Yentl" sang,"The more I learn, the more I realize -the less I know." I believe what she meant is, every time you learn something, you realize that there is so much more to learn. Then take what you learn, use your imagination, put a new twist on it and tell a story that no one has ever heard before. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
So get out there and write. I dare you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Angel on Main Street by Kathi Oram Peterson

Yesterday I read 'An Angel On Main Street' by Kathi Oram Peterson. It was a delightful little Christmas story that takes place after the Korean War. Having lost her husband, a young widow moves her family to a small town in Idaho for a fresh start. The fresh start is for Micah. He's a good boy, but hanging out with the wrong crowd got him in trouble in the last place they lived in.
To complicate things, Micah's little sister, Annie, is very sick after having rheumatic fever. When a manger scene begins to mysteriously begin to appear one piece at a time on main street, it seems to give Annie hope. Micah vows to find the the baby Jesus and bring it to Annie before she gets any weaker.
If only Micah can accomplish his goal without the interference of the pesky town sheriff who seems to keep butting into their lives and making goo goo eyes at his mom.
Written from a young boys point of view, this sweet story of courage and determination will give you a good dose of the holiday spirit, no matter when you chose to read it.
An Angel On Main Street is available on Amazon and at Deseret book at this link
View the book trailer at
The Author, Kathi Oram Peterson, is also having a contest on her blog this month. It's called 'An Angel In Your Life Contest'. To enter, simply write about an experience where someone was an angel in your life and e-mail your story to Kathi at by Dec.15th. Winners will announced on Kathi's blog

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do You NaNo?

Well yes, I am in the depths of the NaNo WriMo experience. What is NaNo WriMo you ask? It's National Novel Writing Month, and it's intense. You are supposed to write 1000 words a day. You aren't supposed to do any reasearch or re-read what you have written. There are a lot of rules on the official NaNo website but for most of us, the main thing is just to write like crazy and let the creativity flow.
The idea is to get a whole novel written in a month. I have heard that a lot of people have done it. I don't know who these super hero writing fiends are, but after only a few days of trying to meet my word quota and failing miserably, I must say I admire those who actually follow through. But I have to ask, where are your kids? C'mon did you send them to boarding school for the week. What about your husband? You sent him on a brother's only cruise, right. Even the dog wants my attention, sheesh.
So I made a bookmark for all you intrepid NaNo WriMo participants. Drop me a line and I'll send you one. If you can't quite see the quote, it says : To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. Leonard Bernstein

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tu Publishing

Who is Tu Publishing? Tu Publishing is a new publishing company with the goal of publishing multicultural fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults. The founder, Stacy Whitman, believes that if we increase the number of children’s books with multicultural characters and settings, we can influence the multicultural world of tomorrow.
The word “tu” means “you” in many languages. It is the mission of Tu publishing by reaching out through the many cultures of the world to then reach the “you” in each reader. If you are interested in learning more about Tu publishing, check out their excellent website at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Critiquing

Have you ever felt the frustration of having someone read your story for you, expecting a thorough critique and getting, I really liked it, it was really good. When you are asked to critique a story for someone there are certain things that you should be watching for.
Characterization – Do the characters have depth? Are they believable? Do they have understandable motives?
Dialogue – Does the dialogue sound real? Does the conversation flow smoothly? Could you imagine people you know talking that way?
Setting – Details are important. If the scene is about a tropical island, you have to be able to see, smell, hear, taste, touch, what the character does. If the the scene is in the lap of luxury it will be a whole new set of images. Your reader has to be able to place themselves in the location of the character that they are reading about and be able to feel like they identify with him.
Point of View – What is your point of view. In first person your character is limited to his own thoughts and opinions. In third person, the narrator can tell the opinions of other characters. It is important that POV stays consistent throughout a story or the reader can get confused.
Development – Is the development of the story logical? Do the changes progress in a way that makes sense or are they so random that the reader gets lost?
Pacing – How quickly does the reader get pulled into the story? Is there action right away, or is it qradual? Is the story based more on character development or action scenes?
Text – Are there lines that are too long or too short? Are there enough paragraph breaks? Are there places with too much description and not enough action to keep the reader engaged? Is it too wordy, or are all the words put to good use? Are there unnecessary adverbs such as “In fact”? Is it written in active or passive voice?
Mechanics – Watch for problems with sentence structure, verb agreement and aspects of basic style. Check for misplaced modifiers, mixed metaphors and dangling participles. (For me this means go back to University)
A walk in the park, right. I believe it is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. You will come to recognize things that are out of place as if they were a button missing on a favorite sweater. Okay, they might not be that obvious, but you get the picture.
So go ahead and critique. Be honest, but don’t be brutally honest. Remember how you would like to have your own work critiqued. As a bonus your editing skills will get better each time you critique another writer’s work.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Great Website If You Write For Children's Magazines

