Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, July 31, 2009

Latter-day Debs

by Kerry Blair

Like most authors, I get quite a few letters. To say that I appreciate the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that go into each is an understatement. I do in fact marvel at the kindness of strangers.

Most of the e-mail I receive is easy to answer, even if the questions sometimes give me pause. I’ve been asked what color my hair really is, the names of my goldfish, and the birthday/shoe size/astrological sign and the like of various characters. Usually I know the answer. When I don’t, and it’s about a book, I can always make something up. Rarely does anybody ask anything I have to stop and ponder. But it happened this week. I was contacted by a young woman who asked me – among others – a self-revelatory question. She plans to compile her responses to complete a Young Women project. The question: If you could be a latter-day version of anybody in the scriptures, who would you be and why?

After consideration of the many possibilities I decided I would like to be Deborah. Since femininity is eternal, I felt compelled to choose a woman, but even if I had considered all the great men of the ages, I still think I’d have picked her.

According to the book of Judges 4-5, Deborah lived under a palm tree and judged Israel. See how much we have in common? I lived under a palm tree in Mesa for almost a quarter-century and am easily one of the most judgmental people around. It’s a natural fit.

But that’s not why I chose her. I chose Deborah because of her politics. And perspective. And courage.

After ceasing to heed the Lord God, Deborah’s people became virtual slaves of an oppressive foreign kingdom. Twenty years passed in misery, but nobody did anything because they didn’t believe there was anything they could do. The Canaan government was much too big to take on. The king had 900 iron chariots and enough fighting men to fill a valley. Guess how many iron
chariots Israel had. Right.

Their military leader, Barak, saw the situation clearly. The enemy had more than enough men, weapons, and early-day tanks to wipe his small army off the face of the earth. (Probably without breaking a sweat.)

Deborah saw the same situation with equal clarity. If they would turn again to God in humble and sincere prayer, they could send forth men armed with enough faith, courage, and power to prevail. Over anything. Indeed, angels would fight with them.

Deborah shared her vision with Barak and urged him to battle. At last he grumbled, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”

Go to battle? A woman? If Deborah up and ran off to war who would clean up around the palm tree and wash her husband’s robes? What agency could send in a temp to do her judging? Perhaps most troubling, what would her visiting teachers think?

Deborah didn’t hesitate. She surely went – and everything transpired as she had prophesied. (That’s the thing with prophecy generally.) In exchange for repentance and obedience, Israel was granted blessed freedom under God.

I wish I were like Deborah. I see my people facing many of the oppressions Israel faced – and for largely the same reasons. I certainly don’t want to go to Iraq, say, but I do want to be the kind of woman who engages in the battle, speaks up for the right, and stands up to be counted when it counts the most. Moreover, I want to be like the latter-day Deborahs we all know and admire – women who gaze through the eyes of faith rather than fear. These women look at useless scraps of fabric and see beautiful quilts; they live in modest homes, perhaps even in the dirt and decay of our inner cities, and yet gaze up to admire the sunrise. They see our families’ and nation’s and world’s evils for what they are – and know surely where to look for the solutions.

All over the world, valiant women wage war against invincible obstacles and multitudes of foes. They battle where they must with the weapons they have at hand. They clip coupons to provide for their families. They serve missions to share the gospel. They redeem their kindred dead. They go alone to church and to the temple. They raise vegetables . . . and grandchildren. They bless and strengthen their neighbors. Some write bravely and boldly, seeking to raise a rallying ensign for people of like minds.

I know I’m no Deborah. I’m too content to sit under my apple tree and juggle. (I’m trying to give up judging.) But I’m grateful for the question because it made me want to raise my sites and do better – and to acknowledge those who are already where I would like to be.

Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to write a long response (I’m the preachy one, remember) but I promised this girl I would ask for more input, and so I am. Who do you wish to emulate in the latter-days, and why? I’m not sure she will be able to use anonymous responses for her project, but I’d like to hear what you have to say, regardless.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Ribbit Award Winners

It was very close in most categories, with only one vote separating first and second place, but without further ado, here are the winners of the 2008 Ribbit Awards!

Best Interview 2008

Enough for Forever---Robison Wells

Most Helpful Writing Tip 2008

Don’t Bang Your Head---Julie Coulter Bellon

Most Inspirational Blog 2008

Why I’m Not Afraid Of Coyotes Anymore—Kerry Blair

Most Humorous Blog 2008

Columbus Day Blah---Robison Wells

Best Guest Blog 2008

The Heart Has Its Reasons—Hilary Blair

Thank you to everyone who voted and for the great bloggers we have on this site. You are all awesome!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Camping in Style

by Stephanie Black

Yeah, I know, I missed blogging last week. I was at girls camp.

The fact that I was at girls camp may come as a surprise to those of you who are relatively new to the blog and thus have been introduced to me through multiple posts from my beloved fellow froggie bloggers portraying me as extremely elderly, to the point that people are starting to think I walked across the plains with the pioneers. “How can such an ancient lady handle girls camp?” you are now asking yourself. “How did her orthopedic shoes do on the hike? And how the heck do you rapel down that rock with a cane anyway?” I would like to report that despite my advanced years, I survived, though maybe things will be more difficult when I hit my fortieth birthday.

This blog ageism all started when I blogged about having a daughter heading to college and the oldness thereof, and then Rob “interviewed” me like I was his great-great-grandmother and it went from there. It is true that I’m older that Rob (our designated Frog Blog Young Punk), but for the record—because no lady likes being regarded as older than she is, or Oil of Olay would go out of business—I'm about eight years older than Rob. Surprised? So is Rob, who thought I went to elementary school with Joan of Arc.

Anyway, girls camp. Our stake does girls camp on an incredible scale, and one of the things they do very well—among many things—is the food. Yum. They have a group of Cookies who sacrifice a week at home to come up to camp and cook delicious meals for approximately 160 campers/leaders. I particularly love the breakfasts. At home, my usual breakfast is a bowl of cereal. At camp we feasted on French toast and bacon, pancakes and sausage, homemade cinnamon rolls, banana bread made from scratch, crumb cake, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, fresh fruit . . . mmm, breakfast. My husband spent a couple of days at scout camp and reported on things like gelatinous oatmeal and partially frozen milk, which made me appreciate girls camp food all the more. They're eating goop, and we’re eating ham, fajitas, lemon pasta salad with pine nuts, chocolate layered dessert . . . strangely enough, I didn’t lose any weight at camp, despite that brutal hike down to Waterfront that I made multiple times.

