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The Month Started on Sunday Again.

And I’m ready to try and write. Hard writing. Lots of words. Exercising, too.

Weird that this morning I woke up really sad.

Almost crying sad.


Why so much?

Why so long?

What are YOUR March plans?


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Three Things Thursday

Writing exercise: copy a page or two from a favorite writer or book you’ve loved. Get into the author’s rhythm and tone. Looking for ways to change up the WIP you’re stuck in.

I decided to give this a try myself.  I copied two pages of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  It had me laughing and crying by the time I got through.  Have you read it?
A great book for older MG or younger YA, Spinelli nailed the speech and thoughts of upper junior high students — and I should know, having taught them for a number of years.  It was funny, with realistically young dialogue, as told through the eyes of a JHS boy.  The most captivating character is the “new kid” in town who is quirky, strange, an outsider.  And what JHS boy OR girl hasn’t felt that way before?  Called Stargirl, she wears a string of peculiar outfits: bib shorts, shoulder straps and all, a 20’s flapper dress, a kimono, an Indian buckskin or a denim miniskirt with an enamel ladybug and butterfly pins crawling up her long green stockings.  Her “normal” was long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses or skirts.
Stargirl lives with abandon, does outrageous things: brings a ukelele to school, plays it wandering table to table in the cafeteria and singing Happy Birthday to her victims by name on their actual birthdays.  How did she find out who and when? A girl named Hillari orders Stargirl NOT to sing to her on her birthday; so she sings for Hillari, but does so into the stunned face of the male narrator of the story.
What JHS girl wouldn’t dream of living with such abandon?  What JHS boy wouldn’t dream of finding her on his arm on graduation day?
THAT’S a voice I’d like to capture.  That’s the quirky person who’s missing in my story.  Try it.  Maybe it will help get you unstuck too!
People at the extreme end of any spectrum always cause problems. 

Who is the angriest person you know? The loudest? The dumbest? The most gentle? The flakiest?
Try creating a character who is extreme in just one aspect of their personality. How does it change the scene? Or the storyline?
Just one character can make all the difference in a story. Look at Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. He should be a secondary character, nothing more than the roommate of the main character. But he is so eccentric that he becomes fascinating. He steals every scene and I’ll go so far as to say the show would fall apart without him.
Try playing around with the edges of the spectrum with your characters. You might be surprised at what you find.
While you’re reading this, think good thoughts about Thomas Edison, inventor of so many things and, without whom, you wouldn’t be centering so much of your world around electronics.  Yesterday would have been his birthday.
My favorite quote of his: “I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
There are days I feel that way about my writing.  “Edit away,” I say!  “There’s one more way I’ve found that doesn’t work.  I’m bound to get it right eventually!”  So I keep at it.
Here’s another good one:  “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A few more pithy words from this man who kept at it:
“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
“There is no substitute for hard work.”
” Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Thanks to good old Tom, I don’t need to feel I’ve failed.  I haven’t failed if I haven’t yet given up!  How about you?

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My kids are obsessed with Mr. Dahl.

Things about Roald Dahl that were discussed this weekend with my kids:

1. He never let anyone in his writing hut so it never got cleaned and never got dusted. It was white with a yellow door and tiny. (Dreamy)

2. He had a chocolate bar every day (which is probably the secret to his success, I believe).

3. He probably was pretty rich. They wanted to know how rich. I said I didn’t know. They wanted to know if Roald Dahl had a battle with JK Rowling in riches, who would win. I said Ms. Rowling.

4. He wrote on American yellow legal pads which were sent from New York City and every week he’d have a bonfire and burn the papers that didn’t make it into the book.

5. No. I was not as rich as Roald Dahl.

6. He crashed his plane when he was in the Royal Air Force, hitting the sand at 75 mph.

7. He wrote for 3.5 hours a day. 10:30 to noon and 4-6. That’s it. But it was every day. Look at the beauty he created in a 3.5 hour workday.

8. He always had breakfast in bed (lucky guy).

9. No. I would not ever sell as many books and Roald Dahl.

10. The Gremlins was his first short story (my husband was excited when he heard that. Hey! I’ve seen that movie. I said, sadly no. Not that Gremlins, which is a creepy creepy show).

11. He has a cookbook, written/compiled by him and his wife the last year of his life which I want. I also want chocolate.

12. He made a magical world. “I really like his books,” one of my boys said. And I agreed.

We all agreed that we wanted to visit Roald Dahl’s house and his writing hut and his museum and we wanted to see Matilda the musical and we wanted to live in a world where we got to go to a chocolate factory and get revenge on mean adults and kids alike. We wanted to get magical worms that made peaches giant and we wanted to be entranced by Giants who were friendly and scary.