If you want to write for children’s magazines, there is a website that has oodles of information. It is called Kid Magazine Writers and can be found at There is now a link on my blog. This site lists kid’s magazines alphabetically and when you click on them you can learn more about the magazine and usually find submission guidelines or at least contact information.
Under Market Info, you will find a special in-depth report on one of the magazines on their site. A section called Inside Markets lists new kids magazines, and the Dead Zone lists magazines that are no longer functioning.
The Working Day section has a section called Fresh Ideas that is an inspirational writer boost. There is a Technique section with headings like That’s a Fact, Storytellers, Meter Readers (poetry trivia) and Word Wizard.
There is also an archive section where magazine there are two headings: Editors speak and Special Report. You can hear what the editor from a particular magazine has to say or look at an html of a special article.
The Writer’s Digest has deemed Kid Mag Writers as one of the 101 best websites for writers. It’s higher than that on my list. It makes finding magazines that fit what I like to write a much simpler task.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Writing A Novel Made Easy

You go to all these writing classes and you think, gee, wouldn’t it be great if all this information was condensed into one little book. People, your wish has come true. The brilliant Weston Elliot, with sage advice from her wise side kick, Michelle Jefferies, has put together THE COMPLETE NOVEL WRITING WORKBOOK.
In a nutshell, this workbook is designed to help you write your novel. It begins with a section for world building, or the place where your story takes place. Pages are designated to helping you define your setting. For example, the first page, labeled ‘Your World’ is devoted to helping you define the names of places in your novel. The next page, Topography, helps you define landmarks, weather, and boundaries. . etc. There are pages for Sociology, Government/Military, Religion, Magic, Agriculture, Architecture, Language, Calendar, Technology, History, Education, Fashion and Commerce. Each of these pages asks its own questions to help you narrow down and define your answers. There is even a section for mapping, complete with grid lined pages and a legend with suggested icons of what a tree, river, and farmland area would look like, etc. This layout has been well thought through. All you have to do is fill it in. And there’s more . . .
The next section is devoted to character sketches. A page on point of view helps you define who will be telling your story. Turn the page and the stage is open to you to fill in your entire cast of characters. Several pages are devoted to main characters, then secondary characters, and finally incidental characters. Each of these pages gets you to delve into details that will help you to profile who your character is. What is your characters age, gender, weakness, fear, strength, talent, etc. All this information helps you to build characters that are vivid and full of detail. It helps you know who you are writing about.
In the last section you will be writing out the conflict and resolution of your story. Basically, you will be planning the plot. The importance of a timeline is stressed and a timeline table is provided. Chapter planning is explained and chapter outlines are provided for you to fill in. Thirty chapter outlines are provided, each with their own set of details.
This workbook makes writing a novel a ‘no brainer’ you just sit down and fill in the details. All the mapping out has been done for you ahead of time. Way to go, girls. I’m hooked, or should I say spoiled. Writing a novel will never be the same again.
To get your own copy of THE COMPLETE NOVEL WRITING WORKBOOK look under Blogs I Like to Visit and find Weston Elliot. You can purchase the book directly from her blog using PayPal, or you can contact her.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stories For Children Magazine

“Mommy I’m bored.” You’ve never heard that before, right. Hey its summer, that phrase goes with the season. If you need a creative outlet for your kids, here’s a great place to go, Stories for Children Magazine not only has fun articles and poems for kids ages 3–12, it often has puzzles, coloring pages, mazes and other fun activities.
Not only does this awesome magazine write for kids, some of it is written by kids. Yes, they print stories submitted by young authors. What a great opportunity for your child to get their story published. They also publish the artwork of young illustrators. How cool is that?
This magazine is known for its fun contests that challenge both adults and kids to dig into their creative reserves and come up with something spectacular. Right now SFC has a contest called Amazing But True Nonfiction for adults and a Stanley Bookman Spooky Sounds contest for kids. For more details and contest entry information go to and click on contests, or just click on the link on my blog under links for children's writers and go directly to their site.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Crazy Eights

I've been tagged. This time it's crazy eights. The rules are: Name who tagged you - Heather got me. Fill in the eights, and tag eight others.
Here are the eights.