Camp lasts from Saturday morning to the following Friday afternoon. In previous years, a big issue for me has been “what am I going to do with my kids all week?” I’d have to farm them out to various kind friends who were willing to watch them while my husband was at work. But this year, my eighteen-year-old daughter was the Mom-in-Charge, so the kids were able to stay at home. My poor daughter. By the time I got home, she was ready to kill everyone, though, being possessed of at least a moderate amount of self-control, I’m thinking she would have limited herself to some of her best take-down moves.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get the Cookies to move in and cook breakfast for me every day . . .

In other news, Methods of Madness is now available for pre-order from Deseret Book. If you prefer audio books, an unabridged audio book is available as well. Official release date is August 1st.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sink Me

by Robison Wells

Last night I watched The Scarlet Pimpernel with my wife. (It was because it was her birthday. I don't want to give the impression that I watch these kinds of things under normal circumstances.) Aside from the general silliness of the movie, and laughing as Magneto gets his comeuppance from a British dandy, I also noticed how the movie is essentially a backwards version of Robin Hood: The Scarlet Pimpernel rescues the very rich from the hands of the poor. And after fleeing the city gates with a few smuggled French elite, he meets up in the forest with his band of Merry Aristocrats. All I have to say is thank goodness for the 1980's and its reminder that the wealthy are awesome.

Another item related to Erin's birthday is that she and I went to dinner. If you're familiar with my unemployment, you might ask how such a thing was possible. We are, after all, so poor that at any given time we're only a hair's breadth away from beheading a French property owner. The answer is: we were using a coupon, and someone gave us some money. (Robin Hood.)

This is kind of a big deal for me, since I have a policy that I don't use coupon at sit-down restaurants. My reason is simple: I'm not one of those people. (Because, really, don't the poor people make you a little sick? I mean, have you ever been to the homeless shelter? What a bunch of Gloomy Gusses.)

Anyway, we arrived at the restaurant and thought that it must be closed; there was no one in the parking lot. Yes, we were a little early for dinner, but shouldn't there have at least been the cars belonging to the staff? Well, the staff must ride the bus (I hate that kind of people, too) because the restaurant actually was open. The sole employee there showed us to a table, and as we read through the menu, we saw more waiters and cooks wander in, preparing for their shift. We ate happily, in an empty dining room, and just as we were getting our dessert a few old people showed up for dinner. So, yes, we were early enough that we got there before even the old people.

I like to blame our habit of eating early on the fact that my wife was raised by old people. Her (my wife's) favorite music is from the forties and fifties, the era of Nat King Cole, Perry Como and Johnny Mathis. Her favorite foods are tomato aspic, creamed oysters, and puffed rice. Her favorite boxers are Rocky Graziano and Jersey Joe Walcott. (I may have made up some or all of the preceding information.)

I also like to blame our kids for our early eating habits. If the kids aren't fed, bathed, and tucked into bed before 7:00pm, then I get all jittery.

But, no, the truth is that I just like to eat, and as soon as you could rationally justify dinner--even though it may be a little early--then you might as well dive on in. (On a related note, ever since I had a call-center job with a weird shift, 13 years ago, I've always considered 10:30am to be lunch time. Could this account for why I drink Coke for breakfast? I don't know.)

The point is this: it was my wife's birthday yesterday, and in lieu of gifts you can send cash. It's not easy being poor--on top of not having any money we're always having to watch our backs for that danged Scarlet Pimpernel.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writers Conferences

On a writers’ list I subscribe to, a conversation recently came up about writers conferences and whether or not it was a waste to attend them. Since there are several conferences coming up this fall, I thought I would take a stab at seven things you should expect from a writers conference.

1) Tips and tricks to either make you a better writer or remind you of things you know already. Honestly, if you’ve attended even two or three decent conferences, you should already know things like not starting your story with a flashback and that most of the time your dialog tag should be “said”—not expelled, huffed, growled, or any other –ed. But for the many people who haven’t attended a lot of conferences, learning these kinds of things can be eye-opening. I had a teacher in one of my classes say, “But we teach our students to use tags other than said.” I nodded and answered, “And you are teaching them wrong.”

So first point, if you have not been to a writing conference before, get to every “writing basics” class you can. Yes, I know classes on negotiating a contract and on-line marketing sound sexier. But if you haven’t finished your first book, you should be focusing on writing, not tweeting.

2) But let’s say, you’ve written a complete book or two. You know about creating conflict and multiple storylines. Why should you attend workshops? (We’ll get to agents, and editors, and publishers, oh my, soon.) First of all, don’t expect some amazing new revelation. Presenters like to make their workshops attractive with titles like, Ten Guaranteed Tips to Getting an Agent! (And yes, I shudder to admit that was the title of one of my earlier workshops—less the exclamation point.) But the truth is that absolutely nothing is guaranteed. And if anyone really knew a 100% sure way to sell their manuscript for top dollar to the best publisher ever, they wouldn’t be spouting it for free at a $150 writers conference, they’d be writing their next “guaranteed” book.

Whether you are taking a class on character development, making a Facebook page, or creating a critique group, the truth of the matter is that it is one author’s opinion. Depending on who is teaching the class, it may not even be a very good author’s opinion. So take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Maybe you’ve heard a lot of what is being taught before, and some of the new stuff you are hearing doesn’t ring true. Remember two things. No matter how good you are, you don’t know everything—there are nuggets of information you can still glean, points where you say, “Wow, I never looked at it like that before!” And two, repetition is a good thing. If you hear something enough times, and keep realizing you are making that mistake in your writing, it will eventually sink in to the point that you stop making the mistake. Every writer, no matter how successful, should be looking for ways to improve.