I have read most of Roald Dahl’s writing for kids but barely touched his stuff for adults. And in writing this post that should be whimsical and happy, but is really tired and slow, I have come to suddenly want to read everything he’s written. Maybe that will be my reading goal for 2015. Read all of Roald Dahl’s writing. And eat some lollies. And try to have more fun when I write.

As a family, we just finished Matilda and we’re starting on James and the Giant Peach. You can join us!



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Dean Hughes Teaching at WIFYR

and here’s an interview with him! BTW, I think he’s written a million books. AND had them published. Woot woot Dean!


How did you begin writing?

I’ve always written. At four I started scribbling on paper and telling my mom to read my “story.” (Too bad that I didn’t know all my letters.) She would pretend to be read what I it back to me, and I would say, “That’s not what I wrote.” (In case you’re wondering about POV on that story, I must admit, I don’t remember the whole thing. Mom told me about it later.)

I wrote a play in fourth grade, became a devoted reader, and by junior high was telling people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher who taught me the basics of fiction writing, and I got serious about trying to publish. I wrote a novel the year I graduated from high school (rejected), another in college (rejected), another when I first began my career as a professor (rejected), and then a fourth, which was intended for young readers. That one sold. By then I was thirty-five.


The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

I’m afraid I would stand in that bookstore, catatonic. The attackers would find me and shoot me down. I could never choose one book. I guess I’d take my Kindle, with a small library of recent reads, but that would be very satisfying. I’ve been reading books all my life and I’d miss hundreds of them. For one thing, I love many genres—fiction, history, non-fiction on all sorts of subjects, etc.—and I don’t even know which category is my favorite.

So who started this “favorite” thing anyway? When I used to visit schools, kids would ask me what my favorite color was, and I would say, “Blue,” because I’d been saying that for a long time. But then I realized, I had only chosen blue under duress. I was supposed to like one color more than all others. Does that actually make sense? I want the whole rainbow and chartreuse, mauve and ordinary old tan besides. I like colors; that’s what I like. I can’t choose one color, and I can’t choose one book.


When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

I read a lot, of course. I love movies and my wife and I go off to afternoon films, when the prices are lower and the theaters are empty. (There are some good things about getting old.) I keep trying to learn to fly fish. I’m getting a little better at it. I live ten minutes from the Provo River, so I keep telling myself that this year I’ll fish a lot more. I just had back surgery, so this year I can’t ski, but I still plan to return to hills next season (I live about fifteen minutes from Deer Valley ski resort). I play golf (have a course in my back yard); I watch BBC series on Netflix; I teach an adult class at my church. I also clean house. Kathy and I have always divided that sort of work, and sometimes scrubbing a toilet actually seems more appealing to me than looking at more words on my computer screen. For Kathy and me, our big thing is travel. Lately we’ve made trips to Italy, England, and we took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic. We have some other trips in mind. We also do lots of family stuff. We try to attend events our grandchildren get involved in, and we gather once a month if we can to celebrate the birthdays in the family.


What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

Does it tell you anything that I had to Google “spit-take” to find out what it is? (Actually, I’m impressed that I found my answer that way.) Now I’m trying to think what has made me laugh lately. I obviously read too much serious stuff. I don’t remember spitting all over the place, but I did reread Catch 22 lately. The book makes me laugh and cringe and worry. It seems more real than the first time I read it.


Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

I’m known for being “prolific.” That’s really a back-handed way of saying that I’m a drudge who really “cranks them out.” I hate that image, but I will say, I have worked hard all my life. I’ve published 102 books in about thirty-five years. For most of my career I tried to be at my computer by 8:00 a.m., and I stayed there most of the day. But I have a good process, and I think I write efficiently, so I do find time for other things. And lately, I’ve begun to change. I’m afraid my new image may be that of the self-indulging artiste. I get up later than I used to, exercise before I write, and usually get to my computer about nine-ish, or some days, not at all. I’ve been writing a history lately—not just historical fiction, but actual history—and that gives me the excuse to read all day, sometimes for weeks. And since my wife and I are traveling more these days, we escape work altogether and run off to see the world, or we drive to California to see grandchildren. The fact is, I have no real schedule anymore, and I rather like that.


You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

All of these questions call attention to my age. I went from the foxtrot and jitterbug to the twist, the pony, the mashed potatoes—all that stuff. And then it all got away from me. I tried to jump around for a few years, but I was always amazed at what people called fast dancing, which was a little too “free-style” to get my head around. Somewhere in time I gave up most dancing, but when Kathy and are at a party or dinner dance, we usually revert to our old high school foxtrot, and we throw in a jitterbug a couple of times. But no head bobbing—absolutely no head bobbing.