Eight things I look forward to:
1. New books.
2. Vacations.
3. Naps.
4. Getting published.
5. Learning how to use my Wacom.
6. Going on a mission with my honey/hubby.
7. Learning another language.
8. Having grandkids (much later on)

Eight things I did yesterday:
1. Laundry...duh.
2. Ate oatmeal.
3. Unclogged bathtub.
4. Trimmed dingle-berries. (Don't ask)
5. Attended a funeral conducted by my hubby/Bishop.
6. Baptisms at SLC Temple with youth in our ward
7. Ate green spaghetti at a Peruvian restaurant.
8. Helped teenager with Spanish homework.

Eight things I wish I could do.
1. Fly.
2. Instantly go from one place to another.
3. Eat loads of cocoanut cream pie and not gain an ounce.
4. Read all day.
5. Write all day.
6. Paint all day.
7. Have a day that is longer than all day.
8. Have a marvelous cook, who also does the dishes.

Eight Shows I watch
1. Medium
2. Criminal Minds
3. CSI
5. Ghost Whisperer
6. Numbers
7. Designed to Sell
8. House Hunters

The eight people I will tag are - Tina, Lori, Doug, Valerie, Kellie, Melissa, Randy, and Holly. Good luck.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why I Write - Epiphany Poem

Where has my little toddler gone?
I open the pantry door.
And there I see a chocolate face,
And pudding all over the floor.

A twinkle in his bright blue eyes,
The innonce of childhood.
He smiles at me through chocolate lips,
Looks up and says,"Mmmm, dood!"

I share the story with a friend,
She laughs and dries her eyes.
"They grow so fast, these little ones."
Then she gives me some good advice.

Be sure to write it down,
These are things you will want to share.
If you capture the image it won't get lost
And moments like these are rare.

Traveling through a mountain pass
I marvel at nature's scene.
A photo couldn't capture it all
But my notebook will tell where I've been.

My pencil is a paintbrush
With each word a vibrant hue.
To write is to paint a picture
Of all that is in my view.

On our way we stop for lunch,
I pause to write what I've seen.
A woman with silver bangles
And a caftan of neon lime green.

Her red hair is wrapped in a matching scarf,
Silver sandals wrap her feet.
She's a walking story that I must catch,
A character complete.

My husband watches my pencil fly
And he askes with eyebrows raised.
"You write about family and places we've been,
But why put that gal in a phrase?"

Suddenly the light comes on
And it couldn't be much brighter.
"I need to write this down," I say,
"Because I am a writer."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why I Write

I once wrote an epiphany poem called “Why I Write”. It was about a sudden realization that if I couldn’t paint with brushes, I could paint with words. I described the joy I felt at having an outlet for my creativity while my brushes were on hold. I talked about painting the scenery around me, the people I saw and the things they did. It turned me into a watcher and a listener, constantly picking up on bits of dialogue and characters that caught my eye.
The more that I write, and the more that I read, the reasons for writing have turned more outward. Reading has been such a big part of my world for so long. I can’t imagine a world without books. I can’t imagine a child not wanting to hear a story. I want to be a part of lighting up a young person’s imagination. I want to inspire a child to want to learn more, to do more, to be more. Can books do that? They did for me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Blog For Kids Who Want To Write

This month I taught a class on writing to a group of fourth grade kids at an elementary school. We talked about what it takes to make a good writer. The fact that if you want to be a writer you have to spend time writing. Also that good writers come from good readers. We talked about what they like to read and what they need to read in order to be good writers.
Later I was reading Karen Hoovers blog about her experience at American Fork Junior High School teaching students at a writing conference. She did a power point presentation on where writers find their ideas, or How To Become An Idea Factory. It sounded awesome. I’d love to see it. It sounds like the kids really learned from it. She also brought up how to use your senses to get inspiration, as well as music, pictures and memories. I wish I’d been there.
Something Shannon Hale said at the UVU conference has really been on my mind lately. I don’t remember her exact words, but the gist of it is that the writer is part of a team. Book sellers, librarians, teachers, writers… all of them working together to help kids to develop a love of reading. The writer is servant. In the end, the reader is the one who is important. I think we can apply this to teaching kids the love of writing as well. Karen Hoover, whom I just mentioned, and Ali Cross, have taken this seriously and created a blog devoted to helping kids become writers. The blog is called There is a convenient link on my blog, imagine that.
This blog is devoted to giving kids the opportunity to share their work. It also has links to writer’s conferences for teens and writing competitions for kids and teens. It’s a great place for kids to get a confidence boost about their writing abilities.
As writers we are learning all the time. It’s great when we get the chance to share what we know with others, especially when they are the little guys who look up to us and say, “I want to be a writer like you.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