3) Expanding your horizons. I finally read Uglies this weekend. I know I am really late to the game, but I thought it was going to be either a) an emo romance or b) a heavy handed social commentary, or both. Turned out is was neither. It was a great read. I totally loved it. One of the things I liked best about the book was that it had a little of everything. Romance, action, cook gadgets, great bad guys. You could easily call it a thriller, a romance, a Sci-Fi, or even a mystery. One of the cool things about many conferences is that you can take genre specific classes even if you don’t write in that genre. Need to learn how to add a little spice to your mystery? Take a romance workshop. Want to know why so many YA novels are hot right now, even though you’re writing adult romances? Think of it as cross training.

4) Meet people. I know this is the scary part for a lot of people. And not just the attendees. I know many authors who are big brave dogs behind a laptop, but cowering puppies when it comes to talking to people they don’t know face to face. All through high school, you were the weird one. The person who would rather read than play at recess. The person who had more imaginary friends than real friends. You taught yourself that you didn’t fit in. Well guess what? At a writers conference you do fit in. Don’t get me wrong, you are still a weirdo. But now you are in a room filled with other weirdoes. Sit down next to someone and say something like, “So what do you write?” I guarantee a conversation will quickly ensue. Conferences are a great place to make friends—friends who think like you, empathize with you, support you, and have similar goals to you.

5) Hear what agents and editors are looking for. We often think of conferences as places to sell people on what we are writing or have written, and I promise I’ll get to that. But how much thought have you given to finding out what a particular agent or editor would really like to see? Remember the Mel Gibson movie, “What Women Want?” Suddenly Mel is incredibly successful because he knows what his female clients, dates, and even his boss want. Well guess what? You don’t have to get electrocuted while cross dressing in a bathtub to know what publishers want. You can ask them. And they’ll tell you. About a month ago, I was having lunch with one of the people I work with at Shadow Mountain. I’d talked to him about a project I was working on, but when I asked him what he was really looking for, it was something entirely different. At first I had a tough time swallowing what he had to say. But guess what? I’m doing a project for him that is tentatively scheduled for this June. Would that be worth the cost of a conference?

When you sit in front of a panel of the people who you are trying to sell your work to and everyone else is afraid to raise their hand and ask a question, get your hand in the air and ask, “If you could have the perfect book land in your lap today—assuming it was well written—what would the book be?”

6) Meet agents, editors, publishers, etc. I almost held this one till last, because so many people think this is what conferences are all about—selling your book. Do people sell books at conferences? Yes. I know people who have pitched an idea at a writers conference and ended up signing a deal. Will most people who attend a writers conference sell a book there? No. Not even close. Imagine you are a guy for a minute. (Rob this may be hard for you.) You are at a dance with two-hundred other guys. There are exactly four girls at the dance. Only four, and two of them aren’t even that good looking (or talented, or funny, or smart, just to be PC here.) All the guys want to meet these four girls. They get asked out on every dance. Even when they walk out into the hallway they are barraged by pushy guys who want to not only meet them, but immediately launch a long term relationship. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they all have boyfriends at home and they are getting paid to come to the dance.

Maybe you will meet one of them. If you paid for a dance or are quick at the punch table, you might get to talk to one of them. Maybe, just maybe, you are so darn good-looking, smart, funny, and smooth-talking that you actually even get a phone number. Great! Good job. Are you really going to blow it all by gushing, “I’m good with kids and I like cats and I never leave up the toilet seat. So do you want to marry me? Huh? Do you?”

Dances are a great place to meet girls. Sometimes you come home with a phone number, sometimes you go to Dennys with the other guys who struck out. Writers conferences are a great place to meet agents. Sometimes you find one who likes your work. Sometimes you don’t. Most times you don’t. Don’t make that the determining factor on whether or not a conference was successful.

7) Get motivated. Writing is a mind game first and last. From coming up with an idea to writing a great query letter, to signing your first contract, it is all about confidence and belief. Going to a conference for the first time can be scary and intimidating. Here you are a wanna-be writer who hasn’t even finished a whole book and you are surrounded by people who have not only written, but actually sold many, many books. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also two-hundred other people all trying to sell their books. And going back to the dance analogy, they all seem to have nicer cars, better cologne, and cooler moves than you. Who wouldn’t be intimated?

But allow me to let you in on a secret. Every one of the people in this room is just as insecure as you. The guy with the national three book deal still cries on his pillow when he gets a bad review. The woman who can’t even remember how many books she’s published is afraid she’ll never get the big deal she wants. The guy teaching the class with so much confidence just had his new idea shot down by two different agents. And all those people around you who seem to have it all together? They’re still trying to figure everything out too.

Stop being intimidated by the people who have been published and start focusing on the fact that if they can do it, you can too. Stop looking at all the other attendees as competition and recognize them as validation that wanting to tell a story and maybe even have someone pay you for it is not such a bad thing. When you take a class and it seems like you have so much to learn and so far to go, remember that we are all trying to improve. Instead of thinking about what you don’t know, think about how you are going to use what you’ve learned to improve your craft. Understand that it’s a long road, and may people will quit along the trail, but that just by attending a conference you are placing yourself head and shoulders above most people who dream of writing a book one day. If you return home motivated and determined to write something truly great, there is absolutely no one who can stop you but yourself.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's Your Deal?

by Sariah S. Wilson

So, as I've mentioned before, I like TV.

I also have an affinity for game shows. (I don't know why - I'm wondering whether it's some childhood thing where the only thing on during the day in the summer were game shows.) Fortunately, the good old DVR makes it much easier to fast forward through all the boring stuff and just watch the fun parts. I can watch "The Price is Right" in about eight minutes (hour long show, for those who don't know).

And I don't gamble or imagine myself ever being able to be on it, but one of my favorite shows is "Deal or No Deal." I love seeing people's lives change.

For those who haven't seen it, the premise is this - you're on stage with 26 briefcases that range in value from one penny to one million dollars. You pick the case that you think has the million in it, and then select the other cases in a series of rounds to eliminate them. There is a bad guy on the show - The Banker - who is trying to get you out of the game for as little money as possible. If you keep the higher value cases in the game, the offers The Banker will make you at the end of each round will get substantially higher.