What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

Spend 20 percent of your time composing and 80 percent revising. And when you publish, enjoy the moment, but don’t conclude that you’re now a big deal.


What’s the number one writing tip you can give aspiring authors?

Don’t ask too much of writing. Getting published rarely brings you fame and fortune, and you won’t walk around in a state of euphoric bliss from that day on. Write because you like to write. If benefits follow, enjoy them, but don’t focus on the benefits and forget the hard work of working until you “get it right.”


And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”?  Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era.

When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out.  When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs).  That became “our song.”  But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.”  I know.  I know.  Those are really old songs.  But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?
“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”? Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era. When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out. When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). That became “our song.” But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.” I know. I know. Those are really old songs. But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

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Lisa Mangum

Today we welcome Lisa Mangum to our blog. She will be leading our first ever, “Writing the Middle Grade or Young Adult LDS Novel” workshop. Editor, author, teacher, is there anything Lisa can’t do?


How did you begin writing? 

I started reading at a young age, and my mom was a writer, so I grew up knowing that writing was a “job you could do.” I had always loved writing, but I didn’t turn to it seriously until about 2006, when I joined a writer’s group and it rekindled my passion. When I got the idea for THE HOURGLASS DOOR, it was all I could do to keep up with the story that wanted to be told. I’ve never looked back since.

The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

The practical part of me says I should get a book with survival/first-aid tips, but the passionate part of me grabs HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, for the following reasons: (1) it’s small and would fit in my pocket; (2) it’s a stand-alone,* so no cliffhanger ending; (3) it’s funny and would remind me not to panic during an invasion of Earth; (4) it’s at the beginning of the alphabet, so it would probably be the first one I saw when I ran into the bookstore.

*yes, I know there are more books in the series, but the first one is the best.

When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

Though I am an editor by day and a writer by night, I am a reader–always. So you’d probably find me with a book in my hands. If not that, I always enjoy a good jigsaw puzzle, going to the movies, or playing a board game.

What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

The last book that gave me that jaw-dropping moment (though not of laughter; sorry, I haven’t been reading very many funny books lately) was DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor. The way she lead me along that plot to the unbelievable and heartbreaking conclusion was awe-inspiring.

Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

Up around 7:30 am, take Trax to work (I read on the train), at work I check my email/voice mail, finish up any projects that I left unfinished from the previous day, meetings, editing, lunch (where I read manuscripts), editing, meetings, more emails. I head home around 5:00 for dinner with my husband. We watch a show or two on TV, and then I work on my writing until bedtime (around 11:00). (Lather. Rinse. Repeat.) Weekends are for housework, errands, movies, and Doctor Who marathons.

You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

Wallflower, all the way.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

“It’s okay to write your story out of order.” I used to believe that you had to start with page 1, chapter 1, word 1 and write straight through to the end. But that was frustrating because if I got stuck, I just stopped. Or if I felt like writing the kissing scene, but I was stuck in an action part of the story, I’d rush through important information just to get to the other part. Once I realized it was okay to write out of order, then, when I got stuck, I’d skip to another part of the story. When I wanted to write the kissing scene, I’d write the kissing scene–even if that was the last chapter of the book. It was a liberating revelation to me as a writer.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

Considering my first kiss as a teenager was during rehearsals for ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, there is an echo of the song “I’m Shy” rattling around that memory, but when I think about my first real kiss with a boy I liked, I always think of “Bravado” by Rush.


For more information, or to register, please go to:

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LuAnn Brobst Staheli


Many years ago I spoke at NCTE. After my presentation, a woman came up to me. She was full of life, had a loud voice,  and a terrific smile. “I’m LuAnn Staheli,” she said, “and I teach in Utah.” She went on to tell me that she read my novels and loved them. She was especially fond of If I Forget, You Remember as it reminded her of a family member.

I was so grateful to see a friendly face in Colorado. To have LuAnn approach me several times that weekend. To have her show me around. Let me know what I was supposed to do. She pointed out the famous people. We talked books. Writing. Teaching.

It goes without saying that LuAnn and I became fast friends.

What a pleasure to know her.

To know she loved me.

Over the years I have gone to LuAnn when I’m sad, happy and when I needed advice. LuAnn knew everything. About books. About writers. About writing. She had me visit her classes. We did a presentation together. She showed me how to save money. She tried to get me to talk more about myself and my books. And when The Chosen One was nominated for a Whitney Award, I asked if I could sit with her at the ceremony. “I would love to sit with you, Carol.”