So You Want To Write For Children

You want to write for kids, but you don’t know where to start… have I got a deal for you. Carol Lynch Williams and Cheri Pray Earl, both published authors, have teamed up to put together an awesome course geared toward teaching new authors the basics of writing for kids. I have personally been to one of their sessions and I can tell you that it is worth every penny. For a small fee, a few hours of time and a lunch - you bring the lunch,(Cheri would probably like it if you would bring her lunch too- I believe Taco Bell is acceptable), you come away with loads of information. This isn’t the kind of class where you sit and take notes and yawn. You are involved from start to finish. Your input is expected and appreciated. You learn as you brainstorm and interact. It is the kind of class that you could go back to, take over and over and still learn from.
These ladies know their stuff. If you are serious about improving your writing, go check out their website. Luckily, its link is here on my blog. What a happy coincidence. It is called The First Story and it is under 'links for children’s writers'.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The UVU Forum on Children's Literature - 2009

The Forum on Children’s Literature this year was great, much due to the fact that Shannon Hale was one of the key speakers. She is such a kick. That girl had everybody giggling. She started off with a presentation about other authors that she knows well and presented it with photos that looked as if she had been stalking them. It included a photo of Shannon face down with an officer pinning her to the ground with hand cuffs. It was a very effective visual.
Shannon talked about her penchant for writing about girls in towers i.e. Rapunzel and Book of A Thousand Days. She said that she mainly picks the fairy tales that she will work on by the fact that there is something about them that really irks her and she can’t let it go.
In a later session, Ms. Hale said that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “Do plumbers get plumbers block?” she asked. She quoted Anna Quindlen, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
Shannon said that she never gives up on a story. Her daily goal is 1000 words a day. There are lots of days that she looks at her laptop and thinks that she would rather be doing other things because writing is hard work, but she does find joy in it. She encouraged us to focus on the process and not the product at the end. Publication is only part of the journey.
We should recognize that we are part of a team. Along with book sellers, librarians and teachers, we are all about getting kids to love reading. Isn’t that why we started writing in the first place. She said, “The writer is the servant, the reader is more important than you are.”
As you can see, it was worth going to the conference just to hear Shannon. The classes were well done, and the agent, Abbey Ranger, although admittedly finding herself in culture shock, gave some great advice to all present. In Picture Book Gemology she said that great picture books are like gems. They should have a) clarity, b) precision, c) singularity, and d) symmetry. Of course there was a lot more detail, but you get the picture.
The gallery of illustration was incredible. Shawna Tenney and Manelle Oliphant (under my favorite illustrators link) both had a display. Mike Bohman and Greg Newbold also had incredible artwork there. The degree of talent at this conference was amazing.
If you couldn’t make it this year, mark it on your calendar for next year. You won’t want to miss it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Contests are a great way to jump start your writing. They not only inspire you to get busy, but there’s that added bonus of competition, the little adrenalin, I could win–thing. One of my favorite contests of the year is the one put on by the League of Utah Writers. There are many reasons why I like it. It is open to members and non-members. There are many categories to enter, from poetry to full length books. The entry fees are reasonable at about $3.00 - $6.00 per submission. When you get your work back, you get the added bonus of a professional critique telling you how to improve your work. Not bad for $6.00 bucks, eh.
After you win that contest, you have a nice little certificate to show for it and something to add to your list of credentials. Yes, that’s me, the writer, the woman that won 1st place for her stellar picture book, (can’t hurt, right).
If you are interested in the League of Utah Writers contest, just click on their link, which is here on my blog. The deadline is June 15th, so get cracking.
Other contests are easy to find if you Google “writing contests”. But don’t just jump into any and all contests that are out there. Some contests aren’t necessarily there for your benefit. To learn more about vanity contests go to and become educated. Don’t get paranoid though, contests are still a good thing, just not all of them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sweet Dreamin' Baby

I keep a notepad by my bed in case I have a stellar dream and just have to write down something that might be good for a story. Sometimes I wake up and see that I've actually written down something fun in the night. Other times I wake up, look at the pad and see something like ASPARAGUS! written in a bold scrawl and I wonder if it was just a really bad case of indigestion.
Last night I dreamt about a girl searching for her family. In her journey, she went into an antique store. The proprieter took her to a wall that was filled with doorknobs of all kinds. The handles were anything from simple brass to painted china. One faceted glass knob seemed to glow and I knew that if she chose that knob it would take her somewhere special. I woke knowing that it could be the beginning of an intriquing adventure if I could wrap my head around it. It made me want to go back to sleep.
In an interview, Stephanie Myer says that her book Twilight was inspired by a dream. Who knows, it could happen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lemon Tart Contest

