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My Friend, Chris Crowe

I haven’t been writing lately. My grief for friends lost and parents and children mourning has been overwhelming.

This is no different today as I write a note of sorrow for Chris. He lost his oldest grandchild. Ella’s funeral is tomorrow.

Lots of you know Dr. Crowe.

He’s a husband, father, grandfather, friend, teacher, writer, jokester. He’s hilarious. Compassionate. Loving. Devoted. The adjectives are endless with him. If he were reading this as I wrote, I know just what his expression would be. There’s be a little bit of a smile and then zing! A joke from him. Chris is who he is, in part, because of wife Elizabeth. She is just so good.

Many years ago, Chris came to me and asked, “If you could run any kind of writing conference or workshop, what would it be?” With John Bennion we brainstormed what became Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. For several years we ran the conference together. And sang If I had a Million Dollars, Oops, I Did It Again, and Paperback Writer for everyone (agents and editors included). The words changed, of course.

Here’s the thing. With all the joking, all the teasing, all the tricksies you almost miss Chris’s kindheartedness.

He loves babies and I remember when my youngest was born. Anytime we were together and I brought Carolina, he took her from me and held her. He should have been the father to a hundred kids. The grandfather to a million. One day, I’m sure he will be.

But for now, I am heartbroken he’s doing this. Ella was a baby the Hughes fought to get. I remember when she was born. She was a beautiful girl. And she grew into a talented young lady. Not unlike her grandmother and grandfather, not unlike her stunning mother, Christy, and her artist father, Daniel. And Chris adored her. Has adored each of the children and grandchildren that have come into his family.

There are no words for this kind of loss. I haven’t been able to say the right things to any of my friends who have lost parts of their hearts lately. I wonder at my inability.  My frozen fingers, weeping heart. Shouldn’t a writer know how to say the right things? Be able to reach out? Soothe?

Some of you (of the 8) who read this post know I am a faithful Latter-day Saint. A few days ago, as I wept for Stephanie Moore at the loss of her baby, something came to my mind that offered me insight and comfort to lots of what’s going on now. And while I won’t share that here, I have a feeling Chris and his family already know what I learned during prayer.

Chris, thank you for believing in me as a writer and as a possible conference organizer. Thank you for the jokes, even though I did go and tattle on you to Elizabeth. Thank you for being an example –by loving your family and God more than the writing or teaching or anything else you do.

 

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Three Things Thursday

1.
What is unusual about your story?
Write down a list of things that make your story different, special, or unusual. (maybe all three!) Every great story has something that makes it shine, and sticks out from others. What makes yours shine? And how does that move the story forward?

2.
Write out scenes.
Writing scenes can help push your story forward. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back, and write out of order. Write the end, or the climax. Maybe a great kissing scene you weren’t expecting! I do this whenever I get stuck, and it really helps! Especially if you’re trudging through the icky middles.

3.
Surprise yourself.
Write out three or four things that surprise you about your character. What if you just discovered that she’s a softball champ? Or maybe she’s a terrible cook, and somehow that adds to the story! This may not push the main plot forward a whole lot, but fun little quarks can help build subplots and character development.

REMINDER. 
We will be writing at my casa tonight, and also snacking. If you’re interested in participating, shoot me or my mom an email.

 

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My Friend, Stephanie Moore

The children’s writing community is pretty cool. There are a lot of good people here. WIFYR has helped me socialize. (Yup. I’m not very good at that.)  And I can’t believe it’s been 18 years. My youngest was two. And still nursing. The reason I’m telling you this because I want to tell you about somebody who stepped up a few years ago when my assistant at WIFYR had to cancel because of health issues. Stephanie Moore took over my class for that assistant. She organized, emailed, contacted me, contacted the class, checked in, asked how she could help. And it may have been her very first year at the conference.

Stephanie very quickly became my right hand gal. That hasn’t changed. She’s an amazing woman. The two of us work very differently (and that means sometimes there is a butting of heads) (but that also means that there is an amazing product at the end). Together, we’re sort of a whole person. I love and adore Stephanie. (Just an FYI, she won  second place in the Utah Arts Original Writing Competition with her YA. Woot woot!) She has an incredible laugh. She shares my awkward sense of humor. She is a dedicated writer, a dedicated friend, and a dedicated Mom.

Day before yesterday, Stephanie’s daughter died. It was unexpected and, as you can imagine, horrifying to anyone who knew Rory and anyone who loves Stephanie. I’ve been crying since I found out. I don’t know why terrible, crummy, crappy things happen to good people but I will tell you this: the dedication Stephanie showed in helping me run an amazing conference is nothing like the dedication she has for her children and her husband. She is a perfectionist at many things. This includes sharing her love.

