Merry Merry Christmas! Day 2 & 3

Hello Friends.

Today we cut down a Christmas Tree! And we’re reading Christmas books! And listening to Christmas Chronicles!

For your writing exercise today (Day 2) do this: Write the last page of a novel set at Christmas time. You can take characters you already know and use them or you can end a brand new book. Either way, try write a finale before you write anything else. It might be weird. It might be cheesy. But you should try it anyway.

For tomorrow, Sunday (Day 3): Write a gratitude letter. To your partner, to your son, to your grandma, to your teacher. Write one from a character in your novel to another character in your novel. Write one to your critique group, to your mailman. Write one to your best friend. Maybe write one to yourself, for all the good things you’ve done this year or perhaps write one to God, an appropriate writing gift for the first Sunday in December.

Much love.


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Merry Christmas!!!

Today is the first official day of December and as a Christmas gift to ourselves and to you, we are going to post a writing challenge each day.

Day 1: Write for ten minutes about your mother. What does she look like? What does she talk like? What does she like to do? What does she talk about? Does she drink Diet Coke on the back porch? Does she love to go to the library? The movies? The beach? What was she like when you were little? Did she read to you? Yell at you? Make you finish your fish casserole? If you could tell her anything right now, what would you tell her? If you could take her anywhere right now, where would you take her? If she was a character in a book, what would be the thing that drives her? What does she want more than anything else in the world? And what holds her back? What are her flaws? Who does she love? Who does she confide it? How does she use her time? What does she do when things go bad? Does she ride bikes? Does she eat cotton candy? Does she live in Florida in the winter? On a cruise ship (people really do live on cruise ships)? Is she gone forever but actually not gone at all? Write about your mom. Not for your mom, but about your mom. Write it without worrying that she’ll read it. Write it without worrying you might get it wrong or right or anything else. Just let your fingers fly and see what happens.

Merry first day of Christmas.

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There is strong contingent of researchers, dietitians, therapists and other medical professionals who believe that dieting is harmful to health. Instead they emphasize how important it is to listen to your body–to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satiated. They talk about honoring your hunger and rejecting the idea that you had a good or bad day based on what you did or didn’t eat. This movement is called intuitive eating. 

I am now going to say what I have been feeling lately about writing. I think it should be joyful. I think it should be something that pushes me and makes me try new things and brings me fulfillment. I do not think it should be painful (at least too painful) and I do not think it should be competitive or results-based (if the only results that matter are publication or making a million dollars or making it on subjective lists). I also believe it should not be soul sucking.

Am I wrong?

Can writing be intuitive? Can it be something that feeds our souls? Brings us the kind of happiness that comes from creating something beautiful and personal and honest?

I know that there is a reality to the business of art–the reality of making money, the reality of needing to market, the reality of putting food on the table. I also know that there is value in doing things we don’t want to do, pushing through, butt-in-chair. There are also things like revision if you love drafting or drafting if you love revision.

Intuitive eating doesn’t say eat anything you want. They don’t say binge on Twinkies all day. They say, re-evaluate. Eat and enjoy. Exercise for fun. See what it feels like to move your body–doing the things you love. If you don’t like running, swim or dance or hike. Don’t base your value in whether you ate a doughnut or not. But also be curious and evaluate how your body feels when you do eat things that don’t give you adequate energy or that weigh you down. Practice making choices that will bring you happiness

Does writing bring you happiness? Do you love it? Do you write things that matter to you? Do you find joy in the struggle? Do you place your value in how a piece or manuscript does? Do you support other writers? Do you push through when things get hard and keep trying but at the same time, let yourself have breaks and not feel guilty if you didn’t write for a day or two or 34? Do you laugh while you write and cry and try new things and send things out and then breathe through rejections and then talk to someone you love about it and then laugh and do it again? Do you celebrate when things go well? Do you lay on the grass and stare at the sky? Do you yell your biggest dreams to the wind on the top of mountains? Do you love yourself no matter what? Published or not? Finished a book or not? New York Times Bestseller or not? Never write again or not?

I say write for joy.

Also, you can tell me I’m wrong.


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Nana and the Last Days

Anyone want a little Bantam rooster and his best friend? Tiny and Runny need a new home. Tiny lays one little white egg a day. If you’re interested, please email me at

Okay you NaNoers! We have today, tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday to finish up our 50,000 words.

Where are you? Me? I’m pretty far behind. But I’m trying for a big 4-day push. And why not try? “It’ll be fun,” she said.

I’m writing a little with Ann Dee, a very little with Kyra (she’s pushing to rewrite her fabulous Mermaid book) and then more on this adult novel. This mystery. That plays with time. And several characters. Including more than one killer. And a ghost. And . . . I chose this for NaNoWriMo?

What I’ve found interesting is as I’ve settled into the story (or sorta settled), a favorite character of mine showed up. My grandmother, Nana. This time she is a very fancy Southerner. Wealthy! But it was such a relief when I realized old Grandmommy is based loosely on someone I love. November 26 is Nanny’s birthday. She would have been 100 years old.

If you have followed the NaNo plan, you are right in the place where the character makes (or is getting ready to make) another choice that will change her life forever. You’re building to the reveal of that choice. What makes her say, I won’t do this anymore?Whatever this choice is will propel you into the climax of the novel.

And if you’re writing a mystery, you’re character is narrowing down and getting closer to the killer. Her life is literally at risk. Tension is rising in both stories. Characters are making decisions. All are life and death, as far as character goes. All are life and death, as far as genre. This part of the novel matters that much.


Slow and steady wins the race. Keep writing. You’re almost to the finish line!

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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

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?

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.

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.

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.


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