People are routinely offered six figure sums that they turn down in hopes of getting even more money.

There's no skill to this game - just luck.

But what I like best is when they offer someone their dream. There was a girl who wanted a lime green Escalade with certain features, and at the end of one of the rounds they offered her the exact car to walk away. She went nuts, accepted it, and it turned out that she made the right decision - had she kept playing she would have eliminated her one high value case and lost everything.

Another favorite of mine was a woman who dreamed of being on Broadway. For her deal they offered her a walk-on role for "Wicked" along with some props from that musical, auditions, money to go to New York and see several other musicals with VIP treatment, and the chance to go and meet with a musical casting director. She immediately took that deal - it was her dream come true.

Or the guy who grew up in foster care, who escaped through comic books, couldn't say no when they offered him, among many other things, the chance to be a superhero in a comic.

It made me wonder what my deal would be - what the show could offer me that I would possibly turn down the chance to get a few hundred thousand dollars.

I know what it is - it would be the chance to write for a certain TV show. (I'm not going to say which one because it is totally embarassing. Of course, if I ever got on "Deal or No Deal," you'd all find out. Then again, for that to happen, I would actually have to, you know, audition.) If they offered me any kind of contract to write for that show, I wouldn't be able to say no. It is one of my dreams - and it would be so hard to walk away from that.

So if you got a chance to be on that show, what could they offer you that you wouldn't be able to refuse? Now remember, this has to be something the show would be capable of doing. They can't make you a New York Times bestseller or president or a movie star. It has to be something within the show's capabilities (which means no world peace or wishing for them to fix Rob's arms).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blessed, Honored Pioneers

Oh, sure. Stick the cynical convert with Pioneer Day, why don’tcha?

Let me warn you right off: if you’re here for a feel-good message about blessed, honored pioneers, you’ve come to the wrong blogger. (See the guy who writes on Tuesday.) It’s not that I don’t bless and honor our common Church heritage. I do! I even happen to be sealed to a half-dozen early pioneers through my husband’s sterling lineage. Therefore, I’m truthfully not sure why the “world-wide” celebration of the early Saints’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley annoys me, but it does.

Of course, any excuse for a parade is good – especially if it inspires hundreds of hours spent carving beautifully intricate sailing schooners from pink foam. (After all, it’s not it’s not like the most intelligent, gifted Saints around have anything better to do in these latest of Latter-days.) I guess I just supposed that after the mega-inspiring Faith in Every Footstep Year, our own beloved Zionists would get over themselves and move on. (This was said fondly, I swear!) At the very least I thought we’d expand the celebration to acknowledge LDS pioneers in Ghana, Columbia, Russia, Japan, and practically everywhere else on the globe. Granted, none of them pulled handcarts (as far as I know) but, my gosh, what incredible testaments to raw courage and unshakeable faith. They count too. Right?

No, I’m not going to tell any of their stories. I am no longer inspirational, remember? This is a diatribe.

I well remember being in the first council meeting in Arizona at which a “trek” was proposed. I was incredulous. “Say we pull handcarts this summer. What will we do next year? Board a cholera-infested boat and sail across Lake Mead? Find a fetid catacomb and/or lion-filled arena to reenact the struggles of the former-day Saints? Wander forty hours in the wilderness, lost, without food or water?”

The trekkies did, of course, prevail. Watching the boys load rented, state-of-the-art carts onto a flatbed truck while girls wearing long skirts recently crafted from ridiculously expensive fabric boarded an air-conditioned bus, I couldn’t help but think of Brothers Willie and Martin in the after-here, shaking their faithful heads and marveling over what some folks will do for recreation/inspiration.

I have been testified to repeatedly that treks build character and community. Okay. (Granted, even.) But don’t try to tell me they teach what it was like to be a pioneer. We wannabes might go hungry for a morning, but we know darn well we won’t starve. (Nor will we have to hunt for and/or gather our own provisions.) We may develop painful blisters, but there is no doubt that if something really bad happens, the trek doctor will be there in three minutes and the helicopter will arrive soon after. Even when the trail is uphill and at its longest, we know full well we can count the hours until it’s over – until we’re back home with soft beds, electricity, running water, and Wii to keep us fit. All along the way of the finest trek there is little uncertainty and no real despair. (No matter how many plastic dolls we bury in a field, we will not – cannot – understand.) My heart tells me there is a point to it all, but my intellect wonders where.

NOTE: This is the point where all you Faithful hit “comment” and respond with outrage. I never get outraged letters from The Faithful. (Outrageous, sometimes, but never outraged.) I’m excited.

Not that I’m not a team player. Our ward is having a Pioneer Celebration tomorrow evening at the church. As the newest member of the activity committee, I was invited to the planning meeting. “It’s going to be a traditional pioneer picnic,” the chairman told me in advance, “so think of ideas.”

Ever faithful, (if with a small f) I did some online research and was prepared. The first thing the chair asked at the meeting was who would set up chairs.

“Every family should bring a quilt and sit on the ground,” I suggested. “The pioneers didn’t have racks of folding chairs.”

Everybody agreed and I felt almost . . . Faithful.

Next she asked who would set up the volleyball net.

“I don’t think the pioneers played volleyball,” I said. “Maybe horseshoes?”

“Horseshoes would tear up the lawn,” the high priest group leader pointed out.

“And they’re dangerous,” the Primary representative responded with a shudder.

I’ll spare you a transcript of the rest of the meeting. We’re playing volleyball and having “traditional pioneer root beer floats.” (Of course, nobody likes the taste of homemade root beer and it is too risky to make homemade ice cream what with salmonella and all.) Despite all the rest of my ideas being summarily rejected, I nevertheless put my shoulder to the wheel and volunteered for the most pioneerish of assignments. It will be my honor on this Pioneer Day to drag a creaking metal handcart up and down the treacherous aisles of WalMart. (Walking and walking is a given, but I hope the singing is optional.) Along the way I will gather plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic spoons, and plastic-y ice cream. I may even wear a bonnet.