Anne Bradshaw is holding a contest on her blog - Not Entirely British. The contest is for a copy of Josi Kilpack's new culinary mystery novel 'Lemon Tart'. The book sounds scrumptious, not to mention the recipes that are included. I could taste lemons as I read the review. Dang, where's a bakery when you need one. If you love suspense and pastry is on your list of heavenly confections, this book is for you. Carpe' crustulum - sieze the pastry.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Random Things

Iv'e been tagged. This is a departure from the usual blog, especially since I've kind of fallen off the bloggin' wagon lately. But I've been asked to write 25 random things about myself, so here goes.

1. I broke my arm when I was flying a kite.

2. I went para-sailing from the back of a pickup truck in the bottom of a coulee and it took six guys to pull the truck down because a wind burst began to pull the wheels off the ground.

3. When I was three, I cut my hand on an old tin can when I tripped as I was chasing a mouse (for the cats) and had to get stitches.

4. My swimming pool was the pond, green and slimy. Chlorine wasn't an option, but we had some cool kyaks and a raft.

5. I didn't like to ride horses because Judy (a full grown mare) liked to scrape me off her back on anything available, the auger, the double dutch barn door, a tree branch. You get the picture.

6. I met my husband when he came to talk in our branch at the tender age of fourteen. I was enamoured because he knew his scriptures and he didn't shoot spitwads.

7. When one of our cats got it's ear caught under the fan belt, my little brother and I were the only ones home. Not knowing how to loosen the fan belt, I had my brother hold the cat, and I cut it's ear off with a butcher knife. We put some detol (disinfectant) on for good measure. The cat was never the same. We called it Uno.

8. When my husband was doing his residency at the Grey Nuns in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I would drive past the hospital and the kids would say, "that's where Daddy lives."

9. We brought my infant son out to look at the full moon one night. Just then, a flock of geese flew over. Astonished, he looked at us and said, "Goggies." As if to say, "You never told me dogs could fly."

10. When we had our first child, we lived in low-income housing. The diversity of cultures was amazing. Our neighbors were Egyptian, Chinese, African American, Polish, Korean, just to name a few. One day, at the communal play area, my two year old son was playing with a little asian boy. Attempting to communicate, Max said, "Lrdl, lrdl, lrdl." The boys mother looked over at me with a smile and said, "your boy speak Chinese."

11. Taber, Alberta is a town of about 5000. We moved there for Teddy to do a family medicine residency. They had a KFC a McDonalds and a really good little Oriental buffet. Stacie was about three at the time. When I would ask the kids what they would like for supper she would always say, "Old macdonalds, chinese noodles, chicken and french fries." Honestly, we didn't eat out that much.

12. When Stacie turned four and Brad was three, I heard them in their room one day. Stacie was saying, "Do you hear that Brad, that's the Holy Ghost. He's telling you to help me make my bed."

13. When we moved to the United States it took us eight years to get our citizenship. The final question at the interview was, "How do you pronounce the last letter of the alphabet?" In Canada it's usually pronounced the French way which is Zed. Trick question, eh.

14. I graduated from a class of fourty. I became PTA president for an elementary school of 400. Talk about culture shock. Luckily I had a lot of help.

15. I can't eat chocolate. I can't wait for the day when my migraines go away. My mother-in-law swears that they will as I get older. I guess good things do come with old age.

16. I was born in the year of the Dragon. Supposedly this makes me creative, inventive and practical. Tell that to my kids.

17. I spend way too much time on the computer. Not productive time, daydreaming time. Didn't someone, somewhere suggest some goal setting?

18. I love my dogs. I didn't know I was a dog lover till I was coerced into getting our two little Lhasa-Shitsu's. Now I don't know what I'd do without them. They are simply delightful. They love unconditionally, and I love 'em right back.

19. I have four teen agers. Doen't that put me in the running for a saint-ship or something.

20. I can't grow anything but roses and they grow no matter what I do.

21. Ironing is the bane of my existence. If it ain't wrinkle-free, leave it on the rack.

22. I love to cook. We just remodeled our kitchen and I'm in heaven.

23. I can't decide whether I like illustrating or writing better.

24. I love making Ukrainian Easter eggs.

25. If I could go back in time or go to the future, I'd go to the future, cause frankly, indoor plumbing is a good thing.
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