I cannot imagine how she must be suffering. And I wish I could take that pain away. There are no words I can offer my friend. But I can ask this incredible writing community to please pray for Stephanie and Lance and their three boys. Their lives will never be the same again. And the only chance for peace for them now will have to come from our God.

 

PS Dear Becca Birkin reminded me there is a gofundme for Rory’s funeral expenses.

https://www.gofundme.com/6c3ja5nk

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NaNoWriMo, Lemon Trees and Blossoms

A few weeks ago my youngest and I transplanted my lemon tree into a new pot. Every year we get one HUGE lemon from this tree and I was excited that the one lemon I had-pollinated, still clung to the branch.

Low and behold, when Carolina and I moved our tree, it rejoiced and burst out in blossoms all over!

Yahoo! More hand-pollination for me to do! The promise of more lemons!

But this growth got me to thinking. I take very good care of my southern plants. I have two orange trees, a clementine, a lime and two lemons. I have a couple of hibiscus and I’m even growing ginger (three pots full). Still, my lemon needed more love than I had given it. It needed room to breathe and stretch. And when I gave the tree what it needed, I was rewarded with blossoms.

This is sorta like our stories. Here we are, writing with our heads down, trying to get a specific number of words each day. This is exactly what we should do during NaNoWriMo. And at this point, we should be in the just-after-the-beginning of the middle of our novels. That  horrible awful icky yucky-ducky place that I slog through every time I write a book. We might be feeling a little stuck. Or root-bound.

Why not shake things up a little? Loosen the roots of your book. Allow your story to blossom. How? By asking yourself a few questions. Here are a few that may shake things up for you.

  • Am I allowing my character to move the plot or an I forcing the story to go the way I want it to?
  • Am I adding far too many characters? Too many subplots? Too many useless words just to make word count?
  • Am I feeling a forward movement in the story or have I gotten stuck because of wrong moves made in previous pages?
  • Do I trust myself, my story idea, my creativity, my characters to move the story toward the climax of the novel?
  • Do I know where I am headed? (By now, I think you should know what the climax of the story will be.)
  • For the sake of numbers, am I adding useless bits and pieces that may throw me off course during revision?

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of how to grow a bit more during this exciting month of NaNoWriMo. And I mean that. This month should be a growing month, an exciting month, a frustrating-but-I-did-it, fun month!

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NANO

How is everyone doing? Ya’ll hitting your goals for NaNoWriMo?
I’ve kind of pushed some of my *new writing* to the side to finish up some *old writing*
I have to say, the revisions aren’t nearly as fun. But I’m still getting it done!

TONIGHT
We will be meeting at my house to write, eat, and talk (but only a little talking!) Mostly, we’ll just be writing.
If anyone is interested in participating, email my mom! (or comment below and I can send you the details in an email)

If you’d like to share your word count, comment below! Let’s see that progress.

Happy writing!

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Lynne Snyder

Last week, my dear friend Lynne Snyder died.

When my daughter approached me, her face had this look like–how do I tell Mom? I knew another person had died. But Lynne? She was just diagnosed with leukemia.  How could this be?

Don’t think you know Lynne? She’s the person who commented so often here on the blog. Always words of encouragement. Man, am I going to miss seeing what she thinks of what Ann Dee or Kyra or I have written.

I love Lynne and I will miss her. She was funny, extremely kind, and man, had she hoed the road. I remember she told me she walked around for a week–in agony–having no idea she had a broken leg (had she broken her femur?). Her writing was incredible. I met her years ago when someone trashed her work–along with the work of many other writers–and she was determined to never write a gain. Then I read her stories. I was blown away. So much talent. She painted (watercolor) and made caramels that would make you cry, they were so good. But what she did best was love people. All people. No matter who they were or what they did. She opened her arms to the world. Lucky for me, I made it into those arms.

I asked a dear friend, DeAnn Campbell to say a few things about Lynne. Here is her tribute.

Years ago, when I lived in Utah, Carol Lynch Williams introduced me to Lynne Snyder. “You should be in a writing group together,” she told us. And so we were. Our small group of three and sometimes four met weekly. We wrote, we critiqued, but we also loved and laughed and cried and shared each other’s lives. I once heard an author say that all writing in its heart is about loss. Now we’ve lost our beloved Lynne Snyder.

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DAY 2

WHO IS WRITING?

Day 2 and I may or may  not already be a tiny itty bitty bit behind on my goals. But that’s okay, because I will catch up tonight at our NANO party! (It’s in Orem. email my  mom for deetz!)
Sometimes it’s hard to start fresh when you’re in the middle of revisions, but I think I can do it!
How is everyone else doing? Did everyone reach their goals yesterday?

Keep it up!

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