While I don’t do treks, I can at least do this. I hope my husband's pioneer ancestors feel very honored indeed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Red Carpet and the Ribbit Awards

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Well, it has been a crazy week of voting. I am so thrilled at the response to the Ribbit Awards. Thank you to everyone who has voted this week both at my email and in the comment trail. This was a lot of fun to do and I got to read some of my favorite blogs from last year over again.

I just have to say I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful group of writers. I think Stephanie, Jeff, Kerry, Rob and Sariah are some of the most talented LDS writers out there. Of course, credit goes to Sariah for putting the six of us together and founding the frog blog. We couldn’t have done it without her.

So without further ado, let’s join Joan Rivers on the red carpet and see what everyone’s wearing to the gala tonight!

“It’s an exciting night at the Ribbit Awards. We’re all waiting with “baited” breath to see who will be going home with the coveted frog trophies. I’ll guarantee there will be some surprises tonight. Ooh, Kerry Blair has just stepped out of her limousine. She is looking exquisite in her black sequined gown and what looks like matching Badgley Mischka peeptoe shoes. Kerry! Kerry! Over here! *waves madly* Kerry, who are you wearing today?"

Kerry twirls, “I am wearing a Kate Shade original. She is just the sweetest woman and even though we’ve just barely met, I feel like she’s my best friend already. It’s also providential since she has the same last name as my signature character Sam Shade, so I think the whole thing was meant to be.”

“Would you say the match was inspired?”

Kerry smiles indulgently at Joan. “Yes, it probably was. I seem to inspire a lot of people even though I don’t mean to do that. It’s just one of my God-given talents I suppose, to have inspirational words fall from my mouth without even thinking about it!” Kerry waves and moves toward the door blowing kisses. “I have to go! Always remember, you have what it takes already inside you! You don’t need ruby slippers!”

Joan turns back to camera. “Wow, she is inspirational. But I wouldn’t mind some ruby slippers as long as they were real rubies and I could *ahem* sell them later.” She winks. “Back to the red carpet. Up next we have Stephanie Black. She is all decked out in a . . .” Joan clears her throat. “In a flapper’s dress.” Joan tries to raise her eyebrows, but her entire forehead goes up. “Stephanie, that’s an interesting choice of gown you’re wearing tonight. Would you like to tell us more about it?”

Stephanie breaks into a modified Charleston right there in front of Joan. “Back in my day, this is what every proper young rebel wore. I wanted to feel young again, so I put on my best dress from my youth and was shocked I fit into it. All those water aerobics paid off. I took care of my joints in the water and my waistline was a fringe benefit. Get it?” she elbows Joan. “Fringe benefit?” *Stephanie does a little shimmy for Joan to make the fringe wave around*

Joan covers her eyes. “Yes, well, thank you for that image. Maybe you’d best head on in.”

Stephanie shimmies her way through the crowd as young mothers shield their children’s eyes. “Let’s hope someone doesn’t get hurt,” Joan mumbles into the microphone.

“Oh, here we have Mr. Jeff Savage, looking dapper in a tuxedo. Who are you wearing Mr. Savage?” She lays her hand on his arm. “And is that your real name? Savage?” she purrs.

Jeff doesn’t seem to notice the change in her tone. He picks a piece of lint off of her dress and says, “I’m wearing Valentino, of course. Didn’t you hear I am a national author now and sign contracts worth more than . . . “ he lightly touches her nose. “Well, we can’t say in polite company, so we’ll just say my awesome suit was fitted to match my awesomeness. Thank you!” *He waves as he walks into the building*

There is a commotion at the limousine drop off and Joan looks back to see Sariah S. Wilson getting out of the limousine with all of her children in tow. Sariah rushes past Joan with a wave. “I’d like to talk, but the kids are hungry and I need to go change into my skirt.”

“You’re not wearing anything designer?” Joan shouts after her.

“Who has time for that? I couldn’t find any coupons for designer stuff, so I got a great deal at Kohl’s on two skirts, and I got those. Thanks for your time!” Sariah shepherds her children inside.

“Well, I never,” Joan says. “Really, I mean I’ve never shopped at Kohl’s. How interesting.” She smooths her own designer gown. “Julie Coulter Bellon should be arriving any moment. I can’t wait to see who she is wearing. She’s so stylish and fun.” The limousine pulls up and Robison Wells gets out followed by Julie Coulter Bellon. “Oh, I can get both interviews at once,” Joan says into the microphone, but her tone quickly turns from jovial to shocked as she shakes her head in astonishment. “Rob, Rob, Rob, WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?”

Rob adjusts his large feathered pirate hat as he postures in front of Joan. “I would prefer that you call me Captain Rob, and I shall acknowledge your presence.” Joan looks down at his tights and buckled shoes. “Who designed your outfit, Captain Rob?”

Rob glances down at her before he looks back up, holding his hand aloft. “I designed it myself. After I’d drawn pictures of it and dreamed about it, I finally made all my dreams come true.”

Joan turns to Julie Coulter Bellon who is standing quietly next to Captain Rob. “Why did you two arrive in one limousine?” she asks. “There can’t be a limousine shortage in this town!”

“Well, no other limousine would take poor Captain Rob and his hat, so I took pity on him and gave him a ride. And, well, I knew I could be dressed in mom jeans and my favorite writing shirt and standing next to Rob I’d still look good.” Julie said with a smile. “Thank you for your time! We’re running late so we must get in and join our fellow frog bloggers!” She pushes Captain Rob in the back and his pirate hat falls down over his eyes. He gives her an annoyed stare and grunts an "arrrrgh,"as he adjusts the feather and stalks silently into the building, his hand still aloft.

Joan turns back to the cameras. “This has been an amazing start to the night. I can’t wait to see who the winners are. I’ll be here to give you the scoop as it happens!”

And this is your last week to vote for the Ribbit Awards. You can either vote in the comment trail or at my email if you like. I will announce the winners next week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Float Again

by Robison Wells

Last week I told you all about my new obsession: the design and construction of the stake parade float for the 24th of July. Well, the good news is that the dang thing is finished (mostly). On Saturday morning we towed it down to the SouthTowne Expoe Centre for the preview party, and then I spent the next two days in bed.