By the way, The Whitney Awards are a fancy affair. I bought a dress. Wore a pushup bra.  Heels. Was completely out of my element.

Not LuAnn. She took me in, introduced me to everyone and before the announcement of who won in the YA category, she leaned close. “The girls look like they’re fighting to get free,” she said of my bosoms. I laughed and rearranged  ‘the girls’ right before I was called on to the stage as the YA winner.

LuAnn was ballsy. She spoke her mind about writing. She loved fiercely.

And I loved her right back.

I’ve known for a while my friend was sick and had a chance to go see her a couple weeks back.

We’d been keeping in touch on Facebook, but I needed to tell her, with my mouth, that I loved her.

That afternoon, I let her know  she was the 2015 mentor of the year for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. We talked that maybe she could accept the award from home. That we could film her acceptance speech. That maybe she would be at the conference in June.

As she worsened, several friends and I prepared to go to her house this morning.

To award her and speak our love to her in front of her family.

Here’s what I would have read from Chris Crowe: LuAnn, thank you for being, not just a champion of good books for kids, but also for being a friend and supporter of education. Many of our graduates are now successful teachers because of you. We always knew we could count on you to provide our students with great experience.

From Ann Edwards Cannon–a blurb from her book The Shadow Brothers: “Everything in life changes. Everything. Seasons, styles, the two you grew up in, the people you know, even the way you feel about all the people you know. All those things change. In fact, change is about the only thing you can really count on. Still, it’s like Diana said the night I first heard her sing. You can still decide to care. You can decide to love someone even though they’ve changed. Maybe you can even learn to love them because of it.”

From illustrator Julie Olson: LuAnn, a fellow Spanish Fork writer, was one of the most kind-hearted and generous people with her talents and knowledge. I sincerely enjoyed working with her occasionally on the youth writer workshops at the jr high in town and greatly appreciated her support and friendship through the years. LuAnn truly made a difference.”

That didn’t happen.

LuAnn passed away last night, peacefully, at 2:18. All night I tossed and turned, waking at one point because I couldn’t breathe, worrying about my friend.

It’s been a hard few months.

And now here’s this writer without words.


This is what writing has done for me–given me friends that I will love forever. Sure. There are books and having them published is fun. But the best part of writing are the people I have met. My best friends. The people I am at home with.  The people who have changed me.

LuAnn. Thank you for your friendship. I was at home with you. You changed me. You are a part of me.

I will miss you terribly.


by | February 9, 2015 · 2:51 pm

Three Things Thursday


Using these ten words, write three different scenarios.

Words: contemplate, single, wonderment, fight, caution, slip, industry, finalize, juncture, easy


1. Meeting a love interest

2. In a fight with a parent

3. When your character finds herself in a WWE moment.


Cheryl Van Eck:

I love when the ALA awards come out. For me, it’s more exciting than the Oscars and Golden Globes and Emmys all combined. 
I think it’s because an ALA award is the ultimate dream for me. In my most secret dreams I see my book with one of those beautiful stickers on the cover. 
Whenever I start to think like this, I try to talk myself down by reviewing my statistical chances of even being published, much less receiving any kind of award. The odds are not in my favor. 
But then I remember the most encouraging words I’ve ever heard:  Stop with the statistics. Getting published isn’t a lottery. The editors don’t pick stories out of the slush at random. If you’re good, you will get published. 
And if I can get published, I have a shot at winning an award. 
But before any of that can happen, I have to sit down and write. None of this year’s winners won by wishing for it. They wrote and rewrote and rewrote again. I can do that too. 
And so can you.
Brenda Bensch
I entered a short contest a while back. The contestants had to give the sponsors permission to print their piece, and there was no compensation except for the award announced for the one and only first place author. The winner and the two runners-up were announced at the end of January.
I wasn’t the winner. Or even one of the runners-up.
So, does that mean I failed? Of course not!
I “won” because I promised myself I would enter, and I did.
I worked hard on what had to be 500 words or less.
I cut and cut and cut, because, you know me: verbose.
I got it in early on the day of the deadline — good job!
I was proud of what I submitted.
I overcame my initial reaction to giving them permission to print.
They put the winning pieces up on their blog. The first and second places sounded almost like travelogues. Good ones. Which made sense, as it was partially offered through a travel company — and I saw, going in, they probably wanted some snippets to put in their travel brochures. Both the first two offered that.
The second runner-up piece was my personal favorite: great description, and a little bit of a zing at the end.
But this is what else I “won”: I didn’t relinquish my ownership of the piece. And I think it may make a grand opening for a full novel. Maybe for WIFYR this year?
Promise yourself to reach some goal (long OR short term — writing or whatever else). Tell us when you “win”!

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