Here are a few pictures, as requested. Remember: I have worked about 10-12 hours a day on this thing, six days a week, for the past three weeks. (This is not to say that I did it alone. I designed it all, both aesthetically and structurally, but others in the stake came in the evenings to swing hammers and paint.)

Also, bear in mind that these pictures were taken before it was finished.

The picture below is the full boat. As you can tell, we haven't yet attached the sparkly water underneath the boat, and the mast hasn't been put on. But this gives you a good overview. It's a little over 25 feet from bow to stern. The driver sees out through the portholes.

Below is the view from the aft. All of the details were carved out of foam by yours truly. (Well, the ballisters for the railings were carved by the Hawthorne Ward Relief Society after I made a few samples for them.) The foam we use is made for insulation, and it's bright pink. So, for about a week (before the foam was painted) the boat was purple and pink, and it looked like it would be better suited for the gay pride parade.

Here's a close-up on some of the carved foam. Note the sun, moon, and stars. Discussion questions: Was Rob trying to use some form of deep symbolism? If so, what do these celestial bodies represent? (Answers: No, and Nothing.) The truth is that I had drawn out the design for this piece of foam, and included three circles. I turned the big one into a sun because they're easy to carve. And then it just kind of made sense to do a moon and a star. However, despite my original non-symbolistic intentions, I have taken to referring to this as the sunstone. And I'm hoping the parade committee will think I'm really deep and artsy and give me an award.

I continued the use of suns elsewhere:

I also carved a globe on the captain's wheel, before I realized that it would be mostly covered up.

And, last of all, here's a picture of me this morning. I finally went to the hospital yesterday after having fallen off of a ladder last week. I have contusions on both hands, and my left hand and bicep are sprained. Also, you'll notice I'm growing the beard back. (That's not a result of the fall.)

So, watch the parade on Friday and cheer for my float. Yes, it will have about a thousand people crammed onto it, waving flags, but don't pay attention to them. The boat is the important thing. It's the Sugar House Stake float, and I believe we're #86 in line (which I think is in about the third quarter).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tips for Saving Money

by Sariah S. Wilson

This is the blog I intended to do last week.

Since I got serious about saving money, I've saved thousands of dollars on stuff I normally buy. I saw a blog once called "Shoplifting With Permission" and I've become that person. Yesterday I got $48.90 worth of dishwasher soap (Finish/Electrasol power tabs - the good kind) for nothing out of pocket. Zero dollars, and now I have ten boxes of dishwasher detergent. That's the sort of thing that happens to me all the time now. (How did I do it? Well, a local store (Meijer) has store coupons that I printed out from their website that had $1.00/2 of the detergents. This past week a coupon for $2.50 off of any Finish detergent came out, and I ordered ten coupons from one of my favorite coupon clipping sites. Plus, Meijer marked the soap down to $3.00 a box, thus making it free.)

So I thought that even though I live in a different area than most of you, that I could offer some tips for ways to save money like I do that you might not know about.

Internet Coupons - This was probably my biggest discovery when I waded into the money saving business. You can print completely awesome coupons off of your computer! The first time I did it I thought for sure that the store would laugh at me or say they didn't accept them. The cashier didn't bat an eye, and huge savings for me!

You can only print out two coupons per computer. (In my house we have four that regularly run, and could possibly use a laptop if necessary.) Each coupon has an individual bar code on it, so if you get any ideas about Xeroxing your coupon, you're in for a big surprise. Some printable coupons embed your IP address so that if you did manage to use a bunch of fradulent ones they could find out and could permanently ban you.

So the sites that are the best to visit are, and

These typically reset at the beginning of each month. Once you print a coupon, use your back button to print it out again. I tend to check them once a week just to see if a coupon I've already printed has reset (sometimes it does) or to see if any new coupons are listed.

Enter in your ZIP code for those sites, as they may have coupons that are geared specifically for your area. Recently there were coupons for $.75 off any milk, $1.00 off any cheese and $1.00 off any yogurt that could only be used in Utah and Idaho.

Also, if you have a brand or item you really enjoy and don't see a coupon for it, the best place to visit is They have a coupon database that lists all the current available coupons, and you can search by brand name. (You will have to register for this site.)

E-Coupons - This is a newer technology and the e-coupon companies are still ironing out some kinks, but it's worth trying.

These are used at stores that have a shopper's card, like Smith's, Ralphs, Kroger, Vons, etc.

They're pretty easy to use - you go to the site, fill in your information (including your shopper's card number) and load coupons on to your card.

E-coupons do not double. There is some controversy over whether people should use paper coupons combined with e-coupons. My opinion on it is along the same lines as this post, but your mileage may vary.

So the sites are: (this one requires a cell phone, but the coupons will go on to your shopper's card. However, you can download cell coupons for places like Hollywood Video or Sears that you carry around on your phone and show to the cashier when you check out. I haven't done that yet because I'm technologically impaired).

P&G is a site where you can input your shopper's card and get back money on things you buy, but recently they've included a coupon feature where you can load those coupons onto your shopper's card and then if you buy the item, Upromise will apply the coupon amount to the money you've earned with them. I've earned $17.00 this way in the last couple of months on things I typically buy anyways.

I would recommend going to the website of the grocery stores near you to see what kind of coupons/e-coupons they have linked to their site. (Like here is the one for Smith's.)

Coupon Clipping Sites - You may be asking yourself how I got ten $2.50 off coupons. I ordered them online. I have two sites that I use most often, and can vouch for both of them.

The Coupon Clippers

Coupons & Things by Dede - I actually prefer this site because I feel like she gets my coupons to me faster, and has this neat feature where if she's out of stock of a particular coupon (which happens frequently) you can sign up to be notified when it comes back in stock (and it typically does). Good coupons go fast from these sites (even with limits) so this is a nice way to be able to get at least some. (If you use this site, your first time could you list me as your referrer? My referral info is Sariah Wilson and

You can also usually buy coupons from, but I only use this if it's something I really want that I can't get at the other sites (it seems like it costs more).

Where to Shop - Before getting into all this saving, I usually only shopped at Wal-Mart. They do have low prices, but they don't double coupons.

I have found that you're better off buying brand name items at regular stores that do double coupons because you will pay cents on the dollar when those items go on sale. A Kraft barbecue sauce that costs me $.65 at Wal-Mart after my coupon would just be free at Kroger.

I used to stay away from the higher-priced stores thinking that I was saving more money not shopping there. Or that I saved more money buying store brand items. This has turned out to be very, very false.

If I follow the sales and put them together with coupons, I always save at least 50% off of my order, and have saved as much as 85% shopping at stores like that. I can't tell you what a rush I get from having an order that was $130 go down to $30.

I'm sure there are blogs that specialize in your area and the stores that you shop. I follow two blogs of women who live here in my little township (one of them even shops at the same Kroger as me!), and they will list the sale items and what coupons are available and what your final cost will be. It makes shopping lists very easy to make.

And I've been doing it so long now that I know what a good sale is and what coupons I have - I've even found deals on my own that weren't listed on anyone's blog!

Another thing I do is go wherever they have triple coupons (Kmart did that here recently, and I got $60 worth of toiletries and paid $1.27 out of pocket. At the same time they had a promotion for 50% off of their clearance toys, and I got a Little Tikes kitchen set, $129.95 value, for $16.00, among other things.) You can get so many things for free at regular prices when you can triple coupons.

Also, look into the programs for shopping at Walgreens and CVS or Rite-Aid (follow the links to see where expert shoppers explain how each program works). I've personally come to prefer CVS over Walgreens for a number of reasons. And I get very expensive toiletries and make-up for "free" all the time by using their programs. - This is a search engine powered by Google. If you do searches with their site, you can win a swagbuck - and then you can use those swagbucks for merchandise (45 points will get you one $5 Amazon gift card). I've been doing it for a while now and I currently have 127 points. I'm planning on going until November or so, and then cashing out my points to get gift cards for my family. But it isn't just gift cards - they have music downloads and electronics and books and even cash via PayPal.

Since I search the Internet on a daily basis anyways, this is a nice way to add a little something extra to it. I typically only try for one swagbuck a day (and they do randomize them, so sometimes I get as much as $4 in one day). They give you $3 in swagbucks when you sign up.

This has a referral program, so if you use my referral code, I can get up to 100 additional swagbucks from your searches. I don't actually have any of those yet, but I bet they could add up quickly if you got a lot of people to do it. - This is another "I'm doing this anyway" way to make money. This won't get you rich, but if you can make cash back doing something you already do, why not?

Ebates gives you cash back for online shopping, including eBay, which I think is sweet. They give you a $5.00 bonus for signing up (and I would get a $5.00 bonus as well if you use my referral to sign up, just as you would get the $5.00 bonus for signing up friends and family). You get the bonus the first time you use it to go shopping. I used the site recently to buy my husband a plane ticket through I was going to buy the ticket anyways, but this way I got money back. It will also tell you about special deals or coupons that online vendors might be offering.

There's a lot more I could share, but I think this is a good starting point for anyone trying to save some money. If you have any questions about anything, post them in the comments, or if you have tips for how you save money while shopping, please put that in the comments!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Truth Really is Relentless

Until I start hitting the delete key I have three drafts on the dashboard. The first -- written earlier this week -- is preachy. (Big surprise there.) The second is whiny. The third is unfunny. What I really want to do is delete them all, close the computer, and walk away. But that's what I did week-before-last. (Last week I had the flu and must, therefore, be immediately forgiven for not even looking at a computer.) Anyway, under the theory that the fourth time is a charm, I'll try one more blog before crawling back in my hole to stay.

It has been recently brought to my attention that this is a writerly kind of place and I am rarely if ever on-topic. Thus, in a radical departure from the norm, I will step gracefully down from my highly inspirational (if often insipid) soapbox and share a few lines from a new novel that have caught my fancy.

Before I do, however, I must make a deep, dark confession: I am probably not nearly as morally affronted by crude language and "graphic realism" as I know I should be. (I'm banking on there being a really good library in heck.) Unfortunately, I can't very well share a guy's words without giving him credit for them, but I want it understood from the start that I am recommending to this particular group neither the book nor the author. (As much as I personally love both.) Do not read Dean Koontz -- especially his early works -- if, like Stephanie, you have eyeballs that are easily burned. Do not even visit the website that I will link to his latest novel. Understood? Then we can proceed.

I absolutely swore that I would not fork out the cover price of Koontz's newest hardcover, Relentless. If I couldn't wait a year for paperback -- and I almost certainly couldn't -- I could certainly wait a few weeks for a library copy. Then I read the flyleaf while waiting in line at the grocery store yesterday and suddenly I couldn't. Wait, that is. For the book, I mean, not for the cashier to check out my groceries. (Sigh. Can you see now why I am going to give up blogging and take up needlepoint?) The premise of this novel is just too good: a bestselling artist and good guy author locked in a classic battle of good vs. evil with a sociopath literary critic.

I bought the book and with 25% off and an in-store coupon good for five bucks, I'd received my money's worth by page 7. I'm not sure just how much one can legally quote in a "review," but I'm going to go out on a limb and lift three whole paragraphs. In the first two, the hero explains his thoughts upon completing the first round of interviews for his new novel, One O'Clock Jump.

After five hours on the radio, I felt as though I might vomit if I heard myself say again the words "One O'Clock Jump." I could see the day coming when, if I was required to do much publicity for a new book, I would write it but not allow its publication until I died.

If you have never been in the public eye, flogging your work like a carnival barker pitching a freak show to the crowd, this publish-only-after-death pledge may seem extreme. But protracted self-promotion drains something essential from the soul, and after one of these sessions, you need weeks to recover and to decide that one day it might be all right to like yourself again.

Seriously, how many of you published authors don't relate to that?

But what really draws me into Koontz's later works is his heart and soul. This passage from the end of Relentless is truly, it seems to me, the man's life thesis:

Evil itself may be relentless, I will grant you that, but love is relentless, too. Friendship is a relentless force. Family is a relentless force. Faith is a relentless force. The human spirit is relentless, and the human heart outlasts -- and can defeat -- even the most relentless force of all, which is time. (Koontz, Dean; Relentless; Bantam Books; Random House, 2009.)

Now, we can argue all week about whether or not good Latter-day Saint writers should read Dean Koontz, let alone emulate him. (Let's not. Argue all week, I mean.) What heartens and amazes and impresses and touches and inspires me about this man and others like him is that he is not preaching to the choir. (Unlike some bloggers we know and love.) Koontz is writing not only to a mainstream audience of millions, but an audience who likely picked up the book looking for the very thing we eschew. They want thrills and heart-pounding suspense and -- while I'll admit that I haven't yet read beyond the third chapter -- I'm sure they'll get it, but look back up at the truth they're going to get with it. This is an author's stewardship at its finest: edifying and inspiring readers who need it most, mostly when they're not looking.

Could Koontz tell the same stories sans language and scenes of a sometimes graphic nature? Of course he could. (And he could do it in iambic pentameter if challenged.) Yet the questions remain: would he draw the same audience if he did, and how great is the value of sowing truth and goodness on as yet uncultivated fields?

Although I am only a distant bystander, and admirer, I've studied the development of Koontz's work and come to believe that the author has deeply considered these questions himself. His early books are . . . well, some of them are ick . . . whereas his later work is much more subtly crafted, though just as terrifying in content and tone. (That said, let me assure you again that as far as he has moved, there remain elements in his works that you would not want to read aloud to your book group on Enrichment night.)

Honest and true, I hesitate to now enter a fray that I've tirelessly ignored lo these many years. But, since one can't preach forever, I'll say that Publishers Weekly nailed it when they stated that Koontz (and his ilk) is "providing terrific entertainment that deals seriously with some of the deepest themes of human existence: the nature of evil, the grip of fate, and the power of love."

Go ye forth, writer, and do the same. But watch your mouths.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Ribbit Award Nominations Are In--Come Vote!

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Last week someone in the comment trail asked me if my blog had anything to do with currying favor for the Niblet awards. I have to admit I didn’t know what the Niblet Awards were, so I educated myself by googling it. The Niblet awards are for outstanding blogs, and, oddly, the SixLDSWriters blog was not included in any of the nominations.

It got me thinking though, our blog deserves its own award with all of our amazing bloggers and so, I am pleased to announce the Ribbit Awards!

This past week has been a flurry of activity. My crack team of industry professionals have sifted through all the blog entries on the frog blog from 2008 and have chosen the top blogs in five categories. It was very hard for all of us to narrow down the nominations, they were all so amazing, of course, but we did and the result of our labors is below. It may be difficult to choose your favorite, the top blog deserving of a Ribbit Award, but I think you can do it. Pick the one that makes you laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh, whichever category comes first. It's all in fun.

After all the voting is done we’ll announce the winners next week. You may vote in one category or all the categories if you so choose, but you only get one vote per category per person. Does that make sense?

If you do not feel comfortable voting in the comments section publicly, you can email me at

I think this will be really fun and I included the title, month, and author as well as a possible link so you can find the entries (I stink at linking, so bear with me.) I guarantee you’ll smile as you read some of these again. (And I must apologize to Rob for calling him a mean little man. After reading his hilarious posts again, I remembered what's good about him.)

So, without further ado, may I present to you, the nominations for the Ribbit Awards for the SixLDSWriters blog 2008.

Best Interview of 2008

The Brands of Wrath--John Steinbeck Jan 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Sariah S. Wilson—April 2008—Robison Wells. You can read it here

Enough for Forever An Interview with Edward Cullen May 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

The Great Debate June 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

My Endorsement by Robison Wells October 2008. You can read it here

Sarah Palin Speaks Robison Wells September 2008. You can read it here

Face Off Robison Wells September 2008. You can read it here

Most Helpful Writing Blog 2008

Don’t Bang Your Head—Jan 2008 Julie Coulter Bellon. You can read it here

March of the Cheerio Monsters—Feb. 2008 Stephanie Black. You can read it here

Critique Groups—Feb. 2008—Jeff Savage. You can read it here

Tapping In to Your Creative Self—March 2008 Julie Coulter Bellon. You can read it here

Does Your Novel Have MICE—March 2008 Jeff Savage. You can read it here

Three Peeves May 2008 Stephanie Black. You can read it here

Setting the Stage October 2008 Stephanie Black. You can read it here

Most Inspirational Blog 2008

Write the Best Book First—March 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

I Believe April 2008 Jeff Savage. You can read it here

Happy Memorial Day May 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

Hurrah for the USA July 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

Let Us All Press On Scattering Sunshine September 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

Why I Write—Jan 2008 Jeff Savage. You can read it here

Why I’m Not Afraid of Coyotes November 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

Peace on Earth December 2008 Kerry Blair. You can read it here

Most Humorous Blog 2008

New Hampshire Predictions—Jan 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Yes We Can July 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Do Not Read If You Are Easily Offended July 2008 Jeff Savage. You can read it here

Columbus Day Blah October 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Why I Love the Muppets Sariah Wilson October 2008. You can read it here

All Because Two People Fell in Love Oct 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Rob the Galleria of Blogs December 2008 Robison Wells. You can read it here

Best Guest Blog 2008

Build a Better Book, March 2008 Jennie Hansen. You can read it here

Is It Jealousy or Are They Really That Annoying—May 2008 Crystal Liechty. You can read it here

The Heart Has its Reasons June 2008 Hilary Blair. You can read it here

Dreams Do Come True June 2008 Jeri Gilchrist. You can read it here

The Less Than Golden Road June 2008 Annette Lyon. You can read it here

10 Reasons Why Having a Baby is Easier Than Writing a Book Karlene Browning August 2008. You can read it here

Making the Best of It Anna Jones Buttimore August 2008. You can read it here

Happy Reading and Happy Voting!